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What We Started Doing After the Montessori Congress

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 6:39 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Lately, I’ve been uninspired. I’ve done everything with my children that I learned during my 0-3 training and they’re ready to move on. I start my AMI 3-6 training at Montessori Institute Northwest in September, but that seemed like eons away. I needed new ideas NOW.

Was it fate or a coincidence that the 2013 International Montessori Congress took place here in Portland OR, just 15 minutes from our home? AND it was a huge inspiration. The theme was Montessori: Guided by Nature. The most memorable parts of the Congress for me were the really cool people I met, Vandana Shiva’s closing presentation and Rusty Keeler‘s “Playscape”, an amazing play space made entirely out of simple, natural materials one can find anywhere.

After those five days, I was enlivened. I felt inspired to bring more nature into our lives. So we did just that. 

For starters, we simply took more walks in nature. Here’s one that we took with my friend, Brenda, and her 5-year-old daughter, Gerren. Little did I know that Brenda, being a native Washingtonian, was a total naturalist – and she led us to amazing little treasures at Hoyt Arboretum, a forest right next to our house…

Our fearless naturalist and leader, Brenda, foraging for goodies

Did you know there was something called Thimbleberries? A tiny little red fruit that tastes delicious!

 A handful of thimbleberries – gone in 2 seconds

Look at those loaded wild blackberry bushes! And they are free! 

Delicious blackberries

What?! You can eat these?

This valley of wild flowers belongs in a storybook. But Gerren doesn’t know that – she’s right at home prancing through the fields of blossoms! And they aren’t just pretty…

Look what they come with – wild sweet peas!

M ates pods after pods of these tiny peas. Definitely the most amount of raw veges she’s ever consumed in one sitting. Good for practicing that pincer grasp, too.

Dandelions!

Nature walks would not be complete without slugs. And Brenda spots one right next to our car. She finds leaves for transplanting the slug to a new home.

Everyone gets an close-and-personal opportunity to pet the slug

Gerren demonstrates how to handle a slug with care. She lays it down on a patch of grass, faraway from the roads, where it can be safe.. 

We’ve done lots of other ‘nature’ activities since the Congress that I will share in the upcoming weeks. For those of you out there who attended the Congress, what have you been doing differently? 

We Moved to Portland!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 6:34 pm | By Stephanie Woo
Our New Playroom

Our New Playroom

I haven’t written in a while. The reason is because we just did a cross-country move, from Baltimore to Portland, OR. I’ve dragged the family with me (again) to pursue my Montessori training – this time for 3-6 years old – at the Montessori mecca of Portland. We are completely enamored with this city so, hopefully, this will be our last move in a while.

When we first arrived in early March, instead of living in a hotel, we decided to do a short-term rental. We ended up in a beautiful, four-story loft with 15-ft ceilings. The rental featured designer furniture like an L-shaped white leather couch, teak coffee table and Herman Miller chair. It also had a complete, top-of-the-line kitchen with an island and bar stools. It came straight out of a home decor magazine.

And we were miserable there.

I’d forgotten how hard it is to live in a home designed for adults. Our furniture did not arrive with us, so we had to live with the design of the home as is. Everything was high-up, so B and M couldn’t reach anything. About five times a day, we had to hold them up to the sinks, press their 35-pound bodies into the cold marble and wash their hands for them as quickly as possible (with huge protests, of course). At every meal, we had to lift them up onto the bar stool and then help them get off. And they started crying at my feet while I cooked dinner – that was behavior I hadn’t seen since we bought the Learning Tower 15 months ago! Even the beds were too high up for them to reach, so we had to help them get on when they came running into our room in the middle of the night (this always happens when we are in new environments). I couldn’t wait to move out of that modern, luxurious hell.

Two weeks after we arrived, we moved into a more permanent home up in the Sylvan Heights area of Portland. Our home is nestled in the woods, but just 5 minutes away from downtown Portland! We were so happy when our POD arrived. The girls’ eyes lit up as we started to unload their furniture. They couldn’t wait to sit in their little slatted chairs, help put toys on their shelves and climb on the Learning Tower. When we finally set up their work/play space, we all breathed a sigh of relief. They could sit down and work again. They could find their things again. They could clean up and put things back again. They could wash their own hands again. They can finally eat, sleep, play, bathe and go to the bathroom by themselves again. We were all so happy! If you have children and you’re still living in a home designed for adults, it’s time to think again. From 18 months and up, children should be able to reach everything they need independently. If you’re like me, your sanity – and lower back – will experience a huge difference. 

Now that our home is set-up, we are ready to take on anything! So bring on the new adventures, Portland!

What It’s Really Like to Have Toddler Twins

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 2:55 pm | By Stephanie Woo

My husband is away on a week-long business trip. Our nanny is on her 6-week vacation. After three days of being alone with them, last night I had one of those I-hope-no-one-who-reads-my-blog-ever-sees-me-now kind of a moment. I’m in the middle of cleaning up after an elaborate, health-conscious, culturally-educational meal of braised sea bass, tofu with mushrooms and minced meat and a special rice dish with baby bok-choy, edamame and carrots. I’ve got dishes piled up to the ceiling in the sink, a table full of half-eaten food and wondering why I had gone through the trouble of cooking any of it. I’m trying to load the dishwasher as fast as possible, with B tugging at my pants saying, “Mama, don’t wash dishes.” It should have been a sign. Well, the girls decided to go into the rice cupboard, dump out 2 giant cups of uncooked rice on the floor, then throw it at each other. “What are you doing? Stop! STOP! I knew I shouldn’t have kept this here where you can get to it!” I go upstairs to get the vacuum. When I come back, they had gotten into the flour and was smearing it all over the cupboard door. I grab their hands and pull them into the living room. “Stand here. And don’t move!” I’m absolutely fuming.

Hours later, I realized two things:

  1. You cannot keep up a household the same way you did when you have a husband AND nanny.
  2. Of the three most important people in B and M’s life, two of them are gone. And they are desperately trying to get my attention.

I’m still recovering from my burst of anger and ensuing exhaustion from cleaning, but I decided to have a conversation with them anyway. At bedtime, I held them and said, “Mama yelled very loudly today, didn’t I?” Nods all around. “Mama is very tired today, so when you threw rice everywhere, I got very angry. I’m sorry I yelled at you.” They don’t say anything. “When Daddy and Ayi are not here, I need you to help me keep the house clean. Can you help me?” It’s a lot to ask of a 2-year-old, but they nod anyway.   

You really can’t stay mad at a toddler who tries so hard to keep her promise. The next morning, they both clean up breakfast without a fuss. But then on our way to school this morning, B confesses, “Brooke didn’t clean up.” I ask, “What didn’t you clean up?” She says, “Brooke didn’t clean up Play-doh.” I ask, “Do you want me to help you clean it up?” She says, “No. Brooke clean up Play-doh by herself.”

It took three days of exhaustion, misery and way too much yelling for me to learn this: No more elaborate meals or extensive clean-ups. It’s time to break out the disposable bowls, plates and take-out menus. They need time doing Play-doh, storytime and cuddles with me more than ever. The acting out is merely their way of getting my attention.  I’m putting aside the idea of keeping the perfect home and ready to get on with the real ‘work’ of raising twin toddlers — tickling, chasing, singing, laughing and oodles of hugging.