Three years, seven months

Clayton 3.7 9Clayton 3.7 7Clayton 3.7 6Clayton 3.7 8The weather has been so nice and we have been enjoying our lunches outside, just the two of us, while Evan is at school. Sometimes we eat at my place, sometimes at yours.

You brought your very first pieces of written work home. The first one took you two months to complete. The second one, you finished in a day. Even though you think the first one has too many scribbles, it is my favorite. I know how much courage it took for you to look past your mistakes and keep working.

You are still following your brother in everything, which brings me so much joy…except when he leads you right into mischief. I know you feel lonely when Evan plays with his other friends at school, so I was so happy to hear you say, for the very first time, that you have a friend too. You told me, “I’m bigger now so I have room in my heart to fit two people.”

An earth-friendly idea to fill Easter eggs

seed bombs 10The boys’ school has an Easter egg hunt every year and each child is asked to bring a dozen plastic eggs filled with something fun other than candy.

Evan, Clayton and I brainstormed a bunch of ideas. More than anything, we wanted something that would be appropriate for everyone. Since they are in a multi-aged classroom, there is a pretty wide range from just under three all the way to six. I also wanted to make sure the gift was not too expensive and not just wasteful. That last part is the hardest, I think, with these sorts of things. We are always on the search for small gifts for kids that are not just plastic junk that will break or be forgotten in a matter of minutes. (The plastic Easter eggs already have me grinding my teeth a bit, but at least we can reuse some from last year’s hunt.)

Evan thought maybe we could fill the eggs with Lego guys. (Great idea…not so affordable.)

Clayton suggested candy. (Guess he missed the whole “no candy” thing.)

Here’s what we finally settled on.

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seed bombs 9 seed bombs 8WILDFLOWER SEED BOMBS

1. Combine equal parts air-dry clay and potting soil or compost. (We used 2 cups of each.) Mix together, breaking up the clay. You may need to get a bit messy for this.

2.  Add some native wildflower seeds. (We used four packets of seeds total.) Work the seeds through the clay/soil mix so they are evenly distributed.

3. Roll into small balls. (Ours were about 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter.)

4. Set on a tray and leave until completely dry.

5. While you are at it, maybe make one of these cute guys…

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When our seed bombs dry we will be wrapping them in bits of burlap and ribbon and tying on a small note explaining what to do with them. Then, we will simply pop the burlap sacks into the plastic Easter eggs and drop them off at school.

In case you are looking for some more ways to fill those eggs for your Easter egg hunt, here are a few things I found around the web. Some to make, some to buy….

TO MAKE (All of these are projects that kids can make…or at least help make)

1. Love these clay bunny necklaces.

2. Sweet, little bead bunnies.

3. Polymer clay animals with ridiculously cute teeny-tiny carrots.

4. Adorable bead bunny bookmarks.

5. Fun pipe cleaner finger puppets.

ON ETSY

1. Easter bunny peg doll gnome

2. Recycled Easter crayons

3. Mini crocheted bunny

4. Spring rainbow monster finger puppets

 

How we do the laundry

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I read this post the other day from Kylie at How We Montessori. (I love her blog!)

It made me remember a post I shared a couple of years ago on my old blog about a DIY clothesline stand we made for Clayton for his second birthday. (Oh my, look at those dimply toddler elbows!)

And then I thought it might be fun to share how we do the laundry together now that Clayton is “all grown up.”

We just rehung our clothesline under the roof of our back porch after a string of ominously almost rainy days kept us from being able to use it. I decided to pick up a second retractable clothesline that was on a great sale on Amazon so we could have a lower one for the boys to use.

It is the perfect set up for me and the boys to do the laundry together. A high line for me and a low one for Evan and Clayton – though Evan has not actually tried it out yet since I usually do laundry while he is at school.

At three and a half, Clayton can easily use regular full-sized clothespins so we simply pull out our lines and get to work.

Clayton has always liked helping with the laundry. He used to love it so much he would throw a fit when we would get to the bottom of the basket. I used to have to save the last two or three pieces for him and count down as he hung them so he would know well in advance that laundry time was about to end.

Well, we don’t have that problem anymore…

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Why I am not convinced about public school

Choice 2It is April. And that means that May is coming soon. And that means that Evan is about to finish at his Montessori kindergarten and to move to our neighborhood school next year for first grade.

Can I tell you that I have a little bit of anxiety about this?

I do not think of myself as particularly overprotective. I am not the type of parent to live in fear of my children growing older. I do not even fear myself growing older, really. But I am more than nervous about Evan’s transition next year.

I am trying hard to keep myself from communicating this to Evan. We have been talking about him moving to the neighborhood school, about how exciting it will be for him, about all the things a bigger school has that a small one does not, about the friends from the neighborhood whom he will know there, and his good friend from his current school who will be going to the public school with him next year too.

March 1

But when we are alone, my husband and I can openly acknowledge that we are not sure that public school is the right fit for us. It is the option that works…but not really one about which we feel completely right.

People try to reassure us all the time – Evan will be fine, they say. He is smart, he makes friends easily, he is a happy boy. And we know that. We know that Evan will do fine academically. We know he will be fine socially. He is a hard worker and he is quite resilient. We know he will be fine.

But we are not sure that fine is enough.

Here is one reason why…

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about Clayton’s obsession with pin pricking, I started thinking about how much his mind has been on small-motor development lately. He really, really wants to learn this. For the last month or two, he has been focusing so much effort on learning to button his shirt, to write the letters of his name, to sharpen pencils, to play dot-to-dot, to pin prick. This work is hard for him. It takes him a long time, it requires all of his concentration, and he makes a lot of mistakes.

Pricking 3

But he has chosen this work. And because of this, he is infinitely patient with himself. He will breathe through his mistakes and will start over again from the beginning if he needs to, no matter how many times the button slips out of his fingers or the pencil point breaks.

A few months earlier, however…well, that was a different story. This is what happened when Clayton was not ready to work on these skills.

After Christmas, when we were finishing up thank-you notes, I asked Clayton to sign his name on the cards we had just made. We have always done this. Even when the boys were too small to hold a pencil, we held their hands and helped them scribble. This time, however, Clayton was watching his older brother write and wanted his letters to look just like Evan’s, but he did not know how to do it. His C just did not come out the way he was picturing it. So, he threw fit after fit, screaming and throwing himself on the ground because it made him so angry to fail. He did not tolerate his mistakes, he did not try again, he did not have the tiniest bit of patience for himself or for his learning. He certainly had the potential to do small-motor activities. His strength was there. He could have done it. But “could have” was certainly not enough.

Choice 4

This makes me think back to the year we just spent trying to convince Evan to try to ride his bike. We knew he could do it. He was amazing on his balance bike and he was certainly big and strong enough. But the few times we were able to coax him into trying, he would get totally frustrated within minutes and give up, often with the same fits of anger as Clayton showed at writing. When Evan was ready, on the other hand, he simply got out the bike and did it. He did not get angry when he fell, he did not give up. He just got back on and tried again.

Sometimes it does not matter that we, as parents or teachers, know that a child has the skills required for a certain task. If he has not chosen to learn it, he will not learn it.

Of course, that is not to say that we should not try to expose children to new things, to encourage them to stretch their boundaries. But we should be ready to understand that they might not be right there, right then. They might be too busy stretching in a different direction.

So no matter how much I know that Evan will be “fine” next year, I want him to be more than that. I want him to be passionate, engaged, curious, excited about learning, like he is right now.

I want him to learn from where he is.

I guess we will just have to wait and see…

Gratitude and a few links

March 4This month, I am grateful for

:: wildflowers everywhere

:: the growing love between a boy and his dogs

:: riding bikes after school

:: quiet workdays alone

:: foster pups

March 7

And here are a few of my favorite finds this month:

-this perfect blog post

-I’m finishing this book right now and am loving the gorgeous description

-wanting to do this with the boys one of these days

-this interactive wind map is so cool

-my favorite Etsy find – so adorable!

-my new favorite slaw recipe (look at that beautiful color!)

March 2

Pin pricking: Montessori at home

Have you ever noticed your child suddenly focusing heavily on one area of learning or development? People always talk about infants giving all of their attention to the latest skill they are developing, but I notice my older ones doing the same thing.

Lately, Clayton has been spending so much time at a handful of activities that require intense fine motor skills – building with small Legos, sharpening pencils, buttoning his own shirts, playing dot-to-dot games. 

One of his favorite things to do right now is pin pricking. This is an activity that we brought home from the Montessori school the boys attend. 

Pricking 3 Pricking 2 Pricking 1

I draw the outline of a shape on a piece of paper. They set the paper on a cork mat and prick the outline with a large push pin. When they are finished pricking, we can “cut” the shape out, using the perforations they created with their pin.

It looks a bit dangerous, I know. In the beginning, it was an activity that was put high up unless we did it together. We spent many months reinforcing safety rules. Now both Evan and Clayton are extremely careful with the push pins and they are allowed to pin prick on their own.

What do you think? Would you try pin pricking at home?

A weekend of projects

I have been so behind on so many projects lately, both personal ones and those for my shop. Between visitors and sick kids, there has been very little time for work in the last few months. So, I decided to use this free weekend to get a bit caught up. Here are a few projects I finally finished:

A custom quiver for my shop. This one is extra special because it will go to the little girl of an old family friend. Love the fabric choice on this one!

Projects 1

 

A baby gift for a good friend. A set of burp cloths for the little one and an art satchel for the big brother. Aren’t those elephants too cute?Projects 2

 

And finally, a finished birthday present for my nephew, who just turned four today. Happy birthday, O!

I mentioned last week that Evan had been working on this gift. In fact, we did it together. I made the shorts using Dana’s Kid Shorts pattern and I added an extra large side pocket, featuring the amazing embroidered dinosaur that Evan stitched up. I was hoping he would be proud enough of his work that he would be a willing model for me. What do you think?

Projects 5Projects 3Projects 4

If your kids won’t pick up…

Both of my boys are naturally organized people. (Remember this post about Clayton?) They find structure easy, obvious even. They mastered the Montessori three-step work cycle before they were even aware that this was something to be learned.

Dance party 4But, still, they fight about picking up at the end of the day.

Maybe it is because it is just that time of day.

Maybe they are too tired and too hungry.

Maybe they know this last bit of picking up will not be followed by more playtime.

Maybe it is simply one of those struggles that we all share as parents no matter who our children are…

I have found, though, that there is one thing I can do to make it better. Not altogether gone, but better. At least most of the time.

When we pick up, we dance.

Dance party 6Dance party 5

Dance party 3

Last year, when I first came up with the idea, I put together a playlist on the computer. We play the same six songs everyday, songs that we all find irresistible, to which we cannot help but dance. When Evan and Clayton hear the first song, they know that playtime is ending and they need to pick up.

Here are the rules:

1. When you hear the first song, playtime is over. You have the length of the first song to finish up what you are doing and to get working.

2. You must work together. No fighting. No making your brother do all the work.

3. If the songs are still playing and the work is done, we all dance together until the songs have ended.

 

Five years, nine months

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Evan learning 1

Evan learning 7

You have been writing like crazy lately. Sounding out words by yourself, writing notes to your brother, little scribbles on the sides of all of my lists.

You discovered the calculator last week. I am loving the way you love numbers right now.  You remind me so much of myself at your age. You told me a few days ago, “I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I couldn’t stop thinking about math.”

You are working on a present for your cousin’s birthday. When we looked over the dinosaur silhouettes on the internet, I thought the one you picked would be too detailed. I rounded off the corners a bit when I transferred it to the fabric and told you to keep your stitches as small and close together as you could. Now I cannot believe I ever doubted you.

A secret garden

Play 2

Earlier in the week, I wrote about wanting to find ways to get myself and my family outside more often. (You can see that post here.) One of my goals is to create a play area for Evan and Clayton in our backyard, somewhere they can go to imagine, build, play and dream.

We have the perfect spot in our yard, a funny corner behind the garage that is fenced and gated from the rest of the yard. I am not sure what it was used for previously or why it was separated. Was it a dog run, a compost area? In fact, before we decided to give it to the boys, we really did not know what to do with it. It is hidden behind the garage, completely out of sight of the house and even of the rest of the yard.

The perfect secret garden for two little boys.

Play 1

Right now, it is a clean slate. It is overrun by weeds and buried in pine needles and fallen leaves. There are discarded bricks and trash from the gardening projects of a previous owner. But there is also a young peach tree just beginning to flower, though it is a strange thing to imagine someone so lovingly planting it in such an abandoned-looking space

Play 4

I have been in love with so many images of natural playscapes that I have seen on Pinterest and other places. (Check out this and this for a few resources.) I would love to do something similar. But above all, I want the space to be organic and I want it to belong to Evan and Clayton.

So, as a start, we set some of the discarded bricks in a small rectangle to define a future garden bed.

Play 3

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And Jason built the boys a small fort. Someday, we may let the boys help us paint it. For now, Evan has added his own touch, a sign he built himself with scrap wood. Good guys? Check. Bad guys? Not allowed.

Play 5

But that is about a far as we have gotten. Should we bring in sand? Add a mud kitchen? Hang wind chimes from the eaves of the garage?

I would love to hear your ideas. And I will certainly share the space as we continue to work on it and as the boys begin to make it theirs.