Photo A Day April – Week 4

We’ve reached the end of April so here are the last of the challenge photos.

22. The Last Thing You Bought — new additions for the loose parts area — the children had many interesting uses for them during the week but that will be another post;

23. Vegetable – probably not technically a vegetable but salad falls into that food group in the food guide;

24. Something You’re Grateful For — at 5:30 am while preparing for the children to arrive I am definately grateful for coffee;

25. Looking Down – standing on a stool to take a picture from the ceiling of the dining room.  I’ve always considered this ‘wasted space’.  Instead of two storey’s with 9 foot ceilings I’d prefer 3 storey’s with 6 foot ceilings — more floor space and less time climing on stools to reach things 🙂

26. Black & White — trying to find a black and white object was difficult — I like color;

27. Somewhere You Went — the only time I left the house/yard was to go down the street to meet the school bus;

28. 1pm – at that time I was at Jensen’s Nursery without my camera so here’s what I bought while I was there;

29. Circle — I found many perfectly shaped circles but none that I wanted to take a picture of — here’s an irregular circle that I liked better;

30. Something That Makes You Sad — This is the topic for tomorrow’s photo but I’m posting today.  I’m too much of an optimist to go looking for something sad so this one will remain blank.

Sow Bugs

Around here possibly the longest, most in depth topic of study has been sow bugs.  This is probably due to their abundance in our environment.  There are always some sow bugs wandering around in the basement bathroom – occasionally I have to go and find a child who has become engrossed in observing one and forgotten to return.  Periodically a sow bug finds its way into the main floor playroom – sometimes they have been aided by a two legged accomplice.  The majority of the sow bugs live outside in the yard where they belong – and are often collected to live in fancy homes that have been lovingly created for them.

We know a lot about them.  We know they are not insects – they fall in the crustacean family.  We know they are ‘good’ because they feed on dead plant matter and return nutrients to the soil – an important role in the environment. Generally they are accepted, respected and even adored but occasionally they are victims of misfortune.

Last week there had been some intermittent showers which made things in the yard damp.  Collecting the water that had accumulated in various containers was usually the focus of the children’s attention.  One child discovered that the bark that still remained on a few of the logs was now soft and not firmly attached.  It became a group project to remove as much of the bark as possible.  They used sticks as levers to pry the bark off;

There was a moment of stunned silence when the bark was removed and ‘hundreds’ of sow bugs scurried for cover.

Then the mob attacked: bashing bugs with sticks and stomping on them while repeatedly yelling ‘lemonade’. I don’t know why they chose to say ‘lemonade’ when their tone implied that they really meant ‘die, die, die’ except that lemonade sounded ‘nicer’. Then they did it again with another piece of bark;

I was a little perplexed.  The first time I thought maybe it was the surprise of seeing so many sow bugs moving quickly that prompted the attack but now the children were looking for them – expecting there to be sow bugs behind every piece of bark.  They were hunting and the massacres continued.

So I asked them why they suddenly did not like the sow bugs? What did the bugs do to deserve this attack?  The sow bugs had been minding their own business, doing their job, they posed no threat to anyone.

The children looked a little sheepish when I asked these questions.  None of the children answered but one began explaining why the bugs had been behind the bark.  “It is wet.  They like to live in wet places.  It was their home” All the children started picking up pieces of bark and looking for bugs;

One excitedly called the others over to see a ‘baby’ one they had found;

They now engaged in a search and rescue mission.  Locating sow bugs;

Carefully taking them to safe locations;

Reuniting ‘families’.

I’ll admit that I do not like to have sow bugs in my home.  I would not be comfortable having one crawl on me and I may inadvertently kill the odd one.  However, I understand their purpose in the world and I will defend their right to peacefully coexist with the rest of us.  I will stand up for them as I would for any other underdog.

Photo A Day April – Week 3

The third week of the photo challenge began with excitement.

15. Sunset – seems simple enough but when first I saw the colours in the sky I scrambled to find the best vantage point to take the picture.  In the yard the view was blocked by neighbouring buildings so I ran up to the second floor but the windows faced the wrong direction.  My husband suggested that I stand on the shed roof — I hesitated briefly but decided that I didn’t care what the neighbours thought.  I almost ran out of time because it took me so long to climb onto the roof but I managed to get a picture just before the sun disappeared;

16. Flower — there are some plants beginning to grow in the garden but no flowers yet — I chose a fake one indoors;

17. Something You Don’t Like – I could go on a rant about why I don’t like umbrellas but after taking this picture I think maybe they look pretty cool even if they are annoying;

18. Hair — dog hair is everywhere I look;

19. Orange – a touch of rust on the shelf outside

20. Something You Drew – I used to draw a lot – pastels or colored pencils were my favorite drawing tools.  Now I just do the odd sketch but some of my old pictures are hanging in the hall;

21. Bottle – our neighbour gave me this one.  It is very big and I have no idea what to use it for but I like it anyway;

That’s all for this week.  Nine more days remaining — nine more photos and the tax forms that I keep putting off.

Running From the Monster

We’ve been going outside twice each day.  I take the younger preschoolers out to play in the yard after morning snack – this was our usual outdoor time but we eliminated it for the fall and winter because it interfered with the baby’s nap schedule.  Now he is older and naps later.  The older preschoolers attend school in the morning so I take the whole group outside to play in the afternoon once everyone is up from their nap.

Introducing babies to outdoor play is always an exciting time particularly when they are not yet walking.  Being so close to the ground with all those new and interesting tiny objects they require close supervision.  There was a period early in my career when my yard was ‘baby proofed’ and so uninspiring that no one wanted to play outside.

Now it is fascinating with so many places to explore, things to discover and challenges to overcome – for everyone, including me.  The baby’s first experience with gravel was sitting and putting gravel on a stump, brushing it off and then putting more on — over and over again for 40 minutes!  I watched and I was fascinated too.  Only once has he ‘tasted’ gravel and hedecided it wasn’t nearly as fun as making gravel rain and filling buckets with gravel etc.  Now he has discovered the soil in the garden. 🙂

Yesterday was also the return of another old game – ‘Running from the Monster’.  Sigh.  They love this game but the outcome is inevitable.  We’ve been through it so many times before.  In the mixed age group they have all had a turn at being ‘the Monster’.  It always starts when the youngest child is just becoming mobile and is drawn to where the other children are playing.  One of the older children will send out the alarm and the others will join in “The monster is coming, the monster is coming!”  They will then run around screaming and waving their arms.  The baby will squeal with delight and follow them.

Essentially it is a game of tag.  The baby is ‘it’ but has no chance of ever winning the game.  For the others it is a demonstration of power.  Everyone loves this game.  Even though I know what the future holds I also know that banning the game will not solve the unavoidable outcome.  There will come a day – probably sometime next summer – when the baby will realize that the others are not playing with him.

When that time comes there will be a period of turmoil.  Now a toddler with new verbal skills the youngest child will wail ‘They won’t let me play’.  The others will giggle and say they are – he is the monster – they will insist it is his favourite game.  They all know it is not his favourite game anymore.  They have all been ‘the Monster’ at some point in the past.

We will have discussions about name calling and bullying and excluding others from play.  There will be attempts to redefine the game and change the ‘Monster’ name to that of a character in the popular movie or show of the time.  That will work briefly until the youngest one realizes that he is still the one everyone is running away from.  He is still not part of the group. Eventually it will become ‘tag’ a everyone will be equal again.

Yes, I know it is coming.  I also know I can’t prevent it.  I will be ready to help them work through it when we get there.  For now they all think that ‘Running from the Monster’ is the greatest game ever.

Photo A Day April — Week 2

Time for my second instalment of pictures from the April photo challenge.

8. Inside Your Wallet – please note the prominence of the tape measure and the colour sample cards — essential items to have with me at all times;

9. Younger You — Easy one thanks to the album my mother made;

10. Cold — We drain and cover the water barrels in the fall so they do not freeze and crack over winter — we may have opened them up a little too early this spring though;

11. Where You Ate Breakfast — I originally thought this was ‘What you had for breakfast’ but since I didn’t get around to taking the picture until later in the day ‘where’ was definitely easier to do.  I always eat breakfast while sitting at my desk catching up on ‘stuff’;

12. Stairs — needs no explanation;

13. Something You Found — Back when ‘Llamas’ were THE topic around here I searched everywhere for llama stuff.  Found this at Ten Thousand Villages — it is made from real llama wool and I love it!

14. How You Feel Today — taxes, relicensing, spring cleaning, program planning etc…

Not my favorite photo but I think it makes the point.

I’ve already got some ideas for next week’s photos but I better get some of this other work done first!


Spring Changes

Since the snow melted I have not done a major overhaul of the back yard but I have made some significant changes. Several weeks ago I rearranged the storage area for the loose parts.  Now it is more spread out instead of all being clumped together;

More recently I rearranged the larger components like the tipi and the seating area.  They had been arranged like this;

I repositioned them to this configuration;

Which opens up the centre of the gravel area to improve the flow;

And has the seating area in a more secluded and shady space — hard to show with a picture taken on a cloudy day;

You may have noticed that something else is missing — the slide is no longer on the hill.  We had been having some issues with stability of the slide and soil erosion on the hill.  I’ve left the slide loose in the yard so the children can still use it;

It has been interesting watching them find a spot to position the slide and check the stability before climbing on.  There had been some reckless behaviour on the slide when they thought it was firmly attached to the hill.  Now they are taking responsibility for assessing the risk instead of having me continually redirect them.

We’ve also now got some cribbing around the base of the hill which has made it a more inviting place to play.  Yesterday they used the cribbing as a place for the snakes to go to get a drink of water;

I’m hoping that once the plants grow more the animals will play in the ‘jungle’ too.  Up until now the children seem to have viewed the plants on the hill as a decoration and not an area to play — that was not my intention.  Playing with animals in the garden is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

There are some more changes and additions that I am considering for the playspace.  They will happen gradually as I observe how the children interact within the space.

Photo A Day April – Week 1

I met Sarah at the 2010 Nature Summit  and I’ve been following her blog since then.  I eagerly anticipated her photo challenge instalments — so many wonderful photos!

When she posted a new photo challenge list for the month of April I thought I’d join in the fun.  I have a new camera and this might be just the opportunity I need to try out some of its many features instead of just leaving it on ‘auto’ all the time. So, here’s my attempt for April 1-7;

1. Your Reflection — rough start since I don’t like getting my picture taken and a self portrait is especially difficult.  I finally managed this;

2. Colour — endless possibilities here — I took several and decided to use this one;

3. Mail — We have a lot of mail here everyday;

4. Someone who makes you happy — Mali, always waiting for someone to cuddle;

5. Tiny — I was trying to decide what to photograph for this one when suddenly the children found a spider in the toy bin 🙂 I experimented with greyscale instead of colour;

6. Lunch — Oooh, I was working in the yard all day and didn’t stop for lunch so I guess this is it;

7. Shadow — I originally took this one in March but never got around to using it in a blog post.  The children had commented on the pattern made when only the frost in the sunny spots melted.  I thought it was a perfect example of shadow;

Coming up next week — inside your wallet, younger you, cold, what you ate for breakfast, stairs, something you found, and how you feel today….

Colour and Decor

At lunch on Monday, one of the preschoolers entertained us with a creative story.  It went something like this;

‘There once was a lady who was in the war and now she hates colour.  She uses a bow and arrow to shoot things.  The arrows have bad magic and they take the colour away and turn everything grey.”

Wow! Great imagination.

I can relate.  Everything outside is grey — and dusty.  A few days of rain would help wash all that residue away. Until then we’ll just have to be creative  to brighten up the yard.

Yesterday the children were busy with the eggs — sorting and stacking;

Mixing the ‘ingredients’ for soup;

Adding some broth;

And even using the eggs to brighten up the somewhat dismal ‘sunflower garden’ that they planted;

Yes, the snow melted early but we’re getting tired of grey.  Bring on the colours of spring!

Then and Now

Spring break is over and our schedule is back to ‘normal’.  One of the parents asked if I’m happy that the older children have gone back to school.  I’ll admit that sometimes I find some of the older children to be a little ‘needy’ – unable or unwilling to make activity choices and demanding ‘entertainment’.  Mostly though, I much prefer the larger group and the no-school schedule.

So, here are just a few random highlights of the last day of spring break and the first day back to school.

Friday’s favourite activity was the ‘log slide’;

For some the logs were almost the same size as they were;

Over the weekend there was a population explosion of some type of moth in my back yard.  I don’t know what they are but they were covering most of the surfaces and I am a little concerned they may be some type of garden pest that will wreak havoc on our garden this year;

Then Monday morning I realized I didn’t have the vermicelli that I needed for the Turkey Tetrazzini.  I used couscous instead and it was an instant hit – I may modify the recipe permanently.

Now, let’s see what else develops this week….