Small Hands in the Big World

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unplugging.... almost

Nothing like a power outage to get us thinking about unplugging...
It started innocently enough, back when I was desperate for 30 minutes to throw dinner together, I’d let my 3- and 5- year olds watch Curious George. Then PBS changed their programming and George was no longer airing when I was prepping dinner so a handful of DVDs were introduced. Along came pleads of “come on, can we watch just one more, Momma?”  Thirty minutes quickly became an hour, then eventually turned into about 90 minutes of screen time before dinner.
The computer counts as "screen time" too, look at those zoned out eyes...
No, they don't stand this close to watch TV... they were posing for me
While the television was on, I’d spend that hour and a half picking things up around the house, washing dishes, drying and putting them away, doing laundry, checking email and surfing the web, choosing something to cook, setting the table then I finally dive into the business of making dinner. Dinner still only took about half an hour to make, but I sheepishly realized that the kid’s 90 minutes of television had actually become something I looked forward to. This didn’t feel right.

Did I think these 90 minutes a day were going to ruin my 3 and 5 year-old children? No. Did I think it’s wrong to allow kids to watch a limited amount of age-appropriate shows? No.  I am aware, however, that what was once a tool for me became a crutch. And what was once a treat for the kids became a daily expectation.

What didn’t feel right about an hour or more television was how the kids wouldn’t acknowledge Daddy if he arrived home from work while the TV was still on. Not even a quick “hi” or glance away from the screen… nice homecoming, eh? Worst of all was the kids’ irritable mood once the TV was turned off and it was time to come to dinner (more evening fun for Daddy and all of us for that matter). Their moans and groans made their words so unintelligible that I’m still not sure what they were unhappy about. 

Actually, I don’t think they were unhappy about anything. I think their brains had gone into sleep mode from too much TV. Naturally, they came away feeling tired and cranky. This television-induced state can’t be good for brain development and it certainly wasn’t good for family dynamics.

So what’s a Mom to do? Had we gone too far down this road to turn around? Of course I knew we hadn’t but I felt serious trepidation about how evenings with little to no TV would go. Would dinner ever make it to the table? How many scuffles would I have to break up? How many more messes would be created in the process of keeping them happily occupied while I prepared dinner?

So how would we go about making this change? Faking a broken TV was my first idea. Cowardly, I know, but I could just pull the plug and it would be my little secret. Who’s going to argue with “I called the repair company but they can’t get a technician out here for another few days?”

Instead, I decided that a sincere discussion was the right thing to do. One night at dinner I mentioned to the kids that I noticed how grumpy they were after watching TV before dinnertime. I shared my theory about how sitting in front of the TV makes your brain almost go to sleep so it’s no wonder they felt tired and awful when they had to get up. There were no threats of completely unplugging the TV but I did say that I thought it was too much and we should start experimenting to find the perfect amount.

Do you know what? Those little geniuses agreed with me! As much as Mom and Dad didn’t like hearing their whines and complaints, the kids didn’t like feeling so crummy! More discussion followed about what is important to each of us and we brainstormed about more worthwhile ways to spend our time instead of watching television.

Now, on most days we’re back to just a quick half hour show in the early evening. I use that time to get organized but the TV is off well before Dad returns home and they have a chance to shake off the tired state that even 30 minutes can induce.  The kids are back to helping me peel, slice, pour and stir the various components of dinner which is more fun for all of us. Making such a conscious effort with the kids inspired the grown-ups to keep the TV off after kids are in bed too and we're both enjoying good books instead of watching another episode or American Choppers or Gold Rush (yes, my husband is was a Discovery Channel fan and I was a willing bystander). Recovery feels great.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Storm Like No Other

Transformed into frozen sculptures, every tree, plant, pinecone, bush, and basically all things outdoors were encased in a thick layer of ice. Tips of trees that once stood 40 feet tall were touching the ground as the weight of the ice bent them so severely.
Star Magnolia buds

Japanese Maple

I still can't believe that this very tall Paper Birch didn't snap under the pressure of all the ice

The effect was stunning, really remarkable and like nothing I’ve seen before in the Pacific Northwest. While it was lovely to observe, it also proved to be extremely destructive. Our power was out for two days and thousands were out for longer. 
Lucky to have a gas hot water heater, gas stove top, gas fireplace, and plenty of candles, we did just fine during the blackout. Large quantities of hot chocolate and "winter warmers" (William's latest concoction of warmed milk + cinnamon + vanilla + sugar) were consumed. Even Mommy got her coffee fix after digging my little Italian stovetop espresso maker deep from a cupboard.
So happy for the chance to use his camping lantern

Cocoa by candlelight

William and his Winter Warmer drink
MANY games were played while we were bundled in blankets and warmed our toes by the fire. Cranium's Balloon Lagoon (out of print but available at lots of second hand stores) was our favorite.
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Let It Snow... and Rain and Freeze

Local newscasters dubbed our recent storm “Winter Extreme” and “Slushmageddon.” Call it what you will, our days of snow and freezing rain was a brutal combination.

Like so many storms, it started as a gorgeous Winter Wonderland. A lovely dusting of snow fell on Sunday and we treasured the brightness and muffled quiet it draped over our yard and woods.
It wasn't much snow on that first day but certainly enough for sledding

Daddy gives Sara a boost
It didn't take long for our hill to turn to a slushy, muddy mess but that didn't stop our kids
The girl loves to lay in the snow
The boy loves to walk in the woods
They both love being goofy
More snow came on MLK Day (no school) and we spent almost the whole day outdoors. Bundled up in our coziest gear, we sledded down every vertical surface in the neighborhood.

Despite all of the fun we had on Monday, William cried when he heard that schools were closed on Tuesday due to road conditions; that boy loves Kindergarden. Later, it warmed up and rained, making the streets safe for us to get around. Considering the forecast, I figured we better get out while we could. Sara missed her morning preschool but made up for it by joining William all afternoon in his Kindergarten Enrichment program and I made a trip to the grocery store.

We woke to several inches (and more snow falling) on Wednesday. Naturally, more sledding ensued plus we made more snow angels, snowmen and snowladies, caught snowflakes on our tongues and tried to check them out under magnifying glasses after letting them fall on cold black paper. However, the unusually powdery small flakes didn’t show much shape under our magnifiers… later those flakes turned to freezing rain, driving all of us indoors for hot cocoa.
Aren't hummingbirds amazing? How do these little guys stay warm in weather like this?!
The hummingbird feeder was frozen solid the following morning. When I went out to retrieve the feeder and warm it up, I noticed a shiny thick layer of ice atop the snow and ice coating everything. This is when things started to get interesting…

Rob returned from his morning run (no, this dedicated runner doesn’t let ice or snow or freezing rain stop him) with reports of transformers blowing and flaming power lines down across the street with neighbors hollering “TURN BACK!!!!” as he calmly jogged along. Not that it stopped him from going again the next day, even he admitted, “yeah, it really wasn’t a good morning for running.”

The kids loved walking on top of the snow with their feet only breaking through every fourth or fifth step with a satisfying crunch. And the big sheets of ice were great fun for them to shovel, lift and break and even taste…   
Sitting on a snow bench
He means business

Ice Lanterns (propped three small sheets of ice together and added a votive candle) would have been beautiful at night but so much snow and ice was falling that the flames were quickly extinguished
Sledding on the slippery icy surface would have been thrilling but it was out of the question with the cacophony of thunderous cracks and snaps coming from the woods around our house. We weren’t about to head anywhere near the woods or anywhere with power lines overhead. Crushing weight from the ice was taking everything down.

It didn’t take long for our flickering lights to darken to a total blackout. Silence… no fridge humming, no computer “thinking,” no Pandora radio, no heater blowing, just quiet. Well, all quiet except for the kids shouting their very animated reactions to everything suddenly turning off. 
To be continued (when I'm not rushing off to pick a kid up at preschool)...
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gets 'Em Every Time

Regardless of the weather, all I have to say is “Scavenger Hunt!” to get the kids interested in venturing outdoors.

When they were younger I would make the lists for them and draw pictures for clues since they weren’t reading. They still aren’t reading but now they create their own lists complete with pictures.
I write the words for my 3 year old and she draws the pictures. She added a happy blue version of herself (lower right with wild curly hair) and said "Look! I on da list! We have look for Sara out there!"
My Kindergarten boy carefully sounds out the words and gets the letters on his paper, wonderful practice activity, by the way.
No, we didn't go out in search of bears, he is writing "berry"
They thought I was fooling when I suggested we search for ice but they humored me and wrote it down anyhow. Then, despite my encouragement otherwise, they put on their light jackets (Sara only had on a sundress to start with.... sigh) and we headed outside.

Ice was the first thing they found and of course they wanted to crack it. Fascinated by the bubbles frozen inside and the cracks from the rocks hitting the ice, my budding scientists peered into the bird bath. When they were looking closely, they noticed something special:  rainbows! They were delighted and Momma was impressed.
It's hard to see but several colorful prisms of light appeared in the fissures
Wonderment over the rainbows was quickly replaced by determination to crack that ice. William decided rocks weren't doing the job fast enough so he ran off to find something more serious.
What is it with boys and tools?

Behind that ice there is a grin
We trekked into the woods behind our house, William with his handy hammer, Sara in her sundress and Mom following with her camera (wearing a warm coat and scarf, by the way, it was freezing)!

We didn’t find everything on the list (all of the spiders are tucked in for the winter so no webs were to be found) but we walked in the woods, chased each other, and ran around so much that none of us got cold after all.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Something New for the New Year

I only recently learned what a blog hop is and honestly, I'm still kind of figuring it out. So far, it's been a great way to find new projects and new blogs while inviting others to see what we've been up to here. I posted Sara's Fairy Princess Accessories but now it looks like my graphic link is broken. Oh well, I'm learning. Anyhow, take a look, hop around and have fun... Pin It

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Growth and Hope

Two amaryllis bulbs + two pots + expanding soil = two curious kids eager to track the growth of their chosen bulbs. Cuckoo Grandma brought these fun gifts for the kids; Sara chose pink and white while William picked the bright red one. Little did he know that the red variety blooms later than the other… at least we hoped that was what was going on as we witnessed her bulb shooting up quickly (sometimes an inch a day) while his quietly stood by.

We measured Sara’s bulb a few times and recorded our findings but our little scientific experiment was overshadowed by William’s disappointment. I explained that this was part of the process and sometimes bulbs and seeds sprout at different times and sometimes they won’t even grow at all but to not give up on his bulb yet. When glorious blush-colored flowers as big as Sara’s head proudly started opening, I knew it was time to take action.

Upon closer inspection (ie. yanking the non-performing bulb out of the soil) we found considerable root rot. After plucking off all the soft brown bits we left behind 4 or 5 nice fresh white roots, said some encouraging words to the red amaryllis bulb, buried it again, and hoped. Two days later we were still hoping but on the third day we saw a glimmer of life! One of the sprouting leaves looked slightly taller and a new green tip was also starting to show. I am so happy to report that in one day William’s bulb grew at least a half inch and has continued at a remarkable rate. It is now a promising 7 inches tall and we’re still enjoying the gorgeous pink flowers of Sara’s plant. Now William explains to everyone (as I have been saying in an encouraging tone this whole past month since planting), that once Sara’s is all done, we’ll have pretty red flowers to look at so it’s cool that his was slower. Phew! Close call.
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