Thursday, May 26, 2011

challenge day 13

It has officially turned to summer here! We have had little to no spring, and last week I went out and purchased two new sweatshirts for S as she has outgrown all of hers due mostly to the fact that cold weather has lasted much longer than it should have. I knew if I did this inevitably warm weather would pour in and I was right! S spent the morning outside doing some truly beautiful side walk chalk with our babysitter as I had to take the baby to his first physical therapy appointment. It was great to see how much time S spent working at the chalk and she was so proud of the results she showed everyone who past by.. When I got home we went over to our friends house who happens to be one of the most creative people I know- painter, fashion designer, all around creator and inspiration.. She gave S her birthday gift, a BEAUTIFUL decoupaged foot stool- and got creative with the wrapping. We all teamed up and fashion miss S a fantastic "paper dress with Rose"- quite stunning! So while there was no specific challenge today I look around at all of the great creations we are surrounded with and feel mission accomplished :)

challenge day 12

Tuesday was "one of those days" in our house. We had a rough day at pre-school, everyone was feeling down, we had 2 grumpy kids and 2 grumpy adults in the house. For the first time I felt like "why are we bothering to do this?!" when I set out a craft- stamps & a giant inkpad requested by S, and then some glue and a little jar of rainbow rice to mix it up.. I think really a lot of my reaction was to the whining and fussiness and maybe the 1/2 a bottle of glue spilled on the floor and ink handprints all over the house. Really I should have mustered up energy to put out something more appropriate and mindful for the type of day we were having but I was drained so I sort of threw out some random things and let her go to town..She enjoyed it and found some calm-though incredibly messy- space. It wasn't so bad but lesson learned, take a deep breath and refocus. If I keep mindful about my own energy and the energy I'm projecting next time hopefully I can help bring that of others.

challenge day 11

We took the weekend off from the challenge to celebrate several birthdays including that of little miss S- this included multiple parties, house guests, and 6 hours in the car- really just a lot going on.. It has taken several days to come down from the frenzy and excitement, not to mention the colds we've been fighting off so on Monday we went the pre-fab route. S received a bunch of great art & craft things including a kit for "designing" your own handbag. Too cute! We spent a ton of time going through all the shapes and objects and colors and she placed every piece on the bag with intention. She was really excited to see it all come together and I have to say it wouldn't surprise me in the least if she takes after her mom and has a career in fashion or design.. not to get ahead of myself here but hey- she was really into this and I couldn't help but appreciate the concentration, intention, creativity and pride she displayed!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Party time!

Today we will not be making time for our challenge.. Today will be spent in celebration of the anniversary of my beautiful baby daughter's birth. I can't believe my leading lady is 3 already!! May 20, 2008 was the day that the most amazing joyful and loving little girl came into the world and made me a mother. I will spend my life trying to live up to the honor which she bestowed upon me, but until then I will open my house and heart to 15 of her favorite little bitty friends and cousins, fill them all with pizza & sugar, and let them bounce off the walls of a giant inflatable castle.. What better way to pay tribute to our spunky funky little princess! Love you my lil' pumpkin!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Challenge day 10

Today was a very special and important day in our household, today was S's third birthday! From morning to night and beyond today was all about honoring her with adventure and attention and spoiling her as much as possible (obviously) so we planned something big and exciting for our challenge today. Thankfully for the first time in what I swear has been weeks it stopped raining so we had the chance to follow through with it! Today we planted a vegetable garden. We have flowers and shrubs and trees and a lot of great plant life and landscaping here but most of it came with the house and we have a landscaper who tends to it so S hasn't really had that much experience in the garden. Today was an amazing experience for all of us as I have very rarely seen her with dirt in her nails and I have most certainly never seen her grabbing for worms in soil! I know this sounds like an odd thing to find amazing but I spent much of my childhood romping through creeks, picking wild raspberries, exploring caves, catching fireflies and tadpoles.. These are memories I cherish and experiences I certainly learned from and I am intent on exposing my little urban suburban kids to an existence as similar to this as is possible in this urban suburbia.. So over the next few months we will tend our vegetable patch including 3 tomato plants, 2 peppers, some courgette, and some peas. I think we will love watching things grow, enjoying all there is to learn, and of coarse eating the end results!


On Thursday we spent our craft time assembling goodie bags for S's 3rd birthday party which will be on Saturday - not really crafty but much needed and fun for all of us. We are having a toy story themed party, because the is what she loves more than anything lately.. There were plenty of cheap plastic printed bag options but we wanted something a bit more chic & handcrafted (as always) so we got 16 bright green paper bags, some colored duct tape, a sharpie, and some white round sticky labels and made some pretty cute and crafty alien bags! We stuffed them with ribbon tutus, bubbles, wands, and all sorts of other fun trinkets. Not sure the kids will appreciate the hard work but they will certainly add to the ambiance of the party :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Challenge day 9

We were a little less crafty and a little more practical with our activity today. We still got up to our elbows in fine and gross motor skills today by making our own chocolate pie with Graham cracker crust. Crushing the crackers was the highlight and very good busy work. Her little hands loved the pinching and squeezing and squishing.. We thoroughly enjoyed the pouring, mixing, and pressing the crust into shape, and as soon as dinner it done I'm sure we will thoroughly enjoy eating our creation!

Challenge day 8

Sloppy messy slimy fun! We did some jello-excavating for project #8. Translate- Digging through a pan of green jello with plastic figurines of snakes, frogs, and lizards suspended inside. This was a good time- but might be better in larger batches with a bigger array of things to dig for.. Or could be a nice activity with a friend one afternoon. Again we spent more time at it than I had anticipated, it seemed pretty straightforward- dig out objects and done- but between slurping each one clean only to dip it back in again, and splatting and splooking the creatures around we kept pretty busy. There was also a fair amount of roll play with the figurines.. Much more versatile activity than I had anticipated! It was alright but we didn't get totally carried away. Maybe if I had used a little plastic buzz lightyear or some princesses we would have been a bit more taken but that would somewhat defeat the point!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Challenge day 7

This challenge I was quite excited about, I even began preparing for it two days ago. I'm thrilled to say it was as much fun as I had hoped it would be if not more! We are talking a top two activity easily.. Tonight we explored colored rice. Two days ago I dyed four batches of rice to make a pretty pastel pallette for us to work with and left it drying on cookie sheets in my dining room.. This evening after dinner I laid out each color in it's own container and set out a bunch of clean baby food jars and lids, all on a big table cloth on our kitchen table. We first each took a jar and a color- S obviously taking pink- and filled. I then encourage her to mix it up by filling my jar with striped layers. She was very impressed and spent the next 15 minutes doing the same and then switched to pouring and refilling, mixing and scooping. We filled some jars and topped them with lids and enjoyed the rattling sounds- "I made a maraca!" We let baby H play with these while we scooped on with the other jars.. Eventually we were left with four containers of rainbow rice and still we continued- scoop, pour, shake- we even buried the jars. Fantastic fun! Only ammendment i would make would be to next time do this the day before my cleaners arrive as I am sure i wil be pucking rainbow rice out of cracks and crevases for some time.. What to do next with our big tub of rainbow rice? I'm thinking glue and black construction paper... You will see the results sooner than later I am sure!

Challenge day 6

For the 6th challenge we did some fine motor tuning with bean art. I always keep various types of dried beans in the house and often pull them out for sensory activities but today we added one of S's other favorite elements; glue. There is something very rewarding for her in squeezing out the glue all over the paper. A tactile sticky mess usually meant only for the hands of grownups- awesome. I was pleased to see her delicately placing the beans- first the big ones, then the little. By the end we were doing more of a scatter and shake method but concentrating all the same.. Next time I will maybe add a few other sizes and colors and also try drawing a shape or picture then filling in or outlining with the beans.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mommy dating 101

Tall tired but joyful mother seeks other- for long walks, trips to the playground, and impromptu play dates. Must love kids, preferably your own but any will do. Incessant braggers or judgement passers need not apply..
It's always been interesting to me the process of meeting other mothers. Never in my life (besides first day of preschool I suppose and maybe summer camp, or college) have I shown up at an event or function without knowing anyone specifically looking to market myself as a companion. Now that I have had children this is somewhat of a regular occurrence.
As a mother you put yourself out there for many reasons; to meet, find, and form a social network, community, and support system for your child or children as well as for yourself.. and maybe because if you no longer have a "proper" full time job you might (as I do) look at your position as a mother as your gig- and other mothers are then to an extent your coworkers in this new field. It is now part of my job and my responsibility to my children to participate in mommy networking and schmoozing and socializing and connecting.. and often although one has plenty of pre-kids friends both with and without children- for whatever reasons they don't quite get a chance to connect anymore. I have many really important friends in my life with or without their own children, whom I hold near and dear to my heart but generally they are scattered far and wide or wrapped up in their own jobs and families so not necessarily a part of my M-F 9:00-5:00 mothering world.. Whatever the reason or for multiple reasons- you find yourself on this quest to meet other mothers. "Mommy dating" might be an appropriate term here but it is much more complicated than that because after a bad date you can easily avoid running into the guy again, and really you are at the end result only expected to find one particular mate in the dating process; not so of the mommy dating process.
So-- alas I sign up for music class, hit the playground, or drop in at a playgroup with my tots in tow and resume in hand (ok not really but that's how it often feels) ready to represent= an ambassador for my family.
All in all it is fairly easy to meet other mothers in this urban suburbia we live in. We have exchanged info with people at parks or yoga or mom & baby classes which there are certainly no shortage of here, and even met others through mommy-cyber-"dating" groups or forums. It almost seems like there are mommies everywhere ripe for the meeting!
The thing is just because two people have produced other people it does not mean that they have anything in common other than that. And this is often painfully obvious.. If you had met pre-kids would you ever have given each other a second thought? Would you have had anything to connect about? Would you have wanted to? Is this a good thing or bad thing or a bit of a crap-shoot? Although this can be a great way of opening yourself to new people and new experiences (unarguably a wonderful thing) it can also be a real drag.
More often than not this becomes a harsh reality as you sit through playgroups that feel something more like a high school cafeteria than a nursery - there is in fact no shortage of momma drama, or gossip, or cliquishness, or conformity. And that doesn't even touch on the crazies (horrible of me I know but stick with me) you meet along the way - no really; I have encountered the "your toddler bit my toddler so I'm going to kick your toddler" mother, the "I don't even like children or want children or acknowledge that I have children" mother, the "breastfeeding until my kid can spell the word breast" mother, the "obvious public flatulence" mother, and that doesn't even get into the whole "everything I do is so green and wholesome and and your kid is toxic" band of mothers, or the "what's wrong with my 2 year old eating candy, drinking soda, and swearing" set, or the "my kids are really just part of the total package and god knows I need the total package" mothers. Ok I exaggerate but hardly.. And I know, I judge, but that is the whole point here, finding people you connect with isn't necessarily easier when you have kids just because you have kids, because having kids complicates things and brings out other issues and ideals and this whole other realm of considerations because you are not only considering these things for yourself but for these small perfect impressionable and priceless little people. No pressure, really... Enough to make you throw your hands up and surrender. Depressing even.
But not always. Not even for the most part. Maybe the bad experiences make the good just that much more valuable or rare or enjoyable or significant or truly outshine all the others. There always needs to be balance right?
Really we have been very lucky to meet some absolutely amazing and true friends through motherhood- lifelong friends, for ourselves and our children, who I know we will know and love for many years to come.. And even many more who we don't know quite so well but we enjoy and we appreciate and we value all the same.
I know full well mothers come in all shapes, sizes, types and characters, but still for some reason it is always a bit of a tough reality for me- this whole social dating game. And through all of it I look at my children and think of all of the social tight ropes they will eventually be balancing on, the peer pressure, and of god the rejection.. And I guess that makes it all the more important to me that I surround them with a community of wonderful supportive kind people who can help shape them with care, confidence, integrity, and understanding as they I keep pressing on in hopes of finding some other like-minded mothers.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Challenge day 5

So yesterday we didn't really partake in the challenge but S got her art on by going to paint your own pottery (plaster of Paris really) with her Ouma who is in visiting.. I wasn't planning to skip but we had some last minute medical stuff to take care of with the baby so the day got away from us and that was that. Today we made up for by thoroughly enjoying ourselves while dyeing "Easter" eggs. This is something we have never done before as we tend to be traveling around Easter and don't make much of a thing out of it anyhow. For some reason I have had the kit in the cupboard for over a year so what better time to break it out than a random Saturday in May?! We could have done this for hours, S loved soaking one egg then dipping it a little here a little there and seeing where things ended up. Bonus fun was eating the eggs with our dinner and she was quite content to fall asleep with smudged little fingers (despite triple washing & a bubble bath).. I will go online and see if I can order some spare kits on sale as we will surely revisit this activity.. Maybe if we try it in the winter we can use the leftover dye to paint the snow?!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

challenge day 4

Best day yet! Today we did something so simple I can't believe we haven't done this a hundred times before but better late than never, we surely will go back to this again and again! S loves helping me in the kitchen. She loves pots and pans and mixing and making and baking and scrubbing and stirring.. So today I laid out our big plastic table cloth on the kitchen floor and set out three bowls; one filled with water, one filled with flour, and one empty. I handed her some different spoons, scoops, and measuring cups and that was all that needed to be done. She went to town mixing, pouring, scooping, and "making cakes" and all types of imaginative play.. We spent almost an hour and would probably have gone much longer if time allowed, fabulous and fun!

challenge day 3

For our third project we did balloon painting & prints- a bit of an adaptation from what I originally intended but ended up lots of fun anyhow and really created some beautiful prints. Somehow this post got erased so I am rewriting and reposting? hmm.. Anyhow we originally set out to fill balloons with rice and roll them in paint to get some nice texture play but mommy couldn't find a funnel and the rice wasn't getting into the balloons so we ended up just using regular old air filled balloons. The bonus to this activity for S was that the balloons sort of painted themselves in the process, fun! The prints came out so pretty we will likely cut and frame some or make cards out of them.. Quite lovely. And there is an endless list to different objects to be used in place of brushes, surely we will have fun exploring many different options here over time!

Monday, May 9, 2011

deep cleanse

In yoga and meditation there is often speak of a deep cleansing breath. Inhale- breathe in peace, calm, clarity, health, wellness.. Exhale - breathe out tension, fear, judgement, sickness. Ahhhh.. It feels good to let it all go. I am embarking on an overall deep cleanse right now. Mental, emotional, and physical. Today I really focused on the physical by attacking my surroundings, and even more so my children's surroundings. As a designer I have a real care for how things look. I think about color, dimension, texture, and the majority of things in our space as a family are well thought out with reason for function, feel, and energy which they bring to a space. The one area where I have let this go out of control is all my kids "stuff".
Let's start by saying they do not go without. There is a ton of this stuff. When we found out we were pregnant with S we had all these ideals on how we would be as parents and what type of environment we would raise her in. While I can proudly say we have stuck to the major ones there are a few- such as "we will never own toys made of plastic or that require batteries or god forbid with any type of character especially Disney"- that we let slip. And it has been a slippery slope. While I have detached for the most part to this objective (and for many good reasons I swear) I certainly do not want our playroom to be mistaken for the Vegas strip (and for many reasons good reasons I swear).
I do not want my children to be surrounded by toys that do the thinking for them. I want them to problem solve, imagine, invent, create, and dream. They need not be overstimulated, over indulged, or over-engulfed in consumerism and marketing. It is really easy to own stuff. Lots of stuff. Living in an upper class area where all the kids have endless amounts of stuff it is going to be a hard struggle to keep my kids from forming too much attachment and assigning to much value to stuff. It has not been just once that S has muttered "what toys does she/he have?" when I tell her we will be visiting another child to play. My skin crawls with the thought that this is her priority, and I need to remind myself she is all but 2 years old. I remind her "we are playing with him/her because they are"- kind, silly, fun, full of interesting ideas, very clever, or our friend. I see so many adults in this urban suburbia that don't think like this so I shouldn't expect innocent little her to fully express this reasoning. I see so many people looking around and judging others and themselves on their lot size, street name, square footage, district, car, income, title, carats, clothing, handbag, the list goes on and on and on.. It was actually a big reason why we were hesitant to move here, but we did and we promised ourselves we would not become like that and even more so we would not allow our children to become like that. We must lead by example and exercise daily our ability to transcend the gluttony, the temptation, the judgement, the pressure. Not so easy to do when you really like "stuff".
So today I started to define the path in a simple way, clearing out some of their stuff. I packed away bags and boxes filled with toys leaving out a simple assortment of neatly arranged things that are developmentally appropriate and leave room for imagination and exploration. I can be honest, they will not exactly be going without as our playroom is big enough to run a flagship toysRus out of but still, I cut down enough that I thought S would enter the playroom and burst into tears wondering where all her things had gone. Mind you she didn't even notice so what does that say?!
My plan is to rotate the toys out every 4-8 weeks or so in hopes that the change peaks their interest and anything that seems to go unused will go into a donate bin. By offering a smaller and neatly arranged selection I'm hoping they learn about organization, function, and thoroughly explore and enjoy what it is they do have while getting accustomed to and eventually preferring to be in an environment that is calm, clean, and aesthetically pleasing. And they can learn that you can be happy and enjoy yourself and live your life fully without the need for more and bigger and better stuff, they can not feel the need to reflect themselves or their worth by stuff, or to feel that their stuff is in any way a reflection of who they are or what they are worth, or to judge anyone else by how much or what stuff that they have.

challenge day 2

Today we did a little foam & toothpick sculpture building and it was fantastic! We used colored corn starch "popcorn" as our foam (much better for the dog who was eating the fallen pieces off the floor..) and I was impressed that we even used the toothpicks very safely- my anxiety over poked eyes and fingers was completely unwarranted. S first created "lollipops" while I went for more of a spider-esque sculpture, then we had fun creating people and naming them after our cousins. Daddy even got in on it and continued working on his tree even after the rest of us had called it quits for dinner (I'm thinking this could be a great activity to relieve stress in the workplace..) Once again the conversations that the project elicited were the best part of the activity and already she is eagerly awaiting the announcement of her next craft project for tomorrow. As am I..

ocean in a bottle

So our day one challenge project was the old standby "ocean in a bottle"..
S was quite enthusiastic to squirt in the coloring and interested as she watched the oil and water divide. She stared for a moment and said "now we drink it?" .. "um, no honey it's yucky." Hmmm.... and that was that.
I thought it a bit of a fail, but then later found myself playing with the bottle as I sat at the table. Then again later I caught my husband having a look, then at dinner time S played with it for a good 20 min while H sat on my lap staring at it and smiling watching the colors separate and swoosh and sway. Before I knew it we were having a discussion about the why and how and what of it, and S was asking if we could make some more with pink or other colors.. So I have to say it ended up being as much as I hoped it would, though subtler, and certainly more than I feared it might.. not bad for day one!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

30 day challenge

I have decided to give myself a mothers day gift this year. I was tempted to go for a new bag or maybe some cute and "much needed" designer jeans but instead I'm going to indulge myself in a once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance my parenting- which should in return enhance my children and thus my Self.. I've been digging deep into these thoughts and needs as previously discussed and I know I have the want and need to be more mindful in my existence so I thought what better way to start than a 30 day challenge for myself of quality time, cooperation, and creativity? These are things I absolutely need more of in my life and endlessly valuable things I would like to instill in my children. And it doesn't end there; I know that one thing leads to another and there will be a path that unfolds of learning, teaching, experimenting, curiosity, problem solving, dreaming, self-esteem, communication, trust, I could go on and on.
Every day for the next 30 days I will do a new art/craft/science project with the kids (ok well with S really but H is more than welcome to stick his chubby baby hands into anything we are doing- really though as an observer I'm sure he will get something out of it, at the very least of which will be an understanding that his mother loves to spend time and create and engage with her children).. So much of my time I feel I am treading water, caught up in maintaining so that each day slips by and I almost can't remember where I was or what happened and one day just bleeds into the next. I want to take time back and be conscience and aware and really truly present as a parent and wife and friend and individual. And I know S needs it. There isn't a day that goes by where she doesn't ask to go to paint your own pottery. Last week when she was at the peak of her naughtiness I caught myself about to give her a timeout and when I called her name in that tone I stopped myself and instead said "let's do playdough". She stopped in her wild tracks and looked at me calmly and said "ok"- proceeded to pull up a chair and spend the next 40+ minutes in relaxed creativity and joyful banter. It really soothed both of us and changed the pace of the entire day.
So I have compiled a list with the help of some great websites shared with me by my friend Kate and a little extra googling and 3 uninterrupted hours granted to me by insomnia & H's teething. I think what I will do is organize them into weeks and set out to be sure that I have everything needed ahead of time for that week. Then there is nothing left to do but make time each day and watch, learn, and enjoy as I lose myself in creative play with my kids. I'm hoping that it lasts much longer than 30 days but becomes more of a habit for us in the long run. I just thought that was a good starting point..

Saturday, May 7, 2011

me my Self and I

I find myself with this need to reflect on my Self, become reacquainted with my Self, or maybe even honor my Self. It is a need that I have had before, often even. Maybe it's the artist in me or the fact that I'm sensitive, spiritual, or always have had a bit of wanderlust. Or maybe because I'm so endlessly busy taking care of everyone else all the time that I have little to no time left for myself. I feed, bathe, clothe, and comfort everyone else before myself. My idea of alone time is using the bathroom with 1 not 2 people in the room with me and 24 hours a day 7 days a week I am on call and must be ready for duty with less than a moments notice whether I am sick, tired, working, sleeping, or god forbid trying to have an adult evening out. Really though who knows where it comes from but still- lately the need has become a nag, a presence, a force of it's own.

So I reflect, and I realize for the first time ever with quite certainty that I have no Self. My Self (or any sense there of) has splintered into millions of fractured little fragments and divided, multiplied and combined to form the two distinct beings that have come forth from my body. Their flesh is of my flesh, blood of my blood, laughter of my heart, being of my conscience. My thoughts of them are a constant. My worries of them endless, my dreams for them insatiable. There is no end to me or beginning to them. Yet- they are individuals, every day they grow and learn and change and I can see their Selfs develop and evolve. They become increasingly independent, and increasingly they are these other little people who are so separate from me.
But still I can't find my Self without them because I am this new formation of me.. because of them in spite of them and thanks to them I will never be just me again. Nor would I ever want to be.

I look and them and mourn how few minutes there are in a day. I can't hold them long enough, soak them in enough. When at last they fall asleep at night I often (but not always) have to fight the urge to wake them up so I can enjoy 2 more minutes of their smiles and bright eyes. I absolutely curse time because how ever long there is I promise you there will not be enough time with them. I love them. I need them. I am them.
So here I sit, I write, I bathe in this irony- in motherhood- in being me and being a mom.

What better day to start documenting my reflections on this journey, happy mother's day.