busy bees

We've been so busy lately doing our part in the world to make the bulk of our holiday gifts this year. It's so crazy how this time of year just kind of takes over and there hardly seems time to breathe it all in sometimes. Still, we are finding the calm in the madness by staying home as much as we can, focusing on the simple things that make us happy, and revisiting rituals that connect us as a family. More on that very soon.

TRUCE 2008/09 Action Guide

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment (TRUCE) is a national group of educators deeply concerned about how children's entertainment and toys are affecting the play and behavior of children in our classrooms. Every year TRUCE puts out a toy guide during the holiday season to help parents navigate the craziness that can be children's toys.

You can find the 2008/09 TRUCE Action Guide here. This guide includes sections on: Toys, Play and Young Children; What Parents and Other Adults Can Do; Choosing Toys of Value; Toys and Toy Trends to Avoid; Shoebox Gifts; and many other resources.

The great news is that it is available for you to freely print and distribute amongst your friends, parents of children in your classrooms, or perhaps even email/send a copy to the grandparents as they begin to prepare for the holiday gift-giving frenzy that might occur.

papiér-maché fun

This time of year we usually find ourselves heavily steeped papiér-maché (Zeal has always wanted a homemade piñata at his birthday party. This year when I mentioned it, he said emphatically, "No! No piñata!" And for a moment, I was sad that our ritualized-over-the-years piñata making would not be happening.

Luckily, his Halloween costume (The half-bull/half-man Minotaur) plans included the need for a bit of papiér-machéing, so I got my fill anyway.

There are other ways of doing papiér-maché that work well (like just glue or liquid starch and water, but here's our favorite recipe for a cooked slop that makes a good hard mask or piñata:

Papiér-Maché Mix
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water

Mix flour and sugar in a pan. Add water and stir together. Boil, stirring constantly until thick. Add more water to thin to desired consistency. Let cool slightly and use on any papiér-machéing projects such as piñatas, masks, etc. Keeps for a few days. Makes about a half gallon.

And you can see the final costume, with mama's too, here.

Getting Ready for Winter Creativity

photo: Amanda Smith, Register-Guard

The leaves have been a tremendous source of play around here lately. With the weather "cooperating", Zeal determinedly saved the leaves even when all the neighbors had theirs raked and ready for pickup by the city over a week ago. And why not save them? They are just so much fun to explore with.

Here we are doing what we love to do best with the leaves: making a maze. Only this year he reenacted the story of the Minotaur instead of running his trucks through it. Aaah, growing boys.

Today, the leaves finally did make it to the curb (well, at least most of them did), but we still have the memory of the maze and even a bit more since it was immortalized in the newspaper, The Register-Guard with this little piece called "Not Just Kidding Around".

Here's the first bit of the article:

Yes, the rain has begun in earnest, and every Oregon parent has started to think: What to do with those kids on yet another wet, dreary day?

For help we turned to Ginger Carlson, writer of the book “Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children.” She lives in Eugene and is the mother of her own 8-year-old boy, named Zeal.


Books as a model for Thinking (Outside the Box)

When we talk about rearing children who live a creative life, one filled with thinking skills, problem solving, and self-expression that almost always includes lives filled with models of creativity. Those models come in all shapes, sizes and forms, not the least of which is the model of a great book.


The Story of Stuff

Last night was great fun! I so enjoyed talking with everyone about Consuming Kids, and although it's rather depressing, there are so many things for us to do once we have the background and understanding about this billion dollar industry of marketing to children. One of the highlights for me last night was the viewing of Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff.

Here's a bit about the film:

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns, with a special focus on the United States. All the stuff in our lives, beginning from the extraction of the resources to make it, through its production, sale, use and disposal, affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues and calls for all of us to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something. It'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

And, most fortunately, The Story of Stuff is available to view online. Please check it out here and then let me know what you think!

reminder: Consuming Kids premiere!

Just a reminder that the first public premiere and viewing nationwide of the new film Consuming Kids is this coming Thursday, November 13th at 7PM at the Grand Theatre at 191 High Street NE in Salem, Oregon. Doors open at 6:15. The viewing and discussion following the film is sponsored by the Salem Progressive Film Series. It will also include a short documentary called the Story of Stuff. You can read more about the films, see trailers, and learn about the Salem Progressive Film Series here.

I sincerely hope to see you at the movies this Thursday!

Amazing Days!

What we think of all these leaves and buckets of rain falling down all around us:
they're just totally...

The collection of rain, the experiments, and all that puddle jumping, (followed by a good warm bath) has officially begun! He's in heaven!

Hello Wonderers and Happy November! (Wonderwise, Nov 2008)

From the opening of this month's issue of Wonderwise.

Hello Wonderers and Happy November!

Well, this last week began the season... the season of jumping from holiday to holiday. Between Halloween, Dia de Los Muertos, a few family birthdays, the Harvest, Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year celebrations we usually take part in, things are certainly picking up speed around here. Around Valentine's Day, we usually stop and breathe. But this year, we are reminding ourselves to slow it all down.

We spent the week at the sewing machine (Zeal wanting to make his own costume). It was a costume I could have whipped out in a few minutes, but he chose to sit and sew it himself so instead it was a few day process; likewise with the papier-mache mask he made (that took 5 days for him to complete). And as we stood in the kitchen roasting our pumpkin the slow way for a few satisfying pumpkin bars, we talked and laughed and he even commented on how cool it was that we were doing it the SLOW way. [I'll certainly blog about it this week, so check out thinkingoutsidetherecipe.blogspot.com and wondershop.blogspot.com if you are interested in seeing more of the process.]

But then, the night of Halloween came and the chocolate buzz took over our heavily trick-or-treated neighborhood. We easily saw over a hundred costumed characters and creatures within the first few hours. When it was time to head out ourselves, we gathered the troops and began the journey. Zeal decided he would Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, and along with thousands of other kids nationwide, he would ask each house to give some spare change to help kids in other parts of the world get the things they need to grow and survive (water, nutrition, medical and school supplies). But doing so meant that he (and his other friend who was taking part, as well) were slowing the others down. It took time for people to dig for that silver. So, caught in the frenzy, the others ran on ahead and these two little ones took their time with each house. They were so proud and faithful to the cause. Some people gave bills. Some gave pennies. And with each bit of giving, little and big hearts did a bit of swelling.

The kids ended up with less traditional Halloween loot than their counterparts (who we met up with again later), but they didn't seem to notice or care. In the end it didn't matter at all since Zeal ended up leaving his candy out for "The Halloween Goblin" who did a nice exchange for the candy with a few new lego pieces (the favorite building tool of late). Works out for me since you know how pregnant mamas just love a bit of chocolate now and again. And I especially love that some of our neighbors even chose to give organic! :)

But he still has that little UNICEF box sitting in a place of honor, waiting to be sent in "for the kids". The trophy of the evening. And the morning here is quiet and slow, the way it should be. And this is only one little way that kids are learning the importance of giving to others and helping people in need.

So here, in this issue of Wonderwise, have yourself a merry beginning to this season of giving with:
-Volunteering with Children from Kelly Palmatier at CompassionateKids.com
-Artists Helping Children - Ways to Give Back
-Consuming Kids documentary
-Bread of the Dead

So just for fun, here we are on Halloween night...
Two characters taken from Greek mythology, the latest source of creative fun around our house...
Zeal, in his mostly self-made costume, The Minotaur, and my very pregnant self as the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.