Tag Archives: kids

StoryMob Fun

The kids and I recently did a recorded read-aloud for World Read Aloud Day and StoryMob’s Mini-Mob Mania. So.Much.Fun.

Click over to our videos on YouTube below—one French read-aloud and one English read-aloud. We invited a friend to join us in the making of our read aloud videos. We had a ton of fun doing this. The kids came up with so many great ideas for how to act things out and what to use for props. It was imaginaction at its best.

Don’t forget to share your videos and send them to StoryMob at storymobs@gmail.com by February 19 to be included in their World Read Aloud Day Mini-Mob Mania!

DjabouNDawDjabou N’Daw – Un conte d’Afrique en Français: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rFlunNu8Cs

 

 

 

BedtimeIsCanceledBedtime is Canceled – A fun bedtime story in English: https://youtu.be/tmjqruE-p3o

 

 

Living by Intention

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

Intention and simplicity have been two big themes in recent months for me. I’ve not necessarily done much along the lines of these themes, but they keep popping up, tapping me on the shoulder and making themselves known.

I think, with my surgery recovery, I’ve finally made some space to just be, to just listen to the undercurrent of my life, my rhythm, something I haven’t done in a very long time—if ever.

I’m going to back to work soon, and I’m fearful that this slight peace that has drifted into my life is going to disappear in the madness that was my life before surgery. I have been hoping that three months away from the rat race and stress was enough time to set me on a new path, but I fear that I did not do enough to cement this path. No pun intended, but when I think about traveling a new path, the last thing I want to do is put my feet to concrete and walk a road that to me seems so full of stress and anxiety.

The path I want under my feet is strewn with fallen leaves and green moss; it’s a dirt path for sure, maybe a few wood chips, but not the man-made kind, the kind that happen because a tree has fallen and small animals have chipped away at the rotting log and left their chippings and shavings all around the openings to new homes where new little creature families will be born and will grow up.

But to have that mossy green, soft, forgiving path and not the hard cement, man-made road of my previously too busy life, I have to intentionally choose it.

I’ve let it choose me over the last few months and it has been a simple, enjoyable beginning to a journey that I hope to continue. For that to happen, simplicity and intention must be my guides. I know I’m going back to work and I know that life can take over if I let it, but I would like to at least feel as though what I am doing is being done purposefully rather than just as it comes up and needs to be dealt with.

My goal for my return to the “real world” is to set an intention of simple living and purposeful living so that, at the end of my day, I feel that my day was one that was guided by my beliefs and core values rather than a day that just sort of happened to me.

Because that’s what a lot of the days fee like. Life takes over and the days just kind of go by.

There are plans, of course, and moments of connection and happiness. But for the most part, up until very recently, my days just sort of happened.

We had our family routine, and every morning we would get up and press play on that day and everything just moved along as if it were a recorded episode. The odd time we would press pause, but for the most part, we just moved along in the recorded manner.

When I return to work in a few short weeks, I want to do it differently. So I have begun to do more with intention.

One intention that I have been working on is writing. I want to write with a more regular rhythm. I’m always saying I don’t have time to write. But I don’t ever set aside that time, and writing is something I love to do. If I don’t value it enough to make time for it, then maybe it should not be part of my life. It’s harsh to think of it that way. But it’s refreshing, too. I know that I love to write, so I will have to be more intentional about it. And when I think of making time for a thing that I love, it creates in me a dedication to the enjoyment of that thing.

So, my intention has been to build a habit that supports my writing and my enjoyment of writing. I did this with one simple change. Rather than waking up at 6am and lying in bed enjoying the quiet before the rush of the day hits, I wake up at 6am and write.

Sometimes, I am interrupted by my littles who want to snuggle. And my intention for that is to let them in. I enjoy them more than I enjoy writing, and making time for them solidifies my dedication to enjoying them, interruptions and all. And since I was never writing with any scheduled regularity or intention before, why not let them in? Writing can happen anytime. Littles grow up and grow out of snuggles. But I do want to write and I do relish that time alone with my thoughts and my keyboard or pen and notebook.

So, I invite them into my writing and we make up stories; they dictate while I type. We play word games on my laptop or draw silly pictures in Microsoft Paint and learn about shapes and colours and patterns.

I may not get that hour of quiet writing time where I get to write whatever I want, but I get so much more. I get to teach and learn and inspire and be inspired. And when they are off to school and I’m alone, I get to write that story that we started while we snuggled in my bed at 6am.

Because, after all…

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

Of Pumpkins and Kids

As my husband said, “No guts, no glory.”

Or should that be “No guts, no gory“?

The carving was not the epic success I imagined. Both kids are into it, of course, and of age to handle a knife (a small one). But their attention span is short…and toys were beckoning.

They did manage to draw faces on their pumpkins and clean out the guts. Following those tasks, Little Brother spent most of his time harassing Big Sister with pumpkin goo. And harassed she was.

She was a good sport about it, though. We were all having a good time.

Big Sister, who was once so cool with the slippery, icky work of cleaning out a pumpkin, spent most of her time trying to get away from Little Brother.

Halloween15_2Mid-way through it all, the kids disappeared and we were left with two pumpkins to carve and seeds to clean and toast. (Thank God for my husband.)

As he rammed the tiny pumpkin carving saw over and over again into the seemingly tougher than usual pumpkin, he said, “Next year, we’re only getting one pumpkin.) Because this…

Halloween15_1…smiling faces, eager attitudes…didn’t last long…and one pumpkin is enough work for busy parents.

Healthy snacks and less waste

I have a yogurt monster at my house. I think he was born that way. As soon as he was old enough to open the fridge, I’d catch him sneaking yogurts. Now I’m not complaining. He could do a lot worse.

Big Sister was a lover of yogurt when she was very little, but she grew out of it. And she has been warning Little Brother ever since he was old enough to understand her that he would outgrow his yogurt obsession, too.

But he hasn’t.

He loves it just as much now as he did back then. And he loves every kind. With fruit, without, frozen, plain, plain with honey or maple syrup (so good; I got him hooked on that).

Over the summer, we went through boxes of yogurt tubes. We froze them for a healthier treat instead of Mr. Freezies.

I’m glad he enjoys this healthy snack. But something has been niggling at me.

The waste. So much plastic discarded from the ever-increasing consumption of yogurt tubes, yogurt containers, yogurt drinks. And he’s getting bigger…and eating more. Friends with older children (boys specifically) have warned me about the teenage years. Some days I almost hope that Big Sister is right and that he will outgrow his love of yogurt lest he single-handedly contributes to the plastic pollution and this… Squirrel with yogurt container on headBut then I found these:

Amazon_freezepopsAnd I thought all of our yogurt waste problems were solved. Except they weren’t.

The silicone ice pop molds were not available with the attached lid when I went to place my order on Amazon.ca. No problem, I thought. I’ll try ordering them later. Still not available.

I tried several more times and finally gave up. I could find the molds with detachable lids from U.S. suppliers that charged a fortune for shipping but nothing from Canada and none with attached lids. So I resigned myself to waiting.

Then, recently, I was at IKEA picking up a few things we needed and as I was wandering around, I saw these:

Fotor_144545852497046I couldn’t believe my luck. There were four in a pack and they were $4.99! Less than half the price of the set I found on Amazon. Plus, NO SHIPPING!

The only problem? Detachable lids. But for $4.99, I didn’t care.

As soon as I got home, I mixed up a yogurt treat in my fantastic Blendtec blender and set the molds in a tall cup in the freezer to see how the frozen treat would turn out.

silicone_mold_collage

That evening, both Big Sister and Little Brother enjoyed what is sure to become our new favourite frozen yogurt. The combinations are endless, of course. The only thing limiting us is our imaginations. We can also use them to hold blueberries, nuts, Cheerios, dried cranberries, etc. They are quite big around and hold more yogurt than a store-bought yogurt tube (=more filling for Little Brother, so he’s less likely to go back for seconds).

Definitely a great find. The next time I’m at IKEA, I’ll be picking up a second set of these for sure.

Fall Creativity and Self-led Projects

Monday is knitting day at our house.

Since I’ve been off my feet, I’ve taken up knitting and crocheting again. I started out my recovery time thinking I would do a lot of reading, something I hadn’t had much time for in recent years. But it turns out, I can’t read for eight hours a day. Especially at the beginning of my recovery, I found it made me sleepy. What I needed was something that kept my hands busy—and cooking was out of the question because of mobility issues. (It’s hard to move liquids from table to counter when you’re hopping on one foot…trust me.)

I used to crochet, and from time to time in recent years I’ve worked on the odd little project. But while I was still mobile, and on one of our frequent library trips, I saw a posting for a knitting club that would be meeting at the library Monday afternoons. “Great!” I thought. All I have to do is figure out how to get us to the library and we can learn to knit and crochet together! So we signed up.

And after lunch each Monday, we get a ride to the library, spend an hour in the company of some really great women and we knit and crochet together. I have knit and crocheted slippers, hats, blankets and sleeping bags for dolls. Big Sister has crocheted a sleeping bag for her little doll and Little Brother has discovered the fun of spool knitting (he loves to see the “snake” coming out the bottom of the spool).

Once we get home from the library, it’s homework and reading time (because, of course, the kids have picked out a dozen new books at the library).

This past Monday, Little Brother picked some leaves on the way home (while waiting at the bus stop). Because I’m on crutches, I try to discourage my kids from carrying too much (I need them to keep their hands free to help me since my hands are helping me walk right now). Generally, I would encourage the collection of many bits of nature to bring home and discuss or create with. But things are a bit different right now. Anyway, Little Brother claimed that his handful of leaves would not prevent him from helping me get on and off the bus and into the house, so I let it go. (And he was right. He was his usual, very helpful self.)

Turns out, it was a good thing that I let him bring those leaves home, because he had a project planned in his mind that occupied the rest of his afternoon. And all the struggle that I may face to get them to and from the library each Monday was worth his dedication to his afternoon project.

And isn’t that we want for our children?

We want them to be passionate about something.

We want them to want to do something so badly that they figure out how to do it themselves.

We want them to enjoy their learning and to really be engaged with it.

We want them to grow up and mature and grasp initiative and self-led learning so that it doesn’t have to be forced on them and they don’t have to feel like learning is painful and without pleasure.

If we engage them and guide them to follow their passions and allow them space to create and discover, they will learn everything they need to know.

Little Brother brought those leaves home, got out his paint set and brush, found some colourful paper and set himself up at the dining room table to work on his project. While he worked, he told me about different types of trees and leaves and how you could tell the difference between them. He talked about colours in the Fall and the greens from the summer. He explained to me how to mix colours to make new colours and did a few experiments on the paper towel he was using to dab the water off his brush. All of this without a prompt from me.

After over an hour of creating and designing, he quietly cleaned up his paint, washed out his brush and laid out his creations to dry.

Leaf painting

Normally, I would supervise Little Brother’s painting project in an effort to avoid a painting disaster. Because of my current mobility issues, I’m generally more tired by the end of our knitting club days. However, all went well without one bit of overseeing on my part. He was inspired by nature, planned his project, collected what he needed, completed the work and cleaned up after himself…and though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he was quite proud of his accomplishments.

And for the rest of the evening, we were privileged to experience the effects of his self-led learning and the confidence it gave him. Where we would sometimes see an upset little boy because he was not allowed to take his own path, we saw a well-behaved five-year-old settle a small dispute with his sister. Being allowed to plan, develop and execute a project of his own choosing filled him with accomplishment.

A young boy painting

He was confident in his abilities and it overflowed into everything else he touched that night.

Life’s Routine or My Routine?

Ah, routine. It happens. Sometimes it’s a routine that we fall into and it works, so we run with it. Sometimes it’s a routine that we try to set up and it doesn’t work, so we scrap it.

Either way, routine happens.

Take, for example, our current morning routine. I get up before the kids, do what I need to do, then I wake them up. I always allow time for snuggles before they get out of bed (and if I’m lucky and one of them has snuck into bed with the other at some point through the night, I can snuggle both of them at the same time and make sure that no one is left out or that one doesn’t get more time than the other). They are close enough in age that their sleep requirements are about the same and they go to bed within a half hour of each other and wake up around the same time together. This simplifies things. It wasn’t part of the plan, but it has worked out nicely and I’ll take it with a giant dollop of gratitude.

Then we all head to the kitchen for breakfast. After breakfast, we tidy up the kitchen and head back upstairs to get dressed and ready for school. This can sometimes take half an hour. There will inevitably be fights over who gets to use the bathroom first, how much time there is for play before getting dressed, whether or not we’re walking or driving to the bus stop, etc. But generally, if I plan right and allow enough time for them to move themselves through their morning routine, they manage themselves fairly well. (And isn’t it all about teaching them those executive function skills so that they can manage themselves and won’t always expect me to do it for them?)

Our morning routine is something that just kind of happened. Obviously, I had to originally do some planning to get them up and out the door for school (and in my current, somewhat disabled state, the help of my parents is mostly what gets us through our morning routine), but this is the routine that we have fallen into and the one that works (right now):

  1. Mom gets up first and completes basic morning prep (mostly sitting for five minutes in a mindful state, splashing cold water on face to wake up, brushing hair, getting dressed)
  2. Wake kids up and have a morning snuggle (this reconnects us after a night apart in our own beds)
  3. Head down for breakfast, eat and tidy up together
  4. Head back upstairs to dress and get ready for school
  5. Head back downstairs to pack lunches and school bags
  6. Head out the door

The thing about routine, though, is that sometimes it needs to change. I had to let go of our old way of doing things when I realized (after way too long) that it wasn’t working for us.

I used to get up at the same time as the kids and insist that they get dressed before they ate breakfast. After breakfast, I would send them upstairs to brush their teeth and wash up while I packed lunches and school bags. That turned out to be a stressful routine for us. I was constantly yelling up the stairs for them to hurry up. They weren’t taking responsibility for their school bags (and really, they are the best ones for that because how do I know what books are supposed to go back to school and which ones can stay home on any given day?) So I let go.

And we floated for a bit, without a routine. It was a bit chaotic, and my condition and the extra adult or two in the house were also contributing factors to the floating, but the extra help made it easy to float and to slowly, intentionally drift toward another routine that could work.

We ended up landing in a nice, comfortable routine that is working…for now. It’s comfortable, safe and works well for everyone.

I remember when Little Brother was about five months old. I caught him napping in his baby rocking chair a few mornings in a row at around the same time each day. I remember being surprised that he seemed to dose off at precisely 10am morning after morning and wondered how I could have missed this napping routine that he had created for himself. So I started taking him out of his chair just before 10am and putting him in his crib in his bedroom. And sure enough, he’d fall asleep in his crib at precisely 10am and he would sleep until about 11:30am every morning.

Of course, that napping routine didn’t last forever (and I was very sad when he gave up his morning nap), but it was a routine that we enjoyed for many months and was one that I didn’t force or try to create to suit me. It just worked.

And that’s the point, I think, with routines. Routines are necessary, especially for children. They create a sense of knowing what’s coming next. But in order for them to be effective, they have to be kind of natural. Forcing a routine has never worked in our house. All it has done is forced me to re-evaluate the reason and need for that particular routine.

So now, we let routines show themselves and then we intentionally and lovingly slip into them until they no longer fit. We’re trying hard not to hang onto old routines once they are worn out and no longer useful and we are all happier because of it.

2 kids being helpful

Because Helping Should Come Naturally

Before I had surgery that took me off my feet, I wondered sometimes how my kids would survive in the world. It was evident that they were capable of doing many things, but do those things they did not.

I’ll jump in and take almost full responsibility here.

To move things along in the morning (and in the evening, and throughout the day), I made their breakfast, packed their lunches, packed their school bags, practically dressed them, guided them through with repeated instruction the process of brushing their teeth, washing their faces, and going to the bathroom.

I would talk to my husband constantly about how capable the kids were but how they just wouldn’t do it themselves.

And then there were those golden times when I had some miraculously unending stream of patience and a bright and cheery disposition to go along with it. I would step back and watch my kids blossom into their permitted independence.

Then life would take over and we’d be back to me following them around and hounding reminding them about getting ready for school, their chores, picking up after themselves, helping out around the house, etc.

But all that had to change. And we were facing a deadline for that change: My late summer surgery date.

Having that deadline changed things for me. I wasn’t going to be able to do half of what I usually could for myself, let alone for my kids. So, I needed to figure it out. And the impending surgery gave my kids something to shoot for.

So we began summer training. I did my best to keep my comments to myself when I saw one of my kids doing something their way instead of mine. And I made sure to build in lots of time for everything I was asking them to do. That way, there was less chance that I would get frustrated with their slower pace because time was not bearing down on us.

I created space for my kids to grow their independence; like planting a seed, watering it and watching it develop into a beautiful flower.

And they grew. They did chores, they got themselves ready, they prepared basic meals. (Cereal and sandwiches, mostly.) By the end of the summer, we had reached what I had hoped for most but had not dared to set as an achievable goal: my kids recognized when help was needed and they stepped in to provide that help.

Of course you want your kids to help and to be able to take care of themselves doing age-appropriate chores and tasks, but I think, ultimately, you want them to learn more from doing chores than just how to do the chores. You want them to recognize and anticipate needs and to do their best to help fulfill those needs.

I’ve been off my feet now for six weeks. Though sometimes my kids still fight me on getting dressed in the morning or getting ready for bed at night (hey, let’s not hold our kids to impossible standards; even adults don’t always want to do chores), in that summer of training with a patient mother (even when she didn’t want to be), they learned how to help with anything. And they learned that they mattered because their abilities were valued.

Sometimes we still slip, though, so tell me, how do you get your kids to take responsibility and help around the house?