Thursday, March 23, 2017

Preschool Spring chicks

Want something SUPER easy to do with your toddler this weekend? You have to try these preschool Spring chicks. Set up is super simple - just grab a piece of card stock and draw three chick silhouettes (which isn't even actually a silhouette...just a circle head with a bigger circle body underneath.)

Have your child sponge yellow paint all around the circles. 

Once the chicks are dry, spread glue all over the head and let them stick eyes and a beak on their chicks! You could also have them draw on the eyes and beaks, but my daughter's fine motor skills are definitely not there, if you know what I mean. 

After the faces are attached, have your kiddo draw on the legs! Lastly, use some green paint with a new sponge to give the little chicks some grass. 

This project was so easy, and cleanup was a cinch - just toss out the paper towel of paint and rinse the sponge!

Have you tried this project? Please link me to a picture in the comments below!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wayne Thiebaud Cakes with oil pastel - grade six

Wayne Thiebaud cake lesson plans are such a good bang for your buck. Have you seen his amazing cake paintings?

They translate so well to oil pastel lessons for junior level grades. You get some fundamental drawing skills, shading, blending, and a finished product that looks kinda 3D, and the entire thing can be accomplished in under one and a half hours! Since I am still on mat leave (only for another week!! Ugh) I've been getting my fill of art by volunteering with my friend's class, so I really need lessons that can be done in one shot, rather quickly but with a great payoff. 

I always begin projects like this with a group draw (think - paint night style.) I drew each step on the board, stopping to make sure that everyone was following along and making sure the lines were parallel. I can't stress how important this is! If they aren't parellel lines, the cake will look... not like a cake. Which just isn't fun when you're doing a cake project.

Next, students need to begin coloring and shading using oil pastel. I told them they could go crazy with as many layers as they wanted, but to remember that every layer needed to be colored in, so if they were super thin, they would have trouble keeping the lines clean.

Have them start by (1) coloring in each layer with a base color. Next, they will (2) blend using white oil pastel, going toward the center. Finally, they will (3) blend using black oil paste, going toward the center. I tell my students that they don't need to use fingers or kleenex to blend oil pastel, that just coloring on top of the color with the shade will blend it quite nicely. 

Once the layers are done, they can color the exterior of the cake. Using the same technique of coloring with the base layer first, students can blend the black and white oil pastels coming from the edges and going in toward the center of the cake. 

The top can be colored with an all over color, and students can decorate it using candles, candies, and anything else they can dream up!

The final step is the add-ons - a plate, a table, some cake shadowing. 
Some kids went ahead and did wallpaper designs, which just took the project up a notch. Depending on how much time you have, there can be a lot of creativity here!

I love this lesson. It would be great  to leave with a substitute. You could even link them to this page and just have them follow the steps. Easy peasy!

Have you tried this activity? If so, please link me in the comments!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scout's Home Birth

Today is my daughter Scout's first birthday. A year ago, my baby girl was born in the comfort of my home and in all of my hazy newborn fog, I still managed to write out her birth story. It's definitely wordy, so TLDR: I had a baby.

From the start, Scout's birth was different than Juliet's. With Juliet, I knew I was going into labor because my water broke before anything else (and within 4 hours, she had been born.) My midwife Wendy had been prepping me for Scout's birth, saying it would likely be very quick - maybe half the time of Juliet's - and that since Juliet had been born on her due date, it was likely Scout would come on hers, maybe even the day before

Scout's due date came.. and went.. On March 10th (3 days late) around 7:30 in the morning, I felt some cramping that didn't feel normal. I went downstairs and told Joel that he should maybe wait to leave for work, in case this was labor. An hour later, I knew I was having contractions – they were happening every three minutes, lasting about 30 seconds, and were a mild to moderate on the pain scale. Joel paged the midwife and let her know what was happening, more as a “heads up”, but she said she'd come right away based on Juliet's birth. We also called Joel's parents to come over, as we wanted them there for the birth, and to help with Juliet while I labored.

 At 8:45, Wendy showed up and checked how dilated I was – 4-5 cm already. She said that things should be over quickly, probably within 2 hours or so. Contractions for this labor were much, much worse than with Juliet. I was feeling a lot of pressure in my back this time. A lot. Around 9:15, I moved up to our bedroom from the living room so that I could have a shower and watch a movie. The hot shower helped with the back pain so much. I stayed there until I ran out of hot water, and it was probably the saddest moment of my life.

 At 10:15 I was checked again, and I was 8cm dilated. I was pretty positive that this meant I would be pushing within the next hour or so. Joel put on a movie for me to watch, and I spent about an hour going back and forth between pacing, sitting, and showering in lukewarm water. Joel had the important job of heating up hot bean bags for me and holding them on my back (I'm not kidding, this basically saved me.) He was running downstairs every 10 minutes to heat up the beans or get ice water or lemonade or whatever else I thought would help.

 At 12:15pm, I was at the end of my rope and asked to be assessed again. My midwife and her student checked, and told me that I was still only 8cm dilated. My water hadn't broken yet, and it was basically blocking Scout from coming out. I asked flat out if they could just break the water, and they told me about some of the risks associated with it (if they were to break the water and there was any meconium in it, I would need to go to the hospital for assessment.) They gave me another option to help relieve some of the pain - to have sterile water injections in my back.

They did 4 shots of sterile water into my back, which they said would feel like 4 painful bee stings. Honestly, the pain of those shots was the only thing that brought me to tears in both my labors combined. It was nightmarish. By 1:15, the only thing that had changed was that my back pain had lessened, but I still wasn't feeling like I could push. My water hadn't broken, and it was clear it was holding everything back.

I called my midwives up to my bedroom and asked if they could break the water for me, and at this point they agreed that was a good idea and we got ready to do it.

 Having my water broken was the neatest part of the entire experience. I laid on my back on the floor, and Wendy waited for a contraction. When one came, she used a hook to break my water and it literally just... exploded. She told me the waters were clear, and then said to brace myself because it would be time to start pushing any minute. By 1:30 I was ready to push, so we moved back downstairs to the living room. I gave birth to Juliet in my living room too, and it's definitely where I feel most comfortable in my house.

I got ready to push, and heard the midwives asking Joel if he wanted some gloves - Joel had asked if he could catch Scout when she came out! At 1:45 I started to actively push. It only took 2 or 3 pushes, and at 1:54 Scout was born into Joel's arms with his parents and our then 2 year old daughter Juliet watching. He handed Scout to me, and I have never felt such relief in my life - to be finished with this exhausting pregnancy and labor, and to meet my new girl.

 The midwives immediately said how big she was (9 pounds!) and that she was an OP baby, which means that she was back to back with me and facing the wrong way (this is why my back pain was so strong during labor.) This explains why I was in so much more pain than I had been with Juliet.

When Scout was born, a lot of people asked how Juliet reacted to seeing her sister being born. Really, she seemed rather indifferent. She watched the whole thing from only a few feet away, but she didn't seem particularly horrified or interested or anything. For her, it was just another thing that happened in our house that day.

When you deliver a baby at home, you're left with your placenta. It's kind of bizarre. With my first home birth, they just said "where should we put it?" and I remember thinking "Ehh.. you don't TAKE it with you?!" We stuck it in the freezer and a day later I ended up donating Juliet's placenta to a dog search and rescue group in my city that uses them to train the dogs on how to find human organs. After Juliet's birth, I was all kinds of emotional, so this time I decided to try placenta encapsulation. Everything I've read about it says that it helps with postpartum emotions, as well as milk supply, energy, etc.

I'm not sure if I was just less emotional because it was my second baby, or if the pills really did help, but I felt overall the recovery from Scout's birth was so much easier than Juliet's. Even though her birth was more painful and longer than Juliet's, I felt so good physically and emotionally (for the most part, anyway.)

Scout's appearance into the world a year ago was wild and painful and not at all what I had expected, but I am so happy with my home birth experience. We have been fortunate to have two home births with no complications, and I really can't recommend a home birth enough to others who have healthy pregnancies. It's such a sweet, comfortable way to bring a baby into this world!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Simple alphabet matching activity

Here's a quick and easy snack activity (snack-tivity?) that my daughter LOVED. 

Have you seen IKEA's KEX crackers? They're cute little letter crackers that are kind of delicious too.

Lately, my daughters favorite thing to do is find things that are "matchy-matchy!" She will match a dinosaur toy to her dinosaur pants. A stuffed animal to its character in a book. A few days ago she yelled MAMA COME HERE QUICK!!  I dropped everything and rushed to her room, only to have her show me that her sock color "matchy-matchy'd" a hippo on Hungry Hungry Hippos. 

So when I saw these crackers, I knew they'd be great for matching alphabet letters. I made up a quick printout with letters the same size as the KEX crackers. 

Then I set up a bowl of crackers and let her play. She loved it!

Seriously. Easiest and quietest snack time ever. 

Need a copy of this printout? Let me know and I can link you one!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Unicorn Birthday Party part one - Nutella buttercream unicorn cake

Being a mom hurtles you through time at a speed that is impossible to put into words. Here I sit, writing a blog post about my now three year old's birthday party. How did this happen!?

Juliet made it clear in no uncertain terms that she wanted a unicorn party. I actually tried many times to change her mind to a Teddy Bear Picnic party (so cute right?! She said no. So guess what her sister's birthday theme will be!)

Luckily for Juliet, unicorns are pretty trendy right now. There was no shortage of unicorn ideas on the internet to get our creative juices flowing. I'll break down a few of my favorite unicorn ideas we used for her party over the next few days.

First, the cake.

Unicorn cakes are everywhere. These cakes look daunting, but are actually extremely easy to make.With a few simple tricks I promise you, you can make a great looking unicorn cake too!

Unicorn cakes need to be tall. This means several layers of cake, so invite all of your neighbors over when you attempt one. I tried to find 7" baking pans to keep the size smaller, but I swear they don't exist anywhere. I found a 6" but it was way too small. I ended up using an 8" pan which was fine, but it still took 3 boxes of cake mix to get the cake tall enough (5 layers.)

Before baking the layers, I separated the mix into 4 bowls and dyed three of them (pink, blue and purple). I swirled the colors together with the white mix, to get a cute marbled effect that I of course forgot to take pictures of upon cutting the cake. 

Have you ever built a layered cake before? If not, the main trick is to let your cakes cool completely, then slice the tops off flat so they don't make a dome when they are stacked. That being said, I am in no way qualified to explain this whole process to you. Google is your friend. 

Aren't the swirls pretty?! It looked even cuter when the cake was cut. 

In between each later I slathered on buttercream, then when the cake was fully built, I did a crumb coat. 

Let's talk about the icing for a second - Nutella buttercream. Can you even?! It was so good. And SO easy if you're into being lazy. Here's how to make it:
  • drive to bulk barn
  • buy a container of buttercream
  • drive home
  • using a hand mixer, mix in a big scoop of nutella
  • taste it. If it needs more Nutella, add more. 
Guys. SO good.

After the crumb coat sits for 30 minutes, slather on more icing until the cake is smooth. 

Now all that's left to do is make a horn and ears, and add in some flowers. Some fancy people make flowers using icing or fondant, but I just grabbed a bunch from Dollarama and stuck them in. #win

The horn was made using fondant. It's a skewer with two snakes of fondant wrapped around it. When making the snakes, have them get skinnier on one end. Then the skinny ends will become the top of the horn!

The ears were fondant rolled flat then cut into triangle ear shapes. The pink inner ear was attached to the white outer ear using a dab of water, and stuck into the cake using skewers. Once you've stuck in the horn and ears, use an icing pen to draw on some eyes, and you're done!

My daughter LOVED the cake. I kind of can't believe how simple it was to make, especially since the payoff was so great. If you're on the fence about making one, I really recommend giving it a shot. And if you find a 6" pan anywhere, hit a girl up, because this cake was huge.

I'll be back soon with more of the unicorn projects we did for her party!

Have you tried this project? If so, let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Preschool Cactus Art

Art with preschool children can be daunting. My daughter turned three last week, and while she loves arts and crafts, I always cringe when she asks to break out the paint. She's on a real cactus kick lately (who isn't?) so I thought maybe I could brave the mess and try some watercolors. Turns out this was a low mess, low stress, high payoff project that I will definitely try again with different stencils.

The first part of this project is to make a stencil. You could easily draw and cut out a simple stencil of some cacti (or any other object!) but since I have a Cricut handy, I made a stencil of 3 quick and dirty cacti on Photshop and had my robot servant cut them out.
I used an old sheet of cardstock as my stencil paper. Something thicker would be even better but since this project is just intended to be a one off, a sheet of cardstock works fine. 

After the Cricut was done doing its thing, I lightly glued the stencil to a piece of watercolor paper. Computer paper works, but watercolor paper blends so much better, and if it's something you plan to keep long term, then why not go big.

My daughter used a sponge brush to fill in the cacti. She loved this. SO. MUCH. She dabbed green paint all over the cacti, then added in some blue. (I think a kid with more experience with watercolors could really have fun with this - rainbow blends, different colors for each cactus, etc.)

Once she had filled in the cacti, we took off the stencil!

The next, most terrifying step, is to add little faces to your pictures. Because, why not, right? So go ahead. Hand your three year old a Sharpie, right next to your light grey couch, and.. just pray.


When my girl was finished with the stencils she still wanted to paint, so we threw the cut-outs of the cacti onto a new sheet of paper and I let her have at it while I tidied up.

By this point I had already confiscated her water, so I just loaded her brush with water and didn't worry about rinsing her brush between colors. It looked excellent.

This whole project was super simple. I would rate it a 2/10 in terms of stress and cleanup (which is a WIN for me!)

If you try this project, please let me know by sharing in the comments!
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