Monday, July 19, 2010

Meanwhile, back on the ranch . . .

One reason I love reading blogs is to see how everyone else goes about their daily life.  If I can find a blog that has some familiar aspects (such as a family with young children) in an entirely unfamiliar setting, I enjoy comparing and contrasting our normal, everyday lives.  That's a reason I enjoy blogging, too.  I like to share our normal, everyday lives with the ranching twist so others can compare their own lives to ours.  So here's a slice of ranch life with young kids for your comparing pleasure!

Hot weather means a lot of river time.  We went to the river or Grami and Grandad's pool every evening this week.  Sand was a big hit with both boys!  Silas made a track with his dad, Oliver just scooped it up, swished it around and really 'felt' it.  Of course, he also used a truck because that's what his brother does!

 Around here tractors are only second to, well, Monster Tractors such as the one above that Oliver got for his birthday.  Both my boys love tractors and the sign for tractor was among the first signs that they picked up.  

Mud and puddles are staple entertainment around here, and thanks to irrigation, we seem to have a lot of both available at almost all times.  Ever since reading "The Little Blue Truck" Silas has had a fascination with trucks getting stuck in the mud.  I dare say he'd have discovered it anyway, but he sure does love the book!

We try and get out for walks or at least quad rides if the kids are too tired or grumpy to make that feasible.  The other day we went as far as this flooded pond to look for tadpoles.  And I'm happy to report that we found some!!

Oliver was the grumpy one on this outing and heaven forbid I try to peel him off his beloved quad!  As I snapped this picture, I'm really glad I remembered to pull the key as it looks as though he wouldn't have minded racing off across the field!

Of course, all is not fun and games. Rural life is famous for instilling good work ethic in children.  Our home is no different.  Everyone has chores, we all work hard together!  For instance, Silas helps me vacuum:  

And here he is below, helping his dad treat the horse (Silas style!) in appreciation for the way she stood still for new shoes:

Last but not least, here he is checking out the chicken next for eggs.  This is a daily chore the three of us take care of each morning.  The boys are learning the importance of being responsible and reliable as these chickens depend on us to bring them food and water, to keep them safe from dogs and predators and care for them in hot and cold weather.  They also really like eggs!

One thing that I am profoundly grateful for in my little corner of the world is the view from my house.  You can't beat it.  Being able to appreciate the passing of each season in all it's glory is a big part of 'what it's all about' for me.

Tot School

Tot School

I'm finding that often it's the first few days of the week that I have time for some formal Tot School sessions with Silas.   This week was no different!  I'm aiming for 2 days a week where we sit down and go through his boxes (I use plastic shoe boxes to organize his 'tot trays') and choose a few activities.  On Tuesday he did three pages from Kumon's "Let's Cut Paper" book.  He enjoyed it, but will like the more advanced pages.  I got this book for him last Christmas and we're only just starting it - that's why I love Tot School.  I find the time for these kinds of things!  He's fighting me on the 'one hand on the scissors' guideline (wants to use two hands to open and close them), but in the end he realized it worked a lot better. He's really progressed since that time a few weeks ago when I started him on snipping across strips of coloured paper!

I also pulled out a bingo dabber I bought and used it on a letters page.  Silas loves to dab!  He hasn't used one before either but he was begging for more pages after the first session.  I just printed out a page of letters and had him dab the "S"s he could find as well as filling in a few big letter "S"s on a page.  Silas, of course, loves the letter "S".

Carisa at 1+1+1=1 has given such rave reviews of Leap Frog Letter Factory that I added to an order from Amazon in order to qualify for free shipping.  Silas doesn't watch tv (we don't have it) but he does have a few dvd's. I'm still a little on the fence when it comes to "educational" movies for kids, but I have to say that Silas really enjoys this one.  In fact, he packed it around with him everywhere he went - to town, to bed, in the car - just so he could look at the cover and show it to people!  He also enjoyed the game included and we played it together (I had to run the remote). He doesn't know all his letters, but I believe this will really help him figure some of them out.  For instance, he now knows "R" because he love race cars, and this is what the "R" is all about in this movie!

And finally, I've noticed that Silas is very into pouring in the bathtub, and getting quite good at it!  The rice and pasta are not all that interesting to him, too easy I think, but he likes water.  I think I'll start giving him a little just at the table to pour his own milk or water at meals and snacks and see what happens.

Oliver is now officially one!  His birthday was on Tuesday, so I guess now he's graduated from Tiny Tot and is now in the Tot School portion?  I feel that Silas may be ready for a more preschool like program, but I'll definitely be sticking with what we're doing for summer.  But Ollie is now on board so I may set out some more formal stuff for him next week, too.  Here's what he was up to this week:

Silas built him some towers to knock down out of cleaned milk carton with the top taped down (so they were rectangular rather than peaked at the top).  They both enjoyed this!  Silas is great at being a big brother, so once I pointed out how he could help Oliver enjoy this activity, he was right into it.

As a quick distraction for him, I grabbed this bucket of feathers and showed him how to blow on them.  Here he is, mid-blow, making the feathers puff up a bit.  He was pretty proud of himself!

This was a gift to him (thanks, Grami!) for his birthday.  Fascinating!  He played with this a lot over the week.

Now that I've gotten used to packing the camera around with me (almost) everywhere we go, I've realized that the boys and I do a lot of really great stuff.  "Stuff" that really helps them learn about the world around them, the specific one they live in.  Someday I'll be expanding those borders a bit, but for now I'm just really grateful for our beautiful outdoor setting!  I'll be posting about a little more "Life School" later this week!

I'm a consultant for Usborne so I have a big stash of these fantastic books.  The boys both really enjoy them and I often find them looking through a book on their own in my bedroom.  Here are some of the big hits this week as far as books go:

For more ideas and information on Tot School, please see 1+1+1=1.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What I'm Reading

Here I am with a new batch of books.  I was thinking I'd do a reading post monthly, but I go through the books fairly quickly, with the odd massive exception so perhaps every two weeks would be more appropriate?!

One of those exceptions would be Don Quixote.  I've always wanted to make my way through "The Classics", whatever that might be.  I'm not sure why.  I guess I remember reading through a few of the so-called classics in high school and finding most of each book incredibly hard to get through and quite dry. But toward the end, there were chapters full of "AHA!!" moments where one seemingly random piece of information fit in just right, out of nowhere things connect and make sense.  It was such a thrill!  So slugging through some hard reading may not seem worth it at the time, but, to me at least, it's worth it in the end.

So, Don Quixote, which I've renewed and re-renewed out of my library so many times I'm not even sure how long I've had it in my room, is the "Classic" I'm currently reading.  I'm following the advice of one an author I really respect - Susan Wise Bauer, and her book "The Well-Educated Mind".  She suggests using a journal and writing a few lines upon completion of each chapter.  Only a line or two, mind you, which is actually harder than it sounds.  She also advises keeping a list of characters as they're introduced because, as many of us know, those long old-fashioned books have many, many, MANY characters that come and go repeatedly. 

I'm not sure I recommend Don Quixote, it hardly needs my recommendation! It's on every list of Great Books ever put out there, I'm sure! I think you need to be a determined reader to get through any of those types of books.  If you're one of those types, then you hardly need my encouragement!  If you're interested in reading a book like this, but have been overwhelmed in the past, take heart!  I recommend Ms. Bauer's book, The Well Educated Mind which has practical, simple advice to help you read many different genres as well as a chronological list of suggested books in each genre she covers.  It's kept me going, slowly but surely, thus far!  I tend to keep both of these books in my bedroom and I use them when I'm feeling like I've deserved a break before I get to nap time chores, just after I get the kids to sleep.  This is probably why I'm making such slow progress, as I don't often give myself that luxury!

Secondly, in my bedroom, I've just finished "The History of the Middle Ages" and 'moved-on' to "The History of the Ancient World".   I know, of course, the Ancient World comes before the Middle Ages, but my Library didn't have the Ancient World, but I ordered it from Amazon.  So the one I had on hand was read first!  Now I look forward to catching up those first few thousand years I missed!  See my previous What I'm Reading post to see what I like about these books, as I've only just started the Ancient World and can't make much further comment.

Finally, in the kitchen, I have "Keeping A Family Cow" by Joann S. Grohman.  It's come highly recommended  all over the place for those who are looking into aquiring a dairy cow to meet their family's needs.  That's about where I'm at.  In fact, I've informally agreed to purchase a Jersey cow from a friend in September!  I'm very excited!  And although I live on a ranch with hundreds of cows, I don't know anything about dairy cows!  So I'm reading up on what to expect and what to prepare.  So far I've only covered the introductory chapters on the benefits of owning one's own cow as well as the goodness of un-processed milk fresh from your own cow.  Very interesting indeed!  I realize this is a pretty specialized book but I've posted the book below if it's interesting to you.

Thanks for checking out my current reads, hope you're enjoying a good book of your own!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oliver's First Birthday!

Our birthday story starts with an impromptu trip to Toys R Us in a neighboring city (our town's only toy place is Walmart which I try to avoid - I'm not comlpetely successful!).  There's something about stores completely dedicated to toys.  When I was little, I didn't even know such a thing existed, except in books or on TV!  I can wander Toys R Us happily for a long time - even better are little privately owned toy stores.  My goodness - I wish our little town could support a store full of unique toys!  I'm just not into "movie toys" put out by Disney.  Anyhow!  Silas went happily off to play with his Gramma while Oliver and I piled into my mom's van to shop. Strolling the aisles of a toy store without a little dictator (aka Silas) was heavenly, and Oliver helped pick out his gifts!

I had made a cake in a regular sized pan on Monday, then froze it for decorating later.  Scott took Silas riding on Friday morning, so I took advantage of the favorable mom to kid ratio and decorated it then.  I just cut it into train car sized pieces, iced them and added cookies and candies to look like wheels and different cargo. I'm not a professional cake decorator by any means, but we had a lot of fun making it,  and it turned out pretty good, I think.  Everyone loved it,especially Silas. He's already decided he would like a train cake for his birthday next year!

It was a hot day, and just as hot inside as out, so we gathered in the shade of our yard and enjoyed each other's company.  Here's Oliver with three sets of grandparents (one set are his great-grandparents!).  How lucky is he?

After a BBQ lunch, he blew out his candle (with much help from big brother!) and then we unwrapped his gifts.  He was spoiled, as usual!  With help from Carisa at 1+1+1=1 I'd compiled a wish list for Oliver's upcoming graduation from Tiny Tot school to regular Tot School and the grandparents came through, just as they always do!  He also got several tractors and trucks, of course, and he really enjoyed them too!

A little late due to technical (assembly!) difficulties, he also received this:


Both boys love it, and it's produced some challenges and opportunities  to continue learning about sharing and turn taking.  Here's one alternative Silas discovered:


They both enjoy this - it makes them giggle, which in turn makes me laugh.  So a good time is had all around!

On a more serious note, I have to say that I cannot believe he's been with us a full year already!  This time last year, I was still grouchy because I woke up in the morning still pregnant, AGAIN!  My midwives fixed me up with this deadly, horrible, nauseating 'cocktail' and Oliver was born 59 minutes later.  Ahhhh, good times.  

Happy First Birthday Ollie!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where's the Ranch?

Looking back through some of my posts, I've noticed a distinct lack of outdoor pictures.  Considering we spend at least half of our day outside (gardening, feeding chickens, going for walks, playing in the river, and just plain hanging out) I find that odd.  So, in honour of the fact that we've FINALLY got some nice summer weather this week I've made it a personal mission to record a few more of our outdoor pursuits.  Here are some of my favorite shots:

Ranch kids practically grow up on a quad.  Seriously.  Oliver and Silas both began riding on them when they were newborns in a sling.  Heck, Silas was making midnight checks on the calves with dad, in a sling, on a quad.  Wow, that line was kind of Dr. Seus-ish, wasn't it? (Yes, Silas is sticking out his tongue in this picture.  That's just the way we roll around here!)

An ancient tradition among ranching families is bringing refreshment out to those making hay in the hot, dry weather.  I've been bringing ice cream, popsicles and ice water out to my dad for as long as I can remember, and now Silas and Oliver are continuing the tradition.  Since getting out into the field almost always involves a bumpy walk or drive, we usually bring liquids out in a mason jar - just like the one above.

We've been spending a lot of time at the river in the evenings once the heat isn't quite so brutal.  We're all sweaty and sticky and grumpy at that point and it's the only way we can enjoy each other.  It's a great way to reconnect and cool down before tucking the little ones into bed.  I love living near water!  It shows off the seasons like nothing else, it draws wildlife, provides a place for activities and fun, and can have such a calm, hypnotizing effect for young and old alike.  And what's better for a little country boy like Silas?  A stick, some water, a hot day, and his family nearby.  What else could he ask for?! 

And where's Oliver you ask?  Good question!  He is getting SO FAST, scuttling around from sand, to puddles, to rocks, to river, to bushes, then back to sand.  I try and keep an eye on him and ensure he's safe, while still letting him be independent and follow his curiosity.  Sometimes I have to glance around quickly to locate him!  Can you spot him here?  Don't worry, the river shore is in plain view - it's just the rock, sand and bush "dunes" that provide a bit of cover for him to hide in!

Here's a parting shot of our barns.  You can only see the roof of the Old Barn tucked under the big Fir tree.  It was there when my great-grandad bought the place almost 100 years ago.  He built the red barn with his own two hands, his own two sons (my granpa and my great-uncle) and his own many trees cleared off the field I'm stranding in while taking this picture.  Int he background you can see the little community of Shulus, which we don't really have access to as there's no river over the bridge any more.  I used to work in a daycare there, though, and when the water was low enough I would just wade across the river for a nice ten minute walk.  I've taken a lot of ranch pictures over the years, and it seems like no matter what angle, or what season, they're all gorgeous!

Tot School

Tot School

Summer has arrived, finally!  It's been hotter at 8 am the last few days than at noon any other day in the past month!  It's amazing how you forget how hot things can actually get!  We've been spending a lot of time at the river, in the sprinkler so not a lot of Tot School happened this week.  Additionally, it's Oliver's birthday on Tuesday, so we held the party on Saturday.  A great time was had by all - a post is forthcoming.  In the meantime, here's some of our Tot School activities for this week:

Since we didn't do a lot of formal activities, I thought I'd post some other pics.  We did do a little bit of baking - well, not baking since it didn't go in the oven.  We made an Indian bread to go along with our lentil and sweet potato stew at lunch one day.  He had a great time rolling the dough out flat, and Ollie ate dough pieces like a little bird.

Silas enjoyed the rice pouring more than the macaroni, possibly because I put in a funnel.  I left him for a few minutes while I put Oliver down for his morning nap and came back to an even bigger mess than is in the picture!  I'll have to figure out a better system, here!

He loved this game!  I made a "parking lot" with colours on which to park his cars - matching the colours of course.  We ended up finding a bunch more cars, making more parking spaces and parking the whole lot of them.  I'll have to remember to incorporate his cars into more advanced activities!

The only other Tot School thing we did was a page full of stickers. Silas can now peel most of them off himself as he's figured out that if you bend the page just right, a corner sticks up to grab.  He received some train and rainbow stickers for his birthday in April, so we used those and he was pretty darn proud.  He even hung it up on the fridge himself!

And we all enjoyed the bubbles, especially when combined with the trampoline!

Tiny Tot School

Life is school for little Ollie!  I was sorting out the cloth bags this week and Oliver loved this one from Toys R Us.  Here he is admiring it, signing "truck".

For more Tot School ideas check out 1+1+1=1!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things are happening around here!

Oliver has been changing in leaps and bounds and I just had to report!

For starters, he has started to discover books. He's especially into books with shoes, tractors or birds.

He's really starting to communicate now! It's so exciting to witness that evolving. The expression on his face when something connects for him is priceless.

I'm teaching him sign language, just like I did for Silas. I'll have to post about my conviction when it comes to signing for infants and toddlers, but for now, let me just say that I think it's fantastic.

Oliver has 6 signs: more, all done, dog, tractor/car/truck, shoes and bird. He had the first three for months! I was beginning to think that I just too busy to have the focus and consistency for signing with my third child, when all of the sudden he learned the next three signs in just a few days! He's also using more and all done in more situations than just at the table which is so gratifying. He uses some words already, too: tractor (tah-tuh), dog barking noises (his favorite), uh oh! and wow! (both very adorable).

Last, but certainly not least, after months of pulling himself up, cruising furniture and standing on his own in the middle of the room, Oliver has finally discovered that he can actually take steps! He began to pull himself up on furniture when he was only six or seven months old so I thought he'd be walking ages ago. Once again, I have to remember that kids do things in their own good time.

I love this shot, the smile just says it all and his dad behind ready for a catch is great.

Tot School

Tot School

We started out with the best of intentions. I had six activities all ready to go. Silas really enjoyed the first few one day, and another activity another day. Then the dreaded stomach flu hit. Let's just say there was no time for Tot School on Wednesday and Thursday!

Silas seemed to be challenged by these little clothespins. Not too hard, but definitely not easy. The matching was no problem at all. We've never really done a specific matching game, so I was pleased he understood the concept. Next time I'll add more colours.

He REALLY enjoyed this float or sink activity. He was able to correctly predict whether an object would float or sink before putting in the water, and he enjoyed wandering around the house on the hunt for more things that would float or more things that would sink. He requested to play this one three times over the week (each day we did Tot School).

This wooden beading necklace was a lot of fun for him. He's played with them before, but not often. He was easily able to name the colours. I might make some pattern cards for him with these beads as they're all primary colours and easy to match with crayola felts.

Once again, I underestimated his abilities with sorting and matching. He easily sorted green and orange beads. It didn't hold his attention long - too easy! I'll ramp this up a bit next time.

I also set out a jug of macaroni and a pretty bowl for pouring. Once again too easy. . . I'm impressed what he can do! The School of Life is pretty educational! The last activity was a Color Wonder colouring book in a Cars theme. He loved the cars theme, wasn't so big on the colouring. That's okay - I like it when kids draw their own pictures anyhow!

Tiny Tot School

Oliver loved the beads! Just picking them up, testing them, tasting them. He watched me put them in the plastic jar for a while, then tried it out himself. Dumping them out proved to be a challenge and he needed my guidance to figure it out. He was always delighted whenever I left this jar out for him, even with the lid on!

For some more truly fantastic ideas for Tot School, please see 1+1+1=1 !

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I'm Reading

I'm a book-aholic. I'm not ashamed of it, I'm proud to say it! I wish I had more time for books! I read in the bathtub, while I'm nursing babies, while I'm eating breakfast, while I'm folding laundry and while I'm washing dishes. How on earth do I manage those last two you ask? Using the greatest kitchen invention EVER! A cookbook holder! I have one similar to the one below and let me tell you: it's fantastic! A practically hands-free way to read!

So I have a book-holder book. But I also have a few bathroom books for reading while the kids are bathing (and I should be tidying or cleaning the bathroom but don't) or while I'm in the tub myself. I have a bedroom book. Theoretically I would be reading this one before bed, but most of the time I'm too tired, but I get through this one while nursing Oliver before bed or waiting for him to fall asleep at nap time. Those are the books that have a designated time and place for reading, and those tend to be the ones I get through from cover to cover. I always have a huge stack of books from the library - I don't buy books unless I've already read them and think they're worth reading over and over. I come across books online or hear about them from friends and check and see if my library has them. If they don't, I request an inter-library loan. I've had a lot of success using this system - it's pretty rare my library doesn't come through for me!

If I'm lucky, I at least get a chance to glance through all the library books before their due date to know if they're worth renewing and moving up to one of my designated reading spots. About half the time, the book isn't what I'm expecting or my interests have changed so I send them back (which is why I like to borrow before I buy lol!).

So, what's in my designated places right now? In the stand is "Have A New Husband by Friday" by Keven Leman. I don't like it. It's written by a man but it really seems to talk down to men - like dog training or something. And it makes a lot of assumptions about both men and women. I've been reading it for a few days now, but if it doesn't get better soon, I'll probably dump it. I'm not even sure why I decided to read this book, I kinda like the husband I got ;) !

In my bedroom is Susan Wise Bauer's "The History of the Medieval World". I've literally searched all my reading life (I know, I know, I'm a geek) for a comprehensive, fairly detailed account of world history that wasn't so dry and technical I gagged. This is it! It's easy to read and interesting, with lots of maps and timelines to help connect all sorts of dots and concepts. Isn't it amazing what was happening at the same time around the world? My library didn't have "The History of the Ancient World" but once I knew the series was a good one, I ordered it myself and I'll be reading it next. Can't wait! I've read a fair few of of Susan's books (The Well-Trained Mind, The Well Educated Mind and one of the Story of the World books for kids) and I've admired them all. Will keep an eye out to the third book in this history set.

And in the bathroom? I've just finished reading "Shame" by Jasvinder Sanghera. It's her true, personal account of her escape from forced marriage and subsequent family rejection. But get this: it took place in recent UK history! It was really shocking, but the way she turned it around in the end made it almost inspirational!

Also in there is a book called "The Story of Canada" by Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore. I was looking for something similar to the "Story of the World" series by Susan Wise Bauer I mentioned above with a Canadian focus and I think I found it! I plan on homeschooling my boys and this will make a great reference for early Canadian history. I didn't read it cover to cover, but I have scanned it thoroughly and know I will enjoy it!

I've found links to the good books below, check them out (of your library first lol?)!