Monday, 23 February 2015

Our week: lots of play and fun in the snow

I have noticed that as I look back over our week that these few photos can not capture all that makes up our lives.  We do several activities outside of the home (swimming, YMCA, visiting family, play dates, church group) which never get photographs.  We are busy living and connecting other others.  I don't go around with my camera in hand waiting for blog worthy photos all day.  I do love to write about what we do for ourselves and those who would like a glimpse into our every day life.

The further along we are getting this year the more I love it.  I am having the most wonderful time with these boys.  Our week started with taking care of one of the boys' friends for the day.  The children on their own chose to play Playmobil for more than 5 hours!!!  We also baked, crafted and played outside.

One day MJ decided he wanted to paint.  He made paintings for the whole family.  I love how his people are taking shape.  MJ's green picture is of our house with the family next to it.  I painted a farm picture using MJ's left overs and TJ was inspired to paint too.  He made a repeating pattern of ovals and circles for the bushes.  We got talking about where his cars might be going, then TJ decided to add the storm for the vehicles to drive away from.

TJ had a notion to play fishing in order to cheer up MJ mid-week.  We quickly discovered that they will need bigger lifejackets this summer.  Daddy took time to add a reel to TJ's rod.  Oh boy did they have fun.  My boys practiced fishing both inside and outside all week.  Of course they use lures without hooks, but still managed to tangle and catch lots of things in the house.

After re-organizing the playroom the boys have been discovering items that hadn't had much use.  MJ played with the weigh scale for quite a while.  He tried to figure out how much all sorts of different objects weighed.  Together we ordered them by how heavy they were.  He was so excited to help me count the weights for each truck or toy.

On the weekend we drove up to Meaford to visit Grandparents.  Along the way we stopped for dinner and the boys made some funny faces.  We also stopped on the side of the road to get a pillow for TJ but didn't realize that the snow plough had filled in the ditch.  We drove right off the road and landed sideways in the ditch late at night.  Everyone was just fine and several nice people stopped to offer help.  While waiting for a tow truck another driver came along to pull us out so we could continue on.

We had a great relaxing visit with Grandma and Grandpa.  The boys got to play outside a lot and help shovel snow.  They even made a fun snow slide.  Daddy was changing some smoke detectors and the boys enjoyed the new "shower caps" that they were wrapped in.

Inside we played with the toys we brought and grandma showed us a domino game.  Afterwards the boys set up some cool domino runs.  Our ride home went well and the boys enjoyed some extra outdoor time.  We got the fire going again to warm up the house and used up our last few pieces of wood.  Thankfully another load of wood arrives next week!!

I'd love to hear from you.  Let me know what you've been up to this week.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Less is more

I get very overwhelmed with visual clutter.

I really don't like tripping and stepping on tiny little toys (especially at night while I'm tending the fire place).

How did all of this creep in?  Didn't we just go through everything a few months ago?  Did I really need/have all this out when we ran the home daycare?

Recently on my newsfeed I saw an article about the benefits of less toys.  I took some time to observe the boys' play.  I noticed that they seemed to play with the same few toys over and over, neglecting much of what was in the shelves.  Other times they would dump a lot of bins on the ground and grab one toy to actually play with.  We have a lot of wonderful play things but with too many choices it can get overwhelming and looks cluttered.

Our house has no basement and very limited storage (one closet in the house and some space above the hall ceiling).  We also have the playroom/main living space as the first thing you walk into from the front door.  We used to have the playroom down the hall but no one used it so we rearranged to suit our lifestyle.

I love a good purge and clean up.  We desperately needed to tidy up after the boys' had their friend over at the end of last week.  So I started with my own things and moved on from there.  I asked the boys to help me with their bedroom and consulted about toys with them.

In one weekend we removed two bags of trash and 5 boxes for donations.   The donations went to family, a free recycling FB group page and the local Goodwill store. We also put half of the toys that were left into storage.  I found the shelf in the bedroom cupboard was a great place to store things they may want, sort of like a toy library.  We will decide later if we want to keep those items too. Baby items went above the hall for later.

Next week I'll see if the boys want to put some things from their room in storage under their bed so they can enjoy what is on their shelves.

We still have lots out but everyone's journey is different.  We are at a different stage that other families. We  homeschool so we are at home using the toys all day long.  Things have gone so well we are slowly removing more each day.

And the results???

Fabulous!  The boys totally were on board with putting un-used toys into storage.  Immediately they began to play with things they hadn't noticed in months because they could see it.  They had a friend over and played for more than 5 hours with the Playmobil.

For me I'd like to de-clutter more.  It is so much easier to clean and tidy.  I feel less stressed already just walking into the rooms.  I think I'll take it slow so as not to overwhelm everyone.

Here are some more links to get you going if you'd like to free your space.

Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids
Nourishing Minimalism
Simplicity Parenting

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Our Week: Mid February

This week, as always, was lots of fun and very busy.  Here are a few highlights from the week....

Our week started with a visit from Grandma and Grandpa.  While they were here the boys kept us all very busy.  At one point the boys were trying to skip count by twos but couldn't get very far.  I handed TJ a hundreds chart so he could keep going.  He then tried counting by 5s too.  Then he went off to make a board game with his chart. TJ's game was like snakes and ladders (but with only slides to get to a higher number).  He also kept changing the rules on me as we played.  I didn't mind at all because it was just for fun and he was counting lots.

MJ had never seen a hundreds chart before.  He was so excited to keep counting all the way to 100!!  He too tried to make a game but I had no idea what the rules were. That weekend they also worked through most of our maze book.

I haven't been having much luck strewing activities around the house.  It can get rather cluttered here and when I put things out they often go un-noticed.  I decided to set up an activity for the boys to discover.  I had no set plans other than to set up a little thing for them if they wanted to check it out.  We have used our balance scale before but this time I aded a jug of coloured water.  The boys tok turns weighing different amounts of water. 

They also discovered that our weights float.  MJ even weighed his tractors and water.  Oh these adorable togs are olive tongs that I found at the dollar store!

The next day I put out some mirrors I had taped together on the coffee table with pattern blocks.  The boys made some beautiful patterns. 

I had also seen on Pintrest an idea to make snowflakes.

MJ made a cute dog with pattern blocks.

We joined up with a group of homeschoolers to go tobogganing.  Everyone was so friendly.  The children all shared their sleds and had a wonderful time.  We had so much fun that we went back the next day too!

I had bought a clock kit just after Christmas and thought it might be a good time to bring that out.  The boys and I fund a new appreciation for all the work daddy does at work.  Part of his job is to repair school clocks.  Our clock too patience but we finally got it working.  Later daddy checked it over and helped us to get the chime to work correctly (we had put a part in upside down).

I am always so amazed at how my boys naturally enjoy math.  MJ wanted to collect 100 rocks for his farm.  He asked if one of our baskets had enough so I suggested that he start counting and find out.  We used an abacus to keep count.  When he ran out, MJ took another basket of items to keep counting.  TJ joined in as we neared the end.

TJ was feeling a little bored one day so I presented him with a challenge.  I put out a balance scale with some weights and a rock.  I told him to try and keep the balance level at all times (so what ever he did to one side he had to do the same on the other), then try to find out the weight of the rock.  He tried several different things and came up with a number.  I showed him how I would have approached the problem too in another way.  This got his interest and he asked for more.  I used the same rock but different weights.  To his delight the answer was still the same.  

Of course we then tried the same trick with a math gnome.  Still looking for a challenge I used the rock, math gnome and weights.  Telling TJ to find the weight of the gnome.  He got stuck but when I reminded him that he already knew what the rock was, he figured it out.  Algebra isn't really too hard.  I showed TJ the math equations for what we had been playing with.  He was totally shocked...

X + 5 = 20 so he found that X = 15

Y + 35 = X + 40 we knew that X (our rock) was 15 already so Y = 20

We had a wonderful time visiting with my mom, sister and all the boys for a Valentine party.  TJ made some cards for the retirement home we were going to visit.  MJ made cards for his church friends.

The next morning we made some crayon resist water colour cards (draw with white crayon and paint over with water colours).  We joined some friends from church to visit  a local retirement home.  The children handed out their Valentine's cards and some flowers to a group and stayed to chat.  We had a lovely time.

Our week ended with a very busy fun visit from a little girl who was part of our home daycare a few summers ago.  The kids made a huge fort in the middle of the play room.  They went camping, played Playmobil, painted sun catchers, baked cookies, went tobogganing, read stories, watched a short movie, made cards and played even more!  Wow what a great day.  Our little friend had so much fun she really didn't want to go home.  We are looking forward to a visit from another little girl to start off next week.

After such an exciting week with loves of visitors, we spent the first part of the weekend cleaning, and putting the house back together.

TJ discovered some awesome random parts under his bed to build a robot.  He was inspired by the shark on MJ's body project to make a large cardboard shark.  And daddy gave to boys tape measures so they have been measuring everything in sight.

I'd love to hear from you:  Do you prefer the blog posts with lots of photos like a collage or ones like this with fewer (but larger) photos?????

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Our Week: Beginning of February

I just love looking over the photos I have taken during the week.  It is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on special moments and enjoy all that we do together.

On Sunday before church TJ brought me his compass and asked how to use it.  I tried explaining in more than one way.  He was rather frustrated because there were some basics that he didn't quite get.  I went back and tried to answer all his questions.  By then we were going to be late for church so I was getting a little stressed.  Then daddy gave it a go and somehow it clicked.  In the car TJ was sorry he was frustrated with me.  I reassured him that I was not upset but happy that he found someone to help him understand. We all work together as a family.  TJ said "I am happy I was able to learn just want I wanted to know."  Later in the day we watched some YouTube videos about compasses and I set out a few things to inspire him further.
Math game, alphabet cards, balance scale, math story books

After tidying the house a little I decided to strew a few things around the house for the boys to discover throughout the week.  I noticed that most of what I put out were not used, but they did explore some other things instead.  MJ did scatter all the alphabet cards and while picking them up he asked me to help spell his baby sitters' names as he found a few of the letters.

We had a really big snow fall that closed everything down the following day. The boys spent the morning shovelling and clearing snow with daddy before he got going to work.  Grandpa also came down for a visit this weekend.  He was able to visit his sister and the boys had fun with Grandpa too.

After our walk with the birds last week TJ had been asking for bird seed.  His plan was to separate the mixed bag of seeds into each kind to see which type of seed different birds preferred.  He had a good start then found they were a nice sensory bin.  MJ wanted to make a bird feeder so then we all made several different styles out of recycling.

While the boys were busy with their seeds I cleared off the old nature table and got started for a new month.  We have a little valentine display next to everything else.

Because there are several festivals/events at the beginning of February I made up a story using our Super Sam gnome.  He and his friends learned all about groundhogs day, candlemas and St. Brigid's day.  It was fun to set up a little scene again with the toys as it had been a while.  MJ jumped in right after to tell his own story.

The boys rediscovered some plasticine they received at Christmas.  I suggested that they could share some of their colours with each other an have more options.  That went over well.  TJ began work on a park scene with flowers, pond, tree and bench.  He took time to rearrange and add items that he really wanted.  MJ was then inspired to copy TJ.  I explained to TJ that this was a compliment and they began to encourage each other in their efforts.  I believe MJ's park has a tree, pond, fish, bench and flowers.  I made a groundhog for the nature table.

We are very excited to be part of a nature based play group that my friend has initiated.  The goal is to allow the children the opportunity for free play and exploration without adults initiating or prescribing the activity.  As parents try to hang back and let the children communicate and explore on their own.  Of course we are there for safety and to help the children work through any arguments as needed.  It was amazing fun.  There were seven children this first play date and they explored trails and fields in the deep snow for over an hour.  We look forward to getting together once or twice a week spending several visits at each location we choose.

The week ended off with a homeschool history fair that the boys wanted to participate in.  Only five children ended up presenting but it was still interesting and good for the kids to encourage one another.  TJ presented Ancient Egypt.  He made two pyramids and we wrote facts on each side.  Inside the pyramids he made a mummy out of plasticine.  He also has photos of our museum trip from last week, and hieroglyphs for the kids to write their own names.

MJ decided last minute to make a project about tractors.  He picked out some pictures from the internet for me to print along with every photo we have of him on a tractor.  He brought some toys and books too.  Both boys spoke well and shared all that they wanted to about their topics.  Mommy was around to help a little too.

That night we were blessed with a wonderful dinner out at our friends' house.  It is so nice to join up with another family with young children because we understand that kids are kids.  Funny, emotional, tired, hyper, sweet all in one.  We had a good visit and were pleased that the boys slept well after a busy week.

I feel so blessed to be with these two boys all day.  I look around and find evidence of their creativity and imaginations all over.  MJ was playing with his magnetic human body and decided to make a silly mommy.  Later he took a whole bag of toys to set up a farm or something outside.  While TJ and daddy used the big snow plough, MJ took his plastic lawnmower out to help.  I must remember that it is a lawn mower in the summer, snow plough in the winter and tiller/seed spreader in the spring.  MJ also took out our rocks with painted lines and asked for help making his name.  So cute, so curious, so fun.  Natural learning at it's best.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page for some cute videos of the boys showing you some recent projects and things they have been doing.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

When children push your buttons...

Parenting is stretching me more than I realized.   I mean I thought I was patient and nice.  But interacting with my children can often turn me into a different person. Kind of scary, sarcastic and mean at times.

While some may brush that off and say that kids just do that to you, I wonder if  I can just settle for that.  Surely there must be some other way.  I don't just stop growing myself once I have kids.  No, I am being stretched and challenged in many new ways.  Internal struggles are good for me to tackle and not ignore.  I don't want to do things just because everyone else does, and I don't want to treat my children the same way just because...

My boys are very sensitive.  They have never responded well to conventional ways of handling behaviour like time outs and such.  They become angry, more upset and deeply hurt by such treatment.  I have read a bit about gentle parenting and do try.  But, I still have a long way to go.

Winter here in Canada can be long and cold.  We get cabin fever, short tempered and have extra energy to burn off.  I do struggle most during these times because my boys are not getting the outside time, exercise and space that they need (we all need).  I was reminded on the weekend how much children reflect and absorb the mood we are letting off.  When I become frustrated they get most upset, stressed and mirror my temper back to me.  I don't know why I am always surprised by this!  My husband lovingly pointed out that perhaps our son's outburst that day was more intense because I had snapped at him.

I know I am not alone here, you are probably reading this nodding with understanding.  I love my boys but they can push my buttons.  We all make mistakes and wish we could have handled things better.  So what to do?  How can I change?

TJ feeding the pumpkin dirt when he was younger
Firstly thing to do is forgive yourself.  At least you recognize that things need to change and that you want something better for your family.  Forgiving doesn't mean justifying or condoning your past actions.  But be easy on yourself.  Parenting is hard!  Here are some other ideas in random order...

Breathe.  The act of taking a deep breath during times of stress will bring more oxygen to your brain allowing you to think more clearly.  You will also take that moment to pause.  Consider what is really important here, could there be another way to handle this?  Could you say yes?  Maybe you need a longer break.  It's okay to give yourself a time-out.

Connect with something higher than yourself.  I am a Christian so for me I need to constantly be connected with God for strength, direction, forgiveness, and encouragement.  There is a wealth of parenting advice and love to be found in the scriptures.  Prayer is also a fabulous way to reflect, mediate and be refreshed.

Read and learn all you can about the direction you would like to take with your family.  Perhaps it is gentle parenting, peaceful communication, building relationships... Read blogs, books, listen to podcasts and take away whatever resonates with you.  You will not agree with everything you read but that is okay too.

Take things slow and celebrate the small steps.  Hurray I didn't yell this morning!!  Yeah to me I used a more playful tone to dress my preschooler even though we were running late!!  What ever it is try one new thing you learned about, be consistent and keep trying.

Remember what it was like to be young.  Here is where super parenting patience come in to play.  Children would rather play than clean up.  Wouldn't you?  Try to make it fun, or maybe relax your expectations a little.  Didn't you hate it when your parents nagged you even when you were trying to do the right thing?  Look at what your children are doing right and encourage them for their efforts.  Kids will be kids and it does take time and lots of reminders.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Remember the golden rule.  Children are people too.  Just because they are shorter, younger and in our care doesn't mean that they don't have big feelings.  This one always hits me with a big punch after I have yelled (yup I do), then my little one is crying, scared and  broken hearted because I hurt his feelings. Our family is getting pretty good at apologies, forgiveness and mending relationships.  I do make sure I take time after things go wrong to reflect with the children, come up with a plan, apologies are made and lots of hugs are given.

Talk to someone.  It could be your spouse, partner, a friend, counsellor, even yourself!  Actually talking to yourself is great as you can coach yourself on what to do and give encouragement.  The other day I was sharing with my friend about a particularly rough morning I had with the boys.  Her response: "I'm so glad you are so honest, it makes me feel much better as a mom."  Some times we all need to vent, share and often hear another perspective.

Journaling.  I love to journal.  It is a chance for me to get out everything in my head and heart.  A diary sort of.  Some people find that prayer and taking to someone else can also do the same thing.

Take care of yourself.  Oh I know it is hard.  There is so much to do, little ones keep us up at night, etc. But my children have learned to step aside when mommy is hungry (I seriously can't cope).  I'm also really crabby when I'm tired.  knowing these things I do my best to care for myself and change up our day as needed to accommodate.

Here are a few links for you:
Orange Rino
TEACH through love
Positive Discipline
Tips for Staying Calm with Children 
Hope for the Weary Mom
Did you now there are even FB groups to help (just do a search)

Another younger TJ

Did I miss anything?  I'd love for you to leave me a comment and share your thoughts.  You can also follow us/comment on Facebook.

This post is linked to
Mommy Moments 

The Life Of Faith