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    Entries in toddlers (32)


    DIY aromatherapy calm down jar

    Three and a half has brought with it some interesting changes in George's moods, behavior and communication. He's more in tune with his feelings than ever before, and when he has messed up (being hurtful to his sister, primarily, but also when he's being stubbornly unhelpful or otherwise rascally), he is more inclined to approach us with an apology and try to make amends without prompting. We still sometimes need to remove him from difficult situations for others' safety, or to respect their space, but his ability to shorten the distance between that and a willingness to fix it and move forward is heartening. To provide George with a new coping skill that might defuse the tension (or, metaphorically, diffuse it, if we wanna get homonymous), I decided to make him a calm down jar with an added aromatherapeutic factor. 

    You'll need an old jar, some fine(ish) glitter, glitter glue (mine is from the dollar store), a stirrer you don't care about (I used a bamboo skewer), a scrap piece of muslin or other cotton fabric roughly three times the size of your jar's lid, a bit of lavender, some confetti (optional; you could also use sequins, small buttons, whatever -- the heavier it is, the faster it sinks), and hot water. 

    Put a kettle on, or a cup of water in the microwave. You'll need hot water in the next step. Pour some of the glitter (NOT the glitter glue) into your jar (mine is a recycled jam jar with a tight-fitting lid). 1/4 inch in the bottom of the jar should be plenty. Add some confetti if you want; I had these weird ghosties leftover from something, but the glitter alone works just fine, too. 

    Fill your jar half full with hot, hot (not boiling) water. Squirt in some glitter glue, stirring constantly lest it clump up. I used about a third of a 3 oz bottle, and could've probably used less, but it's not an exact science. When you're satisfied that the glitter glue is totally incorporated, fill your jar up with hot water, leaving about half an inch of headroom at the top. Let it cool a little before you seal it, because you'll be doing some handling, and... it's hot. 

    Lay your lid on your fabric and mark a circle that's at least an inch larger on each side, the cut it out with pinking shears so it doesn't fray. Place some lavender in the center of the fabric. Close your jar as tight as you possibly can, and glue it if your kid might try to loosen it, because this spill would undoubtedly be the worst mess of all time. Carefully place the fabric, lavender side down, on the lid, and push any stray lavender back on top of the lid. Secure it tightly with a ribbon.

    Shake it up, give the top a scratch, inhale the calming scent of lavender and watch the glitter settle as your nerves do, too. Encourage your child to keep the jar in an accessible place and use it whenever they want. 


    like rain on your (neighbors') wedding day

    Spring around here is a funny thing. It rains; it pours; your carport floods. And then, for one day, it is 62 degrees, bright and warm from the time the sun shows his unfamiliar face until he lays it down in the Sound. And those twelve hours are enough to make you optimistic about the possibility of enjoying outdoor life again, in a sincere way, not a ha-ha, good thing I'm wearing galoshes kind of way.  

    We actually had, like, THREE of those in a row, a week or two ago. And then my poor neighbors who had waited TWENTY FIVE YEARS to get legally married found themselves putting up clear flashing around their gorgeous deck in preparation for a torrential downpour that waterlogged their wedding day. PNW, we can't quit you, but you sure are a jerk sometimes. 

    To console ourselves after we put some measly starts into the garden only to have it frost overnight at 37 degrees and kill our broccoli, George and I decided our raised beds could use some flags to jazz them up a little. Zelda had never potato printed, so we got out some muslin, cookie cutters, a potato, some paint and a paring knife.

    If you don't know how to print with potatoes, there is no shortage of tutorials online that probably give all the details you need, but all I do is press a cookie cutter deep into the freshly-cut side of a potato, then slice into the side of the potato with my paring knife and cut away the excess potato. Not exactly rocket science.

    George and Zelda chose an arrow, a heart, a star and a leaf. One arrow attempt failed, and turned into a bunny. Zelda kind of just tried to eat the potatoes, but George had a good time stamping the strips of muslin I had torn. Speaking of which, I didn't bother hemming these; I just snipped the selvedge edge of the muslin and tore it along the entire width of the fabric, leaving me with strips. 


    I gave George dishes of the paint that came with a paint-your-own wooden car kit. I have no idea what kind of paint it is, but it's labeled non-toxic, and it hasn't yet run. Do I need to tell you how many times it's rained? When the kids were satisfied that they'd eaten enough raw potato and sufficiently stamped the soon-to-be flags, we cleaned up, and let everything dry while we ate lunch.

    While George napped that afternoon, I cut the strips into smaller pieces and sewed a ribbon across the top, bunting-style. We stuck bamboo poles into the ground on each end of the garden and tied on the flags. I love that it helps give the kids some ownership of our garden in these early, boring days of germination and perseverence. 




    PBS and the preschool body politic

    Today, while I stood in the kitchen making lunch with a baby at my feet rummaging through the drawer of breast pump parts and old sippy cups, George was -- I thought -- watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. He came tearing in from the living room in a panic.

    "Mama! Mama! Fun is being eliminated on PBS!" he said, stricken. I'd seen the requests for sponsorship a million times, heard the warning that government funding may be eliminated, so the onus was on us, the public, to keep the P in PBS.

    "Not fun; fun-ding," I said. "That means the money that pays for the channel to run might go away."

    "They have an empty bank account?" He asked. Uh... No idea where he might've heard that before. Ahem.

    What began as a funny mishearing ended up as a civics lesson of sorts. Over lunch, we talked about the cost of doing business as a tv station, and the difference between the shows on PBS and other channels. I asked him if people should pitch in to keep PBS on the air, and he nodded his head enthusiastically. "Yes, because those shows teach me about going potty and they teach Zelda about colors!"

    "But what about the people who don't watch the shows? The people who already know colors and how to go potty?" I asked.

    "Well, they like Rick Steves!" he said. Unsure about how to delve into even generalities of socialism with a three year old, I assured him that not everyone likes Rick Steves (we had to agree to disagree on that one), just like not everyone plays with the matchbox cars at his school despite their availability to everyone. What he came up with didn't surprise me, exactly, because I believe that this is the simplest, fairest strategy for most everything: "But," George said, chewing his peanut butter and honey sandwich thoughtfully, "if I have a pee accident at Fred Meyer it gets the cart yucky (hypothetical, right, dude?). Zelda needs to know her colors so she can stop at the red light when she's a grown up kid. Daniel Tiger helps everyone even if you're doing something else at 11:00." Helping the least of us is not a concept foreign to kids. When do we stop helping our friends put on their boots so we can go outside together, and start telling them to hoist themselves up by those bootstraps and quit complaining that we've left them behind? Being helpful is most toddlers' fondest wish; socialism just follows.

    Back to George: Cupcake Wars? Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - two of his other favorites? I pointed out that they stop for commercials, something he dislikes for their rapid pace and often unnerving content (ask him sometime how he feels about Anne Burrell). It wasn't hard for him to grasp the difference between money-making breaks and those designed to pause and reaffirm what you just learned. We talked about getting money from individuals and families rather than big companies. We compared it to the bus and the library, two other things he loves that require both government funding and the buy in of people who use them.

    After lunch, he asked to look in his "bank account," a little red locking bank that opens only at five dollar increments. "How much do I have?" he asked. $6.05, I told him, pointing to each number. "You can open it when you get three more dollars and 95 cents."

    "Can I give it to Daniel Tiger?" He looked at me hopefully.

    "Of course! You can do whatever you want with your money."

    "...Can I have three dollars?" Of course, I told him yes. But I also told him we'd be writing a letter to our representatives about how much we value PBS. 


    on language

    On Language -- the title of both a Julie Ruin song and a Noam Chomsky book -- was my email address for many years, beginning in, like, 1997, when my family had AOL and I was a teenager trying to figure out the world through punkrock and discussions of semantics. Language and its use (not to mention misuse) fascinate me, so the way my kids communicate is both an endless source of interest and worry of mine. Watching vocabularies develop, seeing conjugation begin to make sense, helping with the sounding-out of words, and noticing colloquialisms creep in are some of my favorite things about parenthood. I've never been concerned that my children won't be able to express themselves, given that their mother is one of the most direct people I know, but this morning while getting ready for preschool, George said he was nervous.

    "What's making you nervous?" I asked.
    "The boys make me be a bad guy, and I'm not a bad guy; I'm just George."
    "Well, do you tell them you don't want to be the bad guy?" I asked.
    "I say honk, but they don't listen!"

    Now. George has a sort of punchline to everything, and it is the word 'honk.' It ends several songs in the way that a knee slap and jazz hands might, and it also serves to express confusion (...honk?), appreciation of something amusing (*satisfied smile* honk!), and punctuate human contact (*poke* HONK!). I'm not sure when or why it started, but it's at once a funny quirk, and not exactly my favorite thing he does.

    "You can't say 'honk' and expect people to understand that you mean, 'I don't want to play like that' or 'please use gentle hands,'" I told him.
    "But mama," he said, plaintively, "if I tell them 'gentle hands' they will feel bad, so I tell them 'honk' but I say it like this, with a sad face: 'ho-onk'."

    I'd just like for you to imagine the sad, sad face of a three year old disappointed in his playmates' misunderstanding of the blow-softening "honk" meant to deter them from pretend-demonizing him. It was so unbearably cute and funny and sad, and awesome to see his understanding of social conventions developing. I understood; we've been working on saying excuse me rather than get out of my way! And I don't care for that rather than this food is yuck. I was heartened that he cared so much for his friends' feelings that he didn't want to upset them even though he felt they were kind of terrorizing him, but passivity is not something I ever expected would come out of my household.

    I gave him some useful phrases like "I don't want to play like that" and "I don't like those touches; do you want a high five instead?" and "I'd rather play on the same team" but he was skeptical. Meanwhile, his sister threw across the room the shoes I'd picked out for her and staggered over to the shoe basket, retrieving her own choice. She thrust them at me, saying firmly, "SHEES." Shoes, these? Who knows, but it certainly wasn't unclear what she wanted.

    These little people are so different: from me, but not me, and that's something I relearn on the daily. I think about my struggle to understand language -- to harness its power -- at seventeen, when Noam Chomsky and Kathleen Hanna felt like they were speaking to my very soul, and I want to do that for my kids. But I know they'll find their own versions of those angry songs and dry, plain reading. Until then, I guess there'll be a lot of honking.


    dental touches

    Dear Zelda,

    Tonight while nursing you, before you signaled that you were ready to sleep by unlatching and looking for Papa (who slings you to dreamland as he does the dishes), I was finger-combing your hair. It's getting longer. Long enough to "do." This makes me very happy. Anyway, I was finger-combing your hair while you nursed, and when I stopped, and rested my hand on your little belly, you reached down. You grabbed my hand and brought it back to your head, making me pet you with your fat fingers tight around mine, puppeteering. Looking at me, satisfied, you stopped nursing to say, with a sleepy smile, "den-tal." Gentle. Yes.