Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Sam was eating a hot dog for lunch, while I had leftover steak:

Me:  Did you know that steak comes from cows?  I'm eating a cow right now!
Sam:  UH HUH.
Me:  And did you know that pork comes from pigs?  And bacon comes from pigs.  And hamburger comes from cows. 
Sam:  MM HMM.
Me:  And, of course, turkey comes from turkey and chicken comes from chicken.  And salmon is a type of fish.  Did you know that we eat fish?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baby Making Update

I ended up going in for the D&C last week. 

I did a lot of serious thinking about my Reproductive Endocrinologist (the fertility doctor) after receiving some comments here on the blog, talking with some friends, and especially after listening to Leonard Peikoff's podcast #111.  Peikoff mentions in passing (in a question about consulting experts) that he knows at least one cancer patient who tried many different doctors before finding one that he trusted and who cured him, while he would have been dead if he had stuck with the earlier ones. 

This all made me re-evaluate my attitude towards finding doctors.  I had assumed that I was doing something wrong, since I've seen so many doctors and had almost nothing good come of it.  I've seen about 7 different practitioners for pregnancy, 2 dermatologists (and I need to find a new one), and at at least 7 or 8 doctors for my undiagnosed pain.  Partially because we've moved around, I've had at least 9 "primary care" doctors in the past 10 years.  Since people don't tend to talk about health issues much, I had no idea that this was anything other than insane.  I thought most people saw one doctor, and maybe a specialist if something came up. 

If I look at it another way - that there is just as much incompetence in medicine as there is in any other field, and maybe more because of government intervention in health care - then it actually makes perfect sense.  I interviewed about 7 companies to install my windows, so why wouldn't I do the same with doctors?  This also means that it is possible to find a doctor who can actually help me improve my health if I keep looking and judging with my own mind.  Maybe they're not all hopeless, after all! 

So, I fired my R.E.  I took a recommendation from a friend for a new infertility clinic and we have an appointment next week.  The amount of work in making the switch is daunting, but I've come to terms with the idea that this is just what you have to do.  And I might have to do it again.

In the meantime, I have no ob-gyn.  I hated the practice I used in September, so when I got pregnant in January, I decided to investigate home birth.  I did a mammoth amount of research and work on that, interviewing 3 midwives and finally settling on a birth center, and then I had the second miscarriage, which is probably going to preclude midwives and home birth.  So then I went to the R.E., who was going to refer me to a high-risk OB when the time came, but with the third miscarriage, that never happened.  The new fertility clinic would not take over my care from this miscarriage, but said I should just find an OB.  So, I had to find yet another doctor.

So far, I like this guy.  I chose to have the D&C after talking to him for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I could not stand the waiting anymore. 

The wonderful part is that I had the procedure on Thursday, and on Saturday, my energy came back.  Until then, my body still thought it was pregnant, so I had to take a nap almost every day and I was hyper-emotional and grieving all at the same time.  I couldn't tell what were my real emotions and what was the pregnancy.  It was pretty awful.  Now I feel like myself again, my head is clear, and I have enough energy to handle my day-to-day activities.

The other big thing is that, unlike my previous R.E., my new OB agrees with me that there is a 98% chance that our pregnancy troubles are caused by my age, and nothing more.  He agrees that more testing is probably a waste of time.  I'm going to get the new R.E.'s take on this too, but it was nice to hear something other than, "the next step is genetic counseling," which made no sense to me at all. 

This is not the best diagnosis.  There is only one treatment, which is the one that we said we'd never do: IVF.  The alternative is exactly what we identified on our own: play the numbers game and live with the miscarriages.  My previous R.E. did not talk to me at all about IVF so I was very ignorant.  After I realized that she was useless, I did my own research and found that there is a much higher chance of success than I thought, especially when the IVF is done along with PGD, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis.  They fertilize the eggs, wait a few days, then take out one cell from each embryo and check selected chromosomes for anomalies.  If there are any viable embryos, then they can be implanted.  The technology is amazing!  This is the same method used for gender-selection.  Did you know that you can pay about twelve grand to select the gender of your baby as a fairly routine matter?  I had no idea. 

We never could have considered this but for the money Adam inherited from his grandmother.  Our entire baby making journey, which started six years ago, consists of one reversal after another.  First, we'd have no kids, then we'd have one.  I never would have had a baby outside a hospital, but then I had one underwater in a birth center.  Then, well, one kid is great so wouldn't two be even better?  If it doesn't work out, then so be it - we'd never go through the trouble of high-technology pregnancy, and we could never afford it anyway.  Well, now we're here, and we've changed our minds again.  People ask us about whether we'd consider adoption and I say, "No, I really don't think so.  We're happy enough with our one child."  But then Adam reminds me that, when it comes to children, trying to predict the future is futile.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

Ooops, I missed last week's Round Up.  If you did, too, Trey's got it for you.

Amy's Lamb Stew

Here is another super-easy, inexpensive recipe that I created recently.  What makes it good is the combination of flavors, not a lot of fancy chopping, searing, or other time-consuming cooking.  Also, I don't think proportions are all that important.

I can't tell you exactly how much meat I used because the packaging is gone, but it was a bone-in lamb shoulder roast that I got from the farmer's market.  I'm pretty sure it would work with any kind of lamb roast, though.  We ended up with 3-4 servings so I figure it had about 2 pounds of meat on it.  We ate it with mashed potatoes.

Amy's Lamb Stew

Put the following into a crock pot on low for about 8 hours.  About an hour before serving, break up the meat:

  • 2-3 pounds of lamb roast

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed/minced

  • carrots (I used about 5 very small ones and left them about 1-2 inches long)

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • bay leaf

  • rosemary

  • salt and pepper

That's it! 

This week I'm going to try Rational Jenn's Greek Chicken.  It's just my kind of recipe.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Potty Training Update

Will these potty training updates never end?  It's been 9 months now, and sometimes it feels like we've made no progress at all.

After our nightmarish trip to Florida in March, I buckled down on the problem, which means that I stopped giving Samantha reminders, hints, or any negative attention related to the potty.  I just left her alone.  She started using the potty again some of the time, and she did fine at school after a few days of readjustment.  But she was still having an "accident" or two every day.  She just holds it until a bit comes out and we have to clean it up, but then a half hour later, a little more comes out, etc.  I started to worry about her physically damaging herself by holding back. 

Then a friend suggested that we try a different reward system.  It might not sound very different from the stars on the whiteboard system I tried before, but we gave Sam a ball to put in a clear jar each time she used the potty, and when she got 5 balls in (when the jar was full), she could choose a reward of a piece of candy, ice cream, or going out to dinner.  The real difference was in the concrete nature of the ball and jar system.  I let her use markers to color the Styrofoam balls and we kept the jar on a counter where it was always visible to her.

We had a lot of success with this system for a couple of weeks.  Then Sam learned that she could dribble a bit of pee in the toilet and get a ball, then go back and pee some more and get another ball, etc., until she had 5 balls anytime she wanted them.  (Damn that intelligent mind of hers!)

That's been my experience with all reward systems.  They are totally useless for the long-term.  If all you need is a jump-start or a way to get back on track, rewards can be useful (and this kind of more concrete, visible progress is helpful), but they don't really teach the child anything.  Sam needs to choose to use the potty for her own, real, selfish reasons.  The problem is that I have been completely unable to come up with any reason for her to use the potty.  From her perspective, there is just no reason at all to do it.  Well, I did know of one reason, but it was not something I was willing to do, as I'll explain.

After she figured out how to game the system with the jar and balls, I told her that we'd go back to giving her a reward if she could go a whole day without having an accident.  As soon as I told her this, she went back to not using the potty at all.

So I put her back in diapers!  I swore I would never do it because I thought it would be like going back to smoking after the hell of quitting - it just could not be worth it.  But it was so worth it.  She was fine at school, but at home, I just put a diaper on her and told her that if she was going to keep going in her underwear, then she would not be allowed to wear them.  I told her that if she wanted to use the potty, she could wear underwear again.  I didn't make a big deal of it, but just told her that I was not going to clean up after her anymore.  She was perfectly content with the diapers, and so was I.

Just a few days later, we had our end-of-year meeting with Sammy's teacher (which I'll write about in a separate post).  Her teacher brought up the potty training issue because she knows we're struggling with it, and because there are occasional accidents at school.  She suggested that we make Sam clean herself up.  I was completely baffled by this suggestion.  I think others have suggested it to me before, but I've ignored it because I simply could not process the idea.  Really, I simply could not conceive of what that even meant.  I mean, SHE MIGHT GET POOP ON HER HANDS AND THEN THE WORLD WOULD END.  Right?  Isn't everyone with me here?

So, the teacher suggested this and I really argued with her about it because I thought she must be insane or something.  She made the argument that this is the logical consequence for having accidents and I agreed with that completely, but my mind would just go blank when considering what to actually do.  All I could think of was poop all over the house.  But later, I started thinking about it and I realized something.  I already know that Sam fights me on the things that I am emotional about.  She had the hitting problem when I had the idea in my head that hitting was heinous behavior that needed to be stopped, now.  As soon as I let go of that attitude, she stopped (except for true loss of control, which is different).  And I already suspect that I have some kind of weird attitude towards poop.  Adam says I do, and I noticed that other people don't worry about it if they get poop on their hands when changing a diaper.  They just wash their hands.  I am mortified if that happens.  Also, I have recurring nightmares about dirty public restrooms. 

So I started thinking that even though I've tried to make no big deal about poop to Sam, that she still KNOWS.  In fact, I realized that she might know me better than I know myself.  So I decided to try this letting her clean up thing.  And the first time I did it, I was really, really scared.  I got a glimpse of what it must be like to have a phobia - a completely irrational fear.  (I guess I actually do have a minor phobia.)  I had to force myself not to think about what might happen if I didn't clean her up.  I took it one moment at a time.  I just told her that she had to do it and she could not come out of the bathroom until she did, and then I held my breath.  (I had talked to her about it ahead of time, too, of course.)

To my complete astonishment, that is all I had to do.  Sam is able to almost completely clean herself up, even after an "accident" that gets poop all the way down to her knees.  She fought doing it, but tears and screaming don't scare me. In a few minutes she got started, asked me to leave the room, spent about 5 minutes and half a roll of toilet paper, and was proud of her accomplishment.  She's fought me less each time.  With really messy ones, I might give her a wipe or two when she is done, but only to keep the house clean.  I suppose we'll actually have to enforce the "wash your hands" thing now, which we've never made a big deal of before.  And I try not to think about what's going on in that underwear. 

She had no accidents today.  Hurray for logical consequences!  Let's hope I've finally solved this problem.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little Thing

Me:  Sammy, tell daddy about The Princess and the Pea.


Me:  They lived happily ever after?


Friday, May 14, 2010

A Little Thing

I was making a smoothie yesterday, with Sam's help.  We put in the banana, the berries, and the milk, and ran the blender.  I took off the lid and used a spoon to take a small taste.  I paused and then said, "Hmm. Something's missing.  What's missing?"  Sam replied, A CUP!

Facebook Policies

Up until now, I've had a somewhat loose policy of not friending people on Facebook whom I don't know personally - meaning that I've not met them face-to-face.  I've made a few exceptions for bloggers and others that I feel I know pretty well electronically, but I've ignored dozens and dozens of friend requests from people whose names I know but I'm not sure why, along with plenty of people who are complete strangers.

Well, I'm changing my policy.  If I know of you electronically, tangentially, if you are a friend of a friend, or if you just read my blog, I will accept your friend request.  If I can't figure out the connection, I won't accept, so send me a message if you think I won't recognize your name.  Hit me up again, ok? 

I'm doing this primarily to promote my blog, but I've also found a few friends with similar interests by branching out on Facebook, so I figure it's worth a try.

I'm also going to change my policy on Facebook "messages."  I can't stand the messaging function in Facebook.  I'd rather just have an e-mail.  A friend of mine and I just had a big misunderstanding which was not caused, but was exacerbated by the Facebook messaging function.  That was the final straw.  Unlike Diana Hsieh, I don't have the balls to turn off the Facebook e-mail notifications completely, but I will simply respond by e-mail and expect you to do the same.  If I don't have your e-mail address in my contacts, I will reply on Facebook with, "Please contact me via e-mail."  You can find my e-mail address on my Facebook profile, or here on the blog, for that matter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

Jason Stotts is hosting this week's Objectivist Round Up at his blog, Erosophia.  (Take note of Erosophia's new URL if you haven't already.)

Ten Days of Joy

Well, it has happened again.  Miscarriage number three.  Only one baby in five pregnancies.  Shit.

At the time I wrote about number two, about a month ago, I was already pregnant and didn't know it.  Adam and I had been under doctor's orders not to try to conceive again until we got some answers on what might be the problem, but we figured that we'd start using protection after my first cycle.  Ooops, we never got that far!  I must say, it's quite exciting to get pregnant without really trying.  No ovulation predictor kits or loose underwear or basal body temperatures - it seemed miraculous!  And maybe because of the surprise and new experience, I somehow convinced myself that this was the one - this one was different.  I was sure of it.

To add to my certainty, we had an ultrasound and saw a heartbeat at 7 weeks.  Everything looked perfect.  The fertility doctor told us to come back in a week for one more ultrasound, just to be sure, before she would refer us to a regular ob-gyn.  So at 8 weeks, once again, we found out there was no heartbeat.  After my pregnancy in the fall when I went to the 8 week ultrasound alone only to get the bad news with no support, I decided I would never have an ultrasound again without Adam present.  I'm glad for that, because I was devastated this time.  Although it was still nowhere near as bad as my first pregnancy experience, it was the worst shock of these recent three.

I still didn't completely believe it until we got a second ultrasound that day.  And even then, I had moments of disbelief.  I mean, mistakes are made sometimes, right?  But I've since had a third ultrasound with the same results.  I'm now waiting for the inevitable passing.  I decided not to get another D&C because, although it would provide certainty and possibly more information about what went wrong, the procedure was more traumatic, mentally and physically, than I had anticipated when I decided to go that route the first time.  It also requires Adam and I to be totally useless for at least two days, if not three.  And I passed the second miscarriage naturally with no pain or fuss (I didn't know ahead of time with that one) so I'm less frightened of what will happen.  Still, the waiting is very difficult.

After number two, when she instructed us to use protection for the time being, the fertility doctor explained, "because the last thing you want is to have another miscarriage."  Well, she was wrong.  I'm actually glad it happened this way - or maybe I should just say that I have no regrets.  We had another shot at a baby.  We lost, but we had a shot.

Barring any evidence of a treatable condition, both Adam and I see this as a numbers game.  There are still avenues to pursue in diagnosing our troubles, but we've covered all the common things.  There are only two things that look suspicious at this point: the MTHFR issue, which is now being treated (but wasn't in time for this pregnancy), and some kind of genetic defect in one of us.  If the problem is the former - we're covered.  If it's the latter, well, we know we can produce a healthy child because we have one, so it's logical to assume we just need to get lucky.  That doesn't mean that there is nothing more we can do.  What we are trying to find out (and I haven't been able to pry this information out of the doctor yet) is whether, if it is a recognizable genetic issue, what the treatment options would be.  I only know of one, which is IVF and then genetic testing of the embryo before implantation (which is just a numbers game minus the miscarriages).  We've already decided that we won't do that.  It's too expensive, too stressful, and the success rate is too low.  So why bother with further testing if we would take no action on it?  I've tried to address this with my doctor twice, and she has intimidated me out of pressing for an answer both times.  (I really need to work on my assertiveness skills.)  Adam is going to call her next to see what he can find out, and if that doesn't work, it's "Hello, Internet."

Right now, Adam and I agree that we will disregard the doctor's instructions and keep trying immediately, even if we continue on to genetic counseling and whatever might follow that.  It's amazing to me that the doctor refuses to discuss this issue with us to understand our values and priorities.  (She had the same attitude towards the D&C issue - she recommended that I wait, but as soon as I started asking questions she got defensive and said, "Fine, then have the D&C," but would not directly answer my questions.)

Anyway, the worst of it is over.  I only knew I was pregnant for ten days, but they were ten days of joy and it may sound silly, but nothing can take that away.  We got pregnant again, and that's something.  So many people can't get that far, and having a child already makes a big difference in how I feel about it.  Sure, I suffered terribly for the loss, but it is a temporary thing.  In fact, this one was particularly difficult, but one week later, I'm practically recovered and ready to move on.  To paraphrase Ayn Rand, my focus is not on avoiding pain, but on achieving life.  I don't mean the life of the baby we hope to have, but my own life and my own values.  This does not mean that I will do anything to have a baby - our position on IVF makes that clear.  It doesn't mean that I evade the fact that we might fail.  I am perfectly aware of that.  It doesn't mean that the pain of miscarriage is repressed or even irrelevant.  I fully experienced the pain.  I barely got out of bed for five days.  On Monday, at my lowest point, I started to wonder when and if this repeated trauma would do permanent damage to my psyche.  But by the next day, that feeling had disappeared and I have felt better each day since.  I think these experiences are showing me the real meaning of a pain that "only goes down to a certain point." (Ayn Rand, again.)  I can't say that I have that level of self-esteem in all areas of my life, but I have it here, and it gives me more confidence in all those other areas.  I know that I can and will act to achieve my values.

But I will never again look forward to an ultrasound.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ayn Rand Books for Homeschoolers

The Ayn Rand Institute has opened the Free Books for Teachers program to homeschoolers!  This means that you can get free copies of Ayn Rand's novels plus teacher's guides for your homeschooled children.  You can find all the recources at this new section of the ARI web site.  Excellent!

Many non-Objectivists seem obsessed with the question of how we Objectivist parents will expose our children to the works of Ayn Rand.  As a parent, I've never seriously considered whether, how, or when I would suggest that Samantha read Ayn Rand's novels or non-fiction, although I've had idle moments of curiosity about it, and I've asked children of Objectivist parents about their experiences.  But I don't think Adam and I have ever even discussed it.  It's just such a non-issue. 

I'm much more concerned with raising a thinking, independent, selfish child.  Sure, you can get these ideas (and choose to develop these virtues) by reading Ayn Rand, as most of us first-generation-ers have.  But proper parenting is a much more direct route to a happy life.  There are so many things that are more fundamental in parenting than is reading Ayn Rand.  I won't write about those things here.  If you read my blog, you know what I'm talking about.  But as emphasis, I'd say that even something as simple as fostering a love of reading is more important than putting The Fountainhead on Samantha's nightstand, as obvious as that seems.

Having said that, if I do my job and Sam makes good choices (she does have free will, you know!), I can't imagine that she won't be interested in reading the books that have had such a profound impact on both her parents' lives.  (Adam and I met at an ARI event, and that alone is sure to intrigue her.  I'll save that story for another day.)  And, if I've done my job, Sam will be ripe and ready for the ideas.

All of that is said strictly as a parent, but if I am homeschooling Samantha as a teenager, Anthem and The Fountainhead will certainly be a part of the literature curriculum, as I believe they should be for all high-schoolers.  I haven't thought much about any other of her works, but I suppose I would also include Ayn Rand's essay, Philosophy, Who Needs It if we were ever to delve into basic philsophy because there really is no better introduction to the subject.  But that is a decision to be made much later.

In the meantime, it is very exciting to me that ARI has recognized homeschoolers in this way, and I hope that many will take advantage of the free books offer.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toby and Jake

We dog sat this weekend.  We had Jake for 3 days, and it was way harder than I thought it would be.  He and our dog, Toby, got along great.   Sam loved Jake.  We all enjoyed the dogs' endless play.  Jake is a very well-mannered dog, and learned our house rules quickly.

But I didn't think about the cat.

Our cat Jinx is a spitfire.  He's the boss of the house, in many ways.  It just never occured to me that he would do anything but hiss and scare the crap out of Jake and go on his merry way.  But Jake chased him down the hall one time and that cat peed all over himself and then didn't come out of the closet for the rest of the weekend. 

Jake was also very lonely.  He normally sleeps in his crate peacefully, but I guess because he was in a new environment, he whimpered constantly if he was left alone.  We would have let him sleep in our bedroom except that this was the safe-haven for the cat.  So Adam actually slept on the sofa in the basement next to Jake's crate all 3 nights, and had to shush him about once every hour when Jake would start whimpering.

We are all exhausted, but I must say, it was worth it.  I wouldn't do it again because the poor cat was traumatized, but 2 doggies playing is just so cute.  We laughed all weekend.  Adam taught them how to play tug-o-war and I managed to get it on video:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

Rational Jenn has your weekly Objectivist Round Up.

Montessori Summer School at Home

A few days ago I was lying in bed, stressing out about how I'm ever going to manage homeschooling.  It's still quite a few years off and I'm doing all I can to prepare, but I still sometimes get overwhelmed with the whole idea. 

The thing that I was mulling over this time was how I'm going to manage the transition from school to home learning.  Sam is going to be in Montessori for at least three years, and I'm considering keeping her there for first and second grade, too.  Especially if she stays in school through second grade, I worry about that transition.  Knowing what I know about her personality, I don't think she will simply accept the idea of school at home, especially with mom as the teacher.  I started thinking about ways that I could ease that transition.

And suddenly it hit me - I can homeschool her each summer!  I don't know why this didn't occur to me before, but it really addresses four issues: it will help get Sam used to school at home, it will give me practice at this teaching thing without much pressure, it will keep the continuity of her education going year-round, and it will fill up some of that scary empty space during the summer that I've been dreading.  (I plan to homeschool year-round, too.)

So for the past week or so I've been planning.  I'm going to stick with the Montessori method and materials for the most part because it is what both Sam and I know and because, obviously, I think it is the best kind of pre-school education.  Along with advice from a few friends, I'm working almost exclusively from Elizabeth Hainstock's Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-school Years.  I also plan to use some activities from June R. Oberlander's Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready.  (Both are indispensible books for educational activities from 0-5 years old.)   Please don't hesitate to give me any suggestions or pointers in the comments, if you have experience.

I'm going to try a two hour work cycle, three days a week to start, but we'll back off of that if it is too much in the beginning.  If it goes well, we might increase the amount of school, but this is supposed to be fun and low-pressure.  However, school time is going to be clearly defined; we will start right after breakfast, we will be dressed, and we will have a dedicated school area in the house.  I have plans for a special (kid-sized) table and chairs, a few bookshelves for the materials which will be closed off during the rest of the day, and a rug for working on the floor.  We'll start with circle time (15 minutes?), which I hope will put us both in the right mind-set.  Some activities I'm considering for circle time are:

  • Reading (will try non-fiction, descriptive library books instead of her usual fiction)

  • The silence game

  • Days of the week (memorization through song or rhyme)

  • Months of the year (memorization through song or rhyme)

  • Counting (memorization)

  • Other, new songs

  • Walking the line

  • Walking with a bell without ringing it (one of my most distinct memories from my own Montessori education)

Then we'll spend the balance of the time on independent work.  When Sam doesn't need me, I plan to read a book on the sofa nearby and watch her out of the corner of my eye.  Here is the menu of activities that I've come up with so far, with links to descriptions of the work in many cases.  (The page numbers are all from Hainstock, except for SAS which refers to the Oberlander book - they are descriptions of how to demonstrate the task to the child.)

  • Cutting paper along a line (pre-prepared paper with various types of lines)

  • The hole punch row (SAS, pg 192)

  • Polishing pennies with lemon juice.  Include squeezing the lemons into the water. (Come up with my own demonstration by practicing myself first)

  • Phonetic object box

  • Pouring (pg 24, and try it with a funnel into a slim vase)

  • Scooping (Need to find or come up with a specific process)

  • Gluing (Need to find or come up with a process)

  • Washing doll clothes (Need to find or come up with a process)

  • Washing baby doll (Need to find or come up with a process)

  • Largest to smallest 

  • Dressing frames (pg 23)

  • Metal insets (pg 64)

  • Washing dishes (use her tea set, pg 30)

  • Sweeping the floor (try the basement or living room, pg 34)

  • Bead stringing (use set she already has, pg 39)

  • Using a dropper (pg 41)

  • Puzzles (do it once myself then allow her to do it herself)

  • Instead of the Pink Tower, use stacking cups (pg 49)

  • Sandpaper letters (pg 70 and 74 when more advanced)

  • Number rods (pg 80)

  • Home made spindle box  (AFTER number rods, pg 81)

We may not need all of these, or we may need a lot more for the summer, but this is what I'll start with.  Most of these activities are things that I know she is already doing in school, but which will probably still challenge and interest her.

I'm not much of a make-it-yourself kind of person, so I had to buy some of the materials.  I bought the metal insets, the sandpaper letters, a puzzle, and the dressing frames.  Everything else uses materials that I already have or can be fashioned from other, common household objects.  (I'll make my own spindle box and spindles from an egg carton and marbles or pasta or something, but that's about the extent of my craftiness.) 

In doing this research, I came across this lovely video that explains the idea behind the "practical life" exercises in a Montessori school.  (Oh my god, what a beautiful environment in this school!)  It also includes a detailed demonstration of the bow tying dressing board, which I think shows how Montessori is fundamentally different from so many other pre-schools.  From what I gather, many pre-schools teach practical skills.  But in Montessori, each skill is isolated and then placed into a specific order, each movement is precise, time is allowed for as much practice as the child needs, and, of course, the child can work independently after a few demonstrations.  Montessori is not all about "freedom" and self-expression.  I believe the Montessori Method does foster independence and creative thinking, but only by means of teaching a child how to master himself and his environment.  And there are specific, objective ways to accomplish this.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Problem Solver

Sam is becoming quite the problem solver!  About 6 months ago, I started asking her to try to think of solutions to her problems on her own, instead of suggesting everything for her.  For example, she might whine and complain that I would not allow her to wear her sandals in freezing weather.  My old strategy was offering choices such as, "It's too cold to wear sandals outside today, but you can wear your sandals in the house when we get home, or you can put on 2 pairs of socks under the sandals if you really want to wear them to school."  But I started interjecting the occasional, "Do you have any ideas about how to solve this problem?"  She would occasionally come up with something in the easy cases, and sometimes she would just reiterate her original want: "I just want to wear my sandals!" 

Lately, though, she has been coming up with really creative solutions.  Sometimes she even comes up with ideas that would never have occured to me.  I can think of two examples:

A few days ago, we were hanging out with the neighbors in our front yard and Sam and her friend C. were playing hopscotch and throwing a ball around.  C. took off her shoes and I remembered that the lawn people had put chemicals on the grass that morning, so I warned C.'s parents that they might want to have her keep her shoes on.  Of course, as they were talking to C. about it, Sam started taking her shoes off, too.  I asked her if she had heard what I said about the chemicals.  (She knows all about not getting chemicals on her skin.)  I told her that she would need to keep her shoes on today.  She said, "How 'bout I just stay on the sidewalk?"  Of course, that solved the problem, and I told her it was fine and complimented her on her idea.  (She only forgot and stepped in the grass once - not bad!)

On Sunday, we were planning out our family time for the day.  When we have a lot of little things to accomplish on the weekends, I often suggest that we make a list and write everybody's wants down, and then decide what to do in what order, to make sure everyone gets to do at least one thing that is important to them.  On this particular day, I wanted to go to Best Buy, Adam wanted to install some light switches, Sam wanted to go to the playground, and we all wanted to go to the dog park.  It was 10am and, trust me, it's hard to accomplish all that if you don't start at the crack of dawn.  I was thinking out loud about how we might get it all done and said, "and at some point before nap time, we need to have lunch."  Sam piped up:  "How 'bout we have lunch at the playground?"  That solved the entire logistical problem.  We first went to Best Buy, picked up some fast food, and then brought it to the playground, so that we got all of that done before nap time.

Those are just two examples that occur to me at the moment, but Sammy is full of ideas like this, and she's been showing fewer signs of frustration lately too.  Choices are still an important part of my parenting toolbox, but now I don't have to come up with all of them!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Free-Range Kid Cutting Carrots

Sammy has been using a knife for quite a long time now, and recently we've started letting her use the sharp steak knives when necessary.  I can't take all the credit for her skill with the knife - she is a Montessori student, you know - but I can take credit for allowing her this freedom at the appropriate time and for not freaking out when she cuts herself, as you'll see in this video: