Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Circle of Life

Warning: This post is not for those with a queasy stomach – which actually includes myself. I do admit to gagging once through the whole series of events!

The instinctively curious minds of my little monkeys always ensure we are never short of learning opportunities. A prime example of this occurred last weekend while the whole family was out doing a bit of yard work. Hubby was zipping around the yard with his trimmer, whacking away the long weeds around the edge of our home. Over the buzzing and whirring of power equipment, I suddenly heard squeals of excitement. Wide-eyed Chi-Chi was screaming, “I found a snake! I found a snake!”. Sadly, his grand discovery was in sorry shape. The little garter snake he found had been badly wounded by Daddy’s trimmer. We watched with dewy eyes as the slithery little guy took his last breath.

Though the death of the snake was a sad event, we approached the situation as a learning opportunity. The big bulge in our little friend’s belly was an obvious sign that he had at least enjoyed one last hearty meal before his “accident”. I suggested that Daddy (not I) perform investigative surgery on Mr. Snake. In a blink of an eye, Daddy assembled his make-shift dissection centre comprised of an exacto knife and an old board. He slit open the tummy of the snake and out popped a complete, full size salamander! He must have been just freshly eaten as he was not yet digested. My curious little Chi-Chi immediately instructed Daddy to find out what was inside the salamander. The dissection continued. A quick incision in the salamander’s abdomen revealed two large beetle bugs. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember Biology 101 providing this level of excitement! A great preschool lesson in the circle of life for all of us.

I found myself humming “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly….” for the remainder of the afternoon!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Montessori Makeover Continued...

Our new Montessori Placemats have been a huge hit. My only complaint is that I didn't make enough of them! Chi-Chi and Muffy both insist on using the placemats at each meal. Snacks included, we eat six meals a day around here. The placemats are pretty darn grubby after a simple breakfast of cereal and milk. I'm therefore finding myself hunched over the washboard several times a day in order to keep them "presentable". These picky little monkeys also insist that their placemats be spotless! Obviously, I need to stitch up a few more of these cuties.

All of the focus on meals has naturally lead my mind to meal preparation. Like all children, Chi-Chi and Muffy love lending a hand in the kitchen. From a very young age, I've always had a nice selection of child-sized cooking utensils and aprons on hand. I stumbled upon this free pattern for the Montessori Child's Apron on the Sew Liberated blog. Brilliant!! The kiddies are always asking for assistance in tying their little aprons. This one is designed with an easy-on, easy-off velcro strap, enabling the children to both dress and undress on their own. Despite my love/hate relationship with my sewing machine, I simply HAD to do up a set of of these. Since I planned to hang them in the kitchen where Chi-Chi and Muffy could easily access and store them, I thought it would be fun to order some special fabric. It was my lucky day. I picked up this adorable retro apple fabric on sale from Super Buzzy. At two and a half, even little Muffy can manoever this apron by himself. Yes, brilliant! Another step towards independence and self-sufficiency (sniff, sniff).

On the topic of aprons, I just had to share this hilarious vintage smock/apron I picked up for $3 at a local antique shop. It is the solution to saving my wardrobe (as pathetic as it is) from paint, glue, butter, spaghetti sauce! I feel a little frumpy and foolish wearing it, but I do secretly love it!

With the three of us sporting our new kitchen attire, we are off to bake a warm batch of cookies on this foggy, wet day....chocolate chip of course!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Past and Present

Hubby just recently returned from a two and a half week surf trip with the guys. When I heard him describe his vacation as a “spa for surfers”, I didn’t feel too guilty about the wee bit of shopping I was up to in his absence. While he was enjoying the exotic surf and sun, the boys and I spent some time visiting with Nanny and Graga in the Annapolis Valley. I enjoyed a chance to do some antiquing by myself. I find pleasure in the mere act of rummaging around a dusty barn, chatting with the dealer and leaning something new about the past.

I certainly didn’t go on some kind of crazy shopping spree! I picked up a few unique small ticket items to add a touch of fun and interest to my life. Isn’t this little “Handy Jar” adorable? Apparently it was used to keep spare string from meat packages back in the day. I’m thinking it would be the perfect little spot to store spare spools of thread or perhaps tasty peppermints. I love the patina of the faded and chipped paint.

A stroll through Value Village last week produced this great vintage set of Pyrex bowls in the Friendship pattern. They became even more lovely once I filled them with local yummies from my weekly CSA food basket. These date back to the early 70’s, which is probably why they fill me up with warm and cozy feelings. Though my mother does not own this particular pattern, she has a great set of Pyrex mixing bowls that she still uses. They remind me of her, of course, and my childhood days baking alongside her in the kitchen.

For someone who claims she “hates” sewing, I seem to be burning the midnight oil on my sewing machine lately. It’s often a frustrating experience for me with the odd curse wood slipping out of my lips. I took up sewing because I desired the end result. Dare I say I’m starting to enjoy it a bit….a tiny bit. This funky/frumpy vintage sewing basket was another great find in light of my recent interest in a needle and thread.

The whirring sound of my sewing machine is also something that brings about warm and cozy feelings. As a child, my mother sewed the vast majority of my clothing. Stitching up a few simple pieces of clothing for the boys provides me with a connection to my own childhood and weaves a common thread between my mother and me. I’m still whipping off the same PJ pant pattern that I’ve used time and time again. This time I pulled together some fun summer jammies with matching appliqué tank tops. Muffy, the family entomologist, was so proud of his bug pajamas that he wore them all day long during his insect hunting expeditions in the backyard mulch pile. Little Chi-Chi was soon modeling my behaviour, playing make-believe sewing as he stitched up new jammies for the whole family. Melt my heart of course.

I’m looking forward to lots more fun crafting days with the boys and of course, more leisurely visits to my favorite antique shops this summer. Both activities are always a fun way to blend the past with the present.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Montessori Makeover

New craft projects always evoke a flood of inspiration and ideas. As ridiculous as this sounds, I sometimes find myself with a mild case of insomnia as my mind races with new ideas to “execute”. Such was the case with the recent discovery of the fun and creativity one can experience with appliqué. Since the closet is bursting with the wee ones’ new summer t-shirt collection, it was time to move on. The appliqué obsession had to end…..or not. I decided to apply my new found crafting hobby to the little Montessori makeover that’s going on around here.

I’m currently in the process of analyzing all areas of our home to discover ways to make them more kid friendly and accessible. Despite the fact I’ve already done this in the past, I’m consistently discovering ways to tweak our household systems and help foster independence in the boys.

With two growing monkeys in the house, we seem to spend a great deal of time eating! Mealtime seemed like a logical place to begin my “review”. Though we always sit down as a family at the “big table” for our evening dinner, the wee ones have their own snack table where they dine for breakfast, lunch and snacks. We’ve actually had this table set up for a couple of years. It’s a sweet little antique table that I sized down by chopping off the legs (gasp! I did not tell the dealer my plans!). Someday when the kids are grown, it will make a quaint coffee table. The kids have a small selection of tablecloths and their own glass vase that they love to arrange with freshly picked wildflowers.

We’ve been pretty good about enforcing the rule that they sit at the table to eat, whether it is a three-course meal or just a simple banana. I realized, however, that we’ve been lacking a bit when it comes to setting the table. Though the kids often help set the places for supper hour at the family table, it has not been much of a focus at other meals. I saw this great idea to help the wee ones learn the proper way to set a table. It’s been a huge hit with both Chi-Chi and Muffy. I was able to apply my new found appliqué skills to this project, resulting in some new sweet placemats for the boys. The teaspoon and salad forks from my everyday cutlery set seem just the right size. I took a silver butter knife from a family set we own to complete the setting. It’s the perfect size and a much safer alternative. In celebration of the upcoming strawberry season, I whipped up a few kiddie sized cloth napkins, as well as some adult ones for Hubby and me.

When not in use, all of the items are stored at child-height in the dining room. When their tummies begin to rumble, Chi-Chi and Muffy can easily access everything they need to set their places at the table. I’m trying to devise a way to incorporate self-serve snacks as well….but one thing at a time. I’m discovering the key to success is to take baby steps and to try not to incorporate too many new responsibilities at once.

Remember my latest and greatest idea – My Montessori Husband? I honestly considered doing up one of these placemats for Hubby. Just kidding Honey! I figure you’ll learn by osmosis anyway (;

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Summer "School"

Chi-Chi’s Montessori preschool will soon be winding down for the summer. As much as I do enjoy the little break it provides me each week, I am really looking forward to the summer days ahead with my two sweet boys. We’ve got lots of fun stuff on the agenda the next couple of months including a vacation at the family cottage and the arrival of half a dozen Black Australorp chicks. I’m excited about the simple pleasures that go hand-in-hand with the summer season. Camp fires, garden veggies, tents, sleeping bags, strawberry shortcake, beach days ….these are a few of my favorite things!

Some of my fondest childhood memories center around the summer days spent crafting with my mom and sister. My mom always seemed to have something new and interesting in the craft supply box and we were never without a project to work on. I’ve been dreaming up a stack of fun summer crafts and activities to work on with the boys and have started stockpiling a few supplies. I’ve stashed them away to pull out on both rainy and sunny days. The outdoor picnic table will most definitely be the venue for some of the messier activities!

I’ve also done a little revamping of the family’s Montessori cupboard. A few trips to the thrift store and I was able to pick up some new fun supplies for the wee ones to work with. The collection of activities in our cupboard is not necessarily used every day. It is, however, ready and waiting when they choose to make a selection to work with. There are days when all Chi-Chi wants to do is pretend to be a dinosaur. Other times, he finds enjoyment in practicing his counting skills. Muffy is only starting preschool in the fall, but he too finds the work interesting. I leave it to the children. I do insist they respect the materials and return then where they belong when finished. Today I found dear Muffy trying out the new pouring pitcher in the bathroom - dumping dirty toilet water on the floor!

Although I believe the break from preschool is a much-needed chance to exhale and relax for a couple of months, I’m a big proponent of carrying through with the Montessori approach at home. Consistency is so very important and I do admit, it can be challenging at times. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make our home as child-friendly and accessible as possible. Despite this fact, it seems I come up with new ideas every day, often inspired by the children themselves. As I watched Chi-Chi dump his art smock on the floor this morning, I realized it is normally stored in a spot he cannot reach. Once we all agreed on a convenient location for the smocks, both little ones eagerly put them away this afternoon.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” – wise words by Maria Montessori. It’s something I strive for as the little ones and I work our way through the activities and tasks of the day. I do admit, all of this takes a lot of energy (nagging!!) on my part. The broken record, “Please clear your plate” is played far too often around here. Sometimes it seems so much easier and faster to just do it myself, pick it up myself, clean it myself, cook it myself…etc. Although “everything has a place”, far too often Mommy is the one putting it in it’s place! It takes a lot of self-discipline and patience on my part. Some days I do well, others I don’t! It’s definitely a work-in-progress.

With all this talk about Montessori, I suddenly came up with an even more brilliant plan – The Montessori Husband. Never do for your husband what he can do for himself….now that’s got some potential!!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Do-It-Yourself Duds

With the seasons gradually shifting from spring to summer, all members of our family have been enthusiastically digging out our summertime duds. Since we live on the coast, it takes a wee bit longer for the mercury to rise in our parts. We’ve all welcomed an opportunity to sport our shorts and sandals on a more regular basis.

As the boys began trying on last year’s summer wardrobe, I was shocked at how much the two of them had grown in a year. Muffy is definitely catching up with big brother and there is a mere 3-pound difference between the two of them. The hand-me-downs I had planned for my littlest boy are a bit more snug than I had anticipated. Since Muffy is deep in the trenches of potty training, tight shorts that are difficult to pull down simply don't fit the bill when an emergency strikes. I’ve actually always struggled with finding proper fitting bottoms for boys. When they were in cloth diapers, it was particularly difficult to find something with a wide enough waist and seat to fit over the extra bulk. Now that these two have graduated to underpants, I still struggle when it comes to shopping for clothing. Although many of the “little man” styles are cute, the fabrics are often rough (as Chi-Chi’s always reminds me) and they are very difficult to pull on and off.

I decided to take the clothing challenge into my own hands and create a quick, fun and super easy summer wardrobe for the boys. I chose a very inexpensive and light cotton/linen blend for bottoms. I stitched up several pairs of shorts and pants for both little guys. The fabric is cool, the elastic waistband is soft and comfortable and the neutral color means they can mix and match with anything. My limited sewing skills restricted my ability to create tops from scratch. I picked up several plain 100% cotton t-shirts and set to work creating a series of fun and colorful designs. I followed this tutorial on Make-Baby-Stuff.com, which outlines the process for appliqué on t-shirts. We also picked up some fabric transfer paper at the local office supply store and transferred one of Chi-Chi’s favorite drawings onto a special shirt. What a rewarding experience for Chi-Chi to be able to proudly display this masterpiece on his belly! Because our summer weather can often be a little on the cold side, I added two plain navy blue hoodies to the clothing collection, which I embellished with swimming fishies and a ferocious alligator, as requested of course!

The custom t-shirt collection was well received by the wee ones. Chi-Chi proudly wore his new apple tree shirt to picture day at preschool this week. This looked much more presentable than the grubby little PJ top he INSISTS on wearing most other days! The "Daddy Look-A-Like" business shirts are by far the favorites. I found Muffy rolling around in the dirt sporting his "Sunday Best", happy as a pig. I realize that in the very near future, the boys will likely balk at the idea of a mommy-made wardrobe. I’ll milk the enthusiasm while it lasts! As for cost, the bottoms cost about two dollars a piece and the tops about five dollars everything in. Not too bad in my books!

Chi-Chi and Muffy are set for some fun in the sun. Bring on the sun I say!