Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

I have been thinking, lately, about how different my new years' celebrations have become over the past few year compared to the years pre-kids. These days, 10pm finds me headed for my jammies and consoling myself that it will still be 2011 when I wake up, even if I am not awake to actually ring it in. Pre-kids, 10pm saw me finishing me make-up (who has time or energy for that anymore?!?!) and heading for the door. Pre-kids dinner on New Years Eve - steak, sauteed mushrooms, a nice glass of wine, most likely at a restaurant that didn't serve french fries. Tonight's menu - tacos and fruit smoothie. Perhaps a bowl of ice cream for desert. Pre-kids celebrations included tons of friends, music, dancing and laughter. Tonight has seen building with new LEGO sets, cuddles and hugs, extra bed time stories.

I would be kidding myself (no pun intended) if I didn't admit to missing the old New Years Celebrations. I miss being able to decide that afternoon where and with whom we were headed out. I miss being able to stay up to the wee hours of the morning, knowing that I can sleep in the next day. I miss being able to go out and not worry how things are going at home. Still, those days were pre-kids. And that would be a loss for too great to contemplate. No little hands reaching out in the night to make sure I am still there, no unsolicited "I love yous", no tickle fights or silliness. I would miss looking down at their sleeping faces and being able to see only sweetness, the challenges of the day forgotten.

So wherever you are tonight, and however you are celebrating the arrival of 2011, I hope that you are surrounded by teh people that you love the most, and who make you smile. As for me, in celebratiuon of this special night I may even be reckless and stay up until 11pm........

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Super Snow Fort

I have come to realize why it is important for kids to have 2 parents. Now, before everyone gets up on the old soap box, this is not a deep social commentary on single parenthood, gender roles, or gay and lesbian rights. It is simply a post about my own light bulb moment today, so here is what I have discovered.....I have been known, in the past, to gripe (just a wee bit) when my husband doesn't see things my way. I may, occasionally, get upset that he doesn't approach the world (and parenthood) the same way that I do. But today, he shone as uber-father by spending time with the kids doing something that I never would have conceived of......

Today was the day that the super-fort was born. Now please understand that this was not your average, Mama or kid led building project. It was not built with snow piles, or even with recycle box molds. This baby was build using a snow-blower, and a blow torch. Really. It can hold up to 6 kids at time, and Charlie can actually stand up inside. It has 2 doors, a chimney, and the outside doubles as a climbing mountain / snow slide. It really is the coolest thing I have ever seen.

So today's post is in homage to my hubby, and his truly male brain that is so entirely different from my own. Honey, you rock.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Science Co-op - Terrific Towers

We are all still loving our little science group that gets together every few are a few pics from one of our last gatherings. The experiments are not complicated, and could all be replicated with things you have at home. It is lovely, though, not only to have someone else arrange it all, but to have other families to 'play' with.

On this day (somewhere back in November, before the holiday craziness took over) the kids used straws, Popsicle sticks, cups, take, etc to build towers. Their goal was to build a tower that was at least 2 feet high, and that could support 6 pounds of weight. There were a lot of creative ideas, and the final products were wonderful. As an added challenge, once they were all built we put them through an 'earthquake' test to see which ones would hold up. There was a chorus of ooooohhhs and aaaaahhhhhhs and oh no's, but the buildings all stood their ground.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh My...

I am positively shamed to see how long it has been since I have chimed in here....we really are alive and doing well, just a little distracted by the holiday cheerfulness. The tree is up, the packaging is finished, only one more sock to knit, the baking is done, except for the second batch of almond cookies that I will need - the first batch somehow disappeared (grin).

Our home feels so warm and cheerful this season, more even than in past years. Partly, I think, it is because the kids are old enough now that they really are active in all that we do, rather than come-and-go participants. The bulk of the decorating has happened through their little hands. The gifts have all been chosen and wrapped with their involvement, and their little fingers taste tested each and every bowl of cookie dough. This year Christmas feels like a family endeavor, rather than a Mommy led 'event' as it sometimes has in the past.

To top it all off, in a heartfelt effort to simplify our lives lately, we have shunted many, many boxes of 'stuff' to the local second hand store, and found homes for most of what remains. We have tried to focus more on the experience of the holidays and less on the 'things' of it, and our home is feeling lighter, more peaceful, and more like the haven it is supposed to be because of it.

I have a few more days of work to get through this week, but we should still be able to get in lots of home time. We are looking forward to Christmas eve with our own little family, Christmas day with Pop, Uncle Steve, Aunt Mindy and Griffin, and then Boxing day hosting Grammy, Auntie Bonnie, Uncle Ted, Max, Tory and perhaps even another family friend at our home.

We are looking forward to a few weeks of family, friends, celebration, and relaxation. What more could one want for Christmas?

I really have been taking photos during my 'absence', and I promise to get caught up soon along with some shots of the holidays in our family. I hope that you are enjoying peace and loved ones wherever you will be over the holidays.

Thanks for sharing this space with me and have a Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Mommy, I can't help you clean up the toy room - I am busy keeping you company!!~Charlie

Friday, November 12, 2010

Town Christmas

Our little town puts on a sort of Christmas street party each November to start off the holiday season. Beginning the day before, all of the stores along Main Street paper over their windows and take to decorating. The Christmas banners are strung around town, and the huge pine tree in the town square is decked out with lights. Then on the night of the event, everyone turns out to celebrate - the tree is lit, the windows are revealed, and everyone enjoys free treats and the company of neighbours. There was hot chocolate and cookies...

strolling carolers...

somewhat disgruntled looking reindeer...

cello-wrapped goodness in the candy store...

Santa giving out candy canes (as an aside, to people realize how many difficult and very unfortunate conversations they cause parents when they go out in public in bad Santa costumes?!?!)

and of course, the tree.....

I apologize for the somewhat crappy photos - the kids wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take any good pictures which needed long exposure times!! Those candy canes seem to go right into their blood stream....

Happy-almost-holidays everyone!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Science Co-op - Structures

In science co-op today we all learned a little bit about structures. The kids started off with some building of Lincoln logs, and then moved onto play dough structures.

There was a 'contest' to see which team could build the highest free-standing tower

and then an experiment to see which shape (circle, square or triangle) was the strongest by balancing books on top of a paper tube of various shapes to see which could hold the most weight (very interesting!!)

The grand finale was a talk about weight distribution, and the kids all had a chance to stand on top of a platform of Dixie cups.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Hike with Friends

Today we went to Hilton Falls on a great fall hike with our boys co-op. It was the perfect day - crisp but not cold, and wonderfully sunny. We enjoyed a nice hike to the falls...

Stopping along the way to feed chickadees out of our hands.

The waterfall was lovely, and the water levels were low enough that the kids could explore the river bank and bed easily.

Of course there was rock climbing...

And playing with sticks in the water.

More climbing...

And the hot apple cider, marshmallows and hot dogs by a camp fire.

What a great way to spend the afternoon!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

Today, inspired by a ridiculously hard piece of meat falling out of the freezer and landing on my foot, I decided to clean out the fridge freezer. And in doing so, I came across 5 bags (really!) of coconut. So, never one to let the opportunity to bake sweets pass me by, I searched out a recipe for macaroon cookies, which turned out wonderfully.

Here is the super-easy recipe for you:

2/3 cups flour
5 1/2 cups desiccated or flaked coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Combine flour, coconut and salt in a large bowl. Mix together milk and extracts, then combine with coconut mixture. You could use a spoon but I found it easier, although a bit messy, to use my hands. Form into balls with spoons, fingers or a small ice cream scoop and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Coll completely, and then drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sneak Invasion

I have come to realize today that a long-time family rival has once again snuck into our home. It has happened slowly, silently, and with no fuss or fanfare...but it has happened none the less. This threat to family, happiness and health has come in the form of a Nintendo DS. Sigh.

We are not an electronic media-free home, but I do try to limit how much screen time we all get. We have a TV for watching movies, but no cable. William has a hand held video game, but until recently it was an older (and less expensive) game boy and was used almost exclusively for long car rides.

But over the past few months, I have noticed the kids spending more and more time in front of a screen. The video game migrated from the car into the house. Daddy recorded a new series of movies / TV shows onto disc for the kid to watch. The TV upstairs, which had been 'broken' for many many months, was suddenly turned on again. And just like that, the hours are adding up - hours that were previously spent playing, drawing, reading, building LEGO (of course!) and living have now become sit-on-your-butt-as-your-brain-turns-to-mush time.

It is time to fight back!!! Time to turn off the tube and turn back on our lives. Time to 'break' the TV again (don't tell the kids it is me - they think it is the result of a bad storm!!) and banish the video game tot he car again. Time to bring out the books, the games and the LEGO. I know that when we are turned-off in this way we are all a whole lot happier. Well, perhaps Daddy is not, the the boys and I sure are! Everyone gets along better, has more energy during the day and sleeps better at night. We feel inspired and excited about life, and have the time and attention to explore the things that we are interested in. All of a sudden there is so much more time - to complete chores, to learn, to relax, to explore, and to just be together. I can't wait.

If you are contemplating getting rid of your TV (or at least shutting off cable) I wholeheartedly encourage you to try. If you need some more encouragement, this article may help...

Trash Your TV

Saturday, November 6, 2010

For The Love of Reading

I have been thinking a lot about reading lately, and how it figures into our homeschooling routing, and our lives. When I think of adults that I have met, they can be classified fairly cleanly into readers and non-readers. It is not an absolute division, of course, but I find that people either love to read and do it as often as they can, or rarely read at all - not much of a middle ground. Going on the assumption, then, that the goal is (as mine is) to raise kids who become adults who read, both for educational value and entertainment.....the question becomes how?

For us it has meant a fairly relaxed approach to teaching the boys to read. We began exploring phonics when William was about 5 years old, using Explode The Code. I had actually shied away from a reading 'curriculum' for as long as I could, but he was having a hard time making the leap from recognizing letters to putting the sounds together. We used Explode The Code for a short while until he got the hang of things, and then put it aside. We were all thrilled to make the move to 'real' books, and things are moving along well now.

William reads to us all every night before bed, and sometimes a time or two during the day as well. But mostly, our reading is still my reading aloud to the boys. To me, this is the part that will more likely turn them into adult readers. I am less concerned that they can read well on their own at this stage as I am that they continue to love books. I have faith that their own skills will come so long as the love of reading is kept alive.

Over the last year or so, we have all been enjoying the Harry Potter series (with a few words changed now and then in the later books, which get a little dark). About two weeks ago we began Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech, and after finishing it last night William has headed to the shelf to pick the next chapter book. I am happy to oblige. At 7 years old, his interests far surpass his reading abilities. The chapter books which allow us all to really delve into a story, to immerse ourselves in it over time, to curl up in front of the fire together for a whole morning of reading, are still beyond what he can read on his own without frustration. William is getting to be a better reader each day, and Charlie, at 5 years old, is ready to start his journey. They are not skilled readers yet, but they are certainly book lovers - just as I have hoped they will be.

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

Friday, November 5, 2010


The boys and I have started exploring maps as a beginning to geography studies. We have all been pleasantly surprised by how much they are enjoying it. We started by cruising the house finding all of the maps that we have already made and used in our studies.....maps of the ancient world from Story of the World history reading, a three dimensional map of Ecuador from our world map to track our poster collection...hand drawn map of Alaska from our look at the Iditarod...The kids also enjoyed drawing a map of our neighbourhood, noting friends' houses, Pop's place, favorite hikes, and the horse farm up the street.

Today we looked at grids, and how they can be used to locate places on the map. William thought it was wonderfully like a code, and enjoyed finding spots for quite a while. We even rounded the lesson out with a game of battleship, which I foresee playing way too much of over the next while. I guess this is also a lesson in don't introduce a game unless you want to play it over and over and over and over and over.....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween !!

Beware My Child
Beware my child,
of the snaggle-toothed beast.
He sleeps till noon,
then makes his feast
on Hershey bars
and cakes of yeast
and anyone around - O!

~Shel Silverstein

I hope that you and your snaggle-toothed beasts are recovering from last night!!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.
~Jean Arp

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Force - Crash Cars

This was the second week of our science co-op, and we had a visit from the local university to talk to the group about force. After learning about the engineering cycle, the kids discussed the different safety features that are built into cars, and then tried their hands at making models out of wood, straws, cotton balls, Popsicle sticks, newspaper, and lots and lots of tape! The goals was to create a car that would keep a water balloon protected when it was sent careening down a ramp and crashing into a brick wall. What fun!!

Each team made very different looking cars, but they all did the job. At the end of the trials, not a single balloon was broken...until, of course, the kids got their hands on them and started hurling them across the parking lot!!

Physics was never so much fun when I was a kid!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recycling - The Next Generation

I think that by now we all have a good handle on basic recycling. Bottles and cans, newspapers and plastic bag. We try to cut down on the 'stuff' that we buy, and reuse what we can. I am infinitely hopeful for our world when I see how naturally it comes to the kids. It is a small thing, but a small thing moving us in the right direction.

Lately we have been ramping up our recycling efforts, and I am amazed at how many opportunities there are to put our 'garbage' to good use. Here are some of the things we have begun re-purposing:

*Newspapers (that they won't stop sending us!!)to the local Humane Society
*Toilet paper rolls to the Early Years Centre to be used for crafts
*Milk bags to be woven into sleeping mats for people in need
*Grocery bags (from when I forget my reusable ones!!) to the local thrift store
*Small plastic bags that newspapers come in to the Humane Society to pick up doggy droppings
*Pop can tabs to a friend (not really sure what he is collecting them for, to be honest!

What are your favorite environmental tips to share?

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. ~Native American Wisdom

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Playing with Clay

There is a lovely little pottery studio beside an office building that I visit regularly, and I have been lusting to go for quite some time. They offer clay throwing and spinning, as well as bisque painting and firing. It has that come-on-in-and-get-your-hands-dirty kind of look, that pulls me in each time.
I haven't made it in on my own yet, but I did manage to bring the boys for some creative time when the shop held its on year anniversary. There was discounted bisque painting, face painting, and even cake and hot dogs. We invited a neighbourhood friend along for the trip, and the kids had a great time.

I often have a hard time getting the boys to do things that could be considered 'crafty', but they both seemed to love this. Each painted 2 pieces, and they would like to go back again. Charlie was a little upset to have to leave his creations there to be fired, but I know that he will be happy with the result when I pick up their masterpieces next week. Here are the 'in-progress' shots. I will flash up a picture of the finished products when we get them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wetlands Study

We seem to be spending a lot of time lately learning about wetlands and groundwater, and how important they are to our environment. Today we headed over to a local conservation area for an educational program sponsored by Ducks Unlimited. We learned what wetlands are, and why they are important as regulators of water levels, habitat for wildlife, and purifiers of air and water. We played a game to demonstrate how the destruction of ponds effects the migration of birds, dipped our hands in a pond, used all of our senses to experience the woods, and went on a trek through the swamp. The kids listened to bird calls, spotted tree frogs, and even a blue salamander.

Here are some links that may be interesting:

Ducks Unlimited has a great deal of information about wetlands
The Producers, Consumers, Decomposers Game is a fun on-line game for kids that talks about food chains.
The Herbivore, Carnivore, Omnivore Game
Frogwatch Ontario

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yellow Fish Road

We've been wanting to do this project for a fact, I have had the materials stashed away in the spare bedroom since May. Today, finally, we invited a friend over, got out our brushes, and hit the streets.

The Yellow Fish Road Project , sponsered by Trout Unlimited Canada, is designed to raise awareness in our neighbourhoods about how pollution through storm drains effects our local bodies of water and the wildlife that lives in them. By painting yellow fish and the words 'rainwater only' beside storm drains on our street, the kids are hoping to remind people that anything that goes down the storm drain (soapy water, fertilizer, oil, paint, etc) goes directly, untreated, into our streams, ponds and lakes. Yuck!

Although the stencil and paint didn't come out as clearly as we would have hoped, the kids enjoyed themselves. They were excited to deliver the yellow fish door hangers to homes, and brushing away the leaves from the drains before painting.