We made cards for their parents. Combining thumb-print craft ideas I’ve seen elsewhere, and the so-appealing inchie idea, we got these:
I was planning on making three each, one for them to give to their parents, and two more for each set of grandparents. Because I am a kick-ass, family-friendly, grandparent-inclusive caregiver.
I was planning, I say, because, having completed one set of cards I can inform you all that this craft is TOO HARD for two-year-olds. You wouldn’t think so. (Well, maybe you would. Maybe you are wiser in the ways of toddlers and thumbs than me.) But I didn’t think it would be a problem! All they have to do is push that thumb into the paint, and then onto the paper. Sure, they’ll need help steering the second thumbprint at the right angle to make the heart, but it’s stamping. We’ve done lots of stamping! We love stamping!
First off, did you know that it’s very difficult to stick out just your thumb? It is! You try and try to stick out just your thumb, but your pointer finger keeps sticking out, too! And when you tuck your pointer finger in, your thumb tucks back in, too?
Also, it is extremely difficult to press the pad of your thumb to the paper. Please note: There are TWO hard things in that sentence. 1) It is hard to get the pad of the thumb down, rather than the tip. Which matters, because the tip is the wrong shape entirely. You don’t get hearts when you press down the tip of your thumb, you get … blots.
and 2) what is also hard, very, very hard, is pressing, so as to get a neat oval. We were not so good at pressing, even with Mary holding our thumbs in a valiant death-grip. We were very good at jabbing, poking, and smearing, however!!!
In fact, and I’ll tell you because you are my invisible friends on the Internet … not all those thumbprints are theirs. No. Some are very cleverly faked. A grown-up baby finger is just about the size of a toddler thumb, you see… but SHHHHHHH. We are not telling their parents. Because at this point, even I don’t know which are which. And DOES IT MATTER?
No. It does not.
I had started this project, and we were going to finish it!!! I don’t often get that way. I wasn’t cranky, mind you, just pragmatically determined. Normally, when I can see something isn’t working, I either adjust it to meet their capabilities, or scrap it altogether. This project? I wanted to DO IT. Even if it meant doing part of it myself. Which is totally cheating, and goes completely against my crafting manifesto of exploration and free play and letting their work be their own, warts and all … but there you have it. I wanted hearts for Valentines Day, and hearts we were going to get, dammit. By hook or by crook. Or baby finger.
I think this would be a great craft for five- or six-year-olds and up. Maybe a particularly coordinated four-year-old could swing it.
A couple of notes:
I found that it was best to angle the paper, make one thumbprint, then shift the paper to make the second print. It was far easier to shift the paper than to get the child to shift their thumb to the correct angle. Older children could manage to place their thumbs on their own, I’m sure.
I drew the inch squares first, and had the kids make their prints within the frame. That was silly. It would have been faaaaaar easier to make the hearts on a plains sheet of paper, making sure there was sufficient space between them to cut out an inch square around it. You’d waste some paper, sure, but SO MUCH EASIER! (Also, no visible lines on some of the squares.)
So. A bit of a fiddly disaster-craft for my group, but SO CUTE! If you have school-age kids, this would be an absorbing and totaly do-able craft.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Mary. (Okay, so she wasn’t really named Mary, but that’s how you know her.) Mary was in hospital, having just given birth to her first child, a darling, perfect baby girl. She was exhausted, but full of the euphoria that comes after birth — in part relief that the work of labour is over, for sure, but also overflowing joy.
There was my baby. My baby. I had made my very own baby, and there she was!!!!!
I gazed at her in awe and wonder and joy as she lay there, swaddled, the little baby burrito the midwife had handed me, all pink and clean after her very first bath. (The baby’s, not the midwife’s.)
And then, my baby stirred. Her shoulders shifted, her legs lifted off the mattress. Her head twisted from side to side, and her face, formerly pink and solemn, her face darkened a bit, her lips curled. I watched this, and my stomach tightened at the impact of the cold, hard punch of fear. Might even have been terror.
My baby! My baby was about to cry! My baby was about to cry, and I didn’t know what to do.
But! But! Here’s where fear might even have evolved into terror: I was THE MOTHER. I was supposed to know what to do! I was going to be THE MOTHER from here on in. There was no backup. I couldn’t hand it over to my mother. I.Was.It.
My very first parental reality check. It’s not Pink Puffy Hearts forever.
You learn as you go, don’t you? I cooed at her and jiggled her, and she immediately relaxed back into calm. (Yes, that’s right. My first parental panic attack was over a total non-event. Don’t worry! Three weeks later, she developed colic. I paid my dues…)
A lot of the time, particularly at first, you feel like you’re faking it. I jiggled that baby, because that was what real mothers did, but I wasn’t feeling like a ‘real’ mother yet. It comes with time and experience.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s far more effective to parent from principles than rules. Of course, you will have rules. Oh me, oh my, will you have rules! You will have rules for things you never considered needed rules.
“Do not jump off the couch onto your baby brother.”
“Milk does NOT go down the heat vent.”
“We never shove raisins up the dog’s nose!”
“You do not put toys in your diaper.”
“Don’t throw things into the ceiling fan!”
I learned in teacher’s college — very useful for parenting, too — to phrase instructions as positives, not negatives. So, rather than “NO RUNNING IN THE HALLS!!!!” you get, “WALK, people. We WALK in the halls.” So all those rules, above, have a positive — and better — form.
“Be careful of your baby brother.”
“Milk stays at the table.”
“Raisins are for eating.”
“Diapers are for poo and pee, not toys. Toys stay on the floor.”
“Toys stay on the floor.”
But, though rules are inevitable, parenting is not about rules. It can sure feel that way, some days, I know, but really, parenting is about forming worthwhile human beings, creating adults that other adults will like working with, relating to, hanging out with. For that, you need principles, not rules. Eventually, those children are going to have to learn how to behave without your constant input. They need to internalize principles, not memorize an incredibly long and random list of rules.
When you get into the habit of expressing rules as positives, it becomes easier to see the principles behind the rules. When “DON’T JUMP ON THE BABY!!!” becomes “We are gentle with the baby”, the offending child begins to learn that the point is not “not jumping”, the point is “I am big, the baby is little. Big people take care of little people”. And then he/she can see all the positive things that can be done with a baby. We can hug him, we can roll a ball to him, we can clap hands and laugh with him…
Think of all the rules that can be gathered together under the principle: “In this house, bigger people take care of littler people”. All those “don’t”s that are included in that one, big “do”. And your bigger child can begin to learn to evaluate his/her actions in light of this principle. “Am I taking care of baby brother when I do X?” By giving your child a principle, rather than rule number forty-gazillion, you are giving him/her control in a very meaningful way.
So it is with parenting. If you parent from principles, you parent more effectively. More efficiently. You aren’t responding to everything by the seat of your pants, coming up with more and yet more rules for yourself. Principles are personal things. Though many parents will share some foundational principles, not everyone parents from the same set, and I doubt any two parents have identical lists of principles.
Oddly, even though they are so very important, most people are largely unaware of their presuppositions. You often don’t become aware of a principle until you bump into someone who doesn’t share it. You’re surprised when you discover something you think is fundamental is not shared by another parent. That fundamental thing is so obvious to you, you simply hadn’t realized it wasn’t universal.(We hope, for all your sakes, this other parent isn’t your child’s other parent…)
Becoming aware of your guiding principles, then, isn’t always easy. It takes some digging, some introspection.
Here are some of my principles:
Is that all of them? I suspect not, but it might be! If your principles are foundational, there needn’t be many of them.
Lots can be said about each of mine, of course. The adults, not children principle helps me gauge present behaviour: is this behaviour going to be truly obnoxious in twenty years? If yes, better deal with it now, no matter how cute it is in the 18-month-old in front of me. If no, I can let it go.
The crying one does not mean that I set out to make my child cry! Of course not. What it does mean is that when I think something is necessary (adequate sleep, good nutrition, wearing snowsuits when it’s twenty below, not attending a poorly supervised, mixed-gender sleepover at 14), I am not going to let the child’s tears deter me.
Each of those principles covers thousands of rules. Each of those principles lets me respond to a wide range of events without feeling that panicked, “NOW what do I do?!” feeling.
Principles. So useful. They save you so much worry and fretting!
So, how about you? What are your parenting principles?
*Another post forthcoming on this principle vis a vis teenagers.
Our theme for the month is fairy tales. I’ve read lots of books and told lots of stories this month. Some have luscious language, some have luscious illustrations. Since I don’t stick to board books, or even the preschool section of the library, many were too wordy for this wriggly crew, and had to be shortened as we went, me telling the story that fit the picture and pretty much ignoring the text altogether.
THIS was one book I didn’t have to edit down. At all.
I loved it. The joke extends through the entire book, with the desperate dad making the stories shorter and shorter in an effort to get past “the end” to SLEEP! as quickly as possible. The joke is, of course, entirely lost on my crew, but I’d say children from about six on up will get the joke, as well as enjoy the stories.
I love the hints scattered through the text. At the end of “Small Girl, Red Hood”, the woodsman looks at the small girl and says, “Wow, I’m really tired, how about you?”
“Princess Pea” ends with this: “And so she married the prince. Is there a pea under your bed? Then what’s your excuse? Go to sleep.”
I think my all-time favourite is “The Old Lady’s Shoe”, quoted here in its entirety. (Which will take me roughly 63 seconds to type, I’m sure.)
There was an old lady
Who lived in a shoe.
She had so many kids.
She didn’t know what to do.
Stories were read
Until her face turned blue
When kids wouldn’t go to bed,
She sold them to the zoo.
(Wrong! 34 seconds!)
You know what this book is? It’s the precursor to Go the F**k to Sleep, without the all the f**k-ing. It’s more subtle (and thus, cleverer), and, unlike “Go the F**k”, it really is something you can share with your chidren.
Once Upon a Time, the End. Read it! You’ll love it.
(Your kids may not. Who cares?)
I’ve been using this playdough recipe for a while, and while I know I pulled it off the Internet, I’ve long since lost the link. I was so delighted by the recipe I honestly thought I’d written it up here immediately, complete with link of course. I’m sorry to whoever originally posted it!
The recipe that I’d been using prior to discovering this one is still a good one. It produces a much stiffer, firmer dough, and for my tots, this softer dough is easier to mold. And me? I’m a very tactile person. I just love the feel of this so much, I’m willing to sacrifice a little structural sturdiness for the pleasure of the texture.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp alum (I’ve been told cream of tartar also works, but have never had as much success with it.)
1 cup water
Heat oil at medium-low heat.
Mix your food colouring with the water until you get the depth of colour you’re after. Put it all in the pot with the oil and cook over low/medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
It looks too goopy/sticky at first. Don’t worry! Resist the temptation to add more flour!! It thickens as it cooks, and if you add more flour it will end up dry and crumbly. When it’s a nice, thick consistency, remove from heat and knead dough a few times on the counter. It will feel sticky for a while, but never fear. It moves from sticky to silk as it cools, really!
There is nothing like a quick glance at the blog calendar to highlight my winter doldrums. Every winter I find it difficult to post regularly. Every March I complain about being weary. I see a pattern…
However! Just because I am not blogging does not mean I am not Doing Stuff. Lots of stuff. The children are busy, busy, busy.
Last week, we made Puffy Paint, using this recipe:
Poppy (18 months) and Grace (2.5) spent a solid 40 minutes creating a mere three pictures each. That’s over ten minutes per picture! I’ll be doing this again when all the children are here.
We made PURPLE playdough, using this … oops. I have no idea where the recipe came from. I shall have to post it. It’s superb! So velvety silken soft and smooooooth. Here, Jazz practices the pinch technique I’d just shown them. FUN!
In fact, given that Valentine’s day is coming up, I was aiming for pink, but the teeny vials of neon food colouring are not labelled all that well. I could’ve sworn that lid was pink. SURPRISE!!! But purple is fun. Way, way fun. (It also stains their wee hands, but not, happily, their wee shirts.)
We did puzzles. The big ones are very much into puzzles these days, which means the little ones (that’s Daniel’s so-blond head you see there) must try it out, too! (This is modelling and peer pressure at its best.) Daniel doesn’t really get the whole “fit it in the hole” part, but he very much enjoys the fine motor challenge of picking them up using the tiny peg in the middle of each piece.
So there you are. I may be a winter blogging dud, but I am not a winter daycare dud. 😀
It’s a half-hour to lunch time. The meal is ready, prepared yesterday evening and needing only to be re-heated before being served. The children are playing quietly (really!) in the kitchen, Duplo scattered from one end of the room to the other. Rory, Grace and Jazz build towers. Poppy gnaws on a block, meditatively. Daniel fills a large coffee tin with blocks, then dumps it out. Over and over. The children are happily occupied, all in the same room, and I … am at loose ends.
What to do?
Well, according to Flylady, I need to clean my fridge today. Though a full half-hour is more than enough time for the task, I doubt the peace will last long enough to allow me the whole fridge. However, I’ll bet I can manage one of the shelves in the door before
all hell breaks loose they require more active supervision.
An open fridge, however, means FOOD, so I am soon surrounded by “help”. Poppy and Daniel remain oblivious, but Rory decides he will hold the door open for me. Grace, the original Echo Girl, thinks that’s a great idea, so she holds it too!!! That door? It’s not going ANYWHERE.
(Jazz? Jazz is NOT a food girl. She is still building the World’s Longest Duplo Snake, a project far, far more interesting than the possibility of (ugh, boring, you’re not going to make me eat that are you???) food.)
Within a minute, a miscellany of pots, jars and bottles sits on the floor as I wipe the shelf with a damp cloth. Less than a minute after that, I’m putting stuff back. (See? NO TIME AT ALL.) The children comment on each item as it’s returned. Jam — “I yike booberry jam!”– marmalade — “Dat is yukky, but my daddy yikes it.” — salad dressing — oops, that’s expired! “Can you throw this bottle in the blue box, please, Grace?”
While Grace toddles across the kitchen, Rory peruses the contents of the next shelf up.
“I have that at my fridge!” he says, tapping a can. A can of Bud Light. A can which has sat on that same shelf since Halloween. Since the daycare Halloween party, to be accurate, when it was brought to my house by … Rory’s father. Brought, and sat, unloved, unwanted, ignored. For over two months. (By all members of our household, even the 18-year-old, an age at which one is more driven by opportunism than taste, at least in matters alcoholic.)
“You have that at your house?”
“Yes. That is my daddy’s beer. He yikes a drink it.”
I grin. “Your daddy is a lightweight. You can tell him I said that.” (I know this is safe, because I already did tell him that. At the Halloween party. This, I must make clear, is totally, absolutely, completely, unequivocally the pot calling the kettle black. I enjoy my single glass of wine at the end of a day because, to all intents and purposes, that is my limit. Sad, I know.)
Because what’s a good caregiver for, if not to expand their wee vocabularies?
Jazz is easing out of naps. The transition from napper to non-napper is not an instantaneous thing, and does sometimes mean that you have a groggy, cranky child.
This morning, she was whiny. Nothing was quite right, everything was an assault on her equanimity. Fuss, fuss, fuss. (Guess who’s getting a nap today, for the first time this week?)
Grace approaches Jazz, who is sitting on the floor, a soggy mound of grizzle.
“Aw, what’s the matter? Are you feeling tired? Do you need a nap, poor lovie?” She squats beside Jazz, and puts her arm across her shoulders. (Well, she sort of knocks Jazz in the face with her elbow, causing a further burst of sogginess from Jazz, but the intent was a comforting arm around the shoulder. Full marks for intent, if not execution.) “Are you tired, angel?”
Emma and I look at each other.
“Oh, mum! That’s SO adorable! She sounds…”
But I’ve begun speaking at the same time as Emma, and our words intertwine.
“Doesn’t she sound…”
“just like you!”
“just like her mother?”
We grin at each other. I heard Grace echoing her own mother; Emma heard Grace echoing me. A nice compliment to both of us and…
And this morning?
We were reading Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day yesterday. Absolute classic children’s story about a little boy exploring the snow. We will be trying out some of Peter’s ideas in the coming days.
We’ll walk with our toes pointed out, we’ll walk with our toes pointed in. We’ll drag our feet to make tracks, and make tracks with stick. We might even try snowballs!
I’ve done all that before with small children. Yesterday, though, I stumbled across something new. When Peter goes in for the evening, he puts a snowball in his pocket for the next day. When he checks on his snowball before bed … it’s gone!
“Where did it go?” I asked the children. Because of course you chat about your books as you read. “Where did Peter’s snowball go?
Three pairs of eyes gaze back at me. Full of blankness. No inspiration there, at all, at all.
I point to the suspicious spot on the outside of his coat. “It sure looks like his coat is wet. Why would his pocket be wet like that?” Hint, hint…
Nope. More blankness. They truly don’t know.
Well, now. This calls for some investigation! So out we go to the front porch. Well, in the interests of efficiency, out I go. Scoop up a small bowl of snow, and bring it in. We peer into the depths and make our observations.
We discover that the snow is white, and cold, and a bit prickly under our fingers. (I think the “prickly” was their way of describing the ice crystals in there, or maybe just the intense cold on a warm fingertip.)
We put the bowl on the table and went away. Every few minutes we’d come back and have another look. And damned if the snow wasn’t getting smaller! And now there was water in the bowl, too! And maybe, maybe the snow isn’t as white as it was?
A few minutes later, we’re sure. No, the snow isn’t so white. In fact, it’s getting clearer. And there’s even more water in there!
Any ideas why?
It’s a mystery! Isn’t that exciting?!?
When the bowl is largely a small collection of watery slush, I give them each a tiny dollop of snow in their palms.
“Just hold it, guys. Hold your hands still and watch that snow. Tell me what happens to it.”
It’s a matter of seconds before each small pink palm holds nothing more than an even smaller puddle. They peer into their hands. They look at me.
“Well. Where’s the snow?”
Rory knows. “It’s GONE!”
“It certainly is! Where did it go?”
“You had snow in your hands. Now you have water. What happened to the snow?”
A light goes on in Grace’s face.
“Water!! At water! The snow is gone at water!”
And lo, there is much rejoicing, for verily, Grace is right. The snow is gone at water! I toss around some more words, including “frozen”, “warm”, and “melting”, but we have got the gist of it.
The snow is gone at water.
Toddler science is so fun.
I hate watching political debates. Loathe it. Political debates make me endlessly miserable.
Not because I think they’re all fakes and crooks, because I don’t. I think most of them honestly want to do their best by their country. Not because I think they’re liars, though it’s pretty damned obvious that they’re selective in their choice of facts, and a certain amount of (deliberate? inadvertent?) fudging goes on. It bugs me that never once in a debate do you hear someone say, “You know, that’s a good point. Now, I think you need to put more emphasis on this, or you’ve overlooked that, but that one point there? Nicely put!”
(You’re laughing? Why? Why? Why the hell not? Why must debate be entirely about undermining the other guy? How does it weaken you to admit the other guy’s good idea — and then improve it?)
But the real reason that I hate debates, I realized earlier today, is that they’re so much like my daily life… except I can’t fix it. When I see one person shouting over top of the other one (and may I here note that in my admittedly restricted experience, Canadian debates are way worse than American for this) The Daycare Lady in me is desperate to start issuing edicts: “Play fair! Take turns! No name-calling! Stop shouting!”
There is no fun at all in helplessly watching adults employ the same conflict-resolution “strategies” — shouting, interrupting, rudeness — that I spend my life trying to train out of toddlers. No fun at all.
Nor do I learn anything from their aggressive verbiage… except that maybe they all need remedial time with their Daycare Lady. Sigh.
I’ve been thinking this week about the Great Divide amongst mothers. Stay at home or go back to work. The so-called “Mommy Wars”, a term I loathe. I loathe it because it’s too simplistic. I loathe it because it’s too often true — women do wage war with other women over this issue. I loathe it because it’s so damned unhelpful.
I was inspired to muse upon it as a result of an email conversation with a woman I quite admire. We were discussing a parenting issue she had recently encountered, and as I composed my notes, I was having to pause, consider, reconsider, rephrase, edit, alter, tweak…
She isn’t a difficult, prickly woman. It wasn’t a difficult, prickly subject, except that it was informed and underscored by the work-home debate. The issue haunted our conversation. As I sought examples from my own parenting experience to bring to her dilemma, they were, necessarily, examples from the other side of that great divide. I wasn’t attempting to convince her of the superiority of my choice over hers, but it’s so easy to mis-step, so easy to cause offense, even when trying very hard not to.
I got to wondering why that would be. Why, even when two women are trying very hard to be respectful, is it so easy to poke at the other’s sore spots?
You know what? I had an insight, I think.
When a woman is deciding whether to go back to work after the birth of her child —
I need to back off a pace and address a pre-issue, lest I cause offense to yet another group of women. I am very much aware that there is a significant percentage of mothers for whom this entire debate is irrelevant, and its continual appearance in public discourse a continuous abrasion. Because, as they rightly say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if it were an actual choice? Wouldn’t I love to have to luxury to even consider making a choice?” No matter that some of them might still choose to return to paid work, the fact is for them it isn’t a choice. You can speculate as much as you wish on how many of the people who think they don’t have a choice in fact do, but it is undeniably fact that many, many families simply cannot afford to have a parent stay home. So, no choice, and the unceasing blah-blah-blah about it is just too freaking annoying for words!!!
So, to you women? You might just opt to skip this post now.
Back to the post.
When a woman is deciding whether to go back to work after the birth of her child, she (and her partner) will take a set of factors into account.
She’ll consider practical issues like finances, insurance, availability and quality of daycare, professional development, pension, time. Personal issues like ambition (this is not a dirty word, by the way), aspirations (for yourself, your partner, your children), self-esteem (what are its sources, for you?). Parenting concerns: will my child be best served by having this role model, or that? living here or there? having mom around all the time, or sharing time with other loving people?
The thing is, each woman making the decision is going to be choosing from a very similar range of factors. When two women weigh “child’s emotional health + personal aspirations + finances + role model + professional development” and come out with two entirely different choices, it can be very easy to see the other woman’s choice as a criticism of yours.
If you weigh the same set of factors, shouldn’t you come up with the same decision?
Well, no. Only if those factors carry precisely the same emotional weight for each person. Professional advancement was never a huge motivator for me. I might like the increased salary that came with it, but the job title isn’t a biggie. For me. I am not going to extend that to someone else and say, “If you really valued your children, “mom” would be the only job title you’d aspire to.” Any more than I would accept it if someone said of me, “If you really valued your daughters’ future, you’d be showing them that women can achieve great things in the world.”
We need to stop saying this critical stuff to each other, and even more important, we need to stop reading it into what other women are saying. Because really? I believe we read offense into things far more often than it’s intended.
(A little secret? Even if offense is intended, the best response is often to refuse to hear the insult. React to it straight, as if you believe they were only sharing a different perspective, with no judgment at all. Very often, if you do that, they will retract the claws and go along with your interpretation. They may even feel quietly ashamed of themselves, and change their tune a little. Thus we evade and re-direct aggression, and reduce the intensity of the Mommy Wars.)
Human beings are emotional animals. It is pretty much impossible for us to make a 100% rational, 100% non-emotive decision. In the case of parenting, I tend to think that’s for the best, anyway. Parenting is so very much about emotions, after all. You can’t eliminate them from your parenting decisions, nor should you.
So, you’ll weigh the same sorts of factors, and you’ll come up with a different conclusion than your sister, your best friend, your co-worker. Not because you’re right and they’re wrong. (Nor even because they’re right and you’re wrong — relax!) But because the factors carry a different emotional weight for each of us.
And that’s as it should be. We are different. Our children are different. Go to work or stay at home? Make the decision that feels right to you, that meets your needs and matches your values as closely as possible. And your children? Will be FINE. Love your child/ren, spend time with them, respect them, guide and correct them, provide a stable and nurturing home … and they’ll be fine.