Longtime readers of Craft Nectar may remember my post last December on the unexpected death of my dear friend Tina Lillig. Tina was the National Director of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in the US. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Good Shepherd program, it’s an amazing Montessori-based Christian education program for children 3-12.
Tina was also the co-leader of the Level III class in our church and I had been her assistant last year. So when she died it seemed that the best way to honor her would be to carry on her work with her class after her death. It’s impossible to say that I replaced Tina, because no one else can do what she did, but I joined Tina’s co-leader at the time and we finished out the year, which ended this morning.
Last week we had no particular presentations on the agenda so I decided to introduce a new activity given the unexpected way the year went for all of us following Tina’s death. Our class of 9-12 year olds likes making things, which is consistent with the program. So last week I told the children that we had discussed a lot of important topics this year and of course we had lost Tina. It seemed like a good time, I told them, to think about what memories we want to take with us at the end of the year. And we would need something to put those memories in, I explained.
I pulled out two sizes of origami paper for each child, one about 1/8″ smaller than the other. I told them that we would be making something to hold our memories but that we would be doing it in silence so we could meditate on which memories we would want to keep. I set out on the table before them cards with all of the topics that we had discussed and all of the parables we had read. I also included Tina as a topic because I thought that this would give the kids a chance to write down what they wanted to remember about her. In a 3″x3″ origami box I put some small slips of vellum that the children would use to write or draw the things that they wanted to remember and would want to put in their boxes. Like the prayer books we made and their journals, these things would be private, I reminded them.
Prior to last week, I had spent a tremendous amount of time looking for lidded boxes in origami books that would be simple and fast for the children to fold without talking. After many attempts I decided to just cut down one size of origami paper so the base would be just small enough to fit inside the top if they were folded with the same method. Both the base and the top are made from two units that are combined to make a base or a lid.
At last it was time to fold. I did one fold at a time silently and then watched silently as the children repeated what I had done. When one got confused they were to hand it to me and I would silently fix the problem and hand it back to them. On the last piece of paper I folded the unit with the colored paper on the other side so the color would appear on the top of the box. The children worked in total silence for 45 minutes doing this and some stayed past the appointed time because they were enjoying this silent, contemplative project and weren’t ready to stop. We stayed with them a bit longer until they were ready to close up their boxes. It was a beautiful experience and I know that Tina would have loved to have seen it.
As it was to be a meditative process I didn’t want to photograph them working but recreated the box we made step by step for you below. Below is a tutorial of the lidded boxes we made based on a simple base that appeared in Tomoko Fuse’s book Joyful Origami Boxes.
Simple Box and Lid
My 8-year-old daughter and I started a book club this year. I suggested it because some of the books being read by our daughter at school were a little violent and depressing for our family’s taste. (I kind of lost it when she was reading aloud a part in a book where two children had been killed and left in a basement to rot. Decades later their bodies were being put in body bags by the coroner. Body bags for 8-year olds? Really? What happened to Charlotte’s Web?) I wanted our daughter to have a love of reading and to experience the many ways that a story can be told without mention of body bags and gruesome murders.
Here’s how we started our book club: Our daughter made a list of books that she had heard about or that her friends had read that were of interest to her. I reviewed all of the books that won Newberry or other awards for children’s literature in her age group. I read lots of parent reviews on Amazon for titles on her list and mine. She decided the order in which she wanted to read them.
Part of the criteria for my list was trying to have a variety of methods of storytelling. Our first selection, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, tells the story through both text and wonderful pages of illustrations. Other selections include a book with soliloquies of children in a medieval village so the reader has to knit together the narratives to get the full story.
We’ve had fun going to the library checking out two copies of each book and reading them sometimes together aloud and sometimes quietly on our own in the evenings. We printed on cardstock little bookmarks for each of us with all of the titles we’ve chosen for the year.
We decided that we would have our meetings at a local diner that serves wonderful homemade soups. Each of us would prepare three questions ahead of time that we would not disclose to each other until we had ordered our soup. Our daughter asked if we could write the questions and answers in journals so we could remember the conversations. She had a fancy journal with a lock on it that she wanted to use while I had a blank lined journal that was just the right size.
We decided to print out the Amazon listings for each title and cut out the little tiny version of the book cover to include in our journals. I’m using double-sided tape to attach mine to the cover of my journal each time we read a new title. By the end of the year it should be covered.
Here’s the best part of it. By starting this mother-daughter book club I was able to turn an awkward situation (I didn’t care for some of the books the teacher chose) into a wonderful activity that we can share. I hope that this will continue through the teenage years as the discussion about the book brought up topics that never come up in the course of the day.
This has been the best idea I’ve had in a very long time.
Well, we all survived the Nancy Drew Mystery Birthday Sleepover. No tears and no trips to the Emergency Room.
We decided that the secret to the party would be in having a series of clues that the girls had to decipher in the dark. Each had a flashlight or headlamp and scurried around the house looking for clues. Bill and I discussed the clues in advance and of course we couldn’t just write them up. Bill had to design a logo for the activity and print up little cards for each girl to fill in. “Do we get to keep them?” they asked with great excitement. The little sleuths carried pencils and clipboards filling in each puzzle as they solved it.
The clues involved adding the street numbers together and going out into the driveway to copy down license plate numbers and add them together to come up with the Secret Number that had to be whispered to get the next clue. You get the idea. For the clue shown below, the girls had to stick their hands in a bucket of ice water to fish out individual letters that when unscrambled spelled “pillow.”
Sticking their hands in a bucket of ice water in the dark made quite an impression on them and added to the mysteriousness of it all.
Once they solved all of the mysteries they discovered the embroidered pillowcases in the fort they had built earlier in the evening.
When the girls woke up the next morning we served Amy of Momadvice.com’s Sweet Little Piggy Pancakes with blueberries added. At 47 years old, I still enjoy playing with my food.
The party was such a good reminder of how you don’t need much money to throw a really memorable party. Just maybe a willing spirit and a little planning.