the good list

Quick takes on what’s working well around here lately and the little moments I’m holding onto each day that are just good.

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1. Tidy time. I borrowed this idea from my friend while Chris was in London. After dinner, Evange (and Zelie, somewhat) tidies up all the toys around the house and then she gets to watch a 20 minute show. She is SO MOTIVATED. She will ask me, before we’ve even had dinner, “Is it tidy time??” If Zelie helps, or it’s early enough, she gets to watch, and if I’m doing bedtime solo I will put her to bed while Evange finishes the episode. And I love coming downstairs to a clean playroom in the morning. Win win. (I know I just wrote a post about living more Montessori at home and yet I do daily screen time. I contain multitudes.) 

2. Ice cream cones. This feels like a life hack that I know will not last forever but am savoring now. I have a hard time with endless afternoons if we don’t have something scheduled to go and do, but this has been great to help us transition from naps to playing outside. We make a smoothie together, put it in a waffle cone (left over from Evange’s 3rd birthday party) and they have to eat it outside. And then we’re out there for an hour or more, usually.

3. Warm afternoons. Once we’re outside, Evange and Zelie have started playing “Mama” together. Zelie runs around yelling, “Mama!” and I yell, “What?” and she says, “Not you! I’m talking to Evange!” Perfect. I sit with Chiara and drink tea and read while they play and even if nap times didn’t align, I’m still so grateful that it’s warm and sunny and we are all outside. Even when they end up naked and covered in smoothie. (Because winter is coming…)

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4. Mornings with the littles. We’ve found a weekly rhythm with a balance of playdates and time at home. Zelie plays fairly independently and it’s been fun to show her the Montessori activities on the shelves, and then just watch her get absorbed in lining up all her little Play Mobil peeps in different configurations. She also gets to go to her “preschool time,” which is an hour of coloring, songs, snacks, and playtime with three other 2 year old girls on our street. So cute. I’m so grateful for that.

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our Thursday mornings. this time was playing in the lobby of Evange’s school while Bernadette’s mom helped in the Atrium

5. Tomatoes, basil, and zinnias. The only parts of our jungle garden that are still going strong, but it’s perfect. I ask Evange to pick more tomatoes whenever we’re outside, and to pick me a new bouquet every few days. Soaking up all the color because, again, I’m already dreading winter.

6. Our Bosch. Our dishwasher stopped working in January after the Polar Vortex and even though multiple dishwasher repairmen have told me that was just a coincidence, I’m not wholly convinced. My dad gave me money for a new one after his recent visit, there was a Labor Day sale still going strong, and I did the thing. I had forgotten how amazing it is to have a dishwasher. All the praise hands. Thanks, Dad!

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7. Elementary. Another gift from my dad’s visit – Chris and I once again have access to our favorite TV show from when we were dating that we never finished. Nostalgia. 

how montessori is helping me be a better parent

When I was asked if I’d like to help with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for the primary students at Evangeline’s school this year, I jumped at the chance. Childcare is always tricky but the other mom who is helping also has a two year old daughter, so each week we switch off entertaining the little ones, and the other gets to be in the Atrium (the room where CGS happens). I had my first turn in the Atrium yesterday and it was the highlight of my day. These are some of my observations from the time and how it’s interacting with the thoughts I’ve been having about parenting.

I re-read this book on the temperaments this week, looking for help dealing with Evangeline’s tantrums and some behavior issues (like, she locked the back door the other day to try to lock me out of the house, and I found a container of oats behind/under the couch that she had been secretly snacking on back there – what?) and was relieved and amused, because yes, she is definitely my conquering choleric child. And as easy going phlegmatics, Chris and I are often bewildered by her outbursts of passionate screaming. The girl is just so loud sometimes. She reacts quickly and intensely, and yes, we will have to continue to help her learn to control her emotions, but she’s also confident and loves to be helpful and independent, and fingers crossed, those qualities will serve her well through adolescence and beyond. Having the temperaments as a loose framework helps me to see when I am being worn down (or bullied lol) by her insistence (lately it’s been letting her watch an episode of a show, or two, after quiet time, because I need a longer break) – and putting my foot down to break habits I don’t want us in. It also helps me have more empathy and patience when she reacts so loudly. (She doesn’t do this at school, btw. She saves it all for us at home #blessed).

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Earlier this week, I went to a volunteer training at the school, and it was an unexpected, lovely reinforcement of how I want to be as a parent. A scientist, a saint. What are my buttons? Ask others for help. So good to think about. The principal of the school commented, “We don’t ask the child, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ We ask, ‘How will the universe be different because you are in it?'”  #CosmicEducation

I’m coming into all this Montessori stuff a total newbie. I didn’t know anything about it  when Evangeline started at a Catholic Montessori school that runs from preschool to junior high. I have slowly been picking up the philosophy, the lingo, and the planes of child development here and there, from different books and articles, in a haphazard way. And mostly from my homeschooling mom friends, who are incorporating aspects of it into their homes.

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So I’ve been on a kick with it this week, reading The Montessori Toddler and having fun arranging activities for the girls to discover and play with in our play room. Hiding toys to bring them out in rotation has left bare, minimal shelves which are easier to tidy at the end of the day. My MIL sent me this article a while ago and I’m finally putting some of these ideas into practice, and something about it is really fun for me. Thinking about what toys actually get used, or are part of a complete set, and eliminating whatever is random and excessive and not age-appropriate, is freeing. And thinking about what activities the girls would enjoy, and what items we have around the house or yard that would work, is using some creativity that is life-giving to me.

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in her fancy dress to move her frogs around the room all day 🙂

Anyway, bringing all that into the Atrium with me this week, I noticed some things.

  • The order, detail, and thoughtfulness of the materials in the room creates a peace and a beauty that feeds something in my soul.
  • Seeing other adults interact with 3-6 year children in a calm, respectful way helps my own struggle with patience when it’s just me at home, outnumbered by my three.
  • Children are still children in this beautiful space. They get silly and distracted by each other, they sometimes need redirection. But mostly, they are reverent, focused, and eager. And it is delightful to just stand back and watch.

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