Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nature Based Play Yard

I have been triing to make my boys play yard more back to nature.  I want to give them a space to explore, discover and learn to love nature and being outside.  The being outside part is not a problem with them, they LOVE to be outside all the time, rain or shine!  Today we planted a Sunflower Hut.  I got this idea from my friend Brenda...We planted mammoth sunflower seeds alternated by small sunflower seeds in a 4x3 foot rectangle.  We left an open space for a door.  Hopefully when they grow, the boys will be able to go inside the sunflower hut!  There should be lots of praying mantis, butterflies, bees, and bugs attracted to the hut for exploring! when they start to grow I will add a pic. I also put a little bench I had (child size) under a forsythia bush that hangs over, so they can sit inside.  These are more ideas I have come up with so far...any suggestions welcome!
We had about 6 trees die in the past 2 years do to the caterpillars eating the foliage.  We have started to cut them down.  Warren put some of the really big logs in a half circle for them to use as steps.  They love these!
I hung two rope across the trees for them to get across!  Note to self...need marine rope!
the clothesline I used is not tight enough and stretches out to much...but in the mean time they are having fun not falling in to the "water or lava".  Even James at almost 2yrs can go across the rope!

This is the sand space "box" I made them.  I used long sticks/logs to create a fun shape that fit nice in between 3 trees. We had sand in their old sand box that I moved to this one.   I had a "sail" (green mess material hanging above James) my friend Lisa gave me.  I like the sail, it adds a cozy feeling, like they are in a cave.  We also hang  sheets with clothes pis from it to make a tent/cave/stage etc...

This is the rock garden.  I separated a section of the sand space and used nice round rock we had from our rock fireplace we had in the old house.  I wanted to give them a space to build, pretend and play with natural building materials.
Even Starla loves the play yard!  She digs herself a hole and climbs in for a nap while the boys play next to her! 

Breakfast Cookies

I met this wonderful women named Jannelle at the Green Fair in Stoughton a couple of weeks ago.  She is also adventuring in homesteading.  She shared with me a recipe for breakfast cookies.....yes I said breakfast COOKIES!  You want to be your child's hero,,,give them cookies for breakfast!  I thought they were so yummy!  They taste like oatmeal raisin cookies, but there is more hidden healthy stuff that is good for you and your kids...(I also added a handful of mini choc. chips, because I am a chocoholic!) Here is a link to Jannelle's post about how to make Breakfast Cookies.
I did substitute 1/2 cup of the oats for wheat germ, to make them extra healthy!
Thank you Jannelle for sharing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mother's Day

Better posted late than never right?.....
What Mother's Day means to me....I get to sleep in!  That is my big present.  All I ask for from my boys is sleep, a homemade card and a hug! This year turned out a bit different, I got my morning to sleep in, but it was the day before Mother's day...why you ask?  Because I signed us up for a family hike and pancake breakfast at Moose Hill Audubon.  I loved it!  The women leading the walk was a bird specialist and taught us about all kinds of local birds.  Mason thought it was a class and held the women's hand most of the way!  James just took his time and looked at needless to say Warren and Mason were in the front of the group with the "teacher" and James and I were toddling in the back.  I loved hearing Mason asking questions all the way from the back of the pack!  We also had Ashely and Christopher with us for an extra special Mother's day treat!
After the hike we all went inside to have pancakes, orange juice, sliced oranges and locally make maple syrup!  Yummy.  The boys each got a bag with crafts to make for mom too.

We drove up to Warren's parents house to see his mom and aunt Val (visiting from MT)  On the way we stopped at a local flower/garden center to buy my MIL a hanging basket (its tradition), where Mason endlessly kept asking Warren how much is this, how much is this one?  When Warren responded with a $20 when the price says $19.99 he would we taught him how to round up!  He got it pretty quick and spent the next 15 mins reading all the price tags in the place!  We were so proud of him and he was so proud of himself too.

We had a nice time at Skip & Sherry's house.  It was nice to see Val again and the boys played with their cousins outside in the yard all afternoon.  We ate Chinese food for dinner which was so good.
Thank you boys for a perfect day!  I would not have asked for anything more. Love Ya!

Gardening Season!!!

As we plug along with our little life on the great big planet, my husband Warren and I have made it our goal to produce as much of our own organically grown food as we can manage.  We are committed to the work it takes to tent to a large garden + preserving the harvest.  If we can make a little impact on this great world, by buying less traveled food, less food treated with pesticides, less food that is processed then we feel it is not a choose it is our way of life!

We (and by we I mean Warren) has prepared most of the beds in the garden.  He has spent the passed 2 years adding compost, manure (mostly chicken) ,  & some organic fertilizer into each bed to bring the soil to were it is healthy and will produce great crops. After lots of trial and error, we are STARTING to get the hang of what the garden NEEDS.  Warren spends all winter plotting out the crops in the garden, rotation, sun exposure, how taller plants shade smaller ones, what can be planted in the shade of the tall plants etc...

He has been learning a great deal about beneficial bugs in the garden.  What bugs are good and bad.  What plants attract the good bugs to the garden too.  For instance if you let one or two of  your broccoli plant go to flower you will attract beneficial bugs.  And by rotating your crops the bugs such as those big ugly tomato bugs that hang out in the dirt from the year before will spend allot more time triing to figure out where this years dinner went!  He has a great book that he LOVES, but I cant find it right now? I will add it to the post as soon as I pry it from him later!
The book is The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control.

So, we have started to plant already thanks to the unusually warm weather (global warming?) we have had here in the North East...(80 degrees in April?) Warren started some plants from seed inside the house in our spare room/junk room/man town/craft room......tomatoes, broccoli,lettuce, peppers,watermelon, zucchini, & squash.  All of these except the tomato are planted, the tomatoes are still in the cold frame getting ready for planting this weekend.  The cold frame is made of cinder block we had laying around , reclaimed wood and 2 glass windows from our old house we tour down 3 yrs ago.  (pic to follow) .  The peas were planted early, I don't remember when?  but they are big already.   We bought white and red onions and white and red potatoes from the local feed store and they are sprouting already! 
The garlic was planted in the fall and is growing well.  We also just planted asparagus that has sprouted too,though we wont get any we can eat until next year.

We try to make Family Gardening Time, especially when we are planting, the boys love being in the garden, especially James.  They have their own dirt pile next to the compost pile that they play in when they are done "working" in the garden.  James Loves the worms in the compost pile!  I want them to think that growing a garden is just something that you do!  Growing your own food is good for you and the Earth too!

There is still alot to be planted, hopefully this weekend....bush beans, pole beans, carrots, beets, radishes, spinach, & cucumbers.  Its Allot of work, but so worth it come August...then come back and read about my adventures in food preservation!!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Adding & Subtracting with bead materials & symbols

With the albums I got from Karen Tyler I printed out and lamanated the math symbols (+, - ,x, <, >)
Mason wanted to know how he could use we played around with them with the beads and small numbers.  I showed him how to use the parenthisis and he came up with this equation all by himself! We used the beads to show the answers! 

We also used the beads with the greater than ans less than symbols too.  5 beads is ? than 2 beads= > (etc..)
It is great to follow the lessons in the alblums but it is fun to explore and come up with out own too!

Teens Board

I use Karen Tylers albums, and that included a file to print out the Teens Board.  I printed it on card stock and lamanted it.  I also printed out the small numers that go with it, and lamanated those too.
Although Mason is past the teens i figured I would make the materials, have it for a review for him, then i would have them for James some day!

I love this material because it is so hands on and concrete!  Right there infront of him Mason can see what the number symbol and the number of beads look like for each teen number.

 As he moved down putting a #1 over the zero to make 11 and place a golden 10 bar + 1 red bead bar to make 11 beads.  Then a #2 over the next zero to make 12 and placing a golden 10 bar + 2 green bead bar to make 12 beads and so on to #19.

Pouring & Transfering water

James LOVES to pour anything!
 So I set up the water pour lesson for him!  Mason was right there to assist him. I thought this was great just like in a Montessori classroom where the big kids help the little ones! They worked very cute together.  This lesson is a Practical Life lesson on how to pour water and clean up any drips or spills.  This will be helpful later on so he can learn to pour his own drink when he needs one!
At some point James started to squeeze the water out of the sponge into the pitchers, so I exchanged them for bowls and he had a great time transfering water from one bowl to the other with the spounge.  I tinted the water blue to he could see it better....turned his hands blue for a day!

The Snake Game

I bought this homemade snake game from a mom that was selling them.  I had a bead box in my craft supplies and asked my husband to modify it for me. 
He melted the plastic in between the squares to make long rectangels so the 6-10 beads would fit nicely!  There is an extra box (upper right) that I told Mason to store the elastic in while he is working with it.  We have to put an elastic around the box since I have a 1 yr old who likes to dump!  It works out nicly to hold the small red mat with it!
I have the albulms from Karen Tyler and I followed the Snake Game lesson to present it to Mason.  It took me a few practices the night before to figure out how to use the black and white beads that came with it!
I did! It was kind of fun.

For those who dont know what the snake game is here is a quick overview....
You use beads on wires 1-10.  you can see in the second pic, red has 1, green has 2, pink has 3  etc...
You make a snake with the beads by laying out different colored beads end to end.
Count the beads and for every 10, replace with a golden 10 bar of beads.
 (your goal is to change the snake from color to gold)
Use the black & white beads to keep your place if you have 10 in the middel of a stran of beads.
The black & white beads set up like a pyrimid at the bottom of the mat, numbered 1-9.
Example: If you change the colored beads to gold and you have 3 beads left in a stran, you put the black #3 bead to hold your place, then count the 3 black and the next colored beads to make the next 10.

It took me awhile to figure it out! 
Mason loves it and has been showing eveyone that comes over how to play!

Small Cylanders

I bought some Montessori materials from another mom that was all done using hers.  One of the items was the small cylanders.  These are supposed to be for 2 1/2 up, but I gave them to James (1 1/2) and he loves them!  I showed him how to pinch the top to pick up the small cylanders and he copied what I did.  It took him a couple of times sitting down and working out that some dont fit right in the holes....he would get them all done and have one left that did not go into any holes and say "nooooo" dump them out and try again.

There are two sets...ones that are different depths and one that is different widths.  After he could do them separetly I mixed them together to challange him and he loved putting them in and taking them out until he got it right!

These sets are vey small compared to the ones in a classroom, but he does not know that and they acomplish the same lessons!

Recycled Clothesline

So last year I asked and asked for a clothesline to hang out my laundry. I LOVE the smell of clothes off the line!!! One of my favorite smells!  After waiting awhile I decided to make on myself---- anyone that knows my ability to build, cut or measure will laugh!  Needless to say Mason and I built ourselves a very nice long clothes line, with a short line for mason to reach for his clothes. 

Apparently it was in the wrong my husband decided to take it down at the end of the season and promised to make me a new one this spring....well he came thru! 

He fasioned me a recycled clothesline.  He used old metal fence posts and poles from a broked screen house we had and welded a wonderful clothesline. He welded small loops for the string to go thru too and painted it green! (my favorite color).
 Here is a pic....
I love my new clothes line and I have challenged my self to NOT use the dry until the winter, when the clothes freeze instead of dry.  I will let you know how I do.
Thanks Warren!