Magical Childhood Newsletter
Volume 15
August 11, 2001

Hi folks!  I'm going to have a quick intro this time because it's hot!  We have little in the way of air conditioning and our house seems to have developed the perfect conditions for growing orchids.  Blech!  ;)  So I'm tossing together some neat stuff I gathered here and there for you and then taking off for parts unknown.  I don't care where, as long as it's cold!

Have a great week!

(Note:  I always work on the newsletter day by day as I get a few free minutes, so it's not hot at all when I'm actually sending this out!  Sorry for the delay in getting one out, but it was too miserable to sit inside.  Hope you all are cool and happy now.  --A)


Get ready for a magical show....

It's time for the annual round of meteors known as the Perseid meteor showers, which peaks between dawn and midnight on August 12.  Sorry for those folks in the Southern Hemisphere, but this is mainly a show of shooting stars for those of us in the Northern half.  Read all about this amazing event at NASA's site....


I found this craft on a bulletin board and got permission from the author, Wren, to share it with you all.  What a great craft for older kids-- or for mom or dad to create for a birthday celebration.  It can even make a centerpiece with a votive candle inside for a special event. Neat!


1 c sand
1/2 c cornstarch
1 t cream of tartar
3/4 c hot water

Mix dry ingredients in an old saucepan. Add water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 'til mixture is very thick and can't be stirred more. When slightly cooled (enough to handle), form into shapes.

Allow several days to air-dry.

Makes about 2 cups.

I would suggest making one batch and rolling it out to about 1/4" thickness. Make your four walls and floor from this "sheet dough". (Roll out on an old cookie sheet). Make another batch or two for the "turrets".

Fit waxed paper inside small funnels for the pointed towers and spoon the mix in. Glue waxed paper to cardboard and roll into tubes with the paper in . Spoon mixture into these for towers. Let everything dry as directed above (the thicker pieces will take a week or so). When dry, gently pop the turrets out of the molds and use ordinary white household glue to assemble. While the walls are still on the cookie sheet, use a serrated knife to gently carve windows and the portcullis, and crennels on the top of the walls. (Gently is the key - scrape at it, rather than sawing). When walls are completed, gently carve slots in the sides of the towers to accept the walls, and glue the assembly together. Let glue dry.


Dinosaur Days

My friend Trevi's daughter, Simone, is fascinated with dinosaurs so I thought I'd dig up (tee hee) some neat ideas for crafts and projects.  Here are some I thought up, along with some great links for other fun ideas....

Mix up dirt and use macaroni to make a cool dinosaur fossil:

Use a sandbox, loose dirt in the backyard or even a tub filled with rice.  Explain to children about how dinosaur fossils are dug up very carefully when they're found and then pieced together.  Give them spoons and paint brushes and help them excavate small toy dinosaurs, clay ones you've modeled, or even just sticks and fake bones.

To take this project a bit further here's a great project for older kids.  Go to the beach and find "bones."  You can find sticks, fish bones or even crab claws.  You can boil them at home in some water with a splash of bleach to disinfect them.  Then help the kids build a creature by putting all the parts together!  You may need to be creative with holding it all together, like wiring parts on while the glue dries or winding twine around parts to hold them together.  Let your child name his newfound creature and make up a whole lifestyle for it!  What did it eat?  How old did it get?  Were its babies hatched out of eggs or born?  What animals preyed on it?  Where did it live?  Compare it to other animals as you go, and you'll sneak in lots of learning.  ;)

Give your child a dinosaur name.  Victoria becomes Victoriadon and Anna becomes Annasaurus!  Madison could be Madidon.  Just fun!  Ask them what kind of dinosaurs they'd be.  Victoria called herself "Stomposaurus" and was a blue dinosaur who swam in the sea and ate fish.

Make dinosaur bones out of construction paper and cut out.  Mix them up and let kids make a collage to create a dinosaur.

There are LOTS of good dinosaur ideas (math, bean bag toss, dinosaur food....) here:

This is also a great chance to talk about how adults and scientists don't have all the answers.  Tell your kids about the argument between scientists who believe that dinosaurs descended from birds and those who think they didn't.  Tell them about the ones who don't believe dinosaurs existed at all.  If you have older kids, ask each one to research one side and then debate it.  Tell them what you believe and ask what they think.  It's a wild idea to kids sometimes to realize we don't have all the answers!


Lavender Sugar

 Do you have lavender or other sweet herbs in your garden?  Try making lavender sugar with the kids!  Make this like vanilla sugar - put a dozen or so lavender heads in a jar of fine sugar. Leave it for a couple of weeks and you will have delicately scented sugar that can be used in cakes, fruit salad, tea, etc.

You could also do this with lemon verbena, mint or rose petals, to name a few.



Children will live up to our expectations of them......
but we also have to live up to theirs.


Send your child's name to Mars!!!!!

Send Your Name To Mars

At this NASA web site you can sign up to send your name to Mars on the next Mars Exploration Rover - 2003 Mission!  It's free and open to all ages.  We put Annalee's and Victoria's names on the list and got to print out some neat certificates about the event.


A Few Fabulous Books~

As you know, we're library fiends around here.  I thought I'd compile a list of some of our recent favorites for you to check out at your local library.  These ones are such fun that you won't mind reading them again and again!  Some are probably already old favorites at your house, but there are so many good ones out there it never hurts to talk about them again.  Please send in suggestions for great books you find!

The Very Lonely Firefly, by Eric Carle
Eric Carle's books are always wonderful, but this one is near the top of my favorites list.  This is part of a 4 part series, which I didn't know.  EC says on the book jacket that the spider, caterpillar and cricket books are about work, hope and love.  This book is about belonging.  The art is great, as always.  We talked about how the artist make the swirls on the inside cover (paint strokes and then swishing with his finger) and decided that we would try to do it at craft time too.  The best part of this book is the surprise at the end though.  I won't ruin it, but it's magical!!!!

Would You Rather... by John Burningham
Look this book over yourself before bringing it home if your kids are a little fearful.  It may be more suited to older kids or ones who aren't easily scared.  We love it though.  The whole book asks a series of questions about what you'd rather..... an elephant drank your bath water, an eagle stole your dinner, a pig tried on your clothes or a hippo slept in your bed?  Some are fun, some are gross and some are scary (like would you rather be chased by a bull, a crab, a lion, or wolves).  Victoria just cheerfully announced that she would rather PLAY with the animals, and I said that sounded much better.  I didn't make her really choose whether she wanted spider stew or slug dumplings either.  <G>  It's a really fun, interactive book during quiet times though.  It also leads to a great activity to do while waiting for doctors, driving, etc.  Play "would you rather..." back and forth!  Have the kids ask questions too.  It's fun!

Frederick, by Leo Lionni
This sweet Caldecott Honor book is about a little mouse who does not help get ready for the winter, but instead says that he's gathering words and colors.  The other mice mock him, till deep in the winter when his words really do prove to be valuable.  It's an interesting lesson about how we can help in our own unique ways, and good discussion material.  Plus, my girls just like the pictures.  :)

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, illustrated by Pam Adams
This retelling of the old rhyme is colorful and fun!  The pages have ever-increasing cut-outs with the rhyme winding around, while the old lady has an ever-increasing belly full of critters.  ;)  Both Victoria (3) and Annalee (18 months) love to read it again and again.

I Can Read With my Eyes Shut, By Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss has so many great books, but there are also plenty that are sort of filler.  This one is one of the great ones!  It's all about the wonderful things you can learn and do when you read, full of the characteristic Dr. Seuss silliness that makes him so adorable.  Fun!


Perhaps the worst sin in life is knowing right and not doing it.
                      Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Box Project

You know I've been on a quest to find all of the ways I can to help make a difference in the lives of children.  Well, I've found an organization that can really help me do that.

It's called The Box Project and it links people to families who are living in rural poverty.  Basically, you become a fairy godmother of a sort to an impoverished family.  The families are screened carefully.  They are not deadbeats or welfare slouches.  Many live in Appalachia, where there simply are not enough jobs.  They may be elderly folks raising grandchildren, single moms trying to make ends meet without a living wage, or other good folks in a bad situation.

When you make a commitment, you are matched up with a family and you deal directly with your family.  The folks at TBP say that the average donation per month is $50-75 so it is a substantial investment.  It took a little work to convince Daryl but it means enough to me that I'm using my own savings to take part.  I want our daughters to grow up knowing how other children live.  I want them to know the joy you feel when you truly make a difference in somebody's life.  TBP encourages letters, calls and even visits.  You don't just sign a check every month the way you do with many charities.  You become involved in the life of children (and parents) who need you and you get to know them.

What sorts of things do you purchase for your sister family?  Typical items are back-to-school clothes and supplies, household items like blankets, birthday or holiday presents, medical supplies or non-perishable food.  You can also send care packages of outgrown clothes, art from your kids, photos and letters, whatever moves you.

This is an American project, but there may be ways to help in your own country through a similar program.  If you like the idea, you could contact a social services agency and ask if they could recommend a family whom they felt was in need of something like this.

I'll keep you updated on what happens.  I'm a little nervous but I'm also determined to do all I can and I'm going to make a go of it.  Here's the web site to learn more:


Ever wonder what to do with those inevitable pictures of Uncle Joe's feet, you with your eyes closed or the bottom half of someone's arm?  Use unwanted photographs as quick stencils for the kids.  Just turn them over and draw an image on the white side.  Use an exacto knife to cut out one design in each (far away from kids of course).  They're perfect-- just the right size and they wipe clean!


10 Quick Ways to Make Your Kids Giggle.....

1.  From the other room, suddenly say "Oh no!  Do you know what I forgot?!" and then rush into the room with huge eyes.  Say, "Oh no!  Oh no!  Oh no!  I forgot to give you kisses!" and then grab him and hold him upside down and kiss him noisily like an idiot.

2.  Every time your child looks away, make a funny face.  Make sure you get caught.  Look overly nonchalant when she turns and looks at you.  Get more and more outlandish.  Act shocked she's accusing you of being silly.

3.  Pretend that the cat is your child.  Ask the cat why she's sitting on the table and not doing homework.  Alternately, pretend your child is the cat.  Brush her and pat her head.  Cluck her under the chin and tell her what a good kitty she is.  Suddenly look surprised and say "You're not Rosie!" and talk about how silly you are.

4.  Watch a really funny family movie.  A good one for kindergarten to adult is "Clean Slate" with Dana Carvey.  It's absolutely charming and funny, with a charming and funny dog too!

5.  Have serious contests.  Pair off kids and adults and each one has to try to make the other one laugh while keeping a straight face.

6.  For little kids, sniff em.  Act like a total idiot and sniff their heads and arms and all over.  Babies love this.

7.  Purposely do things wrong once in a while.  Put your socks on as mittens and let your toddlers correct you.  Put a plate on your head and watch your baby laugh.  Put strange things in the fridge, or waiting for them in the cupboards.  Be surprising.

8.  Slip really lame jokes in their lunch boxes.

9.  Sing songs wrong.  My kids always crack up when I sing songs because I always forget the ends.  ;)  Sing about the little boy who lives down the drain, twinkle twinkle little goat, you name it.  There's nothing cuter than a one year old telling you "no no no!" and correcting you with a grin!

10. Poke them.  As you're sitting waiting for the light to change, as you're watching a movie, or as you're eating supper, just reach over super quick and go POKE.  Act innocent.  Then poke them again.  Be a loon.  If the worst they can complain about when they grow up is that mom or dad was a goofball, we're doing okay!  ;)


And with that, I'm off to do the oh-so-magical task of switching the laundry.  This week, picture me hovering over you and shaking my finger at you asking "What have you done for you?"!  Take care of yourself.  Good parents don't do enough of that.  You have permission.  You have orders!  Buy treats.  Put your feet up.  Watch a dorky show.  Take a long bath.  Eat chocolate.  ;)

Kisses to your babies.........

Till next time,


A Magical Childhood
Copyright 2001, Alicia Bayer

A Magical Childhood Newsletter is just something I throw together because I love children and those who love them.  To subscribe, send a message to  We do not use ads.  It's not about money.  :)

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