The School Year Begins!

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By Leta Hamilton


September is here and school is in full swing. The summer passed in a flash and now a new era begins. My oldest, who is six, is in first grade. Last year we did half-day kindergarten, so this is our first year of the Monday to Friday 8:30am to 3pm schedule. With two other children still at home, I have yet to enjoy the freedom I hear so many mothers speak of when they talk about the life that opens up to them when their children are in school. We are still finessing our routine, but I feel it sinking in and it feels good. I am organizing my weeks to include hours where I can work in peace – child free, that is. It costs. Money is the price we are paying to afford this time for me to keep up with my writing projects and radio show preparation. Every moment of every day is about balancing one thing or another.


In this moment of quiet while my baby naps on the couch behind me, I am juggling the laundry with the work. Write one chapter of my book, change loads, write an article, grab a snack, check emails, pray my baby does not wake up before I am done with at least half of my to do list completed. I am still learning how to focus on work even when the kids are home. Is it even possible?


These lifestyle choices are of my own making. I prefer this to going to an office. Will the work I complete during these few precious hours and my feeling of accomplishment give me the internal resources to deal with this evening’s battle to get my oldest to do his 20 minutes of homework? His protests make me wonder if he thinks we are asking him to read War and Peace before bedtime. Yesterday he asked me why I was on his teacher’s “team” instead of his. He constantly reminds me that he is only a kid and that I should not be treating him like a teenager. “There is more to life than reading” is another statement he is fond of making during this battle. All the while he is crying a river of tears.


Every day I wonder if I will handle this evening battle any differently tonight. If I will somehow learn to say just the right thing to make the 20 minutes of homework take less than 60 to even begin. My fear is that by the time I master motherhood, it will be too late and all my children will be out of the house! Whatever personal growth I achieve will benefit my youngest most of all, I fear, leaving my oldest to bear the brunt of whatever shortcomings plague me now. All I know is that the homework keeps coming and somehow, together, we will need to figure out a way to do it without so much drama.


The new challenges we are facing with the new school year pale in comparison to the realization that I must begin now, in earnest, the process of letting go. My oldest is not my “baby” any more. He is growing up, asserting mightily his own point of view, asking me for space, for permission to walk himself home from the bus stop, and for recognition in a thousand small ways that he is no longer so influenced by my way of thinking. I delight (most of the time) in his personality and want to encourage his sense of self without imposing my will on his. This is the lesson of first grade. It is my lesson. Like he shows me so well, the only thing to do is to take life one day at a time. The solution is to realize that there does not always have to be a solution – just the ability to wake up each morning knowing that we have the wherewithal and independence to determine our own destiny.


Leta Hamilton is the author of The Way of the Toddler and also hosts The Way of the Toddler Hour on Seattle’s Alternative Talk Station KKNW 1150am.


Article tags:leta hamilton, toddlers, motherhood, work life balance, family, raising children, work at home moms, growing up, back to school

Gardening Activities for Your Child

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Pre-school and Kindergarten


1. Tiny hands are perfect for picking small seeds out of packets. Show your child how to use a stick to poke shallow holes, drop in a seed, and gently pat soil over it.
2. Pick rocks out of soil and stack in a neat pile.
3. Kiddie-sized watering cans let even the smallest children “give the plants a drink” without drowning them.


Grade-school and Older


1. Set seedlings in place.
2. Define garden rows. Set poles on opposite sides of the garden, tie string around one and spool it out to the second. Using the string as a guide, use a trowel to dig a shallow line underneath.
3. Working together to properly space plants lets kids use basic math skills, like measuring in inches.
4. Watering the garden with the hose. (Be prepared for a water fight on a hot day!)
5. Fill planting holes with compost, planting soil, or–coolest of all–earthworms! Hunt for the earthworms as you turn over the soil in the garden.
6. Weeding requires concentration and attention. Point out the different shaped leaves and characteristics of the weeds and the crops.


Fun For The Whole Family (no matter what age)


Work together, to build the perfect garden resting spot. A shady bean teepee provides a cool hiding spot and provides support for a bumper crop of pole beans.


You will need:  7-9 six-foot bamboo poles or 2×2 beams, twine, pole bean seeds.


1. Find a suitable spot and mark a circular patch of earth (about 4 feet in diameter)
2. Dig a planting trench and add compost and fertilizer
3. Firmly push the ends of the poles into the ground on the outside of the circle. Sink them about 3” deep. Leave a wide gap between two of the poles. This will be the entrance to the teepee.
4. Tie the poles firmly together at the top using the twine. Remember your kids will be running in and out of the teepee, so make sure the poles are firmly tied together.
5. Plant the pole beans about 2” deep. Use two plants per pole and plant them on the inside of the bamboo frame. Water generously
6. In 7 to 10 days, seedlings should appear. With a little training to keep the vines growing in the right direction, the entire frame will soon be covered with thick foliage, followed by flowers, and then, the beans.
7. I like to mix in other plants, like morning glories or nasturtiums for an even more colorful cave! 

Nanny 101 | Positively Parenting

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By Candi Wingate


Searching for just the right person who will be in charge of your precious child each day can be an overwhelming task. Yet with a little guidance, it can be done. Here are some of the most important things for you to consider when selecting a new nanny for your children.


1.  The nanny should be able to relate easily and bond well with your children while also maintaining a clear distinction from them. Nannies must be able to play with and enjoy your children (which can often be construed by the child as peer-level interaction) while also maintaining discipline. It is easy for a nanny (and a parent) to feel more comfortable in one role or the other: to be most comfortable being friends with the children, or to be most comfortable supervising the children and redirecting their errant behaviors. Parents and nannies must have a shared understanding of how to navigate both roles successfully and strike a balance between peer-level interaction and parent-level interaction with the children.


2.  The nanny must be able to relate with your family and administer discipline to your children in a manner that is appropriate and consistent with your family’s boundaries. You and your nanny should discuss, prior to hiring, the discipline style that your family would like the nanny to use.


3.  The nanny should have years of experience, solid references from prior employer-families, a clean background (pursuant to background checks), and completed training on nanny basics (CPR, first aid, the Heimlich maneuver, basic nutrition and food preparation, and general personal and home hygiene).Background checks may be obtained through Nannies4hire.com.  If you need your nanny to drive, then your nanny should have a valid driver’s license and a clean (or as close to clean as possible) driving record.


4.  The nanny should be able to develop and carry out fun, creative, and educational experiences for your child.


5.  The nanny should be capable of handling small “crises” on her own. You and your nanny should come to an agreement about what issues may warrant a call to you and what issues the nanny is authorized to handle on his/her own. Your nanny should be able to act comfortably within the boundaries you have provided.


6.  The nanny should be able to commit to your family for an extended period of time (unless your needs require less). Children often become attached to their nannies. When nannies leave, children often experience grief associated with that separation. Therefore, it is advantageous to hire a nanny who will be able to stay with your children for an extended amount of time.


7.  The nanny’s expectations regarding terms and conditions of employment should be close to the terms and conditions of employment that you are offering. If you are seeking a live-in nanny, a prospective nanny that seeks a live-out arrangement may not be a good fit for your family. If you wish to hire a nanny in a smoking home, a non-smoking prospective nanny may not be a good fit for your family. Pay rates for nannies should be discussed up front to ensure that the prospective nannies are willing to work for the income you offer.


8. The nanny should not have fears or concerns about the non-negotiable aspects of the job with your family. If you have a cat, and your prospective nanny is severely allergic to cats, the prospective nanny may not be a good fit for your family. (Side note: some allergic reactions can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications or other accommodations that may be used by the allergic nanny.)


9. The nanny should be a positive, loving influence in your household.