Small Hands in the Big World

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Found Time"

Why is unexpected free-time so fulfilling? As we headed home from preschool, my goddess of a Mother-in-law (more about Ellen another day) called to see if the kids could come for a visit. Before her call, I was preoccupied with errands we should run, potential play dates, pondering activities and chores around the house, and lamenting the nasty weather.  Her call was like a ray of sunshine, providing a couple hours of kid-free time when I could really use it (a little mommy-shopping-time with no kids in my dressing room).
This happened with a friend earlier in the week too. She left her kids here while she went to the doctor then stayed for a bit afterward while I ran some errands. It was only an hour and all I did was go to the store, but that “found time” felt decadent and wonderful.
Even when I plan ahead for something great, I find myself fretting about leaving (Will the kids be sad? Will my husband be annoyed? What other things can I do while I’m out? etc.) then rushing to get home. I suppose the spontaneity of these moments is what makes them special.  What’s next, spontaneous yoga, massages, and pedicures? I think I’m onto something…
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Crafty Kiddos: A Springtime Nest

First, a quick simple idea you may have already seen: tuck yarn and other soft nesting materials into pinecones, hang them from trees, and watch birds choose the nest-worthy pieces. Cotton balls were the kids’ idea and it turned out that the hummingbirds loved this! It was remarkable to watch them hover while they pecked and picked at little bits of cotton before flitting back to their nests.  This got us thinking, if the birds are making their nests right now, why can’t we give it a try? Every step of this activity was educational and a lot of fun BUT every step also exceeded the attention span of my 3 & 5 year-olds. That was OK with me—I enjoyed helping, but it is something to be aware of. The finished product is totally worth it and you’ll be able to use this little gem as a spring time decoration for years.

Step 1. We gathered fallen twigs, moss, and lichen on our trail in the woods, visiting banana slugs, millipedes, and more slugs along the way. We talked about not taking too much of anything because the animals need it for their habitats and we did our best not to disturb anything that was intact.
Step 2. Breaking the twigs into 2 to 3 inch pieces was a snappy, satisfying activity for about 5 minutes. Then Sara decided the sticks were stop signs so she spent a solid half hour running back and forth for “more top signs, Mom!” and doing her best to stick them all around the yard. Oh well, she was happy and being creative!

Step 3.  Start building your nest using a small bowl set on a piece of cardboard, cookie sheet, or something easily moved when you want to let your nest dry. We used small melamine bowls as our forms and Elmer’s glue to make everything stick as we arranged twigs, moss and lichen around the bowl. I helped the kids get started so they weren’t overly frustrated by the twigs moving when accidentally bumped. This provided a great opportunity to talk about what excellent builders birds are! I carefully placed twigs on my own little nest but as usual, I should have paid attention to my little Teacher Sara. She dipped big hunks of moss into the glue then slopped them onto the bowl, stuck on a couple twigs and called it good. I finished it for her, just making it thick enough to be stable but her “generous” use of moss and lichen made the prettiest nest! 
Unbelievable but Sara's gloppy nest turned out beautifully!

Step 4. When everything is in place, drizzle more glue on and don’t be shy. It dries clear so you don’t have to worry about quantity or placement.  Allow to dry for about an hour then check on them to see if the glue has set enough to remove the bowl from the inside of the nest. Remove the bowl then allow them at least another 24 hours to fully dry.
William let Ted E. Bear help him with his nest
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Wisdom of Daddy

As Easter was ending and there was a slight break in the rain, Rob and the kids were outside playing. It was chilly, in the 40s, so Sara supplemented her typical uniform of shorts and boots with a winter coat. William was just wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and pants. Rob was in a sweatshirt but decided to get his fleece jacket because it was so cold. Thinking I’m being helpful (and frankly that he is being clueless about properly caring for our under-dressed child), I suggested he grab a coat for William while he is at it. Without hesitation, his response was, “Then I’ll never get him to come in.” And there, in a snapshot, is the wisdom of Daddy!
So many times when I wonder “what is he thinking?!” it turns out a) there is a method to his madness, b) his way works too, and c) it is often brilliant!
Some examples: I like to explain, he often gives one word commands. (This gets the kids attention and the appropriate response.) I’m all about hugging until the cows come home, he draws the line. (If Sara continues to cry and complain while I’m doing my best to placate her, my approach obviously isn’t working—he’ll remove her from the situation and go spend one on one time with her until she settles down.) I’ll do everything I can to avoid conflict and potential meltdowns, he just goes about the business of our days. (The kids can get frustrated when unexpected events arise but this gives them the opportunity to learn how to recover from being upset and be more flexible in the world.)
Happy sigh… the wisdom of Daddy just makes me love my husband more every day.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

An Earthy Earth Day

Sara and I tagged along with William’s preschool for a nature hike and more fun in the mud.  Teacher Judy and Teacher Nancy are remarkable, reminding the kids to stop, look, listen, and smell along the way (especially near the skunk cabbage). They even had us jump up and down on the springy path so the kids could see the leaves shimmer while our movements shook the earth. We encountered baby bunnies, ducks and countless slugs during the walk and the songbirds provided a lovely soundtrack.

Later, inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, we decided to make our own dyes for decorating Easter Eggs. The kids were really into it and wanted to add all kinds of things…pepper, lettuce, various toys, you name it. After a lively discussion and refrigerator-searching, we decided on onion skins, beets, huckleberries, and kale. The result was a slightly funky-smelling house (the kale was a day or two past its prime) and rather pleasing to the eye pastel-colored eggs if I do say so myself.  I have to admit that I cheated a little and put a few drops of food coloring into the yellow and the green because I don’t think we started with enough material to make very intense colors.

Happy Earth Day, everyone and Happy Easter!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Playdate: Kelsey Creek Park

"Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields... Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness."
Mary Oliver

Blue sky and sunshine awaited us at Kelsey Creek Farm Park this morning! The air was frigid but we were all smiles heading up to the barns to meet Farmer Jayne. She runs a fantastic little “farm kids” program that gives kids a behind-the-scenes look at how the farm animals are cared for at the park and a good friend arranged a group tour for us (thank you, Sasha!). We fed the pigs (pellets for the babies and pumpkin for the 600+ pound big girl), petted LucyBelle the growing calf and one of the goats (can’t remember if it was Bert or Ernie but the names made quite an impression on the kids). Then the kids got to touch a baby chick and pet a velvety black bunny. The grand finale was planting pumpkin seeds and with any luck (plus sunshine, warmth, and water) we’ll go back to watch them grow all summer long then see them harvested in the fall.

Knowing what a soaking wet spring it has been so far, we were prepared for mud with our weatherproof boots. Sara insisted on shorts despite the 40-something degree temperature (this is a battle I no longer engage in, rather I bring extra clothes just in case), but my little man buckled up his overalls in true farm fashion. The tour only lasted about 30 minutes but that was perfect for the attention span of our group of 2-5 year olds. Most of us stuck around afterward for a picnic and playtime at the playground and oh my... here is where the real fun began.

One word: MUD!

I consider myself very lucky to have friends who revel in this kind of activity for their children as much as I do.

This moment was a lovely reminder of what a good teacher my little girl is. Turns out, shorts were perfect for her today... and so was the extra change of clothes. We wandered out of the park feeling satisfied, tired, and happy with the sunshine on our backs. Now, one bath, one load of laundry, many bike rides and one rainstorm later, I am one happy Momma.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hello and Welcome!

Every day I’m struck by the awesomeness of what it means to be a parent.  The fun, the responsibility, and the opportunities are truly amazing.  My daughter, Sara, is 3 and son, William, almost 5 now and I’ve never had a more satisfying “job.”  What are my credentials?  I was raised by an incredibly creative and playful mother, I’ve been actively involved in cooperative preschools over the past several years, I’m a published travel writer, and I was the general manager, marketing & HR director of a growing business for over 16 years.  I’m no expert and don’t ever want to come across as self-righteous -- I’m simply a full-time mom who wants to raise compassionate, intelligent, active children in a world that doesn’t always seem so compassionate, intelligent, or active.
As you might suspect, our days are filled with typical household activities (keeping up with clutter, cooking and eating meals, mountains of laundry, grocery shopping galore, transporting kids everywhere they need to go, and general child-wrangling) but as much as possible, I try to incorporate more meaningful moments into our days.  Sometimes it is a craft or project, sometimes a little field trip, and sometimes just a conversation but my goal every day is to remember what an enormous gift it is to be home raising these two precious people.
Sure, my best intentions can end up being a mess, both literally and emotionally, but that’s life and I believe that if we cannot laugh in the face of adversity or make the best out of rough situations then parenthood is going to be an especially long haul.
Thanks to encouragement from my friends, family, and other bloggers, I started this blog to add my voice to the mix and see where it goes.  I hope you’ll visit for inspiration, ideas, community, and a little entertainment along the way; please, add your comments and ideas and join the conversation!
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