On Sunday afternoon our little family of three burned a belated equinox fire. I threw some sage, cedar, and rosemary into the flames, released my fears about birth, and said a private prayer to let the universe know that I was ready to welcome my little one into the world. I went into labor that night and just before the stroke of midnight, Theda Anne entered the world. We are all smitten with this little girl, but none so completely and without hesitation as her big brother. Welcome, little one.
These little booties have been off my needles for about a week now, but I finally just got around to sewing on the buttons and weaving in all the ends. It's always the sewing step that holds me up. But, now that they are finished I'm completely smitten with them. I love the cross-over straps. They are Saartje's Booties knit in some cotton blends that I had in my stash. So fast and easy to knit and absolutely adorable. Now I just need some little baby feet to go in them.
Over the weekend Silas and I made this fabric strip mobile as a gift for the baby. Silk scarves are one thing that I always pick up when I stumble across them at the thrift store and while this blue and white one was lovely, it started to shred the very first time that Silas tried to play with it. So, we helped it along its way and tore it into strips. We added an old silk tank top of mine and some scraps of silk ties left over from last year's Easter decorating. After looping the strips over an embroidery hoop we had an easy mobile to hang over the baby's diaper changing area.
Silas takes his role as Big Brother very seriously and this baby is very much already a reality for him. He adores giving "her" (we do not know the gender, but he remains quite certain that it is a girl) kisses at all times of the day as well as a daily morning zerbert to "make her laugh." He's so eager to be helpful and he can't wait to show her the gift that he made. Love.
No baby yet! Although our last minute preparations have kept me pretty much offline. The house is now clean, the refrigerator stocked, baby pants sewn, and baby sweater and booties knit. We've also been spending a lot of time out of the house. I'm trying to really enjoy these last few days with Silas as an only; savoring the time together with just the two of us and going places and doing things while it's still easy for us to do so.
Here is a glimpse of our past two weeks. You'll notice there's been a pretty huge weather shift...two weeks ago we were wearing winter coats and wool hats and today we were practically in t-shirts and shorts. Spring.
In all of the painting that we've done over the years, white and black paint have never been included. The past two weeks we've been painting with them exclusively to see what they can do.
Black paper and white paint and white paper and black paint. What do they call you to make?
Silas had an "ah-ha!" moment when he discovered he could use the handle of his brush to make a completely different mark than the bristles.
After painting for awhile, I gave him a short demonstration on color mixing. He experimented with different quantities of black and white and named each resulting mix. "Silver," "Blacky Gray," and "Silvery Darkness" were some of his creations.
During the second week he was excited to mix black and white paint again. We paused to do a demonstration on how to be the boss of the brush: using gentle pressure so that the bristles stay upright and the paint goes where you want it to go.
This week in our biome curriculum we are exploring water. This demonstration was about how water always runs downhill, gathering in small streams, flowing to larger rivers, and eventually ending up in the ocean. We built a hill out of clay and made stream beds. He predicted where he thought the water would flow and then tested his hypothesis by sprinkling water at the top of the "mountain" (simulating rain) to see where it would go.
We found a map of rivers in the US and I traced how the Iowa River (which runs though the city in which we live) flows from where we are down to the ocean. He then traced all the other rivers, starting with the small streams and finding where they empty into the ocean.
He went back to the clay and wanted to get his hands dirty. He carved other paths to see how they would change where the water went.
Then we headed into town to look at our river and imagine the water flowing from right underneath us all the way to the ocean.
We threw in a stick and watched it travel down the river, talking about how far it would travel and what it might see on its journey.
One of our out-of-the-house activities was to visit a nature center to tap maple trees. We did this in our backyard last year, but with the presence of a newborn imminent, I was happy to outsource this activity this year.
We also had the opportunity to visit their sugar house and check out the evaporator.
Silas said that his favorite part was seeing the wood burning to heat the sap.
When we got home we did a very simple evaporation/condensation experiment from our biome curriculum and he drew what he observed.
He is still very much interested in the arctic, polar bears, and seals, although we have been less formal about making time for project work. He's turned his attention to food chains, asking what it is that seals eat (knowing that polar bears eat the seals). The books Who Eats What? and See What a Seal Can Do have been popular.
I also made this simple food chain activity to illustrate the polar bear food chain. To make it a self-correcting activity, I cut toilet paper rolls to graduated dimensions so that they nest and only fit together one way.
How have your weeks been?
The day before yesterday was cold, icy, and we found ourselves not at all wanting to venture out. So, Silas and I did some practical sewing for the baby. We took a stack of Steve's old, worn-out t-shirts that were too far gone to even donate...
...and made a dozen diapers.
I really should do more sewing; it felt really satisfying to have a useful project completed in a day. And Silas was totally game for it all. He likes to pull up a chair and watch the various parts of the machine spin and whirl.
These are now resting in the hamper with the diapers from Silas' babyhood waiting to be washed and stripped. One thing off the list at a time...
We started our home visits with our midwives last week, which has served as a huge eye opener that this baby is, indeed, coming regardless of whether or not I feel ready. We have, luckily, ticked a few things off the to-do list. There are now 25 crock pot meals and 6 dozen raw protein bites tucked away in the freezer. The birth pool has been test-inflated and a hose has been purchased. Silas and I are watching birth videos together and having many conversations about what it might look like on the day that his brother or sister decides to join us. We've got the major things covered, I think (except for picking a boy's name) and yet it still seems so hard to believe how close we really are.
In making these preparations a priority, there has been a smaller amount of time each day to devote to planned activities for the four-year-old, but he hasn't complained yet. As long as we are able to get outside every day, he's a pretty happy camper.
We were back at the easel this past week. This time, I invited Silas to choose one of this project drawings to represent on a larger scale. He chose his drawing of a polar bear den.
And he decided to add a baby polar bear inside of it.
In our study of the biomes, we are spending a couple of weeks talking about water. Last week we did an activity to visually represent the volume of salt and fresh water on the earth.
We tasted the salt water. The point I was hoping to make was how precious water is and why we need to be mindful of how we use it. But, Silas said that he thought it was quite tasty and would be more than happy to drink the salt water if we ran out of fresh.
I introduced a short open-ended path game. We've played pre-made path games (Chutes and Ladders), but it's not the most well-designed of games, really. It combines a really simple 1-6 spinner with a rather complicated 100 square path that takes a very confusing back-and-forth route. In other words, the counting is too easy and following the path is too difficult.
This short path game is completely open-ended; Silas gets to decide what the rules are and how he wants to play. He immediately rolled the die and started placing the gems on the crown and then on the circles of the path, in a similar manner to the grid game we played last week.
As usual, the segue into dramatic play was pretty immediate. The crown was "blowing bubbles" and also was a train.
It's a beautiful day today, so we're headed out to the recycling center to drop off our recycling and then our plan is to spend as much time outside as possible.
How was your week?
One of the most challenging things for me in working with Silas on projects is staying out of his way. It's so easy to catch his enthusiasm and to want to share the experience with him so badly that I end up taking over and forcing my ideas over his, however gently or well-meaning it is that I do it. I've definitely had the experience of having my own excitement and interest in a topic being co-opted by someone else and it is so deflating and discouraging. I definitely don't want to do that to him. My job is to provide him with the tools to create, to encourage his ability when he gets stuck, and to generally just stay out of his way.
The other day Silas came up to me and said, "I have a good idea! Let's make stairs for my gnome house!" I was in the middle of something else at the moment and so directed him to find a piece of paper and a pencil and draw out his plan so that we would know how to proceed. After he did so I asked him what materials he needed. "Wood, plastic, and cotton," he answered.
We gathered these things together and it was at this point that I almost derailed the whole thing. He started arranging his materials in a way that didn't at all match what I thought stairs should look like. I kept trying to gently direct him to see stairs the way that I thought they "should" look. Luckily, I caught myself, closed my mouth, handed him the tape and let him build his stairs the way that he saw them in his mind. In doing so, he was able to maintain ownership of the project and the pride at its completion was his and his alone. As it should be.
It has been a busy week or two at our house. In amongst our other daily activities we had a little boy who turned four (!), the accompanying birthday party, an extended visit from grandma, and several big baby preparation projects completed. I've been taking pictures all along, but somehow at the end of the day, I've barely been able to download them from my camera, let alone do anything else with them. So, today is a catch up day. Here's what we've been up to for the past two weeks or so...
A birthday breakfast table...
Four seems so old doesn't it? It seems far closer to little kid than to baby, which is what I think has taken me most aback about this most recent birthday. I remember imagining what his voice might sound like before he could talk and now I find myself in deep discussion with this little person, about the most fascinating of things.
We've kept birthday celebrations pretty low-key in the past, but with the birth of a sibling just a short month away, we decided to do a bit of a bigger party, complete with friends, crafts, games, and a well-stocked snack table.
We invited two of Silas' friends to join us for a bit of a gnome-themed afternoon. The boys painted gnome houses,
Went on a scavenger hunt to find little peg gnomes,
And played "pin the hat on the gnome" (don't let Silas fool you with that perfect hat placement; we used an "eyes-closed" method rather than a blindfold and I suspect he may have peeked).
I was lucky to get one photo with the mama-made gnome hat on; he was far too excited to have it on (or be still!) for much more.
This month brought us our second time of celebrating Brigid's Day, which for us means rolling candles, spending all day making French Onion Soup, and celebrating the returning light in anticipation of spring.
We tried our hand at a Papier-mâché, making a globe. Silas was pretty adept at it, considering it was his first attempt. He totally "got" the process of dipping the strip of newspaper, rubbing his fingers along it to remove the excess, and then placing it on the balloon.
After a couple days of drying time, he painted the oceans.
After some more drying time, he painted the continents. I had hoped to use this in a Montessori-inspired Celebration of Life ceremony for his birthday. The timing worked out perfectly, as something similar was on our list of things to do that week for our Biome curriculum. We had limited success with the ceremony, although he did say that this was now his "celebration globe" and is excited to use it again next year.
The easel lives in our living room and is always stocked with paper, crayons, and pencils, but we rarely bring out the paint to use with it. This was our art exploration for the week. Standing up and painting is such a different experience than sitting up to the table; you can use your whole body and really make big movements. He enjoyed the experience and had a good time with the prompts that I offered him while he was painting.
"Can you make a mark that goes all the way from one side of the paper to the other side? How about all the way from the top to the bottom?"
"How far away can you stand from the easel and still make a mark?"
In this week's watercolor painting, we left more water on the surface of the paper to see how that affected the paint.
We've been braving the cold and spending at least a little bit of time outside on most days. Our first sledding of the season was a highlight.
"Air" was the theme in our biome curriculum and we made a collage of our planet with an atmosphere of fluffy, cotton ball air all around it.
I introduced our first grid game invitation: a piece of cardstock stamped with ten trees, a bowl of little cherries, and a die. Just like all of our other math games, it's entirely up to Silas to make up the rules of how to play. He initially rolled the die several times and each time placed that number of cherries on the first tree of the grid. The thing that I didn't anticipate, though, was that he didn't see each cherry marker (each is a pair of cherries) as "one," but rather as "two," counting each individual cherry. He lucked out for the first few rolls and got only even numbers, but as soon as he rolled a "one" he was frustrated that he couldn't break the cherry pairs apart to make "one." His solution was to abandon that game and to engage in some dramatic play. He gave all the trees cherry "roots" and arranged the cherries into the figure of a person. After a couple more rolls (to determine where his last two cherry pairs would go), he decided the game was over.
And here we are! What have you been up to these past weeks?