Monday, July 29, 2013

Money Tight Montessori: Montessori Inspired Toys



One of the worst parts of being a Montessori fan is the knowledge that quality Montessori Materials often come with a large price tag and for the part time Montessori enthusiast it can be hard trying to figure out what you really need at home.

What I have to share today are some of our favorite Montessori inspired toys at home, with a focus on the age range of under 3 or 4.

The best advice I can offer is to look for toys that are open ended and can be used in many different ways or to teach different information.  For example - if you're wanting to purchase a set of block for your pre-schooler don't stop at the plain wood squares and rectangles.  Instead look for a set with multiple shapes, sizes and colors.  Not only will the blocks be great for building towers and cities, but you can turn them into learning opportunities for the younger children by pointing out the shapes and colors, doing sorting activities and so much more.

Lacing Beads - I found this Schylling Set at the consignment store for $3 and have been using it in many different ways.

This Melissa & Doug Set would be nice too because each shapes are not a single colors making it more challenging to learn to sort by shape.

Wooden Blocks - We have a set similar to this Hape Brand.  It might be Hape, but I found them at the local Goodwill for a few dollars so I can't be certain.


Geometric Stacker - Another toy that can double as a learning activity later on - shapes, sizes and colors... oh my! 


Beginner Pattern Blocks - Another consignment find for me, but well worth the investment if you can't find it used.



In the Future - These are a few things I'd like to add to my arsenal in the future.

Pattern Blocks and Boards or a Magnetic Pattern Block Kit

 


 

A word about wanting to have ALL THE THINGS!!!

When you're a fan of such a hands on approach to education be it Montessori, Waldorf, etc. it's easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of toys and materials available.  Particularly for those early ages when your children are going through the stages of development at an extraordinary rate it feels like the stuff could easily take over your home. Have no fear, it's not necessary to have ALL THE THINGS!!!

Of course if you have plans on opening your own preschool or home-educating a large brood of wonderful kidlets you might have a need for a few more things, but take it slow.  However, your child is not going to be denied entrance to college because he did not play with every shape sorting puzzle on the market.  In fact,  and this is a downside to Montessori, many of these games and skills are mastered fairly quickly. Think long term and open ended, the more ways you can use and item you bring into the home the better an investment it will be.

Think of what you want your children to get from their toys and pick a few things that meet all of those requirements.  The four items I've listed have been in active use in our house for over a year, will easily be usable and interesting for at least another year or two and meet my requirements of learning about shape, size and color and can be used in many different ways.  An added bonus is that by thinking of these things ahead of time I've known exactly what I'm looking for when I go to that favorite consignment shop or Goodwill and have scored some pretty amazing deals.

Thank you for stopping by!  

What are some of your favorite Montessori Inspired Toys?

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.  

Shared @ Living Montessori Now

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Simple Living Books for Kids: The Current Collection



I haven't done a post on Simple Living Books for Kids recently, but have been adding new favorites to the Pinboard so I felt it was a good time to share some of our new favorites here.







Blue Bowl Down, Applesauce Season, Maple Syrup Season, and Pie's in the Oven are great books about children getting involved in the kitchen and sharing what they make with others.

 Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel is a lovely book with great illustrations about the a woman making a life for herself and the shovel she takes from home and how it travels with and helps her make her life.

 I Like Old Clothes is a great book about loving hand-me-down clothes.  A great book to read to help children develop a love of used and secondhand things in their lives.

King Jack and the Dragon is a fantastic book about three little boys building a castle from random things and the beasties they battle.

The Curious Garden is a great addition to any library.  It's a fantastical story of nature finding it's way in the middle of a city.  I love the image of a garden that wants to explore.

The Little, Little House a great little story about a man who thinks his house is too small and how he comes to learn that it is just right.

The Circle of Seasons is a book divided into seasons that shows the great things you get to do and explore as the year changes.  Beautiful pictures!


I've also collected a few of our favorites on the widget below.





*Both Widgets are connected to my Amazon Affiliate Account.   If a purchase is made from the links on this site I get a small kickback from the sales.

And if you're not already - you can follow the Simple Living Books for Kids Pinboard HERE

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Keep Calm, Craft On {This Old Thing}

It's been awhile since I've shared my work on this little project.  Honestly, it hit a lull for a few months and it was slow goings, but then I remembered how much I wanted to have it done by this September and put my nose to the proverbial grindstone.



It still has some ways to go, but a good chuck of the part on the right has been half-stitch so it's gone quickly and hopefully it will done and framed for my parents 31st wedding anniversary this September.


Linking up with Nicole @ Frontier Dreams

Sunday, July 21, 2013

You Clearly Know: What I Should Have Said

A few days ago a meme was showing up on my Facebook account about a lovely story concerning a mother's meal being paid for to show support for the mother's public breastfeeding.  It's a great story and deserves to be shared.  I believe we need to normalize breastfeeding in the eyes of the public so that mothers don't feel like they cannot leave the home for their children's first year or two for fear of retaliation.  I completely agree that breast is best in almost all situations where a mother is educated and supported, and I say this as an educated, supported mother who chose to formula-feed.***

*** For those new here a brief recap of my situation.  Due to my own struggles with severe anxiety and depression during pregnancy I chose formula-feeding to insure that my mental state would not impede my child's health and safety; it was a decision I needed to make to help me be the best mother I could be.  I plan on breastfeeding in the future, and stand proud in my decision for my first child.

However, the article reminded me of something that happened while I was working a retail job while pregnant with my first child.

I was about 7 months pregnant and working the register at the friendly, neighborhood department store and had a couple customers in my line.  Next up was a woman probably in her thirties with a fairly normal pile of items to purchase.  At the end of her purchase were a number of containers of formula; quite a stock actually.  I rang them up without a word already knowing in my mind that this was going to be me in a few months.  My battle with my depression was not improving and I was terrified that my child's health would be affected severely if I could not care and feed myself properly after he was born.  I had already made the decision to formula-feed.

This day and that purchase would have slipped out of my memory had it not been for the next customer in line.  It was an older woman, probably in her 70's or more and she was quick to pounce as soon as the younger woman was out of earshot.  She looked right at me and sneered, "In my day we knew how to feed our babies!  Can you imagine feeding your children that stuff."

I was in shock at the vitriol in her voice and to my regret I think I just shrugged her off while the anger bubbled under my skin.  If I could relive that moment I now know exactly what I would have said to that lady.

"I'm glad, ma'am, that you know her so well to make such a good judgement on her decisions.  You clearly know her well enough to know that she is throwing the health and safety of her child to the wind to fulfill her own selfish desires.  Thank you for informing me.

You clearly know that she is not the mother of an adopted child.

You clearly know that she is not a foster parent.

You clearly know that her child is currently and always has been perfectly healthy.

You clearly know that that woman is currently and always has been perfectly healthy.

You clearly know that there is no way she is not alone or unsupported.

You clearly know that that purchase doesn't pain her greatly.

You clearly know that she never even tried."

Breastfeeding is a lovely, amazing natural process and it and the women who use it should be supported in our society without a doubt, but never at the expense of judgement on the rest.  The facts are we don't know a thing about that woman purchasing formula in the store.  We don't know what she's been through, what she's faced and with what she has struggled.

I  hope all of us would buy a meal for a breastfeeding mother, it is a lovely sign of support and solidarity just as I would hope that we would stand up for that women ahead of us in the checkout line because, clearly, she deserves our support as well.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quick Updates

It's almost midnight, so I'm not going to call these "Quick Takes", but since we seem to be filling up the daylight hours away from the computer I wanted to pop in and say hi!

1)  I had a follow up appointment on Wednesday and everything looks as good as can be expected.  My doctor has advised us to hold off on our family plans for one or two more cycles just to be certain and then sent me on my way with the hopes that we might see each other again before the end of the year.  Still feeling apprehensive, but hopeful.

2)  I'll be glad when July is over.  We're moving the location of our pharmacy within our hospital and I've been picking up some extra hours and, in general, have been running a bit harder while at work.  While this has had it's definite upsides in the compliments from the boss department  I'm ready for my mini-vacation over the next few days and a trip to a music festival at the end of the month.

3)  August will bring it's own batch of fun as the hubs is switching schedules.  He'll be going to a 4 day a week, 10 hour day schedule which coincides with my own days off nicely.

4) So nice, in fact, that we'll be taking Henry down to 6 days of daycare, maximum, a month.  More family time and a smaller daycare bill should be good all around.

5)  The new schedule is going to take some getting used though - we won't have the same chances for family dinners so I think family breakfasts might become a tradition for awhile among other things.

6) It also means, since plan on sticking with the schedule thru the next sibling, that we'll be doing the bulk of Henry's preschool years at home and I'm rather excited about this.  It probably won't be that structured and strict, but I look forward to teaching phonics, numbers and having lots of library trips.

7)  If I'm away a little more than usual for the next month or so please understand - between mini-vacations, a wedding, a major schedule change and all the other things I've got lined up my computer time might be a little limited.

But to compensate for that disappointing news I leave you with a picture of my crazy hair.... because it's like the bastard love child hair of Hermione Granger and Edith from Downton Abbey.

{this is it in it's tamed form}

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Best I Could Wish For

It is over, officially.  The miscarriage process has officially been declared finished and my body is working on get itself back to normal.  Over the last month I have used my space here to share bits and pieces of my experiences and it's accompanying emotions and now it seems right to reflect on the most important part of the journey - coming to grips with who my baby is and why we went through this.


"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

I don't remember if I really said anything as my husband came up the stairs when I returned home.  I think that all he managed to get out was half of "How did it go?".  I remember looking at him and just shaking my head, that was all I could manage before the next wave of tears hit.  When I could breath again all I could say for a while was, "It's empty.  There just nothing there."

**********

My friends told me it would be okay; that it was okay to just trust in God and let the rest work its way out and tired of waiting and counting months and sick days we threw the towel in and decided to trust.  Two weeks later we were quite surprised and a month later we were in shock.

We had trusted, we had been open and loving and giving and everything we were supposed to be and all we had to show for it was an empty, black circle on an ultrasound screen.

***********

It's tricky to describe my theories on children and family planning.  I know I don't believe that my predestined children are sitting on a cloud waiting for their mother and father to have some alone time.  That would mean that potentially a stressful week or a slew of expensive car repairs could leave some lone soul sitting by itself because the right time wasn't utilized.

Rather, I believe in the possibility of my children, that the right combination of actions, trust, faith and sometimes the lack of all of those makes that possibility a reality.  By being watchful, patient and mature I am never getting in the way of my children's only chance at life, but rather actively trying to arrange for their best chances when they become a reality.  I believe that when the time is right, whether we realize it at the time or not, a soul is given to us.
***********

It took a long time to realize that in the end this experience was not a case of subtraction.  It felt, for a long time, that something had been deleted from my life.  I could only focus on what had been taken away - a long list of details and experiences that were never going to happen.  I forgot that my children are first and foremost souls and that souls never die.

A physical body had ceased to exist and I will mourn for a long time the experiences that I could have known and shared with that body, but the soul had never ceased to be and that soul was a gift.

I believe that the gift of that soul to our family's care is a sign that we are on the right path, that our trust, our fiat will be rewarded. 

***********
I am the mother of two gorgeous souls, both have been given to me and my husband.  They have been entrusted to our care and in return we are given to them as well.  As we pray daily for them I hope I can guide them to do the same for us.

I am the mother of one beautiful boy who can run and jump and give me kisses and wets my shoulder with tears.  I am the mother of a beautiful boy who will age and explore this world.  I am the mother of a beautiful boy whom I hope will only know joy and happiness in his life, even if I know that is not possible.

I am the mother of one beautiful soul, also a boy I believe, who will never know fear or pain or grief.  I am the mother of a beautiful soul who exists outside of the constraints of time and space.  I am the mother of a beautiful soul whose time on earth was limited, but within that time knew only love and that is the best I could wish for my children.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Let's End on a High Note

Thank you friends for letting do the occasional word gush like the last post.  It is helpful to get it out in one go when the mood strikes - which is often when everyone is asleep - and I feel so much better for having it all out there.  =)

We've been enjoying a lot of the good things right now.  Trips to the swimming pool and eating lots of veggies straight from the garden.  My veggie avoiding boy loves to go pick and eat handfuls of broccoli straight from the plant - so much so that I had to tear up the old plants and try planting fresh (starting from seed so we'll see how that goes) and I'm giving the garden the credit for getting him interested in eating his vegetables again.  Well, that and the occasional ice cream bribe.

In the Kitchen

Speaking of food - a surprising favorite this week has been homemade Lentil soup.  Henry dives right into it to my surprise and for anyone doing Weight Watchers our recipes comes out to 2 points per serving and loaded with "power ingredients".

Quick Lentil Soup:

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2 cans low sodium Chicken Broth
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 Tbs of chicken bouillon (add or subtract to taste)
  • 1 large diced onion 
  • 3 diced medium carrots
  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tbs Minced Garlic (add or subtract to taste)
  • 1 Tbs Cumin Ground Cumin
Saute Onions and Carrots in Olive Oil.  Combine Lentils, broth and water in saucepot and set to boil for about 10 minutes.  Add in all remaining ingredients including veggies.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 - 45 or until lentils are soft.  Enjoy!

(By my calculations this recipes makes about 10 1 cup-ish sized servings and comes out to about 2 WW points)

 In the Garden

 { Dragon Tongue Dry Beans }


 {Refrigerator Pickles made from .... }

{The first good cucumbers I've ever grown!}

{I'm also growing monster sugar peas}

In My Head

A friend turned me on to a new music site this week called NoiseTrade - where bands choosing to release music (sometimes whole cd's) for "free".  Of course a donation in much appreciated and in many cases it's a new band trying to gain some recognition.

I've really enjoyed:
Not from NoiseTrade, but rather from a very thoughtful friend a new cd:
Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In Which I Learn a Lesson in Humility

I've made things sound a lot better than they are here.  Everyone has seemed to praise my ability to think of things rationally and stoically where in reality that's what keeps me from tears, grief and anger.

The truth is I'm been going through a lot of that recently, particularly anger.  I've been pretty bitter and resentful these last few weeks.  There has been a lot births and birth announcements in the last few months and none of them are mine.  It's hard.

I have an amazing group of friends who are amazing mothers and about 99% of them are mothers of 2+ children here on earth.  50% of them have lives and coping mechanisms that allow them to be more open about their fertility than I do.  Most of them are younger.

I feel like an old, poor, broken hag next to most of them.  I feel so ugly inside and out for resenting their beautiful families, the time they get with them, the jobs they don't have, the choices they do have, etc.

If you are one of those friends - I'm sorry for my bad thoughts these last few weeks, rest assured that there's a little, glowing place left in my heart that still holds the love for you and your beautiful children and it will never go away.

*****************

It was suggested that I pray the Litany of Humility to help get through the nasty emotions.  Let me tell you it's a tricky one, but Sunday night I managed to say it.  It felt like my heart was knotted up in my throat.  Never have a I felt like something was physically making it hard to pray before.

The next morning I read thru it again and again I focused on the one section I was having the most difficulty with.

"That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ..."

It is a struggle because I don't want that in regards to my family at all, and it is so difficult to accept in any way.  

So I shared that clip in a private, custom message on Facebook with the caption "Grumble, grumble... stupid litany ... grumble, grumble, bitter, bitter.."  Because, quite frankly that we exactly what I felt about.

A few minutes later we were off to the swimming pool where I got what was coming to me.

It was an explosion of pregnant women with their children.  It was hard to see, I almost broke down in tears right there.

When we got home there was a package waiting from a dear friend - a lovely note, a cd of religious music and a book about coping with miscarriage. 

Lesson learned.  Thanks God. 

***************
I haven't given up hope yet, I still feel hopeful that we'll be pleasantly surprised before the year is out  - rest assured this is just where I'm at right now.

This is just a chapter - not the whole book. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Marvelous Magazines for Kids



My 2.5 year old loves getting a magazine to flip through at the grocery store.  It doesn't even have to come home with us, he just enjoys going down that aisle and having something to look at.  The other week I picked up a copy of "High Five" - which is "Highlights" for pre-school aged kids and we've been reading it ever since.

I remember how much I loved getting magazines in the mail as a kid - it was like getting a new book - and I horded my collections for years.  Even as I got older I remember my cousin and I trading copies of teen magazines with ridiculous advice and fashions back and forth between our summer bedrooms at my grandmothers house.

Now that I have a little helper who enjoys carrying things from the mailbox it would be fun to have a few surprises for him every now and then.  So off to the library and the bookstore I went to do a little research.

Here are my favorites for the Little Kids among us.

For the Little Kids:
Perfect for the 2-6 year old.

Babybug
Short and sweet; perfect for the first 2 years.
(What a great baby shower gift!)

Or you could just jump in a start collecting

Ladybug  
Great introduction to a literary magazines; perfect for ages 3+.


 
Highlights High Five 
Stories, games, puzzles and even simple craft projects
perfect for the Pr-Kindergartner

 
Ranger Rick Jr 
My favorite nature themed children's magazine.
Good for a range of the early ages.

But, also good to start with, for the younger ones are

 
National Geographic Little Kids

and



Zootles

 
Click 
Perfect for the curious child to learn about the world around them!





For the Bigger Kids:
Luckily, most of my favorites magazines for Little Kids have titles perfect for their school-aged years.
Magazines perfect for the 6-10 year old. 


Spider 
From the publisher of Babybug and Ladybug;
don't forget about Cricket for you pre-teens.


Highlights For Children



Ranger Rick


National Geographic Kids 


Zoobooks 


Ask

Have fun reading!
{This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links}





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