One of the terrific things about exploring your neighborhood is discovering how much it has to offer families. Last summer, we purchased a family membership to the Museum of Nature & Science and have learned to appreciate science in a whole new way. The hands-on activities and child-size perspectives cater to their impulsive interests. From their rotating exhibits to their permanent ones - each area offers the kids something fun while learning a whole lot. In January, we enrolled both kids into Little Explorers - an 8-week course designed to nurture the natural scientific wonder toddlers and preschoolers already have. While one attends class, the other spends one-on-one time with the other parent - giving both Aaron and I a chance to experience our kids in a different environment ourselves.
The Children's Museum, located downstairs, is separated into 5 unique areas - Dramatic play... farming... waterworks... critters and bugs... and even playing house. For the obvious reason, Noah gravitated to the cars he spotted in the sand box and carried them with him into the water play area. He even stopped to see his car in this funny mirror...
We focus on a few stations on each visit, making it that much more enticing to return and try something different next time. I highly recommend a trip if you haven't been. In fact, mark your calendar for March 3 and RSVP to attend the Children' Museum First Birthday. Admission is free from 10-12, and there will be lots of fun things to do for children 7 and under.
In the middle of spaghetti makings, and a lightening storm, we lost all of our power. Electricity, heat, and a hot meal - all gone. Within minutes, Aaron came home from work and said he saw a cloud of orange light rise and disappear over the entire neighborhood. That's pretty cool. But so was my spaghetti.
Thank goodness for Chipotle. My guilt-free fast food joint was still powered to dish out veggie burritos. Dinner was done and Ava asked if she could watch tv.
Me: "It doesn't work. We don't have any electricity."
Ava: "I can fix it." She turns the power on and runs to the couch to get comfortable. Nothing happens. "Oh" she says quietly.
The next hour, we amused ourselves with the flashlight and spun its light in circles on the floor and walls for the kids to chase. Like moths, they gravitated towards the candles lit on counter tops. We watched them flicker and sway with our breaths and then puffed them into smoke over and over and over again.
Our sweaters no longer kept us warm as the temperature in the house continued to drop. Aaron made a fire, and I gathered our warmest blanket, reading pillows and some books, to cuddle with the kids a few feet away from the fireplace. What usually takes us 45-seconds in the microwave, took Aaron 30 minutes to heat up a bottle of milk for Noah over the fire. Aaron was so sick that night, but some how managed to take care of "our needs" first. After he fell asleep on the floor, the three of us talked, read, and listened to the rain pour above us. Ava pulled out the fishing game and played with Noah. After a few rounds, we cleaned up the fish, and Ava pulled out another game, only this one had no batteries. No sound. No excitement.
Lacing cards - The last time she used her cards was the first time I bought them for her, maybe 8 or so months ago while on a road trip. But this particular night beckoned for something like this. Simple. Relaxing. And free of over stimulation. Lacing her string around the seal, she patiently finished and started a new one. Eventually they both fell asleep underneath my arms, and I closed my eyes. And before I could dream up plans for tomorrow, the lights turned on.
As if switching on a vacuum cleaner, sound rushed into our home within seconds. The hum of the heater, the refrigerator, and spotlights overhead buzzing - sounds I never paid attention to before, were suddenly too loud. I couldn't help but realize just then, how lovely it was. To think, talk and play in simple silence.
This revelation was honestly humbling. To think about how times use to be. And how children sat around a fire with their parents in the same room, doing simple things. This evening was so peaceful, and brought a natural calmness over us all. I couldn't help but declare - power out hours are the way to go.
We don't take our amenities for granted. Instead, we take the absence of them for granted. We live in a time and perspective where silence and simplicity is rare and the real luxury.
Although the thunderstorm was responsible for this wonderful evening, we do have the ability to experience more times like this at home. I have finally declared: we will have these kind of peaceful family nights again soon - breaker switches beware...
Chances are, she'll make something. Using every color, and art tool available.
Twice. She'll ask for things to glue and practice cutting with her new scissors. All the new pieces she just cut, has to be glued down also. I give Noah his own canvas to work with, and he prefers to swirl his materials in the glue instead. So I let him.
She asks for pipe cleaners and then cuts those into small pieces. Noah walks away in mid coloring - he's through. Wandering around the room, he finds the swifer. So he starts to clean.
And chances are - if you have a clean playroom, they'll want to make something else. Again.
When inspiration strikes, the supplies have to be ready. We were overwhelmed with the art box Grandma bought Ava for her birthday - with a personalized name plate on top. When Aaron saw this briefcase, his OCD kicked in. And I assured him that I'll do my best to remind her to put every piece back as she uses them. After all, they are "Ava's." The box says so.
Having such a special gift, with more than 200 pieces can make you a little dizzy. We haven't lost a piece yet, and when considering how much she loves to make things, I don't think we will [anytime soon]. Unless of course, other non-art-lovers get a hold of it and make off with the blues and greens.
There's so much value into investing in a box like this - and I would encourage everyone to create something like this for your budding artist.
Start an Art Box:
1. Use a box small enough for her to carry. Preferably one that has a closing mechanism in case she wants to do a twirl before getting started.
2. Gather supplies. You may have many of them at home already, so gather these then visit your local art supply store to look for more creative opportunities: pastels, acrylics, water colors, pencils, crayons, markers [fat and thin ones], a set of paints, and of course, glitter...
3. Organize your box by lining the bottom with a tray that has several components. Or get several small cardboard boxes and label them. You don't have to fill the entire box the first day. Rotate materials or add more colors as others are finished. This keeps her box interesting - and inspiring to try something different each art day.
4. Keep a junk box close by. Yes, junk is inspirational. Think about textures and the ongoing flow of materials that pass through our hands on the way to the garbage. Tissue paper, aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, bubble wrap, cardboard, construction and corrugated papers...
5. Don't forget the tools that will help them get creative. Think brushes [for each style - water color or acrylic], sponges, stamps, scissors, glue, and stencils...
The success of the art box comes directly from the time spent together. Sharing materials, exchanging ideas, and helping each other with suggestions are the added bonuses to a toddler's developmental years.
I love it when Ava tells me, "Mommy, you need more red here..."
We're well into 2009 now and enjoying every passing moment... with or without three wheels. A month ago, she wouldn't allow him to touch it. To absolve his countless rejections, we got him his very own tricycle for xmas. But we later discovered... he is much happier riding with his big sister. And now, the two of them fly through the air.
What happened? One day they are at war, and the next, they are inseparable. The common ground? Is that they are growing ever so fast. And learning more about each other with each passing day. I sense Ava's need for having things all to herself at times - and yet, I sense Noah's need to be included where there's laughter. Each conquest is thick with envy - and I often struggle with which to help first. I find myself telling Ava, "he's your little brother. Share." Or to Noah, "she had it first. Please wait your turn."
I reflect back to my own childhood and how much of it was shared. Toys, books... friends... even our bedroom until I was 22 years old. I remember experiencing a lot of frustration at the time and needing "space." But what I remember more vividly and cherish today, were the outcomes of being together - all of the time.
Conversations and confessions in the dark... we'd lay in bed talking about everything and anything. Talking directly to the ceiling, but knowing and feeling each other's facial expressions from each tear to each smile that cracked our lips. I remember how much more delicious brownies were when split or how much safer I felt going to school everyday with my sister. There are countless more... and each remind me how much more grand life is when shared with a sibling. When my little sister came along... we got to do it all over again...
It is in these blessings that I want to extend and express to Ava and Noah:
Be close. Be loving. Be together but be yourself. Never cast a shadow on the other. And if you do, remember that shadows follow. So take turns being the light for each other.