holiday weekend

An extended weekend is here! Happy Holidays and have a leisurely weekend.

memory lane

For some memory starts younger or older and I would guess based on my experiences it starts with something big, or what must have been seemed big as a child. And sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not. My husband has faint memories as young as three; mine do not start until I was five. With an almost four-year old in the house, I have been wondering what my children’s first memory might be of. What will their first memory of me be? It makes me concerned when I realize how important and emotional many of my memories are for me.

I was recently caught up in a flood of childhood memories. I love that feeling of the scene before my eyes, watching myself as if another person, complete with the smells, sounds or thoughts that occurred at that moment, the emotions I was feeling. Even now, some bring tears to my eyes, or make me laugh. For a few years, I even started recording them, afraid some how I would start to forget. But memories are lovely like that. Even if you forget them for a few years, sometimes it just comes to you… and you savor the memory all over again. And it is all yours to remember and enjoy. And I hope it stays that way while I age!

My most vivid and favorite memory (well, memories) right now are from when I was perhaps 7 or 8 and living in Connecticut. There was a small creek that ran to the neighborhood pond and that ran under our driveway. I was playing in a tree, with my friends there too, hanging on a part that hung over the edge. I distinctly recall the fear I felt when the branch snapped and broke off and I fell with it. Then I felt a rush of intense relief when I realized I had not fallen down on the rocks some 4-6 feet below and my friends were helping me claw my way up over the edge I was half hanging over. I can even still recall the sensation of slipping on the pine needles and their deep reddish-brown hue, having my face down in them. I laughed it off then, but I was sick for days thinking about it, thinking about how close I was to such serious injury. And while surely a separate day, but in the same creek, just farther down, I was hunting the giant bullfrog with a friend. It seems as though we spent hours in pursuit of it. But we splashed around in the shade of bushes and trees, chasing it by rocks and plants in our jelly shoes, determined to catch it, without fear when reaching into mucky water or in holes to chase it out. When I was victorious, with two small kid hands I could barely hold it around the middle. We quickly got a large bucket. I believe we kept it for a day, but did get him back to the stream.

Do you have a favorite memory? If you want, share it in the comments.

parenting together

 

  1. Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser
  2. Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn
  3. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn
  4. The Pocket Parent by Gail Reichlin and Caroline Winkler
  5. The Mr. Rogers Parenting Resource Book by Fred Rogers and Joanne Rogers
  6. A Family of Value by John Rosemond
  7. Children: The Challenge : The Classic Work on Improving Parent-Child Relations–Intelligent, Humane & Eminently Practical (Plume) by Rudolf Dreikurs and Vicki Soltz
  8. Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn J. Kvols, Bill Riedler, and Parenting Press

 This is quite a list, a long list of parenting books. And yes, I have read or skimmed or consulted all of them, plus more of which I cannot even recall the titles. And now, finally, on book #9 that I am truly ‘getting it’. And no, I do not mean how to raise the perfect child.

 I like many points in many of these books and on some days, they have saved the day – giving me a new idea, refreshing an old idea I had forgotten, or given me the boost I need to make it to the end of the day. I think that while I could rely on what I just ‘know’, I also need guidance if I plan to change parts of my parenting style I do not like. I am seeing new parts of myself because of having children and having to raise them, and frankly, I don’t like some of them. Plus, if my husband and I differ in any way, parenting the way each of you ‘knows’ can lead to marital and parental problems.

 So after pouring over books, trying to keep my cool during the day, trying to implement changes with my boys to make the day go smoothly and happily with a full day of respectful behavior from everyone (mama included) here is what I finally figured out.

 Not everyone was on board. I was on board. I even set sail. But I forgot everyone else. Well, not entirely, but nearly. I often would explain to big E that because of behavior x-y-z, we would now be handling things differently and try to a-b-c. And we would try. I would tell my husband what I read and explain how I wanted to fix the behaviors and fix my actions. And I would try. And for a few days, it was smooth sailing.

 But then the troubles began again. Because both my husband and I were not consistently trying to change our tone of voice, our attitude to some behaviors, and our response, we quickly fell back to old ways. Even if I was trying something new, hearing an old way of explaining something or a quick, less respectful response made it easier to fall back into old habits.

 So recently I had an ‘Ah ha’ moment. Not only did we need to agree to change, we needed to be on the same page, well, the same book, to do so. And frankly, I am not sure it entirely matters what book or efforts you both try as long as you are both there, slogging through it together. And you are still there 2 weeks later, and a month later.

 Now I realize we have all heard this and read it. Parent consistently. Well, sure I heard it. I read it. But did I take it in and make the idea my own, applying to myself? Not really. What I read in the books or knew inside quickly went by the wayside when the toilet was clogged with TP, or big E was digging in the mud pit, or little O crawled for the cactus for the 10th time in a minute. Even if I knew a better response, I fell into old habits and sent a lot of mixed messages. It is hard to parent  together consistently when your spouse is consistent one way and yourself another!

 So I will keep my library of parenting books, but instead of sailing alone, I asked my husband on board. I offered him a book to read tonight so we can figure things out together. Hopefully we are on the same page tomorrow. And maybe we will get it right together and raise two happy, loving, gentle boys. Not perfect boys, but wonderful boys.

baby Ott love

I was thrilled that I was quick enough to capture this. Baby Ott is a fast nurser! I had to share for the humor and the sweetness. It makes me feel all gushy about my little big boy.

where creativity led to today

Amidst all my shushing and jotting of notes and busy day I had going on, I happily looked the other way while BIG WORK took place at the crafting table. I occasionally pointed out that scissors should not be left on the floor for brother to find, or that scissors did not belong in the bedroom, especially to cut paper on the bed, but I otherwise kept my nose, and eyes, out of it. And because of it, a lot more was accomplished.

Here we have the beemer wasp pupa. We are currently watching ladybugs go from their larva and pupa stages to full-blown ladybugs, so I understand the inspiration. The beemer wasp though, well, it must be a new species, native to Forest Ave.

And then came the train and stone tunnel, with a car on a bridge overtop. It has been exciting in our household to watch the  gradual steps as big E tries to move to three-dimensional drawing.

There was even some block building in there today. Ah, the thrill of picture-taking. And he wanted to be in there, like that.  

But this is by far my favorite creation… and you might wonder why. I know, look at it. A jumble of paper clips, tape, paper, and even a stick for good measure. But the story makes the piece. It is actually a model of a park and house. In the back is a fire pit and tree, with a curving sidewalk drawn in the middle. On the right are ‘climbing/hanging things’ (his words) – ‘one for big kids and one for little kids’. The stick is the balance beam. I am not sure what the red rectangle is, but I will use my imagination for some park play thing. Big E is often inspired by his Dad’s model making and wants to help. And if he cannot help, he just designs his own.

I really hope I can continue to mind my business, with crafting and so much more, and not do the adult thing by squelching it all, even in an effort to ‘help’. I don’t want to kill the enthusiasm, the designs, the energy, the pride. Everything I am now self-conscious about when I work.

food with the bigger wee one

All the trust we have given to big E in regards to meal time and eating have turned out to be wonderful preparation for caring for himself and his family. This has been extremely helpful on days when I have my hands full with little O or I am preparing meal items big E is not able to participate in.

 Some things we have gradually allowed big E to do on his own:

  • access his own dishes and cups in a low cabinet
  • putting away dishes, either handing some to us for high shelves or placing his own in his cabinet
  • setting the table with plates, cups, napkins, utensils, and condiments
  • serving himself a drink of water or milk from the refrigerator

 All of these steps occurred when we noticed big E accomplishing a new skill and needing more trust and responsibility. For instance, when he finally discovered he could open the refrigerator and repeatedly he seemed to get into mischief in there, I gave him something he was allowed to do – serve himself water. Once trustworthy with getting a glass, serving himself water, shutting the refrigerator, and walking to the table, we then placed a child-sized pitcher of milk in the fridge for him. With mastery of one skill he got to move on to a new challenge.

From serving himself drinks, he then decided he could serve himself an apple or a cheese stick from the refrigerator. From there, he thought he could self-serve from our pantry. The trouble is, I did not want him always climbing up to get food items or choosing unhealthy snacks (yes, we have just a few in our pantry!). So after reflecting that telling him “No, wait for me” in an angry voice was not the solution, I made a plan. But this was something that took me a while to see the pattern in and it was only by about the twentieth time I said it that I realized it was not working. He was ready for more independence and showing me.

I placed a small bowl in the refrigerator. In it is a yogurt, a dish with washed and ready-to-eat fruit, a few dishes of washed and cut veggies, and a few cheese sticks. I also prepared small plastic baby food containers for the pantry with various yummy and healthy snacks: raisins, pretzels, nuts, crackers, and cereals. I realized any container for either place would work as long as he could know what he was choosing without opening every container – either by being clear or labeled with a picture or writing. I opted for clear to save myself the work of labeling each one. I also wanted to make sure the container had an easy to open lid so he could be independent in opening it without spills. I placed them on a low shelf in the pantry. Because I know my son’s skill level, I knew he could already open and close the fridge carefully, open a yogurt on his own, get a spoon to eat it, open a cheese stick, carry a bowl of food carefully without spilling, open the plastic containers easily, make a choice from the ones offered, and clean up afterwards. All of this is important when giving a new level of trust or a new challenge so they can succed – they have to have mastered all the other skills to take on some new challenge without frustration.

Today I showed him his choices and explained what he was allowed to do: get a snack on his own if I was unable to assist him when he was hungry, choose one from the cabinet and one from the refrigerator, and how to clean up afterwards, replacing any large uneaten portion to the proper place and placing dishes by the sink. If he needed help with a different snack or cutting something, he would be expected to wait. If I was engaged in preparing a meal, he might hear me tell him “No”. He was receptive to those limitations. He may be less so when we have to enforce them, but that is another day!

The extra time it may take me to help him towards independence is important to me in the long run. By showing him how to care for himself, he becomes more capable and frees me from some of those tasks he can do for himself. And it boosts his confidence in himself, one small step at a time. Unfortunately, I did not have the camera ready to capture his satisfaction at serving himself his entire snack, but it was great!

food with the wee one

This post will actually be a two part post. As I was arranging big E’s snacks for the next few days, a new system we will test starting tomorrow, I was thinking over the steps we took to get him to this point. Which brings me back to the beginning, where little O just happens to be.

Little O has been on the mushy, sloppy food and some finger foods diet for about 2 1/2 months now. He knows how to have a bite, can pick up some items with that wonderful pincer grasp, goes after the spoon to do it himself, and is tickled that he can slurp water. With big E, we followed the Montessori method and used a small chair and a weaning table (the white table pictured in this post). It was wonderful for snacks and meals. I found it easy to clean up, easy to keep him seated. And it kept him near the ground so he could crawl/walk to the table when hungry or leave when done (after a hasty clean up by Mama). But with little O, he is just not interested in the weaning table because the first few times he came to the big table in his high chair, he had so much fun watching big brother eat. So now, we exclusively give him solids at the big table and will just reserve the weaning table for crafting and activities as he grows.

There are a few elements that I have found to make meal time more conducive to our children’s sense of independence:

– the table and seat/high chair

– the bowls

– the utensils

– the cup

– the language and attitude

While a weaning table and low chair would be my first choice, it just is not always easy to fit in another piece of furniture or, like the case with our #2 child, baby just does not want to be left out of all the fun! Since we do snacks with big E too, little O is never alone at the table. For a high chair, I chose the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair because it fit right up to the table we owned. We did not want a tray that forced him to sit farther from the table or a chair that was taller or shorter than the table. We wanted him to be right in there with the rest of us. With the Tripp Trapp, there is a nice baby rail that comes off to allow easy clean up or fully remove when the child is ready. When big E was around 18 months or so, we removed it and gave him a lesson on getting up and down safely. With many reminders, he learned how to be independent getting up and down from the table. (And when he got down, he was down. The meal was over!)

The bowls we use are child-sized, about the size of a small 1-cup storage bowl, similar to these or these. They are clear so little O can see the food he is being served. And they are glass. Contrary to popular belief that you should give a child plastic since they might break glass, Montessori principles encourage the use of glass, porcelain, and metal in the classroom to show a young child they can be trusted, they are worthy of that trust, and they must learn to take care of these items. Plastic feels cheap and is thus treated cheaply – tossed on the floor or beaten on. And if one feels an item is indestructible, one is also less likely to intervene and stop abusive, inappropriate behaviors immediately. I am not suggesting that I let little O have at them and break one though! Through language and gentle actions, I hold the bowls while he investigates them. I stop him from throwing them overboard and demonstrate how to place them on the table. And this is not accomplished in one day, or two days, even in a month. But we reap the rewards later, much later, when a child cares for the dishes – they can help set and clear a table, empty the dishwasher, and serve themself a snack – with an inner satisfaction that they are trusted and a responsible part of the family. And, another perk – we no longer have oodles of cruddy plastic bowls taking up space in the cabinets. (But we do occasionally break this plastic ‘rule’ – for on the go car snacks, we actually opt for plastic dishes or cloth snack bags or *gasp* plastic baggies)

For utensils, I loved the idea of a simple, all metal baby spoon and even own a few. But while my babes have cut teeth, these spoons have not been easy on their gums. For this reason, we did purchase coated spoons. They hold a small manageable bite, they are easy for a baby to take hold of and try to feed him or herself, and they are so simple they do not detract from the learning process of eating.

Since we chose glassware for bowls, we also chose a clear glass for a drinking cup. So many people laugh at the idea of the ‘baby shot glass’ but then after a moment, they realize that a baby can go from breast to cup and totally skip a bottle. Or, if bottle fed, they can be transitioned much earlier to a cup without the sippy cup transition. To some people, this is just shocking news. Not a sippy cup, but a real cup. From the moment we offered solid foods, we offered water in the cup. At first it was only 1/4 of the way full and I offered the water up to his mouth. Eventually little O learned how to hold it with two hands, but not tilt it back to drink (so I took over for that part). Now, he can hold it and tip it (but I have to slow him down if he gets too happy and pours it on himself). To get to this point was 2 months of skill development, and I know there are still more things to learn: controlling the cup to only sip the amount he wants, setting the cup down on the table, asking for more, transitioning to a larger cup (but not an adult juice glass yet!), learning how to drink with control on the go with straw cups, and learning how to drink from different sized cups while out and about. But look at the satisfaction!

If you are venturing to try this approach with a child, you must have patience. I still am frustrated the day carrots get dribbled down my leg, but I try to recognize each day what little O is learning at the table and when he ‘masters’ a step, oh, I feel his happiness at HIS victory! If it is overwhelming, start slow with one new change and observe how it goes over several days. That will be better for your baby too. You cannot totally mix up their routine in one day and expect an easy transition. We also have found sign language to be extremely helpful for meal times and eases a baby’s frustration since they eventually learn to express they want more or that they are full and done. Eventually you could move beyond those two basics and add done, drink, milk, water, even please. It tickled me to no end to see big E at such a young age sign ‘please’ ‘more’. Start early, as soon as you start with solids even. Results may take some time, but communication early on is so helpful and rewarding. And don’t worry: signing does not hinder verbal language development. In fact, it often allows them to speak sooner along with many other benefits.

And since all these skills revolve around food, feed your baby what you grow, shop for good foods at a local farmer’s market, or buy the yummiest foods you can find! What they are fed now sets their eating behavior and tastes as they grow. Let them try new tastes ‘straight up’ – no need to hide veggies in anything! Let them eat what you are eating when possible, grinding it up if needed. We love the Kidco grinder. Meal time is full of valuable life-long lessons in behavior, nutrition, socialization, and care of self and personal belongings. 

Just remember, with wee ones, independence is slowly, s l o w l y, learned. With each new opportunity you offer, there are a lot of restrictions until they can be trusted. Observe them and how they are mastering something before adding more challenge than they can handle. I will be back tomorrow to show what we are now trying with big E to give him more independence.

chatting with the baby

While the second baby is less photographed, less assisted in his play, maybe even less noticed as they develop new skills, the delight over new baby development is still there. Today, after being nearly ignored all day while we held a garage sale, was Oliver’s moment to communicate vocally beyond just babbling sounds over and over to himself. When I mimicked his word back to him, I watched his mouth form the same sound back over and over to me, as if trying to tell me something very important. His face was full of intent. And pleasure – that we for once seemed to know what he was saying. I know other babes get to this point sooner or other parents notice it before I did. But oh my excitement. His ‘tha’ that ended with a big open mouth was ever so cute. And he know how to work it – it got him a few extra minutes to stay up past bedtime!

garden work

Yesterday was a hard day. Under threat of rain and thunderstorms, we ignored children’s requests, barely ate meals, and spent the whole day outside in the humidity, all to get the garden weeded and planted. As I worked, I felt angry at the garden. Why were there so many weeds? Why were seeds not sprouting? It was not until the end of the day when I realized that I was remembering last year’s garden and the conditions that made it what is was. Last year, I had small chunks of time to weed and I remembered to water my seedlings when I first put them in the ground.

May 2009 Garden Set Up

Each year the garden changes. Its life depends on what my life has going on. Being busy with two children, less time has been devoted to the soil and seeds and weeds. It also varies due to rain, sun, frosts. All of these issues have kept me from planting a week earlier, kept me from tackling weeds sooner. And errors from last year effected this year. When small tomatoes were rotting and falling last year, I was so pregnant, I let them stay where they fell. I think you can see why!

And I paid the price. This year, I weeded out hundreds of volunteer tomatoes. Plus, our compost added volunteer sunflowers, potatoes, and a few other random plants to the garden. We tilled it in and the seeds loved it!

So when this realization hit, I felt more at peace with my little garden and cannot wait to see how it is different from last year. I can be in love with my garden now… now that the hardest work is over.

a full day

Today was a busy day with many ups and downs, but not much time to pause and reflect on it. Until now.

* satisfaction… over killing off weeds that threaten the flowers, with a little help from our new electric weed whacker!

thinking about… seeing my aged neighbor trying to keep doing what he loves and struggle

excited about… a step that could change a lot for my family and is giving me a new confidence in myself

laughing about…  big E asking about the picture of the jellyfish, “why does it have so many testicles?”

* looking forward to… sitting and being peaceful near our garden, work done, and putting a big line through it on our list

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