Let’s Play: Alternate Identities

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Alternate Identities: Masks

I know a 7 year old that loves to dress up. She rarely wears her star covered, super hero cape to school these days (peer pressure). She does continue to pop out of her room on a Saturday afternoon dressed in a cobalt blue, sequin covered leotard, felt crown and flower twirl skirt to prance around the house and then heads out to hang from the monkey bars in full frilly attire.

October is the month for her, planning Halloween costumes weeks in advance. Last year’s mummy outfit was drawn and re-drawn many times in the design phase. I was given detailed instructions when it came to my part of sewing and construction. It had to have a pink bow so everyone knew it was a girl mummy. The mask was the key to the entire suit. She loves to conceal her identity. This year’s diagram mapped out a vampire from head to toe. Each part labeled with colors.

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Scary. Funny. Shocking. Disgusting. Evil. Silly. Horrid. It is fun to hide behind a mask. Join in. Dress up. Run around acting out a story. Disguise your voice. Pretend for a bit. Masks can be as simple as an eye patch, a little makeup or an over-sized animal nose. It magically takes very little to alter who we are.

What to Collect

The fun of dressing up and make believe need not end on November 1st. Carry it through the year by keeping a dress up corner or a bin with masks, funny glasses and hats.

  • Paper in all colors and sizes.
  • Paper plates for starter masks.
  • Elastic string for headbands.
  • Colored duct tape by the roll (it also comes in sheets for crafting).
  • Basic craft store eye masks to embellish.
  • Box of feathers.
  • Ribbons and yarns for mask hair.
  • Paints and glue.

Resources

Online

  • Paper Plate Animal Crafts – Some of these are not intended as masks but it is an easy step to cut out holes for eyes. An elastic strap can be added or a wooden paint stir stick as a handle.

Books

Knitting Patterns


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie is a licensed family care provider and continues to do freelance work for clients in Chicago.

Let’s Play: Collages

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Crazy Collage

I have a kid that craves creative time whether it be playing or making things. We added a leisure, table centered art project to our mix this fall. Something to do while dinner finishes up or we are discussing tomorrow’s plans and schedule. A chance to sit and unwind. Simple. Fun. Silly. Crazy collage. (photo credit: Carrie St. John)

Our days have changed. School routines. September is in full swing. Fall is definitely here.

I put a bit of effort into keeping our days calm. Chaos be gone. Life brings enough automatically. Last year at this time I was chatting with another parent at school pick up. I commented on how busy, crazy and rushed days became after my daughter entered kindergarten full time. This is a parent I have know for a few years and she always appears to have it all under control. That afternoon I realized one reason why. Her response to me was, “This is the new normal. The school normal. We just go with it and do what we can but not too much.” These thoughts come back to me when work piles up, school events and volunteering snowball and parties and sleepover requests come at us non-stop—times when we are seeking moments of calm.

Summer is perfect for us. I have the luxury of adjusting my work schedule to enjoy it with my little one. There is time to wander, dinner time is relaxed indoors or out and time to play is abundant. How can we bring our slower summer days into our hectic school days? Some calm into this new normal?

Here are steps I have taken. There is always time to play for 20 minutes after school. We limit the extra curricular activities to one a season at most. We eat diner together at the table to talk about our days. I sit at the table and catch up on my mom things while homework is completed. I aim to only volunteer for what I can do while keeping home sane and/or we work on a school volunteer project together.

I have a kid that craves creative time whether it be playing or making things. We added a leisure, table centered art project to our mix this fall. Something to do while dinner finishes up or we are discussing tomorrow’s plans and schedule. A chance to sit and unwind. Simple. Fun. Silly. Crazy collage. Gather up the junk mail, catalogs and magazines. Grab a scissor and a glue stick. Cut out fun and interesting people, animals and objects. Collage them together to make a story or just a wacky picture of an alien dog with twenty eyes and people shoes. Simple. No prep time. Clean up  just means tossing the paper scraps back in the recycling.

Check out the links below for more ideas. Older kids can make a book mark for a favorite bedtime chapter book or a notebook cover collage to liven up their school supplies. Enjoy.

What to Collection

We are always collecting and saving items in bins for creative projects and play. This month add in collage materials such as junk mail, magazine and catalog images, greeting cards, paper bits, stickers, etc… Pages and sheets can easily be stored in a large zip lock or flat shirt sized box/bin. Glue sticks for the younger set and Mod Podge with a small paint brush for the big kid. This is also a great time of year, as the seasons change, to look for paper shape punches on sale.

I am also going to suggest exactly what many teachers and schools are hoping for with busy school days. Try to make a special spot for your child to have as a work space. Their own space for creative pursuits like drawing and for homework. A place he or she can get to work when they need to without interruption to set up a routine and spread the stuff they need.

Resources


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie is a licensed family care provider and continues to do freelance work for clients in Chicago.

The Language (and Fees!) of College Applications

College—Can I Get a Translator??

When I was in school, (although I hid it well) I realized at an early age that I had a penchant for language. ANY type of language study whether it be reading it, writing it, learning French, Latin and Spanish, came extremely easy to me. What’s more, I enjoyed it. (I hid THAT nugget as well in high school!) As I got older, I continued to study anything that would feed the ravenous verbal monster in my mind who always wanted more, more, more. Words to me, reading and writing, song lyrics, monologues and quotes, book after book after book became solaces, comforts, soul food.

That is until I began the college application process with Son1. I have to tell you that before this process began I felt quite self-important when it came to all things reading and writing. Writing a unit plan for school, a blog entry for Muddled Mother and editing a school paper for hubby took no effort at all to do in one afternoon. The computer was my friend. The pen was my friend. And words….sweet words…well I never met one I didn’t love—until now!

I’ll just come out and say it because there is really no other way to put it…the college process MAKES-ME-FEEL-STUPID. Phew…there…I said it. I mean is there anyone out there who can tell me the difference between “early acceptance” and “early admission?” How about a “universal application” and a “common app?” Words like “aptitude”, “transcripts” and “FEES” “FEES” “FEES” make my head swim. And don’t even get me started on the bleepin’ abbreviations. You can take your G P A’s and S A T’s, you can take your A C T”s, your A P’s, and your F A F S A and shove them well…you know…

It doesn’t help matters that Son1 seems to not have any compass or desire when it comes to this process. We took him on visitations last April, have offered to take him on more. Heck, his grandfather even took him to college night at our local state university. But nothing has really helped. He seems to be just as mired in this process as I am. And that makes me wary. There are plenty of parents I know that just tell me to fill out the applications for him, have him write a “Common Essay” and send them off. The decisions can be made later. But, for someone like me who is on an EXTREMELY fixed budget, the “FEES FEES FEES” that these applications demand could break the bank pretty quickly, and for what? For Son1 to say, “Nah…I really don’t want to go here or there…” So I am reluctant. If HE doesn’t know what he wants to do…how can I move forward?

Inept. I feel inept. I listen to parents around me whose kids seem to know just what they want and just where they want to go…or they at least have a bit of a plan such as the SIZE of the college or even the location…jeez…I’d even settle for a class Son1 really wants to take. But I feel like there is a “college cloud” over both of our heads and it has soaked us in a procrastination puddle. The deeper I wade the more confused I get. As October turns to November which seems to quickly be turning into December (according to the giant blow up Santa our local hardware store is already displaying as a decoration) one other word keeps dogging me—a word that probably weigh more heavily than all the other college terms that muddle my mind—and that word is—DEADLINE!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Brian Talbot]

One Mother’s Readiness for College

We’re Ready!

On Thursday we embark on our first trip to visit colleges with our 17 year old, Aidan. We’ll travel to Boston to check out BU, Emerson and Salem State University. By now you know that I am a tad bit (just a tad) on the high strung side. (My children are rolling their eyes at the word “tad” I am sure.) Therefore, I bet that you think since I have that tendency to be just a wee bit anxious, that I am mourning the end of my son’s childhood. Knowing me I am probably lamenting Aidan’s absence even a year before he leaves. I am sure that there is a consensus out there that I have already built a shrine that I will bring alms to on a daily basis to ward off the evil that may befall my first born while he is away.

Normally, I’d agree with you. I will admit that I expected this monumental moment—finding a new “home” for my oldest—to be a three-box-of-tissues sort of occasion. And I tried. I really tried. While looking at Boston University’s website, I sighed and sighed wistfully. After making a tour appointment at Emerson I slumped in my favorite chair ready to feel sorry for myself and how “old” I must be since I would soon have an offspring that would be a college student. But…but…I am just not feeling it. In fact, there is excitement in the air. Now stop…I know what you are thinking…who IS this woman that is pretending to write Logan’s column this week. It is me. Really it is.

I know it is surprising, but right now there is just no sense of sadness. I am ready. I am ready. (Right now) I have this sense of peace and a sort of awakened anticipation. I am ready. Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do. Ready to see who he will become.

Perhaps it is because I have a toddler at home who will help keep me busy. Perhaps it is because of the colossal changes that this household has been through in the last year. Perhaps it is that I am getting wiser in my old age…(okay that one might be a stretch!) More likely, it is the fact over the past few months, I have seen glimmers…slivers…a tad bit of a change in Aidan too. Never mind the fact that physically he has morphed into this gargantuan manly man. It is the decisions he’s been making, the dulling of his hormonal sharp edges, and his excitement and participation in the college planning process that makes me realize…he is ready. Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do. Ready to see who he will become. HE is ready!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

Dawn of the College Years

We’re Ready

On Thursday we embark on our first trip to visit colleges with our 17 year old, Aidan.  We’ll travel to Boston to check out BU, Emerson and Salem State University.  By now you know that I am a tad bit (just a tad) on the high strung side.  (My children are rolling their eyes at the word “tad” I am sure.)  Therefore, I bet that you think since I have that tendency to be just a wee bit anxious, that I am mourning the end of my son’s childhood. Knowing me I am probably lamenting Aidan’s absence even a year before he leaves.  I am sure that there is a consensus out there that I have already built a shrine that I will bring alms to on a daily basis to ward off the evil that may befall my first born while he is away.

Normally, I’d agree with you.  I will admit that I expected this monumental moment—finding a new “home” for my oldest—to be a three-box-of-tissues sort of occasion.  And I tried.  I really tried.  While looking at Boston University’s website, I sighed and sighed wistfully.  After making a tour appointment at Emerson I slumped in my favorite chair ready to feel sorry for myself and how “old” I must be since I would soon have an offspring that would be a college student.  But…but…I am just not feeling it.  In fact, there is excitement in the air.  Now stop…I know what you are thinking…who IS this woman that is pretending to write Logan’s column this week.  It is me.  Really it is.

I know it is surprising, but right now there is just no sense of sadness.  I am ready.  I am ready.  (Right now) I have this sense of peace and a sort of awakened anticipation.  I am ready.  Ready to see where he will go.  Ready to see what he will do.  Ready to see who he will become.

Perhaps it is because I have a toddler at home who will help keep me busy.  Perhaps it is because of the colossal changes that this household has been through in the last year.  Perhaps it is that I am getting wiser in my old age…(okay that one might be a stretch!)  More likely, it is the fact over the past few months, I have seen glimmers…slivers…a tad bit of a change in Aidan too.  Never mind the fact that physically he has morphed into this gargantuan manly man.  It is the decisions he’s been making, the dulling of his hormonal sharp edges, and his excitement and participation in the college planning process that makes me realize…he is ready.  Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do.  Ready to see who he will become.  HE is ready!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

Choices Are The Hinges of Destiny

Choices

Every school year moms have cookie cutter thoughts. How to make sure their children do their homework. How to make sure they are involved in outside activities. We think about schedules, how to give equal time to the one child who is the announcer for varsity football games and the other child who is running varsity cross country. We think about school clothes and new sneakers and notebooks and pencils. We memorize locker combos just in case we get a frantic text in the middle of the day from a child who can’t remember it. We arrange our time so we can drop off our kids at school and still get there to pick them up, and if we can’t do that, we arrange carpooling. We worry about the just-barely-passing grades from the year before and what that might mean for this year. These are the thoughts that take up residence in the minds of mothers the last two weeks of every August. Each year it is the same. Right?

Not so fast! This year, I am experiencing new and uncharted thoughts. It feels uncomfortable and frankly a little scary as often the unknown is known to do. You see, it’s Aidan’s junior year. Junior year! It’s a big one. It’s the threshold of independence, the table setter, if you will. So along with all the thoughts you read above I am also thinking about college visits and applications and SATs and prom and girlfriends and driver’s licenses. I am thinking about holding on and letting go, about time running out on the influence I may have over him. This year, this junior year, feels like no other school year.

Pythagoras once said that “Choices are the hinges of destiny,” and I think that sentiment is what is weighing so heavily on my thoughts when it comes to Aidan. His future really truly relies on the choices made this school year. Some choices are out of my control. For instance, the effort Aidan puts in to his school work, the grades he get, those things are in Aidan’s hands. He’s been blessed with a quick mind, but doesn’t always use it. It doesn’t seem to concern him at all. But as all mothers of teens know, the grades, the final average is the all powerful decider when it comes to possible colleges. Work-ethic-choices affect Aidan’s destiny.

That brings us to college choice itself. I had always been a firm believer that as a parent it was my job to provide my children with a chance to visit all different colleges with the understanding that the final say was theirs. But in talking with friends of mine whose children have gone through this process, I am finding out that that choice is really limited by how much financial aid the family will receive. After all, we do have to pay for it somehow. Financial decisions affect Aidan’s destiny.

There are other choices to ponder of course. For instance, there is a multitude of questions that surround college entrance exams. Which ones does he take? How many times does he take them? Is it true, as some have told me, that the more times he takes the exams the less impressed colleges are? College-entrance-exams-choices affect Aidan’s destiny.

It isn’t ALL about colleges either. As a mom I worry about the new found freedom-choices of a licensed teen with money in his pocket. My mind consistently ruminates over the tragedies that seem infinite in which adolescents are distracted by friends, or alcohol or drugs or a combination of all three, and a car accident leaves them maimed, in trouble with the law, or…gulp…..dead. A mom can only hope that DARE lessons and sex education, and especially her incessant lectures, talks, concrete examples about being responsible rings in her son’s ears as he drives away to exciting destinations with friends or his girl. Freedom-choices affect Aidan’s destiny.

For the sake of not feeling so bleak and in order to practice a new skill I am working on (that could benefit all moms with as loud a worry-voice as I have…) I will “reframe” the “junior-year dilemma” by mentioning other choices equally as important. When thinking about Aidan and his grades, although it is up to him to choose whether or not that is important, he has two teachers with whom he lives that will be sure to help him with that in any way that he wishes, and he knows that. Although we are not financially independent, Aidan’s mother and step-father will explore all the many options to pay for college. As far as college-entrance exams go Aidan can choose to rely on the expert advice of his guidance counselors and good friends of his parents who work in the college world or have had children go through the process. Lastly, this mom can relax knowing that when Aidan makes those freedom-choices he will make those with two feet firmly planted on a foundation of solid earnest parenting that will help to keep him steady. Positive-parental-choices affect Aidan’s hinges of destiny. Hopefully his will swing easily and the door to his future will be wide open!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed.

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