Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sea studies- gearing up for the new aquarium!

In preparation for the new aquarium here in Copenhagen, due to open  March 22, we have started working on sea studies. We put on our snorkel gear and watched a few youtube videos and got in the underwater mood! The creature that inspired us mimic octopus.  So we decided to build a octopus cave diorama, complete with a salt dough octopus. We talked lots about camouflage,  the advantages of being a mimic, and underwater living.

While working on our cave we started talking about octopus eggs, and went online to find out what they look like. We came across this adorable video of eggs hatching, but the best part is the ending where they sing happy birthday to the octopus!

Hunting for shells.

Ursa took a little nap

We went to the beach today to collect shells and have a picnic. There were some seagulls who joined us for lunch, as well.

I also really enjoyed the opportunity to share my own octopus catching experiences in Puerto San Carlos, Mexico. I did some really excellent tide pooling there....maybe that should be where we take the girls next....

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spring on the farm- take two age 4!

 This is our second attempt at a shoe box diorama meets window box (see her first edition HERE). The barn is a tea box, and we lined a shirt box with a plastic bag for the field. 

We spent the day talking about food and farming, and created this mini farm complete with alfalfa field. Its already sprouting on day 2, which is a great reason to choose alfalfa seeds.

We read a bunch of farm related books, here is the collection Saule chose and a bunch we read together to Ursa. 

We also used to watch everything from  orange picking here, sheep shearing, my old job as night lamber, carrot harvest, and olive oil production (those are some good links). We talked allot about how farmers choose which crops to grow, and what it means to them if the crops fail

A couple of weeks ago we started some Kentucky Wonder Pole beans in the window, and they are growing, even with just 4 hours of day light! 

Farm themed gaming (Hi Ho Cherryo) and lots of farm themed songs (old Mc Donald, Bingo, farmer in the dell, etc). You can find lots of songs on youtube if you need more. 

A couple of farm puzzles we did.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter baby wearing

Baby wearing is an art as old as humans and mothering, and the list of reasons to keep it up in the cold goes on and on but for me one of the most compelling is that you can nurse your baby on the go, while doing almost anything, if you are wearing them. This means you don't have to stop life, or make a scene to nurse. And since all the experts are calling for AT LEAST 2 years of breastfeeding these days, that's 2 full winters you will have to get through. SO unless you intend to find a park bench in a snow storm, or take off all our layers in the super market or bus stop- baby wearing is the way forward!

I wont lie, baby wearing in the cold can be frustrating. I'm not generally a winter loving person, mostly because I don't like tight clothing.  What stinks about it most about winter baby wearing is that you have to wear all those layers of clothes that make you feel "bungled" as Saule always says.

You may remember the scene in "A Christmas Story" when the younger brother is so dressed up he can't move and Ralph says he looks like "A tick about to pop"- that's how I feels. Now, combine that with a screaming, kicking, biting baby, and strap both of us into a wrap and try and nurse and get Saules winter boots on at the same time....leaving the house these days is NOT a pretty picture.


How can this possibly be so? Partly because with Saule (round 1 in which I was a new mother...) it was so bad I pretty much gave up on leaving the house until spring thaw.  But that's not the only reason.

Now I have a much better system. 2+ years living in Denmark and 5 winters under my belt and I will share with you the information I couldn't find when I needed it most.  It took trial and error, and allot of people watching to see how they were doing it.

A couple of tips, from a budget minded, thrift shop loving 24/7 hour baby wearing/nursing mama-

1. Find your inner peace. Kids and babies generally don't like getting all bundled up, but they do enjoy and NEED to have time outdoors (and so do you!). So find your zen and allow them to vent their own frustration. It will all be over in just a second or two....

Saule telling me how upset she was to get dressed

2.  Having the right combo and wrap/carrier, jacket, boots, etc really does make all the difference. I have tried many.  If its not keeping you both warm and dry its no good. Piling more and more layers will not help, it will only make things more uncomfortable. However YOU DON'T NEED TO SPEND A FORTUNE TO MAKE IT WORK! My first wrap I made from an unhemed piece of cloth I simply cut and used. I have always just used my own clothes- I have never invested the big bucks in a Amuati or a baby wearing jacket, but I would love to try one.

3. If there is a hole is your getup (like your have everything warm except your feet or babies hands) you might as well be naked. Really! Its true! Because you will have to go inside after a short time due to this single spot. So buy yourself a decent pair of boots and a good winter jacket, and they will last YEARS. And get baby a full outfit including quality mittens (that come all the way up and are water proof), booties (that reach the knee so when the pants ride up the leg isn't exposed), hat, and snowsuit.

4. A little yoga goes a long way! If you can think of baby wearing as a sport, and limber up a little prior to starting the day, your body will thank you!

So here are some combinations that I found worked well, and some that... didn't.

YES! Lets cut straight to the chase, if its not raining a good infant snow suit (see note below) and an Ergo over my own jacket worked great from the start. Its easy to use, get on and off, and you can nurse in it.

Again, the simple Ergo and jacket combo. So fool proof even Uncle Jesse can do it.
Then there was the wrap we made out of stretchy material, cut to the right size. This worked great in many ways! It fit better under out jacket in the case that it was wet out- so Saule's tiny snowsuit didn't need to be waterproof (it is very difficult to find a quality infant snow suit! They are rarely waterproof, rarely warm, and almost always bulky).

Again our homemade stretchy wrap, with Paulius wearing her on a cold but not wet day.

Saule LOVED to face outward like this and watch the world go. It isn't the best to the babies hips I know, but for short time periods she really loved it.

So then we decided that it was REALLY cold out and Saule should have a warmer snow suit. This is what we ended up with, we call it "the lion suit". Can you see her? NO?! OK....she hated this, and so did we. WAY WAY WAY TO BULKY TO BABY WEAR (or move...)

Here it is, the lion suit, all wrapped up. she looked like one of those pull string dolls 

After 4+ years of baby wearing we upgraded from our homemade wrap to this Didymos woven wrap (purchased at paxbaby), which gives way more support. It holds Ursa nice and close to me, with very little give, so I feel like we are moving as one body, not two. She can happily nurse in it, and it can be tied in many different ways (front and back). It took a long time for me to commit to this expense but so far I am very happy with it. On the down side it is more difficult to tie, takes longer to get on (no fun with a screaming baby), and is almost impossible to get on with out it touching the ground which means that getting it on here in Denmark where the ground is always wet is a bit of a problem. It does hold her close enough to my body that I can wear it under my normal jacket on wet days, this is me wearing her on a cold, not wet day.

My all time everyday workhorse fall back baby wearing getup. Ursa in her PERFECT WARM WATER PROOF hand-me-down non-bulky snow suit from H&M, in the Ergo, under my jacket so she can nurse. She is wearing her Stonz booties because after trying to do multiple layers of warm socks with Saule I was finally forced to admit that 1. they always fall off 2. they aren't waterproof and 3. they aren't really all that warm. These booties solve all of those problems, and give Ursa a way to walk and crawl outside, totally waterproof, for any length of time. Which is a blessing if you plan to spend any real time outdoors with your kids in cold weather. Yey! 

After all, if you still can't find a jacket that fits over your carrier, or a carrier that feels great all the time,  have no fear. It will soon be spring and you run naked through the hills with your naked baby strapped to your breast like you always dream of doing.  Summer time baby wearing is so much more fun.

One final note- one carrier will not work for ever. As soon as you figure out how to make it all work, your baby will grow or change her mood and you'll have to start all over. So try and be flexible!

and here are a few true fails we found along the way.....

Don't think that buying a "top of the line" infant snow suit from Patagonia will solve your problems. They may make great adult gear but the baby stuff stinks. The inseam of this was WAY to short for her to straddle you in a normal pose, riding on your hip or in the carrier. The only position a baby can be in while wearing this suit is laying flat on his back. Plus, its not water resistant or even warm. In the USA its very difficult to find good infant size outdoor gear. the company Molo or Reima are two that have great quality suits which you can find used for better prices than they go for new.
Again, another total bust, Kelty Adventure child carrier. Kelty packs are for stuff. The structured carriers stink. Saule kept on coming un-clipped making her wobble and threaten to fall out of the pack. Plus she is far away from your body making her feel heavier, and not keeping her warm at all. Fail. 

Not a winter picture here, but another structured frame carrier we tried. This is the Sherpani Rumba, which we got for out trip to Central America when Saule was 3, and should have held her as an older child better then the Ergo. You can read my review here. The Ergo would have been better on this trip.

You can find some great resources about baby wearing  here

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Real tool use!

Montessori education has some really great ideas about respecting your childs ability and self by allowing them to use real tools- 

"Using real, child-size tools and materials will engage your young child. Using real tools, not play or pretend ones, lets them know that they are working just as an adult. It doesn’t negate their experience by putting it into the realm of make-believe. Real tools also teach respect and responsibility. They are not to be handled carelessly, but cautiously and carefully."

Saule really does love having her own real "tools", which in our house includes not just craft tools, cleaning tools, art tools, but also other trade tools as well.  She is very careful and responsible when using them, and tried hard to master them quickly. She has several sets of tools that we have put together for her reasonably inexpensively. she really enjoys.

For Christmas we made Saule a real Dr. kit, after being inspired by "Play at Home Mom"  

She quickly went to work helping Peter Rabbit who had eaten way to many radishes. 

Our set, which we put in a upcycled box with a clasp and handle, included:
A small notebook 
trifold bandage
Ace bandage
Several empty medicine bottles
Magnifying glass
Measuring tape

Snowy day reading list

 Some days are great days to just stay at home and read and play in the snow. Here is our snowy day reading list. Do you have any favorites to add?

Snow day reading list:

Highlights magazine has some great winter stories and crafts. If you live overseas and don't want to deal with shipping (zoobooks wanted an extra $70 to ship to Denmark!) you can order back issue sets off ebay for cheap! We got 4 full years for less the $10usd each set! We just stick them in the mailbox once a month and let Saule get the mail. She is also getting Ranger Rick and Zoobooks.  

Harold and the Purple Crayon, Or Saule and the multicolor paint...

 Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson  is one of those great books that just seems to have so many great creative projects to do with it.  Last night we got a box from amazon that a couple of huge sheets of packing paper in them, which was perfect for this project (any long stretcher paper would be fine, or many sheets taped together).

Saule choose her paints and brush, and we taped the paper to the floor. Then we started to read, and she painted her way all the way across the kitchen, in a true Harold style. 

This is the end project- it really turned out nicely. 

Ursa enjoyed exploring all the paint bottles and brushes in her sand box (we use this for water/messy play).  She took them in and out of the jar, and felt the ends. We also had fun pretend painting her with the different brushes (she loved the tickling feeling!).

Just a side note- here is Ursa playing with Cheerios in her box.

School was like a zoo today...

We usually go to the Copenhagen Zoo about once a week. Having the chance to visit so often is wonderful because it means we can really take the time to get to know the animals at a slower pace, rather than just rushing through to see them all in one day. Its an amazing home school resource and I don't see anyone else using this here. (Please tell me about how you use your zoo!)

Yesterdays visit we spent in the tropical area, which is an entire building that is open air and set up to give you and the animals a feeling of walking in a rain forest. There is no cage or glass between you and the critter (expect the alligators), so if you sit still and quiet you are often approached by large jungle fowl and sloths.

Saule testing out her butterfly wings in butterfly room. We did a study on silk production when she got these.

There were very few people at the zoo yesterday, so we were able to spread out our picnic blanket, take off all our layers of clothes, and put on our butterfly wings. I did some yoga. Ursa (almost 9 months) enjoyed having the freedom to crawl/cruise around where she liked, touch some plants and  the waterfall.  We had lunch, read books, took a nap, and did some worksheets.  But mostly we enjoyed being in the nature, and being able to sit long enough and quiet enough to really absorb it. We

These are the books we brought with us- all of them are rainforest themed.

We read this one "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gear List- An after trip review 

 My pack (Osprey Atmos 50) - Worked great again! Fits a pregnant body fine!

Our new Sherpani Rumba child carrier and backpack in one. It stinks! Its quality stinks. Our daughter weighed only 35lbs, which puts her well within the 70lbs weight limit for the pack, yet the waist straps clip continuously comes undone! This strap should bear the weight of the pack and yet it doesn't stay clipped at all! That means that the shoulder straps must bear the weight load, which is a major no-no for any framed pack or baby carrier! Aching backs and shoulders, this makes the pack useless! We would rather carry her in our arms at this point, and we do! The tiny magnetic clip is NOT the right clip for this bag, and I have never had this problem with any other waist strap on any other pack I have ever owned! 
The small detachable backpack/storage has begun to tear on both shoulder straps.
In addition to these 2 major flaws- which alone is enough to send me screaming into the woods after spending 140$ on a pack- its over all design is not at all what I would expect from such a pack. My daughters not comfortable in the pack and complains its poking her in her butt and chest. The shoulder straps are let out all the way and still don't sit correctly. The sunshade and rain cover would never work for an average 3 year old such as herself- its much to short, she can hardly see out or sit comfortably.  On a positive note they accepted the bag as a return, and refunded us.

Kelty Teton 4 person Tent Worked great! Kept us dry, cool(ish) and had plenty of room

Nook Color was great for reading in the dark tent, not any good for the guide books- I still prefer real guidebooks. But we were really going for light weight so this helped. 

Mostly we had to much stuff, again. Even though we had almost nothing. Always bring less then you think you need. 

So here we are..

So here we are. Its the dead of winter, in the middle of the night, in the far north. We get just about 4 hours of daylight each day, although it can hardly be referred to as "day" light, its more like "twilight". Its times like these when you may have to squint to see the light. And some times its good to look at old photos to remember how bright it can be....if you can just hold out until springtime....

Besides going to the pool 2-3 times a week, and the zoo once a week, we spend lots of time at home. Playing is very important to children this age (and my age...) or so they say....

Ursa is growing bigger everyday. At almost 9 months she is cruising around, and has taken a few tiny steps. She loves food, and just about anything her sister does.

Saule's mealworm project has provided us with lots of entertainment. She also has a very large garden growing (all be it slowly) near our windows. We have started more and more unschooling type activities, gearing up for next year. We is a constant wonder, with a truly amazing mind.

This is Saule talking about her meal worm project

Baby massage

Indoor climbing

Time flys when you're having fun

What happened! They grew up! Ursa was born and suddenly we were no longer 3, but 4. Summer came and we spent it out doors, in Upstate NY, with hummingbirds buzzing, cool nights and hot days. We wallowed in our little stream and played trucks, until it dried up in late summer and the surrounding raspberry bushes provided ample distraction. It was one of those blissfully perfect times when the thought of spending time doing anything inside (blogging...) is almost sinful.
As summer drew to a close we had visits with family, In NY and Lithuania. We ate home cooked meals, and laughed. And then, like all good things, summer came to an end. For everything must have its season.