Kindergarten … ready, set, go!

Oh, y’all, I’m so excited.  I am.  I am sitting here at our computer desk gazing lovingly at the kindergarten supplies I just ordered.  I honestly think one of the best parts of homeschooling is not feeling sad that my “baby” is growing up and going “off” to kindergarten, but instead I’m jumping up and down yapping, “When can we get started???”.  It’s lovely.  (It isn’t my intent to make light of anyone who does have to send their child/-ren off to kindergarten–I remember from my own kindergarten experience how hard that is for both mom and child–I’m just honestly so grateful that is a bridge that homeschooling makes a non-issue of, as I know I could not handle it nor could my child.  Genuine loving hugs to anyone who has or is facing this.)  As most Waldorf mamas already know, in Waldorf pedagogy, kindergarten is really just an extension of the home–no academics involved.  When I was in kindergarten 25 years ago, I think all we did were letter workbooks, some sort of play with math bears, paint, play house, and be told stories, so I don’t really mind not pushing Cecily to read or make change or reinvent Calculus.  Actually, for someone who has never been overtly taught anything, she is far above her age level in academics (she has taught herself to read a ton of short words, can do basic addtion/subtraction math, understands measurement and division through baking, etc.) and her verbal skills and logic rival most adults.  And I’m not saying that just from some sort of motherly devotion or anything.  So, I’m totally not worried, and very excited that having no overt academic agenda in kindergarten opens us up to some great “extra-curricular” learning. 

We’re going to keep doing what we’re already doing (I have a little booklet where I have composed my own weekly fingerplays, stories, festival information, and seasonal booklists) but we’re adding some great things.  First off, Little Acorn Learning.  Oh, I hope you have heard of Little Acorn Learning!  (Here are 2 free samples to look at: http://www.littleacornlearning.com/sampleweek.html )  Of all the collections of Waldorf-inspired kindergarten/preschool ideas, this is my favorite.  I have attempted to compose my own “curriculum” using a variety of resources (“A Child’s Seasonal Treasury,” blogs, “Waldorf Education–A Family Guide,” etc.) but the time one spends collating stories, fingerplays, handwork, songs, etc., is just too much for me.  Everything I have ever heard about Little Acorn Learning has been wonderful.  I have read A Little Garden Flower’s full kindy e-book and have looked at samples of Christopherus’ kindy book, and neither of these were as detailed as what I wanted but very general–establish a healthy rhythm, do mindful work together, etc.  LAL was precisely what I wanted–stories, crafts, baking ideas, BOOKLISTS.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that they have picture booklists!  I’m in heaven! Another source that I already have and am going to keep using is a seasonal curriculum called Seasons of Joy (http://www.littleacornlearning.com/sampleweek.html ) , which was written by an internet mama friend of mine.  It is a wonderful resource of crafts, poems, songs, stories, but just less detailed than LAL.  Her Advent e-book that we used this year was amazing and I cannot praise it high enough!  Added to both of these sources, which we will be using as the “spine” of our kindergarten will be:

Making our own modeling beeswax with colors for the season (tutorial here: http://wildculturecafe.blogspot.com/2008/06/waldorf-on-shoestring-early-years.html )

Dyeing playsilks with the colors for the season (tutorial here: http://www.make-baby-stuff.com/play-silks.html )

Great Charlotte-Mason approved read-alouds (we already do a lot of the original Winnie the Pooh stories, Beatrix Potter stories, and the anthology of children’s stories recommended by Ambleside Online, year 0 by Clifton Fadiman: http://www.amblesideonline.org/00.shtml):  Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Raggedy Ann and Andy stories, Just So Stories by Kipling, Frog and Toad,  Reg Down’s Festival of Stones, and The Little Bear stories.  If we have time, we may throw in Stuart Little.  These books are in addition to our seasonal picture books that we have on hand or get from the library.

For math and logic skill practice, we’re getting the game Set and a Tangrams-inspired game by Thinkfun called Shape by Shape, along with an activity book I’m going to make with my new laminator (*ahem*) that will include mazes, hidden pictures, logic puzzles, dot-to-dots, etc.  I want to laminate the pages so she can work the same ones over and over because Cecily likes that sort of thing.

We already love and use Vol. 2 of the Come Follow Me seasonal song collection (http://www.amazon.com/Come-Follow-Lorraine-Nelson-Wolf/dp/B001F08D4E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297550650&sr=8-1 ) but this year I’m adding Vol. 1 as well as Wee Sing Games Games Games (great songs for circle games: http://www.weesing.com/single_product.cfm?product_id=20&whereFrom=1&CFID=96401091&CFTOKEN=96422799 ), and the Waldorf Songbook by Brien Masters

We will continue doing wet-on-wet painting (as well as other fun things like fingerpainting and printing with Tempera paint) every Thursday and I hope to add a coloring time so we can try out our Stockmar block beeswax crayons.  Everyone raves about these so I hope we enjoy them.  I bought Coloring With Block Crayons by Sieglinde de Francesca to brush up on technique so I can be a good model for Cecily to copy.  (Of course, Ewww Yuck!–cornstarch and water–food coloring play art, and sidewalk chalk go without saying …)

For Science, we’ll still tend our garden, hatch caterpillars, take nature walks, and suscribe to the magazine “Your Big Backyard” put out by the National Wildlife Federation.  We also already have a book of kitchen science fun that I may pull out.  And every cleaning day we witness lovely toilet volcanoes.  What more could a kid want?

The total damage was $618.20.  I think that’s pretty awesome considering how many fantastic resources we’re getting.  Oh, are we going to have fun!  I’m so glad I get to go to kindergarten again!

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Das Buch

I am really beginning to wonder when Waldorf mamas have time to blog.  It seems to me that between staying busy doing things all day (and, of course, no computer unless my child is in the bath like right now) and then preparing for the next day and getting my only break once bedtime comes, that I’m finding it hard to balance.  *sigh*

So, on to “The Book”.  I posted the other day about creating moveable pictures, which is handy for someone like me who does about 6 paintings each painting day and is always on the lookout for doing something creative with them so they don’t just pile up to Mars.  After that, I began thinking of the possiblities and got the idea for creating a book out of such pictures for Cecily’s little friend.  Cecily wanted to give Carley a Valentine present and I’m really trying to make the gifts we give more meaningful to us by crafting as many of them as we can ourselves, especially since now, at age 5, Cecily’s crafting abilities are progressing.  I wanted to involve Cecily as much as possible in this (I have to admit in times past I have just done all work myself so it would look better–a bad habit I am trying to break!) as I wanted her to have a sense of accomplishment and pride in knowing that she was truly giving her special friend a gift that SHE had made with love.  The balance I finially found was to use my paintings for the background and to let Cecily make the characters.  The gist of the story is about a little egg that hatches into Carley Robin, who then plays about and finally finds a friend, Cecily Cardinal, to slide down the rainbows with her.  Cecily has LOVED this book and has spent hours looking at it and playing with it.  That is one reason I wanted to make it far in advance of giving it to Carley–Cecily needs that time to enjoy it and make her own peace with passing it on.  I have also promised to make a “Cecily Cardinal Meets Carley Robin” edition for Cecily once I get more paintings done.  So, our book:

This page has a crack in the felt egg that opens revealing a very tiny Carley Robin.  Both the tree and the egg are just crafting felt hotglued onto thick painting-grade paper.

In this picture I cut out a “flying path” for the bird and bee to follow.  I used one wooden crafting stick and glued the bird to the top, inserted it into the picture, and glued the bee to the bottom.  Then, to prevent it from coming out I glued another crafting stick to the back, sticking above and below where the cutline occurred.  In that way, it is held in place on the page but still can be moved along the cutline.

This part of the book also has a liftable felt leaf pile I made with Carley Robin hiding underneath it.  Cecily wanted to add in another robin eating worms on the ground, so we did that too.  She wanted it to be able to bend over so we only glued part of the body down, making it bendable.

With this page, I printed out a robin and cardinal picture from the internet (there are a LOT of non-copyrighted images, esp. of animals, on the net), laminated them using packing tape, and cut them out.  I then glued them onto crafting sticks, cut out a felt heart (which I then cut in half so it could be fitted back together) and inserted them along a pre-cut flying path.  Their wings hold them on the page so they don’t fall out.  This is Cecily’s favorite part, fitting the heart together to symbolize their friendship.

This page was the trickiest and still didn’t end up how I envisioned, but it still works well.  I ended up getting Cecily’s picture of Carley Robin and Cecily Cardinal, gluing them together, and then gluing them onto a short ribbon so they could “fly” on the rainbow.  I secured one end of the ribbon to the birds and then the other to the center of the rainbow underneath the central red flap I had cut, which brings me to mentioning that I actually cut out a spiral path in the rainbow painting and then glued the entire painting onto another piece of painting paper so it wouldn’t be all floppy.

I actually made the covers for this book from the cardboard backing that comes on our painting paper pads.  It’s very handy cardboard to keep around so I always save it when we use up a pad. It is great for this project because, since this book is made from painting paper, you already know they fit together well!  I had some extra-large dark green felt that I used to cover the front and back.  On the inside I placed a standard piece of lime green felt and then used hotglue to hold everything in place.  I put ribbon in between the cover and the backing to secure them together and then glued the pages to the ribbon.

And, last but not least, one very absorbed little girl:

One of the things I love about Waldorf is its emphasis upon stories and imagination–and quality over quantity–and I’m always trying to find and employ new story formats for our family.  A project like this is not only utilitarian (remember my overloaded painting pile?) but creative for both mama and tot.  And, I absolutely love that Cecily has such a treasure to give her friend and how proud she is of it.  That is the best Valentine gift of all.

Ice Wreath

The dog-days of winter–or perhaps that should be the polar bear days!  Whenever Cecily asks me what my favorite and least favorite months are (and, being a parent, YOU know just how important it is to have favorite and least favorite months, so I do not need to belabor this point), I always respond June and February.  June, because it the first month of summer and there is the promise of 3 glorious months of gardening, vacation, swimming, and playing.  And then there’s February.  Apparently I am not alone in my hatred of February because the calendar fairies made it the shortest month of the year.  Thank you!  February–where I live that means blizzard month, snow, ice, frigid temps, thaw (just to get your hopes up before you get whammed with more snow), and then more ice.  We are literally bouncing off the walls at our house from cabin fever.  We still go out and play but not the 2-5 hours of outdoor time that we get the rest of the year.  So, what to do?  Well, one thing we did the other day was make an ice wreath.  It is delightfully simple and is a tangible way for children to comprehend a concept like “freezing point” because they can watch the wreath get smaller and smaller as the temperatures rise.  On a nature walk I took along my kitchen shears (beware!) and snipped off holly and fir clippings.  Then, you place them in a bundt pan, add water, and freeze overnight.  Tie a thick ribbon onto wreath and hang.  (If you’re looking for something else to do with bundt-pan molded ice, today in desperation I pulled out a block I had intended for another wreath, squirted a light layer of shaving cream on in, added some Playmobil people, and, voila! … instant ice rink.  You can even “zamboni” it by adding more shaving cream and smoothing it out with a spatula or spoon.)  So, here’s to hoping the frozen days of February are short … Blessings and peace!

Candlemas!

Candlemas is one of those festivials that unless you are Catholic, Orthodox, or one of those weird Waldorfers, or worse yet a Medievalist!, you will probably never have heard of.  Like most Christian festivals it hearkens back to a pagan festival, this one honoring the return of light to the world and the lengthening of the days.  It is called Candlemas, oddly enough, because “candles” were blessed at this “Mass” (get it–Candle-Mass?)–both the candles used in the church and the candles used in homes.  During the Middle Ages, these blessed candles were lit during thunderstorms and illness in the belief that, being “blessed,” they would cast out any demons that were wreaking havoc.  This was especially true at the deathbed of someone, when it was believed that demons put on a barrage to win that person’s soul away from Christ.  It is so easy for us slaves of Modernity to laugh at such superstitions (I’m curious to know what the Catholic church’s position is on this today…???) but we really need to treat these peoples with empathy, knowing they lived in a tumultuous world where pestilence, famine, and violent invasion were merely breaths away.  I imagine had I lived back then I would have been breaking out the blessed candles at every sniffle.

Thankfully, our homes and lives are far more tame than in 1200.  As an evangelical Protestant, and one who was not raised in a liturgical Protestant tradition at that, I find these more obscure festivals both challenging and innovative–challenging in the sense that I  have to get a grasp on what the festival is about and innovative in that I come to it with no preconceived notions.  With Candlemas, I see it as the counterpoint to Martinmas and the bridge festival between Christmas and Lent.  At Martinmas (mid-November) we do a lantern walk to symbolize the retreat of the sun and the need to hold a part of it with us to carry us through the winter.  It also is in preparation for the “waiting days” of Advent that precede Christmas, which following December 25th is filled with light at our house since for the first time we light an enormous new Christ candle (it has to last all year!) and 12 additional candles marking the 12 days of Christmas.  So, with this connection to Martinmas, we broke out our handmade Martinmas lanterns  and once again walked by their light, only this time inside, as it is a frozen tundra where we live at the moment.  Just as the Martinmas lanterns saw the sun go to sleep, so did they witness the sun coming back to life (and, as if to make this poetry manifest, we had SUN today ALL day for the first time since I can remember this winter, which was lovely since we actually had to celebrate Candlemas a day late this year and yesterday was ghastly).  Obviously, this imagery pays homage to the pagan origins of Candlemas, but what about the Christian part?  Candlemas is also the day when historically the church celebrates the end of Mary’s 40 days of Purification and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentation_of_Jesus_at_the_Temple ).  It was at this time that both Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus as the Messiah and hailed him as the “light of the world,” hence the candle connection.   Being a “bridge” between Christmas and Lent, it is at Candlemas that we melt our Advent candles into Holy Week candles–1 white for Palm Sunday (this is made from last year’s Christ candle, which by Advent is a mere stub and packed away for the last time, and the remains of our Christmas week candles), 5 purple candles, and 1 pink candle for Good Friday, along with a large “jar” type purple Lenten candle to light for the season of Lent along with our Christ candle at our evening Bible time–or what, as a Medievalist, I like to think of as Compline.

The order of events (I’m writing this out mostly for myself for next year so I can keep track.  I apologize in advance for including such nit-picking detail):

Breakfast–traditionally this is pancakes but today we had cheese toast cut into candle flames and mandarin oranges

Breakfast story—-Arrow to the Sun retold by Gerald McDermott (a lovely Pueblo Indian tale about a son seeking his father who is the Lord of the Sun–some interesting Incarnational/Resurrection imagery in there too!). 

The Lunch story- Raven, also by Gerald McDermott (a trickster tale of a raven who brings back the sun)

Post-lunch puppet show–I made up this story about Father Sun who is under a spell by the evil North Wind and Mother Time is looking for anyone brave enough to break the spell.  After searching all through the earth to find that all the animals have an excuse for why they cannot volunteer, at last a tiny song sparrow steps up and says she will do it.  After flying over the mountains and past the land of many rivers she finds Father Sun under a thick blanket of snow.  After trying to wake him by beating her wings and pecking his cheek, but failing both times and being mocked by the evil North Wind, does she attempt one last time, and this time she sings the loveliest of the songs she knows.  And slowly the warmth of her courage melts the blanket of ice and Father Sun awakes to drive out North Wind from the earth. (I had Cecily help set up the scenery with mountains and a forest and also make a needle-felt puppet of the song sparrow.)

*Next year I want either our morning or afternoon “craft” to be baking a small yellow cake to have later.  Today we made it after dinner and it was still so hot by the time we needed it that it melted the bottoms of the hand-dipped candles we put into it. Not good eats, my friend.*

Dinner–Savory pancakes (last year we did Potato pancakes, and this year we had Crab pancakes) and pumpkin soup. (*Reminder to self:  Make soup the day before.  It’s too much to do along with everything else.  I remember feeling like that last year too but forgot this year, so now it’s in print.).  Also, make sure to start wax melting during dinner preparation for hand-dipping candles afterward.  It always takes longer than you think for wax to melt.

*Post Dinner set-up of replica Hebrew Temple:  Make sure to include a rainbow silk suspended between 2 dining chairs for the “Beautiful Gate” entrance to the Temple, which is actually a little montage of things on our dining table–our Candlemas painting, a 2000-year old oil lamp from Israel with an orange and yellow ribbon flame coming out at the tip, a picture of Simeon holding baby Jesus, our Christ candle, and the cake baked above to symbolize the Bread of the Presence.  Tonight Cecily added 12 stones to represent the 12 Tribes of Israel, which I thought was a cute touch.

After dinner celebration–Hand-dipping of 5 candles to represent Mary, Joseph, Anna, Simeon, and baby Jesus.  As we waited for each dipping to dry we walked around our table singing the chorus of, “Shine, Jesus, Shine” ( which hopefully sounded less hokey than this version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3iB30gCqAc ).  After we dipped our candles, we turned off our overhead lights, lighting only our Christ candle at the Temple and Martinmas lanterns.  Each carrying the candles that we made (Cecily was in charge of the baby Jesus candle, I had the Mary candle, and Tim had Joseph–the Simeon and Anna candles were already stuck in the cake awaiting us to arrive at the Temple) we processed to the “Temple” by lantern light, singing the hauntingly simplistic and stunning Taize chant, “When the night becomes dark, your love, O Lord, is a fire.”  I’m always a sucker for that one when we’re singing by candlelight–I admit it!  Once we arrived at the “Temple,” we placed our candles in the cake, lighting them from the Christ candle, and then read the Biblical account of the Presentation.  After singing the first full verse and chorus of “Shine, Jesus, Shine” again, we blew out the cake candles and dug in, except for the bits that had melted wax (cf., complaint stated above about cake not having time too cool).  After eating cake, we all went back to the Temple, sang “This Little Light of Mine,” and then blew out our lanterns followed by the Christ candle.  (I always feel a wee bit guilty singing that song before we blow OUT candles, but I felt we needed to sing it at some point today!)

Our bedtime story was a story I made up about a little fire fairy who wants to dance but everywhere she tries it isn’t the right place (like the clouds blow her away and the ocean makes her flame fizzle out) until she alights upon a soft pillar of wax and dances the night away.

My last reminder to myself is to next year, make Holy Week candles the night before (because this is an EFFORT!) and not the day of Candlemas.  I’m thinking we’ll just place them in our Holy Week candleholder on Candlemas and put the candleholder at the Temple.  I think the only candles we should actually make on Candlmas should be the hand-dipped tapers for the Temple cake.  Any more is too much with everything else going on.

And thus, ends our Candlemas liturgy and mama is exhausted and daddy is trying to fix the botched mess I made of our Holy Week votives today (well, in all honesty, I did say they were an EFFORT).  All in all, though, it was a lovely and meaningful celebration.  Cecily’s favorite bit was my last-minute idea to set up a Temple.  She LOVED that.  At least this year we get a full month before Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.  I need the break!

Rolling in Dough … Cinnamon Dough

Last night at church they handed out cinnamon rolls to kick off our new Bible study/small group season.  The problem was that they were dinky.  Oh, it’s not that I wasn’t appreciative–I appreciated my little roll quite a lot, actually–but at the time we hadn’t had dinner yet and it was like being offered a lick of hot fudge.  So, today, on the way home from a full afternoon of ice skating, I announced that I had a craving.  My family loves it when I get cravings because that means we make yummy stuff.  So, sure enough, the first thing I did when we got home besides assign Timothy the task of heating up dinner was pull out my largest mixing bowl and start my yeast rising.  One of the glorious things I have always appreciated about the Waldorf perspective on living is to keep the pleasures of life simple.  When you make something yourself, the sweeter it tastes.  So, on that sweet note, my cinnamon roll recipe:

Yeast Dough

(this is actually the same dough I use for both loaf bread and pizza dough, the only difference being with loaf bread I do two cycles of kneading/rising instead of just one)

Ingredients:

3-3.5 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 package fast-acting yeast

1.5 Tablespoons (Tbsp) brown sugar (I use dark brown because I prefer the taste to light brown)

1 cup water, divided

1 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

Cinnamon to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to warm (170 F)

Mix together brown sugar, yeast, and 1/2 cup very warm water (for me, warm bathwater temperature is what I aim for–if it feels too hot at all, add cold water until it is just very warm–this is important otherwise you’ll kill your yeast–ask me how I know this…).  I put all these ingredients in a tall dinner glass so we can admire the foam.  Once mixed, place on stove burner that vents the oven (this will be warm and help your yeast to rise).  After 5-10 mins., check glass.  If it doesn’t have a layer of foam on top, you’ve killed your yeast and you need to start this bit over with cooler water.

While yeast is rising, measure out 2 cups of flour and add salt.  If you have a child, this is the point where you hand them the cinnamon shaker and tell them to go to town. Melt butter in a small bowl and stir in 1/2 cup cold milk to melted butter.

Once yeast has risen, pour into flour along with butter/milk mixture and additional 1/2 cup water.

Stir with a large spoon.  Add 1-1.5 cups more flour.  I know, I hate recipes where the amounts aren’t exact.  The way this works is that if the dough feels knotty when you knead it, add more liquid.  If it sticks to your fingers and feels tacky, add flour (I usually just add several fingerfuls at a time, probably 1/8 cup or so until it feels right).  The texture that you want to get it to as you knead it is smooth and non-sticky.  I knead my dough in the large mixing bowl by pressing down with my fists until it’s flat and then folding one side over.  Knead for 10 mins. once your dough is at the right consistency.

Cover dough with a bit of olive oil and gently lay a layer of Saran Wrap on the dough itself to help hold in moisture.

Turn off warm cycle of oven (very important detail this–if you don’t you will accidentally cook your dough on the bottom) and place bowl of dough to rise for 1 hour.

After dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and stretch/smush it flat onto a countertop or flat surface until it makes a large rectangle of thin dough.  Then, sprinkle on a generous layer of brown sugar followed by more cinnamon shaker action (don’t go too wild with cinnamon or it will be spicy–remember Red Hots?).  Use a pizza cutter to slice dough into long stripes, 1-1.5 in. apart.  Each “stripe” of cinnamon dough will look very long and thin but as you roll it toward you it will get thick and bulk up.

Preheat oven to 400 F while you do the above step.

When your buns have been rolled up, place them into whatever you want to cook them in.  I use 2 9-inch cake pans sprayed with Pam.  Once oven is preheated, cook for 10-12 mins. being careful not to overcook.

Mix together glaze while buns are cooking:

Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

5+ Tbsp. liquid (you can use water, OJ, lemon juice, milk … anything wet.  Cecily likes OJ, so that’s what we do)

Mix and stir together (you may need to use a whisk or a fork to break up sugar clumps).  You want the texture to be slightly thick like molasses but pourable.

Drizzle on fresh buns when they come out of the oven.

Ah, it is a sweet life!

Whoa. It moved. It really moved.

A few years ago I bought an amazing book.  There may be other books out there with these exact amazing ideas in them–I wouldn’t know because THIS is the one I bought.  It is called Creative Play for Your Toddler http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Play-Your-Toddler-Expertise/dp/1856752860/ref=sr_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296362504&sr=1-20 )  I think it is a shame that they have that word “toddler” on there because the reality is that this book has some creative toys that can be enjoyed over many ages–dolls, dollhouses/furniture from treeblocks, decorative mobiles, marionettes, puppets, etc.  It has full-color pictures and very gentle and clear writing and instructions.  Like most Waldorf literature, the narration describing different aspects of children’s play is poetic and beautiful.  So now that I have heavily plugged this book (no, I am in no way kin to the author), I’ll tell the fun we’ve had this week making “moving pictures.”  Obviously, being media-free, when I say “moving pictures” I am speaking of the 2-dimensional variety, but oh, are they fun and easy!  Since we have Painting Day every Thursday, I often wonder what to do with MY paintings (Cecily’s get hung our walls).  Sometimes I turn them into cards or write our grocery lists on them or use them for memorializing the poetry and songs that Cecily endlessly creates, but this week I remembered a project from my book.  It just so happened that we kind of went on a bear hunt with our stories this week so on Painting Day we decided to paint bears underneath a tree, licking up honey dripping from a beehive.  So, back to our project … After my bear painting dried I had Cecily draw a bird and a honeybee while I took a boxcutter and poked two small holes in my painting–one in the sky and one in the tree, and then, using fine, sharp scissors I cut out wavy lines, starting from where I made original poke with the boxcutter.  Once Cecily had done her bit of drawing a bluebird and a bee, I cut them out and hotglued them to the tips of wooden crafting sticks (aka Popsicle sticks) and inserted the bottom of the sticks through the slots.  Voila!  Moving Pictures!  I ended up telling a story about Winnie the Pooh (we love A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories–the original Pooh!) going for a hummy sort of walk in the woods and resting by a large tree which was really quite wonderful, seeing as how this tree had a beesnest that was dripping puddles of honey.  Then, while he was dreaming honeyish dreams a little bird flew into the tree and sang a beautiful song (*insert trilly birdsong here*) but then a mischievous honeybee came along and saw Pooh eating the honey and it buzzed over and landed on his nose.  Pooh’s nose twitched and twitched (*this was a favorite part because, of course, I demonstrated the nose-twitching*) and then he sneezed that bee right off and clear across the forest.  I think the main points to be made are that 1) moving pictures are an easy and creative way to ignite children’s creativity–even for the young 5-year-olds who so often want to do meaningful crafts but lack many of the fine motor skills of doing so, and 2) storytelling doesn’t have to be that great to make great memories.

Tangled Threads

I cannot recall exactly how it happened.  Somehow, from the recesses of my mind, one day last week there appeared the memory that there were, indeed, things called “pillow case dresses”.  My mother claims that I first heard about them from her when Cecily was an infant.  I barely remember Cecily’s infanthood due to lack of sleep, but I do have the vague feeling that that was true.  That point is actually moot and therefore is fairly unimportant to the present.  What is important to the present is that somewhere down deep in the library shelves of memories that I have maintained, the other day I thought, “ah … a dress made from a pillow case … is there such a thing?” and thanks to the wonder that is Google, I discovered that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, or something to that effect.  Now for someone like Martha Stewart this revelation would not be profound.  However, I do not sew.  At all.  I do lots of crafting, but sewing has always intimidated me.  For my August birthday this year, I actually bought a sewing machine and I gave it the go ahead.  No luck.  It laughed at me.  Actually, the lady who was teaching me about my sewing machine also laughed at me and recommended I take a 101 sewing course.  (I would like to do that but haven’t found the time as of yet.)  So, you see, we now have two vital pieces of information:  1) I am entranced by the idea of a pillow case dress for Cecily for Easter–one of those luscious ivory pillow cases with antique eyelit lace trimming, and 2) I cannot sew a stitch.  Thankfully, I remembered that I had a children’s “learn to sew by hand” type book that I had bought the year before (obviously God has been planning this for me for a while) and dusted it off.  So, I then ventured to the drawer where I keep my sewing basket my mother bought me when Timothy and I married–the very same sewing basket that still has all the original thread and needles neatly placed and intact from when they were first put in there by my mother.  Thankfully, I corner the market on random felt scraps, so I pull out one and that afternoon learn to sew a blanket stitch and a button.  Okay, hand-sewing 101, A +.  So, I head off to Tuesday Morning to locate THE pillow case.  Ivory, antique lace, King size.  Perfect.  But, then I remembered the handmade Easter dresses I saw girls wearing at the church where I grew up–white/ivory, delicate ribbons, and big floppy lace collars.  Ooh.  Lace collars.  What to do?  One of the reasons I wanted to make a pillow case dress was that not only was so much of the work already done FOR you but it was also very economical.  Being January, “review the Budget for the Year” month, “economical” is a word that has been bantered about quite a lot in our household recently.  My brain started whirling.  Economical lacy floppy collar … and then I recalled an extra lace placemat that we had for our dining room table in our B.C. days (that’s “Before Cecily” for you non-Marshes).  We no longer keep our placemats on our dining room table because our table is now both Cecily’s personal stage and the display for our nature scene for each season.  Digging through our linen closet I was about to give up hope of finding that extra placemat when, voila!, there it was with price tag intact.  $6.99.  That sounded perfectly economical to me.  I felt a bit like Julie Andrews in that scene in Sound of Music where she converts the old drapes into playclothes for the von Trapp children.  I decided to make the collar bit first.  My theory with any sort of crafting is to start on the part you are most interested in despite the difficulty level.  That is just the way humans thrive best–following one’s own natural interests.  I’ve only been working on it for a few days but I am really proud of it so far.  I have currently cut out the collar shape in the placemat and the ivory fabric backing (I sacrificed another old pillow case for this bit), handsewn the fabrics together, hemmed the neckline and embroidered it, and have begun threading pastel blue ribbon into the filigree work for decoration.  I have even made plans to make some pink ribbon rosettes with draping pastel green ribbons.  We’ll see.  I dream big.  Hopefully, the dress bit will be easy to make.  Otherwise, my child will be sporting her lovely collar on Easter with matching undies.  In the process of all this I have made some profound introspective discoveries:  1) handsewing is incredibly meditative, 2) handsewing a long-term project in which one’s child checks every 5 minutes to see how far along one is makes an excellent opportunity for telling the fable of the tortoise and the hare, and 3) there is no shame in undoing all the stitches one just spent the last hour making.  Actually, that last bit is probably extremely healthy for the soul.  There is a lot of good theology there.  So, that is where I am.  Me, myself, and my needle.

Missing sock count: Surprisingly none today.

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