Thursday, February 26, 2015

February Blossoms

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When Apple asks about when his birthday is, or Joe's, we talk about what flowers there will be at that time. And that there are no flowers during Mama's birthday. But I did have some, actually. My beloved Mother of Thousands decided to bloom. I've been growing these from a couple little plants I bought at Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory way back in like 2006 and, I've never had one bloom before. They're lovely, and much appreciated this winter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Grateful Wednesday: 25 Degrees Fahrenheit

Because after a month like this, when it's 25 out, you and your toddler and your cat go outside with no coats on, except the cat I guess, to soak up the warmth.





I mean, in all honesty, I spent most of my time chipping at the ice at the end of the drive because the snowplows build up massive ice walls that we can't see over while pulling onto the road, and Apple dressed himself so he had no snowpants on and went inside after about ten minutes of digging in the snow cuz his legs were cold, and I sat in ice which melted uncomfortably into my pants, and the cat glared at me accusingly because she forgets she's not really a basement cat from about November through March...

But the sun was delicious and the air relatively still, and not a bad way to spend some time this morning.

Alas the wind's picking up now, so it's time to go in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Playing with my Mind

If you do enough reading about philosophies of children's play and development (or spend any time flipping through creative play inspiration at Pinterest), you'll come across the theory of loose parts. On Pinterest and professional blogs, this usually translates to preschool tables laden with beautiful small objects, typically natural materials but not necessarily, in tidy compartments, with varying degrees of adult provocation and theme in the presentation. Basically it boils down to, Let your kids play with small open-ended abstract type stuff that they can imbue with their own purposes, interpretations, and stories. (Sort of, and only sort of, the opposite of the hyperactive and over-involved "I know, I'll take my kids to the ice cream shop then come home and make ice cream shop props for them right down to the 'printables' I found on-line!" If you need to play, adults, please play, but dear god stop replacing your children's play with your own. It creeps me out. Also, Pinterest pokes my insecurities and makes me snarky and judgmental. Oops.) 

Noticing my son's love of arranging small fiddly things, I did hunt down a tray for him to provide such things intentionally. I'd been looking for a suitable such tray for years at my infrequent thrift store runs, but it never appeared so I gave up and bought a "drawer organizer," brand new. A couple little bags of items from the craft store rounded out the stuff I dredged up from around the house, and Apple of course was drawn to it and immediately found the wheeliest objects and made them into wheels. 

Jack-2015.01.21_11.35.04   Jack-2015.01.26_09.44.31

Listen, if you read some gushing about how much someone loves providing loose parts play, what you should really hear is "I love sorting piles of fiddly little things back into their compartments."

I jest.

A little.

Especially when it's the compartments themselves that really capture the imagination, requiring all the carefully sorted tiny objects be dumped to the side first. 

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 So, y'know.

The plastic straws and coated paperclips aren't the sort of "loose parts" objects I typically see in the pretty photos. But that's okay. Apple doesn't play with the bits the way the children do in the pretty photos. But that's okay.

Why do I hover over my kid while he's playing so I can take photographs? That's less okay.

For some reason I felt compelled to share this episode with y'all.

And I'm not sure why.

As with a lot of good ideas, this concept - y'know, the "let kids play with stuff" - kind of gets over-formalized and its image takes on a repetitive "This is how you do it" quality.You need the tray, you need the big table with the natural lighting, the books of inspirational photos, the mirrors, the this kind of object, the that. Or you're just. Doing it. Wrong. Or gods forbid, your child is playing with it wrong.

And you may not even realize this, it's a subconscious nagging. And absolutely no one has said these things to you, or would even want you to feel that way. It's just a by-product of the medium, for some folks at least.

Anyways. I do keep my eyes open to Apple's play so I can keep up his environment as suits his interests (sorting, matching, color, one-to-one correspondence, horses, letters, food, enclosed spaces, robots, whatever); and I like to see what he gets up to, because he is my child and I enjoy delighting in his life.

Like, lately I've noticed a love of rearranging his unit blocks to fit together on the block shelves. He does this every time I separate them out again. What's that about?

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It brings to mind the intense satisfaction I can still distinctly remember feeling when I would arrange my little Chinese blocks in their box, all snug together and just so. 

He also likes to play with the blocks on the shelves and make nooks and spaces for other objects. Houses for his fox figure, tiny compartments for his cars. 

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And I love seeing these things and wondering what he's getting up to in his brain. But I need to remember to just let him be. Why does my brain start flipping through categories? Is that loose parts? Waldorf? Montessori? Reggio? AP? [Insert other philosophies-turned-identities here]? What stage of which child development theory is at work here?

Thing is, it really doesn't matter.

Really! It doesn't!

I think an unintended evil of the mindset fostered by the consumption of loads of Pinterest/professional megablogs/etc. (much like the glossy magazines that preceded them) is a narrowing of vision, a sense of endless comparison if not competition, losing one's own way to attempted adherence to a particular look, whether that's been labeled "Waldorf" or "perfect homemaker" or whatever version of "acceptable human being" has latched onto your brain. The drum beat of your day is subtly no longer your own when there's a guiding image tucked in your head of How Things Should Look, and How Children Should Play. And this image is often not even consciously of your own construction. Culture and images and unspoken expectations- these all should be rigorously and continually re-examined

I'm really talking for my own benefit here, as per usual. Trying to dig things out of my head that have crept in sneaky-like while I was distracted. I don't know how these things happen, but they do. Am I doing this right? Do I measure up? 

You're doing just fine, Jack, you pretentious self-involved worrywort. Now get the hell off the computer and go play. 

Just make sure it's not at the expense of your child's play.


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Jack-2015.01.15_12.35.14   Jack-2015.02.09_13.00.13

Jack-2015.02.02_13.32.18   Jack-2015.02.22_12.57.24

Jack-2015.02.11_10.51.36   Jack-2015.02.09_13.02.07 

Jack-2015.02.09_10.09.43   Jack-2015.02.11_10.51.48

Jack-2015.01.20_16.32.53   Jack-2015.02.08_19.12.25

Jack-2015.02.05_19.05.29   Jack-2015.02.09_21.18.28

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IMG_1283    IMG_1258

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Yeah this was the post referenced here. It's my birthday, I'll blog what I want.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Again: A Haiku

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Cute tiny chickens,
While delightful to behold,
May be bad idea.

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Goodbye, tiny bantam hens. It was fun. Thanks. Sorry.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hey Look

The ground was clear a month ago!

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Jan 22

Here's to another "4-8" falling now!

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Feb 22

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How The Second Attempt at Working at the Co-Op Went

They forecast snow.
You go early to avoid the coming snow.
You abbreviate your shift to avoid the worst of the in-progress snow.
You fly through the shopping, forgetting crucial ingredients for several meals, an eye on the falling snow.
You're grateful for the opportunity to do the grocery shopping without being a spectacle. Relatively.
You lock your keys in the car.
You stand in the snow by your locked, keys-containing, snow-covered car and cry.
Then you call your husband.
Who has to abandon making supper to bundle up the sleepy two-year-old in the "short trips only" pick-up truck to head out in the snow.
You sit covered in snow with your snow-covered buggy in the co-op kind of crying and causing a spectacle.
You all get back home safely.
You let everyone have chocolate for dinner.