All images copyright Carol Baicker-McKee, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
All images copyright Carol Baicker-McKee, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
My sons are both wrestlers, and after sitting through the first couple seasons clenching my teeth and knotting every muscle in my body, I learned it was wise to bring a handwork project to distract me and keep my blood pressure down. I've mostly stuck to knitting, making things like scarves or afghans for Project Linus. This year I'm working on tiny hats for premature babies to donate to Magee, the Pittsburgh women's hospital. They're a great project -- quick to knit, don't take much yarn, and they're, well, so cute.
My beloved Tiny Tears doll is modeling the first one I made, using this super-easy free pattern from an organization called Touching Little Lives. The turquoise one, on the navel orange, is the same pattern, just using a slightly heavier weight cotton yarn. And the striped one (on the grapefruit) is from one of the incredibly sweet free patterns on the blog Carissa Knits. I've been knitting for years and years - my mom taught me when I was six - but this was the first thing I ever knitted in the round, and I can't believe I avoided doing it all these years. The first couple rows are a bit tricky, but after that it's as easy as working on two needles.
My daughter says I need to get some girl colors too, but I think the bright colors are unisex, don't you? Anyway, the green and periwinkle one is the same color combo I used for Mimi's room in my book coming out in June, so that makes it clearly feminine.
By the way, I was blanking on the word "periwinkle" so I googled "bluish purple" and found this great website that defines color names. Can't decide whether to make the next hat eau-de-nil (pale green) or gamboge (reddish yellow).
Okay, one last thing. I should have saved that last bit for Wednesday. I've decided to add a little structure to my blogging, partly I need a little shove to keep it up regularly, and partly because I like to blog about a number of things, and I realize not everyone will be interested in all my topics. So here's my plan:
Make-It Mondays: Crafts, recipes, maybe some gardening projects (basically, all the stuff I've been working on over the weekends)
Wednesday Word Days Stuff related to writing, book reviews (especially children's books), cool words.
3-D Thursdays Peeks at my in-progress art work, tips for anything tricky I've figured out, begging for help with a project, maybe a little history about how I got into 3-D art, etc.
That still leaves 5 Things Fridays for me, and Tuesdays to think up something cool to blog about. Plus the weekend.
Friday, January 04, 2008
- Kids melting down? Instead of getting caught up in a squabble, circumvent it with an activity. To get small fry involved, try the teacher tested-technique of "Plop and Do." Just gather the supplies to build a block tower, or set up a blanket and pillow fort, or whatever, and start doing it. Little guys will be attracted to it like fruit flies to those aging bananas on the counter. Bonus: as soon as the kiddies are engaged, you can slip away to do something else (as long as it's not something even more appealing to your kids, like mushing up the gross bananas to make muffins).
- You'll get more mileage out of your kids' toys during the long winter if you follow the strategies used in schools and childcare centers: stick to toys with many, many uses, like dolls, plastic animals and action figures, a dress up box, classic building toys, art supplies; avoid like the plague any toys that make electronic noises (these should be "accidentally" broken as quickly as possible and put out in the trash, or else you can just forget over and over to buy new batteries); keep most toys stashed out of kid reach and rotate what's available for play on a regular basis - this keeps the mess to a minimum, interest high, and prevents kids from getting overwhelmed by too many choices; and shift activities often, alternating a quiet activity with a rowdier one, a do-alone activity with a do-together one.
- You can check out some specific activity ideas on the list I provided to KDKA before my appearance at this link to their website.
EMPOWER YOUR CHILD Give him the tools to grow and to be an important member of the family - life will be easier and more satisfying for everyone.
- Set the stage by doing your job as parent. I know, it can be hard to act mature when you've spent the last 12 hours scraping playdough out of the carpet, playing 75 straight games of Candyland (and losing every one), and cutting the crusts off PB&J, but if you don't meet your kid's basic needs for good nutrition, adequate sleep, and plenty of exercise, nothing else will work.
- Set up a “Yes, I can” environment with child-sized equipment. Stock up on step stools and sturdy chairs, buy unbreakable dishes, choose safe cleaning supplies (it's amazing how well baby wipes clean things), and invest in real but small-sized tools (like a tiny snow shovel, kid-sized kitchen utensils, a little broom and dustpan).
- Assign chores (like making the bed – yes, it will look like crap, but that's okay; setting the table - make placemats showing the positions of utensils; and emptying waste baskets - provide a box with a wide "mouth" that your child can push room to room). Also invite kids to participate in family decisions whenever possible (like what to do for fun on the weekend, menu-planning, which choice for the summer vacation is best).
- Teach emotional control strategies like "spitting out grumpies" (take a cup of water in the bathroom, swish water and grumpies around, spit out in sink) or "holding in hitting" (with a tight self-inflicted bear hug if necessary) to manage strong feelings.
- Let your kid experience frustration – and learn he can try again; let her be bored and discover how to be resourceful. Teach problem-solving approaches, like asking, “What if..?” and “What else could I do?”
- Finally, get each kid a Power Rangers outfit (or Spiderman suit, Incredibles costume, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle get-up, etc.) and whenever your kids whine that they can't do something, say, "But a Power Ranger can! And you're a Power Ranger, right?" (When they get older, this strategy can switch to: "But someone mature enough to drive a car can do that! And you're mature enough to drive, right?")
Here are links to my FussBuster books on amazon, if you're searching for more detailed, specific ideas: FussBusters at Home and FussBusters on the Go.
Oh! One last thing. I'm planning to make Tuesdays my day for posting general parenting tips, and as well as tips for reading with your kids and/or reviews of kids' books - I'll use the title "Tuesday Tip Day" when I do. I'm not promising every week or anything, but I'll try to make it fairly regular!
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Anyway, here is "SMI," or the first three parts of my SMILE system - five easy parenting strategies that work in almost any tough situation, even snow days! (For that matter, they work pretty well for people of any age, with or without kids.) I've included some practical examples of how to implement them, with a focus on ideas that work well this time of year. I promise to add the last two strategies - the "LE" - tomorrow. (I'd put everything up today, but I need some time tonight to do something about my hair and figure out what I'm going to wear, especially since I have to sit next to the skinny and lovely Ms. Sorensen tomorrow morning. And I know for a fact she has two kids, so I can't just blame the difference in our looks on my motherhood status. Drat. Well, I am a lot older than she is.)
STICK TO SAME AND SIMPLE Routines, rituals and clear rules keep your child secure and happy.
- Develop a schedule and easy routines for each day's Big Events like meals and bedtime. (Visit www.flylady.net if you need help with family life routines, or if you're like me and are prone to a certain, well, slobbiness.)
- Ease post-holiday blues with a few fun traditions as you transition back into normal routines, like letting everyone eat a little of the now-stale gingerbread house on the day you put the holiday decorations away.
- Teach the Golden Rule (over and over and over), and use catchphrases (like “Use your words not your body” or “Inside voices please”) to remind your child that punching and screeching are more than you can bear at the moment.
MAKE THE MOST OF MUSIC AND ART These soothe the savage beast – and help civilize her too.
- For some reason, kids are more likely to comply with demands if you sing them. Singing in an opera voice will even make my husband do what I want, as long as I agree to stop the minute he cooperates. Adapt the lyrics to familiar all-purpose tunes like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” or just make up a chant that kind of has rhythm.
- Know why movies always seem better than real life? Soundtracks. (And professional make-up artists help too.) Put on music to create or change the mood in your home. It doesn't have to be kid music. In fact, on a blizzardy, cranky day - it's probably best to avoid anything sung by purple dinosaurs or by adults acting like freakishly cheerful little kids.
- Use arts and crafts to bust stress and teach kids to follow directions. I highly recommend my friend Judy Press's arts and crafts books if you need ideas. Try The Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book (Williamson).
- Here's a quick and easy "craft" or "science project" (depending on which your kid prefers). Pour about an inch of milk into a shallow plastic container. Drop dots of food coloring over the surface (they should kind of sit tight where you drip them). Pour a small amount of dishwashing liquid into another small container and give your child a toothpick. Show him how to dip the tip into the soap and then lightly into the center of one of the food coloring drops. WOW! If you go easy on the soap, you can repeat this for quite a long time before there's just too much soap in the milk. Just be nice and don't hog this activity just because it's so much fun.
INVOKE IMAGINATION AND HUMOR They’re great tools to prevent rebellion and create warmth.
- To make your child stop pinching her little brother, ask her to fly like a dragon or trot like a pony to the other room and fetch something for you.
- To encourage hat-wearing, put a mirror at kid-height by the winter clothes hooks - and allow considerable vamping and silliness. Get boots on reluctant tootsies by pretending to be Prince Charming outfitting Cinderella with her glass galoshes.
- Stock up on funny books, silly CDs, outlandish dress-up clothes, and anything else that gets your gang giggling.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Ah! Having done my part of my middle son's finish-the-last-few-college-applications frenzy (i.e., cracking the whip, editing, and forking over the credit card), I'm free to enjoy this new year... at least for a few minutes before I crash and fall asleep, anyway. A new year always feels to me like a fresh snow (which we're getting as I type) - pristine and clean and full of promise. I know my cheer will fade in a few days, as the slush turns gray and I break my resolutions, but I'm relishing this peaceful, hopeful moment for now.
Anyhow, this year my main resolution is to make resolutions I can actually keep. The challenge is thus to come up with some keepable ones that don't involve eating more chocolate and reading more books. Hmm.
Okay, this year I resolve to:
- Draw every morning for 10 minutes.
- Post on my blog at least once a week.
- Finally get around to adding the list of blogs I read and update the list of 3-D artists I admire.
- Finish my website and get it online. I HAVE to do this. SOON.
- Learn something new every day (actually an easy one to keep - between kids, NPR, and my internet addiction, I can hardly fail to get my brain stirred daily).
- Walk the dog at least twice a day, even when the weather stinks and we'd both rather hunker down by the fire.
- Do jumping jacks and have a drink of water instead of (or at least before) I dig into my chocolate stash when stress-cravings hit.
- Procrastinate less.
- Send my holiday cards. Soon. Really, really soon.
- Write thank you notes. Real ones. On paper. And affix stamps to the envelopes and mail them. At least some of the time.
- Spend 15 minutes tidying my studio and/or the kitchen table before bed.
- Eat more chocolate.
Doh! Well, I had to put that last one in because my list was getting less and less keepable as I went on. I guess I'll have to think about these some more.
So what resolutions are the rest of you planning? Any I have a prayer of keeping too?