Reset downed connections

Since Mabel started preschool months ago, I've heard very little from her about her school day experiences. When I ask, the majority of the time I get a very teenage response, "Stop asking me questions!" I stop and we drive along in silence until we come up with some impromptu game that creates fun connections and chatter, but still no answers.

A week ago she was coming down with something, maybe the flu, and I didn't know it yet. The teenage attitude and toddler tantrums came on strong and I was at my wits end. Rather than continue the power struggle, I pulled out some craft supplies and we got busy. It wasn't totally easy from there on out, but when we make stuff together the only rule is to keep the materials (glue, paint, etc.) on the paper set aside for arts and crafts. Beyond that? There are no right or wrong ways to make things.

The looseness of creating helps clear up the air. As a reminder to myself, and perhaps a tip for others: When communication is down and all else fails, use feathers to paint with glitter glue and let the connection reset.

The Play Room

After reading Simplicity Parenting (a few thoughts on it here) I went through M's play room (she calls it her downstairs living room) and purged about half her toys. It still looked cluttered, but I reorganized the layout and found a place for everything.  I've tried to teach her how to clean up her toys but those who know me know I have no business teaching anyone anything about cleaning.

Simply getting everything in its place took so long we both ended up frustrated and irritable. Throughout the process M would find a toy she hadn't played with in a while and understandably want to play with it. The first few times I gently asked her to get back on task, then I finally resorted to the ol' standby threat, "Mabel, if you can't take care of your toys we're going to give them to someone who can." I had a box in my hand to really drive the point home.

With that motivation she picked everything up, threw it all in the box threat and asked me who would get the toys and where we were going to take them. She didn't see it as a threat so much as an opportunity to share. Lesson learned.

Since then we've been tidying a little bit every day but the room generally looks like the toy monster vomited a rainbow of plastic all over the floor.

Yesterday I gave it a thorough took a solid 8 hours.  Since it's clean, I took a few quick camera phone pics. I'm not one to miss the rare opportunity to brag about a clean room.

My system? I applied what I know about how Mabel plays:
  • she's more likely to play with her toys when she can see them; 
  • she won't dig through a giant toy box to get out one toy, she likes to peruse the buffet before deciding what looks fun;
  • she simply won't make a choice (i.e. she'll ask to watch TV) if given too many options;
  • she's much more imaginative if she has a place to park her rump and/or move around without obstacles; 
  • given a task she can do herself (e.g. hanging a jacket, putting away shoes) she rises to the challenge; it's a simple way to build her self-confidence and she loves knowing she can do something "by mine own self".

Going through the room, I made a small pile of toys to get rid of. Then I whittled the selection of books, puzzles, and art supplies to about half. Those went into a closet to use as back stock. I bought a few more baskets to organize the cubbies.  I like the clean look of those bins made fit these kinds of shelves and hide the clutter, but picked low-walled baskets so M can easily see what's inside. in loose themes like "things with wheels". At some point in the near future I'll add pictogram labels to each. I  moved a table in from another room, making a corner for crafting. Above the table are some cute little clips for an easily changeable display of her artwork. Just inside the doorway to the room are lots of hooks at her height for hats, necklaces and jackets. Below the hooks to the left is a sizable basket for shoes and slippers. Below the hooks to the right is a picnic basket sturdy enough she can stand on it and play with her nature shelf.

What's nature shelf? They're common to both Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. Generally it's an area dedicated to all the fascinating finds from the great outdoors. I took a wooden box some flash cards came in and made one (errr...asked Charlie to make one) for M. She loves collecting natural objects, examining them, and showing them off when other kids come over. This little area provides the perfect spot for that.

It's back to being a play room meant for play. At least for now.

No one wants to be that parent with the screaming kid.

This weekend I had my eyes opened for me and realized the experience of food doesn't begin or end with the ingredients. We do a lot of our shopping at the farmers' market, but there are things that we can't get there, so we make supermarket runs.

Yesterday I had my first Trader Joe's experience.

Yep, I've been resisting for a while and we needed to go grocery shopping, so off we went on a family trip. C fearlessly navigated the parking lot, secured M in a buggy and went on in; the music was blasting 80s new wave/industrial and M was dancing in her seat. Things were looking good.

Starting counter-clockwise and working our way through the store, we got as far as the cheese cooler (2nd stop past the checkouts then the beer selection) and the dancing turned into a toddler's desire to explore the saturated colors lining the shelves, temptation solidly and frustratingly within reach. Pulsating fluorescent lighting lent its oddly colored hand to the total sensory overload experience.  M was strapped into the buggy seat, unable to grab the colorful packaging; temptation turned into tantrum.

I called the shopping trip finished, asked C to check out and took M outside to run around and decompress. Outside we walked down the sidewalk of the strip mall, 2 doors down and she was back to her giggly, curious, actively engaged self.

Yes, I understand toddler fits are a natural part of growing up. I understand they happen out of frustration, emotion, and limited communication skills. Some parents think discipline is the way to stop a fit, but I don't see every tantrum as the same. I try to look at the situation (much easier to do with another adult around to give feedback) and assess: is the tantrum simply to get their way? Are they being tempted beyond their still-developing rationale?

Sometimes a temper-tantrum toddler is too much, and stepping back to look at the situation is an exercise in futility. No one wants to be that parent with the screaming kid.

What did I learn at Trader Joe's? There will be flying pigs in a frozen hell before I take Mabel to Traitor Joe's. The odds of me taking her by myself? Let's just say they're are even slimmer--the environment bred a need for 2 adults present: one to entertain while the other shopped.

That experience is exactly why I love the farmer's market--I walk there (no parking fiascoes for me!), shop at my leisure, have no buggies to battle, and generally no stopping mid-aisle to read labels, because you look at the food and know what is in it. Amazing concept, I know.

We made it out of TJ's and home again, home again. M and I sat in the shade and watched C build a boat. We ate cantaloupe, egg salad, and stacked blocks (aka architectural Corian samples I rescued from the trash at work). We enjoyed the air and the freedom to run around. Yep, even made it through a few of those toddler fits, but I have to say, in the fresh air they're much more manageable.

Anyone else out there with a similar experience? How do you handle shopping trips with an active little one?

I'm sorry for not getting around to posting on Friday here, but I did post on Modish.

Healthy Hump Day

When I started  back at Fitness Together for PACK Training 4 weeks ago I couldn't run 100 meters.  Today I ran 1200 meters--well, at least close to that. I also did reps of 50, 40, 30, 20 and10 step jumps with a 200 meter run in between. This may not seem like a big deal to you guys, but for me?! It was huge, like bring tears to my eyes huge. 

Yeah, I couldn't even do that in high school.

 See 21 year old me in the top row, far left?

Honestly? Without the help of lipo and a tummy tuck, my 21-year old body isn't a realistic goal. At that time I was vegan and working in the stock room for The Nature Company (which is sadly no more) at the mall. I was pulling 8 hour days climbing all over shelves with boxes in my arms or on my shoulders (OSHA would have a fit) and I was in shape.

When you have a baby your body changes. And when you gain wait, then get hugely pregnant your body really changes.  As in (sorry for the grossness here) my belly is pretty much a soft mountain of stretched out skin not quite full of fat but also not tightening back up. It's kind of a spongy beer gut.

So no, I don't have a great body image, but I'm working on it. I think kids are sensitive to the smallest nuances of self doubt. They are, after all, soaking the world around them in, then mimicking the behavior they see because that's their gauge on how to behave.

I'm determined to show the strength of self-acceptance to those who see me as a role model, Mabel especially.

Early recap of KCWC so far

A quick recap of things I've made for M this month:

Then the first two things I made for the Kids Clothes Week Challenge. he wrap dress from Sunday. The pants I made on Monday were cute, but a little too slim for M.

Yesterday I went for a quick-n-easy project: a simple circle skirt. I used Made blog's tutorial but made a covered elastic waist since I didn't have any thick, fancy elastic on hand. I'm really enjoying picking through all the fabric pieces I have already. It's paring the back stock down while giving me a fun challenge to match complimentary patterns up. (If you want to make a circle skirt that fits 2T to 3T, I have a jpg collection in google docs to make the circle cutting easy as pie.)

If I decide to try another pair of pants, I have some super cute, colorfully striped fabric that would be just perfect for these flat front pants.

I think I only post pictures of myself in this plaid dress. It, too, has a circle skirt and is probably why I was determined to make one for M. I love to randomly spin around the house and watch it flare out. Other times I hoist it up like Melissa Gilbert/Laura Ingalls does at the beginning of Little House on the Prairie as she's walking through the fields.

Just for the record, M likes to spin around and see her skirt flare up, too.