DIY Easter Resurrection Garden

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Easter is coming! Easter is coming! Easter is coming!

Easter is the holiday I look forward to all year, and I can hardly contain my excitement. The time of preparation and waiting is coming to an end, and soon we will celebrate the greatest joy in our faith: Jesus is alive! I want to be really intentional with my kids during this season–I want to teach them and include them in as many activities as I can so that they will experience the joy of Easter for themselves.

Awhile back I came across this idea for making an Easter garden. The idea behind the Easter garden is to have a concrete illustration of the events of Easter. It is also a “talking point” to spur on further discussion with your kids about the meaning of Easter. Plus, it involves digging in dirt–so of course we had to make it. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
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-Bible (we like the Jesus Storybook Bible for kids) or a printed version of the Easter story
-Large pot
-Small pot
-Dirt or potting soil
-Small, smooth stones (you’ll need as many stones as there are days left until Easter)
-1 large stone
-Permanent marker
-Plants or flowers (real or artificial) or seeds

*Note* I bought all of my supplies at the dollar store and spent a whopping $5 on everything I’d need for about 5 gardens. Gotta love the dollar store!

What you do:
Start by reading the Easter story to your kids so they will have some background on the story. As you’re reading, ask lots of questions and encourage your kids to share their thoughts with you.

After you read the story, it’s time to build your garden! First, fill the large pot up with soil to within 2 inches of the top. Place the small pot in the dirt and bury it partway down so that the opening of the small pot is still open and accessible (this will be the “tomb”). If you want to, you can now cover the soil with moss or ground covering plants.
IMG_2806Now for the rocks. I had the boys collect rocks from our yard and then we counted them to make sure we had enough (1 rock per day leading up to Easter). On each rock we used a permanent marker to write one word relating to the Easter story. I started by letting them come up with words on their own that stood out to them from our recent reading of the Easter story (cross, friend, tomb, 3 days). Once they ran out of words, I suggested my own (grace, hope, resurrection).
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We placed our rocks upside down in a pathway leading to the “tomb” (the small empty pot). Each day leading up to Easter we will turn over one rock in the path and discuss how it relates to the Easter story and to us personally.

Next, we placed our final two rocks. Inside the tomb we put a stone with the word “Jesus” on it. Then we rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb to seal it off until Easter.
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Finally, the boys decorated our garden with flowers (I was using artificial flowers because, let’s be honest, the real ones wouldn’t fare too well under my care. If you decide to use seeds or real flowers, however, you’d want to plant them way back in step 1 right after you put the dirt in the pot.).

We placed our Resurrection Garden on our dining room table as a center piece. Each night at dinner we can turn over our stone and have some conversation over our meal.
IMG_2818On Easter morning we will roll away the stone to the entrance of the tomb, but–surprise!–it will be empty (so long as I remember to empty it the night before…). This will be a visual for the boys that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is alive! And now the real party can begin ūüôā

DIY Paper Heart Animal Valentines

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve been following my posts lately, then you know I was SO over January. When February 1 rolled around last weekend, I seized the opportunity to start something new. I “took down January” (recycled all of the paper snowflakes we had hanging around the house) and decided it was time to “put up February” (cover my house in hearts). Plus, since Jon was off for the day starring in his first major Hollywood blockbuster (OK, he was just an extra in a new Steve Jobs movie, but I’m sure he rocked it!) I took advantage of the quiet morning at home with the kids to do a little Valentine¬†project.

We had gone to the library earlier in the week and checked out this cute little book, My Heart Is Like a Zoo:

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It’s a rhyming book with timely similes¬†about the many ways our heart can love. What makes the book really unique, though are the illustrations–every picture is an animal constructed entirely of hearts. There are silly seals and a rugged moose:

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Eager beavers and a steady yak:Hall-2

And even happy hippos sipping their juice:

Hall-4Each page features a different heart animal, and my boys couldn’t get enough of them. After reading the book for about the 5,000th time that week, David suggested that we make some heart animals of our own. And, since I’m never one to shy away from a cheesy craft, I obliged.¬†We (and by we, I mean I) set to work making our little love zoo.

Here’s a brief how-to if you want to join in the heart-animal fun:

What you need
~Paper–any paper will work, but I used a combination of construction paper and scrapbook paper. If you want more sturdy animals, use colored cardstock.
~Scissors
~Glue–glue sticks work best for this project
~Black marker
~(if you’re the perfectionist-type) Heart-shaped stencils, paper punches or die cuts

What you do
~Decide what animal you want to make. After making about a dozen of these critters, I’m convinced that you can make any animal imaginable out of hearts. If you need some inspiration, see my creations below or search Google or Pinterest for “paper heart animals” and you’ll find more animals than were on Noah’s Ark.

For instance, did you know that you could make a penguin, a blue jay, or a bear out of hearts?
IMG_1859Or a beaver and a fox?IMG_1858 What about a caterpillar and a butterfly?IMG_1857You see, the possibilities are endless…
~Next, choose what papers you want to use for each part of the animal, and just go to town cutting out hearts! I did the good ‘ol fold-your-paper-in-half freehand method for my hearts, but you could certainly use some other more-precise technique if you have the patience for that sort of thing. Cut out hearts in many sizes and colors to use for the different parts of your animal.
~Start puzzling together your animal. Cut hearts in half to make oval shapes, turn the hearts in different directions, or cut the points off the bottom of the hearts to make triangles–it’s amazing the different shapes you can form from simple hearts! If there’s a part of your animal that doesn’t lend itself to a heart-shape, I also give you permission to just cut out whatever random shape of paper you need. You’re welcome.
~After you’ve laid out your design, glue it all together. Use a black marker to add details like a nose, mouth, or whiskers.

And that’s it! Each animal only took me a few minutes to make, so¬†I had a whole Valentine menagerie¬†by the time my boys had finished watching Veggie Tales (yes, I also give you permission to enchant your children with television while you get lost in kids’ crafts that they should be helping you with).

Happy Heart Day, friend!

 

DIY String Board Art

photo (23)Our church has this beautiful piece of artwork that I have been admiring for weeks. It’s a huge mural of a tree, probably 10 feet long by 6 feet high. The entire piece is made with strings zig-zagging across a wooden background. The negative space, the shape of the tree, is the only open part on the giant mural. ¬†It’s gorgeous and I want it. So I decided to make it. Well, sort of…

I would love to make a huge statement piece similar to the tree art some day, but for my first go I thought I would start with something a bit simpler (read: smaller). Since the boys are sharing a new room, I decided to make some monogrammed initials to put on display. The project was quite simple and only required three materials that we already had at home. Read on for the how-to:

DIY String Board Art

What You Need:
-Piece of wood (we used scraps from another project that are about 4″ x 6″)
-Hammer and small finishing nails (each of my art boards used about 60-75 nails)
-Thread, string, embroidery floss, or yarn (I used standard sewing thread, but thicker embroidery floss would have looked a bit nicer)
-Pencil and scissors

What You Do:
1. Use a pencil to draw a silhouette of the shape you want to create. I made a letter on each board, but you could just as easily do any other shape (number, tree, bird, flower, sailboat, train, etc.). My letters were drawn freehand, but if you want to be more precise you can use a stencil from an image and trace it onto your board.

2. Hammer nails along the borders of the board and your shape outline. The closer together you place the nails, the more detailed your artwork will be. Jon, my ever-industrious husband, offered to help me with the wood-and-nails portion of this project. My clumsy thumbs thank him.

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3. Erase your pencil marks from around the nails as best you can.

4. Tie your string around one of the nails with a few strong knots, leaving the string¬†attached to the spool. Trim the “tail” of the string so it won’t get in your way when you begin wrapping the board.

5. Start by tracing the border of the board with your string. Go from nail to nail around the edge of the board. At each nail, wrap the string one or two times around the nail to help anchor it to the board, then go on to the next nail and do the same thing. After you outline the border of the board, criss-cross the string across the board and do the same thing to outline the shape.

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6. Now is the fun part! Start criss-crossing the string across the board, wrapping the string around each nail that you come to. Go crazy here, but be careful not to cross the string into your shape outline. Criss-cross and wrap to your little heart’s content–the more criss-crosses you do, the more defined your shape outline will become. My little boards took me about 20 minutes each to adequately cover in string cobwebs (now I’m glad I didn’t opt for a board the size of my big screen!).IMG_0634

7. Ta-da! A new piece of art, completed from start to finish in about half an hour.IMG_0636

This was a simple, mindless project for me to work on while The Boy watched Toy Story for the 50-gazillionth time, but I could see so many other potential applications. Rainy day art project: if you have older kids, they would enjoy helping with this project from start to finish. Seasonal decorations: how about pumpkins, leaves, stars, hearts, or Christmas trees? New baby gift: every baby needs some cute decorations for their nursery. ¬†Whatever you decide to create, I’m sure it will turn out beautifully.

Happy crafting!

Easter Bunny Thumbprint Craft

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This week has been all Easter up in our house: we dyed eggs, acted out the Easter story, made Resurrection Rolls, and played with Resurrection Eggs. And, since we weren’t Eastered-out yet, we decided to go on ahead and make Easter cards for David’s teachers here and some special far-away relatives. I saw a cute idea for making thumbprint bunnies on Pinterest¬†and I thought they’d make adorable Easter cards. Here’s the how-to:

What you need:
– stamp pad or finger paint (we used this great stamp pad from Melissa and Doug)
– plain white paper (printer paper or construction paper)
– scrapbook paper or construction paper for the backing
– glue
– candy (optional, but highly recommended)

What you do:
Use paint or stamping ink to make a thumbprint on the paper. If you’re doing this with a young child, you will have to place their thumb on the ink pad (or paint it) and then set it on the paper for them right where you want it. Unless you want a modernist approach to thumbprint art, you’re going to have to do all of the “stamping” yourself.

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Using the child’s index¬†finger or pinky (whatever you can wrangle them into using), make two intersecting “ears” on top of the thumbprint “head”:

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If you want to get creative, you can also make a carrot: use the thumb for the top part of the carrot and then each finger right on down to the pinky for the rest of the carrot. Wipe off the paint and then use green paint on their pinky to make all of the “leaves”. After you have made your thumbprint creations, use a fine-tipped pen (I used a super-fine Sharpie) to draw on the face and ear centers (what do you call that middle part of the rabbit’s ear, anyway?):

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We made three or four rabbits/carrots per card, and then glued them to some colorful scrapbook paper for backing. And, for good measure, I wrote the words “Hoppy Easter” (get it?) on the front¬†each card:

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We wrote little notes to the recipients on the back of each card and then attached some bunny chocolates¬†with a bit of tape (because who doesn’t love getting chocolates at Easter!):

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And, ta-da! Now we have some¬†simple handmade Easter cards sure to brighten anybody’s day.

 

Repost: Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day

I posted this entry last year shortly after returning from our first visit to Ireland. Now that we are actually living in Ireland and about to celebrate our first St. Patrick’s Day here, I thought it would be fitting to repost it. Although the drinking and the leprechauns still seem to steal the show here in Ireland, I am reminded that St. Patrick was a real man who really stood for something. So, on Monday as we join thousands of spectators lining St. Patrick’s Street and Grand Parade for (what I’m hoping will be) the most memorable St. Patrick’s Day parade I’ve ever witnessed, I’ll keep good ‘ol Patrick in mind. And hopefully he won’t mind if I have a pint in his memory.

 

Original Post: Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day and a Shamrock Craft

I’ve never really liked St. Patrick’s Day. People seem to just use it as an excuse to drink too much beer and pinch unsuspecting bystanders who made the unfortunate choice to not wear green on March 17th. This year, however, I’m seeing things a bit differently. You see, I just got back from my first trip to Ireland where I learned a lot about Irish history and who St. Patrick really was (yes, he was a real person). So this year, instead of eating green eggs in a drunken stupor, I am going to try and redeem St. Patrick’s Day for my kids.

Who Was St. Patrick?
First of all, Patrick is not really a Saint (you know, the capital “s” type canonized by the Catholic church). And he’s not even Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland and, when he was about 16 years old, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave (this was in about the year 405–a really long time ago). At the time, Ireland was a radically pagan place– considered to be about as far away from God as any place on the planet. Patrick’s grandfather, however, had been a priest. While Patrick remained in bondage in Ireland he clung to his faith and relied on prayer. Then, after 6 years, he managed to escape and return home.

When Patrick was in his 40’s, God brought him back to Ireland–this time as a missionary (I love God’s sense of irony!). Patrick had become intimately connected with the Irish people during his years in slavery and history tells us that one of his first converts was the very man who had held Patrick in captivity. Patrick went on to spend the next several years of his life preaching and spreading the gospel throughout Ireland. He was so successful in his missionary work that he turned the once-pagan island into one of the early centers of the Christian faith.

Legend has it that on one of Patrick’s missionary journeys through Ireland he came to a castle at the top of a rocky crag called the Rock of Cashel. I had the great honor of visiting the Rock of Cashel a few weeks ago when I was in Ireland:

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It was here at the Rock of Cashel that Patrick (reputedly) used a shamrock to tell the story of the trinity and then baptized King Aengus. Basically, the illustration of the shamrock trinity is that each of the leaves represents one of God’s persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While they are each separate and unique, they are all part of one whole.

As you look out from the Rock of Cashel to the Irish countryside, it’s easy to imagine what that day must have been like:

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For The Kids: Shamrock Collages
This week I told my 2 year old about St. Patrick. I told him how he was a man who lived a long, long time ago and that God used him to help other people learn about Jesus. We looked at pictures of shamrocks and I explained the trinity to little David using Patrick’s illustration. It was awesome!

Then the former-kindergarten teacher in me had to get crafty. We decided to commemorate our little shamrock “lesson” with a simple project.

I started by gathering an assortment of green things: scrapbooking paper, pom-poms, foam shapes, tissue paper and a large piece of green cardstock. I also put a dime-sized squirt of glue into a bowl with a Q-tip to use as a paintbrush:

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I used a pencil to draw a shamrock shape onto the cardstock (heavy construction paper or cardboard painted green would also work), then I cut out the shamrock:

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I sat David down at the table and gave him all of the green things I’d collected. He helped me tear the tissue paper into small pieces (this is great fine-motor practice, by the way!). Then I showed David how to use the Q-tip to “paint” glue onto the shamrock where he wanted to stick his green things. Whenever we’re using glue we use the mantra “just a dot, not a lot!”. David had a lot of fun picking out the decorations for his shamrock and sticking them on.

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He required quite a bit of supervision and direction (put the glue here…ok, now pick out another piece of paper..ok, now put the paper on top of the glue…please don’t lick the glue…). In the end, though, his little shamrock turned out pretty darn cute! And the best part of all: we’ll have something meaningful to think about this St. Patricks day.

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DIY Lacing Cards Activity

The other day I was working on a little sewing project while David was playing. He kept coming over to me wanting to “help” me sew. As any parent knows, a child’s help is anything¬†but¬†that–plus, I didn’t think that a 3-year old boy who is prone to throwing every item in sight should necessarily be “helping” with a pile of sharp pins and needles. I made him a deal, though: I would make him his own sewing project if he would just leave mine well-enough alone.

After a quick look around our house I found some supplies to make David his own set of lacing cards. Lacing is a great fine-motor activity for toddlers and preschoolers and something they actually enjoy doing (now if only I could train my preschooler to do all of my mending…). Here’s the how-to:

DIY Lacing Cards

What you need:
-Cardboard (I used a cereal box)
-Scissors
-Tracing templates (I used cookie cutters)
-Hole-punch
-Yarn or ribbon
-Tape

What you do:

1. Start with a flat piece of cardboard. I cut apart a cereal box into pieces that lay flat.

IMG_1461 2. Trace the shapes that you want to use onto the cardboard. I used large children’s cookie cutters, but you could use just about any found object to trace around. Or, if you are the artistic type, you could even free-draw the shapes. It’s up to you. I ended up tracing six shapes onto one cereal box. IMG_1462 3. Cut out the shapes. Then, use a hole-punch to punch holes around the perimeter of each shape. Make sure the holes are not too close to the edge so the cardboard will not tear when your enthusiastic child begins lacing. IMG_1463 4. Tie one end of a piece of yarn or ribbon onto one of the holes with a double-knot. Cut the piece of yarn just long enough so that it can be laced through all of the holes without running out of string. Wrap a small piece of tape around the “open” end of the yarn to make a durable tip. I just used plain white yarn because that’s what I had on hand, but using a variety of colors would be much more exciting! IMG_1464 5. Start lacing! IMG_1474

DIY “Long Distance Hug” Valentines

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It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day–a whole day to shower our loved ones with affection (and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate).

Every year for Valentine’s Day we make cards for our family members. Usually this involves coloring hearts or painting a picture. Since we recently moved thousands of miles away from all of our family, though, I wanted to do something extra-special for them this Valentine’s Day. Something to show them that we were still thinking of them even though we are far away. And that’s when I remembered the “long distance hug”.

Inspired by this idea, I came up with this unique valentine to send to our far-away loves. Here’s the how-to if you’d like to send your own virtual hugs!

DIY Long Distance Hugs

I was making a large batch of these valentines, so the first thing I did was trace each boy’s hand onto cardstock to make a tracing template for the handprint cutouts.

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Then I used my handprint templates to trace several hands on colored paper. I used cardstock, but construction paper or scrapbook paper would also work well. I folded each piece of cardstock in half so that every time I cut out a handprint I got 2 cutouts. For each valentine I used one “David handprint” and one “Jacob handprint”. I used red paper for the David handprints and Orange paper for the Jacob handprints. You could just as easily make a separate valentine from each child and use two of the same handprint for each “hug”.

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Here’s our collection of handprint cutouts:
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Next, I folded each handprint into the ASL sign for “I love you” (just fold down the two fingers between the pinky and pointer finger). I glued the fingers in this position so they would stay in place.

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To make the “arms” for the hug I decided to do an accordion fold using two colors of scrapbook paper. I cut out 1-inch strips of the paper and then taped three strips end-to-end so I would have pieces long enough to fold (the taped-together strips ended up being about 30 inches long).

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Then I taped together two of the long strips of paper at right angles and began folding the strips together like an accordion.

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When the folding was done, it looked like this:

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*Note* If you are planning on mailing your “hugs” you may have to pay for extra postage if you make the accordion “arms” as they make for a bulky envelope. If you want something that will stay flat in an envelope you can use ribbon or string instead of the accordion arms.

The finished product was just as cute as the boys who made them!

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For one final touch I also wrote each boy’s name and the year on the back of their handprint.¬†Here’s what the valentines look like all stretched out:

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Finally, I came up with a little poem to include with the hugs and glued the poems to some little note cards that I already had. The poem reads:

I send to you this special day
My hugs from very far away.
Wrap these hands around you tight
And feel my love for you, day and night.
My hands are folded just to show
How much I LOVE YOU as I grow.
Even though we are far apart
I carry you close to me in my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy crafting, and happy Valentine’s Day!

If you like this project, you may also enjoy the apple stamp valentines that we made last year.