Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

What Do You Want to Hear About?

It is quite clear by now that I am a ridiculously inconsistent blogger. I also write way too much when I do write. Really, it is likely more of a journal than anything, which is good, since life passes in such a blur that I lose most of it if I don't record it in words or pictures. Anyway, I often think about incredibly fascinating blog post topics throughout the day, either when I am doing something like driving, working/trying to work, caring for children, or being tired. Then I forget what I wanted to write about.

So, what do you want to hear/read?

Here are some facts of my life to help you come up with topics for me :)

  • We have 3 kiddos, ages 2, 4, and 5, adopted together 18 months ago through public adoption. I could say an awful lot about that if I took the time. It has been easy and hard, surprising and just as I expected, fascinating and tedious, ugly and beautiful, energizing and exhausting.
  • We have 4 pets - two hounds and two cats, who were living with us before kids.
  • We are small-town folk, minutes from the (sort of) big city.
  • Our house is old, and was likely rescued from either being flipped on the cheap, decaying gradually, or pretty much being de-boned and re-built. We did something in between. We like it. It has taken more than a decade to "basically" be finished renovations.
  • Speaking of houses and small towns, we keep dreaming of an acreage, ideally still with an old house. A roomy one, with good space for potentially more kids, a private (but windowed and not TOO secluded) home office, at least a couple of living spaces to spread out with company & do homeschool, a barn, a workshop, a rolling landscape with nooks and crannies, and ideally even a little storefront space in case we get around to being a bit more consistent with our crafting.
  • Our boys are being homeschooled - first official year. Considering some major work changes this fall, it's going reasonably well, I think.
  • Our goal is to have a parent around full-time. For four weeks now, we are living what is hopefully a very short-term experiment with my husband working full-time again after parental leave, and me working 4 days/week (mostly from home), with an in-home, part-time nanny/sitter/caregiver. If anything, the arrangement is proving that this is not the lifestyle for us long-term. I think it's going as well as could be, generally, but freedom and flexibility and being with the kids are definitely more important than the frills we can enjoy with an extra job.
  • We like to craft, on an amateur-ish scale, and got caught up in the moment and ended up registering to be vendors at a local Christmas sale next weekend. So I am madly sewing up hand-puppets today, while Geoff whips up some more wood pieces, and we plan to show up with those items, along with some birdhouses, left-over Africa bags from our adoption fund raising, accessories (scarf sort-of things and fabric necklaces), and see how it goes.
  • I love food of all kinds, including junk and fast food, but we eat pretty well at home (minus my add-on snacking habit). I keep working toward a goal of all-natural eating, cosmetics, cleaning products, etc. We have made progress, but still have plenty of room for improvement.
  • Faith and church are a big deal to us. Geoff and I help teach youth Sunday School, join the band or choir with trumpet (Geoff) or flute (me) on occasion, and have just joined the choir. Our contemporary and traditional/liturgical services start a trial combined period tomorrow, with a slightly more contemporary focus (we attend the traditional, as a rule). I am part of an ad-hoc committee planning the new services. This is clearly a major "thing" for everyone in our church right now.
  • I enjoy the flexibility and variety in my work as an occupational therapist with a small, private health clinic. Most of my clients have been injured in car accidents, and I see them in their homes, workplaces, and at the clinic. My first 11 years of practice were spent in inpatient adolescent psychiatry, so the past 3.5 years have been a huge learning curve and change of pace. I like to learn, and finished a distance master's degree in my field a few years ago. I suspect more formal learning could very well be in my future, but I don't have a specific direction or plan at the moment. Research, writing, editing, and planning all equal good times in my opinion :)
  • Increasingly, I am uncomfortable with excess and self-indulgence, although I still feel excessive and self-indulgent despite being more attentive to my habits in certain areas. For so many reasons, selfish and unselfish, I think much peace and freedom lies in simplicity. As a person with many interests and a love of variety, this is a constant battleground.
  • I am losing track of time, and must get the kids up if we are going to make it to the next town's Christmas activities, especially the horse-drawn wagon ride and visit with Santa. The whole Santa thing is another area of mixed feelings. I would be happy to write about that, too.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Irony and Uncertainty

Well, we lost the house on which we had an accepted (conditional) offer. Someone came in with a firm offer last week, and our place is still for sale, so we had to concede.

This morning I sent my "Wish(ful Thinking) List" to our realtors, and they will keep their eyes peeled for something suitable...but our list is long, and since we do love our current home (other than the layout issues and inability to have livestock), we are not prepared to settle for anything less exciting than the place we had hoped for.

Ironically, we officially lost the house on the very morning that Geoff headed back to work for the first time since February...in part to help finance our move to the countryside. Now, he will be working full-time again (at least for a while), we have a caregiver for the kids (so far, I think it will work out well - but oh boy, there is some testing of limits and behavioural expectations going on), and things are pretty much up in the air.

We knew the potential move involved some risk of ending up in this very scenario, but it still stings. We would have made some different work-related decisions had this not been our goal, and we took the plunge on some exterior renovations on our place in order to make it more appealing to potential buyers.

So, since Geoff is working again, and since we have spruced up our place, we are currently leaning toward leaving ourselves open to explore the market, and not making any hasty decisions about unlisting our house. Which means there is plenty of uncertainty combined with lots of adjustments for us all with getting used to the work and child care situations.

Time will tell...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Change of Seasons

Oh, autumn this year is bringing change along with it.

My leaves are golden and orange, and from the window on my left, the morning sun streams through them, illuminating them. 

To my right, rusty orange chrysanthemums add a seasonal touch to my work space. 

And on the front lawn, the blue real estate sign that I can now look at without knots forming in my gut. It went up Thursday evening, last week. And somehow, although we had been contemplating a move for over 6 weeks, that sign nearly did me in. 

It is all self-inflicted. The home we bought 12 years ago, in my mind hopefully forever...the home we brought back from the brink of its downward spiral into non-existence (it was a worn-out, poorly maintained bank foreclosure that last saw better days 20 or so years before us, when the story goes that it was meticulously decorated and maintained - likely those owners we can thank for some of the core electrical updates, etc., that made it at least worth our consideration)...this home may not be ours much longer.


I love our small town, its easy access to the city (I am never sure whether people believe me, but we can get anywhere in the nearest city within less than 30 minutes, which is better than living in one corner of the city and having to weave one's way through it), its quiet streets and proximity to hiking (um, yeah, we rarely avail ourselves of that...but still), the countryside I get to enjoy going to and from the city.

However, the lure of a few acres has never left me. And some issues with layout have presented themselves now that we have three kids sharing our space. My office, the playroom, and the living room are all in the same spot, and I work from home when I'm not seeing clients. Some days are long and distracting as I bounce up and down to assist and interject with various parenting duties. If we stay, the office must move upstairs, to the spare bedroom, which leaves no room for further family expansion (one never knows, right - our social worker has made it quite clear she is ready to work with us as soon as we say the word), and very little room for overnight guests.

A smaller family could easily use a bigger bedroom for a family room and work things out quite nicely, but for entertaining, well, I pretty much wouldn't bother having another family with kids over to enjoy a visit other than during outdoor season (we do have a huge yard, which I love). Our eating space is just about maxed out, and again, if we stay, we need to look at moving the table into the dining/lounge/foye space on the other side of our kitchen peninsula (we currently to that for sit-down meals with company), but then it really clogs up our main floor space what with dogs and children underfoot continually).

Every surface in our house has our touch. Every floor finish, every wall, all the bathrooms and kitchens. All the woodwork - all of it has been either refinished or replaced. To sell, we have now had the siding painted, added shutters, changed the whole exterior colour scheme, and installed a number of new windows (I caved at last...but must admit the new ones are exactly the same scale as the old, and I do enjoy having screens to be able to open them).

But we found this place. This yellow brick Victorian farmhouse on 5 acres - rolling acres with a bit of pasture, trees, a creek (and bridge), a pond. A barn. On a road far less busy than ours, but with some traffic to draw in customers for birdhouses and other bits and pieces we enjoy selling. Great zoning for all kinds of business and agricultural functions. Municipal water and gas. A cute town less than 5 minutes away, with basic amenities (including Tim Horton's and an ambulance dispatch - the essentials). A house with additions to meet our unique needs like a home office, crafting (and possible storefront) area, entertaining (with rooms for kids to go off and play nearby or further away, while the adults chat), homeschooling, and extended overnight guest stays. A house with room for more kids, just in case. An open staircase (with a great photo gallery wall). High ceilings. No closets. Oops, that's not a plus, is it? A house with all the essential modernities (electrical, etc.), but with few projects to keep us busy. Seems we are project people, like it or not - we gravitate toward a creative challenge. 

So here we are. Waiting to see what will happen. A conditional offer has been accepted, and our house must sell, so I keep speaking in hypothetical terms. At the very least, our current place looks a fair sight better now, and getting some momentum going on organizational and decluttering projects is not a bad thing, no matter what comes of this.

(And now, a brief interlude to enjoy some Canadian wildlife):

Added to all this, Geoff has decided to return to work later this month. He continues to take some courses, and needs a means of funding those. And of course, there is always the thought of qualifying for another parental leave if need be (seems worth some time at work, to earn that opportunity again). With my flexible schedule, we can minimize child care by having someone come to us, and have someone who is very much looking forward to the opportunity.

I never saw myself having child care...but this arrangement will be 3-4 days/week, with me being available most mornings, and our sitter/nanny likely being mainly responsible for the kids on those days for 3.5-4 hours, until their rest time, after which Geoff will be home while I finish my work day. I actually find myself looking forward a bit to seeing how it goes, and think it will likely be good for me and the kids for me to be more actively involved in some of their morning routines again, and to be their caregiver on Fridays (I definitely have relied a lot on Geoff for those things while he has been off, and am sometimes a bit disconnected, I think).

So, our season of change, and change of seasons has come. The kids are doing well at the moment. The boys have been responding well to the homeschooling routine. We have attended a couple of field trips with a local homeschool network. Baby girl decided to start using the toilet more often than not last week. Something just clicked one day, and she's been doing wonderfully since then (I never really pushed a formal training routine - just offered her opportunities to sit on the toilet here and there - and nothing happened, until last week).

It is Thanksgiving Day, and I should go join the family for Eggs Benedict now. Have a Happy Thanksgiving :)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I Almost Posted

Some blogger I am, eh?

I was well into a post about returning to work, kids, and houses, when I deleted the whole thing. Apparently I have no trouble at all blabbing away on Facebook about everything in my life and on my mind, but I get stumped about what to write here.

It is not for lack of verbosity, as my preferred approach is to write freely without much editing for conciseness (although I do enjoy the challenge of a status update sound bite). I don't really feel too concerned about putting select pieces of my life on here for public consumption. So I'm not sure what it is, exactly.

So tonight, you get to spend a precious few minutes reading a post about not posting. Sorry. And now I really must go and see if I can scramble to prepare at least one fair entry so I don't spend the next 12 months lamenting that I didn't have any submissions. The kids made mud pies, and Geoff has birdhouses, so surely I can whip up something in the last two or so hours of my day...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's Still Summer

While I am seeing some leaves turning (and dropping) after a dry, dry summer so far, and I am not minding little reminders that fall is around the corner, I am still in summer mode - which is likely easier to hold on to, since the boys will be learning at home this year (JK and SK) and our routine basically stays the same, with the addition of more structured learning time in the mornings (something we tried out in the Spring, with great results).

I don't think it would be possible to over-state how delighted I am NOT to be part of the early morning and afternoon flurry which marks 10 months of the year for most families. While that is not a fundamental reason for us to homeschool, it is a factor. And while I would likely adjust quite nicely (ha ha, would more likely experience some relief and joy) having the boys at school 30 hours/week, I really don't think that is the best thing for them or me at this point in our development as a family (or, dare I say, for most tiny people...but that is another topic, and I realize there are many reasons people choose to do so). And while all of us being around each other all the time (even now that I am working again part-time, I am mostly at home when doing so) is not always easy, I don't think our family time would be improved much by squishing it all into busy mornings and early evenings with lots of competing demands and more outside influences on relationship dynamics and personal development.

We looked forward to officially beginning our homeschool adventure by attending a local not back to school picnic this week...but it was rained out, essentially. Therefore no fanfare around here so far. I have the first 18 weeks of our learning year mapped out, and we officially begin on Monday.

I have no idea how we will end up as far as our approach to learning, and I don't want to be excessively structured...but we all seem to do better with routine, and since Geoff will actually be facilitating most of the learning, things are outlined pretty clearly at this point for easy follow-through. I feel pretty flexible, though, and am open to discovering new ways of doing this as we go along.

Being a book buff, and a lover of themes, we chose to use "Come Sit By Me" as a literature-based unit study format (reportedly similar to Five In A Row). The suggested activities are pretty creative, and offer lots of options for picking and choosing what will work based on age, interest, learning needs, etc. Most of these activities could be optional for kindergarteners, so it is not a huge problem if we over-plan and can't get to everything on the schedule. I found the "Teach Me Joy" curriculum online when I was searching for cursive-first handwriting programs, and since it was so inexpensive, I purchased that as an outline for core academics and Bible. We'll see how it goes. I like the supplementary materials that are suggested for use in conjunction with the basic curriculum, and it seems like it will tailor well to both our JK and SK boys, using separate math and pre-writing materials with each boy, as needed.

Generally, I envision 3 days/week of core subjects plus a couple of other topics (art, music, history, etc.). One additional day will hopefully cover just the core subjects (partly based on a regular weekly commitment we have), and Fridays will be mostly open for outings, adventures, and other pursuits. Again, we will just have to wait and see how it plays out (but that is what we were basically doing in the spring, which seemed to work well).

I will try to post regular updates on our educational adventures!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Uttered by Caye (27 months) this week, while trying our new approach of a "snuggle" after lights out at bedtime (due to recent major bedtime "I don't want to sleep!!!!!!" issues):

"I want to snuggle."

"Why you going to pee?" (on night #2 as I rose to leave the room, after successfully making an exit on night #1 by citing a need to use the bathroom)

"I like Granny's/Mommy's/Daddy's/Grandpa's/others' glasses." (one full sentence per person)

"Do you love Daddy/Mookie(Lute)/Titchie(Kitch)/Hesper/Gladwyn/Motet/Scat/Granny/Grandpa/Aunt Rebecca/Robin/Bronwyn/Uncle Alex/etc.?"

"I love [all of the above, in turn]."

"Jesus loves me."

"I trying to rest (whilst attempting to strap velcro loop on musical mobile plush lion around her ankle)!"

"I trying, I trying, I trying to sleep (whilst rolling around attempting to unfasten velcro strap around ankle, and then starting directly at me)."

"(tearfully, after one of my attempts to leave her room) I can't find my blanket!"

"(ragefully, after my return to assist with blanket) I don't want my blanket. No....!!!!!!!!!!! I don't want it!!!!!!! I no want my blanket!!!!!"

"[screaming & yelling - opening door on her own, standing briefly in hallway screeching, then returning to room & closing door]." (I was pleasantly surprised that opening the door did not lead to an attempt to fully exit and avoid returning to room).

"Bip-bip-bip-ba-ba-do--bip-bip-bip...etc...[sing-song-ish] - Do you like this song? [repeat]."
 "Round and round the garden, goes the polar bear....wee-wee-wee-wee, home."

"[tongue clucking] Do you like this song?"

"I love your/Daddy's ears."

"I love your/Daddy's other ear."

"I love your/Daddy's/Titchie's/Mookie's/Grandpa's/Granny's/Jimmy's[Granny & Grandpa's dog] body."

"I love my body."

...and a random story about Kitch and his underwear.
For the record, she is currently bustling around the living room at 9:45pm (our kiddos have a pretty consistent 7:30ish bedtime), doing acrobatics on a magazine rack while wearing too-big flip-flops, drawing, etc. This after she followed me downstairs wailing. 
For over a year, we have had few bedtime issues (a couple of short streaks of crying after we left the room, but nothing too intense or lasting. She also has occasional restless nights, where she fusses a couple of times between her bedtime and mine). My instinct is not to let her fall asleep in distress (and I can't imagine the screaming hysteria helps her brothers go to sleep across the hall), and I still remember last summer when my presence with her in the night was not a comfort, so I guess I still find something meaningful in her wanting me with her at bedtime. Last week, I managed to leave the room a couple of times by letting her look at books until she fell asleep (she was up for quite a while one night with that approach). We have also had success a couple of times with one of us lying with her for a while. However, the past few attempts to stay with her have not worked out well, as she has been very active and chatty with us in the room. 
I wish I knew whether she simply has a new awareness that the day goes on for Geoff and I after she goes to bed, or a realization that she can choose whether or not to sleep - and who would want to do that??, or whether her sleep needs (e.g., bedtime, nap span, etc.) have changed, or whether she is having bad dreams (we hear a lot of "No...I don't want to sleep!"), or...something else.

I am feeling a little too unstructured in our efforts to come up with a 'plan' - I tend to be pretty consistent with expectations, and that is easy enough for me to do with the boys in particular, who arrived at ages where that kind of follow-through seemed to be generally do-able (well, with great effort). With Caye, though, I still feel stuck in transition from the baby stage of loading up on instant response and comfort and soothing, toward delivering a little clearer message about boundaries and expectations (while still being nurturing) - so hard to know when to let her live out the distress of coming up against a firm limit, and when to flex a bit to relieve that distress and provide comfort. And with bedtime, there is the added layer of not really knowing how much her sense of safety/security is involved with the reluctance to let us go at night, and not wanting to ignore that possibility.

Anyway, at least there is some amusement to be had while hanging out in her room. Bedtime #2 is about to take place - Geoff will attempt this one, after prying her away from the book she is currently perusing with lots of commentary, such as "Oh, Man!" and "I want to have my green apple."

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

All Natural (in a modified kind of way)

Here is a non-parenting-or-child-related post for you, because I care not to dwell on the various rambunctious and unsafe antics of my youngsters, who apparently think it is no big deal if they have to spend the rest of their lives within arm's reach, playing with air, to ensure that they actually have a life to live, and who apparently decided to let their antics carry over into Sunday School to the point that their behaviour was worth mentioning to us (which, by the way Sunday School teachers, I am very thankful for - because I definitely want to know if they are up to less-than-classroom-worthy shenanigans, and if they keep this up they might just get to see how willing I am to act on my "keep the kids in the church service" philosophy, for everyone's good).

So, to keep things perhaps moderately interesting, I decided pictures would be prudent. And the only interesting-ish new pictures I have are in regard to my hair and Geoff's birdhouses. I have loosely grouped these two topics into the "all natural" theme, because a truly random post of un-related bits and pieces would be distressing to me in some way.

Ok. Let us begin with my hair (so that we can end on a more lovely note). My hair is not easily classified, but can definitely be considered wavy. Sometimes curly, but not predictably. Sometimes full of body, but not predictably. Sometimes uniform in its overall appearance, but rarely so. It tends to curl better in the summer, with humidity, which can be both a blessing and a curse (often simultaneously). I often straighten it in the winter, to look sleeker with more tailored winter clothes and because (if I sleep on it right), I can get away with no styling on the second day...oh, and it's nice to be able to wear a hat on a cold day. In the summer, it tends to be allowed to be free-er.

I am not crabby about having wavy/curly/wayward hair - it holds (curling iron-assisted) curl well, holds bobby pins well for up-dos, can be straightened in dry weather, and can occasionally turn out nice enough naturally (with the help of a diffuser, and as long as I don't wear a hat or encounter weather of any kind. Like a breeze). However, what folks with straighter hair don't seem to appreciate when they make jealous comments about curly hair, is that there are considerations (some of which I have listed above) and unpredictable aspects - I truly never know what texture, shape, or volume it will choose on any given day.

Anyway, I made a more intentional decision a few weeks ago to pretty much let it curl (still with the diffuser - air drying just makes it look really untended - trust me) and keep it simple. The main motivator was work-related. Working from home, and not being a morning person, means that every day gets going far later than I would like. My shower helps wake me up (and means I don't have the dilemma of whether to put clean clothes on an un-showered body, or wear slightly less-than-clean clothes until after a shower later in the day - ack, decisions, decisions), and therefore goes at the beginning of my day. Followed by hair styling. Straightening doesn't take an excessive amount of time, but still keeps me away from my desk. And many days I'm not really going anywhere.

If I had more confidence just to look unconventional, I would likely have just moved on and gone about my business. But I was feeling pretty shaggy, and did receive one comment (not intended rudely at all - I was not upset) about how I must have had a rushed morning. I was also due for a trim & colour, and generally don't keep my hair the same way for more than one or two cuts. It's been longer-ish for a while now, so I thought I might as well go ahead and have it cut pretty short again. So now I've been wearing it natural, and shorter, and on a frightening hair day, I have no options - it can't be hidden in an up-do, or tucked neatly behind my ears with a hat, or accented with a scarf (well, it can, in a scarecrow-ish kind of way). And now that we're a week into this new 'do, the hair salon magic that keeps it manageable and uniform and soft for a wash or two is gone, and I am alarmed.

What I have posted for you is NOT the alarming state I face at the moment. This is a picture taken after the first wash & style with this cut. Tonight I took pictures of the Frankenstein's monster-style look I have going, after coming home with it wind-blown (which in my case actually blows out any softness and curl at the ends, and turns it into a straw-like mass of sticking-out ends), and brushing it out. Yikes. Those pictures, however, are not yet uploaded, so you have been spared either the horror or the laughter.

In other news, Geoff is back at his birdhouse-making, which he quite enjoys, and has the luxury of starting up again now that I have somehow ended up working more to support the family while he continues parental leave without pay. Ah, the irony of life. I would not have predicted this arrangement, but as it turns out, I find the work-kids balance pretty reasonable, and since it is Geoff with them all day, at home (rather than shipping them off somewhere), it feels ok, and I'm actually around most of the time anyway, as all my non-client work happens from home, for better or for worse. (And, as an aside, one of the things I enjoy about my current job is that there is plenty of opportunity to expand my repertoire, and being a sucker for continuous learning activities, that works for me). Back to birdhouses.

Geoff likes to create with salvaged wood and vintage trimmings whenever possible - ok, I guess trimmings, however vintage, are not natural products per se, as per my theme, but the wood is, right? He has just come home with a couple of loads of barn-board from a demolition project, and has set up some work space in the garage out back. In theory, he hopes to sell them. If not, family & friends know what they will be getting for gifts for various occasions into the future. That is likely what you will be getting regardless. Enjoy.

And that is that. And now, having done nothing on my evening to-do list, I should likely go investigate the sounds of wailing from baby girl's room, and consider my own bedtime preparations as I need to leave the house at the un-earthly hour of 7:00am tomorrow, wild hair and all.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Courts Have Spoken

Well, folks, our adoption has been finalized.

We no longer have to call CAS when someone requires stitches (hasn't happened yet) or an ER visit (has happened once, and nearly happened again the night before finalization due to a head-first tumble down the stairs while playing ghost, with multiple blankets blocking all sense of direction).

We are a full-fledged, independent family now, for better or for worse.


In our area, finalization happens in court, in person, so we have known the finalization date for a while now. While I am quite glad to have had the opportunity to attend court - the day had that feeling of graduation, or similar events, complete with all the photos - there was no big feeling of anticipation or resolution for me. I have a subtle sense of awareness that we are a regular old family now, which feels good. I am also aware that I continue to experience lingering adjustment/attachment issues of my own that I hoped would have more fully resolved by this point. The kids, of course, have essentially no concept of the significance - which makes total sense as we have been a family for one year now. This likely also explains some of my nonchalance about finalization. And, we had a great relationship with our social worker - what parent wouldn't mind someone supportive popping in for free every few weeks to hear you vent, and to offer new ideas?

Anyway, the photos will be a meaningful way for me to look back, and will hopefully be a helpful keepsake for our kids, as they get older and begin to explore their story more. We enjoyed the company of immediate family and one set of foster parents in court, and had a few other friends join us later. The weather was fantastic, and we spent the afternoon casually hanging out in the backyard, for a BBQ lunch and snacks. Ok, I have to admit that putting together fun, coordinating outfits for us all was a highlight as well. And then I went and forgot to have anyone take a family photo in our backyard (we at least have some with the judge...complete with the overly-glowing yellow indoor lighting issues, which I have edited as well as possible).

And there you have it. An official ending/beginning/continuation. Family.

Friday, 25 May 2012

It's Been A While...

I am going to cite changes to Blogger as my excuse for not posting recently, okay? Because if I had been trying to post, chances of success would have been slim. Even now, I actually have no idea how I found my way to the "new post" page, and am not sure I will be able to do so again. If I don't re-surface in a few weeks, send a search party.

We have spent the last few weeks in a mad dash to prepare for, experience, and return from two, week-long, back-to-back trips - one which was work-related for me, and leisure-related for everyone else, and the other which was partly leisure, partly foster family visits and a wedding. I am still getting re-acquainted with my own house, and am amazed at how much the leaves and plants filled in while we were gone.

Just quickly (since, you know, I have a few more hours to log for work - my biggest work-from-home challenge), here is a bit about life these days:

  • Baby girl has reached 2, and her current activity is drawing attention to all actions with "Why?" ("Why you peeing, Mom?" "Why you drop that, Mom?" "Why you [insert sound of her imitating a silly sound effect I made for no reason]?)
  • Caye likely needs to be intentionally toilet-trained, since she is starting to insist on wearing underwear, taking off her diaper at times, sitting on the toilet, panicking occasionally when she soils her diaper...but then going anywhere but the toilet when given diaper-free time.
  • Caye can hike a hilly forest trail with the best of us, recently insisting on walking what must have been at least a couple of kilometres (and over 2 hours), on a family outing.
  • Kitch remains altogether sweet, funny, and intense with his episodes of dysregulation. He just recently began saying "I love you, Mom", and does so multiple times daily, along with hugs (all of which Caye copies - today she added a growl - her trademark sound effect - "I love...(with a growl) MOMMY").
  • Yesterday, Kitch was overheard exclaiming, "Zorten!" when something went awry. It was hilarious. Geoff says this, which is an expansion of "Zort!" from Pinky & The Brain (and which my sister used a lot when she lived with us...and it has stuck).
  • As we drove up the hill toward home the other night, after our trip to the kids' hometown and foster families, Kitch exclaimed, "I love home!" He dove right into fun with the foster family during our time in their area, but poured on extra hugs and "I love you"s with us at the same time. He has been a bit volatile since returning home, but I expected that regardless of the nature of the trip, just based on the changes of routine and lack of naps, etc., over the past couple of weeks.
  • Lute, Lute, what do I say about Lute? I have to admit that his self-absorbed boldness, unrestrained activity, and constant requests/orders/bossiness/"curiosity"/etc. get the better of me, and I have a much harder time seeing the fun in him, and feeling really nurturing toward him. He is so focused on acting grown-up and copying adult mannerisms and language (often, of course, used out of context and with great repetition), and I have always had difficulty seeing him as just a little guy, and acting accordingly in response. Lute, however, remains full of zest, and delights in even the smallest things in life. He loves to be a helper, and loves to learn. We were most curious and uncertain of what his response would be to seeing his foster family again (his only family experience before us), and while in some ways I think he could have moved back in with them without missing a beat, as we arrived home, he also showed eagerness to see our pets, and sleep in his bed, and be "home" after our trip, with just a little bit of sadness at bedtime, an echo of his homesickness upon coming to us last summer. He thrives with lots of attention, interesting but productive "jobs" and activities, new experiences, and praise. He was quite proud of himself for having a vaccination without crying, and I must say that is likely an accomplishment for him.
The next couple of weeks will include seeing family from Ottawa, Ohio, and Saskatchewan (pretty much all around at the same time, for different purposes), a new roof on the house, the boys' birthdays, and...our adoption finalization. Things have been so busy, with lots of travel and job decisions (Geoff is hoping to take the rest of his parental leave instead of returning to work in early June, as originally planned), that we haven't really focused much on the adoption finalization, but it lies ahead as the only remaining step in the process. Hopefully after all that, we will be able to slow the pace a bit to enjoy outdoor time at home and the campground.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Simplifying is Way Too Complicated

(sorry in advance - having major issues getting the font size and style to save properly. No idea why.)
I recommended Jen Hatmaker's new book, 7, to our small group. They went for it. So now we are reading it, and I have to keep facing this idea of simplicity and stewardship and accountability.

I will be honest. While I want my main motivator to be the needs of the world, the implications of consumerism on people and the environment, and my ability (financially, time-wise, mind-wise) to respond fully, the issues most constantly in my thoughts have to do with daily life, and my family. I want our kids to grow up being content with practicality and simplicity. I want our work decisions to be more family-friendly and less money-dependent. I want the peace of living in an uncluttered home, with organized closets where it is easy to scan and choose what to wear. I want fewer toys to confiscate when they are not put away, and less resentment toward the kids for taking everything for-granted, and not even using half of what they have (that has somehow happened even without constantly showering them with stuff - it's just there).

I think one of the reasons it is so easy to accumulate is that it is simpler. Sort of. With books, it is way easier for me to order them online, from my couch, than to see if the library has the ones I want, and if not, to see if I can borrow from someone else. And take shoes, for instance. Rather than searching high and low for a pair of sandals that is comfortable for all-day wear, streamlined/dressy/cute enough for casual and semi-dressy social occasions, and neutral enough in colour AND style to go with everything, it is way easier to find 5 pairs at reasonable prices that together satisfy all (most?) of those demands. And as a definite bargain-hunter, I often could find those 5 pairs for the price of that one, elusive pair, and likely save time doing it. That is, at least, how I generally rationalize the situation. But 5 pairs sitting on a crowded shelf is a lot more complicated than one pair. Reducing the stress of visual clutter is just about as important to me at the moment as being financially responsible and addressing issues of materialism and vanity.
The question is, do I consign all my other shoes and find that one pair, try once again to weed out anything that isn't required frequently, or what? Do I somehow, with a large support network standing by to offer words of encouragement, physical restraint, and substantial chocolate bribes, get rid of everything except my two-strap brown Birkenstocks (and then only keep the clothes I would wear with those)?
Yesterday, I posted on Facebook, curious to know how many pairs of shoes people find are necessary for kids. Here is what I had come up with for a child living in Ontario, Canada:
Dress shoes (formal events - purchase as necessary)
Street shoes (for boys, can perhaps double as church shoes if chosen carefully)
Street sandals (for boys, can perhaps double as play & church sandals if chosen carefully)
Play/hiking shoes (in my experience, too dirty for other casual wear - church, shopping, etc.)
Play/hiking sandals (possibly, for boys, same as street sandals, depending on style/material)
Water shoes/flip flops/Crocs (one of this description)
Rubber boots
Winter boots

This does not account for any extra specialty footwear required for specific sports or other activities (which I intend to limit). So, my estimate is about 6 pairs for boys, and closer to 8 for girls - at least when church and semi-dressy occasions are a regular part of the picture (and that is without any "fun" extras for dress and casual wear, or between-season shoes like ballet flats).
Most responses to that post so far are that my Facebook friends' kids tend to have about 5 pairs of shoes (some as low as 4, a few likely closer to 6).
I was then curious to learn what other women in this climate (distinct four-season weather, including quite a bit of snow in winter, to intense heat in summer) have in their shoe collections. I am curious to see the responses as they come in.

In my case, if I could really pare it down, here is a pretty simplified list:

Steel toe boots (needed extremely rarely for work, and taking up precious shelf space)
Winter "play" boots
Winter showing my face in public boots
Rubber boots
Running shoes
Hiking shoes/boots (I go backpacking about once/year)
Hiking sandals (can get dirty)
Flip-flops (can get wet, throw on for pool, popping into the yard for a minute)
Comfort sandals (for everyday, day trips, etc.)
Cute casual sandals
Dressy sandals
Work shoes (dressy-ish, but easy for driving, etc.)
Skinny jeans boots, low heeled/flat
Casual jeans shoes/boots - flat
Casual jeans boots - higher/dressier
Casual flats (for in-between boot and sandal season)
Dark heels
Light heels

Also in the stash:

Bike shoes (optional - came with my road bike, thanks to Kijiji)
Hiking boots with orthotics (covered by insurance after our car accident)
Misc. "other" winter boots (yeah, hard to say goodbye to my Cougars)
Extra rubber boots
Various flip-flops
Crock knock-offs
Various decorative sandals
Various comfort sandals
Various heels and dress shoes (collected over time for various occasions)
Comfort shoes
Additional work shoes
Boots of various descriptions (including my red Docs...classic, but rarely worn)
Ballet flats
"Urban" sneakers

Hmm...think that's pretty much full disclosure, without actual numbers attached. Feel free to share your own experiences! (And be kind - this list looks ridiculous to me, too).

Monday, 19 March 2012

One More Time...or One Million

So, the entire article could be an exact re-print of our lives, every day, many times per day, until it gets to this part, which has never happened:
"Needless to say, when I returned to cover positions in that classroom, I NEVER had to talk to him again about dropping his friends off the teeter-totter"
If only.

Oh, and that exact scenario actually happened on the weekend.

Nothing like constant repeat violations of every basic household and social rule, often within minutes, to make one pretty convinced of one's ineffectiveness as a parent, and as a facilitator of attachment (as I envision will one day be evidenced by blissfully and mutually respectful, serene parent-child relationships. Indeed).

If I was more convinced all this lack of compliance was substantially linked with attachment stuff, I might put more effort into using a more exclusively attachment-oriented approach - or if I was more motivated to do the thing with less evident short-term, but more evident long-term, potential results. Or if I felt strongly that there was an organic inability to link cause-effect and learn from experience. Perhaps there is truth in all of that - we have no way of knowing. But darn it, I would really like to see even a speck of progress in the rule-following and inhibition department after nearly one year. Even a speck would be lovely.

(And yes, it is possible there are some specks I cannot currently see in the midst of a frustrating couple of weeks - because I think a couple of weeks ago, I even commented to Geoff that one child appeared to be managing impulses a bit better. Think I forgot to knock wood when I said that. And I realize his self-control issues are mostly of very little clinical significance. And that the other has a personality perhaps less inclined to "remember" details - like the specifics of rules, among other factors. So I guess this post-script is a bit of a disclaimer, and admission of awareness of my bias at the moment. But I also believe myself to be a fairly accurate observer of things, so I still stand by the spirit of my observations. And I truly believe these boys can be pretty high on the sensitive, strong-willed, determined, feisty, assertive, omnipotent end of things, so I tend to be sensitive and [internally] reactive myself when people suggest it is ALL just "normal" preschooler stuff [or imply, at least in my imagination, that perhaps my perceptions have something to do with having three children of three different ages all at once]. Normal, with a cherry on top, perhaps. And some whipped cream. And when I am more lively one day, and more positive, I need to do a post on 3 and 4 year-old cuteness and brilliance. One of these days. I promise-ish. And I feel the need to state that they are not usually overly defiant...except when they are...which is often, recently - it's actually almost the opposite much of the time...kind of a frighteningly adolescent non-chalant disregarding of rules and instructions, with an occasional, casually-stated, "Well, I didn't want to do what you asked, so I did this instead." Publicly, they may throw fits at times, but most often show off their charming-ness quite nicely - and we deal with things as quietly as possible in public, which means others see lots of cute and not much of the other - or they see the "cute" not-doing-what-has-been-asked-stuff, like crawling across the stage during Sunday School open session while all the other children are seated nicely on the carpet watching the leader. Uh huh.).

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Re-Phrasing, Personal Space, and the Whirlwind Child

Does anyone have fantastic suggestions that might help a 4 year-old move from:

"You have to..."
"Can you please..." (stated with an authoritarian, "I'm telling you, not asking you" tone)
"Do this" (and variations of the command statement, like, "Hide somewhere else.")
"No! No! No!" (shrieking)
"But, I was just..." (often with a hysterical/whiny quality)
"I'm going to..."
"I don't know..."
[loud, dramatic fake crying...over pretty much anything that isn't going his way]

...toward something more like:

"Why don't we..."
"How about..."
"What do you think about..."
"Maybe we could try..."
"Do you think it would work if we..."
"May I please..."
"Hmm, let me see."
"I need a minute..."
"I feel..."

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

This Winter (if one can call it such)

I so love being able to walk out of our door, and end up in the countryside minutes later. At times I wonder if the convenience of city living would be worthwhile, but that thought always fades quickly. Another thing that has been fading quickly this winter is the snow, but I have a few photos to prove we actually had some! I know enough not to complain too much, given that some winters are pretty rough as far as driving and snow removal go, but I would have appreciated a little more frozen ground to the mud we've been tracking around this year.

We finally got around to having our first family skate on the weekend (I had previously been skating with all three kids for a pre-Christmas school event at a local arena). The boys were hoping for push supports, but I was glad there were none so that they had to work on balance a bit more this time. Lute was more confident without the frame, and both are shuffling along well enough to get somewhere. Caye went in her boots, having hated the strap-on blades I used last time. She enjoyed puttering around the edge, watching squirrels and dogs, and being taken for a slide every now and then.

Geoff (who is enjoying parental leave, as evidenced by the above picture), managed to get the kids out on a day with *some* snow, to create this guy. I found it a bit disconcerting to keep looking out the back door and finding this huge "person" staring in at me. So far, he has lost his head, but is otherwise still standing. It remains to be seen whether he will take a tumble on top of anyone, but the kids have been duly warned to steer clear on warmer days.

Incriminating Evidence

I am supposed to be sitting here on my couch finishing a report for work.

As you can see, however, it became imperative that I address blog design issues first.

Will it come as a surprise to anyone that I have, once again, neglected to consider what I might sacrifce during Lent? The state of my self-discipline is so deplorable that I never got around to thinking about it...instead, I was likely thinking about my desire to re-style this blog.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Patterns of Occupation

I had another opportunity to observe some differences in the boys' ability to occupy themselves today. It was evident almost right away after meeting them that Kitch (3.5) possesses a great imagination, and quickly becomes absorbed in activities much of the time (with some definite exceptions, but overall, it is enjoyable and satisfying to watch him enter into play). Lute, however (4.5) very rarely sticks with anything for more than 2-5 minutes, rarely concludes a play scenario (this also includes leaving made-up stories dangling), and even then, there is little creativity or variety in his play (which usually involves a matchbox-type car). He abandons efforts pretty quickly when something becomes challenging.

When playing independently, he constantly comes over to provide commentary on what he is doing, ask us questions, ask us to play with him, etc. (this is despite efforts to spend specific time playing, interacting, etc., and can even be worse when he has had lots of direct play with us). Even with all the hopping around he does, Lute can play on his own for some time without a lot of direct intervention, but he does need encouragement to stick with things and focus on the moment, rather than constantly talking/wondering about what is next (he does this with any daily activity, and can make it difficult for all of us to immerse ourselves in something, or linger over a moment).

Certainly there are times when Lute chooses and sticks with something constructive for a while, but I have not seen as much progress in this regard as I had hoped starting last summer. With a companion, especially an adult who is guiding or teaching him (he loves technical and scientific knowledge, and academic learning), Lute can be quite engaged for reasonably long periods of time. He will even sit for quite a while and have us read to him from fairly advanced books. He has a thirst for knowledge and zest for life that is remarkable, so I don't mean to paint him as disinterested or disengaged with the world around him - the trouble seems to lie in committing to one focus for a period of time, perhaps because he is always aware of other possibilities, and once the thought of "what's next" enters his mind, he cannot become involved enough in the present to relax and go with it. Too many choices may also be part of this, and he likely does some of his best play during rest time, when he has one toy at his disposal, along with books.

When left to occupy himself, focus and productivity often crumble quickly. In the presence of others, he will dive into the midst of adult conversation, zooming toys in front of people's faces, interrupting conversations, sometimes jumping on people (although thankfully, this seems to have abated quite a bit recently - but if you initiate any kind of physical gesture, even a handshake, be prepared...). He has some difficulty joining same-age peers in play, is very directive with his siblings, and gravitates toward older kids and adults when given the choice. Lute rarely assumes an alter-ego - typically he plays as himself, again, offering commentary on what he is doing without fully immersing himself in a role.

Kitch can, of course, demonstrate some of these qualities as well, but not much that seems excessive for a 3 year-old. (His issues lie more in regard to task focus when it involves anything other than play, and a general lack of thoughtfulness regarding possessions, where he puts them, how to find them, whether to pick them up, etc.). In a store, for instance, Kitch is most likely to wander, start playing with something, etc. Lute, however, might start tearing in circles around the stroller with no warning at all, or grab a container of honey off of a grocery shelf and start shaking it vigourously.

Anyway, Lute does seem to be the more extroverted of the two boys, and more sensory-seeking and generally physical in his play, which would explain some of his need for frequent interaction. He appears uncomfortable not being the centre of attention. Kitch can zone out in front of a movie, while Lute looks for any excuse to hop up, moves around frequently, and is rarely playing attention by the end. When sitting on my lap, I often have to remind Lute to remain still, be gentle, etc., while Kitch melts into me.

So, this morning we headed to a local library for the first time (yeah, I need to become better acquainted with such facilities). For quite a while both boys were well-occupied with the toys and computers (Caye immediately sat at the kids' table to draw, and then puttered around with toys and computers the rest of the time). Eventually, though, I honed in on Lute a bit, realizing he was falling into his pattern of restless movement between activities, not really settling with anything for very long. I intervened when he started appearing very disorganized, literally wandering without apparent purpose to glance at something, floating away, and even developing a wobbling, almost drunken gait, kicking (unknowingly) at a toy in his path, etc. I had him sit with me at the little table, and asked if he could describe for me what I had seen, what he had been doing, etc. He had no idea. I suggested he sit with some drawing or choose a few books to re-focus. He agreed, then stood up and started walking around/away from the table. I asked what he had decided to do, thinking he was headed for books. He stated that he was going to draw, and yet he had just risen from the seat directly in front of the crayons and paper, and was now on the other side of the table, appearing totally unaware of himself.

Hmm. I realize that some of the boys' differences simply reflect who they are, and that is fine (and some of my frustrations with a child who has difficulty initiating and sustaining play are likely more my issues, and call for creativity on my part in anticipating and managing them). But...some of this seems worthy of additional attention. I have a few ideas to manage the physical/impulsive stuff, and we have seen some progress (I think some of it was actually just about teaching some basic social skills and practising restraint). I need to keep brainstorming the aimlessness and restlessness, though, as I still feel a bit helpless to help Lute in this area.

I use timers occasionally, and after seeing him grab the most convenient little car for the 4th time in day, I will sometimes re-direct him to choose something else, like a puzzle or building toy. I am not sure how much to intervene when he spends a nice amount of time building a train track, and then walks away from it without actually moving on to play trains.

I could write a whole other post about some of Kitch's play quirks, like his apparently complete lack of interest (or confidence?) in drawing and fine motor work, and the eternally mind-numbingly frustrating distractibility (both natural and contrived - sometimes obvious, sometimes hard to sort out) when it comes to accomplishing routine tasks. Perhaps sometime I will tackle that one, but I wanted to think through some of my observations about Lute today, as the disorganized/overwhelmed behaviour at the library really caught my attention.

At this point, little Caye (nearly 2) is showing great promise in regard to fine motor and drawing (sat for two hours earlier this week, with markers, paint, Play-Doh, etc.), and imaginary and constructive role play. I suppose my interest in these particular areas of development say something about me, and what I value when it comes to the kids' pursuits!

Ok then, I don't really know how to wrap this up, so perhaps I will just call it a night.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Tidbits and Snippets and Adjustment Updates

Nothin' much new happening around here these days. Oh, well, other than my part-time return to work last week (so thankful for one of the most flexible jobs out there, which is mostly work-from-home). Week one went well, and any adjustment-related stress for all of us is being quite nicely mitigated by Geoff taking four months of parental leave. Hooray! No idea how we will navigate things after that point.

After a delightful Christmas, January saw a resurgence of dramatic/whiny/reactive/less-than-honest/petulant behaviour from one child, and of angry/non-compliant/oppositional/moody/sneaky behaviour in another. Little Caye has developed an even more assertive voice at 22 months of age, and overall, continues to mesmerize us with her brilliance and charm. With Lute, the dramatic stuff seems to have slowed down in the past week or two...and actually, we've had a week of less intense angry stuff from Kitch as well. Still getting the "no!" responses, turning away, and refusal to comply, but without the intense raging and restraining - there has been some choosing to settle and get back on track, which is amazing and refreshing.

I think a couple of factors may be at play here. One is that Kitch seems to be processing some of his loss and transition stuff in a new way, perhaps with the advent of increased cognitive capacities and language (at 3.5, we are seeing signs that he is shifting developmentally, both socially and cognitively/linguistically). Lute was nearly four when he came to us, and before and during transition had the chance to piece things together and express his feelings about moving (something he did NOT want to do). By the time he was home, he had verbalized increased willingness to be part of our family and let us "take care" of him. Overall, with a few ups and downs, I think his attachment and transition have generally progressed along an upward trajectory. Kitch, at two (nearly three) was pretty laid back about moving in with us. He expressed very little verbally or behaviourally in regard to leaving his first family, and focused most of his energies on grasping the basic concept of our family make-up. He easily accepted and sought out affection early on, called us "Mom" and "Dad", and basically went along with it all.

One event just a few weeks ago, in January, led to some of these musings on my part: the boys' foster/first family made a video last spring, showing the family (with our boys present), familiar sights and activities, etc. We watched it together last July, and the boys actually paid very little attention to much of it, talking and playing throughout (which surprised us a bit). While reminiscing over breakfast one day in January, they expressed interest in seeing the video again. After watching it, Lute happily went off to play, noting that it had been fun to see it. Kitch, however, looked quite glum, and identified feeling sad afterward. This is when I started wondering if he was experiencing a new awareness of his loss and transition to our family, including working through feelings of safety and trust.

His response fit with some of his other strong emotions and reactions throughout the month (things like becoming furious and fighting to get away from me in a parking lot after I snatched him away from the wheel of a car that started to back up, after he managed to scoot over and start playing with the tire with his foot while I focused on Caye for a moment. Lute's responses in similar situations - like when he pulled away from us and stopped in the street to bend and pick something up as a car approached - are more appropriate, including fear, tears, and a realization that we protected him from harm - um, these examples explain why I still rely on stroller containment for the boys when I am out with all three, particularly on my own), as well as increased intensity in his "baby" play (he often wants to be "Baby Johnny", and stays in character for long stretches of time, wanting to be cuddled, etc.).

Another observation, since seeing an increased capacity/willingness in Kitch to calm himself, and reduce the intensity of his anger, is that there may be a correlation with re-visiting some of our responses to him. I went back to the attachment books (after spending a lot of time with "general" parenting books), and tried to review what has and has not seemed effective with the boys. Generally, I have been making a greater effort to remain soothing rather than strict, give him chances to alter his behaviour before it is "too late" (likely one of the harder things for me, as I had really been leaning toward a "one chance to do it right, because you know what is expected and need to show respect the first time" approach), sticking with him through the initial stages of the anger (rather than moving away in response to repeated defiance and lashing out), empathizing with how difficult it can be to make "good/wise/respectful decisions" when feeling angry - and encouraging him to do so anyway (with examples of how he has done it before), keeping him directly under my supervision - time in - until he calms - but not insisting on a specific chair/spot so as to avoid power struggles (and while ignoring any wailing and wiggling designed to get my attention, barring unsafe/aggressive behaviour toward objects or people), and trying to be very consistent with expecting him to rehearse the appropriate behaviour afterward (sometimes multiple times).

All this is not a total about-face in terms of our response, but there is greater commitment to working with him during the anger, and increased effort is being made to remain very gentle and calm, while also making the expectations and consequences very clear (e.g., trying to avoid being unnecessarily military in getting my point across while still being consistent). I would like to think the shift in approach is helping, because then I have hope that things may continue to improve incrementally (but we have had a few such weeks of reprieve before, so time will tell). Now, I am still seeing ridiculously frequent and excessive defiance over very minor requests (from my perspective, although I realize Kitch is feeling things strongly in those moments - to him it is a big deal). So, the intensity has vastly improved, and the frequency has likely gone up a bit. But at this point, I am celebrating some progress toward greater self-control.

Today we had an interesting incident. I intervened as the boys squabbled over a pair of moccasins (Kitch was convinced they were his, only because they were the only pair he could find - wishful thinking)! When I quietly removed the moccasins because both boys were not using words or respectful actions to resolve the issue, Kitch became angry with me. After calming down, I sat down with him, and said something about him being angry at me. He replied that no, he was not angry at me, he was angry at himself. And it seems that my flighty and stubborn little three year-old, who avoids the mental effort of self-reflection at all costs, realized that he was actually upset with himself for not being able to find his moccasins, and simply directed his anger at me when I arrived on the scene. Insight!

Ok, my brain and eyes need to rest. I have a quick, cute Kitch story from Sunday. I wore my Karen skirt to church (a colourful, woven item, purchased and sewn for me in a refugee camp we visited in Thailand). Geoff was describing the male version, which he owns but was not wearing, and Kitch asked Geoff if the folk in the camp threw him into a pit while he was wearing the "taku". We were confused for a moment, but then pieced together that Kitch must have seen my skirt and been reminded of Joseph's "coat of many colours", which led to the pit association. We assured him that the Karen people we met were incredibly kind and friendly, so there was no risk of being tossed into a pit and left to expire, while wearing a colourful woven garment.

And finally, Caye freaked us out a little at supper-time (fluke, I'm sure, but quite funny - or she is reading tone and context really well, which is also impressive): Geoff spelled out to me, wondering whether the kids needed a b-a-t-h this evening, and Caye, who had been listening, exclaimed, "Bath night!"

And on that note, good-night.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hot Off of the UPS Truck...

Hmm, in between cramming for book club and desperately re-visiting my favourite attachment and parenting books (it's been a little wild around here since the new year), I now have a few new titles to explore:

Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School - Rebecca Rupp

Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years - Elizabeth G. Hainstock

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School - Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (as I understand, this is based on the Charlotte Mason philosophy)

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start - Linda Dobson

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom - Mary Griffith

This is a collection of books recommended on various homeschooling blogs, and by other Amazon purchasers. I'm not making any commitments yet, but figure I can't make an informed decision about the kids' educational path without buying a vast number of books...I mean...doing some research...

(If any of you would like to recommend other books & resources, feel free. I am not sure how confident I am broadcasting to the world that we are considering homeschooling, given some of the strong opinions out there...I will likely, eventually, get around to posting a bit about how we have arrived at this as a possibility for our family - it is certainly something I have contemplated off and on for years. Oh, and if anyone has homeschooled while also working part-time, I'd love to hear how that all worked out).

Friday, 20 January 2012

No Crib For a Bed

"Baby" Caye has taken another leap forward into toddlerhood. Less than two weeks ago, she quite unexpectedly began sleeping big kid style - no more crib.

I had long hoped she might continue in the crib until age 3 or so (brother Kitch, at 3.5, would quite happily still use a crib at night - and he does use one for nap time - he seems to rest well there, and enjoys the safety and coziness of it). I suppose I anticipated that the freedom of being out of the box might lead to nap-time, and possibly night-time, difficulties, and was not eager to test it out. Caye has consistently napped 2-2.5 hours daily, which works for me!

(Although, as is my tendency, I have read about crib-free sleeping philosophies, and felt there was likely something to it...but since Caye had spent a year in a crib when we met her, we just continued with what was familiar to her at the time).

Two weeks ago, Caye suddenly started protesting bed time. As well, she had been waking in the night with greater distress to be with me, and would not settle in her room again for the rest of the night after waking. In so many ways, I was quite happy to co-sleep (and/or let her use the crib in our room), but for a few issues we couldn't seem to resolve. First, she would stay awake for 2-3 hours at a time - unhappy in her room and on her own, and happy with me in my bed...but awake either way. Second, Geoff wakes early for work, and the commotion of he and the dogs getting up and leaving our room would sometimes wake Caye if she was in bed with us. Finally, I am often up for bathroom breaks in the night, and Caye had taken to sleeping on top of me, which of course led to more waking when I tried to slink out from under her. Add other factors such as the occasional little boy wandering in with a night-time crisis (more waking), and having her in our room was proving to be complicated.

One night, I went to Caye when she woke up around midnight (early for her). We had just decided that we would try to keep her in her room - even if that meant staying with her for quite a while, to see if she would gradually settle faster by not changing environments and not having the option to head elsewhere. The first night of this experiment had resulted in me sleeping on the floor for a couple of hours, and her waking when I tried to sneak out. This second night, I was debating what to do, turned around in the pitch black for an instant while Caye screamed from her crib, and then heard a thud. Sure enough, after feeling around by the crib, I found her on the floor. She was fine, but quite upset at this point, so I took her to bed with me again.

Needless to say, we were nervous about having her in the crib from that point forward. We were also nervous about having her sleep "free"...but had no real choice (not about to get into tents, etc. - I think she would have liked that confinement less than the crib, and she is nearly old enough to figure her way out of that, too). We tentatively put her down for her first and second nights, with protests, and efforts to run after us. There was some banging on the door for a few minutes...but then, nothing. The protests stopped after two evenings (and remember, she had started defying bed-time a few nights prior to being free). Her first nap went without a hitch. Caye has slept through the night five times in the past 1.5 weeks. When Geoff goes to her on the nights she does wake, she takes a bottle, then settles back to sleep - no 2-3 hour periods of wakefulness, and far less distress altogether. I have even heard her playing in her room after waking in the morning on one or two occasions, rather than crying for me the moment she opens her eyes.

Today, I put the boys down for their rests before Caye. Expecting to have her at my heels, waiting for me, I went to her room when I didn't see her nearby, and found her quietly lying on her mattress with her blanket over her and her head on her little pillow. She said "good-night" to me when I came in, so I kissed her, and left the room.

Now, we are wondering if this could have worked months ago, with proper safety measures. Perhaps not...but we are starting to be thankful she took that dive (while also being very thankful she was not injured), otherwise we would likely have kept her penned up for months longer, not thinking of the possible advantages of going crib-free. Caye had never shown any interest in climbing out (despite being a climber in general), and it had not occurred to us to do an experiment like this. I don't know if she simply feels more in control, being able to get out of bed on her own, if having access to her books and stuffed animals helps her stay occupied (although I had previously tried leaving a couple of toys and books in the crib), or if some other factors are at play. I have observed that she stays awake for a while during rest time, playing (and we have found her with empty bookshelves a couple of times), and will acknowledge that her night-time sleep might have been positively impacted by a shorter nap (although I have always believed in letting her nap as long as her body "chooses").

Whatever the reason, or reasons, nearly two weeks into our necessary experiment, it seems safe to say that having no crib for a bed is working out very well indeed. Just this week, Caye reached 22 months, and she continues to demonstrate new skills and developmental progress on a daily basis. I suppose that a child who has officially begun using 4 and 5-word sentences, who can now carry on a few lines of dialogue in reciprocal conversation, who can fetch me items upon request, and who provided some actual assistance packing Christmas ornaments, may just be old enough to sleep in freedom.