Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vamos a México

I'm feeling very international today. :-)

Leah has fallen in love with a CD we got from a friend, Magic Spanish for Kids. Natalie is learning Spanish as her foreign language in Kindergarten so I thought it would be fun to listen to in the car. There is no counting in this one but it does contain the alphabet song in Spanish. Overall we all enjoy the magical adventure in Mexico and I especially like how it contains a little history and geography of the Mayan people. The Magician's Pyramid in Uxmal receives a lot of attention in the CD story and they talk about how it supposedly took 400 years to build but some people say that a teeny tiny little man built in one night. I went looking for a copy of this legend to share with the children and found it in The Book of Little Folk: Faery Stories and Poems from Around the World by Lauren Mills. The chapter is called "The Dwarf of Uxmal." I really love the variety of legends in this book and the illustrations are wonderful. Leah is fascinated by Mexico... maybe a road trip is in our future! Right now she is in her room singing, "Let's learn Spanish today." :-)

Les Fleurs

Natalie and I have been working on the Rainbow Flower Felting Kit. To introduce this craft, I went searching for a nice flower poem. Happily, I found an entire flower and tree section in a large book of poetry: Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Ferris. This book is a GREAT value and contains over 700 poems! Finding a flower poem was a snap (I picked Window Boxes by Eleanor Farjean). Categories of poems in this book are

  • Myself and I

  • My Family and I

  • My Almanac

  • It's Fun to Play

  • Little Things that Creep and Crawl and Swim and Sometimes Fly

  • Animal Pets and Otherwise

  • On the Way to Anywhere

  • From the Good Earth Growing

  • Roundabout the Country, Roundabout Town

  • My Brother the Sun, My Sister the Moon, the Stars, and Mother Earth

  • Bird-Watcher

  • People to Know, Friends to Make

  • Almost Any Time Is Laughing Time

  • My Fancy and I

  • Sign of My Nation, Great and Strong

  • From All the World to Me

  • Story Time is Special Time

  • From the Family Scrapbook

It is indexed by Title, by First Line, and by Author as well.

The Star

Today's Sunday School lesson focused on the Star of Bethlehem. We began with four stories from Irene Johanson's book, Stories for the Festivals of the Year:

The Three Kings and the Star
King Balthazar Sees the Star
King Melchior Sees the Star
What the Star Tells King Caspar

I really like this set of stories because it goes through the reason each king brings his gift (especially useful since kids don't know what frankincense and myrrh are). After the storytelling each student made a tissue paper star using the directions in Rose Windows and How to Make Them: Coloured Tissue Paper Crafts. I made the star in figure 21 to show them; they each cut their wedges to their own design. There were only three children in class today which was great because it is a finicky craft.

Materials List:

  • one manila file folder for each child

  • pencil

  • sharp craft scissors

  • two templates for tracing the inside and outside of the circle frames (I used the lids from my sugar and coffee kitchen canisters)

  • squares of art-quality tissue paper -- mine were 6¼" square, from Nova Natural

  • Elmer's glue

  • thread for hanging

I recommend cutting out the inner circle before the outer circle, to keep things from shifting around. If you keep the file folder closed when tracing and cutting you get two frames very easily. The stories and each child making one tissue paper craft took the full 45 minutes of class time.

Friday, December 28, 2007

When Someone Far Away Loves You

Natalie is missing her Papa so we read If You Listen by Charlotte Zolotow. The little girl is missing her father and she asks her mother, how do you know when someone far away loves you? And it goes through how to listen with your heart. It is a beautiful story and I think it was just what Natalie needed to hear.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top It All Off With a Bath

We spent the day at home enjoying new gifts. Reading new books... playing new games (Jenga, The Orchard Game)... cuddling with new friends (they each got a stuffed animal)... and more.

The children ended their day with an enjoyable bath using their new loofah scrub buddies, a gift from my mom. She found them at the Calvert Marine Museum gift shop. There was a fish, a turtle, and a ray. So cute!

A Dozen More

The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone

Seven Little Rabbits by John Becker

The Buffalo Nickel by Taylor Morrison

Children's Everyday Bible by Selina Hastings

Rumpelstiltskin by Paul Galdone

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Carnival of the Animals by Barrie Carson Turner

The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fish Wright

Frog Hunt by Sandra Jordan

Books Galore

We got so many books for Christmas!!! Today Natalie, Leah and I began to work our way through The Usborne Book of Things People Do. They are having fun learning about all the different professions, which are grouped by places in the town. For example, all the people who work together to build a house. I just opened up a set of 4 Dover stencils which were in my stocking: farm animals, zoo animals, sea life, and desert animals. I can't wait to stencil our downstairs steps! More book notes to come...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Animals of Christmas

My Sunday School lesson yesterday went beautifully. I began with reading The Little Troll by Thomas Berger (the children were so into this, they all clapped at the end). Then we made sheep for the classroom felted Nativity scene -- I'll post pictures of this if I can. It's breathtaking. Mary on her donkey on a little pebbled path leading to the stable, Joseph leading her, the ox waiting in the stable, two shepherds in the field outside with their sheep. I had the children card some raw wool (click on link for helpful videos of the process), then roll up the rolag and form it into a soft little ball "sheep". Next they rubbed some lanolin on their palms -- they all hated the smell and feel of the lanolin so they would wash their hands vigorously after finishing a sheep, but they all wanted to make more so they ended up putting it on their hands again :-) -- and pat the "sheep" gently to make it stick together. This worked much better than the sheep we tried to make last year with wool wrapped around a pipe cleaner frame. So that there were no parent complaints about the word "breast" in the classroom I squeezed some lanolin out of the tube and just had it in a plain cup, which they passed around and it worked well.

The children each made three rounds of sheep. During the last go round I read from Stories for the Festivals of the Year by Irene Johanson -- a book I highly recommend for children age 6-9 years. I wanted to focus on the animals of Christmas since that is what we were adding to our nativity scene, and this is the 3rd week of Advent which is the animal kingdom week anyway. It was a good review of the Christmas story from Annunciation to the Birth and they are very gentle stories. I read the following chapters while they quietly carded and formed their sheep:

  • The Donkey's Secret

  • Why the Sheep Looked Forward to Christmas

  • The Promise to the Little Ox

  • How the Angel's Message to the Ox and Ass Was Fulfilled

  • How the Angel's Message to the Sheep Was Fulfilled

Then it was time to go and we all wished each other a Merry Christmas and drove out of sight. :-)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Clementines and Dimes

It's the funniest thing... all of a sudden I am so excited about Christmas! I have been plodding along for nearly a month now, making lists and putting things off and not really feeling the Christmas spirit. But 5 minutes ago I just started thinking about how I have to go to the grocery store to buy clementines for the stockings and to see if I have four 2007 dimes (also for the toe of the stockings) and I began jumping up and down, so happy it is Christmas time!!! It will be a small Christmas for us, with each girl only getting one gift, but it will still be a very happy time. Monday morning we will do the final round of giftmaking and then at 2:30 when the children get up from their naps we will pack and head over to the Libertini's for an early Christmas Eve dinner, followed by the 5 pm children's service at Trinity, and then I get to try to get all those excited children to fall asleep in the same room. :-) After they go to bed we will put gifts under the tree and in stockings. Nancy is so excited about having the children open their gifts at her house and I am really happy too; I think it will be so much fun for everyone. The court has ordered that Steve gets the children Christmas Day at noon and I have been invited by another friend to spend Christmas dinner with them so I won't be on my own.

I'm so glad to be falling back in love with this holiday all over again, and I am really looking forward to a wonderful time with my children.

December 24

Christmas Eve is fast approaching and it's time to put my personal drama aside and focus on Christmas gifts because that's a deadline where I don't get any extensions! The countdown looks like this...

I still have, this weekend, to finish Leah's doorway puppet theater, make Rebecca's scarf, and wrap all their presents.

Monday we are making gifts for Grandpa, Toby our dog, and the Libertinis, the family with whom we will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. My dad loves maraschino cherries so I alternate each year between giving him chocolate covered cherries and making fudge. This is a fudge year. For Toby we always bake dog biscuits. The Libertinis are trickier because she has celiac disease and he is diabetic, so no food gifts. Instead we will get out our candlemaking kit and roll and decorate some beautiful candles for them.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hair Bows Galore

The girls are all playing at doing their hair -- I set up a drawer in the bathroom with all their hair brushes and our assortment of hair clips. The three little girls look so cute lined up on their stools, working hard at "being beautiful." I think it's adorable when they have bows all over their heads, beaming with delight; "Mama, look at me!"

For snack today we made Blueberry Banana Bread. Leah also helped me with a cooking project this morning, tearing up sourdough bread for a crockpot Irish Cheese Pudding (a savory bread pudding with sourdough bread, eggs, cheddar cheese, and chicken stock, plus half and half, a pinch of cayenne, and some sweet mustard). Today was a big Laundry Day, since the girls have to pack up for a weekend with their dad. We started by practicing sorting dirty laundry into dark and light. Then sorting clean clothes by size into four piles. Finally, putting away clothes in the proper drawers and choosing two outfits plus pajamas to pack in the blue suitcase. I know they are learning a lot of useful skills doing these jobs AND they love to help out around the house!

Today I vacuumed downstairs for the first time. Vacuuming was always my husband's job. So was taking out the trash... something I get to experience for the first time this weekend!

Rebecca requested a yellow scarf from Santa at the last minute... yikes! I don't have time to knit one (plus I have to finish Leah's doorway puppet theater this weekend) so it looks like it will be a fun and exciting wet felting project. I plan to use cheesecloth since I don't have any silk gauze.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Elephants and Kangaroos

Well, Natalie has pink eye so we weren't able to go to Potomac Crescent Waldorf School after all (actually, I am not allowed to take the children out of the state so we wouldn't have been able to go anyway) -- and so no wreath for our front door! We have a lot of Christmas decorating yet to do. Today we made our first batch of cookies. I had to take Natalie to the grocery store/pharmacy to get her pink eye medicine and so while we were waiting for the store to fill the prescription we walked around and I loaded up the cart with Christmas baking necessities. Our first choice was Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies, to use up some of the corn Natalie has been grinding so cheerfully. Those are cooling now.

At the beginning of the week, the children were using my foam pool noodles from FunFit to play kangaroo (we read a cute folktale called "How the Kangaroo Got Its Tail" from a bedtime storybook Sonlight sent us). Then they moved on to playing birdies on a nest, using huge sheets of butcher block paper to form a large "nest" and setting their wooden play kitchen eggs down in it. Horton Hatches the Egg came into play there too. :-) After reading Nell's Elf with Fran, the children moved on to coloring elves in their new art center that I set up downstairs. It has been a week full of doctor visits, errands, and appointments but we've still managed to stick some fun in there. :-) Tomorrow evening they head over to their dad's for his weekend time but I hope to make some more cookies with them before they go.

Today we also hung up a weather stick that Natalie brought home from school. It's out on our deck now, carefully pointing up to the sky to herald clear weather. Supposedly it takes a few days to get used to its new home but I think it has settled in quite nicely as part of the family. :-)

This weekend I will be plugging away wrapping gifts -- won't we all... Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

6th/7th/8th Grade Links

Of course, I can't resist making a set of links for the curriculum of grades 6 through 8. Here you go; these are from the East Bay Waldorf School:

Potomac Crescent School

I just found out about a new Waldorf school in my area: Potomac Crescent School in Arlington VA. My friend Gabrielle and I will be taking our children to their wreath-making workshop Monday from 9 am to noon. It will be nice to meet some other Waldorf families! I have heard through the grapevine that there is a cluster in Annapolis MD as well as several in Waldorf MD, so I am enthusiastic about having a local support system.

The Tidewater School, which Natalie attends, is going to be developing their middle school curriculum over the next few years and I am excited to be talking with the director about how Waldorf handles 6th through 8th grades and maybe having some influence in their curriculum development!

If anyone is teaching these grades and has books to recommend, please let me know.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Handmade Christmas Gifts

I haven't started our handmade Christmas gift list yet, but I did want to post this nifty set of links for making your own reusable grocery bags.

Happy crafting!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Breakfast for Dinner

Friday I took the two younger kids with me grocery shopping and we got a TON of food. When I got home I idly asked Rebecca, what do you think we should have for dinner tonight? I'm not sure why I asked... but I was so surprised by her answer. She immediately said "grapes, granola, chocolate syrup, and granola bars for dessert." I nixed the choc. syrup but was okay with the rest of it so we played "Breakfast for Dinner" and the kids loved it!

This week in school is "Say Good-bye to Autumn"; next week we begin with making Christmas presents. Tomorrow for Art day I'd like to make leaf prints (just beautiful leaves, tempera paint, and heavy paper). I looked in the Autumn volume of the the Wynstones Kindergarten series and there are so many verses to choose from!!! It's a little overwhelming, actually. I think I have settled on the Late Autumn Ring Game which we can work on in parts each morning at Circle Time. From pages 56-58, it includes verses, movements, and songs.

Songs are:

    Come little leaves - page 46

    My lantern, my lantern - page 29

    Glimmer, lantern, glimmer - page 30

Just an odd random link -- I found this haiku face-off online while looking for something else but found it very interesting. The judge analyzes all 8 poems and it is fun to read what she thinks are the strengths and weaknesses in each. Check it out!

By the way, if you're into haiku (or introducing it to your kids), I really recommend Basho and the River Stones by Tim Myers.