Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mommy & me

Today was the last day of this semester of ballet for S. This was a big deal for us because this class has been the first glimpse into the future for us, as it has been her very first drop off class. I was quite surprised to learn that three year old children for the most part no longer have activities where the parent is invited to attend. Our old ballet class had the parents all sit along the wall-out of the way but still in reaching distance so the children could come back and forth if they felt shy or overwhelmed.. Not this class. Not any that I have found in our immediate area for her age group. Unfortunately our old class was a good 30 minutes away which became ridiculous, especially now that H has more of a schedule going so we needed to switch centers and this class had three advantages; it is close by, it has the shortest class available, and she knew somebody else in the class.
So- I have learned that my confident social child becomes a completely different person when put in this situation.
We already went through the whole separation phase when she started her two's program (the longest yet shortest 5 hours a week possible) last year but this is different. This is a quick transition. School was something we could prep her for, we toured the grounds, interviewed, discussed, and when she was miserable the teachers had the chance to comfort her and transition her into the process slowly and gently. Of coarse it still wasn't slow or gentle enough for either of our likings but still.. At the very least there was free play (no problem), snack time (easy), and the playground (jackpot!). This class though is a 7 session, 45 minute, 1 instructor, 1 room, 10 student, in and out. As most classes will now be. Not a lot of time to warm up to the process..
So our journey went something like this;
Week 1- I dropped her off, kids go downstairs parents wait upstairs, she clambered on down with the girls in her class. Ta-da! Too easy!
Yes, it was.. Five minutes later she was back up the stairs not willing to go down again without me. So while H was handed off to another mother in the waiting room I clambered down the stairs and sat on the bottom step, the only grown up in the room other than the teacher, with her little face burrowed in my lap and scrambling limbs clinging to me as if I was a life raft.
Week 2- armed with a sitter in tow for H, I walked down stairs with S and eventually peeled her off my lap and felt victorious as she stood on the wood floor ten feet from the other girls and followed along for a good 15 minutes.
Week 3- daddy had H, I outsmarted her this time by refusing to sit thus she stood beside me until she took her place ten feet from the girls but wait- at last joined in right along side them for 5-10 minutes.
Week 4- H at home again, and again I refused to sit, and at last she joined in with the girls- timid but somewhat there she was at the ballet bar, in the circle, and she almost participated a good 75% of the class. she still would not acknowledge the teacher or the other children but still, I was beside myself.
Week 5- big mistake but we missed class because we were in England
Week 6- refer back to week 2, and that is the optimistic version. Maybe more like refer back to week 1. I was so frustrated and disappointed. Couldn't she remember how easy and fun it was the last time we were in the room?! Enough! Get off my lap, don't lay on the floor, get your finger out of your mouth- please. Wondering to myself why are we bothering?? What will the other kids think of this jellyfish like child throwing a fit in the corner? What will the parents think of me? Will anyone want to play with her after seeing her like this? Exhausting for both of us.
Week 7- And that brings us to today. Today was different. Today I was not the only mother in the room. There was another mother who joined her child in class, and when I say joined, she joined. She stood in circle time. She did first position, second, clapped, stretched, pointed, skipped.. she did everything and with no shame. Why had I not thought of this? Was I too self concerned, afraid of looking like an awkward giant clambering around the room? Embarrassed for S to have her mother prancing around like a maniac? This was a completely different approach than I had thought of before but at this point, why not? So I grabbed S's little hand and I danced, and I skipped, and I stood at the ballet bar in a perfect little line. And so did S. By the last ten minutes of class she reached out and held another little girls hand to be dancing partners, not mine. She skipped, she danced, she laughed.. she participated. She didn't even look back at me.
The class ended with me sitting in a chair at the base of the stairs and S in line with all the other little girls waiting to get her sticker for a job well done.
Victory. Pride. Relief.
And I'm talking for her, not just me.
Having a very sensitive child can be challenging at times, for both of us. I'm sure it's no walk in the park to have to feel the way S does at times. It is exhausting, confusing, embarrassing, overwhelming..
This was a big mindful moment for me. A little support, compassion, patience and empathy can go a really long way. I need to remember that and reflect that both in parenting and in my life in general.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Challenge day 30 ..

.. being brought to you on day 90 or something!
So the biggest lesson I have learned here was not exactly a news flash to me but; it takes me three times longer to do ANYTHING than it should.. Given I also get more done every day than I would have in a week pre-children but that is another story.. Anyhow- this might not have been exactly my 30th challenge but it will though be the 30th I will share in this format...
You see; proudly I have managed to incorporate creativity and quality time into our daily routine for well over 30 days now, however I've not yet managed to work in time to report it! Really though my point in this whole exercise was to become more mindful, engaged, interactive, and creative with my children on a daily basis. That I have decidedly accomplished.
I was bowled over when S picked up an object the other day (left over packaging) and enthusiastically cheered "I can save this so we can do a project with it?! Maybe we can make.." and so it begins.
In fact we have gotten a ton of that lately; designing, decorating, planning, imagining.. While I know some of that is a natural stage for a newly three year old child I can't help but feel pride and reward in the knowledge that some of the enthusiasm is a direct result of this time we have purposefully spent together.
It really pleases me to the core to see her unfold in this way. As I say that I must give a disclaimer and say that this isn't about making her a certain type of person really, or making her more like me. I mean she doesn't need to be an artist and for all I know she won't be even remotely interested in the arts- (disappointing but possible and okay) but I do want to give her (both of my children) the tools to "do". This level of problem solving, focus, dreaming, and imagining that she uses today in these creations and explorations could help her someday engineer mechanics, formulate chemical compounds, or piece together a life saving operation. Who knows?! And at the very least it could give her some really great memories from childhood, and a model for mothering she would be proud to repeat. Right?
Right. "30 days to a new you.."

Anyhow- I have a big back log of projects and activities that will make their way to you, but for now here is our 30th challenge. This challenge we did together with friends, what better way to create? Our very crafty friend suggested we make a "yarn bowl"- something I have always wanted to try (really I swear) and it was a lot of fun. More fun for the mommies than for the kids- who decided they didn't like getting all gluey.. They did however enjoy squeezing the glue into a big bin together, and then they did watch eagerly as we dipped strands of yarn and dribbled them over the ball.
From there on out the process was a bit tedious for them and eventually they wandered off to play but we mothers finished up and both found the process to be very soothing.

S was very curious two days later when the bowl was dry and the time came to peel it off the ball. She was suddenly quite the helper in fact! She was absolutely intrigued to see what had formed from the two simple elements: glue and yarn. As was I. And even more so eager to see what sort of things this bowl could hold..

The end result was beautiful and inspiring!! I can't wait to try another version where I play with color, and then maybe some different shapes and dimensions! So exciting.. And maybe H won't mind getting his hands all gluey when he gets older and he can work along side mom. I might actually go back and add more to this specific bowl, why not? And what better way to wrap up the 30 day challenge than with a work in progress?

Challenge 29

This is such an old standby I can't believe we had not done this sooner!
Had I known how simple this would be to execute I would have certainly added it to our repertoire a long time ago..
We dyed macaroni by adding food coloring (10 drops) to vinegar (2 tsp) in a plastic Ziploc bag, pouring in our dried noodles, shaking it up for five minutes, and then spooning the noodles onto paper towels to dry for half hour (turning once halfway through). Easy!

We chose neon coloring in hopes of achieving pink noodles -obviously- but after a few tries we resigned to having a bright juicy red instead. Our palette ended up being red, turquoise, purple, and chartreuse- plus a sort of mauve from the failed pink. I have to say the colors did come out so vibrantly we were very pleased!
Really nice jewel tones..

S enjoyed making patterns with the noodles even more than stringing them but after setting out several patterns she did at last decide on one to keep for her and an extra one to string for daddy.

The left over noodles were poured into a container and made a perfect shaker for H. I think we will eventually get around to gluing some into artwork and perhaps even fashion a few Christmas ornaments out of the rest. For now, lovely & glamorous jewelry will have to do!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Challenge day 28

This post is way late making it's way to you! Before we left for England we did a multi part activity- we put together a cut paper collage as an homage to Mr.Eric Carle's birthday (June 25th).
Day one we painted a butcher sheet of paper with roller paints. Silly easy messy fun, we always love working on large scale projects so we really spread out and went to town..
Day two I cut all sorts of shapes out from the paper using the different patches of color. I then gave S a stack of the cut shapes and let her use her imagination and lay them into pictures on two sheets of white paper. I was very impressed by how one picture she put together was so literal and really became a storyboard for us while the other picture was so figurative, much more of a play on shape and color. When she at last liked where everything was placed we came back at it with the glue stick.
Day three was a bit of a bonus inspired by the storyboard she created.. when it was at last all dry we added some details with crayon and marker. Finishing touches really.. Such fun!
I need to get the kids out to the Eric Carle museum this summer, it is on our list to do- especially as "the hungry caterpillar" was S's school play this year. She was an amazing strawberry if I do say so myself...

Friday, July 15, 2011

"I'll be your velcro"

I haven't posted in a while mainly because if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all- While that isn't entirely true it is not that far off. We have been in the midst of the terrible 3's (there is such a thing!?) and for the first time a bit of sibling adjustment issues, plus the usual teething, sleep, jetlag issues.. And that is just on the kids end! None the less it can all be utterly exhausting and challenging at times. We have done a ton of wonderful projects which I will get around to sharing with you, plus had a really great and for the most part tantrum free trip to England, and we have had some really nice moments. But it gets hard when your "moments" are being overshadowed by hours and days all of which are being navigated through a cloud of sleepy haze.
I don't want to be a big moaner, I mean we are so blessed and so lucky in millions of ways and I am ever thankful and well aware. I do however want to be honest and not feel like I need to be miss sunshine all the time, I mean hell- parenting is hard and a ton of responsibility and it never quits. It doesn't exactly feel rewarding when this little being you put all of your time and energy into kicks you or spits at you, or lays on a sidewalk screaming that you are not nice (because you wont let her run into traffic, how cruel).. In fact it makes you feel like a bit of a failure. I know the behavior is more about her learning her self and her boundaries and expressing this confusion as she goes from independent to dependant and back and forth etc- than it is about me. But it really is hard to put all of your self and existence and efforts into trying to raise these beings into good people and then have it more or less blow up in your face.
Deep breath. And again, and again. I peek in at my children sleeping (if and when they sleep) and I know inside it is all worth it and I would not trade this job for any in the entire world. I would give anything for their well being. And it will all be worth it. And I repeat this to myself again and again..
Driving around running errands today after a wonderful(despite among other things S touching a no touch despite my 50 warnings and shattering a piece of hand crafted pottery which I was promptly charged for) morning in the company of a dear friend of ours, my song of the summer "velcro" by Bell X1 came on the radio. As I sang along with the windows open and not a cloud in the sky I glanced in the rear view mirror to catch a glimpse of H sleeping sweetly in his car seat and S rocking out and singing along like the cutest thing on two feet.
"I'll be your tongue.
You'll be my groove.
I'll be your positive.
You'll be my negative.
I'll be your tongue.
You'll be my groove.
I'll drive the get away.
And you bring the glue.
I'll be your velcro."

These kids and my husband, my family, they are my velcro. They hold me together. They complete me. They compliment my every feature and fill my every gap and round out my every flaw. And I am honored and fortunate to do the same to them. I am whole but they make me a full picture. That is so much bigger and stronger and more pertinent than anything. That in itself is my energy. It pulls me through and makes me a better person. A better friend, a better daughter, sister, and individual. So yeah, times aren't the most fun right now, we are in a bit of a rough patch. But I can be the soft and fuzzy to balance out the scratchy.