Friday, May 21, 2010

Turning 2

Link has turned two years old and will be going through a lot of changes in the coming weeks.  I thought I'd talk about what we're doing, and how he's handling it.  To summarize, he'll be:

  1. Moving from mom and dad's bed to his toddler bed (and room)
  2. Spending 5 weeks away from home
  3. Giving up his cloth diapers for big boy undies
  4. Welcoming a new baby home

Toddler Bed
This went so well, I was amazed.  Link slept in his crib until he was almost one, then a series of events landed him in our bed (it's not that interesting, so I'll skip it).  I thought it would be very difficult to get him into his own bed, but I think it was harder on me.  We're both serious snugglers; when he'd fall asleep, he'd want me right there, with my head touching his and my arm over him.  But when we took the side off of his crib and put it in our room he took right to it.  I put him in his jammies, went to put my jammies on, and when I got back, he was in his bed, with his arms behind he head, ready to go to sleep.  At first, I'd have to stay with him until he settled down, and for the first 2-3 nights, put him back in bed when he came out of the bedroom door.  But, after that, I could read him a book or two, kiss him good night, and leave.  He'd call for me a few times, but I'd only go back in if he was crying when he called.  I wanted him to know that if he needed me, I'd always come, that way he'd feel comfortable enough to go to sleep, but I didn't want him to think he could just call me and I'd come running even if he was just fine.  He still wakes up sometimes and calls for me, but usually I can just say "Mommy's here, go back to sleep" and he does.  Other times, I have to go tuck him back in and give him a hug, then he'll go back to sleep.

A few days after he started sleeping in his converted crib, we got him a new toddler bed (the crib was needed elsewhere).  He loved it!  He had to get in it before I even had a chance to move it out of the living room.

Then, when I put it in our room, he chilled out for a little while with his buddy, Bear.

Once we get back from our 5 week trip away from home (see below) we'll move his bed into his own room.  I think he'll actually sleep better then, because he won't be bothered by the noise of me getting out of bed 100 times to visit the bathroom, or the racket of me turning over (which is a feat when you have a watermelon attached to your stomach).  If he has any difficulty Daddy will stay in the room with him for a few nights since I'll be occupied with the new little one.

5 Weeks at Grandma's
I LOVE to visit my family, but 5 weeks away from home just stinks!  Since Daddy wasn't sure what state he'd get a job in after graduation, I couldn't be sure that we'd be here when the baby came.  So, I decided to have the baby back home, that way I could stay with family (not in a hotel) while waiting to go into labor.  That, and I'm REALLY picky about my doctors, and I LOVE my OB, and didn't want to change :)  Anyways, Daddy is working, and Link and Mommy are spending the next four weeks in Grandma's spare room.  We get to see Daddy every weekend and we do lots of video conferences.  Link & I will love being able to visit with all of our extended family, but we sure will miss being with Daddy and being in the comfort of our own home.

Big Boy Undies!
Link has been using the potty since he turned one, as much or as little as he wanted to.  He's used to going in public, on the road, on little potties and big potties.  He knows when he has to go (#1 and #2) but he isn't that concerned about going in his diaper.  Since Mommy doesn't want to have two boys in diapers, and since Link seems willing and able, he'll be switching over next week. (He saw his new undies and REALLY liked trying them on, he asks for them when he sees them).  I'll have to post an update on how that goes :)

New Baby
Yep, in just over four weeks, we'll have Link's little brother home with us.  It'll be some adjustment for Link going home after being away for so long and having a new baby.  But, I think he's going to do great with it.  We just spent a week with my sister who just got home with her new baby, and Link did really well.  He liked to hold his new cousin and liked to bring him things, like his pacifier or toys :)  He'd have to run and check on him when he was crying, or peek over the side of his bassinet to say "Hi!"

It was just so stinkin cute, I had to put this picture of him holding his cousin with my sister.
He would pat him gently and hug him.  I can't wait to see how he does with his little brother!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Home Environment

I thought I'd make a post for my family with some information about why I do some "weird" things. (They aren't really weird, just not the norm for most families.)

One of the biggest things about Montessori, which is more than just a teaching philosophy, is that it also describes ways to prepare your home for a little one and make the entire environment welcoming to him.

I'll start with the crib vs. floor bed thing. I used a crib for Link up until he was able to stand, then became so frustrated with nap time and bed time that I took his mattress out of the crib and put it on the floor. It really helped with getting him to sleep and Link always woke up happier. Take a look at this quote:
A bed should be one which the baby can get in and out of on his own as soon as he is ready to crawl. The first choice is an adult twin bed mattress on the floor. Besides being an aid to development, this arrangement does a lot to prevent the common problem of crying because of boredom or exhaustion. 
It helps to think of this as a whole-room playpen with a baby gate at the doorway and to examine every nook and cranny for interest and safety. If the newborn is going to share a room with parents or siblings we can still provide a large, safe, and interesting environment.
We put a baby gate on his door and it worked pretty well. So, with the new baby coming in June, we've decided to start out with the floor bed and see how it goes. Well, for the first few months he'll be in the cradle by the bed; we'll move him to the floor bed when he outgrows the cradle. I really like the idea of his room being a 'play-pen' so that he's free to move about. Again, we'll see how it goes :) Especially since we're not sure we'll be out of this 2 bedroom apartment by then...

The next thing that stands out a bit was our use of child-sized glasses instead of sippy-cups. Link took very well to his glasses (which were a mixture of shot glasses and small juice glasses). He went straight from nursing to using a glass. He did (and still does) spill things, but he is also very careful. I think he has an awareness of the liquid in his cup much more than kids who use sippy cups. As a matter of fact, we run into the most problems with bottles that have tops. He knows that when the lid is on, he can do whatever he wants with the container, and tends to play. This does not go well when the lid is not on, as he still wants to play. That is why I always try to stress to others not to let him play with things he drinks out of :) 

Link also has a set of plates and bowls and flatware, just like ours. He is two years old and has only ever broken one dish. He helps me take them to the kitchen when he is finished eating and is very careful with them. Eventually, I'll have them in a cabinet that he can reach so that he can also help me set the table. It takes a little more effort on my part to make sure he isn't breaking his plates or drinking glasses, but I think it was worth the effort to see him treat his things so well. Here's a good quote:
Whenever it is possible and safe, we give beautiful, breakable materials to the child, respectfully sharing with him what the rest of the family uses—pottery, glass, metal, real tools. There is a great increase in the self-respect of the child when she is allowed to use our things, instead of being given plastic substitutes. There is also a corresponding respect for, and caring for, the materials when they are beautiful and breakable. 
Speaking of setting the table, we don't follow the Montessori rule about not strapping your child down in a high chair. I just didn't have the patience for this one. We do have a child sized table, which my dad cut the legs off of so that it is at just the right height for Link. We eat snacks here and do lots of activities. For dinner, Link sits with us at the table in his highchair and is not allowed down until dinner is over. During snacks, I do a lot of reminding Link that once he gets up from his table, he is all done and mommy will help him put his food away. It takes so much patience for both of us, that we don't do it a whole lot. But we do it enough (I think) that eventually he'll understand and as he gets older will know that we don't eat and run around the house.

One of my favorite Montessori ideas is 'letting' your little one help with household tasks. Link loves this!! I actually feel guilty when I unload the dishwasher without him! And I have to say, it is pretty stinkin cute to see him getting his little vacuum cleaner or sweeper out to clean under his little table. He'll vacuum right beside me, or sometimes just get it out to clean up; he's the best! He also likes to help cook, though I'll admit I don't do this one as much as I should. He helps with things like muffins and fruit smoothies. Again, it takes a lot of patience, but it is worth it. He also of course helps water the plants. Some things I'd like to get him helping with is hanging his diapers to dry, though I'm not sure how well he'll be able to use the clothes pins, and sweeping. He has a broom, but can't use it correctly. I really need to work on teaching him how, but he has so far been a little resistant to taking lessons in that area. This is a long quote, but here it is:
A child learns self-control, and develops a healthy self-image if the work is real—washing fruits and vegetables, setting or clearing a table, washing dishes, watering plants, watering the garden, sorting, folding, and putting away laundry, sweeping, dusting, helping in the garden, any of the daily work of her family.
Family work, known as Practical Life in Montessori schools, is the single most important area of a Montessori education at any age. Allowing the child to participate in the life he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and to those around him. He is needed. We can empathize if we think of the difference in our feelings for a dinner guest in our home who is completely served and waited on, or for one who is welcomed in our kitchen to talk and to laugh while we prepare the meal together. In the first instance the guest is separate, the relationship formal. In the second we share our life and the relationship is intimate—a true friendship.
A good bit of the Montessori 'education' at Link's age (under 3) falls in this Practical Life category. I wish I did more of it with Link. I think once the new baby comes, he'll be a great helper, so we'll get to improve in this area.

I should mention that all of my quotes come from the Michael Olaf website, which is a great resource for understanding (and buying) Montessori stuff. (Though its pretty expensive)

Reading back through my post I realize that I didn't make it clear that there is a big difference between preparing the environment and baby-proofing the entire house. I am NOT into turning my entire home into one big play area dominated by toys, padding, child locks, etc. When I say 'welcome' I mean that I have taken his needs into account and made adjustments (especially for safety), but I have not given my home over to him :) Does that make sense? His things are included with ours, in non-obtrusive ways... 

Another thing I'd really like to work on his making Link's environment more beautiful. We have always moved so much that I never decorate and it has become a habit to not hang anything on the walls. Since we'll be here for a while, I'd really like to hang some photos at Link's level for him to enjoy. (Well, I'd like to hang some at my level for us to enjoy too). Here comes another quote:
Pictures on the wall, hung at the eye-level of the child, can be beautiful, framed art prints, or simple posters. All of us have been influenced by our first environment, and nothing helps create beauty in the world as much as giving beauty to the very young. 
I'll work on this one some when I have a chance.... or when we move the next time :)

I hope this post helps to shine some light on why we do some things the way we do. If you have questions about anything else, feel free to ask :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Favorite Activities

I thought I'd start out by showing some of Link's current favorite activities and the toys that he has on his shelves right now.  The first one is cutting his fruits and veggies, known to Link as "cut-cut".  This was always fun for him, but recently he has taken notice of how I cut his food up and he really wants to do it too.
Ok, so he has lost his little wooden knife, and is using a ruler, but it works.  Sometimes its a little hard to cut ->
And he also likes to show his buddy, Bear, how its done as well.
He's pretty good about putting things back on his shelves, although I do spend a good bit of time picking up fruit from random places in the house.  In this picture you can see some of the other activities he has on his shelves.

I just recently got his pots and pans back out, and he has been enjoying his tool set since Christmas.  He's also got a basket of books and a puzzle here.  The mats are used for keeping his activities together when he's working but he's only using them right now for specific things, like the matching game and puzzle.  We're working on that though.  I don't have a picture of him doing the matching game.  I have some little wooden tiles with animals and we lay them out face-up on the mat.  He chooses the pairs and puts them in a little bag, he's doing about 10 sets right now.   I am amazed at how much he likes doing it.  I keep this activity on the higher shelf because I don't want the little tiles spread all over the place.  The shelves above his head hold items he can play with only with supervision and books that we read to him but he doesn't have access to read by himself.

In the other part of the living room is his toy shelf which used to be in his room, and will soon be going back there.

He's got stacking/nesting blocks, a train with blocks, and two different types of stacking disks.  This shelf will be changing soon, but I'm not sure what I'll put out yet.

One of the things that gets Link the most excited is watering his plants.  When he sees me coming with his watering can he runs to the door laughing he is so excited.  Or, he runs and gets his watering can when I mention it.  He helped me plant all of his flowers and his tomato plant.

See how he's putting the tip of spout on the flower?  We've been working on keeping the water "on the flowers" as opposed to on the ground or off the side of the porch, and he takes it literally.

I love how happy this makes him every morning!  I can't wait until that tomato plant has some tomatoes on it.  He is going to be tickled pink to pick them and eat them off of his own plant!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting Started

So I'm going to give the blogging thing another go, but with a different purpose.  The purpose of this blog will be for us to share the fun things in our life with others.  Mainly, that will be all about our little bugs.  As of today, we've got one 2 year old and one in the oven.  (In about 7 weeks or so we'll have 2 little bugs running/laying around, and we'll see how much time I have for blogging.)

We're going to have to come up with snazzy nicknames for our boys, but generally, I'll refer to them as our Bugs.  For anyone not in the family who happens to read this blog, I guess I'll include a little bit about us.  Hmm... where to start?  I'm the mom - I was a mechanical engineer for about 2 years, then when I gave birth to my son, I decided to leave work and spend all my time raising him.  I plan to homeschool my kids and I devote a good bit of my time doing research and planning things for us to do.  My husband is a computer scientist and a fantastic dad.  We love taking our son on hikes, swimming, to the zoo and aquarium, and just outside in general.

You'll probably notice that all my blog links (right now) have to do with Montessori.  Montessori is a teaching philosophy that I really like and try to implement as much as I can at home.  A good bit of what I post will probably have to do with what we're doing at home and why.  Read this post --   What DID we do all day?: Welcome! -- to see what I mean.  This blog is going to be one of my most used resources as I get started and her Welcome post does a good job of summarizing what I'm doing as well.