Wednesday, 27 May 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Now that we are well into the Spring season, we are all enjoying the emergence of a wide array of beautiful wild flowers. It seems we are greeted to a new bloom every day as the weather continues to warm.

I believe that learning to identify our common native wildflowers is an important learning experience for children. While I think it is wonderful that Chi-Chi can readily identify the peonies and daffodils in my perennial garden, I feel it is just as, if not more important, that he and Muffy learn about the plants growing wildly in the backyard. This knowledge and understanding provides children with a greater appreciation and respect for the natural world. Flipping through a book is one thing. Walking through the woods or meadow provides a completely different experience for the mind and senses. A nature walk to identify flowers allows the children to observe the natural habitat of the plant. Does it grow in the moist, shaded forest or the sunny, windswept field? Is the plant soft and delicate or strong and sturdy? What exactly does the woodsy scent of a fern smell like on a damp spring day?

As new flowers appear each day, the boys and I are documenting our findings with our camera. We are creating a diary of the plants and flowers we discover on our nature outings. I like this idea as it will be an ongoing project we can work on well into the late fall. I'm discovering my own general knowledge is still pretty good, though I do require the odd refresher from our reference library. I have my parents to thank for instilling this curiosity about the beauty around me. I hope to offer the same inspiration to my children.

As any parent of a pre schooler, I'm simple amazed at the little ones' ability to retain information. I've got my 2.5 year old identifying dainty little bluets in the backyard and it simply warms my heart. After our nature walk, the boys spent some time arranging a set of lovely bouquets to decorate our home (I advised them to only choose those plants and flowers that were abundant and to spare the rare varieties, such as our collection of blue bead lilies). We will be dining this evening with a fresh bouquet of woodland ferns! You can't buy that at the flower shop!

In retrospect, I'm now appreciating all those dreary April showers as I enjoy my springtime May flowers!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Rubba Dub Dub

I've been spending so much time and energy pining for spring that I was rather surprised when my long lost friend Summer made an appearance this week. Because we live on the coast, I usually ignore the forecasted temperature, knowing very well that a cool sea breeze can drop the mercury a solid ten degrees. Despite this fact, it was hot today, at least by our standards!

We spent practically every minute soaking up the sunshine in the back yard. The boys enjoyed a fun frolic in the sprinkler as well as a tasty "fruit pop" to cool of their tongues. They also took a dip in our new "pool". The latest addition to our outdoor water recreation equipment is a galvanized tub, picked up at the hardware store. My original plan was to plant patio pickles in this tub. Since it has been confiscated by the wee ones, I will have to seek out alternate options. It's a wonderful spot to cool off on a hot day and is a perfect fit for my two little boys. It's also a lot easier on my eyes than those junky, tacky plastic kiddie pools that never make it through one season. I speak from experience! I've been through far more of those flimsy inflatable pools than I would like to admit.

Unlike the plastic options, our pool is multi functional and will be around for years to come. One day, likely sooner than I would like to admit, the wee ones will be finished with it. Mama will then reclaim it for her own endeavours in the garden. Until then, rubba-dub-dub two monkeys in the tub!

Happy weekend everyone!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Rockin' And A Rollin'

With tax season finally behind us, our family headed into this May long weekend with big plans! First on the never-ending list of priorities was the garden expansion project. In order to meet the space requirements for my planting wish list, we needed an extra bed. Rain or shine, this project was on the agenda!

The forecast for the next couple of days is rather bleak. Luckily, the rain held out today. We were up before the birds (as usual) and headed out to pick up a few supplies. We spent the entire day outdoors, working collectively as a family on our new garden. Each and every one of us put in an honest day’s work. Chi-Chi and Muffy were thrilled to put their sweet wheelbarrows into action. They both impressed Hubby and I as they rolled load after load after load of soil. The Easter Bunny equipped my little worker bees with a set of very practical and sturdy metal shovels. I’m done with plastic gardening tools that fade into a brittle mess in no time. These little tools cost a bit more, but will last generations, I’m certain.

I focused my energy on rock collecting. Long ago, our property was once farmland. Those first settlers who worked this rugged coastal land piled stones on the sides of the fields. We used a few of these beautiful rocks to create a frame for the bed. Hubby has a special touch when it comes to building stone structures, which we’ve incorporated throughout our natural landscaping. It’s slow work, similar to putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The results are both gratifying and lovely. There is something magical about handling these stones one by one, knowing that likely one hundred years ago, the previous residents held the same stones in their weathered hands. We both love the texture and patina these rocks possess, aged by the moist ocean air and decorated in lichen.

When the day’s work was done, we all stood back and admired the simplicity and beauty of our new bed, anticipating the crunchy beans that will soon grace our dinner plates. High fives all around! The look of pride and satisfaction on Chi-Chi’s and Muffy’s grubby little faces brought tears to my eyes. Today was a turning point for our family. There was no “chasing” after the wee ones as they strayed away or sought out mischief. Both little guys worked hard today and were focused on the task at hand.

It was so clearly evident today that children thrive when given real responsibility and feel a sense of value in their work and contribution. As Chi-Chi snuggled under the covers tonight, he simply stated, " I had a good day today Mommy. I did good work." I witnessed a small transformation in maturity in this sweet little four year old today. He drifted off to sleep tonight, his growing body tired from his physical efforts and his heart beaming with pride.

Friday, 15 May 2009

A For Effort

I did a little “spring cleaning” on our family’s nature table this week. Ever since we set up this special little spot in our home, I’ve been pretty adamant that Chi-Chi and Muffy take ownership for it. They are welcome to add and remove objects and I encourage them to interact with the items, exploring and analyzing them at their leisure. Certainly, the table includes a few fragile pieces (i.e. pottery vases, glass bottles). Both wee ones have displayed a fair amount of respect with the items that require a gentle touch. At two and a half, Muffy in particular has impressed me with his delicate handling of his treasures.

That being said, our collection of spring themed items was looking a little on the scruffy side. A certain wooden birdie had pecked a few seedpods to a pulp and some rather stinky rotten seaweed was starting to take my breath away. It was time to freshen things up a little and make room for some new discoveries!

Chi-Chi came home from preschool on Tuesday and proudly presented his project on the life cycle of the butterfly. He immediately placed his handmade pamphlet on the nature table and informed me I needed to get to work on my own butterfly project. I was instructed to re-create the lifecycle in wood and I had a five-minute deadline! The keen student that I am, I set to work right away and enlisted the help of my young budding entomologist. I missed the deadline, but was still granted an A for effort. I realize my wooden interpretations of the egg, caterpillar, pupa and butterfly are not exactly anatomically correct. I had to use my artistic license on this project. Regardless, the wee ones are enjoying the interaction and learning possibilities with these tangible objects. Chi-Chi, the great older brother that he is, has been teaching Muffy all about the life of the butterfly and has been making good use of these little “props”.

I’ve been in heaven this past week, enjoying the sunny spring weather with the boys and digging away in the garden as much as possible. The nature table has been a wonderful way to bring the outside in during those times when we simply must be indoors! I do have my limits however! Muffy decided his family of earth worms would make a lovely addition to the nature table. I feel another assignment coming on. He'll have to settle for the wooden version (:

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A Little One-On-One

When Chi-Chi, our firstborn, entered the world one sunny spring day, the gears and focus quickly shifted in our household. Like any first baby, he became the center of our universe and was showered with endless love and attention. When sweet little Muffy arrived on the scene a mere seventeen months later, the gears shifted once again as we struggled to divide our time fairly between two pretty demanding little ones. Although Muffy received tons of cuddles and attention, the simple mathematical laws of division did not allow for the same amount of one-on-one time Chi-Chi had enjoyed. I was always operating in a mode of double duty.

Two and a half years later, the tables have turned.  It is finally Muffy’s turn for some quality one-on-one time with Mommy! With Chi-Chi off to his wonderful preschool two days a week, I’m able to focus my attention solely on Muffy. As precious as those first few months of life are, I’m starting to think that perhaps the second child gets a sweeter deal. This of course is coming from the mouth of a second child! Number two gets a dose of Mommy's undivided attention during the preschool years, such an incredibly fascinating time for both parent and child. Muffy is a little sponge these days and  his language is developing so beautifully. He constantly amazes me with his curiosity, memory and enthusiasm for nature and animals (bugs and ducks in particular). The arrival of spring has given us a wonderful opportunity to bond. I’ve been enjoying our quiet dates in the garden twice a week. Today I planted a few rows while Muffy marveled at his worm collection. We talked, laughed and played in a way we simply don’t do when Chi-Chi is present. Don’t get me wrong! I miss my little Chi-Chi, but I am cherishing these special days with sweet Muffy!

Speaking of gardening, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my veggie garden started. Unlike other parts of the globe, it’s a wee early to plant most seeds in our parts. The month of May around here is most often filled with cold rain and dreary fog – not ideal conditions for seed germination. I did plant some spinach and Swiss chard to get the ball rolling. To be quite truthful, I think I was more excited to put my new little row markers to use! I found this idea on a blog somewhere “out there”. I’ve searched and searched and simply cannot find the incredibly talented mama who came up with idea! I’d love to give credit where credit is due so please let me know if you’ve seen this before. Anyway, I used some cedar shingles we had left over from the chicken coop project. I cut out the simple shapes with my scroll saw and did a quick sand job. Since they are to be used outdoors, I used permanent markers for the designs and slapped on a quick coat of beeswax. I did up a lovely set of these for my mom for Mother’s Day and she was quite tickled with them!

Ok, I do have a confession to make. Muffy did spend a small amount of time “cooped up” so to speak while I worked in the garden. Our chicken coop is still vacant as we eagerly await the arrival of our chicks. Muffy LOVES playing in the run and coop! It’s a great place to explore and play make-believe. I admit to enjoying his short stint in the “outdoor playpen” as I like to refer to it. It was purely his choice! Yes, lots of one-on-one time with Mommy, but also some moments of solitude and daydreaming for Muffy as well this morning.