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Play or Teach?

December 4, 2011

After a long break, I am back!  Or at least I hope to be.  Writing this blog helps me focus and reflect on my parenting even when I am not actively writing, yet for a while there I was just surviving.  The boys went through nap transitions from 4 to 3 and now to 2 and things were rough.  PlumGirl also started potty training and dropped her only nap just to add to the chaos.  *Knock on wood*, but I think things have settled down.  On to the post…

Going through my Google Reader this morning I came upon an interesting link shared in the Weekend Reads on Not Just Cute.  The link led to an article from the NAEYC on the Play vs. Learning Dichotomy.  I have always been a firm believer that all children, not just preschoolers, sometimes learn best through independent play and exploration.  When planning for my first graders, I always included free exploration and undirected learning into our day.

The result of this independent time was quite apparent.  Looking around the room I could almost SEE their wonderful brains at work, much more so than when I was standing in front of them directing the learning.  I also had to spend a lot less energy helping students to focus on their tasks when they were engaged in the independent learning as they were self-motivated to complete their tasks.  A superb diagram in the NAEYC article quite clearly illustrates that I was able to take a more passive role in the learning while the students were playing, whether the play was completely independent or scaffolded, because it is during play that children (and their brains) are most actively engaged.

At home, almost our entire day alternates between discovery based free play and scaffolded guided play, with little bit of “instruction” tossed in. So, far I think we have the balance the article challenges us to find.


The Epic Battle

August 11, 2011

Tonight PlumGirl and I engaged in an epic battle. I wanted her to go to bed, she wanted to act absolutely insane. I have always rocked her to sleep, something I usually cherish, but tonight it was torture. All she wanted to do is talk, laugh, and hit me.

She has NEVER hit me before. Instead of going “gentle hands”, which is what we have always done if she came close to hitting one of the dogs, I grabbed her hand and said “No!” which immediately turned it into a game to her.

I just could not handle it. I came the closest I ever have to losing my temper with her. For a moment I really wished I believed in spanking.

I tried ignoring her, and the hitting stopped, but she still did not want to go to sleep. She wanted to talk and laugh and roll in my arms.

Over an hour had passed since we went upstairs. This entire time my wonderful neighbor was sitting and feeding boys.

Finally, I told PlumGirl that if she did not want to go sleepy, then Mommy ha to go. She said “bye bye”, so I left. I walked down the stairs and started crying to my neighbor.

PlumGirl happily laid in her bed and talked to herself for quite a while. Then she finally came to the top of the stairs.

I went up with a piece of cheese for her and we tried again. It was like the previous hour and forty-five minutes had never existed. She ate her cheese, laid in my arms, and went to sleep.

I can only wonder if I was fighting her for nothing. I probably should have just given her the alone time from the beginning. She has had a lot going on with trips, her daddy being out of town, and her birthday today. She must have needed time to unwind.

All that I can do now is hope that I have learned from this experience. The lessons that I can see in it are “if what you are doing is working, then change things as quickly as possible” and “do not fight battles that just are not necessary”. I let my fear of not being able to get her to sleep dictate my behavior when instead I should have adapted to the situation. Lesson learned. Hopefully.

Last Child in the Woods – Introduction

August 10, 2011

Today I started listening to Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  This books has long been on my shelf, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it.  I downloaded the audio book, and am planning on listening to it whenever I am alone with the boys.

So far, I am very excited.  I grew up running through woods and streams in Texas.  I collected turtle shells and animal skulls.  I built forts with friends.  I loved every moment of it.  The idea of my children not having the same experiences makes me sad.

Luckily, there is a creek across the street from our house and National Parks within a few hours drive that I hope to get back to soon.  I look forward to exploring and camping with our kids.

I am hoping that this book will help cement my commitment to exposing my kids on a regular, if not daily, basis to real nature.  We will, of course, go out in our yard whenever the weather lets us.  We go to parks weekly.  Visiting true nature, however, is harder.  It takes commitment and determination, both I which I hope to have.

Things I Cannot Wait to Be Done With

August 10, 2011

I love my babies, but I do not love the baby stage.  This age just comes with too many things that cause too many problems.


Here is a list of the things I cannot wait to be done with and why:

Bouncers, jumperoos, activity mats – While they are great for entertaining the babies, they just take up too much room.

Swings – The babies nap great in them, but they will be too big and mobile soon.  I am not looking forward to the transitiion, which will start next week.

Bottles and formula – The boys are super gassy and burpy and the bottles just make it worse.  I cannot wait until they are on real food!

Swaddles – Again, they help the babies sleep, but weaning from them is going to be a pain.

Swaddle blankets and burp cloths – Just too much laundry.

Pacifiers – Great for helping the babies fall asleep, but so hard to find in the night!  We also keep losing them!


I know that the next stage is going to be completely crazy with three toddlers in the house, but I cannot help thinking about the light at the end of the infant tunnel.

Happy Anniversary!

August 7, 2011

Today Mr. Plum and I celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.  We are planning on having lots of good cheese and even better wine after we finally get all the little Plums to sleep.

We marked the eve of our anniversary with a giant (for us) fight.  It was the result of a long day spent in the van driving back from a wonderful vacation.  Fortunately, the fight/discussion ended with us in a better place.

Perhaps the best tool that has helped us stay strong through the seven years of our marriage, which have included multiple job changes, a move out of state, extended family drama, a crazy dog, and the birth of our three kids in under two years, is the book The 5 Love Languages.  (There is also a great website by the author.)  It is amazing how many times we have entered a fight not seeing eye to eye and, thanks to this book, the fight has turned into a discussion from which we learned about each others needs.

We got married relatively young, I was 23 and Mr. Plum 25, and as a child of divorce I really wanted to do everything I could to ensure that our marriage would last.  After Mr. Plum proposed, I bought the book, read it, highlighted it, and then gave it to Mr. Plum to read.  I am so glad that I did!

Happy Anniversary to us!  And thank you Love Languages!!!

The Screaming Solution

July 27, 2011

Though I have lots of thoughts on parents screaming and yelling at children, that is not what this post is about.  This post is about is about Toddler Screaming.

Screaming is a wonderfully fun activity that every toddler discovers.  They suddenly realize that they a have all this power!!  They can make a really loud noise!!! Mommy, Daddy, and everyone else within a mile radius immediately turns to look at them!!!   And they can make a really loud noise!!!

While screaming is a lot of fun for the toddler, it definitely is not an activity that parents enjoy.  In fact, parents just want it to stop. Now.

Disciplining screaming is very, very easy to get wrong.  Standard discipline does not work.  Timeouts, not going to work.  Counting, nope.  Getting down and their level and talking, think again.

There is only one solution for screaming, absolute denial.  The screaming does not exist.  Ignore it completely.

Any reaction at all just turns the screaming into a game.  Ignoring the screaming will confuse your toddler at first.  He or she might even get louder for a few minutes just to test you, but then it will stop.  The screaming will be gone, at least until your little one discovers it again a few months later, but you will know how to handle it (or not).

Sick Babies

July 13, 2011

The PlumTwins have been sick since Monday night and of course Mr. Plum left on a trip Sunday morning.

It started with both of them throwing up their bottles and then PlumTwin1 spiked a fever high enough that I had to take him to the ER.  Luckily our wonderful sitter was able to come in the middle of the night to take care of PlumTwin2 and PlumGirl.

PlumGirl, who is used to waking up the sun, also decided that 1am was the time to get up.  Our poor sitter couldn’t convince her to go to sleep until almost 3am.  I think all the commotion and me leaving in the middle of the night was just too much for her.

It seems that the boys just got a virus of some sort, but PlumTwin2, who hasn’t gotten any of the antibiotic shots that his brother did, is still throwing up.  I am worried that he might need the shots too.

Luckily, Mr. Plum came home late last night and PlumGirl actually slept well, so I was able to get 5 straight hours of sleep last night.  The two nights of little and no sleep are still affecting me though.  I am exhausted and barely coherent.

I dream of the days when I can go to bed and sleep until I wake up!