Friday, 31 August 2012

A week in pictures

My bedmate
Exploring the Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides in the world
The harbour seals bid us farewell from New Brunswick
The view from our front door at Milford House, Nova Scotia
Tender toes test the water
Made it to the dock!
Gone fishing

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Oh my, how it's grown

Despite my children going to be at the equivalent of midnight once the time zones were factored in, my son was up bright and early the morning after our return.  He didn't even change out of his pajamas before he went outside to check on the garden, as he promised me he would when we returned.

And my, the things he hauled in...tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, beans, corn, and plenty of onions.  We checked out the peppers we're patiently waiting to change colour.  We enjoyed the marigolds we planted and which finally bloomed.  We wondered what would await us at our community garden plot.  Oh, he couldn't wait for his siblings to get up!

And once they were all ready to face the day, to the community garden we went.  We weren't sure what would greet us, as there had been a pretty heavy wind storm while we were away.  Fortunately, all were thrilled with what they saw.  The pumpkin vines had given way, perhaps thanks to the wind, so we could see what lurked beneath.  It took our breath away.  Pumpkins the size of boulders (and weighing about as much to, judging on the effort to haul them to the van).  Even more cucumbers, despite that my father had picked some the night before!  A handful of tomatillos that were big enough and plentiful enough to make a small batch of our favorite salsa verde (from our rebar cookbook).  More tomatoes.  More corn.  Potatoes - they're babies, but they grew despite the late planting!  We decided to bring one melon home, too, just to see how it tastes.  Here are my two happy gardeners:

We did have a little damage from that wind storm - a couple of corn plants blown over, and our tomatillos were broadsided.  Thankfully, they leaned conveniently on the pea fence!  I tried to stand them upright again, and I may have damaged a few branches, but I think they'll still have a good yield.

Tonight, we grilled all that corn.  As we prepared it, my son murmured over and over again, "This corn is beautiful."  And it deserved mention again a couple of times at supper, too.

I so love that they love the fruits of their labour.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Today, our first day back after our vacation, was a hectic one.  There were phone calls to be returned, emails to be answered, bills to be paid, appointments to be kept, milk to be bought, piles of laundry to be done...

While I knew that we would be busy when we got back (I was thinking mainly about that garden of ours - and it surely didn't stop while we were gone), I hadn't quite expected it to feel as...well, this.  So I'm glad my husband and I took some time to reflect before we came home, as we lazed on the porch at Milford House.  What was awesome about our vacation?  What would we change next time?

We concluded that our vacation was just the right length...we thoroughly enjoyed the places we visited and there were no inklings of homesickness.  And we have testimonials from the children on that front, too.  Nicholas, curled up on a wicker chair and holding a pillow with a pintail duck on it, gazed at me happily as I finished reading a chapter of Anne of Windy Poplars before bed.  He grinned and said, "I love this place."  Followed by, "I can't wait to get home and see our garden."

We also concluded that our children seemed happiest on the "free time" days, the day we went to the beach in PEI and the day we rented a canoe and played on the beach or in the lake at Milford House.  The periods of peace were longer, the marvels they discovered on their own were more exciting, and I suspect the memories will be a little brighter.  It wasn't that they didn't enjoy the other places we ventured was just that they appeared to like those two days a little more.

With that in mind, and with the search for that elusive simplicity calling to me, I think that next year we'll stay closer to home.  We'll still go to a place where there are woods to wander in and lakes to splash in, but we won't go through three time zones to get there.  It won't feel so mission-critical that we make sure everything that will be needed is packed.  Our children won't need to struggle through jet lag, and us with keeping our patience.  We can perhaps spend less time travelling and more time just being in nature.

With that in mind, we would also be more...selective...about our meals.  We've felt on other trips that we've spent half our time hunting down healthy, soulful food.  This time, we really didn't put in the effort.  We spent much time in sit-down restaurants, silently trying to quiet that internal wondering of whether this restaurant food really was healthier than fast food.  Those meals did eat up time where we could have been doing other things, and it was pretty heavy on the pocketbook too.  Still, we knew we wouldn't be cooking up the local delights of lobster, mussels, and haddock in our hotel rooms, so we felt peace that we tried to get as much of the local flavour as possible during our stay.

While we historically vacation in August (because ball season runs from May to the end of July), I'd also like to consider vacationing earlier in the summer, before the garden explodes with produce that needs to be put up for the winter.  My parents looked after our gardens while we were gone, and besides watering it and picking things for themselves (which was all I was hoping for), they also put up 4 quarts of dills, 9 pints of sweet pickles, 3 quarts of refrigerator pickles and 4 pints of relish (their own recipe, which I'll have in my eager hands next year when the urge hits to make relish), plus whatever they kept for themselves.  How sweet they are!

In the end, it was a special trip, and we are grateful we could enjoy it together.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Catching up again

We are home now.  And it's good to be home.  The last leg of our trip was fabulous, where we stayed with the wonderful folks at Milford House in Nova Scotia.  We were immersed in the great outdoors, with few, if any, outside or technological distractions (think no Internet).  And this was good.

I did still keep up my writing, so as it is after 1:00 am Nova Scotia time (while only 10:00 pm Saskatchewan time), I'm going to simply copy and paste those writings here to catch you up.

Take care, and have a lovely week.

August 26, 2012…It’s so peaceful here

We’re on to the last leg of our trip.  We took the ferry from Saint John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia and wound our way to Milford South.  Chris found this wonderful area that rents cabins, at a place called Milford House.  Right now, I’m sitting on our porch, looking at the lights of the cabins dance on the lake.  In fact, our cabin has its very own dock, which all of my children promptly made there way to within seconds of getting here.  Nothing seemed better than dangling feet off that dock!

And the cabin itself is so cozy.  It is truly a summer-only cabin, but it felt like home from the minute we walked in.  It is the type of place we could spend weeks in.  From the porch that overlooks the lake, to the rustic furniture, floors and walls and brick fireplace, to the smells of the pines and firs, to the sounds of frogs croaking and fish splashing, it is pure heaven.  We’re seriously considering ditching the rest of our planned outings and just having free time out here, because free time is important too.  And there is much to be learned from canoeing and hiking and fishing, and having lazy afternoons with our feet in the lake while we work out the details of those stories we started conjuring up while in the Haunted Wood not too long ago.  Learning about listening to and following our hearts, because only our hearts know when we need time to ground ourselves, when we’ve been so far from the familiar for what is, relatively, a long time for my little ones.  Learning about a slower pace of life that is far away from airports or highways.  Learning about simple pleasures.  Learning to enjoy the silence of the modern world. 

I take a deep breath in as the wind brushes my face.  It feels good here.

August 27, 2012…Land ho!

We pretended to be explorers, English pioneers to be exact, this morning and afternoon.  We traveled by canoe and entered unknown (to us) waters.  We pretended we were coming ashore at a Miq’maq camp, where we exchanged warm greetings and joined together to fish for our supper.  In actuality, we canoed to a beach and played in the water.  With the confidence that comes with wearing a life jacket, Jaelyn was able to swim to the dock not far from the beach.  Nicholas gathered enough courage to tumble off the dock and be towed to shore by his father.  We snacked and then set sail for our cabin.  We stopped at an island in the lake to explore.  Despite the island being smaller than our cabin, there were some finds.  There were little tiny frogs, a tadpole, minnows, rocks, seaweed…  Who knew you could find so much in such a small space.

Now, there’s nothing but the rest of the afternoon ahead of us…Astrin is laying down for her nap for the first time in ages and Nicholas and Jaelyn are still in their life jackets…Nicholas digging for bait and Jaelyn wading in the water swinging a stick around wildly.  From the porch, Chris is fiddling with the camera and taking a few shots, and I’m reclining and writing.  The air still smells lovely, the leaves are rustling in the wind but it is, curiously, not brushing our skin.  We have absolutely nothing planned for the rest of the day, except supper.  So, maybe I’ll convince Chris that we could rent a fishing rod, perhaps we’ll play a game, perhaps it will be silent enough for me to come up with some ideas for a few children’s stories I’d like to write.

You see, while on this trip, we’ve been more acutely aware of our conversations about what we refer to as our moral compasses and the voices we use when we talk to others.  I’m drawn to the Waldorf perspective and using stories as a mirror – to emotionally involve the child in the behaviour of others so they can think of the choices they make in their own behaviour.  I’ll be using Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour as a guide as I write these stories.  And to tell the truth, I may even use a board game we have, Create-a-Story, to help me build the bones of the stories.  And even though these resources are at home and I am here, I think I can still come up with a few ideas while I’m surrounded by such beauty and have some rare and blessed free time. 

Of course, I likely won’t use my children’s names in the stories, and I likely won’t even use people – my stories will likely star animals as the main characters.  In fact, I’m sure I’ll be using their favorite animals as the protagonists.  And since I won’t have a large store of my own stories soon, we’ll pick up some books of fables and spend time each morning, before we set out into the world, reading through them.  Ideally, I would have a theme for each week.  Realistically, I know it will take me lots of time doing research to go that route, and that just starting bring us benefits.  And perhaps my foray into writing stories for my children will further inspire them to start writing stories of their own.

I promise to share once those stories are ready to go (and I’ve gathered up all my courage, too!)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Open to fun

Well, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy today much.  I spent a lot of mental effort last night trying to talk myself up for today.  And the main event I was less than enthusiastic about?  Going to the waterslides at Magic Mountain in Moncton, New Brunswick. 

Sounds like it should be fun, right?  But my inner adult was doing everything in its power to dissuade me that it could be fun.  After all, Magic Mountain was conjured up as an amusement park in this area, likely due to the popularity of a natural attraction - Magnetic Hill.  It seems like it should be a cheesy place where corporations are hosing poor tourists, similar to a Simpsons episode I swear I saw many years ago.  And do you remember how I love finding the soulful places off the beaten path (I wrote about that earlier in our trip)?  I don't think I would include this place on this list.

But we had some surprising discoveries before the trip to Magic Mountain.  We found the local farmer's market, and smiled and felt whole as we met the farmers who grow food for the people in this area.  We picked up some local wild blueberries, apples, baby tomatoes, green beans and carrots.  How I've missed raw veggies!  It was a little peace of heaven for me at that farmer's market.

Then, we swung over to the city's Artisan Village.  We weren't sure what to expect.  It turns out that about 20 artists and artisans share a warehouse in downtown Moncton.  It functions as a shop, gallery, and studio for the artists.  They also host workshops and on this day, they had an art teacher on hand who would do children's crafts.  It was quite the creative space we stumbled upon.

One of the artisans, who makes pottery, took my children under her wing and showed them her studio space.  She gave them some good pearls of advice...that there is no such thing as a mistake, but there are happy accidents...that "tools" can come from the most unexpected objects...that while looking at pottery is fine, it is meant to be touched and picked up too, so texture is important.  I think my children received more of an education in the art of pottery in one hour with this extraordinary woman than in a week of pottery classes!

Lastly, we headed over to Magic Mountain and spent the rest of the afternoon there.  It is an impressive park.  I don't know how many waterslides they have - Astrin wasn't too enthusiastic - but they do have a kids pool with 4 slides, a wave pool, a splash pad, a hot tub, what looks like thousands of beach chairs for lounging in, concessions, etc.  So, while my husband took Nicholas and Jaelyn to stand in line at the waterslides, Astrin and I people-watched.  When we got adventurous, we found a puddle to splash and kick in.  We dug deep to find even more courage and headed for the kids pool, where we tickled the water and tossed it in the air.  We sat near the edge of the wave pool and let the waves splash us.  We went for a lazy river ride on a tube.  We cuddled.  We smiled.  We had fun after all.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A week in pictures

Running on fumes at the Toronto airport
A 78th Highlander at the Citadel in Halifax
My cute farm girl running the farmer obstacle course at the Halifax Farmer's Market
Meet "Anne"
Sea creatures discovered
First dip in the sea...and she liked it!
Leaving our mark at the bottle houses

One of my loves strolling Lover's Lane

Enjoy your weekend!

Beautiful writing

Today, the last day of our time in PEI, was spent at Green Gables.  While the name itself screams all things Anne, the site in reality pays homage to the author of those fabulous books – L.M. Montgomery.  For, as you may know, the tales of Anne, Green Gables, and Avonlea, are all fictional.  Despite that, L.M. Montgomery drew many of the landscapes from close to home.  Green Gables itself is based on the home her aunt, uncle and cousins lived in while she lived with her grandparents.  It was from this site that she conjured up Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Woods.  And today, we walked the same paths that she immortalized.

Like any walking trail in a national park, there were signs along the paths intended to provide more insight to those who seek it.  The difference here though, is that most of the information shared is taken from L.M. Montgomery’s writings – from letters, journals, and books – rather than from a field guide.  As I read the passages out loud to the children, I sighed at the incredible beauty in how she wrote.  How trees, or a brook, or a breeze, could become the fancy of fairies.  How simple things could transform into whimsical things in a magical land.  It was indeed inspiring.

The park had an activity book the children could use to get more meaning out of their visit.  And it was through these activities that I saw my children see the world in a different way.  As we walked through the Haunted Wood, my children stilled themselves so they could hear the creaks and groans of the spruce trees as they swayed in the breeze.  We talked about imagining walking the path in the dark…what if we were walking along the edge of the path and our leg brushed against a branch – what would we think it was?  What sounds would we hear if it was evening – would it be different than the sounds we were hearing during the day?  How would we feel if we looked up and the moon and stars were blotted out by the forest above?  After we finished our lunches, my children put together the bones for a ghost story, inspired by our walk in the Haunted Wood.  Later, on our stroll down Lover’s Lane, they found a quiet place to close their eyes and experience the world through their other senses…what they could hear, what they could smell, and what they could feel.  They heard the brook gurgling and the rustle of leaves.  They could feel the coolness on their skin.  They could describe this to me. 

It was as we sat by the brook and looked for trout that I thought to myself what a blessing it was for L.M. Montgomery to live in a rural setting.  How could one describe a brook as babbling or the sigh of the wind in the trees if those subtle sounds were drowned out by sirens and traffic?  How could one revel and appreciate and sing the praises of the beauty of the natural world if they were surrounded by unnatural things?  How can a mind find the space to quiet itself so the realm of imagination can be entered into if it is always under pressure to be “on call”?  Naturally, after I asked these questions, I wondered about how to provide similar opportunities for my children.  I think we are already on the path, and I wonder if there is more I can do.  Like even more time outdoors.  Like taking a moment out of every field trip to close our eyes and take in the view with our other senses.  Like more chats where we use our imaginations to conjure up a story in our surroundings.  Like continuing to read beautiful writing, so that it seeps into our conscience and our bones and becomes second nature when we ourselves put pen (or pencil) to paper.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

When one is on the mend

We were afraid from the very beginning of our trip…even before we left, actually…that someone would get sick.  And someone did in the wee hours of the morning.  We’re not sure what exactly caused my littlest one to be running a fever and have a tummy ache, but we do think that some of it is due to the time change and less than ideal sleeping conditions, causing her to be run down.  So, we wondered what our day would be like, and I dreaded being cooped up in a hotel room with three little ones – one miserable because her body aches and the other two miserable because of the cramped quarters.

I was surprised that her fever seemed to be gone when she woke up this morning.  So, we started to venture out.  Today’s outings were intended to be focused on the Acadian history and culture on the Island, which we started to take a look into when we read Banished from Our Home.  I had decided to ensure we had some longer car rides if we did head out, although this is relatively speaking – it is a small island!  On top of that, we were getting a later start.  So, instead of heading to Rustico to check out an old Acadian homestead, we headed for the Acadian Museum in eastern PEI.  Our tour started off with a video of the history of the Acadian peoples on the Island and where the culture is at today.  Then, we moved into the exhibit hall.  Nicholas was quite into reading through all the exhibits (provided I did the reading).  Jaelyn had immersed herself to her own satisfaction through the video and wanted no part of reading the exhibits, so it proved a tricky balancing act!  The last hall featured art by Acadian Islanders.  The car ride was relatively long, the tour was relatively short, and Astrin was content to be strapped to my front.  Given the way it could have gone, I still rate the stop a success.

We ventured further into the “Evangeline” area and found the Bottle Houses.  It is a collection of three houses and gardens, built by a local Acadian out of recycled bottles and cement,  They were constructed in the 1980’s, and underwent repairs in the late 1990’s due to the impacts of the spring thaw on the materials.  We didn’t get into the science of this though – the children simply didn’t have the interest.  We did talk about the symmetry of the designs instead, as this was easier for all of us to discuss.  We also learned about how Acadians would plant their vegetable and herb gardens, and tried our hand at guessing what all the plants were.  Mostly though, we just enjoyed the beauty and ingenuity of the creations.  It makes me want to create something with bottles and cement in my backyard! 

Our evening was very low key – unfortunately, Astrin’s fever returned.  The children wrote letters while their sister had a bath and napped on my lap (all the extra cuddles are about the only good thing that comes out of a little one being sick, yes?).  I asked the older children what they needed so they could quietly fall into a peaceful slumber.  Later, they snuggled into bed and I started reading Anne of Windy Poplars to them.  I counted backwards from 5, turned out the lights, and it’s been fairly quiet ever since.  No one really even moved as I fired up the computer to write this post.

Here’s hoping that peaceful slumber lasts all night long.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Catching up

We've been on the go for the past 3 days.  We've moved on to Charlottetown, PEI, and will be spending another two days on this glorious island.  We've done lots and there much left we'd like to do while we're here.  Here are the highlights so far:

  ~ Yesterday was all things "Anne" we could fit in.  "Anne" is the infamous character in the Anne of Green Gables series written by L.M. Montgomery, an Islander herself.  We visited the town of Avonlea and kater went to see Anne of Green Gables:  The Musical.

  ~ This morning, we toured Province House here in Charlottetown.  Charlottetown is known as the Birthplace of Confederation.  We learned a bit about our country's history, before it became a country.

  ~ This afternoon, we all headed to the beach.  There wasn't much swimming done by my children, but oh so much to immerse themselves in!  There were tides to be learned about and seen first-hand (we got there at high tide).  There were hermit crabs to discover, capture, and investigate, before releasing them again.  There were rock crabs to chase.  There were shells to find.  There was rich red sand to dig in. 

The challenges so far have been getting three children to fall asleep quietly, while all staying in one room.  If anyone has suggestions, let me know!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The tale of a town

Right now, after laying children down for sleep, I'm pondering how travel for me has changed as I and my family have grown.  How once I was attracted to the bright lights and box stores of a city.  Now, I search out places for hints of the city's vibe...where it's been, what it is now, what it dreams for the future.  I look for the quiet places off the beaten trail.  The places the locals know well, but aren't always on the glossy pages of the visitor guides at the info centre.

We made it to lovely Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday, after a very early wake up call and long day of flights and airports.  After we were finally  back on land and comfortably settled into our hotel, we walked along the wharf on our way to supper and enjoyed an equally leisurely walk back to the hotel.  We sniffed the salt air that felt foreign to most of us (Nicholas was positive the beach close to our town smells the same way).  We enjoyed the lively atmosphere as fiddlers played traditional Celtic music for restaurant- and bar-goers.  Each open-air place we strolled past was packed with people who looked younger than us.  It looked like a fun place to be. 

We are staying in a historic area of the city, where many buildings are designated heritage properties and have been around for more than 200 years, despite some violent events.  Some of which are being so severely remodeled  that only the street-facing walls remains.  Some of which are empty, waiting for new tenants to breathe fresh life into them.  Some of which were likely welcoming on weekdays for the business crowd, but closed on weekends due to lack of traffic.  And still others which have seemed to embrace social responsibility and have covered their roofs with solar panels.

A few blocks from our hotel lies the Citadel, deemed an impenetratable fort that was built by the British in the 1800's.  Our children, my son particularly, enjoys history and tales of war, so this was a must-see on our trip.  And it lives up to its billing - it is a massive, imposing structure.  The staff, who work in period costume and carry out many of the drills troops used to do, are all extremely knowledgeable about the history of the fort, the city, the country, and its European roots.  There were special events planned for this Saturday to commemorate the War of 1812.  Despite all this, there seemed to be few visitors, at least compared to what we have experienced in the past.  We wondered why this was.

So, I've been struggling to put together what I'm seeing and what the vibe is for this first city on our vacation.  I see strong ties to its sea-faring background, its deep love for its traditional music and arts, and a culture that encourages creative expression.  A culture that has seemingly always found ways to come together, maybe out of necessity due to its economy being so closely linked to disastrous events (like the multitude of wars that have occurred over the last 200 years).  Sad times during the "good" times when money was aplenty.  Happy times during the "bad" times when there was peace but little prosperity. 

I suppose it is rather impossible to truly figure out what a city is all about in one day.  I guess the beauty of such wonderings is that it whets the appetite to find out more.  It becomes one of those places you know you'll head back to one day.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A week in pictures

Cherry art
"The cherry pits are houses for a cove.  There is one cherry pit that stands out because that's the one where the person who looks after the park lives.  The cherry stems are the park.  There are lots of trees in the park.  That's why some don't lay down and stick up.  I made a cove because we used to live in a cove.  I miss the Cove."  ~ Nicholas
When you're happy and you know it...
Folk Festival
Our Atlantic Giant and Cinderella pumpkins...Nicholas insisted we pick two before we left, so they wouldn't get stolen

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Club Day. The Nature Version. Volume 1, Issue 4

Today was the last Nature Club for the summer.  We had a beautiful time together as we walked and searched for items for a scavenger hunt. 

This was an easy activity to put together, as we had created scavenger hunt cards for our nephews just a few months ago.  These cards had pictures and the names of the items to be found so the pre-reading crowd could easily know what was on the list, and perhaps later associate some letter sounds with the item.  For today though, I simply took the pictures from the cards and shrunk them into a table in a Word document.  Easy-peasy, as one of our Clubbers would say.

It was a pretty short list, and we found a lot of the things within the first block or so of our walk.  It was marvelous to see the little ones observing the world around them and noticing nature that wasn't on the list...centipedes, spiderwebs, ducks.  And there were some things we didn't expect to see (that were caught by a father and son by the side of the creek) and artists drawing in the park. 

There were a couple of things on the list that we didn't see.  And that was great too.  It gave us a chance to think about the items.  Where would we need to go to find a red-winged blackbird?  Why didn't we see a mushroom?  Chatting about those questions gave us a chance to pause and think about habitats, the cycle of the seasons, and such. 

And, to make the adventure even more awesome, we stopped at a playground.  Only the Nature Clubbers thought it was more fun to climb the magnificent willows than the monkey bars.  So much fun.  So many smiles.  Time to run free.  Time to be silly.  Time to get up-close and personal with all that lives around us.  What a great day.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A walk back in time

A few seemingly innocent events happened recently that sent me on a reverie back in time.  The first was a mad search for something in the pantry when I noticed, by chance, a meat grinder hiding the corner.  The second was a plethora of cucumbers in our community garden.  So I decided to make relish.

I have a very vivid memory of my father making relish in the basement.  I remember the meat grinder he used to chop up the vegetables to just-the-right size for relish.  I remember the big green pan that all those ground-up veggies fell into as he turned the handle.  I remember passing him cucumber after cucumber and, eventually, pushing a few of them about half-way down before he took over.  And lastly, I remember lots of homemade relish all year long!

All this slowly floated through my mind as I got up early one morning this week.  I pulled down the meat grinder from it's little hidey-hole.  I found the perfect place to set it up and eventually, a bowl that would fit under it.  I haven't actually used a meat grinder since that time in the basement, so it took a bit of time to figure out how to use it - now that I'm the responsible adult in charge.  And then, I started to turn the handle and crank out what would eventually be our relish.  I marveled at how well-made that meat grinder was.  I smiled as I worked, thinking about that night with my Dad in the basement.  It was like history repeating itself.

I wonder if my children will go through their teens and twenties thinking I am insane for doing all that work when it was simply a matter of making a stop in one of the aisles at the grocery store to pick up a jar.  I also wonder if my kids will find themselves having the same experience I was that morning when they are in their thirties.  I'm betting it will be a little of both.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Club Day. The Birds of Prey version. Volume 1, Issue 4

Today was the last meeting for the summer.  We did a low-key craft as my mind, admittedly, is elsewhere as I mentally add and cross things off the list for our vacation.  We made paper airplanes.

We used several books as our guide:  Paper Airplanes and Other Super Flyers and Origami Paper Airplanes.  Everything we needed (paper, scissors, pencils) was readily on hand and was a cinch to gather.  Had I been more organized/had time, I would have made the designs in advance.  But, that didn't happen and we worked our way through it together.  The children then made the planes their own, by making adjustments to the wings or the tails to get different movement out of the planes and, in some cases,
decorating them.

After doing a few test runs inside during various stages of construction, we then took them to see how the wind changed how they flew.  Although there was little discussion of why the plane moved the way it did, there were experiments happening through trial and error!

We're happy that the Club seemed successful, using the children's enthusiasm as the sole measuring stick.  So, we'll take a pause and start again in September.  We'll be glad to see our Birds of Prey Clubbers again on September 11!


Monday, 13 August 2012

A literary twist

Oh my goodness, we just had a bit of fun here.  And I don't know how it even came about.  I guess it was one of those six-year-old things where something seemed like a good idea and it was impulsively acted upon.  We just finished rolling all over the floor mashing the alphabet with yoga.

This is likely the type of thing that veteran homeschoolers do all the time.  I read about something like this in The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas by Linda Dobson.  I think the activity was prefaced that it would be the ideal activity for "kinesthetic" learners.  I haven't really spent a lot of time considering what type of learners my children are, but I do know they like fun!

What was most amazing, besides the body contortions, was how my daughter had to think how the letter looks to her audience before making it.  At least, I hope she was considering it, and not just doing all the letters backwards!  And, I just noticed now, as I looked closely at the pictures, that she was working hard to differentiate between upper and lower case too!

Here she is spelling her name:



Sunday, 12 August 2012

A comforting review

Yesterday, one of my son's friend's called to see if he wanted to play.  He politely declined.  I was curious why, so I asked him.  His answer?  "I just want some family time."  So, last evening and today, we had family time at our local Folk Festival.

We started together, we finished together.  We drifted apart to do the things each of us loves to do best.  Inevitably, we always drifted back together again.  It was just the way it was meant to be.

I'm comforted knowing that our children feel in their hearts and souls that our home...our a safe place.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Write often...

We tend to go on one big adventure every year.  This year, we're preparing to go on a trip to the other side of the country.  And, while we've started to prepare our children for the culture and history they will experience while they are there, we also think this will be an opportunity for them to write letters home.

Their grandparents have always sent them postcards as they've traveled the planet.  Granted, our loved ones usually arrive home before the postcards do, but the children are so excited to know that soon, there will be a treasured piece of mail just for them. 

On our trip last year, we tried to return the favour, and also share the tradition with the children's friends.  We picked up postcards, wrote our messages...and then were stumped with where to send them.  Whether it was that we didn't know a postal code or a last name to look up, it turned out to be a more time-consuming task than we anticipated.  In most of the cases, we wound up hand-delivering our mail.  It didn't deliver the instant gratification of whipping up a quick love note and dropping it in the mail, with knowledge that a loved one would soon receive a sweet surprise and old-fashioned X's and O's.  We knew our intentions were good, and we learned how to make it even better for the next time.

This year, we're ready to write!  My first task was to purchase an address book for each of my two older children.  They are responsible for writing in the names and addresses of those they may decide to mail messages to.  Finding an address book that was pocket-sized, yet had enough space for a beginning writer to fit all those letters and numbers in was a little daunting at first.  Fortunately, there is a little more selection in stores with their back-to-school sales and we found something suitable at Walmart.  I did consider making my own, and just stumbled upon the store-bought ones before I got to making them.

Second, I made a wrap to carry of the letter-writing supplies we would need.  I used the free Gratitude Wrap tutorial from Amanda Blake Soule's website.  It measures almost 7" x 9", and it has three pockets on the inside.  Perhaps by some good luck, but more likely because of Amanda's amazingly functional design, these pockets exactly fit the envelopes we had on hand, the address book, letter-writing paper, a pencil or pen, and stamps.

Now, just to get everything else ready for our trip!

Friday, 10 August 2012

A week in pictures

Local food! (mostly)

Canning cherries

Mama's helper



Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Stoking the fire

My son has always had fantastic stories to share.  As proud parents, we love to tell others about the time he was 18 months old and dragged out his Lego box, only to flip it over and stand on top of it and babble out a story.  His first soap box!  Later, at the age of 5, he walked to the front of a room of about 150 people and told a story about how the frost killed our garden.  I've said to him more than once that he has great stories to share.

His love of writing is...less enthusiastic. Maybe because it takes so much longer to write out a story than to simply tell it.  Maybe because there was an expectation in school to learn cursive writing, and for him, that simply takes even longer (right now).  Maybe because of his past experiences with hating it when someone corrected his spelling.  He never was the type, when he was in school, to ask how to spell words.  He would do them as phonetically correct as possible and be done with it. 

Lately, I've found him asking more often how to spell words.  When he asks, my usual response is, "How does it sound like it should be spelled?", with a nice tone of voice, of course!  He'll spell it out as best he can, and if he's correct, I offer praise.  If it's a little off, I simply tell him he's pretty close, and then offer the correct spelling.  If I can think of a story or easy way to remember a spelling rule, then I'll throw that in for good measure too.

And, also lately, I've seen that he can do a remarkable job spelling longer words.  I suspect it is because he sees these more complex words in the books he's been devouring.  Hooray for Guardians of Ga'Hoole!

And what, exactly, has he been writing?  Well, a few weeks ago it was a letter to Santa!  Tonight, he started writing out a routine schedule for himself on the computer.  Tomorrow, we may start getting our address books ready so we can send postcards and letters while we're on vacation.  And I foresee many more opportunities in the weeks ahead, if he is willing.  But we'll get there when we get there.  In the meantime, I hope his forays into the written world feel safe and enjoyable and will gently move him towards exploring a whole other world of self-expression.    

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A midnight visitor

A late-night visitor dropped by our house last night.  Fortunately, we had some advance notice of his coming.  He was here to visit my daughter, Jaelyn.  You see, she lost her first tooth yesterday, and she decided with finality that the Tooth Fairy would not be stopping by our house.  Oh, no.  Only "The Mouse" would be stopping here to do an exchange for that tooth.

Just before my son lost his first tooth, we purchased a book, Throw Your Tooth on the Roof, from Ten Thousand Villages.  It describes what various cultures all over the world do when a child loses a tooth.  For some, there is the Tooth Fairy.  For others, a mouse or rat visits and will exchange the tooth for money or a gift.  One of the more elaborate ones is that the tooth is thrown on the roof and if the child is up before sunrise, there will be a new chicken in the coop that will make a lovely soup for supper!  This last one is what my son thinks will happen when his next tooth falls out.  Hmmm.

The Mouse almost has the same status as Santa Claus in our house.  A note is written to The Mouse.  The tooth is carefully laid in a slipper and set outside the door, because as much as they would like the gift The Mouse brings, they don't actually want a mouse in their room!  The Mouse writes back, leaves the gift and takes the tooth.  In the morning, children get up earlier than usual, and they are full of shrieks of joy.

The Mouse generously left a book for my little one's inaugural visit.  It is called My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  She loves the pictures, but we haven't had time to crack it open yet.  We're hoping tomorrow brings time, cuddles, and laughter as we read through the book.