Thursday, January 31, 2008

Excuse me while I vent for a moment

I need to confess.
A few afternoons ago the DH took the kids to the grocery store. I am working on a freelance writing project in my "spare time" (insert hysterical laughter here) and am desperate for even a few moments to write in peace. (Don't get excited- it's grant writing for a non-profit. Not exactly a creative writing adventure.)
Anyway, I called DH to tell him something I forgot to add to the list. When he answered, he sounded stressed out. When I asked why, he snapped, "The kids are fussy, Brother keeps finding ways to escape the seat, even though I strap him in, and I'm having to carry him all over the store. This isn't exactly easy!"
Now, I am actually proud of the way I responded. I said, "I'm sorry you are having a hard time. I'll let you go. Thanks for shopping for me!"
But as soon as I hung up I felt this immense wave of pleasure knowing that the DH was getting a small glimpse of this job called "Stay-At-Home-Mom."
My DH is wonderful, and he's a hands-on Dad, and I know he values my role as our kids' mom. BUT, I also know that he just doesn't get it sometimes. For instance, yesterday afternoon, when he called to say that he wouldn't be home at 4:00 as promised- it would be 5:00. And then when he called at 5:00 to say it would be a little later. And then when he got home at 6:30 and was surprised to find me a little, let's say, unhappy.
Or when he acts like he's not sure why the house is such a mess- after all, we were home all day.
(That's WHY it's a mess, Daddy-O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
So, just knowing that he was getting a taste of the grocery store adventure with two young children was a little gratifying. Even better was when he came home with two pounds of sliced deli ham instead of turkey as requested. Oops. He looked crestfallen. "Sorry, I guess I just misread the list. I mean, the kids had already finished their cookies, and they were really fussy, and it was crazy..." I just patted his shoulder and said, "It's OK. I understand."
I understand all too well.

Boy, that feels better. To make up for this vent, I'll post another day about what a sweet husband DH is, and what a GREAT Dad he has been, and how hard-working he is, and smart, and handy around the house.
Just not today.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A little paint

I have learned that when my kids are quarrelsome, cranky, or simply not in the mood for anything else, some paint and water will save the day. They never tire of painting. I think we could paint six hours per day and they'd still ask for more.

And, slowly, I'm getting easier and easier about the mess. (Read carefully- the mess isn't getting easier- I am.) I just breathe and surround them with an army of damp paper towels. It's well worth a little mess to see the beautiful art they create, and the beautiful smiles on their faces.

And here's a friendly little tip. Did you know that watercolors are even more fabulous when a dropper is part of the mix? This was fun- and is leading to an outdoor art activity with droppers, ice trays full of tinted waters and lots of thick paper. Only waiting for a warm day!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I have realized that I am a rather verbose blogger. No Earnest Hemingway here.
See, there- I said the same thing twice in two different ways.
It's not my fault, though. It's a genetic disorder inherited from my dear old Dad. Every time he comes over to have me type a letter, I shudder. It's never less than 4 handwritten legal pad pages. Never.
Love him, though. Other than the verbose thing, he's the best.
And fortunately, it's only a problem in written form.

Had some fun yesterday with the good old homemade dough. Recipe is 4 C flour, 1 C salt, and 1 and 3/4 cups warm water. FYI- this makes quite a bit of dough. I could have halved it (and saved 2 C flour) and still had plenty for two kids. The only problem was that we made beads, only to have the holes swell shut as it dried. So, we'll have to try a different dough for beads, I suppose.

On another note, here is a list of some of the things I hope to win via the Bloggy Giveaways contest.

1. Smurf Paperdolls
2. Mastercard gift card
3. Barbies
4. Angelina Ballerina books
5. an MP3 player
6. a cupcake tote bag

I'm just getting started. And it looks like my contest for the $15 Amazon card has slightly more than 2 players. (!!!!!!!)

Finally, here's a little something that's bringing us some joy today. While unpacking, we found our felt sets. These are officially called "Felt Tales" sets, but called "felties" around here. The first set we ever owned, the fairies, got us through a 14 hour car trip without a peep from Sister. Did you catch that? NOT A PEEP in 14 hours. Was it the best $18.99 I ever spent? You'd better believe it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Prize time!

I just stumbled upon something that is guaranteed to eat up a LOT OF MY TIME in the next few days. Have you found it yet? It's the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival! Oh, the prizes!!! So, I'll play too. Anyone who reads my blog and leaves a comment this week, prior to Friday, Feb.1 at 8:00 pm will be eligible to win a $15 e-gift certificate. WOO HOO!
Beck, faithful commenter of mine, do you want a $15 gift certificate? :-)
Of course, I will be fair and everyone (all two of you) will have a shot. I will write your names on tiny little pieces of paper and let Sister pull one out of her training potty.
So, do leave a comment and take a shot at this FABULOUS PRIZE!
And then, leave the dishes in the sink and run right over to the Bloggy Giveaways site where you can find 500 (!) other bloggers offering prizes this week.
Go! Go now!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Life lessons from Cinderella

Have any of you other mamas out there ever realized that you pushed your child into an activity or "first time" experience because it was something you wanted, only later to realize that they weren't ready at all? That you pushed them toward something that wasn't appropriate for their age and stage?

Oh, woe is me, because that is exactly what I have done.

A while back I introduced Sister to her first Disney movie: Cinderella. She was already quite familiar with the Disney princesses from books and dolls and what-not. (Can any child who walks through Target, Wal-Mart, etc. escape Disney's merchandising?) And I LOVE Cinderella. I love the story, and the movie(s) and the dress, and everything. Anyway, I decided that perhaps Sister was ready for a full-length feature full of princess clothes and magical moments and happy endings. And at first I thought I was right. She loved it.

But from the very first viewing, she seemed quite disturbed by the "mean girls" who rip Cinderella's dress. I used my best Mommy voice to explain that those girls are indeed mean, but it's OK because, Look! The fairy godmother makes her an even more beautiful dress!

The problem is, she can't let it go. And now she's started begging to watch the movie only to burst into tears during the dress ripping scene. Poor baby.

I, in my worldly, jaded adulthood perceived that movie as having zero violence. I thought that it would be just perfect for my three-year old. I saw that scene as dramatic, and even somewhat comical. I never imagined it through a child's innocent eyes.

But let's think- here is poor Cinderella living in a house with three hateful women, doing their bidding all day long. And here comes an invitation to a ball... Cinderella is so excited! And here are the mice and the birds (her only friends) sewing their little hearts out and risking their lives to collect beads and finery for the dress. And here is Cinderella, so awed and thankful for the remade dress (once her dead mother's) running down the stairs full of hope and joy to be going to the ball too. And here are the nasty sisters, mean girls indeed, tearing at the dress like a pack of hyenas, shredding all of Cinderella's hopes and dreams.

No wonder Sister cries. I feel like crying now, too.

Of course, there is ultimately a happy ending. But what I have realized is that in offering this movie what I have actually done is show Sister that people like the step-sisters exist. And they're out there waiting for you- ready to shred your dreams.

The interesting thing is how Sister is dealing with it. In the last two weeks I have noticed her doing a lot of role-playing. She will declare that she is her teacher, or a princess, etc. and pretend play. Well, lately she has taken to being a "mean girl" and she will pretend to reach out and rip at my clothes.

When this first happened I wasn't sure what to do. Should I reprimand her? Should we have a little chat about being nice vs. being mean?

Then I remembered an experience from my first years of teaching school. That year there had been a widely publicized disaster that was all over the news- on TV constantly. The kids were abuzz about it and we had spent a large bit of time talking it over in class. On that day we were out on the playground at recess, and suddenly I realized a large group of my kids were "playing pretend" about this disaster. Some of them were pretending to be injured, others pretending to be doctors and nurses, etc. One child was even pretending to be fire and was going around "burning" the "victims." I was rather horrified, and jumped up to go give them a severe lecture about showing respect and being appropriate and playing civilized games. But then an older, experienced teacher standing next to me put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Let 'em be, honey." I was shocked. She could tell. She went on to explain that this was how children dealt with strong feelings and situations they didn't understand and that it would be OK and actually help them. Just leave them alone.

I sat there and watched the children try to make sense of the senseless. And lo and behold, "Mr. Fire" suddenly morphed into "Mr. Fireman" who was helping the burn victims, and over the course of the next 10 minutes, each victim was taken to the "hospital area" (flat piece of grass under a tree) and tended to by the nurses. And when I rang the bell to line up, they all ran to the door, happy and laughing and care-free. I whispered to the master teacher, "Should I talk about this with them when we get back to class?" She just smiled a wise smile and said, "No. They're just fine. Get to math."

So last night when Sister came up to me and said, "Hey, Mommy! I a mean girl!" and made a horrible face and pretended to rip my clothes, I collapsed to the ground and wept into my hands. "Oh! I'm so sad! The mean girl just ripped my beautiful dress!" Sister watched me carefully for a moment, and then broke into a radiant smile. "Mommy! Now I Cinderella and you the fairy godmother! Fix my dress!"

And I did.

I've learned a valuable parenting lesson through this little experience. I will be much more careful about the images sister sees, and what she watches on TV, and even the stories we read. I don't want her to be too sheltered, but I also don't want to push her into the quicksand of this world either. It's a balance, for sure- one I'll be much more careful to keep.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mudballs: A yummy toddler snack

In my quest to help Sister become a better eater, I have tried letting her help me cook as a way to make the food more appealing. So far, so good. She has already "cooked" and eaten oatmeal, a spoonful of veggie soup (hey- at least she tasted it!) and a new snack favorite called Mudballs. I found the recipe in Trish Kuffner's book, The Toddler Busy Book. I am a sucker for this genre of parenting book that promises lots of creative ideas and activities for toddlers, and usually am disappointed. Seriously, how can an author fill a book with highly UNoriginal "activities" like, "paint with water on the driveway" or "take a trowel to the sandbox and let your toddler dig" and get published?
Anyway, The Toddler Busy Book has enough creative and original ideas to be a keeper. (Though if I were you I'd try to check it out at the library before I bought it.)
Anyway, the kids had a lot of fun making the Mudballs and ate gobs of them. And, the mudballs are pretty healthy, too. (At least healthier than a cookie!)


1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dry powdered milk
1/2 cup raisins
Crushed Graham crackers (we used about 1/4 pack) You can increase if the mixture is too sticky.
Chocolate milk powder

1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl. (Except chocolate powder.)
2. Form the mixture into small balls.
3. Place a small amount of chocolate milk powder on a plate and roll the balls in the powder.
4. Eat as a tasty snack or refrigerate and eat later.

Notes: In order to crush the graham crackers, I put them into zip-lock bags and gave one baggie to each kid. They had great fun smashing the crackers into crumbs. I had one too, and every few minutes I'd call out "Switch!" so I could make sure all the crackers got crushed fine.
Also, I quickly found that it was very important to make very small balls with my kids because they would put whole mudballs in their mouths and peanut butter can be a choking hazard if you're not careful.
Also, my kids had trouble forming the balls but my three-year old enjoyed rolling them in the chocolate powder. We formed a little assembly line and had great success.
Finally, I will warn you that these are not pretty. They will not be an appetizing treat to set out at, say, your PTA's father-daughter dance. But they taste pretty darn good!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Indoor fun on a cold day

It's always interesting to see the way a toy can become new again with the slightest addition of novelty. Sister's dollhouse (mine from childhood- handed down) has been sitting in the corner of the family room for over three weeks, untouched. Both she and Brother walk past it a hundred times each day and if I suggest playing with it, they dismiss me and sneer at it the next time they pass by.

So, in a fit of cleaning for a visit from my mother-in-law, I slid it across the room and put it beside the couch.
Did you know that a dollhouse placed beside a couch becomes the most fascinating thing in the world? They have played with it for hours since.
At one point, Sister had great fun placing the dolls in the window so they could "see the new house." Then she decided that they should be photographed.
This is her new thing. She'll be busy playing and will suddenly decide that her play is worthy of photo documentation. "Mama- take a picture of this!" she will call. I think the instant gratification of the digital camera really appeals to her.
The other game that was really fun could be titled "Let's cram as much crapola as possible into the dollhouse." This game, happily, was fun for both Sister and Brother. She was able to use her furniture arranging skills and he was able to use his hunting dog "fetch and carry" skills. I sat in Sister's room and handed Brother little toys to take to Sister. He would run as fast as he could to her out in the den, at which point she would say very prettily, "Thank you Brother!" Then he would race back to me for the next item. We spent a good 30 minutes this way, and Brother burned some energy- always a good thing.
So, if you are trapped indoors and you have a dollhouse, try moving it to an unexpected spot or decorating it with unconventional things. It might help you through a long afternoon.

PS- Ariel's Grotto still under construction.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No big fat story today. Just excited about:

1. Molly's swap. What a cool idea to do a swap for and by the kids! I think we're going to have a lot of fun with this.

2. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Yes, I am a fan. I have always liked the Star Wars flicks but hadn't made time to watch the last one (where Anakin becomes Darth Vader.) So, we Netflixed it and it was TOTALLY AWESOME. I've been going around the house doing light saber moves and saying things like, "Fix your toast, I will, young Jedi." The DH looked at me this morning and said, "Um, you are such a dork." To which I tartly retorted, "Takes one to know one." So there. Not dorky at all.

3. The kids are finally sleeping at night (for the most part.) Whew. Still working on the eating, though.

OK. I've fully taxed my blogging skills for today. May the force be with you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ariel's Grotto- Part 1

So the other night after enduring two nights of Sister crying every ten minutes from 8:30 until 10:00 PM (Mommy, help! There is a cat under my bed!.... Mommy! Mommy! A giant is coming to get me! Etc.) I bought her a night-light, tucked her in and gave her a little pep-talk about how Daddy and I protect her at night, how God watches over her, how there is nothing to be scared of, etc. Then I casually said something like, “And if you do a good job tonight and go to sleep without fussing, maybe I’ll get you a little treat at the store.” Really, that was just a thoughtless little whisper. She was already lying down, and probably didn't even hear me.

Well, miracle of miracles, we had a great night! Didn’t hear a peep out of her until the next morning when she calls out, “Mommy! I had a great night! I ready to go to the store!”
“Um, what??” Note to self: Playing dumb with a 3-year old doesn’t work.
She was very persistent. “I did good sleepin’! You take me to the store now!”
Me and my big mouth. I’m sure the night-light would have done the trick. Why did I add the bribe? I’ve GOT to stop doing that! My parenting philosophy does not include bribing my children to do things with material rewards! And yet, I find myself saying these things in desperation, and then I’ve got to honor my word.
So, next thing I know, we’re driving down the road to Target. (She was convinced that I had told her we could go to Target.) And the whole way, I’m giving her little speeches about how we’re only going to get a small treat, like a piece of candy, and she needs to be a good sleeper from now on, etc. Yeah- I’m on a great parenting binge, here.
Thirty minutes later she walks out of Target clutching a brand new Glitter Disney Princess Ariel doll to her chest, a huge smile on her face. But wait! Before you injure yourself with your eye rolling, let me explain.
Once we got in the store, I just didn’t have the heart to wheel her over to the candy aisle. I simply can’t push tooth-rotting junk candy on my child. So we wandered around the store, looking for something fabulous (in her mind) and cheap (in my mind) and hopefully without lead paint (impossible to tell, of course.) In reality, such an item does not really exist. As we walked past the toy department (I really didn’t intend to buy her a toy) she saw the glitter princess display on an end-cap and they were on sale. "Only" $7.00. She fell in love, and I couldn’t resist. So much for a small treat. But honestly, does a 3-year old really understand the difference between a $1.00 piece of candy and a $7.00 doll? In her economy, they are both “treats.”
So, to make up for all that crappy parenting, I thought that at least we could have some hands-on art time and make a creative home for Ariel.

Now, I have not yet been bold enough to use real Tempera paint during our crafting time ever since Brother got mobile. But all you artsy-craftsy blogging mamas have inspired me, and I decided that one of the main reasons we rented this house was because it was so “lived-in” and child-friendly. Time to bust out the paint!
I got one of our moving boxes, cut off the flaps, and set it on the middle of a vinyl tablecloth with a bowl of blue paint and three brushes. The goal was to paint our “ocean box” so we could decorate it later when the paint dried.
I guess I’ll say it went well. But, man, can a 19-month old make some mess with paint! 5 minutes into our painting I had to strip off Brother's clothes. 15 minutes into it he was covered. I just kept taking deep breaths and telling myself, “This will clean up. This will clean up. Relax. This will clean up.”
By the time we had finished there was blue paint on the splat mat, on every piece of clothing we were wearing, on the floor, and all over Brother. I mean, ALL OVER Brother! (The photo doesn't show the ENORMOUS GLOB right between his eyes!) But I’m glad I did it. These are the kinds of experiences I want my kids to have, mess or no mess.
And Sister had a blast. She did so great painting the box- and telling me all the things she was going to put inside. “Fish! And a treasure box! And a bed! And a farm!” A farm? OK- whatever.
I feel sorry for her sometimes because she's so ready for these art experiences, but I hold her back because of Brother. He's just such a mess! It makes me wonder how Amanda does it with her tribe of younglings. Maybe her book will explain.

I’ll post again and let you see the finished product.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

found: camera cord + two words to live by

Thank goodness. My DH found the camera cord. Guess where? In the dollhouse. Oh, of course.

So here is the proof of our venture into the yard- and some glimpses of the yard itself. I think, come spring, we'll have some sunshiney fun out there.

This yard just screams Neverland and Fairy Garden to me. Maybe even a dinosaur park. Hmmm... lots of ideas floating around this pea-head of mine. There is one big dirt pit in the back corner where the owner pulled out a pond. It was pretty cool- rocks on the bank, a little bridge, and some fish. The kids were enthralled- a little too enthralled. I just couldn't stop thinking about what could happen if one of the kids got away from me for a moment, if I got distracted, etc. It only takes a few inches of water and a split second for the unthinkable to occur.
Apparently the owner was having the same thoughts, and when he asked us if it was OK if he dismantled the pond, we were thrilled. He says he's going to come put in a "secret garden" back there. Sounds cool.
In fact, this yard would be perfect if it wasn't for the nasty dogs that run along the back fence and bark like they are demented. One is a golden retriever and the other is a lab mix. Now, I'm a dog person. I like dogs, and dogs almost always like me. But when I attempted to befriend these dogs, they tried to come over the fence at me.
We haven't met their owners yet, and I'm a little at a loss now because I want to get off to a good start with our backyard neighbors but I also feel the need to comment about the dogs. Something like, "Hi! Nice to meet you! Could you get rid of your dogs?" or "Hello- you have a lovely home. Let me ask you something- do you mind if I mace your dogs?"
It's a problem.
On another note:
I went to church today in a foul mood. Lately DH and I have to attend separate services because Brother FREAKS OUT when we drop him at the nursery and they always end up paging us to come get him after about 15 minutes. Then, one of us (me) spends the rest of the service walking him around the halls. Just a lovely spiritual experience.
So, DH goes to the 9:00, I go to the 11:00. The kids don't go at all. It is definitely not ideal, but I keep telling myself it's just for a "season" of life. In fact, I'm going to start taking Sister with me in a few weeks because she'll finally be old enough to attend children's church.
Anyhoo, I wasn't in the mood today. The kids were whiny all morning, I was scolding them every 5 seconds, and simultaneously trying to brown a roast and make gravy so I could get the crock pot going. Then Brother climbed a piece of furniture he has been forbidden from climbing, fell off and bonked his head, and cried hysterically. While I tended him, the roast started to burn. You know how it goes.
So when DH came home, I almost drove to the bookstore for some relaxation instead of to church. (Naughty thoughts!) But I didn't. I went to church. And boy was I glad, because at the end of an average sermon, a woman got up and spoke about her battle with terminal cancer, and how she's not afraid to die but that she is very sad to leave her husband and children and grandchildren and how she wishes that she could see them all get married and be there for their big days but that every experience she's had with the Lord thus far has been pretty awesome and that she trusts him with her death as much as she trusts him with her life. Whew. Yes, I cried. (Everyone cried.)
And she said one more thing that really stuck with me. She said that when she found out she had a year to live, her husband asked her what she wanted to do. Travel? Try something new she had always longed to try?
Her answer was no, she just wanted to do exactly what she had been doing. She said, "I've lived a life with no regrets, and if my tomorrow is the same as my yesterday, that's just fine with me."
No regrets.
And I sat there regretting my bad mood, and my cross words to my children this morning.
Ali invites everyone to start the new year with a word that they will live by. I have two.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

a happy surprise and a yummy recipe

So last night I decided to log in to Blogger and tweak something on my blog's toolbar. I was surprised to see that someone had left me a comment! Since I only just started this blog, and haven't "advertised" it at all, I thought it was going to be a long time before anyone left a comment here. I was curious (and suspected a family member) but when I clicked the comment and saw who it was from I almost fell out of the chair. It was from Beck. BECK! My #1 favorite blogger of all time! The one person I obsessively read every day! I won't go on and on, because I already did that in an email to her and she'll think I'm a total wacko, but let me just say that it was quite a little thrill and if I never get another comment I don't care.
Thanks again, Beck!

OK, gushing over.

I have some nice photos of my kids' little venture into the winter yard yesterday, but I can't find the #!$*&! cord that connects the camera to the computer. I swear, it takes me just forever to recover from a move. So, those will have to wait until I find (or buy) the cord.

But, let me do at least one useful thing in this post.
For Christmas my husband asked for a cookbook by Giada de Laurentiis (the gorgeous Italian girl who also has a cooking show.) I bought it for him (and wrote a note inside telling him to keep his eyes on the recipes, not on the cleavage.) But while I was at the bookstore, I also saw another cookbook by a TV-famous Italian woman, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. Now, Lidia is older and not as gorgeous, but her cookbook looked much better. So, I bought it too. Good decision!
Yesterday I was looking for a dinner recipe that was easy, fast, fairly inexpensive, and appealing to our palates. Yes, a tall order, I know. But I remembered Lidia's cookbook, and decided to try one of her easy recipes for pasta sauce. (She has loads of different suggestions for dressing pastas in this book.)
I went with the Sauce of Marinated Artichoke Hearts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and it was terrific! Here's the recipe:

from Lidia's Family Table
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 plump garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes
2 six-ounce jars (1 and 3/4 cups) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, sliced thin
2/3 cups sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, drained and sliced into 1/2 inch thin strips
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Start cooking the pasta in a large pot of boiling water (salted) 5 minutes before you start the sauce if you are using dry pasta, or just after if using fresh pasta.
2. Pour 4 Tbsp. of olive oil into a big skillet, scatter the garlic slices in, and set the pan over medium high heat. (Important- do not wait until the oil is hot to add the garlic- let garlic heat with the oil.)
3. Toast the roasted red peppers in a skillet "hot spot" for 1/2 minute- stir in with the garlic and oil.
4. Add the sliced artichokes and tomatoes, salt, and lemon zest. Stir well. Cook for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan and tossing the vegetables occasionally, as everything sizzles and juices in the pan thicken. (Doing your best "fancy chef" impression.)
5. Ladle 2 cups of boiling pasta water into the skillet, stir up the sauce, and cook at a perking boil for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half.
6. Stir the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil into the sauce. Keep it at a low simmer until the pasta is ready.
7. When the pasta is done almost al dente, scoop it up and into the skillet to finish cooking, adding a bit more pasta water or reducing as necessary. Add the parsley during the initial tossing; off the heat, toss in the cheese just before serving.

Try it, ya'll. It's yummy, and healthy if you use whole-grain pasta (which I have learned to love.)
BTW- I didn't add the red peppers because I was out, and it still tasted great.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Let's Go Outside

Blah. I hate winter. I have always disliked this time of year. Cold weather is fun around Christmas because it feels festive, but now it just feels cold. It's especially hard with little kids what with all the bundling up and limitations on how long we can stay out in the elements.

I was just thinking that we are missing our outdoors time when I received the January newsletter from the Featherstone Education company. As a former teacher (and current teacher of my babies, thank you) I keep myself abreast of current "education" happenings and info. I found Featherstone when I was teaching kindergarten, and have kept my eye on them ever since. It's a wonderful little company based in England that is focused on early childhood education. Their best products (IMHO) are their "little books." There is the Little Book of Outdoor Play, the Little Book of Treasure Baskets, and the Little Book of Celebrations. (Plus tons of others.) Some are available through those are the ones I have purchased. I am impressed by the fresh and fun ideas in these books and highly recommend them to others with little ones.
In fact, my new standard birthday present for 1 year olds is a "touch basket" which I read about in the Little Book of Treasure Baskets. The idea is that you fill a basket with tactile things- brushes, swatches of different fabrics, natural objects such as pinecones, shells, and leaves, foil, wax paper, etc. (Of course, careful not to include any choking hazards.) Let me tell you- babies love these things! And so do their parents. It's a nice, creative gift that can occupy a young toddler for quite a while!

Anyway, as I read the editorial by Sally Featherstone, I was struck again by the importance of getting our children out into the world on a daily basis. In fact, that belief was one of the things that prompted us to chose the house we are renting: it has a cool backyard. The guy who owns the house has a green thumb, and he planted the backyard with all kinds of plants that create little hidey-holes and paths throughout the yard. At first glance, I thought, "Ooh- not enough room to run around." But as I considered it further, I realized that the yard we had before, and never enjoyed, was a huge strip of grass. Boring! So I am curious to see how my children respond to this new yard so full of green things and squirrels and secret spots.

This excerpt from the Featherstone newsletter really got me thinking:
"Most boys (and some girls) only really come to life when they are in the garden – able to move with freedom, use their imaginations, stretch their muscles and experience things with all their senses. It is not only their bodies that are stimulated by the combined effects of space, time and freedom, outdoor play actually stimulates the brain to grow.
Ronald Kotulak, in his book ‘Inside the Brain’, says:
“The discovery that the outside world is indeed the brain’s real food is intriguing. The brain gobbles up its external environment in bits and chunks through its sensory system: vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Then the digested world is reassembled in the form of trillions of connections between brain cells that are constantly growing or dying, or becoming stronger or weaker, depending on the richness of the banquet.”
And this is particularly true of the natural environment out of doors, and effect that was realised well before the brain research confirmed the instincts of pioneers in early education. Nearly 200 years ago, Friedrich Froebel put the garden at the centre of his philosophy, calling it the Kindergarten (a garden for children), with outdoor and natural experiences at the heart of provision. His work is now reflected in provision across the world, where outdoor play is seen as an essential component of high quality provision in nurseries, daycare and schools.

It's so true, and yet how often do we spend months (even years) planning and designing the interiors of our homes while (almost) totally ignoring our outdoor spaces? It's making me do a lot of thinking about what I want our backyard to be at our next house. It's also making me find the coats, hats and gloves. We're going outside.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sister, the Terrible Eater

I have come to a disconcerting realization. Sister, my 3 and 1/2 year old first born delight, has become a picky eater. I didn't think this parenting fate would be mine; at one and a half, Sister ate absolutely anthing you put on her tray with great gusto. Fruits, veggies, eggplant parmasean- it was all good. Then slowly, over the past year or so, foods started to meet with a turned-up nose and proclamation of "I no like it!"
Naturally, green veggies were the first to go. I wasn't too shaken up. I knew that many toddlers went through a stage of refusing green vegetables, and since she ate so much fruit, I wasn't concerned. Fast forward to this week, and Sister's food dislikes have overtaken almost the entire food pyramid. This week the only things she will eat are PB&J, cheese grits (but never cheese by itself!), and pancakes. Oh, and a few fruits- bananas, grapes, pears, and oranges. Thank goodness for that. Of course, she'd eat as many cookies and sweets as I'd give her, but I am not doing much of that.
Regretfully, though, I have found myself doing things I have always thought silly, such as bargaining "If you eat three more bites of supper, you can have a cookie." or demanding "You can't watch your show until you taste the spaghetti." or giving in "She has hardly eaten today! I'll just make her a PBJ and that way we can eat in peace and she won't be hungry."
And has any of it helped? Absolutely not. It's only getting worse. In fact, now even the choice foods are found lacking. "There is too much peanut butter!", a tearful Sister will wail. Or the pancakes are too "crunchy" or the grits "aren't good." It's enough to test the very core of this Mama's patience.
I find myself wondering how much of this behavior has been fueled by the move. Sister has demonstrated a lot of new behaviors since the move- sleeping issues, new fears at nighttime, clingy, whiny behavior, and the worst picky eating we've ever seen. But I guess no matter what the cause, we still have to deal with it.
So, what am I doing? What do I always do when I am faced with a parenting dilemma? Order books! I searched Amazon and found two that looked good. One came yesterday: Feeding the Kids. I skimmed over it and already have some good insights. Number one is to quit making mealtime a battleground. I really already knew that but somehow needed a fresh voice to help me refocus.
So, I think I'll go read now. Future reports on the food wars will be posted here.
After two weeks, we’re finally getting settled into the rental house. Boy, what a chore moving is for me. I really loathe it. I guess being a global and fairly disorganized person makes the moving process extra difficult for me. As we frantically pack, I am always faced with my piles- here, I’ll inventory one:
2 precious pieces of Sister’s art from preschool
Brother’s nose sucker (he had a nasty cold)
Adorn magazine
Coupon for Ziploc bags
A doll missing its leg (to be fixed)
Doll leg
Teeny tiny rubberband and metal thingy needed to repair doll’s leg
Cookbook I’ve been reading (but not yet cooking from)- by Pat Conroy, a favorite author
Stack of photographs mailed to me from relative
Mail that looks somewhat important but has not yet been opened
Watercolor paint tray
Several paintbrushes
Church bulletin with phone number of friend scrawled on the back
Pottery Barn catalog
Digital camera perched on top of pile (rather precariously)

Are you getting my drift? So, when I move, I am faced with the question: Do I sort and organize all this stuff now, and waste precious packing moments, or do I just throw it all in a box together and worry about it on the other end.

I bet you can guess what I did.
So, here I am- two weeks after the move. I’ve unpacked all the “easy”, straightforward boxes: books- for the shelves, pots and pans- for the kitchen, etc. Now I am faced with a stack of boxes containing the piles. Ugh. Of course, the punishment fits the crime. I am taking my time, getting organized. It won’t last, but it feels good in the moment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Hi. Welcome to my blog! One might wonder, with all the wonderful blogs that are already out there in the atmosphere, why add my own? Well, why not? I think my biggest motivation is that so many of the blogs I read (mostly by moms about their parenting, crafting, cooking, etc.) give me such a boost, I thought that maybe someday, some mom out there might just get that one little word or idea or spark to get her through a long, rainy afternoon with her little ones. And if that happens, then that is reason enough. So, once again, welcome. I hope you come back again soon!