Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Sweater for Me

I haven't been knitting at quite my usual pace this fall.  The move, other projects, and, well, I've kind of been enjoying my own little sabbatical from teaching knitting.  So I was sort of surprised the day after Christmas when I finished up all the knitting I'd brought with me on our travels.  Needing more yarn gave me an excuse to stop in at Fiber Nooks and Crannies, which is a fabulous yarn stop, online and off.  And I should have picked up a ball of sock yarn or the makings of a simple hat--but the after-Christmas make-something-for-me bug had hit, and there was a beautiful display of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  And I am sucker for silk yarn.

So, as of tonight, I am halfway through a sweater for me.  A whole sweater, knit on size 3 needles.  Crazy.  But pretty.  The first half of my progress happened in those last days of travel after Christmas, I've slowed some since then.  I'm struck by how January brings out the craving for miles of stockinette.  More time indoors, more time in the dark.  Time that I want to curl up and just knit without thinking.  Or knit while watching the whole first season of Downton Abbey in one week, thank you Netflix.

There's a fun cable detail on the yoke of this sweater that will be a bit of a challenge, I think.  But I've still got another sleeve to go before I get to it, and there's a lot of plain knitting in the round in that sleeve.  This should keep me in a stockinette fix through the rest of January.

Monday, January 16, 2012

At the MLK, Jr. Memorial

From the opening weekend back in August.  If we're going to fill the Mall with monuments, then thank goodness there is one for MLK Jr.  The main statue looks as if it is coming out of the stones at the entrance, and it is surrounded by King's words.  That opening weekend there were 20-somethings discussing the usefulness (or lack thereof) of a big statue and older men and women with tears in their eyes.  Aside from the controversy over the misquote, the site is beautiful and powerful, inviting contemplation, pride and hope.

Visiting encouraged me to introduce Dr. King to my son. And while there is a lot of time for him to learn the complexity of history, we found Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport to be a simple, captivating and beautiful introduction. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Only Snow You'll See Around Here

Painting snowflakes a muddy, watercolor blue doesn't really make them pop in the window against the gray winter sky.  But they do make for beautiful shadows when the sun comes out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pirate Treasure: A Giveaway

It's a crazy week around here.  My husband is out of town for over a week (which never happens, and we haven't been apart this long since well before kid), and I decided that it was a good time to circle the wagons and give potty learning a go.  So it's been an intense few days of mama & Toby time.  Thank goodness that I participated in a busy bag swap just before Christmas.

This is the best idea for a swap ever, and yes, there is an e-mail list over at Kidlet Occupation to get notified of the next swap.  30 people each make 30 bags filled with some sort of activity that will keep a preschooler occupied.  And a few weeks later, a box appears in the mail with, holy smokes, 30 different activities to keep my son occupied!  There are matching games and play dough mats and felt pieces to move around and letters & numbers.  A lot of the ideas are taken from printables or tutorials around the web--the sort of thing that you look at and think, "my kid would like that," but then your printer is out of ink, and you only have two bottle caps instead of the 10 the activity calls for, and it gets filed away in the someday file of Pintrest.  I've got 30 of them, or rather, about 25 left, just perfect for pulling out when one or both of us is about to go stir crazy.

My contribution to the swap was a little pirate treasure counting game.  If kids are feeling mathy, they can line up the flat marble treasures by the numbers on the map.  Or they can pack the treasure up in the little sack, bury it, and use the map to find their way back.  Either way, I ended up with 32--that's 2 extra if you're feeling mathy.  Two prototypes that are just a bit different from what you see here, but still ready to pass along to a kiddo.  So, if you're reading and you have or know a kid who would enjoy this, leave a comment.  In the event that there are more than 2 comments (hey, it could happen), I'll draw numbers.  I'll leave the comments open for a couple of days, and try to get these in the mail early next week.

And if any of you are coming by after finding me through this swap, I'd love to hear how your kids are playing with this little bag.  We're just taking out one bag at a time, so I don't even know what all is in my box, yet.  But as they come out, I'm sure I'll be taking some pictures and sending out some thanks as we go.

Explorer Notebooks at Artful Parent

I'm very excited to have a guest post up over at The Artful Parent today.  I'm kind of giddy, because I've been following Jean and her family since before I even had my own kid to play with.  She's introduced me to Twistables and liquid watercolor, and inspired our own local Art Playgroup.  It's pretty exciting to share a project with a larger audience, too, and I hope y'all have as much fun making these little Explorer Notebooks as we've been having with them around here.

So if you've made your way here from there, hello and welcome!  Thank you for clicking through and taking a look around.  You'll quickly see that I'm pretty new to this blogging game--so I hope you'll stick around and join me as this space unfolds.

And if you manage to make up an Explorer Notebook of your own, I'd love to see it!  I'll try to share a few more pictures of what we've been up to in our books around here soon, too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saying Thank You

Before Christmas I had a coupon to use up at VistaPrint and no time to format photos and whatnot to use it for a fancy project.  So I quickly ordered this self-inking stamp.  They've got different templates available, and I just used the most basic one I could find.

This is the first year Toby has sort of understood the idea of thank you cards.  The stamp appeared in his stocking, and once we got home from our Christmas travels, I set him up with some blank cards, his favorite Twistables, and the stamp, with the suggestion that he could make a card for everyone who gave him a gift.

Although he's now got a good dozen pages in a notebook filled with this:

His thank you notes all looked exactly like this:

Not exactly, I suppose, he was very certain which card went to which relative.  But all with blue on colored paper.  Any encouragement to use the thank you stamp on the cards afterward was met with a blank stare.

Whatever, he's having fun with the stamp, he understands that the cards are a way of saying thank you.  And slowly, as his interest in printed words grows, it will be nice to have a way for him to add words to his pictures before he has learned all the spelling and dexterity of writing himself.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adding Some Color

I'm prettying things up around here a little.

And soaking in the sunshine on a crazy, 60 degree day in December.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

When Art Time Fails

We tried a bit of tissue paper on contact paper window art today.  I've seen the idea around, we had the stuff, I thought the kid would like it.  But you can see above that once he stuck four pieces on the window (two without even tearing them up), the real draw of the activity was the tube of contact paper.

These are the pictures taken near the end of our playtime, when he was relatively still.  He spent a good part of the morning beating on things with the contact paper tube--at his best making rhythms with different sounds (window, tissue paper, chair, floor), at his worst hitting me.

Now, there are a number of things I could have done differently to make this activity more inviting.  I could start by clearing off the table to make it less distracting.  But despite my plans or lack of preparation, Toby still did get his learning activity.  He explored music and rhythm and science and social skills (ouch!) by swinging that darn tube around.

I'm not particularly organized or structured in my parenting.  If I pull out activities or materials it's only because I don't know any other way to try and fill these days with an energetic preschooler in a small apartment.  What amazes me every time is that Toby is perfectly capable of playing and exploring and figuring things out on his own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Using Books: Prayer

I love using and recommending books to help families start faith discussions at home.  Books are a great place to start if you're a little uncertain about how to broach tops of religion.  When I find a good one, I want to pass the recommendation along.  But there are some great blogs full of Christian children's book reviews already (I've found quite a few of my favorites from Aslan's Library and Union Presbyterian Seminary's Children's Literature Blog), and I don't need to repeat their work.  Instead I'm just going to pull out a handful of titles at a time that fit a theme or a way of using books in the home.

This first little post include three books that can be used as prayers.  This is a practice my son has recently introduced me to.  He can't manage to still his little body during even the shortest of bedtime prayers, but he will cuddle up with a quiet awe when we read a book that is addressed to God.  These books also challenge me to speak prayers outloud that go deeper than a typical table grace or reciting of family to bless at bedtime.  Just as adults might pray from the Psalms or other scripture, praying with books can be a way to let go of the worries about saying the right thing, and just collapsing into the act of giving thanks.

A note on my choices and sources.  You've probably picked up that I'm Christian, but I appreciate a good story, song, prayer or book from other traditions as well.  Sometimes these books work as a part of my practice, and sometimes they are interesting or useful in teaching my son about the diversity of religious traditions.  The Native American book below, for example, is one I feel comfortable using as a prayer--but you might rather share it with your children as an example of Iroquois spirituality, not necessarily as a prayer you would say yourself.  I find most of these books at the library, so some of them are older or out of print.  The images and links are through Amazon affiliates, because it seemed like the easiest way to make up some links, add pictures, and give you more information if you do want to track any of these down.

Giving Thanks: Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr.

This prayer comes from an Iroquois expression of thanksgiving, adapted here by a Mohawk chief.  The book addresses Mother Earth, and then the components of creation--berries, animals, wind--directly, giving thanks to each for the gifts they offer us.  The introduction suggests using the words as a way of welcoming the morning--many of us read bedtime stories with our children, but I'm curious about how this could be incorporated into morning routines.

On Morning Wings by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Holly Meade

The cover of this book was cutesy enough that I nearly passed it by--but I'm glad I didn't.  The author has adapted Psalm 139 into a simple rhyme (and my son is always, always more interested in the books that rhyme) about God's constant presence in every part of our lives.  It's the sort of message that you want to send with your kid as they go off into their day.

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise by Tomie DePaola

With simple statements and artwork that is much looser than DePaola's usual style, the elements of creation, from the sun and moon to the plants to the people, praise God.  My son loves pointing out familiar bits of the natural world, often asking to go back to favorite pages.  The soft pictures and repetitive refrain make this great bedtime reading for little ones.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas On the Go

We are back from our Christmas travels.  Tired, but refreshed, still glowing from watching my son spend time with his family.  Our families are scattered all over the country, and I feel incredibly happy and lucky to get a chance to visit everyone.

But this time of year also leaves me with some longing for my own traditions.  As soon as we got home last night my son asked to open another door on his advent calendar—stuck back on the 21st.  He was a bit confused when I let him go ahead and open all the remaining doors.  Our Advent candles greeted us on the table, the center candle still with its pristine wick, a reminder of the day and ritual past.  I think we’ll keep lighting them through Epiphany, but it’s not the same as lighting a new candle on Christmas Eve.

In the middle of taking in family celebrations, we did mark Christmas Eve by hearing the familiar story with a community.  We found a church on the internet to visit while we were traveling, and we stepped in on their busy and joyous grab-a-costume-as-you-walk-in pageant.  We managed to stay in the pews for about 10 minutes before my son got the repeated stink-eye for jumping around (even at a kid-friendly service, he can be very active at church, I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve it.)  So I’ll be remembering this Christmas as the one I spent watching through the windows in the back of the church, my son sprawled out on the floor trying to kick at my ankles.

While I don’t consider that ideal, I don’t exactly consider it a fail, either.  This is where we are this year.  At our own church’s pageant, the Education Minister opened with the reminder, “Today someone will be hearing this story for the first time, and today someone will be hearing this story for the last time.”  All the more poignant, since just a week before an active member of that congregation passed away unexpectedly.

These stories, these rhythms, happen in the middle of life, wherever life is taking us.  This time of year is so rich in tradition, that we can recognize it even from the back of the church with a fussy preschooler.  It's harder to notice those moments where God's story touches our story through the rest of the year.