New Boots

I took the girls down to the outlet stores on Monday, mainly to look for new pajamas for F. She’s wearing a lot of 18mos size clothing now (she turns 9mos this week, though!), and now that we’re getting into M’s old toddler clothes, they haven’t held up as well as the baby stuff. M just wore her clothes a lot longer as a toddler (i.e., didn’t outgrow them as quickly), plus she dropped food on them, PLUS she played outside in the dirt. So much for saving a ton of money by having two girls and not needing new clothes! Oh well, I love shopping for kid clothes, and at least the outlet shops have good deals. Although I forgot until we got home that Carter’s pajama bottoms have huge waistbands — with the elastic sewn in, so you can’t easily fix it. Gah!

Anyway, I was just going to mention that I found M a new pair of rain boots on clearance, in just the right size. I hesitated a moment to stray from her signature yellow rain boots, but she loves these “buggy” ones. And they do match her fleece coat perfectly! We love our rubber boots around here and wear them basically whenever there’s no snow on the ground. So getting this year’s boots gives me a sense of relief, like, whew, spring really WILL come again!

The other photo is M’s portrait of F (drawn on her Boogie Board), although she decided it was Henny a few moments later. You can do that when all the faces you draw look the same! I was still quite surprised when she started drawing these faces a few days ago. She doesn’t draw very much, and usually I have to coach her a bit to get her to draw a THING rather than just scribbling. But clearly her hand-eye coordination is improving, and the wiring in her brain is all coming together right now. I especially love how she does the big circle for the eyes, with the little pupil/iris in the middle. That’s not something I showed her! She’s getting better and better at writing her name, too. It’s incredible how stuff just “clicks” at this age!

Clever Clogs

Three years old is a pretty challenging age, I’m finding, but it’s also very cool to see M picking up new skills and concepts so quickly. And often, it seems, out of nowhere. Oh, now you recognize all the numerals? Okay!

When we started home preschool in the fall, M really wasn’t ready for or interested in a lot of traditional materials and lessons. So I stopped pressing, and she’s wound up learning most of that stuff in her own organic M-way instead. Every now and then (quite rarely, as it’s a skill she’s not keen on practicing), I ask her to try writing her name, and she surprised me the other day by being able to write all five letters! We were both so proud.

I still don’t know what “school” will be for the girls as they grow older. I’m not willing to commit to anything on their behalf! I do know that I have concerns about our local public school system (though the individual staff members I know are all completely lovely people). At the end of 2016, I remembered that I had signed up for Heather‘s Home Grown Education webinar thingy and listened to all of her and Ben’s episodes about their homeschooling experiences. I was surprised to find myself thinking that maybe homeschool for us would look a lot like unschooling — or at least like something in the middle. It’s hard to say when my oldest is only three! But the best thing about her “education” so far has been following her interests and seeing how easy the path is when we go that way.

I think I’ve mentioned her favorite bee book, which I would have said was quite above her level. But it’s one of her favorite books, and she’s retained a lot of the information — knows about field bees vs house bees and the egg-larva-pupa-adult cycle and how honey is made. A lot more than I knew about bees as a kid (or even a month ago!). So it’s fun to see how much she can learn when it’s entirely self motivated. What a privilege it would be to be able to foster and support that kind of education!

Valentine’s Craft

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We got a start on our Valentine’s projects right after breakfast today. Shaving cream marbling! You just make a layer of shaving cream, drip food coloring on, and spread it around. Then press your paper (we used card stock) down evenly, lift it up, and squeegee the shaving cream off. It’s like magic! The pieces where M just randomly stirred the dye in look much cooler than when we tried to make neat lines.

I think we’ll cut hearts out of our marbled paper and make some belated valentines. M was keeping a running list of who she wanted to mail them to while we were working!

Afterward, we just played with shaving cream on the table. The best part of being in elementary school was using shaving cream to clean the desks, no? I even let F try it out, though of course she wanted to taste it. She was pretty good, though — she loved the way it felt!

Lately

— I’m going through the 30-day device detox from The Power of Off, and apparently that means all my extra time is being directed toward the kitchen. I saved up enough eggs (we’re currently getting 1-2 a day, and I like to keep an “egg buffer”, so we never run out) to make pasta on Sunday. M was in charge of putting the dough into the extruder — you have to feed it little pieces every so often. I did the cutting and laying out to dry. I used most of the macaroni noodles to make a big batch of mac ‘n’ cheese (this basic recipe never fails), and the girls and I ate it up in two days. The baby can really put away some noodles!

— I took some sliced apples (from our neighbors’ trees) out of the freezer to make a pie. It was originally going to be apple-blackberry, but when the blackberries thawed, they smelled and tasted a little… ferment-y? So I gave them to the chickens instead. The pie came out super pretty, but I decided it NEEDED custard to be truly A+.

— I also made beans and rice, even though since it has salsa (aka pieces of things) in it, I wasn’t sure it M would eat it. But she did! F cleaned her plate, too. Success.

— On Monday, I gave M a new haircut. A bob. M looks good in anything, so of course she’s super adorable with her new, shorter hair. I can’t believe how she looks like a little… PERSON now, with her real haircut. She’s pretty proud. And after I clipped her fingernails yesterday, I asked if she wanted me to paint them. I never have before, and I think I’ve only painted mine once since she was born (when she was really little), so it was a new concept for her. But what’s not to love about making part of your body PINK, with GLITTER? She held perfectly still and didn’t smudge them even a little. And after we did her fingers, she decided her toes needed to be painted, too. She’s such a grown-up kid now!

Toys

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I mentioned M’s current Littlest Pet Shop love in my last post. Small animals are her thing! Despite constantly despairing over the number of toys (and plastic ones at that) in the house, I bought her this play set recently, and it’s been a big hit. She already had a bunch of the pets, and now they have somewhere to live. Anything that sparks her imagination and can keep her entertained for stretches of time is a win, in my mind.

Yesterday, I pulled out the big box of My Little Pony and Barbies from my own childhood. We’ve looked at them before, but this was the first time M really seemed to lock on to the fact that these were TOYS and fun ones, at that. I was quite surprised that she gave the Barbies any time at all (she’s never cared about baby dolls — it’s always been animals with her), although she mostly just wanted their furniture for the ponies. She was heartbroken when I said it was time to clean it all up, so I think she’ll want to drag that box out again — and soon!

Winter Odds and Ends

— Here’s Charlie, thinking about coming outside. She didn’t that day, but everybody came out later in the week; the snow had finally melted and given them a patch of grass to walk on. The chickens have been much pickier about walking on the snow this year (i.e., they completely refuse to), which I still think must mean they’re pretty happy in their big coop.

— In sad chicken news, I had to bring Laverne to the vet to have her euthanized. I’ve read that chickens are so good at hiding their illnesses (being prey animals and not wanting to seem weak) that they often appear to decline very rapidly once it becomes noticeable to us humans. That was definitely the case. She was my most special lap chicken, so it was hard to say goodbye. It was almost impossible to find a vet that would see a chicken. I called all around, and the one large-animal vet (within an hour’s drive) that works with poultry was completely booked up. I finally called back our regular vet and begged, and they were accommodating and very kind to the lady crying about her chicken.

— F is crawling! Not very well, admittedly. But babies operate on a steep learning curve, so it won’t be long before she’s zooming around. So far, F has done everything a bit earlier than M. Sitting (5mos vs 5.5mos), first tooth (7mos vs 8mos), and now crawling (7.5mos vs 9mos+, but there were complicating factors for M). It makes me scared to think how early she might walk! And also convinced that I must have gestated F an extra month or so — how else do we explain a 10lb3oz baby when the first was barely over 7lbs?

— M is the best big sister, though. All things considered, she’s very patient with F and usually mostly delighted by her, too. M’s favorite book at the moment is The Life and Times of the Honeybee. I wouldn’t say that it’s for the preschool set, exactly, but we MUST read it EVERY night, and she’s just fascinated by it. I love seeing what captures her mind. In less intellectual pursuits, she’s also in love with the Littlest Pet Shop toys right now.

— I’ve been reading quite a bit this year (since my birthday and Christmas, really, since I got a bunch of books). I need to do a post to talk about the books I’ve read lately. Right now I’m reading The Power of Off by Nancy Colier, about technology addiction. I’m only halfway through, but I can’t recommend it strongly enough. SO many passages have made me want to whip out a highlighter, and it’s just very validating to have somebody saying, “This is a real addiction,” and explaining why it happens and what it does to us. I think I’ve convinced at least one other person to read the book and go through the 30-day detox with me. I’m excited!

Beeswax

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We got a fun package yesterday! I had ordered a few things from Amazon — some Stockmar modeling beeswax, a candle-making kit, and a book about honeybees. We’re loving it all! We haven’t played with the modeling wax TOO much yet — I made that little bee in the photo, and that’s about it. But M asked to read the book last night and again tonight. She’s in a bit of a non-fiction phase! This book (along with her other current favorites, some books about body systems) are a little above her level, but I read the most interesting parts, and she’s just fascinated by it.

The beeswax candles have been a huge hit. I’m going to need to order more, soon! She’s the creative director (i.e., picks the colors), and I cut the wax and wick, get it started, and then she rolls them up. We made a bunch after breakfast today, and she kept thinking of more and more people whom she needed to make candles for. She’s also enjoyed watching the flame. (Or as she says, “We have to put the thing on top.”) The first candles we made weren’t very tall, so we got to see what happened when the wick ran out. Such a great reminder that so much is new to a little kid — and so much of it is fun!

On a Mission

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F turned seven months old almost a week ago, and a few days before that, it was like she set out on a mission to Grow Up. Her two bottom teeth poked through, first. Then she went from refusing purées to eating, like, meals of table food. She often eats more than M did when M was a year old and surviving on real food alone. F’s interest in food quickly turned into a determination to master the pincer grasp. She’s still trying to perfect it, but she’s come a long way. It’s been amazing to see the idea pop into her head and to watch her actively work to make it happen.

She’s also been focussed on crawling, though she hasn’t quite gotten it yet. It’s hard to leave her sitting anywhere, because she immediately flips to her hands and knees to try to crawl away. And then winds up flopping around on her tummy. Soon, though. Then we’d better watch out!

Chickens and Things

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It’s really winter for real, isn’t it? We had a string of Very Cold days, the kind that, when it returns to “just freezing” outside, makes you think, “Ah, it feels pretty good out here!” I’m so glad that I got the big coop in the barn built this year. The chickens are staying warmer (they have a huge, south-facing window to let in the warm sunlight), and they have much more room to mill around. They’ve had no interest in going out into the snow, which to me is a sign that they’re content indoors. The worst of the hens’ molting seems to be over, and now I’ve got two hens laying again. Last year, I had enough eggs to make myself a big angel food cake for my birthday — not so much, this year! Luckily, I still have a few quiches in the freezer from this spring. M won’t eat them (too delicious?), but I thawed one recently and had it for several breakfasts (and one lunch) in a row.

The girls have been sick for over a week and a half, and we’ve been house-bound almost that long. Out of boredom, I went through a box of my personal ephemera — mostly pretty things that I’ve had up on bulletin boards at various points of my life. I found my animal drawings from several years ago, though, when I was planning to make a little book titled (something like) Animal Facts (and/or Lies). I hadn’t seen them in quite a while, and I was happy that I still found most of them funny. I think I might have to do something with these, after all.

Earlier this week, M got a surprise package from the delivery man. Puzzles! Her great-uncle (and my godfather) had sent them to her, saving another dull day just in the nick of time. These were her biggest puzzles to date — two 60-piece jigsaws and one 48-piece. I had to help her a little with one, as there was a lot of similar-looking greenery, but otherwise she did them all herself. It was the first time where I got a little spooked by her uncanny ability to know where pieces go, since the puzzles were brand new to her, and they weren’t familiar characters (ie, Paw Patrol). Lots of fun for my little puzzler!

Puzzle Master

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M loves puzzles. She has… a LOT of puzzles. I actually put them all away for a while because I’d gotten tired of there being puzzles everywhere, but she’s gone back to her puzzlin’ ways recently. The little 24-piece puzzle she’s doing above came in an ornament that we got yesterday — she got it put together pretty quickly. The girl’s pattern recognition skills are on point. (She put together the seven puzzles in the second photo in the time it took me to put F down for a nap one day.)

I haven’t been able to find very many 48-piece puzzles at the same price point as 24-piece ones. I think we might have to skip to looking for 100-piece puzzles at the thrift store, and we can work on them together for now. I really like doing jigsaws, too, but it’s one of those past times that’s fallen by the wayside since I had babies. But soon we’ll just make it a family activity!