Paper Mache Baskets

I've been wanting to try paper mache for a while, but I always found a reason we couldn't do it. Last week, though, we ended up with a bunch of balloons from my sister's baby shower, and I kept looking at them thinking...we should really use those! So, last Wednesday, I bit the bullet and ripped up a bunch of old newspapers for some paper mache!

There are a few different ways to make the paste for paper mache, and a quick Google search will help you see all the options. I went with the cheapest, easiest method that didn't require me to buy anything: flour and water.
Paper Mache Paste
5 parts water
1 part flour

Combine ingredients in small saucepan and boil until thickened, about 3 minutes.

The paste kept well overnight. It was in a coffee can and I just put the lid on it to keep it until the next day.

My first thought was just to cover the balloons with no real end product in mind, but when we started, I had an idea to make them in to baskets instead. I drew a line on each balloon to show the children where to stop covering them.

This project took a total of 4 days: 3 layers of paper mache, and a final day for decorating.

The first two layers were made of newspaper. To make it easier to paint, we did the final layer in white computer paper. (This step could definitely be skipped if you don't want to waste brand new paper.)

You need to wait until each layer is completely dry before starting the next. That's why we just did a layer per day. If you started in the morning, you might be able to get two layers done in one day if you wanted to.

Cover the balloon twice for each layer (so, I guess technically that's two layers....but whatever.)

After your final layer is dry, pop the balloons and start decorating!

I was honestly surprised that my boys weren't more in to this project. They liked the gooey paste for a few minutes, but got bored with the task of actually covering the balloons. My friend's 8-year-old daughter, however, loved it and helped me complete all 4 projects once the boys lost interest.

Side note: I'm so glad I always save all my coffee cans. We used them to hold our paper, hold up our balloons, and keep the paste. SO much easier than needing to use a bunch of bowls.

I was thinking baskets...the kids were thinking weird alien-head helmets.

We used paint, markers, stamps, glitter, and even my husband's airbrush to decorate the projects.

Everyone's project turned out great, and it was a relatively quiet hour while they worked. I call that a win.

This little one was my favorite. The balloon didn't come out of the inside when we popped it, so it's all purple inside:

When the paint dried, I used a hole punch and some ribbon to add a handle to each "basket."

This was so fun, even if the younger ones didn't get excited until we got to the painting part. Definitely something we'll be doing again!


Silence! Learning in Progress

The wind blew furiously and rain pelted us so hard I almost decided to pull the car off the freeway. The clouds were dark and ominous, and I think I even heard a hint of thunder in the sky, but still my two older sons decided to roll down their windows. I gritted my teeth in the front seat, annoyed. If it were a sunny summer day, they'd be complaining about the wind, I thought to myself. I started to ask them to roll their windows up, but when I looked in to the rear view mirror, I couldn't help but stop and smile. The boys were having so much fun! They giggled and screamed at the wind and remarked on how wet the rain made their fingertips. One would roll his window partway up and they'd notice how it made a helicopter sound and made their ears feel funny. They're learning right now, I realized. It might be a little obnoxious to me, but maybe it's not something I should immediately stop them from doing. They're discovering things about air pressure and weather and physics that they won't be introduced to formally until much later in life. Should I really make them stop, or should I hold my chin up and let them have a little fun?

Annoying to you is amazing to them.

Yeah, sometimes annoying is just annoying. But often, that thing your 2-year-old keeps doing that is driving you nuts is teaching her something. She's interacting with her world and figuring out how it works. Understanding that banging two blocks together makes a certain sound or singing the same nonsense words over and over again are not simply activities meant to try your patience. Your child is actively discovering and learning, every minute of every day--and as long as no one is actually getting hurt, maybe you should just let them be.

It's hard to step back and realize that sometimes, especially after a long day when you've already had enough. I'm also not saying that no matter what, you shouldn't ask your children to calm down or be quieter. I eventually made my boys roll up the windows, but I did my very best to give them a while to discover first. Does a few more minutes really hurt all that much?

Just land your helicopter, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment.

Embrace the crazy. Let it unfold, and keep thinking about how much they're learning. We live in a generation of helicopter parents, constantly standing there ready to stop their children from doing something they shouldn't. We need to spend a little less time hovering and become lifeguards, watching from the sidelines and ready to jump in when necessary, but otherwise enjoying the view in peace and quiet.

Treat all moments like learning moments.

Because they are. And some day, your children will thank you for the freedom you gave them to explore.


Six Word Fridays: Offering

makes me think of sacrifices made--
a burnt, a sin, a peace--
things done for a special purpose.
given humbly but not always taken:
the choice is there even so.
with open heart and engaged mind,
a gift laid out with love.


Rainy Day Treasure Hunt

April showers have come a little early around here, and I've got an extra child for half the day because school lets out early all this week. 
Rainy days + lots of children = extra attention required to keep them happy!

So I whipped up a quick treasure hunt to give them something to do on this wet day.

It all started with a note. I told the kids a pirate stopped by and left a note for them. Then note contained clue #1, which led them on a hunt through the house to find all of the clues and finally the prize!

I included a few activities to integrate a little of our "schoolwork" in to the activity:

The kids had to finish this worksheet to get the next clue.

I asked the children to count the red dots on this paper, and choose the correct location based on their answer.

I "hid" the letters of the word "bath" on this coloring sheet. They had to find the letters, color them, and then work out what word it was to find the next clue.

Finally, they found their prize! As promised, there was something sweet (a Jell-O No-Bake pie), something new (an unopened board game we hadn't tried yet), and something fun (Perler beads they always ask to play with that I rarely let them actually get out).

Checking out their "booty"

Finished peanut butter pie...a laborious team effort (getting 4 children to share all the duties without fighting is way harder than it sounds!)

The kids had tons of fun searching for their treasure, and the activity kept them busy for a couple hours. What a great way to pass the time on a rainy day!!


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today is Dr. Seuss' birthday, and we decided to celebrate today my adding a little Seuss in to our day's activities!

We started off by collecting all the Dr. Seuss books we have in our collection and reading a couple of our favorites (the day's not over, though--we'll get them all!).

Next, we played a little game I like to call "Pin the Hat on the Cat." Each child colored their own hat and cut it out. Then, I blindfolded them and let them do their best to get their hat on the cat's head! (I am, by the way, obnoxiously proud of my Cat in the Hat drawing. It's a Jennie original!).

After that, I let the boys watch the animated version of Green Eggs and Ham while I whipped up a batch of our own for lunch. The eggs are green from adding pesto. The "ham" is actually turkey because we don't eat pork, and I wrapped it around a pickle to add a little more green (and because I knew they were more likely to eat it that way!). 

Hope you're all having a happy Dr. Seuss Day! I think we might make it a family tradition!


love is a sleeping boy behind my office chair

I have no words to accurately describe how much I love my children.

They are an extension of me. I feel what they are feeling. I am utterly lost in adoration. All of these reflect a part of how I feel, but none of them really explains it. Even as much as I care for and love my husband, it isn't the same deep, undying connectedness that I feel with my children.

A large part of that connected feeling, that unshakable bond we share, is that I know how much they love and care for me, and how much they depend on my love and understanding every day of their lives. We need each other, and we take each other just how we are.

At least, that's how it feels most of the time.

Sometimes, we have nights like tonight, where one of the children and I just aren't seeing eye to eye. It usually involves too little sleep or too much energy or too something that's got us acting anxious and cranky.

Tonight was one of those nights.

While all of my children are loving towards me, my middle son Jacob is probably the most obvious about it. He follows me wherever I go, never misses a chance to sit in my lap, and tells me several times a day that I'm the "best Mommy ever." It's going to my head, seriously. I feel like a superstar with Jacob around.

But tonight? Tonight, he was anything but loving. Everything I said hurt his feelings. Everything I did made him angry. He screamed at me, he hit me. He stomped away from me, arms crossed and eyes full of tears.

My heart felt so broken tonight. And I felt so astonishingly hurt. I know he was just tired and cranky, and unfortunately we take out those feelings on those we love first. But it was so out of character and so extreme that I was shocked by it. I kept reaching out my hand to grab his, or turning to scoop him up for a hug, and then stopping myself before I did it. I was flinching, bearing down for another tantrum that would leave me feeling decidedly unloved. And, unlike my normal personality, instead of shrugging it off, I pouted.

I let my husband worry about holding his hand to cross the street.

I didn't turn immediately when he called out to show me something he liked at the store.

I walked ahead, tight-lipped and silent, while my family trailed behind, instead of going last to make sure everyone was still together.

Even when we got home and I sat down at my computer, I still felt myself shutting out the love I normally feel all around me at home. I felt my normally proud and happy heart hardening to a tiny pebble in my chest.

That's when I turned around and saw this:

My little Jacob, curled up in a ball, sleeping silently behind my office chair.

We were both being stubborn and silly tonight because we were tired, cranky, and hurt. But at the end of the day, our best comfort is still in each other--even if it's in silence and without the other knowing it.

I love you, too, Jacob. I love you, too.