Category Archives: Parenting

Moral Relativism and Our Children

As parents, we all want to teach our kids about values, norms, morality, and ethics. We want our children to fundamentally be good people. However, our world tends to be torn between people who see morality as black and white or subjective to the individual or culture. Essentially moral realism vs. moral relativism.

If morals are important to us as parents then we have to consider where we stand on this point. If we don’t we are potentially leading our children down a dangerous path toward an ethical quagmire.

So today I wanted to attempt to briefly discuss both. Their points of view, their problems, their claims. And potentially show a middle ground, because you’ll soon find, the like most things today, they are extreme polar opposites.

I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but philosophy and most of life is neither simple nor easy.  So please bear with me. 

What is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is the idea that all ethical standards are cultural and therefore subject to individual choice. We can all decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you and I decide for me.

Scholars have argued that this implies that life is ultimately without meaning. It renders words like ought and should as meaningless and claims that morality is neutral.

Essentially, moral relativism says that anything goes, because life is ultimately without meaning. Words like “ought” and “should” are rendered meaningless. In this way, moral relativism makes the claim that it is morally neutral.

What’s Wrong With that?

While I love the idea of live and let live as a moral construct. It has a number of problems.

#1 Implies Neutrality

The question is whether or not morality can be neutral. Moral relativism implies that morals are dependent upon the viewpoint of the individual or culture. Which is true to an small extent. However, most cultures so have social norms against murder and stealing, which implies that some things are universally wrong.

 

#2 Infallibility

Moral relativists claim that morals are subject to the perceptions of individuals and their societal culture. However, that also leads to a problem.  It makes it exceedingly hard to come to any sort of societal agreement on moral actions. You can see this today in our polar politics with neither side being able to agree on the right course of action.

#3 Fact vs Opinion

Moral relativism is based more on feelings about an action than the facts.  We feel that a murder should go free because she killed an abusive husband. However, does that make what she did not wrong? Does it mean that she shouldn’t pay for her crime at all? And if you look at where that could lead, you quickly see that it’s a slippery slope.

From there we could justify that it’s legally justifiable to torrent something on the internet because we believe that Hollywood overcharges us. This may be true, but can we really say that makes it right to take something that people worked hard on for free because of our feelings and personal opinions?

And where else could all of that lead from there? Slippery slope indeed. Moral relativism gives us the misconception that we can justify wrong actions based on our feelings leading up to them.

#4 Contradicts Itself

A third problem is that relativism claims facts but then contradicts them. Even in the most black & white situations. True facts have no contradictions. We know that a circle is a circle. We know that a square is a square. A fact can be perceived differently by different people, but ultimately is still a fact. The law of non-contradiction applies to all facts. Morality, no matter how inconvenient, is no exception.

While it is a fact that cultures have different values to some extent, all societies and religions tend to have at least some similar foundations, which theoretically invalidates the argument as nearly every culture holds disdain for murder and thieves. They also tend to advocate that you be kind to your neighbor. There are things that are theoretically right and wrong such as murder and thievery.

Moral Realism

Moral Realism, on the other hand, suggests that moral facts exist and that these are objective and independent of our perceptions. Our feelings, beliefs, and attitudes do not affect them. This method is more based in logic reasoning, which may be why it sits in conflict with moral relativism, which appears to be based more on our feelings.

Problems with Moral Realism

So, I did a lot of research for this post. I wanted to be able to share the views, pros, cons, of both.  However, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding information about the problems with moral relativism. So I’m working simply based on my own perceptions of it here.

#1 Life is not Black and White

While I do believe that there are things that are absolutely right and wrong, moral realism leaves little room for shades of gray.  This implies that a woman punished for murdering someone out of spite should be the same as someone who murdered to defend herself. This is simply not true.

#2 & 3 No feelings or Compassion

It leaves room for no feelings about morals. It is an entirely logic-based system.  And we are feeling creatures just as much as we try to be logical ones.  Without feelings, we would be no better at deciding just courses of action than the computer in War Games. It takes out the potential for compassion.

And while I know compassion is a feeling, I think feelings do count a lot of our human experience. So I’m going to say that’s a two for one.

But is there a middle ground?

The people on the news and in the media would have you believe that one or the other is right or wrong. However, that’s too simple. I think both have a place. Just as I believe that determinism (that there is a pattern to all order and chaos/fate) and free will.  Just as I believe that there is a middle ground where science and religion meet, maybe even crosses over (quantum physics).

Personally, I think that there is still a lot about our world that we don’t understand. That we can still view as magical in nature.  Hell, everything that is scientific is still magical to me. It’s amazing to me that the world can produce so many neat reactions even if we can explain them. I think that our very existence based on our knowledge of the solar system and the universe is extraordinary.  The fact that our bodies function on such individual levels, each one having its own quirks, pros, and cons.

The magic of our scientific world aside, there is a middle ground for nearly everything in this world.

What is it?

 

I think that all of us can agree that there are certain things that are right and wrong.

Right:

  • Respect
  • Perseverance against adversity.
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • Honesty

Wrong:

  • Murder
  • Thievery
  • Deception
  • Manipulation
  • Bullying (being mean, hurtful, etc)

And I am sure that there are others. Again just trying to keep things simple.  There are things that we universally value as right or wrong.

Also,  I believe that there are things subjective to our experience. To our own perception of these values. I can’t define these for you. This is why there are so many differing opinions. I can share a few of my own opinions as examples, but these are going to be a little different for each of us.

  • A woman who murders her abusive husband still needs to pay for her crime, but maybe not spend as much time in jail. Or maybe she needs to spend one year in jail and the rest of her sentence be mandated to work in a program (potentially at a lower wage as those things generally do not pay well) that helps pull women out of those situations. How better to give back and pay for her “crime” than to help others out of the same situation.
  • Abortion. I personally do not condone abortion. However, I do not believe that it is my right based on my religious views to take that right away from someone else. Streaming. I stream a lot of things online. But I realize its wrong. I don’t justify it. While I don’t.

And there are many more examples. Just remember these are examples. Ideas. There is room for shades of gray, but there will always be prue right and wrong.

Think of the Children

As parents, we have to determine which of these views or to what extent our children are exposed to these views. We have to share with them our own personal views and help show them the pros and cons of both.  Only by sharing both can we come to a realization of what each means and what the middle ground may be.

None of us can exist at either extreme. Despite what the media may imply to the contrary. Extremes don’t work. They don’t empower us, the inhibit us from our full potentials. As with all things we need to find a balance. A middle ground. I don’t care if its a middle ground in politics, religion vs. Science, determinism vs free will. There is a middle ground to nearly everything and finding them is the way we find balances in our lives.

 

When we push to either extreme we have problems. In moral realism, we have a problem of not adding feeling to the equation of not seeing the degree of a moral. In moral relativism, we have the problem of ignoring logic.  We have the potential to ignore facts, both moral and otherwise.

Finding the middle ground is the reasonable option to balance both our logic and our feelings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why You Should Be a Jack (or Jane) of All Trades

I fancy myself to be somewhat of a Jack of All Trades (or a Jane). I love to go out and learn new things. Being able to do as much as I can for myself not only saves me money, but empowers me as a woman. It makes me feel strong.

Last weekend I came back from a bootblacking class in my freshly cleaned and conditioned leather. I had done it myself in a workshop run by my friend K. My Valkyrie was so excited by how shiny and new it looked, having seen it before I left.  So excited, that I asked her if she would like to learn how to do it herself.

I’ll never forget how she jumped up and down and screamed “Yes,” at me.  She wanted to learn a life skill. Even if it may not be particularly useful to her every day.  And this is something I encourage. She may never need to know how to bootblack, but at least one day, if she has leather of her own, she can say that she can do it herself.

There are plenty of skills that fall into this category. Sewing is always useful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made my own dress in a style I like, for way cheaper than I could have bought it. (And sometimes I’ve made a better quality dress than what I was looking at.) Or ironing. I can’t say that I know too many people that iron, but its still a useful skill.

And there are more than even I want to learn. I want to learn to consistently target and fire a gun and a bow. I want to learn how to hunt (if I can learn to be that patient). Or trapping. I would love to increase my ability to cook things properly over a fire as well as other survival skills because one day I may need them to survive.

I know I was glad to be able to track in the woods when I got lost at summer camp.

Diverse Ability

I’m not a prepper by any means, but I still find value in these skills. I find value in the ability to diversify what I’m personally capable of.  And as a parent, I think we should all hope that our children feel the same way. I think we want them to have a diverse range of interests and abilities.

I know that I want the Valkyrie to be well rounded. I want her to have all manner of skills to fall back on. I want to prepare her for as many possibilities as I possibly can, even if some of them are unlikely. It doesn’t make a skill any less useful.  It doesn’t mean that someday they won’t use it.

I know I can’t plan for everything or ensure that she can survive everything, but I can continue to learn and share my knowledge with her.

The Fall of the Jack of All Trades

Once upon a time, we lived in a different world. A world where we praised those who managed to learn more than one or two specified skills. A man was considered more competent if he could do all many of contract work versus only being able to drywall or replace roofing.  The Jack of all trades was revered for his abilities and often paid more in the long run than those who could only perform one task.

Alas, those days have passed and our society has taken a turn. Nowadays, we relish those who can perform minute pieces of a larger task.  Computer programmers rarely do all the different types of programming in their jobs. They tend to be specified to one part of it. The idea is that the fewer functions one has to perform the more efficiently and correctly they can perform the aspects they are working on.

Which in theory sounds nice, clean, perfect, and maybe a bit robotic.

But What About the Future?

However, while all this sounds nice, it does create a number of problems.

#1: Tedious

First of all, it’s exceedingly Tedious.  Think of factory work. God bless all the people who work in a factory. I’ve worked in one myself. I know it’s not an easy job, but its also a bit mind-numbing doing one single task over, and over, and over, and OVER again.  I only did it for a week and I was already sick of it despite the wonderful pay.

And there was a time when that sort of tedium caused Henry Ford to pay his workers nearly double to do menial, repetitive work. At the time people were afraid it would drive them nuts. And in fact, there is some evidence that this may be accurate. One study showed that boredom and tedious, repetitive work can negatively affect your cognitive functioning over time.

#2 The Death of Creativity

Creativity is the applying of new patterns to a set of objects. Specialization removes new patterns from the equation.  You have to continue to learn to find new ideas and inspiration. Which implies that generalizing, not specializing is better for you and your company in the long run.

And what would we be without creativity? Creativity is what caused our country to boom into the economic powerhouse it is today.  Without creativity, we will continue to fall behind, not only in education but in business. I would much rather branch out and stir the creative pot than kill that part of me.

#3 Communication Breakdown

Specialization creates a problem akin to what happened at the tower of Babel. Everyone failing to communicate, in this instance because they aren’t working together. When each person isn’t at least learning about the whole, they miss out on jargon and key points that allow the system or product to work.

Work becomes bureaucratic in nature and we’ve all seen how that works. At least you have if you’ve ever sat in a government line for anything.  If the project manager has to go through each link of the process to find out where something went wrong, rather than just being able to pull everyone together to brainstorm, how much time does that waste?  And what if one of the other people would have been capable of doing both tasks? What if they had worked on it as a team and communicated? When a project is passed around in parts and pieces, however, this is impossible to accomplish.

Highly inefficient as any movement has to go through several people, wastes time, and makes anything one person does affect them only indirectly. This indirectness decreases motivation and the need to do something correctly.

So Why Am I Teaching My Child To Bootblack?

I’m teaching the Valkyrie all sorts of skills. I don’t think that any skill lacks value (well maybe being able to burp your alphabet or something like that). I may not use every skill I learn, but I know I can fall back on them if the need arises. I know that I can change my own oil and tires. I know that I can refurbish a torn up piece of furniture.

All those skills and much more have saved me money on more than one occasion. I want the Valkyrie to have those opportunities as well. I want her to be well rounded and no have to rely on each specialized piece on the board to be able to function.

We all have to be able to rely on others and ask them for help when we are incapable of performing the necessary task. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t diversify our own skills and be as independent as possible. I personally think that overspecialization is a dangerous and slippery slope.  I think that it cuts us off from other people and possibly things that we could find passion in ourselves.

Regardless, take a chance. Learn a new skill as a parent. Or teach your child. Learn as many things as possible. Be diverse. Be the Jack (or Jane) of all trades. In the end, whether you use all those skills or not, you will be a stronger and more well-rounded person for the experience.

Blessed Be.

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10 Tips For A Well Oiled Home

We all know there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Not that we’d want to.  This is true of all things. I don’t care if you are just a caregiver, homeschooler, parent, or even working from home, there are a million ways or more to do just about anything you desire.

So today I want to share a few tips as well as show you an average day in my work at home experience.

#1: Priorities

It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.  What feeds your family and their needs. What makes life manageable. This is going to be different for everyone.  And a part of the process is realizing what you need to thrive.

The first thing you need to do is sit down and determine what those needs are.  Mine are as follows:

  • Freedom– Being able to do what I want to do (within reason). This is a big compent as to why I am pursuing financial independence.
  • Time for myself– Making sure that I take care of myself and my personal needs for space, time, and relaxation.
  • Family Time– Making sure to make connections with my little one and my parents. Family events and activities.
  • Spirituality– Ensuring that our family life is enriched. This includes getting my mother to bible study, exposing Freya to all sorts of religions as well as my own…and discussing questions we have in regards to spirituality.
  • Clearing of Old Projects– Over the years, we all end up with projects we haven’t finished. My big goal this year is to clear those projects off my list before starting any new ones. From sewing to woodworking, I have a number of projects to finish.  Getting those done will make my life easier.
  • Organization– I have been working hard since the end of last year to declutter and make sure that everything has a place. I would say that I’m about 60% of the way there. I would still like to get rid of some more stuff and refine where it is organized.
  • Cleanliness– I don’t expect to have a perfectly clean house. I gave up on that a long time ago, between all my other duties and the little one. However, I cannot tolerate a dirty kitchen and I hate it when coats get dropped on the floor.

#2: Savers

We all try to save time. I won’t try to put an exhaustive list here, but I will list a few things that help me save time and money.

  • Bulk cooking – When I make a meal I make enough to freeze for at least another if not two or three more meals. This way we can eat the same thing for dinner each week and I only have to cook it once or twice a month. I save so much time cooking and its especially great for busy weeks and weekends. It also leaves me time to make more fun treats throughout the week.
  • Life Skills – When I say this, I mean that I have miss Freya help me with everything I believe she can do. It does take a bit of time for a new task, but she loves helping and its teaching her valuable skills. It also gives me more time later as she can help take on those tasks. Currently, she gathers all the things I need for cooking and can grab her own plates, among other tasks.
  • Meal Planning – It takes the guesswork out of what we’re eating and it’s still adjustable. It also saves you on groceries.
  • Making my own cleaning supplies– Saves me both time and money. I can make one batch on laundry concentrate over the course of a day (there’s some waiting involved), with a hands-on time of about 30-60 minutes. For that time I have 5 gallons of concentrate that will last me at least six months if not longer. Other supplies are multi-purpose which allows me to take them from spot to spot and get my cleaning done more quickly.
  • Finding a flow to your schedule that works for you. -Probably the most important thing you can do.

#3 Be gentle with yourself

Some days you just aren’t going to get everything done. Things will go wrong. The important thing to remember is that you haven’t failed, you’ve just had a rough day. There’s no reason to be harsh with yourself. Or put yourself down.

I hear so many women, no people who are harsh to themselves.  We should never call ourselves failures and we should recognize that even we need days to recharge.  So next time a day doesn’t go as planned remember that you’re only human.

#4: Task Master vs Servant De List

It’s great to have a plan and a to-do list, but remember that you cannot be a slave to it. Again things can go wrong.  It is fine to have a plan, but if you don’t get everything done you need to take a look. You may have planned more than you could get done or unforeseen events could have prevented you from reaching your goals.

Again be gentle with yourself.  These things happen and its okay.  Being harsh with yourself is not going to make it any better. And stressing yourself out with more than you can manage in a day will only leave you more frazzled, less focused, and unable to accomplish more.

#5: What you do matters

It’s great to want to do everything but remember your priorities. What use is it to clean or work all day, if you don’t make time to enjoy your family or even yourself.  I often find on busier days that I’ll drop homeschool for the day or cut out something that needed to be done so that I can spend time with my family.

I know its tempting to just keep trucking along, but it will only lead to burn out and an unhealthy lifestyle.  It will leave your children, spouse, and other family members missing something they need as well. Your attention.

#6: Have a Schedule

Even if you work at home have a schedule. Having a schedule gives you and everyone in the house a framework for what should happen over the course of a day. Whether you have little ones or family members with dementia/memory issues, having a framework will help them function within your home.

I’ve also found that having a schedule keeps me grounded and reminds me of my priorities throughout the day.

My Day

The Daily To Do List

Every day I have a to-do list.  Here’s what it looks like. I prioritized the list by what I tend to do first, however, I always remain flexible and move things about as I need to.

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner Prep
  • Chores (3-5 cleaning items aside from daily maintenance)
  • Dishes
  • Homeschool

Then I have a list of things I try to do for myself each day

  • Read
  • Reiki/Meditate
  • Some work on one of my unfinished projects
  • Udemy class

Schedule

  • 9 AM- Wake up, reiki, meditation, organize for the day, get dressed, etc.
  • 10 AM- Breakfast and Dinner prep. Valkyrie Cartoons
  • 11 AM- Cleaning and Chores, Family Showers.  Valkyrie plays time.
  • 1 PM- Homeschool
  • 3 PM- Play with the Valkyrie
  • 4 PM -Udemy Class for me, Tablet time for the Valkyrie
  • 5 PM- Dinner at the table
  • 7 PM Project Time
  • 9 PM The Valkyrie and I do something together (Usually a show and read)
  • 10 PM Finish getting ready for bed and put the Valkyrie to sleep.
  • 11 PM My time to unwind.
  • 12 AM My bedtime (not always great at following this).

#7: Be Flexible

This is what works for us. No one in my house is an early riser, my parents, even less so than I. I get most of my work done in the morning and the Valkyrie helps a bit between playing her own games and depending on her mood.  Once my parents are up things tend to be more unpredictable in terms of what I might get interrupted with.

Some days they wake up early and I have to put off my chores until they are otherwise preoccupied. It can make for an unpredictable day sometimes, but for the most part, we all know what should happen and when.

#8: Relax your parenting

Everyone is terrified that they will not do good enough for their child. We rush everyone to everywhere and over schedule ourselves. We helicopter parent not even letting them play outside by themselves. Our world isn’t so scary that our children can’t play without our constant watchful eyes.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I suggest two books I recently finished.

#9: Find Joy In Everything You Do

If you can find joy in any task you will enjoy doing it. While I know this is far more complicated than easy, it is true. And its something that I often have to work on.

It also calls us to bring balance into our lives. If you hate cleaning, then maybe you don’t need to focus on cleaning quite as much. Maybe it’s okay for you to have a messier house. I gave up on keeping the sink clear at all times because my parents simply are not capable of it and I can’t seem to manage it on my own.  It still bothers me some days, but I’m less stressed by not trying to focus on it all the time.

#10 Find Magic In Everything You Do

In addition to balance, there is magic all around us. Our very breaths are magical. So don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy things. You don’t have to rush about. You can take your time and do it near perfect and find joy in that as well.

Find joy in having your little on help where they can. It’s magical to see them acomplish and learn right before your eyes.

Find magic in how much simpler your life is. When you look at a loaf of bread you find joy and magic in the fact that you don’t have to bake it in a kiln over a fire. Or that you have a mixer when three generations or so ago that would have been a novelty.  You can slow cook things without constantly tending a fire. We have heaters and water at our fingertips.

All of these things should make us feel blessed. They should help us to realize that we have far more time to do things than our forebearers did in the past.

 

 

 

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The Toddler Kitchen

In our home, we encourage our 3-year-old Valkyrie to be as independent as possible. Often I have a toddler following me in the kitchen as well. As much as I want her to have fun, I also want her to learn simple life skills early.  This is why we encourage her as often as possible to help out. One of the easiest ways to do this is to encourage your toddler in the kitchen as well as in any other task they are capable of.

If you saw my post on toddlers and chores, you have seen how helpful my little one can be. Yes, it takes a bit more time. I could do it more quickly by myself. However, there is something rewarding for both myself and her in taking more time.  While I have nothing more than my own experiences with the Valkyrie, I feel that this only helps to boost her budding self-esteem.  I also feel that it curbs some of the frustration she has in her own limited scope of control.

The Power of A Child

As parents, we know that to some extent our children rule our lives. We plan our events around the sitter and their care. We make sure that they get to events. This is not to mention the way we cook to accommodate those picky little eaters.

None of these are bad things in and of themselves. As we all know, we have to make sure that none of these things take control of our lives. We don’t let our children eat whatever they want. We make them try new things. Families attempt to balance their schedule so that the needs of all family members are met.

For a toddler this is hard. In many cases, they are still learning not to give in to every desire.  As parents, we tell them no. Their inability to completely understand or appreciate our desires to help can often leave them feeling helpless.  This is an age where they want to do everything and try everything. And we should encourage this so that our children grow and become stronger adults than we are.

Afterall, we all want our children to learn from our mistakes and fly higher than we have right?

Our Kitchen

While our kitchen isn’t easily accessible to our toddler. We have found many ways to modify or adapt so that she can assist us.  As you can see, our kitchen isn’t huge or fancy.  We don’t have a lot of space and it is a little cluttered.  However, we do have the work table. Our Valkyrie can sit in the chair and work there.

We also have her step stools. We have a purple one for the kitchen, a pink one for the bathroom, and my old silver one for higher things she may want to reach.  At her current height, the step stool is wonderful for reaching the counter or helping me mix things in the kitchen aid.

In addition, I try to keep at least some of the kitchen utensils within her reach.  We are also attempting to reinstitute a simpler version of Freya’s dish stand. I wish I still had a picture of it. It was just a simple pink table about as tall as her with two levels. We put utensils on one and plates/cups on the top.

I plan on having her both retrieve and put away her own dishes.  She used to love this at the old house and I’m sad that it’s taken me this long to revive this toddler diversion.

Toddler Tools

My girl has a variety of tools we can use in the kitchen. Some of them haven’t been used yet. I try not to introduce her to too many new things at a time.  Most of the things we have are from Walmart and were less than $3 dollars each. Just small handheld versions of the tools we are all used to using.

  • Egg separator– My Valkyrie helps me crack eggs for breakfast fairly regularly now.  She’s still a bit afrid to open them herself, but I’ve started showing her this. I’m hoping that really soon I’ll be able to get her to open the egg and drop it into the egg separator.
  • Sifter– I mostly let her play with this as we don’t have a ton of uses for it. We don’t use flour, so don’tn’t really need a sifter.  However, I want her to be familiar with kitchen tools. Sometimes I let her sift the splenda or the almond flour for fun and because she likes watching it go through the little holes.  Ours is a little tupperware giveaway I received when I was a distributor.  It is simple and easy for her to hold.
  • Whisk– Right now we don’t have a whisk, but my daughter loves this one.  She had a little purple rubber one.  She mostly used it to play in the eggs before I cooked them on the stove or to help me mix liquids.
  • Grater– We have two of these. The first is for cooking the other is to make our homemade laundry soap.  She loves helping me to grate. This is another tool we don’t use often, but when she wants to help I pull it out and let her have at it.
  • Melon Baller– Sometimes she plays with this like its a phone, but on the occasion that I buy a watermelon or other soft fruit, my valkyrie will help me ball out little portions for each of us.  We also have used this in the past to help her scoop out cookie dough.
  • Tongs– Another tool we haven’t used yet, but I plan to introduce soon.  While Freya does help me with some things on the stove, she has a healthy fear of burning herself.  I’m not sure why, she’s never hurt herself on it, but I’m appreciative of her caution.  Often she wants to help me put food on the plate and its too hot. I’m hoping this will give her one more opportunity to help mama.
  • Two Spatula– I have both a rubber spatula for mixing and flipping burgers. We have used the green one, but the blue is waiting until she’s a little more comfortable helping me at the stove.  And of course capable.  I just saw this and wanted to make sure I bought it while they were available.
  • Child Chopsticks– The last one is not exactly for cooking. It is a learner set for teaching a child to use chopsticks. I got this at an oriental market, but I know you can find them online. Usually under training chopsticks.

Tips & Tricks

The biggest thing to remember when introducing your toddler to the kitchen is not to go too fast and not to introduce too many things at once.  While we want to share our passions or teach our children valuable life skills, we don’t want to overwhelm them.  I have to particularly be careful of this with the Valkyrie.  She is very sensitive and easily overwhelmed.  She doesn’t like a lot of change at once. Moving to Indy was a nightmare for that reason.

As a parent, you also have to be aware of what your child is capable of. Some children are cautious enough to be around a stove. I wouldn’t trust the Valkyrie alone at the stove, but I do let her help me stir the eggs as they are cooking. I do let her push the veggies around in the skillet when I make stir-fry.  She knows not to touch the pan, but it took my awareness of her skills, watching her when I cooked, seeing if she went for the stove. All of those observations allowed me to determine that she was capable of doing that. Taking the time to make those observations has allowed me to determine which tasks she is ready for now and which tasks we have to wait to attempt.

PIck one thing that you think your child can do and focus on that for a while.  The first thing I ever let Freya do was mix batter. Cracking eggs developed out of a desire on her part. She asked to help me and I let her try. Sure we made a mess of one egg when she slammed it down on the counter, but she learned. The second time, she knocked it so softly that it didn’t even crack.  It took a few tries for her to determine the right amount of force, still does on some days. However, she is learning and each time she tries she gets better at it.

And I love to see that look of pride on her face.

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7 Places You CAN Take Your Toddler

We all known Toddlers are disruptive but we don’t have to leave them at home for everything. Here are 7 Places you can take your toddler that you might not think were possible.

Each of these was on lists I found of places not to take your child.  A few of them I found ridiculous and a few more I struggled with personally.  I just want to take a quick moment to talk about each.

7 Places you can take your Toddler

1. The movies

This was a problem I ran into very quickly.  I love the movies.  And I refuse to give up my life. Now I do agree that the movies are no place for a baby, but a toddler is manageable with a little bit of prep.  And you do have to be prepared to walk out if things go sideways, even if it’s for a little bit. However, the only way that they will learn is if you teach them.

I’ve found that with a little bit of prep work and a working knowledge of your child that it is entirely possible to take them to the movies.  It also means that you have to teach your child how to behave, something that I sometimes feel we are indirectly discouraged from doing as parents. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see some of the behaviors we see children engage in public venues.

Segway aside, going to the movies with your child just takes a little bit of prep work. For us it meant taking a pacifier, brining Valkyrie friendly snacks (yes I sneak them in), having a sippy (which most theaters are okay with), and making sure its something she will be interested in. So no, I am not telling you to take your child with you to the R rated movie.

The movies are possible, however, you have to gauge when your child is ready. Freya went to her first movie at 2 I believe and out of at least a dozen movies we’ve gone and seen we only had a problem at one.

2. A funeral

This was the genesis of this post. I was telling a friend of mind about how the Valkyrie was going to a funeral for her Great Grandmother. She was aghast that I let her go.  Even worse, I found this nonsense posted all over the web.  The truth is that death is a part of life. Shielding a child from it only makes them more afraid. More confused.  I really don’t get this one, but I feel its important.

I was unable to attend, but I’m told she did very well. My Valkyrie and I had a talk about death before she left and after Great Grandma died. Nana and daddy explained it again at the funeral.  Now, they did take some toys with them and a cell phone. She has some quiet games we allow her to play, but those were the moments she couldn’t sit still.  And there were other children there who held her.  She loves doing anything, even if it’s sitting still, so long as she’s with other kids.

Again, this will depend on your child and your perspective. Some kids will deal better than others. And the amount of attachment to the person in the casket matters as well. Freya was upset during the procession, but she was fairly well attached to her Great Grandma.  She always saw her every time she went to Nana’s which in the last year has been at least every other month or two.  And Great Grandma always bought her or gave her something when she came.

So you can take a toddler to a funeral.

3. Camping

To note. I have not tried this one, but it is on the list. Unfortunately, with everything I have to do for my parents and the house and work, I just haven’t had the time.  Again, this one is just a matter of planning. I have, however, known families that do this and I have asked them how they managed it. Mainly because there was a time that I wouldn’t have understood this. A time before I was a mommy myself.

First, I wouldn’t plan a long trip for your first camping trip. Location is important too.  Unless you are starting with a baby, I would plan on camping out in your backyard first or just spending a day playing in a tent you’ve set up.

Second, I would make sure you bring plenty of things for your child to do.  There will be some moments in which you cannot attend to them and will have to cook or something.  However, I think that these moments are also important. Our children have to learn to entertain themselves.  They also have to learn to do so without television or the internet.  A problem I was surprised to already be facing with a 3-year-old.

This is also an excellent opportunity to teach life skills. I wasn’t too much older when I began to learn to cook over a fire and how you build a fire. They never let me build a fire at that age, but I learned and watched the process.  I remember my grandfather taking me out to fish.  I remember my grandmother showing me how she made a tripod for the pot.

We didn’t do them while camping per se, but we can start teaching the beginnings of those skills now and fascinate our children in the process.  Not only with the outdoors, but with the things they can learn to do. There may even be things they can help you do.  Grandpa used to teach me how to secure the food box he used to use when camping. Even if we were just playing in the backyard or I slept outside by myself.

4. Doctor’s office

This is another one that baffles me.  I saw this online and it actually upset me a bit. I work at home taking care of my mother. This happens to us a lot. There are instances where you have to take your child with you.  I personally think someone thinking this is wrong is extremely ridiculous if you have taught your child to behave and plan ahead.

Whenever we go to the doctor I have a bag. It has her diapers, wipes, the tablet for while I’m dealing with the doctor, some books, toys, and stuff I use for homeschool. Even if you don’t homeschool you can work with your child on educational goals while sitting in a waiting room. You can give them a coloring book.  Or let them play with the toys you’ve brought. If we run out of things to work on I read her a story.  If I’m filling out paperwork sometimes grandma reads her a story or she plays with her toys.

Most importantly, on days that we have a doctor’s appointment, I don’t let her have access to technology until we are in the office. She usually only gets a few hours a day, or at least that’s the goal. This way when she gets it she is involved enough that she doesn’t distract us while we deal with the doctor.

When well prepared I see no reason why you should not take your child to the doctor with you if you have to.

5. Concerts

The Concern with concerts is that they are loud. Very loud.  There is also a concern about how rowdy people are going to get. I understand both of these, but again, if concerts are your life, there are ways to mitigate this.  I personally don’t take the Valkyrie to concerts. She is very sensitive to large numbers of unknown people, the dark, and loud noises. She used to get upset when I ran the vacuum cleaner or blender.

However, I have friends who have taken their children to concerts. And I”ve gone with them.  And again, this will depend on your child’s temperament and your personal definitions of what constitutes as age-appropriate music.  When my friends took their child to a particular band’s concert, I didn’t agree, but they saw nothing wrong with it.

Regardless, the precautions taken by this family were two-fold. First, we got seats in the back. The goal was not to be in the party zone. We just wanted to hear the music live.  So they made sure that the seats were fairly far back in the stadium.  Second, they bought child-sized noise canceling headphones designed to protect from decibel damage.

Personally, I don’t think I would ever take my children to a big name concert, just because of the massive amount of people. However, I would have no problem taking her to something more local and small.  But even those events can get loud and I would make sure she had those headphones to protect her delicate little ears.

6. Weddings

This was another one on one of those lists that just blew my mind. Children can totally go to weddings. I will caveat that with one thing. Know your audience. I would not take my child to some of my friend’s weddings were they to get married. If I know there is going to be a lot of drinking or actions I wouldn’t want my child to be around, that’s one thing.  Not going because a child is disruptive? To that, I say hell no.

Again, this just takes some prior planning. The wedding I took the Valkyrie to last summer went very well. It helped that she loved the person walking down the aisle. It also helped that I brought her coloring book. She may not have watched the whole ceremony, but she entertained herself. We sat in the back. We were ready to leave if we had a problem and I explained what was going to happen several times and several days in advance.

I also brought extra clothes for messes. I made sure she wasn’t wearing something that easily stained. And…I brought finger foods in case I couldn’t find something she would eat.  Quite frankly getting her through the ceremony was the hardest part, but so long as I had other diversions at the ready, even that was not a huge problem.  Mostly she just wanted me to hold her up so she could see what was going on up front.

7. Church

Again, this was from a posting I found online. It was talking about church proper. I have mixed feelings on this one for several reasons. It is the one that I am most likely to think could be a problem, but again I’ve seen it work so I know its possible depending on the child and how they have been raised to behave. This is not a criticism on any parent struggling with this. I know some kids would have a lot of trouble with this even if they are angels.

While I don’t really have any recommendations for this, I do suggest, if you really want them there, to try it every once in a while.  If Christianity is your faith, it is important to go to church. I know it was for me when I was little and I still like to go and hear the uplifting sermons on occasion. I send the Valkyrie sometimes and she loves it.

The church she went to with our good friend doesn’t have Sunday school until the second half of church. And often she didn’t want to leave our friend’s side.  Even after she had been there for a while.  However, I couldn’t include this.  I think it is important that we teach our children to sit still. That we increase the time that they can do so as they age.  And we shouldn’t exclude them from the church. Back in the day, kids were just forced to sit still.  Then after church, they were allowed to play with each other.

Or in the church, I grew up in the children came to church and sat for the second half of the session once a month before we sang for choir. It allowed us to learn what church was like. The sermon was based more around us and we even came up to sit with the pastor.  And at the end, those of use in the children’s choir (almost all of us) went up and sang a song.

The point is that you can make church with a toddler work.  There are even churches out there who still do these things.

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Explaining Death To A Toddler

The other day I had an interesting, but heartbreaking opportunity. At 5:30 A.M. our little Valkyrie’s Nana in OH called me. It was unusual.  She usually waits for us to call or calls in the evening, but today was different. Nana was calling me to tell me that the little one’s great grandma was in the hospital, likely brain dead.

She didn’t want the little one to come up with her daddy.  She wouldn’t be allowed in ICU and she would have been bored out of her mind. It created a bit of a conundrum for our weekend plans, but we worked that out. Anything to support my extended family.

However, I had to explain to Freya that she wouldn’t be seeing Great Grandma anymore.  It wasn’t something that was easy to explain.

Warning, this post does discuss our family views of spirituality.  I’m the live and let live gal.  My opinion is that we all have a right to our opinion and that religion comes down to being the best person you can be and contributing to humanity in the best way that you are capable of.  None of my personal beliefs are intended to offend. I’m merely sharing my personal experience in this instance as well as how I tackled this particular situation.

The Hard Truth

The truth is that we all face death at some point in our lives.  It hurts and it makes us cry, but its a part of life. A fact. We will lose people. And how we handle it determines how we move on. In turn, I believe that how we discuss death with our children matters. It teaches them, shows by example, how we deal with.

Avoiding the conversation only leads to avoidance in the child.  Keeping them away from the truth only models lying. It doesn’t prompt them to come to you when they have questions. From the kids I grew up with, I learned that the parents who weren’t open to their children, often had children who didn’t come to them or who kept secrets.

Whether you agree with this assessment or not isn’t a big deal.  We all deal with death and have feelings about how death should be dealt with.  This is just my opinion and how I handled telling my child about the passing of her Great Grandmother.

What to say

Tell them what you believe. You don’t have to get technical.  You don’t have to tell them everything, but do your best not to hide. If they ask my personal opinion is that it’s better to give some sort of truthful answer. I remember watching so many so many of my friend’s parents tell them half-truths or not answer the questions.  Often they found the information even if their parents avoided it.

My parents, on the other hand, told me everything. It was tough. There were moments where it was scary, but I never felt lied to.  And better yet, I always knew that I could get the truth from my parents.  I didn’t feel the need to go behind their back or ask my friends for the information because I knew they would give it to me or help me find it.

What I said

Now I doubt my 3-year-old understood everything I told her, but I told her what I believe. I kept it simple and I left it open for her to decide. As we are a mixed religion household I do my best to not influence her in any direction.

I explained that we all have a soul.  The soul is our essence. It’s the part of us that can walk between the worlds, go to heaven/Summerland, or be reincarnated. I told her that the soul is like the magic spark that makes us ourselves. She really liked the bit about magic because most of her favorite shows are about monsters, magic, or education.

Then I told her about Heaven, Summerland, etc. I explained that some people believe we go to one happy or bad place forever. And that other people, like m, mommy believe that people go somewhere to rest before they go on to the next life.  When she asked who was right, I told her the truth. We don’t know for sure. That was probably the most confusing and question filled part of the discussion.

She had a few questions. I answered them.  Mostly she wanted to know if Greatgrandma was going to be alright and if everyone else was sad. She told me that she was worried about daddy and nana and pawpaw. And then she was done.

Conclusion

Whether you agree or not with my thoughts on telling kids as much of the truth as possible, just don’t lie to them. They are way smarter than we give them credit for.  And they tend to know when we’re lying even if they don’t tell us.  Think back to your childhood remember those moments that you knew your parents were lying to you.  Even I had a few of them.

The more honest we are with our children the better our working relationship, our connection with them.  And that is massively important.

More important than any discomfort over a discussion about death or any other topic.

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Toddler Chores: Teaching Independence

We all have those days when our child wants to help with everything, especially if they are still little.  As adults, we constantly feel like we have limited time, and often we do.  This is particularly true of single parents or parents who are also caregivers to others. It’s hard to not feel the rush to get everything done as quickly as possible. It’s also important for your child to feel involved. That’s why we have given our little valkyrie toddler chores. 

Taking Moments With Our Kids

However, there are two things wrong with this modality of thought.  First of all, we all have to stop and take moments to enjoy our lives. A part of this is making the best of bad situations. I know, easier said that done.  But a child can make the most dreary task far more interesting.  You have to be careful and choose things based on age, aptitude, and interest, but your child can make the most daunting tasks more fulfilling.

For example, my little lady is fully capable of helping me stir a batch of cookie dough (and she enjoys it), but I can’t let her stir a hot pot.  She can put away her dishes (she has her own little table for all of them), but she can’t help me put the big stuff away.  And I can let her wash fruit, but she is usually playing with her Melissa and Doug food set or her kitchen when I am doing things that she can’t do yet (the set has a play knife and the sushi rolls are connected by velcro. I love that thing.).

And the same thing goes for my sewing. She can’t really help me with my machine, but she can pass me a pin or play with her little sewing kit of similar items.  She can organize her buttons as she loves to do or measure stuff with her tape measure.  This little kit allows us to do things together and it still is age appropriate parallel play.  She gets bored after half an hour or so, but such is life with a child.  I just refocus her and we move on….most of the time.sewing kit of similar items.  She can organize her buttons as she loves to do or measure stuff with her tape measure.  This little kit allows us to do things together and it still is age appropriate parallel play.  She gets bored after half an hour or so, but such is life with a child.  I just refocus her and we move on….most of the time. 

Toddlers doing chores gives them more freedom

She helps with the dryer too!

We Want Help

Second, we want to encourage our children to help.  We never want to discourage them from being helpful.  There’s enough time for that when they hit those turbulent and moody teenage years.  In addition, if you can get a child helping you out now, then they are far more likely to be inclined to do so as they get older.  If nothing else they may be more proficient in a task at an earlier age if we encourage them to participate.

Take a look at my day.  I work at home and manage the household.  I do laundry nearly every day between my clothes, potty training laundry, my parent’s laundry, and any other messes that come about our day. Miss Freya has a stool. I’ll hand her stuff and she’ll put it in the machine. I may have to re-balance it, but she likes that she can help. And I let her pour the detergent in. It takes a bit more time, but it lights her face up to be able to do adult things. When the cycle finishes she sits excitedly by the dryer putting things in as I pass them to her.  I can’t get her to help every single time, but I’m not going to stop her from helping.

Toddler Chores: How Far, Is Too Far?

I think most of this is going to depend on your parenting style, lifestyle preferences, and most of all, patience.  Even I can’t manage to get the little one successfully helping consistently on a regular basis and there are moments of frustration. A lot of them.  But as annoyed or frustrated as I get, it’s always worth it to see her happy to help.  Even better is her face lighting up with that bright bold smile of achievement.

In my opinion, it is fine to do anything that the child is capable of doing. Just don’t set them up for failure with a task you know they can’t complete.  And this will occasionally happen on accident. That is a thing that is bound to happen at some point.  However, that is when you just need to stop the activity, redirect, and move on.

Toddler chores: let your children be independent

The valkyrie putting her cup in the dishwasher after an early breakfast.

What Can I Do?

When I first started this, I didn’t know here to start. I wasn’t sure what would and wouldn’t work.  Most of it occurred through trial and error. Sometimes she taught me what she could do and we added that to the list of things we could do together. While I am sure that we have not even begun to discover everything my little Goddess can do, here is a list of a few of the possibilities.

  1. Putting away dishes. This is particularly great if the child has a place she can reach.  Below you can see her little table.  It isn’t always very organized.  On the bottom, she has any utensils she can use as well as a pair of tongs and some other small child sized implements I found at various stores over the last two years. The middle has her bowls and the top of the table houses her plates and cups.  It took a bit to teach her that they weren’t toys (or to stop her from storing her toys there) but it has been great.  When she is ready to eat she grabs her plate and utensils.  If she is thirsty she brings me a cup.  Most of the time she’ll even put them back if I tell her no, it’s not time.
  2. Laundry– Look at my example above.  She’s two and we just had to buy a step stool.  She loves just being able to do something with me since I”m always so busy.  And she loves our laundry soap because she helps me stir it when I make it.
  3. Clean-up– We pick up our toys and things together. Most of the time.  We’re still learning that everything has a place and it goes in that place, but she at least seems to get the concept of putting things away somewhere at this point.  In our home we make it a game. It takes time, but it works.  For example, when we put away her blocks, we build a city with them in the box that they go in.
  4. Taking Out the Trash – Now Freya can’t help take out the big trash bag, but she does try to help me tie up the little grocery bags we use in the bathroom and behind both of my parent’s chairs.  She tries to help me tie it up and often insists on taking it to the trash herself, either throwing it in the kitchen trash can or having one of us lift her up to put it in the big bin outside the door.
  5. Sweeping– The little one started taking an interest in this a few months ago when I cut dad’s hair. I had to take the big broom away so she wouldn’t whack one of us in the head with it. However, we happened to have a small hand broom and dustpan, and a new habit was born. Now when she makes a mess, sometimes she’ll think about the little set. She’ll motion for me to grab the stuff and she helps me clean it up.

Final Thoughts

These are just the things I can think of off the top of my head.  Miss Freya loves to help me with everything.  Often when I clean in the bathroom she has a rag and is pretending to clean beside me. Or, if I’m cleaning with natural products, I may even let her help.  A lot of it is gauging their mood and catching them when they want to help.  Better yet, not discouraging them from being helpful. Each time you discourage a child, it just gets harder to help them the next time.  If I know I don’t have time for Freya to help me I set her up with a pretend activity or pull out a toy she hasn’t seen in a while to get a few moments to myself to take care of it.

Work hard and get things done, but never let it stop a child who wants to help. Children have helped their parents for centuries on farms and at home. Teach them the value of work now, while they are young. 

 

 

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The Toddler Sewing Kit

Our sewing kit.

A full view of our sewing kit. A list of the items included and a few that we will add are listed below.

I had to take a break from my series of posts on being a Caregiver to your parents.  I needed to do something fun. Recently, I’ve been sewing….a lot. I’ve been making all manner of new dresses and I’m working on a set of felt dice. The second so I can work towards perfecting my satin stitch (another tutorial that I may get to at one point).  However, I seem to have this little one who keeps trying to fiddle with my sewing kit or machine.  

She’s two…so I can’t expect her to get with the program and be a perfect angel all the time. So I went to go buy her a toddler sewing kit from a Montessori site….and couldn’t find one. So I decided to make my own.  

Not only is sewing a great skill to have our children build towards but even if your child doesn’t end up a seamstress, they may learn something.  For example, threading a pipe cleaner through an old spool is a great motor development game and something my child already loves to do (that and threading beads).  Or using buttons to teach colors and shapes.  As with many avenues of learning, the possibilities are endless. 

Great for color and shape educational activities

Just a few of the colors and most of the shapes from the button set I bought her for her kit.

Our Toddler Sewing Kit

So what did we put in our kit? Take a look:

  • Buttons– As you can see in the images, I chose a bright bold button pack with a lot of different shapes.  The holes are big enough that she will be able to practice her sewing skills as she gets older.  For now, she just enjoys lining them up and sorting them in whatever manner is pleasing to her that day.  
  • Utensils Case– I saw this one on Pinterest. Not only can the thing be used for storage, but I’ve seen pipe cleaners attached to it so the child can work on threading things onto it, or just practicing threading it through the holes themselves. 
  • Plastic needles– Safe, practical, hard to hurt yourself with.  
  • Plastic Canvas– When I was little my mother used to use this stuff to make everything. I had barbie furniture, tissue paper holders, magnets and even Christmas ornaments made out of the stuff. The holes are fairly big so its perfect for an aspiring seamstress to practice their stitches on. 
  • Cross Stitch Hoop: This is great.  Eventually she can use it for cross stitch if she wants but for now, I just want to get some colorful shelf lining to put in it. See the next section for more details. If nothing else she will play with the hoop as small children do. 
  • Pipe Cleaners– These can be threaded through the canister or just played with in general.  
  • A Zipper– She loves playing zippers and its great fine motor practice for her. 
  • Fabric scraps and Squares– Bright colors and patterns attract the eye.  My little one likes to order and sort them.  She also just likes to wave them around.  I personally don’t get the appeal, but I’m also not 2 years old. 

Future Additions/Ideas

  • Shelf liner– this can be placed on the cross stitch hoop.  If you haven’t seen the stuff before, it has holes in it.  It’s another great thing to practice with the needle. 
  • Balls of yarn– I have the yarn, just haven’t had the time to make the balls.  Eventually, my little one will be able to learn to thread her little needle.  
  • Old Yarn Spools– I plan to save a couple of these as I use my massive collection of thread.  She can thread them through pipe cleaners or stack them like blocks.  

 

I’m sure there is all other sorts of ideas that could be used with this and I’ll be sure to update you as I find them.  

Cross stitch hoop, plastic needles, measuring tape, and her box of buttons and sewing trinkets. Her favorite sewing things.

 

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