Simple Christmas Ornaments/ Decorations

Yesterday Hazel and her best friend at school had their last day of school before vacation and then we went to his house for lunch and to exchange gifts and bake cookies. It was a wonderful time even though I am fighting a cold. Both children had been so excited for it so I did not want to cancel on them. Well, part of her gift from him was an ornament kit to paint paper mache ornaments. I had some more so I added to her pile to paint. We decided she would paint them for family members and I marked each one with an initial so we would remember whom it is for. Apparently she really liked the red paint as well.
She got sick of using the paints that came with the kit, so she switched to her water colors. I personally like it much better.
She wanted me to craft with her. Yesterday I had looked through a Better Homes and Garden section of easy felt Christmas ornaments and saw some that inspired me. I had some paper mache heart and tree ornaments as well. I covered them in felt and then decorated them. This could easily be done with pieces of cardboard instead of paper mache ornaments as well. Just use a cookie cutter for the shape.
I tried to cut a heart shaped snowflake out of the white felt for this one.

My original thought was I would cover them in felt and let Hazel decorate with foam stickers. She had gotten bored with crafting so I decorated them.
This one I used a stencil and some of her paint to decorate. It came out all right, but I needed a thinner brush for the stencil and better paint.
I left room on this one for her to still decorate. I might give her my fabric markers tomorrow and have her add some dots as tree decorations.

Then finally I bought many wooden ornaments for her to paint. She had already gotten bored, but I did this one with her water colors.
We will hopefully do the rest of them tomorrow. Happy crafting!!

Hazel's Christmas Gift is Finished

So for Christmas I finished Hazel's playmat. Awhile ago I made her a zoo play mat (for original post go here). I have been making her some animals for her zoo and bought a few. At her school holiday fair I bought her a wooden hedgehog and a fabric pig and turtle. Then I made a wool kangaroo, penguin and lions. I finally finished her male lion. What do you think?

I knew I wanted to make it reversible and decided to make a castle play mat on the other side. I bought her some castle blocks and then found some more that are at an incredible price at Michaels this week, so I bought her two sets.
I was going to make her a royal family, but ran out of time so I bought her one and a unicorn. I bought them at 50% off sale at least.
 I think she will love it. I can't wait to see her open it all. Are you making any of your Christmas gifts this year?

Now I just need to finish her birthday gift and all the decorations and plans for her birthday party.

Happy Family Times #38--Polar Express Ride

Have you done anything fun with your family this week? Kelly at Happy Whimsical Hearts and I would love to hear about it. We are collecting great ideas to inspire all of us to have more family together times. Please share yours below.

This weekend we headed to my parents. Hazel and I went on Friday and Steve joined us on Saturday. Our big plan was our parents had arranged for the five of us to go on a Polar Express Ride. Hazel and I went early to help my mother decorate their tree. My father does not like to decorate the tree. He will bring it in, water it, etc., but will not decorate it with her.

After Hazel went to bed on Friday, we brought the tree in and put on the lights. I got to sleep in on Saturday since my parents get up with Hazel and when I came downstairs a third of the tree was decorated. We finished it up right before we needed to leave for the Polar Express. I gave Hazel the choice of wearing her pajamas or her regular clothes. Someone had warned me to dress us warm because it is cold waiting for the train, so she decided to wear her regular clothes. She did say next time she wants to wear her pajamas.

It was a long cold wait. In fact I went back to the car to get the second layer of pants for Hazel. Above is a picture of her with my parents waiting in front of the train. We were on car H. We said it was for Hazel the announcer said for Happy. Then there is a picture of us in our seats (well of everyone else in their seats since I took the picture).

Once the train started they passed out hot chocolate and cookies. Then they started the recording of the story and walked around with copies of the book to show the pictures. I had taken the book and the CD out of the library so Hazel would know the story ahead of time. Hazel wanted to sit with Pop, so she did. They looked at the coloring book we bought at the gift shop (and they sold on the train) and Pop tried on Hazel's mittens. He is always trying to get her clothes and toys from her and pretend he can wear/use them.

Then we were told to look out the window at the North Pole. We saw Santa out there waving to us. The train stopped and he got on. (They apparently had multiple Santas on the train so he could spend some time with each child.) He gave each child a silver sleigh bell engraved with The Polar Express. We are going to sew Hazel's onto her stocking since our stockings have bells on them and hers does not.
Then Santa's elves came to visit and entertain the children. One of them stayed and talked to Hazel for quite awhile. We told her how Hazel said she wanted to be an elf, so she let Hazel try on her hat. They were going to start a pajama fashion show with the kids, but the conductor had made it to our car (we were the last one) finally.
Hazel was a bit scared of the conductor. I had to do the talking, but she did try on his hat. She got her special ticket punched with an H and a D (for Ducky) and a smiley face. Then the trip was over and we went out to dinner before heading home. Our church pageant was the next day so we needed to get home so Hazel and I could be angels.

Now it is your turn to share how your family has spent some quality time lately.

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Annie and the Wild Animals

Each month I join the following amazing blogs to present the Virtual Book Club for Kids. Each month we choose a different author and each of us picks a book by that author to present with an activity, craft, etc. relating to the book. Then we ask you to join us in our blog hop with your own ideas from this author's books. The blogs participating are:

This month the author is the amazing Jan Brett. Not only are her books fun to read with great stories and some classics, but she also does beautiful illustrations! Jan Brett also has a page full of ideas to go along with her books.This month we decided to focus on one of our favorites by her, Annie and the Wild Animals.
Annie and the Wild Animals is about a girl, Annie who lives with her cat, Taffy. It has been a long winter with a lot of snow and Taffy has been acting strange. One day Annie cannot find Taffy anywhere. She gets lonely so she decides to make corn cakes and leave them for a wild animal which she hopes she will be able to tame to be her new pet. Of course she gets more wild animals than she wants and none are small friendly animals. She keeps making corn cakes until she runs out of corn meal. Then finally spring comes and Taffy returns with three surprises.

We decided to try to make corn cakes. When I first googled corn cake recipes I mostly found corn pancakes, so we started with those. We adapted a recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

We used about two tablespoons of margarine and cooked frozen corn kernels in a pan. Then we used non-fat milk, egg, corn and the vanilla and mixed them. In a separate bowl we measured and mixed the dry ingredients using whole wheat flour. Then poured the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and then cooked the pancakes. Hazel did a lot of the measuring herself and helped at the stove.

Then we also made Annie's Favorite Corn Cake Recipe from Jan Brett's site, which is more like a corn bread. We had this with some beef stew at dinner.
Then we also did a craft project. I enlarged some of the border pictures of the wild animals and Annie, and Taffy and her kittens. We made them into a mobile by gluing them onto some cardstock and stringing them. On the wild animals we wrote the things Annie thought about each (the moose was too big, etc.).
Now you can check out each of the other ideas to go with a Jan Brett book as well as add your own to our blog hop!

Coping with Tragedy

We had a lovely weekend this week. Hazel and I left Friday to visit my parents to help decorate their Christmas tree and then Steve joined us on Saturday so all five of us went on a Polar Express Train Trip. I will tell you more about that at Happy Family Times on Tuesday. 

It was very hard in the middle of this nice experience to turn on the television and hear about the tragedy that happened in Connecticut on Friday. (For those who may not know what I am talking about here is a report from CNN.) Now this tragedy hit me on many levels. First I grew up in Connecticut and have many friends and family who still live there. As a former teacher all school shootings really scare me. I think of my students and my friends who still are teaching. Plus a close friend from high school is an elementary school principal in Connecticut somewhat close to Newtown. Then add to all of those reasons that this happened in an elementary school and really could have happened anywhere. It was not like many of the other shootings where the shooter was out to get people who had hurt him, but rather this shooter went to the school where his mother worked and shot innocent children and staff. I know I was thankful that Hazel was not up to see the news (we wouldn't have had it on if she was) and that we have decided to send her to a Waldorf School where I feel they are a bit more protected.

However, Sandy Hook Elementary School had the security set up. They had recently installed a lock where the front office could see who was at the door before buzzing them in. I could not at first understand why they buzzed him in given how he was dressed and his mother was not there then. However later I heard there was broken glass which made much more sense. He shot his way in. So here this school had done what it could to protect the children, and still had such a horrible tragedy. How do we cope with that and how do we explain it to our children?

With Hazel's age, we are doing our best of her to know nothing about this event. We want her to feel safe in her world and at her school. However I know with older children you cannot keep such news from them. I was teaching when the Columbine Shooting occurred. I remember being glad it occurred during our April vacation so we all had time to digest what had happened. I also remember high school juniors telling me that they went over escape plans with their parents should anything like this happen at our school. (They literally went through the students schedule to figure ways out of the building from each classroom.)  This was in response to something that happened on the other side of the country and not a neighboring state. 

Now if teenagers were that fearful, I can only imagine how elementary students must feel now. I think the most important thing as adults is for us to be there for the children. If they need to talk, listen and reassure them. It is important for us to remain our calm and let them feel safe. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) have some great tips on helping children deal with a national tragedy here.

My heart goes out to the family of all the victims including the survivors. I pray to God to help all who were present that day and especially the young children that witnessed death that day. I know there have been stories of teachers who were shot while protecting their students. I can only imagine what those children will deal with knowing that. It breaks my heart that children so young have to deal with such violence. I hope you will join me in taking time today to say a prayer for all who have been touched by this act of violence and for God to help the families and the survivors process this horrible event.