Jewel trees

October 08,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I have a weakness for glittery things, including beads and shiny stones. This is probably why, weeks ago, I bought on impulse some jars of those clear glass stones that are sold to fill up vases and centerpieces. Years ago I had scored an enormous bag of white and crystal-clear ones at a yard sale and I still remember how the kids enjoyed scooping up handfuls of them, and watching the light catch on the glass as they cascaded from their fingers onto the ground. Oh, the things you can do with glass stones. We put them into our stepping stones, remember? You can, of course, use glass stones as part of a reward chart to mark off good choices--kids love the satisfying plink the stones make when they are allowed to add one to their "good behavior" jar. A few years ago, back when L. could still be enticed to do the odd craft here and there, L. and I made a little hanging ornament with glass stones, using a glue gun and some fishing line. It's hanging in our downstairs bathroom now and I still feel happy when I look at it. Last weekend T.'s BFF S. came over for an afternoon play date. Now that S. goes to another school, it's been difficult to get the two girls together during the week much, and so any weekend play date time is a glorious thing. Both T. and S. love a good craft, and they get pleasure out of the simplest activities. Sometimes they invent their own crafts, like the time T. and S. spent an hour "writing" and illustrating their own little books. Another time they made scrapbooks for each other, and I took some quick photos from around the house, printed them out on the computer, and let them spend their time--armed with a glue stick--assembling their own photo collages. This time around, T. and S. spied the jars with the glass stones on our screened-in porch windowsill. Earlier in the morning we spent a good long time outside, raking leaves and then T. and I collected twisty, knobbly and interesting looking sticks, and piled them up on the front porch--just for kicks. We also set up our Halloween decorations and then spent a big chunk of the morning rescuing T. from the tyrrany of big brothers in horrific rubber masks, and a nice, peaceful, craft on the screened-in porch seemed like the perfect antidote for that morning's ghoulishness. T., in typical T. fashion, grabbed a jar of the glass stones. "Let's make something with these!" Together, T., S., and I brainstormed and came up with a vision, born from a pile of sticks, some extra copper wire (we raided Scott's toolbox), and way too many shiny glass stones: we'd make jewel trees! I let the girls pick out the stones they wanted, and they each showed me where they wanted them placed on the branches. I wound the wire around and up along the base of each branch (you don't need the wire, of course, but the girls thought it made for an interesting addition--you can wrap some electrician's tape around the ends of the wire, to spare little hands), glue-gunned each glass stone and those twisted bits of dried trees magically turned into something beautiful and otherworldly, right before our eyes. The girls were completely charmed by them--and I was, too. The jewel trees make wonderful centerpieces, rising splendidly from a glass vase, or "planted" in a pot or planter by your front door, or just propped up against a window. Jewel trees (They remind me a little of spiderwebs, with big, fat, glittery spiders stuck in the middle) Happy Weekend!