Living in Mid-Air

Mid-Air People

 

My daughter has quite an abstract approach to art. Her selections of shapes and colours are bold, and spill across the page in a confident mass. The balance in her drawings is quite startling for one so young and I suspect reflects her (sometimes over-) developed sense of fairness. Which itself becomes particularly apparent in circumstances where she perceives favour to be weighed against her!

Gluing a tiny selection of her prolific productions into a scrapbook for posterity, I was taken by one that depicted her and little brother either side of a house. The space around them was festooned with love hearts, and colours for each figure carefully chosen to represent their favourites of the moment (pink for Ella, blue for Joe).

What struck me particularly was the way both figures were suspended in the air. Despite there being a careful line for grass, an equally horizontal bar of blue above, and the house being firmly rooted on the ground, the children were shown suspended in the No Man’s Land of white horizon, as if at the top of a bounce on a trampoline. Grinning madly.

It’s a happy picture – most of her drawings are. Thankfully. I always remember that scene in Sixth Sense where the little boy says he draws rainbows instead of the images of horrific violence that were haunting him, in order to satisfy the school therapists – ‘They don’t have meetings about rainbows’. Guess we’re doing something right then.

Anyway, I digress. Suspended people. What’s that all about? I began to fester …

Does she feel ungrounded? Without a firm base in life? Is she watching too many Fairy movies and genuinely thinks people can fly?

Or did she just start drawing the heads too high up on the page and not want to make the legs look stupidly long? I suspect this last is true. Or maybe I’m kidding myself and she is less secure that I’d care to imagine. Guess I’ll never know for sure so should quit worrying and get a life!

On reflection I think this picture is a perfect example of how our kids are not yet bound by the constraints of knowledge that dogs us as adults. It’s a freedom I’m keen for her to retain in her arsenal of art techniques. And I hope she can grow to apply this freedom of thought to her life.

Imagine the impossible.

Dare to dream.

Convention is creeping in as her depictions of grass and sky squeeze ever closer together. But for now, mid-air people are very okay in her world. Long may that last.

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It’s been a while …

Welcome to June. Okay, so it’s nearly over already, but when I finally dragged myself back here today I was shocked to see that nine months have passed since my last post. Three quarters of a year in which I’ve been busy. A full gestational term during which my five year old became six, and my toddler became a preschooler. Eeek!

So where have I been? Every time I sat down to write, something felt wrong. So I procrastinated. I clean floors, tidied round, found (Shock! Horror!) OTHER WORK to do. Today the problem finally clicked. Over the months I’ve realised that my passion for Kiddiespace’ as an idea is about more than just ‘doing’ – it’s about celebrating the way in which our kids feel and experience life in general too, and how we, as parents, interact and engage with them in that. My self-imposed frame for the blog was stopping me from writing what I wanted to write. How un-creative is that?

And so I’m back, and my focus has shifted a little – the remit of Kiddiespace is no longer just about doing stuff (although that remains really important!). It’s also a place for reflecting on the space our kids inhabit, and our role as parents in helping them grow into that space and blossom as human beings in their own right.

A place where Kiddie and Parent spaces collide.

 

 

Do the Strop

© Creatista | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Creatista | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Do you ever feel like smiling when your kids are acting out?  I know that might sound like a weird reaction, but if yours are anything like mine, you may relate to this.  From time to time their attempts at throwing the mother of all strops result in me catching a fit of the giggles.  I could laugh until my sides split at some of the oh so serious faces they pull.  I appreciate that this is not the response of a sensitive and nurturing parent.  But I’m only human.  And their expressions are to die for.  And on some days I feel I am touching hysteria myself.

Admittedly I restrain myself if I sense their outburst is coming from a place of deep upset.  And this can be in relation to the simplest of things.  My daughter erupted the other day because little brother had disrupted the precision-made fairy bed she had set up on the coffee table, complete with acorn cups.  She was seriously affronted and close to acute internal devastation.  Clearly, a light chuckle from me was not appropriate at this juncture.

Yet sometimes … well, frankly they are just faking.

And they know it, and I know it.

And they know that I know it.

A gentle upturn of the corner of my mouth is enough to reveal the true nature of their actions, as they invariably redouble their efforts to gain my attention, with a challenging look in their eyes that dares me to proceed.  So I do.  For these instances I have developed an effective arsenal of responses:

  • A skeptical look and a grin – is often enough to diffuse the situation and send them happily away to seek out mischief elsewhere
  • Pulling their face back at them and then laughing out loud – shows them how ridiculous they look, and can lead to a fun gurning session
  • A declaration of war – in the form of a challenging “You are SO faking right now!” can often set them giggling too.  When swiftly followed by tickling and a little play-fight this settles things down nicely
  • I do the Strop – depending on the severity and nature of the fake, the kids have a great line in hopping from foot to foot, or stamping their feet.  Copying this can infuriate or delight them in equal measure, but usually makes them laugh in the end.  One time my girl actually went on to make a little dance routine out of it.  This, of course, was a very serious business.  No chuckling allowed.

Some days life can feel a little heavy.  I like to lighten the mood when I can, and most of the time the children appreciate this.  At least, I think they do!  I’m sure they’ll let me know when they have therapy later in life.  By which time I’ll be so old I won’t care, and will have perfected my own version of the geriatric strop.  Funny how life goes full circle!

A Mint Idea

© Victuallers, via Wikimedia Commons

© Victuallers, via Wikimedia Commons

Last night I cooked curry.  We had an aromatic prawn and tomato dish, vibrant red and pulsating.  A white basmati rice barrier kept the sharp sauce apart from the relative sweetness of the chicken dish that beamed yellow across the plate.  The whole delicious combination was delicately contrasted with a light, green scattering of fresh coriander.  Mm mm mm mmmmmm!

I’m an organised cook, and had extracted the necessary spices in advance from the depths of the shelf where they live in harmony alongside the herbs.  These brightly coloured jars were like a magnet to my little boy.  He found a stool and clambered up next to me, all busy and full of excitement.

“Mummy, me taste this?” he asked, proffering a jar of shockingly extra-hot chilli powder.

“Erm, no sweetie, not that one.  How about this?”  I offered the jar of cloves as an alternative.

Intrigued, he scattered them across the worktop (and the floor, and the stove, and down his jumper).  Then he tasted one.

“Bleurrrgh!”  he said.  “I not like that.”

“Well,” I explained, “these are flavours.  We add them in little bits to the food, and together they mix with all the other stuff in the pan and make it yummy.”

We spent the next 20 minutes opening jars of aromatic coriander and cumin, blinding yellow turmeric, woody cinnamon sticks and nutty cardamon pods.  We worked our way along the line of 20-30 spice jars, sniffing, dipping fingers, and rolling shapes and textures between our fingers.  We had a ball.  When at last we’d finished I got on with cooking, Joe keeping a watchful eye on me from his car in the corner.

“Can me have for tea?” asked my lad when I’d finished.  He is game to try anything edible.

So today we had what I call “Little Boy Curry” for lunch.  A mild chicken korma, packed with flavour, but light on spicy heat.  He loved it.

It got me thinking about flavours.

I’m pretty passionate about food, and love to cook.  I’m not always great at it, but can turn out a decent meal.  For me, getting the kids involved in food, and in the process of cooking, is really important.  I want them to learn about how to make healthy food choices.  It’s important they know that chips are made from potatoes.  But most of all I want to give them options.  If they choose later in life to stuff themselves with unhealthy processed gunk that’s their choice.  At least they will understand what they are doing, and know how to make a change if they want to.  So I encourage my kids to experiment, and take them shopping whenever I can.  When I have time, we grow our own veggies too.

Here is a great game to get pre-teens thinking about the food they eat:

  1. Decide on a flavour that can be found in many different forms.  Mint, Orange, Chocolate and Strawberry all work well
  2. Select 5-10 edible things that contain that flavour and create little samples on a plate – keep this hidden from the kids
  3. Sit your child down and blindfold them – working in a small group works best, as they get all giggly and really have fun
  4. Give them a little sniff, and then a taste of each food, and invite them first to guess the flavour, and then the food itself
  5. NEVER force a wary child to sample something if they are afraid – you can do it without the blindfold if necessary

This game is a great way to encourage children to engage with food, and to really think about the flavours they experience every day, but may never even consider.  You can talk about where the flavour comes from, how it is added, and other foods that might taste good as a complement.  It works best with the more adventurous child, but in a gentle form with only 3 different variations that you know will be a hit, it can also be used to encourage cautious kids to try new things.

Here are a few suggestions for sample foods for the flavour MINT:

  • A leaf from the herb itself
  • Toothpaste (just a little, we’re not going for fluoride overload here!)
  • A mint sweet – tic tac, polo, mentoes, humbug, any of these will do
  • A peppermint cream
  • Minty chocolate, such as an After Eight or Matchmaker
  • Mint sauce/jelly
  • Mint tea
  • Cucumber and Mint raita – a refreshing accompaniment to curry, made by mixing plain yoghurt with chopped cucumber, dried or fresh mint, and salt
  • Minted peas – cook the peas and toss with a little butter and fresh or dried mint
  • Minty chewing gum

What’s In the Box?

© Husky, via Wikimedia Commons

Pebbles make a certain sound when they are rattled in a cardboard box.  It’s different from the sound rice makes.  And pasta spirals make a pleasant but light clatter when they are shaken.  Would you know the difference relying only on your ears?

This is a great game for young kids of all ages, and once again is inspired by my resourceful little girl.

Take a cardboard box.  Any box will do, as long as you can close it.  Smaller is better so the children can hold it in their hands and manipulate it easily.

Then take it in turns to put different things in the box.  The one who chooses the contents gently shakes it and the other person has to guess what’s inside.  So simple, but an incredibly addictive and fun game.

Things we found to put in and bamboozle each other with included:

  • A walnut – one that the squirrels had missed!
  • Blades of grass – dry produces a subtly different sound from wet
  • Small stones
  • Twigs – one, or several
  • Pasta
  • Dried rice
  • Cotton wool – this was particularly sneaky of my girl, who was delighted by my failure to guess!
  • A sock
  • Scrunched up pieces of paper
  • A lego brick

The sensory aspect of this game really tests the brain’s ability to associate sounds with shapes, and different materials.  The children loved it.  We will play again.  I have to find a new box first though …. Ella’s experiment with water produced a great splishy-splashy sound when shaken, but reduced the box to a grey mush in minutes.  Nice!

For Granny …

© seyed mustafa zamani, via Wikimedia Commons

My Mum has been visiting this last week, she left for home this morning.  We see her maybe 5 or 6 times each year.  I miss her.  The children love her.  She is awesome.  We’re all feeling a bit low tonight, so here is a little poem to let her, and Grandparents everywhere, know how much they are loved, and the hole they leave behind when they have to go home.  Love you Mum xxx

 Granny, when you come and stay

Our  smiles they spread out wide,

You’re always there to play with us

At the park, on the swing, on the slide.

Granny, you don’t mind if we

Want to cover you in leaves,

You lay down happy as a lamb

If it makes us smile, you’re pleased.

Granny, you will paint and make

And dance and sing and more,

And even when you tell us off

We love you to the core.

Granny, you will always come

With lots of gifts and toys,

We love them all, but to have you here

Is the very best present of all.

Granny, we know that when you’re here

Our Mummy’s happy too,

She loves you lots and when you’re gone

She’s sad, just like we two.

Granny, when you snuggle up

Beside us on the chair,

We hug in tight and treasure it

Tomorrow you won’t be there.

Granny, when you leave for home

Our smiles they shrink, we cry,

We miss you when you’re not around

Please come back soon, do try!

Do Squirrels Like Sweets?

© Paul Whippey (Own work) – via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s philosophical question – Do Squirrels like sweets?  Okay, so this may be a bit heavy for a Sunday afternoon, but bear with me …

I was sitting doing some peaceful colouring at the kitchen table with my 2.5 year old son, when a red blur streaked past the window arresting the attention of us both.  We looked up the garden.  Nothing there.  We peered around the wall.  Nope, nothing there either.  Joe scratched his head.  He wondered if it was the deer we saw yesterday, lazily chewing dandelion stalks up the field until Joe gave a friendly but loud shout of “Hello Deer!”, and scared the poor creature half to death.  It bounced its way back into the forest in a blink.  Joe cried.

With his interest piqued again today, and keen to make amends to the terrified deer, my boy was not to be deterred from his quest to find the red streak.  So, rainbow picture abandoned, we embarked on a tour of the garden and land.  Minutes later, whilst he and I were knee deep investigating a particularly large molehill, Ella appeared breathlessly from the terrace full of excitement about the red squirrel she had just encountered en route to the front of the house.  From her account of the meeting the unfortunate squirrel was apparently subjected to an equally loud exclamation of some form, and set off for cover in a similar manner to the deer.  In any event, mystery solved.

“It’s a squirrel Joe!  A Squirrel!” she cried.

Joe didn’t look convinced.

“We need to make it a bed a give it some food,” announced my girl, ever the homemaker.

“Can’t me chase it?” asked Joe.

“No, that will scare it,” counselled Ella.

“Oh,” said Joe, beaten.

I left them to it, Ella marshalling Joe into finding grass and leaves for a soft bed, and collecting freshly fallen walnuts from around the two trees that annually shed their crop on our field.  In the early years here we used to collect, dry, store and eat them.  Then we realised that each year the crop was so large we were ending up with a growing (and wasteful) stockpile, so we now only harvest a few kilos each year, and leave the rest to the wildlife.  This keeps the squirrels very busy, and the children entertained.  But that was 12 months ago now, and they have forgotten all over again.

I supplied bowls for water, and shelled walnuts “in case the little squirrels don’t have sharp enough teeth, Mummy.”

All thoughts of the deer forgotten, they worked industriously, and both finally appeared in the kitchen, cheeks glowing with the freshness of the wet autumn day and muddy wellies tracking their progress across the floor.

“Come and look!” said Ella.  So I did.  I found a delightful little haven nestled between two planters.

“The squirrels in our garden are very lucky,” I said.  They beamed.

“I think they need sweets, to give them energy,” attempted Ella.  Nothing to do at all with the fact that this would necessitate breaking open the candy tub, from which she and her patient little brother would surely deserve a treat for being SO nice to the squirrels.  It was nearly lunchtime.

“No,” I said, decisively.  “Squirrels don’t like sweeties.”

“How do you know Mummy?” was the reply ….

Well, actually I don’t.  And I’m not likely to find out anytime soon, as the lunchtime deadline held fast, despite the hard-done-to protestations.

But her question did get me thinking …..!