Monday, January 25, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Tools of the Trade

During December, I was madly pushing fabric through the sewing machine for Christmas pjs, there I was, a bundle of stress and expectations, while listening to the Martha show on my computer. On the show, there was a Q&A with Martha, and someone asked her what she was going to do for Christmas. Her answer: "I am going to a spa. I am not cooking anything or doing anything more than yoga and long walks." My next thought was "Now that sounds like a great Christmas!" Right then and there I resolved to designate January as nothing month. We have been going so fast for so long, I wanted to give us a break. A resolution for no schedules, no rigid rules, just easy-going living and be one of those soap-opera-and-bon-bon kind of moms, minus the soap operas and bon bons. Ok, maybe a few bon bons. The boys would love it, right? Imagine, a free-flow life at the Lloyd's house!

How did my ingenious plan play out, you ask? Well, Nathan started waking up a lot at night. Like every 45 minutes. Not only did Peter have a rotation of whiney/overly hyperactive/too-rough behavior at home, I started to get reports from preschool that he was falling on top of his little classmates and tipping them over domino style. The house that I allowed to become more messy than usual (as this was my bohemian moment after all) was driving me crazy, since I was tripping or stubbing something every other step (You should have seen my fourth toe on my left foot--bright purple for a few days from an encounter with the bouncy chair), and, after letting my meal planning regiment go, we started eating really weird food. Nevertheless, my plan failed so totally, utterly, completely that I knew there had to be some changes and, gulp, I had to be the one to make them.

So, the new sheriff came to town (meaning me with a new resolve). We introduced Nathan to his new home in the other bedroom, complete with a nice, spacious crib, where he gets to sleep all night! Alone! I know there is a large "We don't let our kids cry" constituency out there, heck, there's probably a facebook group by now, but I'm just saying that one hour of crying for one night and a few peeps here and there is waaaay better than 24 months of the rocking/nursing/ walking-the-halls nonsense. Ok, you can hate me now. But for us, life is immensely better at night. And since Nathan has an extraordinary super-power sensor that sounds his inner alarm whenever there is another human lifeform in the room, we moved Pete into our room temporarily. You hear that, Pete? He is all about this ongoing slumber party, but I'm not too excited that my already short morning commute down the hall has been entirely eliminated. Pete told my mom the other day "Sometimes I watch my mama and dada while they are sleeping." If it wasn't you, Peter, that might totally creep me out. Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that I'm working on some changes to smooth out the wrinkles that have come in mothering these two guys and I'd like to document them here for motivation's sake and to get some feedback and good ideas from all you great moms out there.

So, here are a few mothering tools I've implemented in hopes to turn things around:

Peter's very own special super duper alarm clock. To thwart of Pete's developing habit of waking before the sun, we gave him this alarm clock. Best five dollars I've ever spent. We tell him firmly every night before bed, "Daytime begins when the eight is at the front!" I don't care if he is actually awake, but I am not involved before eight. Every morning at eight o'clock sharp, I hear "THE EIGHT IS AT THE FRONT." Peter has been pretty good about this, though. Sometimes while he waits, he'll just be lying in bed on his back, one leg crossed at the knee on top of the other, reading a huge Richard Scarry book. Doesn't that seem so relaxing?

This blurry picture I took while holding a wiggly baby makes it hard to make out what this is, but I put a shelf hanger in Peter's closet and made labels on each shelf, one for every day of the week.

One of the most painful parts of our day is changing Peter from his pajamas into playclothes. Peter becomes so excruciatingly distracted and we both hate it. So, the new plan is that every Sunday evening before bed, Peter helps me put his outfits in the shelves, one for every day. Each morning, Peter can pick his outfit out all by himself and (hopefully someday) dress himself. There are little drawings on each label, Sunday has a sun, Wednesday has a vegetable garden,Thursday has rain clouds, so Peter can know which shelf to go to by the picture, even though he can't read yet. The pictures also create a springboard for some imaginative conversation while we get Peter dressed (Mama, you be the tomato and I'll be the carrot and Nathan can be the lettuce). After two weeks, this little project has been a success!

I love this little nightlight we got for Peter. The amount of light is just right--light enough to comfort him, but dim enough to let us sleep while he's in our room, and his brother when he moves back into his room (really soon!). It charges during the day and then glows throughout the night without any cords, which will be great for late-night potty visits when Pete finally gets the hang of using the toilet at night. It's better than a flashlight, since the whole thing glows, which makes it easy to find and has a soft illumination rather than a bright, blinding spotlight. The best feature is that it is not hot to the touch. Pete actually curls up with the light in his bed! It's pretty sweet, actually.

Ok! There's my first step in my new and improved mothering! No matter how much I fail at this mothering gig, at least I keep at it, right? Now, mothers of the world, tell me: what are your tools of the trade? I am all ears!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Feeling Good: Yoga Today

I've had a few friends ask me about yoga lately, and I can't recommend Yoga Today enough. Right now, it is almost impossible for me to get to a gym and this is my solution for now. I'm not one for doing tv workouts, since they are usually disappointing and cheesy, but these yoga classes are fantastic! The site provides one free class per week, and this week is a perfect workout for yoga first-timers (note--it might not provide great physical challenge, it is excellent instruction for yoga practice). I also love the beautiful places they film the classes. The Tetons and Arizona deserts are much more calming than a gym.

So, please tell me friends, what do you do for exercise in the winter with kids?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: To Peter; Love Santa

I love the idea of the "I'm not bored anymore art jar" from Land of Nod. I'm all about giving Pete odds and ends, a little glue, some scissors and paint, and watch his imagination go. After seeing these spectacular wooden acorns, I decided to create a custom-made art jar just right for little three-year old hands. Here's are some more of the contents:
Pipe cleaners, paint brushes, beads
Googly eyes, Popsicle sticks, and a teeny tiny beehive and wooden baseball bat, just because I couldn't help myself.
These beads are perfect for snakes and trains and mice and doggies...
Little people:curvy ladies and straight-figure men.

We've had a few fun sessions so far--desperately needed during the January slump.

My multimedia fruit still life.
Acorns falling in a rain storm or, alternatively, alien with many eyes

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Tunes: What we're listening to...

We have music going at our house almost all day long. I have worked on finding things that are appealing to all of us and have some sort of musical integrity. Ask anyone who has borrowed my ipod, and they will tell you my taste is quite eclectic. But, I do like try to find the good stuff in every genre.

Pete adores A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra. Each instrument has a funny little song, and has helped Pete pick out instruments in other songs. It's a little hokey, I'll warn you now, but a cool way to get the kiddos interested in real live instruments. You can find a free download to this here. (this site has a wide variety of great old lps for kids that are available for free download--yay! Some may be somewhat dated in their cultural sensitivities, but others are totally awesome. Songs Children Sing in France is another favorite.)

We are really in the middle of musicals here: Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Singin' in the Rain, and Peter Pan. We have "Snacktime" and "Food Party" on repeat from BNL and the Curious George soundtrack by Jack Johnson remains very popular. As far as our classical hits, Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf continues to get a listen every other day. Barberini's Barber of Seville is great, and anything by Aaron Copland is also well received. Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is fantastic. Although not quite as overt in identifying each instrument, this piece gives each instrument a moment to showcase its sound, along with it's family. Pete has gotten the hang of the different groups: woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, cool! I love it! Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals is more great program music for kids, giving Pete different animals to think about. We've heard snippets of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and Pete was particularly interested in Baba Yaga.

So, tell me, friends, what great children's music have you found out there? I'd love to expand our repertoire!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Merry Christmas! Love, Peter

I was inspired by this post at Design Mom. How she manages to help her five kids make gifts for each other, I'll never know. I love the tradition of having our kids make gifts for each other, and I tried to think of things Pete could do for Nathan and Shane. Borrowing a few ideas directly from the blog, here's what we came up with:

Bookmarks for Shaner, who is recently graduated from school and enjoying recreational reading for the first time in a long time. Nathan generously rounded out the gift by giving him a Wallace Stegner novel, which Shaner is really into right now. I wish I had a laminater (word?) at times like these.

Apple-Print Bibs for the little guy. We put acrylic paint on half of an apple and Pete stamped some muslin we had on hand. It was tricky to get the stamp on evenly--I learned that the apple has to be cut perfectly straight for it to work. I had a bib pattern from Amy Butler's Little Stitches that worked out nicely. I ran out of bias tape after the first one and couldn't be bothered to make yet another trip to Michael's. I am particularly fond of the green buttons.

So, that would have been good enough for me, but no! After finishing our immediate family, Peter insisted on gifts for his twin cousins and best buddy, Kate.

For the twins, 'we' made some tutus (Pete did help tie the tulle). I think they turned out pretty cute:

We brainstormed a lot of ideas for Kate's gift, but Peter felt quite insistent that Kate needs a playmat. We compromised that it would be a small playmat, and we included the essentials, like Kate's old house and our old apartment and Yale and maybe the most important thing: the food carts.

Pete had a fun time making these and hopefully caught the spirit of giving amidst the Santa insanity.