Friday, 31 July 2009

Preliminary Preparations...

I'll be the first to admit, it is WAY too early to be making a mere mention of "Back to School". Nonetheless, I found myself involved in a few preparatory activities this past week. Little Muffy will be joining big brother at preschool this fall. In a few weeks, he'll be attending orientation for new students (tears welling up, lump in my throat). I wanted to make the little guy something special to mark this momentous occasion. What better idea than a new little backpack - a must-have on every school boy's list.

This pattern served as inspiration for the project ( I did make a few adjustments to tailor it to Muffy's body). Super simple and super cute! It's just the right size to pack a pair of slippers and a fresh piece of fruit to share for refreshment. It will also make a lovely trail pack for our weekend family hikes - the perfect place to stash a pine cone or beach pebble.

The fabric is a sturdy canvas weight that I purchased from Pick A Petal on Etsy. I had enough left over to make a larger drawstring tote to cart all the other miscellaneous preschool gear - rain pants, extra sweaters and spare undies!

Ok, that's enough silly back-to-school talk for today. Off we go to soak up some summertime fun in the sun (or fog!!)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Slow Down and Take Notice

Ah, how I love a good book. I've been steering clear of page-turner type novels, however, as once I'm hooked I simply cannot put such books down. These days, sleep is high on my list of priorities. I've been known to pull all nighters when engrossed in a great story!

My latest and greatest read is Calm and Compassionate Children - A Handbook by Susan Usha Dermond. It's chock full of practical suggestions and exercises to both create a calm environment for children and to promote kindness. Though this is something I feel our family has been working towards, there is always room for improvement. Mommy's latest "science experiment" involves the use of calming music. Dare I say it is working?! Perhaps the children really are more relaxed. Perhaps it is Mommy herself who is mellowing out and in a better frame of mind to deal with certain "issues" as they arise!

With two very active boys under my roof, I do work on providing a home environment that is relaxing and peaceful. Like most little ones, Chi-Chi and Muffy definitely have the ability to get a little wild and crazy on me. They also have an amazing ability to focus on something quietly and with great interest and intensity. I find it very interesting to observe these two contrasting states of mind, particularly in an outdoor setting. They do love to run about the yard freely, stretching their bodies and voices to capacity! On the other hand, I often witness them silently observing the nature that surrounds them, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells offered to their senses.

Such was the case yesterday when Chi-Chi and Muffy set off on a backyard exploration expedition. I was busy piling firewood while the little guys were investigating our gigantic mud puddle. Last summer we had some hurricane Juan clean up work done on the property. The machines left behind huge ruts in the earth. The heavy dose of rain this summer has turned the area in a bit of a backyard pond. The tiny ecosystem developing within these mud puddles is really quite remarkable. When I glanced over to check on the wee ones, I found them imobile, observing in complete silence (instead of throwing rocks as I had expected). They were sporting huge smiles on their grubby little faces as they had discovered two green frogs. Because they were in a calm and observant state, they were able to witness a beautiful creature first hand. This discovery lead to lots of questions which lead to lots of research, answers, stories and learning!

Dermond's book offers some very good exercises to assist children (and adults!) in achieving a calm, focused state, particularly in a nature setting. Her suggestions are something we could all benefit from as we zoom through day-to-day life. Who knows what sweet surprise is hiding right under your nose!

(As a side, I'm not in the habit of enforcing a blanket helmet policy around here. The kids on are and off their bicycles and skateboards constantly and sport the head protection on their own free will. Bring it on I say, you can never have too much head protection with these two!!)

Playing Chicken

Finally! Finally! That lonely, vacant chicken coop gathering dust in our backyard is now home to a tiny little flock of chickens! Truth be told, the chickies moved in about two weeks ago. We've all been so preoccupied with them, I've been too busy to sit and reflect.

As planned, we purchased six Black Australorps. This heritage breed is quite striking in appearance and is known for its friendly disposition and good egg production. Two days later, I stumbled on the website for Active Life Farm, located in Londonderry, Nova Scotia. Noticing they had Ameraucana chicks for sale, something clicked in my memory (which has gotten pretty foggy since motherhood). Ameraucanas are sometimes referred to as Easter Egg Chickens because they lay bluish/green shelled eggs. This sounded like too much fun. I HAD to have them. The very next morning we set off on a road trip to pick up two more chicks. None of our chicks are sexed so we are still trying to figure out the mix. We only have room for one rooster so there may be some shuffling in the coop's pecking order pretty soon.

Although it has only been two weeks, our taste of raising chickens has been a wonderful learning experience on many different levels. It's actually been quite thought-provoking, giving Hubby and I a new perspective on the humane treatment of agricultural animals. Buying a plastic-wrapped package of boneless-skinless chicken breasts from the grocery store is so easy to do with little thought involved. Having my own chickens provides me with a greater appreciation for the "life" behind each meal. It's been rather "weird" at mealtime actually. One minute I'm chatting cheerfully about the hens, the next minute I'm directing Muffy to, "Eat your chicken Honey". Interestingly, Hubby and I are more bothered by this than the kids, who haven't blinked an eye on the subject.

It's also been a lesson in death for Chi-Chi and Muffy. One little chick, appropriately named Runtie, didn't make it. She was injured early on and failed to thrive. One morning, she was just gone. We had a nice little funeral in the woods for her. Ah, this story gave the boys at the feed store a good laugh! What can I say, the chicks are certainly viewed as pets around here.

Despite one minor grabbing/squeezing incident with Muffy, I'm impressed with the calmness and respect the children are exhibiting towards the chickens. Keep in mind, I've got two VERY ACTIVE boys! They are learning about the important responsibilities and kindness involved in caring for another living creature.

So, I'm inspired about the chickens as you can imagine. My mind is getting ahead of me....dreaming and planning. Every Wool Fairy needs her own sheep....doesn't she??

Monday, 27 July 2009

Gameboy - A Traditional Perspective

Summer is definitely a time when our family falls out of sync with our regular routine. I suppose this is how it should be. These precious days of extended day light hours are definitely to be enjoyed and appreciated! We are certainly falling off the rails with our traditional 7pm bedtime. Muffy usually crashes by this time, but little Chi-Chi is turning into a bit of a night owl. The little guy was up so late last night that he slept in until 9 am this morning. Is this a flash forward of what is to come in those teenage years?!

A later bed time means a bit more time in the evenings to participate in family activities such as campfires, stories and our newest family pastime, board games! Since we've been having such a damp and soggy summer, I've been wracking my brain for some fun indoor activities. I have fond memories of playing checkers and crocono at the cottage each summer (anyone else share my love of this traditional Canadian game?). I thought perhaps it was time to introduce the wee ones to a little board game fun.

Inspired by this sweet game on Etsy, I came up with what I call "Help Bunny Home". The idea of the game is to help little bunny find his way home to the forest by moving to the appropriate spot with each roll of the dice. If you roll the bee, you get a nasty sting and have to go back to the start line. I cut the board itself from pine on my scroll saw and wood burned the lines. Digging through my rubber stamp collection, I came up with some cute nature designs to add a little fun. I finished things off with some watercolor paints and a yummy coat of beeswax (of course!).

Our family gathered around the coffee table as I proudly pulled out my creation. I imagined a wonderful bonding experience as we all sat around and shared in the fun over a tasty bowl of popcorn. It did not take long for Chi-Chi to become fully engaged in the fast paced action of the game. He was having a ball.......until he rolled the dreaded bee. Wow! I was taken aback by his reaction. He went a little crazy, game pieces flying in all directions. At first I didn't know what had happened. I thought perhaps he was actually stung by a bee or was in some kind of physical pain. We managed to calm him down and continue on with the game. We decided to stick to the rules, but emphasized the hilarious fun of rolling the bee. Oh well, he will get used to it I suppose. He's still LOVING the game, though I have noticed he's using suspicious dice rolling techniques that seem to help him avoid getting stung.

Ah, nothing like promoting even more competitiveness between these two little monkeys. Hmmmm......what was mama thinking? All in good fun (: It certainly beats video games, that's for SURE!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Simple Pleasures

There's nothing quite like a good vacation to leave you feeling refreshed, grounded and inspired. Our little family of four spent two wonderful weeks together, enjoying the simple pleasure of each others' company, as well as a wide variety of experiences and activities the summer season has to offer . With Hubby back to work this week, the wee ones and I kept things pretty low key the last few days, getting re-acquainted with our regular schedule and surroundings. I spent some time this morning flipping through the collection of photos from our family vacation, marvelling at the amount of joy and fun we packed into fourteen days. I felt a sense of sadness that those special moments are now behind us, but also a feeling of deep gratitude to have experienced them as a family. Looking ahead at the calendar, I'm filled with anticipation as there's still lots of summer to be had!

A trip back to Northern New Brunswick, where I grew up, is always on our annual vacation agenda. We spent a glorious week at the family cottage with my parents. For me, it is a time to reconnect with my past and celebrate my present life at the same time. The vision of Chi-Chi and Muffy prancing along the sandbars, literally overflowing with energy, curiosity and enthusiasm is like travelling back in time. It is a snapshot of my sister and I discovering those same shores thirty years ago.

I was struck by the fact that the simplest aspects of our vacation easily held their ground on the "fun scale" when put up against the more elaborate and costly ones. The discovery of a hermit crab, the first taste of a s'more, the sensation of a sand eel tickling an ankle, were celebrated with as much excitement as a trip on the infamous Theodore Tugboat.

Certainly, my personal highlight was simply enjoying the time as it passed- the time to sleep in each morning with baby soft cheeks and curls tickling my nose, the time to stroll leisurely along the beach searching for treasures in the sand, the time to take an afternoon snooze, the time to just be near the ones I love. I made a conscious effort to focus on the present this vacation. As hard as it was, The Wool Fairy left the wool stash behind this holiday. I have a tendency to get a little obsessive compulsive in my crafting efforts. It was a good break for mind and body and I'm now feeling refreshed and inspired to tackle a few new projects.

I'm reminded once again that a ticket to a far-off, exotic destination is not a pre-requisite to a fabulous vacation.