"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Friday, September 21, 2012

writing notes

Over the five and a half years that I've spent as a Mother, I've experienced Maternal Disconnect on a few occasions. It happened when Evan was an infant and was diagnosed as "colicky." I felt like I was missing something because "colicky" didn't seem to describe the baby I was looking at/caring for/sobbing over. I felt disconnected, only to find out later, [ahem] I was right.

I felt it again when I was weaning Max. That time, the Maternal Disconnect was biological... evolutionary, even. I was physically separating from him and encouraging his independence in sustenance. And, I could see the disconnect for what it was: a temporary, healthy, and chosen thing.

And then, there was the disconnect I felt when Evan went through his I'm-Three-Years-Old-and-I-Hate-the-World phase. Wowzers. Those were six months during which I don't think my feet touched the ground, so forming deeper, more meaningful bonds with my hellion? Didn't happen.

But this....
This one's different. Because this time, it's....forever.

Evan started school.

I'm thrilled for this because it's school. And I loved school (eventually). And he loves school. And he's learning and he's growing and he's experiencing and he's discovering.....but he's doing it without me. He shares some stories with me, and tells me about what he's learning...but I'm not there. And he's there more than he's here. And I miss him.

And School? That's his World. He gets to choose when and if to let me in...and how far. And I won't pry further. And it KILLS me not to. I, naturally, want to know everything. 

There's more.

He's getting Older. He's still a cuddly, snuggly guy....but only when he wants to be. He'll wipe off my kisses and wriggle away from a hug with a very tween-sounding, "Mooooommmmm," when he's not in the mood. He prefers Sam's bedtime tuck-ins to mine, too, lately. So there are fewer Quiet Talks in the Dark than there were when he was little. And that's not temporary. And it's not chosen. (At least not by me.)

So what to do about this disconnect? How do I maintain (or reclaim?) a piece of Us? And...is it possible to come up with a way to Connect that will grow as he grows?

Enter: Pinterest...


I started the book. I wrote a note....not a love note, just a note. And I put it on his pillow. When he found it, he asked about it. I read him the note and invited him to respond..."But don't write in it now," I said. "Write me a note when you have something to say but it's not a good time to say it out loud." And then, to capitalize on his current interest: "And be ninja-ish about it! Don't tell me you've written me a note; sneak it into my room! Hide it! I'll find it."

It sat, untouched, on his nightstand for a few days.  And then, he came into Molly's room one afternoon while I was putting her down for a nap. It was taking longer than usual and, after his third peek in to see how much longer, I whispered, "Please don't come in anymore. Every time you come in, she wakes up and it takes more time to get her back to sleep."

When she was finally out, I tip-toed out of her room to see a smiling Evan standing in the hallway. "Oh, Mooo-ooommm!" he said, in a sing-song voice. "Don't you want to look behind your lovely pillow?" Smooth. I feigned surprise when I looked and saw the notebook there. He had written his first note: "MOM PLS PLA WF US" [Mom, please play with us.] with a picture of a happy mommy with, inexplicably, a large belly button.

I almost cried.

Since then, we've written a few notes each. We're limited somewhat because I only write what he can read by himself or with a little help...but that will change, in a good way, as he gets older. I just hope that as he does, he keeps wanting to write...to share....to stay connected.

Lesson Learned:
Yesterday after school, as we played Ninjago, Evan mentioned one of the kids in his class by name. I asked him who else was a good friend in his class. After listing several names, he said, "But not X. Not really at all." I asked him what made him say that and he looked down and said, "I don't want to tell you." I assured him that he could tell me anything and that, especially when someone isn't making good choices or is hurting someone else, it's Important to tell a grown-up. He still resisted: "I know, I just don't want to say this." Well, now, I was worried. What was going on?

"You know," I started, "If you don't want to talk to me, you can talk to Daddy...or your teacher..." [and then it hit me...] "Or you could write about it in our Notebook!" He looked up at me, I continued: "Sometimes it's easier to write about something than it is to talk about."  He changed the subject back to Ninjago. After a few minutes, he told me what had been bothering him....a student in his class has trouble "remembering her manners" he said, and more, she doesn't always listen to Mrs. C and that makes him feel "uncomfortable." Because he loves his teacher so much, I think Evan feels protective of Mrs. C...and feels personally affronted when others don't show her due respect.

As his mother, this fills my heart right up. He's a good boy. I hope he always feels "uncomfortable" when people are being disrespectful to others (I just hope that, one day, he feels comfortable enough to stand up for the disrespected instead of internalizing it). And I hope he remembers what I told him about using our Notebook to say the hard things. Or the easy things. Or anything...I just want to always know what he has to say.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

make-it-yourself: spooky skeletons

Well, today was the day. The day I earned yet another stripe as a Real Mom: I got The Call from the school nurse. Evan had fallen asleep during Work Choice Centers. In the middle of the room and the kids and the noise. Imagine my lack of surprise when the nurse told me that he had a fever. It's sort of his thing, is it not? Max is my respiratory illness kid, Evan's my fever kid. Molly's my doesn't-get-sick kid (knocking on wood that her healthy streak continues!).

So by lunchtime, all of my babies were home with me as the rain poured down in sheets outside our windows. It was a snuggly, cuddly, sure-we-can-read-another-book kind of afternoon. And, of course, because it IS mid-September, those books were all spooky, spooky Halloween books. We are celebrating EARLY this year. Max has already made a fall/Halloween themed stained glass, cut-paper Jack o' Lanterns, a Five Little Pumpkins ("and their pet spooky ooky bats") mural, and two Happy Halloween posters. And Evan has enjoyed looking at Max's artful decorations.

While we read Eve Bunting's Scary, Scary Halloween, Max pointed to the skeleton. "When's that guy gonna come?" I told him that he's just a boy in a costume, and maybe we'll see a kid in a skeleton costume on Halloween. Then, to blow his mind, I added, "But you know, each of us has a skeleton inside us all the time. Feel your arm....that hard part's your skeleton bone!" His eyes got wide as he asked, almost breathlessly, "How'd he get in there?" To which his big brother responded, "He didn't get in there, Max. It's just a part of your Human Body. Don't you remember Miss Frizzle and the Human Body?" (We're big Magic School Bus fans around here, too, of course.)

So we talked a bit more about bones and we felt our bones in our arms, legs, heads, and chest, and then....brainstorm:


We pulled that butcher paper back out and got to work making our own spooky skeletons. I did open our Halloween books to pages with skeleton illustrations, and we did spend a few more minutes feeling our bones before we got to work, but once I finished tracing their outlines, I stepped back and let them get to work...

Here are Max's rib bones...and look at his spine!


Max consulted the book illustrations for guidance, while Evan added extra touches, like spooky fingernails...


 ...and a skeleton face...
(check out his hand bones...)



When I saw him drawing circles around his bones, I asked about them. "They're white blood cells," he said. How appropriate coming from a kid who's own white blood cells were hard at work today...


Lesson Learned:
This was fun. And it was art! And science! And they'll be great Halloween decorations! And....well, they sort of look like crime scene chalk outlines. Maybe next time we'll use white paint instead of crayons, to make the bones pop a bit more.


Actually....if we're all feeling up for it, I think we'll do that tomorrow. Or Q-tips! We could glue Q-tips and straws on their crayon lines to show that different bones are different lengths! Oh, the places we could go with this activity. Good thing we have PLENTY of time until Halloween...

Monday, September 17, 2012

pest control

When it comes to household pests, I'm usually pretty brave. Like, the other day, we were coming in from the bus stop and I noticed a freakishly large and scary wolf spider at the bottom of our garage steps. I bravely asked Evan to kill it for me, while I bravely shrieked and screamed in the driveway. 

Molly found it hilarious.

Evan was brave and ninja-like as he Hii-Yaa'ed it with a shoe.

Max, grumpy from having been woken up from his nap, just frowned and said we were all being too loud.

Up until a few years ago, before Evan was big and brave enough to rescue me, when there was a spider in the house, I'd have to use the hose attachment on the vacuum. Or call in a neighbor. And it isn't just spiders that bother me. Fruit flies and ants have been particularly pesky recently. One day, while Sam was vacuuming the fruit flies (yup. Vacuuming the fruit flies.) Evan suggested that we ask that Bug Guy from our old neighborhood (aka: Brian, from Dodson Pest Control) to come "help us out." Perhaps, Evan, perhaps.

The truth is, I'm just not very good at confrontation. I prefer to have the pests eliminated without me having to catch, smoosh, shoe, vacuum, or direct my five-year old into a Pest Killer. And, as much as I hate those stupid bugs, the thought of lining my house with chemicals is almost even less appealing. 

So, what to do?

Enter, Pinterest!

I found this fruit fly trap idea online and adjusted it based on my sister's experience/recommendation.


Take a small dish or cup (I used a disposable cup so I could just throw the whole thing away when we were finished with it). Pour a small amount of apple cider vinegar in it and add a chunk of fruit (strawberry tops and banana peels work great). Cover with cling wrap. Poke 7-8 little holes in the top.

After a day, I have several dozen fruit flies in there and my compost container is no longer crawling.

***

Over the summer, I noticed three tiny ants under my kitchen table, one on each of three consecutive days. Although not as scary as spiders, ants worry me because there are just so damn many of them. I knew I needed to control the ant situation Today. So, I googled and pinterest-searched and learned that ants hate cinnamon.

Really.

So I sprinkled some cinnamon outside the door that leads directly into our dining area, where I had seen the ants. I made sure to really cover the corners and seams of the door jamb. Would you believe that I have not seen A SINGLE ANT in my house since then?!

Amazing.

Lesson Learned:
Anybody know of a fool-proof, chemical-free spider repellant? Something that I could just carry around with me, maybe, so I'll never have to see one again for the rest of my life? Let me know. Or just Pin it. I'll find it.

see molly eat

Broccoli and Zukes
(roasted until soft, naked except for olive oil spray)



Molly was really *eating* the zucchini. She'd gnaw off a chunk, play with the chunk between her gums, spit a little bit out, swallow the rest, then shudder and look up to us for reassurance. 
Then, she'd go back in for more...

***

Broccolini





Molly LOVES the texture of broccoli/broccolini. She played with it between her fingers and rubbed it on her lips the entire meal.

Lesson Learned:
This girl is going to be my little foodie. Love.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

make-it-yourself stained glass

Here's another one we've done before....

Roll out the contact paper and gather some fall-colored tissue paper...


...to make a super-easy stained-glass window/suncatcher.


For this, our fall version, we added some silk leaves I had left over from another project and some bat/halloween stickers. (Don't forget to put the stickers upside down so the front side shows through the contact paper once you stick it to the window.) (And, yes, I stuck the contact paper directly to the window. I didn't know how well the stickers would peel off the glass, though, so I stuck tissue paper to the back of each.)




Lesson Learned:
Fall is so close I can almost taste it. Actually, maybe that's the pumpkin muffin I just ate. I'm so happy to be spending my first fall in ten years in the most beautiful City in Fall in the entire world. I'm a lucky girl....

BLW and tactile exploration

Last night, we ate chicken and lentil green curry. I thought that was a little much for our just-starting-out girl, so I set aside some plain lentils for her taste and tactile dinnertime exploration. She dove right in with her hands, touching them, spreading them out, squishing them...



Hugging them?



And she loved it! But I don't think a single one made it into her mouth. But it's all part of the process...


Lesson Learned:
She also had some sweet potato fries. I had cooked a bunch of naked sweet potato fries a week or so ago for dinner. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, I put the left-over fries in a single layer, careful not to let them touch. I placed the tray in the freezer for a few hours, then took the flash-frozen fries and put them into a Ziploc freezer bag. When I'm not preparing a BLW-appropriate veggie for the family dinner, I can pop a couple into the microwave for 20 seconds or so for a quick and easy meal for Molly.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Molly's BLW update

Baby likes Sweet Potato




Baby likes Sugar Snaps




(Baby's lukewarm on 'cado.)

Lesson Learned:
She's EATING. For REAL eating. She caught on right away, but the past few nights have looked like Real Meals. Such a big girl. Baby-led weaning is perfect for this babe.

map making

We unrolled the butcher paper today, as we have done before. I drew a Matchbox Car Roadmap, as I have done before. For the first time, though, because Evan was at school, it was Max who was in charge of deciding what landmarks to include and where to place them.  He knew how lucky he was.


So he named a place ("The library!" "Caiden and Mia's house!" "Mom Mom and Pop!" "The fire station!") and pointed to where he wanted me to draw it. I drew. He colored. We made a good team.


(But when he said, "Draw the lake from Uncle Matt's wedding...Montana lake!" I might have "encouraged" him to color somewhere else on the map while I had a little fun with the fat Crayolas.)


But he had plenty of space, too.


It stayed out all day. He walked away from it from time to time to play other things (and it was beautiful today, so we couldn't possibly stay inside all day) but he kept coming back to it, to add more color here or there or to say, "Mommy! We forgot a playground!"

And then Evan came home.

And for the first time...ever?...he went right over to an art project invitation and joined right in. But instead of drawing or coloring....HE WROTE. Just over two weeks in kindergarten and he is a Writer.





Until we had our fullest, most beautiful Matchbox Car Roadmap EVER.


And we never even got around to getting out the cars.


Lesson Learned:
It's in moments like these where I see elements of my teacher training courses in Real Life. It's like in "spiral education," where the same theme is presented, in increasing depth to children, over several years.  Every time we do this project, or something similar, it changes as the boys' interests and abilities change. The focus changes, which changes not only the course of play but the outcome of the project. And, this is a perfect example of "scaffolding," where the same project can be used for multiple ages or ability levels of kids...each working on a different part of the project. I love when we can create something Together. Happily.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

practice

Recently, Evan realized that he's not the fastest runner in the whole wide world.

Even though he's not really into running, and doesn't generally choose to run as his outside activity, and, quite honestly, he looks like me (read: like a baby giraffe) when he runs, he just assumed that he, probably, was the fastest....well, maybe not in the world. But most likely among his friends. It wasn't arrogance, it just hadn't occurred to him, I think, that he might not be.

This weekend, while running around with the neighborhood kids, Evan, looking like someone whose belief system had just been shaken, walked up to Sam. Shoulders slumped, eyes downcast, he said, "I'm not the fastest. Not even in my class. Jake is faster. The girls are faster."

Sam told him that it's okay not to be the fastest, but that if he wanted to run faster, practice could help him.

And so they ran. Up and down the sidewalk in front of our house. And they laughed. And Evan ran right in front of Sam, cutting him off, playing a little dirty. And it was fun.

Sweaty and out of breath, but feeling good and accomplished, Evan walked up the driveway and met me near the garage.

"Mom. I'm not the fastest kid in my class."

"No. And even if you practice and practice and practice and get SO GOOD at running, you still might not be."

He stared at me. Disbelieving. "Why not?"

"Well, you can't always be the best at every single thing."

In silence, he walked away.

A few minutes later, he returned, having given my harsh reality check some thought:
"I might not be the fastest runner; but I bet I'm the sneakiest like a ninja."

Happily, away he skipped.

Lesson Learned:
He's young to come to terms with that Truth. Hope it sticks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Molly Eats!

But, before she did....she sat up all by herself!

On Monday morning, Molly decided that it was much more interesting to look at the doggie from up above rather than nose-to-nose. More interesting and less scary, perhaps. She'd been close for about a week, but on Monday morning, something clicked and she Just Sat. 


And so, because she's sitting up unassisted and because she's over six months old and because, well, why not? We began Baby-Led Weaning: Part Deux. Like a textbook case, Molls dove right in, hands only at first....


(Okay, and sorry for the photo overload here, BLW is just too cute not to over-photograph...)



It didn't take long, though, for that banana to reach her mouth...



 When a little bit broke off into her mouth, I didn't worry about her choking on it (the benefit of being a BLW veteran...I was a nervous wreck watching Max take his first foods to his mouth. I learned quickly that babies CAN handle food introduction in this manner and that choking is extremely rare...but I only needed to learn the lesson once....this time was pure enjoyment). And, as I knew she would because it is What Babies Do, she moved it around her mouth for a bit, making some priceless faces in the process, before spitting it out.


 And then, she went right back in for more.


Molly's first BLW experience only lasted about 5-7 minutes. After that, she was done. We attributed it to the fact that this was her first go at it and also to the fact that she was sitting more or less alone at the table while the boys were off on their own and Sam and I tag-teamed watching her/cleaning the kitchen.

So, for Bananas Take Two, we waited until dinner time, when we were all seated together modeling eating for her.




She stayed happily in her seat, eating, playing, talking, for the entire meal. 
What a good girl.


(As an after-thought, we gave Molly a sweet potato fry tonight along with her banana. I had cooked them "naked" and they're such a great first food for BLW so we went for it even though we hadn't waited the recommended three days between foods. We're just wild and crazy like that.)

Lesson Learned:
I'm likin' this new dinner party....