Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bow and arrow

I was asked to do a bow-and-arrow making activity for a girl's birthday party this summer. I guess she had read Island of the Blue Dolphins and was really obsessed. It seems so easy (I mean, it definitely is really easy) but I had trouble finding any tutorials on the web that just explained how to make this super basic version. Sure, we could soak the sticks overnight or carve a piece of wood into C shape, but who's got time for that? We've got arrows to zing!
Most important of course is just the stick and the string. That's all you really need. Take some string/twine with you next time you go camping and make bows and arrows galore with sticks that you find. Finding a good stick is key, of course. Strong, bendy but not too bendy, nice smooth bark. I used dowels for the arrows because they fly better when they're perfectly straight, but of course that's not necessary.
So, look at your stick and decide which way your stick wants to bend. On the skinnier end of the stick near the top, cut a small groove. The groove should be on the outside of the C shape that will be your bow. Make your groove so that it's slanted downward a bit. The bowstring will be pulling downward from the groove so that helps prevent it from slipping out.Now, take a good long piece of twine, about twice as long as your stick. I used this hemp cord that I had, it works really well. You want nice strong twine that won't stretch out too much. But of course bow strings are easily replaceable so don't worry too much about it, just use what you have. Tie a nice strong loop at one end of your twine.
Now fit it into the groove at the skinny end of your stick:Cut a shallow groove all around the thicker end of the stick.Turn your stick upside down so the skinnier end is on the ground. Now pull your bow string nice and taut and wind it around the fatter end of the stick several times.
You can now just tie a knot or two to finish it off. Cut a little groove in the end of each of your arrows. It's not necessary but it will help your arrow fly farther.Finish out the arrows by gluing spongey arrow heads on if you wish, and tape or glue feathers on the base. Make sure you attach the feathers farther up the arrow so that they don't get in the way when you're fitting the bowstring into the groove at the bottom.
Now go zing some arrows!

Play Again... the movie

I had the good fortune of getting to see this documentary last week. Of course it's utterly dismaying... kids these days spend 5- 15 hours per day plugged into a screen. They spend 90 percent of their time indoors. This film took 6 of these kids on a week long wilderness adventure. I'm not very good at writing movie reviews... if you'd like to read more about it Bernadette wrote a wonderful review at Slow Family Living.

Of course I already feel very strongly that kids should have lots and lots of unstructured time, preferably out of doors. Watching this film has brought it even more to the forefront of my mind, most especially my feeling that kids should grow up enjoying nature and feeling connected to nature. I see some of the best kind of tinkering happening when I take my kids down to the creek and all this wonderful work and play happens completely spontaneously and organically... working together to build a bridge or a dam, climbing trees, throwing rocks (lots and lots of rocks, please don't throw them at each other kids, that's the only deal breaker...)... I just feel that they are learning so much, that kind of learning that's hard to quantify, but includes cooperation and gauging distance and being aware of what your body is capable of... to name only a few. I mean, not like I have to tell you... I'm sure you already know. But obviously there's far too many people in charge who would rather we spend our afternoons running through flashcards and playing educational computer games, perhaps, for a treat.

Anyway, then I saw this (via the inspiring Jennifer Kable of Let the Children Play):

My friend had mentioned the idea of the kinderwald (forest school) to me once a long time ago. I loved the idea then, and now I'm just itching to start one. It just seems like an early experience of enjoying the natural world in all weather is just a really great set up for having a pretty deep connection with nature later in life. And if we're supposed to be raising our kids to be stewards of the earth and all that... seems like it would be a good idea. I know myself, although I happily and luckily spent lots and lots of time outdoors (and with SO much freedom, I feel very fortunate to say) I still have a feeling when it's grim and drizzly outside (or flat out chilly and pouring down rain)... just kind of a baseline feeling of claustrophobia and a little depression, like we're all just stuck inside and there's nothing to do. It would be neat to not feel like that... to just dress for chilly and damp ("There is not bad weather, just bad clothes") and go out and enjoy the world regardless of what's falling down from the sky or what's blowing in from the north.

Anyway, it's just an idea, but the yen, the yen is strong. And I already have our name and motto: Austin Kinderwald: Go Outside and Play. And it's not like we just have to sit outside in the pouring rain for days on end if that's the weather... we'll have a shelter, and we can string up tarps and make tents and go on field trips (and also definitely play with worms and splash in puddles and dig in the mud). Austin's weather is really so mild (except perhaps in summer, but then we can just go sit in Barton Springs all day) that it does seem like a very do-able idea.
I'll just keep this one on at a simmer. And let me know if you've got a small, beautiful piece of land with a creek flowing through it and lots of nice trees to donate... let's talk.

Oh and of course, one more thing that Play Again made me have to confront about myself is my own addiction to screens (not TV, but who among us is not addicted to the internet in this day and age? It's such very tasty and immediate stuff) and what I model for my children. Gots to rein it in a little, lest this cautionary tale become my reality:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ooh la la!

I am so seriously interior-design-challenged. It sucks. It was one of my top ten goals for 2010... get my house harmonious and organized and beautiful-looking. Doesn't have to be crazy beautiful or crazy organized, just a pleasing space to be in. Well it only took 11 months but FINALLY, the universe ponied up! Check out the beauty! Brought to you courtesy of the completely fabulous (down-to-earth and seriously cool) Michele of Wabi-sabi Home and Garden. We traded home-spiffing-up for tinkering classes and as you can see, I made out like a BANDIT! Yes that is a wall painted half with dry-erase paint and half with chalkboard paint! That's right, I said dry-erase PAINT! Have you fainted yet?
It turned out about a bajillion times better than expected. Michele, much like Wayne and Garth, I'M NOT WORTHY (but I'll take what I can get)!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reading nook

Looky-look! It's a little nook! With a kid reading a book!

It may not look like anything much, but this little spot has been a source of contention in our house for a year, maybe more. I'm a crazed book addict, it's really true... and my husband is decidedly not. I particularly LO-O-OVE children's books and have such a knack for finding the best of the best out at thrift stores.... no wonder our shelves are overflowing. There's been a big pile of overflow sitting in the corner of this room for a ridiculously long time now. Matt thinks we should limit the amount of books we own to what will fit on our (current) shelves. I know he is probably right but it seems like we are fighting against what simply is... this is the collection, pared down by me to the bare essentials (and believe me, I've tried and tried to pare it down beyond this and these are the absolute must-haves) (there's way more in the bedroom too). Now I may be no expert on clearing clutter and organization (though actually I am... I've read plenty of books on the matter, as is my wont, though unfortunately the house does not in any way reflect my expertise) but I do remember reading that wagging a finger at yourself and saying, "Now Kami. You always put the mail on the kitchen table when you walk in the door. You've been very bad. You need to start putting it in this basket over here instead, " is just no good if you can't force yourself to change your habit. Better to just put the basket where you naturally lay down the mail rather than lambasting yourself for your inability to overcome your muscle memory.

So anyway, I'm so proud! I quick-built that shelf out of some wood a friend was clearing out of their shed, and now the books have a home. And I was extra-specially proud because I made this gigantic pillow and guess what I filled it with. That's right... Virginia Fleck's plastic bags that I had such good intentions for (and which of course have been sitting in the corner of the shed, yet another source of contention)! Now the box of plastic bags is gone, and a fluffy-crinkly-soft-cozy big pillow is in its place. Necessity, the mother of invention, and all that. I actually had been planning on making something like this but it called for something called EPS beads which is, I believe, kind of ground up styrofoam or something and quite a good way to recycle styrofoam but I couldn't figure out where to get it. The project languished, and then inspiration struck. Voila! Nook accomplished.

Now see, I think a big part of my clutter and mess problem is that I prefer the making to the cleaning up/putting away.... if we can combine the two, we might be on to something.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Brand New Year!

A whole new year with no mistakes in it yet... Nice.

We are drum-sitting for a friend who is in the middle of moving. While we were making the noise makers Jack started moving the drum set outside. When I asked him what he was doing he said, "Well, this is the loudest thing I could find." So right! Drums as noise makers... brilliant. So we had a lot of late-night drum solos.
I just got a feeling about this 2011... it's gonna be a good one. I for one plan on rocking out. Literally and figuratively.
Hope y'all do too!
Love, Love, and thanks so much for reading.... Kami