Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gearing-up for Easter

Yesterday Kitty Bill and I cooked up a little bit of pre-Easter fun with a magical, moving picture. We had a great time telling stories with it-- about bunnies that run and hide, find eggs hidden in the grass, and meet little gnomes. We even made some songs.

For inspiration, I used the very cute book: Making Picture Books with Moveable Figures by Brunhild Muller. I've been eyeing this one for a long time at the German bookstore, and I was so pleased to discover it in English. The author gives plenty of indications by Rudolf Steiner why this sort of thing is recommended for little children. The smile on my four-year-old's face was indication enough for me.

Kitty Bill was so enamored with our bunny scene he decided to make his own moving picture. It's called, "The Magic Moving Boat" complete with a plane, castle, and motorboat. The captain of the magic boat happens to be smoking a cigarette. Odd? No. That's living in Europe for you, and further proof that these little ones notice positively everything they encounter out in the world, including random smokers on the street.

Luckily he's taking in the positive images, too.

What are you doing to gear-up for Easter?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mushroom hunting on Saturday

Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A little birthday knitting

Moonshine has a birthday coming up. I found a pattern to knit her favorite thing in the world-- matryoshka dolls. It's all hush hush until the big day, but I'm so excited about it I had to share.

Matryoshka pattern from Susan B. Anderson's Itty-Bitty Toys.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nature, nature everywhere...

Last week we unearthed a huge snail in the garden. Its house was still closed up for the winter-- something Sunburst recognized immediately from our study of snails last year. We brought it inside to see if we could catch it warming up and opening the door...

We had set it on the windowsill and after a few days had forgotten about it, actually. It wasn't until I had the kids in bed and sat on the couch with Einstein that I heard the strangest sound... crackle... crackle... crackle... the snail was out and crawling around. We missed the big show, but we got to take a good look at the cast-off door the snail had made. We were so surprised at how strong it was!

Then we found a peacock butterfly in the garage. Not the best place to sneak out of your chrysalis...

Next came the salamander...

And of course more digging in the garden. There is so much nettle still, plus I've discovered that our yard used to be a road... a very, very long time ago. So underneath the nettle roots are huge stones. Luckily it's a very old road, and though it's a ton of work, I can use the stones to line the garden beds. Once I dig them out that is... It's slow going, but I've learned something about myself. I'm like a dog with a bone when I want to be.

The kids are not helping dig. But I'm going with the old adage that modeling workhouse behavior this care for the earth before their eyes is enough. It sinks in... while I had my nose to the grindstone the kids had built a couple of forts out in the yard.

It's so good to feel the warm sun again!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Word World... a world of words

Last week I posted about the struggles Moonshine has been having with school, and the struggles I have been having figuring out how to teach her. This week it's as if all of that is behind us. Moonshine is having a blast making words.

I dug up an old lesson idea I created for Sunburst-- Word Family Village. Moonshine remembered it well from helping Sunburst color in all the roads, and she was super pleased to be able to conjur up this world of her own accord. She's calling it Word World, which is really fun to say five times fast. I can't do it, and she loves that even more.

My dear friends in Wales happen to be also doing the word family block this week. While I was reading about her fun variation of it on her blog, here and here, I noticed a link to my old lesson... I had entirely forgotten that I had created a cute little story to go with it.

Sometimes I forget to read my own blog.

The greatest part of this lesson right now... baby silent e. With Moonshine's help he's causing a load of trouble. Can becomes cane. At becomes ate. It makes her giggle. (Of course sometimes he's not silent-- at becomes eat, etc.)

Kitty Bill got in on the fun, too... He made houses with doors so he could hide his little people inside them. Everything has got to have moving parts with this boy.

All in all, we're having a fantastic week!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patties Day!

Look! It got warm! We spent most of the day outside enjoying the warm sunshine and all the crocus in the yard.

I happily toiled for hours digging nettle roots out of the garden bed I hope to plant in very soon. The nettle was six feet high when we moved in, so the roots are everywhere and deep. Such a lot of work for the smallest space, but nothing makes me happier than digging in the garden.

Not much school was done today... a little painting... can you tell we're excited about Spring?!

A green, semi-Irish dinner... potatoes with almond-arugula pesto and a green salad.

The leprechauns made an overnight visit and played the usual tricks-- moving furniture, turning things upside-down, and making things green. The kids were delighted, as always. However, this year something was extra fishy. In addition to the chocolates for the kids, the leprechauns left a couple presents for Einstein and me. This has never happened before... but I have to admit, one of those leprechauns is a fine little knitter.

Wishing you all a beautiful, warm St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Winter over yet??

Moonshine, watching the snow come down in droves last week, said:
"On my calendar it says there is going to be a 'Good Friday' soon. I don't understand that. How can it snow for so long and be a good Friday?"

When even the children are sick of the snow, surely it must be time for Spring to finally come. Today Sunburst found some crocus in the yard, drowning in snow melt and rain. It's supposed to be 13 C on Weds and sunny to boot. I'm crossing my fingers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Right on time

Time. It's something we parents think about when it comes to our children. It's a constant, recurring theme. We start by counting them off by weeks when we're pregnant. Then when our due dates come we start to ask how many more days...? We record their ages when they smile, roll over, sit, crawl, speak, walk...and onward. How old are they when they learn to read, to ride a bike, to tie their shoes, to tell time?

We measure and compare and wonder. Sometimes we have a child that skips walking altogether and runs, leaving us panting to keep up. For me that would be Sunburst. She's always racing ahead as if time were a fleeting thing. And sometimes we have a child that is content to just sit it out and dream. Clock? What's that?

I know a lot of it boils down to personality, but I would be ignorant if I didn't notice there was something more to it. Learning is a bit of a struggle for Moonshine. The only thing that makes complete sense to her is math, oddly enough. Reading has been a struggle. Music has been a struggle. Even the physicality of playing with other children has been a struggle.

She's always been this dreamy child, head in the clouds, feet tripping unaware into traffic. Catching balls, finger games, clapping games, climbing, running, jumping... all sort of mysterious activities to her. She's on her own schedule, always has been-- I carried her for 42 and a half weeks before she was willing to make the journey towards the light of day. She started speaking at 8 months but waited the requisite 12 months to walk. She's reading now, but once in awhile the words come out backwards. Sometimes she forgets words she has already learned, and sometimes she reverses letters and numbers.

It's not laziness. She works extremely hard. Math concepts come easy for her, but the rhythmic counting by twos and threes and fives and tens is a challenge. Rhythm and coordination are somewhere out in left field. Pencil grip is awkward, but artistic expression is still realized despite it.

Moonshine can out-think all of us at the dinner table, Einstein included. But if she were in regular school she'd be behind. She wants to learn so badly, but she already recognizes it as a bit of a challenge both inside and outside herself. And that, in simple terms, sucks. It makes learning less joyous than it should be.

I'm continually fascinated by her and completely humbled by the task of teaching her. With Sunburst, it's easy to think I have it all figured out. With Moonshine, I find myself rethinking everything, constantly reevaluating and reorganizing and relearning how to teach, how best to guide her, and how to help her acquire the tools she needs.

And with two completely different school-aged children, it's hard for me to draw the line at what's in the range of normal. Sunburst makes a lousy yardstick. She has always out-raced, out-cheetahed, and out-risked all of her friends. Moonshine is more cautious. She is the only child I have that recognizes the value of a good night's sleep-- she's not so afraid about missing out on the action. And she's still the only child I can take to the grocery store who doesn't knock over displays, tip grocery carts, or run amok. It's kind of refreshing, actually, but at the same time I find the learning issues hard to blog about.

I don't want to label her. I just want to understand her and help her the best that I can. I have been making it a point not to push her, rather waiting until she feels ready, until her clock starts ticking and her enthusiasm kicks in. But I'm starting to think that sometimes our inner clocks need a bit more winding from the outside now and then.

In the end, I think she'll have a lot more endurance than Sunburst. She'll know what hard work feels like, and her successes will be that much greater. In the end, it won't matter so much how long and arduous the road was or even when her clock started ticking. She'll be right on time.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tiny shoppers

As promised, here's a little pattern to make bags for your dollhouse people.

Supplies you'll need:
  • Print-out of the pattern
  • Recycled paper
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Stamp of your choice, marker or stamp pad

Click on the pattern and it should come up full size.

Start with your recycled scrap paper measuring 3" x 6". Go ahead and lay it on top of the pattern. See where all the fold marks are? You're going to match up the folds on your paper, using the pattern as a guide. Go ahead and fold them all in the same direction for now, and you can adjust the direction of the folds in a minute.

When you get to the part where it says "handles," there's a cut line. Go ahead and cut that part off into two equal pieces and fold them each in half.

Now, fold the bottom fold which indicates the bottom of your bag. You're going to want all your folds facing the same direction, except the inner folds on the sides of the bag. It should look like this:

Go ahead and run your glue stick along the part of the pattern that says "glue," and attach it to the inside of the bag front, like this:

Now you're going to want to fold up the bottom of the bag sort of like you would if you were wrapping a present. Push down on the sides until the fold lines of the front match up, like so:

Go ahead and crease those lines and glue it all together. To get a nice firm bottom (ha, if only it were this easy in real life!) set the bag down on a hard surface and press down from the inside. A stack of Legos makes a good presser. (What, you don't have Legos? *grin* They are the new bane of my existence.)

Right, onto the bag handles. Go ahead and open the fold on your handles, run the glue stick down the length of it, and fold them back up. Glue the ends and stick them onto your handle scraps like so:

Go ahead and slather these handle scraps with glue (right on top of the handle ends) and stick this piece inside the front and back of your bag, sandwiching the handle ends inside.

Press your bag down firmly and fold up the bottom on one side. Stamp or decorate as you like, and voila-- the dollhouse people are ready to hit the shops!

Monday, March 08, 2010

One man's trash...

Well, technically we didn't find it in the trash. We were out at the thrift stores scouting for bunk beds when we stumbled upon this little beauty. How could we pass it up?

Isn't it cool?!?

Wait, you don't know what it is yet, do you? Oh, sorry. Let me take it apart for a better picture. Look here:

Now, isn't it cool?!? We were pretty excited when we spotted it-- and for cheap too. I don't know how old it is, but it's obvious that it has seen a lot of play. The thing was caked with grime before we scrubbed it. And worse yet, it was full of old corn. And bug casings. Lots and lots of bug casings-- even the boxes! Luckily we're not afraid of bug casings.

After attacking it with the vacuum and soap, Sunburst and I decided to do a little refurbishing. Those scribbled names and prices had to go.

I know you're looking at that and wondering, green? I was wondering that myself halfway into it, but it worked out. The final result was very pleasing-- a treasure indeed!

The girls spent the afternoon happily setting up shop. Each and every drawer is filled with something to sell. And the customers keep on coming... luckily, I made up a pile of shopping bags just in time for the first sale.

I'm pretty sure that box of chicken bouillon she's buying is expired, but the bag is so cute she probably won't notice. I'll be back tomorrow with a pattern for the shopping bags. No dollhouse store is complete without them, you know. :-)
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