Books are big in our home. We received a nicely-sized infusion with Sophia’s recent birthday. Moreover, in addition to the classics, we’re received some great examples about technology, coding, and women who’ve made a lasting impact. These books, in addition to being educational and entertaining, help demonstrate for our children that standing up for yourself and your beliefs is important. Get these today and share them with your sons and daughters alike. Here are some of our new favorites.
Can I confess something to you? Some days I glance at the clock and its 3pm, and I look around my office noticing my long to-do list staring at me and picture the goings on at home. I have yet to get there, of course, and some days I have already been to work twice once after dropping off Sophia at school and again after I picked her up at noon and delivered her back home.
Rewind four years ago when I would walk into my office anytime before 9:30 AM, spend my lunch hour (I actually had a full lunch hour back then) catching up with friends over salad and unsweetened iced tea and came home to cook dinner at leisure. I slept in whenever I wanted to on the weekends and it wasn’t unusual for Evan and me to spend the day watching movies, playing board games, going out or anything else that we decided to do … just on a whim. Date night used to occur on any evening and sometimes, on a beautiful fall or spring day, I would pick up a coffee and just walk around the city taking it all in. Those were life’s little luxuries.
These days, I am needed almost every hour of the day. Who else is going to pack Sophia’s snacks, pick out her outfit, put her hair into pony tails, serve fresh-made ricotta pancakes for breakfast, change diapers, wash clothes, build fortresses and princess castles out of blocks and keep little Eliza from climbing every surface of the house? That’s before and after work, too. I’ll be the first to admit that my life is quite un-luxurious these days.
While I, like most other mothers/parents, have certainly lost a lot of my freedoms to the demands of mothering young children, I still cling to a very tiny subset of luxuries. These are the moments that I hold on to dearly on the days when life’s a little too chaotic. These luxuries provide small flashes of sheer delight and in doing so recharge my human batteries.
Every day when the kids go to sleep, I reach the pitch dark kitchen, turn on one small light, exhale and wash up the kids sippy cups. I wipe the counters and plan what I will do with the next hour of my life. Often times, I will wash up some fruit, sit down in my bedroom, put my feet up and read the news while snacking on whatever is in season.
Every morning after I drop off Sophia at school, I call my mom, we talk and I share the latest/greatest on what the kids are up to. Not every evening, but many evenings, Evan will take the kids to the pier for an hour. As soon as they have left, I rush around packing snacks and cleaning up after dinner so that I have just a little bit of time to unwind. Then, I pour a glass of water and call a friend. We don’t connect with people anymore so I am changing that one call at a time.
These days, I am focusing more on little and less on luxury. I steal these moments unabashedly, fight for them, rationalize that the hour excursion which Evan takes the kids is good for them and absolutely necessary for me. That one hour will make me a better mom for the rest of the evening, the rest of the week. How? I am not sure. It simply does.
Motherhood is seasonal; it is always changing and at times, we find ourselves with many freedoms and at times with none at all. There were times when (especially when the kids were infants), I couldn’t leave them for two hours and there are times when I have left them for a day knowing full well that they’re fine and that I will be, too. Perhaps the best part of motherhood is learning to balance, to be selfless, to put other beings before yourself but not forgetting yourself either.
We have found that as kids get older, their activities and toys, thankfully, get more compact. While Eliza’s most favorite toys and activities are big and bulky, Sophia’s favorites can fit in a basket or two. She loves to craft and we keep a steady supply of crayons, markers, papers, stickers and the likes at home. She likes puzzles and can do the likes of these and has recently begun to play board games. We love the tea party game and also have a ladybug game that is great. Sophia is learning about taking turns, following directions, winning and, of course, loosing. This list is not all-inclusive but presents a good snapshot of a morning’s worth of activities for Sophia. I’ll likely create a separate list for her crafts.
*Images courtesy of Amazon and Community playthings.
A dear friend of mine from graduate school recently welcomed a beautiful baby boy. She and her husband live far away in sunny California and even though we would love to have frequent play dates, we make do with emails, texts and the occasion calls. She recently asked for advice on toys to keep her little guy (a few days shy of 6 months) occupied and I was only glad to share what worked for our girls. I put together a small list of toys that have been the best bang for our buck and are most effective at keeping kids occupied and grow with your child.
The list tries to balance what I would call old-school toys such as blocks and books with new-fangled, battery operated ones. We prefer toys that evolve their functionality as the child grows. For example, the stackable (item 5) blocks can first aid a child in learning how to pull nested blocks out which practices fine motor skills, then children can practice cause and effect by crashing built-up towers, moving to learning words and objects, and finally learning how to stack the blocks themselves. Have other suggestions? Add them in your comments.
A bit about parenting. As a parent, I sometimes feel like I am blindfolded, feeling my way around for a doorway in a sparsely outfitted, dark room. I just wish I could take my blindfold off and turn the lights on. Theodore Roosevelt was certainly right when he noted that, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty …”
One of my biggest surprises in parenthood is that no two kids are alike and there are very few textbook children. Most parents cannot open a Dr. Sears book and read about what a child should be doing at age X and see that their X-month old is doing just that. At first, I was in denial about this and thought that maybe I am at fault for Sophia’s horrid sleep or her dependence on her bottle well beyond the age of two. However, I quickly realized that children are all different and they, just like us adults, have their own personalities, needs and develop at a different pace. As such, it is simply unfair to expect your child to adhere to a set of guidelines that are outlined by experts who have never met you or your child.
Our own parenting style is also one where we are flexible and focus on Sophia’s needs and comfort, expanding great effort to avoid any undue stress or cognitive taxation on her. This style has precipitated, or perhaps the style itself was precipitated by, Sophia’s personality and needs. As a result, we are faced with a 28-month old who co-sleeps with us at least part of the night and
still drinks drank a bottle in the evening and in the early morning. That’s right, I am with this post, celebrating the end of my bottle prepping and washing days where Sophia is concerned.
How did we finally do it? Well, one day, we offered her milk out of a cup with a straw, a cookie to go with it and made the entire thing that much more appealing with her very favorite cartoon. We’ve not looked back since. There were no tears, no cold turkey, no spilled milk and no days without it. I could have followed the textbook that said that I just had to remove the bottle from Sophia at age one, but I know that would have meant tears, spilled milk, going cold turkey and bending Sophia’s will to mine or actually, the experts’ will. Why? Instead, we waited until she was ready and found the transition to be fairly easy.
This was a great lesson for me as a parent: I should, and always will, trust my gut when it comes to my child. I will not let society and its arbitrary norms dictate my child’s transitions and adjustments and rather, enjoy and embrace her needs first and foremost.
I hope this post does not impart an impression of some sort of a hippie parenting where we have an anything goes attitude. While lax on some things, we are incredibly strict and have expectations in others such raising a child who is a willing and agile traveler, a child who is willing to try new foods, new activities and experience and a child who above all is empathic.
It has been a while since I’ve talked about what Sophia is up-to now-a-days. Her activity, toy choices and even playmates change based on her interests which have grown over the past few months. My mother-in-law, who is a childhood education expert, tells me that I should expect to see an even bigger jump in play-skills, personality and interests in the coming 6 months. Since Sophia’s our first child and I am the youngest, I have no idea what to expect and find every day to be the equivalent of unwrapping a present.
Generally, I have seen a broadening of Sophia’s exploratory behavior and she has moved from solely tactual exploration to attempting to fit the object into her world and her play schemes. I see an increased attention span where arts and crafts are concerned with crayons and now finally, markers dominating her craft table activities. She always has in me, a willing companion for coloring. For whatever reason, I find the activity to be incredibly relaxing after a workday and always find myself asking her to color with me.
Sophia loves stickers, but not just any stickers, the squishy sticker puzzles are her absolute favorite. She got a set from Evan’s uncle, aunt and cousins and I have since purchased another one with a different theme.
An increase in attention span has translated in greater advances with unit blocks that my mother-in-law praised for the last 12 months. I was skeptical at first, but must admit, that unit blocks are pretty wonderful. Not only does Sophia enjoy playing with hers, but we enjoy them too. She has not yet fully transitioned to 3-D building but we are not in a rush. We build with her and sometimes for her, letting her explore the creations and more importantly topple/destroy them so that we can start over again.
She does well with non-connecting puzzles, but lacks the attention span and spatial reasoning skills necessary for connecting ones. This is something we’ll need to work on.
Lastly, there are of course legos and our joint appreciation of them. Evan and I love legos and could still occupy ourselves with them for hours. It turns out that Sophia has either inherited this trait from us, or perhaps legos are just universally loved. Either way, she loves building towers and arranging little lego people and flowers in her lego play schemes.
Current favorite books (all images courtesy of Amazon.com):
The most advanced best toys can sometimes be eclipsed by some good old kitchen fun. Two bowls, rice, orecchiette, some water and a measuring spoon is all you need for a toddler to occupy themselves for the better part of an hour.
Choices — we all like to have them and we feel deprived when we don’t. The same holds true for children as much as it is the case for adults. A few months ago, we had given some serious thought to the type of parents we were or were going to be and it have decided that we always have been and always will be free range parents. What I mean by that is we’re not keen on being helicopter parents and we are not keen on constant active play with Sophia. There are of course some exceptions like TV … whether or not preferred, it has crept into our daily lives and we are tolerating it — for now.
I am a basic believer that independence at an early age is a key to success in later life when your mom and dad aren’t always going to be there to help, entertain, or plan your life for you. As such, ensuring that Sophia is able to self occupy for a prolonged period of time and is essential. Self-paced exploration is key to self occupation and we try our best to allow her that basic freedom. Speaking of freedoms … sometimes you simply don’t have a choice. This is certainly true for kids… you have to eat or you have to brush your teeth and you have to do it now. I don’t believe in unnecessary tears, in forcing a child to do something they don’t want to do and am keen to quite frankly outsmart Sophia whenever I can. I noticed a few months ago that Sophia had started to take on a decidedly “No” attitude. It is entirely normal — she is just exercising her right to choose. Her choice matters and I would like her to always remember that… so we encourage her to choose but have steered her into a much more “Yes” attitude.
She always gets a choice and as the weeks go by, we try to introduce more freedom to her choice. Our “Yes” and “Choice” attitude shifts the emphasis on the action and more on the fact that it is her choice. For example, she gets to choose her clothes in the morning. She is sometimes not a fan of getting out of her pajamas (how many of us are?!), but she is much more willing when she gets to choose her clothes. Even then, she doesn’t get free reign of her closet, just a choice between a few shirts and shorts/pants. Even the smallest choices let her feel like she has a say. Having a say and exercising her choice and decision-making skills will hopefully help develop these faculties for a future as a rocket scientist or a high-stakes investment banker or … just a well-adjusted member of society where we have free choice.
We’re fortunate to have lots of and lots of toys in our house. Or, are we really? Most of the toys we didn’t buy ourselves — they were generously brought here by my mother-in-law who buys and selects toys that aid in early childhood development. Sometimes, I feel like I live in a toy store The question is this: are all the toys really necessary? Growing up, I never had so many toys. I don’t feel particularly disadvantaged and also don’t feel like had I had more toys, I’d be more successful. The real question is: what is the minimum amount of toys that a child needs to thrive? (Please let the answer be 2 :-). I leave you with a shot of our little toy master.
School doesn’t have to be difficult or a chore. In fact, school was oh so fun this past weekend with the grandparents.
We finally set up a small table and chairs for Sophia to sit and draw with crayons. Per Dana’s advice, we got crayon rocks that Sophia adores. So far, we’re learning that drawing is done 1. on paper and 2. at a designated area.