We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Check out my video with your child.

A Christmas wonderland made from Legos tells short visual stories while the music for We Wish You a Merry Christmas plays. Words appear on the screen. Then the music takes a more lively twist while the history of the song is revealed. Lego enthusiasts will be inspired to make their own winter town.

 

Notice that the carollers have the actual words to the song on the booklets.

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Recycled Sundays – Where Is That Lego?

Having a normal Canadian son, I’ve had my share of trips to the emergency room. Mercifully, though, they’ve usually turned out to be less serious than at first panic. The case of the missing Lego is a good example.

Set the scene: Mother is shampooing her hair in the shower, little boy comes into the bathroom. Mother responds with a five minute lecture on the ill matters of interrupting, respect for privacy, mother’s deserve some peace and quiet, I can’t hardly hear you with the water running, you’re only supposed to come in here if you’re bleeding or the house is on fire.

“So,” she finishes grandly. “Are you bleeding?”

The child shakes his head no. His eyes look teary.

“Is the house on fire?”

“No,” he whispers,  “I have a Lego stuck in my throat.”

Since he was breathing and had survived my ridiculous lecture without turning blue, I took the time to rinse most of the shampoo out of my hair and get dressed. After all it was 28 below celsius outside.

It seems my son was trying to pry a part two small Legos with his teeth. (yes, we bought the official Lego separating tool. Two in fact. Fortunately, we did not buy the official separating tool finder.)

This was not our first trip to the emergency room (other stories involving bodily fluids which I will probably spare you). Being experienced in waiting area zombie -land, you can imagine my surprise when we were ushered right into an examining room. The doctor actually ignored the man with a missing ear and a teenager receiving oxygen to serve us. I really started to worry.

They poked and prodded. Nothing there. They listened to him breathe, in and out, in and out,. Nothing there. They shone lights in, on and around. Nothing there. They xrayed his stomach and even his nasal passages (has happened). Nothing there. I really, really started to worry.

“Tell me exactly what you did,” said the doctor.

My son describe how, while tryingto bite apart two double pegged lego pieces, one became lodged in his throat. He couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t spit it up. I felt the color drain from my face as I imagine myself blissfully shampooing my hair while he faced a life-and-death struggle with a building block.

“I ran to the stairs,” he continued, “I coughed and and then I could breathe. I told Mommy. I could feel it in my throat before but I can’t now.”

As the hours dragged by, my son felt better and better. The of medical personnel had begun shrugging their shoulders.  My son wanted to go home.

“Well,”  said Dr. Sherlock, “the only place left to look is at home.”

Which we did. On the bottom step, was a block that fit the one described by my son. He must have coughed it up as he was running to me. The combination of panic and the scratched throat convinced him it was still there. We also found a quarter and a missing earring. He kept the quarter. I kept the earring.

He certainly learned his lesson, I thought. He’ll never stick a Lego in his mouth again. I didn’t warn him about Thanksgiving.

At school, he was making a turkey mosaic with buttons and such. He couldn’t do much with the such, but the buttons were just the right size.

“I saw Logan at the principal’s office today,” my daughter informed me.

Whereupon I launched into a lecture on how he was supposed to stop rough-housing and getting into trouble and I couldn’t believe my own son would have to be sent to the principal’s office twice in his life. Talk about not learning from your mistakes.

“But Mom, I had a button up my nose!”

The principal, thankfully, had experience. It seems his own daughter was a nose packer.

“Don’t worry, Mom, the principal got it out,” said my son when I gasped. “It shot right across the room and smacked into his filing cabinet with a ding sound.|”

“What did you do then?” I asked, expecting a tale of his humble gratitude.

He shrugged. “I washed it off and glued it on my turkey.”

 

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

Sunday, January 12, 1992

Midnight Fairy Craft & Party Book by Tracy Marsh. Book Review.

This book has more ideas than you will ever possibly use for a party. There are chapters on making dolls, wands, books, wish boxes, and even fairy wings. Marsh gives details on preparing for the party, sending out invitations, food, cake, tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards. There is a whole section on games and activities most quite physically active.

Some of the creations require a great deal of effort and some are fairly simple. Many of them are quite beautiful and worthy of becoming a permanent keepsake.

Of course you can simplify everything and change things to suit your energy level, income, and needs. I used it as inspiration for a fairy night with my five-year-old granddaughter who was sleeping over. Here are some of the decorations we did using materials we already had and a few things from the dollar store.

Any physical activities outside were out of the question since we were experiencing a heat wave and it was excruciating hot at 9 pm. Instead we played table and word games with fairy themes such as “A fairy took from my house.”  We did two rounds of took and two of left.

Our fairy door in the garden was too damp so we put one on the deck.

To see our decorations, games etc. check out this short video.

Rhymes for a Rainy Day

Follow up ideas:

Make a rain stick.

Make a rainy painting by dropping blobs of shades of blue paint and tilting the paper to make the paint run in streaks.

Make a lightning picture. Use black paper. Dip a string in white paint. Drop it onto the paper. Carefully peel it off.

Draw a giant  rainbow outside with sidewalk chalk. Watch the rain wash it away.

Make bowls of mud (chocolate pudding). Add sprinkles for rocks and a gummy worm.

Umbrella Exercise. Fold a colored paper plate (flimsy one) or paper circle into 8 sections.  Put 1 raindrop on the first section, 2 on the next, until there are eight. Make a second umbrella. In each section write a movement: hop, clap, stamp a foot, touch your toes, kick, tip-toe, giant steps, march. Put the umbrellas on the floor. Toss two quarters, or small bean bags, or rolled up socks, one to each umbrella. Do the action such as hop 3 times.

Make a mobile of raindrops made from blue cellophane. Hang in against a window.

Read a rainy story like https://wp.me/p1OfUU-n0  Outstanding in the Rain, A Whole Story with Holes, by Frank Viva.

Go for a walk in the rain. Snap pictures. Make your own rainy day book.

Lost in London Duplo Adventure

My granddaughter and I made a mini travel adventure with Duplo about Egypt. Of course she wanted a mummy in it. I decided to make it into a mini video and a series was born.

I created a  Lego Dyplo adventure in London, England next. The two biggest problems were having enough Duplo for the large structures and convincing my granddaughter I had to take Buckingham Palace apart in order to build the next set. She wanted it to cover the dining room table forever. I added songs to this one and used PhotoShop to improve the pictures.

Lost in London: Using legos (mostly duplo) Cassie visits several historic sites in London, England but can’t enjoy herself until she finds Polly. What has happened to her best friend? This video is a great jumping off point for kids to write an adventure about Polly, whose appearance might surprise you. Sprinkled with variations of Mother Goose.

Check it out.

Upholstered Crocheted Chair – Part Three of the Dollhouse Series

If you can crochet without a pattern or glue scraps of fabric, you can make beautiful upholstered furniture with your child.

For more pictures and detailed instructions, watch the video here.

Have your child glue craft sticks in a log cabin pattern for the seat. The square should be about 4  X 4 inches wide and deep and 2 inches high.

Have your child make the back support 4 X 4 as well but only half and inch deep.

Now it’s your turn. Crochet a 4 X 4 square. Fit it on the frame and crochet up the sides tightening the corners as you go. Once you reach this point, add the back support and stuffing.

Put glue on  the bottom 2 inches and shove it behind the seat. The crocheting will hold it in place until it dries.

Because I had cut the sticks, the edges were rough against my fingers.  I covered them with masking tape. This will make it stronger as well.

Then I crocheted the seat in smaller squares meeting in the middle. You can choose to  go from one side to the other. Whatever works for you.

Then I crocheted up the back support going around in a circle from front to back and then stitching it shut at the top.

I glued two sets of sticks together for the arms. Then I crocheted over them, sewed them shut, and sewed them to the seat and back support. I glued four squares of wood to the bottom to make it less wobbly.

The second time I tried to make it better by making the bottom separate, putting a solid bottom on, and wrapping it in tape to cover the rough edges.

Then I crocheted over the bottom and up the four sides. I made a back and glued it in place. I crocheted a square flap for the seat and put in stuffing.

Then I crocheted up and over the back and stitched it together. I glued two popscicle sticks together and crocheted over them. Then I sewed them on. Unfortunately, these are rather fragile. I glued on  feet again. This one wobbles less because of the solid bottom.

For more photographs and detail, go to https://youtu.be/I7G5IXc_2h8

Next week, making a couch and other furniture.

Lighting (without electrical skills) – Part Two of the Dollhouse Series

The deeper the dollhouse and the fewer windows, the darker the interior. Here are some ideas for lighting up the rooms that your child can do with you.

Purchase strings of LED mini lights. As they become more common, the price is dropping. Tape them to the ceilings.

Only under total adult supervision should flood lights be added. They get really HOT! But, if your child wants to make a video, they’re great. Positioning in front is the best for lighting but too close to the child for safety. I mounted them beside the dollhouse and pointed them through the windows. I blocked the access. The second floor window should be bigger for this.

Another idea is to add battery operated tea lights. They can sit on the furniture.

Little tea light holders are fun and easy to make. Buy craft sticks like this at the dollar store. You also need the little wooden cubes.

Cut the circle away from the handle. Glue the circle in the middle supported by the cube. Have your child paint it gold or white or whatever she chooses.

Tape them to the wall. (Note,  tape doesn’t stick well to fabric but works on peel and stick paper.)

Try out other ways of using the tea lights in table lamps, floor lamps, chandeliers. The sky’s the limit.

Building (without carpentry skills) – Part One of the Dollhouse Series

There’s no need for hammer or nails or saw, just a trip to the dollar store. Your child can help with some or all of the construction depending on her age.

Assign a large work area where the dollhouse can be left in progress for several days. Trying to do it in one day is too much.

Purchase 12 or more styrofoam craft sheets from the dollar store for $1.50 each as well as several bottles of Lepages glue. You’ll benefit from a glue gun as well. This will allow you to work faster. Your child can spread the white glue and you can use the glue gun. If you’re making a two-storey, dowels or something similar can be handy.

Use three full sheets and two half sheets to create a box. At this point you are only using the glue gun.

Glue on a second layer for strength but make the pieces overlap the way you would lay bricks. Do this by scoring and bending the styrofoam but not splitting it. Have your child spread white glue all over the piece. You hot glue gun the edges. This will hold it in place while the white glue dries and you can keep working. If you are going to do a second floor, make a third layer for strength. You can clamp the edges together while it dries. I also glued two pieces together and made a half wall for extra support. I just hot glued that in place.

For more strength, I added pillars to the back corners. I was making a three storey so the bottom box would need to hold a lot of weight. I scored a piece of styrofoam to make it like a fan or accordion bellows. Then I soaked it with glue and wrapped it with masking tape.

I glued these into the back two corners. Be sure you cut the first piece the right height to fit snugly.

This is a good spot to stop for the day. That will give the glue time to set well.

I was concerned about the front of the storey sagging in the middle. If you’re only doing one floor or a one-and-a-half- storey, you can skip this.

I thought I could try to make a header for extra support. Using the cheap dollar store imitation legos at $5.00 a box (probably using almost three boxes) we made a 4 X 6 peg pillar. You and your child can work on this at the same time and then join your pillars to make one.

We used some scrap pieces to extend the top and then taped some craft dowels  to spread the support out.

We covered the post with the same sticky paper as we used to wallpaper the walls.

On the second floor, we just made three pillars for the two front corners and the middle. I taped them in place with heavy duty clear tape.

Pick a day to gather wall covering. Cheap sticky paper is available at the dollar store but it can be frustrating to  use. It’s a two or three person job. They also have small rolls of  fabric you can glue on the walls or floor. Be careful not to make the second floor too heavy with thick flooring. Let your child do as  much as possible. It won’t be perfect, but it will be hers.

You can use anything you like for wallpaper, flooring, or paint. I discovered it was super dark inside, so I added a window. This would have been easier to do as I went along. Too many windows will weaken the structure so use caution on the bottom floor.

I let my granddaughter pick the colors, etc. It’s her doll house so it doesn’t need to be showcase perfect. I printed out picture frames and she drew the art inside to tape to the walls.  You could use real picture frames but be careful how much weight you add to the second floor.

On another day, we built a half-storey and roof-top garden out of Duplo.

For more information, watch the video.

Next week: How to light the interior of the dollhouse when you aren’t an electrician. Ideas for you and your child.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

Recycled Sundays – Who Has Been Eating the Bird Seed?

I have difficulty saying no to charity canvassers. If I’d known about the great mice hoard, have forced myself.

A gentleman was selling bird seed for a children’s charity. We have a feeder. It was mostly frequented by sparrows who seldom eat sunflower seeds. The gentleman left the bag in my front hallway. Sit stay there until my husband came home. I couldn’t carry it to the shed myself. I couldn’t even drag it across the kitchen floor. The bag weighed more than my oldest child and was almost as tall. She’s twelve.

My husband dropped the bag in a corner of the shed. He added a quarter cup of sunflower seeds to the wild bird mixture in the feeder. At that rate, our children would inherit the remaining seeds. We seldom added to sunflower seeds to the feeder since the birds seldom ate them. One cold March morning, we discovered some other wild creature enjoying the contents of the bag. It looked like it was still full but it was actually full of empty shells.

Mice had been feasting and cleverly disguising the evidence. My husband bought six traps. We thought we’d catch three or four. After the twentieth, I realized there was a Mice Metropolis under our shed. The mouse mayor must have sent out flyers: Come for the best seeds in town.

As time passed, the trapped mice became smaller and younger. I tried not to think of Baby Mice trapped while out searching for their mothers who had already been killed. My children displayed a mixture of sadistic fascination and sympathy for the small defenseless creatures. “Do we have to kill the little ones?” (In six weeks, those little ones are having little ones.) The hardest to accept was that we refused to dig up half the yard for a rodent cemetery.

Some mice, it turns out, are more callus then we are. I think they send the stupid out to die. An unsuspecting fool springs the trap and while he’s gasping his last goodbyes, the others munch safely on the peanut butter bait

Peridocally, my husband caught sight of a huge critter fleeing as he reset the traps. It looked like the same large mouse was often enjoying the benefits of another mouse’s death. This giant may well have started the whole society. More traps were set but he was evasive.

When the count passed forty, I wondered if there any more left in the entire city of Thunder Bay. My husband kept setting up the traps. He hadn’t yet caught old Wiley.

One spring day my husband swept out the shed. Mice don’t clean up after themselves. A few boxes were damaged fortunately the mice had not chewed through the tent. Traps were reset with double doses of peanut butter.

“Wiley’s probably moved out with the good weather,” I said. “Who’d want to stay in a place where everybody gets their heads crushed?”

But the temperature dropped and old Wiley returned for another stab at the peanut butterr. He was the last one caught. He almost deserved a little grave beside the sparrow the cat got and the Bohemian waxwing that hit our neighbor’s window.

There was almost a third grade out there last fall. I discovered my husband was storing bird seed in the shed.

“Are you nuts?” I screeched.

“No problem.It’s in a sealed plastic bucket. They can’t get in.”

That wouldn’t have stopped old Wiley. Come to think of it, rodent teeth can chew through wood so why would plastic be any different? I gave the bird feeder to charity.

 

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

Sunday, February 2, 1992