Saturday, November 29, 2014

A (Birth)Day in the Life

Yesterday was my birthday and since Grammy and Grandpa just left for a vacation in Hawaii, we had the house to ourselves. We filled our day with simple, but fun family activities.

Brian found some of his old paints and a few canvases in a closet so he brought them out for the boys to explore. Riker wanted to paint a train and they started by sketching a rough outline of what they wanted the painting to look like. Then they squeezed out acrylic paint from the tubes that hadn't dried out. They mixed blue and white and started painting the sky.

With lots of help from daddy, the painting slowly came together. Then the artists started to add their signatures.

The finished work!

Riker wanted to photograph the painting with his camera as well.

Later Brian whipped up this frame for the painting. He loves having his father's woodworking shop in the basement at his disposal if you hadn't already noticed!

While the train turned out pretty terrific, the process didn't leave much room for creative exploration, so Brian got out another canvas and let the kids have a free for all with the paints.

Riker discovers a toothbrush amongst the paints and realizes it too could be used as a paint brush!

Ari mixes paints in an egg carton.

What fun is a painting session without getting your hands in red paint!

Messy but fun!

Late in the afternoon we headed out for some sledding at the Sleepy Hollow golf course and had a great time on the gently rolling hills!

We finished the day with hot chocolate, a fire in the fireplace and a movie. Nothing special really, but then I always try to remember that extraordinary moments often masquerade as ordinary life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Glitter Jars

I try to steer clear of Pinterest as much as possible. It's not that I don't see myself as crafty and able to do most of the projects I'd come across; it's that the site reminds me of all the nifty creative things I'm NOT doing with my kids. You see, I was pretty sure that I was going to have crafting sessions every week with them, but it just seems that life keeps punctuating that fantasy with cooking and cleaning (and job seeking and house hunting these days). Who needs to make their task list longer with adorable cakes, finger puppets, painted ladybug rocks and cutesy paper owls?

(Okay, so writing that sort of made me want to paint ladybugs on rocks. I bet one can find that on Pinterest).

That said, occasionally a craft project comes my way that I know I want to do with the kids. I read about Glitter Jars months ago and it took me this long to acquire the necessary components and find the time to make this project happen. We've all been under the weather most of the week and since I was finally feeling better today, it seemed a good time to do something fun and cheery.

First, I used adhesive remover to clean the label residue from these bottles.

Then we collected the ingredients - glycerin, glitter glue in several colors and fine glitter.  We also used corn syrup, warm water, dish soap, a measuring cup, a funnel and a whisk.

Riker pours glycerin into a measuring cup.

After a bit of recipe tweaking and fine tuning, we ended up with five stunning bottles of swirling, glittering magic!

Here's what they look like after they've begun to settle.  Depending on the ratio of ingredients, you can adjust the settling time.

 Riker checks out our newest creation.

You'll sometimes find these jars referred to as mind jars or time-out jars. They're meant to help quiet the mind and to provide something captivating for overstimulated brains to ponder. They happen to be great for both kids and adults as they really are fascinating and calming to watch!

The recipe we used looked something like this:

1 part glycerin or corn syrup (similar outcome, use what you have or whichever is cheaper)
1.5 parts warm water
2 Tbsp glitter
4 drops dish soap

I used the tutorial at Mama Owl's Lab as my guide as she offers step by step instructions and ideas for discussing the science of surface tension and viscosity.

These were lots of fun to make and I'm sure we'll be enjoying them for many months to come!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Ari the Biker

Okay, so it doesn't have the same ring to it as Riker the Biker, but what it lacks in rhyme it makes it up for in impressiveness!

We've been wanting to buy the kids nice bikes for some time because we believe that parents have an opportunity to offer a love and appreciation of cycling to kids when they are young. Put an adult on a nice bike for the first time and it's like a moment of enlightenment. It's no different for kids. After riding heavy and clunky department store models for years, it's no wonder that kids can't fully grasp the joys of riding, let alone riding any distance.

So, we put some effort into finding the best models of kids bikes out there and we landed on a brand called Islabikes. The frames are lightweight and engineered for a child's proportions, the handlebars are lower and narrower, the brakes were designed for smaller hands, and the pedals have a narrower profile. All these features serve to ensure proper positioning on the bike which, as any adult who's ridden a poorly fitted bike will know, makes all the difference in the world.

So we splurged and bought one for each kid.  A small 20 inch wheel size for Riker and a 14 inch for Ari. As soon as we pulled the bikes from their cartoons we could tell these were quality products. Beautifully and elegantly designed, lightweight and built with quality brand-name components, we knew it was money well spent.

Riker was nervous at first to be on a big kid bike (gears and brakes!) but after letting him take the time he needed to feel it out, he was off and riding within the hour.

Ari took a bit longer to get on the bike and preferred to keep riding his balance bike. We didn't push it but within two weeks of getting the bikes, he was coasting along so effortlessly on his balance bike that Brian bribed him with four jelly beans to get on the pedal bike!

With just a little help to get the hang of it, he was off and pedaling!

What a great feeling it must be to ride a bike for the first time. And he only just turned three a month ago! We're very proud of both of our keen cyclists!

Want to know more? Read one of the most thorough reviews I found of the Islabike Beinn 20" small here.