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    Montessori Inspired Organization at Home

    We love the Montessori method, and while we don’t use Montessori materials in our home, I have strived, since they’ve been enrolled in school, to structure our house in a more Montessori-friendly fashion. Both to ease the transition between home & school – AND because I believe that good organization of your environment leads to good organization of your mind!

    Below, I’ve taken several before & after photos of the last few months of rearrangement/organization in our livingspace to help my children do their work (play) in an organized way. The most important things for me were that they know where things belong (so they know where to get whatever toy or craft or game they want and where put them away) AND that they’re able to get their materials & complete the tasks they want to complete as independently as possible.

    Enjoy! Note: these photos were taken over a few month time span, so you may see similar items in different locations – i.e. the globe! We’re always working towards the BEST arrangement! :)

    First, our entry way before (left) and after (right):

    Their coats were previously hung on adult-height hooks, so they couldn’t hang them themselves. Shoes were just in a line, and helmets, mittens, etc. were in a basket – so it wasn’t obvious where to put things, and stacks of shoes/gloves, etc. often developed. I installed a rack w/hooks & baskets at their height. Baskets are used for mittens & hats. And the shoe shelf was built for shoes & helmets.

    Next, our toy/game area before (top left & right) and after (below):



    Previous to the renovation, games were stacked and piled in bins and on the shelf – things that were under other things weren’t often played with – and how to get items back on the shelf, or to which shelf things belonged was not easy to figure out. I ended up putting things away/straightening a lot in the evening. Afterwards, I strived for a more Montessori-esque one item per shelf (NO STACKING!) and clear & accessible places to put items. In one photo below, you’ll see the rolled up “work mats” – and then at the bottom, the children using them while doing their work!



    I’m also including a few spaces where I didn’t take before photos – just wanted to share with you! I picked a few of our house plants to arrange in a child-accessible plant area with spray bottle & watering can (which can be filled at the fridge by them). The reading area has a child-sized couch & natural light by the window. And finally, the craft area with a distinct drawer or container for each material gives the children the opportunity to be more creative when they can find just what they’re looking for!



    Posted: Nov 19 2009, 18:47 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education

    Spirituality & Kids

    At dinner last night, the subject of our recently passed dog, Haley came up.  I said that I missed her.  My children echoed that sentiment.  My 2 yo then asked, "Where is Haley?" to which I replied that she died; her body was very sick, and died (we had previously discussed this at length when she was sick with cancer, and at her passing).  He said, "but where IS she?"  To which my 5 yo replied, "Well, she’s probably another person by now".


    It was just then, that I saw that my spiritual “beliefs”, as much as I’ve tried not to foist them on my children, are developing in my childrens’ minds.  I’ve talked to my daughter about my thoughts about death & “reincarnation” of sorts… in that I believe when a body dies, there is an energy, a spirit, life force, soul, whathaveyou, that continues on.  The body is just a container for that energy. The energy is what makes you, YOU. Maybe this energy goes back into the earth – to help the trees grow stronger, maybe it finds its way into another animal, or newborn baby. And thus the life cycle & energy cycle continues.  The more positive we are in life, the more energy we have, the more we have to give & share with others on our life path.  I don’t have any proof of this.  I don’t have any documentation or books or doctrine.  I just feel it.  I feel we’re connected with everything & everyone living.  I feel it when we take walks in nature.  I felt it supremely with my dog, when she was living… if my energy was low, sad, angry… just being close to her filled me up.  My children are the same way – full of energy & light.  I want to pass this along to them – this feeling of connectedness with the earth & people around them.  That if they’re feeling low, a hug from a friend, a walk in the woods, a pat of a dog can help you feel more positive, and when you're positive you're more creative, and more intelligent, and able to pass positive energy on to others through the things that you say & do in life.


    It made me feel good to hear her say what she did.  Yet, there was a bit of discomfort there as well, since, I’m just not SURE about these things.  My feelings about spirituality are just how I FEEL, and am continually adjusting & growing in my thoughts about life, as I move through it.  Yet, so many things in life I tell them, I’m SURE about: running into the street without looking is dangerous, going out in the winter without a coat will make you cold. But death? Or the reason for life? The bigger meaning? I haven’t figured that out; so it’s a bit disconcerting, when they’re looking to me for certainties, to say, “Well, this is what I THINK…”. But for now, that’s where I am.  And they seem okay with that. I think I’ll go take a walk.

    Posted: Nov 13 2009, 09:36 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Lullabies, English Madrigals - all the same, really.

    But I  -
    I love it when you sing to me
    And you -
    You can sing me anything

    ~Peter Gabriel


    And to my children, I have sung pretty much anything & everything to help them to sleep.  As a teen & 20-something, I sang in several choirs.  Many of those songs stayed with me; so naturally, when I became a lullaby-singing parent (to a colicky infant who required constant motion & song) my favorite English Madrigals, Sacred Songs, and Spirituals came right to mind. I admit, to not only not knowing (or bothering to learn) many “lullabies”, but to preferring interesting lyric & melody over repetitive humdrum (think Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – ack!). As a result most of what I’ve sung as stand-ins are neither particularly light nor baby-related.  Not that rock-a-bye baby is light of lyric. Baby falling from a tree – sheesh.


    Yet, certain songs I love to sing, and as a bonus, over the years I’ve found really work well to help baby (or toddler, or child) sleep. (Babies don’t care one lick what the words are; just keep singing.  And toddlers think my Latin is hilarious).


    I’ll share with you some of my most beloved bedtime songs (random choirs on you tube just so you can get the tune – I do not vouch for the quality!):


    Ride The Chariot (my son’s favorite)

    I'm gonna ride the chariot
    In the morning Lord
    I'm gonna ride

    Ride the chariot
    In the morning Lord

    I’m getting ready for the judgment day

    My Lord, My Lord


    Are you ready my brother/sister?

    Oh yes

    Are you ready for the journey

    Oh yes

    Do you want to see your Jesus

    Oh yes, I’m waiting for the chariot ‘cause I’m ready to go


    I never will forget that day
    When all my sins were taken away
    My feet were snatched from the miry clay



    Blow The Candles Out  (my daughter’s favorite)

    When I was ‘prenticed in Plymouth

    I went to see my dear

    The candles they were a-burning, the moon shone bright and clear

    I knocked upon her window to ease her of her pain

    She rose to let me in, then she barred the door again.


    I like your good behavior darling, thus I often say

    That I cannot rest contented while you are far away.

    The winds they are so cold, that we cannot stay there out

    So roll me in your arms, love, and blow the candles out.


    Now Father & Mother in yonder room do lie

    A-hugging one another, so why not you & I

    A-hugging one another without a fear or doubt

    So roll me in your arms, love, and blow the candles out.



    Psallite unigenito
    Christo, Dei Filio,
    Psallite Redemptori,
    Domino, puerulo
    jacenti in praesepio.
    Ein kleines Kindelein liegt in dem Krippelein.
    Alle lieben Engelein dienen dem Kindelein
    und singen ihm fein.
    Psallite unigenito...


    (English Translation: Sing Your Psalms!

    Sing your psalms to Christ,
    the begotten Son of God,
    sing your psalms to the Redeemer,
    to the Lord, the little Child
    lying in a manger bed.
    A small Child lies in the manger.
    All the blessed angels fall before Him
    and sing.


    The Silver Swan

    The silver swan who living had no note
    When death approached unlocked her silent throat
    Leaning her breast against the reedy shore
    Thus sung her first and last and sung no more:
    Farewell all joys oh death come close my eyes
    More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise



    If Ye Love Me

    If ye love me,
    keep my commandments,
    and I will pray the Father,
    and he shall give you another comforter,
    that he may abide with you forever,
    e'en the spirit of truth.


    Please share with me YOUR favorite bedtime songs!

    Posted: Nov 12 2009, 09:35 by kelly | Comments (8) RSS comment feed |
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    Desert Island Discs

    Inspired by an accidental (thank you  iTunes randomizer) listen to The Cure’s Staring At The Sea album yesterday morning, I realized I’ve often thought about & talked about my “top 10” albums ever, but never have actually created a list.


    I know so many of you hang on my every word, as is evidenced by the amount of comments I get on my blog (Anyone?…Bueller?…), and so I’m sure you’ve be anxiously awaiting the day when I’d actually come through with this list, instead of incessantly chattering on about it. Well, dear readers, the wait is over!


    Now, I’ve decided, seeing that it’s near impossible to narrow down hundreds, nay, thousands of albums to “ten favorites”, to instead, make this my “Desert Island Discs” list. That is: we shall imagine that at some point in the future, were I to be stranded on a desert island, with only 10 CDs, and a solar-powered CD player (that has, obviously, no other way of transmitting or otherwise getting myself off the island, or giving me access to additional music.  OBVIOUSLY.), that these would be the albums I would choose to listen to. Ad nauseum. Forever and ever, amen. 


    So, the major qualification to make it on to THIS list, then, is that if a particular album came on, I’d willingly listen to it, in its entirely, pretty much any time, and could listen to it repeatedly. Which means quality of each song on the album, plus the album as a whole - is key. Which also means, that there COULD be better songs out there – in fact, I know there ARE better songs than what I’ve chosen, as I have several favorite artists (Tori Amos for one BIG one, actually – darn it, woman! And REM for another. Sheesh. And yes, I do notice that only one female artist made it on this list, and for that, I am annoyed and apologetic, yet perhaps more annoyed that I couldn’t find another female musician in my collection where I’d say an emphatic “YES!” to every song on the album.) that didn’t make this list because of their consistent inability to create an album with a cohesive mood or quality throughout. My reasoning for this qualification is that when you only have 10 discs to listen to for the rest of your life, you can’t have an album that contains one or two songs you’d like to fast forward over (okay, yes, I realize I’m dating myself with this post – both in use of the word DISCS and phrase FAST FORWARD.  But what can I do, I’m a child of the 70s. And 80s.).


    These are in no particular order. That’s a challenge for another day (month, year, whatever).


    So, with no further ado (and I often have quite a bit of ado), my 10 Desert Island Discs:


    The Cure – Staring at the Sea (1986) - Good background music, no complaints.

    The Pixies – Doolittle (1989) - For when I'm feeling a little riled up - say, I'm running out of coconuts.

    Depeche Mode – Black Celebration (1986) - For my darker, moodier moments on the island.

    Dave Matthews Band – Under the Table & Dreaming (1994) - because there's no way I could be on an island forever & not have Dave along for the ride.

    Chopin - Nocturne #2 in E Flat, Prelude #4 in E Minor, Nocturne in C# Minor, Impromptu #4 in C# Minor  - Need piano.

    Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990) - Got to have a strong woman along.

    Peter Gabriel – So (1986) - Because there's nothing wrong with this album. And, In Your Eyes. 

    John Denver – John Denver’s Greatest Hits (1973) - The only thing missing is Annie's Song, but I've got to have John.

    Simon & Garfunkel – Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (1972) - Couldn't go the rest of my life without harmonic perfection.
    Coldplay – Parachutes (2000) - Just goodness.


    If you were stranded on a desert island with a CD player, no other electricity, and 10 disks, what would YOU choose?

    Posted: Nov 10 2009, 14:24 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Chocolate Chip Walnut Brownies


    1 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    3 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4 squares unsweetened chocolate
    1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1 cup chopped walnuts


    Cream 1/2 cup butter with sugar. Add eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.
    Melt remaining 1/2 cup butter with chocolate; cool and beat into creamed mixture.
    Stir in flour, salt, and nuts; blend well.
    Pour batter into greased and floured 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cool in pan.

    Note: if you half this recipe - which I frequently do - make sure to half the baking time!



    Posted: Nov 09 2009, 22:31 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Living | Recipes