Friday, May 31, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

PS I'm guest posting about my grandmas today over at Voices from The Ville.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Food fun

Around here, we like to play with our food.  We squish it (pizza dough), mash it (falafel), roll it (sushi), and sometimes we even wear it (see above).  Everyone is always impressed by how much food, and how many different varieties of it, that Elijah eats.  He's a red-pepper loving, pancake-devouring, tofu-gobbling machine.  Today for lunch, we had Ethiopian food, and I could barely keep up with the lad.  And if someone were to ask my advice about how to get their kid to eat like mine, I would say this: let the children play.

It may seem unconventional, but hear me out.  As anyone knows who has ever paid too much for a tiny piece of food on a giant plate, food can be more than just something to put into your mouth.  It can be art, it can be whimsy, it can be fun.  And in my experience, when the pressure is off, the eating commences.  Someday, Elijah may have to down the contents of his lunchbox before the bell rings. or shovel a sandwich at his desk between meetings.  (I hope not.  I hope he is the next José Andres.)  Until then, though, I will happily cut his snack into little cubs and arrange it in the shape of the letter E so that he can eat it, one tiny piece at a time, with a toothpick. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Telling His Story

Connecting Families through Creative Play: Storytelling

Elijah is a born storyteller.  And although we have, of late, gotten further into the imaginary realm through pretend play, most of his stories involve him as the main character, surrounded by a highly detailed accounting of events that he has experienced.  For example, he was singing "Yellow Submarine" yesterday, and Kurt asked him where he had heard that song.  Elijah's answer?  "We saw the music at the market with Sam and the lady had a red guitar." Good memory?  Yes.  But, it was reinforced by the fact that for the rest of the day after we saw the music at the market with Sam and the lady with the red guitar, Elijah retold the experience nine-hundred and eleven times.  Or so. 

His favorite way to tell stories is in question-and-answer format.   For  the picture above, for example, the story goes something like this:

Elijah: Who did I see?

Listener: Who did you see?

E: Grandpa Won (Ron). What did I eat?

L: What did you eat?

E: Pancakes.  I ate a lot of them!  Then where did I go?

L: Where did you go?

E: Grandpa Won's house.  What did I play?

L: What did you play?

E. The piano!  It was really loud. 

And so on...

I believe that in New Yorker parlance, this is called "long form journalism".  Conversations like this generally happen several times a day.  If an event is particularly memorable, it will live on in Elijah's stories for weeks.  Just ask him about the time Daddy pulled down the big tree branch outside. 

It's probably about time that I put together a photo book for my storytelling boy so that he can have some visual accompaniment to his tales.  He needs something to hold him over until he has the fine motor skills to start writing his memoirs. 

Monday, May 27, 2013


 Elijah and Grandpa Ron (my grandpa)
 Me, Iz, and Grandma Jean (my grandma)
 Isabel and Papa
Isabel, Uncle Todd and Aunt Suzanne (aka "Oh Susanna")

Connecting Families Through Creative Play: Self Portraits

I do not have an iPhone, nor do I wish to.   Although it would be nice to know when the next bus is arriving at the library, I don't think that having one would really enrich my life that much.  One tragic loss that comes as a result of my iPhone-less-ness, though, is the absence of random pictures that I have taken of myself.  I hear that when you have an iPhone, taking such "selfies" is basically irresistible.

This weekend, we took a trip to the Chicago area to see lots of family we haven't seen in awhile (and some that we've seen more recently, but are always glad to see again.)  While we were there, I was able to capture (with Kurt's help) some "selfies" of a different sort.  I may not have taken the photos myself (particularly the ones that have me in them), but they are self portraits nonetheless, even when I am outside the frame.  These are the people that have made me who I am, and who continue to make me who I will be. 

If I were ever to have a picture of myself made up hundreds of tiny other pictures, these are the people that you would see under the magnifying glass.  They are my self portrait.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


 Things have been a little quite over here in the land of the Nearly New Mom, at least on the digital side.  Lack of sleep has been catching up with me and sapping my will to blog.  However, not to worry.  Plenty of fun is still being had over here; I'm just not writing about it. (Ray, if you are reading this, that semicolon is for you.) 

Yesterday we made our annual trek out to Shlagel Farm in Waldorf Maryland, where Elijah continued his annual tradition of eating a bushel of strawberries right off the vine.  He did put a few in his basket...which he ate while we visited the chickens.  We did manage to take a few home with us, though, and it's officialIsabel has a new favorite food.

Also, we are headed out of town on Thursday and will be back Monday, so if things go quiet(er) around here, you'll know why.

Friday, May 17, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Connecting Families through Creative Play: Pretend Play

If I were a child development researcher, I believe I would focus my attention on pretend play.  The process by which we learn to pretend is fascinating to me.  While Isabel still doesn't recognize herself in the mirror, Elijah is well into the phase of replicating real-life experiences on a smaller scale.  He gets in his car, drives around the house, and then, like a true city boy, says, "There's no parking spot.  I have to drive around the block." He pretends to cook, to shop, to eat.  He dropped one of his plastic eggs into the wrong container, then said, "Oops!  I dropped the eggshell.  Just like Daddy does." (Kurt claims this only happened one time.)

So, pretend play has certainly come to our house.  But today, we were at the park with a class of slightly older children, maybe closer to four years old, and a few of the girls were engaged in an elaborate make-believe scenario.  One was the mom, and the other two were the children.  I heard the one little girl say, "I have to go to work now, but don't be sad.  I'll be back soon."  This to me represents the next level of pretend play, which involves taking on the persona of someone else. 

Then, there is also the pretend play wherein the child uses little people, animals, etc, to act out a scene.  Does this come before or after pretending to be someone else?  I would guess after, but I don't know.

Finally, I got to thinking about older kids and adults.  What happens when we get "too old" to play pretend.  Well, fortunately, it doesn't happen to everyone.  If it did, I think we would be without some great actors and fiction writers.  I hear other kinds of role playing can be fun, too, but this is a family blog, so I won't get into that.

What are your thoughts on pretend play?  Clearly, I have many, but I'd like to hear yours, too.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paint rolling

Connecting Families through Creative Play: Painting Connections

As I have mentioned before, Elijah is not really the artsy type, at least so far.  I must admit that I haven't really done a whole lot to change that.  He would rather drum, or read, or build, or dig, so I usually just go with those.  However, in his valiant attempts to let me sleep in on Mother's Day, my dear husband pulled out the paints, and since then, Elijah has been bitten by the painting bug.

His favorite thing to do is take four or so colors of paint, mix them all up with a brush until they are a nice brown color, and then absolutely soak his paper in the lovely new shade.  It seems to be an enjoyable sensory experience for him, but I'm not going to lie, it's not that fun for me.

So, when I got the CFtCP email on the subject of painting, I decided that it was time to take things in a new direction.  One that might be enjoyable for both mother and son.  I poked around on Pinterest and considered some options.  Then, when Isabel went down for her morning nap today, we went to work. 

For me, this activity had the right mix of creativity and structure.  I participated, too, but Elijah added his own flair, as usual.  We rolled the vehicles across the paper for awhile, and then Elijah tried to use the bus's face as a stamp, which only sort of worked, but he didn't seem to mind.  I thought he might enjoy washing the trucks when we were finished, but by then he was back to the music.  We had such fun, I might even try something else in the painting activities department soon.  Suggestions?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Treasure Hunter

Connecting Families Through Creative Play: Little Explorers

As Elijah has gotten older and more able to focus on a single task for a longer period of time, I have really been enjoying thinking of ways to bring the Montessori method into our home.  I have no official training, but with resources like Montessori at Home! and, my recent library pickup, How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, I have slowly but surely been able to add in bits of Montessori here, there and everywhere.

Until recently, though, I hadn't given too much thought to using Montessori principles with infants.  Elijah was such a crankster as a baby that we spent most of our time just roaming the streets of DC.  I had heard of a Montessori "treasure basket"for babies, and it was brought to my attention once again by the second book mentioned above.

Basically, once a baby is able to sit independently, you fill a basket (or, in my case, a metal colander) with various objects from around the house that engage different senses.  At first, I wasn't sure if I had enough stuff to include, but once I started, new ideas kept popping up. 
So far, Izzy's basket has:
  •  a paper cup 
  • a brush
  • a fabric tea bag
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • a bell
  • a pastry blender
  • a wooden spoon
  • a wooden train track
  • crocheted snake
  • a sock full of beans
  • and a knitted alligator

   I waited until Elijah was asleep to present her with the basket.  Then, as the book prescribed, I didn't say anything, but just allowed her to explore.  Which she did.  For an hour.  By herself. 

I am interested to see what will happen tomorrow when I bring the basket out again.  Will she return to the same favorite items?  What would happen if I introduced a few new things? 

Treasure basket indeed.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In which I get Pinspired

Connecting Families through Creative Play: Day 7 - Traditions

So, this e-course I've being enjoying has lots of great features: a daily email that highlights one aspect of creative play, a highly interactive Facebook group, inspirational quotations and...Pinspiration!  For those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, who are you?  Do you live in a cave?  A cave that does not have wireless Internet?

Fortunately, for me, I am much less ambitious than other stay-at-home moms, and therefore do not suffer from from "Pinterest stress".  My usual reaction when checking out other people's boards is, "Hmm, that's nice.  Maybe when I'm 40.  I will now go back to reading hilarious blogs instead."

However, I really did enjoy the tradition-themed board linked in a recent e-course email, and actually found myself inspired.  Most of the ideas involved the creation of stuff, though, and this 1,100 square foot house has just about enough stuff as it is, so I considered how I could incorporate some of the ideas digitally.  My first idea is for a "shoe journal", documenting each of my children's pairs of shoes with a photo and description.  Above is the first installment (created, of course, using picmonkey.)  And certainly, if you want to pin my idea, you are more than welcome!  (See convenient sharing button below.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pepper play

Connecting Families through Creative Play: Day 6: Real Life Experiences

When I first thought about this topic, I figured I'd share how living in a city has opened up a world of experiences to Elijah.  Growing up in the suburbs afforded me many advantages, but city living is child-friendly in a totally different way.  And maybe I'll write more about that some day.  But Elijah's been getting a lot of press around here lately, so instead I want to share with you Isabel's most recent Real Life Experience - food!

A few weeks ago, we attempted to give Isabel some rice cereal, with disastrous results.  Not only did she make a huge mess (which we expected), she hated, hated, hated the process (which we did not expect).  My normally smiley, mild-mannered girl screamed at the sight of the spoon and sprayed food everywhere.  On a side note, she feels the same way about the bottle.  Sigh.  Anyway, she was not at all into the whole spoon-feeding situation.

I had heard before about baby-led weaning (BLW), and I recently saw this post over at Dinner: A Love Story.  It seemed like this method, which involved giving babies who can sit some of what everyone else is eating, might work for the Iz.  Also, she just started sitting up on her own (woot woot!), so the timing was perfect.  Because it's how I roll, I ordered a book from the library on the topic first, then dove right in. 

What a change from the mushy mess of a few weeks ago!  Isabel loved sitting in the high chair next to Elijah (who loved it just as much) and sucking and chewing on some orange peppers.  I am pretty sure she could have sat there all night.  Sure, she didn't get too much food, but she wasn't getting much of the rice cereal, either, and she was much happier this time.  I am looking forward to having her join us for meals from here on out.  And I won't miss this gloppy mess that is rice cereal one bit.  My girl is already a fan of Real Food.  What can I say?  She's her mother's daughter.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nature Boy

Connecting Family Through Creative Play: Day 5 - Exploring Nature

Elijah has always been a nature lover.  At first this might seem a bit odd considering that our back "yard" is made of concrete and helicopter was one of his first words (hey-cocky) because he saw them so much.  But whether it's digging in the dirt out front, strolling around the arboretum or collecting sticks while out for a walk, if there's nature to be had, Elijah will find it. 

Our latest nature-y spot is at the park at 12th and E NE here in DC, which we first discovered thanks to our friends Sam and Kate.  (Sam is the one with the luscious locks in the photos above.)  At this park, there is a small playground, but Elijah prefers the adjoining grassy areas and tree-lined pathways.  In particular, there is a small "fort" that was created around one of the trees.  Tall holly bushes surround the tree, leaving just a small opening perfect for small boys to sneak into.

In general, I would say that Elijah generally prefers nature to playgrounds.  I would like to say that this speaks to his need for open-ended play, and that might be true, but I also think that it has something to do with the fact that Elijah didn't take his first steps until the ripe old age of 20 months.   When the playground equipment remained beyond his reach, nature was there for him.  Set him in a rock pile or mud pit at that age and he was happy as a pig in, well, a mud pit.  And while he did finally learn to walk (and slide), his appreciation for nature has stayed strong, city boy though he may be.   

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A New Favorite

Connecting Family Through Creative Play: Day 4 - Favorites

In my early years, I had a constant companion named Woobie.  It (he) began as a patchwork quilt, but by the end of his life, all the stuffing had been loved out and the fabric had worn thin.  I remember disliking the times when my mom snuck my dear friend into the wash because I much preferred his regular smell to that of dryer sheets.  My sister had a similar love-object named Weeber, who at some point had to be dismembered, as she kept tripping over him.  To my knowledge, bits of these blankets still linger in the hidden recesses of my parents' home.

Since Elijah kicked the binky habit a month or two ago (which was shockingly easy, by the way), I've been wondering if another animal or blanket might jump in to fill the void.  When none arose, I began to wonder if I had somehow deprived him of a crucial childhood experience.  Well, I needn't have worried.  Enter the drum shirt (see above).

To the naked eye, this shirt has nothing to do with drums.  I was quite confused myself when he first called it that.  Then, on Sunday, I got it. The man who plays the drums at our church, a portly Latino man, always wears a short-sleeved, plaid, button down shirt.  This had not gone unnoticed by his number one fan.  Thus, Elijah, in his quest to become a real "drummer man", decided that he needed to dress the part.

He's been wearing the shirt for the past three days, although after tonight's spilled fish tacos, I may need to find a way to sneak it into the wash when he's not paying attention.  Hopefully, I won't ruin the smell.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Get the rhythm...

Connecting Families Through Creative Play: Day 3 - Family Rhythm

Around here, we are not so much with the schedules.  Back in my teaching days, I was the master of the schedule.  Now that I don't have to be, well, let's just say that sometimes we never make it out of the house in the mornings.  But we like it that way.

I was a little nervous when I saw the topic for this day's reflection.  I know that this e-course is intended to be anything but guilt-inducing, and yet...would I read about rhythm only to find that we aren't doing enough?

Ha.  I should have known better.  After all, I chose this e-course because it is run by two nifty like-minded women who know all about the ups and downs of life with littles.  And I am happy to report that it seems I have not yet irreparably damaged my children with our "open-ended" "schedule".

Here's the thing: we've got a rhythm around here.  We have our anchor points, as they are sometimes called, which mainly consist of meals and sleeping.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner happen at or around the same time each day.  Nap comes after lunch (and goes on and on, thank goodness).  And bedtime?  Well, if there is one thing I have done right as a parent, it is getting into a bedtime routine.  If you are over here and it is past eight and Elijah is still out and about...well, it just doesn't happen.  The best is when it gets to be 8:03 or so, and guests are over and maybe Kurt and I haven't been paying attention, and Elijah announces, "It's time for bedtime." Anchor point indeed.

And so our days ebb and flow around these anchors of meals and rest.  The key that I consider when structuring our days is balance: quiet/loud, together/apart, home/away, inside/outside.  Most days, it works.  After doing some reflecting, I have been trying to devise a way to make a visual schedule of sorts for Elijah.  (Shall I go full-on hippie and call it a rhythm chart?)

Here's my rough draft:

At the top is my idea for a layout.  I am thinking that this will be magnetic.  The anchor points might be something stickier, like masking tape.  There is lots of space in between for magnets of the people, places, and things in the second picture.  My goal is to finish this by the end of May.  I'll keep you posted.  Thoughts?  Links to your family's scheduling mechanism?

And now, for Mommy, in the words of Elijah, I think it's time for bedtime.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cheesy churchy children

Connection Family Through Creative Play rolls on, and I look forward to rolling with it just as soon as I get my crazy-town allergies under control.  Until then, here are some pics from a little post-church photo shoot today.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 3, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When Your Mind Won't Set

 Connecting Families Through Creative Play E-course: Day 2 - Mindset

The other day, I took my children to a nearby park and as Elijah spent his usual 20-minutes-plus on the swing, I got to chatting with another mom with kids around the same age as mine.  As often happens around here (Washington, DC), the conversation turned to schools.  For thsoe of you who don't livehere, the preschool situation is basically this: you spend tons of time researching and applying to tens of charter schools, then get into none of them.  Seriously, for the one school I really wanted, Elijah's waitlist number is in the 700s. 

During the conversation, I said something like, "Well, I'm not too stressed about it because I am home with Isabel anyway and I would really miss Elijah if he were gone all day.  Actually, I'm not even sure that I'm ready to send him to school even if he does get in." I made this comment in an offhand manner, but the other mom was shocked.

Her response: "You must be some kind of super-mom.  I can't wait for my son to go to school.  I like him, but all day is just too much."

Days later, this conversation still stuck with me and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why.  Am I some kind of super-mom?  I'd like to think so, but realistically I know that I am just trying my best like so many others, and some days are more successful than others.  Still, something was nagging at me...

For my book club, we are currently reading The Feminine Mystique (6 days and 200 pages to go, btw).  If you haven't read/heard of it, basically the thesis is that in the 1950s and 60s, there was widespread discontent among housewives, and society's solution was to tell these women that if they could just learn to accept that this was the life they were made for, they would feel at peace.  Or, in other words, we have seen the problem, and it's all in your heads. 

And here we are 50 years later, singing the same song to stay-at-home-moms.  Not happy? Wear bright clothes!  Listen to music! Make posters of heartwarming quotations and post them around the house!  These "tips" can help if you find yourself having a bad day or two, but what if, like the mom at the park, you find yourself in a general state of discontentment? 

After a week of reflection on this, here are some ideas I have come up with, things I would share with this mom if I perchanced to see her again*.  These are not little tips.  They require time and energy, and maybe even a lifestyle change.  But it could be worth it.

*Before I start, let me say that these ideas are for people who feel a little restless, a bit discontented.  If you are having trouble getting out of bed, or you cry all the time, or you having feelings of despair, please get professional help.  Depression is real, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Okay, PSA over.  Onward...

5 Things to Try if Stay-at-Home Parenthood is Getting You Down

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New month, new theme: Connecting Families Through Creative Play

Phew, that blogging from A to Z was something...

I look forward to reflecting on it in longer form soon, but today is the start of new month, and I so enjoyed blogging on a theme in April that I thought I would do it again in May.  My first inclination was to work through 31 Days to Clean, but fortunately something else landed in my inbox and saved me from, you know, cleaning.  Because as much as I like having a clean house (I do! I swear!), I like playing way more.  So, without further ado...

Connecting Families Through Creative Play E-Course: Day 1 - Play Spaces

Someday, I would love to have a play room.  For now, though, our house is 1,100 square feet, with a separate basement apartment rented by someone else.  So, for us, the living room is our main indoor place space.  In my experience, most city mamas like me also have to make their living/family rooms do double duty.  And even though it would be nice to have a dedicated play room, a multipurpose space has its advantages.  For one, it gives the sense that the house belongs to all of us, and we need to share our space.  Also, it cuts down on the number of toys because there simple isn't room for too many.  Also, it is much harder to just "let it go", clutter-wise, which can be a pain in the short-term but is probably better overall.

So, now for the tour.  Please direct your attention to my lovely graphic above (thanks, picmonkey!).  All of the small bits I have highlighted around the border reside in the living room.  Counterclockwise from the bottom we have:
1) In front of our faux fireplace is a play kitchen from Value Village ($7) and a shopping cart that survived Kurt's childhood and made a reappearance thanks to the Grandparents.  The cart is sometimes swapped out for a different moving toy (doll stroller, car, etc.)
2) To the left of the couch are the toys with many pieces.  Right now, there is a box of Duplos, a wooden train set and an old school Little People garage.  Elijah (aged 2) knows that only one of these toys can be out at a time.
3) At the top of a tall bookshelf, I keep the "messy" toys - play dough, rice, plastic Easter eggs and the like.  These are available upon request, and Elijah usually plays with them at the dining room table.
4) Ah, Elijah's instruments.  These are perhaps the most frequently played with toys at our house.  Some are homemade, some are thrifted and some were gifts.  All are much loved.
5) Books, books, books.  There are books all over our house.  This box is reserved for library books as well as those in heavy rotation at the moment.
(Not  pictured) To the right of the couch is a catch-all toy box.  It's not my favorite thing to have, but it is necessary for balls, toy cars and baby toys for Isabel (6 months).  I figure as long as it doesn't get full to overflowing, I can live with it.

Also, as of today, we have the space shown above, previously occupied by a giant, broken TV belonging to our landlord.   Hooray!  Oh, the possibilities...

And that is pretty much it for the toys in our house, except for bath toys and stuffed animals.  There are a few other things in "storage" (aka on the top bunk in Izzy's room).  And we can't forget the one thing that Elijah can't live without...

...which, of course, resides in his bedroom. 

So, that's it!  Tell me about your play spaces.  I am always looking for new ideas.  And thanks to Kat and Gina for putting this awesome e-course together!  I look forward to blogging about it all month long.