Archive for ‘Kids’

February 2, 2017

Night owl seeks 6 a.m.

by Decemberbaby

I thought this day would never come.

Oh sure, I’ve aspired to be a morning person my whole life. The early morning is so peaceful and calm, not to mention the beautiful sunrises. But I’ve never managed to keep it up. A week here, a couple of days there, and the exhaustion would hit me hard enough that I gave it up.

Until now.

The only difference that I can see is my mindset. Waking up later is not an option anymore; the same way that 8:00 used to be my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise the kids would be late to school, 6:00 is now my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise I’m just not as nice a parent or as effective a person as I’d like to be.

So how did I do it?

Mostly once I made up my mind that I have to wake up before everyone else I was able to force myself to follow through. But a few tricks have helped me:

My alarm doesn’t yell at me or blare music. Instead, I hear the sound of chirping birds, soft at first, then getting louder. It’s like slowly waking up in the woods – I can lie there and laze for a few minutes, but it’s hard to resist getting up. (Note: this doesn’t work for everybody. My mum tried it and said she woke up in a good mood for the first week, and then she started waking up thinking, “Shut up, birds!”)

I never thought my penchant for reading fanfic on my phone would help me become a morning person, but here we are. I usually read for about 20 minutes before I even get out of bed. I find that the light from the screen wakes up my brain. A few articles or some chapters of a story, and I’m awake enough to get up without hurting myself.

I get dressed right away. I arrange all my morning clothes – including socks and underwear – one one hanger that hangs on the door handle of my wardrobe. I can (and usually do) get dressed in the dark. It’s quick – no decisions, no searching for the perfect socks – and once I’m dressed I can’t get back into bed.

When I leave the bedroom, I close all the doors to the bedroom hallway and then turn on every light in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It helps me pretend that it’s not still nighttime.

And then… then my time is my own for at least half an hour. I blog. I stretch. Sometimes I clear my desk and pay and file the bills. Some mornings I start a pot of oatmeal on the stove. I get important things out of the way before my day really begins.

(Hot tip: If you have to call a customer service line of some kind, do it around 7 a.m. Nobody else is calling at that hour and you’ll spend exactly zero minutes on hold. It’s magical.)

Is all this worth it? You could ask my kids, who’d probably tell you that now I wake them up with a song and a snuggle instead of by shouting, “Get UP! We have to GO!”; you could ask our violin teacher, who would tell you that the kids’ progress has accelerated since we started practicing daily before school (after school practice was a fight); Or you could ask me.

I like myself better when I wake up early. By 9:00 a.m. I’ve already accomplished something beyond getting the kids to school. I’m so much more productive when nobody else is awake that my morning half-hour of work can easily cover an hour or more of daytime effort.

And that’s a really good thing, because holy cow, am I exhausted. I’m going to need a nap.

 

Are you an early riser? An aspiring one? An unapologetic night owl? Share your tips, if you’ve got any, in the comments below. If mine stop working I’m going to need more in my arsenal.

December 21, 2016

Oh, hang it all…

by Decemberbaby

I’d forgotten how insane the first two years of a new baby are. I mean, really insane. But the little one is almost two now, and suddenly I have time to do projects AND blog about them!

Last year we started doing Suzuki violin with the three older kids. Then I got violin envy and bought myself a cheap violin so I could play along with them during practice. And then I started to miss my viola, so I reclaimed it from my brother (he borrowed it in high school) and traded it in for something smaller (I have no desire to repeat the tendinitis I had in high school). So now we have four violins and one viola, and that’s a lot of cases to keep out in the living room.

Have you ever noticed that the stupidest things can keep you from doing a task? Like, the garbage can needs a new bag but you don’t really want to put one in, so you leave the cheese wrapper on the counter for the next person to deal with?

(What, that doesn’t happen in your house? The Mr. and I are going to have a talk about this…)

Around here we call it “friction” – the annoying little things that are a deterrent to doing things right. Having a laundry hamper with a lid is friction. Having to stand on a step stool to reach the healthy food is friction. Having to open your instrument case, remove the instrument, attach the shoulder rest, and remove the bow – you’d better believe that’s friction.

As any Suzuki parent will attest, it can be enough of a challenge to get your kids to practice their violins. And frankly, even I would sometimes choose not to practice – even though I love playing my viola – because I only had a minute and it would take more than half that to get my viola out and ready to play. So I started thinking about ways to store the violins so that they’re ready to go, easy to see, and still safe from bumps, scratches, and dry air. And I started thinking about how violin shops display their instruments, and after some googling and some more thinking I built this:

violin-case-open-2

Can you spot the viola?

It started life as a BONDE storage unit from IKEA. We’ve had it for 12 years and have used it to store wine glasses, serving platters, candlesticks, menorahs, and basically anything that wasn’t ugly enough to put behind closed doors.

But now it’s a violin display case. Because it has a door, the violins can’t get knocked or scratched when they’re hanging there. Also because of the door, I can humidify the air a bit so the instruments don’t dry out and crack. And because the door is glass, we can see the violins hanging there, whispering “play us… play us!”

Do you need one of these? Well, then. Roll up your sleeves and gather the following:

  • 1×3 dimensional lumber, length determined by the side of your cabinet and the number of instruments being stored.
  • several wire hangers – one hanger is good for two instruments.
  • some narrow wood lath or wood moulding, same length as the board (one for each side)
  • finish nails
  • carpenter’s glue
  • wire cutters
  • pliers

So here’s how I did it (in about 10 minutes.) First, I took a piece of 1×3 lumber and drilled holes into the side. You’ll have to measure your instruments for best results, but I found that a spacing of four inches between instruments works well for the children’s violins (1/16 to 1/4 size) and six inches are needed for a full size violin and 15″ viola. So measure those distances on each side of the board, and using a narrow drill bit, drill holes into the sides. The holes on both sides should line up with each other.

Next grab some plastic-coated wire hangers (we get them from the dry cleaners), cut off the twisted and hooked part, and straighten out the rest with your pliers. Cut a length of 12″ for each instrument you’ll be hanging. Then shape the wire into a rectangle (about 3″ on bottom and 3 1/2″ on either side), with the cut ends forming the top of the rectangle.

Partially fill the holes you drilled in the 1×3 with carpenter’s glue. Place the two cut ends of the wire rectangle into one pair of holes (one end on either side of the 1×3) and press them as far in as they will go. Hold them there for a moment so that they stay when you let go. Repeat for as many hangers are you need.

Theoretically you should be able to stop here. But I’m paranoid about my instruments, and so I added a strip of 3/4″ moulding to each side of the board (I used both glue and nails) so that the wire cannot be pulled out of the board. I recommend doing that.

Finally, you’ve got to attach the hanger to the inside top of the cabinet or shelf. I was able to take the shelf out and install the hanger while it was on the floor, but you might have to do this inside the cabinet. If you do, get someone to help you hold it up straight while you screw through the board and into the top of the cabinet. I used 4 screws and it’s quite solid.

violin-rack-closeup

The bottom line here is that in one fell swoop I’ve reduced the number of excess wire hangers, used up some of my scrap wood, and made it extremely easy to just pull an instrument out and play it – even for a short minute or two. The kids practice more, I practice more, and the living room looks just a bit more sophisticated.

If only all of life’s friction points were this easy to eliminate…

violin-case-closed

Case closed.

 

October 4, 2015

The Summer of K

by Decemberbaby

My, it has been a long time. Is it St. Swithin’s day already?

*crickets chirp*

Right, I forgot. I’m old now, and Simpsons references just date me. Younger people than I just gape incredulously when I explain that yes, The Simpsons used to be extremely funny. Point being, we’re all getting older.

This summer saw an amazing milestone for K: she made friends with a girl on our block (note: this is amazing because we don’t go to the local school.) I immediately let her know that she could walk to her friend’s house by herself as long as she let me know when she was leaving home. Thus began the Victoria Day long weekend (third weekend in May, for my non-Canadian readers.)

Since that weekend, I’ve become used to the shouts of “I’m going to K’s house!” (yes, K’s new best friend also has a name that starts with K, which is quite similar to our K’s name. Think along the lines of “Layla and Lyla” and you’re on the right track.) It has become normal to have K’s friend at our dinner table or in our backyard. Their bikes kept each other company on our driveway. Toys, crafts, and even clothes went back and forth.

It was a major parenting milestone for me, too: the first time one of my children could spend all day entertaining herself independently. K would leave the house and return with her friend, then yell, “Eema, we’re going biking in the cul de sac,” and leave again. An hour or so later I’d hear the door and shouts of, “we’re just getting a drink and a snack!” and the slam of the back door as they ran out to the treehouse. It was idyllic and nostalgic and simply wonderful.

Since the summer ended, many people have commented that K has matured so much since last school year. I see it too. What was the catalyst? Was it the close friendship with K? Or the knowledge that she is trusted to navigate a small part of the world by herself? Is it that she can, in a small way, manage her own social schedule without relying on adult availability? Or is it all a coincidence, a constellation of events made possible by her increasing maturity?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I seem to have, at times, gained a kid and yet at other times to have lost one; what matters is the joy of watching my first fledgeling spread her wings just a little bit; what matters is the bicycles on the driveway, and the closeness between the girls who ride them.

Bikes

October 28, 2014

Show Off

by Decemberbaby

It’s been a while since I showed you any of my creative work. I did some sewing last year, while I was off the blog, and have finally gotten around to uploading the photos from my camera. So, without further ado, I give you:

Gumdrops Quilt for K

K moved to a big-kid bed last year, and she needed a quilt or blanket for it. Setting a precedent for the rest of my children, I went ahead and made her a quilt to keep her warm and to mark this big step for her. She requested pink and purple, and so I gleefully dug into my scraps (I have WAY too much fabric) and found enough of them to make this:

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It’s a design called Gumdrops from the book Sunday Morning Quilts. The background is Kona White, the colours are scraps from previous projects, and the backing is…

CIMG3431

Well, it’s not anything quilters would recognize. You see, when we were vacationing on our island in the sun last winter, I discovered that a decent number of people on the island still sew their own clothes, sheets, and everything else. The fabric store I happened to walk into (a chain store with a presence in the nearby mall) had tons of fabrics at very low prices. They even had zippers for $1.25 U.S. each, which any seamstress up here will tell you is crazy cheap. I actually came back with a suitcase full of fabric. But I digress.

The backing is 100% cotton sheeting, which in practical terms means that it’s wide enough to make sheets for a double bed without having to make seams. K fell in love with the colours and the design and although her quilt was not on my design board yet, I agreed it would make a great quilt backing. As you can see from the photo above, both K and her stuffed cheetah agree.

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As you can see from the binding, once I got started using scraps I couldn’t stop. There are about 10 different fabrics that make up the binding, and I’m very pleased with how it looks.

As for quilting, I had some fun with my sewing machine’s embroidery foot and free-motion quilted the whole thing. At this point I realized that this quilt is a great design to “quilt as you go.” I’ll remember that for next time. Anyhow, I did a stippling pattern on the white background and quilted just inside the edge of each gumdrop shape for a raw-edge applique look. After repeated washings, I can tell you that the quilting has held up beautifully and the gumdrops’ edges are very attractively frayed. But I digress. Here’s the quilting from the back, which gives you a much better view:

 

CIMG3433 CIMG3434

Of course, no quilt would be complete without a label. It’s the last thing I sew on every quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The quilt now resides on K’s big-girl bed. She takes great pride in spreading it flat in the mornings, and snuggles under it every night. A few nights ago at bedtime she hugged me and said, “‘Night, Eema. Thank you for my snuggly quilt.”

September 10, 2014

Getting hurt.

by Decemberbaby

We were at the park. K climbed onto a trampoline-like apparatus and started jumping. Immediately, two children (aged 4 and 5, perhaps,) began whining: “No! Stop jumping! You’re not supposed to jump on this thing!”

(Here I must interrupt myself to point out that I don’t usually get involved at all in playground disagreements, but their objections were so absurd that I just couldn’t help myself.)

“Why not?” I asked them. “Looks to me like this thing was made for jumping.”

The five-year-old boy set me straight: “But it’s Dangerous!”

I looked around. The ground was paved with rubber. The apparatus itself seemed to be made of rubber and very sturdy ropes that were close enough together that no child could possibly fall off. Where the ropes intersected, the joint was encased in a rubber ball. Dangerous? I couldn’t see how.

Fortunately, the five-year old decided to enlighten me further by saying, “Last time someone jumped on this, I fell down!

No scars, no bruise, no “I fell down and broke something.” No. He fell down, an act by which he proved that the apparatus was unsafe.

Readers, you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t just outright laugh in this child’s face. I certainly wanted to at first, until I realized that this child was being allowed to grow up with a ridiculous level of fear.

****

K has been learning to ride a two-wheeled bike (no training wheels) for the last few weeks. She could have made faster progress, I felt, had she not been so scared of falling and getting hurt. I was patient, though. I bit my tongue and sat on my hands. “See, Eema,” K told me, “this way I can make sure I don’t fall down and get hurt!”

Sure, kid. But you’re also making sure you don’t get to feel the wind in your face.

****

In my 34 years of life, I’ve been hurt many, many times. I’ve also been sick, both acutely and chronically. And every time, I have recovered.

Why does this matter? Because lately I’ve noticed a train of thought in my own mind that goes something like this: “What’s the worst that can happen? I get hurt? It’ll hurt like hell, but only for little while, and then I’ll be okay. That’s not so bad.” It seems that having experienced injuries and the healing process has given me a degree of courage, or maybe just a better perspective on risk. On balance, I’d say my past injuries were valuable and ultimately empowering experiences.

That’s why it makes me sad to see children who are convinced that getting hurt is the worst possible thing in the world, and that injuries only result from unsafe activities (should I tell the story about the ceiling that fell down on Mr. December’s bed? He wasn’t in it at the time, thank God.) I’m saddened to think of all the fun these children will miss out on, not to mention the sense of accomplishment they would get from doing something difficult and possibly risky. Most of all, I’m saddened to think that it didn’t have to be this way.

We are currently raising children in a culture and a time where any level of danger is unacceptable; where not obsessively baby-proofing your home is seen as foolhardy; where sitting on a park bench and watching as your child attempts a tricky climb, falls, cries, and tries again is tantamount to neglect. We are inundated with “what-ifs”: what if your child is biking to the park alone and falls and gets cut and bleeds and cries? What if he slips on one of the steps and slides right down to the bottom of the basement stairs? What if the baby bangs his head on the corner of the coffee table and gets a bruise?

Well, what if those things happened?

Look, I get that there’s always a freak occurrence that nobody could predict (so why do we try so hard to predict it?) and that we just want our children to be safe. But is that really what we want for our children? Have we been so inundated with the slogan “Safety First!” that we’ve forgotten there are things more important than safety? If “safety first” was really true, nobody would use power tools, or play professional sports, or get into a car and drive somewhere. There is a level at which enjoyment and convenience can, and should, gently nudge safety aside just a little.

The truth is that our children are safer than probably any children at any time or place in human history. Vaccines, trained birth attendants (whether doctors or midwives,) car seats, and the general decline in violent crime have made infant and child mortality so rare that our culture has to think of new dangers to fear, much like how our immune systems supposedly attack allergens because they face no “real” threat from diseases that used to fell healthy people. Bad things just don’t happen to children anymore. If they do, it’s someone’s fault. Someone wasn’t safe enough, wasn’t vigilant enough, wasn’t a good enough caregiver. Someone must be blamed. There is, in effect, no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to children.

But back to my “what if?” question: What if a child bikes alone to the park, falls down and bleeds, and cries? Well, the child won’t cry forever. A passer-by, or another child, or a parent at the park, will offer assistance. More likely, the child will stop crying, get back on the bike (or walk beside it,) and either continue to the park or go home for a band-aid. What if your child slips or trips and falls down the stairs? Well, many of us have done that and lived to tell the tale. So will your child. What if the baby bangs her head on the corner of the coffee table? As I’ve said since I refused to childproof the house for K, “she’ll get hurt, she’ll cry, and she’ll learn not to play near the coffee table.” And in all three circumstances, the child will learn that getting hurt was not the end of the world.

There’s an odd juxtaposition in our culture. On one hand we celebrate the risk-takers, the visionaries, the pioneers. On the other hand, we do our best to scare parents and children away from developing those traits. Do we want risk-takers, or not? Do we want creative thinkers, or not? Do we want our children to grow up, or not? Ah, there’s the question, that last one.

Let’s let our children get hurt. Let’s encourage them to do difficult, challenging, scary things. Let’s give them a gift: the knowledge that an injury or a setback is temporary, and that human beings – ourselves and our children included – have an amazing capacity to heal, recover, and grow. Maybe then the children won’t be scared to get on an ultra-safe trampoline and just enjoy jumping.

In the meantime, wimpy kids, get off the trampoline. It’s for jumping, and my kid wants to jump. And she will.

September 7, 2013

Gratitude, not Attitude.

by Decemberbaby

Those of you keeping track might remember that K is now five and a half years old. She’s got a wonderful neshama (soul) – she can be mature, thoughtful, gentle, and kind. She also feels things deeply. When she’s happy, you can feel the joy she radiates. When she’s angry… well, do you remember the old nursery rhyme? The one that goes:

There was a little girlwith a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
she was very, very good;
and when she was bad,
she was horrid.

It’s like that. I imagine that, were she an optimist by nature, this wouldn’t be as big an issue as it’s become. The fact is, however, that K can be a real complainypants.

I’ve tried to instil in her the Jewish principle of hakarat hatov – recognizing the good – in an attempt to minimize the number of complaints I hear. If you passed us a few months ago at the local shul, it would have sounded like this:

K: No fair! I only got one candy and those kids got three!
Me: Let’s try that again. Isn’t it wonderful that we get to go to a shul where there are grownups who give out candy to the kids just because they want to?
K: But they got more than me!
Me: But look! You got candy! And it’s purple – that’s your favourite! And it’s so yummy!

… and so on.

I’ve made this a priority with K right now. I know that what we do becomes who we are, and I don’t want her to go through life complaining about every minor injustice. Gratitude leads to happiness, and all that. What I really want to do is make gratitude and hakarat hatov habitual for her. I can’t change her personality, but I can help her change her default behaviour (can’t I?).

So a couple of weeks ago I went to Dollarama and brought home this:

journal

It’s a fuzzy journal. You know, for all the things that give her a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s her hakarat hatov book, and we write in it every night. K chooses one good thing about the day, that she’s thankful for, and we also write down one Mitzvah or Chesed (kindness) she did during the day.

So far it’s slow and painful going. Every night I ask what she’s grateful for that day, and every night she says, “I don’t know… I don’t remember!” I list all of her activities that day and she still doesn’t know, or she’ll say, “Yeah, that one.” as if she’s too lazy to repeat the words I’ve just said. I insist that she says the words herself (“I’m thankful for the tooth fairy.”) As for naming a mitzvah she’s done that day, right now I’m telling her what I noticed. Maybe in future she’ll identify those for herself. Right now I’d settle for her telling me – the first time I ask – what she was most thankful for.

I hope that gratitude is like a muscle, and that K’s will grow stronger with this exercise. For the time being I’m grateful for the opportunity to help her build character.

April 24, 2013

If this van ain’t rockin’…

by Decemberbaby

I woke up a few days ago with that achy feeling in the back of my throat. You know the one.

“Ugh,” I groaned. “I think I’m getting sick. How did that happen?”

Mr. December rolled his eyes and said, “You know that the kids drink out of your bedside water glass all the time, don’t you?”

Actually, I didn’t. In their eagerness to share with me, the children have given me a wicked sinus cold which has since migrated into my lungs. I’m on puffers, but also trying to decide at what point I should seek medical attention for the sensation of a brick sitting on top of my lungs.

But that’s neither here nor there. The real point of this blog post (aside from ensuring that I post at least once a week) is that I’ve made an important decision: from now on, we need to keep an inflatable mattress and appropriate bedding in the van at all times.

No, seriously. If I have to drive around with the equivalent of an entire living room on wheels, I might as well have a cozy place to nap while I’m waiting for my children’s extracurricular programs to end. I’m expending way too much energy just trying to remain upright as I watch my daughter bounce around on a trampoline. I wish I could just lie down right here, but vinyl tile and fluorescent lights don’t make for a healing environment.

So, a BYObed it is. Also, a bumper sticker: “If this van ain’t rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’!”

February 19, 2013

Stoic

by Decemberbaby

Apparently I’m stoic.

We went to the doctor today for R’s well-baby checkup. Incidentally, she’s still able to fit into her infant (bucket) carseat at 9.5 kilos and 80 centimetres. Anyhow, so the doctor is examining her, and I hear,

“Oh! Oh my!”

Apparently R has a raging ear infection. We had absolutely no idea. Her behaviour has been normal, she’s been eating like a horse, and the only clue that anything is different is that she napped for 2 hours yesterday instead of her usual 45 minutes. Nevertheless, the eardrum is red and bulging and really gross looking.

“Looks like she inherited her mummy’s stoicism!” The doctor opined.

“Stoicism?” I said, “Whatever do you mean?”

“Open your mouth.” She ordered. Then she looked at my throat, pointed out that I’m incubating a couple of nice white patches on my right tonsil, and prescribed antibiotics for my strep throat. I had strep throat… who knew?

Sure, I haven’t been feeling fabulous, and yeah, I almost fainted yesterday evening, but I just assumed I was tired from too many late nights. Okay, I also had a stabbing pain in my throat. But only in one spot, and only when I yawned.

I guess you could call me stoic. I prefer “blissfully unaware” and “willing to soldier on.” Stay-at-home-moms don’t get sick days, after all. I often find myself thinking, “Okay, I’m good to collapse and fall asleep after I’ve put away the leftovers and helped K pack her lunch. Ooh, dizzy. I’d better just slide my butt down to the floor now…”

Having said that, I just realized that K’s lunch is packed and the leftovers have been put away. Methinks it’s time for bed. Also antibiotics. Good night.

January 17, 2013

“I want to hear one off your heart.”

by Decemberbaby

When I was a little girl, we had a nighttime ritual: after teeth were brushed and pyjamas donned, my brothers and I would pile into my parents’ bed and listen as they read us poetry. Not children’s poetry like Alligator Pie or A Child’s Garden of Verses, but classic poems: Byron’s Destruction of Senaccherib, Rudyard Kipling’s If, Ogden Nash’s Custard the Dragon (okay, that one was probably for children.) The poems all came from a book called The Golden Treasury of Poetry, which is now out of print, and which my brothers and I have all (at some point) tried to take home with us. None of us succeeded. Mum guards her poetry book zealously, by which I mean that it’s up there in the top three Things Nobody Else but Mum is Allowed to Touch EVER! along with her sewing scissors and her stapler.Untermeyer poetry

Fast forward to last year. At the school book sale there was a representative from a smallish publishing company, selling beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully curated anthologies of stories, legends, and poems. I took one look at the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and knew that I had to have it. Boy, were the children disappointed when they learned that the book was mine – and that it was, in fact, The Book Nobody Else but Eema (mum) is Allowed to Touch EVER!

Owl and the PussycatI love reading poetry. It’s the rhymes, the rhythm, the economy of words, and the breadth of language that excite me. I read The Highwayman for the first time a few months ago and was clutching the book, knuckles white, until the girl sacrificed herself for her love. Something told the Wild Geese evokes in me that strange hollow feeling that comes at the end of summer when you just know that winter is on its way.  I just love poetry.

Do other people love poems as much as I do? Do any of you expose your children to good, classic poetry? I took it for granted that poetry would be part of a family’s reading repertoire, but then I read a comment thread on some forum in which parents had been asked for good things to read a kindergartener, and people mentioned all manner of serialized, licensed books that use the exact same vocabulary as we do in our day-to-day lives. For heaven’s sake, people, where’s the magic? How will our children’s minds and vocabularies and imaginations stretch if we keep limiting them to the same basic stories in the same basic words?

Despite my childhood exposure, my children came to poetry in a bit of an organic, roundabout way. We were waiting  somewhere – don’t ask me where – without books or toys, and I offered to tell my children a “rhyming story.” I recited Custard the Dragon and Jabberwocky to their rapt attention and when begged for an encore, I had to wind down with In Flanders Fields and Invictus. Eventually I had to stop reciting. I had reached the limits of my memorized repertoire. “I’m sorry, sweetie,” I told a disappointed K, “those are all the poems I know off by heart.”

We’ve been reading poetry together on a daily basis for a few weeks now. K and I have been working together on memorizing Tartary and Tyger Tyger. She can recite the first verse of each of those ones, and we’ve taken to using them to practice her speech therapy sounds. N can complete every line of The Owl and the Pussycat if I give him the first word or two. I can’t express how full my heart feels when I hear them reciting poetry. I love the sounds of the words as they trip off a toddler’s tongue. I hope that years down the road they will, at oddly appropriate times, be struck with the memory of a few lines of verse that we read long ago, and that the lines will bring them comfort, inspiration, and wonder.

In the meantime, poetry time in our home is synonymous with quiet, snuggly, family time. We don’t always use the book. After all, there’s something undeniably sweet about K saying, “Mummy, I want to hear a poem off your heart.” Absolutely, little girl. For you and your siblings, I always speak – and sing, and recite – off my heart.

December 19, 2012

Tutorial time: Make your own Scooter board!

by Decemberbaby

I’m back. I won’t go into it too heavily, but the knee problems led to no biking which led to some depression, and then I got mastitis while we were in Niagara Falls for the weekend, and I’ve just been one sorry example of humanity since then. But all through it I’ve been creating things, lots of things, and I’m going to share one of them with you now.

DIY Scooter boardIt’s a scooter board.

Never heard of one? Neither had I, really. But K has been in occupational therapy to work on some issues, and our OT introduced us to scooter boards. They’re just what this one looks like: a board with four casters. You can do quite a lot with one, including strengthening abs and back muscles, improving bilateral coordination, developing motor planning skills… it’s also just a fun toy.

Now, I’m too cheap to run out and buy every piece of equipment that K uses in her sessions (although heaven knows I’d LOVE a cuddle swing,) but I’m more than happy to make anything and everything I can… especially if I already have the materials.

Do you want to make a scooter board? Keep reading…

You’ll need:

  • a piece of wood that looks big enough and comfy enough for your child to sit on (let’s say 12×12″ at  minimum)
  • four identical casters, rated high enough for your child’s weight
  • sixteen screws not longer than the thickness of your wooden board
  • an electric drill/screwdriver
  • pencil
  • some quilt batting, foam, or an old towel (optional)
  • fabric to cover the padding (optional) – this can be an old sheet, an old t-shirt, or a piece of fabric you love. It doesn’t really matter.
  • staple gun and staples (optional)
  • hammer

Step One: turn your board upside down. Place the casters on the board where you want them attached (I recommend as close to each corner as possible, so it’s harder for the board to flip over) and use the pencil to mark the holes. Pre-drill pilot holes (very small holes) – this makes the wood less likely to split when you drive in the screws. Attach each caster with the screws.

DIY scooter board step 1Once all four casters are attached, you can call it a day. That is, if your board has nice smooth edges and isn’t so smooth that your child can slide around on the top. At this point, my scooter board looked like this:

Basic DIY scooter boardIf you want a nice padded board, stick with me.

Step Two – Wrap the top of the board with the batting (or old towel, etc), making sure that there is enough to wrap to the underside of the board. Secure the batting around the edges of the board’s underside using the staple gun. Tip: if the staples don’t go in all the way, gently tap them with a hammer until they’re flat against the board.

DIY scooter board step 2

Step Three – Wrap the fabric around the board, making sure that the edges extend past the edges of the batting (padding.) fold the edges so that the raw (cut) edge of the fabric is hidden, then staple the folded part to the bottom of the board.

DIY scooter board step 3Step Four – The corners are tricky. Do your best to wrap them neatly around the casters. If you feel like getting really fancy you can remove the casters, stretch the fabric underneath them, and re-install the casters. I just did some judicious snipping and wrapping, trying to do the corners the way I would wrap a present. Glue down the corners with fast-drying glue of some kind (hot glue is a great choice, but I didn’t have any.) Failing that, use duck tape. DIY scooter board step 4

Aaaand… you’re done! For a great abs workout, sit on your scooter board and use both legs at the same time to pull yourself along. Or you can lie on your stomach and pull yourself around with your arms, noticing how dirty the baseboards are from this angle. Whatever you do with it, happy scooting!

DIY scooter board 2

DIY scooter board 3Oh, and a word of commonsense caution: store this out of the children’s reach. If they were to leave this on the floor after playing and you were to step on it in the middle of the night, you’d be pretty banged up. Just sayin’.