thismummaslife

Motherhood, Art, Creative Play, and Finding Joy in Everyday Life


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It Is Getting More Real…

pregnant black and white

I am 32 weeks pregnant now. Only 8-ish weeks to go. I have been feeling baby kicks for months, and yet, last night, as Jeramy and I sat on the couch together and Baby started up the nightly internal parkour routine, I exclaimed: “There is a Baby in there! We are having a Baby!”

“I know.” he replied, and we both smiled.

As we are now well into the third trimester, and we begin writing our list of things to pack for the hospital, and working out the details of our birth plan, it is all getting to be…real. Despite the insomnia, soreness, and fatigue I have been experiencing, the excitement is really kicking in too. These last two months will be over before we know it, and we will soon get to meet our child. I try to remind myself every day that this is the last child we are planning to have, so this is my last chance to experience how incredible it is to feel those movements and kicks inside. To anticipate the arrival of this new member of our family. To daydream about what our child will be like, and who they will become.

We still have a lot to prepare before Baby’s arrival. We are renovating the downstairs bedroom, and in the meantime we are sleeping on our mattress on the floor, surrounded by boxes that are waiting to be unpacked from when we moved in. We need to purchase our co-sleeper, a breast pump, and a few other items. We have just begun stocking the freezer so that we will not have to cook when we are too sleep deprived. But, day by day we are more prepared for this big change in our lives.

In a recent conversation with a friend who is also pregnant, she mentioned how adorably foldy new babies’ legs are. I actually squealed out loud with excitement remembering this, and remembering other things about what newborns are like. When Simon was born, I marveled at the way his tiny feet still folded against his legs. At how small fingernails can actually be. At the way he would look into my eyes and know me, right from the first time I ever held him.

It is hitting me now, the excitement of it all. The reality. We are going to have a Baby!


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Children Are People Too

izze

Recently, my little Simon and I met some friends for lunch at a local cafe. We arrived, ordered our food, and then I told Simon he could pick out a drink for himself. He excitedly chose an Izze soda, knowing that this is the only soda I allow him to drink. (If you are not familiar, Izze is basically carbonated fruit juice with no added sugars or preservatives. And it is quite delicious.)

Full of excitement over meeting friends, and being allowed to have a special treat, he practically bounced across the cafe floor with his drink, to place it on the counter. The woman working at the counter began to ring us up. Simon politely said to her: “Excuse me,…”

“Hi!” She said to him. “Is that your drink?”

“Yes, and—” He began to reply.

“Your Mom is having a baby!” She interrupted him. “You must be excited!”

He again tried to speak, pointing to his soda: “This is—”

Are you having a sister or a brother?” She again interrupted.

“No. This is—” Still pointing at the soda bottle.

“A baby sister or a baby brother? Do you know what you are having?” Her tone implied impatience with him, and yet she was not giving him time to reply. By now, I was feeling furious with this woman. My son was attempting to communicate with her, but she had her own agenda. Because he was not responding the same way an adult would, she was not respecting him, and not taking the time to listen.

He tried again: “But this is–” He was tapping the soda bottle frantically now, to show her what he was trying to talk about.

And again she interrupted: “You must be excited about the baby. What is it gonna be, a boy or a girl?”

Finally, Simon could not take it any more, and actually jumped up and down and wailed: “But I am trying to tell you something!”

She didn’t even hear his words, despite the fact that he was shouting them, because she was still grilling him over the gender of our baby. So this time I interrupted her. I reached out my hand, and stroked Simon’s hair. I leaned down to his level and said: “It’s ok honey.” Then, I looked back up at the woman and said: “He has been trying to tell you something that is important to him. He is very excited today.” I leaned back down to Simon and encouraged him: “Go ahead, Sweetie. Tell her what you want to say.”

She finally gave him room to speak. He spoke carefully and slowly now. I think he was afraid she would interrupt him again: “This is special soda that I get to have.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say, so she just replied “Oh yeah?” and finished our transaction.

Unfortunately, I don’t think she believed there was value in anything he had to say. I realize that not all adults know how to interact with children. However, at this point he was a customer in her cafe, and also a fellow human being. She was only interested in my pregnant belly, and thought he should be too. Of course he is, but it is a part of his everyday life. At that moment, getting a soda was much more thrilling and new, and he had a desperate need to express this to the other adult in front of him. Sure, she made an attempt to show interest in him by asking him questions, but it wasn’t genuine because she didn’t actually try to hear what he was saying.

He may have been barely able to see over the counter. He may have been wiggly, and silly, and young. However, that did not mean he was not worthy of being listened to. Children know when they are being talked down to or disregarded. They can sense it and it causes them frustration. (Just as it would for an adult.) This whole interaction may have only lasted a few minutes, but we encounter similar situations day after day. Added up all together they send a message that his opinions are less important because he is a kid, and that only grownups are worthy of being heard.

All adults, parents and non-parents, sometimes need to be reminded: Children are people too.


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Four

 

Simon's 4th birthday 1
Last week we celebrated Simon turning four years-old. His actual birthday was on a Wednesday, so he and I spent the day together playing outside and shopping for party supplies. When Daddy got home from work we had a special pancake dinner (which has become an annual tradition), followed by a few presents. The following Saturday we had a little party here at home with some friends and family.

As everyone who has loved or cared for a child knows, time flies. They grow and change so fast, and it is amazing to witness. Simon continues to astound Jeramy and I on a daily basis with his imagination, intelligence, humor, and love.

At age four he loves ninjas and swords. He is currently obsessed with the movie Frozen. He makes “contraptions” all over the house with bits of rope and toys. He has very strong opinions on the way he believes everything should be done, and will argue them with us exhaustively. He is considerate and sweet, and loves to pick me flowers. He will sit and listen to chapter after chapter of a book being read-aloud to him. He increasingly wants to help us cook, garden, and do projects around the house. He sings us songs and will perform concerts for us with his instruments. He is a mostly picky eater, but will do strange things, like dipping pickles into his soup. He is social, and will greet everyone we encounter in public, asking them their name. He loves going for hikes and walks, and to the beach in summer. His favorite color is orange, but he likes pink a lot too.

I am so proud of my little guy, and how much his personality has grown. This is such a fun age.

Simon's 4th birthday 2


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A New Routine

a new routine
As I have mentioned before, this pregnancy has been a very rough one, making me feel sick almost all of the time. Through all of this, I have had a much harder time focusing on daily tasks, and fully being there for Simon on our days at home together. For a while, I often felt foggy, confused, and…kind of lost. At any given time of day I had no idea what we were supposed to be doing. Simon would ask “When is lunch?” and I would uncertainly answer: “Ummmm, right now?” We had no structure going from day to day, and I felt so much guilt because I know most children, including my own, thrive on routine. During a particularly difficult day over a week ago, I exasperatedly reached for my laptop and googled: “stay-at-home mom schedule”, hoping to find some inspiration that would get me back on track.

I spent some time reading blogs and articles, in which other stay-at-home parents shared their daily schedules, and tips for how they keep going without a boss or a deadline to keep them moving forward. I also reached out on facebook to other parents I know, asking how they structure their days. I got inspired to make a new plan for Simon and I.

One thing I noticed right away was how most others agreed that a rigid plan is a bad idea. The daily routine needs to be in place, but also be very flexible. Children are unpredictable. So is the weather, the budget, and the flow of life. One week might bring freezing rain every day, keeping us inside and unable or unwilling to go on a daily outing. The next week might require a lot of extra errands. I knew whatever plan I came up with could not be too strict or I would become discouraged when, inevitably, I could not keep up with it. It was to be more of a guideline than set in stone. Basically, I needed something to reference on my more foggy-brained days, when Simon asks: “What are we going to do now, Mumma?”

So, I typed out a routine for us to use on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (The other two days of the week Simon has preschool, and I work at the Library.) Weekends are a toss-up and will change so much that there was no point in scheduling them. (Plus, Jeramy is home on the weekends to help me .)  Here is what I came up with:

~7am: Wake up time. Spend the next hour making breakfast, drinking tea, and shaking off sleep. Eat breakfast together at the table.

~8am: Getting dressed for the day. Shower if needed, get myself and Simon dressed, brush teeth.

~9am: Go somewhere, or go outside. Unless the weather really stinks, get out and run errands, have an adventure, or spend some time in the yard.

~11am: Prepare lunch together. Eat together at the table.

~12pm: Time Out. Simon can watch some tv or play quietly. I can use my computer or read. This is a good time for another cup of tea. Also a good time to blog.

~1pm: Activity time. Get out some art supplies, do some puzzles together, create a project, read aloud from our current chapter book.

~2pm: Time for a healthy, energizing snack. Smoothies, fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc. An afternoon pick-me-up. Enjoy the snack out on the deck if it is nice.

~2:15pm: Pick up time. Do some clean-up around the house. Put on some music, throw in a load of dishes or laundry, and do the chores that need to be done that day.

~3:30pm: Daddy is home. Depending on the day, different things may happen: family errands, Daddy and Simon playtime, Mumma working an evening shift, etc. Start prepping dinner.

~5pm: Dinner. Eat early because Simon goes to bed early.

~6pm: Pick up time. Simon picks up toys he has taken out. Mumma and Daddy pick up after supper. Tidy things up before bedtime.

~6:30pm: Start Simon’s bedtime routine: pajamas, brush teeth, sip of water, bedtime story, lullabies, tuck in.

~7pm: Mumma and Daddy can collapse on the couch.
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Last week was our first week with this routine. We have not yet fully conformed to it. One day Simon slept in late so everything was pushed back and we ended up skipping a few parts of the routine. On another day we ended up on a much longer outing than I had expected, and didn’t get back home until late afternoon. Today, we spent most of our morning reading books together, because it was too cold and windy for us to go anywhere. However, we have followed the schedule part-time. When I am not sure what to do next, I can simply glance at the clock and the schedule posted on the fridge, and feel reassured. I have been more productive and more present for my son. For this, I am thankful.


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The Middle of the Night

The middle of the night. Three-year-old comes shuffling in, climbs onto our bed.
We ask him “What are you doing out of your bed? Are you ok?”

He says “I just want to sleep with you.” Past attempts at allowing this have proven that the child is incapable of allowing anyone else to sleep when he is in the room. He becomes like a giddy preteen at a slumber party and wants to chat and giggle all night. And kick us in the face.

Husband says: “Oh no. You need to go back into your own bed.” Instant wailing ensues. Confused by this strong reaction we attempt to reason with him. “Everyone needs to sleep in their own bed…you will be more comfy…you have all of your stuffed animals in there…it is the middle of the night.” We are pleading now.

We carry him back to his bed. He refuses to lie down. We try more reasoning. He is still wailing. I end up sitting on the edge of his bed and scooping him into my arms like a baby. He collapses onto me, and falls instantly quiet. Clearly he is as exhausted as we are. I rock him back and forth for a few moments. He then allows me to lie him down and tuck him in. I am so relieved that I am going to get more sleep this night.

As I leave the room he tells me: “The problem was, my feet were cold.”

feet


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Parenting: Accepting Mistakes

fallen toy
We must be willing to accept mistakes from our children. They need to try things, and they are going to fail sometimes. They will spill, they will break, they will stumble, they will forget. If we expect them to always get it right, to never make a mess or an error, than we are asking more of them than we ourselves are capable of.

As parents we try to teach our children how to be safe. We also pass on intelligence and guidance.
It is not safe to jump down the stairs.” “You need to carry the cup with both hands.” You need to listen to your body so you know when to go to the bathroom.” We say these things and they still fall, drop, forget. They will mess up. They are kids. Yet it is so hard for us to remember that at times. We wonder why our child is misbehaving in spite of what we think they should know by now. Frustration builds, and it seems we are speaking to them in vain.

As a Mom, I am working on practicing mindfulness in the face of Simon’s errors. Sometimes he needs a consequence for his actions, but sometimes he just needs to know that I will love him no matter what. A hug and a conversation about what happened and why, can be miles more effective than being sent to his room. If I am always scolding, always impatient, and always punitive, I will actually hinder his ability to learn and mature.  He will feel punished all the time, and it will begin to lose meaning. I will feel discouraged and tired, and lose my temper. No one benefits.

This afternoon, I asked Simon to feed the cats. This is one of the chores he helps with. I reminded him that the bag was full, and not to let it tip over and spill. Well, no sooner had I said that, than he did let it tip over, and cat food rolled out, all over the kitchen floor. I could have raised my voice and spoken to him with exasperation. I could have just taken over for him, scooted him out of the way, and allowed myself to become upset. Instead I stood the bag upright, allowed him to finish, and then plugged in the vacuum cleaner and handed him the hose. I didn’t say “I told you” like I wanted to. Instead, I gave him the opportunity to fix his mistake.

The next time your child asks a question that you have already answered for the third time that day, or spills their milk on the floor because they were not being careful, try to breathe and remember that we adults do these things too. Boundaries are important, but so is patience and forgiveness in the face of being human. Children have had less practice at life than we have, and need to keep testing their world to see what works.  Some days they will “fail” over and over and over again. But that is ok, even though it might not feel like it. They are learning, and we can help them.

Our children look to us for leadership. What kind of leaders do we want to be?


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Preschool Lunch

Simon now stays at his preschool two hours longer than before, and is part of what they call “Lunch Bunch”. He absolutely loves having the extra time to play and learn, and having lunch with his friends.

As for me, I find it so strange to be packing a school lunch for my three-year-old. It feels like he is still a baby in many ways, and school lunches seem like a big kid thing. The difference in time is only two hours, and yet I found myself teary-eyed all over again the first day he stayed longer. He is growing up fast!

I am also trying to have a little fun packing his lunches, and have decided to share them here with you. These are the first three preschool lunches that I have made for Simon.

preschool lunch 1Raisin mini-bagel with cream cheese on the side and a little spreader, crunchy carrots and green peppers, and some yogurt-covered raisins.

preschool lunch 2Cheese pizza pinwheel (what we had for dinner the night before), applesauce, and banana chips.

preschool lunch 3Butterfly made from two halves of a waffle, part of a banana, two pretzels, and raisins for eyes. Peanut butter on the side with a spreader for the waffle, and some dried cranberries.

Sometimes he is so busy chatting at lunch that he doesn’t finish, in which case he will eat the rest for his snack when we get home. Right now my biggest challenge has been making sure that he gets protein. His school has a no meat policy, because it is located in a synagogue center, so I will be relying on other foods for his protein source, which is just as well since he isn’t a big meat-eater anyway. He loved his butterfly lunch today, and I am looking forward to finding more ways to get him excited about what I pack, and to make it enticing.


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Side By Side

art time together
art time together5
art time together4
art time together2
art time together3
Last night I did some drawing in my sketchbook while relaxing on the couch. I forgot to put my art supplies away when I finished, and this morning, Simon noticed the bin of drawing supplies sitting on our current makeshift coffee table, and asked: “Mumma, what are these?”. I told him they were art supplies and he asked “Can I use them?” “Sure!” I said, and went to get a large pad of newsprint.

We spread out paper and supplies out on the table, and worked side-by side. Simon was mostly interested in experimenting with charcoal and a rubber eraser, two things that he hasn’t used before. I sketched while he experimented with the feel of new materials, and I made it a point to let him experience the trial and error of attempting to erase various drawing mediums.

Since moving, our routine has been really off. The house is still a major work-in-progress, and I have a harder time finding my way through our routine as I adjust to our new surroundings. However, this reminded me of our frequent morning art time, and I hadn’t realized how much I had been missing it!

I love working side-by-side with my little one, being creative together as our first act after breakfast.


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34+35/52

painting nails
pedicure“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2013.”

Simon: Giving himself a manicure with watercolors//Getting a pedicure from Daddy

A couple of weeks ago, as I was painting my toenails pink, Simon came into the bathroom to see what I was doing. He stuck out his adorable little feet and asked: “Will you paint my toes too?”said “of course!” and asked him to pick out a color. (He is always very interested in my nailpolish and makeup, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he wanted to try some.)

He picked out a bright turquoise (or “TORquoise” as he says it), and sat very still (mostly) while I painted his toes. Of course, being a kid, he immediately ran outside barefoot and dragged his feet through the sand, so his toenails became an interesting texture, with dirt around the edges. But the point was that he was happy with his self-expression. He loves to wear costumes, and jewelry, and temporary tattoos. He is a bold kid and he loves to experiment with different combinations.

Since that first pedi, he has since asked for more polish. We have okayed more pedicures, but are currently vetoing fingernail polish until I can buy some of the non-toxic kind. Just because he still sticks his hands in his mouth once in a while, and I want to minimize the chemicals I put near his little body. He has found a way around this though, by painting his own nails with watercolor paint.

Do your kids want you to paint their nails? What do you do about removing the polish?

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Caps and Mirrors

caps and mirrors 2
caps and mirrors 3
caps and mirrors 1
In preparation for the big move, I have been going through boxes and shelves of stuff, deciding what to toss, what to donate, and what to keep. I am determined not to bring extra clutter with us. As I sifted through a big tote full of decorations from our wedding 6 years ago, I came across some small, round mirrors, which had been used in our table centerpieces. I believe we had purchased them at the Dollar Store. These mirrors, along with some glass pebbles, were set aside for Simon to use in play and art activities. The rest of the decorations were donated to Goodwill or the Library where I work.

Today, I set out some mirrors, and Simon’s bin of recycled caps. I left these out for him as an invitation to play, and when he saw, he was excited. He played for a while, stacking towers of the caps on the mirrors, which reflected and looked as though they were “stacking” down into the floor too. He also brought some of his small toys out to place on the mirrors. Then, he picked the mirrors up and used them to look all around the room, exclaiming: “I can see the clock!”, and “Look, Mumma! I can see the room in there!”

I am really glad I re-discovered these mirrors. They will definitely be coming out often to add a new dimension to play.

**Note: Simon was given several warnings about the break-ability of mirrors, and told to handle them gently. He was very good about it. **

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