Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eating Our Rainbow

These were some of the colorful veggies we had today. 
I didn't get a pic of our carrots which were also in the mix. 


Ethan's 5th Birthday Party

This past weekend Ethan celebrated his 5th birthday!

It was a great BBQ and fun afternoon with the kids, friends and Ethan's family.

Zack (dad) and Ethan

Desi, Ethan's amazing mom, made this cake. I knew she was good- but holy wow!

The cake lady- aka Desi / Mom of the birthday child.

Levi and Henriikka behind him.

Alex swinging a plastic bat- a dangerous combo- Ethan trying to not get pummeled it appears.

Zack again. He was also the grill master for the party.

Little Elijah on his trike zooming through all the legs and ankles that were his eye level. :-)

Ethan peeking and so excited to open presents...

Desiree and Henriikka 

Kamron, ahem, I mean. Mario. 

Ethan is buried in the chair while he opens presents. Just his feet can be seen. Too cute!

This is what Elijah would look like if he had to go on the lamb and change his appearance.

Mira, the family lab, slurping up rainwater from the kennel. 

Cake cutting time! Everyone who loves Mario had to crowd around to get a better look at the cake before it got sliced into- Desi (far left), Ethan, Alex, Henriikka, Erik. :-)

Levi in the splash pool!

I know Henriikka will thank me for this candid moment captured forever on the internet.

Alex and his cake. Why does he always seem to be off on his own when it's time to eat the cake? Maybe he's guarding it. It was good enough to defend, that's for sure.

Another party goer playing on the car slide.

Elijah sat at this spot eating cake with his cheeks bright red and full of food for a really long time. He was not stopping. That kid meant business. I had passing concerns that he might be closing in on a food coma but everyone seemed to treat this like normal behavior for him, lol. 

Tabitha and Draya, Kamron's mom and sister.

Alex and Ethan.

Alex and Desi.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What NOT To Say to Our Kids Part 1

"Stop that right now, or ______!" 

Or what? Or else? Or you're grounded? Or you're in trouble? Or you're going to time-out

Threatening a child is ineffective parenting and generally not a good idea. It teaches your child that using brute force or superior cunning to get what they want is an acceptable way to deal with someone who isn't doing what they want them to or cooperating.

It also creates an awkward position for you, the parent, to threaten, because now you either have to follow through with your threat- which means exacting a punishment you invented in the heat of your anger, (or as I would call it, in the throws of your tantrum), or you have to back down because the threat wasn't real, which teaches your child that you don't mean what you say. On one hand it's great not to follow through with a threat, but on the other hand children learn about honesty, truthfulness and trust from us. Saying what you mean, and doing what you say are KEY to your child developing those character traits.

What can you do when the threat escapes from your lips and you immediately wish you could take the words back and start over? While you can't start over or erase the words you said, you can calm down and get to your child's level to talk about it. "I'm sorry I said that. I was angry and didn't think about my words before I said them out loud. It was wrong of me to threaten you. It is not respectful or kind to threaten people just because they don't do what we want, and I wasn't being a very good friend to you when I said that. Now that I've calmed down, here's what I really meant to say..." (read on for suggestion).

Whether you forfeit on your threat or follow through with it, you still won't get the result you want  as it's likely to happen again at a later time, and worse, you are damaging your connection with your child.

I love to use the employer/employee analogy to help parents really understand how their words and actions affect their child. If you had an employer who constantly threatened to fire you, or discipline you, you would be in a constant state of stress and anxiety, you would not like your employer very much and definitely would not consider them a friend or someone you could trust. As an adult, you could quite working for that employer, but a child has NO such recourse when they are threatened, and treated unfairly and disrespectfully. 

Yes, it can be difficult to resist that knee jerk reaction to threaten. Respectful and gentle parenting is about responding versus reacting. It takes practice and effort at first, but it really is worth it!

Try redirecting to something more appropriate instead. "I can see you are feeling angry and frustrated. It's not OK to hit your brother. Hitting hurts. I'm worried your brother will get hurt, or he'll retaliate and hurt you. If you'd like something to hit to help deal with your anger, you may hit a pillow, the couch or the bed."

When you offer an alternative that is safer, you are still allowing your child to express her feelings, and you're validating her emotions even as you set clear boundaries for her behavior. This ultimately leads to better self-control and emotional well being for your child, and sets them on the road to showing respect and kindness to others.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recycling Packing Paper

This week Desiree (Ethan and Elijah's mom) and I were talking about all the great things we use our Amazon packing paper for. It's that brown roll of kraft paper that never seems to get damaged no matter how mean you are to it. It's tough paper. I'm assuming it's made out of the tears of steel workers or something of that caliber.


Last month when I was wrapping Alex's birthday gifts I decided to reuse the packing paper instead of buying a gift bag or gift wrap (save the trees!). It was pretty wrinkly because the daycare kiddos and the kitties had been playing with it for a couple of weeks, but that just made it more pliable, so I was still good. I hand wrote a song I love all over the paper with hearts.  

It's not fancy, but he loved it and didn't want to throw it away. I'm glad I didn't do the commercial wrapping affair, and I feel better knowing I extended the life of our packing paper. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thirty Hours of H - E - Double Hockey Sticks

This weekend we had a big scare with Hecate, Alex's cat. Per her usual routine, she takes a nap between 12:30pm-2:30pm, goes outside for playtime, and always returns around 5pm. It's like clockwork. 

Hecate- the Early Years

Friday she went outside like every other day around 2:30pm, but didn't come home. 7pm rolled around, and Alex was hoarse from calling for her, and in tears. 

We sat down and talked about a cat's nature to roam and that cats often disappear to have adventures, but they usually come back home. I was all too aware of the reality that she could have been hurt by a car or mean kids or taken by a well-meaning passerby who thought she was a stray. But I focused on the positive. I thought if she wasn't home in the next few days I would talk with Alex about those possibilities. I never lie to Alex, ever. If there is something I don't want to talk about or he's not old enough to be privy to I say so. But I won't lie to him. For now I didn't see any reason to worry him and me both for nothing, because it was more likely she would be back than not. And the truth is he's old enough now he probably had all the same thoughts I did. 

Hecate just a few weeks old, new to our family.

I also shared with him a story of two cats I had many years ago, before he was born and before I developed allergies, who ran away together and didn't come back for 3 months. We would see them playing and romping in the woods behind our home during those months, but they wanted to be free. When they were ready, they came home, but they were changed cats from then on. We talked about how it must feel to be an animal to always be cooped up inside a house and not be in charge of their lives. We've had this discussion a couple times, especially when we talk about zoo animals, but also pets. 

Right from the start Hecate chose Alex as her human.

Dogs are a little different, they crave humans more than just about anything else. If they have a human who loves them and gives them attention, and takes them out for walks, even if it's on a leash, most dogs are fulfilled by having those basic needs met. But cats aren't as easy. They really need to be able to be in the sun, play in the grass and hide in bushes. They have more wildness in them. They need to stalk real birds and run from their shadow. Yes, we run the risk of something happening. But so do people, every time we leave the safety of our home. We don't stay home because there are dangers, and my feeling is that it isn't reasonable to expect an animal with such a strong drive to romp and roam to be forced to stay indoors all the time just for our pleasure. So we knew before we got our kitties this was a possibility, and one we were willing to accept. Still, it is hard when something like this happens. It is no less painful. But our attitude has always been that our pets are not ours- they choose to live with us until they don't want to anymore.  

Hecate (right) and Ostara napping.

After we talked, Alex seemed OK. He went off to do other things and popped in and out of the dining room to check the door, but he wasn't upset anymore. He said he had hope, and as long as he had hope he would be OK. I was really in awe of his ability to work through his feelings so well and at the same time be rational about it. To him, once he got past his fear and realized it wasn't productive to obsess over the 'what if's' and worst case scenarios, he could choose to have hope and focus on positive outcomes instead. 

Hecate hiding behind a stack of pull ups.

His hope wasn't unrealistic, either. He knew there could be a worst case scenario at the end of this, and he seemed prepared to face that if it came down to it. In fact, later on he came to me and said, "I just want her back home. Whether she's alive or dead. I just want to know one way or the other." He knew exactly what the worst case scenario was, and I was proud of him for facing it without letting it crumble him. I certainly wasn't handling it as well as him, at least not internally. On the outside I kept the brave face and positive attitude for him. Inside I was sure she was dead or being tortured or fallen down a well or some sinister neighbor had snatched her up to make a coat out of her. But that is my mom brain working. It's times like this I am thankful we don't have telepathy.  

Hecate as a baby cuddled up with the stuffed animals. 

We continued waiting, coming up with new reasons to have hope as each hour passed. 'Since it is daylight longer now maybe she doesn't know what time it is and she's waiting until dark'. 

When it got dark, we still waited. Periodically we went out and called for her. Around midnight I went out with a flashlight and walked up and down the nearby streets and called to her. Nothing. Ostara went out, seemingly to look for her sister. I let her. I figured if anyone could find Hecate it was her. Images of Milo and Otis and Old Yeller floated through my head. 

Hecate grooming her sister.

Ostara had been pacing and clearly anxious. She and her sister have never been apart for more than an hour or two. Ostara knew something was different, or wrong. My constant thought was that Hecate would never willingly leave Alex. She is highly attached to him. She looks for him when she can't see him, and calls for him at the door every morning until he wakes up. I couldn't imagine her leaving her favorite human.  

Hecate in kitty jail, at least that was the game she and Alex were playing as he built it around her. 

We stayed up until 1am waiting for her. Finally, exhausted  we went to bed, but we left the back door open for her in case she came home while we were sleeping. With Karma out in the main room I wasn't worried about someone coming in the house. We even joked that we would probably wake up to find all the neighborhood cats asleep in our house. 

Alex slept like a baby, maybe more so as a way to shut down for a while. I didn't sleep well. I was worried about Alex's cat and how he would handle this if she didn't come home. No parent wants their child to experience grief or loss, and I was sure I would be trying to comfort a bereft child in the near future because by midnight I was more sure we wouldn't see Hecate again than I was that we would.


I was back up at 5am, checking to see if Hecate had come in during the night. Ostara was sleeping in the sewing basket. She had come back while we were asleep. She climbed out of her basket, weary, like she had a huge weight on her. We both walked to the back door and stared out, sharing our worries in silence. Hecate had not returned. The sun was rising. The first day we had started without her since we brought them home as just weaned kittens a year ago. Ostara's first night and morning without her sister in her whole life. Only someone who has been through it can understand that emptiness you feel when you lose a loved pet. I imagine to others it all seems overly dramatic and silly. After all, there are wars and poverty and famine and disease in the world. 

Ostara in less anxious times with no worries (except maybe falling off this stool while asleep)

I started early, posting lost notices online, putting up pictures of Hecate and calling the animal shelter when they opened. She wasn't there. I'm not one to sit around when I'm worried. I need to DO something and that is how I cope. Next I drew up flyers and sent them to the printers. Then I called the printers to expedite the order. When Alex woke up, I had already accomplished quite a bit. We got dressed and started canvassing the neighborhood. The night before Alex had checked with the usual neighbors where Hecate plays, since they have kitties there she is friends with. So we spread out and knocked on doors all over. The neighborhood kids joined us  and helped in the search, calling for her, looking in between houses and the backyards of vacant homes, and knocking on doors with us. Between us we had quite a posse and it made the search go much faster. We could cover a street in no time with so many helpers.

Hecate watching Alex (he's behind the camera taking this pic)

We didn't find Hecate that morning, but I did learn that many people in our neighborhood have black cats. We counted 8 within just one block of our house. We also learned how lovely our neighbors are. Everyone was so nice, so helpful and so eager to learn as much about our cat as possible so they could keep an eye open for her. I learned we live in a very pet loving community. My immediate neighbors know us, and our animals, and we theirs, so if any were out past their usual times we call each other and let the other know we have their pet so they don't worry. I found out most streets here have the same system for keeping pets safe and getting them home. Lots of pets are escape artists, and without caring neighbors who know each other and their pets some might not make it back home with as much regularity. I was so thankful for being a part of this wonderful community.  

Hecate loves pretending she's Catzilla.

Our next step was to pick up the flyers at the printers. I left a note on our front door directing anyone who might find Hecate to use the side gate and go through the side garage door if they wanted to leave her. I left the side door unlocked for the neighbors, and the back door open in case she came back on her own. She always uses the back door, so if she was coming back that would be the door she would use. 

So Alex and I went off to the printers. Knowing almost all of our neighbors knew about our missing kitty, I asked Alex if he'd like to get something to eat and see a movie before we headed back home. He did. I was glad he agreed. I wanted to get his mind off of things (and mine, too) for a bit, before having to return to our gloom.

Hecate leaping down from the plant shelf and cabinet tops, her favorite lurking spot.

After the movie we came home and put up the flyers. Still no Hecate. It started getting dark again. Still no Hecate. 

I was in my room putting away laundry when I heard Alex say, "Hecate" in an almost whisper. I rushed out. Hecate was home. It was 9pm. 

Hecate saying hello to Karma.

We had moved the food bowl to the back door the day before hoping it would draw her home, and of course the door was still left open for her. Alex had heard someone drinking water but saw Ostara in front of him. When he turned there she was. Home again. 

She was very hungry and ate for about a half hour. She had been gone for a little over 30 hours and I have no idea whether she ate anything or not. Alex immediately picked her up and checked her over. She wasn't hurt and she didn't look any worse for the wear. 

Hecate (right) not appreciating being woken up for a photo shoot.

Alex was so happy. Our vigil was over. I was so relieved. We took the signs down the next morning and updated my posts online. Hecate ran to her sister and loved on her, licking the 'outside' world off of her. 

Of course we have no way of knowing what happened to Hecate during that time. The first night back she didn't speak at all. That was very unusual. She is a very vocal cat. The silence was noticeable. The next day she started using her voice again, but it sounded different. Hoarse, scratchy and quiet. It made me wonder if she had been calling for Alex the same way he had been calling for her. I can't imagine where she could have gone where she couldn't get back home. I made myself stop. It didn't matter. She was OK and alive. The rest would have to be a mystery. It is enough that she is home and Alex is happy. Yay!

Hecate sitting pretty. Alex took this and it's my favorite picture of her!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Some New Things for Play

My daycare families know I've been planning to do a minor re-do of our play spaces and have been organizing and sorting for several weeks preparing for our new toys. 

When I bee bopped off to the home improvement store to buy my lumber, I intended to have them do as many cuts there and not have to deal with too much cutting at home, thinking I could just zip through the projects with relative ease if that part was already done. But no such luck. The store's saw was down and so I had to cart home 8 and 10 foot boards in my little car. AND I did it with the trunk closed because apparently I have a magic car.  It's enchanted like the tents in Harry Potter. The things we have fit in that car- if you saw, you'd agree. The laws of physics just don't apply there. 

I had grand plans to build some shelving for baskets and toys, puzzles and such, plus a play farmer's market, a short table and a tent or tee-pee. I got many things done this past week, not all, and some are still in progress. 

This was my base for the play farmer's market. I used two.

Making the first shelf. 

I knew I wanted something simple and very basic, and I was so pleased with it. It is far from perfect since I used only the most basic tools to build it, and I had a run of very bad luck with my tools (nothing to do with the user as she is an expert level craftsperson, ahem)- I broke a circular saw blade (which is why I'm using my jigsaw- try cutting a straight line with that... just try it), two drill bits and my counter sink, but I improvised and made it work! Once I get started on a project I all but refuse to stop and go buy things- if I run out or something breaks I have some inner drill sergeant barking at me to 'Get it done soldier!' and 'ImproviseAdapt and Overcome!'. 

I've been shopping for and hoarding yard sale and thrift store baskets for months knowing I wanted to move to a basket toy storage that was more organic and waldorfy and less perfect and coordinated. I think if I didn't put a thing in the baskets it would still be a great little space. It's just so calming for me to look at this! I know that's weird but that's me.

My second shelf. I decided not to build two alike. I contemplated doing a full 8 foot lower shelf that would span most of the entry wall, but then I decided against it and went with the taller version. I wanted a space that the little ones couldn't reach easily but the big kids could so I could put special 'big kid' items on top. 

Making the market was a pain. It took a lot of work arounds to get it to be close to my 'vision' of it and I'm not sure I'm satisfied. The 'roof' was the hardest and if I ever feel up to it I may tear it back down and start over. It is cute though and the kids love it. There is a more finished picture below.  

I took an old wooden plate divider, a thrift store find, sanded the varnish off back to bare wood, cut the first row of stands down a little and used it for a finger puppet storage & display. I think it's adorable! I couldn't fit three of the finger puppet people and two of the larger finger puppets on their (the snake and snail) but I'm happy anyway. These always got lost and forgotten in the big bin of puppets and I'm glad they have their own place now. 

The play farmer's market coming together. I have many plans for this space and this is just my first phase so the kids can use it now, rather than waiting for me to finish it. 

I will be hanging some cloth or net shopping bags for the kids, maybe some other 'wears' will be hung up like a real market, and I plan to drill holes into the potted flowers and hang then from the overhang I built just for that purpose. The back boards will come in handy for hanging things  at the kids reach.

Most of these toys we had already, or I've had in storage waiting for my re-do. I picked up square display boxes at Michael's. The basket was a thrift store treasure and it holds an embroidery hoop, fabric scraps, yarn and other notions for finger knitting, weaving and sewing. 

The little flowers on the market shelf are real and the kids have a spray bottle of water they use to care for it. And of course the market needed a cash register, which we already had. I will be making felt money to fit the register in the next few weeks. 

Here the shelves have some toys on them now. It's a work in progress and they may change as I finish the room. 

The rainbow rolling cart is one of my favorite things but I am resigned to moving it to the play room closet. It just doesn't go with my wooden and natural theme and I need to finally take it out of the main room. 

The play kitchen and some kid sized wooden accessories. 

I had made plans to build a large round table for the kids, and stools for them. But when I got to the store, they were all out of the particular wood I had visited dozens of times when making these plans. So I improvised with a solid wood rectangle pine piece to go over the white bench in the interim. It was only mildly tricky to get it screwed on from underneath but it was pretty perfect when it was done. 

I'm kind of glad it worked out this way because now I have plenty more time to work on the table and stools and won't feel as rushed. 

When the round table does get finished, I think this table will be great in the play room or I might move it to the back area by the back door for the art center. 

One of the themes of the new play spaces is 'simple' and uncluttered. Not too many toys. Just a few choices so the kids aren't overwhelmed. 

The middle two shelves store a couple of chunky toddler puzzles, a gear toy and a stacker toy. 

The bottom has two baskets, one with a beautiful soft crochet fair trade ball with a jingle ball inside I picked up last year at a yard sale, a jute/hemp rope ball, and a wood ball. 

The top shelf, which only the big kids can reach, has a wooden jigsaw puzzle set with four puzzles inside, a basket of wooden animals that stack for a balancing game, and a basket of wood cards with felt letters that I made and sell in my Etsy shop.

The shorter shelf has the rainbow stacker and cave stacker on each end on the top- toys we've had for years, a small basket of wooden geometric attribute shapes, the previously mentioned  finger puppet display, and a basket of large tree and plant seeds, bark and plant pieces, some are fuzzy, some smooth, rough, etc.  to explore. 

The middle shelf hold baskets with sorted wood pieces for stacking and counting, building, etc. I collected fallen branches of different sizes over the past couple of years and a couple months ago started cutting them into various sizes, leaving them round. The far right has a basket of a wooden alphabet puzzle that is the shape of a tree. And in the back a favorite large stone that I love. 

Bottom floor is a basket of hand puppets from IKEA, which we've had for eons as well, and a basket of wooden musical instruments including flutes, whistles, tambourines and other fun pieces.

Our herbs in pretty yellow pots. I have never been a yellow fan until just this past weekend. All of a sudden I loved yellow! Maybe it's my new obsession with lemons, or all the sunshine we've been having that inspired it.