a homeschool playdate

Last week on Friday we went out for a playdate with some new-to-homeschool friends.  Aiden is four years old (I think or maybe three?) and Angela is planning to homeschool him.  I had a great time talking about parenting, homeschooling, unschooling, and plenty of non-serious subjects as well... barefoot shoes, designer fabric sources, etc.  Thats Aiden's brother, Donovan (I hope I remembered correctly, because I'm horrible with names).

Our kids played well, sometimes crossing paths but often just doing their own things.  All of everyone else's kids were very into our sand-toys.  I'm not always sure how to address that, so I just try to gather them up in one spot once in a while.  Temima spun around in this spinny thing a few times.  I absolutely LOVE spinning in this thing.  It is SOOOO cool.

Angela was nice enough to take a photo of what I thought was a creative hairdo.  I've been looking at photos of creative 'dos for long hair, and a lot of them involve braids.  So I've been experimenting.  I don't think it looks great, but definitely interesting.  If anyone is interested, I got these beautiful earrings, made from vintage buttons, from Timeless Trinkets.

{this moment}

{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." --  Soule Mama

attempted DIY fashion

I've been trying to create some clothing for myself this last little while.  I haven't braved a pattern yet, just experimenting with wide elastic waists and thrifted skirts or random fabric.  This was my second attempt.  My first being a very embarassing circle skirt that I will never post until I remake it into a better a-line skirt - Note to self - thick fabrics don't make flattering circle skirts.  This skirt was a Goodwill find.  The fabric looked very summery and light to me.  I liked the pattern enough.  It was one of those aweful skirts from who knows when, where the waist is teeny tiny but the skirt is a ton of fabric gathered up into that small waistband.  That meant there was plenty of fabric to play with.  I cut off the waist band first of all.  Then I cut out an a-line skirt shape, preserving as many seams as I could, plus the hem.  I cut the fabric so that the waist part would be only as wide as my hips.  Then I sewed it to a waistband elastic (exposed elastic is so easy!) which I first wrapped tightly around my waist.  I pinned it to the skirt at four points and just stretched as I sewed.  I should have have made it smaller, though, because the elastic stretched out a bit with wear.  Next, I unpicked a bit of stitching at the hem on each side, trimmed the fabric to give it a bit of curve upwards, and then folded over and restitched the hem.  That was it!  Now, the real test.  Is it at all stylish?  And what do you think of my corny modeling and self-photography via remote control?  I think I need to figure out what poses are flattering for me.  This was the best of the bunch.

temima turns five

We celebrated Temima's birthday on Sunday.  I originally planned on a park party, but the weather didn't agree.  I think it went really well, despite the rain!  I didn't plan any particular activities, thinking the kids were still young enough to just play with our toys.  I was right about that.

My brother made Temima's cake.  Pink, Pink and moooooooore Pink.  Pink cake.  Pink icing.  Pink M&Ms.  Pink sprinkles.  Just as Temima requested.   Her birthday crown was made by me for her birthday last year!  I'm trying to start a tradition - each of our children will have their own birthday crown.  If you want to start a similar tradition in your own family, check out my shop for some lovely crowns.

Temima was very excited to open her presents.  I'm not sure if we've done that as part of a party before, but it sure was exciting.

Peter, my brother, and our mutual friend Zared, spent most of the party working on the TV system that Peter has loaned us.  We're trying out a full-size screen, and streaming video from the internet.  Kind of an awesome gift for Temima, who really likes a lot of kid shows these days.  I enjoy watching with the kids as well.  We often eat meals at our little-kid table while we watch. 

I think everyone had a good time!

japanese knotweed dessert squares

On Tuesday, Temima attends a class called Coyote Pups, run by The P.I.N.E. Project.  Its a natural history class (that's how I would classify it, anyhow) run for kids age 4-8.  Andrew is the instructor of Temima's class.  He also runs the whole PINE Project.  The program is wonderful.  About 8 children arrive at 1PM on Tuesdays.  Andrew and his assistants do an opening circle time, which involves talking about their surroundings and anything else that cute little kids like to come up with.  And then they are off on an exploration of High Park, walking along the river, through the woods.  They look for animals and tracks, mimic animal sounds, learn about invasive species and wild edibles (often those are one and the same), and much more.  Andrew is charismatic, and talks to children like they are real people.  The children adore him.  He is a wonderful teacher, along with his assistants as well.   They spend three hours exploring the area, and then we go back to meet them and have a closing activity, which is writing in their giant nature journal.

This week they had collected something called Japanese Knotweed, which is an invasive species, and also edible.  Its something like rhubarb.  When the class ended, Temima, Shua, I and another mother followed her son over to where he said it was growing.  As we walked, she told me about how muddy her son had gotten on his first day in the fall session of this program.  She was amazed at how pristine Temima's mud gear was... and I explained how Temima really doesn't enjoy getting dirty.  I don't know why.  When her son brought us to the riverside area with the patch of knotweed, I got all excited about foraging, and didn't think to warn the kids about the extremely muddy area they were standing in.  Both kids fell into some really really wet mud and it was funny, but Temima panicked from it.  I calmed her down though.  I thought it was funny because the other mom had been saying how surprised she was at how clean the kids still were.

The reason I wanted to post about that day is because I harvested quite a bit of knotweed.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I found a lot of ideas for recipes online, but one in particular looked easy and quick.   I followed this recipe exactly, something I never do.  It came out really good!  I've included some of my own photos of the process below.  Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the finished product.  Maybe next week.  It was a big hit when I brought it to share at our homeschool drop-in this week.

makes a 11" x 7" pan

1 c. flour
1 c. confectioners sugar
6 T cold butter

2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg
3 c. chopped knotweed stalks, leaves removed

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease the 11" x 7" baking pan.

2. In a food processor, pulse the crust ingredients together to resemble coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake the crust for 12 minutes.

3. For the filling, combine the eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, and spices with a whisk. Stir in the chopped knotweed pieces and coat them evenly. Pour the filling mixture over the warm crust and spread it evenly.

4. Bake 30-40 minutes, until the egg mixture is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool. Cut into 1" squares and serve.

{this moment}

{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." --  Soule Mama

the homeschool drop-in

We spent this afternoon at our local homeschool drop-in.  For any readers who are interested, its located at Wallace Emerson CC, Dufferin and Dupont, Thursdays 1-5PM (Toronto).  We were mostly out on the playground, because it was FINALLY SUNNY!!!  Yay!

Temima finally got my permission to remove her shoes in the sand.  I had said no until now, not knowing if I trusted the city to be keeping this particular park free of dangerous debris.  At our local park, and some others I've visited, I have come across broken glass and other dangerous-for-feet stuff in the sand or nearby grass, so I am wary until we've been going somewhere a while.  Given how many kids go barefoot at this playground, and how often we've been there without encountering anything in the sand, I felt its safe enough.  Temima was so happy to take off her shoes.  She hates hates hates sand in her sandals.

She really wanted to show me how she could climb up the big slide today.  I had to take a snapshot of it.  The kids lean out real far away from the slide as they climb... and my heart was a flutter watching her.

Shua owns that playground!  He started out with this little bike, trying to ride it up and down over big giant rocks, and taking it up onto the playground as well.  Later I saw him climbing super high ladders and going down a slide on his belly, over and over again.  At one point, I could see his legs trembling as he climbed a ladder.  Its amazing how he kept going even when his muscles were exhausted.  I love it.

And as usual, some regular friends were in attendance as well.  I think they all had fun playing together today.

heeeey mud puddle! and birthday preparations galore

Temima is turning five years old on Monday, and we've got her birthday party planned for this Sunday.  She is so amazing!  And so fustrating, sometimes!  But... thats childhood.  Or maybe, human-hood... since I'm also fustrating sometimes.  Just ask my sister.  I drive her absolutely crazy with all the things I'm supposed to do but forget, or tell her to do or not do but forget I ever said.  Not to mention my trouble answering the phone, or returning messages, or basically doing anything in a timely fashion.  She loves me. 

So, anyhow, I've been a busy beaver.  I like to make a birthday outfit for each kid each year... this year Temima got two.  I started the first one, with fabric I really loved, when Temima walked over and told me how much she didn't like for a summer dress (she agreed it would be a great 'holiday' dress though, for the Jewish holidays).  She didn't seem to mind at all, and went on to tell me how she would wear her birthday dress from two years ago.  It still fits her, since I made it two sizes two big accidentally.   I went into an internal panic, because I love making her dresses and I really wanted to show something new off!  So, we ran off to Fabricland to fetch some pink thread to finish up the first dress.  Temima was following me around and pointing out every single shiny pink fabric she could see.  Shua followed, lugging a bag of sand toys we had brought with us.  Upon arrival at the clearance table, he promptly dumped all those sand toys out.  I browsed, and what did I find?? A whole array of designer fabrics, including one by Amy Butler that I really loved!  I have never seen designer fabrics like this at Fabricland before.  Well, the clearance price wasn't as great as the regular prices online... but without the wait for shipping it was definitely worth it.  Now I've sewn up the second dress, and I think its really pretty.  I haven't photographed it yet, but I'm sure I'll post photos from the party.

Today we had what Temima calls a 'lazy day.'  That means that we stayed in our PJ's, ate breakfast cereal all day long, made marshmallow squares, and watched TV.  We also spent the day getting our party ready!  Temima popped in and out as I worked, helping me sporadically, which was fun.  Shua was great too.  I sewed some little paper notebooks, we melted broken crayons into multicolored crayons, I put together little craft kits, sewed bags to hold it all, and cut out hang tags.   I'm still torn on whether or not to include a baked treat... I think kids love a treat in their loot bags, but parents also aren't so keen on more treats in one day.  I most of all love that its all made from things we already had here, and its all handmade, and the kids helped me.

Temima attempted to copy the "Thank You" I demo'd for her... but quickly gave up.  Then I wrote it out in pen on each one, and she traced over with marker, and she enjoyed that more.  How's that for homeschooling? 

Temima is learning about reading/writing at her own pace.  I see periods of intense adding of bits and pieces of how it works, and also periods of just sitting with the understanding she's gleaned already.  The last few days she's been sort of pretending to sound out words.  She'll say a word and then draw out the syllables to hear the sounds, and then repeat one of the sounds a few times... but never associates a letter with it.  Think she's picked up on Jennifer's method of ignoring letter names and calling them by sounds?  I can't remember if she's posted about that though.  Once in a while I sound out a word that we're reading in a book... not enough to get annoying for her, and not with any commentary.  Mostly just so she can see that there is such a thing as letters and sounds associated with each other.  Her process of learning is lovely to observe.  I love how its just innately there!  I don't have to do anything special and she just learns!

In other news, over the past few days I've noticed Shua changing... in that two year old sort of way.  We call it the "terrible twos," but with one round of it under my belt already, and a whole lot of unschooling mindset going on, I'm seeing it in a whole new light.  Yes, he's more easily frustrated, and prone to tantrums, and does the opposite of whatever I tell him.  But I also notice a change in his level of language comprehension which has just flabbergasted me at its suddenness.  He's been speaking in 'sentences' for a while now.  Last week though, when Temima said that he was a 'baby,' Shua strongly disagreed and replied, "I no baby!"  He put some real emotion into that statement, too.  And then at a park, he fell in a puddle when I wasn't looking, and when I asked if the puddle had jumped on him (a la The Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch), he said no.  When I asked him if he had jumped in the mud puddle, he said yes.  Previously, as far as I could tell, he was figuring out meanings based on the major important words of a sentence.  He would latch onto the words 'mud,' 'puddle,' 'jump,' and agree with what I said.  Now he's grasping a deeper level of meaning, the smaller words, possession, causation, etc. It's all very exciting for me.  And it puts all of the other difficult behaviours into a new light.  And it is terribly cute when he has a tantrum by running to his room and lying face down on his bed to cry.

Next I need to work on the decorations - more sewing.  And hem her dress.  And clean house, because it looks like rain is going to spoil our park plans for Sunday.

a smidge of accidental sunshine

Who couldn't use a bit more sunshine these days, though? I had the camera on the wrong setting when I took these. I honestly don't know enough about my camera to know what happened - I stick with 'auto' and 'P' settings - but it sure was a happy surprise to find such sun-filled photos of these kiddos on my camera tonight. I was trying to get a shot of the pants I made for Shua from a thrifted pillow case. Its kind of hard to see, but I'm sure I'll get another shot, along with Temima's matching skirt, sometime soon.

This funny boy almost never leaves home without his hairband.  Isn't he cute?  Such a sweet face.  He loves to act and dress just like big sis, even in full-out ballerina costume with tutu and slippers.

As you can see, hose and buckets are still hard at work.  Children never seem to tire of water play.  Bathtubs, kitchen sinks, bowls of suds, cups filled to brim for blowing bubbles... and I'm pretty sure Shua will discover the toilet bowl water at some point.

I was hoping to have some meatier things to write about, along with the day-to-day record of our lives here at the Rocklin residence... but alas, I find my mind blank and at rest recently.  I'm sure heavier thoughts, or maybe some thoughts at all, will pop up sometime soon. 

And some news.... Bubbie Renee is coming to visit in a couple of weeks!  I wonder what would be special for the us all to do to get ready to welcome her... time to get creative, I think.

a happy mother's day

 I woke up this morning, after a rare restful night's sleep, to the sound of happy chatter between Temima and Joseph.  Getting up, I learned that Joseph had gotten up with her and they were talking in her bed.  What a lovely experience, to wake up naturally, without a child crying for me.  And that was the start of a lovely mother's day.  Next came the thoughtful gift; Joseph's first completely self directed gift-making decision (usually my sister gives him ideas).  The mug was only part, but the most meaningful.  It says "Shira Rocklin, Kid Tested, Father Approved."  For the morning we went to a drop-in play event being held along with an awesome clothing swap.

After that, I went out for lunch with my siblings, sans children, to celebrate our own mother, who passed away last year.  And then later on I went to the backyard with the kids for a little plain pasta picnic.  The blanket made it a picnic!
I noticed while we were out there that the leaves are really starting to grow now.   And I collected lots more dandelions for the pesto I hope to make and freeze for over the winter.

The hose and water proved to be great entertainment.  Temima watered the grass.

And the 'flowers.'

dandelion and almond pesto

The children and I went out to the backyard today, and that's no easy task, because if we get out of the building we usually want to make good use of the effort).  I gave them each desperately needed haircuts.  Well, I gave Temima a haircut, while Shua tried to escape every which way around the building to the road.  I caught him, just barely.  He had fun with the backyard play-things as well.  Temima really loved the idea of leaving her hair for birds to make nests with.

While we were out there, I saw a whole lot of dandelions, and having heard mention of pesto recently, a light bulb went off over my head.  I love the idea of gathering wild edibles, especially invasive species, but dandelion greens fried up are a bit chewy for my taste.  When I saw them today, and nibble a bit, I realized that they could make a good pesto.  So off we went gathering as much dandelion greens as we could.  Temima pointed out some garlic mustard as well, and so we added some of that to our pile as well.

So, here is the recipe, for your pleasure.  It was, as Temima says, scrumptious.  Sorry, I don't pay much attention to measurements - use your best judgement.

Gather greens.  Wash greens.

Put them in a blender.  Also put some raw almonds, coconut oil and olive oil in there.  Almonds are not strong tasting, so they work well.  Pine nuts would be lovely.  Walnuts could be good, but are somewhat bitter.
 Blend.  Add a light sprinkling of salt, a heavy dusting of powdered garlic, some dried basil, and whatever else you'd like.
Mix with pasta.  Next time I will add sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.

I'm already planning to go a-dandelion-huntin' and gather up much more.  It was that good.  Basil is expensive!  I'm going to be making lots of this to freeze for the winter.  I love that its free greens, organic and healthy.

a special offer

I'm stocking my little shop with a few new crowns.  Birthday season is coming, so many children are born in the spring and summer.  I hope many will enjoy the fun of being the special birthday crown.  What better way to make your child feel extra special than with a personalized birthday crown?

For the month of May, any birthday crown purchased will be accompanied to your home by a beautiful little bunting to play with.  Just enter "dewandrain" in the comments when you purchase a crown from my little shop.

a little bit of sunshine

It's been raining.  Raining, A LOT.  Its spring, right?  I've hear mention of spring not having arrived yet... but isn't rain what spring is about?  A really nice, authentic, spring (like I remember when I was a child), involved a slow warming, rain and mud.  In recent years we've gone from cold winter to hot spring so quickly that I'd nearly forgotten what a true spring looks like... this slow awakening of everything (and everyone) around us. 
Today, we found some sunshine and growing things poking every which way to reach the warmth.

We found a swing,

bouncy fun,

and more.

Election Day Canada!

Today we went to a school nearby so that I could vote in the Canadian elections.  I had talked with the children about what elections are, and why I was going to vote.  I explained it again while we were there, as they were curious again when they saw me put the ballot into the box. 

After that we went to Michael's to pick up some framed items, and look for some interesting things to play with.  The kids found these cute plastic stretchy pink pig things, and they also chose some balloons with a balloon pump, and I picked up a little cardboard clock for them.  I remember seeing Joseph try to explain clocks and time to Temima, so I thought he'd appreciate the clock.  While we were there I also remembered that I wanted to get folios to keep each kid's artwork, so I finally picked those up.  That's were the 40% off coupons came in handy! 

Then we went to Home Depot, where I asked about anchoring bookcases to a concrete wall, and bought some masonite to make a flannel board with.  Then on to Best Buy to ask about laptop recycling and watch big TV's.  Tangled was playing! 

When we got home, we played a lot, I sewed a bit, and made some dinner.  Cleaned, moved (and then put back) some furniture to try something out, etc.  The kids love to 'ride' on the sofas when I move them.  Pumping up balloons and letting them fly away was so much fun for them.  I attempted to make one balloon animal, a dog.  I think we missed lunch, but we had been snacking on chocolate cookie bars earlier on. 

Temima begged me to take a picture of her 'wings' (an upside down Ikea kids tent).  Shua couldn't resist jumping in front of the lens.

A nice day overall.  I feel good.  I especially liked the long walk to get to those stores.  I don't the kids realize that half my reason for going is for the nice walk.