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!