Saturday, 16 October 2010

Skeleton in my Closet

I have a little skeleton in my closet I'd like to tell you about! He's been spending a great deal of time hiding in there these past couple of weeks, admiring his new, greatly adored, glow-in-the-dark Halloween costume. Yes, we are in full Halloween preparation mode around here. Chi-Chi put in his request for a skeleton costume earlier this month. I have to admit, I initially resisted his begging and pleading for a skeleton suit. Way, way, way back in July, I secretly created matching Nutcracker soldier costumes for the boys. I realize it sounds completely ridiculous, to be thinking about Halloween in the summer! Let's just say I was seizing an opportunity to do a bit of sewing on a sick day for the boys. While they flaked out on the couch with Popsicles and a movie, I stitched up a bit of fun. Ah, I might have suspected my independent boy would have his own ideas!! The Nutcracker costume will remain tucked away until December, when he'll likely be feeling a bit more inspired.

A good friend of mine gave me some tips on how to pull together a great skeleton costume. The next day I had all the supplies in place to get to work! I started by gathering a plain black t-shirt, leggings and mini-gloves. Chi-Chi tried on the pants and shirt and I marked off his joints and pelvic bone with white chalk. Once he removed the clothing, I inserted cardboard inside to prevent the paint from soaking through and to make a firmer surface for working on. I sketched out a very simplified skeleton in white chalk and then filled it in with white fabric paint. Once the white paint dried, I added two coats of glow in the dark paint. I used glow-in-the-dark puffy paint to outline the bones and add a bit of dimension. I also used the puffy paint to draw some tiny bones on the gloves. The mask was purchased at Michael's. It was a plain, paper mache style mask that Chi-Chi painted himself. He will wear make-up to his school party and the mask for trick-or-treating. I have to admit, this is the most fun I've had creating a costume. It is incredible how much it glows in the dark!!! My mind is already racing with other fun and creative uses for the leftover paint.

To top off his "look", he personally selected glow-in-the-dark skeleton fabric for his treat bag. Muffy went with a spider web design. It is available at Fabricville for anyone who might be interested. In retrospect, I might have made the bags just a bit smaller. The thought of those bags filled to the brim with candy makes me a little crazy.....considering Muffy ended up at the ER last Halloween for candy cramp overdose!!

All this skeleton talk has lead to a bit of fun, creativity and learning in the area of anatomy. This week, the boys and I had fun studying bones and creating pasta skeletons. Although I did up a little sample to get them going, I noticed both Muffy and Chi-Chi brought their own ideas and observations to the project. Not surprisingly, Chi-Chi's skeleton is working on his "goalie stance". Muffy insisted that his include a certain part of the male anatomy!!

Sweet Muffy, enthusiastically agreed that the Nutcracker solider would make the perfect costume for him this Halloween! I'll share this easy and super cute project a bit later! I'm just hoping the costume survives until October 31st, let alone the holiday season. It's certainly getting lots of the sandbox....playing the mud puddles. He's one busy little Nutcracker!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Keeping Track

Like many parents of young children, I often find myself nodding off to sleep in the early evening, snuggled up to a sweet litte boy who was promised just a few more minutes of cuddles. Waking up in pitch darkness hours later, I can usually muster just enough energy to brush my teeth and peel the dried out contacts from my eyes before crawling into my own bed.

With two sick boys in the house today, tonight was no exception. This exhausted mama found herself drifting off to dreamland before dusk. I was, however, jolted awake by images of wild beasts prowling in my head! Peering out into the darkness, I grabbed my flashlight and rubber boots and high-tailed it into the back yard to tuck the chickens in for the night. With hubby out late for work, I had no choice but to venture into the darkness alone. Our feathered flock would most certainly be a mere memory in the morning.

I'm well aware of what is lurking in those back woods late at night. With all the excavation work we recently had done, the bare mud and ground on our property present a wonderful opportunity to track and identify the creatures that call this hill home. The whole family has been having lots of fun following the tracks and trying to decipher their makers. Over the last few months we have been working on a project to "keep track" of our findings. By pouring plaster of Paris into the tracks, we have created a set of foot print casts to examine, collect and admire. So far our collection includes skunk, racoon, pheasant, deer, mouse, coyote and possibly bobcat.

I got this idea from the book Nature Rangers by Richard Walker. The plaster of Paris sets rather quickly so I suggest deciding which prints you would like to cast before mixing up the plaster. I let the casts sit for 30 minutes before digging them up to dry indoors.

We currently have our collection displayed in the dining room for all to admire and examine. The large coyote track with defined claws certainly provides the necessary motivation to lock up that coop at night!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Toys for Big Boys...and Little Boys

This morning I woke to the sound of rain hammering on the rooftop. As the days grow shorter, darkness lingers longer in those early morning hours. The rain this morning made the bed just a bit cozier and I had to give myself a pep talk before peeling the quilts off.

Muffy and I occupied ourselves in the kitchen this gray morning. I worked up a batch of pumpkin muffins and he worked on a huge batch of play dough with his mini excavator. There is much interest in construction equipment of all sorts in these parts. We've got a huge machine working in our backyard - literally. It has been providing a great deal of entertainment all week for my two captivated boys. We are STILL working away at cleaning up the devastation to our property from Hurricane Juan back in 2003.

Luckily for us, the rain clouds made way for blue skies. Muffy and I decided to take a walk-about to assess the work being done and take in some fresh air. I have to admit, I'm getting pretty excited for the snow to fly after checking out the new "sliding hill". This entire area was impassable with twisted stumps and fallen debris. The space may also serve as a grazing area for potential animals (think baaaa, baaaa) in the future! It's great to see how enthusiastic both children are about the new outdoor space and the grand plans they are dreaming up.

With the crisp autumn winds blowing, Muffy took the opportunity to try out one of his birthday gifts. My sweet little boy turned four this past weekend. As the boys grow older, it is getting a little trickier to hand make their gifts. A homemade hockey stick is not likely going to cut it on the rink! I did feel compelled to come up with at least one small gift made with my own two hands. I created this "magic wand" for my costume-loving boy. I had a long play silk scarf on hand that I dyed in a sea-inspired color scheme. The handle is made from a piece of driftwood I lightly sanded and waxed. My favorite part is the moon snail shell! I glued it to the top of the wand to help secure the scarf and to add a whimsical feel to the wand.

Oh, and check out our boots! Last night's showers certainly mucked up the path ways. I swear, no toy could make a little boy happier than good old fashioned mud!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Celebrating the Season

The fall season serves up such a delicious feast for the senses! The crisp air this time of year jostles me awake from the lazy days of summer and gets the creative juices flowing. The bounty from the garden, the rich hues of the landscape, the woodsy, earthy scents of the forest are a source of inspiration to all of us.

My sweet Muffy is still home with me most days. I am cherishing this time we share, as I am well aware that it won't be long before he joins big brother on that rumbling yellow school bus. I have noticed that Muffy seems to be enjoying the quiet solitude of the mornings at home with Mommy. This boisterous boy most often chooses to hang up the hockey stick in favor of some quality time at his art desk. I've been making every effort to nurture his recent and intense desire to create with both structured and unstructured art activities. His art materials are always available and easily accessible when the mood strikes. If there is a piece of paper in sight, he's sure to add a bit of embellishment. He recently discovered Daddy's copy of the Canadian Income Tax Act and made some very interesting modifications to the tax laws!

The fall season has inspired me to pull together some fun and festive art activities. The HUGE hit this week was food coloring leaves, which I discovered on one of my new fave craft sites, No Time for Flash Cards. Luckily, I had a plentiful stash of coffee filters on hand, because I struggled to keep up with my little crafters. Between the two of them, they must have made over a hundred leaves. I pre-cut the leaves from the filters and set each child up with a medicine dropper and three glasses of food coloring (red, yellow, orange). I noticed that Muffy in particular was most fascinated with the process involved instead of the final product. He delighted in admiring colors as they slowly spread and mixed across the piece of paper. While he initially fumbled with the medicine dropper, in no time he mastered the skill of sucking up the dye solution. With the piles of leaves quickly growing, I grabbed some yarn and a darning needle and strung up a few garlands. I must admit, they are a beautiful addition to the dining area! Of course, the Montessori lover in me also saw this as a great activity to work on the pincer grip, and an opportunity to present a lesson in color mixing.

While Muffy's interests are artistic in nature these days, Chi-Chi is busy soaking up the French language. Although I am a graduate of the French Immersion program myself, I am still amazed to witness this little boy learning a new language. After having spent so much time with him these last few years, I have to admit, it is adjustment handing the "teaching" off. So, of course I'm not! I recently read this post on the Vintage Chica blog. Her words and approach really struck a chord with me. I believe there is so much learning that can and should go on outside the classroom. Chi-Chi is such a curious and enthusiastic boy. Despite the fact he is now in school, I want to ensure we continue to nurture his desire to learn by following his lead and helping him discover the answers to his questions. I also want to help reinforce what is taking place in the classroom by embracing his new enthustiasm for the French language. They are currently focusing a great deal of attetion on the calendar in class. A quick and easy project was the boys' new calendar for "octobre". It's a great way to reinforce the months and days of the week in French, and it also helps the children visualize the upcoming events in there lives.

Note the number of hockey players on the calendar! Looks like Mama will be doing lots of rink-side knitting this month!

My Not So Empty Nest

With the month of October knocking on my door, I cannot help but feel nostalgic as I reflect upon the last few months. It has been quite some time since I last visited this space. In fact, since the boys' preschool classes wound down in June, there has not been much time or energy available in my life for "screen time". We all enjoyed a summer of bicycles, beach days, fruit pops and good old fashioned fun.

Fall is in full swing in these parts! We are all busy settling into different rhythms and routines, and adjusting to the new beginnings that go hand in hand with the season. My sweet Chi-Chi boarded that big yellow school bus for the first time this fall. Although over a month has passed, I still find myself wiping away the tears some mornings. It is with mixed emotions that I pack his lunch box and kiss him goodbye each day. I am so proud of him, excited for him, worried for him. I do, however, miss that baby in my arms, those sticky toddler fingers, his never ending scientific inquiries, his near constant presence at my side. It is time for him to try out those wings of his. Sniff, is time to change the subject.

Speaking of wings, one recent highlight the entire family rejoiced in was the arrival of new baby chicks! In early August, we noticed some strange behaviour in one of our hens. This behaviour, we soon found out, was broodiness! After waiting not so patiently for twenty days to pass, were were greeted by four of the sweetest little peeping puff balls! Thank goodness I am not a mother hen! I would not be able to handle an empty nest so quickly. Our little fluff balls are now fully-feathered little chickens, racing daringly around the yard and holding their own against Rocky the Rooster and the rest of the flock.

So, I am hoping to get back into my blogging groove as I have missed the creative outlet and the opportunity to share and exchange thoughts and ideas. The kick off of the new school year has me very inspired these days and the boys and I have been up to all sorts of crafty goodness that I hope to share soon!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gearing Up to Wind Down

With preschool classes soon winding down for the summer, I'm gearing up for a fun-filled couple of months with Chi-Chi and Muffy. Summer offers a great opportunity for the wee ones to slow down and enjoy a less hectic pace of life. Other than soccer practice a couple of evenings a week, and a family vacation on the beach, our calendar is free and clear. I'll be relying on the boys' own thirst for knowledge and adventure to answer the question, "What shall we do today?".

I'm guessing we won't have to go far to keep these two occupied. Their genuine curiosity and enthusiasm, which seems to be innate in children, never ceases to amaze me. The amount of time my little Muffy spends each day gathering, admiring, studying and entertaining bugs is astounding. This self-proclaimed little scientist is simply fascinated with anything creepy crawly and rejoices whith each new discovery. I'd like to say I share his passion for these crawlies, but to be honest, some of them give me the creepies! There's nothing like settling into my bowl of breakfast granola, when suddenly a June bug is dropped on my lap. Eeek! "Oh Mommy, aren't the June bug's legs beautiful?". Hmmm, the word beautiful is probably a stretch for me on this one! I guess this is an opportunity for me to take a second look at the bug buddies on our doorstep, and perhaps admire them through the eyes of my Muffy. I notice that my children tend to blossom most when they discover and delve into the passions and interests they discover freely on their own. I suppose this is true for all of us, but children seem to demonstrate it so clearly. My child might have difficulty settling and focusing in one setting, but when immersed in an area of genuine interest, his attention span can last for what seems like an eternity. So, I'm hoping that as long as I give them free rein to explore and discover, my boys will do a fine job of setting the agenda for summer fun.

That's not to say I don't have a few ideas under my hat. Of course, I can't resist setting the scene to inspire and promote a little creative action. The latest "prop" arrived on the scene last weekend! While working up a sweat on my morning run last Sunday, I spotted a nifty little boat on the side of the road with a "Free, take me!!" sign posted on it. The sweet little boat was participating in the curbside giveaway held in our community last weekend. It was my lucky day. I cut my run short, sprinted home and made a breathless request for assistance from a friend with a truck. I've been dreaming of a backyard boat for some time and had been waiting for the opportunity to strike. Though not technically sea worthy, our new rig has already seen some action on the high seas and I'm anticipating tons of exciting and imaginative play evolving this summer. As time passes, and the boys outgrow this backyard "toy", I'll have myself one very funky planter to expand the veggie garden!

Until then, "All aboard" for some super summer fun!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Fields of Gold

There is nothing quite like jumping into fresh week after having spent a wonderful weekend with those you love. After being away for a few days to visit my parents in the Annapolis Valley, I enjoyed a bustling morning in the kitchen, organizing and preparing food for the week ahead. With a fresh batch of yogurt out of the pot and straining, I set to work on a double batch of homemade crackers. Crackers are always a quick and easy snack for the boys, so they are convenient to have on hand when Mama is tired (or feeling lazy). A recent Bulk Barn shopping spree has my pantry cupboard overflowing with a fabulous selection of grains and seeds. I'm taking a baby step approach to eliminating as many pre-packaged foods from our lives as possible. Last week was the yogurt experiment, this week I'm "cracking down" on boxed crackers! Muffy served as the taste-taster this morning and the results of my efforts received glowing reviews. The crackers were gobbled up in an instant the the yogurt bowl was licked clean. I always get a warm, cozy feeling of satisfaction when I witness my children truly enjoying wholesome, healthy foods.

Here is the cracker recipe that I compiled from a few sources, one being an old photocopy from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup bulger
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used the left over whey from the yogurt making)

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter. Add buttermilk and stir well.
Shape into 6 balls and roll out on a floured surface as thin as you can.
Transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes
Let cool on wire rack until crips. Break into smaller pieces.
Hide from your husband and children and ration out carefully so they last more than one day.

Since I found myself working in the kitchen, I figured it would be rather efficient of me to get a bit of wool dyeing done! I came home with a bushel of dandelion blooms from my trip to the Valley. The fields last week were a breathtaking and brilliant yellow. Isn't it funny how these flowers get such a bad reputation? I was so taken by the stunning beauty of these fields. I'm not so sure the results from the dyepot will be as vibrant or awe-inspiring! My experience with the nettles was a tad drab and disappointing. I suppose it is more about the process of slowing down, gathering, preparing, creating.....and the fact I feel just the tiniest bit like Laura Ingalls while I'm out foraging!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Yes You Can...Yogurt!

Last Saturday evening I settled down with a nice cup of tea and my laptop to take a leisurely stroll though some of my favorite blogs. After having completed a fair amount of sewing projects the previous week, I felt a little down time was in order. My first click lead me to Sherrie over at Twenty Two Pleasant. She pointed me over here for instructions on do-it-yourself homemade yogurt. So much for some down time! Before I could even empty my teacup I was on my way back to the kitchen to give this recipe a whirl. It seemed so simple and too good to be true.

The next morning I was up with Rocky the Rooster (he serves as the alarm clock around here....but I can't seem to change the setting to something more reasonable!!). I must say, I was pretty impressed when I opened the lid and discovered a yummy, tangy batch of homemade yogurt. In no time I found myself throwing together a batch of homemade granola to pair up with my yogurt. Though our Sunday mornings usually call for pancakes, we strayed from tradition and served homemade yogurt and granola topped with maple syrup and strawberries. Absolutely divine! I'm hooked and so excited to add another little do-it-yourself trick to my limited repertoire. I made another batch mid week as the first was gobbled up in no time, and success once again. Give it a try! I swear it is fool proof!

Yes, my stove top has seen lots of action over the last few days. The dye pot has been going non-stop. The fresh spring air and sunshine always get me in the mood to hang freshly dyed skeins on the line. I just recently started tinkering with natural dyes. I treated myself to an early Mother's Day gift - The Craft of Natural Dyeing by Jenny Dean. Ironically I opened this week's CSA box from Taproot Farms and discovered a bag of stinging nettle calling out to me. What a dilemma - feed these amazing nutrient packed greens to my family, or sacrifice them to the dye pot. I guess I'm a selfish person. I chose the later. I'm dreaming of a pair of nettle mittens for myself next winter! Perhaps we'll get more nettles next week and I promise, we will eat every single one....or maybe the whole family should have nettle mittens. What's a Wool Fairy to do?

I received another early Mother's Day gift this week from my sweet little boy, Muffy. He presented this gorgeous arrangement to me that he created at preschool yesterday. Honestly, I'm in awe of the work of this little three year old boy. It is sitting proudly at the centre of our dining room table, bringing joy to me at each glance. The children have been doing Ikebana arrangements at their Montessori preschool for the last couple of months. It is amazing to see what these small children are capable of when given the opportunity and tools. It's just a reminder to me of why I have always been so drawn to Montessori.

So of course I've got a Montessori inspired activity going on today with Chi-Chi and Muffy working away on the latest task - gathering dandelion blooms for the dye pot. Why am I not feeling that guilty about this dye job?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Celebrate Good Times!

Wahoo! It is a cause for celebration in our house. Yesterday marked the official end of tax season. Yipee! Yay! Yipee! (Did I mention I was excited). Although I wasn't the one who was burning the midnight oil, we've all missed Hubby during this busy time. Now that the deadline is behind us, I'm looking forward to a more regular and normal routine.

Hats off to Daddy for making a solid effort this year to get home for as many bedtimes as possible. Meals were a bit more tricky, especially with two hungry and growing boys who start hounding for supper earlier and earlier each day. Meal planning has definitely been a lot simpler during this busy time. I'm looking forward to getting back on track, trying out new recipes and enjoying the bountiful selection of fresh food from Taproot Farms- as a family. I've got a cabbage the size of a basketball in my fridge that I've been nibbling away at. I need that big strong man of mine to eat a good chunk of it for me!!

In anticipation of the return to normalcy around here, I spent a couple of evenings last week stitching up a fresh new set of place mats to add some fun and beauty to our family dinner hour. This has been on my to-do list for quite some time. Our faithful old set of mats has gotten pretty darn grungy over the last while. Quite frankly, they are really quite digusting and not very appetizing. Something clean and fresh was in order. I had been stewing over possible color and fabric combinations when I came across a few yards of a basic red and white checker pattern at Value Village the other day. I snatched it up for $1.99 and had enough to complete a set of eight place mats. I think they have a fun summer picnic feel to them. I appliqued a gnome friend on two of the mats to add a twist for the boys. This fabric was left over from Chi-Chi's quilt and both boys were quite tickled about their new mats. Chi-Chi exclaimed, "Mommy, the table looks so beautiful tonight!" I noticed that he, in particular, sat up a little straighter in his chair tonight and was on his best behaviour. He even gobbled up his full serving of nutrient-packed fiddle heads! A few simple touches including the candles and a vase of spring branches seemed to added to the warm and cozy atmosphere of our time together as a family.

I was so inspired by the mere thought of summer that I dug into my stash of frozen strawberries and baked up some stawberry short cake as a celebratory dessert. Yum! So much to look forward to in the months ahead!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Patience is a Virtue

If patience is a virtue, than I guess I’m not much of a virtuous person! I do love gardening, but sometimes I find the waiting game a little hard to swallow. I’m anxiously awaiting the tender taste of home grown spinach, peas and lettuce from the rich brown soil. Since I just planted these rows a couple of weeks ago, I realize I’ve got a fair wait ahead of me. In light of this fact, and my rather impatient nature, I've been participating in a bit of instant gratification gardening. Ok, the word instant is a slight exaggeration! In gardening terms however, 36 hours from seed to plate is pretty darn instant.

Last year I purchased a little counter top sprouting system. I picked mine up at Eos Fine Foods in Wolfville, but no doubt many other natural food stores carry them. This no fail system is super simple and the results are fast and delicious! For lunch I munched on a tasty salad topped with healthy handful of organic alfalfa and red clover sprouts. My home sprouter proved to be a great source of fresh organic greenery during those bleak and cold winter months. If you share both my love of gardening and my impatient nature, a countertop sprouter may just be what you need! I’m certainly enjoying the daily harvest around here......though I'm still dreaming of my sugar snap peas.

You can see from the photograph, that other creatures have their eyes and hearts set on those peas. The chickens and I are in the midts of a battle of the wits. I'm ashamed to admit that I am losing this fight miserably. We erected a 6 foot high fence around their designated "area" to deter critters from getting in and critters from getting out. Being birds, my feathered friends just fly over my fence. It appears they too love fresh sprouts as they scratch away in my garden plots. I spent a good chunk of time this week erecting various nets and other chicken scare systems. The winner of this battle will earn the prize of the harvest. Who are you betting on?

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Break...Literally!

It has been many moons since I've taken time to visit this space. A much needed break I suppose with the busyness that the month of April brings to our household each spring. With Hubby being a tax accountant, this time of year is always crunch time, the effects of which trickle through to all members of the family. The craziness is soon coming to an end with April 30th fast approaching!

To add a twist to our already hectic month, Chi-Chi took a break of his own, literally. My sweet boy broke his leg a couple of weeks ago. Quite frankly, I'm surprised this has not happened sooner in my house full of gravity-defying, fearless boys (Hubby included in this category). All is well and the fracture is quite minor. The first week was rough, on my aching back in particular. Since he received a walking cast, life is almost back to normal. He's back to playing hockey, tramping around the yard and engaging in other general boy like behavior.

For a short period of time in our house, there was a focus inward. I sought out quiet activities for Chi-Chi to focus on while his movement was very limited. Our quiet days together were filled with the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder and the wonderful world of Lego. Luckily, he's a very focused little guy and seemed to have no problem shifting gears and sitting still for extended periods of time. With so much time spent indoors, I had a chance to dig into and complete something I've been picking away at for a few months - Chi's-Chi's quilt. Chi-Chi himself was a great little helper, returning the pins carefully to my pincushion while I whirred away on the sewing machine. Both of us are very pleased with the final result. Since I'm new to quilting and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I decided to go with the tied quilt method. I chose some fun fabrics that my little guy would enjoy examining in detail. It's a bit of a mish-mash, but I like the vibrant, playful effect the combination of colors and prints produced. It was fabricated using both new and re-purposed fabrics from various sources.

I simply must spread word of my new favorite fabric shop where I picked up some great supplies for this project. Many of the prints I chose were 1930's reproduction feed sack prints. I found these at Avonport Discount Fabrics located just off the 101 Highway in Avonport. Has anyone else ever been to this hidden gem? I was literally squealing when I stumbled on them. Some of the antique and vintage quilts in my collection include a few of these prints. The chicken print is my favorite and how appropriate for our family. My squealing continued when the kind ladies introduced me to a lusciously soft wool batting. I wasn't even aware this product existed. How could the Wool Fairy use anything but this for batting?!! I bought enough for three quilts then and there. The highlight of this shop you ask? The playhouse located smack in the middle of the store. The boys were completely occupied while I leisurely browsed through the bolts. During our most recent trip to the Valley, Chi-Chi and Muffy enthusiastically requested a trip to the "Playhouse Fabric Shop". Twist my arm!

Now that Chi-Chi's quilt is complete, my mind is dreaming of a quilt to keep my little Muffy warm and snug. With spring in the air and a fresh load of manure and garden soil in my yard, it's time to take a break from sewing. With his walking cast wrapped in duct tape and plastic bags, Chi-Chi's right at my side these days in the garden. We must take in the sunshine and fresh air while we can and save the sewing for the foggy, rainy days, which are an inevitable part of Spring in our neck of the woods.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Freewheeling and Cosmic Adventures

There is a definite shift taking place. Spring IS in the air. Hubby chuckled this morning when I declared I had begun my spring cleaning. I spent most of yesterday washing curtains, quilts and sheets, hanging them to dry in the fresh spring air. He reminded me that it is still winter. Yes, Old Man Winter is sure to make a few more appearances in Nova Scotia, but on days like today, I will revel in the blue sky and sunshine.

I made an executive decision to skip our regular gymnastics class and hit the skate park. Any guilt I was feeling for shirking on our commitment evaporated the moment the boys sped away on their bicycles, wind and sun rosying their cheeks. I am fortunate to have access to this skate park with a glorious ocean view. We usually schedule our visits in the morning when the "big kids" are in school. It does sadden me, however, to see this community park scarred by vandalism and graffiti. On the bright side, it opened up a conversation on the matter......always something to learn with little ones around.

We also took our crafting and learning activities al fresco today. Sheltered by the cool ocean breeze, we tucked ourselves into a cozy corner of the deck and dug out the wool. There has been a great deal of interest in the solar system these days. Chi-Chi's upcoming space-themed birthday party is likely the root of it. While Chi-Chi set to work on his personal wet felting projects, Muffy assisted me with our latest science project while eating snack #3 (he's a growing boy!) I grabbed a felting needle and set to work creating a simple set of felted planets. An old piece of driftwood I had on hand served as a frame for our solar system mobile. Muffy helped me organize the cosmic creations using our reference book, a 69 cent thrift store find. Though far from scientifically accurate, the new mobile is a fun addition to our play space. If nothing else, it serves as inspiration for my dreamy boys as they contemplate space voyages and scientific discoveries of their own.

With the sun warming up his back, Chi-Chi could not resist a quick dip in the felting bucket! He invited me to give it a try and how good it felt. The grass tickling my toes, the warm sun on my face....yes, Spring IS here (almost!).

Friday, 5 March 2010

G is for Goalie!

Bedtime with my sweet boys is a time of day that I cherish. OK, I admit that I look forward to a calm and quiet house once the little ones are nestled all snug in their beds. It is the bedtime rituals themselves, however, that make this time of day so special. Once Daddy has the boys scrubbed from top to bottom, the two little monkeys are separated for a calm wind down to the busy day. Hubby and I alternate each night, ensuring we each have valuable one-on-one time with Chi-Chi and Muffy. I cherish this alone time with each of them. It is a very relaxing time as we settle into a stack of books without distraction. Chi-Chi and I are currently working our way through the Little House on the Prairie series and I look forward to diving back into these childhood favorites from my past. Story time with Muffy is full of cuddles and consistency as he's hooked on a few favorite titles at the moment. There is comfort in the routine for him.

Chi-Chi recently began to express an interest in learning how to sound out words. Pointing to words in his book, he asked for assistance in sounding them out. Little House on the Prairie was certainly not the place to start for this little guy who always seems to choose the most complicated of words to read! I knew we had to start somewhere simple, so I asked for help!

I consulted with the boys' Montessori teacher and she pointed me in the right direction. Not wanting to confuse Chi-Chi,it was important that our work at home be consistent and complimentary to the methods they were using at preschool. A big thank you to dear Ms. M who answered my many, many questions very patiently. I decided to set up a series of object sound baskets as an interesting and inviting way for Chi-Chi to work on his phonetic sounds. Each basket is dedicated to a set of sounds and includes a collection of beginning letter sound objects. I spent a good week digging through junk drawers and scanning dollar and craft stores for miniature sized objects. The tiny trinkets add an element of interest to the learning process and help reinforce the learning of sounds. I made a point of seeking out objects I knew Chi-Chi would find intriguing such as dragons, insects and our dear friend Santa. For anyone interested in setting this up at home, I encourage you to check out the language posts on My Montessori Journey.

I am following Chi-Chi's lead on our sound and reading work. A self-proclaimed book lover, he is quite tickled to be working through the pages of some very simple and basic readers. It's almost as if he has a sense of the magic he can unlock when he learns how to read. The boy who loves to spend "private time" flipping through the pages of books will most certainly marvel at the ability to read the words on his own.

As we snuggle under the quilts and crack open another chapter of Laura Ingall's life, I am transported back to my own childhood. I am once again that young girl with long brown braids (just like Laura!), cuddled up in the bottom cottage bunk. Flashlight in hand, up way past bedtime, I soak up every word of these tales from long ago. The next morning, I insist on cornbread for breakfast (just like Laura!). In a flash, I find myself back in the present, close to thirty years later. Once again, I find myself up past bedtime as my sweet boy begs for just one more chapter. I cannot resist those dark brown eyes. His head on my chest, he listens attentively to each word, soaking up the rich and beautifully descriptive text. He is captivated by stories of bears and guns and the enchanting tunes of Pa's fiddle.

Yes my dear Chi-Chi, let the magic unfold!

Going for Gold!

Like so many people around the world, we are all coming back to earth after much Olympic excitement over the last few weeks. As Canadians and citizens of the host country, the level of enthusiasm was certainly running on high in these parts. Chi-Chi and Muffy have been hockey lovers for quite some time, but the Team Canada gold medal win has sparked an even deeper interest in the game. The fact that we spend our Friday mornings skating on the very rink that Sidney Crosby grew up on, well that is just the icing on the cake for these two! Oh how I love Muffy's play silk goalie mask! Although Mommy is proud of his creativity, she won't be allowing this one on the ice.

The games also sparked some new found patriotism in the boys, perhaps something they had not experienced before. I discovered this great flag project on one of my favorite sites, My Montessori Journey. This blog has become one of my favorite resources for both Montessori specific work, as well as great crafts and activities. The flag templates were easy to print and in no time we had a huge collection of Canadian flags for our cheering efforts. This would be a wonderful project for wee ones any time of the year. There is definitely something alluring about flags in general and the children are simply captivated by them. We used wooden dowels instead of straws as Chi-Chi wanted to make larger flags. This would be a great activity to pair up with learning on other countries and cultures.

No Olympics would be complete without the Olympic torch and a few medals. These were quickie projects that I pulled together during one very wild storm and a power outage. They certainly filled the gap on one very cold and dreary day. The torch is a simple roll of white card stock stuffed with a little bundle of orange, red and yellow wool fleece. Is there nothing wool can't do?? The boys spent hours performing the relay, doing snowboarding stunts off the couch (eek!) and accepting their multicolored medals. After singing Oh Canada for an entire day, sweet Chi-Chi mastered the lyrics in no time. I love the way one activity leads to another, how one moment of learning opens the door to another. The curious and enthusiastic nature of children makes the process feel so natural and organic.

So much activity and excitement around here has left little time for blogging these days. I've been working on some fun projects behind the scenes that I hope to share in the near future. One certain little boy is turning 5 in a few weeks and we are all having fun planning and preparing for the big day!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Pretty in Pink

We've been seeing a lot of pink around here lately. Pink hearts, pink valentines and, sadly, pink eyes! Chi-Chi and Muffy both came down with eye infections this week. As a result, we've been forced to stick pretty close to home. It feels like I've gone through about two weeks of craft ideas and activities in a mere forty eight hours!

The Valentine preparations are in full swing! Chi-Chi and Muffy have come to the conclusion that a beautifully decorated tree is a prerequisite to any holiday celebration. Yesterday afternoon, we errected the highly anticipated Valentine Tree and dove right into decoration making. That same red wool blanket that supplied the materials for my Advent calendar was pulled from the basement and I set to work cutting out little heart shapes. The boys kept busy stringing my hearts on red yarn using plastic darning needles from their sewing basket. After throwing some pink hearts into the mix, we were all very pleased with how the garlands turned out.

I'd like to thank my good friend April at Nurtured for the next great idea! She made a lovely set of fabric Valetines for her children to give to their friends. What a great alternative to those disposable, highly commercialized store-bought varieties! I borrowed her sweet idea and created a set of cloth hearts for our tree trimming efforts. With all the quilting activity taking place around here, I've managed to collect a rather large pile of scraps, absolutely perfect for these types of projects.

Though I'm not a fan of the commercialism that seems to go hand-in-hand with any and every holiday, I do see the importance of celebrating Valentines Day on a small scale. It is not a huge gift giving event in our family. Each of the boys will receive a couple of small treats and perhaps tiny mama-made item if time permits. It is much more about an expression of love. I recently pulled out our family Valentine mailbox. During the time leading up to February 14th, we will all take the time to make a few special love notes for the box - some more than others. My little cupids have been busy, busy, busy writing love letters so the box is almost bursting. During a cozy family dinner we will open and deliver the "mail". A chocolate heart shaped cake will likely top off our day.

Ah, there's nothing like a holiday tree in the house to add a festive feel to the air. Happy February everyone!