Posts Tagged "kids"

Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

Posted on Nov 7, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Things I Have Learned From Having More Than One Child

It seems to me that 90% of parenting you have to learn from experience, as you go. You can read books, have friends tell you all the dirty details, consult the experts, but until you find yourself discussing the consistency of poop at dinner with the neighbours you probably didn’t know what you were going to do, or what you’d have to do, to raise an infant to adulthood. In light of that, there are some things about parenting that I did not get as a parent of only one child. It was the experience of parenting multiple kids that taught me these little truths. **Here I must insert my disclaimer to say that I don’t mean this to be condescending to parents of a single child, whether it be by choice, by accident, or because they just haven’t had their future kids yet. I am only speaking to my experience of having learned these things through the act of parenting two or more kids. This isn’t an attack on parents of one, especially given the fact that even if parents of one never learn these things, they have other strengths and positives in their situation that I will never have the chance to experience.** Here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know when I only had Rain: It wasn’t all my parenting. It was mostly the kid. Sure, I’ve had some positive effects on my kids…but all that smugness, thinking that I’d done all these things right (or for that matter, even the guilt about the things I thought were my fault)? So much of it is just the personality of the child or the circumstances at the time. My son was toilet trained in 6 weeks. My daughter took 6 months. I don’t get points for any of it, except maybe being willing to go with the flow. Every kid has the potential to be an asshole. And an angel. Yes, even mine. And yours. You know that mama bear reaction you have when a bigger kid on the playground is being mean, aggressive, or bossy to your kid? When they throw sand in your baby’s face, or snatch a toy, or kick your sweet darling in the back because they went down the slide before your kid got off? You know that feeling when you look at the other child, thinking that he’s totally rude and aggressive, downright nasty, maybe even a brat (and you haven’t even gotten started on all the ways it’s the mother’s fault). Your kiddo seems so little still next to the other kids and you are biologically programmed to want to protect them from all harm. How about this? Your three year old is throwing a tantrum and has accidentally punched your three day old baby in the stomach. Your first reaction is to protect your baby, and you feel yourself going mama bear on your precious first born. But then you see how he’s hurting and confused and still little too. You realize that it could be your kid on the playground being mean, aggressive or bossy to someone younger and you love him anyway. You realize that all the kids out there are sometimes the rough ones, the selfish ones, the rude ones, and sometimes, the sweet ones, the funny ones, the little ones. When your kid is going through a difficult phase, you recognize it as a developmental stage or the full moon or a long day or a bad mood and worry less about what that means in the long term. You finally understand that they aren’t defined by a snapshot of their behaviour on any given day – they are all of that and more. After that, it’s a lot easier to be charitable to other people’s kids, and to your own, when they don’t play nice. A little crying isn’t the end of the world. With my firstborn, every time he cried it was earth shatteringly upsetting to me. I jumped to soothe and fix it every time. Once you have two kids that...

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Quintessential Childhood Gifts

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

My son Rain, having recently turned seven, received some classic gifts that inspired my sister and I to brainstorm a list of the quintessential childhood gifts. Here is our suggested list of gifts for every boy and girl up to the age of ten. These items have been proven to inspire and delight and it is our feeling that they awaken the curious mind of the child to all types of creativity, without pretense and without self-consciousness. In every case, a real working item should be gifted, not a toy version. In addition, I’ve listed a classic book to be read aloud at each age. A hardcover edition of each of the suggested books would also make lovely gifts.   One Year Old A ball to encourage give and take, and laughter. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown               Two Year Old A set of wooden blocks to awaken the builder, planner, dreamer. A Baby’s Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg               Three Year Old An apron (for kitchen and workshop) and a small tape measure to share the joy of creating, working with our hands, and accomplishing tasks around the home and to teach that everyone, no matter how small, can lend a helping hand. The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne               Four Year Old An instrument (smallest size djembe drum, a harmonica, a recorder, or a small ukelele) to kindle a love of music and introduce the idea that music can come from anyone. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White               Five Year Old A hardcover 4×6 inch sketch pad, travel set of pencils or crayons in a proper tin, wooden box or case, a flashlight to encourage freedom of expression without limits (on paper consumption or seeing in the dark). Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl                 Six Year Old A magnifying glass and a compass to encourage exploring the world with an open heart. Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie               Seven Year Old Binoculars and the classic Swiss Army Knife, a small messenger-style bag for excursions (over the shoulder, many pockets, preferably used) to facilitate adventures. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder                 Eight Year Old A watercolour paint set and a pad of watercolour paper to delight in colour, shape, and light, and to instill a love of making art. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis                 Nine Year Old A game set with more than one game such as chess, checkers, backgammon (preferably in a wooden case) to teach strategy, sportsmanship, companionship, and the care and appreciation of all things finely crafted. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien                 Ten Year Old A hammock to embrace one’s inner world, inspire imagination, and to while away the lazy days of childhood. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling             Tell me – what would you...

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Pleasantly Surprised

Posted on Oct 13, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Simple Living | 3 comments

Pleasantly Surprised

I mentioned last week that in the months preceding this move, I was a tad anxious. The night we signed our lease, I laid in our King size bed and wondered, “What have we done?!?!” Then in May, as we were gearing up to move and our little cabin addition (with laundry and bathroom) was still far from finished, I developed stress-induced eczema on my foot. At some points, it was so painful that I could barely walk. I was functioning: packing, feeding the kids, doing everything that needed to be done, and wasn’t really feeling super stressed, but obviously the question of how we were going to make this work was weighing heavily on my mind. Our move went relatively smoothly as far as moves go, but it was still a move with three kids in tow. It was hard and exhausting and followed by a really unfortunate dispute with our former landlord. The cooling unit in our bus fridge fried itself and the company shipping the gigantic replacement part made a mistake and didn’t ship it which meant that for the first two weeks after our move, we had no fridge. Our summer started off cold and rainy so despite being the end of June, we were still having to heat the bus with the woodstove. To top it all off, we had no way to do laundry and we were generating at least a load a day. I tried hauling all three kids to the laundromat twice before I vowed to find a different solution. Sounds like a recipe for unhappiness, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. As soon as we got all the boxes unpacked, everything was ok. I was amazed. It felt…well, it felt good to be home. I couldn’t believe it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that: The kids took the move in stride. They were so happy to be running around on the farm, exploring and checking out the animals. Noa was heard several times a week sighing wistfully and saying “Isn’t it wonderful?” There was far less mess to deal with. It only takes minutes to clean up a 300 sq ft space and the kids seemed to like knowing that everything had it’s own place. They were really good about putting away one toy/activity before taking out anything new. I spent far less time picking up after them than I had at our previous houses. The kids argued less about tidying up. In fact, they hardly argue about it at all anymore. We were in the bus for 10 whole days the first time either of the big kids complained about having to pick up their things. In our old houses, these arguments were daily occurrences. Now, they just seem to get it that there isn’t any space to play lego if their puzzle is still laying out. I didn’t mind doing dishes. I’m not a big fan of doing dishes and I was really lamenting the loss of our dishwasher, but I found that washing up after every meal provided a nice rhythm to the day and it was intensely satisfying to see our tiny lovely kitchen all clean and sparkling after only 15 minutes of work. More importantly, because I was spending less time arguing with and picking up after the kids, I actually had the time and energy to do the dishes. Silas’s sleep even started to improve after we moved (we’re still a long way off though). Even when the bus is an utter disaster, it takes only a matter of minutes to clean up. A friend was coming for tea at 9am, which is a little early for me to get functioning. Nevertheless, I had all the beds made, dishes done, counters wiped, floors swept, kids fed and dressed, all before my friend arrived. Anyone looking at our ramshackle, construction zone, make do, cramped bus from the outside might not understand this: somehow – despite the unfinished cabin; despite everything we’re juggling at the moment; despite the inconveniences of laundry, bathing, and sleeping arrangements; despite...

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How We Do It

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Simple Living | 3 comments

How We Do It

Here are some truths about our family that make our current adventure living in a 300 sq ft bus possible for us, and might not make the same lifestyle possible for you: We have always slept with our kids. We co-slept with our babies, and we often let them come into our bed even when they got older and had transitioned to their own bed in their own room (or slept in their beds if they wanted us to). We realize that this musical beds and sharing sleep with our kids is only going to happen for a few years. We can live with that. We’ll have lots of time with our beds to ourselves in the future. As much as we can, if our children express a wish to be close to us, we try to say yes. And as for parental intimacy, you can always google cosleeping and sexto find out that there has been a lot said about this even in the context of house dwelling. For a little laugh, I’ve always liked the t-shirt that says “Cosleepers do it in the kitchen.” We rarely close doors to bedrooms or bathrooms even when we’ve lived in houses. We like being in the same space. I like being able to see and hear what the kids are watching while I make dinner – not because I love kids’ programming or watching the same show over and over, but because I can supervise what they are watching, can discuss content with them, and have a reference point if something comes up in play or at school that is coming from what they are watching. I like being able to sit side-by-side with my children as we are each involved in a project of our own. I like being in the same room with Aaron in the evening when he’s doing office work for our business. Sure, he’s working most evenings after the kids are in bed – but at least I still get to see him. We can chat, have tea together, discuss plans for the business and because he’s putting in the hours in the evening after the kids are in bed, he gets to come home a little earlier and he helps with dinner and bedtime so it helps us find balance between work and family. Our kids shared a room in every house we rented, and likely would have continued sharing rooms for a long time. It doesn’t hurt them to learn to share and get along. We had already developed methods of getting them to bed in the same room by staggering bedtimes and tackling the job together. We have prioritized having fewer toys. We’ve been making the switch to natural toys, with an emphasis on having a few good quality toys rather than on having a lot of cheap toys. I don’t wash my hair and shower daily. I have heard the argument that some people just have to wash their hair daily or it is impossibly oily. To me, this demonstrates an overdependence on shampoo and conditioner, which can disrupt the balance of natural oils in the hair. Many people who use No-Poo can attest to this. I weaned my hair from needing to be shampooed daily over  ten years ago (and for the first two weeks, it was hard). I was still showering before work every morning, but gradually dropped that habit too. Showering every couple of days is more than sufficient to keep clean and smelling nice. We are domestic adrenaline junkies. That is, we thrive on change. In the in-between times, between moves, new babies, new businesses, career changes, big projects, we often feel bored or stuck in a rut. Sure, we like structure and stability as much as the next guys, and we aren’t likely to make decisions solely for the purpose of not getting bored, but at the same time, we do like the excitement that comes with crafting a life less ordinary. We’ve done this before.We lived in this very bus for 5 years. This means:...

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Making the Switch to Natural Toys

Posted on Nov 13, 2011 in Featured, Playing | 5 comments

Making the Switch to Natural Toys

As I wrote last week, creating a natural playroom doesn’t happen overnight. Taking the longer route, while perhaps more realistic, is not without its bumps and setbacks. Here’s a little about what you can expect and some tips to help along the way: It’s no secret that kids don’t actually need a bunch of fancy toys, but unfortunately, I’ve also observed that given the choice, they just can’t resist the shiny, plastic, battery operated, noisy, walking, talking, lights-flashing ones. When you first start to introduce natural toys you may find, like I did, that they aren’t played with as much as you’d hoped. Despite observing the kids in a Waldorf Kindergarten regularly play with rocks and acorns and silks, I have a hard time imagining my kids choosing horse chestnuts and pine cones over a bucket of Lego, given the choice. And it’s not just the rocks that pose this problem. At first even the more exciting toys like the wooden castle filled with wooden horses and knights were only played with when they were brand new and often sat in the corner after that. So, you probably wonder what has worked for us? First off, don’t get discouraged. Keep buying natural toys whenever you can.  Make it a priority to invest in these types of toys even if your initial efforts aren’t the raging success you were hoping for. Pool cash gifts from family and friends to get a big item or suggest that family members go together to purchase something you’ve been dreaming of. We started getting the kids some of the bigger ticket items every time a birthday or Christmas rolled around. We started with a beautiful wooden castle and eventually got each of the kids their own Waldorf doll. Expect that as you start getting more of them, there will be a shift. Expect that it will take a while, especially if finances are a big factor. Here are some ways to cut down on the expense: Try making stuff. The woman who did up this room for her son says she got very DIY and made a lot of the toys. Some of the things that we’ve made for our kids include a wooden doll bed, some doll clothes, felt birthday crowns, a wooden sword, and a knight’s tunic. I also have a book that shows how to make simple felt animals which I intend to do with Rain. A lot of etsy vendors even sell patterns for making your own felt food and you can get cheap plain silk and dye your own play cloths. Involving your kids in the process is a good way to ensure that they will be more willing to play with the creations too. Evaluate what big items you really want to purchase and what could be skipped. Do you really need those expensive play arches (even though they are cool)? It seems to me that you could invest in a lot more TOYS to be played with rather than the fancy shelves. Could you make do with a homemade stove/sink combo that sits on a table top rather than an expensive kitchen? Save those purchases until the end when you are really sure that you want/need/can afford them. Two Good Starting Points: Felt Food – I started getting the kids one set of felt play food from etsy for every gift giving occasion. I only spent about $20 at a time, but I did this for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays and Christmas so they added up quickly. At first they didn’t get used often but as the sets have started to pile up, they now play with them quite a bit. The sets aren’t expensive when you buy them slowly over time like this, and I feel good about supporting handmade etsy products. These make playing with the Fisher Price plastic stuff more fun until we can eventually afford the time/money to either make or buy a kitchen. Dress Up – starting a dress up bin is also a good place to start. This can be done...

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