Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals for 2011Continued . . .

Like I said, I'll break anything down into categories and sub-categories!  A few more musings and inspired ideas!

My Finances

I'd like to become more disciplined about making and keeping a budget.  The hardest part about budgeting for me is to track everything I spend.  I have the app "Budget Touch" for my iPad and I've totally let it slip this month.  So that's a goal for 2011.  Keep up with Budget Touch.

Additionally, I'd like to save more money than I am currently.  Starting a savings account would probably be a step in the right direction!  Beyond CTB and UCCB from the government, we have no regular income.  That's the way ranching is.  This makes it very hard to save because you tend to make do until the big check in the fall when the young animals are sold and then buy everything you need until the money runs out (seems like there's never enough!).  I think if I was frugal enough, I could put some money aside for emergency car and household repairs and the like if necessary.  I can certainly try!

I had a family cow all lined up to join us last September.  Three weeks before the day of arrival I got a call from her current owner.  My cow had broken into the grain room, bloated and died.  I was incredibly disappointed and hadn't the heart to search any further.  But I know I could make a nice sum of money selling milk from my own home as well as provide delicious, fresh and pure milk for my own family.  My sister and I were also going to be making cheese, butter, yogurt and so on with the extra.  Imagine the help for my grocery bill!  I really hope to accomplish this one in 2011.

Family: Remember to enjoy the journey!

I know I lack perspective when it comes to my kids.  I know that.  Somehow this should give me perspective, should make me realize that a sick kid is only sick for a few days, then the whining stops.  Just put the project aside (with grace) and cuddle the poor thing!  And while you're at it, amaze at the healing, soothing, restorative powers a mama has to her sick little one.  If you stop and think about it without being grumpy about supper not being cooked, you'll be amazed too (and serve them a can of beans if necessary.  I dare anyone to complain about supper being inadequate when a child is feeling truly yucky).  A baby is only so helpless she needs you to roll her over when she's bored for a very short time.  Put down your coffee for a minute and help her out!  Kids' lives are only completely centered around themselves right next to you for a few short years.  Why not enjoy it?  Heck, revel in it!

Everyone says this, tells us that.  But how many of us are able to let go of our own expectations of our day on a regular basis?  This is a goal for 2011.  Caring for my family is not a series of to-do lists.  It's not about what everything (and everyone) is once it's completed.  It's about how it got that way in the first place.  And I know that if I were to go about my family in this manner, chances are the results would be closer to what I pictured in the first place!

My Marriage

I've been married now for five and half years.  I've been with my husband since I was fourteen years old and we've been friends since I was nine.  I think it's safe to say that he is pivotal in my life and I in his.  So it seems odd that my marriage and our relationship isn't listed first in my musings, don't you think?  How is it that kids and home take over, squeezing such important people out of the main picture?  It certainly not intentional.  And that's my point.  My goal for 2011 is to be more intentional with my relationship with my husband.  One important thing I'd like to do is sit down with my husband after he's eaten for fifteen or twenty minutes each day with a cup of tea.  Send the kids off to play and just enjoy each other.  Talk to each other.  A date night, because of his hectic and unpredictable schedule, is usually not even a possibility and this used to really bother me.  Everyone else was going out on date nights, everyone else was making their marriage a priority.  Now, instead of focusing on the problem, I'm trying to come up with solutions and I think this one's a keeper. It's something I've been trying to do lately and it's been working.  It's not perfect, kids come and interrupt often, but they're getting the idea too and it's better than doing nothing at all.  Of course, I won't say no to a date now and again either!

Goals for 2011 - Home

I have so many things I'd like to do in the next year, so many plans and so many ideas.  Keep in mind these aren't really resolutions, just a few results from this week's reflection.  The more I think about it, the more I itch to get it all written down.  See now I'm a bit of geek.  If there's a way to break things down into categories and sub-categories, I'll do it.  That might explain what follows.

Goals for my Home

In general, I'm feeling pretty good about how my home has been running.  Of course there's always room for improvement, but given the season of my life, it's not badl.  My main goal in this area is to continue to adhere to my daily routines and meal plans - they are my lifesaver!  This is the week where I don't really do that and I can't wait to get back to it.  I would like to stay on the wagon for longer periods of time.  It seems like I fall off every five or so weeks, for a length of time that varies from a few days to a few weeks.  Things start to get hectic, we don't eat as well, I'm grouchy, the house is a mess, we lose things.  Laundry piles up and the kids aren't getting to bed on time, then hey get grouchy. It snowballs and it's awful!

I'm learning that there are bare bones things that cannot be left undone (the kitchen needs to be cleaned every evening, one load of laundry must go from hamper to drawer each day and nap/bedtime is sacred) if I'm sick or run down, but the fact of the matter is, I get lazy sometimes.  I start to feel resentful or hard-done-by.  I'd really to avoid that entirely. Truthfully, I chose this career.  No one made me stay home.  I've wanted it my whole life and mostly I love it.  I need to take care of myself.  This is something that indirectly benefits my house and my family, as well as every other aspect of my life.  Maybe I should have listed this in a general category, but here it lies.  I will get to bed on time and shower regularly.  I will dress, do my hair and make up, each day and every day.  I will take time I need to get out with friends, to relax by myself.  The two former are not hard, it's the last one I struggle with. I'm not a really social person.  At the end of the day there's nothing I'd rather do than go to bed, really.  But on those rare occasions when I do go out for a drink and I'm gone for an hour or two, I come home renewed and energized.  It's amazing really and I think it's something I should keep in mind - perhaps an effort to go out twice a month with a friend would be a step in the right direction?

My vegetable garden is an area in which I'd love to make improvements.  Maybe now that my youngest will be two this summer, I'll actually be able to keep up with my weeding?  It was like Oliver was allergic to weeding last summer.  As soon as I began, he'd start to cry.  Without fail.  Nothing worked or helped but me leaving the garden.  It was ridiculous!  Maybe this year is my year?  Along with improving the garden goes the harvesting.  By the end of September I'm usually so let down and disheartened by my garden and my perceived failure that I don't even really want to venture in to harvest.  I need to get over that and put more food away for the winter.  This goal also includes canning more fruit bought in bulk through out the summer!

We're also planning to build our own home in the next year or two.  I've got some preliminary ideas and sketches, but I want to continue to work on this and get input from both my husband and my daughter.  Heck, Silas and Oliver may as well tell me what they want in their new house too, right?!  It would be great to have a finished plan to send off to the engineer by the end of the year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reflection Week

Aaaaah.  Christmas is over.  So sad.  It was anticipated for so long with such excitement and joy.  And yet such a relief too.  Normal life will commence again.  Well, as soon as I take the tree down and put all this stuff (fabulous gifts, mostly toys!) away it will.  

The last week of the year is always a year of reflection for me.  I think of the year gone by, and the year to come.  I love a fresh start, a reason to try harder, some way of announcing (to myself, of course - I'm not really into public announcements!) that from now on, things will be different.  Just like the weekend resets itself on Monday for another try, so does the year on New Year's Day.  What do I want to try this year?  What are my goals for this next section of life?  What do I want to see in my children?  My home?  My marriage?  Myself?

I never used to "do" New Year's Resolutions, believing them to be false and mostly forgotten.  I felt one should strive to do better all year, not just for the first few weeks and that goals could be set any time of the year.  And yet. . . I always found myself looking back at this time, and counting up accomplishments, failures, joys and sadness and then looking forward for new ways to get things done.  And so I now am a full fledged believer in New Year's Resolutions.  There's something exciting about starting out full of hope and optimism, plans and visions.

This year, I have quite ideas and goals.  More than likely they'll be trickling in to this blog as time goes by.  Some of them may become a big part of this blog.  I'm going to do a bit more research and planning before I share, though.  For now, I want to leave you with a few of my favorite Christmas photos.  After all, we planned a prepared for weeks, if not months, for that one special day.  It shouldn't be left behind quite so quickly, or easily!

First of all, I just wanted to say that this has been the best Christmas yet for us as a family.  My parents moved their Christmas dinner and gift opening to Boxing Day meaning we only had one "event" out of our homes on each day (Christmas Eve tea at my Oma's, Christmas Dinner at Scott's aunt's and then a second Christmas on Boxing Day).  It was wonderful!  Really, truly amazing!  I felt like we had so much time to enjoy it all!  Will definitely be pushing for this next year!  My kids were so much happier and well rested not to be rushed around - as you can see in the photo above.  Yay!

Love this!  Silas received a remote control car that drives in the water, as per his polite request to Santa as well as a remote control helicopter from his sister.  This is him flying his helicopter with his dad, who also received one.  Apparently they're a little tricky to learn to fly as Silas was clipped on the head a couple of times.  He turned to me after the second or third time, "Mama, I need my helmet."  I found his riding helmet and he wore it for the rest of the flying session.  Makes me giggle, but he was happy.  Look at him concentrating all cute and safe!

For me, Christmas is all about family.  Spending time with those special people in your life, whether you're related or not.  Here's part of that integral core of people in my life.

And here's another.  He's all dressed up in his Christmas best, thanks to his big sister!  I love the tie - makes him look like a used car salesman.

This is my sister's family.  Silas waited all day for them to finally arrive! Gracie's waiting "patiently" for the gift opening to begin.  Presents can be such fun when you're four, and the wait so torturous!

After gifts are opened comes the fun part - figuring all the new toys out!  Here's my other sister - auntie extraordinaire - helping my eight year old nephew figure out his new marble maze.  Not easy with a few preschoolers and a toddler running around!

I hope everyone had a fantastic day full of family and friends and joy!  Let's try and carry this on into 2011 and make some great things happen!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nativity Advent Calendar

We're not a religious family.  So, what's with the Nativity Advent Calendar then?  Well, we may not be religious, but we do celebrate Christmas and we are a moral and honest family.  We approach it as a celebration of hope and peace, love and family, with beginnings a very, very long time ago.  I firmly believe that everyone should be aware of the real reason a holiday takes place, especially when it's over run with gimme, gimme, gimme!  So I wanted to look for a way to bring make the story of the first Christmas is a Special Story in our family, a way for Silas to really know it well, in a fun way.  At the same time I noticed many posts around the web for homemade nativity calendars, there was also a great sale on at the Fisher Price website.  I know, I know, here I am preaching about non-materialism (sort of, anyhow, in an indirect way) so I buy three different Christmas sets from Fisher Price?  But honestly, I sort of look at this as a special family tradition just beginning - I hope to use this set every December for the next twenty years!

Here's a peek at what we've been doing every night.

This is the simple little gizmo I put together on November 30th.  It's 20 pocket hanging shoe organizer.  Originally I was thinking I needed a 24 pocket shoe organizer, but realized there are pieces that are way too big to fit in the pockets anyhow.  Those pieces I put in gift bags, with their proper day affixed.  At the time I didn't know what in the heck I was going to do with them, but I ended up handing Silas a small picture on a paper, a clue.  For example, I drew a sock, he ran to his sock basket.  There he found a picture of a mitten, so ran to where his mitts are kept, and so on, until he found the gift bag.  He loved those days best of all!  
I tried to order all the pieces into similar to the order they appear in the story we read.  By the way, this is the version we read:

It has a linen cover and lots of gold, a simple, honest story and, most importantly, really beautiful, magical illustrations.  They almost seem to glow!  It really helps this story become a Special Story for us.  We read it each and every night.  If I'm extra tired, or Silas is extra tired, I try and skip little bits, but he knows it too well for that. He can even say frankincense now!

This is part of the set I bought.  Like I mentioned before, I bought them online during a sale.  There are actually three sets:  the Nativity Set, the Inn at Bethlehem, and the Three Wise Men.  I love that they have a goat and a black sheep.  Silas loves the cart for the donkey.  He sets the whole thing up every night after reading the story, adds the new piece, then walks them through the story.  Before going to bed, he makes sure everyone is cozy and comfortable for the night, stuffing animals and people alike into tents, the Inn and the Stable.  Here's an action shot I took tonight as he re-read the story to all the characters from the set:

And just before I go, I wanted to add that this isn't something I spent a long time on.  I printed out some snowflakes, wrote numbers on them and attached them to the shoe organizer with clothes pins.  Figuring out what order to put each item in probably took the longest  - but I'm a bit of geek that way and enjoyed that part!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Books That Shaped My Parenting

I'm not really much on creating a family mission statement, or a family mantra or a family agreed-upon-on constitution of basic rights to hang on our fridge and refer to every day.  While I do, in fact, enjoy creating daily routines and weekly rhythms and seasonal plans, anything more formal than that feels contrived and false.  I am a voracious reader, though, and books on parenting are always around, so I have ample opportunity to glean what I feel is right for my family.  I'm always looking for a better way to do things and I'm not afraid to pull something from this book, another thing from that friend, and a few more from dear old mom and put them all together.  Some people will follow one philosophy exclusively (attachment parenting comes to mind, or Montessori homeschooling for example) but I think I'm just a bit too lazy.  If something else works more effectively, why bother forcing something else to fit?  Obviously, following one person's idea of how a family should operate works for some people, and that's great - it would save a lot of research on the parents' part, wouldn't it?

 Of course, having said this, not all these books are going to work for your family, but I make a point of owning these books so I can reread them as often as I need (usually once or twice a year) in order to refresh my point of view and re-inspire my commitment.  As the needs of my family change, I go through the books again.  No only to pick up a few new ways to do something, but to recall the original reason I thought it was so good in the first place!  Parenting is a tough job.  We make so many decisions everyday that it's easy to lose sight of what we're doing.  Can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

I like to keep my end point in view, the finished product.  I enforce a limited TV time for a reason, I don't buy just anything for a reason, I allow my kids to play unsupervised for a reason and I put a lot of effort into planning certain activities for a reason.  What are my reasons?  Goodness, I don't always remember!  But at least I know where to look if I need to.  These books are my parenting map, on occasion, my lifeline.  It's nice to know that after a frustrating day, a stack of books my help me find a way to a better day tomorrow.

This is the list of books I re-read regularly (or a least skim on occasion!) for your own parenting journey - happy travels!

Bringing Up Geeks by Marybeth Hicks

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy

Last Child in the Woods-Revised: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting by Marie Sherlock

Family Virtues Guide by Linda Popov

100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values by Diana Loomis

The Unplugged Play Book: The Essential Parents Guide by Bobbi Conner

Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character…in You and Your Kids! by Scott Turansky

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth

That's a good chunk of the ones I use regularly.  I tend to look to a book for an answer to my problems, sometimes it works, other times I just get a new point of view or even just a little bit of inspiration to tackle the problem on my own way.  And you can see that they're not just for kids, some of them are for the moms, too!  Oooh, and there's one more I wanted to tell you about:  Steady Days.  It's written by a busy mom who also writes the Steady Mom blog (another great resource, by the way).  I don't actually own it, but I borrowed it from my library and it's on my to-buy list.  I was disappointed I missed her give away!  That's what happens, I suppose.

Any other recommendations?

Um . . . I needed a break?

So sorry for the dead silence over here. Once I missed one week, it was hard to resist the ugly little monster of procrastination.  I didn't do anything worth blogging about.  I didn't take pretty pictures.  I don't have time to assemble a really great post.  My boys are sick.  I'm sick.  Oliver's sick AGAIN!  I don't know what to say after being away for so long.  It's easy to let it slide and easy to justify, especially when life gets busy.  While I have been (sort of) following some of my favorite blogs, I just couldn't bring myself to post again.  Obviously I needed a break.  But I've been missing it!  I love getting my thoughts down, seeing my week on the screen, revisiting favorite moments and activities.  So I think I'm ready to come back now.  I have a few pictures I've taken with posts in mind, including a fun Nativity Advent Calendar.  Hopefully coming up!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tot School

After a few more camera issues (see previous post) I've finally gotten caught up with  school posts.  Because of said camera issues, I have only a few pictures to go with, but I do have a few things to share, never the less.

For Silas, in preschool, this week has been all about Farm Yard Tales Alphabet Lotto.  I believe I've mentioned before how OBSESSED he's been with letters, particularly sounds.  Not a morning or afternoon or evening goes by without him saying to me, "Mama! Mama!  Vvvv starts with Vest!".  He's so excited to have found a connection, it's cute and it's fun, and I love it.  We tried to play this game before, but I wasn't prepared (as in hadn't read the instructions first!) and he quickly lost interest.  A few weeks later I brought it out again, and now he requests playing the "Alphabet game" instead of reading a story before bed (usually we do both - quickly).

He's very familiar with Usborne's Farmyard Tales, we own the complete set.  I am an Usborne Books Consultant because I LOVE Usborne and this way I can earn free books with very little effort (two or so open houses a year).  He loves seeing familiar faces and objects from his books and he loves matching the pictures with their letters.  So far we've mostly just been using the cards, not so much the boards.  I think that's just cause when we match pairs together, we build roads out of them and stretch them out all over the floor or bed.

One other little share-worthy item I have is that our Tot School has moved.  Now that Oliver is sleeping in the same room as Silas, and I've created a family closet in our laundry room, I have more room in my bedroom.  I can have a more permanent location for tot/pre school things than on the kitchen table and I feel better organized.  I was really struggling trying to meet both my children's needs and I feel strongly that a major component of Tot School is one-on-one, focused time with mom and I was NOT getting that.  I see other moms doing Tot school together with their little ones, but I'm just not there.  I'm not sure if it's just the ages of my boys, or if it's something I'm doing, or just the way things are, but I decided that something needed to change so we could all enjoy it more.  
Now I stagger their naps on Tot School days (days we don't have any outside morning commitments) and it's been so much more peaceful and lovely.  Oliver goes to sleep shortly after noon and I spend 30-45 minutes with Silas in my bedroom.  Then I tuck him into bed and I have a bit of time to get supper prepped and a bit of time for tea and a book (I really whiz through supper lol!).  Then Ollie wakes up and we have Tot School until Silas wakes up.  It's been working really well, I'm so pleased!
Silas doesn't know it yet, but I'm creating a little "alone time" nook for him in our closet.  I'm not sure how or when I'm going to use it, just that I would like to start a bit of individual play time for the boys during our days.  It seems like the two of them get in ruts at certain times of the day and it would be beneficial for them both to have a few things to do separately for a half hour or so.  Silas would have access to his 'big boy toys' like his marble maze, library books or puzzles and Oliver would sit at the table and have a few age-appropriate activities of his own.  I may switch this up with a few toys in his crib and see how it goes.  In any case, once his little cubby is complete, I may post pictures as it will be intertwined with Tot School as well.
So that's been it for Tot School this week . . . please see this blog for some more specific, well-organized Tot School sessions!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disorganized? Me?

I've been having more camera issues.

First a printer that broke down, so no disk slot for downloading pictures.  Then I couldn't find the cord that connects my camera to the usb for a more direct connection.  It's been sitting on this desk for the last bloomin' year and a half, of course I couldn't find it once I needed it.  Then I find a printer on sale, half price, with a disk slot, hurray!  Can't find the disk.  I know it wasn't in the old printer.  I put it on the kitchen shelf.  Scott pointed it out to me, then I decided that wasn't a safe place for it, so I moved it.  Somewhere it'd be safe.  I vaguely recall putting it in a slightly odd location, and there was wood there.  A shelf, or cupboard, or something.  I even remember having a notion that I probably should just leave it there, cause I've had it happen before where I couldn't find things once I'd moved them to a so-called safer location.  Yeah, that happened again. For the love of Pete, why didn't I just put it back in  my camera?  A few days of fruitless searching and off I go to the store to buy a disk.  I buy the wrong one.  Can you believe it?  I could have sworn I had an SD in my camera.  Turns out it's an XD.  Huh.  Too bad the XD is three times the price of an SD!

Anyhow, I think I finally have all my ducks in a row.  The way things have been going lately, you'd think I was a complete and total disorganized nut, but honestly, I'm generally on top of things.  Sort of.  Those of you who know me may disagree.  Let's just say that I'm better than many, better than I used to be, and I'm working on areas that need improvement!

A new Tot School post tomorrow (hopefully!) with the one or two pictures I did manage to get together.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My morning

Okay, okay, I couldn't help myself.  I love routines, I love seeing the routines of others and I love sharing my own.  I was totally inspired to write down my own morning routine here by Steady Mom's post.  So here it goes!

6am  If I'm lucky, I'm just getting out of bed now.  Often my youngest, little Oll, will be awake before this hour.  If I'm really lucky, both little boys are still asleep and I get a bit of time to myself!  Once my baby's older, I believe I may have a "room time" for them.  Silas did at one time play quietly by himself, as long as I left him a little snack in a lunch box for him, but once the baby came along, that all went out the window.  Anyhow!

Let's say I'm really lucky and the boys are both sleeping.  I get dressed, do my hair and make up and wipe down the bathroom (just the sink, counter and sometimes toilet).  Usually at this point Silas is awake, finding his favorite toys from yesterday.  I'll start breakfast and run water in the sink for dishes, then put away last night's dishes from the rack.

645 This is the absolute latest Oliver wakes up (unless ill, off schedule or what have you - there are just no absolutes with kids, are there?).  It's a great day when breakfast is ready and I can just pop him into his seat and put some food in front of him.  If breakfast isn't quite ready, I'll make do with a bit of fruit.  Silas will sit and eat too while I wash up the supper dishes.  This is also when I become aware of Tawny stumbling around in the back ground getting ready for school.  Often she'll have a bit of whatever I've prepared for the boys.  If she opts for something else, I get it!

700 I start some laundry and get Oliver dressed.  While I'm in that area of the house, I make the beds and tidy the bedrooms, then pack the diaper bag for the day, if necessary.  I almost always have to convince Silas to get dressed at this point.  He knows I'll reserve a few minutes to help him and if he horses around too much, then he's got to stay in the laundry room until he's dressed himself.

730  By this time I try and be sitting at the computer with my own breakfast (tea and toast usually, with a piece of fruit).  I have a rule:  When my tea is done, computer time is done as well.  I turn the computer right off just to be sure!  Once it's done, I wipe the counters and table, then sweep the floor. A few days a week, I'll vacuum but only if I know we'll be home after taking my daughter to school because I often don't have time to finish before we have to go.

800 I get Silas and Oliver ready to go out.  This is easy in the summer, difficult in the winter and somewhere in between for spring and fall.  Ideally, I would have everything I need to bring with me waiting by the door, but once the boys are dressed, I remember that I need to grab the library books, or the recycling.  I should really set aside some time the evening before for this, because while I'm running around getting these things, Oliver's mad because I won't let him go outside by himself (he'll go play in the mud puddles, no question!).

815 All of us, including my teenage daughter Tawny, are in the car and heading for town. Tawny gets dropped off at the high school and we get on with our day.  Depending on what exact day it is, we either stay in town or head back home.  I just finished reading Steady Days and have fine tuned my daily/weekly routine to be more repetitive so I don' t have to refer to it constantly.  So now I know that at 830, our morning activity starts, be it Art on Mondays or Park Day on Fridays.

930 Snack time!  My boys LOVE to eat!  If I need to I prep the next activity.

945 Second morning activity, usually a continuation of what we were doing before the much needed nourishment break.  For example, more baking on Saturdays or more Strong Start on Tuesdays.

1130 Lunch time!  If we were in town for an activity or for errands, I try and be home about this time for lunch. Things go down hill quickly if we're still in town and I'm out of snacks!

1200 Book time.  We focus mostly on books Oliver would like, lots of look and say picture books without a lot of words.  If he's too tired, he'll just go straight to bed for a nap.

And that's it for mornings!  Things slow down a little for afternoons as I'm more of a morning person - and so are the little ones.  Maybe that'll be a post for next week's 30 Minute Challenge?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What I'm Reading

A whole month gone by!  I'be been through so many books this month, but here's what's on top of the pile right now:

In the bedroom:

My Opa gave this to me to read when I was about 15.  I don't remebmer if I got all the way through the book, I suspect not as it's quite hefty - although a really good read.  My Opa passed away this May and while visiting my Oma, I spotted in it on the shelf was inspired to reread it.  It's been well worth it so far!  This is such an interesting read.  Any time I go anywhere, be it around my ranch, to a neighbouring city or a whole other country, I always seem to catch myself looking around, wondering what it looked like while still inhabited by hunter/gatherer societies.  This book describes many, many aspects of that world and captures my imagination.  I love that it's a true story as well.

I'm reading this book in conjunction with Family Virtues Guide.  While I'd love to join a Unitarian Universalist congregation, as I've explained before, I'm just not up for the hour or more drive with two little ones.  So for now, I'm trying to intentionally go about instilling great morals, build up emotional knowledge and expose my boys to many, many different ways of caring and believing.  This two books will be my jumping off point.  I'm busy taking notes each evening as I don't own Building Moral Intelligence and I'll have to return it soon.  The suggestions seem very doable, and his reasoning makes sense to me.

I've recently finished reading Happy Housewives, a book I picked up on a whim at the library.  While I agree with the basic principle of "quit whining and enjoy this period in your life" and the question "Since when has caring for your home and children something to be less than proud of?" I felt like I was well out of her target audience.  I have never hired a housekeeper, chef, and nanny and spent the day shopping or at the spa nor does my clothing have to meet the "cute and tight" requirements.  I guess what I'm saying about this book is that I agree with what she's saying, I'm just in a whole different world than she is.  I like a lot of what she says, it just applies to me a little differently.  She has a real no-nonsense attitude that's just a little hard to take sometimes, and she makes a lot of assumptions about money availability, but underneath it all, there was some good advice that I've since applied to my own life.

And finally, the last book I'm reading (the one in the cook book rack by my sink!) is this one:

We've already pretty much decided on homeschooling, in fact, really we've started already, but I enjoy reading up on homeschooling and getting a bit more information from a new angle.  This book is really just confirming what I've learned and decided already.  Some really good, general information from a definite pro-homeschooling point of view.

And that's it!  I'll be back in few weeks or so with some more!

The Blue Blankie and Other Friends

The blue blankie.  Is there anything greater?  Later to join the lovey scene is the stuffed teddy bear.  Not pictured here is the stuffed border collie given to him at birth by my mom.  Believe it or not, only days before this photo was taken, Silas generously let Oliver sleep with it in his crib.  Up until then, all three were in the bed each and every nap and bed time.  But the blankie was first.  And probably most important.  

Some parents seem to be against security objects, be they stuffies, blankets or some old t-shirt or sock.  I'm all for them!  Yes, they get dirty, torn, stained and unsightly, but really - that's why we have washing machines and mothers (I don't sew, haha, but my mom does!).  The amount of comfort he gets from these objects has saved me a lot of sleep, given him a lot of security and created a lot of conversations.  And when he first went to sleep at  Gramma and Bucca's house (when Oliver was born) he and I knew it was going to be just fine, cause he had his blue blankie and his teddy.  Before bed each night I go and check on my boys and it's always so sweet to see him clutching his blankie somehow, whether it be thrown over his neck like in the photo above, tucked in next to his body or grasped in his hand.  

It's done a lot of traveling too, interprovincial even!  There have been a few minor heart attack moments when we thought for a moment the blankie has been misplaced or forgotten, but so far (knock knock) it's always turned up.  And luckily for us, if it was left at grami's house or in a vehicle no longer here, he'll reluctantly accept a substitute.  It's the best of both worlds, really.

And some day, this special little blue blankie and scruffy, worn out teddy will be tucked away in a box somewhere, all but forgotten.  My little boy will be all grown up, doing his own thing.  I'll get a full night's sleep, hours to myself, mornings to spend at leisure and no more rushing home for lunch and a nap. No more "I wuv you, mama" s or sticky, puckered kisses, handfuls of weeds and grass presented at the door or silly face-making in the mirror.  So let him have his blue blankie, let him cuddle a bear while in the car or falling asleep - it's only a matter of time before it's all just memories. 

This post is part of  Mom's 30 minute blog challenge.

Tot School Catch Up

The last Tot School post I completed was September 5th.  Goodness!  That was a while ago . . . we have been completing many tot school activities over here!  So without further ado, here's a quick catch-you-up: some of my favorite photos over the last month.

To start with, this was the original Tot School arrangement.  It worked best with both of them sitting at the table involved in there own activities. Occasionally Oliver would want down and I'd introduce him to some other floor activity  (like the fridge magnets below).  I would have liked to combine their activities for simplicity, but it seemed like half the things Silas would like to do, Oliver would just eat, you know?  On the other hand, trying to coordinate two different activities at the same time, and still stay true to the spirit of Tot School (spending some focused time with your child), was a huge challenge.  

Although, now that I'm looking through the pictures, there are an awful lot of Oliver activities on the floor, aren't there?  But I felt like I was cheating by having Oliver doing his own thing on the floor while I focused on Silas's less "do what you will" activities that involved following directions or at least obeying basic rules such as "Baby Alligators are NOT allowed to paint".  

 Oliver has enjoyed this farm set all month.  He's especially into the chickens right now!  It helps that our toy rotations always include trucks, tractors and/or trailers so he can haul them around the house too.


Silas knows all the letters in his name, which really surprised me!  Carisa of 1+1+1=1 was right!  Leap Frog's Letter Factory DVD really does work!  I had know idea he was aware of anything other than the S's in his name.  That's his "t" he added at the bottom by the way. That's got to be his all time favorite letter.  And, as you can see below, we drew a lot of them!  He's so into letters, which I love.  I've always adored reading, taught myself to read at the age of four, and I cannot wait until Silas is ready to move on past letter recognition, "I made a T!" and "Sssss starts with song, mom!" comments that I hear all day long (which always make me smile, too!).  By the way, the "T" that he made below came out of nowhere on the 6th of September.  I took his picture because he was soooo proud of himself - and because he's darn cute that way!

Here's one way I try to cater to Oliver's love of eating the activity!  Banana coins to insert into the container.  It was a little tricky for him, but non-frustrating because he could always eat them if they wouldn't go down!  The popsicle sticks were better - he inserted and removed them for quite some time about three days in a row.
Here's Silas reading his beloved, well worn teddy a story, I belive it was Baby Beluga by Raffi.  It was neat listening to him read the story - another first for Silas, he's never 'read' a book to anyone or anything that I know of.  Since this photo was taken he's also started to 'read' favorite books to Oliver now and then.

Here's something else that really occupied the two boys:  a masking tape road all over the house, with box bridges, tunnels and "crashes" (no ramp on one side of the bridge) complete with fisher price houses, airport and garage.  They loved this game!  Silas in particular played all afternoon!  This was, of course, my mother's doing.  She has the boys for a full day while I work on Wednesdays.  You can see why they love it there!

There have been quite a few road trips this month what with trying to get all of our passports organized, a cousin's wedding, a family apple picking day and some geocaching with dad.  But our boys are getting to be quite the travellers, as you can plainly see:

This is Silas giving us directions as he follows the map from the back seat.  The directions went something like this: "You go past the trees, and down the hill, over the bridge, then drive for a long, long time.  Then turn left and drive some more, past the town and into the hotel.  And that's how we get there!"  It was very enlightening.  He's been really interested in maps lately, and globes.  I wouldn't be surprised if a globe showed up under the Christmas tree this year!

After apple picking - an exhausting adventure to be sure!

Geocaching (or "treasuring" as Silas calls it) with dad.  We got started on this through Scott's parents.  Scott is definitely hooked, I like being able to stop at neat places around the province rather than drive past them all so we can see how far we get in one day (yawn!).  Silas loves the little toys left in the boxes that we trade for by leaving our own little toys in the boxes.  And Oliver?  He's happy just to be let out of the car seat!

Just last week there was a Rivers Day in town, celebrating and raising awareness around the rivers in our valley, both of which are salmon habitat.  Silas loves to fish, they both love anything to do with fishes, so it goes without saying that they enjoyed this day!  I love the expression on Silas's face as he watched a salmon dissection!  

And that's a very brief summary of our month together.  Coming up soon is our new way to do Tot School.  I've completely rearranged the schedule over the last week and it seems to be working out really well for us all.  Hope you come back soon to check it out!  For more really great tot school posts, please see this link.