Tag Archives: postaweek2011

The Christmas Gift

When I signed on for the Post-a-Week 2011 challenge I also began following their daily posts for topic ideas and inspiration.  Many of their suggestions for post topics have been very interesting – some I thought would be fun to answer.  Others like the one from October 2ndIf You Could Change How Schools Work….’ I would have loved to answer but they would have taken a huge amount of time and probably a whole series of posts.  Generally though, I have enough ideas for post topics that I don’t need any more suggestions.

The suggestion from December 11th was one that I couldn’t ignore.  They asked ‘What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?’ I immediately knew my answer to this question.  There was no deliberation, reflection, or consideration.  For me the answer was instantaneous.

I didn’t have time to write that day but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I was out shopping for most of the day.  I noticed the items in other carts.  Were these things gifts for others?  Would the recipient think it was the best gift they had ever received?  If so, for how long would the item remain at the top of their list?

I suppose the answer would depend on the recipient’s definition of ‘best’.  Whether the gift was something they desperately needed, had the hottest new technology, or something they considered to be special in some other way. For me the gift that came to mind was not the ‘biggest’ gift or the ‘most expensive’.  The item itself was not particularly rare or unique.  I did not receive this gift from someone who was a prominent part of my life.  However, this gift is the one that I consider the most memorable and it has remained so for more than 40 years.

First, I should start with a little background.  As a child I was extremely withdrawn.  I rarely spoke to anyone – especially not unfamiliar people.  Visiting the homes of family or friends I would sometimes disappear behind the couch or some other large piece of furniture and not come out until my mother announced that it was time to leave. In school I was frequently paralyzed with fear when called on in class – unable to do anything except stare blankly at the teacher.

My father was in the military and when I was 7 years old our family moved to Germany.  Not knowing the language seemed to make my silence a much more acceptable behaviour. We lived in a small town about 20 miles from the air force base.  Our family was befriended by a German family who showed us all the local attractions and taught us about their culture.

As Christmas approached there were many ‘new’ traditions for us to experience.  The decorations are what I remember the most.  One day when we went to visit our German friends there was a Nativity scene set up on a table in their living room. I was immediately drawn to it and spent the remainder of the visit sitting on the floor by the table.  I examined it from every angle mesmerised by the intricate details.

As I gently touched the figurines I remember thinking of all the painstaking work that must have gone into carving each piece.  I’m not really sure if I was ever told that it had been hand made but that was what I envisioned.  I never picked up any one of the pieces – I couldn’t imagine disturbing any part of it.  Everything was so perfectly arranged I was certain that moving a piece would disrupt the entire scene.  Each time we visited our friends’ home I went to the table and stayed there until it was time to leave.

Traditionally our family opened gifts on Christmas morning but our friends’ gift exchange was held on Christmas Eve.  They invited us to attend their evening celebration which began with an outdoor event — some sort of parade or march through the streets of town.  Those details are unclear, it was so long ago.  Afterwards, we returned to their home for the remainder of the evening.

As we gathered in their living room I took my customary place by the Nativity scene, but something was different.  Beside the familiar display there was another table.  On it there was a second Nativity scene – smaller and simpler but still stunning.

As I sat there comparing the two I was vaguely aware that someone was speaking.  I looked up to see our host standing in the doorway.  He smiled at me and said something but I couldn’t understand the foreign words.  I looked at my mother for translation and she said “He’s telling you that that smaller one is yours to keep”.

I still have those figurines.  The original stable I’ve had to replace, it did not survive so many years of moving and storage.  Each Christmas I set it up and remember the day I received it so long ago.  A small gift given to a child who tried so hard not to be noticed – but was.

From Chocolate to Worms

The children need little from me when we are outdoors.  Indoors they sometimes need redirection or assistance choosing an appropriate activity but not outdoors.  Outside they are never bored.  They enjoy a wide variety of activities — sometimes active, often dramatic, always creative.  I should know better than to interfere.

Last week they engaged in an elaborate activity that involved all the children in a variety of roles.  They started a ‘chocolate factory’.  Mmmm. I do love chocolate.  This chocolate however was not your typical chocolate.  This chocolate came from a mine.  So first the ‘miners’ had to dig a mine to find the chocolate;

You see, the top layer of gravel is ‘vanilla’ but underneath the gravel is ‘chocolate’.  I know why, do you?

The ‘shopper’ had the task of working as liaison between the miners and the baker.  The shopper made regular trips from the bakery to the mine to get the necessary supplies.  She always arrived with empty containers but after a little negotiation — using gems for currency – she left with containers full of delicious chocolate;

The bakers were pleased.  They had plenty of cocolate to use in their cupcakes;

I got to pick my favorite — the one with the most chocolate of course 🙂

After I finished my cupcake I went for a walk in the garden and inadvertently ended the chocolate factory game.  You see, in the garden I noticed a multitude of cabbage worms on our broccoli plants.  My expression of annoyance and disgust attracted their attention and I was nearly trampled.

Apparently some people like worms more than chocolate;

I’m not one of them.  Even if they are just ‘baby’ worms and you try to persuade me they are ‘sprinkles’ I still don’t want any.  No thank-you, I’m not hungry anymore.

An Extraordinary Summer

According to my WordPress stats this is my 100th post – Yippee!  It has been just over a year since I started this blog too – I missed the actual anniversary since there was no reminder for that and I need reminders.  So I thought an exceptional event deserved a post about something special or unique and this has been an extraordinary summer.

After the soggy late spring this hot dry summer has definitely been unusual – mosquito free too!  Enrolment has been atypical as well.  With several of our regular children away for the summer I was able to accommodate many school-age ‘summer care only’ children.  Nap time is still needed for some of the younger children but with no infants or toddlers here it is not as crucial and it is OK if we skip nap time occasionally.  Hence, we’ve been able to schedule full day field trips – an extremely rare occurrence.

Last week we spent a day at Fort Whyte Alive.  I started the morning by packing a picnic lunch for all;

We loaded up the van and set off for our adventure.  Once we arrived our first stop was at the Interpretive Centre where we got to get really close to some indigenous animals;

Much closer than would be possible if they were alive;

Then we visited the Aquarium of the Prairies which captivated the children for a very long time.

I was amazed by how interested the children were in watching the fish.  It made me wonder if I should invest in an aquarium for our own but I think it may have been the size of the fish that intrigued the children so much.  Unfortunately none of the pictures I took were able to capture the detail of this exhibit.

After we left the Interpretive Centre we strolled along the floating boardwalks – my favourite area;

The slight movement of the boardwalk made some a little nervous so we didn’t get too close to the edge even when we stopped to watch the topsy-turvy ducks;

And the green algae covered water which we almost mistook for a grassy meadow;

After lunch we visited the sod house and then took another hike.  No one could resist a side trip to do this;

We ended our adventure with a visit to the Fort Whyte farm where the chickens seemed eager for some company and ran over to greet us but stayed just out of reach.

As for skipping nap time – this day everyone napped on the way home, except the driver who wishes the van had auto pilot so she could have napped too.

A Taste of Summer

Yesterday none of the school age children had classes so everyone was here for the full day and the weather was amazing.  The weather channel reported a high of 17° C but with the sunshine the thermometer in my back yard registered 22° C – beautiful. We spent all morning outside.

As usual there was a lot of ‘cooking’ going on since collecting items and making concoctions are very popular activities.  It was one of those days that I wish I had brought the video camera out since the ‘action’ is missing from the still photos.  The camera and I both have slow reaction times so what shows up in the pictures isn’t always what I was trying to capture. I spent a considerable amount of time observing the process involved in adding ingredients to this pot.

Fine motor skills were enhanced as pebbles were dropped one by one through the tube and into the pot.  It took more trial and error and a little frustration to discover why the ones placed in the bottom of the tube didn’t come out the top.

I miss the liquid component that we had in the concoctions this spring as the snow melted. I’m working on a plan to relocate one of the rain barrels to the gravel area so we can have a regular water supply.  I just have to move a couple of the big planters first.  Unfortunately I know from experience that the only thing harder than lifting them is sliding them through pea gravel and creating massive ridges. 🙂

While we were out in the yard we cleaned up the garden area a little and picked some weeds.  We found some plants that we couldn’t identify – probably weeds since there shouldn’t be any perennials planted here – but we thought were pretty so we left them to grow more. On the hill the Yarrow and the Giant Hyssop are beginning to sprout.  I am so excited that they seem to be off to a great start.  I’ve managed to kill off many other plants even though I’d been told that they could survive in difficult situations.  Now I’m a believer in the power of native plants. Of course we also engaged in some great gross motor activities outside too.  Running and jumping, ball games, hide and seek and tag.  My son joined us for a while and practiced some more Parkour moves and balance games.  While he tried to balancing on a piece of pipe one of the preschoolers observed and then modified the activity to suit his comfort level. Today it is raining and there is a winter storm warning.  Some of the highways have been closed due to ice and snow.  We will remain optimistic.  We have had a taste of summer and we know it will be here – eventually.

Play & the Environment

There are many types of play and we all have our favourites; creative and constructive, dramatic and imaginative, active and physical, manipulative and sensory. When our environment is conducive to our preferred activities we can fully immerse ourselves in the activity.  Like the way a messy, dirt filled house can allow me to passionately engage in cleaning – no, wait…that never happens.

But yes, our surroundings and the other people in it can have a significant effect on how we feel and the things we do.  That effect can be either positive or negative.

Recently there have been a few days that were warm and dry enough that the children and I didn’t have to wear mitts and we could get some of the toys from the deck box. Yeah – we were all very excited.  Giggling and “It is summer” cheers could be heard throughout the yard.

Favourite cars were chosen and mountain races were held.  The ponies initiated some type of intervention to persuade the shark that just because he had sharp teeth he didn’t have to be a bad guy. After all, the dinosaurs, crocodiles and even Godzilla were on the ponies’ side. 

There was peace in the world and life was good. Then Saturday morning I awoke to – more snow.  Ok, I know the weather forecasts had predicted it but they are sometimes wrong and I was hoping this was one of those times.  Certainly in November or December I would think that this was pretty;

But it is mid April and I want to see happy ponies galloping through green meadows with flowers and butterflies.  Today I am sticking to my plan to attend the Earth Day celebration at Fort Whyte Alive.  My sixteen year old son and I have been eagerly anticipating this weekend outing (too bad there is no daycare today – the little ones would have loved to come along).

We are going to play outdoors and have some fun. We will ignore that grumblings of our driver who was hoping there would be a cancellation due to inclement weather.  We are going to celebrate the Earth and all its weather conditions.

Active Play

I consider most of the children in my current group to be ‘active’. Now you’d think that, with so many news reports about childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles, I would consider it good that these children are so active.  In reality though, there is a part of me that is so very tired of saying ‘walk in the house’, ‘keep your feet on the floor’, ‘that’s not meant for swinging on’, etc thousands of times every day.

You see, I prefer indirect guidance – using the environment to influence the behaviour of the children. During CBA observations and evaluations my understanding and use of indirect guidance was identified as one of my greatest strengths. I detest having to interrupt play to redirect behaviour.

I have the playroom arranged into five well defined areas with specific purpose for each area.  There are no long pathways that encourage running – the main play space is less than 200 square feet and there are plenty of obstacles.  I’m beginning to think the children view these obstacles as a challenge to be overcome – like in a video game where the goal is to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the least amount of time preferably without touching the ground.

Have I inadvertently encouraged these behaviours by providing activities like parkour?  We’ve discussed safety in detail and differentiated between appropriate indoor and outdoor activities. We have plenty of outdoor time every day.  Yesterday we were outside for two hours and they spent most of that time running and jumping.

I rotate the toys often so the children have new choices and don’t easily get bored.  I provide a mix of adult led and free play activities so they have the opportunity to participate in organized group activities and also to engage in activities that they initiate.  I schedule downtime for relaxing and enjoying quiet activities so they don’t become over stimulated.

I briefly – very briefly – considered turning on the TV because I know that would work.  There are several children in the group that I’m certain would become almost comatose in front of a TV screen but the ‘professional’ side of me can’t allow me to resort to that.

This has been such a long winter and I know I can’t wait for the opportunity to work in the garden.  I have absolutely no desire to do any paperwork no matter how important it is.  (Please note: if my coordinator is reading this – I am no where near ready for re-licensing).  The recent freeze, thaw, freeze cycle has created a glacier in my yard that threatens to never melt even if the weather does ever really warm up.

But we can smell it.

Spring break is here and summer is on the horizon.  We are excited and that excitement is so hard to contain in any environment.

Water & Rainbows & Dreaming of Green

Today is officially the first day of Spring.

At circle/calendar time last Friday the children cheered when I told them that.  I think they believe that the snow will miraculously disappear and we won’t need to bundle up to go outdoors.

I’m sorry to say that is not correct. In the fourteen years that I have been providing childcare only twice have we been snow free by the end of March.

This year there is no chance that the snow will be gone any time soon.  There have been a few warmer days – enough to create ‘Lake 108’ as we kindly refer to the puddle in our back lane.

This picture was taken early last week when the lake first formed and we stopped parking in the driveway because we didn’t have a boat.  By yesterday evening it was 18 inches deep in the centre, extended past two houses on either side of us and was on the verge of breaching the mini dike we had built along our fence line.

Thankfully some city workers stopped by this morning to steam open the frozen drain and we no longer have beach front property.  We do still have plenty of snow – and ice.

Last week we also got to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – one of my favourite events.  I’m not Irish, I think for me the appeal of St Patrick’s Day is really the promise of spring. Rainbows and green things and magic.

I didn’t make an all green lunch as I have in the past.  The children do seem to think that it is fun but they simply will not eat artificial green food. I do miss not having ‘rainbow bread’.

Sandwiches with rainbow bread were a St Patrick’s Day tradition here until the local bakery upgraded their bread makers and the new machines can’t create the swirl effect.

We recite our favourite poems like ‘Rainbow Colors’ by Sharon MacDonald

“So, wave your arms above you
Cast your colors high
And, try to make a rainbow
Across a cloudy sky”

And dream of grass and green things to come.