with/for/about kids

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This cut-and-color activity was originally created to accompany a lesson on the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30). I found the wonderful black and white illustrations on an educational site allowing use of the images for personal or educational use. I chose pairs of young and adult animals and plants that have fairly different looking forms.

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

I did this activity with several kids ages 4-7 and it was challenging enough to all of them to make and to play. If you are making these with more than one child in the same house, use different colors of cardstock for the backing so that each child will know which set is theirs. You can play at least two different games with these cards and I’m sure they will spark interesting conversations, walks outdoors and field trips! Enjoy!

2 page PDF 5.5 MB download

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

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I think I had to go out at least once every day last week, no picnic for a hermit like me. But I made it through the “princess” a.k.a. Royal Banquet on the Greene birthday party yesterday. It was a little chilly but sunny. The girl and her brother and six little friends enjoyed croquet and crafting bejeweled felt crowns as well as munchies, chocolate cake and pink lemonade. The girl has been planning this party for months. She’s quite opinionated but I figure she’s only 4 once so I would try to accommodate. I think everyone had a good time. Even the boys. The stage was set with a borrowed canopy, an old jewel toned backdrop of a court jester, and a fabric draped throne.

Here she is, the princess holding court, in the dress I made from two colors of stretch pink velveteen I bought months ago from fashionfabricsclub.com. I ended up making my own pattern but the fabric turned out to be quite easy to sew once I finally started.

"princess" dress for a four year old, my own pattern

Her brother, wearing the felt crown he decorated for himself and choosing his croquet mallet with care. He takes this game very seriously.

boy wearing felt crown with stick on jewels

The cake. Three tiers of fluffy German chocolate cake baked in borrowed heart shaped pans. Too late I realized that I had never made any other frosting than chocolate! I am not much of a baker. So I just picked a recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook which I had to retrieve from a box in the basement despite the fact it’s been a year since we moved in. Pink frosting did not behave as I was used to! But it tasted fine.

three layer heart shaped pink icing chocolate cake with strawberries and blueberries

Face painting by my friend Jan. This was quite popular with the boys and the girls.

face painting at birthday party

Our sweet little neighbor.

toddler in ruffly skirt holding a pink crown

Opening presents. In the background is the banner I designed for a fund-raising party with a royal theme quite a few years ago. Thankfully I did not have to sew these 5′ x 8′ monsters myself. All I did was cut and iron on the gold lamé appliques which was quite a job in and of itself. There were actually several of them made and I kept them afterwards knowing that eventually another occasion for their use would present itself. Voila, a princess birthday party.

princess birthday party with jester banner in background

I’m pleased that by borrowing a few things, reusing things we already had and making the refreshments myself, I was able to create the royal party my daughter wanted without spending much actual cash. However, I may have to hire a maid to help me clean up the mess I made!

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kids opening croquet set

The boy and the girl went up to the county for a sleepover at my parents’ house. While at their grandparents’ house they picked berries, roamed the field road in the ATV, made ice cream with grandmom, helped grandpop mow the lawn and developed a taste for playing croquet! DH and I were at home cleaning, rearranging, painting and having a little fun too.

img_5204 bee balm or monarda

Back home they played outside in the sprinkler while my friend Jan and I did tie dye which is still batching, pictures of that later. But here are some playsilks quickly scrunch dyed in Kool-Aid. The orange and the pinky-red are new and the blue and green are several years old. Both kids play with these a lot so I figured a few new colors would be welcome.

playsilks dyed with Kool-Aid

This morning the girl and I went down to Artist and Craftsman Supply to pick up some PINK procion dye since we discovered yesterday that we are all out of PINK. They are homebased here in Portland ME but have a number of stores in cities across the country, maybe one near you! I did look specifically at the acid dyes thinking I’d bring some home to dye fiber/yarn but I couldn’t decide on a color. Maybe next time after I do a little more research.I also picked up some extra Sculpey in colors we are running out of and a bargain pick of pretty nice paint brushes for the kids in fun colors with gel handles. I haven’t been there in at least a year and now I remember why. I go in there and I just want to buy some of everything!

colorful paint brushes

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What to do when you get to the beach and it looks like this?

low tide at Winslow Park beach

Climb over silky smooth driftwood, splunk through the river muck, carefully examine an empty horseshoe crab shell . . .

driftwood log

horseshoe crab shell

and make sandcastles!


Add a moat.

building sandcastles at low tide

Notice that it looks kind of like a turtle and add feet and a tail.

sand castle with turtle shaped moat walls

While you’re digging in the sand, scoop out some river clay and shape a bird with a . . . ummmm . . . pancake to sit on the turtle’s head.

fresh river clay bird on a rock

Call it a day and take the kids home to play in the sprinkler. Enjoy your summer!

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a day at the beach

We finally got a free Saturday warm and sunny enough to hit the beach. Our first time this summer, I’m going to say first because I sure hope we get to go again! The boy enjoyed the waves as well as playing in the sand, the girl, not so big on the water but we had fun digging in the sand. We also attempted some kite flying—too windy, a little hiking, and some Italian ice. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer day in Maine.

sandcastle with driftwood and shell umbrella


strake (as used by the girl)

1. v. to rake leaves or grass
2. n. the implement used to rake leaves or grass

Oddly enough I don’t remember her using this in the fall, then again we had such a short fall. But she has been using it this spring when the grass gets cut. She likes to use her own “strake” to help.

pinchworm (as used by the boy)

  1. an inchworm
  2. inchworm

  3. a chenille stem inchworm with pony bead eyes as seen below
  4. chenille stem inchworms

I hadn’t seen a picture of an inchworm recently when the boy asked me to make some. We were not at home so I grabbed what I could find which happened to be chenille stems and pony beads. Notice that the real inchworm has six legs on the front segment and four legs on the rear segment, and no neck or tail as well. He pointed out to me the discrepancy in the number of legs immediately although he also graciously said that it was okay and that he liked what I had made. Fast foward a week when a real inchworm happened to catch our attention on the back of someone’s shirt. I picked it up to show the kids and you know what was the first thing the boy said, don’t you? Attention to detail, that’s my boy.

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experimenting with sidewalk chalk and water

We’ve had fun drawing with sidewalk chalk on the driveway for several summers now. This time the boy decided to add a new element: water. I didn’t capture the fleeting images as they disappeared as I ran to get the camera but this one lasted a few seconds longer. The solar system perhaps?

wet sidewalk chalk drawing


One of our favorite walking spots since we moved to Maine is Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park, only minutes from downtown Freeport, home to L.L.Bean which is a sight to see in and of itself. The park trails wind through the woods and down to the rocky shore. The girl struggled to keep up with the boy as they raced up and down the trails past the storm-worn roots of a downed tree, stopping occasionally to check on tiny wild flowers and spy squirrels, chipmunks and birds.

wooded trail in Maine storm-worn roots of a downed tree
purple wild flowers

Reaching the shore, we looked out on a few of the many islands of Casco Bay. Hopping along the rocks, we found tiny shrimp swimming in little pools, barnacle-encrusted shells and tiny periwinkles traveling slowly across the rocks.

on the rocks at Wolf's Neck barnacles on a mussel shell
periwinkles clinging to a rock

My favorite view:

Wolf's Neck Woods State Park

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The boy finally lost his first tooth this week. I think he was feeling a bit left out as quite a few of his friends had already lost their first teeth. There was much dancing and singing. While the boy was gone to school I decided to make a tooth pillow so the “tooth fairy” would be able to find the little tooth under the boy’s pillow that night. I thought about doing some needle felting but ended up using embroidery floss to stitch a little face on the tooth and blanket stitch to stitch the tooth shape onto the pillow and finish the edges as well. I left a little opening at the top of the tooth big enough for a quarter (according to the song the boy learned in school, bless that music teacher!)

hand made felt tooth fairy pillow

I don’t do embroidery or cross stitch too often but occasionally I like to do it, especially on a small project like this where there are immediately satisfying results. After I was done with the tooth pillow I was reminded of this Japanese craft book that my aunt gave me years ago. It’s full of adorable felt people, animals and plants. The boy and the girl have already picked out projects for me to do, of course.

Japanese craft book of felt people, animals and plants

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Over the weekend we visited with Nana and Granddad and Great Uncle Wade in NH. The trees are just a bit more leafed out and the flowers are all blooming there, maybe a week ahead of us. We took a romp through the rocky woods and the kids enjoyed exploring and climbing around.



marigold flower in a paper cone hung on a doorknob

This showed up on our doorknob last week, courtesy of one of the neighborhood kids. I don’t know what the little blue guy represents exactly but the cone was addressed to the boy and the girl and held a single marigold plant with it’s rootball wrapped in aluminum foil. The kids were thrilled and we planted it right away. I thought it was an awfully cute idea and how neighborly!

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pokemon wurmple made out of sculpey

For your amusement, I present Wurmple, a Pokémon caterpillar, or “Murple” as the boy calls him (it?) made out of Sculpey. It looks complicated but it wasn’t that hard. Playing with clay dough with the kids over the last few years has really developed my ability to make recognizeable three dimensional objects!

Anyway, this did not come about without some reluctance on my part. I was vaguely aware of the game/trading cards, etc. for a long time but did really know anything about it. At the beginning of the school year a letter from the school reminded parents that children were not to bring these trading cards to school. Seemed like a good enough reason not to have them at all. Of course they make it onto the bus and the playground anyway. The boy would make reference to Pokémon occasionally but did not seem too interested until he started talking about “Murple”, a butterfly Pokémon and asking me to find a picture. (He knows all about Google Images). He’s been interested in caterpillars and butterflies for a long time so I thought maybe it was time to pay a little more attention.

It was easy enough to find the Pokémon website but not so easy to find a butterfly named “Murple”. But we did find him and his real name and the fact that he was actually a caterpillar that changes into a cocoon and then into a butterfly . . . with a different name. Yes, it’s confusing. And I learned a bit more about the whole phenomenon and decided that maybe the core idea wasn’t so bad after all. Along the way I printed out a number of other Pokémon for the boy. I used it as a way to encourage him to sound out the names. Kind of hard because some of the names are pretty weird. But apparently pretty motivating. Eventually he asked me to make a “Murple” out of clay. Eek. I really didn’t want to tackle it but he did ask nicely. You know the rest.

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spring cookiescookies for Easter

Children like to bake cookies. Mine are no exception. Now me, I don’t really like to bake cookies, especially with my children. Why? Because the girl cannot seem to stay away from the oven, and both of the kids get incredibly wound up with all the steps of what is the most horrible hurry-up-and-wait activity I can think of. Maybe it’ll be more fun for me when they can do the whole thing by themselves and I just get to eat the results.

I’m not particularly a baker because you have to either bake often or follow the recipe. There’s all that science involved you know, which I actually find quite interesting but not when I have two anxious children asking me every second how can they help and it is it ready yet and why can’t they open the oven, etc. But Saturday Rich went grocery shopping (isn’t he wonderful?) and brought home some ready made cookie dough (I know, never thought I’d be doing that!) and some icing so the kids could make Easter cookies. Of course they wanted to do it right away but I knew that there would be no dinner eaten if I didn’t insist on dinner first.

So after much badgering every five minutes it was finally time. I followed the directions on the package despite my misgivings that the dough looked too soft. I put them twice as far apart as directed and they still spread into each other like rabid pancakes. Oh well. I should have added flour but I was feeling lazy so I just cut the slices smaller. It worked out okay.

Anyway, we finally managed to get cookies out of the oven and cooled to decorate. I think most of the actual decorating was done by the adults under the strict supervision of the kids. They can get pretty autocratic when dictating icing colors! The boy did do a few on his own and the girl just could not wait to “do the sprinkles”. They each picked one to eat and then carefully set several aside to take to our neighbor, the nicest grandmotherly sort that the kids love to visit. She laughs sincerely at their jokes and stories even when they don’t make any sense. And they just had to go see her right away even though it was almost bedtime. Graciously funny as ever, she welcomed us in wearing her bathrobe and pin curls and we sat around her kitchen table talking and laughing for a few minutes. I suppose that made it all worth while.

Easter cookies in a Valentine's box

scherenschnitte or papercutting of children dancing
This is my first attempt at scherenschnitte or papercutting in the Swiss/German style. I made this artwork for the spring music program at the boy’s school. Since the program will be photocopied, I was thinking about how to create a strong design in black and white and one thing lead to another . . .

As usual I never make a simple first attempt at anything. I had to include people and words, neither of which are easy in any medium. I cobbled together my design with a combination of sketching by hand and sizing and moving around silhouettes and type on the computer to get the general arrangement I wanted. I then printed out my rough and temporarily stuck it to black paper. Rather than use the traditional tiny scissors, I used a new X-acto blade to cut through both the pattern and the black paper, allowing the knife some freedom to vary from the sketch. I cut on my Merry Glo Round light box which is a treat because it spins freely as well as lighting from underneath! I’ve always “drawn” better with scissors than with a pencil. Years of comping concepts for advertising projects and cutting the occasional stencil has made me pretty handy with the X-acto!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the result. I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of scherenschnitte as it is a bit hard on the hands, but I don’t think this will be the last time either. I took inspiration from several blogs of people who take scherenschnitte much more seriously and do amazing work, particularly this one, another Cindy.

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