Sunday, September 30, 2007
Ever since our day in Dumbo P has wanted to ride on a barge carrying sand. With that out of our hands we were able to offer the Staten Island Ferry for his enjoyment today. Super Uncle Seth came with us, which always thrills P. Thrills him so much, in fact, that he is usually a bit of a handful with all of his excitement :) Yesterday's simple sub rides were a thing of the past and today's were filled with spinning around the poles, climbing the poles and acrobatics on any available bars...
The ferry ride entrapped him. I was too sea sick to participate too much, but he appeared to ask E a thousand questions about the boat and the water. He loved seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and had the added treat of popcorn from Papa. Afterward he zonked on our walk through downtown which gave us big people some time to gawk at the gorgeous architecture. Its like a ghost town on the weekends, devoid of all of the money makers the focus is truly the buildings. Its fantastic to see old relics standing beside skyscrapers; architectural time capsules for public viewing. We made a smooth transition to the lower east side and settled on some snacks from Whole Foods before E and I went to a movie. P woke up in time to carefully select his deli choice (pasta salad and cookies) and handled the separation very well. We saw "Into the Wild" at an awesome theater a block away and then practiced acrobatics on the sub ride home. All in all a great day - hopefully Seth isn't too exhausted :)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The weather here has been absolutely stunning, but after a few days spent outdoors at the beginning of the week, Phoenix has requested a Lot of time at home. I suppose if I was a brighter person I would have waited to construct his wee house until some snow was on the ground...
We were able to coax him into the sunshine today after a morning of playing cars, cars and more cars. Ethan and Uncle Seth found a mexican restaurant on the lower east side yesterday that E was really excited to share, so off we went. We bravely left sans stroller (meit tai tucked in our bag tho) and it was so soothing to see P traversing the city with ease on his own. Hopefully our comfort with his independence won't be his demise, knocking furiously on wood here, but he really seems to have figured out his safety zones. He barrels down the sidewalk (we just Had to live at the top of a hill!) on his tractor or toes and stops at the last squinch of safe space before the crosswalk, but he stops! He watches for the "go guy" and gets which direction his subway will come from. We've really struggled with our nerves and his need for autonomy on the subway, combined with everyone else's need for comfort :) But today was one of those smooth days that make you smile. He gaily pushed through the turnstiles and waited on the platform without trying to dangle off of the edge and actually sat on the sub seat for a while.
After some guac and fajitas we hit a playground and P ran and jumped and climbed and played ball with a sweet little boy. Whole Foods was a block away and P LOVES health food stores so we went there to explore for a bit. The pumpkin pile thrilled him, along with all of the produce. There were 30 open baskets of coffee and Mr. Nose carefully smelled half of them, describing his thoughts. (Fave: decaf French Roast) The seafood section featured a beautiful display of whole fish that captured him in conversation for 10 minutes, but his fascination with death is a whole nuther blog entry...
After the store we played in the dark in another playground. P was in heaven, owning the place with all of the other tots in bed already. There was a pink trike that was just his size and he worked on mastering pedaling, kissing it goodbye when we left for home.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
We took a down day today. Striking the right balance between going and staying seems to be particularly important to P. If we hit it just right he breezes out the door and will come home without too much strife. If we are gone too much it is hell to impossible to leave. If we're home too much he tends to kick the cat and other such novelties.
P loves projects of different sorts. Today we decided to build a special Phoenix sized house. He's seen the oh so pretty pastel-plastic varieties in backyards and playspaces and adores the idea of having his own house. I can't count how many times we've added it to his "list" (maybe just a few less entries than "backhoe tractor.")
Given plastic's inability to ever leave the planet, I'm a big fan of wood, metal and fabric anything. If its old and had a past life that included something industrial, chances are I want it in my home. E teases me about my dumpster diving ways, but I prefer to call it the dedicated recycling of a cheapscate. So P's house was constructed out of extra metal shelving and finished with his old tent fabric, a shelf from the previous tenants, wire ties and a curtian rod we found. Fortunately, P is young enough he doesn't know the difference!
He was intent on putting the shelves together, weilding the poles and using every connector in sight. Once the frame was up his dedication waned and while he really did want a wall and a rooftop, waiting for them (according to the story that he told me this afternoon) was a trial of his patience ;) He busied himself by spreading E's jumbo sized 5 million wire ties all over the playroom and bulldozing them. The rest of the day was spent lolling in his house, pottying inumerable times in his personal bathroom, sliding down his slide repeatedly and pretending to take his wooden railroad back to His house.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Brooklyn homeschoolers united today with our Not Back to School Picnic. Its an interesting mix of homeschoolers and unschoolers with kids of all ages and a lot of nice parents. True to form, P wasn't yet interested in joining a large group of mostly strangers, so we ate and played with his good buddy M to get his social juices flowing. We ran and chased and kicked the ball around and then befriended a chatty 5 year old. Then he joined some other kids; they saved a bumble bee (that was perhaps mauled by a bear), jumped rope Brooklyn style and climbed the walls/staircase of the Picnic House. I Love playing with homeschoolers because they are so adept at speaking with adults and so wonderful with vertical age play. P seems to enjoy it too :)
After a few days of not napping, today was definitely a nap day. One of P's buddies arrived right as P realized he was really, really tired. He decided to nap in the Mei Tai while I chilled in the park so that he could play again when he woke up. After a brief snooze he was revitalized enough for more hummus, eggs and apples, followed by more ball kicking and car play. Then we brilliantly all started rolling down the hill... until mama said she was gonna puke :)
By then school was out and area teens started flocking to our space for a running race of some sort. A guy asked us to move a little bit, apparently the course would be right where we sat. One of the moms quietly disagreed, but we moved back 10 paces and kept talking and playing. Ten minutes passed and numerous teens started plowing through the area, sweating and panting. I glanced away and didn't notice little P step right out into the throng of runners. Fortunately my friend J did and I turned back to see her trying to pick P up as he adamantly tried to remain rooted to his original picnic place. I dashed to grab the seemingly silly kid and brought him back to our new space all the while explaining that these teens were running a race and I didn't want him to get trampled blah blah blah. Looking back this was a "duh" mama moment. He knew exactly what he was doing without my patronizing. With all of the talk and commotion he understood this was now a racecourse, he just disagreed. I'm assuming that standing in the middle of a small stampede didnt' feel very safe to him, but the invincibility of a 2 year old made him think that he could change the path of the entire race if he just stood his ground to reclaim "His spot."
I held him safely watching for a moment and then I put him down. I should have noticed his determined gaze before letting loose of him because I had no more than taken a breath before he had run right out into the fray. By now the race was left to the stragglers and they could as easily avoid the 2 year old as the tree 20 paces off, so feeling everyone was safe I stayed back and watched. He stood resolutely in his prior location, ever so slightly shifting his weight to challenge the runners that came closest to his position. The sight of 30 pounds proudly willing to take on 130 barrelling pounds seemed to sum up so much of his young life.
A couple of the nearby teens let me know what they thought of my parenting skills, instructing me to "strap that kid into a stroller." But breaking his enormous will hasn't ever been one of our goals. Phoenix has always made it clear that he feels himself to be deserving of as much respect as any adult around, including E and I. After a lot of reading and soul searching, we agree (of course making sure he's safe and so is everyone around him.) Granted, sometimes I'd love to pull out an easy "cuz I said so!" but he'd see the inconsistency in respect immediately. I would never, ever say such a thing to Ethan. And when you do your kid wrong, what does that show them about doing what's right? Might makes right? Your opinion doesn't count until you are X age? P innately knows that's not how the world should work and he's always willing to stand his ground for the cause. Hopefully we can support his autonomy AND help him to feel less territorial :)
Monday, September 24, 2007
Yah. P and I decided today that we reeeeally love Dumbo. Not the fluffy eared fellow - the nabe known as Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. We went a while back with Phoenix's fabulous Uncle Seth and it was so scenic that we went again today as a beach substitute. Great thing about a 2 year old - the word "beach" is so very flexible. No haughty expectations here, just some rocks and sand beside some water will do.
Why do we love Dumbo so? Well, its right off our subway line, so its a quick commute. It is bordered by both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge and the background is full of dropdead gorgeous downtown skyscrapers. There is the river, beautiful, but not necessarily swimmable :) The architecture of the area is phenomenal with an eye towards industrial beauty. The area directly under the Manhattan Bridge is a mini beach, vacant today except for a young couple, that has fabulous rocks for climbing and sand for digging. There's green grass, playgrounds, outstanding pizza, icecream and a chocolatier. And did I mention the view?
But I digress from the subject of Phoenix. He loves this area. Its relaxing and idyllic in an NYC sorta way. He pretended to be chased by the waves and we climbed the rocky wall over and over to escape the "pounding" surf. The seaweed fascinated him, but not enough for him to touch. And truth be told, with the subway line clanging on the bridge above, it was a nice respite from his stacatto inquiries... We had a picnic, compliments of the nearby organic market, as we watched the boats, backdropped by the city. And I couldn't help thinking how much I Love living here.
Then he was off, running along the river exploring. The park is really well maintained, so its a comfortable place for him to explore. We followed the park down to the Brooklyn Bridge where he saw a John Deere mower that established our plans for the next hour. He watched from afar, then chased, then stood, silently and seriously in an island of trees, transfixed by the nearness of Dumdudmdumdum: a tractor. The sweet man running it eventually drove our way and offered P a ride. Eventually called back to work, P stayed loyal and watched the mower man until he finished. And truth be told, I've never seen a man mow the same strip so many times before in my life. Away from P he'd go, and then right back to turn around and do the same darn strip all over again. Seriously. Ahhh, our tax dollars. But the child was thrilled.
Then we went to the playground between the bridges for a brief fling with other children. When they encroached on his space and his toy tractor he was ready to leave and play on the boardwalk. It was glorious sitting in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, chatting about tug boats, tour boats and big barges carrying sand. P wasn't sure he ever wanted to leave, but the chocolate store would be closing soon and of course he needed some chocolate...
We finally purchased a toddler friendly little pocket camera that enjoys moving images. I just figured out how to transfer shots to my computer and will try to post quick pics and daily plots with less theory for visiting family members :)
P spent the majority of Sunday on his tractor. We piddled around our neighborhood and took it easy while he raced all over with his upgraded (cat toy aka: shiny towtruck-attachment) john deere. We afternooned in the park surrounded by families and children playing ball, but little P preferred to just play in a dirtpile by a tree. He has a couple of close friends he adores, but otherwise I see E's loner genes at work in the child, at least around other children. He really prefers adults (could it be that we are more polite or that we cater to him more? hmmm)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
We cancelled our Fire Island beach plans today with Uncle Seth, lamo-s that we are. P was a bit dissapointed to miss the sand, surf and especially Seth, but ever the optimist he begged to go into the hall to "get somefin." That something being our beach umbrella, which he gaily placed in the center of the playroom and created an oceanscape out of his felt pieces on the floor below. There were 3 trees (christmas, "jungle" and coconut), a fish and a swimming dinosaur at his beach today. Eventually he wanted to stand on top of the umbrella (which, despite his best climbing efforts and me as a ladder didn't "work very well") and then over it went and upside down it was a beautiful boat, us as passengers, menaced by a tiger shark. Replete with whooshy wind and water noises he rocked our boat and steered it away from the shark, occasionally braving the waters for a swim/chase.
Then it struck me how much his play has changed in the past month. While we are almost always required to participate in said play, before we were also required to give it life. Almost like he wanted to watch us play to see how to play. I know it sounds silly, and I often worried about why he didn't seem to be able to just, uh, go play. But now I realize that the more familiar plot based play that I remember was just beyond him. He's getting into it now though and its amazing to see our past plots come to life through his eyes. E tends towards sharks, monsters and car crashes and I towards rescues and adventure searches with monsters, so his stories often hold these elements. Generally enacted with cars, dinosaurs, tractors and lily pads. Most all of his cars have basic names (Big Sally, Grandpapa's jeep, Mama monster truck) and personalities that he has slowly assigned over the past year.
And beyond shark attacks and car crashes he also seems to work out his stress points through play. Back in June he shut his Baby Monster Truck on one side of the door and then asked me to retrieve it. As I came close with the Baby he shouted "Please! Give it to me!" I handed him the baby and he took it over to the Mama Monster Truck and in a kinda fierce tone said "Never go away by yourself!" (No, I hadn't said this to him, but there have been conversations in public bathrooms with this general gist :)) Another time I heard him saying "No hitting. No Hitting. NO HITTING" and then held a different car and said "But I want to hit" and then spoke very quietly between the two and then they went on playing.
The other play theme that tickles me is seeing how very Brooklyn he is, despite his backhoe fetish. One day while I showered he set up a "museum" by his train tracks with his animals. Another day he pretended we took his taxi to Coney Island and used fridge magnets as tickets for the rides, starting with the Ferris Wheel. One of his trains is a "worker train" like in the subway and another is a "Brooklyn" train that takes people home :)
But his favorite play is anything with E and I. Generally he requests us to be someone we are not, which I'm not sure how to take:) My most requested characters are Mildred (toothless old woman from the south), a witch (nice witch), mama bee (my right pointer finger buzzes) and a guy (fitting whichever description, cashier, waiter, cook, that P needs at the time). Ethan's top hits are Monster and Screaming Banshee (a shrieking creature who enjoys getting hit in the noggin by balloons and hops great distances from a crouching position. Don't ask). And this is where E's and my playing styles and parenting roles so obviously diverge. He is the sprinter, home for short bursts and his creations require high amounts of energy which greatly tickle little ones but that he cannot sustain for as long as is usually requested. I'm the distance runner. Mine are fairly lame but can stick around for entire meals and walks to the library. Every time the Banshee visits it leaves E listless on the sumo for a good long Mildred schtick in an umbrella boat. I guess its really more of a relay run :)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
So I learned to say "please" from Phoenix this week. P's been saying "thank you" since he turned two, but "please" hadn't been part of the vocabulary. And its true. Without that magic word his needs could sound more like a drill sergeant than an appreciative imp, but I was cool waiting for him to understand the concept before barking any empty words. And I hate the idea of "teaching" manners to wee ones. Phoenix has managed to morph his baby body into a climbing machine that has a good grasp of the complexities of English pronouns with barely a hint from us; it seems condescending to think he can't figure out the timing of the word "thanks." And he is so sincere with the thank you's of his own invention. Nothing generic or rehearsed and sure, sometimes altogether missing, but when chosen, so specific and sweet. "Thank you for letting me use your tools Papa. Thank you for giving me this dinner mama. Thank you for bringing to me these beans guy. (to a waiter)" etc.
But he rarely Hears the word please. It has an awkward feel in My mouth. A dry mix of subservient and begging. And begging is just about the only time P ever hears the P word. Gentle E, at the end of a long negotiation, will often wrap up his side with an upswinging "please p? Please?" But no "Please pass the pancakes" in our house. E and I are much more verbose with a "Would you mind if I had a bite of your pancakes? Could you pass me some butter?" And P was following suit with more gentle sounding demands that occasionally curled up at the ends. But with no example to follow and no bossy "say Please!" to tune out, please was not even on the horizon. Much to the chagrin of the "helpful" ladies in market lines. "Say Please!" they'd chime to this child they don't even know. Say please- O jeez. P's pretty much always trying to do the best he can, and being corrected when you're trying smarts. Smarts, that is, until it pisses you off and you start ignoring or rebelling :)
So Phoenix was playing with a buddy of his this week while us moms were chatting about that magic word. He was really into a fire truck but apparently he was also into our conversation. (His buddy, Y, is an unschooler too so his mama and I share a lot of concepts. Model, don't teach; kids can only Truly learn when They are ready. And kids truly do want to learn if you don't mess with them too much!) So we were chatting about manners and modeling and how I was pleased to wait for P to say please but sometimes people seemed taken aback at how strong his demands sound, yadi yadi.
I'm not sure why this conversation struck my little eavesdropper so strongly. But by the next day: Please will you carry this bucket? Please will you play trains? Please do you have some water? And on and on. After 4 days of listening to his sweet requests, please doesn't sound so cloying anymore and I'm finally adding it to my vocabulary today too. Writing it out just now it still sounds like he's begging for help, but when I actually hear it, it just sounds nice. Modeling works, for all ages :)
Friday, September 21, 2007
So yesterday was E's birthday. Poor schlep, he had to work. But Phoenix, ever the altruist (hah), decided Papa needed a pumpkin pie for his birthday. He Loves to cook! Especially, of course, if it involves a motor-run cooking item (ie blender). He takes it very seriously, wanting to help right from the start (getting out the ingredients) to the finish (lots of pretend play with hot pads) and wants as minimal of help from me as possible. His favorite sense to use is, by far, his nose and cooking lets him revel in "mells." (Sidenote: we were downtown searching for a playground one day and the streets had throngs of people: smells galore. Every couple of seconds Phoenix asked "what that (s)mell?" After much dialoge and food laden descriptions I told him there were a lot of smells and I couldn't be sure what smell he was smelling. He looked at me like I was a moron; a look of pity, not condescension. "No, (s)mell with My nose mama," he said ;)
So the pie. It was his first experience personally cooking pumkin pie and he was particularly excited about the canned pumkin. As he fondled it and rolled it on the cabinet he told me "I like this very much. Its my favorite stuff I not tried before." We opened it and I gave him a spoon to lick and then proceded to grab more ingredients. I heard some gagging sounds in the background but they sounded benign and I didn't pay them much heed. A couple of seconds later he said "Please put this away. I no like that smell, I'm almost puking." :)
The pie was a success. P ate a piece for dinner, followed by a bowl of chili, then a request for a bowl of peas (random, right?) and then another piece of pie. Ethan had a piece too :)
Phoenix has had a journal since his colic passed. A private little space on my computer. Now that he is so chatty it has progressed to a tiny journal I carry to keep the hilarious phrases safe. A blog intimidates me; too public, too easy to judge, too technical and I'll have to actually think about what I say! But I think its finally time. His adventures are now more nuanced than taking a step or using a spoon and I know some of his family would like to be a voyueristic part of that. And with many of his peers heading off to pre-school this fall, this is a good standing ground for our (now more obvious) unschooling beliefs. Sure we dont' rehearse the ABC's or quiz him on numbers, but just look at his Shine!
I'll be as regular as possible here, as relative as that is :)