how to avoid destroying the world

So I have tried hard to strike a good balance between teaching Elliott about recycling, conserving, reusing, and human’s effects on the environment. Because I see him dig through the recycling bin to find items that can be reused in his crafting and he enjoys dumping scraps in the compost, I assumed we were handling these issues in a very effective, age-appropriate way. Awareness with action.

Then today he raised this question while carrying his (pretend) duck – “Why are humans destroying the world? I am saving this duck because the world is being destroyed.” I guess it is time to dial it down a notch.  

I would love to hear other people’s ideas on teaching children to cherish and respect our earth, ways you have found to avoid the scary, doomsday approaches (which I really thought we were not doing!).

money, money, money, money!

When you say a word so many times, it seems to become meaningless. Money feels that way sometimes. And really, the value I want Elliott to see in money is that we don’t need more to feel better and there is so much to value outside of what money can buy. But, that said, I still want him to have a clear understanding of saving money, spending wisely, and caring for others (in a financial sense; other volunteering to care for others is another area we are addressing). So after talking with a friend about an idea from The Simple Dollar I realized that this was what might work better than our current system.

Right now, Elliott has decorative piggies who gladly eat his money. And had they been like mine as a child, requiring ‘slaughter’ to get the reward, he might have been more inclined to save for longer.

My sister Michelle and I at age 5 1/2 dig into my piggy.

(No, I did not actually use the knife myself)

Unfortunately (not so in his opinion) the plugs are easily removed on his pigs. As birthday and holiday monetary gifts have been given, he is quick to turn around and want to spend, spend, spend. That money teases and taunts him to spend it, and fast. Nearly 4-5 times a week, I will be asked when we are going to the store and if he can buy something. Even the suggestion of only taking out a few dollars and saving the rest is not working. The very next day after making a purchase, he will ask to buy something again.

So, upon hearing this idea, I loved the idea of having separate areas for separate purposes and, being cheap right now, I really liked a comment suggesting merely using jars instead of a new piggy. So today, knowing he already had $17+ begging to be spent, we got four ball jars, discussed the categories and what they meant for him, and prepared the jars. We have 4 categories as suggested – Spending, Short Term Savings (for more special things), Long Term Savings/Investing (into his existing savings account we contribute to or bonds or something to be determined later), and Donation.

At first he seemed bothered with donating, but after explaining ways we have given to people previously and options he had, he seemed onboard with that part too. We then divided $3 into each jar, with the rest being put into his ‘Spending’ jar. In this case we allowed a heavier amount to be added to this jar since he just got Valentine’s Day monetary gifts and had been saving this money for a few weeks. From here on out, his allowance will be $4 a week ($1 for each year old) and $1 will go into each jar. Birthday gifts and other gifts will be his discretion since they are gifts. And I secretly hope he will decide to save some, not just lump it into the spending jar! A parent can hope, right?

It is not fancy, but hopefully he will clearly be able to understand the concepts and have a good foundation for managing the money he does have.

keep it coming

As long as I keep the paper coming, the ideas keep flowing. For nearly an hour, Elliott has been painting with watercolors. This has led to imaginative scenes, funny stories, learning a new sound and spelling of a word (taxi). This also has allowed me a whole hour to catch up on emails and computer stuff. But that is not the highlight, just a little perk.

Today was another reminder (of many for the past two weeks) that following his interests will lead to him learning many new things, just not in the order or way I predicted. And while I would not say I am totally able to let go (yet?) and following unschooling ways, it seems that is how my child wants to learn, at least with the place and situation we are in now.

I want to be a Radical Homemaker right now!

I am currently reading the book Radical Homemakers. I am loving this book… really, really loving it. Generally, well, my interpretation, it is re-examining the way we live and saying we need to return back to the family and working as a family to care for ourselves for greater satisfaction in our lives. It covers what steps I have made towards a different way of living already and what I feel I want to change to get to how I want to live. But today I felt overwhelmed by my inability to change things right now. I tend to live this way in my spending, my work, my leisure even. If I cannot get something done at the very moment I want it done, I tend to want it done as soon as possible. But what if it is not possible? What if it takes months or years? Then I tend to get very down on myself or the goal and have often given up or settled for less. With such lofty goals and what I see as a modern-day of attitude of right now, I am struggling with how to plan for a future and continue to make the steps towards it.

You see as I read this book, I was working out at the Y and just this morning made a purchase on Etsy for something I could have made because I wanted it right then. And I justify why I am at the Y and why I get things I could make and why I do not make all my own food and why we have three cars in the driveway and so forth. But in these back steps, I need to start recognizing forward momentum towards the goal and start making plans for taking bigger steps to get where I actually want to be, even if they are years down the road.

no goodbyes yet

So it has been awhile. Many a days I click to this blog and quickly click away. I decide I do not want to remember how long it has been or chaos ensues (and even as I speak, it is) so I move on.

After the flurry of the holiday season and traveling, I assumed I would have more time. But I forgot that oh so long to-do list of all the things I pushed back because of the holidays. Oops. So I took a few weeks to figure out pictures and videos, updating and moving my Etsy shop, knitting little boys their much-needed balaclavas, starting a new Parent and Child group and many more other things (ones I must have blocked out!).

Oliver would not slow down in his excitement!

Now, as I have a few weeks planned out to finish up my bigger projects, I have found someone to join my boys in our Montessori Homecare, something I assumed would be forgotten for the next couple of months since I had very little interest. Three weeks of advertising on Craigslist and on my car just were not cutting it! But, now I find that my mind is a flurry of ideas, and a bit of panic. What do I want to have out on the shelves? How will I balance lessons for the big boys and supervising my little monkey Oliver? What lessons are most crucial since I lack some materials? What things will I go overboard with and what things will I overlook?

Even as I type Oliver is practicing his new skill: chair climbing. He scales his brothers open raised chair and slowly, with such balance, stands, smiles at me, and hesitates a moment more before holding on again. He is still triumphant though he is on his 20th or so time today. I think I will be busy, quite busy the next few months.

But I cannot say goodbye to my blog. I think it will just hang on, for the days I need to vent and celebrate something. And I hope I can squeeze the time in. (And all this makes me wonder how some parents who happen to be homeschooling, working from home, and organizing groups outside of the home can also blog, sell on Etsy, and maybe, even start a second blog staying sane all the while.)

And so I will end as I just watched (in slow motion) my little one whack his chin and then fall flat on his face from the chair.

savoring each bite

All parents have days like mine have been… wild, upset, or mischievous children changing the course of the day in a single moment, adding more work to the day, causing tempers to flare, bouncing between sweet and loving to rowdy and rude. Add that to the regular routine and it has felt like a juggling act for days around here – clean a dirty kitchen, answer demands or pleas for snacks, start the washer, change a diaper (3 poops or more a day!), mend a split lip (two different days this week!), switch clothing to the dryer, respond to important and unimportant emails, shovel snow so the mailman can walk to the door, mail packages, make phone calls, do a complicated craft, play a game, cook dinner, remove a child from a tabletop, remove a child from the cactus, remove a child from the toilet, and so on. Oh, and maybe squeak in a cup of tea and a dash to the bathroom for me, but only if there is time! Today, stuck home from exercising because of snow, the day went according to the same ‘plan’ as days passed – busy, with little actually getting accomplished.

But I threw in something extra today… I discovered a great recipe for butter toffee. As I often do, I told myself to make it anther day. But after an hour that felt like a day, I was really ready to make toffee. Well, to be honest, just eat toffee. But I did all my other work and fun first while Oliver napped and then started the sugar and butter boiling about the moment Oliver was waking up. As the candy thermometer refused to climb at a satisfactory rate, I was forced to let Elliott get Oliver out of his room. “Release the hound!” From my kitchen post, I shouted commands like “Don’t knock him over. I cannot help him right now” or “Elliott, find something to distract him, quick!” And so well over a half hour went by. (Was it even this long? It felt like much, much longer,) I stirred and stirred and the temperature went up ever so slow. The whole time I imagined all the scenarios of awful things unfolding in other rooms, out of sight… and what would absolutely require me to leave the stove. The closer I got to the end and I could smell my toffee, I realized very little could force me to leave that stove! Broken toys and gashed lips would require that someone toddle to me for a hug.

As I neared the final golden 298 degrees, I was just delighted to learn that my candy thermometer was not accurate. Quickly, I changed to a digital thermometer, got it off the stove, and added vanilla. But, in desperation to get a second silicone mat that I really did need, I plopped the hot pan onto another one. It added a nice film to my pot and totally ruined the cutting mat. I finally got it all spread, left it to cool on the mats, left a mess in the kitchen, and checked on my two little ones, who just happened to be playing peacefully in the back. Phew!

Thinking I could move onto the next step, I started melting chocolate, chopping nuts, and grinding sea salt. Since I had far less quality chocolate than needed, I was doing my melting in three stages – great, good, and so-so chocolate. The first one, quality dark baking chocolate, was easy and done in a flash, spread and coated with nuts and sea salt. The second, quality white baking chips, scorched in the pot and then burnt in the microwave – a total waste. The third, cheap milk chocolate chips, never even melted, just globbed in the bowl – more waste. In just another half hour, I had stunk up the kitchen, dirtied a good dozen pots and utensils, and had to contend with burnt on goop on more than one pot. Oh, and I needed to pay what little attention I could spare to children as questions were asked, tears shed, and hands reached for the stove.

But (yes, there is a but), at this point, I could snap off little (or big) pieces of toffee to sustain me. And, Elliott left me alone for a whole five minutes once he negotiated “one, maybe two, uh, maybe three” pieces of toffee from me. And, AND, I feed Oliver leftover chocolate chips while I cleaned up. So while it was utter chaos and stressful, my boys could survive a few minutes without me and we all got some tasty toffee or treats to make the rest of the day go better.

Now, go make some toffee and make Friday super sweet!

* And you may wonder where all the wonderful pictures are of the lovely toffee and the lovely mess. But in the rush of it all, I could not even leave the stove for the camera. And once I remembered the camera when I got to my big toffee sheets, I realized Pioneer Woman’s images would be far lovelier and looked a lot like my sweet treat anyways. Although, I did not do double sides as she did since I was short of chocolate.

little helper

Lately, quite sadly I must say, tender feelings for Elliott have been far and few between due to his monstrous behavior. But seeing spoons in the fork drawer made me think fondly of my little sweety. Here is how I got spoons in the fork drawer.

Earlier tonight, ever tired of asking him to pick up before moving on to the next thing and sensing I would get the same lack of energy turned tantrumy nastiness as usual. And being fed up with load after load of my work, I offered a switch. I would pick up his toys (which were really quite few) and he would unload the dishes. He happily agreed. In a few minutes I finished and asked him what I should do now. I assumed he would say help him, but he happily replied “Go work at your desk or something.” What can I say to that but ‘Okay!’

He used his learning tower to climb to put pots away. He stacked things on the counter he was too short to put away. And he never asked for my help. I only finally intervened when the stack of items became a bit too precarious. Even then, I only did the counter dishes, not what was left in the dishwasher. Once finished, he was happy. I was happy. A crisis averted!

So tonight while I unloaded yet another load of dishes, grumpy and worn out, seeing that he had to climb up to the drawers and find the place for spoons made this little mistake so very sweet. He was working so hard tonight to do it all by himself.

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I originally tried to post this last night but our internet was on the fritz.

Today, Elliott and I changed jobs again. I picked up his room and he made his school lunch. He did a great job, even selecting items from nearly all the food groups. He felt very proud that he cut his own pear (which I came to supervise), packed it all up, and cleaned up.

unexpected benefits

So I know exercise is good for me, I should have stuck with it over the years, and blah, blah, blah. It turns out I should have listened way back when. In just over two months, I have seen some unexpected results.

Back in October when I blogged about my exercise woes, I was just expecting to drop a few pounds for motivation over the next few months. During these past two months though, I could tell I had more muscle tone, more energy, and exercise had helped curb my desire to munch on sweets all the time. But the weight loss, my one big goal, had me discouraged. So far I have not lost a single pound and I still have a belly problem.

But recently I got encouraging news from the times I donated blood. The place that I donate, Indiana Blood Center, allows you to track your total cholesterol from your recent donations. Since high cholesterol runs in my family and my last test some 8 to 10 years ago yielded less than great results, I was eager to see the results. I just happened to have donated on September 11th and November 23rd, with exercise becoming a 3 times per week routine by the end of September. I went from 223 to 158! Well, that is thrilling enough for me to feel motivated and just cross my fingers that someday soon a few pounds will just give up and go away.

a new, but not so improved me

The way I see myself and the way I actually am has shifted over the years. I believe myself to be punctual, ordered – in home and body, and be somewhat calm. And I might sometimes slip up and say that I am some or all of these things. But since the mobility of Oliver, who I am has become plain to me. I am constantly late, I cannot keep thoughts in my head for more than a second, I feel chaos in everything I do, and I repeatedly lose my temper. Now I find myself making excuses to Elliott’s preschool about dirty diapers, clock not set right, and so forth to cover my inconsistencies. I find I forgot a thought while walking into another room. I yell over the smallest of issues. What had me thinking about this was a 45 minute visit to the pediatrician this morning:

After waiting a few minutes in the waiting room, Oliver needed to be undressed for the scale. While Elliott danced around with his magna doodle, I heaped our coats, Oliver’s clothing, and my bag on the chair. When it was time to migrate to the exam room, I was juggling Oliver, the heap of clothing and herding Elliott while he repeatedly blocked the nurse (who thankfully took our coats while she carried a laptop). After Oliver unpacked my bag, fell a few times and Elliott knocked him over to protect his magna doodle, we saw the doctor, got the lead test and shots we came for and repacked everything we brought. And there was some crying. After assigning Elliott the job of carrying his toy and my papers, and loading my arms with a toddler and our gear, we headed for check out. This is where it really got chaotic.

Apparently one nurse thought our insurance would allow for a certain pricing on shots, but the checkout nurse disagreed. I was asked to wait a few moments. I heaped our stuff up, Elliott sat in a chair, and Oliver toddled away, quite quickly, down the hall and into waiting rooms. He was lured back, only wanting to run again. Then he had to give their decorative snowman a few whacks. Next, Elliott declared he was hungry. Trying to be discreet, I pulled out pretzels for the boys. Oliver ate one and fussed to get down, while Elliott dug into the bag for a fistful. Then Oliver sneezed, blasting snot and pretzel all over his face and my white sweater (yeah, stupid choice). While I was getting him cleaned up, Elliott dug around in my purse for toys. Oliver toddled off yet again. While I was fetching Oliver, Elliott managed to spread out four or five items on the chairs and floor, some more embarrassing than others. And during all of this, I occasionally had to answer a question or two at the desk.

Finally, we haggled a bit more and they gave me the reduced fees. We gathered our stuff, lured Oliver to the elevator and trudged out. In one short hour, I was wiped out. I felt as if I had no control and I could not think straight. When an adult asked me a question, my mind was swimming with all my children’s issues. After that, I decided I wanted coffee and a cookie so off we went. I felt I needed that to continue the day.

I used to see parents juggling stuff and feel a bit of pity but also a bit of arrogance. Surely, that would not be me. I would have it all together. Today I felt I was the one being pitied by the other parents who watched this all unfold. And I really see now that until my children move out, I will not be as punctual, ordered or calm as I once was. Is this just one part of the price of raising children? I guess the positive of a morning like this – it could have been worse, much worse. No dirty diapers, no throwing up, no hurt children, no tantrums. Oh the list goes on of things I am thankful we did not have happen this morning!

a fall snowstorm

A snowstorm has hit our home! One little snowflake coming home from school sparked intense interest in crafting up more, which timed up perfectly with a friend’s snowflake crafting at their home. Even though it is 60+ degrees outside and turkeys are still being made to grace the windows, last night was the night to crank snowflakes out.

And in case we were worried that they don’t quite look like snowflakes, Elliott was quick to take care of that…

 

“That one with the long sides is pretty awesomer. Any kind of crystal can form. Crystals can form like that. Like yours, like mine.”  

 

We were also quite enthused by the sun scattering our snowflakes around the house for us and it made Elliott wish we could have snowflakes stenciled on the walls. That sounded lovely, but we did not bust out the paints or markers to capture those shadows today.

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