Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Little Birdie Told Me

A few evenings ago, I attended a book club meeting at my son's Montessori preschool. The topic of discussion centered around the sensorial period and the related materials and work. As is always the case with these book club meetings, I left feeling inspired and more convinced than ever of the value of a Montessori education. Oh how I wish our area offered an elementary school program!! Alas, this is not the case. Muffy will be finishing up his final year at this special school in just a few short months and will be joining Chi-Chi in the French Immersion program at "big school" come autumn. This will be another exciting adventure for him as he begins his journey into another language! At this point, I try to focus on keeping the Montessori spirit and approach alive in our home, despite the fact both my children are moving on to experience other schools and teaching methods.

Discussions with Muffy's teachers revealed that he is currently in a sensorial "sensitive period". Although Muffy and I spend a great deal of time together, this is something I had not picked up at home. As is often the case, when something is right under your nose, it can easily be missed or overlooked. Ironically, this morning I glanced up from the porridge pot to find my little guy standing on our deck in merely his underpants. I resisted my knee jerk reaction to herd him inside with the thermometer reading -2 Celcius. Instead, I just observed to see what he was up to. He was standing completely still, gazing at the alder bushes below. When he finally came in, he rushed over to me in excitement...."Mommy! I just went out and heard so many sounds mixed together with the pheasant!". It turns out he was so enthralled in nature's morning symphony that he was oblivious to freezing his toes off. I suppose this focus is a sign of him being in tune with his senses. He grabbed one of the most popular books in my house right now - The Backyard Birdsong Guide, and set to work on identifying the calls he had heard. With a bit of guidance, he concluded he was tuning into the song of a junco. I can't give this book enough praise. It was recommended to me by Muffy's preschool teacher and was given to him as a Christmas gift from my parents. Both boys refer to it on a daily basis. They are becoming quite skilled at mimicking the calls of their favorite feathered friends.

Since I'm on the topic of birds, I simply had to post this photo of one of my most exciting wildlife encounters ever. Although this visit occurred about two months ago, I can't pass up the opportunity to share this one. I was dozing on the couch one afternoon, half listening to what was going on around me. Chi-Chi gave me a nudge to inform me there was an owl on our deck. I was certain this was a tall tale, but mustered the energy to crane my neck around. Wow, I was certainly jolted awake to see this magnificent barred owl staring back at me with those midnight eyes. He hung around our house for about two hours...and then he was gone. I often look out in hopes of spotting him again, but perhaps the gift of one visit should be enough to satisfy me. So, we certainly referred to our birdsong guide on this fellow and I must say, Chi-Chi's version of the barred owl call is frighteningly realistic!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

I've always been a morning person at heart. As a young child, I was the first one up on Saturday mornings. While the rest of the family dozed, I tiptoed down the stairs, fixed myself a bowl of Mini Wheats and settled in with the Smurfs. During my teens and early twenties, I definitely strayed from my natural tendency to be an early riser, opting for any last second of sleep before throwing on crumpled jeans and dashing off to class. I took up running about 13 years ago, and rediscovered the beauty of greeting the day with the sunrise. My early morning runs gave me energy and cleared my head before a long and often stressful day as an accountant. It felt good to start each day doing something just for me.

As the days grow longer this time of year, I find myself willingly crawling out from under the quilt earlier each day. It turns out dear Muffy inherited the early riser gene and is my faithful companion in the wee hours of the morning. Although I awake at 5:45 am, I usually rise around 6 am and head downstairs to get the breakfast routine started. I've noticed an increase in the appetites of my two growing boys so I've been making an effort to provide more hearty breakfasts. Quick bowls of cereal have been replaced with hearty porridge, French toast, scrambled eggs and yogurt and granola. The sound of clanking dishes drifts upstairs and soon Chi-Chi and Hubby appear.

Since the school bus picks up at 8 am, an early start to the day provides a great opportunity for Chi-Chi and Muffy to eat, relax and play at a leisurely pace. I feel that this unstructured time is so very important, particularly for Chi-Chi who faces a fairly structured day in his Primary classroom. I have mixed feelings about it all, so I make every effort to ensure the time spent at home supplements what might be missing during school hours. Physical activity and time outdoors is so very critical for these boys. They simply can't get enough of it. The school schedule allows for a 10 minute outdoor recess in the morning and a 35 minute recess over the lunch hour. Coming out of the winter season, these breaks were often held indoors due to the weather. I struggle with this.

On this beautiful sunny morning, both boys were dressed and out the door at 7:15 am. This allowed for a full 45 minutes of unstructured play and exploration in the backyard and on the trails down to the bus stop. Before his school day officially began, Chi-Chi was able to:

- paint a picture of the sunrise over the Atlantic ocean
- collect spruce cones to plant for seedlings.
- perfect his mourning dove call as he mimicked morning visitors at the bird feeder
- set up an elaborate system to collect sap from a spruce tree, convinced maple syrup will result
- upon hearing quacking, spot, two mallard ducks flying over head
- collect two fresh eggs from the chicken coop
- run through wooded paths and squeal in delight
- retrace the steps of a coyote
- smash ice with pure pleasure

I'm convinced this time to stretch his muscles and mind freely will allow him to better focus during his structured desk time this morning. As I sit and write, little Muffy is completely engrossed in a very complex and detailed Lego construction. He is working so quietly and independently, seeming so settled after being outdoors.

I've always felt that time spent in the early morning hours, particularly outdoors, is almost a best kept secret. For those who like to sleep in and catch every last wink, they simply don't know what they are missing!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Lucky Duck

With spring in the air, I have been itching to get back into the blogging groove. My mind is bursting with fresh ideas and inspiration. I’m anxious to get the bleak and dreary winter behind me and embrace the excitement and freshness of the new season. I must admit, we awoke to a dusting of snow this morning and the kiddies and I were bundled up in our full winter woolies, chattering our teeth while waiting for the school bus. It’s a tricky time of year in these parts. The calendar declares the arrival of spring, but Old Man Winter doesn’t seem willing to say farewell just yet. Nonetheless, I’m moving forward. I have been struggling with some personal health issues the last few months, which certainly put a damper on my spirits, creative efforts and general mood. Although I am still awaiting tests and sorting things out, I’m feeling much better and have regained my energy and focus.

As a result, I’m doing my best to simply force the arrival of spring, despite the temperature readings, forecasts and that blasted wind-chill factor. On a whim, our family recently picked up a few ducklings to add to our back yard flock. I was craving a distraction and a new focus and these buttery yellow sweeties are just what the doctor ordered. It was love at first sight for all of us. Although I have adored our baby chicks in the past, there is just something so sweet and special about ducklings. Muffy remarked immediately that his new pet Ducky (how appropriately name) looked so happy! They have such a pleasant and comical disposition about them that you can’t help but feel joy in their presence. Chi-Chi named his new friend, Lovie and is demonstrating a new level of maturity. His relationship with Lovie is bringing to light a very nurturing and gentle side of his personality that is heartwarming to observe.

Yes indeed, I'm feeling like a lucky duck these days, with warmer weather and healthier happy days ahead! I look forward to sharing and exchanging ideas and inspiration in this space once again.