Giving Back

In the past six months or so i feel like i've stumbled on to some blogs that have made some pretty significant contributions in my life. There's no linear telling of the stumblings, but soulemama.com was probably the nexus. Her beautiful photographs and telling of her family life re-focused my energies and spurred me to explore positive parenting approaches, learn about waldorf education, bring crafts into life with the boys, and embrace sewing and handwork in a big way.

And the reason i'm telling you all of this is to say that beyond inspiration and new hobbies, reading soulemama and some of the other parenting blogs has helped develop a positive thought line running through my head. Many of them discuss in their blogs how grateful they are for what surrounds them-- even when things aren't going right. It really is infectious if you hear this kind of talk enough.

So while part of me is whining that i was so excited for this week off, several days to sew and shop and cook and be productive and that it's not fair to be sick, the other part of me is saying that i'm grateful i have three full days to rest if need-be, a laptop to watch movies on, listen to music and connect when i feel like it, and especially for the little boys that have become very adept and (usually) willing to pick up the downstairs when the toy explosion starts to reach the high-water mark.

I'm not having the morning i wanted (gym, shopping, and then massage); but i am having the morning that i need (in bed with the newspaper, the laptop, coffee and saving my energy for said massage.)

Wishing you and yours a grateful week!


Very First Parent-Teacher Conference

Yesterday JT and I attended our first parent-teacher conference. It was a delightful time to hear about how well Henry is doing, how amazing a little guy he is outside the home (he's great inside as well-- part of the time :), and to get a detailed report on some of his activities at school.

For my early-childhood education readers, they use something called "creative curriculum" that the preschool learning objectives are tied to-- a quarter of which are in social/emotional development and the rest spread over things like physical, cognitive and language development. Henry got good comments in all areas, and Ms. Laura mentioned that his physical skills on the playground are right in line with all the other kids (i had mentioned his physical therapy).

She had some observation notes for Henry that she gave us and some of them are too funny not to share:
-Playing independently at the art table, Henry observes: "You know, this orange paper is pretty thick, and the red paper wasn't as thick, Why?"
- Henry easily repeats and extends a simple AB pattern using blue and purple manipulative people. He says later while lining them up, "They're at the Artic Pole. They're really Cold."
- While playing with Henry in Dramatic Play, I ask him, "Can i have some milk Henry?" Henry finds the milk in the fridge, brings it to me, and says "Sure, here it is!"
- Henry puts all the blocks on the shelf to "see how many can fit."


Feedback Loop

From November 2009

Even with the Internet, and a community of supporters that i can access on the phone, online and in-person, sometimes parenting can be a bit of an isolating job. I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer in Henry's classroom once a week for the past few months and it's been such a rewarding experience. Seeing Henry outside of his family environment is a joy-- and allows me to clearly see his strengths without having to deal with the "hands-on" parenting that makes you feel like you're in the trenches when you're at home.

I also get a chance to meet all of Henry's classmates, learn their names and see how Henry interacts with them. I recently came across this quote and nodded my head vigorously; "If you ask preschoolers, "What did you do at school today?" they will typically say, "Nothing." Honestly, i was happy to read this as some kids i know just gush the goings-on of their day. But not Henry. For as long as he's been talking, when you ask him what he did at school- or even try to be creative and ask him the funniest or silliest thing that happened he seems to delight in telling you a) nothing happened or b) he just started at the wall all day.

The book went on to say: "But if they get other cues-- you start to sing one of the songs or they see or smell something similar-- you can get an amazingly detailed rendition of the morning's activities."

Being in Henry's classroom gives me the details to be able to ask questions that he'll actually answer, or to weave his classmates names into our conversation. I've considered it laying the groundwork, and in fact it has allowed him to open up and share more with me-- almost as if because he doesn't have to educate me from scratch it's something he'll consider doing.

Henry seems to love having me in the classroom as well-- asking throughout the week if it's the day i come to help at his school. He's really great about honoring the conversation we had the first week in which i explained that i'm still his Mom, but when i'm in the classroom i'm there to help Ms. Laura and all the other boys and girls. He gives me an enormous hug when i'm ready to leave, and interacts with the activities i lead-- but is just as comfortable picking other centers.

But the place i started this post was to say that i've received some hugely valuable positive feedback from Ms. Laura about my skills with the kids. I'm not sure if i can explain how those comments helped shore me up. The kids have both been in some rough patches for awhile and i haven't always felt like i'm doing a great job mothering them. My patience and problem solving skills only go so far. So, being in a classroom with 20 kids and feeling like i know how to help manage the classroom and interact in very positive ways with the kids has been wonderful.


Halloween 2009

We've had a great time prepping for and waiting to see exactly how Halloween was going to play out around these parts. Henry had decided pretty early he wanted to be a firefighter-- which was great, because we already had everything we needed for his costume. Except for some late in the day desires to be a whole bevvy of inanimate objects (a tree and a pillow are two that spring to mind) we were pretty prepared for Henry to have a smooth experience with Halloween.

We started talking early about Halloween with Silas, and particularly about dressing up. He wasn't very interested, but i figured it was weeks away so no rush. We didn't push but most times when we brought up Halloween and getting dressed in our costumes he used a particularly "Silas" tone of voice to indicate-- "no biggie, but i'm not getting dressed up." I know Silas well enough to know that he probably knew full well what he was going to do and was just stating it early. But part of me thought that as he learned more about Halloween and saw Henry and other kids in costume he'd get into the spirit.

We brought a few possible costumes upstairs to the playroom and Silas even put on a giraffe costume a few times. We talked a lot about the giraffe costume and 50% of the time he'd give it lip service. The other half of the time he'd re-emphasize that he wasn't dressing up.

On Friday, the day before Halloween, Henry's school had a Halloween assembly. Henry wore his costume to school, and Silas was excited and wanted to walk Henry to school before heading over to Ms. Brenda's. Surely this portends good things right?

Either way, the Halloween assembly was fun and Henry and all the other preschoolers (three classes on one stage and no one cried or fell off-- amazing!) did a great rendition of "five little pumpkins." Then they had a Halloween parade around the school and a short party where they got gobs of candy. (Quick aside, there were some candies we weren't familiar with printed only in spanish. One was some kind of lime gumball with chile powder flavor. I'm waiting for a report from JT on that one!)

So, on the day of Halloween i realized that we needed a "costume" that wasn't a costume, in case Silas really did balk. He's been favoring his "sheep coat" and his "bear hat" lately and i had already planned to put him in tan cords to form part of his giraffe costume. I was channeling Henry's bear costume a few years ago-- at least in my mind.

On Halloween we headed over to Tiffany and Mike's for the annual Halloween party. Since it wasn't a weekday the whole thing was decidedly more relaxed and laid-back than in past years. We ate some pizza and then started to work on getting all our costumes on. You guessed it, Silas was a no-go. Both Tiffany and Troy (very persuasive with the preschool crowd) tried to convince Silas to put on his giraffe costume, but he just said pretty firmly (and calmly) "no." So, we bundled into his sheep coat and bear hat and he was as happy as a clam. He loved trick-or-treating, wound up staying out later than Henry, who got cold and went back with an early group, and kept wanting to get "more treats." He even said trick-or-treat and thank-you at each house-- albeit in the wrong order.

And as a special gift to his parents, he and Henry climbed right into their sleeping bags, laid down and crashed out while we got to stay and enjoy the party with our friends. Wonderful Halloween-- even without the costume.