Okay, that title is kind of a private joke, but I think once you see this you will kind of get what I’m trying to say. Don’t watch it unless you’ve got room in your head for a song to play over and over, for a stretch of several days…
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Found a couple of fun projects to do with little kids in my mom’s copy of “Teaching Montesorri In The Home”. It’s an older book (copyright 1968) yet well ahead of its time. The Montesorri method has many schools now that boast its name and teaching methods. I’m not familiar with their schools, but a friend of mine has a son that attends one and I know they both love it.
This particular book has lots of projects and learning tools for young children so I’ve been trying out a few on the kids to see how like them and so far, so good. Just simple, fun stuff you can do and make at home. Here are a few of the things we did:
Mystery Bag: Take any kind of smallish-medium size bag (we used a brown, lunch bag) and collect some small, familiar items from around the house. Blindfold the child (or have them cover their eyes-no peeking!) and have them pick an item one at a time to identify. David loved this and I found it was all too easy for him. I think the items I picked were perhaps too familiar, and next time I’ll have to be a bit more clever. After we played this he went around the house and collected some items for me to pick out. He did a great job and I’m pleased to report he didn’t put anything slimy or otherwise nasty in the bag. He also got a big kick out of watching me guess.
Action Cards: Montessori calls them command cards, but David likes the word “action” so I went with it. All you do is cut out some cards (I used cardboard, but recipe cards would be perfect) and write verbs like sit, sing, laugh, run, hop, etc. on them and teach them one at a time to the child. Then go over them again and have them do the action described. David is just the right age for this, and he had a great time acting each one out. Now he can identify about half of the cards we made. He made up his own card with the command “Zoom”. He described it as “like running, but much faster”.
Shape Sizes: This one was kind of simple but both David and Sofia enjoyed it. I cut four different shapes in varying sizes and asked David to place them in descending order on the coffee table. He found that part very easy but then it was interesting because he began building other forms with them (robots, snowmen) and then I had him make different patterns with them. Again, very simple stuff, but lots of possibilities. I also wrote the names of each shape so he could begin to identify the words for them as well.
Fun With Pasta: I don’t know if this is specifically a Montesorri thing, but I didn’t get it from the book. We used to do this with the kids in the daycare I taught at years ago and it was always a hit; Until a fight would break out. It’s all fun and games until a toddler gets tubini in the eye. Anyway, you just pour out some different kinds of dry pasta (multi-colored are even better) into a big bowl and get smaller bowls, cups and spoons for the children to pour and play with. This kept them busy for a very long time. They were so intent on pouring and measuring and stirring. They even kind of helped me clean up afterward. Kind of.
If nothing else it’s good to have some projects on the back burner for those frosty days when struggling with snowsuits has just lost its thrill…
Sippy cup, sippy cup,
your cheerful plastic facade
belies your true nature.
This game of cat and mouse must cease,
for I am weary and out of money.
Must I tether you to my children’s wrists?
Is your existence so bleak you must cloak yourself
in webs of dust beneath my bed, to remain a lonely, empty vessel,
devoid of all but a trace of Juicy Juice?
Why do you torment me so?
Have I not bathed you in the finest, soapiest dishpans?
Have I not poured within you the choicest and most delicate of potables?
Why must you roll yourself away into the shadows, forcing me to search,
Some day I shall find you and you will want to be cleaned,
but I will not wipe the curdled milk chunks from your plastic spout.
I will leave you to your choice- to the destiny you’ve carved for yourself.
You have spurned me for the last time, Sippy.
I am a slave to your “spill-proof” convenience no longer.
You’ve burned me for the last time, you ill-conceived, loose translator of driving directions. Oh, I’m sure some of you folks out there have been hurt by it too– the popular online resource for getting from here to there. You know, the one that rhymes with “CrapFest”? Sort of rhymes, but you get the picture. I almost missed a free dinner and karaoke because of you!
Since when in English does the written direction “bear slight right” actually mean “take sharp left at traffic light”??? I didn’t miss anything here. I finally got wise and asked the nice young lady at the Mobil on the Run where to go and she knew exactly and when I showed her my CrapFest print-out she was puzzled. There were two streets I was supposed to turn on that aren’t even there! I mean, they don’t exist in our world. Maybe they do in CrapFest land, where a left is a right, a “round-a-bout” is a bridge and a stop sign is really a red barn with a drooling cow in front.
You’re dead to me, CrapFest. Keep your freakish world of lies to yourself, and get a compass for goodness sake. Me, I’m going Google from now on.
The kids and I have a new ritual. We get down and boogey each night before I start to make dinner. It entertains them (and me) and wears them out a little and they seem to do better at independent play which makes the food prep process a littler easier on me. Anyway, I’ll put on the radio, usually the local rock station because the kids don’t tolerate slow music, unless we’re pretending to ice skate (or kitchen skate as we like to call it) in our socks. I won many a competition on this old vinyl floor, back in the day. We brought our collection of CDs down with us from Vermont, but we haven’t had anything new in a little bit. Not since Ernesto got the soundtrack to “Collateral” and that “Los Lonely Boys” album. If there’s more than one, I don’t know which one we have. This is the point I’m getting to, here folks…
So the kids love to dance and I love to encourage it as much as possible and expose them to as much music as I can, so I’m always happy to have something new, but I am no longer that girl who buys the new release of her favorite artist the day it comes out. That was the teenage/college years me. I don’t know what happened to her. Partly I got my financial priorities in order and partly I got out of touch with the music scene. Oh, and then I had babies. So music- not at the top of the list. But I still love nothing more than to get into the car once in a while by myself and just turn the volume way the hell up (“this one goes to eleven”) and rock out. I know I must look so old and lame and I feel old and lame just saying “rock out” because who says that anymore? And I don’t care if people see me singing in the car. And I do. I pretend like I’m in videos. Oh, it’s sad, but I know you do it too.
So a couple weeks after Christmas we took the kids shopping in tax-free NH for some good deals and Ernesto was talking about this group that he had heard about on NPR so I’m kind of tuning him out talking about it, because I figure how cool can it be? But he wants to pick it up so after a time at Border’s reading books to the kids he finds what he’s looking for and says that the got the album that he had heard about so he’s telling me about them as we’re getting in the car and that they’re basically this couple that were married and the husband teaches the wife to drum and they’re just fooling around with it but realize they’ve got this great band going so they make an album and so he puts it in, we’re listening and you know how when you were a kid and you put a new tape in (or record on) for the first time and you just fell in love with almost every song right away and it was just an instant hit with you? Well that’s how it was with the “White Stripes” and their album, “Get Behind Me Satan”. Here I felt like we had struck lyrical gold and I just couldn’t believe how much I liked it and that I was so on the cutting edge. Me!
Me: “So this is a new album?” I still can’t believe I’m in on this cool new music. I am going to be hip again, I just feel it.
E: “Um, well, it’s their latest.”
Me: “Oh, like their second or something?” Maybe they had an obscure debut that no one had really heard of yet.
E: “mmmm….no. I think it’s like their fourth or fifth.”
Me: “I’ve never heard of these guys before!”
E: (shrugging) “I really hadn’t either.”
So later that night after listening to every song several times, and already skipping to my favorites (“My Doorbell”, “Denial Twist” and “Little Ghost”) E has got his laptop out and he’s looking stuff up on them and they’ve got like a dozen videos out already, one featuring Conan O’Brien for goodness sake, so I think it is offical that I am the last person in America to have heard of these folks. Unless you haven’t. In which case I will only laugh at you a little.
Okay, so there’s no hope left for me, but my kids are on the cutting edge. They are little hipsters, bopping and grooving to “The White Stripes”. What more could a mother ask for?
A Side Note: The White Stripes are no longer married, from what I understand, but they are still together as a band and God bless them. If you can make beautiful, post-modern, Led Zepplin-esque music with your ex-spouse and not go nutty, then you can do anything. Amen, I say.
This is often one of the first questions adult Americans ask each other when they are first introduced in a social setting. Maybe it’s the same in other countries, I don’t know. It’s an obvious enough question to ask, and I guess it’s a good way to get conversation going if you can’t think of anything else to say. Maybe we think this is a way to get to know about someone else’s interests; that someone’s work or career can tell you a lot about who they are. Much of the time I don’t think this is true. While there are people who would gladly do the work they love for free (I used to feel this way about acting, and thank goodness I was willing to do it for free because who was going to pay me?) most people do the work they do because they need to make a living. Maybe they came into that career by way of some other work they used to love but maybe it didn’t pay as well, or pan out like they thought. Or maybe someone had an opportunity for them when they were out of work and they took it and found themselves still doing that same thing 20 years later? Maybe it’s kind of related to what they always wanted to do, but not exactly. Whatever we do, however we get there, we usually have a paycheck to look forward to that helps us to provide for the things we need to live. If we enjoy what we do, then all the better. But do our jobs even loosely define us? Perhaps asking about someone else’s interests outside of work would be a better way of getting to know them. Or is that too personal a topic for a first meeting? Maybe we’re just all trying to be polite and really don’t want to know anything about the other person that is significant? I’m not saying I know, I’m just trying to figure this out.
I ask because I was at a friend’s house for a party a little while back and there were a lot of people about my age to whom I was introduced. I was already acquainted with some of the people and they knew I was a full time mom so they didn’t ask me what I “did”. But every person who I met for the first time asked me almost immediately what I “did” . And when you stay at home with your kids this becomes an entirely different question to have to answer. First off the thing you notice is people don’t usually ask, “What do you do for work” they just ask “What do you do?” and of course you know that they mean:”What is the job that you do to make money?” I used to get asked this question when I worked outside of the house and I’d prattle on a little about the details of my work and sometimes people were kind of interested, and sometimes not and depending on what I was doing at the time for work I would get different questions. I didn’t particularly ever care to talk much about work (especially while I was off the clock) but hey, if someone cares enough to ask, I should talk about it a little, right? And why on earth should someone ask that question unless they are truly curious about what you do? Well, the irony here is that now that I’m doing something I love- being with the most important people in my life, trying to raise them right, trying to show them that there is love in the world, despite all the ugly, crazy things people do, now that I finally have something to talk about, stories that would make you laugh and cry in the same minute, something I can share with enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge (however little) and above all with heart- no one really wants to hear about it.
Of course there are people in my life who care about what I do. But someone who doesn’t know a thing about me, only my first name and what I look like, asks me what I do and I tell them I’m a full time mom and then they smile weakly and go, “Oh?” and that’s that. No more questions. I would say about 8 times out of 10 this is the reaction I get. The other 2 are from folks like me who are there, or who have been there. They get it and I don’t need to tell them what I do because they already know. I never ask people what they do anymore. If someone is excited about their work and they want to tell me all about it, then cool! I’m happy to hear that other people enjoy what they do; They should.
And I do. And it doesn’t matter a lick if no one else in the whole world cared a bit about what I did. Yeah, it makes you feel like a little like an outcast, and I can’t help but wonder what these people meeting me are thinking:
“Oh, she must be wealthy to be able to afford to stay home.” -Are these the clothes and hair style of a wealthy woman?
“Maybe she can’t get work“-Maybe I just adore the little buggers and can’t bear to be away from them.
“Perhaps she’s just lazy“-Clearly you have never spent time with children!
Anyway, I really don’t presume to know what others are thinking about me. On a good day I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. On a bad day it feels the world is out to get me. I’m curious though what reactions other stay-at-home-parents get from strangers. And how do you respond, or should I say…what do you do?
So I’m putting the kids to bed, we’re done reading our stories for the night and the kids’ eyelids are at half mast. David’s got his EJ bear and Sofia is snuggled up against me but her arms are noticeably empty. Usually at this point she’s got one of many nighttime buddies with her, and since Christmas she’s got a whole new host of characters to choose from. I look over at the beautiful new sleigh-style doll bed that my sister Kate had gotten her, complete with custom bedding that she had hand sewn herself. Many nights I find Sofia lying in that little bed with her dolls, cooing and coaxing them to sleep. And sometimes I’ll find her hugging and poking at her new Care Bear her uncle James got her that speaks each time you squeeze a paw or a foot. There are so many to choose from and they’re all so cute, but she somehow makes time for each one. So as we snuggle up I look around the room and ask, “So who do you want to bring to bed with you tonight? Dolly? Little Bear?”
She does a sweep with her eyes, stops and points to a small spot on the rug. “Fwipe.”
That is Sofia-speak for Swiper. Swiper the Fox, my friends. Most of you need no explanation.
I think that this moment, more than any in her young life illustrates the depth of her character. She would rather hold the lonely, loathed, repeat-offender, feared fox than soothe all the round, fair-faced dolls in the world. You see him up there, the 3-inch, molded plastic devil that she held tight in her little fist until she fell asleep. He’s smiling ’cause he’s loved.