The evening draws near…

Happy Halloween and blessed Samhain from our family to yours.

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Matchsticks and marshmallows.

Today our little home ed group of friends ventured into the woods for spooktacular fun. And it was. Fun, I mean. It was also frustrating, exhausting, joyful, mysterious, fighting, curious, dog wrangling, screaming.

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An army of children mixed potions from ingredients like crushed Phoenix feathers, bog water, and mermaid scales. They made ghosts to send flying with a good old fashioned parachute bouncing. They tried to eat apple halves hanging from trees and ended up playing tennis, using the aforementioned ghosts as paddles. Some pressed clay faces onto trees.

Every now and then hell would break loose. A quickfire punch here and there, someone falling from a hammock and slamming to the ground, people screaming in terror if dogs came too close.

A friend said, ‘Hey, I read that blog post from the day when you lost your shit and came over, then we all talked about how hard it can be. And that was like the best day of my life, and it was purely down to how shit your morning had been.’ We laughed, and then another child related incident broke up our chat.

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We made a fire in the damp, damp woods…discovering that matchsticks and marshmallows appeared to be the best possible fuel. We swung high in tyres, played tug of war, crammed together in a hammock. Kids ran and laughed and climbed. People used facepaint to colour their nails. Creepy balloon shapes full of water, dangling from a branch, were fun to squeeze, hit, and kick. We ate marshmallows, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cornflake cakes.

People were upset when friends wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted. Every adult conversation was cut short by various heartbreaks or emergencies. We discovered the ‘joy’ of weeing outdoors when girls are wearing waterproof bloody trousers. One kid collapsed on the ground and sobbed after begging to go home. Another screamed and thrashed when his toddler heart was cracked in half because he had to give someone else a chance on the tire swings.

The adults exchanged glances; we laughed.

The kids hit trees with soft plastic tubes, making a cacophony of sound and music. They screamed with excitement as the adults moved the parachute over their hands. One bent quietly over her mother’s wellies, painting them with facepaint. Some made giant brooms. Some wore werewolf masks and chased each other. We smelled like mud and smoke and more mud.

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It was the way these days can be. Small moments of peace and ease, quickly followed by discontent and control struggles.

It was the way this life can be. Big moments of laughter and discovery, quickly followed by exhaustion and deep sighs. We are so lucky for friends who get it. For other adults who laugh when one of my children does something bossy or mean or crazy. For other adults who don’t mind when I laugh whenever their kids do the same thing.

It’s a shared experience.

One of the best bits of the day was just sitting in a hammock with my kids, the commotion of the Halloween party at our backs, only the deep woods for us to look at. They leaned into me, my arms their pillows, and we rocked. For five minutes we had such joy and peace…..

And then we didn’t.

Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

Pumpkin carving.

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Design: drawing, ideas, imagination, creativity, art.

Cleaning: sensory play, motor control, sorting seeds from guts.

Carving: fine motor skills, strength, safe knife handling, history and religion (why do people carve pumpkins? What is Samhain, what is Halloween?)

Seed baking: maths (the timer, measuring ingredients), science (temperature), literacy and research (googling and reading recipes), cooking.

More seeds: taste testing, maths (volume, finding suitable container), motor skills in pouring or picking up seeds.

It’s all there, all the time. Everywhere you look, everything you do. You are learning. So are your kids, if you have them. You can’t help it.

But I maintain the most important lesson is joy. Sniffing pumpkin meat, adapting and sharing when one pumpkin is too rotten to use….and making an excellent two face pumpkin. Being brave enough to stick your bare hands into a sloppy, unknown mess. Laughing as you squeeze slippery seeds between your fingers. Trying to pull a knife out of a pumpkin, a small King Arthur and his orange stone.

Joy, joy, joy.

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Halloween lanterns!

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Here’s a fantastic thing we made last year, and it’s certainly in keeping with the junk art/stuff you have laying around the house crafting we like to do.
All you need is glue, tissue paper, a bit of black paper, old salsa/olives/whatever jars, and possibly scissors.

Slather glue on the jars and apply small bits of tissue paper. The more you put on, the brighter the colour. We’ve done jack o’ lanterns here, but it would translate nicely to monster faces, ghosts, the night sky and stars…anything you can imagine, really.
And as long as all the tissue paper is on the outside and not on the rim, you can pop tealights in. Pro tip: I bought 78862 battery powered tealights on ebay last year. They’re great as kids can turn on and off at will, with no fire worries.

Have fun with this craft! And tweet me at @alisonmariemay if you make it, so I can see!

Halloweenify your house!

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There are two things my kids love: Halloween and collecting stuff as we walk along.

You name it, I have it. Bags of conkers, acorns, bark chips, pinecones, pebbles.

So today we combined our love of the spooky and fun with all the gently rotting natural craft supplies we have. This is really easy and fun, and I carried on painting by myself long after I was abandoned by everyone else. What? I didn’t want to waste the paint. *ahem*

Conkers are ideal little pumpkins. Acorns make sweet ghosts. And apparently pinecones make good creepers, endermen, and diamond Steves.

The undisputed favourite of mine was the hunks of bark (collected off the ground, not ripped off a tree). I’ve painted some as funny monsters, or kids in Halloween costumes.

I don’t know what we will do with these. We have a nifty shallow plastic box we may use as a Halloween scene – and we’ve plenty of sticks and twigs to add to the autumnal flavour!

Happy Halloween!

halloween

S was a baby kitten who was also a witch – except her witch’s hat was too big. The skeleton thing is incidental…I was informed earlier in the month that witches only wear pyjamas, so we bought Halloween pyjamas. M is, of course, Enderman – though at the last minute we were informed that he is REALLY the red angry bird (the costume he has wanted all along, until a few weeks ago when Minecraft entered our lives) dressed as Enderman. His head looks misshapen here because it is thrown back!

Halloween was a jumble of excitement and tears.

My sister recently moved to London, much to our joy and my mother’s distress. The kids were bouncing off the walls from the moment they woke up…and their faces were a study of concentration and barely controlled excitement at the train station.

We headed over to Suzy’s mum in the afternoon, ate some Halloween treats, then got suited and booted for the big mission. S began to cry and complain of being freezing about 28 seconds before it was time to get her costume on. I touched her belly and she was on fire.  Nevertheless, she didn’t want to miss trick or treating.

Here in the UK, Halloween is very different than the US. My sister was totally blown away that we had to hunt for houses with lit pumpkins outside or in the window, or other obvious ‘we welcome trick or treaters’ clues. Maybe one house in fifteen had them. M has developed a very British outlook, exclaiming, ‘This is brilliant! We found two houses!’

We managed a few more, then Suzy took S home as S really wanted to finish as she was unwell. Erica and I stayed out with M, who was totally into hunting for Halloween houses.

The evening ended with S in a daze on my chest while everyone ate, then swapping over to Suzy while I ate. She passed out, M bounced off the walls, we came home.

All in all, probably the same sort of experience that happened in families across the country! (Including the illness bit. Don’t they always get sick when it is a really bad time to do so?)