The Snowball Effect

First, a bit of history…

I have four large outdoor lounger cushions. I bought them many years ago at an end-of-season clearance sale – the discounted price meant I got all four of them for less than the cost of just one toddler cot so I couldn’t resist. I briefly used them for napping children – they are thicker, wider and longer than other nap mats. They are very comfortable but also very heavy and cumbersome to set up and put away for daily naptime and take up a lot of space so I ended up getting more cots for naps indoors.

The fabric on the lounger cushions is intended for outdoor use so that is where we used them most – for napping or relaxing in tents or on the deck etc. When not in use they were stored in bags in the big shed. During the Vacation 2019 renovation, ‘Frankenshed’ was disassembled and the new toy storage shed was too small to store the large cushions so they were brought back inside and again stored with the other cots and bedding.

The small room off the main playroom is used for napping infants and storage of cots, bedding, books, and bulky items I don’t want to haul down to the basement storage area. This area is still sometimes referred to as the ‘Nature Area’ because I left the trees in there from when this used to be a play area – written about in the Nature Area and the Quiet Space posts.

Now, this is when the snowball began to form…

I recently wanted to use the big cushions for a toddler activity, but found it was very inconvenient to get them off the shelves behind the tree branches. I decided that on the upcoming long weekend I should move the trees into the main playroom. Afterall, though it did look nice having the tree branches forming a canopy over the cribs, it would be wonderful if the trees were in the playroom where everyone could enjoy them.

So, I started looking for the best place to mount the trees in the playroom…and decided that I would first need to move the toy food counter…which then meant I would need to change the block storage area. *sigh* The list of necessary changes continued to grow and after thirty plus hours of demo, rearranging, building and organizing the playroom has been mostly ‘prepped’ for the arrival of the trees but, even with a three-day weekend, there wasn’t enough time to actually move the trees.

I am pleased with the new arrangement – so far – and the children seemed to like it too. All of the children in the current group have only ever seen the trees as decorations in the nap area – never as part of the play space. They are familiar with having other things in the play environment change but probably don’t realize these trees can be relocated. I am certain they will be excited when I manage to complete the project – and with the cushion activity too whenever I get around to that.

There are still a few more little tasks to complete before the trees get moved but hopefully that will be done this weekend. The snowball forming now it the growing list of paperwork that I should be doing πŸ™‚

Summer Recap part 2

In my last post I covered some of the changes I had made to our outdoor play area. I mentioned that I had built a new roof over the little house in the corner of the yard and that moving the bus benches here made this a favourite sit spot all summer. However, I did not have a picture to include in my last post – but I do now;

I also promised to write more about some of our summer activities so that is what this post is for. Although International Mud Day occurs before my summer vacation, I never write about it until after. I didn’t write a dedicated ‘Mud Day 2022’ post but I can’t have a summer activities post without at least a couple mud day photos. This particular group was highly motivated to wash muddy toys so much of the activity was ‘mud on, mud off, repeat’.

Children playing in pool of mud
Children playing in mud and washing toys

The building area of the yard was popular all summer – surprisingly more popular than the water area or the climbing wall. Often, we had all eight of the children wanting to play here at the same time though they still preferred to create separate small ‘homes’ in a ‘town’ rather than work together on a single, large structure like other groups have in the past.

Children building structures with loose parts

The gravel/digging area, of course, was always popular though usually only for smaller groups at one time. It was interesting to note that, no matter what the activity was, these two were always choosing to play together. The oldest and the youngest in the group – nine years difference in age – but they played so well together all summer. Observing friendships like this is one of the things I like best about having a mixed age group.

Children pouring gravel in a tube

We also started a collection of ‘nature stuff’ to use to make mandalas. Some of the children only liked the ‘collecting’ part, others preferred simply sorting the items that were collected on our walks. Only a few actually seemed to enjoy creating the mandalas though.

Children creating mandalas with items from nature

As usual, we went to parks almost every day to play tag or other group activities that require a big open space that we can’t do in my yard. I almost never take the children to playstructures but we do love the climbers they have at St John’s Park.

Children climbing poles
Child climbing rock
children on monkeybars

Whenever the basketball court was empty, the children always wanted to play line tag.

Children running on outdoor basketball court

Some of the children tried cutting tree cookies. Even though we only used small branches this was a surprisingly difficult/time consuming activity. The children who were persistent enough to cut all the way through were very proud of their achievement – so was I πŸ™‚

Preschool child using hand saw to cut branch

Fantastic Summer!

Summer Recap

Every year, I take my summer vacation at the beginning of July so I can complete some big projects to prepare for all our summer activities. I don’t like to travel so going places is never on my vacation agenda. Relaxing is something I find difficult – maybe even stressful – I like to be busy. There are some types of ‘busy’ that I enjoy more than others and my summer projects are high up on my list.

Spring 2022 was so late, so wet, so…. depressing that it was really hard to get excited about summer projects. In fact, it was mid-June already when my husband asked, “What are your summer projects this year?” and I realized that I hadn’t even started making my list. Of course, there were things I wanted to do but nothing that I considered a BIG summer project – just a bunch of little things that I would normally plan as weekend projects.

The most obvious project to put on the summer list was the climbing wall – which I had purchased the supplies for last fall and planned to build as soon as the snow melted and have ready for when the school-age children were here for Spring Break – but it was still ‘winter’ when school was out for spring break. The climbing wall was probably the most noticeable vacation project and very popular with the children all summer.

child on climbing wall

The second most noticeable project was the roof over the corner house – and I don’t even have a picture of it. Creating the corner house to replace the tipi was one of my 2021 vacation projects that I didn’t have time to complete the way I initially envisioned. I had simply made a temporary lean-to type of roof last year. This year I designed and built a better roof and moved all the bus benches into the corner house. It was a very popular sit spot all summer – I can’t fathom why I didn’t manage to get a picture of it. *sigh*

I also didn’t any pictures of the new layout of stumps, logs, and steppingstones in the mulch area or the enlarged ‘river’ area. I spent three whole days rearranging the pathways to align with the bridges and entrances to the building and digging areas. It was a very labour intensive project but not something particularly noticeable if you hadn’t spent a lot of time in the yard.

The children and I found the new pathways to be much more functional – as did this little visitor to my yard – caught on my surveillance camera, he/she followed the new curvy path perfectly all the way from the back gate to the side yard. LOL

skunk walking through yard

I expanded the ‘river’ area to make space for a new dedicated area for water play. I added a hand pump so the children could get water for creating concoctions. There was a delay in getting this area ready for use. The hand pump I originally chose did not function properly and was eventually replaced with this bilge pump.

child using bilge pump

The trick here though is that getting water requires some communication as the pump is not near the spouts…

children playing with water
Child collecting water

This area is still a work in progress – we hope to add more pipes, hoses and storage for other concoction making supplies. Of course, we are still collecting supplies too! It was a very popular play area this summer.

I also added a new painting panel. We’ve had several built-in plexiglass panels in the past and I have found that they get damaged in the winter. The framework I built for hanging this one is permanent but the panel itself is removable, so the space is still multipurpose, and the panel can be safely stored when not in use.

Children painting

I love plexiglass for painting on – even better when you can access both sides – and with the garden as a backdrop the artwork is enhanced.

Children's artwork

Well, that didn’t seem like a lot of dramatic changes to our learning environment. Certainly not any major transformations. Still, there were enough little projects to keep me busy on my ‘vacation’ and some new spaces for the children to explore this summer. In my next post I will highlight a few of our summer activities.

Things I Should Have Said

It has been far too long since I wrote a blog post about anything. I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by tasks I’ve committed myself to complete for other people. Since all of these ‘other’ things have had a screen time component, I’ve been putting all my own screen time stuff on hold.

I like working on blog posts but there is only so much sitting/screen time I can handle – honestly, I’d just die if I had to work in an office every day, I’d rather clean bathrooms than sit at a desk even if the paper/computer work was interesting. Some of the other projects are very interesting, even quite exciting, but the time commitment is daunting.

Also note, it isn’t just the screen time that prevents me from doing office work. If I have to talk on the phone then I must also be pacing or doing laps in order to maintain some type of focus on what the caller is saying. There is a strong possibility that I will see an interesting nature thing through a window and completely block out anything the caller is saying. They would be completely unaware that I had mentally left the conversation. Please don’t phone me with important info.

Back on topic…

Most blog posts don’t actually take a lot of time but some of the other projects I’ve committed myself to do are very time consuming. So, as these other projects have deadlines, I’ve felt a little guilty if I ‘wasted’ any stationary time working on my ‘fun’ computer activities when I had time sensitive commitments. The fun vs work turmoil has made me avoid most computer activities even when I probably had the time.

I finally managed to eliminate some of these ‘other’ things so I’m going to catch up on a few of our past activities I would have/should have written posts about. First up – the bannock we cooked over the fire during spring break – yes, almost five months ago.

Having campfires with babies is tricky which is why we usually only manage them during winter break when my husband is off work and can tend to the fire while I watch babies. I’ve written about some past campfire cooking in 2017 and 2020. This year, spring was so late that spring break was more like winter so we had winter type activities instead.

With three mobile babies I didn’t think there was any safe place to put a fire pit in the yard so we just used the wok in the parking area. The babies and I could see, and smell the yumminess safely and the older children were trustworthy enough to be outside the yard fence with my husband tending the fire.

We had a little trouble getting the strips of bannock dough to stay wrapped on the metal skewers (branches would work better but I don’t trust the sticks we collect in the city due to chemicals etc.). It was taking a long time to cook the bannock when we had to keep taking them out of the fire to rewrap. Putting multiple strips of bannock in hotdog roasters was much easier and faster – we had a lot of dough to cook!

The babies waited eagerly by the gate every time I went outside the fence to take a few pictures and get some of the cooked bannock. Getting back in was challenging as all the babies crowded around my legs with their mouths wide open like little baby birds waiting for morsels of tasty bannock. They couldn’t get enough – ate more than all the bigger children who preferred cooking over eating.

The bannock cooked in the hotdog roasters did look rather unappealing – several comments were made about ‘dog turds’ – but it tasted wonderful! The little nuggets were actually perfect bite-sized pieces for easy snacking.

It was a great spring break activity though on subsequent walks there were a few extra reminders that we never pickup anything from the ground when we are out for a walk – even if it looks like bannock.

Winter Yard 3

I was excitedly anticipating winter this year – every year actually, but this year in particular. We loved all the little play areas that were created during my 2021 yard renovation. Sure there were a lot of fun things to do here in the warmer weather but, when I first designed the plan for the play spaces in the backyard, I was actually also considering how we would use it in the winter.

We love snow – climbing on snow piles, digging tunnels and dens, building with ice and snow. I’ve written posts about our winter yard in 2016 and 2019. Sometimes though, we have had issues with the ‘climbers’ wrecking the towers built by the ‘builders’ or the ‘diggers’ destroying the mountains created for the ‘climbers’ etc. Sure, problem solving and dealing with social disputes are important skills but sometimes we just want to engage in our favorite activity – uninterrupted by those who prefer different activities.

The yard renovation provided an active play area with swings, pathways, stumps and logs perfect for the climbers and jumpers – and also for creating pathways around mountains of snow. The yard renovation had a separated area for digging in gravel – or snow – and a large building area with plenty of loose parts – or ice blocks and snow. The plan was to allow space for longer term/larger building projects without infringing on the needs of the climbers and the diggers.

We have a different problem now though – there is too much snow. For the past several years we’ve thought there wasn’t enough snow and we spent more time hiking to parks etc looking for spaces with more snow. I think the last time I complained about too much snow was in 2014. However, in 2013 I wrote about a year we had the perfect amount of snow for that yard configuration and the group of children enrolled at that time.

I first started writing this post – and took the pictures – in January and we have received a lot more snow since then *sigh* I have no desire to take updated photos before I publish this post so these older pictures will have to do. In the active play area we have two climbing hills and over 100 feet of ‘hiking’ trails around all the snow hills and other structures.

OK, in the picture the ‘mountains’ don’t look huge but they have been packed solid by the climbers. I can’t make them any taller because they can’t go any wider. Besides, when the preschoolers stand on the snow hill under the arbour they can touch the beams the swings hang from in the summer. I usually need a step stool to hang the swings – now the beams are at my shoulder height. The problem is that the ‘pathways’ between the hills are actually almost 18 inches high. I haven’t had enough time to clear all the pathways between snow falls this year.

The picture above shows the bench the babies usually hold on to when they reach up to spin the wheels on the fence. The wheels are now baby hip height and that snow pile in the back is NOT for climbing on. It is on the area of the deck I usually keep clear so the babies have a flat space to practice walking in heavy boots. Besides, if you climb over that hill you will be in the neighbour’s yard.

Above – another view of the pathway between the climbing hills to the gate and beyond – to what should be the digging area. It is downhill all the way from the back door to the gate now – though in the summer it is slightly uphill. Below is the gate to the toy shed and garden area.

Note: as part of my summer renovation I changed the hinge point of this gate – it used to open inward which had posed a problem because I couldn’t open it to clear the snow to the shed. Now it opens outward and although I’ve cleared a path to the gate I’ve given up trying to clear a path beyond it and can no longer get to the shed. I have managed to keep one half of the compost bin clear enough that I can partially open the lid and dump the compost pail when it is full.

I’ve only managed to clear less than a quarter of the building area but not all the way down to the rubber mat.

I made dozens of coloured ice blocks for winter construction projects – we found a few to include in this photo but the rest are buried too deep. The recent snowfalls have hidden these ones now also. All of the ‘convenient’ storage bins full of wood and loose parts for building are not accessible now either. No one has any interest in building anything here – barely enough space to sit – and don’t stand up or you’ll be stabbed by a tree branch.

I do love the trail to the digging area, past the cedars and into the little house in the back corner of the yard.

That area on the right is the digging area – I don’t clear that area. I figured the diggers would like to do that – but they can’t find the shovels…or sticks…or buckets…or even the table or anything else other than snow.

Arriving at the entrance to the little house is like finding a secret little hideaway.

It is so peaceful and sheltered inside the little house. I’ve tried to persuade the babies this is a great place to sit and play – no wind, little snow, level ground – but they don’t seem to like it when I bring them in here.

I think maybe they feel trapped when we sit inside the little house. If they have to be outdoors they would rather just sit in the sled – I’d prefer if they were more active – you will be warmer if you keep moving. To them, from this viewpoint it probably seems like a very long, arduous journey to get back indoors where all the bulky outerwear is unnecessary.

When I took this photo there were infants and preschoolers playing in the yard between me and the house but I can’t see them. You know what would be fun in this yard – a game of hide and seek. I used to have a group that loved to play hide and seek all the time but there were no good hiding spaces in the yard at that time. Some of these children don’t like it if they can’t see me and the ones that like to hide are probably doing something I’ve asked them not too….

Yep, too much snow.

Photographs

In my childcare home I have always used photos to document our activities. I have created posters and booklets covering all the steps of big projects. Sometimes the photos are part of the activity – like this one. I have used photos in slideshows for workshops, presentations and on a digital display in the front entrance. As a good bye gift I provide each child with a photo album containing pictures arranged chronologically throughout the entire time they have attended.

Some of my oldest childcare photos were taken with a camera that required film and needed to be taken in to a photo lab to be developed. I’d have to order reprints to put in family albums and scan photos if I needed a digital copy. Taking and using photos became so much easier when I got a digital camera but even then there were occasions when the camera batteries died while we were on an outing and no more pictures could be taken until we go back and replaced them.

The number of photos I took increased dramatically when I got a rechargeable digital camera. So much so that I had to create a separate folder for unsorted photos and dedicate time on weekends to go through the week’s photos and file them according to activity like ‘sensory play’, ‘gross motor’, ‘art’, ‘constructive’, etc so it was easier to find specific photos when I needed them. My ‘Daycare Photos’ directory currently has nearly 10,000 photos in 20 folders with many sub-folders too.

When I got my first smartphone I stopped bringing my digital camera on everyday outings. It seemed like it would be easier to just use the camera on my phone instead. I was wrong. Taking photos with my phone was a slow process which at first I attributed to me learning a new skill. However, many years have passed and I’ve had several different phones and I still find it to be a slow process.

At first, I don’t think I noticed the decline in the number of photos I was taking. Actually, maybe I wasn’t taking fewer pictures, but I was definitely deleting more photos than I was saving. The quality of my phone photos was so much worse than the photos my little digital camera could take quickly.

Sure, my phone cameras were capable of taking good photos but only if I was willing to spend the time adjusting settings and planning each shot. However, most of the photos I take are very spontaneous and even the time required to load the camera app would be too long so I’d be left muttering ‘It would have been nice to have a photo of that’ *sigh*

My little point and shoot camera was so much more convenient to use. I kept the wrist strap on so the camera was always handy. The camera fit easily in my hand and one finger could reach all the controls. I never needed two hands to take photos so there was no need to put down the baby or whatever else I was carrying. This was extremely important since I rarely take photos when the children ‘pose’.

Most of my photos are pictures of the children in action. Either they are moving or I am moving or both. All my phone cameras have been way too slow to take decent action photos. Even if I have the camera app loaded and I am standing still, holding the phone with two hands the moving child will usually be just a blur if I even manage to keep them in the frame.

I suppose I could record videos with my phone and then select photos from the videos but that seems like a lot of extra work for which I have no time. My little camera allowed me to take photos while the children, not the camera controls, were my main focus. Honestly, the children’s focus is an issue too – many of them are obsessed with phones and will instantly stop what they are doing if they see a phone in my hand, so my phone is rarely handy for photos.

Recently I’ve noticed that the good-bye albums I’ve given to departing children were lacking. It has been surprisingly difficult to find enough photos to put in a 50 or 100 page album – even when children had been here for several years. When I was using my old camera I used to have to be selective and only choose the best photos of our favourite activities to include in albums – no way I’d have room to include all the photos.

The last few albums have had another noticeable issue too – the vast majority of the photos are of the children sitting at the table. Doing art, playing with small table toys, working on a puzzle, or eating food. These things are only a very small portion of our activities but comprise the majority of the photos. I believe it is due to the fact that when the children are seated at the table, my phone is handy on my nearby desk. It is the only time it is convenient for me to take photos with my phone.

Yes, there are some photos of the children in the playroom and of course more of the children outdoors. Yet, one thing that really upsetting for me is that there are almost no winter photos. We play outside every day – even in the winter – but I counted less than 30 pictures of the children in the snow in the last three years! As difficult and annoying as it is for me to use my phone to take photos in optimum conditions, the issues are magnified in the winter so usually I don’t even bother trying.

Last month I was so frustrated by the lack of new photos to add to the front entrance slideshow that I dug out my old camera and charged. I’ve even taking it outside when we were playing in the snow. It still hasn’t become a habit to have it handy but I have definitely take more photos lately – and generally the photo subject quality has been better too. Though, many of the children look somewhat confused as they do not recognize that object in my hand.

Indoor Exercise

We usually spend a lot of time outside so there is plenty of opportunity for the children to engage in active, gross motor play. During the long winter months our outdoor activity is occasionally limited by extreme weather conditions so I add some indoor physical activities like yoga, resistance band exercises and obstacle courses. I have a a bosu ball, a small balance beam, some balance pods and tunnels that can be used to enhance these activities but outdoors remains the preferred space for gross motor play.

Summer 2021 was a particularly active period as I temporarily used preschool spaces for some additional school age children. Having a group of older children meant our schedule was more flexible – we could go on longer outings and more organized group games/activities were possible. However, in the fall when the older children all returned to school I enrolled three new infants which resulted in a drastic change to our schedule.

We still had some long periods of outdoor time in the fall but I was a little concerned that by winter the two remaining older preschoolers may not be able to get as much outdoor play/exercise as they were accustomed to. It was a bit of an impulse purchase when I stumbled across an ad for this Swedish ladder/stall bar/jungle gym/exercise wall – and I had the perfect space to install it too.

Of course the children’s initial excitement about the ‘indoor play structure’ was anticipation for somewhat reckless behaviours that I wouldn’t let them do indoors – news flash – still can’t. The various activities were introduced gradually so it wasn’t overwhelming and we could discuss the necessary safety rules.

They soon discovered that using the monkey bars, rings, ladder and climbing rope were not easy activities. They needed to develop more skills before they would be able to get far on these. Even the school age children were surprised at how difficult it is to use only strength without the assistance of momentum like they could on a large outdoor play structure.

Luckily the stall bar allows us to do strength and flexibility exercises any time throughout the day without the extra time to set up the fall mats and other equipment. The children and I have done strength training exercises with resistance bands in the past.

However, we’ve had some limitations on which exercises we could do because we had very few anchor points available and the children are different sizes. The stall bar provides various anchor points for the resistance bands so it is easy to switch from one exercise to another and to adapt the exercise to the height of each child.

They are very interested in watching their reflection in the mirror and sometimes have difficulty focusing on the actual exercise because there is so much giggling. The infatuation with the mirror reminds me of some of the guys I’ve seen at the gym – hilarious!

This handstand backwards walk up and down the stall bar is definitely one of their favourite activities – and it is so great for the vestibular and proprioceptive systems πŸ™‚

Another favourite exercise is the leg raises – great for core strength!

There are bars low enough for the toddlers to use if they want to try and high enough for me to use to demonstrate the exercises. The system is strong enough to support my adult son doing pull-ups from the top bar – I can’t reach the top bar without a stool, nor can I do a pull up LOL.

Stretches are popular too. I model stretches often during the day especially after spending prolonged periods sitting on the floor with the children or carrying cranky babies.

We use a minute timer for our stretches. It is so rewarding when after practicing the same stretches every day the children go from ‘It is too hard, I can’t do it’ to ‘What!? That was a minute already?’ when the timer beeps. They also realize that if they stretch on an ‘easy’ bar for a minute first, then they can sometimes reach a higher bar afterwards – one that was not initially possible.

We discuss the importance of choosing the bar height that is an appropriate stretch for you – not competing with others. Someone who is tall may not be as flexible as someone who is shorter so their height does not necessarily determine which bar they use. There are not many of us that can naturally do this;

When I first installed the stall bar I was a little apprehensive that I may need to be constantly redirecting children who tried to climb the wall – and I really prefer indirect guidance so I worried I may be setting them up for failure. I have been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t been an issue.

Even the babies – who like to climb on the toys shelves – don’t climb the bars. Their favourite activity is rolling things down the ramp.

Sure, we still much prefer playing outdoors but this purchase has provided a lot of indoor fun too – and it doesn’t have a screen.

Three Things

I must say 2021 had its ups and downs but towards the end it really pushed my limits.

The first thing was the dishwasher. I know, dishwashers may be considered a luxury appliance more than a necessity for most people but the periods of time that I’ve been without a working dishwasher in my childcare home have proved to be difficult. I’ve replaced my dishwasher more times in my 25 year childcare career than all my other appliances combined. I will admit that I work them hard – running as many as three full loads per day.

My current dishwasher started acting up this past summer – occasionally it would leak, though not consistently. Sometimes it leaked immediately though sometimes I didn’t start leaking until it was more than an hour through the cycle and it often went for weeks without leaking at all.

It wasn’t just ‘when’ it decided to leak that was inconsistent but also ‘where’ it decided to leak from. Sure, if it always leaked from the door I could assume it was the door seal and replacing the gasket would solve it – but the gasket looked fine. Sometimes the door seal would be completely dry but there would be a river flowing from under the dishwasher across the kitchen floor – or worse, a waterfall in the basement that was not noticeable from upstairs.

Then, in the fall It started intermittently sending codes that it was unable to reach temperature high enough to sanitize. Being able to use my dishwasher to sanitize dishes, and toys, is extremely important. So as ‘unable to sanitize’ warnings increased and the constant supervision required to watch for leaks I just decided to stop using it for anything more than a drying rack. I’ve ordered a new one, but it won’t be here until February. *sigh*

The second thing was the little stray cat. On November 12th, just after the first snowstorm, my husband called me from the back door to tell me there is a very upset kitten shivering in our yard. I was busy with the children but told him if he could get it into the cat carrier and put it in the basement I’d post a picture on the neighbourhood association site to see if anyone in the area had lost it.

Working together my husband and son were able to contain the very upset kitten. No one in the neighbourhood claimed it though others in the area reported having seen it around for a month or more. It was terrified and starving, I could feel all its bones but it just curled, motionless, in a tight little ball when touched. I made a makeshift kennel for it in the basement so it could have a litter box and food dish but it still spent most of its time hiding at the back of the carrier.

I made several ‘ found cat’ reports and contacted shelters. No one had room for it – one suggested it sounded semi-feral and I should put it back outside. I certainly couldn’t do that, however, I also couldn’t have an unvaccinated cat around my cats or the children. I felt bad leaving it alone in the basement but at least it was warm, dry and had plenty of food which it devoured.

I knew it would have a better chance of settling down if it could at least see people and other cats so I took it to the vet. After two weeks of four meals a day ‘she’ now weighed 2.4 kg. ‘Beebe the basement cat’ was estimated to be 8 months old, now fully vaccinated, dewormed, tested FIV negative and cleared to be around people and other cats. She still only wanted to hide.

I had ordered a large three tiered kennel for her but the shipment was delayed. It the meantime I periodically brought her upstairs in the carrier for visits with us. She seemed to really enjoy watching TV and was extremely interested in anything on a plate – I was certain she had been in a home at some point in her past.

My two older cats were unimpressed by her presence but Montgomery absolutely loved her. He got so excited every time I brought the carrier up from the basement and sulked when I took it back down. Wherever Beebe was, Montgomery was as close as possible. Here they are enjoying the sunshine.

Beebe was not thrilled by all his attention and most definitely did not want to come out and play with him but she didn’t seem to mind the company if he remained calm. She also was becoming a little less timid – mewing from the basement when she heard me get up in the morning. Watching me prepare her food but running back to hide in the carrier when I got close.

Once the big kennel arrived she did seem a little more relaxed. Accepting pets and offering head butts through the bars as long as there was a barrier between us. Outside the kennel she was still very stressed. The kennel could be moved easily to various places on the main floor so she could enjoy the sunshine, watch the children play, or have some quiet time.

On December 23rd she went to the vet to be spayed. Initially still groggy when she came ‘home’ she did eat and move around. The following day she seemed a little less active but ate her food and used the litter box. She was alert and greeted me with head butts on Christmas morning but refused to eat. She deteriorated rapidly throughout the day and in the evening we took her to the emergency animal hospital. She was in respiratory distress and had arrhythmia. Sadly, euthanasia was the best option. RIP my poor little Beebe. – such a short hard life.

The third thing – day three of my four day Christmas break I was notified that I was a close contact of someone who had tested positive for Covid 19. As a precaution I decided to close for the three days between the Christmas long weekend and the New Year’s long weekend to give myself a 10 day isolation period and protect the children in my care. I am fully vaccinated and have now tested negative so it probably wasn’t entirely necessary.

Still, as 2022 begins I am happy to report that I am off to a great start. I’ve got almost all of my year end paperwork done already – it is usually March before I do that. I have completely cleaned and reorganized the basement – that has been on my ‘to do’ list for a very long time.

I am getting used to this handwashing all the dishes thing. Yes, there will be a lot more dishes once the children return, but I know the new dishwasher is coming so the extra work is temporary.

I have an empty cat kennel. I considered donating it to a shelter but then also thought it may be good to hold on to in case another stray cat in need shows up on my doorstep. I’m even contemplating possibly fostering cats/kittens – could risk becoming the crazy cat lady πŸ™‚

Bananas

There are always bananas on my kitchen counter. I don’t ever need to write ‘bananas’ on my grocery list – they are one of the things, like milk, that I buy every time I go to the store. We have bananas for snack several times each week because they are so convenient to store and serve.

All the children like bananas – for some they are their favourite fruit – though occasionally I’ve had a child that briefly got tired of having bananas. However, I would not put bananas on my personal list of preferred fruits – I will only eat green bananas. (note: I also choose savory over sweet, vegetable over fruit consistently).

Whenever possible I will buy green bananas. If the store only has yellow bananas I will buy just a few and make another trip to the store later in the week for more. I cannot have ripe bananas in my kitchen – once I can smell them then somebody better eat them or I’ll have to freeze the bananas or bake something.

Yes, I do bake a lot of things with bananas – but I don’t usually eat any banana flavoured things. Luckily, the children do like most baked banana snack foods too.

I bought a bunch of bright green bananas on one of my shopping trips last month – and they would not ripen. This picture was taken almost two weeks after I bought these bananas.

Not only were these bananas still green, they were too green even for me – they were very hard and impossible to peel. I had to buy more yellow bananas to use for snacks. I am stubborn though and was determined to get these bananas to ripen or find another use for them.

I searched for uses for green bananas. One site suggested boiling and mashing them like potatoes – that just sounds gross. Another suggestion was to slice them and pan fry – I tried that at nap time one day in hope we would be able to have bananas for afternoon snack.

I still couldn’t peel these bananas so I sliced them and then cut the peel off. I fried them in butter and added brown sugar to make a sweet glaze. Even with the sugar they tasted just like fried potatoes! I absolutely LOVED them – the children definitely did not. None of the children finished their afternoon snack.

I placed the remaining green bananas in a paper bag with all the green tomatoes that I had picked from my garden before it got too cold. Over the next week, all the tomatoes ripened and we ate them but the bananas were still green. I thought maybe my house was too cool (I keep my thermostat set at 18C) so I tried placing the remaining bunch of green bananas in my oven set on ‘warm’ for half a day – didn’t help. Maybe these bananas were even more stubborn than me.

I checked the bananas again on Friday – almost four weeks since I bought them – still green, though may be not quite as hard as they had been. I placed them back in the bag and decided I would fry them all on the weekend – it would make a wonderful snack for my son and I but I wouldn’t expect the children to eat them.

I was busy outside all day Saturday – taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather – and didn’t check the bananas. On Sunday morning I prepared to fry the green bananas but when I opened the bag….ewww !

The bananas were suddenly not only all yellow but are they were even starting to turn brown. There is no way I will fry or even eat these bananas – too over ripe for me…but I know what the children will love for snack on Monday πŸ™‚

Apple Burgers

One of my childcare families asked for this recipe recently and I replied that it was ‘on the list of future posts’. I actually have a list of blog posts waiting to be written…lack of post ideas is not the reason for the long periods of time between posts. Sometimes I just need a a nudge to move a post to the top of the list and get busy writing.

As I mentioned in my last post, this past summer we didn’t follow our regular four-week-revolving menu. Instead, I had made a list – yes, another list – of new recipes I would like to try without necessarily adding them to our regular menu. Apple Burgers were one of the new recipes that the children requested multiple times over the summer and asked to have added to the regular menu permanently.

In the spring, when I first started going through my recipe books to make the ‘new recipes’ list, I almost skipped reading the Apple Burger recipe…again. I say ‘again’ because all my recipe books are more than 20 years old, some may even be older than me. There are no pages in any of my recipe books that I have never looked at but there are definitely recipes that I have not read past the title.

Apple Burgers fell into the ‘skipped’ list because I don’t generally like apples. I mean, I won’t entirely refuse to eat them – like seafood (gag) – but anything apple would be near the bottom of a list. Like on my ‘pie list’ all other fruit pies and most meat/veggie pies would be ahead of apple pie. So, my initial response to reading the title ‘Apple Burgers’ would be ‘eww, why wreck a burger by putting apple on it’ and I would turn the page.

However, this time I read it – after all, I was looking for recipes for lunches for the children and even most of the picky eaters will eat apples. I discovered that ‘Apple Burgers’ are really just chicken/turkey burgers with applesauce in them. MMmmm, chicken and turkey are pretty high up on my list so Apple Burgers got added to the summer recipes to try list.

Now, I will first post the recipe ingredient list as it was originally written with the usual disclaimer that I have NEVER followed a recipe without modifying it. Then I’ll try to guess at what I really did since I don’t measure ingredients.

Apple Burgers
  • 1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

After reading the original recipe my first thoughts were; 1) the children will not even try these if they see a piece of onion or red pepper, 2) there is not nearly enough seasoning/flavor, and 3) why is there no egg or breadcrumbs?

So, when I made them I added the things I thought were missing – and I have done it differently each time I have made them so I don’t really have a ‘recipe’. Seriously, I just play with food like the children mixing potions with loose parts…as long as it is edible I’ll consider throwing it in a ‘recipe’. Also note, I am cooking for a big group so I usually start with double the above recipe. These are some of the other modifications I have made.

First, I add a lot more seasoning. I have dried vegetable seasoning (onion, peppers, garlic) that I add to things like scrambled eggs or herb bread etc when I want the flavour but not the chunks or moisture from chopped or pureed onions and peppers. I have used the dried vegetable seasoning in these burgers and I have also used oregano, thyme, rosemary – total of probably at least two or more tablespoons of various dried seasonings. Sometimes I add bacon bits, soya sauce, BBQ sauce, or Thai sweet chili sauce.

Second, I add an egg and some cornmeal/oatmeal/breadcrumbs. Actually, never breadcrumbs, I don’t buy or make breadcrumbs but they would work too. I usually add cornmeal to all my ground meat loaves/balls/burgers. Sometimes I use oatmeal though I put it in the food processor first because I only buy whole oats and they would make the burgers chunky if I didn’t grind up a bit it first. If I am adding pureed onions and peppers I will put the oatmeal in the food processor at the same time.

How much cornmeal/oatmeal? I have no idea, I just dump it in straight from the bag, maybe a cup? Normally I would add enough to enable me to handle the mixture and form patties but honestly every time I have made these I feel like I’m adding way too much filler and they have still been too wet to handle. I have spooned the mixture onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet like a drop cookie, shaped them a bit and then baked them. I usually get 16 smallish patties out of a recipe starting with 2 lbs ground chicken.

The original recipe says to broil them 8 minutes per side until no longer pink. Hmpf – too wet to put on my broiler pan – would make rippled burgers LOL. I bake them for about 25-30 minutes at 375 F on my oven’s convection roast setting (400F on regular setting) flipping after about 15-20 minutes so they brown a bit on both sides. I always use a thermometer to ensure min internal temp of 165F/74C. They always set up very solid, never crumble so I don’t know why they are too wet to handle raw.

AAannnd – no picture. That is probably why I kept putting off writing this post. I have never remembered to take a picture of the Apple Burgers – too busy eating them. I let the children choose the condiments they want on their burgers. For me, it is mayonnaise and Thai sweet chili sauce for extra flavour πŸ™‚

In lieu of an apple burger pic – here are some barbecued beef patties my husband cooked for me (I’m a little fearful of the gas BBQ thingy). I’m always sad when he doesn’t BBQ beef burgers ‘crispy’ enough for me so he cooked these ones special just the way I like them…

Adventures in Family Childcare

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