Thursday, February 6, 2014

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I have moved...

I am now blogging at my new site, Stickgreen. I would love it if you would come by and say hello.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eleven Things to Remember

I remember telling you once about how much I love dreaming. I am a bit of an obsessive problem-solver and it is seriously one of my favorite things to imagine how to make things happen. I guess problem-solver is not really the right word because there is not always something broken that needs fixing. Maybe dream-maker might be a better way to think of it.

I spent lots of my day-dreaming energy picturing far-flung scenarios and then taking them seriously, figuring out how I would make them real. Like the time I spent months dreaming of walking across the country, which I accompanied with research into maps, distances, and costs. Or when I dreamed myself to and through and all the way back out of a graduate degree in literature. Sometimes the dreaming becomes real. Other times, the imagining is all of the fun.

So, you can probably guess that I am a sucker for New Year's resolutions. In truth, I think and plan this way all year round, but at New Year's, I guess it can be a bit more public. I have been dreaming about travels, elaborate sewing projects, waking up before the sun, and ways to give to others who have less. I have been pondering cloud-watching and time for books, camping trips and dream homes...and potty training.

Yes, potty training has been on my mind quite a lot. But that is really beside the point...except for the fact that it has drawn my attention to something else that has been on my mind a bit. In all of the chaos of the last month filled with traveling, illness, special moments and project after project after project, I think I let go of some of the practices that keep my family happy and connected. Short tempers have been much too common these days at our house. And my dreaming time in the last week or so has been filled with efforts to remind myself that the best way to meet a temper is not to fight back, but rather to side-step them, to rely on the things that work best for each member of my family.

I wrote these eleven things down the other day. I thought I would share the list with you.

1. Read every day...or all day if things are really bad.

2. Practice taking moments to myself, both when my boys are asleep and when they are right next to me.

3. Let Evan get breakfast for himself (and for Clayton).

4. Remember that there is a need behind the whining and the tantrums. Rather than reacting to the negativity, respond to that need.

5. Do not forget to join sometimes in the boys' games.

6. Turn off the computer.

7. Keep smiling and laughing through the stressful moments.

8. Do projects together as a family and side-by-side.

9. Sing and dance a lot!

10. Always end the day with a kiss, even if that means going back in after an hour of putting a screaming Clayton back in bed over and over again.

11. When all else fails, head outside....

Or act like a monkey. That is a guaranteed win right there.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When the Cat Is Away...

Sometimes I want to play with my little ones all day. Some days I want to throw aside everything else and just play by their rules.

Other days I want to sit outside, soak in the sunshine, and watch how their worlds develop.

Some days I want them to ride along with me and I engage them in the work and play that excites me most at the moment.

Most days are a combination of all of these impulses...

But here is one thing I am learning as Clayton grows older and his play with Evan becomes more and more involved. When I step away entirely, amazing things happen. They develop incredibly complex games, they follow each other's lead, and they take care of one another.

Their play changes when I am in the room or when they know I am listening.

I often step in the other room to do a few dishes or get the laundry going while I leave them to play freely. Sometimes, I listen in and choose to sit down for a bit longer, knowing my presence would push their play off course. I choose not to return, to stay out of their sight and to let them simply be together.

And if I can wait just a few minutes longer, letting their game come to its natural conclusion, sometimes I can even peek in to find something like this...

So, to any moms and dads out there who need a reason to take a few minutes just for yourselves today, I invite you to sneak away and see what your little mice might think up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Christmas Countdown

It is different to have older children at Christmas time. Once they are old enough to remember a bit about what Christmas is all about, their anticipation starts to build as soon as they notice their first bit of red and green in the stores. As much as I might try to let Thanksgiving stand alone, Evan had already started to talk a lot about Christmas at the start of November.

Now that we have made it to December though, we are ready to jump full into Christmas. Yesterday we went to pick out our tree - the first tree that we cut down ourselves. And yes, we did wear shorts and t-shirts to go pick out a Christmas tree. I am not sure I will ever get used to this weather in Houston.

My husband and I put together a calendar again this year with activities for us to do together everyday of December. With scrapbook paper and ric rac, we made little paper pockets that we sewed together into a simple bunting. My husband printed and cut out a set of number stencils, which he used to put dates on each of the pockets. Then we wrote our activities on strips of scrap paper and folded them over before putting them in the pockets. I am sure the folding is a bit of overkill since neither of our littles know how to read, but it just felt fitting for the secretive nature of the project.

As for the activities, we are repeating all of our list from last year and, since we are starting a bit earlier this time around, we were able to add a few extras. I love how much our list resembles others I have seen around the internet - so many traditions that we all share.

1. Pick out our Christmas tree.
2. Decorate the tree and the house.
3. Write letters to Santa.
4. Pick out a name from the Salvation Army Angel Tree and drop off some clothes and toys to donate to others.
5. Make twig stars.
6. Read Christmas stories.
7. Go to the Houston Symphony holiday concert.
8. Visit Santa.
9. Start baking cookies. (Here is one of our all-time favorites.)
10. Make a gift for Evan's teacher.
11. Decorate some cookies made over the weekend.
12. Make a Christmas card to send to someone.
13. Christmas music dance party. (This song is one of our favorites.)
14. Oops! We still need to come up with something for this day since the local breakfast with Santa is already sold out. Any suggestions?
15. Make wrapping paper.
16. Make gingerbread houses.
17. Take a walk to see Christmas lights.
18. Travel day!
19. Drink hot chocolate.
20. Make an ornament for the tree.
21. Watch a Christmas movie and eat popcorn.
22. Make snow globes.
23. Hang stockings.
24. Twas the Night Before Christmas puppet show.

And in case you are interested in what our calendar looked like last year, this is one of the most popular posts on my blog.

Happy start of the Christmas season to those of you who celebrate it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Color Sorting Game

The boys and I made some colored pasta a few weeks ago. A quick google search led me to hundreds of different tutorials. I pinned the one I ended up using on my Crafts for Kids Pinterest board. Simple, quick and fun.

The other day, Clayton woke up from his nap a bit earlier than normal and we had some time to play before we had to head out to pick up Evan from preschool. So I set up an impromptu sorting game with some empty tins, colored paper and a tray full of pasta. If I had had more time, I might have taped the colored sheets around the tins to save a bit of space, but this method worked just fine spread out on the kitchen floor.

Anyway, Clayton loves naming colors and he is a bit of a natural organizer. (Wonder where he got that from...) So, this game was a big hit. In fact, he wanted to sort the entire tray of pasta, well over a two pounds in five different colors. Our time to head to school was getting nearer and nearer and he still did not want to quit, so I had to help him to get through the whole tray. I really think he would have sat there for hours sorting every single last piece of pasta.

A word of warning, though, for those of you with toddlers in the throwing phase - do not forget to put the pasta away when the game is over! You might just end up with tiny shards of pasta crushed all over the floor as your little one scatters it around the room and then proceeds to dance on top of it. Oops!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Laundry Day

My little guy is completely obsessed with the laundry. He loves to gather it, sort it, put it in and take it out of the machine, hang it, fold it. He can spend impressive amounts of time just putting clothes back and forth between one laundry basket and another.

Mostly a good thing...except for when it is not. Like when I have a freshly clean and folded basket of clothes waiting to be put away and Clayton decides to shake it out and put it back in the dryer. Or when  he throws a fit that he cannot reach the clothesline to help me hang the clothes to dry. I try to let my boys help with the chores, but there are definitely limits. I will admit that I have taken to doing the laundry in secret, when Clayton is sleeping or occupied in the other room.

So, for Clayton's birthday in September, we thought about hanging a lower clothesline in the yard. But then we saw this online. Definitely out of our price range, but it seemed simple enough so my husband decided to make one himself. 

A few cuts in a piece of wood, a bolt in the middle to allow the stand to fold up and some pieces of an old clothesline. It could use a coat of paint on the cut edges...We will get to that someday, I am sure. But Clayton certainly does not mind.

We cut up an old baby blanket with pinking shears and added a handful of clothespins from our collection and it was ready to go.

Within a few shorts months, he already has developed the hand strength to work the clothespins by himself. But the process is still enough of a challenge for him that I sometimes have to talk him through it while I am hanging my load on the grown-up line. Shake out the cloth, lay it over the line, grab a clothespin from the basket, squeeze it right there on the end and clip it on. Hooray!