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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway…
Thanksgiving comes again!
- Anon

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bunny Ears

When shopping for kids' shoes this past summer I had specific requirements: No elastics, no velcro, no zippers. I was looking for good old fashioned LACES. They aren't easy to come by on kids shoes.

My goal was to force myself to take the time to teach the kids how to tie their shoes. It is one of those coordination things that you can only learn by doing it over and over, and velcro wasn't helping the situation.

So my oldest picked out a pair of sparkly pink and white sneakers and we began to work on it. We sang little rhyming songs and practiced faithfully. Slowly she began to catch on. I started to notice her develop a new love of string. She tied knots around chair legs, in her doll ribbons, and sometimes even with her shoelaces. Hooray! The first half of the process was mastered (criss-cross poke through and pull) but the bow had her stumped. Every time she tried to figure out which loop to pull through, her knot would fall apart and so would she. Poor thing.

Just a few days ago, I remembered that a grade school friend used to tie her shoes differently. Instead of the standard bow, she tied "bunny ears" by making two loops and then knotting them together. I showed the bunny ears to my sweet daughter only once, then she beamed with excitement when she tied her shoes all by herself. Now she is happily tying bows for anyone who will watch.

My son? Well, he's not so interested in the process. (Plus, he was given a pair of fun velcro sneakers from a favorite cousin) We'll give him some more time. I'm sure that by the time he gets into Boy Scouts he will be teaching me a thing or two about knots.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bye-Bye Dirt Pile

Going . . .
going . . .

"The dirt pile" was part of our life for a little over 4 years and 9 months. But I'm not counting or anything ;o) I remember snuggling my 2 day old son and trying to nap on the couch while listening to one of our contractors calling for me over the banging and sawing of his framing crew (I had a toddler and a newborn napping at the same time! That contractor was out of luck - I stayed right where I was).

In order to build our addition, a foundation had to be poured. In order to pour the foundation, a hole had to be dug. And when you dig a hole, you get dirt; lots of it. That is how our dirt pile was created. Now, normally the crew would haul away the big pile of dirt, but we decided that we wanted to keep it to use in our landscaping.

We have had a lot of fun with the big pile of dirt in our backyard. We have dug in it, explored around it, climbed it, sledded down it, and wrecked quite a few clothes falling off of it.

My husband lovingly referred to it as his "botanical garden." Well . . . botanical, yes. Garden, not so much.

Finally the dirt pile is gone. It has been moved around to smooth out some bumps, fill in around our grape vines, and build up an area for our new trees. The rocks we found in it were used for my 2 new front stone walls.

We still have a few recliner sized boulders that we aren't sure what to do with. Just give us a little time (say 4 years and 9 months). Our progress may be slow, but the results are worth it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Making a Toy Canoe

On a recent walk on the local trails my daughter who loves all things Native American, found a dead White Birch tree. She was thrilled to be able to bring home a piece of bark.

It sat in my car for a few weeks until she rediscovered it while I was cleaning out the back seat. (note to self: I need to clean out the car more often) She studied it for a while and then asked if she could make a birchbark canoe for her Pocahontas doll. "Sure" I told her, but inside I was thinking that I have no idea how canoes are made.

She continued to study her bark while I finished with the car. While bringing everything indoors she told me that her bark was too stiff to bend properly, so she wanted to soak it in water. Ha! So much for me thinking that I would have to teach her how to make a canoe!

After putting the bark in the tub she went to the fridge and pulled out our maple syrup saying that she needed sap to seal the edges just like native Americans used to do. Wow!!! and No!!!

I told her that she would need to come up with another plan that wouldn't attract ants.

The wood occupied our bathroom tub overnight.

I assumed that she would forget about her project overnight. At 6 years old there are lots of things that are exciting one day, and boring the next. But she woke up and before even eating breakfast she went to check on her wood.

I helped her with designing a pattern, but she did all of the rest of the work.
She traced the pattern onto her wood using a blunt pencil.

Cut it out using kitchen shears ( I was afraid that she would ruin her regular scissors on the tough bark)

Scraped all of the remaining wood out with an old spoon. She asked if we had any clam shells for this step :o) Usually clam shells are thrown out after our meal - now I know to save one next time.

To join the edges she originally wanted to punch holes and lace it together, but by this point she was getting anxious to finish, so she switched to the very unauthentic method of stapling her bark together. It was still fairly stiff, so we used a canning jar to help keep the wood bent as she worked.

It took her a good portion of the day, but she finished it. Now her doll can travel in style.
She still hasn't decided what she will use to waterproof the seams. I can't wait to see what it will be (as long as it doesn't involve items from my refrigerator.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lessons from a cookie

I have been away for a while visiting my sister. In my absence the kids (all except the tiny baby) stayed with their dad, playing, working outside, and generally having a great time.

While I was gone I worried - would they eat properly, would there be tears at bedtime, would they get behind in their schoolwork. . . you know, typical mother worries. All of them unfounded. Especially the school one.

I learned this truth from a cookie - a fortune cookie to be exact.

When I came home the kids happily told me of their adventures, lingering on a story of having a "real Chinese dinner" with Mr. Fred. They had ordered take-out and brought it to a friend's house. He allowed them to use his Chinese bowls and spoons for their meal, and informed them that they were not only allowed, but expected to slurp from their bowls. They happily obeyed and attentively listened to his stories of childhood in China, soaking up every word.

The fortune cookies from their meal were still in our kitchen when I arrived home, so I allowed the kids to open them as a snack. Here is what they said:

Man's mind is not a container to be filled, but rather a fire to be kindled.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Those little slips of paper are up on my refrigerator now - and I think I'll leave them there for a while. I need a good dose of fortune cookie wisdom every now and then.