Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Story Unfolds...

In just over a month, my “baby” Chi-Chi will be turning four years old! At the very top of his birthday wish list is a goalie stick. It’s going to be a long wait for this poor little guy, who begs and pleads for this coveted item every day. A month is no doubt an eternity to a four-year-old. No, I won’t be attempting to a “Wood Fairy” version of a goalie stick! I’m sure the Canadian Tire version will do just fine.

As one would expect, I feel a need to make something special for my sweet little boy – an offering of my love for him on this memorable occasion. I’ve been racking my brain for ideas, but was starting to experience a mild case of “toy makers block”. I’ve done some serious toy making the last two years so the idea bank is starting to dry up!

Just when I least expected it, a light bulb went off in my head! I’m sure all parents of young children find themselves in this position. It’s bedtime and you are completely exhausted and zapped from the activities of the day. You are snuggled in bed with your little one, nodding off as you try hopelessly to get through the arguably painful text of Green Eggs and Ham. On such occasions, when I simply cannot keep my eyes open, I shut off the lights and pull out my repertoire of homemade stories. These stories are great as the little ones don’t know the words (and therefore can’t correct you when you fall asleep mid sentence). Since there is no book, they can be told with eyes closed! Chi-Chi is quite fond of my series of stories depicting the adventures and antics of my childhood dog, the infamous Barney Beagle. Anyone who has ever known a beagle will be well aware of the trouble these softhearted little characters can get into!

Despite my love of “no book” stories, I decided it would be fun to write and illustrate a homemade treasury of the Adventures of Barney Beagle. It will be a sure hit with Chi-Chi as he absolutely loves these tales. It will also serve as a keepsake for all members of our family who hold fond (and not so fond) memories of this special little dog. When I first informed Hubby of my plans, he reminded me of a report issued by my Grade 10 art class teacher, “You are attempting to draw all sides of the object at the same time”. Ok, I will admit, I’m no artist! Despite this constructive criticism, I pulled out my watercolor pencils and some paper and set to work on the first set of illustrations. (Thanks to Robyn for a little inspiration here) I did a test run and scanned a painting into the computer, pairing it up with the accompanying text. I’m not yet sure how I will print and bind the final product. Any suggestions would be welcome!!

These sample drawings give a sneak peek of what’s to come. I apologize for the graphic nature of some of the subject matter. Yes, that is a picture of someone pulling a pair of stockings out of Barney’s behind. All I can say is that it is based on actual people, animals and events. Family members out there, I’m taking submissions of stories to be included so drop me a note if you think of any!

No doubt in thirty years or so I'll be hard at work on the sequel to this book for my grandchildren...... "The Antics and Adventures of the Infamous Chi-Chi and Muffy". Oh, the stories I'll have to tell!!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A Day at the Beach

My little explorers are always getting into something around the house. In the very literal sense, no stone remains unturned around here! This week they were rooting around in the hall closet and gleefully discovered a bin of summer clothing. Who wouldn’t get an itch to hit the beach once decked out in sandals, swimsuits and sunhats?

Anxious to take advantage of the blue skies and sunshine, our family decided to visit one of our favorite summertime destinations – Rainbow Haven Beach. It took a fair amount of convincing, but we finally managed to get Chi-Chi to trade in his sandals for a more reasonable pair of warm winter boots. We compromised by allowing the swimsuit to remain, as long as he wore his snowsuit over top of it!

Despite the fact this beautiful sandy beach is a mere two-minute drive from our home, I’m ashamed to admit we have not been there in months. I must remind myself to visit more frequently as it is the perfect place for an afternoon walk with the kiddies. It turns out that winter may actually be a preferred time of year for a beach walk since you are free of the summer crowds. The kids ran, stretched their legs and splashed about on the edge of the shore. There was lots of exploring and beachcombing to be done as we sifted through the debris and seaweed resulting from the recent winter storm. The little explorers discovered two skate egg cases as well as the shell of a green crab. Now this is the type of exploring I like to encourage! These are much more interesting discoveries than the things they pull out from under the bathroom sink!

With our treasures in tow we headed home to warm up and guzzle down some much needed hot chocolate. Curious little Chi-Chi was quick to pull out his copy of Canada's Atlantic Seashore and look up his discoveries. I was happy to learn something new myself! Though my sister and I collected skate egg cases as children, I never knew they were referred to as “mermaid purses”. A family stroll on the beach opened the door to a lesson in the life cycle of the skate fish for all of us!

Ah, another great day at the beach!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A Matter of Perspective

We find ourselves once again enveloped by a fierce winter storm. I spent the morning gathering reinforcements (i.e. groceries!) to prepare for bunkering down with the family. With the knowledge that yet another wallop of wintry weather would soon descend upon us, I made an effort to get out with Chi-Chi and Muffy as much as possible these last few days.

This past summer, I spent endless hours sitting on my back deck, playing with wool as the wee ones played in the sandbox. I likely spent $120 on sand to fill the generously sized box, but it was well worth the investment! Little did I know it would serve recreational purposes year-round. Yes, Mother Nature recently converted the beloved sandbox into a backyard rink! In my adult opinion, it’s a bit skimpy as far as rinks go, measuring a mere six by six feet. Chi-Chi and Muffy, however, could care less about these meager dimensions. They are eager to get their skates laced up and glide (as much as that’s possible) around the tiny ice surface. It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose. When you are little, your surroundings must seem somewhat magnified.

Hey, if the monkeys are happy, I’m happy. I’ve been enjoying a chance to sit on my deck and relax once again, despite the fact I’m freezing my behind off in the sub zero temperatures! I’m a bit of a “busy-body” so sitting in the frigid cold with idle hands is hard for me to do. Reminiscent of those warm summer days, I brought along a set of rainbow bowls I'm currently working on. I thought the sunny colored yarn would brighten up the somewhat drab white, grey and brown landscape. Surprisingly, I was able to accomplish a fair amount, despite the fact that my fingers nearly froze off and I lost my favorite crochet hook in the snow. Sigh....With the newest dousing of snow, my poor hook is not likely to be recovered any time soon! Alas, this is definitely not the last we'll see of Old Man Winter.

Once again, a lesson to be learned from the little ones. While I'm shivering and dreaming of Spring, Chi-Chi and Muffy are marvelling at the magic of the season and the fun to be had. It's all a matter of perspective!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Oh Deer!

The boys and I have been working with numbers a fair bit lately. Chi-Chi in particular has been counting everything in sight. For the past couple of weeks, a mama deer and her three young ones have been frequent visitors on our property. In fact, they are with us so often the novelty has worn off for all of us. Needless to say, when Chi-Chi started counting deer the other day, I didn’t exactly set down my tea and jump from my chair. I did, however, become a tad skeptical when his tally reached the number seven. Wow! That classifies as a herd in my books! I was lucky enough to snap a shot of all seven of our visitors. Of course, I’m all “lovey dovey” about our little friends while the snow is on the ground. Come spring, I’ll be out there in my gardening boots, trying desperately to outsmart them with some crazy “Deer Defense System”. I’ve yet to find a solution to the annual massacre of my tulips!

In keeping with the counting theme, I came up with a fun activity for the wee ones that also benefited Mommy. How I love “win, win” activities as I like to refer to them. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with a bucket of pennies gathering dust in the closet. To be honest, it’s a bucket of pennies, nickels and dimes. I’m not sure when nickels and dimes were demoted to the “worthless pot” but sadly that is the attitude around here. It appears that quarters are still considered “valuable” as I could not find one in the whole bunch! I pulled out the coin rolling tubes and put the monkeys to work rolling money. Not only was this a great counting exercise, but it also tied in a bit of Montessori work through the sorting aspect. Chi-Chi and Muffy were paid for all their hard work and will be making a trip to the bank tomorrow to deposit their pennies into their savings accounts.

Now if I could only get that little Muffy to count sheep at night.....we could all get some sleep around here!!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Nest Eggs

With all the drab grey weather this past week, I felt all of us could use a healthy dose of color around here. What better place to look than my wool stash! Chi-Chi and Muffy are always keen to get their sticky little hands into my basket of multi-colored unspun fleece. I often find these two monkeys at the bathroom sink, up to their elbows in warm soapy water as they swish and squeeze their latest “felting” project. Today we pulled out the basket and created a couple of fun felted balls for their indoor hockey games. No pucks in the house please!!!

The Wool Fairy has been having her share of fun with the wool stash as well. I’ve been working on some woolly Easter eggs to add to our collection from last year. These eggs were originally intended to be Easter decorations, but were quickly snatched up by Chi-Chi and put to better use. They are a favorite in our household and never left the toy box, despite the passing of the Easter holiday. With all the backyard chicken talk and preparations around here, these eggs have served as the inspiration for a variety of interesting games and play scenarios. No word of a lie, Chi-Chi spent four long hours sitting on those eggs one day. He refused to eat, pee or move as he faithfully served out his nesting mother hen responsibilities. Thankfully, that game ended, despite the fact I secretly enjoyed a rare few hours of peace and serenity around here! Both little guys enjoy incorporating these fun woolly eggs into their counting games. With their numerical skills improving by the day, I figured we needed a few more in the basket.

These little eggies are so much fun to make, I may do up a few extra, so look out for them in my Etsy shop.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Some Bunny Loves You...

Due to a scheduling conflict, our family celebrated Valentine’s Day a little early this year. Our low-key festivities included a yummy spaghetti dinner and some crafty homemade Valentines. Chi-Chi and Muffy were busy all week creating their Valentine offerings. Borrowing tradition from my own childhood, our family has a “Valentine mailbox”. A week or so before the special day, our mailbox is placed on the dining room table. All love notes and small tokens are placed in the box, which is opened at the family Valentine dinner. The anticipation builds all week as deliveries are made to this decorated shoebox. Needless to say, the box was filled to the brim with colorful notes and clippings from our two little love bugs!

As a parent, I struggle with the holidays and the excess that seems to go hand-in-hand with these celebrations. A recent stroll by the “holiday” section of my local grocery store definitely confirms that Valentine's Day is certainly not immune to the trend towards excessiveness. Yikes! We steer our cart clear of those isles! Hubby and I have been making a conscious effort to keep gift giving “reasonable”. Our children are still so young so it is a good opportunity to set expectations low! I did, however, want to give the little ones a small token of love. Despite the commercialism behind Valentines’ Day, I do think it is a nice opportunity to express love for those special people in our lives. Chi-Chi and Muffy each received a little chocolate treat and a special wooden bunny made by Mommy. The boys were pretty smitten with their new little friends (and the chocolate treat of course). Though small, simple and inexpensive, these little Valentines were given with tons of love and the message that “some bunny” loves them very very much!

Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Great Outdoors

Today was one of those days I had to absolutely force myself to get all three of us bundled up and out into the fresh winter air. Despite the blue skies and sunshine, I was feeling chilled to the bone. Somehow, snuggling on my quilt covered couch with my fingers wrapped around a warm mug of tea seemed more appealing!

With two energetic boys bouncing off my walls (literally), it was imperative for this lazy mama to get off her bottom and out the door. As a bonus, I figured I would get a little wear out of my much loved “lifestyle hat”. As usual, once outside, my energy was renewed. The little ones and I went on a nature walk and scavenger hunt to gather supplies for afternoon crafting activities. These little guys never cease to amaze me with their remarkable memories and their ability to retain mountains of information. As Chi-Chi meandered through the brush, he readily identified alder catkins, wild rose hips and spruce cones. We all had a ball following the deer track trails and the boys absolutely delighted in identifying the plentiful amount of bunny and deer poop. Boys will be boys is all I can say! Luckily they agreed that bunny poop was probably not appropriate for our collage box.

Just over a year ago I read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. I really connected with the message in this book and keep it in the back of my mind on these lazy winter days when I would much rather hibernate than venture out into the great outdoors. Louv emphasizes the importance of teaching our children about the natural world in their own backyards. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the trees, plants and animals that share our land with us. I have my parents to thank for this. My sister and I grew up in a home where nature was a focus. At an early age, we learned to identify the beautiful wildflowers on our walks down the “country road”. We took a keen interest in the sea creatures that lived on the shores nearby. The family’s plentiful supply of nature books was always on hand when we were stumped by a new discovery. Needless to say, I won’t be relying on the public school system to educate my children in this area. I’m hoping that by allowing the little ones to explore our property freely, they take an interest in their plant and animal friends and will learn to appreciate and respect the natural world. Our nature walks have also served as a great “refresher” course for Mommy!

After warming our toes by the woodstove with a creamy cup of hot chocolate, we whipped up a batch of flour and water paste and sorted through our “treasures”. Chi-Chi was most proud of a special seedpod he discovered that appeared to have been pecked or nibbled by a hungry critter.

So, our outing was definitely worth the effort. I am, however, back on the couch, quilts tucked around me, tea in hand!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Self Indulgence

A few weeks ago, my good friend April and I embarked on a “Girls Only” road trip. Ok, so roundtrip, I was only away for six hours…. It actually felt like an eternity to be away from the wee ones for that long. I guess I don’t get out much!

Our destination was the picturesque town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to pick up a ten-foot antique store counter. This beauty will serve as the focal point in Nurtured's new retail location which will be opening its doors this spring. Luckily for me, April was happy to mix business with pleasure! We enjoyed a leisurely drive down and took the time to stop for a yummy relaxing lunch as well as a browse through the local wool shop, Have A Yarn in Mahone Bay (of course!!)

Despite my yearning and drooling, I managed to resist temptation (at least this time around). One of my new year’s resolutions was to use up at least a bit of my yarn stash before adding to the ever-growing pile. April, on the other hand, picked up a beautiful multi-colored skein of hand-dyed Fleece Artist wool along with a hat and fingerless glove pattern by Perl Grey. She claimed she was “buying the lifestyle” depicted in the accompanying photo of a beautiful girl looking cozy and relaxed on a cobble Nova Scotia beach. I started thinking I could use a slice of that “lifestyle” myself. As Chi-Chi likes to preach to Muffy, “Sharing is caring!”. I guess April cares because she lent her pattern to me.

I’ve been so busy the last few months making Christmas gifts and items for the kiddies, that I’ve not done any “self indulgence" crafting. So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve focused on me!! I'm long overdue for my own set of warm woolies to keep me toasty in the winter weather. Here’s a photo of Muffy modeling my new “lifestyle hat” as I like to refer to it. I stuck to my guns about limiting my yarn acquisitions and actually used recycled yarn for this project. I sourced the yarn by unraveling a scarf that was gathering dust in my closet. The gorgeous grass green color by the Fleece Artist reminds me of spring….wishful thinking. I also got around to knitting an adorable pair of “Easy Cotswold Mittens”. I picked up this pattern at Gaspereau Valley Fibres last summer. Their homegrown Cotswold yarn is very likely my favorite yarn of all time. Brenda hand-dyes the most amazing colors and I’m happy to finally have my own set of these cozy mittens.

Of course, I could not resist knitting up a couple of too cute felted mittens for the kids while I was in the mitten mood. It’s just my maternal nature I suppose!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Me Do It!

It’s yet another snow day in these parts. We passed on preschool this morning as it simply wasn’t worth risking slippery roads with two little ones in tow.

With just one monkey underfoot on preschool mornings, I usually reserve this time to get the house in a state of acceptable order and cleanliness. I’m certain that one of these days, a health and safety inspector is going to show up at my door to measure the amount of food caked to my dining room floor! It drives me batty but my attempts to keep up with it have all ended in complete failure. Muffy ensures a steady stream of oatmeal, yogurt and scrambled eggs hits the floor at regular intervals throughout the day. All hope was lost until Chi-Chi became the self-titled “Scrubber”. With his scrubby sponge in hand, this little guy can work wonders on those hardwood floors.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and reorganizing these past couple of weeks. I borrowed Positive Discipline from the lending library at Chi-Chi’s preschool and it has prompted me to make an adjustment in my approach and attitude. Inspired by this book, as well as the Montessori approach I’m witnessing first hand at preschool, I’m making a concerted effort to get the little ones to take on more responsibility around our household. As Muffy would say, I’m promoting and supporting the concept of “Me do it!”

I’ve approached my efforts with an easy access attitude. If the kids can access their belongings easily, then they can put them away easily (in theory!!). The walk-in closet in our mudroom houses the kids’ wardrobes and has recently been named the “Hockey Dressing Room”. Chi-Chi was asked to review his bulging stack of clothes and to pick out his three favorite pants and shirts. The rest were put away in storage. He is now happily choosing his outfit and dressing himself. I think he feels a sense of pride that he was able to make the decision. He’s definitely not making a fashion statement, but he’s comfy and that’s what matters I suppose! Chi-Chi also chose more easily accessible storage locations for his apron and cleaning supplies. They no longer have to request access to the broom closet to retrieve these items. Once again, the pride he is exhibiting in making these choices means they are more often being put away properly.

I’ve also assigned a few small daily “chores”. They are responsible for setting the dinner table and clearing the plates. Instead of loading the lunch dishes in the dishwasher, I’ve been setting them aside for Chi-Chi and Muffy to wash by hand.

Don’t get me wrong, my house is still a complete disaster zone most days! These new efforts are not running 100% smoothly and I have found that perhaps I’m creating a make work project for myself. Greater involvement in meal preparation leads to even more food on the floor. Greater involvement in the cleaning efforts leads to occasional minor flooding! Seconds after that photo of the vacuuming was taken, the brush attachment was melted on the wood stove by a curious three and a half year old. I guess I’m banking on some long term benefits from this “investment” including strong self-esteem, independence and self-sufficiency (and maybe a cleaner house!)