Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lessons Learned from Parenting

There's something that I read a long time ago in a book on divorce, about the way that kids behave when things are going on in their lives that cause them stress. I wish I could remember which book it was, because I've thought about that little snippet a lot lately.

What the author said was something along these lines; when a kid is stressed by something like a divorce, it would be really easy for adults if the kid sat down and cried and said "I'm so sad about the divorce". Sympathy would well up in us, we'd hug them and kiss them, and we'd do anything to keep them from feeling sad. Unfortunately, what kids actually do is act up. They say "that's not fair!" when we ask them to do something that's their chore and they've done without question for months. They ask "Why can't I watch the Dark Knight? But why not?" fifty times in three days even after you've told them 49 times that it's a R-rated movie and they're only eleven. They claim that their homework is optional, or that they don't have any, even when the teacher's blog says they do; or that comic books are acceptable for homework reading when you're pretty sure they're not.

Since then I've also noticed that on the rare times that a kid does say something like "I'm sad about you missing my concert", it often seems highly manipulative and not like they're expressing true feeling. It's like they're trying it out, listening to themselves say it and seeing how it works. It doesn't exactly make me feel sympathetic.

The challenge for me is to remember that the more challenging the behaviour, the more likely it's coming from a place of stress in their life. I think I'm doing better at not taking bad behaviour personally, but I need to get a lot better at responding to it.

I know this is nothing too illuminating, but where I'm going with it is trying to work on a continuum of abilities. I'm dealing with an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, and I miss the sections in "What To Expect the Toddler Years" where it said "What Your Toddler May Be Doing Now". I liked how it was broken down into your toddler "should be able to...", "will probably be able to...", "may possibly be able to...", and finally "may even be able to...". I'd like to know what an 11-year-old should be able to do, in a lot of different arenas - emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically, and organizationally. Obviously each kid is different and practice in things makes an impact, but I'd love to have a chart for each dimension where I could pinpoint where a kid is, but also show him where he goes from there in his development. Ages wouldn't even have to be attached to it, necessarily, since that implies a judgement if he is above or below his age level.

To give an example, here are two social skills; taking turns when playing a game, and conversing in a group (listening, waiting for an opening, saying something relevant). Fine motor physical skills include dealing cards without creasing them, and writing legibly. I'm hoping that collecting these ideas and organizing them will help me capture information from some of the good books I've been reading lately. So, when I come up with anything, you'll be the first to know!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tiny Texas Houses

Most tiny houses seem to be modern in style, so I was charmed to find these Tiny Texas Houses today. I love the many-coloured exterior, the reclaimed doors and windows, and the Victorian turned porch rails. According to the website, this house is 12' by 26' - just 312 square feet, and small enough to be trucked to the final site.

Intellectually I know that an uncluttered interior painted in shades of white looks and feels bigger. But realistically, isn't any home of mine going to look more like this picture than some aggressively pared-down space in a magazine? (Click on the picture for a bigger version.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tumbleweed Tiny Homes - the Fencl

I mentioned the Tumbleweed tiny house website in November of last year, and pointed you to the Sebastarosa house that I was obsessed with... sorry, enthusiastic about!... at the time.

Since then I've told my son many times about the "house on wheels" we'll build together at the farmhouse for him to take with him when he leaves home. I finally realized that I shouldn't project my dreams on to him, and realized that I wanted one myself.

After looking over all the plans again, I've settled on the Fencl (pronounced Fen-sel) as being my favourite, at least for the moment. At 130 square feet it's the biggest of Jay's portable houses (well, not counting the Popomo, which looks entirely different from all the others and doesn't appeal to me stylistically). It is built on a 7' by 18' trailer and has overall dimensions of 8' by 19', with a "road height" of 13' 5". I love the detailing of the roof, the tiny (2.5' by 2.5') porch, and the custom tiny doors and windows that don't dwarf the little structure.

Inside he's finished it with pine boards, although I might go for bead board paneling and paint it to lighten it up a bit. In this picture you see the inside of the front bay window, the pine paneling, and the Dickinson marine furnace, which is an adorable wall-mounted propane stove that heats a tiny house with no problem.

You know I love to cook, so here's a shot of the kitchen - more pine on the walls, a small fridge, a two-burner range and a sink, of course. No oven, but I could have a toaster-oven for when we're on "shore power".

Just to the left of this picture is the bathroom, which manages to fit a toilet and shower into a 3' by 6' space. Sleeping accommodations are in the loft, which fits a queen-size mattress, has a 3' 8" head height, and is reached by a ladder.

Electricity can be handled with solar panels or an extension cord; water is stored in a tank in the kitchen; there's a tank-less water heater; and I'm planning a composting toilet so there's only gray water to store and dump.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Toronto's Smallest House"

While looking for a link I seem to have lost, I ran across this tiny house in Toronto. Built in 1912 in a laneway, it's only 300 square feet. Based on the floor plan, I think it must be not much more than 6 feet wide, and therefore probably 40 to 45 feet long. Pretty cute, though!

It has its own website with a bunch of pictures here.

The floor plan doesn't show any side windows, but the pictures do show a window in both the kitchen and bathroom. Gotta love the Murphy bed!