Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Thoreau Didn't Know Wednesday

It's WEDNESDAY! You get to read my droning on about my awesome kids.

It's happened. The New Guy has been taking his first steps, officially. Until this week, I have been considering any steps (only 1 or 2 at a time) mostly flukes, but this week, he's gotten as many as seven in a row, AND he is starting to catch his balance on his own when he loses it, instead of just falling on his bum. This kid will be fully walking on his own by Christmas, methinks. He is hysterical too--the number one reason he does end up falling is because he gets far more excited than his little body can contain. This kids just explodes with joy every minute.

Big Sis is lately very particular about the song I sing her at night. Usually, she has a whole laundry list of songs she begs for before bed, but recently, she asks only for "Lullaby" again and again. It's actually an old song I sang in a choir, with the lyrics pulled from a William Blake poem called "Augeries of Innocence" (Dr. Dransfield, be proud!). It's actually kind of nice to know that she loves the song as much as I do, though it has confounded her father a bit, now that she is only asking for the obscure "New Lullaby" when he tucks her in.

Man, I love these kids! Seriously, don't know what you missed.

Feel free to share the "inexplicable joy" your own children or family brings to you. I'd love to hear all about it. :)

And hey, if I get too caught up to post, have one fantastic Thanksgiving Day! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Things do not change. We change."

Soooo....the problem with kids' toys these days is how incredibly useless so many of them are. I admit I fell prey to a lot of lame toys with my daughter, seeing as she was the first and I didn't really have much experience knowing how kids play, and at what ages. With my second, to be frank, he has many fewer toys--basically just hand-me-downs from his sister, and only the ones that were any good at that.

Now that I have a little more mommy-savvy under my belt, it is becoming increasingly easy to recognize DUMB toys when I see them. Most often, these are toys that a) eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the need for imagination; b) eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the need for physical activity; c)have lots of parts, but no purpose; or d) try to make a perfectly good, toy-free game into something new (usually by employing any or all of the aforementioned methods. 

Case in point (Disney...I really am a fan, please don't sue me...):
The Mickey Mouse-ke-TAG system, as seen here. It's a game--of tag (see note D). Only instead of using friends, or your imagination (see note A) to invent endless versions of the game, one lonely child is told by Goofy which toy piece (see note C) he ought to "tag."

I really don't get this...why can't I just yell, "TAG! You're it!" or "Definitely do NOT chase me!" before I take off running away from my toddler?

Here's another recent "invention" that has popped up recently: talking everything. Like this Dora Talking Kitchen. Why does a kitchen have to talk? Isn't the whole point of pretend play for kids to get lost in their imaginations? To be in a pretend world, which they alone construct? To problem solve and think, not be told what to do or have sounds made for them? My daughter, as lame as it is, has a "kitchen" that is made out of an old shoe rack with a stove drawn on top, and an old toy box turned on its end for the fridge. Many a delicious gourmet meal has been cooked for me in that kitchen. And while we are getting her a wooden play kitchen that is slightly more realistic than her shoe rack for Christmas, it will certainly not talk for her. In fact, it won't even hiss, beep, count, or ding.

Actually, as I wander through the aisles of my favorite stores of late, I have noticed a LOT of this. And I have been wondering, is it the world that is getting more obvious with the bombardment of useless consumer items, or am I the one who is changing? Is it just the fact that I am becoming more aware of my purchases, my home, my children, my world that is causing me to notice these things?

So parents...please avoid useless toys this Black Friday! Don't bring them home. Stop, think. CHANGE!

And, just for fun (and as a helpful hint too!) please, please tell me what useless toys you know of. It would be a great way to start the shopping season to avoid these things! (Or alternately, if you know of an amazing toy, post that too!)

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 23, 2009

"If you give money, spend yourself with it..."

Oh. The holidays.

I should say that I LOVE the holidays. I love the purpose, the traditions, the spirit of it all. But like many Americans, I sometimes fall prey to the trappings of consumerism so neatly laid out for me.

As a kid, our holidays were the usual display of gross excesses.

So. much. STUFF.

As an adult, I am trying to eliminate that, to build my children's memories on activities and traditions, not stuff. Last year, my husband and I signed the handmade pledge. It was really amazing. Everything we gave to our children, friends or family was made by us, or bought from an artisan. I was completely and utterly surprised at how many beautiful, thoughtful and unique gifts we were able to give! It was the perfect system shock that we needed to help us remember what Christmas is REALLY about.

I figure as we get older, and our kids get older, the handmade pledge will be harder and harder to carry out. After all, I have a limited amount of talent at craftiness, and as much as I love, it isn't long before you start to cross over into the land of the creepy craft over there. So, our compromise was to incorporate the handmade pledge into every Christmas.

We've decided, that in order to keep the consumerism to a minimum (and our gift buying careful and thoughtful), we would limit gifts to the kids to three each, to represent the three gifts brought by the wisemen to the baby Jesus. AND that one of those three gifts would be handmade. I am currently working on blankets for the kids....I was hoping to have them finished by this Christmas...maybe by the time they graduate high school will be a little more reasonable.  At any rate, we WILL be doing handmade for at least one of our kids three gifts. And honestly, if you haven't tried the handmade pledge, go for it! It's awesome and inspiring!

More on Christmas (and toys!) in a few days...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Thoreau Didn't Know Wednesday

Today is Wednesday! The day I get to brag shamelessly about the one thing Thoreau didn't share much wisdom about--our children! Feel free to share too!

Let's see...this week in the world of my crazy kids...
The New Guy is trying to walk! Two steps at a time, and then he becomes so excited that he can't stand up any longer. He is such a crack up. It is entirely impossible to explain how incredibly happy this child is. He has this way of smiling with his mouth open so enormously wide. I really think it is because he just can't smile as wide as he is happy, and to look at him just fills you with joy right down to your toes.

The kid is also completely crazy about his Daddy. Every afternoon, when the hubs gets home from work, this little man starts hopping up and down, giggling, and smiling that uncontrollable grin. I know it makes Daddy feel awfully good about himself.

Big Sis has been cracking me up with her pretend play. Here's a great example from an episode this week:
Sis, calling from the table: Mommy, you want da hamburger?
Me: thank you!
Sis: Yeah! You want um hamburger!
Me: Oh, okay. I'll take a hamburger.
Sounds of rustling and clunking in the kitchen.
Sis: You want some sauce wit dat?
Me: Oh, yes please.
Sis: Oh! You fork!
She comes running over with a plastic bag. Inside the bag is a fork, napkin, orange, and bottle of maple syrup.
Sis: Here you hamburger.
Me: Wow! Thank you! Looks delicious!
Sis: have nice day. You drive away now!
I pretend to drive away, while she slowly backs up out of the room, saying, "You have nice day!"

She cracks me up. And the whole "You want some sauce wit dat?" just makes me realize we eat too many chicken nuggets around here!

Have an awesome week and share your stories with me!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"The world is but a canvas to our imagination."

My daughter has a LOT of toys. A lot. A whole heaping mess of toys.

She doesn't play with them.

One thing I have noticed in the weeks away from home is how few of her toys she is actually all that interested in. At home, she would dig through her toy boxes aimlessly, trying to sort out the mess. Here, she mostly spends her time outside, or when she is indoors, in pretend play. One Little People set, a few stuffed animals, and some of her little brother's clothing serve to keep her quite busy most of the day. The one thing I know she misses is her kitchen stuff--play food and tea set and pots and pans. Sometimes she tells me she needs to go home and get it. I know there is a good chance it will get lost here, just like it always seemed to be lost in the tangled mess in our home, so I am leaving it tucked away until we finish clearing out all the stuff she doesn't miss. But aside from her pretend food, she doesn't care one bit about what has been left behind.
She plays all. day. long. She stays busy doing a million different things, and most of those things don't require games or toys at all.

It makes me wonder when I stopped giving her the chance to just explore. I wonder when the toys became overwhelming for her. I can clearly picture her, sitting in her toy room, looking perplexed. I used to think she was bored with the toys she had, thought maybe I ought to get her some more. It turns out, I think she was actually just perplexed about what to do with all that STUFF. Sounds familiar, no?

It makes me wonder when my own imagination died. If I wrack my brain, I can only think, at best, of two or three toys that I played with as a kid, and those two or three were toys I really loved. The rest of my childhood is full of pretend games, active games, forts, reading, drawing, creating. I wonder when I decided that I needed stuff to fill my time and attention, when flashing lights and whirling gizmos took the place of a good old book, an invisible tea party, or just making something with my hands.

And I wonder how on earth did this world actually manage to get me to start passing that on to my kids? I'm so grateful that every day is a new one.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"There are such words as joy and sorrow."

I have beautiful children. Really, I know all moms say that, but I can't help it. They're beautiful. They are the joy of my heart and the light to my day.

(I told you...beautiful!)

When my daughter, now 2 and almost a half, was born, I remember sitting for hours, just staring at each other. Day after day was filled with this most mundane, but delightful of activities. Many times while we sat and stared at each other, I would take picture after picture of her many expressions. I have picture and video of everything she did from the beginning--oodles of digital and real space brimming over with photo-documentaries of my first born.

Then along came the New Guy. I always promised myself that I wouldn't ever let my child suffer from "Second Child Syndrome"--that curious lack of photographs of the second child. Obviously, I would love them both equally and each moment would be as important to me with him as with my daughter. We did great at the hospital--got lots of photos of him, even more than we had of my daughter. And for the first couple of months, we did pretty well too. We sat and stared at each other (when big sister would let us). I worked on catching his first smiles. But things are busier when you have a toddler as well as a newborn...and then the clutter began to take over again.

I had a serious nesting phase before each of my children were born, and with my second, I eliminated a lot of clutter and STUFF before he came because I felt like we definitely needed to "make room" for the new addition. However, just a few months after he was born, the house started to fill again, and I, caught up in this new world of two children, was letting things slide. I found myself doing something that I now think of as unforgivable...something I only just realized I had been doing. I was skipping over memories because I was too ashamed of the STUFF.

As I look through the photos I have of my children, I realize that my son does indeed suffer from Second Child Syndrome. There are very few photos of him, at least in comparison to his older sister. I used to think that it had more to do with how busy I was, or the fact that I didn't notice the milestones as much with him, since she had already been through them.  As I look back, though, I realize that isn't the case. I also started to notice a sharp decline in the number of recent pictures of my daughter. I can look back and think of all the times--many times, too many times--that one of my children in the past few months has done something adorable, or picked up a funny habit, or hit a new milestone, and instead of grabbing the camera to record it, I have thought to myself, "Ugh...this house is too big a mess. I'll get a video of this once I get it cleaned up." It turns out, I just let a lot of precious memories slide. The piles of books stayed piled up, the too-much furniture stayed in the house, the baskets designed to organize just filled with more STUFF.

All these things I bought, I see now, out of pride. Magazines, television, they told me I needed things to be a better person--to look better to those around me. Unfortunately, all those things did was make me ashamed of my own home, of my gross excesses, of my inability to reign it in. Now I've sold and tossed and donated most of the stuff that was once in my home...and the only things I want back are the memories of my children that I let slip away in exchange for all the garbage around me.

Sorrow for lost joy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Thoreau Didn't Know Wednesday

On Wednesdays, I like to take a little time to focus on something Thoreau didn't know, and babble on about the best thing in the world--my kids! Join in if you like! (about your own kids, of course...though I won't hold it against you if you say sweet things about mine, either!)

It turns out that my kids are FINALLY starting to like each other. (Ok, okay...the little man has been enamored of his sister pretty much since the beginning...but our eldest has not always been as impressed with her little brother. )
Here is a picture from when the new guy was just a few weeks's pretty representative of their relationship thus far:

But today, they were like best friends. They were playing and giggling at the bank, she was nicely trading him for toys (instead of screaming bloody murder at the sight of him with one of her "people"), and at bed time, oh, the sweet sight of them hugging and kissing. Of course, this final interaction did end up with him not wanting to let go, and her turning to us with a look of sheer panic and yelling "I need to run away!" before doing just that...but hey...progress is progress, and I ain't gonna knock it. One of these days, maybe the love will last long enough to get a picture of the two of them in the same frame. A picture that doesn't look like the one above.

The New Guy has also been a crack up the last couple of days. He's just coming out of a battle with getting in his first two teeth, and hasn't quite decided whether or not to cut down to three naps, so it is nice to have his personality back this week. The best thing about my son is that he thinks EVERYthing is hilarious. The child is deliriously happy. He is also exceptionally busy and has learned how to pass over the open baby gate rather stealthily. So this week has been full of a hysterical game of sneaking away from mommy. He laughs like a madman every time I come around the corner after he has snuck through the gate, and I can't help but laugh with him.

One of my favorite things about staying with my parents the last couple weeks, is listening to my dad and my two year old.  He's retired now, and so he is home all day. She never tires, and can be rather mentally exhausting. (The adjective most often used to describe the child is "busy", and that barely seems to cut it some days.) However, he is so funny with her, showing her pictures of animals on the computer, making her a sandwich, pushing her on the swings, helping put her pajamas on her animals. The best part is the conversations. She'll talk on and on about the dog, her brother, daddy at work, a playdate with her cousin, and while I am pretty good at interpretting, he has a hard time understanding her sometimes, but all the while, "Ah"s and "oh"s and "uh-huh"s her endless conversation. They are becoming best buddies, and I love it.

Hey. Have a terrific day! :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Before we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects..."

"...the walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped, and beautiful housekeeping and beautiful living laid for a foundation."

A fascinating thing has begun to occur since I have been out of my home. It is becoming beautiful again.

In the last several months, my husband and I have started to loathe our home. We talk about how small it is, how much we have outgrown it, the lack of storage space, the amount of STUFF in it; we have even (entirely in jest, I assure you) discussed burning it to the ground in various manners.  For a while, I really thought it was the house, that it really was too small. But as time has passed and I grew closer and closer to the pinnacle of frustration that set me off, I realized it is not so much the house, but all the stuff in it that I was hating. It is not unreasonable for a family of four to manage living in a two bedroom home. People do it all over the world. Indeed, in some places the amount of space we have would be down right luxurious. The fault lay not in our home, but in us.

I'm back to our home pretty much daily, sorting through things, packing, grabbing an item here and there. And when I enter lately, I am sometimes simultaneously pleased and saddened to note that we really do own a sweet and lovely little home. Without all the clutter and chaos, it suddenly takes on the look I fell in love with in the beginning. It is well laid out, feels larger than its size, and has a certain charm to it that is coming out of hiding. In fact, the hubby and I were sitting in the living room today, after spending a couple of hours boxing things and vaccuming (just for your is unwise to purchase a home with black carpet when you have two light-haired pugs who shed prolifically...), and we looked around, and I felt peaceful--really peaceful--in my home, now devoid of an incredible amount of STUFF, as well as much of the furniture. Who knew? Here I was, all this time thinking that I needed more space, more storage solutions, a professional organizer, when all I really needed was to take a deep breath and let go...and I don't even have to burn down my cute little house to do it. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Thoreau Didn't Know

I like bragging on my kids. I mean, they are seriously cute, a tiny bit naughty (just enough to make me have to turn my back and laugh a lot), and incredibly goofy--so who wouldn't want to brag on them? For that reason, I've designated Wednesdays as a day to celebrate what Thoreau didn't know. H.D. never had kids (or a spouse of his own), so if you like (seriously, if anyone even reads this! :P ) take a second to add or link to your own moments of joy caused by your children--tell me about what Thoreau didn't know.

My 2 year old daughter is so excited about cowboys this week. She's been trying to ride the dogs and her stuffed animals and has been saying "Ride 'em cowgirl!" I think she must have forgotten overnight about the word "cowgirl" because she spent a considerable amount of time today telling me, "Mommy, I a sister cow!" It took me a long time to figure out where that was going, so I asked her if she was a cowgirl, to which she replied, "Ohhh...yeeeaaahhh. I a COWGIRL!"

HALLOWEEN! October 31st is pretty much our favorite day of the year.  My little princess was Little Red Riding Hood (in a homemade costume which I am oh-so-proud-of, that cost about $3.00), and my little monster was, well, a little monster (a hand-me-down courtesy of an older cousin)! Both of those costumes are a big deal to me, because I am the type that would love to run out and spend a fortune on a ridiculously large and expensive costume that would be worn once. But not this year!

Here's a couple photos for your viewing pleasure (not the most flattering of me, but hey, the kid is cute!)


 The last little thing I want to mention is a conversation my daughter and I had the today. We were stopping by our townhouse to pick up something (b/c we have been crashing with my parents a few days while we sort through everything), and it's been looking a lot better. When we walked in, she took a deep breath and said, "Oh mommy! You clean it? You clean my house?" I told her yes, that Mommy and Daddy had been cleaning things up. To this she replied, "Oh, I love it! I love you! Is so nice our house!" Granted, there is still a pile a massive pile of stuff on the couch and boxes laying around, but I was really struck by how happy she was about it. It really hit a nerve, as I have been working on a post for a while now about whether I had been hurting my kids by having a cluttered home. Here is this precious little two year old--an excellent mess maker and collector of fine, shiny things herself, expressing such tremendous joy at having a home free from STUFF. Thoreau might have thought that a family would tie him down, but mine is giving me the push I need to keep moving forward.

Please feel free to leave a comment or link to your own blog/twitter/facebook!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?"

I love--LOVE--this Thoreau-ism. 

One of the things that upsets me most about how things are right now for us--the overwhelming amount of clutter in our home, the lack of peace I feel because of the chaos around us--is that it isn't what I wanted. It has never been what I wanted. I have always wanted a clean home, a simple home, a sanctuary from the outside world. Instead, my home is a reminder of the fast-paced world drenched in consumerism. It is filled with stuff, most of which I don't even care about, much less need. I feel like the busy Concordians Thoreau observed--I have been possessed my some demon, and it has caused me to behave well according to the ways of the world.

It's interesting to me, really, that someone like me, who by many standards lives a pretty virtuous life, has bought in, so whole-heartedly, to a system of ideals that is very far from the religion which I love. Search the doctrine of Mormonism, or Christianity at large, and there is nothing instructing us to seek to obtain more or fill the emptiness we feel with items. Quite the contrary, we should be laying up treasures in heaven and seeking to place Christ at the center of our homes and hearts. Shamefully, there have been times when I have received bad news, or had a rough day, I have turned to "retail therapy" or internet window shopping, rather than turning to the Lord to seek counsel and peace. I have been following the advice of the world; I obeyed when the world told me I needed more, or needed something new, or needed something better than what someone else had.

I'm discouraged today. We went through our home this past weekend and really pulled out so. much. STUFF. We had another massive garage sale. We sorted things into piles of keep, sell, donate, trash. We hauled a truckload to a drop-off donation. And there is still so much left. There are mountains of STUFF in my home. I don't know how I got here...

I am ashamed that I wasted time in a job I didn't love, money on things I didn't need, and energy on thoughts that failed to give me comfort, all because I was possessed by this demon called "consumerism."