Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Birdhouse

We have this birdhouse in the corner of the yard near the carport.  It was built many years ago – at least ten, probably more – as a project to use up some scrap building supplies.  Initially there was hope that it would get used for nesting but I’ve never seen a bird even land on it so really it is just a decoration.
Over the years of exposure to extreme weather conditions it has begun to decay.  There are now many cracks and gaps for ‘ventilation’ and a few small pieces have fallen off. Last year  the main support post started to weaken and the whole thing tilted over at an odd angle away from the carport. The ‘decoration’ was becoming much less decorative.
A little more than a week ago I was sitting our in the yard taking advantage of the lovely spring weather.  I watched a little black capped chickadee fly in the yard and perch on the old birdhouse.  Then, to my surprise I saw it go inside!  For the next hour I watched it come and go, in and out, a busy little bird.  I believe it was only one bird – at least I only ever saw one at any given time.
Later, when there was no activity around the birdhouse I took a peek inside.  It was very dark and hard to see much but it is full of bits of things.  We tied the post over to straighten the house and give it some extra support ‘just in case’.
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I’ve seen the bird(s) on and off over the past week – mostly in the evening.  I’ve never mentioned it to the children – I know they’d be excited and it wouldn’t take much to knock that little house down.  For now I just watch…and imagine the little birdie conversations;
Bird 1: Check out this house.
Bird 2: It needs a lot of work.
Bird 1: There’s a nice herb garden in the front yard.
Bird 2: But it is so drafty inside and that perch looks like it may fall off any moment.
Bird 1: It’s a great neighbourhood and it is within our budget.
Bird 2: There’s a lot of traffic and it’s noisy – so many children, constant construction, maybe we should keep looking.
Maybe I shouldn’t watch so much HGTV

Friday, April 20, 2018

I Spy 2

Many years ago I wrote about a group of preschoolers who enjoyed playing their version of I Spy.  My current group of preschoolers has also developed their own adaptation of the game but for them it is location/time specific – they will only play it when they are sitting at the table before, during or after meals.
In my schedule as meal time approaches I take the infants/toddlers out of the playroom one at a time so I can change diapers, wash hands, and get them seated before I do the final food prep.  I expect that the three and four-year-old children will want to continue playing during this time so I don’t request that they start cleaning.  However, they anticipate the routine and rush to put their toys away so they can come to the table.
Children: “The toys are cleaned up, can we come to the table now?”
Me: “The food is not ready and I still have diapers to change. You have more time to play if you want to”.
Children: “We want to come to the table and play I Spy”.
Me: “You could play I Spy in the playroom too”.
Children: “We like to play at the table”.
So, I send them to wash their hands and then play I Spy as they wait for me to finish preparing snack/lunch.  It goes something like this;
Child 1: I spy something that is Cheryl’s chair.
Child 2: CHERYL’S CHAIR!
Child 1: That’s right! Now it is your turn.
Child 3: Cheryl’s chair is black, you were supposed to say ‘I spy something black’.
Child 1: There are lots of black things, I spied Cheryl’s chair.
Child 2: My turn, my turn, MY TURN!  I spy something that is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold.
Child 3: AWWCK! That’s too many colours!
Child 2: No it’s not, look at that pillow – it is brown and pink and blue, and green, and gold – see.
Child 3: OK fine, my turn.  I spy something that is on that shelf.
Child 1: The shelf by the window?
Child 3: No, not that shelf, the one that is over there by that other thing – beside the curtain.
Child 2: The birdhouse, the pencil, the phone, the book, the paper, the candle, the…
Child 3: That’s right!
Child 1: Which one was it?
Child 3: Umm, the book I think.
I don’t actually think there are any ‘wrong’ answers when they play this game – the turn taking seems to be their main goal.  Their language and communication skills are what interest me.  Inevitably, no matter how quickly I try to get lunch ready, the excitement level will become far to high and I will have to intervene to remind them about volume and activity level before I can put food on the table.  Even once the food is ready the I Spy game usually continues.
Occasionally when the school-age children are here they join in, and sometimes they manage to briefly follow the preschoolers directions.  Often they try to enforce alternate rules but the preschoolers just dismiss the new rules and carry on. The little ones enjoy having the older children play along but it is ultimately ‘their’ game and they are not interested in changing it.  Just take your turn and carry on.
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Friday, January 26, 2018

Sensory Play

Sometimes I can be a hoarder – buying and hiding supplies for ‘later’.  It could be that I think it may be a fun activity but not interesting for the group currently in care.  It may be that the time or space is not yet appropriate and the activity will be offered when the conditions are right. Yes, admittedly there have been times I’ve forgotten about some supplies and then re-discovered them while looking for something else.
Last summer I set aside supplies for two sensory play activities that I wanted to do in the winter.  Usually I like to do messy play activities outside so summer would be best but for these activities I thought a ‘cleaner’, indoor environment would be better.  Besides sometimes in the winter we can’t be outside as much as we’d like to and we need something different to do when we are cooped up inside.
So, earlier this month when it was bitterly cold outside, we tried a new play dough recipe.  Yes, we’ve made and played with play dough many, many times but this recipe claimed to make ‘stretchy’ play dough.  It used one part hair conditioner and two parts corn flour.  I let the children each mix their own batch.
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There was a lot of trial and error – too wet, add more flour – too dry, add more conditioner.  Maybe it was the quality of the dollar store conditioner but the mixture never did become stretchy however the ‘coconut’ scent was a pleasant break from winter.  Later the children added the paint colour of their choice and when done we bagged each one separately so we could play with them again on other days too.  Not exactly the result I envisioned but still enjoyable.
The second activity I offered was water beads. I’ll admit that when I first got them I doubted that teeny tiny bag of wee little dry beads would be enough for all the children and thought maybe I should have ordered two bags.  I put the package in my desk drawer to save for a week when it was really cold outside.
Last week I filled two bins with nice warm water and added some dry water beads – at first they were barely noticeable in all that water so I also added some pipettes and other water toys too.  The children enjoyed the water play and eventually the beads soaked up enough water that we could see them better but they were still almost impossible to pick up.
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Later that afternoon we checked and they had soaked up all the water – this was really exciting!  This is what HALF a teeny, tiny bag of water beads looks like when they are all wet;
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I love the way the water beads feel – they may be one of myfavourite sensory bin items 🙂 and the children really like them too.  I don’t even mind when the occasional one bounces out of the bin – even when I accidentally step on one it doesn’t break. Picking up strays is a whole additional activity.
The instructions say the beads are reusable so we experimented by putting a few in a smaller container and letting them dry out.  It took just two days for them to dehydrate back to their original size.  If I had taken a ‘before’ picture you would see that when wet these beads had filled the whole bottom of this container – magic
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I’m certain this is an activity we will enjoy many more times to come.  In fact, I’m wondering if we might even try putting some in a container on the light panel…

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year End 2017

It is December 31st and I have not written a post yet this month.  *sigh*  When I first started blogging (seven and a half years ago) I intended to write every day.   I soon realized that once or twice a week was sufficient.  Lately it has been only once or twice each month.  I really want to write more. I plan to write more. When I’m working out at the gym, outside hiking, or enjoying a hot steamy shower I create fantastic posts in my mind.  Sit down at the computer and….nope, got nothing now. Today I am adamant – I will write something to end the year.
I hosted our family Christmas dinner for nine on Christmas Eve.  The schedule was perfect – I had one full day for prep and cleaning before dinner day.  Stores were open so I didn’t fret about ‘what if I forgot something’. Of course I didn’t actually need to run out and get anything – that only happen’s when the stores are closed.  I made three vegetable dishes, two potato dishes, turkey, gravy, and a HUGE batch of stuffing.  Everyone loves stuffing so I make a separate roaster full of stuffing – used seven loaves of bread!
There were also the little extra snacky things like pickles and cheese and cranberry sauce etc that don’t require cooking.  I had done all my baking in the weeks before Christmas so dessert was covered (even now we still have dainties waiting to be eaten).  The whole dinner was completely stress free.  I had plenty of helpers available for the last minute ‘get everything on the table while it is hot’ rush and then everyone got to eat. 🙂
I ran three full loads through the dishwasher that day and washed four sink-fulls of bulky items but the kitchen was clean by 9 pm.  All the leftovers were packed up and frozen for future meals.  There was nothing left to do on Christmas day except sit and relax.  I suppose I could have written this post then, but I didn’t.  The other thing I didn’t do was take ANY Christmas dinner photos.
So instead, I’ll include this one of the team that pulled our sleigh on MCCA’s Dashing Through the Snow event earlier this month;
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I had a great time playing outdoors with other amazing ECE’s  that day but didn’t manage to write a blog post about it either.
So now, as 2017 nears its end, I’ll begin making some plans for what I want to do in 2018. I’m not one for making ‘resolutions’ but maybe, if I reorganized my office space I’d be more inclined to sit at my desk and be productive…

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mali

I was just a toddler when I got my first cat and officially became a ‘cat person’.  Since then there has been a cat in our home except for a few brief periods when circumstances did not allow us to have pets.  Like humans, each of the 16 cats that have been a part of my family has had a unique personality.  For me, of all those cats, Mali is probably the most memorable.
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Yes, she did eventually grow into those ears!
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She was always a very easy going cat – she didn’t just ‘tolerate’ the attention she received from the children – she really seemed to enjoy it. Dramatic play was fun, especially if she got to ‘nap’.
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She also enjoyed chasing games;
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And Hide & Seek;
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Even screen time got her attention;
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But above all else she loved to snuggle;
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After all the children had gone home she would follow me around waiting for me to sit down so she could curl up on my lap.  She could be a bit demanding – impatiently sitting by my chair, meowing to let me know I was taking to long to get there.  She forced me to sit and relax and she even made doing paperwork enjoyable.
At the end of every day she would follow me upstairs, burrow under the blankets and snuggle up against me as close as she could.  The sound of her purring would lull me to sleep.  However, this past summer she stopped coming to bed at night – instead she would stand guard at the bottom of the stairs to prevent Button (aka Monkey-Butt) from following.
Malta had begun to accept Button’s presence in the house and at times even seemed to enjoy their chasing games.  Mali’s dislike for the interloper had only increased and was sometimes almost an obsession – hunting and attacking the little cat whenever she could.
Mali continued to run to sit on my lap when I sat down but she often struggled to get comfortable.  She was unusually tense and rarely able to fully relax. Every noise or movement startled her – even sometimes when I would pet her. The vet prescribed some anxiety medication but it didn’t seem to help.
Then Mali began having seizures – most were very small but a couple of them rendered her unable to walk for half an hour.  Her mournful howl at the onset of each seizure was heart-wrenching.  The vet prescribed more medication but warned me that if the seizures were caused by a brain tumor the medication wouldn’t help.  The brain tumor could only be confirmed with an MRI and if we wanted that we would have to take her to the veterinary college in Saskatchewan.
The seizure meds made her drowsy – I had to wake her to give them to her and then she would sleep again.  She had to be coaxed to eat even a few pieces of food and rarely moved on her own.  I decided that I should make one last vet appointment for her 😦  Sadly, before I could take her to her to that appointment she had another seizure and we rushed her to the emergency veterinary hospital. She lay on my lap for the entire 40 minute trip – no noise or movement other than her laboured breathing. RIP Mali, I will miss you.
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May 20, 2006 – November 19, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

Our October

October felt like such a quiet month but as November brings much cooler weather I took some time to review my observations and pictures from the past month.
This has intrigued me;
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At first it was only one of the boys that arranged these items around the circle on the table.  He did this on several days with these same toys but then left them and went to play with other toys until cleanup time when he would then put them away.  If at any point someone moved one of the circle toys he would return it to its place in the circle.
Since the room was rearranged these toys have not been put on the table…but other toys have been.  Nothing has been left here for long so I haven’t managed to get a picture but several times a day there are toys place around the circle.  Sometimes cars, sometimes tools, often plates of food.  What is most interesting is that now ALL of the boys are doing this.  I will keep observing.
Hills have also been popular.  There are two hills we pass frequently on our walks and we have made a point to stop and play on them.  The boys love to roll down, up and across the hills.  They’ve even started rolling down the rock slope in the back yard.  I can’t imagine that would feel as nice as the leaves and grass but the boys seem to enjoy it.
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One day  watched this boy attempt to attach a piece of twine he found to a stick and use it to pull his ‘stuck’ tractor.  He was so persistent even when the twine kept breaking.  He was was fully engaged in this activity for over half an hour oblivious to anything the others were doing.  I didn’t interfere either.
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Inside there was a popular game developed and enjoyed by all the boys.  They used the coloured fabric squares as ‘ghost traps’ and put the white scarves over their heads to pretend to be ghosts. They then walked around the room and if their foot touched a ghost trap they fell to the ground which resulted in fits of laughter from everyone.
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The doll house in the new loft has been surprisingly popular too – even more than the blocks up there;
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And of course we had to paint those funny little white ‘garlic’ pumpkins too.
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So much fun!

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Dishwahser

About eight years ago I replaced my old basic dishwasher with a fancy new one.  It  didn’t take long to find out that all those extra features also meant there were more things to break and the first ‘on warranty’ repair was made within a couple months.  Luckily I had also purchased the extended warranty because there were other necessary repairs after the original warranty ended.  The most severe one required a six week wait for parts.  Considering that I often run two full loads of dishes each day, six weeks is a really long time to go without a dishwasher.
Early this spring the old, no longer on warranty, dishwasher started making unusual noises and gave occasional error codes.  So, I decided to begin a search for a new dishwasher before the old one actually died.  It took a while to find one that met both my ‘features’ and ‘price’ criteria.  The old dishwasher kept working but it did get so loud that it was difficult to hear anything else on the main floor if the dishwasher was on.  Last weekend we finally installed the new one and with every load I find myself wondering ‘Is it working? The lights are on but I can’t hear anything.’  The dishes come out beautifully clean and sanitized so yes, it is working.
None of this really matters to the children except for one thing… a new dishwasher comes in a big box.  Cats like boxes too, but only when there are no children;
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This big box even has a window;
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All week, this has been the children’s favourite toy.  It has been a camper, cave, spaceship and more but no matter what it is being used as there is one common issue – it is always in need of some type of repair.
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Maybe I should have asked the boys to take a look at the old dishwasher.  The old one is still sitting in the porch – I’m trying to figure our if we can use any parts from it – after all, we haven’t got a dishwasher in our play kitchen…
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