Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning to Knit

     Anna has been begging me for years to teach her to knit, and I've been putting it off and putting it off.  I taught my self to knit as an adult, (when Anna was a toddler) and I had a really hard time getting the hang of it at first.  I'm not sure why; maybe it was partly to do with the fact that I was so comfortable crocheting, (which was learned as a child) that my hands didn't want to adjust to the new moves.  So, even though knitting is just as easy as crocheting to me now, I still had the idea that knitting was a lot harder to learn.  I taught Anna how to crochet a few months ago, and she's been making all her dolls scarves; but since she sees me knitting all the time, she kept asking, "Mama, when are you going to teach me how to knit?"  I have to admit I was intimidated at the thought. 
     I knew in Waldorf schools they teach every first grader how to knit, so I thought, OK, what's their trick?  I started researching how Waldorf schools teach children to knit, and came across this little rhyme: 
"Look in through the front door,
Go around the back,
Peek in the window,
And off jumps Jack!"
     I know this is a common little rhyme, but I had never heard it before.  After I saw it, I knew that I wasn't going to have any trouble teaching her.  I wish I had learned to knit this way! I decided to have her go through the whole experience of learning to knit, starting with making her own needles.  Ideally, we would have seen a sheep get sheared, then see the wool get spun into yarn first, but since it's winter, we will have to wait until spring to see a seep shearing.  I already have a farm that we can visit lined up.    She has seen someone spin a couple of times, and I thought that would do. 
     For the needles, I got a 1/4 in. dowel, fine sand paper, and some little caps for the ends.  I cut the dowel into ten in. lengths, then Anna got to work.
     First she sharpened them on our pencil sharpener, just like you would a pencil.  Our pencil sharpener does a very gradual tapering off, which I find a little annoying with pencils, but worked perfectly for the needles.
     Next she sanded them as smooth as smooth can be, starting with 150 grit, and ending with 600 grit, which was the finest I could find.  She also rounded off the tip so they wouldn't be sharp.
The ends were glued on by dipping the end of the dowel in the glue bottle, then putting on the caps.
     After the glue dried, they were waxed with a beeswax polish and buffed smooth.  They turned out to be a size 10.5 according to my needle sizer.  The needles were now ready to be used, and she couldn't wait to try them out. 

     She caught on so quickly I was amazed.  The rhyme broke every step down, so the she could understand what she was suppose to be doing.  So much better than me saying, "Now put your needle in here, around here, now in here", etc.  I can't get her to weave the yarn through her fingers to control tension, but she seems to get on OK without doing it. 
     I got single ply "fulled" wool yarn for her to learn on, since I figured that would be easiest, and I got cream so that we could dye it too. 
     I used turmeric, onion skins, and tea to dye it.
     Here are the skeins drying.  Didn't they turn out pretty?  I have a wonderful book "Making Toys With Children", which has some simple knitted animal patterns.  I decided to use these for her to learn on, since in very little time you can actually have a neat finished product.  Anna has trouble finishing any project that takes longer than a couple of days to complete, but nobody wants to just make pointless little swatches.   The pattern for a chicken couldn't be easier, (It's just a square) so that is what she did first. 
Isn't that cute?  She is thrilled to have not only learned to knit today, but also have a little stuffed chicken to show for it.  I think she took the chicken to bed with her. 
     Of course, now that she has her own knitting needles and yarn, she needs a bag to keep it in, so I made her a linen drawstring bag with an "A" on it, just for her. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Abriel the Artist

Abriel has really gotten into drawing faces.  They are so funny and expressive, that I just had to share.  Of course, I know I might be a bit biased. ;) I found these on the marker board today.
This one looks rather angry, or maybe just determined.

This one has something on his mind that he's not going to share yet.

And this one is worried.

     I'm having trouble accepting the fact that my babies are going to be three in just a few days.  Already they are talking so much, and are getting bigger in so many ways.  Good bye babyhood.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No More TV

      It's funny how you hardly notice something slowly encroaching on your life, until one day you look around and think, "What happened?"  That was TV for us.  I've always been strict on the amount of TV that I allowed the kids to watch, but then the twins started really liking it.  And it was so much easier to get supper on while they were watching a movie, and then a little TV in the morning didn't hurt, and it was so nice for them to have something to do during school, and, etc, etc...  Until suddenly I woke up and thought, "What am I doing?  This is not what I want my children to do all day."  So I made a New Years resolution, to get the kids off the TV. (and the computer, as Anna was getting way too into computer games.)  I was dreading doing it, since I knew there would be constant whining for awhile, and I really didn't know how I was going to keep the twins from turning on the TV when I wasn't watching.  I tried unplugging it once, but they figured out that trick within seconds, and Dave wouldn't let me disconnect the cable.  It turns out, I didn't have to do anything.  Our TV broke right before New Years.  Completely flat-lined; not even any static.  Haha! It's great when things work out like that.
         Of course, the day after it broke, Dave was looking at adds for a new TV.  Out of everyone in our household, Dave watches the least amount of TV, but he absolutely will not consent to not having one.  Grrrr.... I have tried every argument I can think of in favor of not having a TV, but to no avail.  However, we haven't replaced our old TV yet, so I might prevail after all.
     Here's my guys zoned out in front of the TV with their cousins.  No more toddler zombies for me, thank you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nature Journaling- More Fungus

    Last year because of all the snow we had, we were able to do more traditional winter nature studies.  This year has been so mild it has hardly snowed at all, but apparently all the damp cold has brought on a different type of winter nature study; fungus.  Anna found some Witches Butter today.  Another bright spot of color in a drab winter landscape.
This time she happily wrote about it in her nature journal without any prompting from me.  She did ask me when I was going to write in my nature journal.  Ummmm.... sometime?  Here's her entry.

On Waldorf and Rhythm

     I like rhythms.  Doing the same basic things every day, knowing what comes next, a routine.  As a small child, I remember having a pretty set routine, but as my older sibling entered adolescence, any kind of structure went out the widow.  Supper was... sometime, usually, and very rarely eaten sitting down as a family.  Bedtime was whenever you went to bed, and school, well school kind of went out the window too; at least for me.  For a routine loving person, this was very troubling, and I always felt a little behind and out of touch.  As I got older, I created my own routine, more or less, but I think this caused me to be much more self reliant and closed than I would have been.  This has a lot to do with why I've always tried to place extra emphasis on routine with the kids. 
      I really like the Waldorf idea of rhythms, and the importance in not just having a fairly predictable schedule, but using those repetitive points in your day as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect.  I've been trying to slowly get our schedule more rhythmic.  Lately my focus has been meal times, supper in particular.
     Due to Dave's work schedule, he only gets to eat supper with us durring the weekend.  It's hard to put a lot of effort into supper when it's only me and the kids, and generally they don't care what we eat, as long as it's not what we're having right now.   I never feel more out numbered than at the end of the day when I'm tired, they're tired, and after having worked to make them a good nutritious meal, all I hear is, "Ewww, what's this? I don't like it."  Then the echos chime in, "Ewww, I no like dis."   Sigh...  Is it bed time yet?
     So, back to rhythms.  I've had to let go of the feeling of, "It's just the kids and me, so who cares?"  The kids do, I do, and supper still needs to be a special time of the day even if it's not sprinkled with stimulating adult conversation.  So now, as I am wrapping up supper, Anna and I get the dining room clean and looking nice.  Then the table is set with real plates, (not paper or plastic) cloth napkins and candles.  The twins are able to help set the table, and they like participating in the supper rush.  We then serve up the food and pray.  The lights are dim, we're sitting down, and it's relaxing.  Does this mean that supper goes off beautifully every evening? No, of course not.  I have little children, and there is just one me to try to keep order, but it does help a lot.  I think it helps me more than anyone. Supper is special, and I can feel myself unwind, and just enjoy the moment.  I also hear a lot fewer complaints about the food.  Candlelight must make the food taste better.

     I think that practicing Waldorf principles in your home and in your parenting is very hard, but totally worth it.  It requires a tremendous amount of self discipline, which is the hard part, (Let's face it, mac and cheese every night would be easier) but it pays off in the kids behavior, and in me, not always feeling like I'm fighting them, but guiding them instead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fossil Museum Fun

     To give Anna something to look forward to in persevering through her school work,we decided to take a special field trip to a museum at the end of each semester.  Unfortunately, things kept popping up on the week-ends to prevent us from going on our first museum field trip, until Saturday, when I said, "I don't care what comes up, we are going to a museum today!" So we packed up the kids, and went to a fossil museum I had been wanting to see, and looked kid friendly.  Before we left, Anna asked me if there were going to be any dinosaur fossils there, and I said I didn't think so; probably just the fossils of pre-historic mammals that have been found at the site.  This was the only mention made of dinosaurs, yet, two hours later when we pulled up to the museum, Samuel was nearly jumping out of his skin with excitement over wanting to see dinosaurs.  Sometimes it's amazing how much he takes in, without seeming to pay attention to anything.  I was a little worried that he would be disappointed, but fortunately to a two year old, all skeletons look like dinosaurs. 
      The museum was very neat, as it was.  The dig site where the fossils were found is a part of the museum, and you can even tour that, but we didn't as the wind was just too bitingly cold to walk around some dirt piles. 
Here's Samuel inspecting all these dinosaurs (aka; bone fragment models) displayed on a chunk of lime stone.
An actual tapir jaw bone found at that museum dig site. Pretty cool.
Here the kids are digging for "fossils".  There were a lot of hands on activities like this that the kids loved.
Abriel and Dave checking out a very awesome rhino skull.
There were also some very neat rocks, which I could have spent a lot longer looking at.  I love rocks.
Just look at that sparkly pyrite. 
     And at last...  The long awaited for... Dinosaur!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tree in the Trail map

     We finished reading Tree in the Trail this week, and Anna has colored and labeled all of her map.  She used crayons this year, since the watercolors seemed to warp the map.  We don't do much other than read Holling C. Holling's books and fill in a corresponding map for geography, and I often wonder if this is enough.  Anna seems to get a surprising amount of information from just listening to to the books, though, and we do quite a bit of geography in our history lessons. 
     She seems to learn the most from just looking at our globe.  When we were reading about the crusades, I mentioned that the Turks, who had control of the Holy Land at that time, were from Turkey.  "Anna said, "Turkey; that's next to the Black Sea, right?"  I didn't even know she knew what Turkey was up to that point, much less what the surrounding bodies of water were.  She learned that from just looking at the globe.

Nature Journaling- Fungi

     We haven't done a formal nature study in awhile, mostly because we've already studied anything of interest in our yard, and I haven't been taking nature walks lately in order find new things.  (Bad, I know.)Today however, I was walking around in this little scrubby bit of woods that is next to our property, but is separated by a privacy fence, so we never go there.  It is also infested with thorns and poison ivy.  But today I was looking for some interesting sticks to make into some branch blocks for the kids, when I saw this bright orange fungus.  I knew I had to collect some for a nature study; it was just too awesome a find to pass up.  So I got my pocket knife (and camera) and cut off a few pieces from the dead branch it was growing on. 
    After a little internet searching, I found out that this is a Cinnabar-red Polypore.  It is native to this area, and fruits during Dec. -Jan.  It is a non-parasitic shelf fungus, that lives on decayed wood.  Since it is so beautiful, I thought that this would be a great thing for Anna to draw in her nature journal.  She started dragging her feet about that, as lately she has been very critical of her drawings, and will hardly draw anything unless she is sure she can make it look "perfect" and not "like a kid drew it".  I keep telling her that she is still a kid, and that she draws very well for her age, and I keep hoping that she will soon come out of this self critical faze. In order to encourage her, I got out my nature journal (sadly neglected, I'm afraid) to draw along side her.  She soon perked up and started enjoying it.  We decided to use oil pastels since the color was really the spectacular thing about this fungus.  In form it's just a blob. Here is Anna's nature journal entry.
And here's mine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

     Anna's new favorite hobby is dressing the twins up and making them pose for pictures.  I'll hear her giving orders like, " OK, I want you to stand right here. Now kiss.  OK, Samuel, I want you to look stern. Put your hands on your hips like this."  and so on.  It's pretty funny.  Today she said Samuel was Henry II, because "he wasn't a bad king".  I loved it.  How many American eight year olds even know who Henry II was, much less what kind of a ruler he was.  I love Our Island Story for this.  It really connects children to the story in a way that very few history books do.  Living books are the only way to teach history in my opinion!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Nature Table

     After finally clearing away all the Christmas and Advent things, I thought it was time to make our winter nature table.  This has been very warm winter, and we haven't had any snow to speak of, but I made it all snowy on the table anyways.  Maybe it will snow soon.

The latest addition to the nature table are two little snow children.  Abriel loves the Story of the Snow Children, so I made these with her in mind.  She loves them, and knew exactly who they were suppose to be.  It is fun to add little whimsical touches to the table.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Crocheted Moccasins

In an attempt to keep the twins tootsies from freezing (since they will not wear socks) I made these, very easy to make, moccasins. 
     The tops are made of three parts; the toe, which goes from the top of the arch to the toe; the heel, which is a long rectangle sewn onto the toe part after it's made, and then the cuff, which I cast on and knitted in the round.  You could crochet the cuff, but it's more stretchy knitted. 
     The sole has a insole of felted wool, (from a sweater) which is stitched to the top seam facing out, then a outer sole of leather.  The inner sole is as long as her foot, (plus a little growing room) and the outer sole is a half inch bigger than the inner sole all around.  I used a islet punch to punch holes in the leather before sewing it on to the moccasin with yarn. 
     You only need to make three measurements to make your own pattern.  The first is over the widest part of the arch. That will determine how wide you need to make the toe part. That's the width all the way till I rounded off the last three rows at the toe.  The second measurement is from the top of the foot where it meets the ankle to the toe.  That is how long the toe part needs to be. The third is around the heel to where it will meet with the toe part.

Our Island Story Lapbook: Part Four

     We are now onto the reign of John and Henry III.  Notice there are no numbers after John.  I think he must have effectively killed that name for future English monarchs. 
     Since the Magna Carta played such a major role in both of these king's lives, two of the three mini books were about that.  I had Anna write her own Magna Carta, and it's pretty funny and sweet.  She sealed it with beeswax pressed with a coin. 
This is the inside of the magna carta mini book.  I am waiting until we read Robinhood, to have her fill out the Robinhood mini book.    

Wooden Pattern Block Templates

     Due to the Twins sporadic napping, I have started to incorporate them into our school schedule.  Such as, while Anna is working on her math, the twins are allowed to  play with the math manipulatives.  Since they aren't allowed to play with them any other time, they love them.  I have also started to think of other activities for them to do at this time.  There aren't a lot of "preschool" type things that two year olds can successfully do, but the twins love pattern blocks, so I thought I would give templates a try.  I printed off a couple from, and they both loved putting the pattern blocks on the templates.  Unfortunately, I don't have very many pattern blocks, and I unwittingly printed off two patterns that use more squares than we have.  Samuel managed to get them first for his giraffe, and Abriel was upset that she didn't have enough to finish her lion.  Then Samuel went to the bathroom.  I was in the bedroom, and overheard Samuel come back and say, "Hey! Where's my giraffe?" Abriel didn't answer him, but I could hear her singing, "I have little tiny squares, little tiny squares!" 
     I have ordered more pattern blocks to keep that from happening again, but I also needed to make more durable templates, since the paper printouts didn't last past the first day. 
     The solution: Mod Podge.  I love that stuff.   First I had Dave cut out several 8" by 11"  rectangles out of some thin ply wood we had.  I sanded them smooth, then carefully cut out some paper patterns. I then mod podged them onto the wood.  There are patterns on both sides of the boards, and if the pattern was small, I glued two onto one side.  I'm going to keep making these until I run out of patterns.  The twins love them, and they are good for learning how to match color and shapes.  Abriel has already started sorting her pattern blocks, as you can see in the picture.  She is very naturally organized, and likes to line things up or sort them into piles.

Kitchen Themed Toys

    Well, it's a week after Christmas and I am finally posting pictures of the rest of the Christmas presents that I made for the kids.  I've been very on top of things this week.  (note sarcasm)

     Hamburgers, sushi, and pot mits for the twins, and a apron for Anna.  Anna is growing out of really girly things, but still appreciates femininity, so I was hoping the apron would succeed in fitting in to that narrow margin, and it did.  She says she loves it.
     The kids have all loved their toys, and that has made the work more than worth it.  I peaked into the kids bedroom last night, and Abriel was singing the Barney theme song to her doll, and giving her kisses.   Samuel carefully brushed out his doll's hair tonight before bed, then was having him do a "baby dance" in bed before I turned out the light.