Sunday, 28 December 2014

Our word for the year: Growth

We've all heard of New Years Resolutions, but not as many people have heard choosing one word for your year.  I believe it is a relatively new thing, but basically after much thought and consideration you pick one word to be you focus for the year.

This year I chose the word growth/growing.  I had all sorts of amazing things I expected from the year.  God planed things a little differently than I would but, overall it has been a wonderful year.

Some areas of our growth this year:

Our Faith and trust in God is always being strengthen, tested and grows stronger all the time.  The boys love the Lord and are learning so much about him each day.  Both boys are in the AWANAS program at our church, learning memory verses and enjoying the program.

Our company doubled the amount of billable work from the previous year.
We ended the year with less employees, but had learned so much from running our own business.

The boys are blossoming this year with new friendships and activities.  We have regular play dates with a few families.  The boys also go the the YMCA several times a week.  We are blessed to have some daytime time Ykids activities for home schoolers at our YMCA.

Homeschooling is going very well and the boys have learned so much.  We are using an eclectic mix of curriculum and styles that is working well for our family.  The boys are very curious and come up with the most interesting projects and topics to study.

I made new friends (yeay that was my plan).  We are growing a community around us from various places, home schoolers, church, online and the garden plot.

Our vegetable garden grew very well and we added a space at home for even more growth!

I know that our family has grown closer, bonded more, and learned about each other more than ever this year.  The boys are playing together more, we communicate well, and love each other very much.

I won't lie.  I was hoping all year that our family would grow and expand this year.  Many know that last fall I had a miscarriage at around 10 weeks (the baby had stopped growing around 8 weeks).  We've tried for over a year to have another one.  This fall I decided I was done trying.  We sold lots of baby items and prepared to move on with our beautiful family.  I have two amazing wonderful boys that fill me with such joy.  But God knows best...

We couldn't wait to share the exciting news with our families and the boys this Christmas.  So as this current year ends I will be 10 weeks pregnant.

So what is my new word for next year....

I think it shall be JOY.  I am seeking joy in the every day moments in life.

Please do share.  I'd love to know what your word of the year is!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Our Week: December Catch-up

I just realized I missed writing about one of our weeks.  So here is a little catch-up on what we've been doing.

Some highlights that didn't get photos were walks with friends in the forrest.  We finished up this term's swimming classes (TJ will move up a level in January, while MJ still has a few more thing to complete at his current level).  We celebrated my sister's birthday and my boys made the cake.  Nanny came to watch the boys one day and had fun playing Monopoly Jr with TJ.  We went to a Homeschool Christmas party and had a fabulous time.  And we have been taking care of a friend who is off school this week.  The boys love having her over to play it has been such a blessing.

We started last week with painting more wooden animals.  The boys then played farm most of the week.  We did end up tidying up the farms a little to make the boys room look more manageable. Lots of fun animal adventures have gone on.

TJ also set up a pet daycare using some toys that came down from their cousin.  TJ took excellent care of our stuffies and the boys were very much amused by all the noisy toys for a few days.

I often get inspiration and ideas from other blogs I read.  I tried out a game with our base 10 blocks.  I made a number with the blocks, TJ then made it on the abacus and told me what it was.  We even added a few larger numbers together.  Meanwhile MJ made a corn field with the base 10 blocks and counted how much corn was knocked over by his tractor.  The base 10 blocks also came out again as TJ was experimenting with his bulldozer.  He tried pushing everything including the nativity set.

MJ made a fort that he turned into a store.  We had fun buying things from him.  That day we also sung lots of Christmas carols for fun. 

Both boys have been making interesting Lego creations.  We had one of the boy's friend's over in the morning and they all made Lego cars most of the time.  It was interesting to see how two 4 year olds negotiate and interact.  We are very thankful to have such great friends around us.

One day I suggested that I had an activity for the boys to do.  MJ jumped right in and said he needed to make his craft first.  The boys each made a carwash from a paper bag.  They pretended to wash all their cars.  TJ even announced the opening of his carwash to all the cars around the house pretending his recycled parts airplane was making the announcement over the radio.

We finally got to moving a new load of wood to the font door.  The day the wood was to be delivered TJ went outside to get some fire wood and ran back inside saying there was a furry lump in the wood pile.  I went to check and discovered a racoon camped out at the front door.  He was very stunned and stubborn.  After many attempts to scare it off he finally moved into our shed (not much better but at least away from the front door).  He's moved on since and we moved our wood.

TJ decided to make his own set of tree blocks all by himself.

We also made some birdseed ornaments.  We had to half the recipe because we didn't have too many seeds left.  TJ is amazing with division!  I think the pictures helped a lot.

At our church all the children participated in a family service on the weekend.  The boys were wonderful and remembered all the actions and words for their songs despite being sick and missing many Sunday's for rehearsals.  My mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law all came out to see the boys.  It was very well done.

Later in the afternoon MJ spent ages building a train track and road way from blocks.  We had our old employee over for dinner and the boys were blessed with some new games to play.

A few other random things... While my mom was watching the boys one day, TJ created what he calls a soka-moka kit.  It is a decorate your own socks kit that he made from paper for me!  He later made a pant decorating kit for daddy by tracing his pants onto a large sheet of paper.

TJ and I finished his gift of MJ.  He did most of the work on this needle felted fox.  I gave MJ some suggestions of things we could do for his brother.  He firmly told me he wanted to make a bulldozer lego kit.  So he gathered up some of our lego into a box and wrapped it up for Christmas.

I finally made a second attempt with a shaving cream activity for the kids  (the little girl we are watching wanted nothing to do with this).  I was trying to make dough using shaving cream and cornstarch.  I should have made it up myself then let the kids play with it.  As you can see the boys had fun making a mess, but we ended up throwing most of it out.  I think I'll avoid the use of shaving cream for now on, or only do it in the summer outside near a hose!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone!  We'll be back with some Christmas highlights soon....

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Our Week: Very Christmasy adventures

We were very much into the Christmas spirit this week.  On the weekend we went to the local garden centre with a friend to see the live animals and other family activities.  Santa was taking pictures with pets, but he took time to visit with MJ and big doggie (his stuffy friend).  The boys had their face painted, went on a scavenger hunt and bought poinsettias.

MJ came home to 'help' daddy with some building.  He got all his play tools and used them all while daddy was doing some house repairs.

I made multiple attempts to get some lovely Christmas photos of the boys.  I did bribe them a little to sit close to each other.

The boys had an amazing time at their cousin's super hero birthday party.  My niece chose the theme months ago.  My sister incorporated so many adorable details to make this party super amazing!  There were lots of games, masks to make, cupcakes and more!!

Early in the week the boys wanted to play style shop.  They did this often with our daycare girls last year.  MJ wanted to use the hair dryer.  Daddy got a make-over too! TJ brought out his nail polish and the boys had a great time.  Don't they look great.

We had a homeschool party early in the week too.  There were a large number of families, cupcakes to decorate, crafts, games and food.  A perfect party with lovely families.

Moving our advent calendar each day has lead to lots of counting.  The boys wanted to know hoe many days were left until Christmas.  So we brought out the base 10 blocks to help us figure that out.  While TJ was finding his answer, MJ made stairs with the cuisenaire rods.  He later brought the two together to make a tree.  

TJ came up with plans to make a guitar.  It's been fun watching him put on shows and sing to us.

We wanted to spread the Christmas joy to others so the boys went through all our Christmas decorations, and their toys.  We delivered items for free to several families downtown.  

This week we also made some nature inspired decorations.  MJ always does his own thing.  His tree needed to stand up and be added to his small world farm.  He also made a sun.

In our small worlds this week, MJ turned a handmade dish cloth into a hammock.  I brought out a safari themed Playmobil set.  MJ took most of it for his farm while TJ and I have been playing with Safari Sam (the only person allowed in their play at the moment).  Our little Playmobil man has been traveling around the house making movies.  TJ's animals were trying to get up into his Christmas tree.  the bean buckets came out for a bit.  Homemade microphones then turned into volcanoes and mushrooms.  This led to some interesting discussions and stories and research about volcanos and poisonous mushrooms.

We went on a wonderful winter walk with two other families into the forrest by our house.  It was a great opportunity for the boys to get some fresh air. play and explore with other kids.  Snowball fights, negotiations, exploring and lots of fun were had.  So much fun I forgot to take pictures.

I remembered that I had bought some oil pastels from the dollar store.  I set them out with paper and Christmas cards for inspiration.  TJ liked how well these pastels drew, much smoother than crayon and more solid than our chalk pastels.  I started to raw a picture and were all copied elements from each other's drawings as we went along.  This is TJ's house with a snowman and trees.  He's included a fireplace, kitchen counter and two Christmas trees with lights inside the house.  MJ drew a decorated tree inside a house and two trees outside.  One has fallen over (depending on which way you hold the paper). Mine is a house, snowman and forrest.

MJ has had a nagging cough so we missed church.  We were up all night with him and didn't want to get anyone sick.  To end our week we went to a nearby heritage village to see their Christmas displays.  We had a fabulous time.  Horse wagon ride, popcorn, crafts, print making, another visit with Santa and lots of opportunities to explore the old village houses.  The boys got to send a telegraph to the North Pole at the train station and received a personal message back!!  We even dropped in on a concert from a Children's musical group the boys loved when they were younger.

One final trip to close off our week was to outer space!!  My little guys were sitting around seemingly bored.  I suggested a few activities which weren't met with much enthusiasm.  Dressing up always sparks the imagination.  Our space explorers traveled to distant plants, met aliens, discovered some new mushrooms and a space car.

Another wonderful week together.  Learning loving and being together.  

Oh I forgot to mention a new program/game we discovered.  Teach Your Monster to Read is sort of like the Reading Eggs I've heard others talk about, but this is free so we gave it a try.  TJ completed the whole second level of the program in just two days.  He has now gotten as far as you can and is very proud.  He can't wait to go back and keep working on the games which teach sounds, spelling and reading.  MJ is doing well with the game too but finds manipulating the mouse or the tablet more difficult than the game itself.  He plays for shorter bursts and is on the first level of play learning letter sounds and blends along with a few simple words.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Our Week: December week 1

It's December already!!!  The holiday music is on, our house is decorated and we are loving this season.  Thank you for join us to see what we are doing to celebrate advent this year. 

On the weekend we set up our advent table.  You can read more about that here.
After we set up our table, MJ took most of the items off to use for his farm.  TJ got out his cardboard nativity scene he was given a few years ago... MJ became jealous that everyone had a nativity set except him.  So I suggested he make one.  Isn't his baby Jesus adorable!  All the people are toilet rolls and the sheep are egg cartons.

MJ's farm has been out all week and has seen much action.  First he had all our nature table decorations on it with rocks and cards.  He added some peg people to make a nativity along with many animals.  The top right photo is God and Jesus in the clouds that he added in.  I just love to hear his stories.  I think we need to bring that back to our rhythm.

Our advent activities this week went well. Day 1 was to set up our Christmas tree, Day 2 was to decorate glass ornaments, Day 3 was to make cardboard Christmas trees, Day 4 was to write a letter to Santa and Day 5 was to visit Santa and the Train display.

The boys filled glass ornaments with coloured sand, feathers, paint and glitter.  My plan for the trees was to use recycling or paint chips.  TJ had a larger tree in mind which we were able to accommodate.  Our playroom/homeschool room is the first room you walk into at our house.  We set it up this way because it is the most used room.  Now it is the only festive area in the house.  We have at least 4 Christmas trees in here and a few nativities!

I needed a quick distraction at some point during the week.  I remembered I had bought some things for provocations (invitations to play/learn).  A very simple geoboard made of a cork board, push pins and elastics has kept the boys enthralled for a few days.  I hope to demonstrate a few more ideas to show the to keep the idea going.

I noticed once MJ was playing with his Thomas alphabet cards.  He was putting them into his train bucket.  When I inquired he showed me that he had put all the cards with train tracks on them into the train bucket.  The rest remain in the original box.  Later he made a track to play with out of his alphabet cards (only the ones with tracks on them).

Only a few days into the month and our family Christmas tree has lost half of it's decorations.  We only have glass balls and a few special ornaments left.  MJ has been decorating his small tree with everything he could, including a few new ones that he made.

Oh TJ I love your creative imagination!!  He came to us all excited and invited MJ and I to a party he planed in his bedroom.  We followed the sign to the party, which was for his pillow!  TJ had a special toy area for the babies (our stuffed friends) that were being cared for by another toy.  His large frog was helping man the snack area.  TJ even made us each a pinata.  We played games, sang to his pillow and open gifts which he had wrapped up for the occasion.  It was an adorable fun time. 

This week the weather was nicer and we were all feeling better.  I was thankful for some lovely walks in the forrest.  I am looking forward to inviting some friends next week to join us.

At the end of the week we joined one of TJ's friends at the local garden/nature centre.  They have a great train display and crafts set up.  In the evening you could visit Santa's Cabin at the end of a nicely lit path. The boys wrote a quick note to Santa while they lined up.  This is our first year meeting Santa as the boys were not interested before.  TJ was more reserved but joined in when he saw how friendly Santa was with MJ.  Santa asked what they'd like this year and then asked if he would also bering a few surprises.

MJ's note:
Dear Santa,
I love you.  You're the best.

TJ's note: 
Dear Santa, 
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Next week as more fun planed.  Please share what you've been up to......

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Our Week: End of November

This week we all had a cold.  I really didn't think we had done much, mostly just rested and played when we felt up to it.  Apparently from the photos we did actually do a tone!!

Oh the weekend our wood arrived!!  We are using our fireplace to heat the house most of the winter.  The boys were a huge help with moving the wood to a spot near the front door.

MJ discovered a new game although he goes by his own rules.  We did play a lot of different board games throughout the week.

MJ gave his brother an interesting log from the wood pile.  TJ decided to use it as a Christmas tree.  He woke up one morning (dressed as a butterfly) and decided to make a star for his tree.

Just for fun one day I brought out a needle felting kit TJ was given.  Looking back I'd have done this one on one or when MJ boys was a bit older.  Two young boys with pokey needles can be stressful.  The little mice they made are adorable and have been used a lot.  MJ's is a motorcycle mouse with wheels...

The wind really picked up this week and it was warmer for a few days.  The boys and I went to play with a friend.  We all had our kits out and tried several kinds included plastic bag kits.  We always have so much fun with our friends.

The howling wind made rather ghostly sounds coming through the kitchen door.  The boys told ghost stories and decided to decorate for halloween.  They made several ghosts, a sign and TJ made an awesome scary costume.  We had a funny time surprising/scaring daddy when he come inside!!

MJ on his own went to get out the pattern blocks (I can hear them coming out again behind me as I type).  He made President Business and Lord Business from the Lego movie.  Later in the day he made me Metal Beard (the smaller one).

Our boys had their friend come over to play.  We did marbles, dress-up, lots of play time and a craft.  Busy little boys having so much fun!

Okay crazy me thought I'd have a craft ready on hand incase we needed to switch things up a little.  I didn't have everything I needed to make a 'less messy' craft.  So we mixed white glue and shaving cream.  It makes a wonderful puffy paint perfect for snowmen and such.  It is also irresistible to very tactile boys.  We may try this again outside in the summer.  Never-the-less the artwork looks great and the clean up wasn't so bad.

Seeing as we were mostly resting and playing this week in the back of my mind I was worrying about the boys and academics.  Of course children are naturally curious and love learning all on their own.  They reminded me of this right when I needed it most.  TJ found a scrabble type game and began making words, then he added up his score from the numbers on the tiles.  We noticed that some of the words were multiplication questions like 4 fours, or 3 twos...

After a while TJ moved on to some crafty things.  He lead me over to his creation and said he had a game for me.  "Which land is bigger, feather/button land or glitter land?"  This lead to some interesting discussions on area.  He was also asked up which area we liked better and why?

Some time this week while MJ was playing with the pattern blocks he called me over all excitedly.  He noticed that three blue (rhombus) made a hexagon.  Then he tried the same thing with the other shapes to see how many trapezoids and triangles it would take to make a hexagon.  It was interesting to see how he reacted to the squares, which don't make a hexagon at all.

One day I set out some playdough with loose parts and cookie cutters.  TJ brought out other playdough toys and made an octopus.  Then he and I made Christmas cookies.  MJ took some loose parts and made paint brushes from feathers.  He tested them, washed them and gave one to each of us.  

The boys made popcorn strings from left over popcorn to put outside.  MJ put his popcorn in a basket to hang from the tree.  Later in the day we saw a squirrel enjoying the treat.  So we made more popcorn and more baskets!

As always the small words and farm play are still going.  I love finding the funny things they add in.  The snowmen became rescue heros and we sent them on some adventures.  MJ added lots of sea-life to his pond.  TJ broke a hairbrush but turned it into a Roto-tiller for MJ's tractor.

MJ is always wanting to make potions.  He was rather insistent on making his latest creation by the fire place.

Near the end of the week my boys were starting to feel better.  The generously shared their germs with me.  I wasn't so great but we went for a walk near the house.  MJ has a bag of farm toys along with his 'snow blower' and TJ backed his favourite friends into his backpack.  We looked at the turtle area of the marsh and talked about what the animals were doing.  We climbed the cliff edge and enjoyed the view.

I can't get over how sweet and kind hearted my little boys can be.  After watching daddy fixing a clock for work, MJ had a handful of clock parts.  We put them into a bag so that we could go on a few errands.  This little guy became so excited to give a gift to every cashier we met that day.  I was so grateful for the kind responses everyone gave to my little guy as he handed them random clock parts from his bag.

TJ lost a front tooth this week!!!  I also made my first sweater ever (I have no idea why it took me so many years to just do it).  I noticed that the sleeves are a little short.  TJ said, "Mommy it's okay.  It is your first sweater ever and you did a great job.  I don't mind."  Oh how encouraging.  I do think I'll add some length to the sleeves for him when I get a chance.

So there is our week.  My cold has gotten worse but the boys are slowly getting better.  We'll see what next week brings us.  A new month and new adventures!!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Our Advent Plans for 2014

We are all getting very excited to set up our advent table on the weekend!  This is our advent table from 2012.  No idea where my photos are from last Christmas.  Each week we add a new element to our table (minerals, plants, animals, people) and tell some advent stories.  Our nativity family follows the star path towards the centre or stable depending on how we set it up.  On the back of each star is an activity for the day.

Here is our list of activities for this year:
Sunday: Advent week 1 story and set up advent table.
1. Set up Christmas tree
2. Decorate some glass ornaments
3. Make some cardboard Christmas trees
4. Write letter to Santa
5. Visit train display at local nature centre
6. Visit animals and activities at local garden store
7. Advent week 2, Cousin's birthday party
8. Homeschool Christmas part
9. Talk about Christmas star and do star craft
10. Do a kind act for someone
11. Nature Christmas crafts
12. Special movie night
13. Christmas baking
14. Advent Week 3, Christmas event at local heritage village
15. Sing Christmas carols
16. Make ginger cookies
17. Deliver cookies for friends and neighbours
18. Angel crafts or salt dough ornaments
19. Homeschool Christmas Party (another one)
20. Make gifts for family
21. Advent week 4, kids singing in church service
22. Shaving cream dough fun 
23. Bake birthday cake for Jesus
24. Visitors, Special family evening together (movie and a gift)

We also want to see the lights one or more nights, read lots of Christmas books, and make gifts for each other.  Those things I'll fit in where ever it works.

Here are a few of our favourite Christmas books:

I can't wait to hear about what you are doing for advent.  Please do share!!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Highlights from our Week - November Week 3

As always we are having a wonderful time being at home learning together.  This was a very cold week here so we went to the YMCA about five times.  The boys take swimming lessons and attend a Ykids gym time during a day time slot for home schoolers.  

Computer games and things aren't something we've used too often.  They come and go for a few days and then the boys move on to something new.  Daddy uses tablets for work and we loaded a few games on them for the boys.  They were so excited to try everything and are pretty good!  Daddy also joined them with an online story.

The day after we finished clearing the leaves off the yard it snowed.  Oh how excited those boys were to get outside.  They made snow angels and TJ made a whole nativity scene with a choir of angels. 

Later they scooped up snow to melt by the fire.  Their Playmobile toys also joined in the action.  MJ has been playing Christmas all week.

It snowed again.  This time we got a fabulous day with packing snow!  The boys were up and outside in their pj's first thing in the morning.  They made snowmen and giant huge snowballs.  It was so much fun and great exercise.  

Later in the day the boys were having difficulty sharing some Lego motors, so I brought out two pneumatic Lego parts for the boys to explore.  They were fascinated with the air moving the piston.  Lots of interesting creations were made.

I bought the boys some goggles to help them in the pool (strong chlorine).  They immediately wanted a bath to test them out.  MJ wore his goggles for several days, building, baking, to the gym and more.

The boys are doing so well in the pool.  MJ has become much more brave.  He enjoys jumping in, and swimming on his back.  TJ has been trying to swim under water and can even do summersaults!

We invited some friends over for dinner and the boys wanted to bake gingerbread cookies.  We had a great time baking and decorating together. 

I was so pleased when MJ went to the math shelves and picked out the pattern blocks.  When I bought them I had put them in the shelf intending to print out cards to put with them.  The boys weren't sure what they were so I showed them a few ideas on my laptop.  They both worked well together to make a train by looking at the picture.  Then they took turns making new things and taking photos of all their work.  I quietly made an abstract design on the table.  They boys were intrigued and made many wonderful designs over the next few days.

I had checked out a few art books from the library to see what they were like.  We went to visit my mom's house with my sister and all the boys.  The boys and I looked through the book together.  TJ felt inspired by one of Monet's water lilly paintings.  TJ quickly discovered that our watercolours wouldn't give the texture or colours he was looking for.  My mom generously shared her collection of paints with TJ (he was very excited).  Working with great focus and attention he created his version of the painting.  I was pleased to be his assistant colour mixer.

MJ and Nanny made potato prints and painted with water colours.  The boys cousin also joined us to use the water colours.  He and his mom enjoyed making funny pictures and trying all sorts of colours.

TJ's version of Monet's Water Lilly Pond painting

We've been running our fireplace all fall.  The boys have been incredibly helpful and are learning many skills and safety things through this experience.  We spent some time modelling with wax by the fire to warm it up.  The boys each made a fish to show our little pet Spotty.  

MJ also wrote his whole name.  He usually just puts an M on the page.  We were all very proud of him.

Having been inside most of the week.  We took the opportunity at the end of the week to go for a walk in the forrest.  The boys explored their favourite spots, followed animal tracks and played in the snow.  It was lovely.

MJ has been interested in the human body for several months now.  We spent a good potion of our week getting ready for a local homeschool Science Fair.  MJ wanted to share some of the pictures he had made.  We also traced his body and added in many organs.  It was great fun.  MJ continually check our books to make sure everything was in the right places.  He did very well explaining his project to those who came by his table.

TJ's science fair project was about discovering the best angle of a ramp to race toy cars down.  He raced three different toy cars down a ramp at various angles to see which one would travel the farthest.  Having been a science teacher in the past I did my best not to take over but to let TJ learn about this experiment himself.  He did most of the write up, including lots of typing.  TJ also explained his project very well to the many people who came over to his table.

It was wonderful to see all the projects that the other children had put together.  There was such a range of ages and topics.  We are very blessed to have many different opportunities in our area.

Looking forward to checking in again next week...