Sunday, July 31, 2011

project update, my garage, and donating toys

So its July 31-  a deadline my grant writers came up with a long time ago.  We are applying for some money to get our science play space pilot project started. One of the original grant writers had a family emergency and got off the committee (though she has put some time into it still).  In any case I've put quite a bit more time and energy into it than I expected after the three of them said they would do it.  We've also had a fourth person contribute.

Is the grant done?  Its very close, and just needs a few more things.  The things actually are not things we have much control over, so really its pretty much done, but its not getting turned in today.   One of the things is that our deadline, applies to a grant amount that is smaller than we eventually decided we needed.  Now we have to apply at the end of next month.  By then we better have all our stuff ready.  We can only hope that the landlord who promised (and continues to promise) to donate space will actually tell us the location of the space!

And then the grant has to be approved by two different grant funding agencies.  I'm also scheduling a meeting with them in August in hopes that a discussion will result in any changes needed to get the thing approved.

And then... and then we have to make it WORK.  Most of my committee members will then be teaching and have a lot less time for this project.  On the other hand, it will be a whole lot easier to advertise something that actually exists!

And, then I an donate and glean for stuff.  We are completely out of room in our house/garage for storing stuff.  The college was giving away old desks that would have been useful for a check in desk, but I have no space to store such a thing.  I went to an "estate" sale in our neighborhood last week, and got some stuff dirt cheap.  It had put it in the garage, covered up.  The garage is water tight even with its dirt floor, but has a very active critter that I believe is a snake, and there are droppings everywhere.  I don't really like storing things there.  Also the garage is kind of full with lawn mover, stroller, bikes, garden cart and tools and such. We don't even bother keeping the car in there.  That is mostly because it has such a huge lip that we probably would break the car.

We need to get some work done on our cellar access, and we got somebody to look at it. He said it needs more concrete than you could easily do with bags, but less than you'd want to order in a truck.  I thought, ahh, the perfect opportunity to get a floor in the garage.  I'm not sure we could afford it though.   And what would we do with all the stuff while it was being fixed?

Speaking of stuff, it seems people are very personally attached to stuff.  I admit, I have some stuff attachments too.  However, I was a little unprepared (or just stupid) for the reaction I received when I mentioned to someone that the toys I said my son might (or might not) like the toys they were giving us (I was picking them out), but that they could be donated if they were not right for him. Mostly the not right for him, was, he would like this a little bit, but we really don't have the space for it.

The giver for the most part did NOT want those special toys to end up donated to faceless kids of our county.  They toys belonged in the family, to the next family member that might have a kid soon. I kind of understand this... I guess the toys are kind of special to people, and some toys are more special than others.  Sometimes the giver spent a bit of energy to find that particular toy. But for the most part, I think toys should be used, not stored away in some basement or attic hoping that a family member will want them sometime.  After all, there are always new toys out there to get a family member if you want to give a child a toy and there is a difficulty of transporting old toys to the family member since we don't all live in the same town.  Also who knows if the kid will actually be interested in the type of toy you liked as a child.   So, for the most part, I don't think this attachment to particular toys makes that much sense.  But who says emotional attachments make sense?  As a family member I just need to honor them.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nap attempts and hiking

I've not been publishing so much.  Its not because there is nothing to say. Its because I am trying (thought not always succeeding) in getting to bed earlier.  I read that they think the blue light (that's bluer in the spectrum), keeps you more awake and alert.  It messed up your melatonin signaling its time for bed.  That is, when I'm at the computer I seem to have a hard time going to bed and falling asleep.  I believe this.  It fits me perfectly.

Anyway, so I found on my trip to Ithaca, and before that, that I can get my little star to nap by taking him out in the car around nap time and he'll fall asleep before or after the errand or whatever we do.  Or a stroller ride might work.  Asleep in his bed hasn't worked in a really long time. My alternative strategy has been working... to a point.  Its been really hot, so sleeping in a stroller or car seat, even in the shade is still pretty hot, but I can usually get an hour out of it.  The hour is better than nothing, though not as good at the two hours he usually gets at playcare.   Recently the days with no nap have been utter disasters at the end, rather than he's a little extra cranky and I'll just put child to bed early.

Thursday we went hiking at a nearby wild area.  It was pretty nearby, so I wasn't completely surprised he didn't fall asleep on the way there.   I was a little surprised though, because he was really least I thought he was.  We had a very pleasant walk in the woods almost a mile with some hills.  It was blessedly shady, and thus cool enough to not be miserable.  Actually I was really pleased with it- I didn't even know we had that much continuous woodland so close to us.  Its very broken up around here with farm fields and such.  Usually natural areas are a very narrow strip near a river.  The strip is usually so narrow, you can see beyond the woods in some places.  Additionally, although I definitely saw some poison ivy, it was not ubiquitous like it is every where else around here.

In any case little star had no trouble with the hike.  The area had the advantage that the trail was often bordered by logs- perfect "balance beams", so that made it extra fun.  We also talked about mommy, daddy, and baby trees... well I'm a forester so I had to say that some trees were both mommies and daddies- hermaphrodites.  The truth is, I really have no idea which species are hermaprhoditic, so we spent the time speculating, and I mistakenly gave him the idea that multistemmed trees had a mommy stem and a daddy stem... and then he decided that each branch might be a mommy or a daddy... well, I let it go.  It was kind of fun to have look at each tree and speculate.

He did fall asleep on the way home that day.  Today we walked all the way to "daddy's office" and back in the morning.  Usually the walk TO Daddie's office is enough to tire him- its almost 3/4 mile to get there, but he has been walking a lot further lately, so I decided to try going both ways, and he managed it with some rests, but without any dragging.  He also managed to use the potty at the office and stay dry the rest of the time.  Yay. On the way we did discuss more mommy and daddy trees, and we also counted 78 cracks in one block with a sidewalk.  Yes, he's really into math recently.  He seems to get addition in a very concrete sort of way- you can give him groups of objects and he will count the groups and then count all of them together.  He can subtract things too, and then recount.

Today after our walk and after lunch I figured, he NEEDED a nap, but he was showing no signs of nap readiness.  I put him in the car and headed to a park I had never been to... to see what was there of course.  I figured it was far enough away that anybody who had just walked a mile and half would fall ASLEEP.  No.  I think he was excited about the trip.  Well, it turned out to be not as far as expected.  I took a road I figured would take longer, since was a back road, and I wasn't really exactly sure how it connected up, but it turned out to be a short cut.

I wanted to see this particular park because the city has some big plan to develop the park further as some kind of nice green space next to the river.  Well, I was curious as to what exactly was there now.  As expected, there was no playground.  Unexpectedly, you couldn't see the river, but there were two pond/lake bodies of water that looked quite beautiful in color.  There was a nice pavilion, some dock type things, some picnic areas, and a little shade- though we never got quite that far.  Unfortunately, just like one of the parks in Ithaca, the place was unpleasantly covered with goose droppings.  You couldn't avoid them if you TRIED.  And I only saw one little family of geese.  We walked around a little in the hot sun, and I finally decided to go try another park.  I didn't want my little star to touch ANYTHING, and you could not avoid the droppings.  Also it was HOT in the sun.

On the plus side, my little star said he needed to use the potty and did (his little one which I brought).  He's improving with the potty training, but I still don't completely trust him- and he rarely asks to go. Twice this week he managed to use the potty at playcare.  Thank goodness!

So we visited another city park that happened to be on the way.  I had always seen this park as a big baseball field, but noticed it had a playground on the way over.  Little star was pretty happy on this playground for quite a while.  It was geared well for his age, but it wasn't very big.  He again used the potty before I made him come home.  He was starting to act tired.

Finally halfway home he fell asleep- I was driving about 20 mph on this back road since no cars were behind me.  I only needed to go about five miles, so that sleeping window wasn't very long if I went at the speed limit.

We got home, I parked in the shade, opened the windows... he slept about fifteen more minutes.  So much for a reasonable nap in the car.  Maybe I'll try to get him to sleep at home again.  Of course I tried that last weekend.  I even got him a story on tape hoping that would help because that's what they have in school.  It didn't.  He just kept blabbering and I couldn't get him to be quiet and relax long enough to fall asleep.  If he could just make it through dinner without melting down, I'd let him not take a nap.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Update.. some travels

Oh.  I haven't been writing in a while.  I haven't really felt compelled to share my thoughts... or the ones I want to share really shouldn't be broadcasted publicly.  Not typing is good for my tendonitus.  Sometimes I'm just busy- like my recent trip to Ithaca.

I went without my man for he feels too busy, but I had fun with my little star.  I managed to make him take naps by taking him out in the car at nap time to go somewhere, and assumed he'd fall asleep on the way there or on the way back.  This worked every day (There were four days) except for the first one.  He also manage to sleep past 6:30 am despite some rather late bedtimes.  Perhaps it helped that I clipped a blue sheet to shade the windows a bit better- and I also kept them shut so the birds didn't wake us at 5 am.  The weather was so hot after the first two nights, that they had to turn on the air conditioning.  I was NOT complaining.  We've started turning ours on at night as well.

In Ithaca we managed to visit a ton of cool play grounds, Cornell Plantations, the best waterfall walk, the science center, and an outdoor concert by the folks who wrote Ashoken Farewell.  My little star enjoyed the helium balloon they gave him at the concert.  We also picked blueberries one morning. We even got to see a few old friends at the last minute and lots of relatives.  It was a little tiring being single mom, but all in all it went pretty well.  My sisters were wonderful aunties to my little star.  I wished he could see them more often.

I also learned to take caffeine and ibuprofen for a long drive.  The ibuprofen helped the tendinitus, and the green tea in the mint cliff bars meant I felt alert the whole time I was driving.  Too, bad I don't seem to enjoy the taste of them much anymore.

I went with my little star's preschool to the zoo yesterday.  It was ridiculously hot.  We bared it.  I think he mostly liked the aquarium- he's never seen one, and he has books about them, so I was glad he got to see it.

I sure wish he were potty trained- I told him he was too old for diapers at 3.5 yrs, and he has the skills for it mostly.  Its  just a matter of him not refusing to go at the right time as long as he's not going to TELL me when to go.  Problem is Rest stops and other public places have BLOWERS and AUTOMATIC toilets.  This horror that cannot even be mitigated by bringing his little potty.

I was working pretty hard on science play space stuff... still I don't know if this grant will be in by the end next week.  It seems like as soon as I went on "vacation" nothing got done- and we were supposed to have a rough draft by now.  Well we have a rough very rough thing, that I will probably force into a grant, but it would be a lot better if everyone just did their part... on TIME.  It also is a bit scary that they haven't.... I mean should I keep pursing this?  But then I think how much the kids around here really need it, and I want it to happen, even if I do have to do most of the work.  I'm just not sure if its viable if I do most of the work.  That's really my dilemma.

My little star is singing with me.  I know I said that last time.  But I really like it.  And, its not an anomaly- he's still doing it.

I had to say that because his utter melt downs this evening after not taking a nap were so bad that its caused a bit of friction for the parents.  By the way, I did NOT melt down at all.  So I guess that's a good thing.

And another good thing... I got to sleep late this morning- my husband took care of breakfast for little star, and I went back to sleep until 9 am!!.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Update:Plusses and Minuses

I do actually have a lot to say.  I just really want to go to bed.
So I'll just list the things:
1.  Good science play space meeting... well good in that we got a lot agreed upon.  We've agreed to do a fantastic amount of work in the next few days before we all go off on little vacations.  I hope it gets done.  We still need more people.  People liked my cooperative model plan.
2. My son not only has decided he's willing to eat rice again- tonight he wanted each bite mixed with chicken.  Of course I did have to FEED it to him.  On the other hand he didn't make a huge mess with it.
3.  Potty training is marginally successful- that is he's about where he was when he was two plus or minus.  He actually will and can stay dry if you MAKE him use the potty.  When he was two I didn't have to convince him to actually use the thing.  Also when he was two he would use his potty outside of the house.  Now he'll only do it at home and won't use other toilets even though he actually fits them now.  On the plus side, he really can hold it a long time and is willing to do that.  He really does stay dry.... at home for a few days... only.  Not at night.  We clearly have a long way to go.
4.  My little star sang with me tonight.  Together, lots of songs.  I was so excited.  Usually he won't join voices.  You can stop and he'll finish the song, but never if you were singing.  Yes, I still have sing together/choir type aspirations for my child.  I'm sure he won't do it in public or anything.  He's not exactly on key or anything, but he does try to match rhythm and note length.  Downside... well, this type of singing certainly doesn't put him to sleep.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Smoothing the rocky road: forward with the science play space project

I had a lot of stuff to say…a few days ago. Some interpersonal stuff and misunderstandings came out at a meeting. I think we've mended fences now.
However, I do think the last two meetings have been kind of dragging so apparently the group is not perceived as “fun” enough for some people to make it a high priority.  That’s kind of sad to me- priority for me isn’t really based on the fun factor (I think?), but the importance of the project.  However, there are lots of important projects out there, so I guess it does have to be “fun” enough or at least inspiring enough to continue.  I just wish I wasn’t responsible for making it “fun” as well as getting stuff done.  I guess I’ll have to work on that.  I never have liked being a cheerleader for getting things done.  At least in this case, I’m willing to admit that being a cheerleader is part of the job description and I'll just have to work harder on it.

Anyway, one of the ideas I’ve been mulling over is to make the science play space some kind of cooperative- that is put in some time and/or some money, and then you can use it whenever you want.  It’s close to the membership a lot of science center’s have, but in this case members are more responsible- and get more ownership.  I take the model from the natural food store we used to be members of in Ithaca- there you put in some hours and got huge discounts.  However, in this case, I think if you put in enough hours you would get free use of the space.  This would address the concern with not having enough volunteers and the concern with low income.  There are a number of ways to lower admission costs such as discounts, coupons, sponsorship, but the person I talked to said she thought people do not like to think of other people as paying their way.  She’s probably correct, and this model would allow for people who have time, but not money to take part and contribute something valuable.  For people with money and not time- no problem- we can always use money.  And if you don’t want to be a member, pay to be a guest for the day. 

I’ve never heard of a science center doing this, but I did find a few examples of cooperative play spaces on the internet, so I think it can be done successfully.  Governance and rules will be tricky though.  And you’d have to really train people to be good members.  Still, I think this might be the most viable way to do it- and give people an ownership feeling of it.  A few people I’ve run the idea by think it might be worth pursuing…though I am a bit concerned to be proposing not only a new institution, but one that is run in a new way.  That might be a lot of newness to deal with.

I have some additional ideas that are related (yes lots of ideas this week). The first is to have a toy library or toy exchange at the site.  I found a few examples of places that do this, so again, I believe it can be done. I have a feeling we will get duplicate toy donations.  I also think many households- even low income- will grow out of toys, whish to put away some toys for a while, want to have a new toy around for a short time until the child gets bored or outgrows it.  So members could participate in this.

I also think we could set up some boxes with clothing donations with different ages for people to donate and pick through.  With volunteers this could work.  Kids are always outgrowing clothing, and you never know what to do with it.  And you are always looking for more hand-me-downs for them.  This could be another benefit of being in the coop.  Instead of having to go to a charity, second hand store, garage sale to donate or receive, its just a benefit of being a member.  I don’t think there would be a lack of clothing.

I’d also like a tool library… but I think that really takes expertise to maintain… maybe in the long term.

I was reading an article that fits in perfectly with these ideas- actually it was MY idea, but I’ve never read it in print before.  My idea is that its silly to have everyone owning each thing separately and not getting full use out of it- its better to share a large interesting play space than each person owning it.  This goes for playgrounds, tools, clothing, toys, and lots of other things… if you can make them work as a shared resource.  Shared resources don’t always work, and are not always as convenient, but I think there are times when we could really benefit from making more things shared.  With communal spaces and things we can bring community together- which is what people really need sometimes anyway.  There are costs for shared resources- maintaining them, keeping track of them, etc, but these are often people hour costs, not the cost of buying tons of new stuff, one for each family.