Tuesday, March 1, 2011

THOSE days

How do you get through a bad day? A day where you lack ambition, the kids bicker, it's too cold to go outside, you're grumpy or tired or both?  I have a new invention:  It's called Popcorn Night!

Let me just start off by saying that my kids don't watch a lot of TV.  In fact, our rule is no TV until after bath time - except for Sunday, which is during quiet time as a treat.  Quite often Silas is so pooped that by the time bath is done, he just ends up going straight to bed.  Hurray, another day screen free!  But SOME days, let me tell you!  We have a dozen movies and a season each of Muppets and Fraggle Rock on DVD that Silas watches.  I would love to just plug them in, one after another, for days on end.  How glorious!  He doesn't bug Oliver during movies (he just watches).  Oliver doesn't bug him (he just plays).  But, from experience, I've learned that to let Silas watch TV at any other time of the day than usual is to invite at least a week of TV demands at all times during the day, followed by some pretty dramatic arguments.

I've been having one of those days.  Actually, I think it's been one of those weeks!  I think it's the last batch of snow on the ground, the plummeting temperatures, the thought of yet another round of ice, then mud and puddles when it finally does get warmer.  I'm a firm believer in enjoying the season one is in - it does no good to wish for any other time, you just gotta wait.  Why not enjoy it?  But honestly, can't it be cold and stay cold, not warm up a half dozen separate times only to dash all my hopes in one cold, snowy night once again?  Anyhow, I digress.  I've been suffering a bit of cabin fever.  My husband has been working late to meet a looming deadline so I'm on from first cry from the crib till well after the last tooth-brushing, seven days a week.  I needed something to help me through one more day of winter!  What is it you ask?

Popcorn Night!  Here's how it works:  Serve simple food for supper, foods you KNOW they'll eat, even if it's not part of the original plan.  I fed the kids a couple of sausages with some steamed broccoli.  We just had sausages the other day, but it's not like Si and Ollie care how often they eat them!  I ate leftovers (Aloo Gobi!).  Whatever crams a few nutrients down their throats so you don't guilt out too much, making you crankier and more depressed.

Next, a quick bath.  Then, in pyjamas, make popcorn together (cause there'll be an EPIC tantrum if you don't wait for "help").  Finally, choose a movie that you can ALL watch (no Barney please!), snuggle up with sippies of water, blankets, and popcorn and totally veg out with your kids.

See that blanket on the end of the couch?  That's where I sit.  I NEVER sit to watch TV, so Silas was really excited about this.  To top it off, I changed into jammies and a housecoat while they were in the bath so I could really get into the mood.

The best part?  We ate supper at 430!  Ha!  Baths were done by shortly after five.  On to the movies and a bit of peace and relaxation, without breaking the "after bath" rule.  I'm feeling just smug enough that maybe by tomorrow I'll have pulled up my socks and get back into the swing of things.  Maybe I should make a list of truly great things about winter, rather than focus just on the negative?

What do you do to get through to bedtime on bad days?

Tot School

I'm a little behind with this post, but I do have all the pictures so I'd better get on it!  Saturday mornings seem to be the day Oliver and I have some time together.  While Silas visits his auntie I whip out a few little activities for us!

He seemed to especially love the macaroni I supplied with a scoop and measuring cup.  He used both his hands and his scoop to fill the cup, dump it out and start all over.  He also enjoyed swirling his hands around in the bowl, and of course, the odd snack!

Sorry, this photo is a little blurry but it's the best one I got of Oliver playing with the mini pompoms and the clear plastic bottle.  He really liked shaking the bottle upside down but didn't enjoy putting them back in nearly as much - but he would do a few just so he could shake them out!

This puzzle by Melissa and Doug has the animals noises in it and that was fascinating for Oliver.  He was good at matching the pieces to the right spot but was found it challenging to line them up right. Luckily the piece makes a noise as soon as it's in the right area, not necessarily fit right into its spot!

Loved this photo!  He plays piano at my mom's house often - quite nice playing actually, not the deafening crashes Silas comes up with when he's feeling silly.

We spent a fair bit of time at my cousin's house this past week and Oliver really enjoyed the stairs!  Here he's shouting my name through the banister.  Then he climbs up one step and shouts my name through the next banister, and so on all the way up the stairs.  And back down.  And back up . . . you get the idea!

Thought I'd share this funny photo.  I gave him a handful of cheerios on the coffee table for a snack.  He can reach them perfectly fine from the side, but it's Oh So Oliver to insist on standing on the far side so he has to reach so much his feet come off the ground!

And of course, no week is complete without at least one day of chores with dad.  Here's Oliver all bundled up in my coat.  For some reason his dad thinks this is better, easier, than a snowsuit.  If you were to lift the coat up, you'd find a thick pair of adult's wool socks pulled up over his pants too!  Boys.

Finally, here's another Oh So Oliver picture.  He loves to read books (this one's upside down!) and he especially seems to love having a dirty face.  Every trip to the library results in a bagful of books about trains, trucks, tractors, fish and snakes.  You can certainly tell I have boys!

Linking this post to 1+1+1=1.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A catch up post!

There was an invasion of relatives over here, so I'm posting a few weeks in one in order to catch up a little!  I opted out of the Dora and Transformer-themed "valentines" parties at various places around town and we did our only little thing with a friend and her two daughters.  We made some collages with the supplies shown at left.  The children there were aged four, three, two and one so it was an amazing array of skill and so neat to see what really interested each kid at their own level!  The two year old was happy to sit for more than an hour to just glue and glue and glue, while Silas was off and up to play with the four year old after only fifteen minutes.  Their pictures turned out really well, though and I was glad I didn't bring out the paint too.  Collages are much easier to clean up after!

We also decorated cupcakes.  I made a family recipe based on cake mix, but with more ingredients added. It's just not Valentine's Day unless you have Cherry Chip cupcakes.  Each child was given their own plate like this.  I figured they might stick on a candy or two and eat the rest, but no!  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they took their decorating jobs very seriously!

Some other stuff we did during quiet time around her included this great big wooden puzzle Silas received from his grandparents a few years ago.  He's finally big enough to be able to complete this almost independently, with just a few suggestions from me.

I also pulled out this dollar store version of Four In A Row, but didn't go so far as to explain the rules.  Mostly we just had fun inserting the coins and dropping them out the bottom.  Next time I may get into the rules and we'll play an actual game, if he'd like.

We played memory with 1/2 of our Shape Snap cards I bought from Usborne books. Silas is getting better and better at thinking before he grabs the same two cards over and over again.  Sometimes his memory surprises me!

I love this picture!  Silas was so proud of himself for completing Kumon's My First Book of Mazes.  He's been working on this book diligently whenever I put it in his "Game Time Drawers" for almost a year now.  He's now moved on to Kumon's My First Book of Mazes.  I meant to buy him the book of Easy Mazes, but somehow I came home with this one. Doesn't matter, he's doing just fine anyhow!

One of the reasons I'm behind in posting (and have hardly any pictures for the last week!) is because we've been invaded by relatives.  My cousin, her husband and their new baby were up visiting from California, so family has flocked into our town from all over the province in order to visit with them!  We had SO much fun together, but honestly, I'm relieved that things have gotten back to normal.  Now I just need to finish cleaning up my house!  The picture above was taken at my cousin's house.  Silas is playing the piano with his brother while a few little cousins dance around the room behind them.  A good time was had by all ages!  It's really neat to see how the generations get together and enjoy one another, even if we don't get to do it often.

I'm linking this post to the Weekly Wrap Up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Play With Mom Time

 I posted a few weeks ago about our "Calendar".  We talk about the month, day of the week, do some counting.   If you look closely, on the right, I've also listed off the series of events that make up our day.  I find that it cuts down on quite a bit of arguing (a three-year-old's passion!) about what needs to be done next.  The events change each day, according to the day of the week usually.  Jamie at Steady Mom recently wrote a book, which I devoured.  One of the suggestions I put to use in my home was a Play With Mom Time.  I'm pretty sure she called it something else, but that's what it is in our house, and it's quickly become one of THE most favorite things in Silas's day.  (You'll note above that I kind of put it randomly at the bottom - that's just because that day I wasn't able to guarantee exactly where Play With Mom Time would fit in.  Most days it's right after we feed chickens.  In case you care.)

Just to set the record straight, honestly, there're only so many minutes of cars, dragons or trains I can play before I'm ready for a nap. I'm not the type of mom that loves nothing more than to sit on the floor and play with her her kids.  It just not me! Besides the boredom factor, I strongly believe kids should learn to play independently.  I don't think kids need an adult around every second, in fact, I think it can be detrimental in some ways.  I won't get into that now, suffice to say that my kids do play a lot on their own while I'm doing my thing in the background somewhere in the house.  But there is something to be said for Lev Vygotsky and his "scaffolding play" idea.

Basically, he lays it out there like this (and I'm not an expert by any means!  This is just my general understanding of his theory):  Children play at different levels, starting with the most basic, concrete and rudimentary play that evolves into something more complex and abstract as the child ages.  For example children pretend to eat pretend food.  Pretty soon they can pretend to eat peices of lego or blocks instead of pretend food.  Next they don't even need a prop to pretend to eat.  They pretend to eat "thin air".  He goes on to say that adults and older children can "scaffold" a child into the next level of play through modeling, boosting the child in to the next level with their help until he or she learns to do it on their own.  I believe this to be true.  Kids' play gets more detailed, more realistic and less prop-dependent when they have had adults sit down and play with them.

So what's a lego-and-Mr-Potato-Head dreading mom to do?  I suppose I'd better play with them!  While I highly doubt that my kids' play will be 'stunted' in any long-lasting or serious way, I HAVE found that by sitting down and playing with my kids for a half hour or so before I get serious about cooking supper helps them play more independently during the dreaded "hell's half-hour" before it's actually done.  On top of that, my kids are at an age where dumping out the box of blocks onto the living room floor and walking away is the same as leaving a couple of terrorists a box of bombs in the middle of a busy airport!  Carnage would follow.

SO!  If you're still with me, here's what I'm trying to say.  I play with my kids during a set amount of time practically every day, usually only thirty or so minutes.

Just to prove my little lecture, take a look at the gorgeous castle we built together!  Silas has a set of wooden blocks in his quiet time play area and his creations have become much more intricate!  I try and follow his lead - I mean, if he REALLY wants to build roads or cars out of blocks, of course I will, but to keep things interesting for ME, I add on to whatever we're doing.  

And then, cause this is play after all (and because the blocks are made of foam!) it turns into a block fight. Please excuse the mess in the background!  Usually the boys are so eager to get going with our time that I don't even get the chicken bucket and egg basket put away!  Silas loves this time together cause that's all I do during said time.  Just play with my boys.  I've actually come to love it myself because not only does it boost up their play and model a little more complexity to them, it also allows me a bit of inattention right afterwards while I cook supper and it puts off all the play requests for the day.  ("Mama, would you put on some music to dance with me?"  "How about we save that for Play With Mom Time?  Go and check our day, when is that?")  Done.

As a bonus, when I know that this is it, this is all I'm obligated to do in the play department, I actually enjoy myself!  If we had neighbours and passing traffic I can bet they would be laughing hysterically when we turn the "Bear Hunt" song on Friday afternoons!  We're all in good spirits and breathless by the time we've gone through it for the third time!

Who would have thought that one little card could do so much for us?

A Bit of Home Preschool

It was a short week here.  We do home preschool stuff for 30-45 minutes while Oliver's napping but Silas was sick for a few days and ended up napping himself.  Saturday was also a bust as I was not only expecting company for dinner but we also went to a baby shower in the early afternoon.  So Silas and I played a quick game of Shapes Snap, then he went to play legos in my room for the rest of quiet time while I got the house and food ready for company!  Here's what we did do:

More puzzles!  Silas has been enjoying puzzles lately, so I brought up another wooden puzzle from the set of four he received for Christmas.  This one was full of lizards, snakes and alligators.

We were also passed on a Canada puzzle from some cousins and we put it together many times this week.  He enjoyed learning where his friend Jeremy lives (Montreal) and where our "holiday mall" was situated (Edmonton) and where Santa Claus lives!  Now I need to find a BC puzzle so we can locate where his cousins live!  I suppose a regular map would work as well, but puzzles do provide a good way to talk about geography while keeping busy.

We always enjoy the smelly felts.  I showed him how to draw a loopy, lazy scribble then fill it in with lots of colours. It was the first time I've every seen him concentrate on staying in the lines and filling in all the blank spaces.  We've never really done colouring books and the like, so this surprised me a bit.  I've been pleasantly surprised quite a bit lately!

We did more cutting from the Kumon "Let's Cut Paper!" book.  I sort of thought his cutting skills were lagging a bit, but during our art time this week I realized he cuts fairly well on a straight line.  It's the curves and turns where he struggles a bit.  And really, looking at the pages he completed above, he did them pretty well too! For a three year old, that's just fine!  He really enjoys these Kumon books, though, so I'll probably get the "More Let's Cut Paper" book before I move on to the "My First Book of Cutting" just to keep it fun for him.

He really enjoyed making these Valentine's Day tissue paper flowers for the grandmas.  He can't wait to hand them out!  I predict quite a bit of visiting on Valentine's day!

These two are such good brothers.  They enjoy a bit of cuddle as much as they enjoy a good tussle.  They play together as much as the fight!  It will be so interesting watching them grow up together!  Here they're watching a bit of A Bug's Life before bed.

I'll be linking this post up to the Weekly Wrap-Up as well as Preschool Corner.

Real Live Tot School!

There was all sorts of fun to be had this week! I've finally figured out a good system to fit some "formal" Tot School in for little Ol.  My sister has offered to take Silas while Oliver naps on Thursday afternoons, which leaves me time to get some work-related things done on the computer and then a half hour of  Tot School once he wakes up.  My wonderful sister (thanks Laura!) also often takes Silas on Saturday mornings for a few hours, giving me another chance to sit down with Oliver one on one.  I'm happy to have a lot of photos to share this week!  Some real live Tot School at last!

Both Silas and Oliver were busy getting ready for Valentine's Day and Oliver got right in to collages.  I helped him pain glue all over his paper and he pounded different shapes and textures down with a firm "tick, tick!" (stick, stick!) each time.  Made some lovely busy collages too - presents for all the grandpas and aunties.

I also brought our do-a-dot markers.  I had a few bingo markers but didn't really bring them out much as they weren't washable.  Do-a-dots are and Oliver had a blast with them!

This book (Animal Hide And Seek) was SUCH a hit with Oliver. I haven't had it out in a while and he spent a lot of time with it this week.  I now have it memorized!  Two of his favorite things are tractors and chickens and this book has plenty of both, along with lots of flaps and differently textured items!

He's also been spending a lot of time "tickling" his own belly, complete with 'thlickle thlikle' sound effects!  It's too cute, I had to share!

He completed this puzzle with only some verbal guidance from me - a first. His favorite part is definitely still the clapping at the end!

He loves to sit at the computer with us.  Here he's learning about roping techniques from youtube with dad.  He looks really interested, doesn't he?

He's really into inserting things right now, so this wooden bead set with the big wooden needle was very absorbing for him.  Isn't it fascinating how much they like to try, try, try until it's mastered!  I could watch him "play" all day!

By the end of one beading session, he'd figured out how to get three or four beads on the 'needle', but would need help moving his bottom hand to allow the beads to slide down to the string without them all falling off in the process.  We'll do this one some more soon!

Another timely item was this wooden stacking set. He was fascinated with the peg one side sliding into the hole of the other.  He stacked some up on the floor, but mostly played with them in his hands for a better view of how things worked. .

I showed him the little smiley face on the ball belong to this set and he spent about five minutes putting it on and off the stack, getting right down next to it, saying "Ha da-da!" (Hi baby!).  

I have to say that this age is my absolute favorite!  They take their play so seriously, carefully repeating things over and over, imitating and copying those around them as if the world depended on it, and new words and communication strategies popping out every day.  Everything they do, even their saucy little "Moe!" s (No!) with a chubby little foot stomped on the floor makes me want to bust out laughing!  I'm really enjoying this time with Oliver, and I'm so thankful we've decided to have more kids.  No tearful goodbye to this toddler stage I love, thank goodness!  This is what gets me through that sleepless first year and those arguing three year olds ;D  !

And, as always, I'm linking this post to 1+1+1=1.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Booking It 2011 - A Thomas Jefferson Education

Yesterday I posted about "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin as part of Booking It 2011 with Life as Mom.  Today, also as part of Booking 2011, I'm posting about a book that I've read over the past month on my own.  There have actually been a number of them, which probably means that I'm neglecting something else in my life, but I'll stick to posting just one!

The book that comes to mind first is "The Thomas Jefferson Education" by Oliver and Rachel De Mille.  I was strolling along through this blog and happened to notice that she follows the Leadership Education Model (aka Thomas Jefferson Education).  I've come across it before, but for some reason dismissed it as something I wasn't really interested in.  As a mother who's writing and parenting I respect, I decided to do a little more research.  I came across a few websites and my attention was piqued.  So I ordered three books via Interlibrary Loan, and I'm pleased to say that I've now read all three and this Thomas Jefferson thing just may be thing for us!

"A Thomas Jefferson Education" is itself was a very informative book.  It provided a lot of food for thought, and was the catharsis for many interesting discussions between my husband and myself about what we wanted for our children while they were small,  when they are adults and all the years in between.  Along with the other two books I read (one more by Oliver and Rachel De Mille and the third by the De Milles again, but with Diann Jepson this time), it comprises a fairly thorough, if not entirely practical, guide to creating a house of solid character, inspiration and learning for the whole family.  Even if you're not considering homeschooling, or this model of education doesn't seem like a good fit for your own goals, it's worth the read, even if only to get a few good discussions going between the important people in your child's life!

Some of the ways they suggest implementing this style of education seem more like parenting and lifestyle choices, which somehow rubbed me a little the wrong way.  They seemed so certain that their way was correct, and there's no other correct way to accomplish the same thing.  I'm always a little leery of books written this way, however, as they have many children for whom it worked, perhaps I'm willing to consider it.  After all, education, parenting and lifestyle go together anyhow.  One is just an extension of another, so why not include them all in the same book?

Try this book out.  Buy it, borrow it, find it in your library.  Let me know what you think!