Full disclosure here: some of my ideas are real duds.
Like the first time I made Mother's Day gifts with Jack, for the grandmothers, Great Grandma, and the aunts. We made mosaic flower pots by dipping tissue paper squares in glue and pasting them all around terracotta pots. Then we planted flowers in each one. Who could ask for a cheerier gift?
We did the project a few days in advance to allow for drying time. But between the wet glue, the moisture from the plant seeping through the porous pot, and remarkably humid weather, our pots never thoroughly dried. Oops. Not to disappoint my young gift-maker, we went ahead and handed out the gooey gifts at Mother's Day brunch, to everyone's sticky surprise. Oh well.
Another Mother's Day, I had the bright idea to make stepping stones for the mothers and aunties and grandmas. Of course, seven months pregnant at the time, it should have occurred to me that hauling around a 60 pound bag of cement would be, er, challenging. I had to get a little help in that department, but then we were off and running. We mixed concrete; added sea glass, broken tiles, and shells; and stamped names and special messages. And, having learned from past mistakes, we left more than ample drying time.
Once again, I failed to anticipate the gift exchange. A blunder, to say the least.
Our annual Mother's Day brunch was taking place at a waterfront restaurant in our town, which was further complicated by the fact that my husband thought it would be fun to take our little boat there to dock and dine.
So now, imagine me, belly-out-to-there, three-year-old in tow, lugging our gifts down to the marina, carrying each heavy stone across the gangway, and handing it over the side of a bobbing boat. (Note to readers: it is NEVER a good idea to fill a boat with stones. Not at all.)
I'll spare you the details of how these stones got off the boat and distributed in a crowded restaurant. I'll leave that one to your imagination.
But, if nothing else, these two disasters inspired me in my quest to create the ideal handmade Mother's Day gift: cheerful and portable. As I pondered this, I remembered looking through some seed catalogs with my son and seeing a product called "seed tape." It is essentially a strip of paper with seeds glued onto it. You plant the tape into the ground in its entirety, instead of planting each little seed one at a time.
Seed tape is made from seeds, biodegradable paper, and water-soluble glue. Hmmm. It occurred to me that we could use similar materials to easily make seed-embellished greeting cards. Construction paper is biodegradable. School glue is water soluble. And seeds can be used to spell out a heartfelt word like, "Mom," "Grow," or "Love."
We made a couple of test cards, planted them in the dirt, and were ecstatic when we had seedlings within days. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving -- this is it! And, if you make these with perennial seeds, your favorite Moms will actually have a year-after-year reminder of your good wishes!
What could be better? Oh yeah, the fact that they slip neatly into my bag -- no fuss, no muss.
Here's the basic how-to...
Non-toxic school glue (we use Elmer's)
1 or 2 packets of seeds (we found ours at botanicalinterests.com)
1. Fold a piece of construction paper in half. With crayons, draw a picture or write a greeting on the inside of the card.
2. On the front of the card, write a word or a name using a thin line of glue. Or, for pre-writers, make a scribbly design with glue, or just simply make glue polka dots.
3. Open the seed packet carefully from the bottom. Pour seeds into dish. (Set seed packet aside; you'll need it later.) We've made these cards with cheery Sunflowers, the aptly-named Baby's Breath, and colorful Cosmos (an ideal flower for busy Moms -- the care instructions say these flowers actually thrive on neglect!).
4. Sprinkle seeds on top of the glue. Gently shake off the excess. Set the card aside to dry completely.
6. Slide a popsicle stick into the seed packet, and fasten it on the inside with a piece of tape. Tape this plant marker to the back of the card.
7. The card recipient should plant the card, seed side up, following the instructions on the plant marker regarding planting depth, when to plant, exposure, and watering. Trust me, they will be delighted to see that this card actually grows!
Let me know if you try this one!
A while back I bought a large sketch book for Jack. I had a writing ritual that I was envisioning, but, as often happens, he had a completely different idea for the book. And, as also often happens, his idea blew mine out of the water.
You see, he decided he wanted to make his own 'blog,' but in notebook form. Hmmm. I would like to say he was inspired by my blogger-ly pursuits. Alas, no. He was actually referencing a Disney flick we watched one movie night, called Harriet the Spy Blog Wars in which Harriet is the class blogger. Unlike Harriet's blog about pre-teen angst, however, Jack decided his blog was going to be about LEGO Star Wars, one of his 'passions' (in his words).
For each blog 'post' he chooses a LEGO Star Wars figure, and writes the character's name on the top of a blank page. Then I help him outline a jumbo-sized version of the figure in pencil. He then re-outlines it in crayon, and colors it in, according to his very exacting specifications. When he's done, he wonders, excitedly, how many 'hits' this particular post is going to get. It's ridiculously adorable and so refreshingly low-tech, despite his precocious labeling of it.
And, you know that I am in my glory too: there is writing involved, the tracing of the lines works on eye-hand coordination, and the coloring of such a large picture is a great workout for little hand muscles. But best of all, I love that it's a ritual that gives him immense joy, so much so that he asks to do it every day ("Mom, you wanna blog with me?" ...or... "Do you think Dad will blog with me tonight before bedtime?"). Well, of course!
An activity of his own invention, fueled by his own motivations -- so very self-satisfying and habit-forming, in such a good way.
And what a cool keepsake it will be! What boy wouldn't be proud of his first LEGO Star Wars blog?
Do your kids have any little writing projects they are particularly attached to lately? Please share -- let us know in the comments or email me pictures or links if you would like me to share them with everyone here. I'm sure we will all be inspired!
We crafted some cute little tokens of affection out of clay for Valentine's Day. We plan on passing them out to friends along with some handwritten Valentines.
To make the clay, I modified a recipe from this book:
First, combine 1 cup of cornstarch, 2 cups of baking soda, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Stir over low heat for about 5 minutes until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. Put a tablespoon of water and a few drops of food coloring into each of 3 or 4 bowls. Divide clay into smaller batches. Add each batch of clay to a bowl, and knead it until the color is evenly distributed. Cover each bowl with a damp towel until you are ready to work with the clay.
Then, roll small handfulls of clay into balls, and press them flat into circular pancake-type shapes. Then cut out your hearts with a heart cookie cutter. Gracie was a big fan of the rolling, pressing, and cutting -- perfect jobs for little toddler hands!
Next, press your messages into the clay using small alphabet stamps. This is just where my young speller, Jack, is at right now -- it was the perfect job for him!
Let your clay hearts dry overnight. You can add some color to the conversation using fine-tipped pens. (These pens worked for us.)
Nothing makes me happier than heartfelt sentiments combined with hands-on fun. I hope these will make cute little keepsakes for friends and family -- they were certainly made with love!
Speaking of love, I also LOVE these fruit sticker Valentines! What an awesome (and healthy) way to spread the sweetness!
My little random-number-generators worked hard at helping me with the book giveaway. Jack wrote 70+ numbers on tiny pieces of paper, and Gracie helped to fold them up and put them in her cowboy hat. (As an aside, writing on tiny scraps of paper is a good way to give that helper hand, the one whose job it is to stabilize the paper while you write, a good workout... and folding is a great fine motor activity too!)
Jack chose the number corresponding to this lucky comment:
And Gracie chose the number corresponding to this lucky comment:
I have to say, I was blown away with how sincere and inspiring all of the comments were. Did you get a chance to read them? They could make a book in and of themselves. I have gotten so many new ideas from reading your writing memories, and I can't thank everyone enough for sharing them all. I truly recommend, if you have a quiet moment (and maybe a cup of tea), sit down and read through all the wonderful childhood writing moments that were unforgettable to us as adults. It really speaks to how big of an impact we can have on our kids in the writing realm. Amazing!
Thanks again for sharing your stories. I am reading them to my kids, a few at a time, and they are loving them too!