From September 2009

One of the offshoots of some of my recent reading, as well as just feeling a transition in the boys, has led to my attempts to integrate more creativity into all of our lives. I've been greatly influenced by Amanda Blake Soule's (Soule Mama) blog and her first book (i can't wait until the second one gets to our library!) And have embarked upon creative attempts in a several different directions. Partly i'm interested in incorporating more "arts and crafts" in a straightforward manner into our lives. And partly i feel something a little more complicated about wanting to slow down more with the boys and have time to actually create together. So "create" has taken on a very relaxed interpretation in the past several weeks.

Practically I've approached the idea of "creating more" by re-tuning our schedule to allow tv/videos/computer only on the weekends. It's amazing how this helps open up little pockets of time. I've started a binder of kid friendly projects that i've been using to select one big project for each weekend. I also reorganized all the art supplies so that both the "no assistance necessary" (crayons, color pencils and the like) and "some assistance necessary" (pompons, "real" glue, beads) are within Henry's reach. The two biggest contributors to forward progress though have been buying a small desk for Henry so that he has a dedicated "creative" space, and sitting down with Henry to water color, cut, or just create.

From September 2009

Henry's very excited about his desk and it has given him a little special space that is out of the way and lets him go off and have some alone time when he needs it. As Henry and Silas get closer, they get more and more intertwined. There bond has grown for sure, but so has (at least Henry's) need for some alone time. This desk was a pretty crucial step in helping them find a way to establish this.

You'll notice that so far i'm only talking about Henry in all of this. Silas is not interested in "art" right now and only very fleetingly will deign himself to color or paint. He was exactly the same way with books for a very long time and only just recently became interested in sitting still to be read to. This has prompted the biggest creative development for all of us-- periodic book time. Sometimes they don't go willingly, but i find that if i can get the boys to the couch or the bed or the playroom floor and agreeing to a book (or at least who gets to pick first) everyone's blood pressure drops several beats and their breathing becomes more regular. I can just sense it happening for them and *feel* it happening for me-- even when 2 minutes before i was aware of my last nerve stretched taut.

The coming fall weather helps. I can forsee a winter of evenings huddled around the kitchen table, long weekends spent in the middle of big and small projects. The image is at least a good bit enticing although for the part of me wishing summer would never end, i feel like i have some new ideas to meet the long hibernation that i know is coming. I promise more pictures of all the fruits of our work to come soon.


Playroom Overhaul

I've been doing some initial reading and learning (mostly web-based at this point although the library books are in transit) about Waldorf and Montessori theories around child-development and play. My take away from the surprisingly similar starting tenants to play and playrooms that both Waldorf and Montessori sites espouse are:

- Simplify. Cut back. Downsize. Doesn't matter how natural, or cool or creative your child's playthings are. When there are too many of them they get overwhelmed and their toys aren't appealing. Think Barney's, not Walmart.

- Well-made toys that are aesthetically appealing and open-ended are more appealing and last longer than easily broken toys that dictate how a child needs to play with them. This fits the quality over quantity point. For some folks this means only natural materials for toys-- to me it just means a few well chosen toys that hold up, can be used all different ways and if they're beautiful and natural-- bonus!

--Kids need their stuff out in the open. Ideally organized on low-shelves where things are out in the open or stored in open containers for small items. Check! This was my own conclusion after 3 years of trying to bring organization to the play room.

--The other key tenant which we're working on is having kids pick up their playroom-- putting things back where it goes. Part of what seems to help this is having a dedicated spot for everything. I struggle with this honestly, because i'm constantly trying to better organize their playthings-- editing, and oftentimes working in new toys they've been given. So we're working on having them take ownership for picking up but i don't think i'm ready for a system like they have at preschool where each toy or bin is numbered and there is a corresponding spot in the shelf for the item.

There's lots more to both waldorf and montessori philosophy for both play as well as childrens' development, but i've been focusing on these points as an entree to integrating more creativity into the boys days.

As you can tell from the photos, simplifying hasn't meant barren. It's amazing how you cart half the stuff to the basement and the playroom is still almost overflowing. I'm watching carefully though and almost everything in there gets constant use. The only thing i'm not certain about is the bookshelf. So far i haven't applied the same (take out half) approach i have in other places. They probably would read more different books if there were fewer choices. But somehow having an entire shelf of books to browse seems too important to me. So i'm holding off at this point. What do you think?


Silas' Big Boy Bed

It was a rash decision but, but last Monday morning, on the eve of Henry heading to preschool, we converted Silas' crib to a big boy bed. We had started talking with Silas about the idea after we returned from vacation and although he showed very short spurts of interest he always returned to "no" and other sentiments that meant he liked things just the way they were.

Then on Monday morning we started talking about changing his bed and he went for it. He said he wanted to "change my bed" several times and seemed genuinely excited. JT and i talked about the rational reasons it wasn't a great idea; a) we were going to be gone all day at a BBQ so he wouldn't actually be home to get used to it, b) the next day was Henry's first day of school and we didn't want to start off with a terrible night's sleep and c) if things went awry we wouldn't have the weekend to recuperate.

But, we threw those concerns out the window and decided to be led by the fact that the child that has made it clear he doesn't like change, was embracing, nay excited for this transition. We all took a turn with the ikea wrenches and voila-- big boy bed!

Silas was over the moon about his new bed and played happily in it all morning. He took his usual nap upstairs and then we headed out to Tiffany and Mike's for our labor day BBQ. He was clingy and difficult at the BBQ but in the few moments when he'd let me put him down and wander over to the other kids, he'd quickly saunter back and whisper "my bed" with this happy, sly smile that he's great at.

That night he was over the moon to sleep in his bed and so far there has been no falling out of bed or midnight escapades. He and Henry often wake up before 7 now, but talk or read quietly to each other until 7 when they both come bounding up the stairs to wake us up. It's very, very dear and helps smudge some of the harsh edges around the difficulties we've begun to emerge from with Silas.



If you visit my actual blog (instead of using a feed-reader) you might have noticed that i've been posting my facebook status on the sidebar. It's a bit wonky from a design perspective but it gives you a sense that you can find me on facebook making quick frequent updates on our family. I use fb as a way to post short, frequent messages related to the ups and downs in my day and around events related to our family. If you're a friend or family in real life (and i'd be surprised if you were reading this blog and *didn't* fall in that category) i'd be happy to have you as a friend on facebook.

I've found this blog has evolved into a journal of sorts to help me chronicle the major events of our family life. I'm not abandoning this blog, and it certainly gives me a space to write in more depth than a fb status updated. But it's not exactly the place for late breaking news.

So, glad we cleared that up!



We're well on our way to having a preschooler in his second week of school. Even that first day you'd think Henry was a pro! We've been so pleased at his transition to school and are looking forward to many great years at our elementary school.

Henry started school on the day after labor day. The Friday before we got a call that a spot had opened in the morning session. So after all the hand-wringing, the feeling inadequate and ill-prepared to be the parent i wanted, things just worked out. I tried to spread the gratitude around wherever i could that day!

Henry's first day of school, JT and I went with Henry for a shortened morning session. We got to meet the teacher (new to the school), watch the kids take a "tour" of their classroom, drop off our supplies (which we almost needed a wheelbarrow for) and then accompany the kids to the lunch room for a snack while we had a greeting from the Principal. The second day Henry went by himself but was just there (again) with the "new" kids. Then the third day he went and all the kids that attended last year started too. You couldn't have designed a better way to ease Henry into everything.

All accounts are that he did wonderfully. He got a "i did great at school" ticket when he came out beaming on his first solo day and the teacher and the aide have consistently described him as doing great. Really until tonight he's been a little closed-lipped about things. He now things it's hilarious to say his teacher's name is "nothing" when you ask what it is. I'm pretty sure the smart ass humor didn't rub off from my side of the family. Now that he's been going he's describing vignettes from his day-- playing with the blocks, the rules of the playground, how lunch works, the writing center, etc. I'm hoping to keep drawing this kind of information out in dribs and drabs when he doesn't notice.

And after the last post, i'd be remiss in explaining that Silas has taken the whole transition in stride. I wasn't sure how he'd feel about Henry heading off to preschool but i think the fact that Silas is just continuing on *his* own routine and Henry comes and joins him later hasn't rocked his world too much!


Silas and the terrible, horrible, no-good, rotten tantrums

I've been thinking about this post for awhile and yet the idea of sitting down to really dig into my son's tantrums, meltdowns and fits of rage seems to keep losing out to things like, organizing the basement (last night) pulling weeds (nap-time) or searching etsy (all the time!) But before the Henry preschool posts get going (which i promise will be coming soon), i did want to write about Silas and the difficult phase we're going through with him. At first i was going to say so i could remember it, but really it's more so when my friends with younger kids ask me about this type of behavior, i can look back, compare their descriptions with mine and assure them their children are not baboons.

Silas has been lodged in this phase for at least a few months. It's hard to pinpoint the exact start because since he entered toddler-hood, it was apparent he was stubborn and tenacious-- definitely not one to handle with the trusty distraction technique. As he's moved further and further into the twos he's gotten more difficult. He wants what he wants now, and he just melts down if he doesn't get it. He also really, really wants something and then when he gets it he doesn't want THAT and he can't believe you would torture him by taking him to the shower park which he's been dying to go to because now he really, really, really wants to go to the pocket park.

In addition to how easily upset (let's be honest, enraged) he gets, he's also really shy and wary of new people and new routines and just new stuff overall. So he needs to be with Mom pretty much all the time and will meltdown into one of said freak-outs if say, Dad should deign to try to change his diaper.

When we were at the beach obviously everything was new, and even by the time it wasn't new, his meltdowns were reaching a crescendo. It was difficult but also completely and totally exhausting. There were days i didn't have one drop left of patience, or new ideas, or discipline left to give. I think it was probably a lot of little things, he wasn't getting quite the full sleep he needed, he was off his routine, and he's 2. But it did make parts of the vacation really difficult.

Thankfully he's eased off a bit since we've been back. He still gets upset easily and can throw a tantrum with the best of them, but they tend to be more manageable. Unfortunately as some of the meltdowns have subsided we are now moving into another difficult phase of limit testing, hitting and general misbehavior. This one is going to require some new learning on my part because as opposed to Henry, who tested bounds as if he knew it was part of his developmental curve, Silas tests boundaries with absolute and unfettered glee. It's a little worrisome how much his eyes twinkle when he's doing something he shouldn't be. Hmm, makes me think i need to go check out some books on two-year old unruly children. Any suggestions and i'm all ears!