Category Archives: Connections

Difficult Conversations: Popcorn by Frank Asch

popcornDo you know this story? It’s an old one. And it is incredibly funny. But what do you see when you look at the cover of this book? When I bought the book a few years back nothing about it seemed amiss, but now that I’ve started learning about diversity and whiteness and cultural appropriation, the “Indian” headband jumped out at me. 

Here’s the thing, I really like the story and I decided to keep it. But I have to be able to talk to Cam about why his costume is not okay. So we read it together and the first thing I told her was that I did not like Sam’s costume. She asked why and we talked about how he’s supposedly dressed as a Native American and that the costume is both wrong and a stereotype. It doesn’t give any hint about what nation it was taken from and even if it did, it was taken from someone’s culture. 

These conversations are hard because I’m not used to having them. They can also be hard to gauge both what level to have them on and what Cam is getting out of them. I hope we reach the point where she can roll her eyes at me because she knows what I’m going to say when I see something like this (let’s face it the eye rolling is bound to happen in the adolescent years). Or even better points it out.

Here are some resources about costumes and why cultural dress is not okay to use as a Halloween (or any holiday) costume: We’re a Culture Not a Costume

Here is some information on the controversy over the Disney Moana movie and some of the dress-up merchandise they were selling: Moana Costume Controversy on LATimes

And finally here’s an excellent article on this particular book: Popcorn on American Indians In Children’s Literature

Potty Training Round 700

The Saddest ToiletI thought I would put this out there for the moms who have struggled with potty training their kids. I seem to have so many mom friends whose kids just naturally potty trained, or trained super early, or simply needed a couple days at home with mom standing over them. This has not been the case for my daughter. Not. In. The. Least. 

Cam isn’t necessarily an anxious child. She’s a typical first child, cautious, but I would never describe her as anxious. Still, when it comes to trying new things, and wearing underwear and sitting on the potty, she is apprehensive. Usually I can gently push her to try something new or do it with her and have a lot of success getting her out of her comfort zone and having fun. Certainly I have tried these tactics with potty training, but to no avail. With potty training she has ultimate control over how things go and she is exercising that control to its fullest. 

She’s peed in the potty every since last summer and had only a handful of “accidents” which have been the result of being too lazy to actually use the potty while playing. She’s been dry at night since 8 months old (no joke). She knows when she needs to poop and now is wearing underwear the majority of the time, but switches to a diaper when she does poop. Cam has no underlying medical or developmental reasons for this to be happening. It appears just to be her. 

I suppose you could argue the end is in sight for us since she mostly wears underwear, but I think I’ve pushed as much as I can for the time being and it might be another year before she sits on the potty for all of it. She is also oddly uncomfortable wearing underwear to bed. I let her wear a diaper because I am not prepared for a fight and tears and drama right before bed. Still, she’s been dry overnight for years. Where does that apprehension come from?

I’ve wondered over the years if we hadn’t switched to disposable training pants would she have had better luck training? Maybe, but very hard to say. For awhile I had her in cotton training pants, but it simply resulted in floods when she needed to pee and lots of scrubbing when there was poo. She wasn’t ready and it was too much work and water on my part. Diapers didn’t fit her properly at a certain age (or so I thought) so we switched to training pants and by the time she was ready to switch back to cotton pants there were a lot of tears. Buckets full. It was too stressful for everyone involved. It did help having a friend to watch pee on the potty (and weirdly she uses the grown-up potty when we have friends over). So did some of our favorite potty training books. But nothing got her actually ready except herself. She had and is having to come to it in her own time. 

One thing I have noticed about other “potty trained” kids is that that term is loosely applied in almost all situations. Most parents report accidents for years. Many are not actually potty trained to poop on the potty, just pee. Many are not dry through the night. So before you get worked up over everyone else’s kids being potty trained, look more closely at what they mean by that. Doing it on your child’s timeline (instead of one enforced by a preschool program or parental desire) seems to lead to full potty training in the same amount of time with many, many fewer accidents and tears and power struggles. 

There are definitely days and times I think she may go to college in diapers despite the funny saying that no one ever did. She’s past 5 years old now. But I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My point in writing this is to share that there are parents and children out there for whom the traditional methods just aren’t working and I want you to know it’s hard and frustrating and expensive (shit, five years of diapers) and you aren’t alone. 

Modeling Good Relationships

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mommy guilt and the things I have it around. One place in particular is getting frustrated with Cam and showing it. She’s dragging her feet about brushing hair or putting on socks and I just get so frustrated I hurry her along and get short with her. I snap at her or wrestle her into the socks. 

In thinking about these interactions, though, I’ve come to believe that it’s important for Cam to see that this happens. We all have emotions and sometimes we aren’t great about regulating them, even in adulthood. Instead of feeling guilty that it happened- a less than useful emotion in the situation- I need to jump in and do damage control almost immediately. First I apologize, then I explain why I got frustrated, then ask for her help either to finish the task or in the future. Sometimes I explain that it wasn’t really her, it was something else bothering me and I unfairly took it out on her. I also promise to try my best next time not to react that way and, if it was something she was struggling with and I didn’t notice, to check in before getting upset.  

The thing is, no relationship is perfect. Everyone fights- with their spouse, with their friends, with their coworkers. We’re all different people with different needs and ideas and tolerances. The point is not that we are all calm and collected all the time. In fact, the perfectly serene countenance, to me, seems eerily close to the happily-ever-after of fairy tales and the don’t-make-waves standard we like to hold women and girls to. A standard that is both unrealistic and probably unattainable and often held only for girls and women. 

Let’s be clear this is not free license to yell and scream at kids, belittle them with your words, and especially not get physical with them. I think we’re all guilty at one point or another of simply losing our shit and yelling. We shouldn’t, but it does happen. And when it does there is a lot more repair work that needs to be done than when we get mad and curt. 

These frustrations, though, provide us with a teachable moment. We can model for our children how to repair things with someone we care about when we’ve slipped up. I would infinitely prefer Cam knew that she didn’t have to be perfect in every relationship (an ideal that would ultimately lead to her repressing her feelings and emotions and constantly subordinating them to someone else’s), but that she can apologize. I want her to know that disagreeing is normal and that you don’t have to agree to love someone or be friends with them, you just need to be kind and thoughtful when you do disagree. Again this is a standard I most often see being applied to girls and women, and I want her to break away from it. I also want her to know that one small spat or disagreement does not spell the end of a relationship. Modeling that when I’m frustrated is the perfect opportunity to show her what a good relationship looks like. 

Tradition: Candlemas

This is the first year we will be celebrating Candlemas on February 2nd. Traditionally (i.e. religiously) it is the celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. Since we aren’t particularly religious we celebrate the more pagan tradition that I think the Feast of the Presentation is supposed to obscure- it’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Basically it means the days are getting noticeably longer.

I have noticed that out on our walks and in the evenings when I head out to take care of our flock and creatures outside. I’ve also noticed it in the mornings when I head out to take out treats and open the run for the chickens. I don’t mind winter at all, which is in part probably due to the mild winters we have here in Sacramento, but I’m always glad to see the longer days. 

To celebrate we are going to read two poetry books that I got from the library that celebrate the passing of the seasons. A Circle of Seasons and A Brighter Garden. I am also going to put out candles during dinner and we may even read the books solely by candlelight. 

Spring is coming!

New Baby Busy Bags

We’re going to take a break from the Summer of Mess today. Last week got busy and we didn’t get around to our messy play on Thursday. 

One of my best friends has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting her second baby in about a month. While one of the best things you can give new parents are frozen meals, I also decided to give them something that would help their toddler. It’s got to be hard to no longer have the undivided attention of your parents as well as deal with the stress of a newborn in the house. To both keep her entertained and give her something shiny and new I decided to put together a huge basket of busy bags and quiet boxes for her. And since I’ve been sharing our quiet boxes here I thought I would type up a list of the boxes and bags I created for a 27 month old. Some are more challenging than others, but I figured they would serve well over the coming months. 

  1. Large lacing beads
  2. Popsicle stick puzzles: I printed off three pictures and glued them to large popsicle sticks, then cut them apart.
  3. Farm play set: glass jewels, blocks, farm animals
  4. Collage bag: stickers, paper, colored pencils
  5. Jungle play set: play-doh, jewels, animal figures, colored matchsticks
  6. Color matching: I created a paper with columns. Each column had a colored square at the top. Then I laminated strips of colors that can be set in each column. I used animal pictures, but you could use strips of paint chips.
  7. Fabric squares: This is kind of like a puzzle. See a tutorial here. I made a much simpler version with fabric scraps I had on hand.
  8. Shape matching puzzle: I outlined some foam shapes on a card for matching. Included a Cookie Monster shape book.
  9. Nuts and bolts: nuts and bolts to put together and a copy of Anne Rockwell’s The Toolbox
  10. I Spy jar: I filled a jar with rice and a bunch of objects. By turning the jar she can find the different things hidden inside. There is also an I Spy easy reader.
  11. Toy cars
  12. Chalkboard and chalk
  13. Sticker farm scene
  14. Pattern blocks: This was a set I found at the thrift shop. It had both foam pattern blocks and cards with pictures to make. 
  15. Cups and index cards: For making card houses.
  16. Links and bracelets
  17. Doll with bedtime set: I bought a tiny fairy doll and made her a mattress, pillow and blanket. I also put Joanne Cole’s I’m a Big Sister book in there. 
  18. Left or Right?: This is a book that studies left and right with just photographs a la Tana Hoban. I also printed off a beautiful left and right side butterfly matching game which you can find here
  19. Tweezing: foam cubes, plastic cups, tweezers
  20. Bear dress up: This is one of those wooden sets where you match up the head, top and bottoms.
  21. Marble runs: wooden blocks, large bouncy balls, tp tubes cut in half to make channels
  22. Frog world: based on our water play from the other day
  23. Lacing cards: I printed off these, laminated them and then punched large holes for a shoelace to thread through. 

The dollar store is a treasure trove if you think outside the box. Stroll through their aisles and look for loose pieces, fun games, etc. For about $50 I was able to pull the vast majority of these together and buy bags and containers for them all. The two exceptions are the lacing beads and the dress-up bear. Those are Melissa & Doug and I bought them online. 

Cam in the Kitchen: Poetry Tea

I recently came across this idea for a poetry tea on Pinterest. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun and told Cam we were going to try it out. Here is a link to the post that I found through Pinterest. We had so much fun that we’re going to make a it a Wednesday tradition. 

IMG_6215I actually started building anticipation on Monday when we started looking in a few stores for a teapot. I have kettle, but that isn’t exactly an efficient way to brew tea (it makes too much and the pot is really hot). It turns out a decent (and decently priced) ceramic teapot is really hard to find! While we keep looking, we’re using the tea kettle. I brew tea at the stove and pour into cups. 

On Wednesday, after lunch and before nap time, we brewed a pot of tea, put some cookies on a plate and found a poetry book to share. Cam pushed our chairs close together and we sat down to sip tea and read. It worked beautifully and Cam loved it. IMG_6216It was relaxing and lovely. At the end of the month I will create a list of our favorite poetry books and link to it here. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ll have whatever is on hand for a snack. We just read the poetry. I suppose if Cam wanted to talk about the poems we could, but right now we’re just listening to them. I hope eventually she will take over reading some of them because learning to read poetry aloud is a good skill to practice for public speaking, for fluency, and for understanding how the spoken word works. 

Handwork: Martinmas

Gluing Lanterns I wrote last year about Martinmas and what we did. Our celebration this year was similar. Since St. Martin was known for sharing his cloak with a beggar one cold winter night we purchased a coat to give to the local coat drive. We made cookies which I will share in the December Cam in the Kitchen post. We also made the traditional lanterns for the holiday.

Martinmas LanternSince Cam was older this year I picked a lantern that she could make on her own. I made four and she made three which was about right. We’re giving them out to family and friends again. 

Supplies:

  • smooth-sided jars
  • pieces of tissue paper
  • white glue
  • paintbrushes
  • small bowl for glue

What To Do

  • I got some things set up on a tray a day or two before we actually did the craft. This made it easy to get it out and make the lanterns, but isn’t essential. I do suggest some prep before you get started though.
  • Cut the tissue paper into small- and medium-sized pieces. They will be covering the outside of the jars so use the sizes of your jars to decide how big to cut the pieces. 
  • In the small bowl, mix some white glue with a bit of water to thin it out. It should be think enough that it doesn’t really drip when painted on the jar, but not so thick it’s hard to spread.
  • Paint a layer of glue onto the outside of the jar. You can work in sections or cover the whole outside.
  • Begin placing the pieces of tissue paper around the outside. They can overlap. If you have a young child it might be easier for you to hold the jar while they place the tissue paper scraps on.
  • Once you have a patch (or the whole jar covered) brush over the tissue paper with the glue sticking the pieces down more and creating a thin layer to protect the paper. This will keep it from peeling off so easily and acts a bit like Modge Podge.  
  • Allow to dry completely. Place a candle inside (we use the battery operated candles, but you can use votives or tea lights).

Handwork: Schultuete*

SchultueteIn my post about Cam going to school soon I mentioned the schultuete that I would be making. If you Google pictures of them you might notice they can be quite large. In fact the one in the picture I included in that post is nearly as tall as the little girl holding it! According to my grandmother (and Wikipedia), they are filled with candy and sometimes, especially as kids get older, school supplies like pencils, erasers, and markers.

I spent part of an afternoon last week making a cone that could be reused. I chose, however, to make it relatively small. Cam certainly doesn’t need tons more stuff and she doesn’t really need a lot of candy either. The size limits what can fit and I got a few fun, little things that are also practical. I even stuffed a few fruit snack packs in there, a big treat in our house.

IMG_2454The cone was simple enough to make: I cut two outer triangles out of a laminated canvas and two inner triangles out of muslin. I stitched both pairs together at the sides. and turned the outer cone right side out. Then I stuffed the liner cone inside. I folded the tops down and topstitched them together. While sewing the tops I added a ribbon that loops over the top. It isn’t perfectly sewn, but I think it looks fine and doubt Cam will notice or care. There isn’t exactly a pattern, just a size for the triangle and a few tips and tricks to making it come together. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to post a more detailed list of instructions and a pattern.

Traditions Banner*It appears that you can spell the word two different ways. I can’t say definitively that this is true as I don’t speak German, but one way has an umlaut and the other has substituted a “uf” for the umlauted “u”. Since I don’t have an easy way to include the umlaut I’m going for the “ue” spelling of the word. If anyone who speaks German and knows this is incorrect, please let me know and I will change it.

Night Rhythm

I mentioned a few weeks back that we started a bedtime routine. We haven’t previously had one and I haven’t ever felt like we needed one, per se, but in my Waldorf reading I was inspired to have a poem, story, and candle at bedtime.

Night Rhythm

So far it’s been going really well. We have an order written out which is more to help remember what the pieces of the rhythm are than a set plan of action. Cam knows all the pieces and is especially fond of snuffing the candle (she calls it “nuffing”). Just this week I’ve begun asking her to choose the story for the night and she is relishing that too (as am I). I do reserve the right to add in or switch stories if there is a particular story I want to read (to, say, emphasize a problem we’re having). Even though Cam can’t read, I’ve written out the routine and her nighttime poem and posted it above her bed. She is aware that the sheet has the poem and routine and she looks at it from time to time.

The one thing I really don’t like about the routine is that it takes time! Cam used to just go to bed when it was time. We gave her warnings that the time was approaching and then we’d go climb into bed and go to sleep. It’s not that she fusses now, it’s just that I need to be more aware of what time it is in the evening so I can be sure to get the ball rolling. A minor complaint for something that has made our evenings special and magical.

Thinking About Easter Traditions

With Easter fast approaching I’ve begun thinking about what we want to do for Easter. As with Christmas I want to draw from our German ancestry for how to celebrate without using the traditions that have become too commercialized or too candy driven.

The week before Cam and I will dye about a dozen eggs (fresh from our chickens). Eventually I would love, love, love to do the Eastern European pysanky eggs, but that’s a bit beyond Cam’s abilities now so it will have to wait. I suppose every year we can try a new style of egg dying. This year I want to use things we have in the fridge and pantry, natural dyes. It should be interesting to experiment, especially since our eggs are brown, with the exception of our Easter egger chicken who lays green eggs, which may change how the colors turn out.

We’re going to have a brunch with all the grandparents and a little Easter egg hunt for the eggs. I’m also putting together a couple Easter baskets for her that have little puzzles, some handmade toys, fun odds and ends, and even a little candy. Unlike Santa Claus I am okay with the Easter Bunny or Easter Hare as he is German in origin. I also really want to use one of our small maple trees as an Easter egg tree, another amazing German tradition. See this Wikipedia article for more information.

Lilies Rabbits EggsThere are two books I have found useful in

learning about what our options are for Easter (and other holiday) traditions. Lilies, Rabbits, and Painted Eggs by Edna Barth is from a series that talks about the symbols and traditions around a variety of holidays. Unfortunately they are out of print but you can still find them used and in your local library.

 

All Year Round

The other is, I gather, a Waldorf classic, All Year Round by Anne Druitt. This one is especially helpful with thoughts and reflections, ideas for crafts and food, and information about the holidays and their origins. Traditions Banner