Recycled Halloween Decorations

I will be the first to admit that not only am I absolutely awful at doing arts and crafts with my kids (I have a rare inability to draw a recognizable stick figure), but I hate it too (the mess!  the drama! the stickiness!).

However, I am a big sucker for the fall holidays.  I love Halloween.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love that you (not me, but you) can draw a turkey with nothing more clever than two hands.  I’m also a big fan of reusing stuff that we buy, because it teaches my kids values and responsibility and junk like that.  (Also, it’s cheaper.)

So I have taken it upon myself to have my kids help me make decorations.

For our spiders below (which are soon to decorate our doorway), we took an egg carton, cut it up and painted the body and faces, added some pipe cleaner for antenna–which I kept calling antlers, much to Oliver’s dismay–and legs.  I used a meat thermometer to punch the holes into the cardboard to put the pipe cleaners through, as well as to make holes to tie some twine to.

Oliver was able to do most of the work himself–he put the pipe cleaner in and drew the face on his (the green one).  Hazel didn’t particularly want to try, so she just chose the colors for the things that she wanted, and I helped her put it together.

Super Scary

My kids manage to come up with new and improved ways to scare the hell out of me.

Hazel decided this afternoon that she wasn’t going to nap.  We tucked her in, closed her door, and she kicked and yelled.  Twice she got out of bed, and Kullervo carried her back.  Finally, she got quiet, and we settled in to watch something on TV.

When the show was over, I headed back upstairs, and when I got to the top of the stairs, I heard a little voice saying, “Save me!  Mommy, Daddy!  Save me!”

I laughed to myself-Hazel apparently wasn’t sleeping!  I started to head towards her room when I realized that the sound was actually coming from closer to the front door.

I peeked out the window and I saw Hazel, standing on our front steps, locked out of the apartment.  While we were downstairs, she had sneaked out of her room (really quietly–we had a baby monitor on!), and opened the front door.  Our door has one of those locks on it that lets you open it from the inside, but will lock if you’re outside.  And Hazel was locked out.

After I made sure she was okay (and brought her inside, obviously), we took a trip to the hardware store to get additional locks to install high above where the kids can reach.

And I would just like to say for the record how incredibly glad I am that nothing happened to her.  Nobody took her, she didn’t fall down the stairs.  She didn’t even seem that upset about it (perhaps unfortunately).

Hands

A lot of people that I know love baby feet.  And what’s not to love?  They’re small, squishy, and don’t have all the ugly callouses from, you know, walking that the rest of us do.  They make adorable footprints and have little chubby toes that might just make delicious snacks for the cannibal-minded.

Now, I have nothing against baby feet.  I think they’re cute.  But they are not my baby-nip of choice.  For me, there is something magical about hands.

A baby’s hands are so expressive.  When Oliver was a baby, I used to just watch him open and close his little fists.  They communicate needs–through gripping so tightly that they can actually carry their own body weight, they communicate feelings–when Hazel gets mad she balls up her hands as a way of expressing her rage.

These days, though, I still fall in love with my kids by watching and experiencing what they do with their hands.  Watching Oliver’s little boy fingers, with nails too long because he won’t let me cut them, and chipped green nail polish from the last time we all had to paint our nails our favorite colors, watching him grip a pencil as he furrows his brow and concentrates on putting pencil to paper and practices writing–I fall in love.  I love that this is my little kid, and he’s getting old enough to be able to write and to be able to do, and to be excited to learn. And I love that he thinks that writing is fun, because it’s something that is inherent to who I am.

Today, we were walking home from somewhere or other, and Oliver was riding in the stroller and Hazel was walking.  I have a hard and fast rule that across the major streets, Hazel has to hold my hand (not just the stroller), because she’s a fickle pickle and will just run off if something strikes her fancy.  And obviously that’s not okay in the middle of the road.

As we got closer to the main intersection we had to cross, Hazel reached her hand out to me and wrapped her fingers up in mine.  Her soft skin was warm, and I could feel each of her little fingers inside of mine.  She gave me her hand to hold willingly, because she trusts me.  She has faith that I will keep her safe.  And it made me so glad to be her mommy, and want to remember that moment forever.

To add to that, tonight when I tucked Hazel in, she reached her arms up and encircled my neck and pulled my face close to hers.  She tangled her fingers up in my hair and said, “I love you forever.”

I love those kids so much that it makes me cry when I think about it too hard.  I have to break it down into more manageable bits–like individual body parts–to even think about communicating those feelings into anything other than a blubbery mess on paper-mache.  And so I can’t wait to see where life takes these two little humans I get to have in my life, and to watch their hands grow and develop and help form them into whatever they become.

Oliver’s Story

Earlier today, Oliver and I were chatting about babies.  I think we’d seen one on TV and Oliver thought it was cute.  Anyway, he then proceeded to tell me the following story:

“So, one time I [Note that this is Oliver talking, not me] had a baby in my tummy.  And it was born, and it was a girl, and she was so cute.   Like, so, so cute.  She was cuter than you were when you were a baby.  I named her Katy.  And I loved her so much.  And then she disappeared.

“But it was okay, because then I had another baby in my tummy.  And I loved her so so much, and she was born.  And I named her after you, Mommy.  She was so cute.  I just loved her.

“She had to go out to discover the world.  So I had to go with her, of course, because she was just a baby.  So I packed my backpack with all of the stuff we’d need.  Like, I packed a lot of corn, so we’d have food.  And other stuff too.  I loved my baby.”

Anger

I never learned appropriate methods of dealing with anger.  I have spent my life bottling it up until I can’t take it anymore, and then lashing out with the fury of five scorned women.  I realize that’s what I do, and I don’t like it, and I am continually searching for better ways to deal with anger. Especially in my relationship with my ever-patient Kullervo, I try on new tactics for better (taking a break to cool down and get perspective) or for worse (calling him names* and being bitterly sarcastic).

I want to do better for my kids.  I am sure that there are good strategies out there for dealing with anger, and I want to teach my kids appropriate mechanisms. Oliver has gotten to an age where he is testing boundaries and trying to assert his independence.  This results in a lot of anger, which, in my opinion at least, is totally normal and a good time to teach him good ways to deal with those feelings.  The big problem with this awesome parenting that I’m going to be doing is… I have no idea what to tell him.

I decided to get some advice.  The first person I turned to was my mother.  Sure, I don’t have good strategies for dealing with anger, but I was a stubborn child and maybe I just never learned them.  I mentioned that Oliver has started getting angry a lot about stuff, and her response was that he doesn’t get anger from our side of the family, because we aren’t angry people.

And I’ve looked in magazines and online, and it seems like nobody is talking about how to help your kids deal with anger.  I know what I’m supposed to do when my kid throws a tantrum.  I’ve read about things to do to help prevent tantrums.

Maybe nobody knows.  I mean, anger is pretty darned powerful, and nobody seems to want to admit to having it.  And it’s all well and good to prevent anger as much as possible, but the fact is, we all get angry.  Multiple times a day, even!

The things that I do now with Oliver include the following:

1. We talk about how he’s feeling, and put a name on the feeling.  (Anger, frustration, fear, feeling overwhelmed, etc)

2.  We talk about what NOT to do–we don’t hurt ourselves or other people, and we shouldn’t break anyone’s stuff, including our own, because we’ll regret it later.

3.  We talk about what to do next time.

The problem is, when I get to number 3, I wind up telling him to do things that are unrealistic when he’s angry.  I mean, how likely is it that anyone who is really mad is going to have the presence of mind to stop and ask for a pillow to punch?  Seriously.

So, I’m on a quest to find good ways to deal with anger.  We talk about talking it out and using words and stuff, but when you’re mad, you still have all these feelings and you feel like you need to lash out.  What do you do with all that energy?

Someone help me!

*In my defense, sometimes I call people funny names when I’m mad and it deflates the whole situation.  However, this is unusual.

Teach Me! Teach Me!

One of the best surprises about our new place is that it turns out that we live in the district for what is considered by many to be Chicago’s best public elementary school. They also have a preschool, and give preference to kids in the neighborhood (us!). Which is great news.

The bad news is that they didn’t have any openings for the current year, and we don’t know (and won’t know for a couple of months) about next year. It’s possible that Oliver won’t be going to preschool at all, and it is definite that I need to get in gear and get applications in at some other places if I want him to go next year, just in case this school doesn’t work out.

Going hand-in-hand with this, Oliver has begun refusing to take naps. This is incredibly frustrating for me, because naptime has always been me-time. Both kids are really demanding of me–they aren’t content to be in the same room with me, they want to be sitting on me, climbing on me, playing with me, etc. So from morning til night, I don’t get a break, either mental or physical. So, after spending a few days being frustrated with Oliver’s naplessness, I decided to be all Serenity-Prayerful about it, and accept the things that I cannot change.

Which means that while Hazel naps and Oliver doesn’t, I spend some time with him one-on-one doing preschool activities. And he loves it. I’m no teacher, and I think I might actually be quite terrible at what I’m doing, but he comes with a lot of raw potential (i.e. he’s kind of brilliant), which helps. I’ve been printing out alphabet and numeral handwriting sheets and really simple word searches, and we’ve been taking them a letter and a number at a time, tracing them and practicing writing them. He really enjoys it (we only spend 15-30 minutes every day, depending on how excited he is about it, and I try not to push him too hard on any of it). And during preschool time, he insists on calling me Teacher.

Oliver has had a good grasp of numbers for awhile, and even surprises me sometimes with his basic math skills. Last week, I was making lunch for him and Hazel, and had put five chicken fingers into the microwave to heat up. Oliver asked how many I was heating up, and I told him that I had made three for him and two for Hazel. And he said, “Oh, so you’re making five?” It blew my mind a little. In a good way. 🙂

Along with getting comfortable with writing the numbers and what the numbers mean, I was curious about whether he could actually recognize numbers when he saw them, and put it together with what they represent. So I decided to try making some matching games on his chalkboard, drawing goldfish crackers and having him match the number of crackers to the number. As you can see, he did a great job. Also, I am terrible and drawing.

Movie (Snuggle) Time!

The kids love the movie Cars. We had a busy morning of playing outside in the really, really cold (I was hoping to freeze Oliver into a nap, unsuccessfully), and this afternoon I had promised Hazel that we could watch a movie. It’s really hard to say no when she asks to “wotch a mooooooovie”.

I put on the movie, hoping that I’d be able to get some unpacking and organizing done, but Hazel said she wanted me to sit on the couch with her. I figured her attention span wouldn’t last too long, so I would sit with her for a couple of minutes and then when she got up to wander around, I’d get up and get to work.

But she just melted into me. She put her arms around me, lay her head on my chest, and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

So I watched her beautiful face while she watched Lightning McQueen, noticing her nearly-translucent skin, the way the light from the TV reflected in her eyes, how her face shape is so similar to Oliver’s, and just enjoyed the feel of my incredible daughter snuggled up with me to watch a movie. And I hoped it would never end, because one day she’s going to grow up, and I don’t know that I’m ever going to be ready for that to happen.