Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rain Fish: a book and an activity

Yesterday we checked out of the library Rain Fish by Lois Ehlert. It's an inspiring book of fish made out of found materials, sticks, stones, old crumpled receipts, tissue paper, bottle caps, and paper clips, just to name a few. In the text Ehlert describes them as fish who come out only when it rains, and then they disappear again.

After reading the book we collected two boxes of stuff - one of indoor found materials like ribbons and small plastic toys and one of outdoor found materials like rocks and leaves. I also took out some tissue paper and scissors.

We used the tissue paper to make the body of our fish and then used the found material for details.

Here is Alessia's fish. The perspective is from above, showing both eyes and a pattern down the back of the fish.
Olivia made two fish. One a bride with a gold tiara and the other a groom, note the white shirt and fancy rainbow shoes.
I made a few fish, including a school of little fishes in seaweed.
After making the fish, Alessia noticed that according to Lois Ehlert "rain fish" only come out when it is raining. So she made a cloud mobile complete with rain and lightning.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Free the Bound Periodicals and Other Acts of Language Liberation

As at many college campuses, the sidewalks at Smith College were always covered in protest slogans written out large in chalk. So I laughed the day that I saw the words "Free the Bound Periodicals" on the sidewalk in front of the library. Alright, I still smile every time I think about it.

A few weeks ago, Alessia and I were cutting words out of flyers for her word box. I got this strange sense that I was liberating the words from the clutches of marketers. Dove is a beautiful bird, a symbol of peace, when it no longer sits next to the word shampoo. Free is a noble, uplifting word, when it is not sandwiched between the words dairy and butter.

Try it. It's fun. Get a flyer and a pair of scissors and start cutting. Think about how the meaning of the words shift in your mind as you take them from their commercial context and allow them to stand on their own. Adam's marketing professors will cringe as you do it, and that's fun too.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Olivia at Four

Olivia, I'm a bit late in writing this. You were so sick this week, and it saddened me. I missed your smile and sass, and I couldn't write about them until they came back.

You like all things pretty - princesses, flowers, jewelry, dresses. The princesses I could do with out. I'll be honest about that. Your love of pretty things means though that you know how to handle a delicate antique teacup with gentleness and respect, and that amazes me.

You are so happy that Alessia is done with school. You adore her.

You are sooooo sassy. "Mamma, you said a bad thing!" you shout while tears run down your face and you point that jabby little finger at me.

Over the last year, you've learned not to hit and bite when frustrated with other kids. For awhile there, I was the mom who had to shadow her child at playgroup, but you can handle it now, and I'm proud of you.

Just over a year ago, you had to give up "milk." You're still in love with my bellybutton.

You love to paint and "sticker," and because you adore Alessia, you decided a few months ago that you needed to write your own name.

Yesterday you went to the doctor and had a temperature of over 104 degrees. You were a mess. This morning I went into your room and you smilled at me and pulled the cover over your head playfully, and that was the best thing that had happened to me in days.

We love you, you sassy little monkey.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Paper on end

We checked out a book today titled Cut-Out Paper Play. Both girls are really into cutting up paper for collage and making little paper dolls and props for their play. I thought this might give us some new ideas. Olivia and I picked out a project that involved cutting out strips of paper, and then rolling them into circles and other basic shapes. The project directions suggested making flowers, which we did.

Alessia then took the concept and ran with it, creating a sun and rain drops for the flowers and a square for a house.

Olivia decided to make letters out of some of the skinny strips. I helped her make an M for mamma and she made an O for Olivia.

Overall it was a fun project. I especially enjoyed working with paper in a more 3-D way and without a drawing element, and I'm hoping it inspires the kids to make other projects.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Raising Opposites

Story 1

Alessia has always been a vegetarian, but when she figured out death last fall it went from a matter of taste to a matter of conviction. Olivia made the connection between animals and meat just recently.

Me: Does the chicken have to die for us to eat chicken?

Olivia (smiling incredulously): noooo.

Me and Alessia: Yes, Olivia it does.

Me: Olivia, the chicken has to die for us to then eat chicken. Some people, like Alessia, aren't comfortable with that and so they choose not eat chicken or any other meat.

Olivia (with a casual shrug): I'm comfortable with that.


Story 2

Last fall I finally remembered to start putting in earings now and then. I used to wear them everyday, and then the thought of a baby yanking out an earing freaked me out enough that I stopped wearing them. Olivia loves anything sparkly and was immediately entranced.

Me: When I was 12 Aunt Laura took me to the mall and a lady put holes in my ears for the earings to go through.

Alessia (clutching both ears and crying hysterically): NO! I don't want earings!

Olivia: Can I get holes in my ears?


Friday, April 1, 2016

A Couple of Old Teapots

If you are lucky enough to have somewhere in your house an old teapot, a few silver spoons, or a couple of old dishes, please take them out and use them. Don't save them up for company or a holiday or for your children to inherit someday. Take them out, because, as Pooh would say, it's Thursday. It's 68 degrees here today, but the weather forecasters say it will be 20 on Tuesday. That thought dug its way straight into my brain this morning until I almost cried.

So I baked a peach cobbler with last summer's peaches. I asked the kids if they wanted to have afternoon tea for snack. We sat in the dining room with the Easter lily my friend gave me and the mini daffodils that we bought on sale at the grocery store today. We drank tea from dainty little cups and silver teapots and ate peach cobbler with little spoons from dishes painted in Japan in the 1930s. We read A. A. Milne poems about daffodils and spring, and my head cleared. Tuesday is still going to be 20 degrees here, but today, well today was just lovely.




Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter Candle

Happy Easter! Today was a big day. We had to get up early in order to have an Easter egg hunt and still make it to church in plenty of time for the 9:00 service. Getting the kids up wasn't a problem. They were so excited to see if the Easter Bunny had come and to go to church and hear the music and the Easter story. Church was lovely and we came back here and had brunch with friends. By late afternoon when I wanted to light our last candle, everyone was wiped out. Both girls were tired from being up early, they had crashed off all the midday sugar, and Alessia was working on a cold. So, I lit the candles by myself while the kids played near by, and then I read them today's story. Jesus has risen! Death is dead! It was actually a little anticlimactic feeling, but still lovely. We brought the Easter candle to the table with us for dinner and talked about all the pictures on it.

At the beginning of Lent I was a little worried about how to talk about Lent and Easter with my children. Reading the stories together gave us space and time each week to consider the meaning of Easter and Lent. Some stories provoked lots of questions and discussions, others didn't. And that was fine. Some stories provoked immediate discussion and others sat quietly in our minds and came back up later in the week. My hope is to read these stories each year with my kids, and I know our conversations about them will evolve as they grow, and as I grow. I've learned through this experience that the important thing is to teach my kids the stories of our faith, not a particular interpretation or analysis of them. The work of making meaning from those stories is something that we can do together, over time.

I want to thank Kate, our director of children and family ministries at Old South Church, for encouraging me when I said I wanted to observe Lent with my girls and for creating the amazing Holy Week candle holders and story cards that we used this week and will be able to use again and again.