Last weekend, the weather was lovely. I had been sick for a solid week, and the girls had taken their turns with fevers before, during, and after Christmas. Nature was beconing us. We needed to get outside, but I really didn’t want to venture too far. So, we decided to check out our local Little Free Library, which I had passed by a while back, while trying to induce labour with Mr. Man (which didn’t work, LOL). The Little Free Library is a box that a neighbour (or yourself!) puts up on their lawn, and people can leave, or take, books of their choice.
We gathered up our neighbours and headed out on an adventure. I checked out this handy website (https://littlefreelibrary.org/) along the way, however there wasn’t one listed in our area. I was certain there was one somewhere in the vicinity, but where? We simply had to find it the good old fashioned way – exploring! And lo and behold, we found it!
There was a lovely assortment of books, and we all walked away with one that we could take home, enjoy, and then return. People can design their libraries as they wish. I’ve seen of another library that had a Harry Potter theme. How neat! The Harry Potter one also is not listed on the website, so I’m sure there are many gems out there that are waiting to be discovered.
Hello Friends! Have you ever heard of ticks? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 3 years, you’ve probably heard of them, or even encountered them. As we’re no stranger to the outdoors, we have been exposed as well. When Little Miss was 3 years old, we found a tick embedded in the back of her neck, right along her hairline. Eek! Once I had composed myself, we went straight over to the ER, as I didn’t know how to remove it properly.
** Warning: A slightly graphic tick story **
When we arrived, the nurses were so excited, as they had yet to see a tick! They kept calling others over to check it out. When we were seen by the emerge doctor, he said “wow! This is my first time seeing a tick in my 10 years working in the ER!” I must say, that was not exactly a comforting thing to hear… In the end, the head came off as he was trying to remove the tick with tweezers, so he had to make a small incision to remove the rest of it. As he was trying to pull it out, I knew in my mind that this was not the best way, but I didn’t say anything. However, I did decide that I would not be coming back to remove a tick, if ever the situation arose again. Little Miss ended up developing her first double ear infection 2 days later, and I think that that was largely due to the stress of the situation. She did not develop Lyme Disease, thank God.
About a year later, we were at a conservation area, and they had the Original Tick Key available for purchase in their gift store. I immediately bought it, and put it on my keychain, just in case.
Lo and behold, the following year, Tipper (our handsome Goldendoodle) had a tick embedded on his chest. I grabbed my handy dandy Tick Key, and out it came with no muss, no fuss. I got the whole thing with one steady pull of the key. You put the key over the tick, with the tick in the large hole. You then pull along the skin (not away from the body) in one steady motion (don’t start and stop – one swift motion).
Folks, if you live anywhere near a wooded area, or if you ever go exploring in the great outdoors, this is an amazingly simple, effective, solid piece of equipment. I’ve had the one in these pictures for about 3 years as a keychain, and it hasn’t bent whatsoever. I highly recommend having one on hand “just in case”. They make a great stocking stuffer!
Forever ago (three and a half years and 2 children ago), Little Miss and I had a free morning, so we took advantage of it. We went down to the ravine by our house, and I decided that I would not rush. We would take our time and see what the morning brought us. It was amazing! First, we waded in the creek with Tipper:
Then we came across a deer, nibbling in a neighbour’s backyard:
And finally, as we came upon our street, we sat and watched this construction crew repave a section of the road:
We had such a good time, and I still look back on that morning with the fondest of memories. I’ve actually had this post idea drafted for about 2 years, just waiting for me to find time to write it up. I just couldn’t let it go. A few weeks ago, I finished the book, “The Hurried Child” by David Elkind. It reaffirmed what I already knew: we need to slow down. The way we rush our children from one event to the next, from one activity to the next, foregoing their opportunity to rest and simply play, is detrimental to their mental health.
Let me encourage you to take a morning, or an afternoon, and leave the agenda behind. Wander aimlessly and go down those rabbit trails. You’ll likely be very pleasantly surprised.
A long, long time ago, when I was in elementary school, we went on a field trip to a local conservation area. The only thing I remember about this trip was when the guide told us about sumac. He said that we could eat it. That’s all I remember. I’m certain he mentioned that Aboriginal people have been using it as a spice for centuries, and that it’s a source of food for local wildlife during the harsh cold winter, but that part just didn’t sink in. What has always stuck with me was the taste. It was sour.
I love sour things. When I was younger, I would suck on lemons. *Pucker*. And, naturally, my children have also developed a palate for all things sour. So, it came as no surprise to me after I shared some sumac with Little Miss a couple of years ago, that it became a forest favourite. Whenever we pass by a sumac bush, she always asks for a bunch.
Honestly, she eats this stuff like a corn dog. And yes, Sweet Pea has also developed an affinity for it. You should see the back of my car! It seemed like such a good idea at the time, to let them have it as a snack. Lesson learned.
I had been promising Little Miss that we would make tea out of sumac for the longest time, and we finally got around to making it this week.
The sumac tea was remarkably tasty (and sour)! If you’re wanting to try sumac when you’re next out and about, do! I tend to suck on the red fruit (I always thought they were seeds!), then spit them out. However, both the girls swallow them. Sumac is an antioxidant and helps with hypertension. You can read more here.
“Mommy, why did the woman say ‘it’s not polite to stare’ to me?”
“Who said that?” I asked.
“The woman pushing the wheelchair,” Little Miss replied.
Ah. The moment of clarity.
Today, we decided to head over to the Markham Fair. We had never been to this time honoured tradition, and we decided to give it a last-minute whirl. Folks, we had a great time! There was lots to see and do there. There were plenty of animals to see. We got to ride up in a cherry picker (the machine that allows the hydro company to work on hydro wires)! And, they had a demolition derby (that we unfortunately weren’t able to attend). It was great.
Today was the first day of the fair, and there were lots of school children there. It was also “homeschooling day”, so we got to see some of our friends, too. There were also several people there with special needs. Fantastic! I have worked with individuals with special needs, and I know the need for these folks to get out and enjoy a community event. Wonderful! And, it appears my daughter (4.5 years young) was curious.
We all have a natural curiosity to those who are “different”. It’s human nature. Children are trying to make sense of the world, and in this case, she was trying to understand why a person was in a wheelchair. I’ve been behind the wheelchair, dealing with the curious stares. You want your client to be respected. I understand that. However, I think that this could have been taken as a learning opportunity, rather than a scolding.
My daughter did not know it was rude to stare. Again, she 4.5 years old. She did not mean to be rude, but it clearly came across that way. Instead of scolding her, the caregiver could have said, “he (or she) needs help to get around. That’s my job. They aren’t able to walk on their own, but they still want to see everything that you do!” Connection and dignity go a long way on this two way street. I also told Little Miss that the nicest thing she can do, if she sees someone in a wheelchair, is smile. There’s a takeaway that she can carry with her for the rest of her life, as opposed to being scared to look at the people around her.
When I was in grade 6, I experienced a pivotal moment. I was doing a biography on a classmate, so she came over to my house. When her family came to get her, her brother came to the door. He had Down Syndrome. I suppose I asked something insensitive like, “why does he look different?” I really can’t remember. However, I do remember her explanation.
We were in the gifted program at the time. She explained the situation that we (students in the gifted program) had an IQ of 101. Other students, in the regular stream, had an IQ of 100, and her brother had an IQ of 99. This was not (and I didn’t take it as such) an explanation that he was “dumb”, but that he thought and processed information differently. So, when I was speaking with him, I may have to choose my words more carefully so that he understood me. I found her explanation to come from a place of love and respect.
As I grew older, and I took psychology courses, I learned that the IQ disparity was greater, however that didn’t change how I viewed those with special needs. They are people who deserve love and respect, and who are all too often underestimated. This is something I want to pass on to my daughters. I don’t want them to be afraid to interact with these individuals. This is an opportunity to show love and compassion!
So, let me encourage you to view every day as a teaching day. Help those around you, especially these precious little ones, to make sense of what they see, through eyes of compassion and love. And I hope and pray that the next time she sees someone in a wheelchair she won’t avert her eyes, but meet those eyes with a smile.
Have you noticed that I’m a bit thrifty? I love (and seek out) free activities! Today, we went to see the Canadian Opera Company (COC), for their free concert series with Little Miss’ homeschool children’s choir. Today’s concert was an excerpt from their upcoming opera performance of The Return ofUlysses, as well as some ballet. The COC runs their free series throughout the school year, and has performances both during lunch hour, and in the early evenings.
It’s a beautiful set up, and they whet your appetite for the upcoming performances. This is perfect for us, as the excerpt is an hour long, which is plenty for a four year old.
If you are interested in going, the seating is based on a first come, first served basis, and there is a line up. Try to get there an hour or so before show time.
They have a variety of performances as well, like latin music, jazz, ensembles, etc., so be sure to check their calendar to see if anything tickles your fancy.
March Break for homeschoolers traditionally means that we try our darnedest to hide away, while our usual hot spots (the Science Centre, swimming pools, and museums) become flooded with children enjoying their time off. This March Break, we decided to try out the Home Depot workshops, which Home Depot offers on the second Saturday of every month, and every day during March Break. Verdict: AMAZING! Now we can tick off “shop class” from our curriculum! Here is Little Miss working on her fully functional periscope:
We also worked on a fire station bank, with 2 compartments, one for “save” and the other for “give”.
You also get these nifty aprons, that I assure you are essential to the experience. After washing Little Miss’ dress, after our first workshop, I asked her how she managed to get so much nail polish on her dress. It wasn’t nail polish… Pro Tip: Wear old clothes! And be sure to take advantage of those free aprons! You also get a spiffy pin for every project you finish. One girl had to have had over 25! It was pretty impressive.
The project for April is a window birdhouse. Sign up online through your local Home Depot to reserve your spot. This is a nation wide program, so it should be available where you are, as long you’ve got a Home Depot in your area. The recommended age is 5-12, but I have found that they are lenient with the age requirements, as long as you support your child as needed. We had a blast, and I’m sure you will, too.
Did you know that Markham has an AMAZING indoor bike park? We didn’t either until a friend of ours tipped us off. One fabulous feature of Joyride 150 is that it is FREE for children under 4, after the one time $5 registration fee. Yes, free and unlimited. Free bike rental, and day pass – remember to bring your own helmet, though. They do have them, but those are available for rent. Helmets are mandatory for all riders.
When you walk in, you are greeted with a blue planked beginner area with pump tracks, narrow bike paths, and a little see saw. Little Miss used a balance bike for the first time, and after about an hour of figuring it out (and some frustration), she didn’t want to leave! We spent about 5 hours there our first time, and she had so much fun! It’s great exercise, too. There is also an area with picnic benches for eating and relaxing.
As you go farther back into the facility (which is HUGE), you find additional paths, ramps, and half pipes. For the more adventurous, they have ramps that lead into foam pits, so you can try out all those crazy BMX tricks. There is also an outdoor dirt ramp portion, but we have yet to be there in the summer, so I haven’t seen them – yet. Another favourite part is the X-Country trail which winds through the whole facility.
Which leads me to my proud mama brag – she rode a 2 wheeler yesterday! We have been to Joyride about 5 times, and each time she whipped around on the balance bike, growing more confident each time. Yesterday was our first time in about 2 months, and she asked about a pedal bike. Daddy had the day off, so I had been pumping her up that he could help her learn, as it’s a little tough to do while wearing a baby, which is my usual attire. Anyway, Sweet Pea fell asleep in on the way, so Daddy stayed with her while we went on in. She started off on the balance bike, but seemed a bit bored with it. Anyway, long story short, we tried out the pedal bike, and she caught on very quickly. The most beautiful part, to me, is that she really did it on her own. Yes, we held the bike a bit to get her going, but she did it. And the look of surprise when she realized how far she’d gone without us was magical.
If you ask her, she’s “still practicing”, but we’re confident she’s got the hang of it. And I genuinely believe it is because of the experience she got at Joyride 150. Thanks for operating an awesome place, guys!
P.S. Do you know of an awesome kids hot spot in or around the T Dot?
Little Miss and I went to the pool today! We had a blast splashing around. We went to Agincourt Pool, which is a lovely, free pool in Scarborough. As we were playing around, a little boy, probably around 3, confidently commanded everyone around him to “get on the rocket ship!!!” No one really followed his directions, so he yelled it a couple more times, each time more convincing than before. A woman beside him (not his mom), said “that’s not a rocket ship, that’s a snake,” while giving me that knowing look.
And yes, technically it was a snake. But to this child, it was his rocket ship, that was his to commandeer. To another child, it might have been a bus, that was taking them to school. He looked at me, and I told him “I like your rocket ship! I think it’s really cool!” And he went back to being his assertive self, trying to get everyone onto his ship before take off.
Let’s encourage imaginative play. As adults, sometimes it’s hard for us to get into the mood, or even to understand why they may create crazy stories. However, it is an integral part of play and development, one which needs to be nurtured, and not squelched.
Let’s “dive in” to imaginative play! (I’m so puny!)
**Edit: This is not a Snapdragon. It is jewelweed. Please read my follow up post here.**
I love nature. I love God’s creation, and I think it’s beautiful, marvelous, and I often stand, or sit, in awe of it. And sometimes (often) I interact with it. Since I was a child, one of my favourite flowers has been the snapdragon. If you’ve never experienced snapdragons, you don’t know what you’re missing! These flowers begin to bloom in the month of August. In our neighbourhood, we they are scattered along the walkway in our ravine. Each year, I anxiously await their emergence.
What, you might ask, makes these flowers so special? They are TONS of fun! Fun? How can flowers be fun? Well, because they “pop”! Take a look at the three photos below:
Snapdragon Seed Pod
Popped Snapdragon Seed Pod
The first photo is of the snapdragon flower itself. It’s a brilliant orange, with specks of red. The second photo shows a seed pod. It looks kind of like a bean. A ripe seed pod is longer, and rather plump. These are the ideal pods. The third photo shows a popped seed pod. That is where the magic happens!
Once you find a ripe pod, very gently squeeze it. I can’t emphasize “gently” enough. Once you give it a gentle squeeze – POP! If they are particularly ready, even just brushing it with your hand will cause the pod to explode.
It’s a little alarming at first, but it is a LOT of fun 🙂 I promise!