Sunday, May 27, 2007

No news is good news

We dropped off the face of the earth.....I mean, we're vacationing in California.
Once I get a free hour or two to upload pictures, I'll share fascinating trip tidbits such as:

  • the sticky stuff I found on the beach
  • what Napoleona said to make all the people in the museum gallery crack up
  • tooth extraction by tetherball (don't worry, not one of my kids)
  • why I love/hate Southern California
  • SillyBilly's new driving skills
  • various trips down memory lane
  • the Pleistocene on the West Side

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Joys of Cardboard

Just a quick post today...I've been madly trying to get ready for our big trip out to California to see the grandparents. Hopefully I'll have more to say once the grand events planned for the vacation occur.

Recently we've had fun with the ultimate frugal toy: cardboard. (OK, maybe rocks and sticks are more frugal, but we play with those every day!) We were taking our trash and recycling to the dumpsters the other day, when we stumbled on a goldmine: an enormous, empty cardboard box...probably about 4 feet square. It once contained a sand filter for the nearby stream-fed swimming pond. I immediately convinced Anthropapa to carry it home -- how could we pass that up? So the box now resides under the eaves in the backyard, where it has already been a house, a workshop, and a garage for trucks.

Add to that the joy of what was inside the big box: long strips of corrugated cardboard, about 2 feet by 16 feet. One of those just had to come inside with us, where it has been through several incarnations of houses of various kinds. The kids can make a house of any shape, even with rooms if they curve it back on itself. And when they're done, we just roll it up and put it in the corner.

Then I was inspired to create a dollhouse out of another small cardboard box that recently held birthday presents for Napoleona. I taped the box together, and SillyBilly helped me decorate it (added bonus for him: he got to use the normally verboten Sharpie pens!) with shingles, trees, flowers, and of course a door and windows.

Who knew such riches could be found in a dumpster?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby

My little girl turned three on Sunday. All the cliches apply: I can't believe it, look how big, how time flies, etc. But looking at the pictures of her from the day of her birth, and then looking at her now, I'm in awe of the mighty forces of development and growth of the human being.

To think that at birth she looked like this:

Unable to control her limbs, unable to speak or be upright, no teeth, requiring close proximity to Mama at all times, but instinctively able to nurse and cry for what she needed.

Then on her first birthday:

Completely weaned, sleeping alone in a crib, able to stand up, smile, have much better control of her body, and definitely able to communicate desires with or without words. (Note the aura of sassiness; it's still there to this day, in spades.)

Then on her second birthday she looked like this:

Now more socially aware: posing and smiling for photos! Walking, talking, definitely expressing preferences, and learning to drink from a cup.

And then on her third birthday:

Sitting in a big chair (boostered of course), sleeping in a big girl bed, learning table manners, dressing herself, learning to use the toilet, and never ever stopping the flow of words coming out of her mouth! (Note the birthday bagel with lox and cream cheese, it's becoming a family tradition.) And now, no song is allowed in the house if it includes the word "baby." All songs must now refer to "big girl." Hush, big girl, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird. Sleep, big girl, sleep. Rockabye, big girl, on the tree top.

When we asked her where she wanted to go for her birthday, the first thing out of her mouth was "NYACK!!" Since most of my 10 loyal readers probably don't know that fine city, I will 'splain. Nyack is a artsy little town on the Hudson River, just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge. It has a fun downtown area, many funky shops and yoga studios, and in relation to this story, a very nice playground for small children in a park right on the river. Napoleona wanted to go play there, and perhaps have pizza after. After a tiny bit of maneuvering, she agreed that going into the city to the Met would be more fun.

Now, we didn't trick her or really wheedle too much. She really wanted to go. In fact, she was crying disconsolately when we had to leave early to return home for an appointment. Really. My 3 year old was in the back of the van, crying, "I'm sad because I wanted to stay at the museum, I didn't want to go!!"

Warms my heart, that does.

We checked out the Egyptian mummies, the big Buddha statues and murals, and the Van Goghs, and the very nice Chinese scholar's garden.

Then we drove home and had a big nap. Ice cream cake with 3 candles after dinner.

Happy Birthday Little One!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Six favorite toddler books

(Un)relaxeddad shared his fav bedtime stories, and tagged me. Here goes:

1)The Princess in the Forest by Sibylle von Olfers. I just got this recently in an attempt to liven up the bedtime routine, but by enliven I mean "get a new book that I actually like and that is short and soothing." This beautifully illustrated story from the early 1900's is very simple and calming, and ends with a wonderfully comforting image of the princess asleep in her castle with a star child keeping watch over her.

2) Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik. First, this book (and the 4 others about Little Bear by Minarik) are illustrated by Maurice Sendak, who is one of my favorite artists. Second, these are short little stories with simple words (they are sold as early readers). Third, they are sweet and funny. Little Bear has great powers of imagination, has good friends, gets into mischief, and has a very kind mother. The last story actually ends with Little Bear going to sleep!

3) Grandfather Twilight, by Barbara Helen Berger. This book is all about going to sleep! The illustrations are very soft and beautiful, and since my kids are enamored of all things grandfatherish, they really like this story. The book is actually rather hypnotic, and has a wonderful image of the moon as a pearl.

4) Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This one is almost too classic to mention, but we do like it. Plus it helps us feel better after a particularly fierce or mischievous day -- the dinner was still hot after all.

5) Frog and Toad stories, by Arnold Lobel. Many of these stories are a bit too silly for bedtime, but a few of them work well for us. Frog is a loyal friend, and Toad is a melancholic grump who nevertheless tries to be a good friend to Frog. My kids seem to relate to these characters, who get into trouble, get frustrated, do silly things, cannot control their cookie-eating habit, etc.

6) In the Land of Fairies and In the Land of Elves, by Daniela Drescher. OK, two for one. These books are really lovely and imaginative. The translations are nice, though Elves is the better for reading out loud. My kids have these memorized and love the illustrations.

After writing this list, I see several common threads: short, soothing, and hopefully directly involving characters sleeping. Methinks the idea is to get the kids halfway to dreamland even before the light goes out! Also I seem to stick with two camps: classics (Sendak and Lobel) and Waldorfy (von Olfers and Drescher).

Now, if I were to give a list of favorite books in general, not bedtime, then maybe we'd see some variety. Maybe.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Warmth and Health

I thought it was time to bring up a little more anthroposophy, after too many silly little posts! That, and my paying work has slowed down. So, here are some recent thoughts about warmth.

Springtime is here, and the weather is warming up. However, despite the sunny skies around here, it's still chilly for most of the day. I'm fighting daily battles with SillyBilly, who wants to wear his shorts and t-shirts and sandals, to get him dressed warmly enough. And we are all still snorting and hacking our way out of that nasty cold virus we had last weekend.

Rudolf Steiner and other anthroposophical writers have said a lot about warmth and the human being. Steiner linked warmth and the blood directly to the activity of the human ego, also known as the "I" (this is distinct from the Freudian ego -- here we are referring to the immortal spirit of the individual). In the young child, warmth allows the physical body to develop properly, with good structure and function:

If the ego is to be able to perfect the organs so that they endure in good health throughout life, there must be a well-maintained deep body warmth. is the warmth organization wherein the ego works....[In the adult] the ego is fully incarnated and is able to control the body temperature, whereas [in the child] the ego is in a process of incarnation and is not yet fully in charge.
--Joan Salter, The Incarnating Child
Steiner also described the 12 senses: the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and the seven senses of warmth, life, self-movement, balance, word, thought, and the I and Other. We can see that in a baby, the sense of touch and warmth are pre-eminent, in the toddler the sense of self-movement leads to walking and the sense of word leads to talking, while older children work on balance in their see-sawing and tree climbing.

Young children do not have a mature sense of warmth, clearly seen in the child who is blue with cold yet refuses to come out of the swimming pool! Adults must help the child by providing appropriate clothing and environment. On another level, the sense of warmth relates to the emotional and spiritual atmosphere or mood: cold, impersonal and insincere, or caring, loving and genuine.
As adults we know how uncomfortable it is to feel cold and how it prevents us from working properly either physically or mentally. A baby feels even more uncomfortable and yet he cannot complain....The soul and spirit need sufficient warmth for their work of moulding and remoulding the body.
--Wilhelm zur Linden, When a Child is Born
I have read (not experiencing the difference myself as I have never traveled abroad) that Americans are particularly guilty of underdressing. I do remember that in Sacramento many times I would be wearing a wool sweater on a winter's day, and see other people running around in shorts! And certainly even on snowy days here in New York, not everyone wears a warm hat or even a coat. What are we doing to our health with this? I believe being chronically cold leads to bad health, because the body is too busy keeping up its internal temperature to do its other work, like immune functions, properly.

In the child, illness that may be brought on by being cold is often resolved via fever. The body brings on an elevated internal temperature in order to kill, or prevent proliferation of, the virus or bacteria. However there are other physical as well as spiritual aspects to fever:
Thermoregulation and fever also have a soul-spiritual aspect. Heat is more than just a quantitative factor measured with a thermometer. As such, warmth also manifests in the activity of the human soul and spirit. We "feel warm inside" when we meet a good friend or revisit the familiar landscape of our childhood....Conversely, fear anger, or great sorrow, or even hate, envy, or discontent in our surroundings, makes our blood "run cold."
Fever helps a child's I adapt its inherited body to its own purposes, making it a more suitable vehicle for self-expression....From a purely outer perspective, the rapid regaining of weight lost during a feverish illness is an indication that the body is being organically remodeled. The child has deconstructed some aspect of her inherited body and is rebuilding it under the independent direction of her own warmth organization.
--Michaela Glöckler, Wolfgang Goebel, A Guide to Child Health
So, here's what we do. My kids wear thin, soft wool underwear on all but the hottest days, and most nights. They wear long sleeves and pants through three seasons. When they go to daycare, and often at home, they wear slippers or booties to keep their feet warm. They wear hats most of the time outdoors (sunhats in summer of course). Tummy aches bring out the hot water bottle, one of our dearest friends! When the kids get a fever, we do not suppress it with medication -- we address any discomfort by sponging down or wrapping their calves with tepid lemon water cloths, and make sure they have extra fluids and rest. We make an effort to make their surroundings beautiful to warm their souls.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Literary geek comics

I was going to make my next post a very insightful essay about anthroposophical medicine and the modern, materialistic view of health and illness. But tonight, I can' t be bothered to think deep thoughts.

So instead, I bring you several very funny and geeky comics from Geist: