Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Hygge Halloween

With all the candles lit, plenty of warm jack-o-lantern soup in our bowls and my family carving the pumpkin we picked up at our local farm together, Halloween has truly been a hyggelig event this year. I enjoy making the change of seasons a happy time in our home.

In honour of the spooky season, we hosted a spooktacular and served Halloween-inspired food including; Franken guac, a creepy charcuterie board, mummy dogs, a skeleton veggie tray and spider cupcakes for dessert.

As for decor, the dollar store was on point this year-pumpkin lanterns, a black lace spider web table runner and witches' brew potion bottles. Meanwhile, Henry and Rosie were busy getting crafty at our kitchen table and made potato stamp ghosts, toilet paper roll bats and mummy mason jar luminaries. Holiday magic always sparks a childlike spirit in my heart.

Henry and Rosie are excited to go trick-or-treating tonight in their handmade costumes. We go green for Halloween by creating DIY masterpieces out of things we have around the house and by making old costumes new again (e.g a dance costume I wore twenty-five years ago!)

Presenting my little Transformer "Optimus Prime"...

And her Majesty, the Queen.

Happy Halloween, friends!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fall Family Time

Childhood is fleeting and I don't want to miss a moment with Henry and Rosie.

One of the benefits of teaching them at home is that we don't have to cram family time into weekends. Homeschooling is a lifestyle choice and I love that it affords us the freedom to spend so much time with our kids.

We're not just giving them an education, we're making memories! We are learning in the forest, at the kitchen table, at the cottage and even in a fort we built in our living room. I love that I get to make learning fun and that I can say YES to building a real robot.

As Henry and Rosie are learning, so am I. Homeschooling is an educational journey for the whole family. When I joined a local homeschool activity co-op, I thought I'd find a group of moms who dressed like they lived in the early 1900s, but instead, I found parents who are educated professionals including teachers and doctors.

Henry and Rosie have no shortage of time with friends-each week they attend Forest School, homeschool co-op, math playgroup, hockey and run club. Sometimes, we actually have to decline invitations so that we can get our homeschooling done.

I can't predict how long our homeschooling journey will continue, but for now, our family has found an amazing opportunity to learn and grow together.

Meanwhile, Fall festivities are in full swing at our house and we've been busy checking activities off of our bucket list; apple picking, bake Grandma June's famous apple pie, have a traditional turkey dinner, visit Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village...check! check! check! check!

This week, we're looking forward to hosting our cousins and taking them to our local pumpkin patch.

Meanwhile, Halloween costumes are being made, I'm finalizing the menu for a soup SPOOKtacular that I'm hosting and we're exploring our way through a list of family friendly hiking trails in our area.

The fall issue of Ottawa Family Living Magazine was recently delivered with the Ottawa Citizen and my article How Modern Moms Meet Other Moms was published on pages 32-33. You can read the article online here.

Happy Fall, friends!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Happiness Is...Summer

Life with a four-year-old and a two-year-old is a lot of fun. I am loving this season of life! Henry and Rosie are not only close in age, but they truly share a close bond. One day we were visiting our good friends and the kids were upstairs playing. Suddenly, I heard Rosie crying and before I got to the top of the stairs to see what was the matter, I heard Henry sticking up for his baby sister.

     "Hey! Don't do that to my sister!" he said. It was the sweetest thing!

These two have had a great start to their summer. At the cottage, we spend most of our days in the water. The kids love to swim, hike and canoe. When we're in the city, we like to attend different festivals and go on adventures with our Homeschool Activity Co-Op. The best part of being a working-stay-at-home-mom is that both kids will be joining me at Forest School this summer. I love spending my days with them and I treasure our time together.

Rosie's new phrase of the week:

     "Mama! I'm happy!"

And I smile every time I hear her say it. She's been diaper-free since March and is a spirited little girl. Meanwhile, Henry graduated from his balance bike to a bike with training wheels. He is very coordinated and is looking forward to starting hockey in September.

Mike and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary this month. We spent the day at the cottage and enjoyed a date night at the restaurant where we held our wedding reception. On the way back to the cottage, we made a quick stop at the cute little church we were married in on June 11th, 2011.

Life with this man just gets better and better! He's an amazing husband and daddy. For Father's Day this year, I threw my Blue Jays fan a baseball themed BBQ. He loved the burgers in a basket idea and enjoyed the sugar free/grain free chocolate torte I made him for dessert.

Speaking of celebrations, my girlfriends and I dressed up as 1960s go-go dancers to celebrate Andrea, the beautiful bride-to-be. I am so looking forward to this wedding in September.

My article "The Trekking Tribe" was published in the summer issue of Ottawa Family Living Magazine and even though I completed the course in April, I just received my certificate for completing the Forest School Practitioner's Course. It's made of wood!

The summer has just begun and I feel like we've done so much already; strawberry picking, the RCMP Musical Ride Sunset Ceremony, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival and a visit to Upper Canada Village. I'm looking forward to camping in a national park this summer (and using our free pass), visits with faraway friends, a trip to Toronto to visit cousins and a family vacation at the cottage to celebrate Canada's 150th with our very own fireworks display off the dock.

Ah summer, I love you!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rosie's 2nd Birthday

The theme for Rosie's birthday came about because I feel the world is in need of some rainbows right now. Also, Rosie loves to colour and often asks to play a colour flash card game I found in a dollar bin at a big box store. It was admittedly a really fun party to put together.

The house was transformed into a rainbow explosion of love.

My favourite appetizer was the rainbow fruit skewers..,and the cheesies.

I didn't attempt to bake that famous seven layer rainbow cake. Those cakes look amazing, but I feared we'd all poop in technicolour. So, I kept it simple. Presenting my lopsided, double layer vanilla cake:

Happy Birthday to our colourful girl who loves all things Red, Yellow, Pink, Green, Purple, Orange and Blue.

Kids can never have too much cake in their lives-or too many rainbows.

Happy 2nd Birthday, sweet girl! It's going to be an exciting year.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Winter Picnic

"Sunlight, shadow, sunlight, shadow.
Cold and quiet, world of snow."
-Hazel Hutchins, Ben's Snow Song: A Winter Picnic (1987).

As a Forest School educator, I am often asked about the curriculum for our program. At Wild Roots Nature and Forest School, we plan our daily sessions, but because we take an inquiry-based approach, our emergent curriculum is built on our preschoolers' natural curiosity. Preschoolers learn best through hands-on direct experience. Our session plans allow our students to explore natural loose parts and tools, hike through various trails in the forest and build up to participating in activities like making a campfire. Our students are learning through free play in nature and exploring their own interests. Sometimes, I actively participate in their exploration and other times, when my students are engaged in an activity or play, my role is to step back and observe. Later, I document my observations and use my notes to enhance future session plans.

Last week, our students heard a woodpecker in the woods and there was interest in learning more about the bird. This week, when I asked my group what they wanted to explore at Forest School, my group decided they wanted to hike the "Pine Path" to see if we could spot our feathered friend again. I had come prepared with more information and pictures of woodpeckers for the preschoolers to look through, in case the opportunity should arise.

We didn't end up seeing or hearing a woodpecker this week, but our discussion led to more questions about how birds stay warm in the winter. We talked about how on cold days, birds fluff up to trap air in their feathers. I explained how the air acts as insulation to keep the birds warm.

"Just like our winter jackets keep us warm!" exclaimed one preschooler.

And with that, my little birds were off on a new adventure in the woods.

In the winter, we head inside our cozy cabin for snack time. Our preschoolers always request a story. Some students listen to the stories as they sit at the table eating their snacks, while others get comfortable on our wool mats, wrapped in fleece blankets. Today, we read "Ben's Snow Song: A Winter Picnic".

We sang as we hiked to the open field today. Some students collected forest treasures in their baskets along the way. When we arrived, the kids sat in the snow for a break and gazed up at the sky.
     "What do you think the clouds are made of?" I asked.
     "Clouds are made of water and ice," answered one preschooler.
     "No, clouds are made of marshmallows," corrected another student.

This quiet activity allowed the preschoolers to simply sit and imagine. Soon the children were up and running around the field again. There was more imaginative play on the theme of family this week. Meanwhile, a small group of boys participated in some safe rough and tumble play.

Later, the children requested to have a winter picnic for their second snack-just like in the book they had read earlier that morning!

Our second session wrapped up with a cooking show in our "Snow Kitchen".

And one final game of snow monster on our ski hill.

It is such a pleasure to explore, create and learn along side my amazing Forest School students.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wild Roots Nature and Forest School

What a wonderful first day of our winter session!

The weather was unseasonably warm and the sunshine made the snow sparkle. Our preschoolers wanted to explore the forest behind our cabin, so we went on a hike through the crunchy snow. We heard a woodpecker in the distance and discovered animal tracks on the trail. Everyone paused to examine a pile of poop too.

The kids are already learning about the different seasons as they noticed how most of the trees had lost their leaves, but the pine trees did not. The children found a tree with low sturdy branches that they wanted to climb. I observed the children making their own risk assessments during this activity. A couple of our preschoolers noticed how the snow had made one of the lower branches slippery and decided on their own that they weren't comfortable climbing any higher.

During our hike, a couple of students found a large stick and together they placed it over deep footprints to create a bridge. It was amazing to observe the cooperation and teamwork between these two preschoolers.

During our hike, the children found a wide open field of untouched snow. Some children were happy to find a place to sit in the sun and make hearts in the snow, while others eagerly raced to the top of a hill and rolled all the way to the bottom. We played a hide and seek game called "Hooty Hoot" where I challenged the children to find me when I hid behind a large tree and made an owl call. This led to a discussion about camouflage.

Since the air was warm, some children removed their mitts and created tents for forest fairies out of materials we found in the woods. According to one 4-year-old, his miniature fort, complete with a bed, was designed to make sure our magical sprites could find comfort during the cold weather.

Back at the cabin, the children engaged in more imaginative play in our "Snow Kitchen". Cupcakes were baked and soups were stirred.There was a lot of storytelling during snack time today. Many children had bananas for snack and told each other their own stories through their banana phones.

At the end of the day, we sat in a gratitude circle. Everyone had a chance to hold the talking stick and explain to the group what their favourite part of the day was. At the end, we all yelled in unison "thank you forest!"