Saturday, July 27, 2013

Evolution of Pre-School Art

OHMy 3 and a half year old has had a major artistic breakthrough these past couple of weeks.  She can draw pictures that go beyond scribbles and actually start to resemble things.  She can print letters that make up actual words (well, just her name, but that is a REALLY IMPORTANT word).
Here's a drawing she brought home from daycare a couple of months ago still hanging on our fridge.

 Here are 2 more recent drawings, the first is of me (what pre-schooler doesn't love having a real live muse in their mama?)

The second is of a jellyfish (she saw lots of those on our recent trip to PEI)
And a picture of her name
Here is the little artist at work

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Easy Bookshelves for Kids' Rooms

I have a confession. I can be a big procrastinator. Not news at all to my husband or my parents, but something I generally can cover up at work.  I first saw this bookshelf idea before we left Toronto, in 2011.  The bookshelves are actually spice racks from Ikea (called Bekvam).  They sell for $6.99 each and are very easy to put together.  Knowing we were moving that summer into our new home in the Maritimes, I picked up 9, 3 for each of my children.
As with many well intentioned projects, the bookshelves were put aside.  They lived on the top shelf of my daughter's closet among baby blankets and a Costco size box of diaper wipes.
I am very pleased to say that this summer was the summer the racks made their way out of the packaging and onto my children's walls.  It really is one of those easy projects that looks so cute that I can't believe I didn't do before now.  Here are the results:
Little Miss O looking through her new bookshelves

J's room

E's shelves and bulletin board that I had hidden away too
I have to say as I was measuring, leveling and drilling that this kind of work would have been much more useful to learn how to do in my grade 8 shop class than making a wooden tool rack.

The Lego Quest - week 1, Cars

In my effort to have some sanity and structure to my children's and my summer vacation I searched through my Pinterest Board labelled Crafty, Active Kids for ideas.   I had pinned something called Lego Quest Kids.  Lego Quest Kids was an idea born from a mom like me looking for something for her kids to do.  It started out as a challenge to her friends and their kids and turned into a 52 week blog challenge that people from all over the world have visited and participated in. 
Last week we began Quest 1 - Create a Car.  Here are the pictures of my kiddo's creations:
Little Miss O's Princess Car from Duplo

J's Scorpion Car

E's Car Model 5

Summer Sports

My oldest child is an athlete, there's no doubt about it. My husband and I parent our kids believing that they need to be active and involved. We don't want them over-programmed, but we don't want them just sitting around either. Finding something for our first child to do in the fall and winter months was very easy, hockey. He LOVES hockey. I mean the kind of love where he played with pucks at the age of 3 and would rather watch NHL videos than the latest offering from Nickelodeon. He's been playing hockey officially since kindergarten and it's been great. He stays fit and active and he's made a great group of friends. (We have too, nothing like hockey parent camaraderie in a bone-chillingly-cold arena in the middle of January).
Spring and summer sports have been a little trickier. Usually, we put our kids in spring swimming lessons. They are timed well, beginning at the end of hockey season and finishing before school gets out. But what about summer? Should they be involved in summer sports too? My son started with soccer. Of course soccer. Soccer is the go-to summer sport. More kids play soccer than any other summer sport. It's so popular that our town offers two leagues, each league running multiple same aged teams at 3 fields each in different parts of the city. So soccer it was, the summer he was 4.
My son's first experience with organized sports - 2008
And it was...okay.  He liked it well enough, but I found it frustrating.  It wasn't very well organized.   Communication wasn't great.  And he didn't really love it.  It was hard to leave a day out at the beach to come home to soccer.  We did try soccer with him again when he was in going into grade one, an indoor league, and that confirmed it.  Soccer just wasn't his sport.
So we crossed soccer off the list.  We did summer swimming instead.   Then the summer after grade one he wanted to try softball.  Softball!  (Here's where the personal bias steps in).  I love, love, love baseball.  I was a big Seattle Mariners fan growing up.  He has great hand-eye coordination.  Softball would be fun.
My son playing softball in the summer of 2011
And it was fun.  I enjoyed it.  He seemed to enjoy it.  The organization was well, pretty terrible really.  But he was good at it.  So I thought good.  Hockey in the winter and Softball in the summer.  Wrong! As spring of grade 2 came closer with softball registration, he decided he would rather try...lacrosse.
Lacrosse?  I knew very little about lacrosse.  But the posters were up at his hockey arenas with NHL players endorsing the sport.  Anything to help his hockey he really, really wanted to give lacrosse a try.  So we did.  Lacrosse was nothing like I was expecting.  It is a very fast, rough sport, but so much fun! I would be happy watching my kids play lacrosse anytime.  We loved it.
Lacrosse in 2012
So I thought we had a plan, a new plan.  Hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer.  Wrong!  This spring we began to talk about summer plans and he had a new idea.  Yes, he liked lacrosse, yes, he liked softball, but what he really loved was hockey.  And couldn't he go to a hockey camp?  Summer hockey?  Isn't that just what those crazy hockey parents do?  Put their child into summer hockey?  And isn't it crazy expensive?  So we thought about it and researched it.  Absolutely there are some crazy pressure expensive summer options out there, but we found something else.  We found a 4 on 4 league.  A no-pressure game every week for 10 weeks with the same kids at a reasonable cost.
If I had any doubts about summer hockey they were erased the first night he came home from it.  He was beaming, truly happy.  He loved it.  4 on 4 is different than regular season hockey.  There are no face-offs and the on ice players switch at the buzzer every 3 minutes so they get a lot of on-ice time in their hour. 
Summer 2013 - 4 on 4 Summer Hockey
I guess when you love something as much as he loves hockey, there's nothing else. 
Incidentally, my other kids play a summer sport too, soccer.  They love it.
my 3 and 6 year old post-soccer


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Manners Game

Tonight we played the Manners Game at supper.  I know I read about this on another blog somewhere and really can't take credit for the idea.  It is worth playing.
We have been frustrated with the dinner manners (or lack thereof) our children have been using at the table.  Nagging and reminding really doesn't work and isn't fun for anybody (myself and my husband included).  So we tried this tonight instead.
The manners game is quite simple.  First we reviewed expected dinner table manners before the meal.  Then, I gave each person at the table 3 pencils to sit at the top of their place setting.  Then we ate.  If anyone caught anyone else breaking a dinner table rule they could take a pencil from that persons stack and tell them the rule they broke.  Whoever accumulated the most pencils at the end of the meal wins.  
My husband and I had a lot of fun intentionally breaking rules to see if we would get caught (trust me the kids loved catching us).  And the manners of my near 9 year old suddenly became spot on perfect.  
This all led into a great discussion about why table manners are important and what to remember when they eat at a friend's house or a restaurant.  We will play this again and soon. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


A year or so ago we started getting serious about getting a dog.  We have 3 kids and knew that that was it in that department.  And my middle child is just the kind of kid that needs a dog.  He loves animals (and I have no doubt that he would make a great vet one day).  When we went on our annual camping trip to PEI with friends he latched onto their puppy, Lily.
J. with Lily
Now Lily is a little white fluff ball of a dog, all of 7 pounds.  We knew that if we were to get a dog, it wouldn't be another Lily (as cute and sweet as she is). My husband grew up with Labs and knew that they were great family dogs.  We live out in the country and have space for that kind of a dog too.
And so we started looking.  We figured summer would be a great time to get a dog as I'm off work and we could start to train a dog before our heavy winter hit.  My husband's office is in our home so there is usually someone around the house too.
And then we found Charlie.  Charlie was from a litter of 9 in our nearby town.  The owner of his mother (a Lab/Boxer mix) got her off Kijiji and had taken her to be fixed, only to find that she was expecting.  She tracked down the previous owner and was able to acertain that the father of the puppies to be was a German Shepherd.  The new owner really just wanted the puppies to go where they would be taken care of and loved.
We didn't go into getting a puppy for the family lightly.  I knew Lab was a breed that we were looking for but I didn't know anything about Boxers and very little about Shepherds (aside from them being good police dogs).  I googled and talked to people who know dogs and we came to the conclusion that this dog would be a good family dog, provided we take the time to really work with him.

The day we bought Charlie, he's not ready to come home with us yet.

The kids admiring the litter of puppies.

We did a lot of preparing between the time we bought Charlie to the day we brought him home.  Aside from all the puppy paraphernalia, we researched puppy training (and kid training for puppies).  I highly recommend Perfect Paws Puppy Training, it was a wealth of practical information for us.
We brought Charlie home on the Labour Day weekend last year. 
exploring in his new yard

Me with my new puppy

with the kids

J with Charlie

getting to know each other

O taking Charlie for a "walk"

J was the most excited to have a puppy
Over the next few months we learned from each other.  And Charlie turned into a great family dog.  We had a few adventures (such as dealing with his carsickness - we live half an hour from town).  And very slowly his space in the house has been expanded.  Most of the year his house space has been limited to part of the kitchen most of the time, with supervised time in the rest of the bottom floors.  (It's so much easier to house train a dog giving him a space little by little at a time).   He's crate trained and the best investment we've made was getting him the Wireless Guardian System to let him run free in our yard. 
I learned what it meant to have a large dog (I grew up with Scotties) and he learned not to take people food from the counters.  (He once ate a pan full of meatballs ready to go into the oven when my husband was called away from the kitchen for a minute - he never tried it again). 
We've trained both him and my kids how to treat each other and my middle child thinks of him as his best friend.  My older son, who was nervous about dogs before we got Charlie now truly loves him and treats him with kindness. 
Charlie turned 1 last week and no, we didn't celebrate with a doggy cake or anything like that, just took him for a walk and praised him as per usual.
Here's a little look at Charlie's first year:
I love the little puppy head turn here

J thought I was crazy bringing home this big doggie pillow for Charlie, he would soon grow into it

J with Charlie - Charlie still likes to lie down like this, paws in front, legs to the back

a boy and his dog

Charlie went nuts when we brought home lobster for supper last November

One of my favorites

Charlie with his Christmas Bone

He wasn't too sure about the snow at first, but soon grew to love playing in it
J with Charlie up the snow bank
My big dog who thinks he's a little lap dog

We live 7 minutes away from this beach, the perfect place to let him play and run

He can run free when it isn't beach season

Another evening at the beach

J leash training Charlie

O with her pony puppy

She loves her puppy

Sit! Stay!

What a good boy!

Another evening at the beach

J loves to cuddle with his dog

Charlie checking out the spring lobster

Such a good dog

"Sitting" on the couch


morning walk on the beach - camping
Charlie last night, once again "sitting" on the couch