Wednesday, February 27, 2013

slice of life February

Little slices of what's going on around here...

Enjoying the sunshine in the bubble...

Virtual Grandparenting...

Hilarious passport photos for an upcoming journey (they look like Bonnie and Clyde)...

Zach makes Sunday morning breakfast for the family all by himself....

Riding bikes...

And even some quiet time once in a while...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

winter on the town

I talked a little about how we winter in with audio books. Another way we cope this time of year is to hit the town. We are lucky to have such a fabulous system of free museums here in the DC area. On blustery days we pack some food, fill our water bottles, and head out to free indoor fun.

The National Botanic Garden is a wonderful (did I mention free) winter hang out. All warm and humid and smelling of green living things. Ah, I miss green. It's a great place to bring your art supplies, or just wander around and pretend you are on vacation.

There is another botanic garden in Baltimore and at that one they have fish you can feed. Man, that is a whole afternoon right there.

Zach decided he wanted to steal my camera and take his own photos.  It was cute watching him find his shots.

Naia met a young artist, introduced herself, asked a thousand questions, and decided to draw with her. This young woman deserves a patience award for humoring my little extrovert.

One other favorite cold day run around spot is the Air and Space Museum. We adore all of the Smithsonians, but Zach will beg for the extra long drive out by Dulles Airport to see "the annex", or the second air and space where they keep all of the big stuff. Like a whole space shuttle. The real thing. And a stealth bomber. And the Enola Gay. And every sort of flying machine since flying began. It's a huge hangar, and did I mention it's also free? And we can call it school. What's not to like?

She is ready for take off!

The only downside is that all of these fun indoor places and more are  not in our town, but in the city. We don't mind a trip in but with a toddler in tow we need to be organized and start the day early or we lose momentum. Our town sadly has zero indoor community resources except our little library.

So the museums are our favorite winter hang out. Well, our favorite is at a friend's house with a fireplace and an open washer/dryer to use. But museums are a close second.

Monday, February 18, 2013

listening and dreaming

The wind is howling at about 40 miles per hours outside right now. Windy is definitely the word of the winter. It has been raw in these parts. Grey, wet, and windy. During the mild months we spend so, so, sooooo much of our time outside, so this can be a challenging time of year. This week I thought I would share some of our cabin fever busters.

One of our long time favorite ways to pass the inside time is audio books. Listening to stories is a wonderful way to escape in your mind while still being able to be busy with your hands. We don't own a TV, and screen time is very, very limited so Zach has long been totally captivated by audio books. I was worried that when he started reading somehow we would grow out of audio stories in favor of the printed word. But there is something so completely special and magical about the spoken word. The voices, the dramatic pauses, the way one person can play 6 or 7 characters convincingly and just sweep the listener away. I don't think anyone outgrows that.

We are big fans of Jim Weiss, and when Z was a tyke we also loved Jessie Modic's fun loving music and stories. But recently I came upon something purely genius. Sparkle Stories is an online subscription audio story site. Every single week they come out with new stories. Seriously, how fabulous is that?!

Zach is totally in love with Junkyard Tales. It's an ongoing story of a cat named Benjamin Thompson who lives in the junkyard with a colorful cast of animals characters. He is so intent when he listens. It's not background noise, it's his whole world at that moment. And that's why I am so grateful that these stories are so wholesome and full of the sort of messages that I would want my kids to hear. Sparkle Stories manages to strike that perfect balance between entertaining and thought provoking with little life lessons wrapped in imaginative fun. Of course the morals sound much better coming from a thoughtful cat and other critters than mom and dad. It's like blending the spinach into the fruit smoothie.  And even though Naia isn't quite old enough to tune in and pay attention yet, I love knowing that these stories will be part of our library, available on the Sparkle Stories web site when she's ready, and fresh stories will always be rolling in while we're subscribed.

We hung a hammock in the bubble in the very aft section of the cockpit. When the sun is shining, the bubble is toasty warm even when it's 29 degrees and blowing 40 miles an hour outside. Zach can be found swinging in the hammock where he can be away from his sister and her perpetual singing. He has a speaker right behind him playing Sparkle Stories. He listens and swings and dreams about spring.

Monday, February 11, 2013

playing story time

My husband and I have a joke about all the repetitive kids things we have ingrained in our brains and how when we are rocking in the old folks home, we will be mumbling the words to Jamberry or singing Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell over and over and over.

Of course it's well known how important repetition is for kids and especially toddlers, so we grin and bear it. Naia has some favorites from her book basket like Baby Bear Discovers the World, Frog and Toad All Year, anything Little Bear, and Nicole's Boat (which we change and read it to her as Naia's boat, naturally.)

She loves digging through the seasonal book basket we keep by the nature table and it seems now each season she latches on to a few favorites to read again and again, in a row, every day, adding to my rocking chair list. This last fall is was Pumpkin Moonshine and The Little Yellow Leaf. We had a little pumpkin on our table and she started right in setting up the scene of Sylvie Ann and the farm animals and with great glee knocking them all down with the pumpkin. Over and over again.

Of course she always apologized to Mr. Hemmelskamp after the pumpkin got him.

Come December her focus shifted to The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren.  And once again, I would find her chatting away in that quiet little language only toddlers and tomtens know, recreating the story with her animals. Over and over again.

Here we are in the dead of winter and she is now latched on to Anne and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett. "Mama I need corn cakes." Hmmm, how about just corn? She happily spends her mornings feeding those wild animals... over and over again.

And of course Annie has to cuddle Taffy the cat too.

Not only am I thrilled with her love of stories but I am so excited to see her turn books into play so easily and happily. I hope this is just the first step to a lifelong love of reading. That way when I am in the old folks home mumbling the phrases from these books, she can sit and read them to me over and over again.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

pass it on

I pull up to our favorite local coffee shop for a mocha on the run. They have a drive thru (best feature ever for moms with sleeping tots) and when I got my mocha the barista passed this through the window. She said someone dropped off a stack of them and only asked that they be handed out and please tell people to pay it forward.

We tucked that $5 away and pondered what we could do to pay it forward. After some thinking about that sweet boy lost too soon, I came up with two things my little boy loves more than anything... books and surprise treats.  So I talked it over with Zach and we split that $5 bill in to five singles. He drew some pictures and I wrote a simple note of explanation.

Then we headed to the library. At this point, Zach got cold feet. He was convinced hiding surprises in the books might be against the law despite my assurances. So he sat and read and pointed me towards some of his favorite books, and I went to work tucking five surprises into five books in the children's section. Knowing how excited Z gets at finding a nickel, a dollar is a windfall to a kid. But even if you don't have a few bucks to spare, you and your little ones can simply write kind notes and tuck them into the pages of books, spreading a little sunshine.

(Peter And The Starcatchers is a favorite series...)

Then we went home imagining the happy faces of little ones opening a book to read and getting $1 to keep all for themselves. I hope in that dollar they see that there is more good in this world than bad, more kindness than greed, more love than hate. Pass it on.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Hearts and the Abbey

So much flannel just waiting for a project. I had made Naia some warm reversible flannel pants and had lots of smaller pieces left over. The prints (most of it from Anna Maria Horner) were so lovely I wanted to use every last bit. So one night I sat down and started my addiction to Downton Abbey with Season 1 via Netflix and started cutting hearts.

I was winging it really, just trying to free form a heart shape here and there to use every bit of scrap I could with as little waste as possible. Well, as many of you know, Downton Abbey is REALLY good... so I cut a whole lot of hearts.

Season 2 of Downton via Amazon had me sewing the little lovlies. With the laptop perched precariously across the sewing machine lid I sewed my way through World War I and all the ensuing drama. Oh Matthew and Mary, will you please just give in to it? And that flu? Simpy dreadful. Sigh. Sew. Sigh.

And here I was with empty little hearts and Season 3 had not yet launched. Oh no. This can't be. I can not wait around with the commoners for it to trickle online one episode at a time. Oh husband! Do your magic computer thing and fetch me Season 3 please. Filling my hearts with rice and lavender while weeping my way through Season 3. One heart ache after another.

Now I won't give away any spoilers, but... sigh. It's a good thing I had all of these extra soft hearts around to comfort me. We gifted these to friends in pairs as hand warmers for these frigid days. So to review, just cut the flannel, sew right sides together leaving about a 1 inch gap to turn and fill, fill with rice and lavender, and then turn in the raw edges and sew closed.

Pop them in the microwave for 60 seconds (careful not to over heat, the rice can burn) and then pop them in your pockets to keep your hands toastie. Or in your socks. Or wherever you need a little soft warm touch.

And then wait patiently for Downton Abbey Season 4 which I hear they haven't even shot yet. I guess I will have to re-watch the first three seasons and find something else to sew in the wee hours. Oh winter.

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