Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Gingerbread Man Christmas Tree Ornaments with Customized Tags


 

 One tradition that we started in our home was making Christmas tree ornament gifts "from our children." Our firs baby's first Christmas ornament "gifts" were handprints and footprints in red and green. This was nearly a hassle free project and I was hooked. The next project was a bit more elaborate, and nearly from scratch. 

These were a lot of effort to make, but were worth the result. I had completed the gingerbread man outline and I had let my toddler decide on the decorations that I had glued on using hot glue. 

Below are the instructions used to create these ornaments.

 

 I also wanted to make sure that the tags were customized. A tag die and a small tag hole punch were used to create the shape out of heavy scrap-booking paper. I then used small Recollections stamps to write the giver and recipients. 

 
 Finally, I added some fun to the tags by using my child's favorite stamp. 
 
 
 



An Honest Usborne Book Review


I first came across Usborne books when one of my friends asked if I would go to an Usborne book party that she was a virtual host for.

Before that, most books companies that I was aware of were the big publishing houses that filled big book stores, used bookstores, and school book fairs alike. 

I do not need an excuse to buy children's books because we read books throughout the day. I quickly picked out some books that were interactive and accessible for my child at the time. 

I received the books and we have enjoyed many evenings touching textured pages and lifting flaps.

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The books vary in subject, targeted age range, and quality. The prices reflect this. 

The touchy-feely book that I own is an amazing quality with thick pages. The illustrations that accessible to babies who may not be able to see in full colors. And I appreciate that it was made for babies instead of the adults.

I want to be very honest when I say that the illustrations are not unique works of art exactly. The artwork is made to stand up to repeated wear and tear though. And that is most important to me right now. This might be a skewed view since I did not get any thematically intricate books like a fairy tale.

The drawback to these books is that they do thrive in an MLM structure. The MLM business structure makes me wary. And I will tell you why. Usborne books are everywhere online, in big box stores, and at virtual MLM parties. I feel like all of these platforms compete with one another and I genuinely feel like the "book people" should get a fraction of all generic online sales since they are the ones doing the majority of detailed marketing. 

Even as I write this, there is a list of books that I want to get and I also have a "maybe" future list depending on what my kids get into as they get older. 

All that said, I have heard some concerns and a bit of conflict from independent authors and illustrators who find that these books can overwhelm regional small business fairs to the point that it is harder for local authors to compete at the very events that were essentially designed for them. So knowing this, I hope that anyone reading this article spends additional effort sleuthing online for local authors and independent authors in addition to these wonderful books.

In particular, I think it is important to shop for books where illustrations jump of the pages, especially in this day and age where parents are discouraged from taking their children to museums. I think that illustrators are amazing and it is important to seek books that support illustrators. Also, I feel it is important to ensure that my bookshelf includes books with characters that look like my child as well as characters who that do not look like my child. 


Being a Better Parent While Doing Less the Right Way

We are in our own little bubble right now. We are socially distancing, wearing masks, and keeping our public outings to a livable minimum. 

With all of that in mind, I definitely feel like my little ones are not getting the proper socialization that they deserve to develop good communication skills, manners, and self-esteem. 

I found myself in the same shoes of other parents who claimed that their older children have regressed in their development due to the observation and then mimicry of their little sibling demanding everything and getting everything within reason. 

Just the other day my child demanded that I should get something for him from the fridge. Mind you, he does not have any issues with opening, finding, and getting what he wants. He just knows that his brother gets all that he needs just by babbling. And here my toddler was using full sentences with his whole heart. Surely, he was going to get some string cheese. 

No. 

No he was not. 

A long time ago, reading "Montessori from the Start" Taught me that it is easier to be a servant to a child than a teacher and parent. While I will give him all of the love in his own love language, I will try my best to do less.

And that is not a bad thing when done right. 

Regardless of parenting style, what we know, deep down, is that we are preparing our children to live in a time, place, and culture without us. This might be 5 feet away when they have their first playground altercation, or 500 miles away when they more away from home, or this might be the ever so depressing "without us" that I don't want to think about. 

The more they start learning useful and practical life skills, the easier the parents' lives will become and the more the child can learn more and increasingly complicated skills. 

Right now my pet peeve is potty training, but honestly, if I can get my child to learn his morning routine and the cues involved with everything except that, my life would be so much easier. So that is my goal for now and this coming year. I want to enable my child to do more self-care and eating tasks without my supervision. 

My ideal would be to build confidence over time in my child so that one day, when he can work with very hot foods, my husband and I can sleep in and to wake up to complete and delicious breakfast breakfast. A Mama can dream right?

 


Monday, November 9, 2020

The Story of Mothers in Little Fires Everywhere

 

First Impressions of Little Fires Everywhere

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Reading "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng was a beautiful experience and I wanted to dive into it from a parenting perspective. 

Please be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead.

While intertwined relationships between teenagers is the main focus, and Shaker Heights, a setting that can be a character, attempts to steal the spotlight where possible, the book is fundamentally about motherhood. About parenthood. About that nuance of human cycles and conversely unprecedented futures that comes with each new generation. 

This book would have wound up in a recommended school book report list had it been written a hundred years ago. I have heard a book reviewer say that the sentence structures could be better. I understand the sentiment, but I often find that a signature of the author features the author's weaknesses just as much as strengths. For example, while I highly enjoy Edith Wharton's work, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a map or directions of any location within some of her key works. And that is okay. I prefer her descriptions of human nature under specific circumstances to the most riveting land survey.

Celeste Ng's characters escape from the page as fleshed out people without divulging every single tidbit of life history. The interactions are full and while authentic to their time, place, and culture, are universal enough that a few changes in slang and peripheral details would be enough to transfer this story in time and geography.  

Parenting in Little Fires Everywhere

So back to parenting in "Little Fires Everywhere." While it is impossible to outright name each mother within this book a bad parent exactly, there are little red flags here and there that often resemble the red flags in real life. And I loved that. Not only is parenting a teenager one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, but also being a human being while parenting is a challenge not too small.

Even the most perfect parents carry red flags with them and make mistakes. And that's okay. 

Elena Richardson and Mia Warren are portrayed as complimentary forces in parenting. 

Elena Richardson

Elena Richardson had pursued preparing the space for the child and had followed this course to completion as part of the philosophy she adopted from her planned Shaker Heights setting. She had let her career, while impressive, stagnate compared to those of her peers. 

She had come back to Shaker following schooling, ready to start the next chapter of her life. And while this preparation is elaborate, all of this preparation goes against "following the child," a key Montessori motto.

The main takeaways from Elena's parenting style is that there is not much flexibility. There is not a lot of room for mistakes because the preparation had eliminated as many opportunities for mistakes as possible. 

One heartbreaking moment is realizing that while Elena has written the plan for her own children in stone regardless of how well it works out for them, she is more than willing to help other parents realize plans for their children that work for them. For example, she was more than willing to help a friend get her daughter into an all-girls school that was better for her education. Now it is not clear if this option is better just on paper or genuinely better for the child in real life, but it is already a red flag that Elena does not entertain even a glimmer of an idea like that for Izzy until the plot rolls out through the book. And then, it is much too late.

Mia Warren

By contrast Mia Warren provided and prepared many spaces showing her child the different ways to live in one country and how unique the landscapes, people, and even the sky can be. The comfort provided seemed very essential, instead of absolute. The complete lack of "following the child" is a stark contrast to Elena Richardson's methods and while it would be considered quirky to say the least by the current interpretation of the Montessori method, I can see a fierce follow the child aspect. Key examples include Mia using a sling when her child did not want to be put down, taking on jobs that allowed her to be close to her child, and letting her child mold oneself in the short term without judgement. 

Mia's frequent moves take away any long-term environment from her child and give her child additional challenges in life. Her child is not able to establish long-term relationships, develop a support system other than her mother, or develop traditionally rewarded academic and extracurricular activities for college admissions. 

One heartbreaking, yet completely glossed over point in the book, is the fact that we know that Pearl had the writing abilities to get into a prestigious university. After all, her essay had helped someone else get in. But it is doubtful that Pearl's application would have reflected the grades and involvement typically associated with stellar applications. After all, it is 2020 and parents have gotten into trouble for forging their children's extracurricular involvement. We know this matters, and we know it is hard to build this consistency in new places. 

Both Mothers are Goals and Both are Cautionary Tales

I wanted to provide a comfortable home for my children to thrive in. I also had seen what multiple moves do to a child's academic progress as a tutor and from my own experience. And yet, I want to show the world to my children that I was lucky enough to experience. Yes, consistently developing a know-how in academics or sports is important, but there is so much of the world to experience that is far more personally rewarding.

Mia's life is enviable despite it being opposite to the suburban living ideal. And as a parent in 2020, it's easy to see why. Pre-COVID, it was not surprising to see school shooting events in the news. Surely, doing remote schooling while traveling sounded a lot better than looming fears and sporadic school drills. Even the most prestigious suburb- or any setting that can be its own character- does not guarantee safety from school shooters or other violence.

 



 

 

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