Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The summer half point - our favourite activities

I missed a post last week as summer fun and a teething Isla kept me very busy - and without free arms or sleep for 4 days straight!

Looking at the calendar last night, I realized that, sadly, we are at the half way point of summer this week. But I am choosing to embrace that there are still four more weeks left of summer! I was also going through all of the activities, quiet days, friends and family time that we have filled our summer with to this point - and I think that for my family we have finally found a really nice balance this year.

Ewan and I have chosen a theme unit to focus on each week and that has guided our plans. We have moved through several themes including - under the sea, rocks, the night sky, bugs and now birds. These units have given me the opportunity to try new activities that I am very excited to use with the Nursery School program this year. It has also given our week a framework and a way to be selective about which activities that we choose to fill our days with - maybe just being more mindful of how we spend our days has in fact slowed the summer down for us.

Some of our activities have included:
Using letter rocks to match capital & lower case letters.

Washing the rocks we found on our hike.

Visiting the cave at the Museum of Nature.

Staying up late to look at the moon & stars through the telescope.

Our science table with our moon chart for the week.

Visiting the rocket at the Science & Tech museum.

Searching for bugs in the forest.

Eating dirt & worms for desert!

Pretending to be spiders & catching bugs in our web - Ewan's most favorite activity of all time!

Ewan eating his snack in his nest that he built (he is wearing 'head protection' from the bees (too many Scaredy Squirrel books!)

We have been visiting a museum each week and we have really enjoyed all of the activities being offered. Ewan's favourite museum is the Museum of Nature and really has so much to  offer - from the dinosaurs of course, but they also have an aquarium, an amazing space and rock exhibit, a whole floor displaying every kind of bird, live insects and bugs as well as a really great class on building bug traps (which we now have all over our yard!). We have also made a trip to the Museum of Science and Tech to see the rocket ship, but we loved the trains as well as the light maze and all the other hands on activities. The Museum of Agriculture is also well loved by both kids. 

We are also trying to enjoy many of the trails right in the area - Stony Swamp, the Chapman Mills Conservation area and the Manotick dog park are all favourites. Many days we have spent enjoying our own backyard catching bugs, making mud pies and watching birds. Swimming has also been a favourite activity - we are lucky that our neighbours and in laws have beautiful pools that we have open access to use. It is incredible how spending several uninterrupted hours at a pool can improve the kids swimming skills - Ewan is becoming quite the confident swimmer - no longer the over confident boy who would jump in and very quickly sink!

Are you happy with how you and your family have been spending the summer so far? What have been your favourite summer activities? Any must see things on your list? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When does the lying stop?!

Ewan has now entered a new stage...lying. All. The. Time.  It is mostly about the bathroom - whether or not he used the bathroom, flushed the toilet or washed his hands. He will come out and state what he has done with the guiltiest looking smirk on his face. Here are the stages of his expressions:

Trying not to smile...



turning away..

full on guilty smile!

I will then repeat for him to go and use the bathroom, wash hands and off he will run to the bathroom yelling "how do you know these things?!"

Recently he has started testing Alan and I to see if we really do know everything. He will come out of the bathroom and state that he used it, flushed and washed his hands - then make the face - Alan and I repeat for him to go back to the bathroom. He then shouts "Ha, I did already, smell my hands!" and of course they are usually still wet and full of soap!

He has also started blaming his sister - poor Isla! Ewan took it upon himself one day to draw stick people on our tv screen. I will give a bit of a back story as he has never drawn on anything but paper before. The week before we were talking about how Dora is a cartoon, not a real person. A cartoon is a drawing on tv. WHY did I not go further than this?!!! So, Ewan thought he would draw some people on the tv and then turn on the tv and watch them dance around. He was very disappointed that this is not what happened. And I ended up with stick people on my television. Anyway, when I finally noticed the drawings I had asked Ewan why he would do such a thing - he stated that Isla did it. When I said that Isla cannot reach, nor can she draw stick people, his response was "well, she did!" Afterwards I got the full story when I asked why he thought Isla would draw on the tv.

So, will this stage end? Or do the lies just get bigger?!

An example of the stick people on my tv.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One of my favourite family vacations to date!

For the last week of June, actually the day after my last shift of work before the summer, the kids and I jetted off to Halifax to meet Alan who had been working there the previous week. I decided to try and kick off my 'relaxing summer' with the most relaxed holiday that I could think of - going to a secluded beach house in PEI!

We spent Sunday - Wednesday morning in Halifax as Alan still had a few more days to work and then we drove to PEI and stayed in the cutest little beach house until the Sunday. Halifax was actually a great few days. I had been dreading those few days as I would be on my own in a new city with both kids and potentially 'housebound' not knowing how to get around without a car. We were very fortunate that Premiere Suites had set us up in a condo directly on the board walk downtown! The condo was gorgeous (even had me considering down sizing to a little condo in Ottawa - so much easier to maintain) and the board walk was directly outside of our door. I was able to start my days with a run on the board walk while Alan got ready with the kids and then the kids and I spent the morning exploring the board walk. We watched the ships, played on the playground, ate ice cream and enjoyed the sandy beach. We then spent the afternoons by the pool and enjoyed eating out at restaurants for dinner.

PEI was an even slower pace. Once we arrived at the beach house with our groceries, we didn't leave again until Sunday morning. The days were spent running in the field, exploring the beach, canoeing across to the outer beach, wading in the water and making smores by the fire.

The house had beautiful windows looking out onto the ocean - the most amazing view from the loft bedroom.

One of my most favourite pictures!

Ewan and I venturing out in the canoe

I am embarrassed to admit how many marshmallows Ewan and Isla stuffed in their faces!

Isla and Ewan spent hours just wading through the water chasing each other.

We have the largest collection of shells - half of a suitcase was dedicated to the collection on the way home!

The beach was beautiful and so full of shells for the kids to explore. It was also perfect that the water was only up to the kids' waist at the deepest point, so they could have walked all the way to the outer beach - this made canoeing much less stressful! The beach house was very secluded and it was so nice to be in such a quiet place.

As perfect as this week away sounds, someone forgot to mention to me the attitude that comes along with turning 4 years old. Wow, Ewan has been something else lately! Absolutely everything was a challenge - even when all I wanted to do was take him for ice cream or go to the pool! At many points I yelled to the sky why in the world I left the comfort of my home to be challenged on every single thing that we wanted to do. However, looking back I am still very happy that he drove me out of my mind in peaceful PEI rather than at home!

All in all it was a wonderful week away and a great start to a summer filled with relaxation. Such a difference in pace from Disney World last year!

*Also, Ewan's behaviour has been drastically improving - maybe he is settling into our slower days and enjoying more of a regular routine - or maybe it was just a phase - a short lived one thank goodness!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Planning a memorable summer

I am so very fortunate that I am able to take the majority of the summer off and spend more or less one day a week at A Gym Tale and complete the rest of my work from home. It has taken me 4 years to figure out that after the fast paced school year, what I really need during summer is to slow things right down with the kids. At first I tried to use the time off work to do everything with the kids that we were not able to do during the year - play dates, classes, day trips, etc. We simply ended up more tired than when we started summer. Now I am a firm believer that maintaining a routine, but slowing the pace right down and spending much more time at home doing simple things is what creates the most restful and memorable moments.

I also have to admit, I love the idea of homeschooling my kids. I really do enjoy my job, especially creating the nursery school program plans, and doing that programming as a hobby over the summer is really exciting to me. It is like I am pretending to homeschool my kids since during the year just does not allow for it - And after four years of nursery school, it really is time for Ewan to move on! I absolutely love the ages that my kids are at right now (4 years & 18 months) and the idea of catering the plans and field trips directly to my kids interests is so much fun. It also provides an opportunity to test out new activities, books and plans for the school year. 

Since I am a self-admitted workaholic, I needed to put a plan in place to ensure that days were kept slow - yes, I do realize how silly it is to have to plan to relax and slow down, but I have come to accept who I am and without a plan the calendar will be out of control! So here is what my ideal summer will look like:

  • Less concern about looks and creating more time in the mornings by showering at night and relying more on hair bands and hats.
  • A goal of 7 hours of sleep per night so that I can be ready for Ewan and Islas 6am wake ups
  • Keeping my phone ringer turned on instead of my phone in my pocket - too tempting to check emails throughout the day, I am limiting to checking twice a day. Otherwise I become very distracted by emails and texts. 
  • Days where the words 'hurry up' are never uttered and the kids are free to go at their ideal pace - this will be very challenging for me.
  • Accepting a less tidy house, but at the same time including the kids in chores as opposed to having to do everything when they are in bed. Simple things like helping with dishes, sweeping the floors and dusting. 
  • Playing outside every day - tending to the gardens, picking our veggies, and simply allowing for open ended time in the yard for the kids to enjoy their own garden, sand, rocks, water barrels available to them. 
  • Nature walks several times a week with our dog. If you haven't read 'Last child in the woods'  it is a really great book and will give the motivation needed for many to make getting out in nature a priority for our kids.
  • Having a never-ending art table just off the kitchen. Ewan and I have been having the most difficulty in trying to keep the 'mess' or hundreds of pages of art a week under control and trying to clean up multiple times per day. So by offering a larger table that he can carry out his projects should hopefully fix this. 
  • Doing daily projects with Ewan in the afternoons while Isla is napping. She is now napping for about 2 hours since we have ended her morning nap. I am hoping to have invitations for science experiments, art, sensory play, baking etc. ready for Ewan during this time. Some will be things we do together and other things will be for him to explore.
  • More lunch time picnics and simple dinners to lessen the amount of time spent in kitchen prepping food.

At the same time, I still want to keep all of my commitments, such as regular date nights, dinners out with friends, running 3 times a week and taking some time just to relax in the backyard in the evenings.

How do you plan to spend your summer with your family?