Archive for the ‘Little Patriot’ Category

Toys, Waldorf, Montessori

April 18, 2012


I know Elizabeth has been reading recently about Waldorf education, which is a little interesting since I am currently a Montessori educator.  I, myself, have read very little about Waldorf education, but there are some things that I find to be very different about them.

In Montessori education one of the important factors for young children is to make everything real.  If the children are just developing their minds and coming to understand the world around them, they have no need for fantasy.  The new world that they are exploring is fantastic enough.  Instead of using a fake broom, they want to use a real broom and to sweep like they see the adults doing.  A large chunk of the Montessori education for young children is involved with “practical life” – teaching the children how to do real, practical things in life (for a variety of reasons).  For a short while I was convinced to take out all of the fantasty books from Basil’s library – anything with talking animals – in exchange for non-fiction books that explained real parts of the world or realistic / historical fiction types of books.

My shallow understanding of Waldorf is that it is the opposite – that children are encouraged to use their imaginations a lot and to do a lot of fantasy or make-believe play.  Montessori children do not “play” but rather “work.”  Children choose different works, and imaginative play has little to no place in the learning environment.  The “work” is productive, constructive activity that continues their natural ( = ideal, perfect) development (to adulthood).

Having raised Basil now for nearly 3 years, my mind has changed a bit.  He does want to do what he sees his mama and papa doing, and I still want to provide him a real broom, fork, etc.  But he also loves pretending, and he knows he’s pretending.  He says “I’m pretending” when I tell him the toy chimpanzee is not a polar bear.  His pro-yiayia loves seeing him pretend to do church when he comes over on Sundays.  In a way he is going through the motions of a Montessori “work” and repeating what he’s seen, but in another way he is doing imaginative play – which is more like Waldorf.  We simply can’t get him the materials to truly do the Eucharist at home…

In the Montessori classroom there are really no “toys.”  Our home is not a Montessori classroom, nor should it be.  We do have toys, and here is where the Waldorf ideas really seem to hit home for me.  One website I saw summed up the idea like this:

  • Is it beautiful?
  • Does it feel good?
  • Does it leave room for the imagination?
  • Will it inspire creative play?
  • Is it open-ended? (That is, is there more than one way to play with it?)

These questions do guide our choice of toys.  A quick conclusion from the questions is that most of the plastic, commercial toys today are automatically out.  They are too specific in use, they are not beautiful, and they are made to be disposable yet are not biodegradable -> which is really the opposite of what we want to teach him about how to use resources.

It’s a bit difficult to really rule out all plastic things, such as his toilet, and at this point it would seem nearly impossible for us to do this as adults in our own environment.  Still, as much as possible this is something we agree on and seems to not be in dispute between Montessori and Waldorf educators.  Montessorians might heavily disagree regarding the shape and use of the toys – but not in their materials or construction.  Montessori materials are nearly always made of glass, metal, or wood.

Another aspect of all of this is to consider the disposable nature of many toys offered today and the quantity of toys we have in the house.  We decided a little while back to do a rotation of toys – putting some in the closet and bringing them back out when the current toys on the shelf were no longer of interest.  One problem with this scenario is that our closet is only so large!  We’ve begun running out of space to put the ones we want to take off the shelf.

The quality of toys can have a direct effect on the quantity of toys in these ways: Quality toys are likely higher in price, so you buy fewer (this one is hard because we are penny pinchers!).  Quality toys should be more open ended, so you need fewer because you can do more with less.  Quality toys should be made of better materials and last longer, so they need fewer replacements.

Here are some other articles I recently read regarding toys, plastics, etc:

MotherSpirit Article: Toys
Top 3 Reasons Why Mothers Should Get Rid of Plastic
Easy Ways to Reduce Plastics at Home
Waldorf Toys: Choosing the Best Educational Toys For Your Children <- Source of above quote
Too Many Toys <- a very interesting article about someone who was going to work for Hasbro



A Fair Monday

April 2, 2012

Happy Monday everyone.  And by “everyone”, I mean all those who read this blog.  I really should say “Happy Monday Basil Fans!”  And since you are all Basil fans, here’s an update on what he’s been up to this fair Monday.

After breakfast Basil got busy making some honey wheat bread.  He was an eager kneader.

After covering the dough to rise Basil was not so keen on letting it rest.  To avoid further poking and prodding we went downstairs to other duties.

Oh yes.  Laundry time!  Basil is rather fascinated with the washer.  Conveniently, our washer will continue agitating the clothes with the lid open, so we can watch the show.  (He didn’t fall in.)

A quick train stop since we were downstairs already.

And then to check on the bread.  I was nursing Macrina and trusting that the dough was not being pulverized.

The dough was safe.  But Dagmar the Duck tends to get hungry at the same times as Macrina.  So Dagmar got to nurse too.  And we all enjoyed reading “Sammy Salami” and “The Noisy House”.

               Then a bit of gluing.

And it was time to bake the bread!  I didn’t get pictures of that.  But it was followed by more food production on the earlier end of the process.  Basil planted lettuce seeds.  Carrots went in too, but they were mighty tiny seeds so I avoided having a helper.  But he did man the watering can to give our seeds a good sprinkling.Serious planting was followed by serious digging around in the dirt.  Which is a lot of work.  So we had lunch and it was such a fair Monday that we ate outside and got to exchange pleasantries with our neighbor Linda.  Squirrels keep stealing her lettuce.  We’re hoping ours doesn’t go the same route.

Tasting the fruits of his earlier labor.

Then there were a couple stories and an attempt at a nap.  It seems daytime sleep is a thing of the past for Basil.  Unless we’re in the car.  Then he’ll still fall asleep, if he’s really tired.  It’s hard to tell how much he needs it.  For now the rest hour isn’t going anywhere, that’s for sure.

Then Basil loaded and unloaded his garbage truck many many times.  I think the contents were diaper ointment and little finger puppets.  I couldn’t tell what the storyline was for the game.  This was at the same time as insisting on listening to the same song about Paris not being built in one day FOURTEEN times.  He calls it “The Ice Cream Song”.  I don’t get it.  But it is (thankfully!) a pleasant little ditty.

Then playdough.  We discussed “play” vs “real” dough since he experienced both today.  Toothpicks were added to the playdough tool arsenal today.  Very cool.

Playdough starting losing its allure about the same time dinner was done.  Basil wanted to keep playing inside, but I vetoed his plan on account of the weather.  It was far too nice out.

A bike ride all the way around the block.  With a stop to pat the bunny.  Among other stops, of course.

To the playground!

Most of the time was actually spent pulling the pulley by a jump rope someone left tied to it.  It makes a nice ding sound when it hits the end of the track.  He also nervously watched the other family that was there playing. 

Then it was back home for playtime with Papa, dinner, more stories and bedtime.

Wait… you’re a Macrina fan too?  You may be wondering where the younger sibling was during all the day’s excitement.  Macrina was surely along for the ride!  She practiced her sitting (she’s got it down, unaided (!)  but she’s only rolled over a couple times), giggled at Basil, and made goofy fake cough sounds in very conversational ways.  It’s pretty amazing how much Macrina is amused by Basil’s antics already, she really loves watching him.  She especially lights up when he comes downstairs after naptime.  The only thing better is when Papa comes home.  The lack of object permanence seems to make it an especially amazing experience everyday.  Macrina remains a most pleasant (the most ?) pleasant baby.  Last night she woke up in the middle of the night to kick her feet and smile at me.  I don’t wish the timing to be a habit, but it was heart warming.  Even in the middle of the night.

Both Macrina and I have a cold so it wasn’t really the best day for pictures.  But I did get a few good ones.

I guess watching the laundry work was… shocking?

Observing the kneading seems like it must have been a more pleasant view:

Tummy time in the kitchen is a usual perch.  It was dry and warm enough outside that Macrina got to play on the ground for the first time instead of being in arms in the out of doors.  She seemed a lot more excited about it than she appears in the pictures.

  And the usual hideouts.  

Here’s to a fair Tuesday!  (With fewer photographs.)

*Here’s the bread recipe.  It’s pretty tasty and VERY fast.  Swift enough for a 2.5 year old attention span!  I’m hoping to try adjusting the type-of-flour ratio and the honey.  *

Macrina Laughs and Many Meetings

January 19, 2012

Her neck is fairly irresistible for kissing, even when it’s full of crusties from dried spit up.  Who knew it was a tickle spot on a girl so young!

We’ve been very busy and neglectful to our blog audience.  So many things have passed they will hardly be covered, but I will try to provide a few pictures.

Papou Sam and Yiayia Brooke met Macrina:

Basil and Papou Sam meet a Como Zoo Polar Bear:

Oh wait, that’s Jesse Ventura!  Here’s the bear:

Cousin Stella and Auntie Katina meet Macrina:

Uncle Jeff meets Macrina:

Basil meets an orange bike from Yiayia Brooke and takes it for a walk:

A proud papa?

The living room meets a new look:

Macrina meets Danielle and Meredith:

Macrina meets one of her first smiles:

My new tools meet some wood and hardware:

My new tools meet more wood and hardware, as well as very smelly, slowly drying polyurethane…

Basil meets our first real snow of the season:

Mama meets spit-up bad:

Sibling lips meet:

Come meet us!


Cannibalistic Newborns! …and other photos

November 19, 2011

I must admit, I am just as much of a guilty party in the attempted consumption as the infants…



First family photo at home:

Four generations:

Family “tummy time”:

Basil and Macrina fun time:

Papa and Macrina fun time:


Papa and Basil fun time:

Goodbye umbilical cord stump – we hardly knew ye!


Many Visitors!

November 5, 2011

We were happy to see many friends in the hours and days after Macrina’s birth.  Here are a few photos:


Papou Chris:

Basil holding Macrina:


Phyl, Jason, and Jake:

Basil holding Macrina again:

Andrea and Teagan:

A couple hospital visitors didn’t make it into photographs: Uncle Richard, Fr. Jonathon and Emily Johnson come to mind.  We look forward to everyone else meeting Macrina and more experiences of Basil being a great older brother.


Basil’s Little Sister!

October 31, 2011

The Saathoff (nuclear) family has increased to four terrestrial beings: Papa, Mama, Basil, and Macrina.

As I wrote in an email that went out earlier:

“Contractions began around 4:00am, we made it to the hospital at 6:50am, and the baby girl beat the doctor at 7:30am.

Macrina Brooke weighed 7lbs 6oz, 21 inches.  Very healthy and good at nursing.”

She is named for St Macrina the Younger, sister of St. Basil the Great, and both of her yiayias (Brooke).

– Here is the Life of Macrina, written by her brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa.
– Here is a dialogue written by St. Gregory between himself and Macrina concerning the soul and resurrection.
Here is a shorter version of her life.

Big brother is a big, big fan, as is everyone else.  Fr. Jonathan stopped by to give a blessing.  All local family have met her, as well.  We look forward to seeing the distant family!  Until then…



Family Biking and Workcycles Fr8

August 3, 2011

When I lived in Chicago I had one nice and one junky bike consecutively stolen.  After that I forgot about having a bike for a while.  When we moved to Minneapolis I started thinking about riding a Vespa about for a nice, economical form of transportation.  I abandoned that idea because of snow, cost, and health (safety) factors Elizabeth kept reminding me about.  Around that time I started looking at bicycles, and one style in particular caught my eye.

I started looking specifically at Dutch bikes because I wanted a bicycle that was above anything else practical – heavy duty, indestructible in all weather, a workhorse, and comfortable.  I found several websites with specific information on these bikes: here, here, and here.  Also, I read extremely intriguing information about biking in general in the Netherlands – see here.

Well, we ended up just getting a couple of bicycles from used shops around Minneapolis.  Mine was an older Raleigh, but not old enough to have rod brakes (not actually desirable, it turns out) or a more upright position.  It has a horribly uncomfortable seat and after riding it for a while my shoulders begin to hurt from being hunched over.  My pants regularly get caught by the chain and stained with grease.

We both wanted to cycle with our son, Basil, so we ended up getting a used Burley trailer.  Basil hated it at first but eventually started liking it.  It was not too difficult to ride with, but it almost seemed like he wasn’t along for the ride.  He might fall asleep without me knowing it because he was so far behind.  If I wanted to point something out I would need to dangerously turn around and shout it.  It was impossible to have a conversation, so I would often just cycle as if he wasn’t there at all.

Then my mother purchased us a wonderful child seat for bicycles.

Basil loved it, and it was so much better to ride with him between my arms.  I could ask him for a kiss and he could just tip his head up and give me one.  We could talk about whatever we were seeing or going to see.  It was a little bit uncomfortable on the bike, however.  My knees hit the seat if I didn’t splay them out a bit.  And there wasn’t enough space between my seat and his if I needed to step off the seat for a moment.

After looking at some of the Dutch bikes for about a year, we decided to get one.  I chose a bicycle maker in Amsterdam who is actually an American expat, named Henry.  His business is called Workcycles.  I ended up buying the bicycle from Adeline Adeline, one of only six U.S. dealers.

I started looking at the Omafiets but ended up leaning toward the more unique Fr8 design because it better fit the above mentioned qualities, whereas the Omafiets was heavy on a nice but unnecessary aesthetic styling.

I should like to give a more thorough review later, but here are some pictures of how it’s working out so far.

With and without child seat:

Extremely wide, thick tires (Schwalbe Fat Franks):

Brooks leather saddle:

Chain case:

Double-wide milk crate (thrift store) with cutout for child seat:

Setting Basil in:

Strapping on the “yellow hat”:

Enjoying the ride:



Admittedly, I still look goofy – but less so!  And Basil really has fun in his seat.

He is such a big boy.


Mama is also a big mama.  Doing well, here she is at 24 weeks!


A Joke!

June 17, 2011

It has been awhile since I posted here.  (Eric may think that’s a bit understated.)  But I’ve decided to make a blog post in honor of Basil making his first joke.  When we’re reading a book about animals, or sometimes when he’s playing with stuffed animals he labels all of them “mon-KEY!”.  When we say he’s silly and tell him the real names he continues with “mon-KEY” until he’s laughing too hard to go on.  This is a very funny joke!

Besides joking Basil has been having lots of fun outside now that summer is truly here.  Here are some photos of a morning at the beach:

There has been indoor fun as well.   One afternoon I stopped dinner prep to check on Basil as usual.  I figured he was watching the elementary school down the block dismiss (a favorite pastime).  Instead, I found him in a box!

Upon interview, the box turned out to be a “bo” on the “wa”.  While he may not have the ending of words down, Basil knows better than to sail alone.  The cat went along for the cruise:

But appears to have been dumped in the “wa”.  Oh well.

The corner of the hammock is visible in these pictures, so I might as well display it in all its glory.  Eric knows how to bargain at a garage sale and he haggled us a very nice spot to rest.

Basil has also recently enjoyed a couple visits to the zoo.  He has been caught at home enlightening the animal kingdom with fine literature.

Today Eric celebrates his last day of school for the year.  He will begin St. Kate’s training full time on Monday, but being a student promises to be much less daunting so it will still qualify as quite a “break”.

Little Patriot is flipping around nicely.  Our doctor’s appointments are weekly now and so far so good with no cervical changes since the surgery!  Tuesday will be 20 weeks, so we’re getting nearer and nearer to when things went downhill with Basil’s gestation, but we’re already in a better place to catch things early and rest as needed.  We’ll get another look at LP next week.


Pascha 2011

April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen!

What a week it has been.

Just before the Paschal vigil began, Fr. Jonathan announced to the church that Elizabeth and I are expecting another child and requested everyone’s prayers for health and safety during the pregnancy.  The complication from last time is already rearing its head.


We no longer have a “baby Basil” but a “big brother Basil” who can already point out the new baby and is more eager to give kisses there than to either of  his parents!  We have been calling the baby “Little Patriot” or “LP” and laughing every time because it sounds so goofy (like a Colbert Report joke), but we are considering taking a name from a North American saint (or one who is “blessed”) and it’s better than calling the baby “it” or “they” since we don’t know the sex.

It has been a busy week with at least one service each day.  In addition, on Thursday evening I went shopping for our Pascha basket.  Friday night I baked a whole-wheat sandwich loaf to eat with cheeses and sausage stuff, as well as two identical Greek Pascha breads (known as Lambropsomo or Tsoureki).

One Pascha bread was to be for breaking the fast early Pascha morning with the church and the other for the Pascha day feast with family.  Two changes to that plan:
1) Basil ate a significant amount of the whole-wheat sandwich bread on Saturday, so I quickly made two loaves of brioche out of AP flour – the first time I’ve baked without using home-milled flour since we got the mill!  The breads came out of the oven just as we were walking out the door (11:20pm).  They were incredibly buttery rich, and we only got through about half of one, but I’m glad I made them.


2) We barely cut into one of the Pascha breads at the early morning feast.  This happened last year, too.  I made a traditional bread, but nobody wants to eat that!  People are more interested in meats, cheeses, and beer than fruity bread.  Next year I won’t make the mistake of baking two loaves of something people don’t want to eat, regardless of how traditional it is or how good it tastes.

After the Saturday morning service, Basil took a good nap and happily went to bed at around 8:00pm.  We woke him up at 11:15pm to go to the Pascha vigil.  He was on my chest in the carrier through most of the service, but he did not fall back to sleep once (last year he slept through the entire thing until the breakfast feast).  He was mostly in a good mood all evening until right around 3:00am, so we decided it would be a good time to leave.  When we got home he once again happily went to sleep saying, “Bed? Bed?”  This morning he woke me up at 7:30am and let me half-sleep on the futon while he played for a couple more hours.  We’ll see how the nap and sleep go today!



One cute toddler who hasn’t gotten enough sleep.

First time cracking eggs!

“Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!” – Paschal Troparion