89. Leaf Wreaths

IMG_9379 IMG_9385
I’ve been trying to scrape back a little time these last few weeks from our overcommitted days, in disbelief that my son is almost four and with the yearning to be home purposefully spending time with him. I am at home with him, but I take on too many projects and end up spending too much time running in circles. I miss our lazy days of puttering on projects together. Since fall is finally beginning here, today we made time to gather leaves from our backyard with the intention of turning them into wreaths. He just liked gathering leaves, happily scooping up dirt-crusted ones and fallen lime leaves off the patio. He asked to pick some Meyer lemons from the well-laden branches. He glued three leaves into the middle of a paper plate and called it good, but I decided to complete a birch wreath as planned. I glued my leaves around the trimmed edge of a paper plate and will punch a small hole in it when dry to hang it. I feel so blessed to have had that short time in the yard together and, I’ll admit, blessed to have three lovely birch trees!  When they turn, I can admire their yellow leaves on the green grass and pretend that I’m in the forest of the Black Hills again.

88. Traveling with Kids: Monterey & Carmel

IMG_2473 IMG_2638 IMG_1293 IMG_1453 IMG_1654
Should you? Yes. It is magic of the truest kind to watch the sea creatures swimming in front of, above, and around you and your children at the aquarium. We visited a year ago when our son was almost three and it made such an impression that he still remembered it when we went this October. Last year he made jelly fish movements with his hands for months and months afterward. This year, he’s making baby sea otter noises to call me (sea otter mama) when he wants to snuggle. The tidal wave window is wonderful. The touch pools and children’s hands-on areas up stairs are wonderful. The kelp forest is wonderful. Really, it’s all wonderful!

Of course, the beach itself is beautiful, and this year we saw dolphins, seals, and otters offshore. We collected dried kelp and pebbles to place around our sand castle just like the decorator crab places on his shell.  It was California at its best.

Monterey has a fabulous Dennis the Menace playground as well for more outdoor fun.

If you can go, you should go! The experience carries over into my son’s life for months afterward and provides countless opportunities for learning as we talk about what we saw, act out what we saw, and do art projects about what we saw.

77. Paint Pops

IMG_0812

IMG_0813

IMG_0816
I can’t believe we didn’t try this sooner! Frozen paint popsicles to use on a hot day. I loved how the texture of the paint changed after it was frozen, how pretty it was. I loved the thick texture of it as it melted, which happened fairly quickly in our desert climate (108 on Friday!) My son loves a lot of mess, though, and I don’t think it melted quickly enough for him to dive into the type of mess he prefers when he is using art materials. There are several variations of this online, but I chose to use Dixie cups to freeze mine, sticking in a popsicle stick after about 30 minutes. They needed a warm rinse to come loose from the cups.

75. Cauliflower Clouds

IMG_0036 IMG_0037
Between rain and cold wind, and day trips into the Black Hills, we did actually manage to get our son to one of his scheduled mornings at Art in the Park through Rapid City Parks & Rec. He and his cousin joined others of their height and size to make prints with vegetables in the picnic shelter (and do sidewalk chalk.) I liked the cauliflower clouds he made, and I was impressed with the pizza box drying rack that their teacher put together. But mostly, I was happy to find such a fun summer program run by the city, for a relatively modest price. I may do this kind of art with him at home on a regular basis, but I know that many parents can’t or don’t, and it cheers me to see the classes offered.

73. Stories from Stones

IMG_9408 IMG_9417 <a
IMG_9409IMG_9420 IMG_9825
Early one morning at our rented cabin in a remote corner of the Black Hills, I finally brought out the small stones, brushes, and paints that I’d been promising my oldest nephew. We sat down at a picnic table on the piney slope in the cool breeze, where underfoot many lovely little shooting star wildflowers popped out of the thick layers of pine needles. We followed directions that we found elsewhere online, putting down a white base (to help with color vibrancy when the top layers were added), letting it dry, and then completing the image. He made a house, a star, and other symbols that must appeal to seven-year-olds. The younger three also had their turns, happily painting away in the dappled shade. The idea is to create pictures on stones that one can then use to make up stories, arranging the stones in a different order each time and challenging the parent and child to tell a new tale with each iteration. At home, we have used purchased story cards, and my three-year-old adores setting them out before me and waiting to see what story I can come up with.
It seems like just a children’s craft, but it’s so much more than that, as I realized this morning thinking about the various ‘story stones’ that have been added to our life this summer, mainly that of Mom’s passing. Just think of all of the story stones we could paint of our life’s journey: pieces of our identity, challenging events, happy events, accomplishments made. Just as a child can re-arrange a set of story stones to make up a different narrative, I suppose that we can do the same, finding new, creative ways to view the collection of memories and choices that weigh us down at times with their emotional significance. In our mind’s eye, we can set out our story stones and adjust their placement, giving them a new meaning and role just as we might as we make up a different story for our children every time we bring out the story stones they’ve painted.We can add new stones as we grow older, stones that can completely change the meaning of the story, stones that change something that seemed final into something that was just a passing challenge, stones that can turn what looks like a sad story into a happy story.

72. Stavkirke

IMG_0066 IMG_0070 IMG_0071 IMG_0073 IMG_0076 IMG_0080 IMG_0081 IMG_0094 IMG_0098
The oldest cousin groaned when he heard we were going to go visit a church on a sunny summer weekday morning, but he was quickly won over when he saw Stavkirke, a wonderful treasure of a carved wooden building. Telling them how much the building was like those they see in Frozen (which I have still not seen entirely) and How to Train Your Dragon also helped garner excitement. The kids took off to play hide-and-seek in the covered passageway that surrounds the interior body of the church. They admired the wood carvings and the metal door knockers. My son saw the altar and asked if we were going to have Communion (sweet little Orthodox preschooler that he is, ha!) After I finally corralled them back together they ran up into the pine forest along the newly developed prayer path while I admired the statuary along the way. It’s usually a quiet, peaceful place, and I’m so glad we finally fit it in again during our trip.