Dave and I have tried not to make gifts the main point of Christmas, and so it’s quite possible that it never actually occurred to our kids that they might give us gifts — until yesterday, when they saw one of the neighbor kids labor with our paper and ribbons to wrap up a gift for her mom. (The gift was a fancy chocolate from our stash, but it was a great impulse so I was happy to donate it.) Suddenly Ryan was interested in this whole gift-giving idea, and I was interested in encouraging it, and thus Dave ended up taking Nathan and Ryan to Fred Meyer to pick out something small for me. My turn to reciprocate is yet to come.

Dave reports that they got some enjoyment from the exercise. (Nathan is sick, so it isn’t surprising that he was a bit slow.) I don’t know the details of the gift-wrapping session in the sewing room, but I do know that Dave, coming out to get the tape, shook his head at me and rolled his eyes. I gather that gift-wrapping is not an inborn skill. But poor Ryan simply could not contain his excitement over his gift. Despite several interruptions from me where I assured him that I’d rather it remain a secret, he eventually managed to get out: “Do you think a Snickers would be a good present? Because that’s what I got you!”

Oh, my sweet Ryan.

He tried to convince Dave that he should keep the little oblong gift on his table, just in case he decided to eat it himself, but Dave resolutely steered him toward the tree. Several times one or the other of us saw him search it out to consider it. We reiterated for him that the best way to resist something is not to think about it; staring at his gift almost guaranteed that he’d succumb to temptation. We’ve gone over this lesson with him before.

Nevertheless, that evening he asked me to come into our bedroom so he could talk to me. He started to cry almost immediately and told me that he’d sneaked away and eaten my present. “And now I wish I gave it to you!” he told me in a tiny voice, snuggled in my lap, his eyes squeezed shut in misery. We talked a bit; I told him that I appreciated him having picked it out for me to begin with, and that really he’d resisted the temptation for a long time, and would get better at that with practice. I suggested that I could get another Snickers when I was at the store next, and we could try again. He thought that was a good idea, but that I should hide it in the shop so he couldn’t find it. Each time he thought about it he would get sad again.

So eventually I went with distraction. I made my hand into a Tickling Spider (an old game), and gave him a Spider Hug on his hand. After he’d fed the spider, and made a bed for it, and told it a bedtime story, he felt much better.

My boys are so different. It isn’t merely that Ryan is two years younger than Nathan; he truly does have more trouble with the Marshmallow Experiment. But I also see such a sweetness in him, such a capacity for empathy and caring. Sometimes that’s easy to overlook when he comes up behind me and punches me, but it’s a strength I definitely want to encourage.



I am hesitant to post pictures of non-family members, so I have nothing to show of our tree decorating. The neighbor kids were over; I made our traditional Tangerine Scones; Ryan, Mica and I procured the tree from the same place as last year; and decorating happened. Actually it all happened very quickly and efficiently. We’ve passed some barrier, and now hanging ornaments on a tree is suddenly no big deal. Not a single breakage or injury occurred.

Next year, when Mica is walking, will no doubt be another story. She likes the lights on the tree and, while she hasn’t quite stopped testing the tree with her mouth (the universal baby sensory organ), she’s learned to be gentle and careful, because pine needles are really quite prickly.

Nathan even wants us to put presents under the tree, but I’m of two minds about that. Last week a box of gifts arrived from Dad while we were at dinner. Both boys were suitably fascinated, but it was Ryan who disappeared shortly after dinner for a suspiciously long and silent time. It turned out that he was sneaking away to do a little early gift opening, which he knew full well he wasn’t supposed to do — but impulse control is not that boy’s strongest gift. (Neither is guile. He had to come out to show us the gift in delight afterwards. He was quite sad afterwards when we told him he couldn’t play with it until Christmas.) So now I’m debating: do I put out the gifts and let them both work on developing resistance to their own package-ripping desires? Or do I keep them hidden away and make my life easier?

Dyed, Not Tied

Painting with fabric dyes… that has been an idea nibbling at the back of my brain for a while now. I can paint with fabric paints, of course, which is good fun, but that’s like painting with acrylics, and even the good fabric paints add a certain stiffness to the finished product. But how would painting with dye work? Would it be like watercolors, or would the colors bleed too much to be recognizable? Could I do multiple passes to get the effect I wanted? So many potential experiments, so little time.

Here are a couple of the first experiments, though.



Yes, I can totally paint with fabric dyes. Using the Tulip dyes is a little limiting, since I have only about an hour after they’re mixed before their potency starts to diminish, but at the moment I’m ok with that. Let’s be honest, here; with three kids, I’m not sitting down for a multi-hour painting session anyway.

Posted in Making. 1 Comment »

Village Free School

Yesterday we finished the second of our three experience days at the Village Free School, a Sudbury Valley type of school. Each day we spent about five and a half hours there, surrounded by between twenty and thirty kids of various ages. The boys spent most of their time in the front room designated the play room, where Legos and a play kitchen were the main things they gravitated towards. Mica and I wandered a bit more, as much as was possible in the rather small space.

While we were there I saw an RPG in process, games of Magic and Clue and Life being played, a holiday play being practiced, and a poker lesson/game. It reminded me of my earlier years at Diamond Lake, when a bunch of cousins of various ages were expected to basically entertain themselves.

I was impressed by the relative lack of chaos, given the small space and large number of people. There was a general sense of people doing things, sometimes purposeful, sometimes more of hanging out and talking. Even over the two days I saw Nathan and Ryan begin to settle into the space and become more comfortable talking to some of the other people, staff and kids.

Dave is taking the kids back for their last experience day on Monday, and I’m interested to hear his impressions. For myself, I like the space, I like the interactions, and I think going to this school a couple times a week could be a wonderful addition to their field of experiences.

Posted in Kids. 3 Comments »

Just A Picture


Posted in Kids. 2 Comments »

Baby Hobbies

Despite the enormous focus she brought to bear on them, I can’t really consider nursing, sleeping, or pooing as real hobbies for Mica. But our little girl is growing up (four months old already!) and has started to develop interests outside her digestive tract.

All our babies have started experimenting with their feet before their hands, so Mica’s primary exploration at first included kicking, stomping (especially when I hold her over her brothers’ heads in the morning for our ritual Good Morning Stomp), and of course The Walking Game. She seems more human the more she plays, even at something as simple as kicking over plastic blocks. But already we are fast leaving behind the foot-centric world of her youth, as she struggles to master her hands.



They’re tricky little devils. Dave and I like to refer to our newborns’ hands as “Lefty” and “Righty” in acknowledgment of the fact that they often seem like tiny independent entities, and not always helpful ones at that. “That isn’t me! It’s Lefty!” I would say after she yowled in indignation at the thing grabbing her ear. (She still tended to look reproachfully at me. I don’t think she believed me.) Early attempts at grabbing something can reasonably be misinterpreted as attempts to bat it away instead, and her hands have a secondary function as “nursing decoys.” When she’s particularly frantic I sometimes need to pin one of her arms under my elbow and the other in my hand in order to let her latch on.

But she’s making progress. She has become adept enough at grabbing bowls, for example, to require me to keep my oatmeal a foot away from the table’s edge or risk getting it in my lap. “Wow! Good job!” I said the first time she dumped oat milk all over me. “No it wasn’t,” said Ryan, who knows the rules of the household fairly well by now. “That was a bad job.” This led to a quick discussion of the concept of a double standard. And when she really, really wants to nurse she’ll now grab my shirt while she butts her head against my chest and yells in frustration. This doesn’t actually help anything, but I appreciate that she’s trying to take charge of the situation. (Subtlety, thy name is baby.)


Better hand-work means that she’ll occasionally spend time on her belly fiddling with things, or allow a toy to distract her in the car, although she still tends to lose her toys pretty quickly. That’s ok; she hasn’t mastered object persistence yet, so once it disappears, it’s gone from her world and she doesn’t complain. She also likes to play the “Can This Fit in My Head?” game, a baby classic.

The Children’s Museum Gets Even Better

The Portland Children’s Museum recently added a large outdoor area. With a sand pit, and a huge meandering maze-like house made of entwined sticks. And fountains. We love that place anyway, but this has pushed it right back to the top of my boys’ “Can we please go there?” list.


I just need to add towels to my list of supplies…


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