Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Little Man took a nice long break from making things. Then wham! He's back at it again. There were a number of birthdays this month, and the child took it upon himself to make everyone Totoro dolls. He drew out the design, stuffed and sewed. But after doing the first doll's eyes, his sense of perfection (a constant cross for him to bear, but seen nowhere more obviously than when he is creating. He has such high hopes and expectations and isn't pleased when his newly blossoming abilities fall short. There's no tantrums or tears, typically just a "Horrid. Just Horrid!!!" and then a re-do, and a re-do, and another re-do....) was wounded and he requested I do the next doll's eyes. I didn't get pics of his first few dolls he did himself, but here's the last one. It was a little extra special, wearing the number "6" on its back, (his friend's new age :) and feet (I did those.) The only problem with making these is as soon as he's done and given one away... he wants me to make another one for him! And, thus, our collection keeps growing, and growing...
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Our day last Sunday. Oh that every child in the world would have such awesome Aunts and Uncles!!!
There were the water guns (which, quite honestly, the adults really enjoyed ;)
Then there were the chasing games. Everybody took turns chasing the child. (How many grown-ups does it take to keep up with a five year old??)
There were brief snacks and the unveiling of the Little Man's "Uncle Seth sunglasses." This is P's picture pose - with a fresh water gun drip (just makes a Mama proud, no? ;)
There was more chasing, and Papa was P's occasional invisibility shield.
And, last but not least, there had to be boy tossing. Replete with "one more time"'s. Everyone took turns here too - the Little Man made it a challenge (he has the Schultz boys pegged): who can toss the child the highest. I'm only posting one toss pic tonight, but the kid's face in some of them crack me up. There is no doubt he trusts his Uncles implicitly - proven by the look on his carefree mug while flying through the air.
My advice to everyone out there: be the eldest(ish) in a large family and have really fantabulous younger siblings. This will bring your child great joy :)
Friday, April 23, 2010
This week's carbon cleanse challenge includes a blogging component that I had high hopes of achieving every evening... but we'll have to make a single post on the last Friday do ;)
According to some I know;), we're kinda freakishly green. The kind of green that keeps you from actually admitting the full details of your life, due to doubts that people will still spend time with you afterwards :) I typically skip all of the enviro-babble on this blog unless it directly pertains to P (see blog title:). But since the Little Man has welcomed this week with open arms - and its subject provides some parenting pickles - I thought I'd include The Impact's nitty gritty. I am wary though, of sounding preachy. We're not back-patting people here, and talking solutions and successes typically feels braggartly to me. But part of the challenge is to share ideas, with the hopes of inspiring even more change and getting suggestions for even more success, so, here goes, the good with the bad ;)
Sunday: Consumption: Short of spending time around fabric filled frock shops with my mum (where my knees go weak and my serious enviro-bent bends badly...) this one's pretty simple. If we finally decide to buy something, its almost always from a flea market, antique store, stoop sale or craig's list. We like old things better anyway, and with patience or a little paint or a good scrub its all fabtastic. But having the Little Man around has thrown an enormous monkey wrench into our well oiled approach. While he's equally happy with homemade and thrift stores, some specific toys can often only be found already used on ebay. Then the good intentions get complicated by the shipping, an obviously unhappy carbon kink. And new toys, well.... This is the part of consensual living that is the most challenging to me. I can stand horrified by the throw-away mentality of most toy manufacturers, but I can't expect my five year old to flawlessly follow suit. I constantly have to remember that my choices, my life philosophies and priorities are mine, and let him own his choices and his life. This can occasionally be painful and I swear I occasionally hear the earth groan :) Fortunately, the kid was scarred by Wall-E (tongue only slightly in cheek here) and oftenish goes for the enviro-choice. Long story short: E and I try hard in this category, and while keeping the challenge in mind this week, the Little Man and I have a flawless consumption record...for a whole 5 days running ;)
Monday: Trash: I was curious how this would go. Since we buy little, we're in good shape package-waste-wise. And we absolutely grocery shop with garbage in mind, which does a lot for the footprint. (The kid mimics here surprisingly simply, he sees all our efforts in this category and seems to take it to heart. Additionally, homemade just tastes better, so there's rarely a request for store-bought snacks at the store.) We make our own pitas, granola bars, cookies, beans, yogurt, kefir and tortillas etc and typically skip the chips, crackers and boxed goods that make so much waste. If we do buy anything processed, it comes in a glass jar, which we re-use. Our milk comes from a local dairy and we return our old glass bottles for new ones each weekend, a lovely closed cycle. Same with the dozens of eggs we go through, the used cardboard holders get traded out for fresh cartons filled with divine, orange yolked beauties each weekend. We carry cloth bags with us everywhere, so we never use plastic bags and we put our veggies in cloth bags too. Skipping the clamshell greens did wonders for our trashcan's volume, though it takes a lot longer to make a spinach salad ;) We don't use paper products (paper towels, tissues, etc - our rag bin does it all except for the snottiest of colds), the Keeper is my fave waste reducer for women and simple steps like a chalkboard list followed by an iphone photo for the weekly groceries all help keep the garbage low. But, for us, the biggest improvement comes from composting. Cooking twenty some meals, plus snacks, each week can create a lot of veggie scraps. With only three worm bins these days, half of our food scraps were left over each weekend (our previous six were a perfect fit for food extras, but not for square footage!). Those scraps fills a dustbin fast. But the garden we joined keeps a compost pile for kitchen scraps. So our major improvement this week was keeping all of our scraps out of the landfill (30% of NYC's landfill is full of compostable food scraps! doh'!) and schelpping them to the garden instead. So, as of Friday, 6 days through our challenge, our wastebin is just over 1/2 full and our recycling bins still pretty empty.
Tuesday: Transportation: Seriously, one of our favorite parts of living here is never getting in a car. We adore mass transit. Granted, there are those sweaty, running late moments, when the train suddenly switches lines, the static-filled announcement is incomprehensible, and you are left confused, pissed, stranded and late... But those rare occurrences are overwhelmingly worth it. I love sitting with P en route, reading and chatting. And we all adore scooting everywhere. Cars just make me dizzy and mad :) We've also been working hard this year to skip online shopping. The tricky part of consuming only that which is environmentally responsible is getting those responsible makers and merchants to ship shit across the country, not much of a carbon cleanse then :) I'm leaning more and more towards homemade and the philosophy surrounding the homesteading movement. Now, if only I could find a green solution for seeing the far flung family. The footprint of flying is seriously guilt inducing... Anyone else ready to ride the rails again? If only we would all join together and demand that the car company's atrocities be righted by a righteous rail-system...
Wednesday: Food: Trash day kinda covered the end-of-life side of the food issue. For Wednesday, we were supposed to focus on our food impact, from the raising to the getting. E and I long ago figured that our voices, despite letter writing campaigns or marches, are hardly heard; we're too tiny :) But the bottom dollar screams. So we've done our best to make every dollar count. We research all of our choices and save our spending for companies making socially and environmentally responsible products. A guy asked me once why we ate organic, since shit is in our air, our water, and therefore, already in our bodies. I had to laugh - its so true. While what goes into bodies became a bit bigger to me years later when I had a kid with food sensitivities, before that, the going in wasn't the big deal. It was more about the dollars going out. Specifically, where they were going out to. My itty bitty attempt to scream with my spending :) After all, I've smoked and drank and partied and eaten everything. (Granted, now I'm older and my body is more particular about what makes it run ;) but I still figure we're an amazingly resilient species (just look at my baby brother's diet ;) I love you!) So, we eat local, organic and primarily vegetarian because its better for the world. We want to support the farmers that are doing what's right. Fabulously, it just so happens to taste better too, and is, if you like the research, better for our bods. Bottom line: We have a finite budget and we don't want a dime of it to go to schmucks :) Anyone remember the presidential election inspired Heinz boycott relished by Republicans a while back? Same idea, green agenda :)
(This issue is so near and dear to my heart, I'm having a hard time with my plan of brevity :) Our favorite way to be good to the earth each week is shopping at the Green Market. Buying local, farmer ground grains. The brown bag filled flours from our friend are delicious and fresh. They use sustainable practices, so our spelt is guilt free. Ditto the dairy. (Interestingly enough, there are two local dairies represented at the green market, both featuring glass bottles for a gloriously closed cycle. We did a blind taste test between the dairy that is responsible (no hormones or antibiotics etc) but not organic, and the more expensive, organic milk. There was no comparison. Its barely pasteurized and non-homogenized and for the first time in his life, the Little Man requests milk daily. So, our seriously unscientific study showed a clear preference for the organic local stuff;) And comparing it to the store bought (even organic) stuff was downright laughable.) Basically, just eating whole-food based meals, that skip the earth taxing toll meats wreak, brings us slightly closer to a sustainable status. And though this takes a lot of time in the kitchen, homemade hummus is always worth it :) And, really, its all relative. When we were first on our own in college, cooking a soup was a huge ordeal ;) In fact, heating a can of soup was some serious cooking ;) Now, if I only make a soup for supper it seems silly simple :) And from all of the watching and "helping," the Little Man recognizes the effort involved. Reading about Laura's house in the Big Woods was extra fun for P, since their days were similarly filled with the rhythm of survival (though, much to his dismay, we skip the harvesting:), the rhythm of sustaining one's self rather than popping to the local pub for sustenance. And this rhythm saves my sanity, what with all of the bean soaking and baking necessary to always have snacks on hand so we aren't tempted to grab on the go...
And speaking of eating out (which is pretty treacherous from a carbon cleanse point of view)... This fits in with both Consumption day and Food day. We've been doing so well skipping our weekly dinner out the last few months... but summer is coming and we'll be out late each day... and the kid loves to try new foods/new places. (Hitting Pommes Frittes when we were out last week was a huge high for him - especially after a couple of months of homemade granola and apples;) So, here's the balancing bit for me again. I want to be responsible to the earth and true to my preferences, but honor the kid's excitement about life and living it too. So we do the dance and hope for the best:) The Mr., though, well... Mr. "Environmental" had the option to brown bag it this week - and rebelled. He's fully grown, so its easy for me to remember to honor his preferences ;) Nevertheless, I would like to take this chance to publicly shame him for shirking his green duties :) (Mwah-hahaha! I love you - but your baby brother owned you this week, luv;)
Thursday: Energy: I feel like we suck on this one. We use green energy sources and we go without A/C each summer, but we have a long way to go in this category. I can't imagine living without my fridge here, sans cellar. And setting with the sun (thus mitigating our evening power consumption) isn't an option if we want E to see P during the week. Additionally, the kid likes a nightlight in the bedroom, plus the sound machine. I use my computer every day to organize homeschooling stuff (and to, um, blog ;) We do skip the TV thing, but that's pittance, really, compared to turning it all off. We wear our clothes till just short of grossness and re-use glasses all day, which, combined with full loads for both energy sucking machines, helps minimize our impact... but I dream of an off the grid woodland home with one stainless steel bowl each, scrubbed clean with sand and a dry comb :) Sure, toss the word "hardcore" around, I don't care :)
Friday: Water: We try hard on this one, we shower with rarity ;) and only run full loads around here, re-use cooking water, carry our Klean Kanteens everywhere, let the yellow mellow etc, but this week didn't bring us a breakthrough in water usage. We do (well, P and I, Mr. Environmental has yet to join the no-poo club...) skip traditional shampoos that produce bottle trash, put chemicals into our water system and create a sick consumer cycle. Bulk bought baking soda and apple cider vinegar are our shower pals. (I'm only admitting this to a wide audience assuming that no one would read this far in an eco-post :) Similarly, clothing detergents are petroleum nasties, so we use the amazing Charlie's Soap, sold locally, thankfully. But when I think about going through a solo, sacred bucket a day, I feel shaky with the impossibility of it all. So I'll keep brainstorming on ways to cut the water usage...
Our last challenge, tomorrow's focus, is giving back. I'd like to step up our current charity devotions by getting some actual man hours in rather than relying on the all powerful pocketbook. Hopefully, I'll be able to sway the boys to participate in the kid's cancer walk that's coming up. You'll know if I do, cuz I'll post asking for pledges! ;)
Thinking back over the week, I have to admit I haven't been the biggest fan of this carbon cleanse - but I think that's definitely more of a personal issue than any fault of the No Impact Week. Typically, I feel a lightness when doing my green duties, they're like small, silent gifts I'm giving Mother Earth, a pact I make each day to do as little harm to my child's future world as possible, based on love, for him and our amazing planet. Rather than resenting my green choices, I typically relish this reality. But this week, the external expectations clouded that simplicity and colored it dull with the seeming lack of choice. The pride I usually feel at a low level wastebin was stolen by feeling "graded." It was a green buzzkill for my typical enviro-high :) And I realized that, schooled though I was, I must be an unschooler at heart, because having the instructions for No Impact Week, well, it just bugged me. I experienced the validity of the unschooling theory: people learn and perform best when the experience is based on passion.
So, while this week didn't bring us the big, green aha! moments I'd hoped for, it did bring me a solid example of why leading a child-led-learning based life is so joy filled and true. Acting on personal passions rather than other people's pursuits is highly preferable :)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
P and his pals adore this tree.
Oh but I'm behind!
Over a week ago, we went to our favorite East Village community garden for a worm composting workshop hosted by the Lower East Side Ecology Center. While P is already a worm composting pro , a lot of his buddies would be there, and there would be, gasp, planting! So we were so there :)
He bored quickly of the worm chat (the kid knows too much about worms to want for more red wiggler info:) and we walked around the gorgeous garden, rubbing and smelling leaves. Then the child remembered there was a gourd last fall that he had really wanted to harvest this spring. We made a human ladder to reach the big bugger and he carefully carried his huge treasure for the rest of the day, hugging it often. And while it is a gorgeous gourd, his passion for collecting may be the end of me. Were we in a sprawling farmhouse with outhouses and attics, cellars and storage areas, I too would be bringing home every pretty rock and rusty piece of metal in my path. I understand the collecting thing, the child comes by it genetically. But, seriously, our flat is full.
After that, he ran with his pals, played in the bushes and trees and, of course, collected petals. Following this was one of those lovely New York afternoons when wandering with friends lands you right where you need to be, over and over. First was his first trip to PommesFrites, for some fried fuel, followed by a magical meandering towards Union Square. We found a musician setting up a chalk stage and the kids danced in the wind and drew on the ground, giving the music man a grand stage of dragons and animals. Eventually, we landed at the playground for some serious slide time.... and then P crashed. Super short on sleep from the night before, his eyes glazed over and he was ready. to. go. So we laid in the nearby grass and read some Paddington Bear, smelling spring and feeling happy :)
And today, the wheat we planted that day broke through the soil!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
P, working on the really important stuff in life, like whistling ;)
So I've got a cool dozen topics to write on (we've been excessively adventurous of late), plus, this is No Impact Week (which requires a few blogs), but I'm short on time and sleep... so here's a quickie before I talk myself out of mentioning it....
Some ABC news report is (understandably) all the chatter on all of the homeschooling boards this week. Blissfully TV free, I had no idea. But, now alerted, I thought I'd address it ever so briefly, just in case its all the chatter in any houses reading P's blog too :) I say briefly, because, honestly, I'm just going to assume that everyone I know is above whittling life down to sound-bites;) And if you've been reading this blog, the detailed life of a radical unschooler, then you know the news report (as it has been described to me, at least) was kinda full of shit :) Unschooling is not unparenting.
Full disclosure, I haven't seen the show, its not really my thing, but friends have forwarded me the article. Perhaps my skimming skipped the snippiest parts, but it didn't over-offend me at all. Perhaps the show was world's worse? Perhaps its exactly what I would expect :) I don't know, I'm just unable to get worked up about ill-reporting.... yet again. I'm honestly not quite sure how anyone watches the nightly news and believes a word of it, so to watch a talking head dissect a parenting philosophy, between commercials, well, it seems obvious that something (like accuracy or honest portrayal) would go missing ;) Truth be told, I'd love a real challenge (ie, informed, researched) to unschooling. I think that would be a fascinating read.
Another friend forwarded this rebuke, written by an unschooling father. Seems like a pretty decent response. I mean, what can one really say to defend their child's wonderfulness, wholeness, wellness, based on one's own doing?!?
I know I should probably feel defensive, like our life"style" was on display in some icky way or something.... but I can't seem to summon up the gumption to get grumpy (though I totally "get" those that feel attacked). Especially after our glorious day today :) So, instead, I'll end with two tiny stories that, placed side by side, can at least muster up the illusion of a defense.
The first: In preparation for paperwork (we have to file for P this year) I looked at the list of yearly educational requirements (back in December). There was even a list for P's present age, preschool, so I curiously glanced through it, hoping some of it would have come up in our lives. Ummmmm, every single thing?!?! (Aargh, I just looked for the link and can't find it, I'll add it later...) At any rate, there were dozens of topics covered ... all of which life had thrown our way (before the school-year was even half over) and the Little Man has relished it all in a realistic fashion. Without a curriculum, without artificial constructs, without pressure, without schooling at home and certainly without sending him to school. This tickled me. I mean, I knew the kid was learning stuff and loving his life, but it was still fun to see that unschooling "works," based on outside criteria, despite ignoring those external expectations!
The second: Slightly more sad and sounding somewhat more properly defensive.... This one has been lingering in the back of my brain for a few months, but I'm really not fond of slamming schools. Obviously, there are problems. But aren't there everywhere? At any rate... No. Actually, at any rate nothin'. If sounding properly defensive of not schooling (towards a show I didn't even watch ;) means I have to whine about what I think traditional schooling lacks (even if it involves a cute P story) - I'm just not feeling it tonight. I'm just tired of defensive judgmentalism. I think that's why I am feeling a bit of apathy tonight.
Basically, when P tells people he homeschools (which happens almost everyday nowadays - "Are you in preschool?" being the second most asked question (right after "what is your name?")), we typically get great responses. Everyone tells him how lucky he is :) On the rare occasion the happy social buzz isn't there, its because somebody gets their fur in a fluff. You can positively feel the defensiveness creep into the space left by his homeschool answer. Kinda like when you tell someone you're a vegetarian? (The most frequent response I get to that? "I don't really eat red meat" (or pork or sausage or fill in your choice of semi-vegetarian stance ;) Its as if our sharing is equivalent to judgement. Which it ain't :) Its as if we're saying, hey, we homeschool, and you suck if you don't. We're vegetarian, therefore you must suck if you eat meat. "We don't eat much refined foods" translates to "Omg, you disgusting store bought cookie eater!" It seems obvious to me that we aren't saying this, we aren't thinking this, but to some folks, apparently not so much ;) A choice of "different" deems, to them, that my "different" is actually "better than" in my mind. That we're not doing it their way, because we think their way is wrong. And while these "different" choices do seem better for us we're not touching other people's choices with a ten foot pole.
So, I'm thinking this uncharacteristic apathy is nothing more than me being totally over the judgement wars. Totally over news articles that try to spark the fires of fury. Seriously. We're living our lives here, despite anything any talking head is saying. And that, seems like the same thing that everyone wants ;)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
As I write this, the house reeeeeeeks of fish. And I've got about 10 blogs lined up to write... but brevity tonight, tomorrow's a big day!
After watching the Acrobats of Hebei perform at Brooklyn College this morning (well, early afternoon to most people, but definitely morning to P and I!) and having a little stoopside picnic at home, P decided our adventure destination would be Coney Island. It was a gorgeous and warm day, so we tossed a bunch of castle making shapes (soccer cone? check. popsicle molds? check.) into our bag and off we zoomed.
Turns out, its really chilly by the ocean in the spring :) Were I not from Kansas, I would probably know that. And now I do :) At any rate, without lots of layers, it was a brief trip, about a bucket full.
That bucket travelled back home, was shown to all of the neighbor kids (favorite part of Spring this year? All of the stoop socializing.) and then dumped on the dining table. Yuck. Needless to say, there was ocean glass, pottery pieces and crab body parts mixed amongst the simple shells. After lifting his rescued ladybug into his herb garden, spritzing her sandy sides, feeding her a dried cherry and turning leaves into little ponds for her drinking enjoyment, the kid was ready to boil his bounty.
Double yuck. You know you really love someone when you scrub crab shells for them.
Monday, April 19, 2010
A couple of P's older friends have been reading the Harry Potter series. So P thought we should give it a whirl. We borrowed the books and by the time the fictional parents were knocked off and Harry was living, unloved, under a stairway (this was, what? page 3?) the Little Man was moving on to other stories:) Full disclosure: I had briefed him (fairly figuring his reaction) but he was determined to try, and so we did:)
Thankfully, we had plenty of P suited stories waiting in the wings. The Paddington Bear chapter books are a big hit. Its just small little adventures, no death, no evil ;) And the vocabulary in this series is outstanding. He's also loved the Cricket in Times Square series. Once again, simple adventures (ie. a cricket visits Chinatown for a tea ceremony), no death. But the book that has had him really, really riveted, is Little House in the Big Woods.
Its the first novel in the Wilder series, when Laura is P's age, and they live in, well, a little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. There is death (and, come to think of it, not much adventure), but its beautiful. P was on the edge of his pillow, hearing the fine details of Pa's venison smoking in the hollow tree. Playing with an aired pig's bladder sounded wonderful to him. He was fascinated by the intricacies of Ma's butter making, the cooking of the pig's tail, the harvesting of the pumpkins. The rhythm of their house, the changing of the seasons, it was all familiar (we follow a general rhythm each day and each week and each season) and as informative as reading an encyclopedia. But one that only tells you the kind of stuff you really want to know :)
Everything this family did a century ago is exactly what P would like to be doing right now. When Laura and Mary gathered nuts and then spent the day shelling and roasting them, P asked me to promise that we would do the same. When Grandpa and Pa harvest maple syrup, P was motionless, listening. He wanted to try pouring little bits of the cooking syrup into snow pans to make homemade candies too! He wanted to watch Pa clean his gun, and Ma make cheese. He told me, night after night, that he wanted to move to this place and do all of these things. Minus the spankings, of course. This was unspeakable to him and he tuned it right out, determined to love Ma and Pa ;)
Then, last week, as we read a picture book at the library, I got an extra dose of guilt. (Another mom and I were recently remarking on the layers of guilt mothers feel. I often feel immense guilt (alternated with immense relief;) for giving P no siblings, she feels immense guilt for giving her son a (much wanted) sibling. Apparently, there's just no escaping it, there's always something to feel guilty about :) Anyway, we read a sweet little story about a kitty that is nervous, everything is being packed. And then the kitty is packed into her carrier too! She wakes up to a light-strewn deck, overlooking a flowery meadow and a forest beyond. The child, moderately listening, immediately gasped. "Oh, Mama! I want to go to sleep in a carrier and wake up there too!!!"
Once again. Does the child long for light strewn meadows and dirt to dig in because he lives in NYC and these things seem novel, or is it an intrinsic part of P... and therefore we suck horribly?
I really don't know. My guilt meter is full for today. Hopefully, for now, re-reading Little House tomorrow night will do...
Saturday, April 17, 2010
We are seriously blessed. Living in NYC, neighbors can make or break a kid. Every hyper step, every jump, every toy clatter is shared. We once sublet above an evil, child-hating couple and it was unspeakably awful. Then we lived above your run of the mill family, pretty particular on foot noise and bedtimes, but generally understanding of major mis-steps. Then we lived above an empty apartment (sheer bliss). Then R and L moved in. And the child found love.
Beyond the delicious desserts and thoughtful trinkets, they seem to truly like the kid. E and I are still scratching our heads (P often seems like a wee bit much to us;) but they remain delightfully dedicated, declaring him the world's most fabulous five year old. (Hearing this always soothes a mother's soul;) So, it wasn't a huge surprise when R informed me that it was L's 40th and that getting birthday wishes from the Little Man would round out his day beautifully.
P took this invite quite seriously, deciding he must make presents (as more is more to a five year old;) First, he hand-sewed L a handsome Totoro doll (it was really awesome - I wish I would have snapped a pic!) Then he did drawing after drawing for his friend, finally rolling them up as scrolls, finished off by purple ribbons. He had to make a few drawings for R, too, so she wouldn't feel left out. Then, into the box went a few favorite rocks, a few fancily cut papers, and whalah ;)
His friends were so sweet, looking over each and every scrap. When a story arose about headstands and neck injuries, P quickly popped over on the couch to prove his prowess. L didn't miss a beat and instantly went bottoms up, too. And this is what I love about the adults in P's life. They are playful. Not a stodgy one on the list. Sure, some may be less likely to somersault than others, but they all play with P. He's a seriously lucky kid.
And speaking of playing with neighbors, the Little Man had a happy, happy time Friday afternoon. Returning from the library, we bumped into one of P's favorite neighbor boys. The two kids fell in step and chatted all the way home. Then they noticed the other block boys were on the stoop playing ball. The game grew and P was (finally) properly introduced to that beloved Brooklyn past-time: baseball (specifically, street ball, played while dodging traffic and crawling under fences to reclaim the ball...) It took him a few strike-outs to get the timing right and when he finally hit the ball, he ran and hid behind a car (thinking he didn't want to be tagged, but not realizing he had to pass home base to be safe:) While P was pleased, it was more of a general happiness to be big enough to run with the bigger boys than pride in his hit. Which was apparent when our little downstairs neighbor patted P's back as they said goodbye, exclaiming with awe, "Phoenix, you hit the winning run!" To which P replied "Do you want to come play at my house now?"
But figuring out whistling this week, that's a whole 'nuther story. If you've passed the child, he's shown you his new trick. "Proud" doesn't touch how pleased he is with himself for that one ;)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I've had an old Ellis Paul song stuck in my head for two weeks now, thanks to the cherry blossoms. Happens every Spring (Right, Podi?) The Little Man is a cherry blossom fanatic. So we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens on their free Tuesday last week to enjoy the flowers. The kid was in typical collector mode, hoping and praying for a cherry blossom bunch to blow his way (since he knows to not pick them:) While he gathered magnolia petals aplenty, the day was a cherry blossom bust. And then, today, sweet Aunt Alicia brought him a small bouquet! Ahhh, nothing like good friends!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Some kids, when they hang with their Aunts and Uncles, get a little tickle, a little knock-knock and then that's that. Back to big people business. Not the Little Man. His amazing fam flings him high (followed by all sorts of other flavors of fun... frisbee, tag, tickles, icy pops, more tickles, more frisbee, more wishes for more icy pops...) They even laugh when he propels himself right over their relaxing bellies. Seriously sweet people.
(Side note: the crap quality of the phone pic is really bothering me here - with no depth of field its impossible to tell if the kid's left leg has experienced elephantitis or just shitty foreshortening... In truth, he was flying high in both shots!)
Sunday, April 11, 2010
After the last abysmal community garden attempt, I promised the Little Man a pitiful pot of herbs for his window. He carefully picked his plants at the Green Market and had a lovely time putting them in his box. We also planted some seeds, and he dutifully spritzes it all every day (um, a couple of times a day...)
So, well, come to find out, you can take the child out of Kansas, but you can't take the Kansas out of the child. Its in his genes. (Or is he simply smitten since digging in the dirt isn't a daily option around here ? I remember weeding with my mother as a serious chore (so does E) but P will pick weeds for hours if given the chance...) Many, many times has the Little Man mentioned his desperation to grow something green, thus making me desperate to somehow fulfill this dream... while living four flours up...
Our dimly lit and tremendously tiny fire escape doesn't help when the word "harvest" is bantered about. (Not to mention the anxiety involved when you combine a small child, old iron and forty feet of air.) Remembering the kid's glee last summer in his homeschool plot, I started hunting for a spot nearby ("harvest" sounds unhappy when hooked to "long commute"). The search seemed a bust, even ending in tears (of frustration - um, mine...) after our seeming "last chance" didn't pan out (nothing like a very long garden meeting and orientation session that produces no plots, no ability to plant and lots and lots of rules.) And then, just before midnight on the eve of the joining deadline, Serendipity showed me St. Mark's Community Garden.
Honestly, after a number of garden mismatches this Spring, I was wary on our long scoot yesterday morning to our orientation session. Despite my apprehensions, I dared to dream it would be everything the kid has been yearning for; a place to grow, both greens and a community. And this garden, thank gawd, didn't disappoint.
Its a schelp, but totally scootable. And laid back. And lovely. And there's going to be a kid's plot. With special kid meeting times. And though there are no open private plots (we're on a waiting list!) there's five community vegetable plots and lots of perennial plots for planting. So we're good to go on the grow front.
The community bit was even better than I'd hoped, too. You know how the kid loves to chat with the taller sort, but typically, the taller sort are too busy for the short set. They have jobs and kids of their own and lots of stuff to do (don't I know it!) But there, in the garden, green-thumbs were giddy to show my curious kid around. When he named plants and excitedly tried the various greens they offered his mouth, friendships were sealed.
So, we toured, then weeded, then picked up sticks, then weeded some more, then chatted, then dug, then weeded some more :) The kid was so freaking happy to dig down in the dirt, to pull things up and out and look at them. Most of all, he was happy to collect. Leaves that were funny shapes or fuzzy, broken bamboo pieces, pointy sticks, stacks of cut sage. You name it, he "harvested" it.
And unlike some garden spaces, where the the Little Man isn't comfy and doesn't want to leave my side, he felt safe there. Fulfilling my third hope for the garden; that the kid could just be a kid there. That he'd have a place to really run free. Cuz there's not too much of that possible, here in NYC. He has no yard in which to while away his summer solo. No idyllic neighborhood to cruise with a posse of peers. Even the sidewalks are hectic, the streets, harrowing. The bottom line is, he has to stay close and alert when he's outside of his house. But inside this gated oasis, he can run free. That's some seriously sublime shit.
Within twenty minutes, I knew this garden would meet our needs. He had greens to pick, dirt to dig and adult interaction. There was more, though. The garden also gave the kid other kids. Hoping beyond hope that this meeting wouldn't involve "the reading of the minutes" and "bullet points" like our previous garden forays, I was thrilled to see so many other kids stirring mulch and running amok when we arrived. Of course, the Little Man didn't even seem to notice their existence for the first few hours ;) But, eventually, when the garden started to clear and a little boy ran over to watch us weed, P started chatting. Then another kid joined us. Soon, they were racing around together red cheeked and happy. Wait, there's more. Turns out, they were homeschoolers too. Seriously!
P and I went to the meeting in the morning hoping to get our key, planning on a quick tour, a reading of rules and maybe a little mulch mucking. Hours and hours later, after community pizza and lots of gardening and play, the child had no interest in leaving, ever :) Fortunately, with our own key, we can go dig, plant and harvest anytime the kid wants. Which is nice, since I'm not sure how long his herb garden can hold up under all of this love filled spritzing...
Friday, April 9, 2010
Can't find me, Uncle Seth!!!
Egg hunts happen year round around here (finding stuff is such fun!), so, Easter isn't egg-ceptionally (yuck:) exciting for the Little Man (though he relishes the broad realms of "holiday" and "specialness" :) This year, his particular definition of specialness was an afternoon in the park with the Uncles. Fortunately, they all were game :)
We brought eggs to hide, though, with a cabinet full of (rarely consumed) candy, the Little Man lost interest in this pretty quickly, finally Huck Finning the finding to Alicia. Papa sensed the waning and initiated intricate rules for a new game (goblins and golden eggs and such). The Uncles jumped in to join and pretty soon the woods were filled with running and shrieking. The story constantly evolved, first the stick was a pistol, then a magic wand, then there was a magic boomerang and protective scouts. The kid hid, and the adults chased, then the egg hid and... the adults chased. I got exhausted just watching.
E picks goblins.
The chase is on.
Phoenix wishes he would never have to say good-bye to his family. He'd happily live, commune style (and frequently reminds us that we could just move in with Grams and Gramps, um, permanently;) But the Uncles had to go home and tend to all of the wounds they had won that afternoon;) P clutched Bric, in an attempt to retain him just a few more moments... and then finally gave farewell kisses to his beloved family.
(Side note: P had yet to show any real interest in the archetypal boy/girl dynamic. He adores women and thinks girls are fabulous, but has been blissfully clueless beyond broad admiration. Some days he is a girl in his play, some days a boy, and he seems to see no hierarchy there at all. But last Sunday, he made his first remark :) Uncle Ian brought his fabulous new girlfriend for the fun, and P thought she was wonderful (she both wrestled and ran). He asked me later if I liked K, (in that way that intimates: now please ask me!) I said yes, you? Oh yes! Sheepish grin. A few hems and haws. In fact, mama, I think I'd like her as my girlfriend. Awwww ;) Of course, he still swears he's going to marry me, but I can see the seeds are sprouting, or at least planted;)
Falling a little behind here... A week ago the fabulous Aunt Alicia joined us on a Friday adventure. The Little Man was so happy to have her for the afternoon...
The day was so sunny it begged for a bridge, we chose the Williamsburg. Both the pickle shop (mysteriously closed) and the donut shop (mysteriously packed) en route were a bust, but the kid handled the disappointments pretty well (after emphatically sticking an angry tongue out at the donut window ;)
P hitched a ride over the bridge, ski style, just like the week before. Only this week, A was his motor :) The descent, of course, is a different story altogether. He adores the down side of the Williamsburg bridge - its bumpy and steep and he thinks its hilarious to go frighteningly fast until his hands jiggle.
We spent forever chipping at rocks by the river.
Then we scooted to another riverside park, where P and I explored the edges while squashing strange sea plants. He found the popping sound quite satisfactory.
Of course, we had to collect shells, rocks, sea plants and rusty railroad ties. His bag was mysteriously heavy by the time we moved on to the next park.... Where we played hacky sack (unsatisfactorily) and then keep-the-ball-away-from-the-kid-in-the-middle (with lots of laughter.) It was a lovely afternoon, and P described how much he loves Aunt Alicia alllll during dinner after her departure. It was a whole lotta love ;)
Monday, April 5, 2010
I had to laugh at my inbox today. My library hold is in:" Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene." Not exactly the subtitle I'd been imagining when I'd feverishly requested the hold last week (The Nap-size Napoleon? Choosy and Challenging? Definitely Defiant? Something more along those lines...)
I laughed because, well, he's suddenly sunny, and serene. After my meditation marathon the other night, my smile was back in place, I was feeling the love all over again. And, whalah, the child returned, too.
Its funny, the short set, they start out as this cell, its actually a part of you. It replicates and divides, in you, permanently rearranges bits and pieces of you, and is then finally separate from you. But not really. The kid feeds of you (this sounds slightly crass, harking from the '70's Midwest and all, I grew up pretending nursing didn't even exist, and if it did, then one must politely divert one's eyes to keep up the ruse. Well, I think the ruse is officially up - it must be so when even my little brother is sending me links on the importance of breastfeeding. ) Anyhoo, a kid is, quite literally, a part of you.
And the division (if followed naturally, if done as mankind did before cultural bullshit bothered babies) is so slow. During this loitering of one-ness, it was easy to remember how intertwined my moods were with the Little Man's. And (despite some obvious areas of obliviousness (um, personal space?!?!) in the child), the kid is crazy intuitive around me, spookily, eerily in touch. So much so that I actually grew accustomed to even watching my thoughts. Motherhood as zen mind training :)
But he isn't nursing, isn't being carried everywhere, isn't in contact with me constantly (though he still seems compelled to make body contact with anyone he's interacting with - cupping (or grabbing;) chins, sitting in laps, etc) . He just seems So Big. So separate.
So, it follows, wouldn't he have his own, separate, issues now? That stage I've heard about when kids get moody and difficult. I thought we were entering it. I figured it was time, we'd had five good years, it was a nice run...
Ah, um, no. I just suck :) It appears that the child was responding to getting less of me for a month. Less energy when I was sick, less smiling devotion when I was tired, less play when I was feeling frayed. But mostly, it was the more that was the problem. More grumps. The spills that are nothing on a normal day, are overwhelming when walking across the room sounds so sucky. The food requests that are typically time to bond were, well, basically irritating when camped on the couch. The need to play that is generally relished really made my eyes roll rather than BB squeal. And even though I watched my tongue (er, um, usually), the child, he knew.
This is what I've pieced together this week. (I could be wrong. I often am - though, again, I am no longer wrong in the child's eyes :) So, after what I would guess felt like weeks of judgement (the sighs after the spills etc) and withdrawal (I can't play, want a story? No, BB can't play either...), the child became edgy (written with much, much guilt.)
Within a day of my happiness returning, the child returned. The second day? He played quietly while I did the dishes. Then, later, he suddenly stopped talking and ran over to me to squeeze me tight. The word "thank you" has never been more clearly spoken. He repeated this action a few times during the following days, like a salve on a wound. Sometimes, though, I couldn't tell if he was squeezing out gratitude for my return or forgiveness for my absence...
So, they grow in, and then out, of our bodies. Then beside at all times... then further away. But it appears that the slow separation isn't screwing with our connection as much as I'd though during this "sunny and serene" age. Maybe I'll be able to be guilt free for challenging changes in another five years (maybe not). Maybe by then I'll be over the shock of how deeply my dedication to him effects his state of mind. I know, it seems so obvious that a less than serene mother makes for a morose child. Duh. But, honestly, its not like I was raising my voice here. I just have to remember how in tune, how intuitive, he is. After all, this is the child that quietly told me "You're hurting me, Mama." "What? Um, where? I'm not touching you, bud..." "No, Mama, but it still hurts." He was three-ish, and I was sitting quietly with my frustration, waiting for clarity. That's all. Just feeling frustrated.
I know people can feel judgement, that almost imperceptible shift in countenance, even without dramatic sighs of irritation... I know this, so I don't know why its so hard for me to remember that, well, a person's a person, no matter how small. And this small person can feel judgement too. Children can just seem so clueless about so much (he's only been around for a few years, after all) that its confusing that they can also understand so much.
So, with all of these thoughts floating around the last few days, I wasn't too surprised with the child's question today. I fell out of center and felt flustered, so I was just nodding while taking some centering breaths. Silence is a vacuum to the kid, but its my only solace, so there's simply no hiding from him. He fixed me with a sideways glance and said, "Mama, are you feeling frustrated? Hmm?" I narrowed my eyes, testing to see if I still was.... "Mama. Are you feeling frustrated? Why, Mama? What is it? Why are you feeling frustrated?"
Ahhh, the little Buddha. Why indeed. When I heard the honest answer in my head (because you aren't making my life as easy as I want right now) I had to laugh out loud. My laugh released him and his smile was, well, sunny and serene. Now, if only I can follow suit....
Friday, April 2, 2010
Ok, these pics totally don't go with this story, but they're what I've got ;) They are from P's Wednesday adventure (that's BB and BB's homemade Mama riding in P's adventure vehicle (that he adores - he loves that its from recycled materials, he loves that it makes sounds using his pushing energy, he loves that BB rides in it:) BB and his Mama went to the park to fly a tiny kite that P had just made for the pink monster. It was still cool outside, versus the next day, featured below, that gave the child seriously pink cheeks. Whoops!!!)
While the Little Man has tolerated play-dates this winter, even inviting friends into the sanctuary of his home, he has remained steadfastly uninterested in group get-togethers. A class here, a performance there, sure. But a park day? Not so much.
But I hoped he'd be game for this Thursday's homeschooler meet-up in our park. It was close and easy, the first warm day everyone would get together - so many of his friends would be there! Wednesday he said sure. Thursday morning? Umm, let's just go on an adventure instead...
I really didn't want to push him, but I was just sure he'd grown so much this winter that he would have a ball. And, though I do the best I can as a playmate, I'm still not five :) So I asked him to just try it. Ok, I kinda begged. He grinned and said sure, and we shook on it that we would leave the instant he wanted.
Ha. Hahahahahaha. We came home SIX happy hours later! With a friend in tow! He had a blast. (Of course, it helped that I was centered for the first time in two weeks :) This insomnia stuff is kicking my patootie. But on this particular day, I'd spent my night time hours meditating rather than berating myself for the past day's bleary eyed missteps. Ahh, what a difference a centered Mama makes... despite my claims that it isn't all about me;) ) He kept me close when we arrived (it was a big scene and all :) but then, his play was buddy based for most of the afternoon! Sure, there was that one huge wrestling match where two enormous five year olds repeatedly jumped me, squealing... but otherwise he ran. He climbed trees and played monkey with friends. Another mom and a group of kids played a little baseball - and he joined them (though, due to his non native New Yorker parents, he called it basketball...) He helped the bigger kids build a fort. He dug worms with a friend and another sweet mum. When a friend cried because he wasn't ready to leave (and his younger brother was), P offered us up as babysitters to keep his buddy close (and he did! They coordinated for the afternoon, P taking his duties quite seriously.) And then, for a long time, he sat with two of his closest friends, just snacking, trading foods, and telling each other how much they liked one another :) It was precious. I couldn't hear a lot of it (I kept sneaking off as far as I could go, close enough for him to be comfortable, but far enough for him to focus elsewhere ;) but what I did hear had me tearing up, or cracking up....
And all of this peer socializing got me thinking. He has friends without siblings who are so social its silly and friends from bigger families who are still having a hard time figuring out social etiquette, so I'd figured his social stigma wasn't an "only" thing. And there are plenty of schooled kids who get labeled "shy" as well as lots of robust homeschoolers. So I'd long ago reasoned that being an only, or homeschooling, well, those life choices, while obviously shaping him, weren't necessarily shorting him (despite what many will say - cuz when a kid doesn't fall into the "norm" in every way, its the stuff that's outside that "norm" that seems the most likely suspect. ) Despite knowing all of this to be true, and I know this sounds awful (I really do love him just as he is!!!), it was still lovely to see him running around doing kid stuff, with kids, without much concern. And we're both looking forward to doing it again next week :)
These shapes are beyond words. First, they store below our shelves (gaining massive Mama points, because, really, what New Yorker can store some enormous bouncy castle? After all, our word for basement is "neighbor"...;) Second, they have no real purpose. Therefore, they are everything. P and a couple of buddies built a house the other day. With a side addition and a "door.' After they left, the house morphed into a car (the woven seats are his "seat") Then, over the next hour that P and I played in it, small pieces were moved around to become control panels for a rocket, then a plane, then a submarine. So, on a very rainy Tuesday, we travelled all the way around the world. If you didn't see us (cuz, chances are, we visited you) its only because we were going so very fast.