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childhood

8 years old. My first baby is 8 years old. How is that even possible!!

Maya at 8, what can I say. She is walking a fine line between the little girl she was and teenager she will become. Part of her still loves to play with dolls and live in make believe worlds, while  another part of her likes to sit around chatting with friends talking about fashion and what life will be like when they are older. She cares more about what others think about her now, a phase I hope passes quickly. She is passionate and smart. She feels things deeply and is full of “why” and “what if” questions. Reading and writing are her two favorite subjects at school right now. She can’t stand math, but still does pretty well in it. Science gets her curious mind thinking and she loves when they get to do experiments at school.

The year from 7 to 8 had a few struggles in it for Maya. She felt pulled in too many directions by the needs and wants of others and thus learned to find her own voice and stand up for herself. She learned that sometimes it is okay to step away from someone for a little bit and that we all need time to decompress.

It is amazing how much growing up has taken place this year. Maya at 8 is smart, passionate, curious, spunky, a challenge  sometimes, loving, and beautiful. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for her.

I can already feel the shadows growing in my memory. The moments and memories that I brought back from one of the most amazing experiences in my life are less crisp. As each day passes they are slowly, but surely, beginning to fade.

Moments and memories like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

I’m lucky, because as time does what it always does and the memories from our time in Australia begin to fade, I’ll have the posts I wrote about our adventures and the hundreds of pictures I took, to look back and regain some of the vividness of my memories. These moments and the many others we had will never be gone completely, I’ll always be able to look at a picture or read a post and bring them back.

I want Maya to remember her trip too. She may not remember much, she may only remember a single moment or a feeling. But I want her to have something to hold onto in her mind. The things she got to experience are things that some people dream their whole lives about but never get to do. I want her to have something to spark her own tiny memories, so I’ve decided to make a book for her. I’m working on getting all the posts I wrote about our adventures, along with some of the pictures, bound into a book for her. I hope that as she gets older and she only has some distant memory of being in a land far, far away when she was very young, that she’ll be able to look at the book, read the stories, see the pictures and for just a moment remember how incredible the spring of her 4th year of life truly was.

Maya‘s artistic tendencies run deep.  Give the girl an artistic outlet of any kind and she is all over it.  Painting, coloring, gardening, play doh, you name it, she loves it.  It seems that we have found a new favorite creative past time that the little miss enjoys, photography.

From a very young age Maya has loved the camera, and not in the “please take my picture” kind of way, in the “let me have that thing so I can do my thing” kind of way.  She has been coming after my camera from the moment she learned how to crawl.  For a while the only pictures we could ever get of her were ones of her crawling towards the camera :)  One of her Christmas gifts this year was a toy camera.  I was convinced this would do the trick for a while, boy was I wrong.  She knew the difference right away.  And though she loves her little toy camera and plays with it often, she much prefers the real thing.

This past weekend she demonstrated her mad photo taking skills.  I had just taken a little video of her and gave her the camera when I was done.  I didn’t realize I had left it on until she started snapping away.  What we got was a rather artsy set of about 20 photos.

I present to you, Photography by a Two Year Old –

Goofy Daddy

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Not bad if I do say so myself :)  I may have a budding little photographer on my hands.  I’m guessing it’s about time we traded in that toy camera for a real one.

At this time of year I feel his absence more than at any other time of the year.  At this time of year it always feels like something, someone is missing.  Through all the joy and happiness I feel a tug in my heart.

A little over 8 years ago my mother’s dad, my Gramps, passed away after suffering a massive stroke.  It happened at the end of May when spring was in full bloom and summer was right around the corner, but after the shock of it all sunk in the only thing I could think about was Christmas.  My Gramps is a big part of Christmas for me.  One of my fondest childhood memories involves my Gramps and Christmas. It is hard for me to separate one from the other.  The idea of him being gone and no longer part of that big Christmas tradition crushed me.  And, today, 8 years later, it’s still hard.

For as far back as I can remember my Gramps has been the one to play Santa and hand out all the presents as we celebrated Christmas with Mum’s side of the family.  It was his thing.  We would all be sitting around my Nana’s living room staring longingly at the presents under the Christmas tree.  My Gramps would be standing a little out of the room, usually partially in the dining room with his full head of thick white hair and his handle bar mustache that curled up just perfectly at the ends.  My Nana would finally pipe up and say “Harry, do you want get started handing out the gifts.”  He would smile and say “Oh, ya, you want me to do it, sure.”, like it wasn’t exactly what he did every single year.  He would light up, you could see the pride glowing on his face, as he walked into the living room.  He would kneel down next to the tree and start searching through the gifts.  He would find one for each of us so that we all had something to hold, then he would find one with his own name on it and with pure surprise in his voice he would say “Oh, look there’s one for me.”  We would each take our turn to open a gift and “ow and aw ” over what everyone got, then it would all start over again until the area under the tree was empty and we were each surrounded by that year’s bounty.  I can remember looking over at my Gramps and seeing his face bright with a smile and I would just smile back at him.  You could just see it written all over his face that he was doing one of his very favorite things.

For the last 8 years there has been an empty place beside the Christmas tree at my Nana’s house.  Someone else sits there now, usually someone different each year, but the spot still feels empty.  I love Christmas and the day we spend at my Nana’s is one of my favorite of the season but it is hard each year to realize that he is not there, that he will not be the one handing me my Christmas gifts.  Someone’s missing from that spot next to the tree, but he sits firmly in my heart and in my fondest of childhood memories.

I miss you Gramps.

As parents I think we all struggle to find the right balance of play and learning for our toddlers.  The drive seems to be towards having the best, brightest and most gifted toddler so you can brag to all the other moms at the park.  It drives me crazy when parents compare their children, especially when they hype up what their child can do, like saying their child can say the entire alphabet at the age of 18 months when really all their child can do is repeat the letters after them.  Parents who don’t see through this think their child is behind and start stressing about it, not a combination for parent or child.

For toddlers the best approach to “teaching” them things is through their play and their interactions with you and others throughout the day.  Toddlers learn by watching what others do, hearing what others are saying and repeating those behaviors.  The more you talk to your child throughout the day be it by reading books, narrating your day or having a mini conversation with them the more your toddler will learn about language and how to use it.

Here are some great ways to use your every day interactions and playtime with your toddlers into teaching tools:

  • As you are out running errands point out things of different colors and have your child tell you what color it is.  Like point at a yellow bus and ask your child what color it is.  If they don’t get it right tell them the color and keep doing that.  Eventually as your child learns their colors more they will be able to identify them better in the real world.
  • Another great errand game is asking your child if they see something that you have spotted, say a picture of a dog.  Ask your child if they see and dog and to point it out.  My daughter loves this game, she will play with me now by saying she sees a bear and then I have to look around to see if I can find it.
  • You can practice number recognition as you are putting the dishes away.  Ask your child to pass you two (or whatever number) spoons from the dishwasher.
  • As you are folding laundry practice colors with your child by seeing if they can find and pass you the red shirt, or the blue socks, etc.
  • Shapes are every where and as you are out and about or in the kitchen working on dinner or out in the yard playing point out shapes, as your child begins to recognize certain shapes like squares and circles ask your child to point out certain shapes.  For example, ask your child to show you where the square window is, or the circle cup, etc.
  • Sing with your child while you are going about your day, songs like the ABCs, twinkle twinkle, and the wheels on the bus at great.
  • Just talk to your child and tell them what you are doing as you go about your day, they will learn so many new words just by listening to you.

My daughter is big into identifying shapes, naming colors and pointing out objects as we are walking around a store.  She loves to “help” with household chores as well and has learned so many new words just be listening to me tell her what something is.  Toddlers are little sponges and love to learn.  Their learning doesn’t have to come from structured lessons at this age, they learn so much more just by interacting with you and others and watching what is going on in the world around them.

What games do you play with your children to help them learn new things?