Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween and the Pumpkin Fairy

A summary of some of the projects we've been working on in October -- 

What kid doesn't like to put things into other things? That's why I loved this idea from Play at Home Mom. Only downside is that it requires a bit of setup, but nothing much (and can be made with things you already have around the house). In addition to the activity of the box itself, I also used it as a chance to be completely child-led exploring and learning - letting him play with it as he saw fit. 

We ended up with a big piece of blank, white paper. What to do with it? I had Neven lay down, and I traced his body (which was fun in itself, since he kept thinking I was tickling him!). Then we added shoes, gloves, shorts, a shirt, and some hair. We hung the finished piece on the wall! 

A simple story to share, along with props that turn into a pumpkin mask! 

Today I had one of those Aha! days... Neven can play GAMES now! We played Memory (a kids version, and we only used a handful of cards at a time), then we moved on to Go Fish! (not too successful following the rules, but we did have lots of giving practice and also used the game to introduce the concept of PATTERNS). 

I thought the thrill of a non-toy cardboard box would last a day or two -- I think we've had this one for three weeks now! Neven's "room" now has a couch, snacks, TV, bookshelf (with titles decided by Neven on the spines, like dragons, ghosts, bats, rhymes, ducks...), a porch and yard, and dragons flying around outside. The box has been torn multiple times now, and yet, it's still usually the first thing both kids go to in the morning... The lesson I learned: Never underestimate the power of SIMPLE. 

This activity was simple - pumpkin carving. I had these grand ideas that the activity would be great for "sensory exploration" and generally fun because it was an excuse to get messy. Surely Neven would be interested in digging out the pumpkin guts and playing with them, maybe tossing them around (we were carving outside), right? Not exactly. I cut off the top of a pumpkin for him, and he'd reach in and get ONE seed at a time. Then it pretty much took him until I cleaned out two pumpkins entirely until he was sticking his hands into the slimy bowl o' seeds like the picture below. Some days, his lack of enthusiasm (SO like his dad in many ways!) frustrates me. I'd love to see just a bit more emotion from him, or know that something I do as a "treat" to him is something he truly enjoys. But then there's the flipside - on the days when he's content people-watching while other kids run around like crazy (like kids do), I'm grateful for his wallflower personality. Anyone else have a kid like this? 
Daria on the other hand, is in the stage where she's willing and determined to explore anything and everything!... so we distracted her with a pile of drying leaves. 

Before Halloween (week) started this year, I read about The Pumpkin Fairy and hoped she would consider a stop at our house. The legend goes something like this: The Pumpkin Fairy visits houses after Halloween, and eats any candy that may be left out for her (except for a few choice pieces set aside). She's known to leave a token of her appreciation in exchange, typically some small gift. 
Halloween #1 for us came in the mail on Tuesday from Salt Lake - a handful of candy from Meme and Papa. Neven ate a pack. Then we made pumpkin cookies for trick-or-treaters (pumpkin-shaped and frosted, with candy corn eyes, not pumpkin flavored), and he ate one of those. 
Halloween #2 was on Thursday night, in the form of trunk-or-treating with the Santa Fe Mommy Meetup Group. The treats were great - a fair mix of small prizes, gummy candies, lollipops (I think he managed to eat TWO the night of), cookies, and some chocolate. I was excited when we got home, and the one thing Neven wanted out of his bucket was the skeleton notepad. Maybe we won't have to feed our kid a white lie after all?  
But then the next morning came. He asked about candy within minutes of getting out of bed. And so we started off the day by going back and forth, and back and forth (5 thousand times!) - Neven asking if he could please have a piece of candy now, and me calmly explaining we'd have it for a snack after we ate breakfast. As the the roller coaster of our day went on, Neven had more meltdowns than he's had in weeks. I'm talking about lip-out, wailing about trivial things upset. Not listening, pushing limits, telling me NO to anything I said. In between fits, he'd be laughing and having a great time. 
It's not about having to deal with a hyper child for a few hours. It's about how I imagine he must feel a little out of control. I hate seeing him like this! I actually suspect it might be the coloring dyes, NOT the sugar. Since we've moved to Santa Fe, we changed our eating habits and tend to have no artificial coloring of any sorts in the food in our cupboards. Maybe he developed a sensitivity to it? Anyone have experience/thoughts about this theory?
I think this afternoon's activity will be writing a letter to The Pumpkin Fairy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Nevermind, do whatever you want..."

I've been trying to let go a little, and to not care so much about the things (rules) that don't really matter. Some examples of what I'm talking about:

  • Neven was painting with watercolors. He started mixing them all together. My OCD personality makes my whole body start to twitch a bit and I reactively start to tell him "no, no, no... don't mix all the colors together!" But then I catch myself - "Nevermind, do whatever you want!" Really, who cares (besides ME)? I bought the paints for HIM (probably just a few dollars at the store), and he's having fun experimenting. Turns out, he only mixes for a few seconds, then is done anyway! Happy kid... happy mama... and paints that can still be used. 
  • Daria was sitting outside on the front porch with Neven and me, half-chewed biscotti in hand. All is good until she starts tapping it on the ground. I grab for the biscotti, and so she gets mad and screams. I look at the biscotti in my hand - "Nevermind, do whatever you want!" A little dirt never hurt anyone, right? I had a friend once make the comment to me that sometimes, she'd rather her child eat a little dirt than chew on plastics. Interesting way to put things into perspective. 
  • Neven was playing in his cardboard box house pretty roughly. Instead of saying "stop, you're going to ruin it!" I told him "If you are too rough, you might tear the sides. But, do whatever you want!" If his idea of fun is tearing apart his box house, what's it matter? We'll get him a new one! 

Your turn - What can your child do today that you can answer "Nevermind, do whatever you want!" to? I'd love to hear your stories!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to it...

Whew, what a busy few weeks...! 

After Deb and her girls left, a friend from grad school visited for a quick overnight trip. He lives in NC now, but visits NM every fall to re-supply his green chile. On top of that, my cousin Dawn and her family were visiting from Hawaii (I haven't seen her since I was pregnant and we were on our last hurrah vacation in Hawaii in 2008). We were able to spend a lot of time with them, which was fantastic. We really, really enjoyed our time with them, especially Neven who proclaimed "cousins are cool" after we had seen them one day. 

We're trying to get back into a routine after our busy weeks (during which we did no structured learning). To make things easier for all of us, I set aside an area in our family room with Neven's desk, kid-themed wall hanging, and a place to hang recently-colored pages and monthly activities calendar. Hopefully this will help set the stage for a more focused environment. Another improvement: I've enlisted some online help from ABCmouse and Preschool ExpressIt's been easy for me to find suggested activities, but hard for me to come up with what I felt was a balanced plan of attack. Hoping these sites will help! I'll post an update in a few weeks in the form of a typical day as thing settle into a relaxed and fun pattern that works for all of us. 

Here are some of the things activities Neven has been up to the past few weeks: 

Not sure where I got this idea, but it turned out to be a really fun activity. Using just a set of blocks, the idea is to build matching structures. To get started, I'd place one block at a time and have Neven follow. Next, I had Neven close his eyes (which added to the excitement!) while I built a tower, then he copied it. Finally, I closed my eyes and Neven built. Of course, getting to knock it down at the end was the best part. 

SEARCH FOR ORANGE the produce section of your local grocery store. Oranges, clementines, grapefruit, carrots, pumpkins. What did we miss? 

Setup: Cut out shapes (squares, rectangles, and triangles) of various colors and sizes out of construction paper. Put out three containers to use as bins. 
To start, I asked Neven to find me a red triangle, a red square, then a red rectangle and we talked about the differences. Then we moved on to finding two orange squares, etc. By the end, Neven was picking out a shape of his choice and telling me the color and shape, then sorting it into the correct bin. 

This idea came from Play at Home Mom. I LOVE the ideas on this website, but one problem I have is using so many materials. Unfortunately, a lot of Neven's crafts will end up in the trash, especially if we're doing something new every day. I love using things that are trash-bound anyway (like oatmeal containers, coffee cans, blueberry containers). PAHM uses a picture frame and gems for this activity; we used the plastic lid from a package of spinach and leaves. The day before, we wandered through the yard, collected leaves, and left them in a heavy book overnight to flatten and dry a bit. Today, we covered the plastic spinach lid with craft glue, used fingers to spread it around, then stuck leaves all over it. We propped up the end result in a window (another perk of using plastic instead of glass, non-breakable if it falls!). It adds some great fall color to our living room. 

We recently visited Wagner's Pumpkin Patch in Corrales, NM on a perfect fall day. We wandered through the corn maze, picked out pumpkins (Neven picked a "baby" one and a yellow one), went on a hayride, braved a scary pipe-slide, and got up and close with llamas, mini-horses, and chickens. Lots of plans for the pumpkins we got at the patch - painting, carving, sensory exploration of pumpkin guts, roasting and counting seeds... Any other ideas?

A few weeks ago, we went to a new park in Santa Fe. After a while of playing by themselves, the kids there (4 yr old boy, 4 yr old girl, Neven, and two 2 yr old boys) started playing together. Their activity of choice? Picking up handfuls of woodchips and throwing them, all of them laughing and having a blast. Situations like this often leave me feeling a bit torn as to what I should do - Should I correct Neven for throwing, even though the other kids are doing it? Should I let him go until someone is unhappy? Should I pretend like I don't see what's going on? (Obviously the last option isn't a good idea, but yet SO tempting...!) One of the other moms* calmly reminded her boys that it is ok to throw, but suggested they throw the woodchips in the opposite direction at the (unoccupied) play equipment. It was a great reminder to me that throwing needn't always be labeled as "bad" and that sometimes it IS ok to do. Where my responsibility lies is in making sure Neven directs it properly. I need to remember that he has a LOT of energy and isn't exactly sure what to do with it, and that he is exploring what his body is capable of doing. I need to help him grow and learn this way, too! *Yes, SA - I'm talking about you... and THANKS! :) 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Refreshing Inspiration

A very dear friend of mine and college roommate (for all 4 years), Deb, visited this past week with her two girls. As luck would have it, her older daughter is one week older than Neven, and her younger daughter is three weeks older than Daria. What are the chances?! We had a FANTASTIC visit together, truly stress-free! On top of just having a generally good time, I also received some REFRESHING INSPIRATION from her. As a mom, she's unbelievably patient and compassionate with her (all!) kids, and very PRESENT with them. She seems to have a limitless amount of energy to keep up with engaging an infant and a preschooler - singing, rocking, nursing, hiding, playing make-believe, teaching, showing, drinking "tea"... Her kids are such happy little girls, no doubt a side-effect of her parenting style. I hope to be able to carry over some of her attitude and approach to parenting -- To remember that my children are only this age for such a short time, and to ENJOY them, each and every moment I possibly can! 

Just a few months after meeting as roommates! - Fall 1997

 Springfest - 1998

 Halloween - 1998

 1,000 Steps Hike - 1999

 "Under the Sea Party" - 2001

Juniata Graduation - May 2001
2011 (yikes, 14 years later?! how'd that happen?!)
More from Deb's Visit... 

Neven shared some of his home-preschooling activities with Addy. I was flattered that the ideas were new and fresh to Deb, and she plans on carrying them home with her. 

Face painting, dress up, puppet shows, water play, and sand play... all in one place! 

We revisited the short, kid-friendly hiking loop through Eldorado's community preserve that we discovered a few weeks ago. Neven and Addy were like pros... off they went on the trail!   

How can you go wrong with something as simple as swings?

** We miss you girls!! Come back and visit again SOON! xoxo **