Coffee Filter Crafts: Sea Turtles

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Last week, I woke up to a dreadful discovery: my Keurig machine was not working. After several desperate attempts to fix it, it became clear that a new machine must be purchased. Stat.   And so we carted away the old machine and said hello to a shiny, red, and most importantly, operable model to fuel my daily caffeine needs.  I briefly considered getting a regular coffee maker, but ultimately opted for the convenience and ease of a Keurig.  Therefore, my giant pack of coffee filters is still ready for crafting projects.

In keeping with our ocean animals unit study, we decided to make sea turtles next.  (You can find instructions to make coffee filter jellyfish here and coffee filter sea horses here.)  Sea turtles were a favorite to study around here – we probably spent over two weeks examining the lives and habits of these cute sea creatures.  We borrowed lots of sea turtle books from the library – my favorite was Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.  It tells a real-life story of a mom and her daughter helping sea turtle babies get to the ocean safely with beautiful drawings and photographs of sea turtles and other ocean life.  There are fun and thought-provoking activities included at the end of the book.  Of course, we also love the drawings and easy-to-understand text of Gail Gibbons’ books, and her Sea Turtles is no exception.  For our online resources, I found this link to a free sea turtles unit study and used some of its printables, like the Sea Turtle Anatomy Matchbook.  The kids enjoyed tracking sea turtles on SEATURTLE.ORG.  Sea World’s website also had a lot of information on sea turtles for the kids to practice looking up.  Netflix and Hulu and YouTube are all great resources for sea turtle videos – this one was my kids’ favorite: 

All right, let’s make some super cute sea turtles!

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Here’s what you will need: lima beans, washable markers, styrofoam bowls, chalk pastels, craft glue, paper, and of course, coffee filters.

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First, flip the bowl upside down and glue lima beans all over the top and around the rim of the bowl.  Let dry completely before going to the next step.

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Next, get out those markers and color all over those lima beans!  (Painting them would work too, but we needed a break from painting around here.)

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Now, take two coffee filters and fold each of them in half. Color them with your chalk pastels however you like.  To keep the chalk dust from rubbing off your sea turtle project, spray the filters with a fine mist of aerosol hairspray.

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Then, cut each of your folded coffee filters in half and glue them to the underside of the turtle’s body (the bowl) as shown.  Cut out a triangle shape and a turtle head shape from your paper and glue on in the appropriate spots.

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Use the markers to decorate the turtle head and tail.  Your colorful sea turtle can sit (swim, I mean!) nicely on a shelf, or you can use thumb tacks to hang it on the wall.

Did you know that leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds?  That’s like half my minivan!  Thankfully these coffee filter sea turtles are a lot lighter (and a lot cuter than the leatherback, in my opinion!)

 

 

Creative Ways to Connect With Your Kids: Love Languages

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Two weeks ago I posted about a special way I had discovered to use in communicating with my oldest child. (If you missed it, you can read here about the mom/daughter journal we started.)  Today I am continuing this series about connecting with your kids by writing about another child of mine.  This boy is the funniest kid and has amazing talents in a lot of areas.  If I give him video game time undisturbed, he is the happiest boy on the planet.  When you first meet him, you might mistakenly assume from his personality that he loves to be the center of attention.  While he can definitely be louder than life, my little man often disappears to get some quiet time and is most content when he is left alone.  He is my earliest riser, getting himself some cereal and curling up on the couch underneath a quilt to eat by himself.  It has been quite the challenge to find a way to connect with this solitary boy.

One day while casually scrolling through Facebook, I stopped at one of my favorite homeschooling pages, Simple Homeschool.  There was a picture of a red heart with the title “The Five Love Languages of Homeschooling”, and underneath Jamie had captioned it: “Have you discovered your child’s love language? It might just be the homeschooling break-through you need.”  Intrigued, I clicked through to the post on Jamie’s blog and began to read.  Many years ago, I had taken Dr. Chapman’s love language test and found that mine was words of affirmation.  I had never considered the love languages to be pertinent to kids, but the more I contemplated it, the more it made sense.  There are five general love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  Jamie started off her post speaking about the love language of physical touch.  The first two sentences jumped out at me: “A child who best receives love through physical touch desperately needs hugs, kisses, and pats on the shoulder.  Not having enough can leave them feeling that they’ve done something wrong and that you are not pleased with them.”  Somehow I felt immediately that these sentences were describing my Mikey.  Physical touch?  Well, he had been a little cuddle bug when he was just a baby, always pleased to be in my lap with his head nestled near my heart.  But surely physical touch was not what he needed now.  If so, why did he always disappear and crave his alone time?  God’s voice persisted in my head.  “Yes, this is the key to your boy’s heart.”

I wasn’t so sure of this discovery.  I thought perhaps it was a wild guess, a shot in the dark in an absurd attempt to make a connection with my younger son.  So I prayed, and God said, “Do it!”  I decided to conduct it as an experiment of sorts.  Over the next several days, I would be very intentional in giving him high fives, hugs, fist bumps, back rubs, etc., and see how he received it.  I am by nature a very touchy-feely person anyway; so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me, but I hoped it wouldn’t be off-putting to Mikey or push him even further into his solitude.  The first day, I gave him extra hugs as he came stumbling into the kitchen to make his breakfast.  I offered to sit and snuggle with him on the couch while he ate.  To my surprise, he accepted.  Throughout the school day, I made sure to pat his back, touch his hand encouragingly when he was struggling with a word, and invited him to sit on my lap while we did reading.  The next day went much the same way, except this time I could feel him leaning in as if asking for more.  By the third day, he was actually seeking ME out for hugs and kisses and “love you Mama”s with his face buried in my neck.  I was astonished at the change in my kid.  The more we physically connected throughout the day, by hugs, shoulder pats, etc., the more he opened up and the less he crept away to his room for quiet.  Even his grandma noticed this change in him.

Now that I know with certainty that physical touch is my son Mikey’s love language, I need to make sure that I am “speaking” to him often in that language.  It fills up his love cup and spills over to the others in his life.  He is kinder to his siblings, more thoughtful to others, more expressive of his thoughts and desires, and more open to God’s work in his life.  He was a fantastic kid before we started this experiment; now he is a fantastic kid that feels loved and connected to in all the right ways.

I encourage you to take the time to find out your child’s love language.  If your child is old enough, they can take this online quiz at Gary Chapman’s website to help you both figure it out.  The time spent evaluating and determining their love language and then implementing it will be paid back in dividends you can’t imagine.

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(Also, as it turns out, there is a love languages book just for kids.  I think this one is going to be added to the Foster family library!)

Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids

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I have been doing this parenting thing now for nine years, but the complexity and differences of my children still never fail to amaze me.  There are four individuals who call me “Mom”, and although they definitely look alike, their personalities and character quirks could not be more diverse.  I have a child who is artistic and friendly, a people-pleaser and an overachiever.  Another child is class clown, the center of attention, loud and funny and yet introverted in his own way.  In discipline, what works for one child does not work for another.  In housework and other responsibilities, what motivates one child will not motivate another.  In school, what helps one child learn confuses another.  And, I have found, my relationships with each one of my children work in pretty much the same way.  The way I communicate and interact with each of my children varies based on their personality and also their age.

Gabi is my oldest.  She recently turned nine and is moving toward those preteen years faster than I would like to admit.  We named her well, as she loves to talk my ear off about cute kittens and puppies and Minecraft and her friends and books and cool science facts and, well, you get the idea.  Several months ago, as I was half-listening to her tell me about her latest issue of Kids National Geographic, I thought “When was the last time Gabi and I talked about something deeper than books or video games?”  The realization that it had been a long time motivated me to try harder.  I would purposefully bring up spiritual topics or body topics in an attempt to dig a little deeper and build my relationship even more with my oldest.  And while this did work, in a way, it felt forced, manipulated, and completely artificial.  There was nothing wrong with me bringing up these conversations, but it didn’t seem genuine and never led to more conversations on the same subject.  In other words, she was not coming to me to talk about these things.  I started praying for a better way to connect with my daughter.  I thought about the activities she liked the most – writing, drawing, creating, making things – and how I could incorporate those things into a more beneficial way to communicate with her.

That’s when I came up with the shared journal idea.  When I was Gabi’s age, I would keep old notebooks with doodles scrawled on the covers and in the margins.  I wrote things like “Today was a happy day” and “Rachel is my best friend always and forever” with lots of illustrations and stickers.  What if Gabi and I had a journal we would write together?  I could write her a note or a question, pass the book on to her, and she could write her answer and anything she wanted to ask me before passing it back to me.  From my own childhood experience I know that sometimes it’s easier to write about hard topics than it is to actually say them aloud.  I searched the local bookstores for the perfect journal and fancy pens to accompany it.

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As it turns out, someone else already had this idea.  At a small stationery store in the area, I found a journal written by a mother and daughter team called Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. (by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs)  The concept of this journal is similar to what I had in mind, only better.  The journal is filled with writing prompts like “What I was like when I was a daughter your age/What I’d be like if I were a mom” and “How you and I are the same.”  There are lots of pages that have free space to write whatever you want.  With this journal and a new set of sparkly gel pens in hand, I sat my daughter down and explained to her how sharing a journal would work.  She was tremendously excited and couldn’t wait to get started.

At first, the things we shared in the journal were superficial and light, things like “Mom, you should make pancakes tomorrow for breakfast” and “My favorite color is still green, in case you wanted to know.”  She would write these things, dotting her i’s with hearts and surrounding her precious handwriting with smiley faces before leaving it on my nightstand so that I could write her back. I would try to write her back as soon as I could and leave my ribbon in the place I had written so she could find it.  Gradually, the topics in the journal got deeper and more personal.  One time in particular, we resolved an argument and misunderstanding by writing down our feelings in the journal.  I won’t share an exact situation since the journal is “just between us,” but it has become quite evident that both of us can express ourselves better in writing sometimes.

I bought this journal many months ago, and we are still using it faithfully.  Of course, it is not our only means of connecting with each other.  There are still long conversations in the car, Starbucks coffee dates, chat over folding laundry, etc. But we have this method for when it’s too hard to say it aloud or when it just really needs to be accentuated with lots of exclamation points and glittery hearts. Someday, my little girl will be all grown up, but I will always have this journal to remember our “conversations” when she was young.

Paleo Kids

DSC_0047So we plunged headlong into eating Paleo that Monday.  Surprisingly, for myself and Chris, it was not too difficult a transition.  We didn’t have any grains or dairy around to tempt us; we just ate what we had at home.  Plus, I had drawn up the detailed meal plan for the week which pretty much mapped out everything we would be eating and when we would be eating it.  Well, this is going better than I envisioned, I thought to myself.

Enter the children.  Children who have been used to bowls of cereal with milk and peanut butter toast for breakfast.  Children who voraciously ate string cheese and crackers and pretzels and popcorn for snacks.  Children whose favorite dinners involved fluffy pancakes or creamy macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the transition for these children was not going to be easy.

The kids ate the eggs I made for breakfast and snacked on fruit and veggies throughout the morning.  There was no shortage of questions asking when will we be able to eat crackers again and what’s wrong with cereal anyway and seriously can we just have some cheese, Mom?  It was a little discouraging, but I had to remind myself that this was a big change for them and that it would take time.

Also, I had to immediately google “helping kids transition to paleo” as everyone knows that Google has the answers to everything.  If that didn’t work, we were all going to run outside to the backyard and jump on the trampoline while I figured out what in the world we were going to do next.  Thankfully, Google pulled through.  With articles like this one on Paleo Leap and this one by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo, I quickly learned that it was advised NOT to take it all away at once but rather ease them into it a little at a time.  Oops.  I had already packed up all the non-Paleo food and given it away.  No, the little minions reminded me.  There’s still a bunch of string cheese from Costco in the fridge.  Well then, it was string cheeses all around and everyone looked a little relieved and dare I say it, happy.

Another helpful suggestion was to try to make their favorite foods, only Paleo-style.  Apparently there are recipes for Paleo chicken nuggets and Paleo pancakes and Paleo waffles and Paleo crackers and pretty much anything your child could ever want.  I immediately made a Pinterest board for all the recipes that sounded like my kids might actually eat them.  I decided to work on finding a good Paleo pancake recipe first.  We tried a few different recipes throughout the week, none of which were favorably received.  Finally, I tried Sarah Fragoso’s Paleo Pal Pancakes.  Although Gabi proclaimed them “still not as good as the ones you used to make”, all the kids enthusiastically ate theirs and asked for seconds.  That’s a win in my book.

And speaking of books, I found that recipe by googling “books about Paleo for kids” and discovering that Sarah Fragoso had written a children’s book about Paleo a few years ago called Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship.  A quick check at our local library later that day led to us bringing the book home as well as Sarah’s Paleo family cookbook.  The kids read and re-read the book.  They pored over the recipes in the back and begged to try several of them.  It was a cute way for them to learn a little more about the “whys” of eating Paleo.

Next,  I figured if they were helping me in the kitchen more, they might actually be more inclined to try the food we made.  I promised that there would be lots of knife action, and all the kids clamored to be the first to help.  We made a schedule – Gabi helps me Monday nights, David Tuesdays, Michael Wednesdays, and Hosanna Thursdays.  There is a lot of fervent vegetable chopping and meat sizzling going on around here.  I give them my meal plan but allow them to make some changes if they want (for example, switch out the carrots for green beans or mash the cauliflower instead of roasting it.)  Not only are they learning valuable kitchen skills (hello homeschooling!), but they are eager to try new things.

Each day, I saw a little more of the resistance fade away.  I’ve tried to make special treats too to make this whole thing a little easier.  One favorite is Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy Grain-free Coconut Muffins.  It’s easy to whip up a batch of these to take to Grandma’s or have with some fruit after dinner.  But the family’s favorite Paleo treat so far?  Grain-free chocolate chip cookie bars.  You can find the recipe here on Tasty Yummies.  They are incredibly fluffy, not too sweet, and just perfect for a tasty snack.

The last thing I did to help the kids embrace Paleo a little more was open the kitchen.  In our dining room, I have a long buffet table that holds baskets of bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and tomatoes.  In the cabinets, the kids can find containers full of cashews and almonds, a bag of pumpkin seeds, a bag of raisins, and some beef jerky.  In the fridge, I always have a dozen or so hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, leftover meat, nitrate-free lunch meat, grapes, and sometimes berries.  I told the kids with great fanfare that they would no longer have to ask me for a snack.  If they were hungry, they could help themselves to any of these foods at any time.  My oldest is especially happy about this change.  She really thinks about the choices she’s making, and just the other day I saw her put a banana back and choose carrot sticks instead while she worked on an art project.

So no more pouting.  We are a Paleo family!