We bought a couch today.
The picture below is the couch coming into the house through the backdoors, but first it has to get through the still-standing sukkah.
We are big fans of craigslist and yet every time we look to buy something, I get all nervous.
Will the sellers be crazy?
Will we hate the couch (air conditioner, toy, whatever) when we see it and then have to tell the seller no to their faces?
And the worst, how will we get it home?
That's what happened today. I mean, it's a couch, you can't exactly throw it into the trunk.
And also, both Josh and I wanted to see it, which meant all the kids had to come too. The six of us fit comfortably in the van, but no room for a couch here. So we took two cars, took all three booster seats out of the van, put them into Josh's car and off we went. The car seat stayed in the van. We'd have to be getting something a lot better than a couch to make unhooking the carseat worth it. Actually, I can't think of anything that would make taking the carseat out worth it, short of getting a new van. And even then, a new van is already so expensive, why not just get a new carseat to go with it, you know?
We got lucky with this couch. I don't think anyone has ever sat on it. And the owner steam cleaned it before we came. I don't even know what that means, but this is one clean couch.
We've been looking for a couch for the playroom for a while now - pretty much since we got off the train in Florida and yet, I just could not justify spending a thousand dollars on a couch for a playroom - or for anywhere really. So we've been sitting around on the floor a lot. And I'm okay with that.
But every once in a while I would take a little craigslist look and see what's going on. The problem is, usually nothing is going on - and I'm so not used to that. In NJ, every craigslist search included NYC and that was always where the motherload was because, - and I know it's wrong of me to gloat - but no one there has any storage space so haha, once city-people don't need their double city-mini stroller anymore, I'm right there waiting to take it off their hands.
Here, in our new city, there aren't as many people. And people have big houses. And big closets. And they seem to be keeping all their stuff. And that kind of doesn't work for me because I still need some kind of table for my front hall. There's nowhere to put your keys or stash your shoes.
Anyway, I digress. I do have a point here. And it's not that the couch got semi- stuck in the sukkah that hasn't come down yet on it's way in through the back doors. My point is that you never know what you're going to get, and you never know how something will work out. Craigslist is really all about taking a chance and we took a chance on the couch and we got lucky. It could have looked terrible in the room, it could have been too big, it could have been awful and we would have had to walk away, but it wasn't.
You have to try or you'll never know.
And that is what I have been trying to teach my art classes these past few weeks.
My students are very focused on their outcomes, which I find to be a terrible thing. They do not at all look at the process as the reward, they don't see that the making of their creations is really where the beauty lies and that is why I find myself continually trying to talk first graders down from the ledge of perfection.
They constantly want to start again.
They don't like one little tiny dot on their page and all of a sudden it's garbage.
I am finding that these kids do not understand what it means to be creative, to look at something that maybe didn't go as planned and try to figure out how to fix it or change course and do something different. Which is why I instituted a new rule in the art room.
(I mean, it's not that big of s surprise, I already gave it away in the title, but here goes:)
I'm not sure it's the right rule and I'm not married to it so I can always change back to letting them try again and again, but I really feel deep down that my students need to learn to look at their work and either go with it as is or change directions - their choice - but they do have to stick with it.
These past few weeks we have been working with watercolor paper and paints. The first week we learned how to write our names in bubble letters, use oil pastels to outline the letters and then watch as the water from the paints and the oil pastels interacted as we painted over the whole sheet of paper.
Last week we learned to draw robots, step by step, only using shapes - and I first saw the project idea here
. Then we watercolored around the robots after we colored them with crayons, again watching how the watercolors almost moved away from the crayon wax.
A couple of kids got it. A couple of kids were amazed at how all the different mediums played with each other. And the rest of the kids? All I had were complaints. Mine isn't perfect. I need to start over. I'm so bad at this. Why do we have to do things we don't know how to do?
Oh my goodness.
I was so sad for my students. So sad that they couldn't see the beauty and the creativity behind every move they make in the art room. It's art, it's not math. There's no one right way to do anything. And you know what, there's no one right way to solve a math problem either, despite what many teachers think but that's a whole other can of worms.
We talked about what the process
means, what the end
means, and what comes in between
. And slowly they started to understand. Very slowly and some kids still do not buy it, but many of them are seeing their work in a new light.
Maybe it was never explained before, but I don't think that's true because they had a great art teacher last year.
I think it might be because kids now - and I sound like such an old lady saying this - but kids are very used to instant gratification. If it's not immediate, they're not interested. If they can't do something the way they think
is the right way the first time, then forget it. Why work at something? What's the point? And I see it with my own kids too - if I cannot know how to ride my scooter (shoot a basket, play a board game, whatever) right out of the box, then I'm not doing it. And that kills me because I remember riding my bike up and down my parents' driveway for months before I learned how to ride without training wheels. Months! (Granted, I'm not very coordinated, but I did keep practicing).
And so that's why I have my no do-over rule. I started it two weeks ago with the bubble letters and the kids were horrified. They were slightly less horrified this past week and I'm hoping that once we start our projects this week (wait till they hear that this new project will take three weeks to complete, there's going to be a revolt. What do you mean we can't take it home right now?!
) that they will be a little less demanding of themselves. A little more forgiving that their paper doesn't look exactly like their friends.
We'll see, I can only hope.
Here's the scenario: Your six year old has a bookshare coming up.
The topic? A fable.
And the how-to? Choose to make a diorama or puppets to supplement the oral book report.
If you had the choice to construct a shoebox diorama or a couple of puppets, which would you pick? Personally, I'd go for the diorama. And that was the plan.
My first grader chose Frog and Toad: A List by Arnold Lobel as his fable, a great story about two friends, Frog and Toad. The very short version of the story has Toad making a list of things he'd like to accomplish that day. While Frog and Toad are knocking things off the list, namely going for a walk, the list blows away and panic ensues. Toad cannot remember what else is on his list and so cannot go on - with his walk or with his day. And so Frog and Toad sit in the forest until night falls and then they go to sleep, because Toad suddenly remembers that 'go to sleep' was the last thing on the list.
According to my interpretation, the moral of the story is that it's okay to make a list but its also okay to change the list when things go wrong. According to my first grader, it's important to stay inside with your list on a windy day. Both very important lessons.
We were all set to build a diorama on Sunday. His report was due on Monday and um, we had gone away for the weekend. Upstate. To my brother's house. A house with no art supplies, let alone empty shoe boxes sitting around.
So taking a lesson from Frog and Toad, we changed our plans and went with the puppet option. We used huge red Solo plastic cups as the base and paper plates as the tops. Thank goodness for paper goods.
In an ideal world, we would have googled 'Frog and Toad', printed out pictures of those two guys and glued them onto our puppet bases. But again, along with no art supplies, we had no computer and no printer.
Very carefully, because we also had only a couple of paper plates, I drew outlines of Frog and Toad while looking at their pictures in the Frog and Toad book and the little boy colored them in. He also cut them out and glued them onto straws and then told me that he couldn't believe there was so much work to do for a bookshare. We'd been at it for ten minutes by then - so, you can see, it was going well.
We still needed some way to attach the straws to the cups and the only way I could see was to go through the bottoms of the cups. But, man, those Solo cups, they're made of really good, really hard plastic. Only the best paper goods in my brother's house.
You know what I needed? I needed a scissor. I was going to have all the kids stand back and then stab the scissor through the bottom of the cup to make a hole, except haha! The only scissor in the hole house was a kiddie scissor, so really, no one had to stand back.
After many (many) repeated attempts at stabbing the cups, the scissor finally went through and made a hole just large enough to hold the straw in place.
We were good to go.
Now all we had to remember was to bring the project home with us, which really, had we not done one last walk-through of the house before we left, would not have happened. And sadly, these pictures would have been all the little guy had on bookshare day.
Happily though, bookshare day was a great success and the first grade bookshares are officially done! Two kids done with first grade bookshares and two more to go (but I have a year-long break before the next one gets to first grade, so I'm good).
I feel like I should save these puppets for the next kid. Is that wrong?
Forget Disneyworld, my happiest place (besides my bed) is Target. I love that place. And my favorite Target section - the dollar bins.
In actuality, I never need anything from those bins, but who does? And yet, I cannot walk past the dollar bins without adding a magnetic notepad or a Hello Kitty headband to my cart. But the best, at least in the spring, are the bubble wands. All four of my kids love these - even the ones who think they are too old to blow bubbles.
See, the bubble wands, they also double as light sabers and you know, light sabers=cool.
After school the other day, on the first really beautiful day in weeks - it's been weirdly cold for April - the kids ran outside and I handed these guys out. And they all played together. All four of them; all four kids have not been interested in the same activity in what feels like forever.
I fear that the days when I can occupy all four of them with one activity are quickly coming to an end.
I wonder how this will all play out.
It's been a merry-go-round of a week with different kids home sick. Huge thanks go out to that modern miracle called Motrin, because they have all been relatively un-cranky, which is much appreciated. But this also means that they are bored. B-O-R-E-D and I'm running out of things to do.
This morning we baked a delicious cake - a kind of cinnamon crumb chocolate chip coffee cake* in a bundt pan, so it looks all fancy. It's my mom's recipe from years ago - and neither of us have made it in ages - but the girls picked it out of the cookbook this morning so we went with it. The house smells great and we're now ahead of the game for Shabbos.
But there was also an afternoon today - a gorgeous day, the kind of day that has you standing at the window, looking out and saying, I must get these kids into a stroller right now so I can go walking. And so we did. Except that really, once you get outside, you realize it's freezing. Not truly freezing, but windy and chilly enough that you're just as happy as the kids to go back inside and hang out in the porch.
Which is what we did.
And then we rummaged through the arts and crafts stuff and made rainbows, because, well, I wish I had a reason, but I don't. My girls just like rainbows.
They sat and made these and I sat on the couch and watched. Perfect.
Grab some colored paper and a scissor and cut the papers into small pieces.
Hand out bottles of glue and large-ish papers. Draw a big rainbow on each paper and let the kids glue one little paper at a time to the rainbow. In theory, it should take quite a while but it only took my girls about twenty minutes, most of that time spent smooshing glue between their hands. You know what? Whatever floats their boat today is fine by me; as long as no one is fighting right now, I am happy.
Oh, and here's the recipe so you can make your house smell great too. The whole thing can be put together in five minutes - and then you can go sit while it bakes. Love that.
*Savti's Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 lb softened margarine (I used 1 cup oil instead and it's totally fine)
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup soy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk, and again, totally fine. Rice milk would work too, as would real milk, but I like to keep my baking pareve.)
1 tsp vanilla.
Mix all in a large bowl and set aside while you make the crumb part.
In a small bowl, mix together:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (or more, if you like)
1 cup chocolate chips
Spray a bundt pan with baking spray.
Pour half the batter into the pan, top with 3/4 of the crumb mixture, add the rest of the batter and then top it off by sprinkling the rest of the crumb topping on top.
The recipe that I have from my mom indicates that the cake should be baked for an hour. However, mine was done at 45 minutes. I feel like my oven runs hots, but even accounting for a temperature difference, I feel like 60 minutes would be too long. I would start checking at 40 minutes and go from there. You want a toothpick to come out clean, maybe with some melty chocolate on it.
So all in all, I'd say bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I have Ninjago coming out of my ears lately*. Everywhere I step, a little ninja guy or his sword or his spinner is poking itself into my feet.
Oh wait, do you not know what Ninjago is? You might not, if you're not lucky enough to have a seven year old boy. So I'll explain - Ninjago is a subset of regular old Lego, consisting of (as far as I can tell) four ninjas named Kye, Zane, Cole and Jay. I think. And I believe that they are all battling Lord Garmadon for something, but I don't what that something is. What I do know is that there is Lego everywhere. And I also know that I really like the Ninjago word "spinjitsu" even though I cannot define it.
The third Lego related lesson for today: I also know that Josh is fed up with living in Legoland. It's a nice place to visit but it's time to take back the house. And so all the Lego (All The Lego) has been moved up to a spare room in the attic, which is now such a holy mess that you cannot walk in there without shoes on. But I try to look on the bright side - I don't visit the attic that often so I do not have to see it. And if I don't see the mess, then I get to say things like What mess? My house is neat! Come on in!
In the spirit of ninjas and lego pieces, here is what my lego-lover pieced together from paper and tape. Who knew he was so crafty?
It's a ninjago costume, a full body one at that.
Just some paper, a scissor and scotch tape.
Gotta love a crafty kid.
*I also have kids with strept and fever coming out of my ears, which is where this non-blogging mommy has been.
In an effort to make the seder more fun for everyone and not just the kids, we have adopted an on-and-off again minhag of going around the seder table and having everyone present take turns reading a paragraph. But it always get somewhat confusing because if anyone stops to talk or discuss or ask a question during the going-around-the-table, we get confused about who read or who did not or who's turn it is.
Enter the matzah crown. When it's your turn to read, you wear the crown. When you're done, pass it to the next person. So easy.
And super easy to make.
Draw a matzah.
Cut it out.
Glue it to a piece of paper to make a crown.
Remember to throw it in the suitcase when you're packing up for the sedarim.
Go ahead, make one. It took less than five minutes and it makes the seder, an always late-at-night and sometimes long and drawn out affair a little bit more fun.
I really hope they wait a while because I'm not ready for Pesach, but I have been informed by my very delicious four-year-old that the chametz police are coming and really, mommy, we have to start cleaning.
This hat, pictured above, came home from kindergarten yesterday and it's been looking at me ever since. Wherever I go, it's there and I'm starting to get a complex.
I tried to tell it that I started and finished the basement for Pesach yesterday, but I don't think it's good enough. I'm not sure what my childrens' beloved teachers have been saying in school, but my children were not at all impressed with my basement announcement - and in fact, (yeah, the oldest used the phrase 'in fact, mommy' (what is that about?)) there are some other mommies who are all finished cleaning and are only sending Pesach-friendly snacks to school.
And to that, I say a big fat whatever. In a nice way, of course.
Don't get too excited, they're not clean, as in, clean eating. They're more like clean because we didn't mess up the kitchen while making them.
Purim is coming and it's coming quickly. It's not exactly around the corner yet, but it's definitely a couple of blocks away, so if you are still unsure of your kids' costumes, your mishloach manot ideas and your plans for the Purim seudah, all I can is - get hopping, my friend. It's a lot to do in a small amount of time.
My kids are going to be, in no particluar order, a chef, a hotdog, a hamburger, a karate guy, a princess, a donut, an astronaut, a baseball player and a piece of pizza. Oh wait, did you also notice that I don't actually have nine kids? Yeah, they can't make up their minds.
So instead of focusing on how many costumes we can try on, love and then discard three minutes later, we made hamentaschen - and we didn't even have to venture into our freezing cold kitchen. Some colored paper, scissors and glue (and a short stay in the oven of the play kitchen) and we had ourselves a wall of hamentaschen.
Yup, Purim is definitely in the air.
Do you see the jelly she made on the hamentaschen? She's two. And obviously brilliant :)
She's four and an awesome at cutting and I didn't know. I just love when they learn things in school.
Little pieces of jelly paper. Grape, raspberry and apricot. Yum.
Hamentaschen baking in the oven. Doesn't everyone stack their baked goods in the oven?
The Wall of Hamantaschen.
About a year ago, a new chocolate store called Chocolate Works
opened up in the city - and at the same time, began offering chocolate making workshops for kids.
If you know us, you also know that we rarely venture into the city - the driving, the tolls, the paying for parking or, alternatively, the driving around looking for parking, the kids incessantly asking where the driveways are and why we can't park in them. We just don't do it. We briefly entertained the thought of taking the train into the city but the below freezing temperatures combined with the prospect of dragging the double stroller through the train station was just too much for me.
So we drove*. We ventured into the city with all the kids the other day - and it was totally worth it. The chocolate making class at Chocolate Works was the most fun I've had (um, I mean the kids have had)
in a while.
Each kid had the opportunity to wear an apron, which for my four year old, was almost too exciting in itself. The child was unable to stop smiling from the moment we entered the store. I couldn't stop smiling either once one of the chocolate ladies came over with a sample tray. Yes, please and thank you very much, I will have another, thanks for asking.
Each kid in the workshop chose a chocolate mold - a huge chocolate mold - and got a turn to use the chocolate hose (I need one of those in my kitchen) to fill their mold. We chose a heart, ballerina shoes, a baseball mitt and a smartphone. Yes, we currently have a half-eaten chocolate smartphone in the house. I don't even have a real smartphone, but we won't go there.
While the chocolate was hardening in the molds, each kid had to make the very difficult decision of whether to choose an Oreo, a salted pretzel or a graham cracker to cover in melted chocolate. It's hard to choose - and my kids had some difficulty understanding why they couldn't have all three, but eventually, we wound up with 3 Oreos and a pretzel. Josh and I had no trouble choosing at all - he went with a graham cracker and I went with a pretzel. Sweet and salty, a no-brainer.
Each chocolate covered treat was placed on a conveyor belt and each kid had the chance to sprinkle their treat with sprinkles, non-pareils and or m&ms. I, for one, could not understand why anyone would choose anything but m&ms but that's just me, and yet so many people went with the non-pareils. Whatever. This is not the place for disparaging remarks.
As the treats came through the other end of the conveyor belt, where I am assuming the chocolate was quick-dried, each kid got the chance to catch their treat on a mini paper plate; my kids thought that was very cool. But even cooler was the chocolate fountain (I need one of those too; just think how nice that would look on the kitchen counter). Each kid in the class received a skewered marshmallow and had a chance to run their marshmallow on a stick through the melted chocolate fountain. Personally, I am not a marshmallow fan, but I honestly had to restrain myself from climbing headfirst into the fountain. Heaven.
For the last part of the class, each kid got to use squeezee bottles of colored melted chocolate to decorate their chocolates that, by then, had been released from their molds. So much fun and the chocolates were so pretty.
Our chocolates and treats were packed up in pretty paper bags and we were on our way.
The classes are a little expensive, but we grabbed a groupon for a class good for four kids. If you see one, grab it, it's so worth it.
*When did parking on the street in the city become so expensive? And where did all the parking meters go? They've all been replaced with muni-meters, which, while a nice and tidy concept which negates the need for many many quarters, also have a down side. Parking meters used to live next to each parking spot. Insert quarters, grab the kids and go.
Now, you park, bundle everyone up with gloves, hats and scarves, get the stroller out, walk everyone all the way down the street, pay at the muni-meter and then walk everyone all the way back to the car to put the tiny little receipt into the car window. All I can say is that it's a process. And an expensive process - when did parking on the upper west side become 50 cents for 10 minutes? Because I have to say, it takes us ten minutes to get out of the car. Muni-meters: possibly not the most family-friendly parking option around. And now I'm done complaining.
It's absolutely freezing outside today and I so thought these snowman cookies
would be appropriate right about now.
The little one and I had the pleasure of visiting my four-year-old's
kindergarten classroom last week to bake cookies. The class has been learning
about the brachot or blessings on food and last week was mezonot* week.
We arrived at school at 9am and left three hours later after a visit that
was messy, exhausting and a lot of fun. The kids and I made sugar cookie dough**
together; they each got two turns to pour in the ingredients and hold the mixer and
then all of a sudden, it was snack time! I love snack time!
After the snacks were cleared away, hands were washed and the tables wiped
down (so much cleaning in preschool - I've either forgotten about that part of teaching
or I wasn't such a tidy teacher), it was time to roll out the dough. But alas, there
was no rolling pin. So we just kind of smashed the dough down and everyone had their
turn to use the snowman cookie cutter to cut out their cookies.
Once the cookies were baked, the real fun began.
To make these snowman cookies at home, just gather together the following:
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
6 tbsps water
6 tbsps light corn syrup
Oreo cookies, scored and halved for hats
jelly beans for a nose
mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth
mini dot candies for buttons
either Pull 'n Peel licorice or Sour Sticks for the scarves
some popsicle sticks
a big mixing bowl and a spoon
I know, it seems like a lot, but it all came together pretty quickly.
The teacher (Morah Sarah - love her! So far all of my school-age kids have had the
amazing experience of spending a year in Morah Sarah's kindergarten!) divided
the kids up into three groups because cookie decorating with 16 kids at once,
plus an extra two-year-old, can get crazy pretty quickly.
One by one, the groups came to the table and spread the white "snow" icing
on their cookies.
To make the icing, pour the confectioner's sugar into your mixing bowl. Add
the 6 tbsps of water and mix until all the sugar is diluted. It's fine to add
more water if needed, but don't let the icing get too thin because then it will
run right off the cookies and the snowman will looked all melty. Once the
sugar is diluted, add the corn syrup and mix well.
Using a spoon, drop a small amount of icing on each cookie and let the kids
use (clean!) popsicle sticks to spread the icing. The icing also acts as the
glue for all the candies and cookies.
I had made one cookie ahead of time and left it on the table for the kids
to look at, but they were free to decorate any way they wanted.
The cookies ended up being absolutely adorable and were even cuter
looking once they were all lined up on the table together. Sadly, I was so
focused on the decorating, I forgot to take too many pictures.
On the way home, I realized that I had hardly taken any pictures at all but I
remembered that Morah Sarah had said she was going to send home a cookie with each
student. I figured I'd just take a picture of the one my daughter was going to
bring home, but sadly (or maybe not sadly, maybe they were just that yummy),
hers was eaten before it was my turn to pull to the front of the pick-up line
Oh well, at least my little one took a very long nap that afternoon. School is tiring!
*Mezonot? Mezonot is the Hebrew word for the category of food that includes
cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins, really anything you'd find in a bakery,
except for bread, which has its own bracha.
** It was awesome because I found a recipe that did not need to be
chilled for 30 minutes, like so many sugar cookie recipes require. Instead, we
went from measuring to mixing to rolling out the dough in less than 45 minutes,
which, when baking with 16 four-year-olds, is really the equivalent of two
minutes. Maybe three.