Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nature as Living Beings

I haven't posted much lately because I've been so absorbed in my studies.  I'm reading (and listening to!) Steiner and articles from The Online Waldorf Library like a madwoman along with some Mussar readings for Inner Work.  We have one more "semester" of Kindy that we're starting after our upcoming vacation and I want to make the most of it!

Anyway, I just read a Steiner quote and it reminded me of a funny story I thought I'd share and save for posterity ;)

"One does not speak about plants, but plants speak themselves and to each other as living beings. All contemplation of nature has to be transformed into imagination—plants speak, trees speak, clouds speak. The child at this age should not feel the difference between himself and the world.” (Rudolf Steiner, Education and Modern Spiritual Life, 1923)

My funny story related to this:

A week or so ago, as we were falling asleep, I said something to Yoav about Father Sun falling asleep on his soft cloud pillow and Yoav said that clouds are "just water".  I was so taken aback by the uncharacteristic comment, I said, "What?!?  Who said that?"  (not ideal to ask who told him, but my surprise and curiosity got the better of me.)  He told me and then I just said, "Hmm, I don't know - they wouldn't make a very good pillow if they were just water."  To which he said, "Yeah" in a knowing / agreeing way and went back into his imaginary world talking about the cloud pillows :)

It's amazing how far I've come in my thinking on child development.  When Yoav was a baby, before I came to Waldorf (and before Waldorf, David Elkind), I probably would have thought it was great for a six-year old to be interested in cloud science.  Now it seems so out-of-place!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Six-Year Change

I've been thinking a lot about the "Six-Year Change" recently.  This is a formidable time in a young child's life, when she is leaving early childhood behind, but isn't quite ready for the next stage.  This can result in a child feeling quite unsettled.

There are a few well-known resources for more information about this Change:
* Free article:  "Observing the Six-Year Change" by Ruth Ker
* Book:  "You're Not the Boss of Me!" by Ruth Ker
* Parenting Passageway Blog:  The Six Year Old: An Anthroposophical View ; Understanding the Six/Seven-Year Old Transformation; Peaceful Living with the Six-Year Old;
Nancy Foster in her book "In a Nutshell", writes, "This leaves her feeling unsettled and dissatisfied with herself and with life in general.  She loses her earlier capacity for fantasy play, and literally does not know what to do with herself.  She may become defiant, or very silly, or unusually sulky and insecure; for some reason, many children express they by saying they are "bored"".

As I'm finding out, this isn't so much fun for either child or parent ;)

For us, the Change has manifested in Yoav feeling a sense of malaise.  He often says, "What can I do?" and has found a way of verbally bothering Elie to fill this void (saying things like "Elie doesn't like Elie" or "Elie doesn't like to play", which sometimes leads to Elie crying and other times Elie is able to find the inner strength to say, "Yes I do!").  He says he doesn't like to play anymore and actually hasn't played with any *toy* in several weeks (other than his Waldorf doll, per below).

I'm finding the Change to be very trying emotionally.  I think it's Yoav's discomfort rubbing off on me. And, unrelated to the Change, Yoav's eczema has gotten much worse with the coming of winter, so he's both figuratively and literally uncomfortable in his skin :(

I'm slowly finding a few ways to help us through this with our relationship intact:

* Rhythm:  Strong rhythm is critical for us.  It's important for most kids, but especially so for those with Melancholic temperaments (Yoav). 
* Real Work:  Yoav will happily help me prepare meals or clean the house.  He is quite a discerning chef - meticulously cutting potatoes, making up combinations for salads, kneading and shaping bread, etc.
* Real Work in the form of Play:  With the Change, he has started to want to play out real-life scenarios.  We signed for a mortgage last week (Yay! - more on that later), and now he's been asking to play "Bank"; he also has started playing with his Waldorf doll, giving birth, breastfeeding, wrapping in a blanket, etc.
* Outside:  There is NO evidence of the Change when we are outside.  So, of course, we're spending a lot of time outside - thank goodness we're not in freezing NY for this LOL!
* One-on-one time with each parent:  I think as part of the Change, Yoav is feeling a bit jealous of Elie since not only is Elie still very much in the cute toddler stage, but he's also happy most of the time and engaged with toys while Yoav is anxiously asking what to do.  I think some one-one-one time with both parents will be helpful.
* Gordon Neufeld:  Per Gordon Neufeld in "Hold on to Your Kids", Yoav's impulse control as pertains to the taunting is due to a lack of maturity with "mixed feelings".  He says that the key to self-control is mixed feelings.  p. 290: "It is when conflicting impulses are mixed that the orders cancel each other out, putting the child in the driver's seat."  Yoav dearly loves Elie and Yoav often helps Elie with all the love and maternal-ness imaginable!  BUT at the same time, when Yoav feels this discomfort with the 6-Year Change, his impulses get the better of him.  So, I've started working to draw out this tempering element by occasionally saying things like, "(while on a hike) Ah, you really want to go fast to catch up with Abba (Dad), but at the same time you want to go slowly so you can look for acorns..."
* Inner Work:  This is for me.  In the Anthroposophical world, there are many many books to help with Inner Work and Carrie at Parenting Passageway just wrote a post about it.  Since I'm Jewish, I shy away from the Anthroposophical books and turn to Mussar for help here...  Mussar is the Jewish version of Inner Work.  I'm currently reading "Cheshbon Ha Nefesh", which means "accounting of the soul".
* Clean, clutter-free house:  This is a well-known Waldorf teacher secret.  Clean up a bit and negative behavior dissipates.  So since we're having a particularly tough time, the house needs to be particularly clean and organized ;)

Nancy Foster writes about the end of this time stage:  "Later, her capacity to play happily and creatively will return, at a more complex level, and she will occupy herself more harmoniously once again."  I think we'll all be happier when we get through this, but, in the spirit of living in the moment and being thankful for our life and health, I'll focus on my 6-Year Change Toolbox and try to enjoy these days!

Rice with Turmeric and Onion

I've been enjoying my carrot/onion/chard rice for a while, but yesterday went to a friend's for Chanukah dinner and candlelighting and she made a very tasty turmeric rice - I'm posting here both to share and so I remember the recipe!  I made it tonight but forgot to take a photo - I'll take a photo next time I make it.

Brown Basmati Rice with Turmeric and Onions

Ingredients:
1 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
2 T olive oil
turmeric - amount to visual preference
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T (not sure about this - just guessing) extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
diced parsley - amount to visual preference
Directions:
* Cook rice per the "Brown Rice II" directions in "Nourishing Traditions" (soaked overnight, brought to boil, and simmered on the lowest setting for 45 mins).
* Meanwhile, begin sauteeing the onions on low in olive oil (or coconut oil) until golden and soft.  Add garlic and sautee for an additional minute.
* When rice is finished, and add onion/garlic mixture and turmeric and parsley to color.
* Eat warm.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cute Elie Story

This morning Elie went down with Jeremy when he got up for a bit.  Then Elie came back.  After being in bed for a moment, he said "Ackuwee (actually), I want Abba."  I said, "Do you want tzi-tzis? (to nurse)" whoops - I asked a question :)  He said, "That be GREAT!"  He said it in such a sweet, happy way and cuddled up to me under the covers to latch on.  His language is so funny - seems so mature to me.  And then of course there are the funny words like ackuwee which is my current favorite...

Just wanted to save for me.  Where do you all save sweet quotes like this?  Not sure the blog is the best place, but I don't want to forget them!

A Day at the Beach

We (me and the kids) went to the beach in Tel Aviv last week while Jeremy was at a meeting.  Both boys had SO.MUCH.FUN!  The weather was absolutely perfect and, since it's not summer, the beach seems to be off people's radar so it was almost completely empty. 

I love this series of photos showing Yoav (my 6yo), who generally doesn't like to get his clothes wet (and went months/a year? screaming if so much as a drop of water got on his clothes), getting progressively more comfortable with the sand and water until he's eventually wearing his t-shirt and undies (he initially didn't want to take off his pants b/c he was uncomfortable about people seeing him in his undies LOL) and lying in the sand!  I think a day at the beach is about as good as it gets as far as tactile experiences go.  Especially on a quiet day.  And of course, being a Waldorf mama, this is what I was thinking about all day :)

Fully dressed with shoes, just looking at the water:
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Socks off, pants up, still trying not to get water or sand on his clothes:
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Tentatively contemplating digging:
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Touching the sand:
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Pants off:
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Elie of course had pants off from the beginning:
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Crawling along in the sand:
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Lying in the sand (and singing):
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End of the day, totally relaxed, lying in the sand:
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Elie's Birthday

Today is Elie's birthday.  We did the main celebration a few days ago (Dec 2) on his Hebrew birthday.  It was a very simple celebration (especially compared to Yoav's!), but I think it was perfect for his age.  I did the night-before poem like I did for Yoav and when he woke up, I sang him the Magic Cabin song (which he LOVED and asked me to sing over and over!).  Then I ran down to light a candle at the table and I sang the song again as Jeremy carried him down. 

Night-before poem found here:
When I have brushed my teeth*,
And my blanket I've gone beneath*,
And mother switches off the light,
I'll still be 2 years old tonight.

But from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold,
Tomorrow, I'll be 3 years old.

3 kisses when I wake,
3 candles on my cake.

* modified
Magic Cabin song:
It was three years ago;
Today, Today;
That Elie came down from the Heavens to stay;
He came to bring gladness and joy to the Earth;
Good people and angels attended his birth;
So let us now join them in singing;
With heavenly birthday bells ringing;
Happy Birthday, Elie. Happy Birthday, Elie.

We sang more birthday songs (Hebrew and English) as he opened his gifts and then he blew out the candle.

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I gave him Stockmar block crayons in a handmade crayon roll (tutorial on right side of blog) and a felt crown.  The crayon roll was the one I gave to Yoav a few years ago, but I washed it and took out the old ribbon (which was too thin and hard to tie) and replaced it with Lillalotta Birthday ribbon.  I made the crown a few nights ago the same as this one I made two years ago, but this time I added fabric around the elastic at the back of the crown.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Talking Pictorially

I recently listened to a talk by Donna Simmons of Christopherus called "Talking Pictorially and Living Actively with your Young Child".  I think this is the best $14 I've spent in my six years of parenting!

I have read SO MANY (AP/Unconditional) parenting books and I truly feel that this is the piece I've been missing.  For years, I've been hearing, "Talk Less" and I try.  I really do.  But what to replace the talk with - that's the key.  It certainly helps to simply talk less with young kids, but even more than that, it helps to TALK PICTORIALLY!!!! 

Kids up to the age of about seven do not think the same way we think.  A lot of people think this is simply a Steiner belief that may or may not be true.  I recently listened to a talk by Dr. Bruce Lipton in which he explains that EEG levels of kids up to the age of six show that kids in this age range are essentially in a hypnotic state!  An article about this is available here.

So, what to do.

Stop Talking - and Talk Pictorially!

What does that really mean?  It means that we need to meet kids where they are.  They are very visual beings.  Instead of telling your child that he needs to get dressed or he'll be cold (or worse, threatening not to go play outside unless he gets dressed!), try opening the shirt to show the head hole and saying, "Ah, I found the bunny hole - let's see if the bunny can hop into his hole!" (I've been using this one SO successfully with Elie - and everyone who knows him knows that he loves to be nakey!)

Now, one thing that most people will say is, "But that's not *my* child.  I talk to my child and he understands."  Fine.  True enough.  Kids do seem to understand these things.  Kids are very adaptable.  If you speak to them like they're small adults, they'll adapt and make do.  If we don't meet them where they are, they'll adapt to our language.  But it doesn't mean it isn't without a loss.

Donna Simmons discusses the risks much better than I possibly can here:
"A life that is narrated by an overly-verbal adult is a life that is outside of a child's experience. He has been removed from the immediacy of what is happening and is being asked to think about things. This is unhealthy and produces children who have a hard time losing themselves in the everydayness of life. Such children often display a variety of developmental challenges which manifest as ADHD or sensory integration or other issues. Or they are children who are demanding and hard to be with. They have lost the hallmark of childhood - to be unconsciously at  peace and in the world."

A key benefit of talking less in general and talking pictorially specifically is that there are many fewer conflicts.  The counterwill (Gordon Neufeld has written extensively about the counterwill, which many parents confuse with being "strong-willed") isn't engaged if you're not talking (verbally or via facial expressions!).  As Jeremy said today, it doesn't solve ALL the conflicts, but, for me, if I can use pictorial language to completely eliminate some/most conflicts, I'll have enough patience and clarity of mind to get me through the rest.


Examples of pictorial language from our life:
  • This is an example from Donna Simmons that is relevant to my next example, so I'm including it here - she suggests to get a child into the car:  "Quick, hop into the car like bunnies - the fox is coming!"
  • Elie doesn't like Yoav to get into the car on "his side".  Today we were parked such that Elie's side was next to the sidewalk and I don't like Yoav to enter the car in the street.  So I opened the passenger-side front door (by the sidewalk) and said to Yoav, "Ah, I found another bunny hole!  Here, hop in here!"  And he happily hopped in.
  • When Elie said he didn't want to wear his helmet when riding his bike (when bringing it to him - no questioning), I said, "Little heads like to be kept safe with helmets." and he said, "Oh." as if I had just said I have two eyes and he then said he wanted to wear the helmet and put it on. 
  • Elie didn't want to hold hands crossing the street and Jeremy (yay!) told him to hop into his Mommy Kangaroo's pouch and she'd hop him across, which he happily accepted!
  • Today the boys were fighting over a playsilk.  To transform the play, I held onto one side and started singing, "Tug, Tug, Tug of War; Tug, Tug, Tug of War.." and pulled.  Then we stood up and were playing tug of war.  When that seemed to get a little wild, I decided to transform again by saying, "All aboard!  The train is about to leave - everyone hop on!"  Then with us still holding on to the playsilk, I started saying, "Chug a Chug a Chug a Chug a Choo Choo" and Yoav caught on right away and started running around the kitchen table with Elie and I hanging on.  Soon we were all laughing and HAVING FUN!
  • Yoav was pretending to drive in a produce box and was knocking into the truck Elie was playing with (Yoav was hungry).  This is another example of transforming play - I got into a different box and said, "Here comes a cement truck!  Beep Beep!"  Soon Elie had also gotten into another box (my kids love produce boxes) and we were all driving around in our pretend trucks HAVING FUN!
  • Part of Talking Pictorially is singing.  I use songs for most of my transitions.  So I never have to engage the kids' intellect with, "It's time for bed."  I simply sing my bedtime transition song and they start heading up the stairs.  Truly.  It's like magic.  For inspiration, my list of transition songs is here.

There is more on this subject at Parenting Passageway.