mama scout lab e-course

Monday, April 30, 2012

monday missions :: pick some fruit

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

It is spring (at least in most places)! The mission for this week is to find a U-Pick near by and pick fruit or veggies with your children. We love to pick blueberries each year from May thru June. The owner of our farm encourages us to eat as many as we want while we are picking, can you imagine?!

My kids love this place and the challenge of picking the biggest berries they can. Each time one son finds a good cluster, he yells out, "jackpot!" We bring home buckets full and make this amazing pie many times each year.

We did not always pick - maybe just the last 5 years, but it has be come an important part of our yearly rhythm. And when we travel, we try to find something interesting to pick. 

You can check out Pick your own to find opportunities near you.

Do you pick with your family? I would love to hear about it!

Friday, April 27, 2012

this moment :: florida mountains

image from the week. no words. via soulemama.

merit badge tale :: Shawn

Have you ever taken a road trip with toddlers? Well, I have and it was not pretty! Shawn from Awesomely Awake (one of my favorite new blogs) tells the story of traveling from Pennsylvania to Georgia with 2 1/2 year old twins. Yikes! 

Shawn, you earned a merit badge! It is in the mail!

The Goal: Pennsylvania to the Northern Georgia mountains.

The Problem: 750 miles one way with 2 1/2-year-old twins.

I remember the day clearly. Our SUV was literally filled to the ceiling with the whole house needed for a week's vacation with twin toddlers. It was an exciting time because it was our first major vacation and first time visiting my mom's new home. She moved to Georgia from Maryland the year our girls were born.

We had everything under the sun to keep them occupied. Goody bags to offer every hour. Toys. Games. Trays. Pillows. A million snacks, lollipops and treats.

And, DVD players that I had borrowed, just in case. We probably wouldn't need them!
We chose to drive during the day and spend the night half way.

{So, in other words, we had two torturous days of travel rather than just one.}

Still in diapers, the girls were surrounded by the worlds greatest things.

I think the fussing began around the 20 minute mark.

By the time we had reached Gettysburg, PA -- not even an hour from our house -- they were completely done.


"There, there. All will be well," I told myself.

We set up on the battlefield with a picnic blanket and some lunch. We changed diapers and let them run and play.

And then, back on the road, we popped in a brand new Elmo DVD and all else was calm as calm can be. I still hear those songs in my head from the many times it played.

Two days later -- after some of the longest hours of my life -- we arrived safe and sound in the beautiful Georgia mountains.

I sobbed as we pulled in the driveway, relieved for our road trip to be over.

And then, a week later, we turned ourselves around and did it all over again.

This summer, we're going to do it again for the first time since. But, our girls are older now. And I'm wiser. We'll leave earlier. We may even drive straight through.

It won't be easy but it never is. I mean, some days just getting to school is difficult enough.

We'll do our best. We always do.

Will we bring the DVD players?


Shawn Fink is a writer and blogger but is always a Mama first. She is the author of Awesomely Awake, a village that promotes living an intentional, creative and fun life -- with children.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

make a tiny meditation matchbox

All my children love tiny things. One recent morning, my son spent time making tiny scrolls and putting them in empty match boxes. Everyone was so charmed, we could not stop talking about all the things we could do with the concept.

We thought about birthday invitations, poetry boxes, wish boxes, and treasure hunt directions. We thought it would be fun to mail them, leave them on our friends' porches, or in random public places (that one I want to do soon!).

We also spent the morning making beeswax bottle cap candles. So, I turned all my goodies into a tiny meditation box. I wrote a meaningful quote and tied up my scroll with three matches. Tucking it into the match box, I thought what a sweet little gift this would make for anyone going through a tough time. 

How about a new mama?

A recent graduate? 

Someone who has met sudden sadness or is facing a big change?

The candle idea was inspired by craftaholics anonymous. She uses crayons, which is super cool, but for this application I really like the beeswax. Even from this small candle, it smells amazing. We keep our beeswax in a tin can and remelt it in a water bath for different projects. Super simple. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

let your kids pump gas

or check out as many books as they want, or eat ice cream for dinner, or mail weird things to their friends, or sleep with you, or wear what ever they want, or bring insects into the house, or take apart things, or dig a hole in the yard.....

you get the idea. whatever they want to do - see if there is a way you can say yes, enthusiastically, and then watch the learning, happiness, and family camaraderie grow. the automatic "no's" kill creativity, inquisitiveness and eagerness (and a little of your youth each time it crosses your lips).

this is my reminder for the week.

Monday, April 23, 2012

monday missions :: stroll to dinner

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

Well, it seems like several of these missions include eating and walking. Two of my favorite things! But something we have loved doing this spring is walking (or biking) to get dinner or a little snack.

We are lucky enough to live in a very walkable area. So, we can walk downtown to dinner, which we have been trying to do at least once a week. We also walk over to a local college for frozen yogurt. There is something about walking before and after you eat that ritualizes the whole experience and makes it more memorable. 

When my kids were younger, we spent a month in Paris and I remember looking out from my balcony and seeing families walking home from late dinners, arm in arm, so relaxed and present with each other. I knew I was witnessing something great, something that I wanted to try to recreate with my own kids. And now that they are older, we are embracing this new habit.

However, even if you do not live somewhere where walking to a restaurant is possible, maybe you could walk to a convenience store. That might sound horrible - but I have had magical times, just walking up to a 7-11 and buying an ice cream. Or walking around your neighborhood and saying, "yes" to the kids selling the super sweet lemonade for a quarter. 

By combining a journey with a meal (especially with children), we can turn a normal chore of life into an adventure. 

Does this resinate with you? Do you walk to dinner often? How does it work with your family?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

celebrating the blue dot :: a project and video

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.” 
 Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space 1994

So, what do you do for Earth day? I have to admit, I am put off by many of the projects out there. Eating dyed blue and green cupcakes does not really work for us. Sometimes, I am just a sourpuss about things. In our daily life, we build with recyclables, compost, try hard to bring our own bags, shop local.... but I really wanted to do something special and different.

In searching for a project for our family to do, I stumbled across these printable murals from the wonderful Art Projects for Kids website. We printed one out and spent a morning painting it. While we painted we talked geography, early map making, evolution, mythical creatures, what we thought Earth day's purpose was, and more. It was delightful and sweet. 

And I love the final project, that hangs beautifully backlit in our living room window. 

We are going to watch this too. It has some of the most moving text out there. And puts it all in perspective.


Friday, April 20, 2012

movie night :: Being Elmo

photo from here

A few weeks ago, my kids and I watched the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey and BOOM another thread was added to the loom (that I seem to keep talking about) of our creative explorations. I think it is important to note that my kids are not naturally Elmo fans. They did not grow up watching that much Sesame Street, so their interest in this film was all about the puppetry and the story of Kevin Clash's life. 

Clash's story of dreaming big, working hard and not being swayed by detractors led him to become one of the most successful puppeteers working today. His friendships with Kermit Love, Jim Henson, and Frank Oz helped him gain invaluable experience from a young age. It is hard to image a kid watching this and not getting inspired and fired up to follow their passion - no matter what it is.

As soon as the credits were rolling, my kids immediately started sewing puppets. In fact, if you are going to watch this with your children, go ahead and have some supplies ready!

My daughter sewed a muppet, making the eyes from polymer clay and adding a rod for the tail.

One son used a glove (stock up at Target - they are only a dollar!) to make a plant that comes alive and bites you. 

Another son made an "Animal" inspired, drum playing creature. 

Spoon and styrofoam puppets followed, each with names and back stories. We are looking forward to getting some craft foam next time we are at the fabric store to see what we can do with that.

Beyond just making puppets and writing some simple stories, we were connecting all sorts of other interesting cultural bits. We read about Jim Henson and Frank Oz and loved learning the fact that Oz does the voice for both Miss Piggy and Yoda. 

We have seen several Muppet movies and Fraggle Rock, but are now interested in checking out Dark Crystal and Labyrinth

And we would love to make one of these Muppets at FAO Swartz.!

This video of Jim Henson making puppets from things one can find around the house was funny and inspiring. 

Looking back, it seems like we have always been making puppets and little puppet theaters. Shadow and hand puppets, paper bag puppets, cereal box puppet theaters and marionettes - all seem to offer great methods for children to explore character, emotions, story telling and bravado.  As my kids get older, I hope they continue to explore this form of expression as it seems like such a fertile medium for creativity.

Have you made puppets and puppet shows with your kids?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

make a circle calendar

My kids (and I) have a hard time with keeping up with the months of the year. This problem is compounded by several aspects of our life: we live in Florida where the seasons are not nearly as pronounced as out northern neighbors, we have a ever changing schedule with homeschool activities varying from week to week, and my husband works odd hours. So, while we have a monthy calendar that we all refer to daily, the yearly rhythm eludes us. 

When I saw this artistic version of a circle calendar by Craft Knife, I knew we would all have fun making it our own version. We had already made a circle multiplication chart which were really successful. 

Using a plate, we traced a big circle onto some thick watercolor paper. We then drew the smaller circle and divided the whole thing into fourths. Then we added lines to make each quadrant  have space for three months. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

book review:: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

Have you ever felt fed up with the insane birthday parties that seem to be the new normal? You know, where entertainment is ordered, enough food for the gods is catered and carnival worthy blow up toys fill the yard? And by the end a sick, cranky kid is stumbling around and could care less about the time and resources used? (this might be a bit hyperbolic).

A few years ago we simplified our birthday celebrations quite a lot - just a few friends over for a waffle breakfast or a hike in the woods with some buddies. So simple, and the kid had more fun. And I was not left with garbage bags full of paper products headed straight for the landfill.

If you would like to move your parties into a greener, more simple direction, Naturally Fun Parties for Kids by Anni Daulter offers loads of inspiration. Daulter highlights three parties for each season that focus on homemade decorations and delicious whole, fresh food with an emphasis on ecologically friendly and healthy alternatives to the mainstream. Especially helpful is the organizational chart, list of supplies and timeline for each fete. She makes it easy for you to look amazing!

Monday, April 16, 2012

monday missions :: record the ordinary

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

I am in love with the small, seemingly insignificant bits of our life. Like the way all our shoes are heaped up by the front door. Or what my daughter's bookshelf looks like the night before her tenth birthday. Our mark on our space, the detritus of our creative experiments and big thoughts tell so much more about our journey as a family than holiday photos or recordings of big events. So, my hard drive is filled with these types of images and I adore them but recently I started taking some video of the really ordinary stuff we do, like walking in the woods or down the alley, petting the dog, or making orange juice. 

I am struck by how much these move me. They are not great films, I do not have the time or inclination to edit them or add hauntingly evocative music. They are simply recorded, mini documentaries of our mundane, usually shot on my ever present iPhone.

The mission for this week, it to make a short film of your own bit of ordinary. Your child sleeping or playing. The cat eating. Your husband making coffee or walking out to get the newspaper. 

I would love to see anything you do. Please share your film and ideas. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

lightbulb saturday:: inspiration for the weekend

Another week, another linky loo. If you are looking for creative ideas for the weekend - this will give you a great start!

This week I am loving:

a Plants vs Zombies garden theme from Think Magnet

Alien Bubbles from Preschool Projects (this project is NOT just for preschoolers)

Indoor Carnival Game from What Do We Do All Day

Thursday, April 12, 2012

merit badges tale :: Amie

This tale of things not going exactly as you plan comes from Amie in Austraila. Amie blogs about parenting life with twins, toddlers and a teenager here! Can you imagine? 

Our twins have slept in our room from the day they came home from the hospital. At eight months of age my twin boy began to realise that his Mummy was 'on-tap'. Once he realised this he would wake, crawl to the bars closest to my side of the bed and 'growl' until I woke up. He would then smile, sit-up and wait for me to pick him up. After this happened a couple of times I thought "Uh-oh, there's a habit forming here". It was time to move them into a bedroom with their 25 month old brother. We spent a whole weekend dismantling cots, moving furniture and reorganising a bedroom to fit all three children into. The first night went wonderfully well. We staggered the bedtime and all slept through until the morning. Perfect! The next night we did the same, but this time the 25 month old decided to do some cot hopping. We had a Port-a-cot in our bedroom just in case something like this happened...six months later our now 31 month old son is still in that Port-a-cot, in our bedroom. We basically swapped the twins for our toddler!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

unschooling little house on the prairie

I can not begin to tell you how much I appreciate the freedom our lifestyle afford us. As homeschooling gains in popularity and unschooling becomes more mainstream - I feel almost giddy at the possibilities of people taking charge of their education and creating exactly what works for their family and their children. What a privilege and opportunity we have!

For us, a recent immersion into the Little House on the Prairie series has led to long days in costumes replaying scenes from the book. We have listened to wolves howling, sewn, dipped candles, studied maps, talked about the Native Americans, laughed at Nellie and the big crab and cried when Pa lost the wheat field to the grasshoppers. 

When we read the series a few years ago, we used the terms "before Laura" and "after Laura" when trying to conceptualize time periods in history. 

The great thing about interest led learning is that the facilitator's (parent's) job is to prepare the environment and support the explorations. In another system, the children might expect that I work hard to organize the whole day with activities and projects that I lead them through. In interest led learning, we all work on it together. They decide (with my input and assistance) what they want to do to make the experience complete. 

 On this particular morning, I woke up to 3 children dressed in their prairie garb ready for a day of pioneer school. We made biscuits from scratch (a rare treat around here) and ate them with the jam we had made last summer (our pioneer selves that is :). We then took a long walk mimicking Laura and Mary's 2.5 mile walk to school. We stopped at our lake (creek) to poke around and catch some minnows. When we returned home, each kid came to my store to buy their slate and slate pencil. Then we played school. They read to me from McGuffy readers, worked on penmanship, and figured arithmetic on their slates. 

It was a fun, kid created, parent supported exploration into what it might be like to be a settler. We finished up with reading a few more chapters out loud while snacking on some almonds that Mr. Oleson send over and building with blocks to recreate the house that Pa had built with the high hopes he had for his wheat crops. 

The beauty of this type of learning is how it organically flows through our life. Later in the day, the kids were back to pursuing other individual interests: reading Harry Potter, playing the drums, grocery shopping with their dad, building and taking apart inventions, writing stories, building a pond habitat in an aquarium and planning a spa night. The Little House thread will weave in and out of our days until they have learned all they need to from it. And then another thread will become more prominent - but they are all always there, making up a rich and strong fabric of wonder and exploration.

Do your children get absorbed in stories and time periods? I would love to hear how your family does it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

family writing lab :: sensing colors

After reading this simple and moving book, we were inspired to think about how we might describe colors with senses other than sight. Each person in our family picked a color and brainstormed how their color would taste, sounds, smell, or feel. They then wrote up their idea with a sharpie marker on watercolor paper and then painted their page further exploring their color. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

monday missions :: change your family soundtrack

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

Most parents are keenly aware of the affect of music on their children. When my daughter was new we had a cassette (!) tape that we just called, "magic." It was weird high pitched melodies that would calm her every time we were in the car.

Now, as my kids are older we often go through phases where we forget to listen to music. Probably because the house is already sorta loud (hmm...). But reading times, dinners and Sunday mornings do all have their own soundtrack and I have started making sure we listen to more new music, outside our standards of classical, jazz and world. I have realized we are missing out on so much good pop music (classics like the Beatles, or Etta James or more modern stuff like Adele, Feist and even the Glee soundtrack). And what about Broadway soundtracks? My daughter is in love with the music from Wicked right now. I think Rent is next.

Basically, I realized I can not stick to my comfort zone, we need to listen to a much bigger range. 

So, my mission for the week is to choose a new Pandora station each day, to check out some new CDs for the car and to listen to forgotten records from our collection (maybe they would like some RUSH).

Do you want to join me? Tell me about your music habits? Have a suggestion for me to listen to? I am up for the challenge.

Friday, April 6, 2012

merit badge tale :: Marnie

Another merit badge tale! This one is from Marnie Craycroft of the awesome blog Carrots are Orange. I can completely relate to this tale : flying with babies, nursing, unrelenting her tale to find out what happened!

We travel a lot with our children. On one occasion we were taking a flight across the USA to visit our parents in New England. At the time our sons were 6 months old and 2 years old. My husband handled our 2 year old, while I handled our 6 month old. That, as many of you who travel with nursing infants know, means "nurse, sleep, nurse, sleep,
nurse, sleep". Well, typically that means the baby, not me. On this occasion, however, I fell asleep while nursing and I fell asleep hard.
I am not sure how long I slept but I do know that when I woke up both my nipples were bare to the cabin with my Glamour Mom tank top unfastened without a care in the world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

merit badge tale :: Danielle

It has been a while since we have shared some merit badge tales. I love these funny (and sometimes sad) tales from the front lines of parenting. This one comes from Danielle who blogs at 52 Brand New where she chronicles her family's adventures as they try 52 new things this year. A mama merit badge is on the way for surviving this poopy mishap!

When my son was 16 months old, he was diagnosed with Toddler Tummy.  This very scientific term means that he had difficulty digesting fruit, and it would wind up exploding out of his diaper shortly after he ate it. We drove from Phoenix to Sedona, AZ, hit a lot of traffic, and were stuck with a screaming toddler in the backseat.  Nothing we did would calm him.  When we reached the hotel, it was after 3:00, so my husband went inside to check in while I attended to Luke.  I took him out of the backseat to find that he had liquified poop up to his shoulders and down to his knees.  I gagged and almost cried, wondering how I was going to clean him and his car seat.  My husband returned from the lobby and told me that the room was not ready.  I marched in, holding Luke at arm's length, and demanded that we go to our room immediately.  The clerk insisted it was not ready.  I hoisted Luke up onto the counter and cried, "If we don't get a room now, I have no choice but to change this disaster in your lobby!"  We were instantly upgraded to a suite and escorted down the hallway.
I did apologize to the clerk later that day.  My husband was mortified.  He said nothing could have been more traumatic for that clerk, not even a hold up!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I am off for the week to enjoy my family. Enjoy your week! -Amy


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