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Wednesday was the first day of summer vacation. Let’s just say, the kids and I were off to a rocky start. That night, after some tears (mine), the hubby and I came up with a plan. Stopping short of a rigid schedule, we drafted a check list of tasks for the kids to do each day. Everything from “get dressed” to S.Q.U.I.R.T. (super quiet uninterrupted independent reading time — acronym borrowed from school).

Arts and crafts time was included in the afternoon. Soon after lunch on Thursday, The Boy asked if it could be arts and crafts time. “Sure, what do you want to do?” He responded, “can you teach me to knit?” Twist my arm. I ran upstairs to grab a pair of needles and some leftover yarn. I cast on for him and showed him how to make the knit stitch, while reciting the rhyme:

In through the front door,
run around the back,
peek through the window,
and off jumps jack

With minimal coaching, he was off and knitting. I watched him for a bit, but soon felt free to putter around elsewhere. Occasionally, I was summoned back to help with a problem, but for the most part he did very well. I could hear him from the kitchen, reciting the rhyme as he knit.

Before dinner, I found him sitting in the backyard with his knitting. “It’s such a nice day, I thought it would be nice to knit outside.”

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A boy after his mama’s heart.

When Erin and Blair announced the Kids ATC Swap, I signed up immediately.  On behalf of my children, of course.  As Valentine’s Day approached, I remembered that crafting with my children stresses me out.  It’s just that we often have divergent opinions about what the end result should look like.  Ok, fine.  I’m a bit of a control freak.  Good Lord, what had I done?

It was another lesson in letting go.  I gave them the cards, set out a small selection of new supplies and kept my distance.  They loved the array of colors of the oil pastels.  They had fun with the crayon resist technique.  The Dong-A Creamy Crayons were a big hit.  Unfortunately, they didn’t learn quickly enough that you should use a very light hand with those.  The cards they made with those have a very thick layer of color.  In fact, I’m still wiping up a trail of red from a chunk that adhered to someone’s sock.  Good thing they are washable.

The results?  Even I can’t argue with these:

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Sarah isn’t old enough to participate in the swap, but she sure loved making her own cards.

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I was able to keep my hands off the cards.  At least until it was time to mail them.

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I packaged them in glassine envelopes with a seal.  The cards are 100% kid-made.  The packaging is my little fingerprint.  In case you are wondering, I didn’t let the kids put the stickers on.  The stickers needed to be in the right place.

There are limits to my ability to let go.

Most of the time I am grateful for my kids being in a small school for the personal attention it allows, the low student-teacher ratio, etc.  This week, I am grateful for the fact that they only have to bring 11 Valentine cards each.  Much more than that I would surely go insane.

I didn’t give much thought or planning to the Valentine card making process.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  If I had planned and set up specific expectations, I am sure the stress would have been too much for all of us.  Instead, I cut some cardstock to size, tossed some supplies on the table and let them go at it.  Now, when the stress of results that don’t meet my standards gets too much for me, I just step out of the fray.

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In the end, the kids get to give out truly original Valentine cards and I get to practice letting go.

Today we tried our hand at fern printing on t-shirts. I learned several important lessons:

1. Although a project involving hammers sounds like the ideal for a 5 year old boy, overzealous hammering can result in holes. Even on the backside

2. A crisp and clean fern print with children in charge of the hammer is probably not a realistic goal.

3. My children have a hard time getting the hammer head to strike flat, resulting in many crescent shaped blobs in the print.

4. Most important lesson: Kids love making stuff and they’ll wear these with pride – even if they don’t meet my exacting standards.

So, what did Joshua make yesterday?

A pirate, of course! If you can’t squint enough to recognize it as a pirate, you can check it out on Flickr for the annotated version. I’ve got to give it one or two more layers of varnish and then I think he’ll be sea worthy. At least enough to join the crew of the Playmobil pirate ship. Joshua’s new goal is to figure out how to give him a sword.