May 31, 2012

In My Backyard: Playspaces For Children To Love

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One of the biggest challenges we faced as townhouse dwellers was making the backyard a fun playspace for our daughter. We have a decent sized backyard for a townhouse but with a space of eleven feet by thirty feet, we needed to be creative with making our outdoor area an enjoyable space for the whole family.

The beauty of a small space is that you can't rely on the big swing set or playhouse to make the yard "child friendly". We were forced to get creative with our outside play space. Here's a few things we've incorporated into our backyard to make it an appealing and inspiring place.

The Mud Pie Kitchen
As you all know, I finally created the mud pie kitchen that I had been dreaming about for months. The link to its creation can be found HERE.


The Balance Beam
My husband made this great little six foot long balance beam for my daughter. She loves balancing on it and flicking the doorstops with her feet (they are mounted halfway across the beam).


The Play Garden
Our daughter has her own "garden" to play in. It's simply a planter with a few plants, rocks, toy people and lizards. It's a great little space for a child to use their imagination.


The Easel
The great outdoors is the perfect place to be inspired and to create. We have a double sided easel in our backyard. My daughter usually draws on the chalkboard side. We placed the easel under the patio overhang so that the drawing implements could left outside without being damaged.


A Basket of Books
We also leave a basket of nature books outside year round. These too are kept under the patio overhang. We rotate the books seasonally and my daughter can often be seen curled up in a chair, reading one of her books.


A Water Table
Water play is such a great part of playing outside. Every day we fill a large Rubbermaid bin with water and add various elements to make it interesting (i.e. boats and waterwheels; bubbles, cloths and dishes; coloured ice cubes; coloured glass pebbles and toy geckos, etc.).


Blocks
I love this set of blocks. They were a great find at a thrift store (the whole set for $14)! My daughter has made chairs, tables, a stage, an airplane, a desk and beds out of her blocks.


Movable Pieces
Our backyard is full of things that my daughter can maneuver and utilize in her play. Pine cones, rocks, sticks, shells and dirt are abundant and are the cornerstone to many outdoor play activities.


Dirt
This year we took a break from gardening and left the plot of dirt for my daughter to explore. It's been an amazing space full of ants, spiders, beetles, centipedes and worms. We also have magnifying glasses and clear plastic containers to encourage scientific exploration.


Functional "Tools"
We make sure that there are various "tools" so that my daughter can help maintain her outdoor play space; a child-sized shovel in the winter; a broom, watering cans, and gardening shovels for the summer, etc.).


A Container of Bubbles
Don't forget the ultimate outdoor activity for children. Bubbles! We make sure the bubble container is always full (and available year-round).


Plants
We have a variety of hardy, easy to care for plants in our yard. Most of the plants were selected by my four-year-old and much of their maintenance is done by her. She's always eager to water the flowers (and pick the strawberries).


So there you have it... a great outdoor play environment, with multiple play spaces, all within a small yard!

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May 30, 2012

Postcard 39

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Postcard 39
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The opinions expressed on the postcards are those of the postcard's author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Deliberate Mom.



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May 28, 2012

An Infant's Treasure Basket

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I love watching my baby explore her surroundings. I get such pleasure from observing her delight in the little things, the small things... the things that are often overlooked by adults.

I recently stumbled across a wonderful article about Heuristic Play... simply put, "the activity of babies and children as they play with and explore the properties of objects" (Little Acorns To Mighty Oaks, 2011).

My excitement bubbled over as I read about assembling a "treasure basket" for an infant. The basket would contain a collection of "natural" materials and objects such as; an egg carton, notebook, fabric, rock, whisk, bells, etc. This isn't something new to me... I have used natural items in my child care playrooms for almost two decades, but I had never thought of utilizing items like this with an infant! I could immediately see the cognitive potential of such an activity! I could envision my daughter's excitement as she dug into the basket and pulled out an item to explore. I could imagine her delight and the wonderful connections she would be making by being allowed to safely explore such materials.

So, I sent out an e-mail to some friends and family, I included the link to the article and I asked them to be on the lookout for treasure basket items. Then I scoured my house for materials that I could immediately use in the treasure basket. So far it only has a few objects... but my daughter loves it.


We have a half hour block of time in the afternoon (while my other child is having her rest time) in which my daughter explores her basket. She interacts with the items in a variety of ways. She puts them in her mouth, she bangs them together, she bangs them on her head, she shakes them, she pushes them, she pulls them, she drops them and she picks them up. My role as the adult is to observe. I don't demonstrate or interfere... I let her completely direct the way in which she experiments with the materials. As a result, I've been able to videotape our play sessions and I've thoroughly enjoyed my role as a quiet observer.


I'm looking forward to seeing how my daughter's exploration of these objects evolves and I'm eager to add new objects to her treasure basket. It's amazing how a few mundane household items can instantly become so magical!


Resources
Little Acorns To Mighty Oaks (2011). Heuristic Play Part I: Treasure Baskets. Retrieved May 22, 2012 from: http://www.littleacornstomightyoaks.co.uk/Articles/Treasure_basket.




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May 25, 2012

{this moment: dirty fingers}

8 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama 

{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, savour and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to see.


"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves." Maria Edgeworth


Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of amazing moments!


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May 23, 2012

Postcard 36

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Postcard 36

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The opinions expressed on the postcards are those of the postcard's author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Deliberate Mom.






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May 22, 2012

Four-Year-Old Logic

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May 21, 2012

The Purple Bowl

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There's a purple bowl in my dishwasher... you might be familiar with it, as you may have a bowl like it too. Or maybe for you, it's not a bowl but rather a plate or a fork or a cutting knife.

This bowl is a regular sight in my dishwasher, not because it's my favourite but because every time the dishwasher finishes its cleaning cycle, this bowl is still dirty. So it sits there... awaiting another full load, awaiting the time when it will finally be clean enough to make the journey from dishwasher  to cupboard.

Lately I've been a bit of a cleaning fanatic. So the other day I decided to take the bowl (and its new friend the potato masher) out of the dishwasher and hand wash them. It felt good knowing that the next time I would open the dishwasher, the purple bowl would no longer be there.

I can't help but think that there are things in our lives that are like the purple bowl. We hide them away, hoping that somehow or in some way, they will come out clean without any extra effort. Perhaps the purple bowl takes the form of your feelings that were hurt years ago. Or maybe it's your career. Perhaps the purple bowl is your dreams or ambitions. Or maybe it's a strained relationship. Perhaps the purple bowl is a part of your spiritual life.

Whatever it is, maybe today is the day that you take that purple bowl out of the dishwasher, roll up your sleeves, fill the sink with soapy water and lovingly scrub the bowl until it sparkles and shines.



A special thank you to Sofia, from Sofia's Ideas for inspiring and inviting me to find the Magic of the Mundane.


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May 18, 2012

{this moment: pine cones}

4 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama 

{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, savour and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to see.


"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves." Maria Edgeworth
Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of amazing moments!


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May 17, 2012

Cat On A Hot Car Hood

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I am allergic to cats. Now when I say allergic... I mean ALLERGIC. They make me sick, sick, sick.

My neighbourhood is full of cats. They prance around my yard and rub up against our patio door just to drive my dog crazy. They fight all night... every night. They scoot across the sidewalk in front of you just to give you a heart attack. And... they stalk me. Seriously. Maybe not all of them but there's this one cat that just won't leave me alone. 

It all started a couple months ago. I returned from a shopping trip with my kids and I parked the car in our stall.  The minute I turned the engine off, this black cat jumped up on the hood of my car and gave me a look as if he was saying, "What the hell are you doing in MY car." I swear... that's what his eyes told me!

Since then, almost every time I go out to the car I have an encounter with him. He's either jumping up on my car after I park or sitting on the hood when I go out to the car. The worst is when I'm leaving to go somewhere because he won't get off the hood unless I push him off. The other day the neighbours gave me a look of death because I was pushing him off with my purse. I'm sure it looked like I wasn't being nice but I didn't want to touch him because I'm so allergic. Oh well. Who cares what they think... right?!

Anyway, here's a picture of my little feline "friend".


He's kind of cute don't you think? I just hope he doesn't get a girlfriend or a whole bunch of friends... now that would be unpleasant.



A side note... I needed my hubby's help to come up with the title for this posting. I give him FULL credit for the title and I thought I would share the other titles that he came up with (as it gave us a few laughs)....

The Cat Came Back the Very Next Day (And The Day After That And The Day After That....)

Tommyknocker

I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat

The Cat That Just Wouldn't Stay Away

and

Where's Curiosity When You Need It?


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May 16, 2012

Postcard 35

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Postcard 35

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May 15, 2012

The Healing Strength Of My Personal Village

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When Heather Von St. James first approached me to do a guest post on my blog, I hesitated. I've never had a guest blogger in this space before. How would I go about this? Well, I took the plunge and I am relieved that I did! Heather is here today to share about her life when she first discovered she had mesothelioma cancer. I am truly honoured to use my little corner of the internet to give inspiration and hope. So without further ado here is Heather's story about....

The Healing Strength of My Personal Village

The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child has been around for quite some time now, and most of us probably aren't aware of how true this really is. I heard it often after I gave birth to my daughter, Lily, on August 4, 2005. The pregnancy itself was mostly uneventful until the end when I had an emergency C-section, but I was still surrounded by my own personal village after Lily's birth. My husband's family, my parents and as well as our many combined friends came by to welcome Lily into the world and to wish us well as we embarked on the journey of parenthood. Everything was going well, and neither my husband nor myself had any idea of the difficult storm that we would soon be navigating.

I soon returned to work full time, and often found myself tired and out of breath. I assumed that this was simply because I was a new parent with a demanding schedule, but I couldn't shake the underlying feeling that something was wrong. After visiting my doctor and having a variety of tests performed, we found the answer to why I had been feeling so poorly.

I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer on November 21, 2005. This was only three months after Lily's birth, and I was devastated, confused and frightened. Mesothelioma cancer is in the lining of the lung and is caused primarily by exposure to asbestos. I had been exposed to asbestos as a child 30 years prior to developing the disease.

Lily was my first thought after my doctor gave me the news that I may only have 15 months to live if I didn't receive treatment. The thought of Lily and my husband continuing on alone motivated me to decide to do anything it took to save my life. Because the prognosis for mesothelioma cancer is grim, my husband and I took the most drastic course of action available to us. We flew to Boston where I put myself under the care of one of the top mesothelioma physicians in the world. On February 2, 2006, I received a treatment called extrapleural pneumenectomy, a surgery which involved the complete removal of my left lung. The next 18 days were spent recovering in the hospital, and two months later, I began receiving chemotherapy treatments.

If our own personal village had not surrounded us with love and light, we could not have made it through this. Lily lived with my parents while my husband and I were in Boston, and in turn, their own village provided them with the support that they needed.

Lily learned to eat real food while I was battling cancer, and the photographs that my parents sent helped me to keep fighting for my life. Although I missed Lily desperately, knowing that she was in such good hands made the treatments easier for me. My village pulled me through, and we are all stronger and happier because of the experience. 

~ ~ ~
Heather Von St. James is a mesothelioma survivor and guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to anyone who may be going through similar situations to her own. Check out Heather's story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.
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May 14, 2012

Embracing The Silence

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My home is a place that's often bustling with noise. Two children, a husband and a dog makes it difficult to find peace and solitude. However, I've recently challenged myself to avoid turning on the radio or the television and I have made a commitment to embrace the silence that comes with the quiet.

I quickly learned that "silence" is not quiet at all.

There's the hum of the bathroom fan as I take a shower.
There's the cars driving on the road outside our home.
There's the bus that starts and stops a few blocks away.
There's the beeping of the heavy machinery working in the vicinity.
There's the cats fighting over the same patch of grass.
There's the airplane flying in the distance.
There's the dog that barks in the yard across the way.
There's the opening and closing of my neighbour's door.
There's the children playing in the park nearby.
There's the sigh of my dog as he sprawls out on the landing of the stairwell.
There's the rustling of the leaves in the trees.

The silence is far from quiet. It is a "noise" unique to the moment in which it occurs.

Not too long ago, I was sitting in my yard... relaxing and relishing in the few quiet moments I had to myself. Within this moment I heard....

video

Upon watching this, someone might say... "So what. It's a bird chirping". However, to me, it was so much more. By embracing the silence, I was given the gift of a beautiful song... the symphony of quiet, sung just for me.


A special thank you to Sofia, from Sofia's Ideas for inspiring and inviting me to find the Magic of the Mundane.

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May 11, 2012

{this moment: peace}

7 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama 

{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, savour and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to see.


"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves." Maria Edgeworth


Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of amazing moments!

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May 9, 2012

Postcard 29

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100 postcards... 100 invitations to send a message. What message would you share if you had a chance to have your voice heard... anonymously?

Postcard 29
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The opinions expressed on the postcards are those of the postcard's author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Deliberate Mom.
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May 7, 2012

A Song of Joy

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I love music. I especially like to sing. In fact, I'm notorious for making up random "piggyback" songs about anything and everything. 

My husband is also very musical. He plays the guitar, the ukulele, the banjo and he likes to tinker on the piano. It's no wonder that our children have a fascination with music as well.


A few days ago I had a terrible headache. My head pounded... it throbbed... and of course, that's when my four-year-old decides that it was the perfect time to play the harmonica. She blew frantically into the instrument... hitting a note which vibrated off of the aching nerves of my brain. I wanted to ask her to stop. I wanted to go into my bedroom and lock the door behind me. I wanted to tell her that I had a headache and that her "music" was not making it better.

But then I paused. I watched. And I marveled....

video

To some, this video may seem like random noise made by a child. But to me it was a song of confidence... a display of a child's pleasure in their creation of sound. To me it was a song of love... performed by one sister for another. To me it was a song of discovery... that which a child gets from exploring their world through an instrument. To me it was a precious gift of a moment when a mom chooses to say yes... to rest in the moment and delight in the song of joy, that motherhood so often brings.

~ ~ ~

Thank you to Sofia, from Sofia's Ideas for inviting me to participate in this blog posting link-up. 





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May 4, 2012

{this moment: teeth}

8 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama 

{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, savour and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to see.


"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves." Maria Edgeworth


Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of amazing moments!

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May 3, 2012

My Bookshelves and Library Project

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At the beginning of January, I highlighted 12 projects I wanted to complete in 2012. I'm excited to report that I can scratch another task off of my To Do list.

I finally made the bookshelves for my girls' rooms! These great little shelves (which are actually spice racks) were only $4.99/shelf at Ikea. I painted them white, assembled them and then mounted them in the girls' rooms. I ended up mounting them behind the bedroom door, as no matter what furniture rearrangement occurs, no furnishings will ever be able to fit behind the door, thus the bookshelves have a permanent home.



I love them! In fact, I want these in my bedroom... and maybe even in the bathrooms too!

The second part of this project was daunting... compiling a database of all our kids books. Just when I thought, "Someone should create a library database app..." - someone did! I found this great app for my iPhone; Home Library. It was $0.99 and it's BRILLIANT! There's a scanner built into the app, so all you do is scan the UPC code from the book and in seconds there's the book, with all it's magnificent details! It even assesses the retail price of each item!


You can even scan your DVDs, CDs and games. Plus, there's an area of the app to keep track of what you've loaned out and what you've borrowed. See, what did I tell you? BRILLIANT! I also love that if you're wanting to buy a book, you can instantly check to see if you own it. As a child care professional, I encounter lots of books through my work. I can't tell you how many times I've stood in the bookstore wondering if I own a particular children's book. This little app solves this dilemma. All you have to do is scan the UPC code or search for the title and the app will tell you if you already own the item. It truly is amazing!

So another project is done! Even more important... I had a blast completing it! Yay!


Disclaimer
My thoughts and opinions on the Home Library app are my own and I was not compensated for my opinions. I just love a good find and I love sharing almost more than the "find" itself!

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May 2, 2012

Postcard 25

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100 postcards... 100 invitations to send a message. What message would you share if you had a chance to have your voice heard... anonymously?

Postcard 25
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May 1, 2012

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner and Spring Cleaning

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The spring cleaning bug has taken hold of me and has ravished my home. I recently stumbled across this great blog series by the Money Saving Mom...


I have been thrilled with the results! I don't know if it's the fact that the daily challenges include list-making; or if it's the timed 15 minute clean-up; or if it's the focused task assigned for the day; or the fact that I'm forced to purge seven items from my home on a daily basis... but this series has helped me transform my home from mediocre to marvelous! Trust me, any cleaning "program" that makes my fridge look like this is worth checking out!


Then, I stumbled across the Creative Homemaking site and I fell in love with her...


I am thrilled with this cleaner recipe! It's surprising how far a little vinegar, dish soap, borax and water can go! The secret to the success with this cleaner is to spray it on the surface and let it sit for a couple minutes before wiping it off. My "test" of this cleaner was with the soap scum that collects around the drain of my pedestal sink. Usually I need a lot of elbow grease to get the scum off but this cleaner took it off with a swift swipe of the cleaning rag! 


I also love that I can add my own scent to the spray just by adding a couple drops of pure essential oils. I opted for Rosemary, which has left my house smelled fresh and clean!

So there you have it. This mama has been bitten by the spring cleaning bug. Do you have the bug too?

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