Still Playing School: April 2012

Working THROUGH the Grief

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Today was another one of those days, but not quite as bad as last week.  Days like today make me brace for it to get worse, though, because sometimes it comes on slowly, so I decided to work through it as an experiment.  You know, get things done now in case I'm down for the count over the next few days.  I managed to get several big chores done (the beginning of spring cleaning) as well as some craft projects with E.  We went shopping.  I did nap when she did, because it seems that sometimes that can reset my mood for the day, but I woke up even more sad than before I fell asleep so today that was a fail.  I woke up and started cleaning again immediately.

I just want to say, "Really, grief?  You were just here for a few days last week, remember?  I know you never go far, but can you quit sitting on my chest and filling up my throat?  I have things to DO."

So, in case you were wondering, on some days it IS possible to work through the grief, but it still follows you around all day, sucking the enjoyment out of everything you touch.  Except, of course, my husband and E, who I can always enjoy, even though I might not be my most patient with them.  I imagine this might be what depression feels like, but I've never been depressed.  Unlike depression, I do have brighter days sprinkled in.

Someday, I am hoping for this:
"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts." -George Eliot
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Toddler Attention Span - What's Appropriate?

Since our Play & Learn Classes began in March, I've had several questions about what is appropriate for toddlers and pre-schoolers' attention spans.  Today I'm going to try to address this question, but my answer won't be a clear and specific time frame per age.

When teaching kindergarten, I could say that 5-year-olds, for the most part, were capable of sitting and engaging in an adult selected activity for 15 minutes when allowed to participate in verbal and physical ways (passing a puppet, listening to others, clapping syllables, singing a song, etc.)  Toddlers are harder to define for a variety of reasons.

Anytime we start discussing what is "typical" we have to remember skills are on a continuum.  When you visit you pediatrician, s/he gives you a range of words your child should be saying, weight and height is on a percentile, and skills develop at ages that vary by several months.  During early childhood, children are growing and changing at such a rapid speed that it is impossible to put milestones on an exact timeline for individuals.

Also, at the age of 3, a child's brain has formed twice as many connections as an adult's.  Many of these synapses will be used or eliminated during the years of elementary school.  Connections that are frequented more will strengthen and grow while other passageways will die away due to lack of use.  So we have to remember that your toddler's mind is BUSY, just like their bodies.  That's why adults are often exhausted while they run circles around us.

Lastly, aside from the variability of each child and the fast paced way that toddlers' minds work, we also have to factor in that each child is geared towards personal interests.  What is rewarding to one might not be interesting to the next, just like with adults.  E has the attention span to do multi-step arts and crafts, but isn't as likely to focus on building with blocks at this point.  She will set up elaborate pretend homes and meals for several people (or dolls or animals) and assist you in cooking for much longer than she'll participate in gross motor activities.  There is also variance in how long she'll dedicate to an activity on any given day.  Bath time length changes day to day and lasts much longer if she has her Daddy with her because she didn't see him all day, versus Momma who is trying to fold laundry or reply to emails at the same time.

That last variable is a clue to what we can do when we want to engage our child's attention for longer periods of time. Children are naturally self directed, but if we are engaged with them, they will stay dedicated to an activity for longer.  One goal at our Play & Learn classes is to communicate to parents how much their undivided attention, even for a short amount of time, leads to more intentional play and learning in their child's day.

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A Grief Day

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
Yesterday I could feel it brewing.  My husband had some appointments after work and it was all I could do to put in the "overtime" for the evening.  Usually by the time he gets home, I can check out if I need to or I can change my focus onto something else, but yesterday just ended up being an longer-than-typical day.

Finally, when the day was behind us, I went to bed sad.  I woke up sad.  I miss her.

Today I woke up ready to try again.  But some typical life stress boiled over early in the morning, usual stuff of marriages and a toddler and life and pets and housework and potty training and next week is this and that and we have to mail two cards and get a gift and make an appetizer and get a babysitter and what do they all truly think of me as a mom and a friend, but on top of everything else, on top of the fact that I feel like I am just barely stitched back together sometimes, the dam broke.

It was a messy, emotional morning.  I had to focus just to pick myself up off the floor.  I saw the look on his face as he had to leave for work.  He didn't want to walk out but life goes on.  We are almost six months out and we knew we would get to this point where the resources dry up.  Sometimes I throw myself into other projects and I'm sure I look like to most of you that I have moved on a bit.  I'm distracting myself from this pain that is always so close to the surface.  If you look somewhat put together some of the time, the expectations come back, from others and from yourself and then a day like today is doubly devastating.  

A butterfly flutters its wings and that's enough pressure to send me spiraling out of control into the abyss of grief.

After he left, I thought about what I would do if I were truly ill today.  I laid on the couch with E, we watched way too much television, we ate food we shouldn't have eaten, but my husband brought us lunch and we still managed to work on potty training a bit.  At nap time, we curled up together in "Momma's bed," and I tried to surround her with love all day.  I want her to know that even when I'm at my worst, she comes first.  We may have watched a lot of shows, but they were carefully chosen.  We were dressed.  She had eaten.  After nap, we even made it to the park.  Today, that would have to be enough.

I expressed my sadness via Facebook which sometimes feels so self indulgent.  I got responses of love, my neighbor (who is quickly becoming a best friend) made us dinner, and I feel a bit better tonight.  

Parent guilt is staggering even when you aren't grieving.  You can spend so much time constantly comparing yourself to the next parent who is outside more, doing more projects, makes it to library story time looking great with the kids' hair combed, eats only organic, and so on.  

I have to remember it's just one day.  I can try again tomorrow.  

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Creating Beside Your Child - Recycled Flower Art

I had a whole post ready to write about spring, flowers, Earth Day, and recycling. Yet, when I sat down to do this project with E, I ended up learning so much.

When we had new cookware shipped to us, I saw these packing pieces.  I knew I had to keep them to make something out of them, but what?  Spring = flowers of course!

Here was my dilemma:  I always strive to provide E with activities that are so fun that they engage my attention as well, because then I know that they are sure to be a hit with her!  So I was super tempted to create one of these flowers myself.

At first, I felt a bit silly and selfish to be taking her materials to make my own art.  But then I thought, we encourage parents all the time to play along side their children.  We are advised to eat dinner together, read together, do everything together.  Why not create together?  Splat Studio advertises that their preschool classes allow parents to have materials to work along with their child, which was a huge draw for me.  I decided to make a flower, too.

While we were working something happened.  I was using Do-a-Dot stampers while E chose paint.  She started mimicking my stamping motions on her flower.

If I would have suggested she try that, her two year old stubborn streak probably would have resisted.  I would never have taken her materials to "show" her how to do it on her own flower because that feels like disrespect to her as an individual and artist.

Yet, by creating beside her, she had the freedom to make the decision to do it like Momma or in her own way, neither of which was wrong or right.

I was talking to my mom about this on the phone and she brought up how this is the way animals learn how to behave in nature.  The mother chimpanzee doesn't take something from its baby, say "No," and show it the proper way to do something.  Instead, the mother performs an activity as she's always done and the baby follows her lead and imitates her.  It's such a natural way to learn!

So I want to encourage you to create art beside your child.  Get messy with him, buy extra materials for yourself so you both have your own space, and have fun creating masterpieces but also memories.  You can also ask your child if you can work on one project together, but respect their answer.  Collaboration is a choice.

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By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 1 Comment
We raised $4,208.00 for Sustaining Grace which means we can help 28 families!
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By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
Tomorrow is our special Zumba Fitness class/fundraiser for her.

If you can't make it, will you please wear purple in memory of her and send us your support via internet?
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Helping Others Smile

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments
Jamie is one of my best friends.   Actually, he is basically a brother to me. We grew up together in the same small town, on the same hill, riding the same bus to school.  He is the same age as my younger brother so that's how we met, but he quickly became my friend as well.  When I played in our powder puff football game in high school my senior year I wore his jersey and got the first mud stain on his football pants (give him a break, he was only a sophomore at the time).

By the time my brother Andy, Jamie, and I went to college, we were pretty much inseparable, meeting up to eat lunch and watch Conan together.  Here we are at a Halloween Party at IUP.

We still make time to see each other as much as possible, even though he now lives in Connecticut with his wife, Lisa, and I live across the state of Pennsylvania from where we both grew up.

Let me tell you something else about Jamie.  He was born with a cleft lip and palate.  Here he is at 5 weeks old with a pretty sweet combover.

He has never let his multiple surgeries change him, except for the better.  He spent a lot of time in hospitals, but he ALWAYS had a smile on his face and was making those around him smile, too.

Now he is trying to raise $500 to help two kids with the same condition get the surgeries they need to help them smile.  You can help by checking out the link and donating.
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