Valentine’s Day Party

This party was much more successful than the Christmas party.

I decided that we’d only invite girls (and one baby brother) to our V-Day fiesta. That was a good move. Girls are just a bit quieter and it was nice to be able to actually have a conversation with the moms while the girls played pretend. 

Two families came (I had invited four, but one grandma broke her foot, and the other mom had her parents come into town). So we had a total of two moms, three girls, and a baby boy as guests. Four girls- totally doable and totally easy. 

When the girls arrived, I brought out the foam cupcake kit that I had purchased at Hobby Lobby. I didn’t go all Pinteresty and have them do any cutesy craft this time. I had the supplies, but I just felt lazy. The girls didn’t seem to mind! They got to put on glittery sprinkle stickers… so that make them giddy. 

While they worked on their “cupcakes” I made up plates of chocolate-dipped strawberries, apple slices, and cheese cut in the shape of hearts. I also poured out some sparkling water and added some homemade strawberry syrup to make strawberry Italian sodas (so good, by the way).

After the craft, the girls munched for a while and then they moved on to playing. I had the water table set up with pink and red water beads; some metallic red, pink, and purple lip-shaped table scatters; some fake red rose petals; and some 3-D sparkly light pink styrofoam hearts.  The youngest girl was just-turned-two and she LOVED the water table. 

We also had Hula Girl’s kitchen out, and the older two girls loved it. They quickly found all the dishes and food and prepared a feast for the ages. I think we ate some cauliflower with corn-and-eggplant cream sauce. And a waffle on the side. Naturally.

The baby boys really enjoyed watching each other. The brother who attended is two months older than Gelato. He sat on the floor and chewed on Gelato’s toy while Gelato laid on his tummy and watched. They just stared at each other until it was time for Gelato’s nap. They were so funny! 

I had a good time with the moms. They are the two moms I have been going to storytime with since the beginning. One mom has the eldest girls, who are five and almost-four. You’ll remember a looooong time ago when I posted about them here and here. Sweet girls! Actually, the older one pushed her sister while they were here, and I called her over to me and told her that I don’t allow pushing in my house. She walked away mortified, and her mom gave me a thumbs-up. Later on she told me, “Yeah, it’s okay to discipline my kid! I know you’re a great mom! Thank you for saying something so I didn’t have to worry about it!” 

The other mom has the just-turned-two-year-old and we have known them since the little girl was nine months old. It’s amazing to watch other peoples’ children grow up! That mom is pregnant now, so we’re all very excited for her!

A favorite moment of mine was when I was reaching under my counter into the cabinet that stores my pots and pans, looking for my camera (don’t judge). I said something like, “Am I the only one who stores everything on the countertops in the cupboards 10 minutes before the guests arrive just so it looks nicer?” They both laughed and said something like, “We don’t ever have anyone over to our house- we don’t want to have to clean it!” 

That made me realize just how badly people need a place to GO to meet up. We’re not going to be invited to their houses until they feel comfortable enough with us to let us see their mess. I think for the next party, I’ll leave some unopened mail on the table by the door or something- make us seem a bit more human! 😉

Our next party will be the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. You KNOW we’re going to do the Irish theme up right. I am going to invite boys and girls this time. I plan to do a lot of activities with rainbows and potatoes. We’re also going to invite someone (not sure who yet) over on St. Patrick’s Day for a traditional Irish meal. Jonathan hates corned beef and cabbage… but we’re going to have it anyway. He can eat a lot of potatoes. Yahoo!

Hula Girl can’t get Healthy!

My poor little Chickadee Hula Girl has been sick since February 8. That’s 2.5 weeks ago. Actually, she was sick before that, but that’s the day I actually took her in to the pediatrician to see what to do about it.

Started out with a runny nose. Then one night (February 7), she started throwing up. When my girlie girl throws up in the early hours after bedtime, we know she’s coming down with something. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cold, the flu, roseola, or whatever else you can think of. If she is getting sick, she throws up. Anyway, we ended up changing her sheets and jammies 4 times that night. In the morning, her underarm temperature was 102.7.

That day I just let her lie around the house all day before we could get her in to see the pediatrician in the afternoon. She only wanted to lie down in “nests” made of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. She just wanted me to read to her all day long, play Candy Land, or watch short movies (we allow some Word World and The Jesus Storybook Bible DVDs on special occasions nowadays).

Anyway, she had a sinus infection. Antibiotics for 10 days. Then on the 15th, she came down with THE COLD that Jonathan had brought home from work. It was horrible, miserable, and it’s still hanging on to ALL our family members. Yippee.

But. This entire time she has had a fever of 100 degrees. Yes, a low-grade fever for 2.5 weeks straight, even on antibiotics and Tylenol.

Yesterday she went back into “nest mode” and complained of a sore throat. She said she was feeling badly this morning when she woke. So I scheduled another appointment.

Lo and behold, my little Hula Girl has a double ear infection. Probably explains why she wasn’t sleeping a couple nights ago. And why she’s lost a pound and a half in two weeks.

We’re getting a different antibiotic today. Wish us luck. And pray for my little girl to get all better SOON!

 

Hello, 13 Days Later.

Well, life has been anything but busy lately. I have just been lazy and sick and puttin’ off my bloggin’ duties. However, I have decided that I’m going to print my blog into blog books for the kids since I do a terrible job keeping memories any other way. Really. I forget the camera all the time. I capture things on my cell phone- but really, who knows how to get all those off the phone and somewhere usable!? The most recent entry in Hula Girl’s baby book is on the page marked “On the Day we Brought you Home.” And Gelato doesn’t even have a baby book. So this blog is it. Really. I might need to reconsider my “no pictures of my children” policy. Or at least figure out how to download all my pictures from Facebook as a group (or at least albums) rather than one-by-one. (Anyone know how to do that? Emily Parker, I’m talking to you!)

So yeah, I need to get busy on this blog. I have several posts outlined in my notebook. I promise not all my posts are “this-just-happened-five-seconds-ago-and-I-just-can’t-wait-to-blog-about-it!!!!!!” posts… but some of them are. Not going to lie.

Twenty-three days ago, our groundhog saw his shadow and said we’d have six more weeks of winter. It has been cooooold. Accurate prediction. Now we have three weeks left. Let’s just pray that little groundhog guy was right and that spring comes early again this year! I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can get my kids outta the house!

Twenty-three days ago, I sold a swing and several other baby items on Craigslist. The lady never came to pick them up, until I gave up on her and left the house, after waiting around for her for an hour and a half. Of course, Jonathan didn’t pay attention when I told him the prices I wanted for the items… so we made an extra $20 that day. Guess it’s good to have selective hearing after all, right Dear?! 😉

Twenty-three days ago, I went to Goodwill and got a wreath for our door. It was wrapped in purplish cellophane and had old ugly silk flowers hot glued to it. I stripped it of its adornments and refashioned it into something adorable for my living room.

And I will now proceed to fill you in on the rest of the time between then and now (* indicates future blog posts to watch for to get more details):

22-13 Days Ago: A lot of the same ol’ stuff. Probably went to Storytime. Probably played a lot of Candy Land. You know, the usual.

12 Days Ago: We went to Storytime and saw our friends there. Hula Girl was very excited to see everyone, and she had her first fruit snack. She now calls them “snack fruit” and asks for them every day. She has not had any since. (Lucky girl is in for a surprise today- I found organic fruit snacks on sale this weekend!)

12 Days Ago: We cleaned and prepared and washed and cleaned and prepared and decorated for our Valentine’s Day party.

11 Days Ago: We had our V-Day party* and it was a blast!

10 Days Ago: Hula Girl and Gelato came down with a nasty cold.

9 Days Ago: Mommy came down with the same cold.

8 Days Ago: Daddy kept our family alive while the three of us languished with a horrid horrid horrid cold.

7 Days Ago: Jonathan stayed home from work to keep the kids alive while I suffered with the worst cold ever.

6 Days Ago: I handled the kids while I was sick. It was a horrible day and I spent the entirety of it feeling like an awful mom. I even posted a topic thread on my Babywise moms google group asking for resources for rejuvenation when one feels like she has become the world’s worst mom. Embarrassingly bad, actually, is how my parenting skills were that day.

5 Days Ago: My throat finally stopped hurting and the kids were somewhat better. A better day overall

4 Days Ago: Felt better and Jonathan and I prepared him for his work’s employee appreciation luncheon.

3 Days Ago: Jonathan won the Hula competition and came in third in the best-dressed Hawaiian competition. Looks like our hard work paid off! 🙂

2 Days Ago: Hula Girl started acting sick again.

1 Day Ago: Hula Girl laid on the floor all day long and cried/whined. Sickie sick sick.

Today: Well, I will write a post about it.

Did you miss me?

Natural Consequences 1, Hula Girl 0

So. This morning Hula Girl was waiting downstairs while I went upstairs to get her a cute outfit for storytime. I wanted her to look extra special since, after all, it is VALENTINE’S WEEK! (Yes, Valentine’s Day is awesome and I have always liked it and now that I have a house that I can decorate in PINK for at least a month a year with a legit reason, well, it’s even better.)

As I was coming back down the stairs, I heard Hula Girl start to gag and cough a bit. I figured she had eaten something awfully bad for a toddler to eat, so I stepped up my pace. I realized that we had just painted her toenails, and she has always had a fascination with the nail polish… what if she drank some?!? I started to sprint down the stairs two at a time. Then I heard, “I am going to YO UP!” (That’s toddlerspeak for THROW UP.) Three at a time.

I finally found her in the kitchen (after about 4.2 seconds since this all started, but it seemed like 4.2 hours because when your kid is gagging and coughing and crying about throwing up, time sssslllllloooooowwwwwwsssss dooooooowwwwwwnnnnnn and you can’t move fast enough no matter how hard you try). I asked her what happened… and then I looked down. And I cracked up. And took a picture, naturally.

Yummy.

Yummy.

 

Her breath was atrocious after this incident. She kept telling me that the basil made her sick. She calls all spices basil. I am so glad this was the culprit, and not the red nail polish. Sheesh, I really need to do a better job of keeping my kitchen counters cleared off. 

Gelato’s 6-Month Update

Yep, my little man turned 6 months old on Thursday. We had his appointment yesterday morning, so here’s the scoop!

Stats:

Our little chunker is 17 pounds 7 ounces. That puts him about in the 75th percentile! I remember Hula Girl started to be “normal sized” around 6 months, too. Both my kids got really active in the 5th month, so even though they ate more than most babies their age (I kept 6 nursing sessions per day for them until the end of 5 months; I’m basing averages on babies who are raised with Babywise), they still started to average out in size.

He is 25.5 inches tall. That’s the 50th percentile. Interesting! He has never been very long for his age. At least he’s not short? I don’t really care about height. 🙂

His head circumference is 17.25 inches, which is about the 50th percentile. When the nurse measured, she entered his head size as the same size it was last time… so, no head growth from 4-6 months. The doctor got really worried and re-measured…and we were reassured. He is not a pinhead, after all.

Other stuff:

On his physical skills test, he measured at about 7 months 2 weeks. He still can’t sit unsupported for very long. But I don’t ever try to make him do that… so it’s no wonder. I have an internal debate raging over that issue right now. I am trying to give him space and follow Janet Lansbury’s advice to just let him develop on his own. It has worked- so far he has hit all his developmental milestones early or on time. But this one is sticking in my brain- I feel like I should be working on getting him to sit up? I don’t know. I mean, how will he learn how to do it if he is never placed in that position? How did humans decide that sitting is even something we like to do? So strange to me. Anyway. He sits in his high chair and on my lap when I’m reading to him or whatever. I guess  he’ll learn from that?

The doctor asked about his solids. I had told her we were going to be using Baby-Led Weaning with him and I let her borrow the book a few months ago. She wasn’t super keen on it, but she gave us her cautious blessing when she learned that both of us are CPR certified. Anyway. So far, Gelato has had sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, apples, peaches, avocados and bananas. He is the only baby I have ever heard of who does not like pears. He makes a face and won’t touch them after he tries his first lick. I have tried them three times now, and I plan to keep trying them, but I’m not forcing the issue. He loves carrots. Maybe he’ll be a veggie kind of boy! I babysat a set of boy/girl twins when I was in high school, and the boy twin hated fruit but loved vegetables. (The girl was the opposite!) Anyway, stranger things have happened.

We have also started with a sippy cup. Gelato has figured out how to suck on it and get water out and he doesn’t even act all that surprised when he gets water! He’ll get a little  exuberant, though, and then he has to cough a bit.

Sleep has really evened out over the past few weeks.

I can count on his naps being 1.5 hours or more about 75% of the time. If he takes longer than 5 minutes to fall asleep, whether he is squawking happily or fussing, I know it will be a short nap. Apparently 45-minute naps mean he’s actually undertired, which is not the norm for most babies his age. After troubleshooting his short nap situation for months (literally), I finally gave up on logging and calculating and Jonathan and I just sat down and observed him. We noticed his waketimes were much longer than we expected them to be (we were doing about 65-70 minutes; he needs about 90-100 minutes). We also noticed that he slows down a bit and squawks in a less chipper tone when he’s getting about 10 minutes away from nap time. Then he’ll start rubbing his nose. If we get too far past that, he’ll get overtired. If we get to a yawn, the nap isn’t going to go well.

His night sleep is predictable, but we’re trying to shift its pattern. When we were doing short waketimes, assuming he was overtired, he ended up getting overtired by the end of the day because all his naps were only 45 minutes long. So we’d do an early bedtime. Then he’d sleep 12 hours and be up and ready to go super early in the morning. We’re trying to break a 5:15-30 a.m. wakeup habit. Yuck. This whole “early sleep phase” thing is lame-o. My being too cautious made all of us darn exhausted. “All of us” refers to me and Jonathan, of course. The kids are well rested. Good for them. Anyway, we’re working on slowly shifting his schedule later in the day, to a 6:30 a.m. wakeup. If all else fails, this will happen naturally on March 10. I have never in my life been so excited for the time change.

Gelato wakes super happy and remains so after every sleep period. He is a mild, easygoing baby. He loves to be gently bounced up and down and tickled with Mommy’s hair. When I get him from naps, I unswaddle him (oh yes, he’s still swaddled!) and then spend a few minutes kissing his belly before picking him up- he laughs and laughs! His smiles and laughs are not easily won- he would rather observe and ponder things seriously. But he also rarely cries or whines. In fact, if he is crying or whining, I know something is REALLY bothering him, or he’s VERY ready for a nap.

He likes to spend his waketimes hanging out with the family, but prefers doing his own thing on the edges to being the center of attention. He puts up with his sister’s smothering techniques, but rolls away from her when he gets too claustrophobic. He likes to lie on his belly and play with toys. He can spin and roll and scoot pretty much anywhere he wants to go now (within a 6-foot radius) and he is quite fond of pushing up on his arms like a sea lion to take in the sights. We put him in his jumperoo for a few minutes a day, and confine him to his carseat for at least 20 minutes or so when we go out for a walk. Aside from his time spent in his high chair, he is otherwise free to “roam” about. Apparently this is the time he’s supposed to be learning to sit up… without being taught. (Can you tell I’m still questioning?!)

He likes to talk. He says a lot of “Da! Da! Da! Bmmm! Bmm! Yee!” and so on. All his speech is loud. This morning in my shower I seriously thought a bird had gotten in somehow… nope, it was just my son chirping away downstairs. Loudly enough to be heard over my shower. Ha!

He does independent playtime for 15 minutes each day. I will be extending this to 30 minutes when he can sit up and/or crawl. I feel like 30 minutes of rolling/spinning in his playpen is a bit much now. He squeals and laughs and generally has a blast listening to his music and chewing on his toys. I love that we started IP at 4 weeks of age. Very glad we did it.

I am really feeling sad that he’s getting old so fast. Seriously. This time around, the time has flown by. I remember feeling like we’d really achieved something when Hula Girl turned six months old… like somehow we’d arrived. Now I just feel like I blinked and my tiny newborn started eating solids! It is truly unreal. Sometimes I have fleeting thoughts like, “I want another baby! This can’t be the last one! I want to snuggle a newborn forever!” But then I think about the cost- financially, emotionally, SLEEP, etc., and I think we’re set. Two’s good. I truly have enjoyed every moment of Gelato, even though he’s got some sleep issues (don’t they all?) and he pinches and scratches me when he nurses. I’ll get him back for that one day. I see lots of early Saturday morning chores in his future… 😉

Adding a New Family Member

Well, we’re six months into our life with Gelato, and I have learned a lot of stuff. A lot a lot. While I was growing up, I always admired women in their 50s and beyond because I recognized the amount of wisdom they possessed. I had no clue exactly what path they had to take in order to arrive at this place of wisdom… I just figured it came with the grays. However, now that I’m a mommy again, I feel like I have probably aged about 10 years in six months and I am starting to realize exactly what kinds of things those women have gone through in order to be deemed wise.

I belong to an online group of moms who use the Babywise series to help inform and guide their parenting strategies. Several of the moms had newborns right around the time Gelato was born. It is fun to have a group of babies around the same age! However, now there is a new wave of newborns flooding the group, and it’s fun to go back and address some of the crazy stuff we’ve just been through- I feel like I have at least some understanding and some ideas about how to make it work!

One of my friends in the group has a son about six months younger than Hula Girl, and she just had another son about six months after Gelato was born! In fact, the spacing between both sets of our kids is 26 months. She posted a question recently asking how on earth she could handle her older son’s behavior now that she’s so tied down with the newborn. She also explained that she was feeling so very overwhelmed with the whole thing- a toddler and a newborn are hard to handle!

I decided I wanted to share my response to her here on my blog so that one day when it gets made into a blog book and my very own daughter (or daughter-in-law) goes through the same thing, she will have some of my own personal wisdom… as well as some understanding that she, too, made her Mama’s life difficult for a time. 🙂

Part of my friend’s issues with her older toddler were just crazy two-year-old behavior. The example she gave was that he took all the flowers out of a vase and drank the water. EEW! My kid’s never done anything always doing stuff like that (remember the time when she emptied a container of hand soap into her shoe?… or this morning, when I came down from putting Gelato down for his nap to find a kitchen full of frozen peas and corn!!! ) For anonymity’s sake, I’ve abbreviated her kids’ names- G is the older son, J is the newborn.

Before I address your more pressing question of how to deal with G, here are the things that I have been (slowly, painfully) learning in the last 6 months. In order. 🙂 It really truly helps to have a good perspective before deciding how you are going to handle the situation. (And before we all start thinking I’m awesome or anything… lol… I FAILED MISERABLY on at least 3 occasions that I can remember as clearly as if they just happened a second ago, along with at least 1000 other occasions that all blend together in one mommy’s-done-lost-her-mind fog. So, take my advice/ideas with a few grains of salt!)
1. Very short-term thinking- I adopted this phrase as my mantra in the very early newborn days when both kids were crying at the same time and I couldn’t leave Hula Girl alone for more than 3 minutes but couldn’t just ignore Gelato, either: “Everything will be different 20 minutes from now.” I really did have to take my days and break them down into 20-minute segments and allow myself to feel hope that whatever stressful situation I was currently in would be over 20 minutes from then. Sometimes, it was an even more stressful situation! But it was different.
2. Courage- I realized I was operating in fear 99% of my day- always nervous that “something” might happen: Gelato might wake early (he did most of the time from 9-24 weeks); Hula Girl might throw a tantrum (rare, but sometimes); our dinner might not be ready on time (who am I kidding… dinner is NEVER ready on time); I might not get any sleep ever again for the rest of my life (I have resigned myself to this one); life might always be this hard (I expect it likely gets harder); etc. But my daily readings brought me across 1 Peter and I was reminded that we are facing all kinds of things to develop perseverance. So for the next few months, my new mantra was “I am not afraid.” I needed to let go of that huge knot of terror and tension that I held buried in my lower chest/upper stomach region and just relax and know that God was not going to let me drown. It may be flipping uncomfortable, but there is no need to FEAR what “might” happen. I think this is hard because we’ve got such ideals in our heads. But I realized that what I feared was failure… as if a small baby’s short naps somehow indicated that I was substandard or that somehow I would never measure up to full mommy potential. I was afraid that I would NEVER be the mom I was supposed to be. But that is simply untrue. I am the mom I’m supposed to be. Already. My children are not supposed to have any other mother but me, and God has made it that way, and I trust him, and that’s it! I AM the mother they’re supposed to have. And you are the mother G and J (and Africa baby!) are supposed to have. That’s just how it is! So what is there to be afraid of?!
3. Perseverance- Ironically, 1 Peter played itself out pretty quickly in my life. All those trials during those months truly DID develop perseverance in me. My new mantra, one that I am repeating to moms all over the world right now, is “We can do hard things.” I can do hard things. Being a mom is HARD. But oh, well. I got this. I can do hard things. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and doing it. Like, tonight, I cleaned my house while Jonathan made dinner. That was HARD. We have a sick toddler and a baby who was just plain off schedule all day. On a Friday. Of the longest week ever. Did I feel like cleaning!? Heck, no. But I can do hard things. So I did it. That’s a stupid example. But that’s where I am right now. Yeah, it’s hard. But I can do hard things. It was really difficult not to BEG my husband to stay home from work today so I didn’t have to face the day alone. But he had a lot of clients scheduled and I can do hard things. So I sent him off to work with a kiss and a smile, put on my game face, and made today work. I did hard things.
So there you have it. Short-term thinking, courage, and perseverance. That’s where I am now.
As far as actually handling G’s behavior. Well.
If I can recall correctly, G is pretty cheerful and obedient. That’s GREATLY to your advantage. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this side of him is NOT normal and that he is using his behavior to express something that his little newly-two brain can’t seem to express verbally. Think of his behaviors as a new language… and that will get you somewhere. At least you’ll have more patience when trying to interpret what’s really going on.
I have found that a physically intense type of discipline is very important right now. I don’t mean spanking or yanking or grabbing or pulling… I mean VERY gentle hands redirecting, sometimes even without words, ALL THE TIME. I know it’s literally impossible to be hands-on with G right now for a lot of the time because you’re tied down nursing J. But while J is napping, be over-the-top hands-on with G. I find myself withdrawing from physical touch during the newborn days because SO much of my touch need is filled just through nursing, rocking, etc., with the baby. Jonathan has commented on it and I have to work SO hard to reach out to him… imagine what it’s like for our little 2-year-olds who used to be the sole recipient of that touch all day, every day… and now it’s withdrawn and redirected toward some strange little blob who cries, eats, and poops. Yeah.
So when I say physical discipline, I don’t mean just corrective stuff. I mean guiding, teaching, shaping, correcting, and training. Like, I will make up excuses to touch Hula Girl throughout the day in a positive way so that we have less behaviors to deal with. We started doing a daily massage/singing time. She’s old enough now to enjoy a short backrub while I sing her one song. Then she’s up and out of my lap before I can even think of another song to sing… but that’s okay! 🙂 I do hand-over-hand when teaching her to use a knife. I touch her knees while we’re sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to be called. We play patty-cake. I stroke her hair about 100 million times a day. I give her giant bear hugs when I come to get her in the morning and after her nap. Sometimes while she’s eating her dinner, I’ll reach over and poke her pinky finger with mine. Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch!!!
Another idea is to challenge him. If you see him drinking the water (or doing something that’s not exactly a HUGE deal), you might say something like, “Oh, I see you’re thirsty. I wonder if you could drink TWO cups of water!?!” Then fill a couple of cups about halfway to see if he can do it. (Of course he can.) Praise his efforts to meet your challenge. Laugh with him when you challenge him to do something kind of silly. It’s a subtle redirection of whatever behavior is on display. It shows him that you are paying attention to him and thinking of him, too.
When the behavior is really egregious and NEEDS to be addressed, I have found that using a combination of touch and whispers really helps downplay the emotions of the moment. I take her gently by the hand, bring her onto my lap and whisper to her about how it is sad that she chose to perform that behavior and what I would like to have seen instead. Then we practice the correct behavior. I DO NOT USE TIME OUT at all because so much of her behavior is driven by wanting my attention and feeling like she can’t have it… I feel like time out would only reinforce that thought and make her try harder.
When you’re locked in an all-out battle of wills, I suggest being the bigger person and demonstrating to him how to bow out gracefully. And by that I mean, how to break the tension. Pull a funny face, do a silly dance, even stop and take a picture of the two of you together. Throw him for a loop.

Finally, and this is CRITICAL- let G be HANDS-ON with J. Yep, he’ll be rough. Yep, you’ll find yourself saying “gentle!” over and over and over and over and over. I have found Gelato squished under Hula Girl several times. Meh. He’s tough. He can take it. As long as G isn’t doing anything that is harmful, allow him space to “meet” his brother. He craves a relationship with J, too. After all, he is very curious about who this little person is… and you MUST get out of the way so he can get acquainted. But any time G asks to hold him, LET HIM! (I love the relationship I see between my children already. Today, Gelato babbled something in the car and Hula Girl said, “He’s talking to me. He’s telling me how much he loves me. And I love him, too.”) I am a FIRM believer in just letting them be together on their own terms- supervised by me as an observer only as much as possible. It is important to reaffirm that they have equal standing and have every right to have a relationship that does not always involve MY intervention.

 

The Beginning of Formal Learning Time

Learning Time is something that is promoted in the Toddlerwise and Preschoolwise books (I’m sure it’s in Childwise, too, but I haven’t gotten that far!). The authors make a valid point that it is part of our job to raise children who are able to focus, sit still, and be curious to learn, even if you’re planning to homeschool. However, I have been very hesitant to start any kind of formal learning time with my Hula Girl because I know that my propensity would be to overdo it and to get quite frustrated if she’s unable to sit long enough, do it the “right way”, or have any kind of fun. I feared that she might not enjoy learning time at all, and that she might be better off just playing her day away. I figured we could wait until she was at least three to start any kind of curriculum.

I still kind of agree with myself. But. My kid is so bright. I am not saying that to brag or to be all up-in-everyone’s-faces about how great she is. She just truly is a bright child who has a natural propensity for memorization (I think all toddlers do, to an extent), who enjoys spending one-on-one time with me, and who is able to apply things she’s learned to new situations quite frequently. I began to feel as if our daily chore time, free play time, and other scheduled activities were not really enough to keep her mind engaged. We were seeing quite a few disciplinary issues… and I realized it’s likely because she’s, well, bored.

I also noticed that we’ve finally hit a rhythm in our days that is more or less predictable. I can tell, within 5-10 minutes, what we will be doing at any point during the day, and so it is easy for me to determine when we will have large blocks of time sans Lil’ Bro.

So I decided it will be in our best interest to capitalize on her curiosity and energy. I haven’t quite put together a great “curriculum” but I am working on it. We started with something pretty simple, purely because I thought up our activities in the 30 minutes I had between nursing Gelato and getting Hula Girl out of bed. I do feel very fortunate that I have been a teacher before, so coming up with activities like this on the fly is not too difficult for me. Thank you, Dr. Cruso! (Anyone else miss her like crazy!? I loved her.)

We began on Thursday, and in an attempt to find a unifying theme, I decided we’d focus on the letter G. Lower-case g to be exact. (I am of the mind that she will need to be able to read lower-case letters more frequently than upper-case letters… and since she can already identify all twenty-six letters in either case anyway, I chose lower-case.) Anyway, I chose g because Thursday was Grammy’s birthday and today is Groundhog day. Score! Two very exciting things that have nothing to do with each other aside from proximity in the calendar and matching initial letters! And they are close enough together to warrant a theme! Yahoo! (This is not to imply that my mom reminds me of a groundhog. Or vice-versa.)

Okay, so my as-of-yet-very-scattered plans for now include:

1. Focus on skills over content. I am working with Hula Girl on sitting still, proper grip (pencils, crayons, scissors), proper technique (glue, cutting, holding the paper with the other hand while coloring and “writing”), keeping self-control by folding hands, etc.

2. Basics. Letters, numerals, colors, shapes, days, months, holidays, seasons. You know.

3. Variety of subjects. Science, math, language, history, etc.

 Our activities this week included a focus in these areas:

Skills: proper grip, gluing, guiding hand for coloring

Basics: letter g, birthdays, Groundhog Day, calendar

Subjects: science (shadows), history (Groundhog Day), language (shared writing)

Without further ado, here are our finished products:

"g" Pages for our Alphabet Book

“g” Pages for our Alphabet Book

I definitely helped a lot on these. We worked on proper gluing technique (you don’t need to COVER the back of the picture with glue!), phonemic awareness (we sang the song, “G says /g/, G says /g/, every letter makes a sound and G says /g/!”), and sound-symbol relationships (every time we said /g/, we wrote a g). I made sure to help with placement on the pages- we will be referencing her Alphabet Book several times over the next few years, and I want the pages to be clear and easy to access when she is older. We used these pages as a springboard for our next activity, our shared writing:

Shared Writing- "g" Sentences

Shared Writing- “g” Sentences

I asked Hula Girl to look at her alphabet pages and tell me a “story” which I wrote down. It is important for children to begin to understand that writing is actual communication- what they say can be saved for later! These are the sentences she said. I did have to guide her to make sure she included all the pictures, and I helped with the grammar a bit. (For instance, she said, “Gooses glue green paper.”) After we got all the sentences written (it took maybe 2 minutes, tops), I made a “window” out of two other pieces of paper so we were only looking at one line at a time. I asked her to find all the “g”s and I highlighted the ones she pointed out. You’ll notice she found the “g” in the middle of the word light. We said the word light over and over and tried to hear the /g/ but we couldn’t find it. (I mentioned that the “g” in light is part of “i-three-letter-i”, which she will learn about in a couple of years when we begin our formal language curriculum.)

Then we practiced writing the letter g at the bottom of the page. The focus here was not on the formation of the letter itself (that will come when we begin our curriculum), but rather on proper grip. I guided her hand on the g on the left and she did the g on the right by herself. We also focused on grip with the next project:

Groundhog Day- "g" for Groundhog!

Groundhog Day- “g” for Groundhog!

This is actually the second groundhog she colored. On the first one we focused on coloring neatly (just the ears, just the feet, etc.). On this one I let her color wherever she wanted, but made sure she maintained the proper grip and used her other hand to hold the paper. You’ll notice the heavier dark pink lines near the groundhog’s neck and arms- that’s where she changed her grip and tried to force the crayon through the table to China. 🙂

We connected this activity to science and history by discussing Groundhog Day, what it is, what it means, etc. We talked about shadows a lot and used the Socratic method (I asked her lots of questions to guide her reasoning) to discover that shadows are caused when light hits an object. We went outside and made all kinds of shapes with our own shadows, and this morning (I am typing this on Groundhog Day) she and Daddy took her groundhog outside to see if it saw its shadow. (It did. We are in for six more weeks of winter. Darn.)

I should also mention that we have started each morning with a review of our changeable calendar. We go over all the days of the week and the names of the months. Then we go through the whole “Today is…” rigamarole. I am going to be making her a pointer that she can use to help “read” the calendar each day. I’m thinking something with an interchangeable tip that can be switched out for the seasons, holidays, and such. I like details. 🙂

Something else we do to finish up our daily learning time is read a story, poem, or other article from her High Five Magazine (thank you, Ama and Papa, for the subscription! GREAT Christmas gift- or birthday, whatever- for any child under the age of 6!!!).

Coming Up Next Week:

We will be working with the letters D and V. First we will focus on letter D because next Sunday is Chinese New Year and we will want to make a dragon. Yes! V, of course, will be tied with Valentine’s Day. I’ll share some activities, products, and ideas after we’re done!

I also plan to start implementing a memory verse every week. She is awesome at memorizing poems, songs, and simple stories. So I figure it’s a great time to start planting the Word firmly in her heart and mind.

I’m a Bad Parent (a.k.a. M.Y.O.B.)

So this Tuesday we had a snowstorm. Of course, all eight inches are already melted and we aren’t expecting any more snow any time soon. Such is the weather in Colorado. Anyway.

Tuesday morning I woke up and saw that we had about a quarter inch of snow outside, and that more was falling. How exciting! I woke Hula Girl and told her there was a surprise for her outside. We opened the curtains and she rejoiced at the idea that she would get to eat some snow. As soon as we could manage it, we got all bundled up and headed outside for a romp. It was only a couple hours after I first woke up and looked out, but 4 more inches had already fallen. I shoveled a path from the front door to the car (ahem, Jonathan, the garage still needs to be cleaned out so I can park the car INSIDE!!!!), and then we headed back inside so Hula Girl could have her roomtime and I could nurse Gelato. I asked Hula Girl whether she would like to stay home and play in the snow or go to storytime. She debated for a while but she finally chose storytime. Fine.

On the way to storytime as I was driving on roads that were six inches deep (our little area of town does not get plowed due to some weird secession failure issues) and I stopped and called my mom to see if she thought I really should take the kids to storytime at all. She said go for it. We were already halfway there, and even if no one else was there, we could always go home. Fortunately when we pulled into the parking lot, I recognized three cars that belong to moms with toddlers. So I knew we’d at least get a mini playgroup if nothing else.

As I was getting Gelato out of the car (I always get him out first and put him in last- he’s a bit more “contained” than Hula Girl is at the moment), this random lady walked by me in one of those old long quilted coats, like the one my third-grade teacher wore every day to recess. She had a knit cap on her head and she was carrying a large satchel. And she said, “What the h— are you doing bringing your children to the library on a day like this?!?!?!”

I was flummoxed at first- I wasn’t sure if she was making a sideways comment about the weather being so terrible. After all, sometimes I do the same kind of thing. I’ll comment on something not extremely related to be kind of jokey about whatever situation I find myself in with a random stranger. (For example, when stuck in a slow checkout line, I might turn to the person in front of me and say something like, “Well, it’s not like we’re going to be watching the Broncos in the Super Bowl, so there’s really no need for us to hurry home!”) You know, just a little tension-breaker so that a) the clerk doesn’t feel so awful and rushed, which inevitably leads to mistakes and even LONGER waits, b) the other person doesn’t get all huffy and treat the clerk with disdain, and c) I have someone to talk to that is not 2.5 years old.

Anyway, I responded to her strange comment with a lighthearted, “Yeah, what was I thinking? This snow is crazy!” I thought she’d laugh with me and be on her merry way.

Wrong.

She continued on to tell me that she wouldn’t dream of endangering her dear children’s lives by taking them out on a day like this, that I was obviously lacking judgment, that I should be concerned about my driving skills, that I should worry about other people’s driving skills, that I should feel awful about forcing those poor children (who obviously HATE leaving the house in any kind of weather other than sunshine… NOT) to get dressed and go out when they should be peacefully nestled in their beds enjoying a nice long sleep-in. Obviously I am a terrible mother who is less than qualified and I need to get my priorities straight. After all, going out in such awful weather proves that I am very selfish and I really have no regard for my children’s needs, desires, feelings, or dreams. I am ruining my children forever by bringing them to storytime.

I kept a smile on my face. I remarked that I grew up here so I am used to the weather conditions. I explained that I felt confident in my driving skillz (and my avoiding other drivers skillz). I established the fact that my children had not, in fact, been begging to stay in bed; rather, they had both been awake since 5:30 a.m. Finally I said (quite winningly, I imagine), “Well, storytime waits for no one, so I had better get my kids inside! Have a nice day!”

The lady walked into the library in a huff.

Then came the penultimate nail in my “good mom” coffin. When Hula Girl gets in the car, I make her take off her coat to get strapped in. Then I turn it backward and put it over her arms so she stays warm. Safety first. Since we were literally less than twenty steps from the library doors, I let Hula Girl choose whether she wanted to wear her coat or leave it in the car. She chose to leave it in the car. Fine with me. As my little chickadee squeaked in through the rapidly-closing automatic doors, the snide woman turned to see what was happening… and said, “OH MY GOSH. SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A COAT?!!?”

M.Y.O.B., Self-Appointed Library-Monitor. M.Y.O.B.

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