Friday, December 30, 2016

Indoor Splatter Painting

So everyone knows the best part of Christmas presents are the boxes. A few days ago, Olivia and I sat down with a big cardboard box and a couple of those little paint sets leftover from craft kits. We started decorating the outside of the box with stickers and paint. Alessia and Adam eventually joined in. Then Olivia very dramatically "dropped" her paintbrush inside the box. My first instinct was to tell her to stop, but my second, better instinct, was "hey that looks like fun." So we started intentionally dropping and throwing our paintbrushes into the box and watching the splatters build up. We had two rules to keep the chaos contained. First, the brushes can only be thrown inside the box. Second, we take turns, letting one person retrieve their brush before the next person flings their brush in. A good time was had by all.



Monday, November 21, 2016

Alessia at 6

Alessia turned six a few weeks ago, and so much has happened since then.


She loves science and art. She reads books about space and the big bang and then makes drawings and graphs. She also told me one day that she wanted to see what God's creation had to say about God. And she took me around our little yard pointing out specific plants and exclaiming their messages to me.


Alessia worries a lot, and if I try to talk to her about standing up for herself and her body, she gets really upset, which worries me a lot. At the same time she told me that she likes books about people who are brave, and she was the warrior girl Claudete for Halloween.


She has a best friend at school. This is the first time she has had a best friend, and her happiness makes me very happy.


Alessia is sensitive and compassionate. A month ago, I was getting the house ready for a party, and she went out on the porch to check on a spider web. She called in to me, "mamma, there is a fly in the web and it's still alive." I reminded her that the spider needed to eat too. She responded from the porch, "I know, but there are lots of other flies and THIS fly is still alive." I told her to do what she needed to do. A few moments later she called in to tell me that she had blown the fly out of the web without damaging the web.





Friday, September 9, 2016

Mending is Hip!

Last week the girls and I were on the train, and a young woman sitting next to us had a jeans jacket on. The jacket had visibly mended wear spots. The wear spots were in odd places and the mending looked intentionally poorly done, kind of like mechanically distressed furniture. So I broke all the Boston subway rules and

I said: "Excuse me. Did you mend your jacket? Or did it come that way?"

She said: "Oh. It came that way."

I said: "Great. I was wondering when mending would become hip, and I guess it has if jackets are coming pre-mended."

I love mending clothes. I get great satisfaction when I take something that can't be worn, fix it, and then return it to its rightful place in my closet. There's almost a "stick it to the man" sense of joy, since I know the clothing industry depends on us throwing out clothes and buying new all the time. And I've been discreetly mending things for a long time. I can blind sew a popped seam, resew a buttonhole carefully matching the original thread, and last week I even mended a pair of my brother's leather gloves, working with the existing holes to recreate the original stitches.

Lately though, I've been particularly enjoying the rise in visible mending. Visible mending is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than making the mending as discreet as possible, the idea is to make it as eye-catching and interesting as possible. Contrasting fabrics are used to mend holes, and top-stitching is done in contrasting colors. That is the kind of mending on the jacket I saw on the train.

There are tons of directions online for mending. So I am not going to bother with my own, when the others are so good. Most mending does not take advanced sewing skills, and most of it can be done by hand. No sewing machine is necessary. So, give it a try.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Creation Table: Part Two

We finished our Creation Table on Sunday. It was a lovely experience for all three of us. The most challenging day was day four, the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars, "our way of keeping track of time," in the language of Godly Play. We had some great conversations about that day. We talked about how a day is the earth's spinning so that we face the sun, turn away, and then turn back again. I told them that a month is about the amount of time that it takes for the moon to travel once around the earth, and a year is the amount of time it takes for the earth to travel once around the sun. Alessia noted how different people use different calendars, not all of them based on the sun, so we talked about the difference between a solar year and a lunar year. At bedtime, the conversation shifted, and I told them that the day is for playing and learning and working and the nighttime for sleeping and dreaming. This is something I've told them many times before, but I think it took on new meaning that night.

After day five (the creatures of the water and the air) and day six (the creatures that go on land, including people), I asked them about the order of the days. This is a "wondering question" in Godly Play. Could God have created the creatures of the land, before God created water or plants? The question highlights how interconnected we all are.

On the seventh day we talked about God resting and giving us the gift of a day to rest and give thanks to God for all the gifts of Creation. We talked about how we all have our own special places where we feel called to give thanks, and how different people mark the seventh day in different ways - a cross, a star, and a crescent moon.

For each day of the week, I told the story of Creation as it is told in Godly Play, our church school program. We also read Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If you would like to make a creation table at home, and you don't happen to have access to the Godly Play version of the Creation Story, I would highly recommend this book. One of my favorite aspects of sharing the Creation Story with my children is it brings together our conversations about faith with our conversations about science, and I look forward to these conversations continuing and deepending as my children get older.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Creation Table: Part 1

We are working on a Creation-themed devotional table this week. In Godly Play, our church school program, Creation is presented as a series of great gifts from God. Each morning this week, my girls and I have sat down together and I have told them another day's part of the story, then we find things in the house that remind us of that day's gifts and add them to the table. During the day, when we are out and about we try to talk about where we see that day's gifts. Sometimes I initiate this. Sometime's the kids do. At the very end of the day, we regroup at the table to talk about the gifts and pray.
Day 1 - The gift of light.
Day 2 - The gifts of water and air.
Day 3 - The gifts of dry land and green and growing things.
For me, there are two very important aspects of the Creation story and our devotional table. First, it is helping us to see God's creation all around us. Olivia in particular has decided that when it comes time to find things for the table the first place to look is their "small things drawer," aka their junk drawer. At first this bothered me, as I had visions of "nicer" objects being chosen, but then I realized that her approach was a good one. To see God's creation in even the most mundane objects is eye-opening and awe-inspiring. Second, the Creation story for me is one of interconnectedness. While we haven't gotten to the creation of humans yet, we've talked about how we need water and our bodies are made up of so much water. We've talked about all the wonderful things that the green and growing things give us - food, oxygen, paper, wood, beauty. I believe that seeing ourselves as one part of God's Creation is key to our learning to respect and care for all of God's Creation.

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.