Tin Can Luminaries

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Making tin can luminaries requires a bit more planning than our usual projects, but the results were worth it. It is a great project for older kids, tweens and teens and it is one that both boys and girls want to participate in.

This was a neat activity for our kids because it allowed them to use materials that thought were cool and do things they don’t get to do everyday like hammer and light matches. Teaching your kids these types of skills is important and teaching them in the context of a project allows for it to be an organic learning opportunity.

We made these tin can luminaries with five of our kids who range in age from 9 to 13 and they were all able to do it. Some of them needed more help from us than others did but they all were able to do the majority of it themselves.

Tin can luminaries are a great project for older kids, tweens or teens.Materials needed:

Please note that this activity requires adult supervision both because of the use of hammers and the optional lighting of candles. 

Making tin can luminaries requires some planning. The first step of course is gathering some empty tin cans. You can use any size. It is important that the cans were opened with the type of can opener that doesn’t leave any jagged edges. Wash the cans out.

The night before you plan to make the luminaries, fill the cans with water to a little more than 3/4 full and stand them upright in the freezer. Overnight, the water in the cans will freeze. This is an important step because if you don’t, the walls of the can won’t be strong enough to hold their shape while the nails are being hammered in.

creating tin can luminariesUse a permanent marker to draw dots in the places you want to create holes. You can do this randomly or you can create patterns or images with the dots.

Using a hammer, nail into each of the dots one at a time, removing the nail once the can is fully pierced through. If you want, you can make the holes different sizes by using different thicknesses of nails. When you have finished nailing holes into each one of the dots, dump the ice from the cans into the sink.

Place a tea light candle in the bottom of the can and light it. You can use a flameless tea light that is lit by battery or you can use a real tea light.

Tin Can LuminariesThe candle light will show through the holes in the tin can and the pattern created will show through. They are really quite beautiful.

If you are looking for other fun projects to create with your kids, you can follow me on Pinterest and sign up for my newsletter.

Nativity Chalk Silhouette

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This Christmas craft can be adapted for kids of all ages. The kids and I have been doing all kinds of holiday projects the past two weeks but I really wanted to think of one we could do that would bring us back to focusing on the reason there is a Christmas in the first place. We created this nativity chalk silhouette craft.

Nativity Chalk Silhouette Christmas Craft for KidsThe process was simple but it lent itself to all kinds of variations. I love projects that let the kids explore their creativity and put their own spin on things. I set out both white and coloured chalks for this purpose.

Materials needed:

I didn’t see any point at reinventing the wheel (and my artist skills are lacking!) so I found a great nativity silhouette that is free to print at Meaningful Mama. While you’re over there, you can also look at the gorgeous stained glass craft she made with the same silhouette and maybe you can make both.

How to make a Nativity Chalk Silhouette:

  1. Print the nativity silhouette on card stock.
  2. Cut it out. I used scissors for most of this step but did use a blade (an exacto knife would be best) for the small cutouts.
  3. Place the silhouette on the black paper and hold in place with one hand while outlining it with chalk with the other hand.
  4. Continue to hold the silhouette in place and use a cotton ball to spread out the chalk.
  5. If you want to seal the picture, place it on newsprint and spray it with sealant.

creating a nativity silhouette

I enjoyed watching the kids put their own interpretations on this craft. Some wanted to outline it all in white while others chose for the star to be outlined in yellow and others chose to use many colours. A few of the kids wanted to continue to spread the chalk after they removed the outline and made the colours spread quite far on their page while others preferred to have more of the original outline showing.

Nativity Chalk SilhouetteRegardless of which style they chose, all of them were absolutely beautiful! One of the kids wrote the word “Jesus” in chalk to his and added some embellishments to the star. I had to cut those out in the pictures because in them he had also written his full name. My kids of course don’t sign their artwork with their blog pseudonyms!

I hope that you will enjoy making this Christmas Nativity Chalk Silhouette as much as we did!

Appendicitis: What Parents Need to Know

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You never expect when you wake up on a Wednesday morning that part of your night will be spent waiting for your son to get out of surgery. A series of events led to us almost not catching our son’s appendicitis and the surgery was just in time.

Appendicitis: What Parents Need to Know that could save their child's life

The week before, our daughter Granola Girl had gotten a cold and then on the Friday, she ended up with the stomach flu and a lot of vomiting. So when Snuggle Puppy got a cold on the weekend and then on Monday told me that he had a stomachache, I assumed that he, too had the stomach flu. I was anticipating that he would throw up, but he never did.

Tuesday morning, he didn’t say anything about his stomach, but when I asked him if it still hurt, he said “yes”. We homeschool but Snuggle Puppy takes two classes at a local school and Tuesday afternoon, he had Bible and Phys. Ed. class. He convinced me that he was up to going, but I wrote him a note for him to sit out of gym class. He chose not to give the note to his teacher because he really wanted to play basketball and so he played basketball Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday at supper, he begged us to let him go to his youth group Bible study. We were hesitant because we wanted him to get some rest, but he wasn’t fevered, wasn’t nauseous and even his cold symptoms seemed to be clearing up. He was very convincing in his arguments and so Tuesday evening, Snuggle Puppy went to the Bible study.

Wednesday morning, he woke up, did not complain about his stomach, ate breakfast, and we started doing our homeschooling. He even sat with us at the table and wrote a spelling test. I asked him if his stomach still hurt and he said “yes”. Soon after, I saw him crouched down in the living room and he said “mommy, my tummy really hurts”. That was all it took for my husband to take him to the hospital. It may not sound like enough, but we knew that our son is not a complainer and has a high pain threshold.

At the first hospital, they ran blood tests and they all came back perfectly normal. Although he was showing tenderness upon their physical exam, he wasn’t in excruciating pain so they did not think it was appendicitis. They did an ultrasound to find out if there was another problem that may be causing his pain and saw that his appendix was enlarged. It was so much larger than it should be that they thought maybe it was an error.

They called over to another hospital and spoke to a surgeon and the decision was made for us to take him to the other hospital. The first hospital was a community hospital without surgical facilities.

When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital, they weren’t sure whether or not they should operate because he had almost no signs of appendicitis. The surgical resident initially said they weren’t going to operate but then an experienced surgeon came in and had a look at him and told us that his gut was saying it was appendicitis even though most of the tests were showing otherwise. I am so thankful that the surgeon decided to listen to his gut. I think “his gut” was actually God whispering to him.

After the surgery, the doctor came out and told us that the appendix would have burst that night. They said it could have been a matter of minutes. (Keep in mind that this is the same kid who played basketball the afternoon before!)

We are grateful for God’s protection and we are thankful for a doctor who listened to his gut instead of relying solely on test results. Not everyone is as fortunate as we were. I have since heard some stories that did not end as well as ours did. That is why I want to arm other parents with some knowledge about appendicitis.

These are the things you need to know:

There may not be a fever.

Our son had absolutely no fever in the days leading up to his surgery or following.

The symptoms may mimic the stomach flu.

Many of the symptoms of appendicitis can look like the stomach flu and it can be hard to tell them apart. In our case, since the flu had been going through our house just days before, it made it that much more confusing.

The pain may not be excruciating.

Our son played basketball the afternoon before and was walking and talking normally up until his surgery. He was not doubled over, screaming, crying, or even wincing. The only time his face showed any pain was when they were doing his physical exam and pressing on the site. Even then, he did not cry out. This picture is of him pre-surgery:

What Parents Need to Know About Appendicitis that could save their child's life

Blood work may not be an accurate indicator.

Doctors will check for an elevated white cell count which is an indication of infection. CRP levels are also looked at by some hospitals as being an indicator of possible appendicitis.

In the case of our son, all of his blood work was completely normal. On paper, he showed up as a healthy boy. If the blood results are normal and you feel that it is more serious than a regular stomachache, you can insist on an ultrasound.

You know your child best.

Doctors are skilled and experienced but they do not know your child. You are the ultimate expert on your child.

In our case, I did explain to the doctors that due to his high cortisol levels, our son has a high pain threshold, but they are used to hearing from many parents that their kids have a high pain tolerance and I don’t think they took me very seriously but I knew my son and I knew that not only does he have a high pain threshold, he also is not a complainer, so for him to be saying that something hurt meant that something hurt. I knew it was his appendix hours before because my momma instinct told me.

Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to advocate for your child because…

If left untreated, it can be fatal.

Appendicitis can lead to the appendix perforating causing pus to leak into the abdomen and in some cases, leading to a blood infection called septicemia which can be fatal. It can also cause other dangerous infections.

According to WebMd, the classic symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever of 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Inability to pass gas

Our son had only one of those symptoms (the abdominal pain).

Almost half the time, other symptoms of appendicitis appear, including:

  • Dull or sharp pain anywhere in the upper or lower abdomen, back, or rectum
  • Painful urination
  • Vomiting that precedes the abdominal pain
  • Severe cramps
  • Constipation or diarrhea with gas

Our son had none of those symptoms.

Please note that I am not a medical doctor and I am not asking you to go in and demand that they remove your child’s appendix at the first sign of every tummy ache. I am only a mom sharing our story in the hopes that it helps another mom out there.

Plastic Cup Shrinky Dink Ornaments

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My kids had been playing some games with plastic cups and one night, I noticed a huge stack of them leaning up against a wall in the living room. I was debating if I should wash them out and put them back in the cupboard to use at a gathering but that seemed like a fair bit of work given that the stack almost reached the ceiling. I started to think about what kind of craft we could make with them and the idea to make shrinky dink ornaments started to form.

Shrinky Dink Christmas Ornaments made with Plastic Cups. This is a great craft to make with multiple ages from preschooler to adult.I was really determined to make this idea work but it wasn’t as simple as I had imagined. Through a fair bit of trial and error, I was able to figure out how to make this concept actually turn into something and I’m so excited with how they turned out.

Before I get to how to make these, I will explain how NOT to make them so that you can learn from my mistakes. Initially, I just grabbed some clear plastic cups from the giant stack and brought out a pack of coloured Sharpie markers and asked the kids to draw or decorate them however they wanted. Then we put them on a cookie sheet and baked them. The picture below shows how they went into the oven and how they came out of the oven:

ornament attempt number oneAs you can see, four of the five cups shrunk down into funny little hat-looking-things. One of them flattened into exactly what I had pictured when I had thought up this project. At first, I thought maybe it was because that cup had been the one in the center of the cookie sheet but on closer inspection, we discovered that the one that flattened was a different brand of cup. The Dixie brand cups shrivelled into hats but the Polar brand plastic cups shrunk into flat circles.

The kids got to work decorating just the Polar brand cups and the next tray worked really well. All of the cups flattened into lovely little disks. That is when we discovered problem #2.

Shrinky Dink Plastic CupsI was not able to hole punch them after they had shrunk because the plastic had hardened too much. So those disks did not become ornaments.

Thankfully, my kids really loved colouring the cups and they happily coloured many more cups. I hole punched them prior to putting them in the oven this time!

Materials needed:

  • permanent markers
  • Polar brand clear plastic cups (we used 10 oz.)
  • hole punch
  • string for hanging

Shrinky Dink Christmas Ornaments made with plastic cupsHow to make shrinky dink ornaments:

  1. Draw with permanent markers on plastic cups. (Remember that they have to be Polar brand!)
  2. Hole punch the cup.
  3. Place on cookie sheet and put in 250° oven.
  4. Turn the oven light on and watch until the cup shrinks down to a flat circle. Note that only the ornament in the middle of the cookie sheet will be completely flat.
  5. Thread a string through the hole and hang.

I’m very pleased with how these turned out and glad that I didn’t give up when the first few batches didn’t go well because they are really lovely. It was fun to see my kids’ creativity come out in their ornaments.