Just yesterday, a friend with three young boys was asking me, her eyes hyper-wide open...
What Am I Going to Do?!!!
Now that so many families are suddenly home--from work and from school as we wait out the spread of the coronavirus, there is the question of how to sanely spend 15 days together with our squirrely kids! We chatted for a few moments, and finally she asked, will you send you a list? So this is for all you Viktorias out there. A quick list to hopefully help you make it through these weeks of not only being at home, but schooling at home as well.
If you include the kids in making a plan for how your days should look, they will more likely abide by what's decided. And maybe even post a few of your decisions on a wall so you can point to them throughout the day to remind them that you decided these things together. From experience, I've learned that routines help keep everyone sane, and that it works to break up the day into big blocks, with tons of play in the middle. Homeschoolers know--you can get an amazing amount of learning done in a pretty short period of time. So maybe something like this?
Get up, have breakfast, and be ready for school at nine.
Turn on some background music. Classical, or acoustic, to keep the mood up. Turn on your diffuser and pump in some oils--lemon, wild orange, peppermint, etc to get the senses brightened. Spread the kids out if they're going to talk, or have them work together if you know they prefer to be in company. It'll take a few days to figure out how it works best in your home. Whatever's been sent home from school--packets, workbooks, whatever--have them do the task that is most difficult for them (whatever requires the most concentration) first thing in the morning.
Snack/water time and then a short dance party. Put on a few favorite songs and dance around the house.
Second block of school work. Depending on the age of your child, this might be 10 minutes or it might be an hour, but have this be your second session of schooling for the day that requires focus. After this it's all play!
Lunch time, play time, hang out time, whatever. A couple of things. Set up a couple of spaces (and talk about this with the kids). A space where they can make a mess and you won't get upset with them, and where everything is cleaned up before dinner. A second space where You want to be, where they shouldn't make a mess, and maybe they're not even allowed in that space? Maybe that's your bedroom, or a corner of the living room. And lastly, a space of their own, where they can be alone and won't be bothered by siblings. Everyone needs a place to retreat to if they're going to be together ALL day long.
Quiet time. The whole house is quiet. Whether that means naps, reading, listening to audio books while drawing, watching shows or documentaries, or playing quietly. The one rule here is not to disturb one another. You can even set a timer and place it somewhere public so they can keep track of when the time ends.
Make sure you're sending your kids outside even if it's freezing, raining, muddy, etc... Even if it's just out on to a balcony, get them outdoors so they can breathe fresh air and get a different viewpoint. Try to loosen up on the dirty floor thing--or the dirty clothes thing--and have a place where they can dump all their wet or soiled clothes. Figure out ways for the kids to be kids and not get in trouble for being outside and rummaging in the yard.
Again, use music. Turn on a fun upbeat song, and have everyone clean up to the music.
You may not have enough schooling ideas for your kids. Perhaps you have a Type A child who wants to keep a school schedule and playing all day makes them grumpy. Here are some projects that you might consider.
Also, use this time to let your kids really fly in those areas where they are strong personally, or academically, and minimize the time they spend working on things that are difficult. These days at home, when there is so much uncertainty, is not a time to challenge your kids and try to have them catch up if they're behind their peers. Let them shine, build confidence in those things they're good at, and know that home is a safe place where they can both learn and play.
Practice handwriting. Look up a fancy font, print it out, and have the child try to copy it
Write a short story, poem, or card
Watch documentaries. There are thousands of them out there, on so many subjects like the youtube channel of Nat Geo Kids
Research an animal, city, or person and have them write (or dictate) ten facts about it
Study a language. Download a language app like Duolingo, or Mango Languages (often times free with your library card) and start to learn French, or Hebrew, or Greek!
Practice handstands, shoot baskets, or engage in other physical or athletic moves that are building hand-eye or body coordination
Khan Academy math (or other subjects) (Every now and again I go and work on 7th grade math!)
Pull out a bunch of materials, paper, tape, toothpicks, etc and ask them to build something specific. A dinosaur, or a house, or flower.
Make bird feeders. Tie a ribbon on one end of a pinecone. Spread peanut butter on the pinecone then roll it in birdseed. Hang it from a tree, They could also go outside and record anything that has to do with bugs, or birds. For example. Chart how many birds they see and hear in a certain amount of time. Bring bird books and look up the species. Hunt around for nests or other signs of bird activity. And check out the Cornell Lab for awesome bird calls and other resources.
Draw a maze or make a crossword puzzle
Origami, or make paper airplanes and then have a flying contest
Learn to tie specific knotsNote: Your public library is an amazing place. Check out all the free books, movies, and documentaries you can download, stream, or borrow...
Once they've finished their school work, do your best to keep screens out of their hands until later in the day, and even then, monitor that they aren't spending hours on them. Just minutes. And think about keeping most toys put away, and pulling out different things each day. Kids tend to play more when there is less clutter, and if you suggest toys by placing them in their way and not having much else to choose from, then I've learned that oftentimes they'll play for a longer period of time, and at a deeper, more imaginative level.
Play dress up!
Pull out the playdough
Coloring books and painting
Blocks and other building materials. Magnatiles, K-nex, Legos, etc...
Train sets. (I used to play for hours with my 3-year-old)
Shadow puppets in a dark room or hallway
Pull out the beading supplies
Give permission for them to dig a hole in a corner of the backyard
Have them compose songs--on the piano, the harmonica, just by singing, and give a concert after dinner
Think about play spaces they have and recommend additions. Make curtains for a play house, build a bug habitat with scrap wood, decorate a fort with a paper chain
Write letters to faraway friends
Board games! Puzzles! Cards!
Bring them into the kitchen to cook and bake with you
Blow bubbles, sidewalk chalk, play with water balloons, jump rope, hop scotch, marbles...
Nerf gun wars
Walkie Talkies are one of my favorite things ever
Consider a paid cleaning list. A whole list of extra chores and what you'd pay to have them done. Cut the hedge, wipe down the baseboards, clean out the car, wash windows, etc...
Facetime with friends or relatives. Since so many of us are being isolated, save some time for connection. Give the kids a time limit, but let them talk with their friends from church, or school, or sports to check in on each other
If you're really struggling and having a grumpy time of it... think about packing your kids into the car and taking a drive. Even if you can't get out of the car, find a place where there is a view, a park, or the beach, or a place that feels serene. Roll down the windows. Turn on some music. Changing your physical space often changes people's spirits, and a breath of fresh air can alter attitudes.
Here are some other links to articles and ideas for you and your kids.
A great list of activities for babies through preschoolers
If you're an Orthodox Christian like we are, then take a look at Orthodox Pebbles, a fun website for kids with lots of downloadable materials. Also, Ancient Faith Radio has a podcast of many audio recordings of children's books that you can download or stream.
Please add ideas in the comments! Peace, love, and good cheer to you all...
Great Lent is (almost) here!
And though the grownups are usually the ones more excited about leaving bacon behind and reading spiritual books so they can take one more step up the mountain, well, kids are a little more spiritual pliable since their minds and hearts aren't so habit-bound. I think kids are the best, and such natural seekers and learners and teachers. How often will a child change her mind about how she sees the world--after she reads a story of another child who chooses to be brave?
But, grownups. We read those same stories of bravery, and change comes so s l o w l y.
I've been collecting spiritual books for Orthodox kids for too many years to count. Here are some of my favorite stories--stories filled with potential inspiration when it comes to Lent...
This short book for toddlers and older is all about a life spent in pursuit of prayer. Whimsical, sweet, and soft like a song; I love this book.
A brand new picture book for toddlers and older about a little girl who loves to pray. Her loving spirit is contagious, and this book is a delight.
A very sweet picture book for toddlers and young children that encourages them to hear God in all things.
Learning to pray in church, now there's a worth-while lenten goal! This book is written even for very small children, and is designed to help a child follow along and enter into the Divine Liturgy.
There aren't many prayer books out there for young, independent readers. This one encourages the child to think like a young saint and engage in the spiritual fight! It's a training manual of sorts, for elementary-aged kids, which includes a guide to confession.
A large, picture book-format prayer book filled with icon-style illustrations and prayers for many different occasions. There is additional text in the back of the book that explains, for older children, more about the prayers and the reasons for them.
Written for teens and adults, this is the story of Princess Ileana of Romania, who eventually became Mother Alexandra. A wonderful story of a role model who models perseverance, faith, and prayer.
Hear Me is a prayer book specifically written for young people who are high school-aged or older. Filled with inspiring prayers, a guide through confession, and a topical section that focuses on anger, loneliness, persecution, anxiety, depression, peer pressure and other themes that face young people as they mature...
A beautiful book for toddlers that teaches them the power of making the sign of the cross over themselves and how that helps them enter into prayer, giving, and being thankful.
An introductory book for young children that explains the symbolism found in icons, introduces readers to several saints and their stories, and encourages children in their faith. From God to You is a follow up book, and just as informative!
A classic picture book that subtly tells the tale of Christ's death and resurrection through the journey of three trees.
This is one of the Potamitis Publishing Paterikon books. They're tiny and amazing. There are a million of them now (exaggeration--maybe around 60?) and so worth looking into. Each one tells a short story of a saint, or teaches a bit about a feast; and there are coloring books too! This one is perfect to finish off Great Lent!
A story of St Mary Magdalene and how she bravely shared her faith (and why we celebrate with red eggs on Pascha!).
This is my very favorite children's Bible. Written with a distinctly Orthodox Christian viewpoint, if you start in the middle of the book, around page 90, you can follow the path of Christ, from his birth to the cross as we traverse lent and head toward Pascha!
Written for both children and adults in mind, this book features all of the feasts of the liturgical calendar. It highlights traditions, includes hymns, Bible passages, quotes from the Fathers, etc... A perfect handbook for the many feasts that we enter into from Annunciation through to Pascha!
A picture book for all ages, especially those who are 5-10. It takes a child on an inward journey, into the heart, encouraging him to examine that inner garden and see what is planted and growing there.
A children's picture book that is quite long, but entirely lovely. In the book, we follow St Euphrosynos from the time he is a child to his life as a saint. This is one of the only saint books I have included in this list and there are certainly many, many books on saints that teach about prayer, humility, sacrifice, giving, and love. All of them completely appropriate for Great Lent! This book in particular highlights a humble man and his search for holiness.
A ridiculously adorable book for young people about a little boy who learns to call on the SuperHolies during his time of need. Prayer, Patience, Goodness, Self Control--you know! All those virtues we wish we could employ every minute, every day...
A deeply spiritual story about both humility and sacrificial giving. Wonderfully told, beautifully illustrated, see if you can track down this book, or its prequel, The Quiltmaker's Journey for a read during Great Lent
This sweet story could be a read-aloud, or is perfect for independent reders. It's the tale of a dog and a boy, and is set at a charming monastery that has a children's garden and a stable of farm animals. A little adventure, a little prayer, and a lot of love are found in these pages.
A favorite of middle grade readers. This is an adventure story where a young boy learns to move from a self-centered worldview, to one of holiness, giving, and love.
Lent is all about turning inward. I love Great Lent! Here are a few other blog posts you may want to check out that focus on lenten reading for kids.
If you have other favorites that you'd like to share, please list them in the comments!
When God made Duncan, he made a Builder, a Fixer, and a designer.
Duncan is ten (and look at that peek inside of the church!).
When God made Malcolm, He put a big appetite and made me fast. And put a video game disc in and a joke and a hug. And hobbit feet.
Malcolm is eight (wearing a hat & headphones, and his feet are amazing!).
When God made Ciara, He made me kind to others and love fashion. He made me love drawing and making stuff out of paper. And my cat Pasha.
Ciara is six and is giving a lady the wallet she dropped (thanks for acting on your kindness, Ciara!).
When God made Bonnie, He made me with a twirl, because I love twirling and dancing. And singing. Then He made me dance and hop, hop, hop! And don't forget run around in circles!
Bonnie has a rainbow over her head, and she is four (and she runs around in circles and loves to twirl! I'd love to twirl with her)...
A friend sent along these amazing drawings that children in her Sunday school did. If you have a child (or children, or maybe you!!!) would like to write a profile about what beautiful things God was thinking when they/you were created, or draw a picture, or do both, I'd love to share them here. You can send them to email@example.com.
If you're interested in When God Made You, I'd love to send off a copy or two or three. Just mention one beautiful thing in the comment section. Any word, any thought, and I'll put you in the drawing.
I'll choose on Friday, March 11th, so that gives you plenty of time to think of beautiful words and write them here, and for you to tell all your friends, cause maybe I'll give away lots of books!
When it comes to my writing career, I don't mind making a little bit of money. I've poured in hours and hours and hours of writing time, of critiquing, of slaving over words, of reading about writing, of writing about writing. It's a career, and typically when you work, you get paid for your efforts. It's fair...
But when it comes to my handwork--to knitting, or crocheting, or sewing ridiculous Star Wars-themed napkins, I do it for fun. I do it to relax, to pray, to enter into an activity that both slows my body and stimulates my mind. Same with this new hobby of mine--weaving with pine needles.
(Okay, those photos are mostly about tea. But who doesn't love tea?!!! Notice the trivets and coaster...)
What's fun about the weaving is that not many people do it! So it looks unusual, unique. It's not that hard, really, at least at the level that I'm working, but it's different, and the end products are interesting, useful, earthy...
Many people over these last several months have asked if I might sell the baskets that I'm making. What?!!! No! I'm just a beginner. Selling them seems preposterous. Half of what I make is lopsided! I don't gather the needles from my backyard, soak them, sew them, to earn money. It's about the learning--the journey--doing something new.
My mom has a friend who is an absolute kick. She is a very accomplished woman, verbose, opinionated, cultured. She travels a lot. Somehow she got a hold of one of my first little baskets, and just thought they were the most amazing things. She said they should be under glass at the Smithsonian. Ha! I made several small baskets and sent them her way around Christmas time, saying all I wanted in return was for my daughter to have lunch with her. Instead I ended up with a $100 bill stuffed into my little orange backpack (plus she hosted my daughter for lunch :)). And she thought that wasn't even enough...
Well, I've thought this through. I don't want the pressure of selling anything. I want to weave when I feel like weaving. I'd like to experiment, when I feel like experimenting... But it's obvious that there are a few people out there who wouldn't mind having a basket, or a trivet, or a coaster or two made from the pine needles that drip all year long from our massive Canary Island Pine. I'm super happy to share, so here's the deal.
I am going to start a running list of folks who'd like a pine needle something. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll put you on the list, and I'll send you a finished woven something, when and if I make one! No pressure on me. You all are the first to hear, so send in your name. I'll wait and post this to other forums in a day or two, waiting until those of you, who might be interested, have responded...
And in return, once you receive the package, I'd love for you to donate something to our church's building fund. We are raising money to build our church temple (right now we worship out of our fellowship hall), and it'd be pretty cool if some of that money came from the prayerful work I do when I'm weaving pine needles, stich after stich.
In your email, please let me know these things:
As for payment. I'll let you decide. I really don't care if you send in $5 or $500. I don't! I really don't. I'll leave that part up to you. But just to give you an idea--it takes me about two hours to weave a coaster or a very teeny basket, and it takes about 20 hours to weave a super large trivet... I'm happy to work for a buck an hour. If you don't believe me, then you don't yet know me...
When you email me with your info, in return I'll send you information on how to care for a pine needle basket/coaster/trivet, etc (not that there's really anything to say--just don't give it to your puppy, cause he'll eat it, like mine did...) and I'll let you know how to mail a check or make a donation to our church's building fund.
What do you think? Does this seem like it'll work? I'm up for revising every word of this if you have better ideas. In the meantime, here are some pine needle weavings that I've done--that might help describe size, threads, shapes, etc.
Cheers, friends! Please ask questions, or make other awesome remarks in the comments below.
The image above is a large, flat pine needle weaving that spans a little more than 12 inches across. It is sewn with a brown hemp thread.
Above left is the same large flat weaving as the top photo. And above right is a small v-shaped basket with brown hemp thread, and a trivet with beige and brown variegated hemp thread--plus some pine needles and the beginning of something new... This trivet, and the trivet shown way up top in the tea photos that is made with a deep blue upholstery thread, are about eight inches across.
These two crazies... Above left is a flat weaving, and I simply experimented all the way through. I wove in lavender stems, grass stalks, japanese maple twigs, and bright pink mohair, using upholstery thread. Had fun with that one. Above right is a basket. These photos can be so decieving. It's one of the larger baskets I've made, about 8-9 inches across the brim, and rising maybe 4 inches, using lots of bright colored hemp thread.
In the basket above left, I used a light brown upholstery thread, it is v-shaped, and is probably 2-3 inches high and 4 inches across the brim. Above right are three coasters (all about 4 1/2 inches across), one small basket, and one trivet. All the trivets I make are between 7 1/2 to 8 inches across. All the thread used on the above right photo is hemp thread--lime green, light blue, and brown.
Above left--four little coasters (about 4 1/2 inches across), all for a friend. Black hemp thread with colored centers. I like the way they turned out. Above right--the white hemp is awful, but I was trying to make a little globe shape, and it worked! I've made about four now, of various sizes... The rim of this basket is green, only because I used green needles instead of brown. They will eventually turn to brown...
Above--a coaster that decided to turn into a little shallow tray, and a little basket. These were some of my first weavings. Hemp thread...
Various sizes, all flat. Wow, my stitching is so much better now! Also from more than a year ago. All hemp thread.
A long while ago now, I made my first little crocheted tote bag using a pattern from Attic 24. I purchased a myriad of colored wool and worked away during a three-week road trip with my family. Since then I've added cotton lining to the bags--I also felt the bags so they're easily washable, and just move from row to row, deciding on size as I go.
Recently I worked up four more bags, since my stash of wool needed to be thinned.
They're pretty cute, and they're useful, but what I didn't realize is that they're EDIBLE!
Especially when you name the red and white one, which I was just about to give away, Peppermint.
Our dog, Zuko, who is evidently still very much an eight-month old puppy, stole this sweet bag from the clothesline, ate part of the handle, buried the bag in the dirt, then proceeded to gnaw on the clothespin, which my son pulled out of his mouth just before swallowing. Zuko is a certified glutton, and will be punished with prostrations. That dog seriously will eat anything that isn't a porcupine.
I made him pose for this picture.
So instead of giving away Poor Peppermint, which I intend to somehow mend, I'm happy to give away the other three, if anyone's interested. I know Peppermint is the very cutest--I totally agree--but don't blame me, blame it on the DOG! :)
Details about the giveaway are in the comments.
I like to bake bread (sourdough in the oven right now!) And I like to garden, and make things with my hands... And I love to travel.
But more than any sort of work, or hobby, I love to write!
Somehow along the way, I became both a writer and an editor of children's books. Maybe because I'm organized, and love being a cheerleader of others' work? Maybe because I can play with words all day long and never ever get bored? Whatever the reason, when it comes to producing a children's picture book for the Orthodox Christian market, I've helped generate enough books, and watched them take their place in the market, to know what typically works, and what doesn't.
I've set the stage this way so I can talk about you. Here are some things to know if this is an artistic path that you're considering:
and the power of Story...
Madeleine made her way into the world with a splash. Born at home in a rush, her dramatic beginning was just a foreshadowing of an entire childhood painted by a natural zazzle, joy, and penchant for drama. It has been a delight to be her mama--we are almost exact opposites, she and I, so seeing the world through her eyes has opened me to all sorts of new paths and puzzles.
I grew up in Santa Monica with a brother as an actor, a grandpa as a prop master, and Hollywood all around me. I suppose in response to all of that glitter--because I'm an earthy kind of girl--we deliberately kept Madeleine away from casting directors and baby photo shoots. We knew she'd do well there, but we wanted opportunities to come to her through her own desires and choices, not through ours or any other grown up's agenda. By the age of 13 we couldn't deny that the performing path was finding her despite our shrugged shoulders. We prayed a lot, and let things unfold in a slow, easy sort of way...
Fastforward to 17 and that zazzled, joyful, dramatic child is still very visible, except she no longer wears pig tails or tattered princess dresses.
Watching your kids work hard, reach for their dreams, stretch themselves, make goals, and pray a lot. Well, what else is there when you're a mama? So today we're celebrating Madeleine. Because she deserves it. For two years, she and her duet partner, Erik Ireland Olsen, have been writing music, working on their sound, working on their sound some more, performing at small venues, soliciting criticism, recording, and re-recording. These two are no quitters. And this last week a major hurdle was accomplished--the release of their first EP, and a concert they orgnaized themselves to celebrate and show their stuff to the community that has supported them all these years.
Three hundred people showed up. Erik and Madeleine sang their hearts out and proved that they are more than ready for whatever that next step might be. Their website is in the works, and they are hoping to release yet another song come summer, and maybe put together a small tour. Right now Mad is back to the everyday high school mix, juggling tutoring younger students, applying at colleges, working on her own class assignments, making sure her room remains a GIANT mess, and generally just being an everyday, delightful young woman.
Bravo, Mad! I love you, sweet girl...