Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A big snow!


Huge flakes, so pretty...garden sleeping...

We went for a night walk & the snow was just perfect for snowman building - or in this case, snowlady.  The next day it was too dry to pack so I'm glad we enjoyed it while we could!  Yes, the body & head were REALLY heavy ;0)

Honey Bunches & her artsy selfie!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quiet moments....

Jam found the stash of Curious George books & looked through all of them (like for 45 minutes!)

Still in her jammies this morning....lost in her own little world :0)

Jew Baby gave Jam this great train!  Today he decided it needed a track, so out came the electrical tape & voila!

a few quiet moments & creative, happy play = happy mama :0)

Saturday, December 28, 2013


I was busy doing something last week & the littles got hungry....they got out their own tea set & found some food & did a great job helping themselves!

mmm-mmm roasted root vegetables!  Thank you Tami for blessing us with this awesome recipe ;0)

Ok, this looks nasty - but it's the beginning of some amazing homemade Larabars!!  Flash is getting pretty good at pairing various spices together & these are oh so yummy....a labor of love!

Here they are all laid out & ready to EAT!

Ok, not food for us, but we made these at Countryside Playschool on our last day & the birds gobbled it up...they are pine cones smeared with peanut butter & rolled in birdseed.

Snow ice cream - so easy but ya gotta go easy - it'll give you a brain freeze if you eat it too fast!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Math & Music

Playing with the 1's family - also some writing at the top ;0)

Tweeters wanted everything set up so she could work on it during naptime if she didn't fall asleep!

Cardinals stand out so well in the winter - this is kind of random for this post, but maybe I can label it music :0)

Anyone remember Tom T. Hall?  Sneaky Snake?  I made a cassette tape of my old record years ago & kept the booklet that came with it ;0)  One of our all time favorites!

Auntie Linda gave us a CD of Peter & the Wolf - and today Tweeters wanted to do an old "Brighter Vision Learning Adventures" workbook on music (loved those things with HB & Flash - too bad they're out of business).  Anyway, these little figures were in there so we got them out & acted out the story while we listened to the music!  Thank you Linda!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book Review: Simplicity Parenting

I borrowed this from interlibrary loan, but it's easily worth whatever it would cost to buy new!  A slow bathroom read I could have breezed through it faster if I read it during blogging hours ha ha ;0)

The subtitle is "Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, & More Secure Kids"....I can't remember now how I came upon this title, but I'm sure it was right up there with Heaven on Earth (review still to come) & You Are Your Child's First Teacher.  There is also a supportive website w/ a "starter kit" to get you reading right away: http://www.simplicityparenting.com/

The chapters are simple: first he outlines why we should simplify, moves to what he calls soul fever, then touches on the 4 main areas we can simplify our lives (& thus bring about calmer, happier more secure children - and mom & dad too).  These 4 areas are the environment (read toys, mostly, but he also talks about food), rhythm (what to expect each day, even if it is different every day), schedules (some things may need to go), and filtering out the adult world.  We don't have TV so the news is pretty much gone other than online stuff or NPR for a few minutes in the morning...but it's not just the TV.  He also addresses the things adults talk about to & in front of their children - and even talking too much about nothing.  Since I just finished the book & this last chapter is on my mind I want to start there with a few points that struck me: I was taught to give a running commentary to our babies all day, telling them what I was doing, what they were doing, blah blah blah all day long.  If this continues into toddlerhood & beyond they WILL start to tune you out.  Why did Laura & Mary listen to & obey Pa?  Because he didn't say much!  The 3 things to filter on your mouth: Is it true? (takes care of gossip) Is it kind? Is it necessary? This is where the running commentary gets shortened to a few words, not the constant droning all day, or the deep adult explanation for a simple 3 year old's question about why the sun is hot.  Now, Papa J & I are believers in explaining things to our children, and letting them see who we are & sharing that with them.  But we didn't go into it ALL when they were little (like under 8 or 10) - it was a gradual thing, adding more explanations, more depth, more teaching as they got older & needed more.  My first encounter with this idea was while visiting a Waldorf kindergarten earlier this year...I think it can be taken to an extreme in either direction but for sure we don't need to be talking all day or sharing adult things with our little children as much as we do.

One example of an adult issue that I didn't filter out came back last night in the 5 year old's bad dream (yeah, I've been up since 4am so why am I doing this right now??).  We watched a newer version of the Sound of Music a few days ago (we hadn't watched the original yet, they're the same play just different actors) & she had a bad dream that the army was going to come get daddy & big brother and make them fight in a war.  Heavy stuff for a little one, right?  I sat right there during the movie & explained what was going on because of course she had questions while it was happening....but maybe I should have turned it off or blown over it?  Still trying to figure that kind of thing out, but there's an example of something maybe left to older children.

A point Payne makes in the Why section is that all children are quirky :0)  Totally true!  They all, like each of us, have their personal little quirks - but - with a consistent pattern of stress they can slide right into hyperactivity, or oppositional defiance disorder, or ADD, OCD, or any number of labels for which schools, doctors & parents drug their children.  His equation goes like this: q+s=d, or quirk plus stress equals disorder. 

In Soul Fevers he compares a physical fever to something not quite right in our children, affecting their behavior & emotional climate of our homes.  When a child has a physical fever, you may stay home from work, change that child's diet for a few days, have more quiet & calm til they feel better - change your whole schedule around.  When a child has an emotional, or Soul Fever, you need to do the same.  Stop, pay attention.  Change things around til you figure out what it is & then make permanent changes.  "When your child seems to deserve affection least, that's when they need it most"....

How about some statistics?  In the Environment section it quotes "Born to Buy" by Juliet Schor as saying that the average American child receives SEVENTY toys per year.  Children's play has become 'less focused on activities, and more on the things involved, the toys themselves'.  Too much stuff leads to too many choices, which leads to being overwhelmed.  And this leads to undervaluing all of them & to hold out for whatever elusive thing isn't offered - "MORE!" - what pseudo power!

So what are the options?  Have you noticed that small children love to help?  Do you brush them off or find a way to get them involved?  It takes a lot longer at first for sure - but the confidence your children will gain and actual help to you it brings later can't even be measured.  Involve them in the work of family life.  Small brooms, simple sewing projects, washing dishes & folding washcloths - all very simple ways to work and experience life together.  Of course there will still be toys, but the more natural and flexible the toy the better it will be used; elaborate or character-specific dress ups or toys just aren't open enough for a wide range of pretend.  If the toys are simple & open ended, they will provide the most varied & sustained possibilities for pretend play.  Outdoor play is something that you should strive for every day, no matter the weather (this is my own opinion & wasn't stated as directly in the book).  Time in nature is restorative & helps us recover from stresses of daily life - even improves our capacity to pay attention.

Food has been one we've addressed to varying degrees in our home over the years.  We've not really had any food 'battles' or people who won't eat, but our teens have experimented with vegetarianism & eating all raw diets that have just about driven us crazy.  While the little ones get what we make, the big ones are capable of making their own.  So - there are some nights where there are 3 different meals being prepared for dinner!  We adapt when we can, but our older ones know they need to make their own if what we've made for dinner doesn't meet their requirements.  Our food itself IS much more simple than it used to be - even if the prep may be a bit more complicated b/c of the big age gap & various meals being prepared.  The highly processed & sweetened foods are gone, as are the fake food ingredients.  Payne asks us to question ourselves as we go grocery shopping, "Is this food designed to nourish, or to entertain? To stimulate? Was this food designed, or was it grown? Did it exist 50 years ago?  Can I identify or pronounce it's ingredients? There are 17,000 "new food products" introduced to shoppers in this country every year!!!"

How about sports?  Payne says that organized sports can present a 'packaged world' of set rules & procedures to very young children, rather than a world of their own making.  Self directed play builds multiple & emotional intelligences, fostering the skills necessary to navigate an uncertain future, one that will demand increasing flexibility & creative problem solving (summary mine).  This kind of independent thinking is what got the Montessori schools closed during WW2 Germany!  Do we want children who just follow rules & specialize in a sport by age 8?  Families with children under this age (even 9 or 10) can simplify their lives tremendously just by emphasizing free play over organized sports & martial arts (not to mention a greater chance of raising children who are able to think for themselves!).  The stages of play allow for team & competitive sports, just not as such early ages as children are being pushed these days...younger, faster, more more more.  In early childhood, little ones begin with solitary play, then parallel play, and finally 'let's pretend'.  Having been free to imagine, a child is then ready to learn how to play the game.  You don't want your children getting worn out & burned out just at the age when they are developmentally ready to start playing organized sports!  Large family?  Maybe something everyone can enjoy is the way to go - swim team or archery maybe.  The schedules will be closer to the same & the "home team" - the family - can still stick together somewhat. Some families have several children involved in sports, but they have to be during different seasons so that everyone isn't doing everything all at once.

Toward the end of the book I was struck by something I've always done!  Requests.  "When everything is a request you have another form of verbal clutter: Taylor, howya doing?  Would you like to get in the car now? What do you think? Can you buckle up that seat belt? Will you shut the door? Sweetie, is that you throwing those toys up to the front? Would  you please stop?"  Yikes!  This has been me in the past!  Not so much with the two little ones but boy I did this a lot with our older ones.  Directions can & should be - get this - direct ;0)  "I can't drive with distractions.  We don't throw anything in the car".  Period.  Whew that is easier.  I've got to just directly quote here b/c it's dead on: "Requests may seem like "gentler" forms of communication, but with so many of them they're very easy to ignore, and their uniformity make it hard for a child to know what's really important.  They invite response, but not really, so the overall effect is one of background noise".

My reading this year has mostly been in similar circles: You are Your Child's First Teacher, Heaven on Earth (review coming soon) but each one touches on slightly different variations on the theme & each of these 3 books has been so useful in creating more calm, more time, and more meaning to our days.  We still have a lot to work on - the work will never be done & is always changing as the children grow - but our awareness of these things and the increasing intentionality are priceless and a heritage I want to pass along to our children.  By the way, I also read 2 other books this year that were eye opening (if not just downright funny): the first was "Stuff White People Like" - just a funny short bathroom read but much of it so true!  The other was "Crunchy Cons".  That was less political & more family oriented than I expected - even advocating home education and gasp - church attendance ;0)  I have since passed those books along to the thrift store (they were free at our homeschool swap) but their effect rolls right in with the deeper topics of the Waldorf inspired books.  One on my wish list is 'Better Off'....and thank you again, Mr. Becoming Minimalist for aiding in all this!  Not there, but working on it!

Happy reading!

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/ a blog & info about the book
http://www.amazon.com/Crunchy-Cons-Birkenstocked-evangelical-homeschooling/dp/1400050642 amazon link
 http://www.amazon.com/Better-Off-Flipping-Switch-Technology/dp/0060570059 amazon
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/becoming-minimalist-start-here/  Becoming Minimalist blog

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blankie peg people; fun & games

the mommies are making lunch

thrift store find - knick knack shelf shaped like a barn - perfect house!

I think I understand how to play - but I'm still clueless as to why it's supposed to be a fun game?  Glad it was just $1 at the thrift store....fun for sorting & patterning though!

A little limbo - music included ;0)  Had to watch the clip from Moonlighting where Bruce Willis has the whole office doing the limbo while Cybil Shepard is gone!  "You be limbo star!  How low can you go??!"

Honey Bunches showing Jam how to play memory...

I don't think he really got it, but we'll try again soon!

A great pretend game going here - Tweeters was the RV driver & sat on the green tub.  Can you Jam laying down on the table back there?  That's his bed, and hers is on the blue blanket on the tub behind the green one.  She's giving me quite a look for interrupting their play!

Spontaneous art....

Some of my goofy babies!

art can happen anywhere :0)

Flash & his pal won a gingerbread making contest at the library - this is what's left of it ;0)  It was a model of the library! (those chex mix are books on shelves)

Tweeters took some of Flash's library apart & remade it into her own house - no they couldn't eat it 'cause the candy & icing & everything is like 3 years old!

Body tracing - love this huge paper!  We also made a skeleton from a human body book & talked about the names of all the bones...my favorites are still the "feely philanges" - thank you mom for spending so much time helping me to remember all of those bones!!!

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Most of our art lately has been unplanned - been trying to clean out again & have an entire shelf devoted to art supplies - nearly finished.
After watching Tarzan, Tweeters drew this - Kerchak the gorilla is on the left, saying "Y R NT M S" which is "You Are Not My Son" (because of course, Tarzan is a person, not a gorilla, but it's not very nice to say).  The gorilla on the right is the gorilla mom who adopts Tarzan - she is saying "HE E M SN" which is "He Is My Son!".  Tarzan is in the middle crouching down like a gorilla, but it's a bit light so you can't really see. 

Here's a wee sprite cutting out pics to add to her snowman picture - I think the snowman ended up w/ very shiny model hair & some Mabeline lips ;0)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First violin concert!

Seems a bit early, but the group playing experience was really great!  Tweeters just graduated that day from shadow bowing, and did a great job playing 3 variations of 'Twinkle' on the E string :0)

There are about 4 children who are still just playing on the E string - but with a class of 18 students there are plenty of older ones to look up to!

Last week of prek til 2014!

Flash came this week!  He's been wanting to come & the boys LOVED the legos he brought :0)

Tweeters building with Silas

Jam missed his trainset - it's at home for the prek break :0)

Here's Tweeters putting peanut butter & birdseed on a pinecone to make a birdfeeder - the birds ATE IT UP!  We need to make another one (or 10!) already...

Sound matching bingo was a huge hit - I played w/ the whole group twice & then the girls took turns being the 'caller' for like 6 or 7 more games!

Just enough snow to make a few snowballs.....

Former student makes front page!

I had Kortney years ago in prek - she'll graduate this year from high school!  Fun to see what all 'my students' are doing as they grow up :0)

Rock Bridge High School students give gifts to elementary kids in need

Monday, December 16, 2013

Countryside Playschool week 2 of short session 3!

Flash got to help today!  He's been wanting to come check it out, and it's always great to have extra hands :0)  LG was planning to be back but has been feeling a bit under the weather....better now though I think!
Gigi, Tweeters & Mandolin all dressed up!

Tweeters working on her stained glass

Here it is!

"Can I take your order?"

Our lovely tree - thank you HB!

Buffet turkey sandwiches for lunch today :0)

HB helping Rachel finish her hand sewn mitten

everyone really got into dragging these big fallen branches into the creekbed!

home made fun - who needs a commercial teeter totter??  They did this for like 20 minutes & we even talked a bit about the fulcrum & how many it was taking to balance out even a small person on the other end ;0)  That's Tweeters in the middle

snowing cattails

Silas's baby brother....oh so CUTE!!!!

Silas & Ruth with new baby bro!

Sorry for the silence here - but we've moved!

A lot has happened in the past 6 months...here are a few highlights! I became a puppy grandma - meet Finn!  Abbie & James are very...