Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slowly, I Get A Lot Done

Whoa, I have been too busy to keep up with the internet much. Sorry! But I have been throwing myself at numerous practical/fun projects, fed my numerous inspirations.

I've been reading and enjoying all the breath-of-fresh-air inspirations on SouleMama's blog. I don't live on a homey homestead in Maine with a gaggle of kids, but I create my own version of that in urban/suburban North Carolina.
Baking homemade pans of vegetarian lasagna (nearly every week) with squash and zucchini and carrots and sometimes other green things.

Writing out a weekly menu on a little white board. There is the lasagna, of course, and vegetable stir fries with fish, or a stew or soup or simply a pot of brown rice to eat with sauteed veggies or stew or baked into a casserole or eaten plain with a little salt or cheese.

Fine tuning my thrify-deal-seeking strategies. Sometimes I stock up, sometimes I say -Oh heck, not this month- but I'm always monitoring and adjusting and learning to be wiser.

Slowly moving salvaged/scavaged field rock for my new garden wall. This has been on hold for several years. Every week, I try to move a few more sets of stone over to my launching pad for the assembly.

Moving towards sweater inspirations from SouleMama. I've never knit a sweater, but I knitted mittens for a gift recently (first time for that also), so this can't be that much harder, just different. I can follow directions. I just need to assemble my materials and attention.

Slowly cleaning up the last tree to come down during the arborist crew's visit. Most of the major tree debris was chipped into an impressive pile of mulch. Mulch slowly being moved about in the yard. The last tree did not make it into that pile, so I am chipping and clipping away at the pile of branches and filling up yard waste bins every week. And then there are always stray branches and leaves et al to clean up.

Walking to the park with my little girl when the weather allows it. Some days she wears snow pants for the cold, others, a hat for the sun. She gets playground time, and I get a workout from pushing baby+stroller up and down swoopy hills in the neighborhood.

Visiting the library regularly. I end up reading a variety of books in the evening. I have my stack, and the little girl has her stack. Every so often I return things on time. Some times we make it there for story time or craft time. In between, we read, read, read.

Finishing the hand quilting on a coverlet comforter for the little girl. The project is thrown together and not very precise, except for my vision of what it will be: a fluffy-soft-cozy-colorful comforter with double layers of insulating batting for keeping warm on cold nights. Only the edging left to sew. I've been working on this since before Christmas. Hopefully completed before Spring! Other quilting/sewing projects are lingering around.

Sewing up a set of "door snakes" or draft stoppers. Another SouleMama inspiration, I think. Looking for some basic muslin to make these, I came across an old (stained but sturdy) set of pillow cases. I cut them up and sewed them up. Now I just have to fill them up! In the same vein, I'm starting to tackle weather stripping on the doors, which we suddenly realize need it, badly.

Finding a filter to fit our new furnace vent. Oddly enough, given the location of it, we need something other than the high-end pleated filters. Even more oddly, the cheaper version is hard to come by.

Started amassing a pile of microfiber and other cleaning cloths in an attempt to reduce our paper towel usage.

Calling up friends or relatives to chat or visit at opportune slices of time. Snagging conversation and sharing or sharing food. It's not that I have lots of time to visit, but I try to catch those moments.

Keeping up with the little girl on a daily, hourly basis. I try to throw in a little art, a little number play, a little music, a little directed imaginative playtime in small bites. She herself pursues lots of activities and talks about them all the while. I am continually amazed and entertained by the breadth and creativity of her verbal expressiveness. I think she might take after her gregarious mother. :) She's reciting books and singing songs and pretending to give shots to the cats. She's survived her first ear infection and learned to take her medicine happily. She's also warming up for her terrible twos. Whee! Being present to her as she explores the world and develops into her own understanding is a worthy endeavor, always.

Yes, I'm still trying to eat less, declutter more (I didn't even mention the on-going office project!), be present, be appreciative of the life in front of me. If all my projects are progressing slowly or imperfectly, they are still progressing. Progress over perfection, I say. And it's so nice to be present to what I have.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ten Minute Toddler Crafting

I've been trying to do more crafting with the little girl these days. Not only has she been missing out on the wild and messy fun side of creativity, but she hasn't had as many opportunities to practice her important fine motor skills as I'd like.

I'm finding it a little challenging. One is not born knowing how to swipe a glue stick, and I find myself being absurdly anxious about it. To which I tell myself: Oh just stop! Perfect is not the point!

My number one task: Relaxing enough to let my natural neat-freakness go while the little girl makes creative messes without my visible or audible complaint.

Her number one task: Figuring out how things fit together. You mean this goes on there? And then what? Oh, it looks pretty, yes. And then something else will stick to it? Get out!

Some of our artsy projects:

Crayons on Table or Easel
We've tried regular crayolas, washable crayons, and large, triangular washable crayolas. I like the washable aspect, but even the regular ones have been fun. We have taped pieces of paper to her little table, but now that she has an easel, that's even easier to scribble daily. And she's been wanting to learn a writing grip. She calls the triangular crayons "pens" and asks us to "help hold it." She then tells us, "Ah signing my name," which I think is a take-away concept from the book, Little Bear's Friend. (After his friend, Emily, gives Little Bear a pen, his mother teaches him how to hold it so he can learn to write his name.) We've also been practicing making "M" lines up and down and circles. (That's had minimal progress so far, but you know... baby steps.)
Pros: Immediate feedback, immediate color, immediate gratification. It does not matter how you hold it.
Bonus: Results can be used for thank you notes.
Cons: Non-washable waxy color may end up under fingernails or in odd places like books or walls or car seat straps.

Round Ink-Paints
These are water soluble inks contained in a colorful ball shape with a little brush sticking out. The ball shape is supposed to be easier for little hands to hold, but she's been finding them hard to direct. The little brushes end scraping the paper sideways rather than head on because of the way she's holding them. She was also mightily interested in the brushes themselves (a stiff acrylic), and would finger the bristles repeatedly, getting inks all over her fingers. But we tried pressing her ink-stained fingers onto the paper to make finger prints, and making blobs of ink on paper folded in two for Rorschach-like designs.
Pros: Bright, no-spill colors, very easy clean up with NO color residue.
Cons: Sometimes hard to get the ink started and not as easily directed as a pencil shape.

Draw the Face
I drew largish circles on a piece of paper and talked her through the parts of the face, drawing as I went. She knows all the parts and enjoyed the naming parts. Then I had her try to approximate the locations on a fresh blank circle herself. Scribble, scribble. Well, maybe I need larger circles or she needs more practice. Oh, well. It was good for a few minutes at the car mechanics'.
Pros: Quick and easily adapted to the materials on hand.
Cons: She may not be up to the task. (Yet!)

Stickers in Shapes
This was another project I just winged after reading about it. I drew a heart shape on a piece of paper and had her place numerous small stickers inside the shape. She did not quite understand the concept of placing them inside the lines, but she had the concept of placing them, if not placing them in a particular place.
Pros: It's easy to press stickers to stay, and it's good practice placing within a shape. Not much prep work required other than having stickers available.
Cons: One could go through a lot of stickers.

Glue Sticks and Tissue Paper Collage
I finally found the new glue sticks I'd bought, and pulled out the box of colorful tissue paper scraps I'd prepared earlier, and a piece of paper upon which to stick them. Then we had a short tutorial on how to apply the glue via stick, how to pick a piece of tissue, place it where there was some glue, and press it down. It was harder for her than you'd think. She wanted to hold the glue stick and draw with it. The glue made a pretty purple streak which faded as it dried. I had her stick her finger on it. Oh! You mean it's sticky? She did chose her own tissue pieces and where to place them, but the matching of location and sticky spot was a point of confusion, not to mention why we were doing this at all. Although the activity was mostly a mystery to her, it was a start!
Pros: Practice making creative decisions and applying the glue. Easy to prep ahead. No end result expected other than sticking things on paper.
Cons: Glue can end up in hair, on table, etc. Selection constrained by what materials one can find.

Gingerbread Cookies
This was mostly an exercise in handling dough. At that time, it was mostly about squashing balls flat and rolling "snakes," and pressing currents into cookie shapes before baking.
Pros: Edible modeling medium. Lesson in dough > cookie transformation. Did I mention it was edible?
Cons: May want to eat raw dough.

I'm finding that when working with toddlers, it helps to not only tolerate a mess, but to prepare ahead, and to plan for a short activity. At least with us, it give the little girl maximum time to to play and explore the activity without too much frustration, and before she loses interest or gets overwhelmed. Sometimes one can move only in babysteps. At least by taking small steps, I tell myself, you eventually get somewhere different! So it's still good. And hopefully, fun!

The website Kids Craft Weekly has been a recent source of inspiration. I am wanting to make sparkly glitter bugs next, maybe in a heart shape for Valentine's Day.

Other ambitions: fingerpainting, painting with real brushes and real paint, stamping with paint, making valentines-theme crafts (colored cellophane to sticky clear paper, etc), using real glue (gasp!), and somebody was making making soft pretzels recently, so we want to, too (yum!). I have some good inspirations these days.

Now must find or make craft smock!