Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Picnic Activity Mat

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can show you some of the things I had been working on earlier in the year but couldn't show you because they were going to be presents. Hooray! The biggest thing has been this. I've called it a Picnic Activity Mat, but actually it's more like a Toddler to Preschool Outdoor/Camping Trip/Picnic/Indoor Activity Mat.

Pretty much, I took a great idea (from here on Sew Mama Sew) and then jammed it with as much teaching, skills building, thought provoking, game providing, hours wasting, activities as I could. Of course, I did think I would just make one for my own girls, but after all the planning and how excited I was, I figured it would also make great Christmas presents for two other families who both have young boys. Then, I just made three of every square at a time. Sometimes mass production is a really good thing.

I wasn't sure how in depth to go with this post and telling you all about it, but to be perfectly honest, I'm really proud of my work and I feel it would be pretty sad if it didn't get a show. I've taken plenty of photos though, so hopefully the visual literacy will keep you interested.

So you've already seen the Bee and the Flowers, and know what it's supposed to be about. I suppose this is a good a time as any to mention that I worked very hard to just use fabric I had in my stash rather than go out for more. It's good to realise that I've got a lot of fabric and that I can actually use it up! These squares were perfect for using up little and big scraps. It also meant that each finished mat ended up with it's own personality, or quirky difference based on what I had on had. Win!

This square is pretty basic, I just stitched the words on the different colours. The idea is to send the kids off to find some nature thing that matches each colour. Also, you can talk about what colours things are in the natural world around us. And why. So good.

Another kind of colours based one is this rainbow ribbons square. Pretty self explanatory. I would have liked to have three strands of each colour for better braiding purposes, but I figure the kids can work something out anyway. Also, there is a hidden surprise on this square that I'll talk about later.

 These two squares really show off the scrap usage. The first one is all about shapes (duh) and the second is an eye spy. I'm not sure how much depth I need to go into to talking about what the squares can do. I mean, is it obvious that you can do shape recognition and then talk about what shapes you can see in nature? That you can play eye spy on the square and then talk about animals in nature? I don't know. These things are pretty obvious to me, but I'm a weird teacher who sees learning in everything...

These leaves are for kids to go out and find ones that match the shapes. Pretty fun, though that middle leaf is actually an Oak leaf, so I'm not sure they'll find one in Australia, but it will keep them amused for some time trying to find one right? He he he. So evil.

This square is pretty sensory. All of the different fabrics have a different texture and feel to them. It's not so much for the older kids, but the younger ones will probably like it. Though the extension activity could easily be talking about different textures in actual nature. Also using imagination to talk about what the sun or the clouds might feel like. Then having a lesson on the solar system, or the water cycle. Oh the endless possibilities.

These trees are a simple puzzle/fine motor skill activity in having to pull the leaves off and snap them back on. They are scraps of fabric stitched to felt for strength. I blanket stitched like crazy on these just for fun.

This dog face is another snaps one (actually, thanks to Jenny J of Sweet Sweet Bird for lending me her snaps to make these possible. Snaps yo!) but it's also more of a puzzle in getting the features in the right places. I'll take this chance to let you know if you were worried about those pieces getting lost, I also installed a handy velcro pocket on the back of the dog (and the tree) so that the pieces could be stored for travel or washing or whatever. Hopefully this will prevent them getting lost too soon.

The same velcro pocket is on the rainbow ribbons square and opens to reveal a little pouch with coloured beads inside.

Now the kids can practice some more fine motor skills by threading the beads onto the right colours of the rainbow! Is it more than you could have ever imagined? Probably.

Finally, I backed the boys mats with some car material (that yes, I did buy (but in my defence, I needed a large piece of fabric that was preferably at least a little water resistant)) that I picked up from Spotlight on the cheep. The basic quilting I did makes the back look good for car races.

The girls mat is backed in some boring calico and once I was done with it, I thought about making noughts and crosses pieces as another extension activity, but maybe later. Neither of my girls have the mental capacity for that kind of intense gaming just yet. 

Sophie was pretty excited to have a mat that she could actually play with this morning (after having already given the other two to their recipients she was happy to know this one was not leaving the house). 

Rachel was excited about eating things.

The adventure of these Activity Mats began back here in June and were posted about in irregular and illusive detail here, here (The Bee and the Flowers), here and here. Just in case you're interested.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bags from Santa?

After much deliberation, Steve and I finally decided we will do the "Santa thing" with our girls. Setting out cookies and milk and carrots (for the reindeer of course!) and them actually getting a gift from Santa on Christmas Day. Once we decided that, it was suddenly obvious that we would need to actually have a gift to give the girls from Santa. So out came Sally one night and I whipped out these little bags.

I had been thinking about making something like these (since I had seen them at a craft show in Malney) so it was a good excuse to make them, though I would have preferred it to be without the Christmas deadline. 

I made the bags with some guidance from this bag tutorial from ikat bag (not sure I could recommend this blog highly enough. If you like sewing it's simply amazing. Also, she's an ex-teacher so she appeals to my over developed sense of learning in all things). There are a whole set of tutorials on bag making if you are intrested. These are made using scraps from the stash and I think they turned out rather nicely. 

Despite the effort to get these bags ready to be the girls gifts from Santa, we got home too late from church on Christmas Eve to set out cookies and milk and carrots, so Santa did not get a snack and there were no crumbs for the girls to find on Christmas morning. Also, as we were unwrapping presents, I realised that I'd forgotten to wrap them so they weren't even under the tree waiting and I had to do a quick dash to the bedroom and wrap them in some already discarded wrapping paper. Oh well. Maybe Santa will be more prepared next year. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Awake at 5am

It's a beautiful morning and I do feel awake, but a small part of me wishes to crawl back under the covers again. I'm thinking about the day and what we have to do. Breakfast at mum and dad's with Fiona, playgroup Christmas party, washing, picking up Steve's mum from the train station. Have I organised everything for dinner tonight? Will I have time to clean the bathroom? (Do I have to clean the bathroom?)

Lord God, can I please be in denial about having to do these things just a little longer? My calender is so full and I would really just like some time with Steve. I guess I keep waiting and waiting for that chance when here it is. At 5am. Not that Steve would be a willing participant for some 5am quality time, but I'm sure if I could do enough now that I wouldn't have to do it later and then we would have the time.

I guess that's the point though. I'll never be able to do enough, because life just keeps creeping things in. Never will I be accomplished enough to have everything completed. Maybe this is just another reminder about how we can never achieve perfection, or God's standards, or live by the law. We are just failures.

And yet God reaches down to us. Always. With his unfailing and unfathomable love. To remind us that he's already done what needed to be done, and his grace covers all our shortcomings.

I feel like many of my posts end with these reminders from God, and I just want to say that I often don't plan them this way. (In fact, I'd say I almost never plan them this way.) But God is good at reminding me as I type away, and I can't escape from the answers he gives me. In the midst of the sorrow and shame at my inadequacies, God is reaching out and giving me hope.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Cloth Doll

A few months before Rachel was born, which seems like a very long time ago now, Mum went through the old toys she still had from when my sisters and I were girls and found three dolls. One of which was actually mine. A little scary that it was still around, but I guess I must have been super careful with my toys or something (actually, I remember getting that doll, so I must have been in the later years of primary school and then probably didn't even play with it too much at that age....). 

Anyway, here I am rambling about nothing, let me cut to the chase. We gave it to Sophie to play with when Rachel was born, and she kinda did for a while, though she'd probably prefer her bear to be completely honest. Sadly though, this 20 year old doll eventually became an amputee and I realised it was the perfect excuse for me to make her a new one. Yay! 

I had seen these online a while ago, and was pretty excited to have a chance at making them. I was going to get carried away and make a stack of them, but then I pulled my head in. I'm dead with windows and Christmas coming already. No sense making it worse. 

I pretty much stuck to the pattern, just made the body a little longer and added some modesty clothes onto the doll so she wouldn't be naked. In a stroke of fabulous luck, she was the perfect size for the clothes that mum had made for the other doll so she had an instant wardrobe. 

Sophie was pretty happy to play with her no matter what though. When I gave her to her, I did ask her what we should call her. 

"Doll," Sophie replies.

"But what should her name be?" I insist.


You win some, you loose some. Oh well. Here is Sophie with Doll. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Jesus in Christmas

At church on Sunday, as it was a fifth Sunday, Neil coordinated the service and shared the message. When he does a devotion at our deacon's meetings, I tend to really appreciate them, and this message was another great one. The whole service in fact was full of really great scripture grounding. So rich in the Word of God.

Let me explain.

The service involved a stack of Christmas carols, unsurprising given the time of year, but before each carol, was read a section of the bible. We could really see where some of the references that we hear all of the time in the songs, actually came from. Really good to revisit what the bible tells us about the coming of Jesus as a baby, and what his purpose will be on earth.

Neil's message followed this theme, focusing on where Jesus is in each book of the bible. I found it so fabulous just to dwell on who Jesus is. He is so many things! There is really no way we can describe all that the Son of God is, because our vocabulary just does not suffice.

I did want to post some of the message here, and indeed, I copied it in with the intent of just selecting a few sections for you to read and thus understand what I was talking about, but I found as I read it, it was just too great. God is just too much to be contained by a fragment of something (even a fragment that is the whole message).

So I've copied it all for you in the hopes that you find it as inspiring and encouraging as I did. I hope that the message of Jesus resonates with you, oh internet people, as we come up to Christmas, so much so that you see past the baby in a manger, to the King of the world.

Jesus in Every Book

In Genesis, Jesus is the seed of the woman who crushes the devil.
Exodus, he is our Passover lamb whose blood saves us
Leviticus, Jesus is our high priest who makes atonement for our sin
Numbers, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that lead to salvation.
In Deuteronomy, he is the prophet greater than Moses.

In Joshua, Jesus is the captain of our salvation.
Judges, he is our judge and lawgiver.
Ruth, he is our redeemer.
I Samuel, he breaks the bows of the mighty and raises the poor from the dust
II Samuel, he is the descendant of David who reigns forever
I Kings, he is the wisdom greater than Solomon
II Kings, he is fulfilment of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
1 Chronicles, he is the covenant that lasts 1000 generations
In II Chronicles, Jesus is rebuilder of the house of God
In Ezra, Jesus is the rebuilder of the temple of our heart.
In Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of our lives.
Esther, he is the response to our cries for help.

In Job, Jesus restores our broken relationship with God.
Psalms, he’s our shepherd.
Proverbs, he’s the Wisdom that formed the world
Ecclesiastes, he’s the Wisdom that gives us life.
Song of Solomon, he’s the lover of our souls.

In Isaiah, Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
Jeremiah, the righteous branch of Jesse
Lamentations,  he’s the comfort for those who mourn
Ezekiel, he’s the glory of God displayed among the nations
Daniel, his kingship shall never be destroyed

In Hosea, Jesus is the forgiving redeemer of an unfaithful people
Joel, the giver of the Holy Spirit.
Amos, the builder of the city of God.
Obadiah, the messenger who prepares us for battle
Jonah, the first born of the dead.
Micah, the ruler of all ages
Nahum, the one who brings good tidings and proclaims peace
Habakkuk, the saviour of God’s anointed people
Zephaniah, he has taken away judgement from us
Haggai the destroyer of earthly kingdoms
Zechariah, he takes away the guilt from God’s people
Malachi, the sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings.

In Matthew Jesus is the king of the Jews.
Mark, the servant King
Luke, the son of man.
John, the son of God.
Acts, the giver of the Holy Spirit.

In Romans Jesus is the righteousness of God.
I Corinthians, the giver of gifts
II Corinthians, the triumphant one,giving victory.
Galatians, the liberator of our souls..
Ephesians, the head of the church.
In Philippians, Jesus is our joy.
Colossians, the head of all things.
I Thessalonians, the encourager of our faith
II Thessalonians, our hope.
I Timothy, our faith.
II Timothy, our stability.
In Titus, Jesus is truth.
Philemon, our covenant friend.
Hebrews, the messenger of the new covenant.
James, the Great Physician.
I Peter, the cornerstone.
II Peter, our purity.
I John, Jesus is Light
2 John, he is Life
3 John,  he is truth
Jude, he knows us all by name.
In Revelation, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords,

He is the first and the last, beginning and the end; He is the keeper of creation and the creator of all. He is the architect of the universe and the manager of all time

Jesus always was, he always is, he always will be, unmoved, unchanged, undefeated and never undone. Jesus was bruised and bought healing, He was pierced and eased pain. He was persecuted and brought freedom, He was dead and brought life. He is risen and brings power; He reigns and brings peace.

He is life, love, longevity, and Law. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and love. He is holy, righteous, mighty, powerful, and good. His way is right, his words eternal, His love unchanging, and he is always on our side.

He is our redeemer, He is our saviour, he is our God. He is our priest, he is our joy, he is our comfort, he is our Law and our Gospel. Jesus is all we need, now and forever.


Neil's message was adapted from this website.