A Change of Pace

Learning to ride a bike is a childhood milestone and all children enjoy riding bikes.  Many people believe that statement to be true but I am not one of them.  Yes I, somewhat unwillingly, learned to ride a bike when I was about 6 years old. My younger sister was already a bike expert speeding around the neighbourhood and my father was insistent that I would learn too.

With an awful lot of coaxing I eventually did manage to wobble around on a bike but I never really enjoyed the experience.  Every time my sister got a new bigger, fancier bike she was thrilled.  My father would offer to get me one too – ‘Please don’t’ I would say – but he did.  Maybe he was hoping some day I would be ‘normal’ but probably he just didn’t realize that my quiet demeanor hid the torture I felt when forced to ride a bike.

I have very few fond childhood memories of bike riding excursions.  I do remember crashing, falling, and jumping off my bike.  Yes, there were many, many times that I purposely chose to jump off a moving bicycle because landing in a ditch seemed to be a better choice than staying on the seat.

A friend recently suggested maybe I don’t like things with wheels – she knows I don’t enjoy driving a car either.  I do drive – when I have to (and I’m much better at driving a car than riding a bike) – but I’ll never turn down a ride if someone else wants to drive.  Likewise, if walking is an option, I will always choose to walk.  I think maybe I feel so uncomfortable when driving or riding because I am disconnected from the earth.

In the last few years my husband has begun to join me on hiking adventures – this has been wonderful because he is willing to drive to distant trails that I have not had to opportunity to explore before.  Often on our hikes he would remark ‘This would be a great trail to bike on if you had a bike’ and I would reply ‘No,no it would not’. *Shudder*

My husband enjoys biking much more than hiking so eventually I relented and agreed to get a bike so we could occasionally go biking together.  He was much more excited than I was, checking out all the store flyers and bike displays, pointing out various features of each model.  My main concern was ensuring I’d still be able to touch the ground when I was on the bike.

Finally he picked one out and went to get it on his day off work.  I was in the back yard with the children when he came home and unloaded it from the car.  As he wheeled it through the yard all the children oohed and awed and excitedly asked ‘Cheryl, whose bike is that?’ ‘Mine’ I replied without much enthusiasm.  ‘Are you going to ride it?’  ‘Not right now.’  It had been more than 25 years since I last rode a bike. They say you don’t forget how to ride but I had my doubts especially since I was never very good at it and I’ve tried very hard to forget.

Later that week I tried a few practice rides up and down our back lane – cue fits of laughter.  When I reached the end of the lane I got off the bike, picked it up and turned it around to head back.  My husband/coach yelled down the lane ‘You don’t need to get off to turn around, the lane is wide enough, just keep pedaling and turn the wheel.’  Seriously? I would need the lane to be four times that wide before I’d make it all the way around without falling. 😛

On the weekend we packed the bikes in to the van to drive to a nice, paved, car-free bike path.  I think I did a bit better. There were only a few times that considered jumping off and even then I just put my feet on the ground and skidded to a stop.  Yes, sometimes when I panic I forget the bike has brakes.

Periodically my husband/coach would point out something interesting in the area surrounding the trail.  I’d reply, ‘Can’t look, trying to stay upright’.  Sometimes he’d suggest something new for me to ‘try’ – like standing on the pedals etc.  ‘Nope, don’t want to die today’.

It’s frustrating, I imagine that is how children feel when asked to move on to the next new skill/task when they just want to continue at the level they are currently at for a little longer.  What’s the rush, they’ll move on when they decide they are ready.  Pushing too hard or too soon might make them quit completely.

My bike ride was certainly not a stellar performance.  In fact, even my FitBit failed to recognize it as anything. It will auto-recognize a trip around the block at toddler speed as a ‘walk’.  It will auto-recognize a walk with a stroller as an ‘outdoor bike ride’. However, my first afternoon bike excursion left it confused – it had no idea what to call that.  A three-year-old, without training wheels, stopped his bike on the side of the trail to watch me -silently.  Other people I’m certain went home with stories to tell their friends and family.

Still, I rode my new bike on my terms – when, where, and how I wanted and most importantly, I will do it again.  I will never be an expert rider.  Biking on trails will never replace hiking on trails but it is an interesting change of pace.

 

Spring Roundup

Spring is such a busy time for me.  As usual I’ve been collecting pictures to use in blog posts but not leaving myself enough time to actually write posts 😦

So, here is a roundup of what should have been three posts;

I made a batch of homemade glue for an art project but then realized the recipe made much more than we needed and it doesn’t keep for very long. So, I dumped it in a big bin along with paper bits from the shredder, wool scraps, glitter and paint powder.  The children enjoyed mashing it all together – no pictures of that part because it was way too messy to have a camera nearby.

Initially the mixture was extremely sticky and some of us were not impressed by the sensation of having our hands coated in the goo.  Eventually the paper absorbed enough of the glue and made the mixture easier to handle.

Later each of the children took a portion of the mixture to work with;

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Or form into mini balls and throw around the room;

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They pressed the mixture into the shape of the bowl and then we let it dry;

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It took a lot longer than anticipated – nearly a week before they were dry and ready to take home;

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Outside, now that the snow is gone, the boys have been begging for me to open the ‘summer toys’ bin. So far I have resisted – knowing there will be a big issue over who gets the one Batman figure (which may mysteriously disappear).  They’ve managed to keep themselves busy with the loose parts and eggs;

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The longer periods of outdoor time have meant some are very tired by nap time (or earlier).  One however, has been using quiet time to become a jigsaw puzzle expert. He has now completed ALL of my 100 piece puzzles several times and can finish two of them in one afternoon.

I decided maybe we should try something a little more challenging – so I brought out a 500 piece puzzle.  This part took him two days with no assistance from me;

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He did find the trees and mountains a little more difficult so I assisted with sorting some of the pieces. He is persistent and refuses to give up without finishing.  By the third week – after about 12 hours of actual work – he had done this much;

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I think that is very impressive for a four year old 🙂  I’m not the only one who has been busy.

 

Waffle Blocks

There is not nearly enough space in the playroom for all the toys I own so the majority are stored in bins in the basement.  Puppets, blocks and animals are sorted into groupings of similar items so it is easier for me to select the ones I want to bring out when I rotate toys. I have a spreadsheet which helps me keep track of when toys are added to or removed from the playroom.

I usually manage to get every toy into the playroom for at least a few weeks each year – more often if the children have favourites or request a specific toy.  Occasionally there are toys that don’t get brought out because they are not developmentally appropriate or interesting for the children enrolled at the time.

Last month when I put the castle blocks and the puzzle people back into storage I brought out the stacking cups and Waffle Blocks instead.  One by one as the children arrived and entered the playroom I heard “Ooooh, what are those!?” or similar comments.  I was a little confused as these are old toys so I checked the spreadsheet again an realized that it had been more than two years since the last time the Waffle Blocks were out!

This group of preschoolers really enjoyed the Waffle Blocks – they played with them almost exclusively during the entire five week period of time these blocks were in the playroom.  I liked that there was a lot of cooperation and creativity when they played with these blocks.

In the past I’ve had some groups that found these blocks boring – making nothing more than a cube or two and maybe adding a roof.  Other children have had difficulty forming the  cubes ‘properly’ and easily became frustrated, constantly asking for assistance.  I’m not concerned about ‘proper’ cubes so I tend to let them figure it out.

It is somewhat difficult to make weapons out of Waffle blocks which may have forced this group to expand their interests a little more.  Also, because I don’t have a lot of these blocks, if they want to make something BIG they have to work together on one structure.  I’ve considered getting more Waffle blocks but then I watch the children problem solve ‘not enough blocks’ and think maybe less is better.

I was particularly impressed by the architecture involved in this  creation;

Waffle blocks have never been one of my personal favorite construction toys but I was definitely pleased with what this group of preschoolers managed to do with them.

What If….

What if you had a baby – a baby that was so ‘perfect’ that other parents were jealous.  A baby that was never demanding, slept through the night, was content to sit and watch the world around him but also enjoyed playing and snuggling.  A baby that was so very easy to love all the time.

What if he became a toddler with ‘quirks’ – I know, all toddlers have quirks but what if his were so abundant and so noticeable that even strangers made comments.  Yet, those quirks were so familiar – you had them too when you were little, and people made comments then too.  You understood those quirks, in fact you could anticipate and prepare for them.

What if he had sensory issues that made some places/activities impossible without meltdowns – sometimes so severe that he curled in a ball and shut down completely.  He was done for the day now, might as well just put him to bed and try again tomorrow.

What if your preschooler was so quiet and withdrawn that people wondered if he ever talked – he did, he had a fabulous sense of humor and wonderful conversations when he was in familiar settings with people he knew.

What if your child took ‘slow to warm up’ to a whole new level – taking days, weeks, or even months to adapt to a change or try something new.

What if you secretly worried about what would happen to him when he went to school.  There would be so many things there that you knew would be very, very hard for him.  You considered homeschooling where he could feel comfortable and’safe’.  Yet you decided it was important that he learn to move beyond his comfort zone and going to school was an important step.

What if school proved to be both good and bad – he had some terrific friends who were happy to have him around but there were others that tormented him unrelentingly.  Yet, he never complained – quietly independent he doesn’t like to complain or ask for help.

What if he was amazingly kind and gentle wanting nothing more than to have everyone get along, never arguing, always trying to help.  Never late. Never needing reminders to clean his room or do his chores. Never asking anyone to do anything for him.

What if some school years were better than others – depending on the teacher.  Some were understanding and accommodating while others insisted he comply to their strict regime  immediately without hesitation.  Yet all made the same comment “He is so smart, but when he has a problem he can’t solve alone he just panics, quits and walks away without telling anyone why or asking for help.”

What if school counselors and Psychologists said  we don’t know how to help him and referred him to Psychiatry who said “Anxiety and OCD – maybe medication would help’.  But it didn’t – what works is to let him ‘watch’ until he feels comfortable enough to ‘try’ – understanding that some things are still impossible at least on some days.

What if he came so close to finally graduating high school and then crashed and you don’t really know why because he won’t/can’t tell you.  Instead he spent a year alone in his room.

What if you tried to find someone to help but most said “He’s an adult now you can’t talk for him he has to call us himself” but you know that is never going to happen.  So you give him more responsibilities at home where he is comfortable and he is so wonderfully reliable, and helpful and amazing – you wish others could see it.

What if you finally find someone who says ‘Yes, we’ll try’ and it takes years of appointments and referrals and waiting lists and more referrals and throughout it all he is still quietly persistent – doing what is asked to the best of his abilities without complaining.

What if then they quit – they say “We can’t find a placement for him.”  They specialize in connecting workers with jobs and they give up without any further referrals and you’re back at square one and you don’t know what to do.

What if somewhere there is an employer or training program in Winnipeg that is willing to give him a chance.  If you know of one can you please let me know.  cheryl@cccare.ca

 

 

Playroom Update

It has been a while since I wrote about making any changes to our play space – that doesn’t mean I haven’t made any changes.  I have actually made many, many changes since last summer but just never wrote a post.  Maybe I didn’t feel the project was complete, maybe it was just a small change not worth a post, or maybe it was a change that I didn’t like – that happens sometimes, my visions don’t always translate into reality.  Most likely though, I waited to see how the change ‘worked’ and then got busy and forgot to write.

So, here are some updated photos of the playroom after the most recent long weekend reno.  First, an overview (it is impossible to get everything in one photo – and this one is blurry too).

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The shelf units that house the mini scenes were moved from the nature area to the housekeeping/dramatic play side of the playroom.  I think they may be used more often now that they are here instead of the dark corner of the nature area.

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The dollhouse shelves are here too – they need some repairs and new furniture.  This space hasn’t been a priority for a long time due to lack of ‘appropriate’ interest from the current group – I’m hoping to change that.  For now the addition of a new steering wheel has been the highlight of the reno for the boys.

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They have always used the spinning maze as a steering wheel for their car/truck/school bus dramatic play – now they have two, and the mirror is an added bonus – they love to watch themselves play.

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I recently moved the table and the dress up clothes but the rest of the housekeeping area hasn’t changed since summer. It looks like this;

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The cash register was moved off the kitchen counter and now has its own space – not sure yet if I’ll add anything to the shelves or leave that for the children to decide what to ‘sell’;

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The nature area is now a ‘toy free’ zone intended solely for reading, relaxing or looking out the window.  This has already dramatically improved the issues related to running and jumping back and forth between play areas and fighting over space on the old reading couch.

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The block bin was moved over to make room for the table – which now is also used as a serving counter or ‘take out window’. The new angle of the block bin means the building area is not blocking a walkway anymore either.

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The music area hasn’t really changed since last summer but I don’t think I ever posted a picture of it – and I still haven’t got more green paint…

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The other ‘favouite’ new addition is the workbench.  This was the storage area for tools and miscellaneous toys before but it didn’t have a workbench.  I always considered the top of the block tin to be a workbench – the children did not.  They love this.

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I like it too – I’m going to add some more tools but first I have to buy some…. 🙂

No Hide & Seek

Over the years I have often told children that Hide & Seek is an outdoor game.  Yes, I personally remember enjoying many wonderful indoor games of Hide & Seek but they were held in a much larger building with multiple rooms. The confined space of our little playroom does make it difficult to play a traditional game of Hide & Seek – there are not really any good places for even a little person to hide.

My current group of preschoolers often initiate indoor games that they call ‘Hide & Seek’ but I always end up redirecting them.  The problem really is that their energy level makes their game unsuitable for our indoor space – they do not play according to traditional rules.

In their game of ‘Hide & Seek’ the three of them together choose a ‘hiding spot’.  Then two of them crawl into ‘sleeping bags’ (old pillow cases that are kept with the dress-up clothes/blankets) while the third child goes to the other side of the room, covers his eyes and counts to 10.  He then shouts ‘ready or not, here I come’, runs across the room and jumps on the two ‘hiding’ boys.  This is then followed by fits of laughter and a group decision as to who hides and who seeks for the next round.

*Sigh*.  This is not Hide & Seek.  This is rough and tumble play that they call hide & seek because they know that I will say running and jumping games are outdoor games.  If I say Hide & Seek is an outdoor game they will argue – and they will be correct – Hide & Seek can be played indoors – but their game cannot even if they call it Hide & Seek.

So why won’t I allow this game?  It is a cooperative game and the three playing are in agreement – for now – but there are other, smaller children who are not.  They do occasionally try to join, or just get in the way and someone always gets hurt.  I will allow this type of play outdoors – but there is simply not enough space indoors for the reward to outweigh the risk.

So, I suggested that they could take turns hiding a small toy instead – there are many places to hide small toys. They thought this was a terrific  idea and immediately chose one of the six stuffed squirrels.  I was somewhat concerned that this would cause confusion if someone ‘found’ one of the five squirrels that were not hidden but that wasn’t a problem.

The real problem was that none of the boys  could resist telling the others where the squirrel was hidden.  Two would sit in the corner and cover their eyes while the third hid the squirrel.  Then as soon as the two seekers stood up to search the hider would say “It’s over there” and point to the hiding spot. The other two would race to the location and whomever grabbed the squirrel first would be the hider – and would hide the squirrel in exactly the same spot that it was hidden in before round after round after round. *sigh*

So, I suggested that I should be the hider and all of them could be the seekers – I also chose to hide a small stuffed bear that wasn’t normally in the playroom.  They covered their eyes and giggled while I hid the bear.  When I said it was hidden they came out of the corner and bounced around asking me where it was.  I told them to look for it.  After searching for nearly a minute they began lamenting “This is so hard”.

I smiled and said. “This is Hide and Seek – indoor style”.  The excitement when they did actually find the bear was priceless. 🙂 This is now their favourite game.  Sometimes they become engaged in other activities before the bear gets found.  If at any point I need to redirect their behaviour then all I have to do is ask if they’ve found the bear yet and they all begin searching again.

Hide and Seek might be my favourite game too.

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Little Miss Button

The search for our new cat began online, looking through listings of adoptable pets.  Our first trip to the Winnipeg Humane Society was ‘just to look’ but there was one in particular – named ‘Button’ that I was hoping to see.  However, when we arrived at her kennel there was a ‘Hold’ sign – someone else liked her too.  We checked out all the kennels and played with many cats but as planned we were just looking.

Over the next week we visited a few satellite locations and I did more online searching.  I noticed that Button was still listed as adoptable so the following weekend we went back to the Humane Society. There was no longer a hold on Button.  It took a long time to coax her out of the back corner of her cage.  She was so timid – maybe too timid for a busy home like ours but eventually she snuggled her scrawny little body in my arms and purred. I put her back in her kennel and we looked at some other cats.  I also revisited Button and coaxed her out for another snuggle.

There were a couple of cats that we were interested in so we met with an adoption counselor to get some more information about them.  After learning more about their background we  decided they were not a good fit for us.  I asked about Button…they didn’t know much.  She was about nine months old.  She was found living under a porch in the freezing cold.  She had ear mites but had been treated and her ears were fine now.  She had been spayed before being put up for adoption.  She was very underweight and they were trying to get her to eat more.

So….we adopted her.

They had recommended that we should keep her in quarantine for at least a week – to adjust to us and hopefully gain some weight before meeting our other cats and the children.  We kept her upstairs in my son’s room.  She was so very happy all the time – purring and climbing all over us.  It was impossible to get a decent picture of her because she was always moving or wrapping herself around my neck.

At first I had to sit beside her food dish to get her to eat.  She would devour the food in her bowl but if I walked away before she finished eating then she would follow – pressing her little body against my leg like “Please don’t leave me”.  By the end of the week she was much more relaxed and putting on some weight – her spine and hip bones were not nearly as pronounced as they had been.

Over the weekend we introduced her to Mali and Malta – they do NOT love her but they haven’t been terribly mean.  It is interesting that it seems like Button thinks these other cats are in HER home.  Most of the disputes between them are started by Button.

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I joke about her ‘angry’ face because in almost every picture I take she looks a little angry.

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It doesn’t matter how happy, relaxed or content she is she still ends up making that face when I take the picture.

I guess she must have just been unhappy in the confines of her kennel at the Humane Society because here she is not a timid cat at all.  In fact she likes to be the centre of attention – as long as she doesn’t have to hold still for too long. (angry face)

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She likes to be where the action is – and she loves people.  All people.  Any sized people – even babies.  No cats.

She helps when we get dressed to go outside; (angry face)

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She watches the children through the playroom window because she hasn’t yet figured out how to get in there when the gate is shut;

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Is there a cat in this picture?

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Yes, she’s playing one of her favourite games – attack the toys the children put under the gate.

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Welcome home Little Miss Button – we look forward to getting to know you.

Adventures in Family Childcare

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