Tuesday, June 29, 2010
We do have some routines, or things we repeat daily, that may qualify as rhythm. We've eaten dinner at the table as a family ever since M was a tiny baby and his little diaper butt bounced up and down in time with the theme song of King of the Hill that C and I watched while eating dinner, and we realized that maybe it was time to move the evening meal from the couch to the table. Family dinner often involves kids whining about having to “do everything” (i.e., set the table), hopping up and running around, trying to read or play with toys and, usually, at least one person getting spoon-fed by their mother. But we're all there, and all together.
Payne suggests lighting a candle and having a moment of silence. We've had a candle on our table for some months now, but I usually forgot to light it. Now I light it every night (though sometimes don't remember until halfway through dinner) and we close our eyes and have a moment of silence to “Thank the farmer and the gardener and the cook and thank Mother Earth and Father Sun.” The first several days all three boys made as much noise as possible during the “moment of silence,” but now we're getting in a few seconds of quiet, and they've started a tradition of saying what they “took a picture of” (i.e., “pictured”) during their moment. I'd love to copy this idea for little blessing cards and a card holder, but for now our little thanks works for us.
Payne does say that if rhythm is not possible in your life, then at least insert predictability. He suggests talking to kids about changes in their schedules or upcoming events at bed time so that they can process the new ideas in their sleep. This is a totally new idea for me. I have always just made plans and then sprung them on my children as we're about to go out the door, “We're going to the beach, guys, c'mon!” I suppose I wanted to save myself the trauma if plans changed, or leave myself an out in case I changed my mind. Then it got to the point that they would complain and agitate so much about having to leave the house, that I would save our plans until the last minute, just so I could listen to the complaints for the shortest period of time possible.
However, I'm willing to give almost anything a try, so a few weeks ago, I announced at dinner on Friday, that we would be attending the local wool fair—The Fiber Frolic—on Sunday. I braced for the complaints, the “I don't want to go's,” but they were not forthcoming. Sunday morning, after I gave up on waiting for the rain to stop, I announced it was time to go, and everyone piled in the car, willingly and cheerfully. Amazing.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to last Friday. It was E and Z's first day back at daycare after a year at Montessori school. C and I started our new routine of him dropping them off in the morning, me picking them up in the evening. We didn't mention this routine to the kids, though, and as soon as I got to daycare, both E and Z started crying and wailing, “I want Papa to pick us up!” E threw his hat at me and hit me in the eye. Even though I had both dropped them off and picked them up for the last ten months at school, they were still programmed to expect their dad to pick them up at daycare as he did a year ago (and to scream and cry if I dared try to pick them up). That night at bedtime we talked about how Papa would drop them off in the morning from now on, and I would pick them up. They moaned and complained a bit more. I reminded them again Sunday night and Monday, I braced for the worst, but arrived at daycare to find three reasonably cheerful children ready to hop in the car and go home with Mom, and every day after that all week.
How do you bring rhythm and predictability into your life?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
(the blown glass vase was my Mother's Day present from M)
C and M biked to the General Store in the afternoon to load up on junk food, and I spent some time in the hammock, listening to a thunderstorm roll in. For dinner we enjoyed (OK, some of us enjoyed) a Mexican feast cooked in the solar oven, that I'll tell you about later this week.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Reducing the clutter in this room will not only make it a more pleasant space to come home to, it should make it easier to find and choose shoes, jackets, etc. and thus make the morning rush a little easier (of course what will simplify my mornings the most is the fact that C offered to take the boys to daycare in the mornings all summer, which saved me the trouble of trying to trick him into taking them).
(The little baskets hold our binoculars, notebooks and magnifying glasses for easy access when heading out the door. The "tennis rackets" are C and M's bug zappers--I was truly horrified when C's brother gave them for Christmas, but I guess if it reduces their chances of EEE exposure, I can live with it).
Now, I don't really expect it to STAY clean, all by itself--it is the MUD room after all. However, a whole week has gone by since the clear-out and it doesn't look much worse. Though we still all just kick off our shoes when we walk in the door, I was able to vacuum out there without having to pick up much first, and I even put my own hammock away when it started to rain yesterday, rather than heaping it on the chair.
What have you simplified this week?
Friday, June 18, 2010
The four areas Payne focuses on for simplifying a child's world are:
- Environment (reducing the number of toys, books, clothes, drastically, to reduce choices and visual clutter).
- Rhythm (establishing rhythms and inserting predictability in a child's day).
- Schedules (reducing the amount of time spent in scheduled activities to allow for lots of free time for unstructured play).
- Media (reducing or eliminating exposure to media and adult conversations in order to preserve childhood, and not cause children stress about things going on in the world that they have no control over).
A lot of what Payne recommends makes common sense--for example, a lot of visual clutter causes me anxiety, so why wouldn't the same be true for kids? And, whenever we do a major clean-up (and clean-out) of toys, they all seem to settle down and play in the new open area; rediscovering toys they forgot existed because they were just part of the "pile." I also have to admit, I love any child care advice that runs counter to prevailing notions--like choice. Every magazine or book you pick up on parenting says give your toddlers and small children lots of choices so they feel in control. Payne says, giving them too many choices makes them feel overwhelmed.
However, what Payne makes sound so easy (pile up all your kids toys, then take away half, then half again), like an afternoon project, could take weeks or months (how do you even find all of your kids' toys?). I did do (another) major clean-out of the boys' room, filled up a box for Goodwill, took some big toys that they don't really play with but that I don't want to part with (my old doll house, the wooden barn) down to the basement, filled up three boxes of books for the library book sale. But still, there's a long way to go, and it will be the work of more than one afternoon. So, I'm going to take simplifying area by area, room by room, moment by moment over the next few months.
I'll be back Monday with my first Simplification project: The Mudroom. I'd love it if you joined me. Please chime in in the Comments and link to any posts you have about simplifying (whether Kim John Payne style or not).
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I had never been here, to the home of Portland Head Light before. In fact, I didn't even really know that this "most photographed place in Maine" was here, until my mom and I went on a harbor cruise the previous day.