Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Politics, religion and parenting

Want to start a fight on the Yahoo Answers board? Ask what the best way is to get a baby to sleep. Or when to stop breastfeeding. Or whether circumcision is a good idea. Inquire about the best way to discipline an unruly 3 year old. Invite opinions about immunizations for children or the relative risk/benefits of homeschooling. And then don your flame-proof suit. It is about to get ugly.

People are passionate about parenting, and why wouldn't they be? How we raise our kids in integrally related to how we live our lives. Our beliefs and values, political views and religious perspectives get all wrapped up in our parenting choices, and so when someone challenges them, it gets right under our skin. Saying that our choice is wrong is akin to saying that we are wrong to our very core. Our backs get up, we feel threatened, and the accusations fly. This way is weak, that way is heartless. This way is controlling, that way is irresponsible. Everyone wants to prove, to themselves or others, that their choices are the best, if not the only, way of bringing up babies. Everyone wants to be right.

Some people need to "be right" because they are doing what their parents did. If they entertain the idea that the methods are not right, then they have to deal with their own emotions about being raised that very same way. Conversely, other people need to "be right" because they are doing things differently from their parents. They need to believe they have corrected the mistakes that their parents made in raising them, because that is how they can make peace with them.

Ideas and ideals. For the most part, we learn them from our families of origin first, and then accept or reject them as we learn about alternatives through our interactions with the rest of the world. Once we have arrived at what we believe to be true, we start to form into groups with like-minded people, and play the us-vs-them game. And so play out the big three: politics, religion and parenting. We are such a tolerant people... until somebody stands up and says that what they are doing is right.

We can sometimes get around conflict in these areas by talking about 'what is right for me' or 'what works for our family'. This can defuse tempers and smooth over disagreements, letting people get past issues by 'agreeing to disagree'. However, dealing with issues in this way can quietly send the message that all choices are equal. If we really believed that, there wouldn't have been any conflict. Pretending that we think they are equal is inauthentic.

So what is the answer? Never talk about parenting with your friends? Or talk about it, and brow beat everyone you know into agreeing with you? Maybe we should all start anonymously mailing research articles that support our perspectives to our friends and family...

I can't tell you what to do. What would be the point? I may as well tell you what church to attend or which politician to support. But I have come to a place where I don't need to. I am content to just vote with my life. Keeping an open mind to new research and to other people's ideas and experiences, I can only determine what I believe to be best, and act in line with those beliefs.

In the end, I believe that I am making the parenting choices that are best for my kids and I respect other mom's rights to do the same. Let's leave the flame throwing to the message board trolls.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Upcycled magnet board

Nik has been overflowing with questions lately. "Where are we going today, mom? Who is going to be there? Who is coming to our house? When are we going to Grandma's? Is it preschool today? Are we going shopping? Can we go to the movie store?" and on and on and on.

Although at first this seemed to be the stuff that rubber rooms are made of, after some reflection (and sleep) I decided to look at it as the perfect opportunity to introduce some calendar time into our day. We could work on the names and order of the days of the week, the numbers from 1-31, the concepts of yesterday, today and tomorrow, along with some sight words, all while answering the questions I am answering everyday anyways.

Voila, my upcycled magnet board turned kid's perpetual calendar!

Made mainly of second hand and dollar store materials, this calendar should fit our needs beautifully for easily less than $10.

Now, this is a board I picked up second hand for $1.99. It does double duty as both a magnet board and a dry erase board. It was kind of grungy, but here is something you probably didn't know... Hand sanitizer cleans these babies like nobody's business.

I found the graphics and lettering on the board kind of distracting, so I flipped it around and cut out simple cardstock shapes to cover them. I adhered the paper to the board with glue dots, and later added a flower embellishment the same way.

Using permanent marker, I wrote the names of the days of the week down the side of the board, leaving space on the left hand side of the words so I could add each day's date with magnetic numbers.

At this point, I could have done everything else in dry erase marker. However, because I am hoping my son will pick up some sight words from doing calendar with me, I thought I would create some custom magnets that we would use over and over.

I made the first magnets from a magnetic frame designed to hold a 4x6 photo. These are easy to find in 2 packs at the dollar store.

What started as this,

quickly became this, with the help of my permanent marker and scissors.

Because the magnet was originally designed to hold a photo, it easily converted into a pocket to hold the name of the current month.

I made our 'To Do' list items magnetic, by writing them on pieces of cardstock, and attaching small magnets to the back with mounting squares. The magnets I used were the 'fridge poetry' type, that I had gotten for free (Thanks, Downtown Peggy!), but you could also use another frame cut into bits, or even pieces of magnetic business cards.
Put it all together and, presto! Finished calendar. The plastic bag to the right has a zipper and a handle, and so will be the perfect place to store all the magnetic numbers not in use, as well as the various month names. There is also some storage space right on the board, in the 'grass'. All of the extra agenda items are there now.

Hubby hung it up in Nik's room as soon as he got home. It is low enough for Nik to 'read', but out of the way enough that it shouldn't be disturbed. I am so happy with how it turned out, and can't wait to start using it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Simple scrappy circles

What do you do on a rainy and gray Sunday morning when your baby is fussy and your 3 year old is coming down with a cold? Well, if you are me, you let your 3 year old watch cartoons, throw your baby in the sling, and pull out your scrap stash for a quick crafty pick me up.

This may be the simplest paper technique out there, and there are a million ways to vary it, so I won't even call this a "tutorial". It is more, "the-steps-to-do-what-I-did-this-morning". Enjoy!

First, choose some coordinating patterned papers. The easiest way to do this is to pull out the leftovers from whatever paper project you finished last. Other easy ways? Choose one multicoloured pattern and match other papers to it, or choose patterns that all come from one colour family, say, shades of blue. Don't overthink it; just do it.

Bypass your die cutting machine, your punches, even your stencils, and grab your scissors. Imperfect is the name of the game. With the scraps in a stack, cut out three circles: large, medium and small. You are aiming for a collection of circles like the one below.

Combine the patterns as you see fit to create circles like the ones below. I used four patterned papers, and created circles in three sizes. You can use more or less papers, or make more or less circles as you see fit.

Experiment with different ways of stacking the circles. The patterns will play off of each other, and you will love some combos and hate others. Play until you are happy with them.

Combine with cardstock and some quick pen work, and you're done! Create cards, bookmarks, or accents for scrapbook pages... It is quick, easy, and looks great alone or in repetition. Best of all, they turn out a little differently every time.

Wishing you a good crafternoon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Green for luck

Happy St. Patrick's Day from my two little leprechauns!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Second-child syndrome

About a year ago, a coworker of mine came back to work after completing her year of maternity leave with her second child. I asked her what it was like to be a mom of two. Her answer?

"It feels like I am a mom. Of two."

I think I know now what she meant.

There are two kids to dress, to feed, to keep clean, to get up with in the middle of the night. Two bedtimes. Two car seats. Two sets of wants and needs.

There are also countless comparisons to make as I try to avoid second child syndrome. Have I taken as many pictures this time around? What about videos? And where has that baby book gotten to? Am I giving her enough attention? Is she getting lost in the shuffle? Am I rushing her nursings? Her diaper changes? When was the last time I changed her, anyways?

Ah, the second child syndrome. My older brother was the second child in our family. A few years ago, while looking for photos for a family project, my mother realized she didn't have a single baby portrait of him. Any portraits of him under the age of three also feature my older sister, or are of the whole family. There aren't any of just him. It took her over 25 years to notice...

That speaks to the positive side of the second child syndrome: you really aren't paying as much attention. For me, this means I am really just too busy to drive myself mad overthinking every little thing. I don't count how many times I woke up during the night, or keep track of how often I sit down to nurse. Being on the go with a 3 year old means I use the baby sling more, and worry less. I am reading fewer parenting books, and am taking a stab at trusting myself.

I have come to realize that if I define 'fair' as 'the same', it will never be fair. Alexa doesn't have the same mom that Baby Nik had. Baby Nik had a vigilant, research-oriented, problem-focused, brand new mom. Alexa's mom is broken in. She's a little more relaxed, and a little less concerned with getting everything right.

So, I am definitely feeling like a mom. Of two.

There are two kids now, to hug, to kiss, to snuggle up with in the middle of the night. Two sweet little faces to photograph. Two sleeypheads to carry in when they fall asleep on the way home from Grandma's. Two sets of hopes and dreams.

Lucky me.
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