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.


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.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week with the Kids

Last Saturday our amazing director of children and family ministries Kate invited families to join her at church to make candle holders for Holy Week. She also gave us a stack of cards with a story for each day. Some day we have been a bit rushed, squeezing it in between dinner and bedtime, but we have managed to read a story and light candles every day this week. I've given the kids the option of also adding something to our lenten table, and every day has been a bit different, Here are the highlights.


Palm Sunday is the story the kids were most familiar with having run down the center aisle of the sanctuary at church waving palms earlier that morning. We added our palms and palm crosses to the table.

Monday we told the story of Jesus chasing the money changers out of the temple. Since Kate left out the dramatic line "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers," we took the time to look up this story in a Bible.

Wednesday we told the story of Judas planning his betrayal. At church on Sunday, Alessia and Olivia had heard the story of Maundy Thursday. Alessia's comment was "Oh, Judas" while shaking her head back and forth. I don't know what they said about Judas, but obviously it made an impression. So we sat for a bit after this story. The other objects in our lenten table told the story of God's creation and God's love for creation. God made Judas too, I told Alessia, and God loved Judas too, even though Judas made a really big mistake.

Good Friday's story is a tough one. Personally I cry every year at church on Good Friday. Alessia read the story card before we sat down and at first she tried to avoid us reading it together. We read it though, then we wondered what to put on the table. I got one of the plastic eggs Alessia had been given at school. I asked Alessia if she remembed when she first saw the eggs in the incubator at school. It was a bit of a mystery what was inside, and it was dark inside. I told them that some people think an egg is like a tomb, round and dark inside. What happened after waiting a few days at school? "Pop!" Alessia exclaimed. (There's a mental image for you, eh? Jesus popping out of the tomb.) So now we wait a few days, I told them. Today is the sad part of the story, but we know Easter is coming. And off we went to paint Easter eggs.




Monday, March 14, 2016

A Box of Raisins - Observing Lent with my Girls, Week 5

This Sunday's theme was Jesus as healer and teacher. After last week's disaster, I decided to pick a familiar story. Alessia has a magazine of stories about Jesus that was given to her about two years ago. Both girls love the stories and know them well. So I suggested a story from that magazine about Jesus as a healer. Alessia picked the story of Jesus healing the blind man. We read it together and talked a little about how Jesus helped people and wants us to help people as well. I suggested for the lenten table that we trace our hands on a piece of paper to help us remember that we can use our hands to help others. Well, neither of my girls liked that idea. I said that was fine, that we didn't have to put anything on the table this week, or if they thought of something during the week, then we could put it on the table. I suggested that we spend some time looking at the things that were already on the table. We talked about them and replensihed the baptism water that had evaporated. After that, I thought the girls might scatter, but Alessia went back to the magazine. She opened it to the story of the loaves and fishes. I asked if we could read it and told them that I always love that story, because it is a little boy, a child like them, who offers to share his lunch. I told them that one of the ways we can help people is by sharing food, and I suggested that we put a box of raisins from church on the table. Olivia laughed, and we all agreed this was a good idea.

I really like the way the table is coming togeter. There is a lot to think about here, especially in how the different objects relate to each other.

  • Four of the five elements - earth, water, and fire (does our breath count as air?)
  • Prayer beads, candles, and baptismal water as aides in our relationship with God
  • Food and drink as gifts from God and gifts to share with each other
  • The dirt, the water, the plant, and us as parts of God's creation