Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day festival

We were fortunate to have the same kind friends open their home again this year for another May Day festival. Amazingly, the weather was almost identical to last year, breezy, sunny and 75. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather to celebrate our spring festival.

Before the official festivities began, the kids took many turns sailing down the zipline.

Eventually we pried them away long enough to make a flower crown.

So many gorgeous crowns!

Even some beautiful greenery crowns.

We painted some flower cones, to hold our lovely buds.

We snacked on delicious spring fruits and shared a brunch-like meal together.

I again made my popular flowery lemon treats, although this year I used begonias in place of pansies in the frozen lemons.

Soon there were children dotting the yard, slurping frozen lemons everywhere!

Is there anything more beautifully spring than children with ripe cheeks wearing flowery crowns and sucking on flowery lemons?

Our small group of wonderful musicians gathered to sing the May Day song.

And everyone began to gather at the maypole.

With song and laughter in the air, dancing feet, ribbons waving, the beauty of spring burst forth.

We danced and danced and watched the ribbons wrap the maypole. What a lovely festival!

All of the wonderful energy in the air must have inspired Finn. He bravely decided to take his first ride on the zipline.

Welcome May! We can't wait to see what you have in store for us!

Friday, April 29, 2011

{this moment} - bleeding hearts

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

learning about animals

We're planning a trip to Alaska this summer and as part of the preparation, I'm gathering reading materials for the kids to learn about some of the things we'll see there. Since Finn can handle only so much reading about Alaska, I thought of a different way to familiarize him with some of the things he'll see there. I spied this North American Animals Tube online and thought it might make the perfect work for Finn to learn the animals of North America, many of which we'll see in Alaska. I'm not one to typically buy plastic toys, but the educational merit of these animals seemed worth the free pass (and they are BPA- and phthalate-free). They certainly lack the beauty and grace of our treasured wooden animals though.

Finn was so excited to see the tiny little animals appear in the wool bowl on his shelf. He immediately rolled out his mat and asked to be presented to his animal work. I helped him line up the cards, which I made to match the animals from the tube, and he worked on matching each animal with it's card.

He initially thought the beaver was a hedgehog, which I thought was so cute. And kind of funny that an American kid would be more familiar with a hedgehog than a beaver.

He also thought the raccoon was a lemur, although he couldn't remember the name. A new exhibit at our local zoo opened last year with ring-tailed lemurs, and apparently they made more of an impression than any raccoons he's heard about.

When he finished matching each animal to the card, he asked if we could get more animals like this one day. I think we just might. Maybe an aquatic tube would be fitting before a trip to the beach...

He spent a long time playing with his new work, or the animals, at least.

Whoooo! says the owl.

**You can find a copy of the cards I made here and here if you'd like to print a set to match with your own animals. But please don't sell them, and please don't post them on your own site without crediting me. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yarn Along and family reading time

For this week's Yarn Along, I have a completely different project than the one I've been working on for the last several weeks. I needed a break so I started on Finn's Chain Maille sweater which is coming along quickly. I hope to have more to show of it soon. I also began a small project for knitting in the car on our trip this past weekend. I finished the first orange toddler sock, in a larger size than the previous ones I knit from this pattern, and started on the second. I also began reading Pox, An American History, which is about the American smallpox epidemic in the early 1900s and compulsory vaccination. Very fascinating read so far.

Someone mentioned to me recently that they were surprised that I still read aloud to our older kids, which made me take stock and put some thought into why we continue a treasured family pastime now that 3 of our 4 children read fluently. We are frequently so busy during the week, why do we continually make time for this particular activity.

There are a few different reasons that family reading time is important to us. But I should first mention that our family reading time takes on many faces. I nightly read to some combination of the kids, but depending on the book, it's all 4 kids, just the 3 older kids, or if the boys are at their moms, then just Elizabeth and/or Finn. We frequently have 2-3 books going at a time. Right now I'm reading Homer Price to all of the kids, although we're nearly finished, and on the nights that the boys are gone, I'm reading Anne of Green Gables to Elizabeth. Finn and I are currently reading The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk at his afternoon naptime. My children read to each other often as well. We often find one of the older children reading aloud to Finn at various times during the day, and Elizabeth and Philip often pull together sleeping bags on her floor on weekends so she can read aloud to him. Reading together is clearly a way that we connect to one another throughout the week.

One of the biggest reasons I read to my children every day is to have this quiet connection time with them. I want them to see every day that I'm taking time out to read to them and that reading and spending time with them are both important to me. I also want them to be able to look back on the memories of us reading together fondly. Even if they don't remember all the books we've read together, I hope they remember what it felt like to spend time together in books every day.

Another important reason I choose to read aloud to my kids is that I want them to read books of many different topics and a variety of styles. Most kids don't choose classics or variety of genres on their own. I've never had one of the kids complain about any of the books we've read aloud. We've read everything from an ancient copy of a Clara Barton biography to A Christmas Carol to The Bobbsey Twins and The Wind in the Willows. They may never find a series they love until I read the first book aloud to them. They might find a new author whose work resonates with them or a new genre they never would have picked on their own.

I also choose to read aloud to my kids hoping to improve their vocabulary and push them outside of their current reading levels. There are few children's authors today who speak to kids using a robust vocabulary the way authors did in the past. (Kate DiCamillo is an exception who comes to mind.) I hope their horizons will be broadened just a bit with the choices I make and the sharing of these books together.

Lastly, what an enjoyable and relaxing (usually) way to end the day by reading together as a family or in a small group. With some scary statistics that my husband just read aloud to me ringing in my ears, I hope my family, and my children individually, read for a long time to come.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The City of Brotherly Love

Today, a guest post by my incredible brother John!

So, my sister and the family came up to visit for a few days around Easter and we had a great time showing them around the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Our first day we spent touring the Independence National Park and nearby historical areas.

Here's Joy at the entrance to the Independence Visitor's Center.

Finn eating a famous Philly soft pretzel

Independence Hall has been undergoing renovations (note the scaffolds)

Liberty Bell Center (in case you can't read)

It's not as big as most history books portray it

This is Paulie taking a picture of the Liberty Bell (note Joy doing the same in Paulie's photo)

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land..." (Leviticus 25:10)

The cousins had a load of fun throughout the weekend.

The "infamous," as opposed to famous, Philly Cheesesteak apparently served here.

We had a crazy lunch at the Reading Terminal Market.

The second day we took another trip into Philly to visit the Franklin Institute, one of the oldest science centers / museums in the country (founded in 1824).

Franklin Memorial at the Franklin Institute

Elizabeth on a rock climbing wall demonstrating the effects of friction in sports.

Uncle Paul with the youngest munchkin.

More architecture shots from inside the Franklin Institute


Thanks to John for the guest blogpost this weekend! You can find more of his work on his Flickr page.

While here in Philadelphia, the hard drive on my computer died so I will be scarce in this space over the next week while I have my hard drive replaced. I hope everyone has a wonderful spring week.