Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Boy the Builder

The boy loves to do 'jobs' around the house. For Christmas he got a tool box, and now, that gets lugged around the house all the time. It has everything he could possibly need, a hammer, screw drivers, a level, measuring tape, and more. He adores his tools and when he's wearing pants that have pockets, you can often find him with his hammer, pliers and a screw driver crammed into one pocket – just in case he needs them.

He likes to feel useful, and so he 'helps' by doing different jobs. The Bob the Builder song could be his theme song “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” In his own word he does 'banging or screwing, or whatever needs doing' (Yes, it causes me to giggle like I'm a 9 year old boy). So that means that occasionally I'll hear tapping on the walls or chairs as the boy does his thing. Occasionally he'll ask me what needs doing, but then, if it's not something that he wants to do, he disagrees with me, and says 'no it doesn't need doing, I did it already'. So then I have to invent something else for him to do.

I enjoy the fact that he wants to be handy. He already knows the difference between a Phillips, Roberston, and slotted screwdriver, and he can name most of the tools in hubby's workroom. He comes by his DIY skills naturally. Hubby is quite useful, I can wield a drill no problem, Monster Grandad puts up a mean set of shelves, and hubby's Grandfather was a lumberjack/carpenter.

It's nice to see him up and active and using his imagination as he does all the jobs around the house. Just the other day he 'installed' a new smoke detector for me. And this afternoon he 'helped' to patch and prime some holes before painting. These are all jobs that he really has helped with in real life, and has obviously remembered and is now part of his imaginative play.

Hopefully this love for being handy will continue as he grows older. I'd really enjoy having a contractor/tradesman in the family, given how hard they are to find, and how much the good ones seem to charge! That way I could have things repaired and updated when I needed it, rather than hoping to find someone. Provided of course, that he's grown out of the habit of contradicting me, and just fixes what I ask.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese! Although in our house, it's actually whisky (I swear I read somewhere that that gives you a more natural smile, honest!). The boy has his own camera (one of my very old digital cameras) and he really enjoys using it.  

He's so proud of himself, and he really loves taking pictures. In fact, he often wants to bring the camera to family functions and outings so that he can take shots of everything. We need to wipe the memory card quite often, because he can't take just one picture at a time. I think he might have learnt that habit from me – in the nearly three years since he was born, I've probably taken at least 4000 pictures of him. That's the benefit of a digital camera, no more worries about not getting a good shot, the more you take, the better your odds are of having a good one.

It's funny to see what he takes photos of. As would be expected, there's an awful lot of pictures of his thumb, and I mean a lot. There's also a lot of extreme close ups of his face, and the inside of his nose, as he turns the camera on himself. Our poor dogs have also been the subject of his many photos, as he either tries to get in really close while they're sleeping, or he runs around after them for 'action shots'! The shots that I'm the least fond of are the ones he takes of me. Not that I really mind having my picture taken, it's just that from his height, most of the shots he manages to get are of my legs and bum! Definitely not my most flattering side!

We're just going through all the pictures he's taken so that we can print a selection to frame and put up in his room. That way he'll always have a fun reminder around him of his day to day life. And again, the beauty of digital cameras is we can sift through everything to find our favourite ones, rather than giving him a film camera and hoping for the best.

While he's no budding Annie Leibovitz, it is neat to see what captures his attention and what he thinks is important enough to document. Anything that nourishes his creativity and gives him an outlet for it can't be bad, and since they're digital, we only have to worry about finding storage space on our computers for them. And since he enjoys it so much, I guess that's worth my ass being immortalized!

Some of his handiwork

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sense of Fun

We were hit with another bout of snow here today, even though it's supposed to be Spring (what's up with that Mother Nature huh?), so that meant trading the boy's rain boots for his winter boots again! Since he loves the outdoors, no matter what the weather, we have to go outside almost every day. Rain, shine, or snow.

With snow falling, going outside was a good way to kill two birds with one stone, I could shovel my driveway and he could 'help'. He has his own shovel and he likes to push the snow around. Normally I give him a little area to 'clear' on his own, while I get on with the rest of the driveway, and he's happy, and everything gets accomplished. Today, however, that was not the plan. Or not his plan anyway. While I was trying to shovel in neat, orderly horizontal lines, the prescribed method of snow removal on my street, the boy was having fun tearing up and down the driveway shovelling in great big vertical strips, missing parts, leaving snow where I had already cleared, but having a grand old time while doing it. This meant that nice clear snow had foot prints in it and parts I'd already cleared had snow on them again.

I started to get annoyed, and then realized that he was just having fun. It wasn't nasty or naughty, he was simply having fun, and enjoying doing just what he wanted, how he wanted. A very toddler attitude. What does it matter if I shovel in straight lines or have fun running up and down chasing the boy and clearing the snow at the same time? If the job gets done, that's the important thing, and it's way more fun to try and do things the toddler way!

Granted, there are days when things need to get done, and we can't stretch a 15 minute job to 30 or 35 minutes just to make it more 'fun' and less structured. But in general, where's the harm in having fun while we shovel snow, or clean the house, or make dinner.

I think we should all try and remember this, and take on this attitude to be more like a toddler. That doesn't mean when can have a fit when we don't get our way, or run around dressed in a mis-mash of clothes that we picked out for ourselves, or take an afternoon nap (who am I kidding, if you get the chance for a nap, take it!). But try and make everything you do fun and enjoyable, and that just might help make up for having to dig out from a spring snowstorm.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Outdoor Space (Bloggers Give Back)

I've mentioned before how much the boy loves being outside, and I mean loves being outside. What that means for me is that my backyard (when it's not covered in snow) is taken over by a sand box, slide, and any number of other toys (shovels, spades, rakes, lawn mowers etc.). Which means I don't get to use it quite as I would like.  

Don't get me wrong we garden, we grew herbs, tomatoes and peppers last year, and we've dug new beds to expand our veggies this year. And there's grass for me to cut, and leaves to rake. But I don't have a really nice relaxing space with comfy outdoor furniture, and my flower beds are exceptionally low maintenance (to survive being run over by small children)

However, my parents (Monster Grandma & Granddad) have a fantastic garden, they spend hours out there in the summer growing food, (it keeps us all fed for months!), planting flowers, and enjoying a pond and water features. This means if I want to sit in a beautiful tranquil setting, we just head over to their place – a little bit of free babysitting, and I get half an hour of p&q!

So when Bloggers Give Back started the project to redesign the garden at George Herman House, I was totally in. Not only is it a worthwhile project to help create a green space for women who are dealing with the challenges of mental and emotional health issues (see my previous post here & check out the website for the event here), but it gives me a chance to see what some great design gurus are going to do, plus imagine what I could do around here, with a toddler in tow, that doesn't take more than minimal upkeep!

It gets even better, we now have some great sponsors for the project – Ikea is donating outdoor furniture, and Tonic Living is contributing outdoor fabrics and sewing! How amazing of these companies to step up and help. This meant I got to browse some fantastic furniture from Ikea and some beautiful fabrics from Tonic Living to come up with what I think could work in a low-maintenance garden.  

So here's my two cents (or you can see it below). A great couch and chair from Ikea to just relax on, some fun fabrics from Tonic to help give a bit of colour, very low maintenance plants like sedum, alyssum, and hostas, and a fountain (I love water features in gardens). And maybe in a few years when my backyard has become too small for the boy and he needs to go to the local park to play, I can look back on all of this for ideas and take back my yard from the plastic toys that currently seem to grow in it!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Tidy Up Time!

The boy loves to clean. Of course, that comes with a caveat. He loves to clean when & how it suits him. He's not mopping the floors or doing windows for me (sadly). One of his favourite things to do is help vacuum. He's always liked the vacuum, there was never a time when he was afraid of it, like some kids go through. When he was little he liked to be in a carrier while I used it, and then as he got bigger he liked to be in the same room as I tidied up.

This has moved on to wanting to use the vacuum by himself. My vacuum is old, it's one that my MIL gave us when we bought our first house, and it's awesome. It's a heavy duty, pro vacuum, which means that it's not exactly light. In fact it's a great work out for me to lug it up and down the stairs every week. So if it's heavy for me to lift, imagine what that means for the boy to try and hold it up to use! But he does use it, without complaining most of the time.

While I love helping him to clean up, (anything that can help my house look less like a bomb went off at the end of the day is a good thing) it is sometimes a bit trying on my patience. Our main floor is mostly hardwood, but there is a small area of carpet, which takes me about a minute to hoover. When the boy gets a hold of it though, we could be there for ten or fifteen minutes. And when I know someone is coming over, or I have the rest of the house still to do, it's hard to remind myself to just let him do things at his own pace.

But we carry on, as I think it's really important to encourage him to help around the house. It's his place too, and so he should be involved in taking care of it too. And hopefully as he gets older he'll still want to be helpful and vacuum. Although I'm not going to hold my breath on that one!

So we've come up with a system that mostly works now, we 'take turns'. I get everything done and clean, but leave a few strategic pieces of fluff or debris, and then let the boy have his go, and he can take as long as he needs, and he gets to feel like he's accomplished something by picking up the pieces I 'missed'. So while I still vacuum in a rush sometimes, and he just has to sit and watch me do it, with a bit of forethought he gets to help clean up around the house. Now if only I could teach him to clean bathrooms!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Curious Boy

To paraphrase H.A. & Margret Rey, “This is the boy. He is a good little monster, and always very curious”. He's at that age, where everything, and I mean everything, needs an explanation. “Why? Where? Who? How come? What?” come out of his mouth constantly. And did I mention Why?

I know that it's how he processes the world around him, and he needs answers to make sense of everything. So most of the time I try and give him serious answers to the questions. Sometimes when we're all in a silly mood, we get silly answers, like “zed” when we're asked “why”, which then leads into singing the alphabet. Sadly though, that doesn't stop the question, so we have to answer it at some point. It's nice in one way that he still believes that we have all the answers.

It's funny to me that he also likes to question choices we make. If we're playing restaurant or office (or any one of his hundreds of other make-believe games), and he gives you an option, when you give your reply, he then asks why you chose that one! Not only does he question choices, he also questions actions “Mummy, why did you put your left clicker on?” when I'm driving. Or “Mummy, why did that lady get up and leave” when we're at Kindergym.

This means I spend a lot of my day answering questions. Sometimes, I admit to making answers up, especially if he's asking about other people or their motives. Other times, I have to bite my tongue not to reply 'because', even if the questions have been going on and on and on. So now, I've decided he gets real answers. If the question stream starts going on for ever (and any other parents of toddlers know exactly what I mean) he now gets serious answers.

So when he asked the other day why I referred to hubby and his brother as “daddies” not “daddy” he got a lesson in plurals. Gravity, and an explanation about physics was called for when we were talking about things falling from the sky. When he asked why he had to wear his seat belt, after a few other tries, I told him it was mandatory, and then explained what mandatory meant.

This approach seems to be working at the moment. The more 'grown up' answers give him pause for thought and seem to satisfy him. So even if he doesn't completely understand the answer he knows we're not fobbing an easy answer off on him, and that seems to help the questions stop. And it means that I get to feel like I'm having a adult conversation (even if it's for just a few minutes),which is always a nice thing. There is a downside to this though, I think that as the boy gets older I'm going to have to start doing research as his questions get harder and harder! For now I'll just enjoy being seen as the source of all knowledge. Until I can't answer something.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bullying and the Boy

There was an interesting show on Dateline tonight about bullying and teens and encouraging kids not to stay silent about it if it's happening to them or to other kids. It was heartbreaking to see how upset some of the kids were as they related the stories of being bullied themselves, and how many 'bystander' kids did nothing and allowed it to happen. There was one girl who spoke up so courageously against the bullies and was trying to defend the bullied. It was amazing to see this young teenager so strong and so poised in such a tough situation.

It made me start to think about how I'm going to teach any of this to the boy. He's young still, not quite three, and home with me, so he doesn't currently face a lot of opportunities to bully or be bullied. But even now he does face some kids who aren't nice to him, who push him at the water table, or eat his snack. When does that become bullying? And how do we teach him to stand up to it when he sees it?

We try and teach our kids manners, to say 'please' and 'thank you', to be respectful to adults, and kind to others. In his book, The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett (one of my favourite authors) says “Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” I really believe this, and I think this is so important to teach our kids too. If we all spoke up for those who felt powerless, or unable to do so, then bullies would lose their power. This applies not just to school yard bullies, but toxic workplaces, bad relationships, and society as a whole.

So what do we do? None of us want to raise bullies, none of us think, “Oh when Johnny grows up, he's going to terrorize third graders everywhere,” but it does happen. We need our kids to know what we want for them and expect of them. We all want the girl shown on Dateline tonight who stood up to the bullies. We need to make sure that our children will be the ones who “speak up for them as has no voices.” And first thing tomorrow morning the boy and I are going to be talking about it.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Green Space (Bloggers Give Back)

I just wanted to share something that my friend Lindsay over at Aubrey & Lindsay's Little House Blog is doing. She is looking to help George Herman House transform their backyard into a soothing and usable area. George Herman House provides supportive housing for women with mental and emotional health issues, and I can only imagine how helpful it would be having somewhere close to them that they can sit in and relax, reflect, and unwind.

We all need somewhere green & peaceful to go and unwind, whether that's your backyard, a cottage, a local park, or an urban forest. Think how much your kids love to run around outside and how good they feel afterwards. The boy especially, loves to be outside as much as he possibly can, and is so happy when he can just be left alone to potter around in the backyard. In fact in the summer he would spend all day outside, trying to get out the back door while he's still in his PJ's!

Now imagine you are dealing with the challenges of having mental or emotional issues, how much more valuable would that access to somewhere soothing and relaxing be? If you can help Lindsay in her project, or want more information, check out her blog post here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

So your kid is perfect huh?

Before I start this, I'd like to say that generally the boy is well behaved and listens when we are in public. We've taken him to art galleries, fancy restaurants, and more, and have often been told how nice he is and what good manners he has. But being a toddler, this can all go out the window in an instant.

We were out and about shopping today, and I knew the boy was starting to get tired, but he insisted he was fine to do one last store. Big mistake. I shouldn't have listened to him, I should have recognized the signs and just left. But it was so tempting to stay and finish up that one last errand (he needed a new spring rain coat). And so that's what we did, or at least attempted to do.

In the store his behaviour deteriorated until I was forced to give him a warning that if it continued we would leave and he wouldn't get his raincoat today. But to no avail, so this meant that I had to pick him up, crying and calling out 'Mummy, Mummy' and leave the store, pushing a stroller filled with all of our coats, hats, and bags.

The salesclerk at the store (a kids clothing store), had obviously seen it all before. When I remarked that we'd have to come back another day, she nodded sympathetically and said 'no problem', and told me the sale on the coats had just started so it would be on for a while.

When we got out into the mall it was a different story. The boy was still in tears and I was still carrying him – he was squirming too much for me to attempt to put him in the stroller – and pushing the stroller at the same time. I passed a number of other parents of young children and the number of dirty looks I got amazed me. As parents it would be nice if we wouldn't judge each other without being in possession of all the facts. I would actually hope that parents would see what I was doing and say, 'Hey, she's following through on disciplining her child, maybe when he grows up he'll understand consequences and think things through'. Instead I got looks of 'what an ill-behaved child, she must be a terrible mother”. It's always tempting to stop and address those parents, but very rarely do I have the balls to do such a thing.

Some of this might be in my own head, (I am often worried about what kind of job I'm doing as a Mum) but I did get some glares and stares as we made our way out through the mall. Oh well, maybe those same parents will be around the next time we actually buy the coat and they hear the boy chatting away happily, saying 'please' and 'thank you', and just generally being the wonderful little guy that he is.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Clothes make the man.

I love to shop, but I'm not a huge fan of shopping for myself. There are certain things that I would buy if (I mean when) we won the lottery books, boots, shoes, handbags, more books, but that's about it. But I love shopping for others. This means that the boy has lots of clothes.

When I first had the boy, I thought I wouldn't be able to find cool, fun, and funky clothes for little boys, there always seems to be such a surplus out there for girls. Happily I was proved wrong. It takes a little bit of hunting, but there are some great things out there for little guys. It also helps that the boy loves to wear everything and anything; shirt and tie? Check; cords and a sweater? Check; fedora? Check. I love his willingness, and dread the day he wants to live in grungy, dirty, slobby, clothes.

My biggest problem shopping for the boy is his size. He's fairly tall and skinny which means that pants are one of the hardest things in the world to buy at the moment. If I'm lucky I can find pants with drawstrings, or the little elastic things inside the waist (all you other mums know what I mean). If not, it means the boy is SOL.

Kids clothes also have the same problem that I find in womens clothing, sizes in one store don't fit the same way as in another store. A perfect example is his PJ's. We were getting him dressed for bed tonight, pulled a pair of PJ's out of the drawer, and they fit perfectly at his waist, but came down to just above his ankles! Then I checked the size, and no wonder, they are a size 12-18 months, and the boy will be 3 in a few months!

All that this means is that I have to be super picky when shopping, and either shop with the boy (not always a fun pastime), or make sure I can return things if they don't fit. And then that means I can shop some more. I'm going to enjoy it while I can, before I'm not allowed to either pick clothes out for the boy, or he only wants to live in the same gross outfit weeks on end. Hopefully that's not for a while though, right?