Saturday, February 3, 2018

Letters to Arden - February 3, 2018

Dear Arden,
I saw a picture of you yesterday from three years ago. You were dressed in a pink bodysuit, pink tights, pink tutu, and pink slippers, ready for your very first ballet class. If I do the math, you were only four years old. Your smile showed excitement, and just a hint of uncertainty. You were about to step into something new.
Looking back, you seem so small. I remember someone telling me at that age, to step back and remember just how little “four” is. I’m not sure I saw it then. Not sure I could have seen it. You were the firstborn, the big sister, the first to grow into everything. I remember some of the struggles we had. I remember not knowing what to do. I remember feeling small and unsure. Most of the growing pains were mine.
And I’m sorry, little girl, if I handed you some of my burdens. If I put all the expectations for the success of my parenting on your behaviour. If I tried to mould you, like a lump of clay, into some image in my mind’s eye.
I see your four year old face looking back, or is it forward, at me, and my heart melts a little for all the ways I’m sure I failed you. Forgive me daughter, I knew not what I was doing.
And now you are seven, going on eight. You’ve changed your ballet slippers for shoes with metal soles, and you are tapping and stomping your way through the world. I still don’t know what I’m doing. You are still the first, and everything is new for us!
But maybe I can remember how little you are, even now. I pray I can step back and see you for who you are. I pray I can see the smallness, and enjoy it for all that it is.
And maybe I can drop the burden, and stop using you as a measurement of myself. Maybe I can release the muddy hold, and give you to the hands of the skilled Potter. Maybe we can learn together from our Father what it means to grow, yet keep our childlike hearts.
Let’s dance together, little girl. Let me see you smile.
love Mom

Friday, February 2, 2018

Imagination and Getting Outside in Winter

Winter so far this year has been a sloppy, schizophrenic mess. We've had a mixture of snow and rain, freeze and thaw, and all the varied precipitation in between! We go from wonderland white one day, to soggy brown the next. It's not our ideal as far as winter goes (we like lots of snow that stays around!), but it hasn't stopped the kids from getting outside.

Yesterday they had a blast making a whole kingdom of castles and houses out of the wet snow. They spent a good 2 hours out there, and were quite thrilled to show me all they had done. I took a few pictures with my phone.

Since the colder weather began in the fall, we've managed to get a consistent habit of outdoor play in place - one slot in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

Jack's best castle, stocked with pinecones for small animals in need.

Every morning around 9:00, I send Arden and Jack outside to play. The goal is one hour. I've sent them out in pretty much everything. Blizzards, rain, snow, -20C, mud, wind, you name it. The key is the right outer clothes! We've kept full snowsuits and head-to-toe raingear handy. On the coldest and windiest days, I've shortened the time to 20 minutes. Lots of days they've come to the door asking to come in early, but if it didn't look like they were in danger of frostbite, I just sent them back out! They know where the sheltered parts of the yard are.

The great thing is this morning time has become a true habit now. They don't resist, they just expect it, and most days they are excited to go out. Sometimes I'll go out for a few minutes and take Ivy with me, but that might depend on her nap time and if there are chores I have to finish up.

Arden, the main castle, and the pinecone forest.

On afternoons that we are home (which is most days), I also send them outside for another hour or so. This doesn't necessarily happen at the same time each day, but the kids have also come to expect this, and know that if they don't head on their own accord, I'll send them at some point. If I haven't got out in the morning with Ivy, then I make an effort to go out in the afternoon. She loves going outside, which I love to see, and is quite put out if she doesn't get to put her snowsuit on when the big kids do.

I think this time is so important for their development, in many ways. Besides the obvious benefits of fresh air and exercise, they are making consistent, long term connections with nature. It doesn't always look like formal "nature study," but they are forming a relationship with nature nonetheless.

Charlotte Mason says in Home Education

"[T]here is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things." (pg. 61)

Time outside also gives them space, time and freedom for imaginative play. I don't think it was a coincidence that we read a few wonderfully rich bedtime stories the night before this snow kingdom creation.

Stoking their imaginations with great images and ideas through literature fuels both their desire and enjoyment to "go out and play." Outside they have the freedom to explore and enact the worlds in their heads. Its the science of relations at work. The snow halls they make might just house Urso Brunov and his little bears.


Friday, January 12, 2018

A new term, a hungry hawk, and January thaw

We getting settled back into routine again after our Christmas break. The weather has been wild this week. We've gone from -20s earlier this week to +13 today! The kids are loving this January thaw, but I just wish it would stay cold and snowy.

The kids are making good use of their MEC rain suits anyway! (We use them for 4 seasons here!)

My outdoor life goal for this term is to get the kids outside twice a day, aiming for an hour at least each time. (On the really cold days, I've cut it back to half an hour.) And I am also trying to get out for one of those times with Ivy as well. She wants to be outside with the big kids whenever she can!

We've had quite the week for nature study. This bird of prey made an appearance in our chicken coop! We think it is an immature red-tailed hawk. It must have been hungry, because it chased one of our chickens into the coop and killed it there, where we found them both. While we feel sorry for the chicken, it was fascinating to observe the hawk.

For this term in school, we've started a few new books, which is always exciting, including The Little Duke for Arden (her favourite subject is history), and The House at Pooh Corner for Jack.

In other exciting news, Arden has really picked up with her reading. She read the first two books in the Imagination Station series and has just started The Boxcar Children by herself! She is also participating in the Read-Aloud Revival 31 Day Challenge this month, which is proving to be great motivation.

Happy new year, and here's to more semi-regular blogging! :)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Christmas 2017

I'm a little overdue, but while the atmosphere of Christmas still lingers, I wanted to post some pictures of the family festivities.

Trimming the Tree

Ivy's first year helping with the tree!

Beautiful Arden

Everything is magical when you're 21 months old

Reaching to get the angel on top...
Somehow a pipe seemed a necessary accessory (no tobaaco in it though!!)
Like father, like son!

This was the year of silly pictures. Couldn't get these two to keep a straight face!

Ivy in the glow

The Christmas Tree Sleepover

It's become a tradition in our house for the kids to have a sleepover under the tree one night. Mom gets to read the bedtime stories, and Dad gets to sleep on the couch with them for the night. :) This year we read through Tolkien's Letters From Father Christmas, which was a lot of fun for the kids this year, especially the North Polar Bear's escapades.


Only pretending to sleep at this point!

Christmas Eve

Traditional tourtiere pie

All the candles at last

At the Christmas Eve Service

This is the "Rhythm Band," made up of the youngest members of the church! This picture makes me laugh!
The whole family (including baby Jesus!)

Just before bedtime

Ready for the morning

It's Practically Here!

This year we had a quiet Christmas to ourselves. Well, perhaps quiet isn't the appropriate word! There was rather a lot of noise, of the merriest kind. Squeals over gifts, Handel's Messiah blasting on the kitchen radio, Super Mario Odyssey in the living room. It was a Gallantish sort of noise. We did get outside for a little while in the afternoon, and all enjoyed a walk into the woods with a light dusting of snow. We capped the day off with a good old gingerbread house smash.

Joy is here!


Sugar and Super Mario

Our very own elf!

Jack's new Perplexus

Morning cuddles

Everyone's excited to start the game!

By the end of the day, it was a white Christmas

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