Reflecting

Today is special.

Today is the last day of 2014 but that isn’t really why I think it is special.

Today is quiet.  As usual I’ve been up since 5:00 AM – normally the first children arrive at 6:30 but today there won’t be any children here until 8:00 AM.  My husband and adult children have no reason to be up this early so they are all still sleeping.  It’s just me and the cats who are curled up on the mat under my chair as usual;

14-12-cats

I know, some of you are wondering ‘WHY?’

Not ‘Why are those cats sleeping on that mat where there is a good chance they will be run over by the chair wheels?’ – I don’t know the answer to that question.  The question many of you are probably wondering is ‘Why did you get up so early if you didn’t need to?’  That question has an easy answer.

There is nothing, NOTHING, I cherish more than a few hours of uninterrupted silence – preferably first thing in the morning.  When my family asks me what I want for my birthday this is what I ask for.  The only way to make this better is to be alone, outside in the forest.

There are no distraction – just me, reflecting.  In fact, when asked ‘What do you remember most about your childhood?’ this is it.  I spent hours upon hours alone in my room, or out in the yard, or wandering through the neighbourhood doing nothing but reflecting.  Imagining.  Dreaming.

Today I sit at my computer – a distraction I suppose, but at the moment it is only this blog post which is really just a record of my musing.  I wonder what types of things I would have written if, as a child, I had ever carried a journal to record my thoughts during my vast periods of solitude.

Today my thoughts center around the past few weeks and the beginning of the new year.

  • Many of the children were away for the holidays so most days I only had three children here.  Those three children do not usually choose to play together when the whole group is in attendance.  Each of those three children have other friends that they would much prefer to play with – but they were away.  It was very interesting to watch this group of three interact – surprisingly their behaviour was more cooperative than usual.
  • I’m loving the new playroom/nap area set-up.  There are still a few modifications I want to make but overall it is working very well.
  • I enjoyed hosting my family Christmas dinner this year.  I made way too much food for 10 people – didn’t cook again for three whole days.
  • I want to use my new smart phone more – I’m still learning what it can do – it is limited by me.  It could be a journal….
  • I have a four day weekend with no specific plans yet – will have to catch up on paperwork – I promise.
  • I’m excited that we have three more providers interested in joining the Family Childcare Committee.  Add them and the two new members that already joined this year and our committee has doubled in size 🙂
  • I want to get rid of some junk – there is so much stuff here that we don’t need/use but it takes so long to go through everything.
  • I hope it is not to hard for the children to return to their regular schedules – change is so hard for many of them
  • I want to do more art stuff

It is almost time for the children to arrive.  I’ve enjoyed my special quiet time.  Happy New Year!

2014 in Review

I seem to have been finding time to relax (not making a proper ‘To Do’ list therefore forgetting to complete tasks).  Writing blog entries would be on the list of things I want to do.  There are a bunch of other – possibly more important chores – that I need to do but don’t really want to do.   So, I’ve been putting off making any sort of a list or completing any tasks.  However, eventually I’m going to have to stop wandering around aimlessly and deal with all those chores.

In the meantime, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Loft Evolution

It was back in 2005 that the first lofts were added to our play space. These lofts were only one foot off the ground so that we could store toy bins under them and still have useable play space. The ‘puppet loft’ provided storage for blocks as well as a stage for puppet shows;

14-12-loft01

Inside there was also a cozy bench to sit and read or relax;

14-12-loft02

On the other side of the room was the original nature loft which provided a nature-themed play area with storage for dress-up clothes below;

14-12-loft03

At the end of 2008 when we relocated the playroom to the front half of the house the old lofts were disassembled. The new play space only had one loft – a larger nature loft with two levels play space. It was slightly higher than the original lofts but still low enough that all children enrolled at that time could use both upper and lower play spaces. I wrote about it and our other nature spaces here;
14-12-loft04

It was only a year later that the nature loft was replaced by library loft. This fourth loft was nearly four feet off the ground and the entrance was gated to prevent toddlers from climbing/falling on the stairs. This loft was intended as a quiet space for the older children to go read or relax – it was not a ‘play’ space.

14-12-loft05

The space below this loft was used as the block area. The floor of the loft created a lower ceiling in the block area which limited traffic through the construction zone. Both the block area below and the quiet area above were popular play spaces for many years.

14-12-loft06

In fact, these areas were so popular that last year we moved the staircase and expanded the loft. The expansion made both the block area and the library loft larger and more comfortable for several children to use at the same time. We loved it. You can read more about that renovation here.
14-12-loft07

However, over the last six months, although the block area continued to be a popular play area, the library loft was rarely used. At first I assumed this was because it was summer and we were spending most of our time outdoors. However, in the fall when the older children returned to school the library loft received even less use – sometimes no children ventured up there for a week or more!

Most of the children in my preschool group are too young to traverse the stairs or read independently. For story times I always brought books down to read to the group. I started to feel the loft was wasted space – so of course that got me thinking about renovating again. Was there a better use for this upper loft space? Was there a way to make the library more interesting/accessible? I started making a list of all the things in our space that caused me angst.

  1. the loft stairs block part of the entrance to the nature area and create traffic flow issues
  2. to enter the block area you have to go through the kitchen play space which is always crowded with people and toys – more traffic issues.
  3. the block bin is too deep – some toddlers have trouble reaching all the blocks without climbing in the bin (discouraged – safety concern)
  4. the block bin crowds the music/dance space – all the children LOVE to sing and dance – a larger music area would be appreciated
  5. there is no good place to put the new cash register – I bought it months ago but haven’t put it out for play.
  6. We need a divider on the back of the kitchen area counter – the children get frustrated when their toys keep falling behind the counter.
  7. My filing cabinet is in the storage side of the nature area – two rooms away from my desk – my excuse to NEVER do paperwork – also means there a huge ‘to be filed’ pile on my desk.
  8. the cribs are usable for napping infants when children are playing in the play room but not when other children are eating lunch or doing crafts/table activities
  9. non nappers can use nature area at nap time but have few toys available and must navigate around cots to enter/leave play area – disturbs napping children
  10. reading and crafts are perfect quiet time activities but library and indoor craft areas are not currently useable at nap time – lighting is an issue in both areas due to children napping nearby.
  11. We don’t have a good indoor space for group sensory bin/messy activities.

If I was going to renovate to make better use of the loft space then I wanted to address as many of these issues as possible at the same time. I briefly entertained the idea of using the loft as a nap area – both the compact cribs would fit up there with space between. After more thought I decided that the biggest issue was the loft stairs – they took up so much valuable space. So…two weeks ago I removed them and changed a few other things too.

Now;

  • the cribs are in the nature area
  • the music area is larger
  • the kitchen area is self contained with no ‘thru traffic’
  • there is a ‘store’ area
  • the library is portable
  • both library and craft areas are useable during nap time
  • there are many more quiet time toys available
    and….
  • the loft is used for storage.

Since I am the only one who needs to go into the loft there is no need for a bulky stair case – I just use my step stool. Yes, this is the first time in nearly 10 years that we haven’t had a lofted play space but so far there haven’t been any complaints. Besides, you never know for sure, there might be another loft in our future….

Dollar Store Mouse

On a weekend shopping trip in early October my husband and I had stopped in at the Dollar Tree to pick up a few items.  The store had many Halloween themed displays and as we perused the aisles we often heard the mice.  Not real mice – these were small, motion activated decorations.  The store staff had placed several of them on shelves throughout the store.  As customers walked past they would trigger the mouse squeaks.

I am easily amused by things like this so of course I wanted one.  Hubby and I thought our cats at home might be tormented like these mice.  We picked up one of the packaged ones from the bin by the checkout.

14-11-mouse01Back at home I unwrapped the mouse and pulled the little tab from the battery compartment.  No squeaking.  My son and I took turns trying to get the mouse to make noise.  We could see the motion sensor but no matter what we tried we couldn’t get it to work.

We decided to take it apart – maybe the battery wasn’t connecting properly.  Once the mechanism was removed from the mouse body it worked fine.  We put it back in the mouse and again could not trigger the sensor.  Defective dollar store mouse.

Having already wasted enough time trying to get the thing to work I gave up and left it sitting on the counter.  Later that evening, when we were sitting in the living room, the mouse on the kitchen counter began to squeak.  No one was in the kitchen – there had been no movement.  Possessed dollar store mouse.

Over the next few weeks the mouse sat on the kitchen counter and continued to squeak randomly.  Sometimes it would go for several days without making any noise. Then one day it would squeak on and off throughout the morning or afternoon and then go silent again.  I’ll admit that it was a little eerie to hear the mouse at night when we were all in bed and the house was dark.

During the day it made me smile when I heard it initiate a conversation – yes, I do often talk to the mouse.  I know, it may not be ‘normal’ but our conversations are often more sensible than some of the conversations I’ve had with toddlers.

Last week the mouse was very vocal.  Sometimes it was very irritating, squeaking almost constantly for several minutes at a time with only brief periods of silence in between outbursts.  I tried moving it to other locations in the kitchen – behind the toaster, in the dark corner beside the fridge, under a towel or even in the bread bin. Still it continued to squeak and ignore my requests that to be quiet.  Annoying dollar store mouse.

It now sits on the plant shelf above the toddler table.  It seems happy there, not complaining as much, back to the occasional squeaking. The toddlers never seemed to notice when it squeaked in the kitchen.  They notice it now – especially at meal times when it interrupts their conversation.  After the mouse squeaks there is always a brief period of silence as the toddlers sit still and stare at each other.

I smile. Mischievous little dollar store mouse. 🙂

14-11-mouse03