Archive for ‘Montessori’

March 21, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: “crying baby at midnight” edition

by Decemberbaby

We were all tucked into bed, R sleeping happily. Then she woke up and swiped at my back. Ouch. I think I need to cut her nails.

So it’s past midnight, which makes it Thursday, but I haven’t slept yet so I’ll pretend it’s still Wednesday.

The insanely warm weather this week has drawn me outside to do much-needed things like cleaning the interior of the car and tidying and scrubbing the front porch. It’s amazing how a shift in weather shifts my priority list of tasks. It feels a bit absurd, but here’s the rundown of my last known task list:

Still in progress: Weight Watchin’

Despite a lack of effort on my part, today I weighed in at 16 pounds less than my starting weight. Some of that is what Mr. December calls “noise”: at least a pound can be attributed to the lightweight summer clothes I wore today. Still, 15 pounds feels kind of significant. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some concerted effort into it this week.

No progress: Photo Books

Really, why would I spend more time indoors on my computer when there’s outdoor work to be done? At this rate I need to schedule some time to put the thing together. Maybe next week when it’s cooler outside…

No progress: Library doors

See “Photo Books”

Still in progress: Kids’ table

We’ve used our kids’ table for a while now (in its unfinished glory) and I’ve identified a design flaw, so I have to figure out a different way to attach the legs. On the upside, I purchased a wood rasp (or as my friend Bill over at Lowes called it, “a cheese grater on steroids”) and was finally able to file down the plugs so that they’re even with the rest of the table apron. I’ve also begun filling the gaps and holes with wood putty, and sanding the whole thing in preparation for staining and painting. This is my go-to project right now, since I can do it outside in the sunshine. I’ll have more progress to report next week, for sure.

In progress: spring planting

Mr. December is quick to caution me that we may still have a freeze, but I’m not buying it. That’s why starting tomorrow I’ll be cleaning up the garden beds in the front and planting seeds. This year we’ll keep our vegetable planting small and manageable and devote the large front bed to flowers. I’ve also picked up some low-growing perennials to fill out our rock garden. By next week I want to have all the beds and containers prepared and sown with the appropriate seeds.


That’s it for now. Nothing major, just chugging along.

Oh, and for those interested in posts about teaching kids Jewish values, check out this post over at my Montessori blog. I wasn’t quite sure where to post it and Montessori won out, but I think a lot of this blog’s readers would enjoy it as well.

What did you do this week? And for those in Toronto, what is the sunshine-induced-insanity making you do?

January 22, 2012

The Montessori Blog

by Decemberbaby

I’m not going to post over here every time I’ve posted over there, so please either click follow or check back regularly.

Jewish Montessori Mom

January 18, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Bloggy edition

by Decemberbaby

Well, this week has been… interesting… we had a cold, stomach flu, high fevers, and now I think I have pinkeye. I think that my next “in progress” project should be a sign that reads “____ days without an illness”. Don’t you?

Also, our nanny hasn’t been here since last Friday. I’m doing my best to keep up with the laundry and keeping the place from turning into a total sty, and that leaves precious little time for anything else. On the upside, I haven’t had to make dinner – we’re eating our way through the freezer this week. I tell you, everyone should stock up and then have a “freezer week”. It’s low-stress and delicious!

If it sounds like I’m stalling, I am. Here’s why:

STILL not complete: K’s kippah

I don’t think I need to reiterate the reasons why I’ve been tired and busy and unable to get down to the sewing room, but I will say that I’m very unimpressed with my lack of progress. Seriously, I could probably carve out ten minutes. Right? I will try to do better this week.

In progress: weight watchin’

Today ends my second week of Weight Watchers. I lost 1.2 pounds this week, bringing my total to 4.2 pounds. I have to say, doing this program while breastfeeding is really awesome – they insist that nursing mothers add about 50% more points every day, which means that I don’t feel like I’m restricting my eating much. I’m just replacing m&m’s with grapes.

This week I plan to get in some good cardio exercise 4 days out of 7, and some more relaxed walking the other days.

In progress: Photo books

I finally got the license key for the software, so my scrapbook pages no longer say “trial version” on them. I also got to download a whole bunch of free scrapbook elements (images, papers, embellishments, etc) that come with the software. Yippee!

I spent most of last Sunday doing the sample book, and I finished K’s section. Here are two of my favourite spreads:


This week I plan to get all of the photos I’m missing – result of last year’s laptop crash – and finish N’s section of the book. That is, if R stops screaming long enough for me to put her down. It’s just taken me 20 minutes to type this sentence.

In progress: A New Blog!

Big news, y’all: I’ve started a new blog. It’s exclusively focused on the Montessori stuff. I decided to create it after being approached by a few people in the Montessori community about reading more of my writing. I figure they don’t all need to know about my weight loss, our menu plan, or how we found a raccoon sleeping in the bakfiets.

So here’s a question to my readers: do you want me to cross-post everything I write on my Montessori blog so that you don’t have to click over there to read it, or can I just post over there and casually mention it on this blog (maybe with a link)? Please comment and let me know.

Okay, that’s it. What are you planning to accomplish this week?

January 9, 2012

The one about the kitchen sink

by Decemberbaby

Over winter break, K started preparing her own snacks independently. There was one hitch, though – we found that she can’t reach the faucet handle, so she needed someone to turn the sink on and off for her when she was rinsing her fruit. Such a simple thing, but it’s an impediment to being completely independent at snacktime.

I posted about this problem on facebook and several people recommended a high stepstool or a learning tower so that K would be able to reach the existing handle. The thing is, our sink is very large (read: deep) and she’d still have to reach about 20 inches back just to get the handle. A step stool isn’t going to cut it for a kid who’s only about three feet tall.

Today I was in Canadian Tire. It just happens to be where I bought our faucet, so I figured I could comb the aisles for possible solutions and then check in the faucet aisle to make sure they fit. I arrived in the plumbing department and I saw it. The perfect solution to my problem:

Clear vinyl tubing.

I bought a small roll of it ($7 plus tax), came home, and pushed the end of the tubing onto the faucet handle. I cut it about 12 inches long. Perfect! It’s a tight fit, so the tubing won’t get pulled off, and the extra-long lever has the added advantage of requiring even less force than usual to turn the water on.

But that wasn’t all. No, that was not all. I grabbed some decorative pebbles that just happened to match the accent tiles in the backsplash (matching is easy when you have a favourite colour) and pushed them down the tube. Now it’s functional and pretty not entirely ugly. Win!

January 8, 2012


by Decemberbaby

Hi everyone!

What a week that was… first the stomach bug followed by two days of fever, then our part-time nanny was sick and it was just me and the kids, yup, one-on-three, all day for Thursday and Friday. Oh, and lots of other blog-worthy stuff happened. In no particular order:

  • I joined Weight Watchers. I know I’m already back at my prepregnancy weight, but now I need to lose the IVF weight, the Femara weight, the weight from my first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, and the post-wedding weight. I am very, very excited about getting started, which I think is a good sign that I’m motivated enough to see this through.
  • The kids got their hair cut. Perhaps not interesting, but boy, were we overdue. N’s head looks about 50% smaller now.
  • R discovered her hands. It’s really adorable watching her watch her own hands as they grab each other. She’s also starting to touch her hanging toys.
  • By watching N, I’ve discovered some impromptu Montessori-type activities. Putting clothes on a hanger and taking them off, for example.
  • K wants to be responsible for the dishwasher. I’m not sure exactly how that will work given her height disadvantage, but I’m happy to find a way if she’s really interested.

On top of all that, I just spent two happy hours at the craft store and the fabric store. I have big plans for toys, a mobile, and – most excitingly – two additional seats with seatbelts for the bakfiets, including one that is very baby-friendly.

It’s also a gorgeous day, and I think I must go for a bike ride before it gets dark. So you’ll all understand, I’m sure, why I’m unlikely to blog anything of substance today.

Now go outside and enjoy this weather!

December 25, 2011

Quick ‘n’ dirty sewing project: Sox box!

by Decemberbaby

It all started while I was culling R’s clothes and organizing her drawers. The socks were all mixed up, hers and N’s, and I needed some kind of boxes or dividers, so of course I zipped down to my craft room and stitched up a couple of very simple fabric boxes. This project was so “quick and dirty” that I didn’t even bother changing the thread on the machine. I just grabbed some white denim, plugged in my iron, and started working. I turned out two boxes (no pattern, just making it up) in about 40 minutes.

Later on, while planning some montessori-type activities for N, I decided I needed some solid-coloured trays for a sorting task. Once again I went downstairs. This time I made a two-tone box. Here it is next to one of the originals:

Don’t you want one? Don’t let the name fool you; they’re not just for socks. I can picture them on a front-hall table holding keys and a cellphone; as a nice tray for a child’s hairbrush and accessories; you could make these long and thin and sew a few together to make a cutlery tray, or make a larger one to use as a bread basket.

The beauty of these is that they take almost no time to make, and very little fabric. You have a little fabric and 25 minutes, don’t you? Let’s get started:

Cut your fabric. I recommend using at least one heavy fabric (denim, canvas, or rigid felt) to help give your box structure.

The size of square (or rectangle) you need can be determined by this formula:

desired length + (desired height x 2) = length

desired width + (desired height x 2) = width

So for my 5×5″ box, I cut a 9 inch by 9 inch square. Two of them, actually.


Fold the sides over. If you want a 3-inch height, fold three inches of fabric over on each side. When folded, iron it so that the creases are visible. Open the folds.



Taking one corner, fold it so that the two creases are together and are folded the same way.




Sew a straight seam along the crease. Trim off the excess fabric. If your fabric is prone to fraying you may want to serge or sew a zigzag stitch along the edge.

Repeat until all four corners are sewn. It should look like this, but without the corner loops:



To add structure to your box (and also to make it look cool) fold over each side and sew a straight seam about 1/16 of an inch from the fold.




Fold over the top edges of the fabric and sew a zigzag stitch all around. Since I plan to fold the edge over again to make a tray with a very small lip, I didn’t bother making the edge look nice.

Fold the top edge over once more, and enjoy your cute new box!




December 23, 2011

Hannukah “play”, Montessori-style

by Decemberbaby

I have always been in favour of what I call “child labour” (letting children do actual household tasks) and have often viewed most toys as superfluous, unnecessary, and even insulting to children’s abilities and intelligence. Recently, though, I’ve come to see how having one child in a Montessori school has affected my parenting decisions for the other children at home. Here’s the most recent example:

It’s Hannukah (as we all know by now), and while perusing our local Jewish newspaper I saw an ad for a sale on a wooden hannukah playset. It looks like this:

I considered buying one. I thought that N would definitely love putting the candles into the menorah over and over again, and he might actually like to spin the dreidel. I went so far as to put “buy wooden hannukah set” on my to-do list. Then I laughed at myself, because the Montessori parent in me knows that this is a ridiculously unnecessary toy.

N wants to put candles into a menorah? Good. Let him practice with real candles and a real (metal, unbreakable) menorah. Does he want to hold and look at a dreidel? Great. I happen to have a large wooden dreidel (too big to be a choking hazard to anyone) that he can hold and play with. And what use is wooden hannukah gelt? It’s not shiny like the real thing, and you can’t eat it. No, better to give him one or two pieces of real gelt to look at, and later show him how to unwrap it and let him taste the chocolate. As for the wooden latkes and frying pan, why would he need those when he’s allowed to help me wash potatoes, mix the batter, and eat actual latkes?

This is a very real, concrete example of the Montessori attitude towards pretend play. In Montessori, children don’t have to pretend to work in a kitchen, or to plant a garden, or put candles in the menorah. They don’t have to pretend, because they can really do it. They might want to repeat the task (put candles in, take them out, examine them, put them in, take them out…). They might not do it with great skill. But they will do the task over and over again until they have mastered it. No toys, just real objects and tools that are appropriately sized for children’s hands.

As for N, this morning he pointed at the menorah and put his hands over his face, imitating the way we cover our eyes when lighting shabbat candles (we don’t cover our eyes for hannukah candles, but I suppose candles are candles, at this age).

“Do you want to practice lighting hannukah candles?” I asked, and in response he put his hands over his face again and then peeked out, smiling.

I gave him a box of candles and set him up on the window seat so that he could reach the menorah on the windowsill. He picked up one piece of the menorah (it comes apart) and tried to walk away with it. “N,” I said, “the hannukiah stays here so that everyone can see it when we light the candles.” He put the piece back. Then he reached for the candles and began to place one in each holder. When all of the holders were full, he covered his face and giggled.

N repeated the task over and over again for about half an hour. Some candles got broken, but gradually he learned to be more gentle with them. The focus and pride on his face was an excellent reminder that, given the tools and the opportunity, our children will master the tasks that make up our lives, no toys required.







October 10, 2011

Family breakfast

by Decemberbaby

I’ve read, as I’m sure you all have, about how important it is for families to sit down to dinner together every day. In my house that almost never happens. The kids need to eat before 6, and getting home by then is pretty hard for Mr. December. What’s a mom to do?

Well, we all wake up at the same time, and we all need to eat before we leave the house. Hence… we all sit down and eat breakfast together every day. Here’s how it works:

We don’t do anything fancy. Generally we’ll alternate having oatmeal or cold cereal on the menu. I set out bowls, spoons and mugs the night before, and if it’s a cold cereal day then I’ll put that out too. I cut up some kind of fresh fruit and put it in the fridge. For oatmeal days, I start the steel-cut oats the night before, then leave them to soak overnight. I prepare a tray of toppings and a small jug of milk and put those in the fridge where K can reach them.

In the morning, I just have to turn on the oatmeal for 10 minutes (I do it right when I get up, and by the time we’re all dressed the oatmeal is done). K’s job is to take the tray of toppings out of the fridge and bring it to the table. When N sees this happening, he goes to the play kitchen (also where we keep the kids’ dishes and cutlery), gets himself a spoon, and then stands patiently by his chair until we help him in. Both K and N seem to take pride in doing their parts to get ready for breakfast. And of course, everybody loves their oatmeal.

The topping tray is a very lightweight tray from the dollar store, with dollar store ramekins to hold each item. I also put the serving spoons and tongs on it in advance, and there’s a little cloth mat that absorbs the stray nuts and crumbs. Here’s what tomorrow’s tray looks like:

We have different toppings every day. The tray above is what I call “apple pie” – apples, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar. We also do “banana nut” – brown sugar, pecans, and bananas. “Cranberry almond” is pretty much what it sounds like – dried cranberries, slivered almonds, brown sugar.

And, in the spirit of montessori-ing my home, I put the tray of toppings and the jug of milk on the lowest shelf in our fridge so that K can reach:

To give you a sense of size, that’s a 500 mL (2 cup) jug. It’s maybe 5 inches tall.

Mmm… oatmeal and toppings. This post has made me want to go to sleep so that I can wake up and eat breakfast. Yum.

August 21, 2011

This post was brought to you by the number 10

by Decemberbaby

When I first unveiled the felt numbers I made for K, I asked everyone why they thought I’d only made numbers 1-9. A few people guessed, but nobody got it right. It has to do with the way Montessori teaches numeracy.

At first, the kids seem to learn how to count objects. Then they begin learning the numerals, which is when they break out the sandpaper numbers (or in our case, the felt numbers). This activity teaches children to recognize the numerals and prepares them for writing numbers as well. The sandpaper numbers only include the numerals 1 to 9.

The next math activity teaches the student that the numerals represent a number of objects. It is called the spindle box, and looks like this:

As you can see, the spindle box introduces the concept of zero. Zero is not part of the set of “natural numbers” (a term which, if I recall correctly, translates roughly as “the way people counted sheep thousands of years ago”) and no child would reply “zero” if you asked them to count something that wasn’t there. They would say, “There aren’t any”. So in this activity the children learn, both visually and kinesthetically, that zero is a placeholder that means “this slot is empty”.

Okay, so now we know why zero isn’t represented in our sandpaper (or felt) numbers. What about 10?

It seems odd to us not to end a child’s number activity with ten. Isn’t that the first big milestone in counting? The truth is, though, that by detaching “10” from everything before it, Montessori sets the kids up well for future math concepts.

You see, the thing I (and possibly most people) overlook is that 10 isn’t just another number. 10 means “we can’t count anymore digits until we move them all over to another column”. 10 means that our cup of ones runneth over. It’s not the end of the first set of numbers – it’s the beginning of the second. 10 opens the door to 2-digit operations. 10 teaches the kids the basics of “making change”. 10 enables us to use an abacus to make quick calculations (well, it does once you really understand what 10 means).

If this isn’t a bit of a revelation to you, it’s either because I’m not expressing it well, or more likely, you’re not as math-impaired as I am. I’m probably the farthest thing from a “mathlete” – I freeze up when math is involved. I panic. I don’t understand, and I feel this impairment keenly. If I can spot connections between words (both in English and between languages) and play with them to make them do magical things, there must be people who have such an understanding of numbers.

I am not one of those people. But seeing K learn math the Montessori way has taken me back to the beginning. If I can uncover the simple but amazing things that “10” means, maybe there’s hope that one day I’ll be half as numerate as I am literate. A girl can hope, can’t she?

August 10, 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – August 10 edition

by Decemberbaby

It’s been a week already? Oy!

First of all, a very happy birthday shout-out to my mum (who probably isn’t reading this, but you never know).

Second, a hearty welcome back to Bookishima who posted last week about two play kitchens she’s building – an indoor one out of cardboard and an outdoor mud kitchen. Go take a look and cheer her on!

And a big HOORAY! for reader Shlomit, who did a massive purge of her house and has made room, physically and mentally, for whatever comes next.

You can do it too, you know. It’s amazing what the invisible peer pressure of the internets can spur you on to do. If you don’t have a blog just comment on this post like Shlomit did last week. You can even send me some “after” pictures and I’ll post them in a huge roundup-style WIP Wednesday post.

And now, here’s my work.

Partially Completed (or Still in Progress): Kids’ closet organizer

A cautionary tale for you: last Thursday I rode the bakfiets over to Lowes (which, incidentally, is a very hilly ride) to get lumber for this project. Aspiring trash-picker that I am, I checked out the bin next to the board cutting area and found some perfectly good white melamine shelving in there. Malcolm, the friendly associate, helped me pull out the pieces I wanted and proceeded to cut them to my specifications. When I asked how many cuts there were (i.e. how many I should pay for), he kind of shrugged and said “I dunno. Tell them five.” So for $5 I got over half the materials for my project. And once I was going with melamine fibreboard, I decided to stick with fibreboard for the other parts of the project too.

Anyhow, I came home and started drilling, pounding, fitting, and… swearing. I learned a few important things:

  1. ¬†Always predrill your holes when working with fibreboard. Otherwise it’ll crack, bulge, and splinter off.
  2. Cheap materials are cheap for a reason. Stick with wood. Good old wood!
  3. If everything isn’t perfectly square and level, the whole project just looks shoddy.

So after building some crooked cubbies for the closet, I did what any self-respecting DIY-er should do… I started over again with the proper materials. Sort of. I salvaged some plywood from my parents’ garage and my dad spent an hour helping me with the ripcuts and general meaneuvering of a giant sheet of wood through his radial arm saw.

And then I learned something else… it is VERY hard to install something in the kids’ room. Normally I do my work when the kids are napping or after bedtime, but for obvious reasons that just wasn’t possible. So work went slowly until this morning, when I kicked the kids out of their room and finally, FINALLY finished this:

It’s basically two shelves with grooves (or dadoes, for those who are inclined towards technical terms) for very thin plywood dividers. It’s not as nice looking as it would be with thicker dividers, but it was a sacrifice I had to make in order to fit three cubbies across. The fabric drawers are Closetmaid brand and were definitely the most expensive element of this project. I bought three different colours of drawers, one for each child. The drawers on the bottom hold extra diapers and the ones on the second shelf are for (current) seasonal items – sweaters in the fall, winter, and spring and bathing suits in the summer.The top shelf was supposed to just divide the fabric drawers from the hanging clothes, but there’s enough space above it right now for me to store some neatly lined-up shoes in there, or maybe socks and other accessories in small plastic bins.

So that’s half the project. The upper half of the closet still looks like this:

See that gaping empty space? I can think of so many things that could be stored there: the kids’ towels, their bedding, receiving blankets, out-of-season clothes, even more extra diapers, “etcetera, etcetera, et cetera” (anybody know what movie I just quoted?). I’ve measured and I have just enough room to squeeze in three rows of three cubes each, so that’s my mission for this week… back to my parents’ house for salvaged plywood, I suppose.

Completed (pretty much): Felt numbers!

I know that I already posted that these are complete, but here are some pics of how they turned out:

As you see in the close-up, the felt number was appliqued on with a satin stitch in matching thread, and I topstitched around the edge of the rectangle with the coloured thread as well.

I still want to put up a dowel or a clothesline so that these can be functional as well as decorative, but for now I’m considering them done. K loves them!

In Progress: Baby gifts

Bellies have been popping out all over, and I owe several baby gifts. This week I’ll be sewing at least one double-sided flannel blankie (with loops for toys) and one of something else… haven’t quite decided yet. A pretty blanket? A ball? A stuffed turtle? I’m taking votes and suggestions, so don’t be shy… comment!


Aaand… that’s a wrap. Tune in later this week when I explain why the montessori felt numbers only include numbers 1 through 9 (any guesses?) and post some other random stuff.

Don’t forget to post about your own projects!