Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Morsels: Easter, Chicks, Tadpoles and more

Morsels:  Tiny bits of goodness from the past weeks....
(Sorry for the list like post, and so many pictures.  It seems to be the only way I can get things recorded these days). 

The weather is ever so slowly creeping toward warm, but just won't quite get there.  I keep trying to clean out our mud room but since we're all still wearing our winter coats some part of each day, its a slow process.           I think we're done with the snow pants.  

The day before Easter we were busy with yard work and gardening.  My running group was mostly out of town or injured, so Wylie biked beside me while I did an afternoon run in the sun.  It was a good fast pace, and a fun way to visit with this growing boy of ours.  
That night I stayed up late, hiding eggs by head lamp, stitching ears onto stuffed bunnies, counting out jellybeans to be fair.  Rob slept on the couch.  Hmm.  It seems that this is the norm at our house and many of our friend's houses too-- Dads who are more than happy to participate in holiday traditions, but moms pulling all the stops to make them happen.  Is that true for you?  I suspect this has been the case historically, for women to create and uphold family traditions.  Which doesn't mean it shouldn't change, or be challenged.     But, it also feels somewhat comforting to imagine my mother, and grandmother, great grandmothers before them, all staying up late, sneaking in times to gift for family, to stitch special surprises for their children, to hide eggs after bedtime and hope the dog doesn't eat them before dawn. 

Our family is not Christian and does not celebrate Easter as a Christian holiday (though we talk about why others celebrate it).  For us it is a celebration of spring, rebirth, eggs hatching, bulbs pushing up through the dark earth, all that good stuff.  Dyed, hard-boiled eggs and candy too.  I'm ok with that.  
We started our morning with coffee (for the tall) and jelly beans (for the short), and a small egg hunt. Somehow the eggs seemed so much better hidden at 8:30pm by headlamp than they did at 7:00 am in bright sunlight.  It was a short event. 

Easter Sunday was sunny and 50's, and when sitting directly in the sun, on a protected south facing deck, it felt near 80 for an hour, which was just enough time to leave a bright red collar of sun burn at my neckline, but more importantly to pretend it was summer while I sat and visited with my sister and her family, and Mimi over an Easter lunch and wine.  The kids hunted 50 eggs or so with cousins, and ate too much candy.

The Friday before, we made an impromptu trip to Tractor Supply for inner tubes for tires we needed, and a few new chicks for our flock.  Our older ladies have not been earning their keep. They're lucky summer's coming and upkeep will be cheap for free range birds.  Come fall they'll be taking a trip (perhaps the freezer, perhaps your house? Anyone interested?) So, 6 new biddies, Elsa and Anna (of course), Lollypop, Snowflake, Shelby, and one more.  They are not breeds I love, but its hard to say no to chicks.  We may pick up a couple of Buff Orpingtons (my favorite along with Americanas) when they are available at the hardware store in town.  And, we'd love to adopt some 16-20 weekers if anyone has some.  

Monday both big kids had play dates for the afternoon, so Kale and I kept busy by collecting frog's eggs (we hope).  Every year we go out for frog's eggs, and more often than not, hatch salamanders.  Salamanders are pretty cool, but they're not tadpoles.  This year I think we may have got the real deal.  Too early to be sure.  If anyone knows a sure fire way to tell them apart I'd love to hear it. 

    Almost green grass (and trucks), my retaining wall project in the background

   Marley's new spring haircut,  before....
    and after.  She goes to Dogwood ReTreat to be groomed a couple times each year. We love it there!

                Kale got some spiffy new stripey pants made from a Goodwill tube top find.  Score.  

     Mac and Cheese, hamming it up for the camera...

    Early garden work

     Searching high and low for eggs

    Leaving Mimi's after a lovely Easter celebration

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Girls at 8

The Girls at 8

My daughter and her friend
in matching culottes,
shirts knotted above the midriff
trying on their femininity like gaudy lipstick,
too bold for the occasion (a walk home from the food coop).
Hips swaying for two blocks,
a nod at what's to come too soon.
But the early spring sun is warm.
By the third block they are bare-chested, tee shirts tossed in the bottom of the buggy
little girl chests flat and strong, yesterday's fuzzy braids
slapping bony shoulder blades,
bare feet cracked and muddy.
Raspberry popsicle stains their faces--
The lipstick of the eight-year-old.

                                                -Jasmine P. Fowler

Really Good

Last week we had a few days of indoor type weather, perfect for color mixing, garden planning (on paper), and fireside napping.  We've all been passing about a chest cold that's had me hacking like a pack-a-day smoker every evening, barely able to read bedtime books, and croaking through the first hour of each morning.  I'm about done with this cough.  Truly.  But, its hard to complain now that spring is honestly here, and if my only complaint is that I only have enough energy to sit in the sun and look at the garden, well--its just not worth complaining.  For now we're soaking up this well deserved spring sun every chance possible (except that one snow day--what the heck?). The pigs have been in their new electric wire pen for two weeks now, and are mucking it up the way pigs should.  There have been picnics on the deck, school work on the deck, knitting on the deck, yoga on the deck, coffee on the deck (do you sense a theme?) fairy houses everywhere, barefoot play, raking out of garden beds, sap boiling, and plenty of mud play.  The bulbs are pushing their way through the newly thawed earth, red maples have started to bloom, and the frog chorus is going full tilt.  Our magic marker list of "signs of spring" has grown to two columns, including colt's foot blooming, flickers spotted, the wood thrush calling, and mourning doves mating below the feeders.  Spinach and lettuce are coming up in the cold frame, and the garden is nearly dry enough to put in some peas.  
Its really good.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Kale called to me from across the deck, where I was enjoying the sun and a mug of tea.
"Mama, look!"
"What is it?"
"Come look!  Quick"
(me not wanting to get up) "Can you tell me what it is?"
(yelling) "Nature! Life!"
Well I had to get up for that.

    A little stink bug or something similar.  Outside, and alive.  Surely a sign of spring.

                      Also, kids in trees, another sign the seasons are shifting...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Homeschool Happenings

I have a habit of being overly enthusiastic about new routines.  We're only two weeks in with this one, so of course I'm loving it.  I can't help myself.  I love the idea of organization.  
This is not a new idea, just a new practice for us.  So far I'm finding it helpful, maybe you will too.  

But first a brief back story:  
I have recently been inspired by a homeschooling friend to re-explore some play-based and project based early childhood practices.  Specifically my friend was telling me about a curriculum developed in the 90's, called "Tools of the Mind".  It sounded very familiar to me, and the more I heard, the more I liked it. I made a note to look for a book.  Then, out of the blue, in the middle of the night (of course) this image came into my head, and suddenly I knew I not only had read the book she'd been referencing, but owned it.   
I resisted the urge to get up and search right then, but the next morning I found the book on our shelf, "Tools of the Mind: a Vygotsky approach to early childhood education."  It had been a text from my college years.  

I haven't read it for 15 years, but have read a few bits about the approach recently that reminded of some of the really cool things going on in these "tools" classrooms.  And so have been inspired to include a new practice in our daily routine.  (One of the coolest parts of this curriculum has to do with "planning to play" which is a different take on the plans we're making.  Their plans are set with the goal of helping young children learn to pretend play--which sadly is something many little kids seem to have forgotten how to do in recent history.  Since my kids spend more time in pretending than reality, we're planning the real stuff.  The pretend they've got covered.  If you work in a classroom this approach is worth looking into.)

The actual work we're doing each day hasn't changed, but I've added a "plan for the day" where each of us (Kale, Juniper,and I) make a plan for what and when we will do things each day. (Revolutionary!
Our planning sheet is a daily timeline from 9:00 am to 3:00pm slipped into a clear plastic sleeve.  We use dry erase to record our plans.  For the kids, I circle the things I want to work on with them, and they indicate when in the day then want to do them.  When there are things to do as a group I ask them to work together so the plans will correspond.  Then they add in any extra things they want to do, such as painting, playing with Playmobil guys, a special cooking project, sledding, etc.  

Of course there are some things that don't get done each day, and plenty gets done that wasn't planned. But, overall our planning has made a noticeable difference in the ease of transitions between work and play. Somehow when the plan is their own they are much more willing to move onto whatever is next. (A lesson I learn again and again from my kids--when its their idea it always works better!)
For myself  I have found that a timeline keeps me on track better than a "to do list",  and knowing when they'll be working on what lets me know when I'll have some free time to get my work done. 
Ideally we would review our plans at the end of the day, but that hasn't happened.  The next morning we wipe of the dry erase and start a new plan.  

As far as I can tell this has all the right pieces for a successful routine:  
1)  It takes less than 3 minutes to do 
2) the kids do almost all of it themselves
3) The sheets take up no visible space in our home. 
 Plus, it is is a good practice in  time management (especially for me) and for time sequence and decision making.  
As I said, we are only two weeks in, but so far so good.

                       When we're done we wipe it off, and close the cupboard.  

And, a brief look at what's keeping us busy these days:  


                      Spring Skiing 

   Independent reading!  Such a nice new practice happening with both big kids these days...

     Lots of coloring work by Kale.  
    When he's done he flops on the table and says, "uugh, my hand is ti-red!

    Money games, learning to subtract by counting up, making change...

    Picture Sudoku

   Lots of silliness

    Juniper has been setting up elaborate scenes with anything she can find...clay and tiny animals, Playmobil figures, molding wax, paper....She sets up a scene then plays for hours with different voices and accents for each of the characters.  

              Playmo curling match, by Juniper.  If you haven't ever seen a curling match, Google it.                         Her set up is crazy accurate (minus the red robot).  

                      Patterns using yummy manipulatives 

    Lots of history reading, coloring, and crafts 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seasonal Table

With each season we spruce up our seasonal table with more appropriate seasonal findings.  As each season ends the pieces from nature get tossed back outside (usually flung right out those windows), while hand made items or special treasures get stored in the drawers below to be used for the next season.  Someday maybe we'll organize the drawers, but for now its almost like a treasure hunt, digging through the drawers to find the favorites from previous years to be added to the new artwork and bits of outside brought in.

Over the years the table itself has changed and the corner has been rearranged to suit the space and the height of the kids.  Sometimes there are live critters, other times nature games, always things to hold, look at, and explore.  It used to be an artistic endeavor of my own, one that the kids have taken more ownership of.  Eventually I imagine they'll outgrow the current set up and it will take on a more grown-up nature wonders corner, or scientific/naturalists cupboard.
But I hope to always keep a place for seasonal wonders and natural beauty.

      Seasonal tables from years past....

This weekend our seasonal table got a much needed spring up date.  So at least it feels like spring inside.
On the table for spring (so far):
yellow tulip
felted hatching chick and duckling (from a few Easters back)
flower prints from a huge old Wildflowers book found scavenged from a give away box
forced cut branches: tamarack, pear, beech
old Christmas cactus blossoms
found birds nest w/acorns for eggs
magnifying glasses
The huge sheet of plexi-glass is leftover from a copier Wylie took apart.  It holds the pages open nicely, and I'm hoping will inspire some tracing of the flowers with window crayons.

It's a little cluttered, and is sure to become more so as frog's eggs are gathered, along with the spring's first bouquets, sprouting seedlings, colored eggs, and more.  But its the best kind of clutter, particularly when the outside world continues to feel so much like winter.