Venturing Out on her Own

I recently had a friend remind me that she sends her kids out every day to play alone in their backyard. I got to thinking about it, and I realized that I played out in my backyard alone while I was growing up. And so did pretty much everyone I know. I did a poll on Facebook and within the first few minutes, I had several responses; everyone said they let their kids (Hula Girl’s age and even younger) go out in the backyard alone to play. I got to thinking- why haven’t I done this!??!

I guess I’m some kind of crazy overprotective mom. I know I am, actually. I don’t let my kids watch TV (although that’s mainly because of all the research that says it’s bad for kids). I don’t let them do Halloween. I never used the word “scared” or “afraid” until Hula Girl needed that word to describe how she personally felt because I didn’t want to plant ideas in her head. I edit books as I read out loud so that the characters say much nicer things to each other than the author really intended. I keep my kids at home with me 99% of the time, because I am terribly distrustful of the big bad world and I want our schedule and routine to be carefully observed.

Don’t get me wrong- I have a pretty solid plan for how I’m going to loosen up and grant more freedoms and expose my children to the not-so-nice aspects of life. But for now, I have decided that coccooning them away and keeping things positive is the best I can do to give them a strong foundation of security, love, and self-confidence. They are free to have big emotions in their small challenges without a lot of influences from the world around them telling them they’re not good enough, smart enough, big enough, loved enough, or brave enough.

Back to the backyard. I have never let Hula Girl go outside alone. Ever. Any time she’s gone out, I have been there. Part of this is that we have lived in houses with no privacy fence. This especially bothered me at our old house, where the man who lived across the utility easement behind our house was on the registered sex offenders list. We have no registered folks around our new house, but we still have just a wire fence- our neighbors to the right and left and anyone passing on the street behind our house has a full view of everything that’s going on in our yard. On top of that, we live in rattlesnake, tarantula, scorpion, black widow, brown recluse, and wolf spider territory. Oh, and our area does not require dogs to be fenced- we have several neighbors whose dogs roam free. Can you see why I have been worried about sending her out there? That means she’s never gotten to explore completely on her own. She has never been able to just tune completely in to whatever drives her fancy because I have been there talking to her. And I have never been able to just get a bunch of housework done without a “helper.”

My friend Katie sends her kids outside in the backyard, alone, a couple of times each day. And do you know what?! I have always been amazed at Katie’s seemingly remarkable ability to balance so many aspects of her life without DYING of exhaustion. How does she do it!?!?! She sends her kids outside!

Now, you guys all know me, and you know I’m a huge fan of involving the kids in whatever I’m doing in order to instill a good work ethic and to teach them how to do stuff. But I can never find the time to REALLY clean the house or get all the laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away. There are always a million other things to attend to, like helping a certain princess put on her costume or keeping a certain little wild man from destroying his sister’s block tower, all accompanied by higher-pitched-than-you’d-ever-imagined-possible shrieks and whines- some gleeful, others complaining, but always super loud and wow-that-popped-my-eardrums-high. So, I got brave.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I spent about 45 minutes walking the perimeter of the fence and canvassing the rest of the backyard looking for potential issues with snakes, dogs, or spiders. I kicked away spider webs, I got rid of the giant tumbleweeds in the play area, and I looked for holes in the ground (there were none, thankfully). I also looked for any other kinds of hazards and cleared out some sharp metal things (the people who lived here before us had two little boys who littered the ground with their broken, discarded Matchbox cars).

Then this morning I told Hula Girl that I was going to let her play outside all by herself like a big girl and that she had to stay out five minutes. I brought out her chalk, her shovels and pails, and her bike helmet. I told her she was allowed to do whatever she liked, as long as she stayed in the backyard (like she could even open the fences anyway, but you never know). I reminded her that if she needed me, she needed to come to the patio door and knock. I opened the kitchen window so I could hear her. I set a timer for five minutes.

I thought she’d whine and call for me and ask me to come out. She did. For about thirty seconds.

I thought she’d stay right on the patio and maybe pull out her chalk. She did. For about thirty seconds.

She PLAYED like I have never seen her play. I did dishes as I watched her explore, drag her toys around, bury things in the dirt, and fling rocks all around. When five minutes was up, I opened the door and asked her if she was ready to come in or if she wanted to stay out. She wanted to stay out. 10 minutes later, she wanted to stay out longer. 10 more minutes… 10 more minutes… 10 more minutes… She ended up staying out 45 minutes before I told her we needed to come in so I could read to her before room time. I ended up doing dishes, sweeping the kitchen, planning preschool for the week, calling a friend, and drinking a cup of coffee!

We are planning on putting up a privacy fence around about half of the backyard. We’ll dig it down about a foot so hopefully that will keep most snakes out. Until then, I won’t let Gelato out on his own (especially not with the giant playset he loves to climb) and will be super cautious about letting Hula Girl out. But I do think this will be a wonderful new addition to our daily routine.

Thank you Katie for helping me see the value of outside alone time! 🙂

 

 

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Changing Tastes…

I love how fast things change as a young toddler develops. A couple weeks ago, I posted Gelato’s 14-month update. Now that he’s 14.5 months old, so many things are different! In just two weeks!

I want to capture his interests right now so that I can remember him THIS way. He is such a funny little guy!

Gelato does not like Baby Beluga any longer. If I bring it out, he says, “No, Bu-ga! No, Bu-gah!” He pushes the book away. He was really into Margaret Wise Brown’s I Like Stars for about a week and a half. That’s all he wanted to read. He’d say, “Stars? Stars? Read-ee? Stars?” But now he’s so over it. He also had a couple days of being really into “A B C?” Which stands for Dr. Seuss’ ABCs. That book is old hat, so he has moved on to a book called Who’s Hiding? It’s about a mama owl who is looking for her baby, and Gelato LOVES opening all the flaps. He calls it, “Ow-el? Ow-el?”

He loves to wear necklaces. My little guy just adores necklaces. He walks around with about five of Hula Girl’s dress-up necklaces (think pink pearls, sparkly blue beads, purple butterflies, etc.) strung around his neck. Fortunately Hula Girl inherited about a million necklaces from our neighbor before we moved, so there are plenty of necklaces for both children. He will come down the stairs, walk to the dress-up “closet,” and stand there saying, “Neck-iss? Neck-iss?” until I finally get him some. Never just one. If he can’t wear a necklace, he will find his special blue ribbon and drape it across his shoulders, behind his neck. If it falls off, he will stop and pick it up and re-drape it before moving on. I think this is such a silly and cute little phase. I kind of want him to keep it until he’s four or so.

Gelato loves apples. Like, apples are his very favorite food. He will walk around with an apple in his hand and eat the entire thing, down to the core. I bought him an apple in the grocery store a while ago just to keep his tummy from eating itself alive while I rushed around getting last-minute ingredients for our (very late) dinner. The clerk thought I was nuts for buying him an apple, saying, “He’ll never eat that. You should get him chips or something.” When I went back through her lane 15 minutes later, he had eaten about half his apple, and she was pretty much in shock. “He did eat the apple? That’s amazing. I have never seen a kid eat an apple before.” Um, what? Anyway, apples. He also likes applesauce. He calls it, “ap-poh AHS? Ap-poh AHS?” Today he found an applesauce cup in the fridge just before lunch and asked for it. I told him he could eat it at lunch, and let him wander with it a bit. I was surprised when he wasn’t following me and whining about eating it. When I stopped to look at him, I saw he had bitten a hole in the foil and was slurping it through like a smoothie. “Mmmm, Mummy! Mum! Mummmy!!!”

I am currently weaning Gelato. He used to nurse four times a day: 7, 11, 3, and 7. I have slowly dropped one feeding a week, so that now he is only nursing at bedtime. Next Friday will be the last day I nurse him. I am so sad about it, but so happy all at the very same time. I love that I have nursed both my babies until 14.5 months old, but I really feel like that’s about my limit. 🙂

Gelato is a little independent guy. He does not want to be held or pushed in a stroller; he wants to WALK. He doesn’t want to walk with me, though, so he tries to wander. Too bad for him when he tries to wander and I don’t let him. He can also be a bit disobedient at times. ‘Tis the nature of the age, I suppose. He is truly a toddler now- when I tell him to come, he grins, turns, and RUNS the other way. Goober.

All in all, Gelato is just a delight. Still.

Oh, and one more story. The other night Gelato was told a firm, “No, you may not throw your food off your tray.” I removed his dinner. Hula Girl clapped and shouted, “Hooray! [Gelato] got his first consequence!!!!!” It was hilarious.

Playdates, Playdates, Playdates Galore!

Since the end of Hula Girl’s dancing career, I have been working overtime to try to get her engaged in unstructured social events with her peers. We have had three official playdates and we have several more scheduled in the near future. I am determined that she will go back to dance class someday (she keeps telling me she will be ready to go after Christmas) and that when she goes she will interact with the other ballerinas and she will have a good time. So there.

Our first playdate after that fateful day was with a set of twins who attend our library’s storytime. They are about a half-year younger than Hula Girl. They have beautiful names and even more beautiful curly locks. It’s hard to tell them apart because their mom dresses them the same, but one of them is just slightly taller, so that helps. They really enjoyed the dress-up clothes.

Hula Girl has about 25 complete outfits for dress-up, thanks to my mom, Walmart’s post-Halloween sales, and my old across-the-street neighbor, Karen. She absolutely adores dressing up in her tutus, wings, tiaras, and shoes. She also really enjoys princess dresses, wands, and Fancy Nancy slippers. She is usually wearing at least one part of one costume at all times.

I recently put together a “closet” of sorts for her dress-up clothes. I built a PVC frame with a rod across the top for hangers. Then I made curtains for the whole thing out of a shower curtain that I got on sale at Ross. It took me about 2 hours, total. And it’s PERFECT. I will have to post a picture.

Anyway, the twins really loved dressing up! We had three little princesses, some cowgirls, a nurse, a mermaid, fairies, and cheerleaders in our playroom that day. Hula Girl is very excited to have another playdate with them soon.

Our next playdate was with a friend of mine from Bible study. She has two girls who sandwich Hula Girl age-wise; one is turning five soon and one is turning three. (She also has a cutie little three-month-old boy who looks just like a Butterball turkey! I love babies who haven’t lengthened out yet but are chunky and heavy already. So roly-poly and just plain squeezable!) Those girls came over and took over the playroom! They sat right down at the play table and served up a play feast in the kitchen! The elder girl, in particular, was great with Hula Girl. She invited Hula Girl to play, gave Hula Girl the pink plate/cup/silverware, and just interacted so well with her. Hula Girl was absolutely intrigued with this girl who is so brave and so talkative and NOT afraid to just play! There was a good deal of dressing up during this playdate, as well! The girls also got to have a treat of hot chocolate with their snack. I loved their manners, their imaginations, and their mom!

The last playdate we had was this week on Thursday. We went to the home of the same family, and another friend joined us. There were four little girls, one little Gelato, one little Butterball, and a teeny weeny 6-week-old baby girl in the house. Seven children, lots of giggles, and Hula Girl had SUCH a good time. She was afraid to go into the playroom for a while, but once she realized the other girls were very friendly and that Mommy was going to sit and talk and admire the BABIES the whole time, she became braver. I overheard her asking one of the littler girls (who is a full year younger than her) to play with her. That little girl is very similar in temperament to Hula Girl. She is very timid around others she doesn’t know yet, but she is boisterous once she gets to know someone. I have played with her at her own house a couple times, and she is just a sweetheart. (That little girl will be in Hula Girl’s Sunday school class tomorrow, so I am hoping that will help Hula Girl adjust!)

We are scheduled to play again with some other friends next Thursday, and we continue to go to storytime on Tuesday. I also had a babysitter come this morning and watch the kids while I went grocery shopping. My goal right now is to put Hula Girl in situations where she HAS to be social with lots of people besides me. She has been doing really well with it, and she tells me every time, “I want to stay with ______ a long time next time! I had so much fun!” I just wish she’d keep that in her head long enough to be brave from the beginning of every situation!

10-Year Reunion

I have had several friends from outside my high school tell me that their 10-year reunion wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. They said, “It was weird,” “no one showed up,” and “I hope the next one is better!”

I agree on all counts.

Not because of lack of effort by the planning committee. Those guys did a great job. None of them still live where we went to high school, so everything was planned long-distance. They even had a website set up for all the rest of us to register and learn about the event. That was great.

But I think the folks who didn’t show up should have shown up.

We have known each other since at least third grade, on most counts.

There were only 93 people in our graduating class. We missed the rest of you.

Most of us are/were still friends on Facebook and we’ve been able to track almost everyone pretty well since graduation.

And I went to school with a lot of really nice people. They do interesting things, they’re living good lives, and none of them are awful or mean! They just didn’t come, and I was bummed out to see the lack of attendees.

It was really fun to see some of the people who were there. A lot of us have children around the same ages, so meeting everyone’s kids in person was great! (Hula Girl was particularly taken with a pair of sisters- she followed them around and held hands with them. Adorable.) Some others don’t have kids yet but are doing really interesting things with their lives, so it was really fun to get to know their stories a bit more in depth. I thought it was nice that we weren’t all reminiscing about the good ol’ days- we have moved on. I also loved that our spouses are all so sweet and many of the husbands had a fantastic time together playing pool.

I don’t know. It was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, it was great seeing people. On the other, it was sad not seeing some other people. But overall, I was surprised at how little there really was to talk about. The culprit? Facebook.

I think Facebook ruined our reunion. Since we’re all still “friends” we kind of already know what’s going on in each other’s lives. No one really needed to attend the reunion to find out what their high school classmates are up to. We already know. We know who has what job, who lives where, who is married to whom, who has children (and we know the names, ages, and first-time-using-the-potty dates of all the kids as well)!!! There is nothing to discuss. Here’s how an actual conversation went:

Classmate: “So, you just moved into a house.”

Me: “Yep.”

Classmate: “Do you like it?”

Me: “Yep. It’s nice having a house.”

Classmate: “Good.”

End of conversation.

Seriously. That’s the only thing that classmate and I said to each other. After 10 years of not seeing each other.

Thanks, Facebook.

After the reunion I went through Facebook and cut out over 150 people from my “friends” list. I realized that the person I spent the most time talking to that evening was the only one of us there who doesn’t have Facebook. It was nice to have an actual conversation. (Sorry if you were one of the deleted folks. I just figured I’d rather have actual in-person friendships. If you still need to contact me, my phone number hasn’t changed since high school. And you can always re-friend me on Facebook.)

And can I rant about one thing?

There is one girl who, since sixth grade, has not liked me. I don’t know what I ever did to offend her. Seriously. We’ve never been rude to each other, but she has always been cold to me. Like, she has always intentionally turned her back on me and has never once started a conversation. And it did not change at the reunion. From the moment she and her husband walked in to the moment Jonathan and I left, she did not even make eye contact with me at all. Not even a cursory across-the-room “Oh, hey!” Our husbands got along great, by the way. I had nothing to start a conversation with, so I didn’t go and make the first move. I just thought it was so strange and silly that still, after ten years of life experience, she chose to give me the same treatment she did in high school. Guess we’re not meant to be besties!

Anyway. All this to say that if you weren’t there, you WERE missed. I especially missed the soccer girls and KATIE. You would have made the evening 10 million times better, Friendy-Friend. Oh, and BETHANY, where the heck were you? I SO wanted to meet Ella.

My advice? Before attending any high school reunion, un-friend ALL your classmates on Facebook at least a year in advance. At least you’ll be interesting then. 🙂

 

Fall Camping

A couple weekends ago, Hula Girl and my parents were scheduled to go camping. Unfortunately, the first few weeks of October are really hard to predict around here and it ended up being below freezing and snowing. So, they stuck around my parents’ house.

My parents live on 5 acres in a forest. So camping there is basically like camping at any campground in the area anyway! Just nicer amenities- flush toilets, hot water, refrigerator, showers, etc.  And my dad is such a softy for Hula Girl that he set up their pop-up trailer and they all slept in there one night.

They also made s’mores. My dad lit a fire in their little outdoor fire pit and they went out in the freezing cold after Hula Girl’s nap one afternoon and she got to eat her favorite treat. Not just one, either. Like I said, my dad’s a softy for Hula Girl.

Then she got to go kayaking. My parents have a pond that is kind of an old well that overflowed. It has shrunk considerably in recent years due to our drought. However, it was huge when Hula Girl came over because we had a week of rain in September. It was about 90 feet across. My parents each have a kayak- my dad’s is hand-made (took him years) and my mom’s is just a smaller yellow kayak. They sent Hula Girl out onto the pond in my mom’s kayak. She was all bundled up, and she loved rocking it back and forth (she wore her life jacket). My parents would push her to the middle and then run with the rope as fast as they could and float her back to the edge of the pond. Over and over. She just adored it.

She also enjoyed playing with the pond “slime.” It has been growing there since I was a little girl. We always thought it was like some sort of algae, but up close it looked like blades of grass with hundreds of tiny green lentils attached. Hula Girl scooped it up by the handfuls and squished, squeezed, and smooshed it before throwing it back in. Yuck.

And do you know what else? My parents let her stay in the same clothes all weekend long, just like a real camping trip. In fact, she didn’t even bathe. I picked her up on Sunday afternoon and her hair was still in the braids I’d put in on Friday morning. She had such a good time. 🙂

Intermission

Hula Girl will not be attending ballet class for a while.

We baked cupcakes for her teacher and classmates yesterday and while we were decorating them, I had a chance to question her in a non-confrontational manner. She and I practiced what she’d say if she needed to leave the room to see me, and she told me she was ready to go in and sit with her friends and learn to dance from Miss S. She was really excited about it- she even wanted to watch some videos of young ballet dancers in class on Youtube.

She woke up this morning, and said, “Mommy! It’s dance day!” Then she broke out in this song that repeated itself over and over for about fifteen minutes: “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it! I’m about to go to dance and I know I’ll like it!” You guys. She was READY.

And then there was a mix-up and I had to bring Gelato. So we had to rush.

When we arrived, Hula Girl put on her own ballet slippers, put her own shoes away, and started toward the door. Then she stopped, looked back at me, and reached her hand out. I told her I would walk her in to her place, but she said, “I want to stop until after Christmas.”

Okay.

We waited until the owner of the studio arrived, paid for last week’s “lesson” and then left the cupcakes for the rest of the girls.

When we left, Hula Girl just sobbed in the car. I told her it was okay to feel sad and relieved. I told her I was sad, too, but that we’d go back when she was ready. She told me she wasn’t ready until after Christmas. I agreed.

I took the kids to the mall play area and then we went out for lunch. Hula Girl wanted to take her nap in her leotard. Guess she still likes a little bit of dance after all.

Gelato- 14 Months

My little boy just melts my heart.

There is only one thing about him that annoys me right now: he is the world’s messiest eater. It doesn’t help that I feed him messy foods like rice, cottage cheese, yogurt, and the like. But he drops it on the nice, clean, freshly-mopped-tile-and-scrubbed-grout floor! I keep telling Jonathan we need to invest in a splash mat or just an old shower curtain, but I keep forgetting.

Gelato is a climber. He has always been, as long as he could. He will climb anything. Rocks, trees, ladders, people, tables, chairs, desks, bookcases, cribs (we’ll be turning his around when he gets big enough- I have a feeling it will be a struggle to keep him in his crib as long as we did his sister!), couches, dirt piles, fences, cars. His favorite thing to climb right now is the “rock wall” that goes up into their playset. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but that rock wall is over six feet high, it’s at about an 85° angle, and it has plastic rocks to hold or step onto. And he has been doing this since before he was even 13 months old. Now that he’s a seasoned pro, he’s making some careless mistakes. Just today I had to catch him (my hands were 3 inches from his body, so it more of a “steady” than a “catch”) when he decided to take his hat off mid-climb. Who knows what he’ll climb next?

Gelato is a water baby. I have been able to take him to the Y a few times lately, and since he can walk now, the toddler pool is just way more fun. The only issues come when he gets knocked over by a big kid splashing him or a current under the water that pulls his feet out from under him. Then he falls down into the water and doesn’t even try to get back up. So my hands are, again, always within a foot of him. I don’t touch him unless I have to. He needs to learn it on his own. But I have had to several times. Silly boy. He really enjoys getting his face wet, too. He’ll crouch down and bend his neck so his face just barely touches the water, then he jumps up and lets out a little shriek of happiness. So cute.

Gelato is a bookworm. Whereas Hula Girl would just come sit on my lap for hours and hours, Gelato has resisted the sitting for reading time his whole life. The only time he sits still for a book is just before nap, because that’s part of our nap routine and he’s used to it. Otherwise, he will carry a book all the way across the house and cry out, “Read-ee! Read-ee!” until I read the book. He will sit next to me for a page or two, but then he gets up and wanders off, but he still expects me to keep reading. If I stop, he will come back, open the book to the last page I read, hand the book to me while giving me a very convincing eyebrow-raise, and say, “Read-ee!” Aye, aye. His favorite right now is Baby Beluga. He calls it “Goo-gah? Baby Goo-Gah?” He loves the pictures.

Gelato is a dog lover. And a polar bear lover. If we are reading and come across a dog or polar bear picture, he gets quite excited. Our neighbor has a dog who is allowed to roam freely. Her name is Scampers. Gelato calls her “Mamper? Mamper?” He looks out the window for her every few minutes and chases her around with random objects whenever she’s outside and we go on walks. She doesn’t like that part very much, but she does like to come out and sniff us and then she takes off in one direction or another like an unpaid tour guide, and Gelato follows her wherever she leads. He adores her.

Gelato is a BOY. Kid picked up a beetle today. I think he wanted to eat it, but Hula Girl smacked it down out of his hand because she was so terrified of the thing. (You go, Girl!) Instead of letting him pick it up again, I told him he could just look at it. He followed it around for a while, saying, “Beeboh! Beeboh!” Then he forgot about it, played with a stick, and was disappointed when he remembered about it and it was gone. (Aw, shucks.)

Gelato is a Mama’s boy. This one is my favorite. He just loves me. He likes Jonathan and Hula Girl, too, but he loves me. Probably because he likes to nurse. But really, it’s so cute. He’ll just wander into the room and hug my leg. Or he’ll sit on my lap and grab my hand so he can interlock his fingers and hold my hand for a while. He likes to give me kisses all day long (“mmmm-ah! mmmmm-ah!”), and he pats my face so gently while he tells me about my eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and hair.

Gelato is a listener. He obeys really really well. The other day I called both kids into the kitchen and asked them to clean up the kid dishes they’d spilled out of the drawer in their hunt for breakfast utensils. He grabbed some cups, put them away, and said, “All done!” Smartie boy. He also tests quite a bit already, which shows me he understands what I’m saying. For example, I tell him stop before he gets out into the street in front of our house (we live on a very sparsely used dirt road, or else he wouldn’t be getting to the road before me). He stops, turns, grins like a little imp, and takes a few more steps before stopping, turning, and grinning again. Test, test, test. I take his hand and move him back to where he was when I said it first, and reinforce. Repeat. It’s a long process, but he really does listen well.

One more thing I just want to record for posterity: I’m beginning to wean him now. Hula Girl was weaned at 14.5 months, and Gelato will likely be weaned by then as well. We’re putting him on coconut milk and we’re trying to cut out all dairy for both kids as soon as we can. He is really excited to drink milk, because he’s seen his idol (big sis) drinking milk so much and now any time she has it, he wants it, too. Her influence can be so great. 🙂

Just Me and My Boy

Today has been a treat for me! Hula Girl took off after breakfast with Grampy. They were supposed to go camping this weekend, but given the low of 21 degrees and the 25+ mph wind speeds with snow flurries expected overnight, they decided to just set up camp at Grammy and Grampy’s house so they could go in if it gets too cold. I should say when. 🙂

Anyway, with Hula Girl gone, I have gotten to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my Little Man, and it’s been so very fun! We’ve spent a lot of time doing really low-key activities and taking it way slower than we normally do with a rambunctious preschooler around.

We started the day a touch later than his normal 6:45, at 6:55. I went in to get him up and nurse him, then he brought me a few books and asked me to read them: “Read-ee? Read-ee?” He is really into dogs and polar bears. When he sees a dog, he will put his little palm down on the page so I can’t turn it yet. Then he puts his other fist down with his pointer finger out and taps his finger on the picture a few times, looks up at me, and says, “Doggie. Woof, woof.” I always affirm him, “Yes, that’s a dog. You found a picture of a dog.” When he finds a polar bear (there are several great illustrations of polar bears in the “Baby Beluga” book), he points to it and says, “Doggie? No. Bay.” Then he taps it several times and says, “Bay. Bay. Bay.”

After reading, I showed him some options of clothes he could wear for the day- a pair of polar bear jammies or a union suit with dogs on it. He smiled really big at both choices, but in the end he settled on the union suit. We went downstairs where it was freezing because my husband is related to polar bears and keeps the windows open until it actually snows. Then Grampy came in and played with Gelato for a while. We ate oatmeal for breakfast, and Gelato asked for more by signing more and then saying, “Eep-meal? Eep-meal?” He also wanted milk and asked for “milt!” When Grampy had a cup of coffee, Gelato asked to “Mell coppee? Mell coppee?” and then wanted to taste it too. We didn’t allow that!

He went down for his nap just before Hula Girl left, so I had some time to catch up on blogging and Facebook. When he woke up, I nursed him; then he said, “Toys!” so I put him in his pack-n-play for roomtime. He played for a while and I got to take a shower. A nice, long, hot shower. Perfect for a windy cold day!

When I went to get him from roomtime, he saw my hair was wet and said, “Peel hay? Peel hay?” I let him feel my hair and told him, “My hair is cold and wet.” The he felt the other side and said, “Ood? Wet? Hay ood wet?”

I brought him down for lunch, which was pizza leftovers from last night. He said, “Peeta? Peeta? Eat! Eat! Hungee! Peeta!” (I wonder if he’ll like the Hunger Games books!) He ate two entire slices of pizza (same as I had). I gave him some pieces that were still quite hot. He felt them and said, “Arm! Bow, bow.” Then he blew on them. He also had a kiwi, which he still doesn’t like. He ate about two bites and then handed the rest to me. When he was all done with lunch, he said, “Down? Walk?” I told him he needed to tell me he was all done, so he did. He just has the sweetest little voice when he says, “All done!”

When I put him down he went and grabbed his shoes and said, “Oos! Out-ide! Walk!” So I bundled him up and took him outside. The first thing he said was, “Ood! Ood!” I told him yes, it was cold and windy. “Eendee,” he replied, as he nodded his head several times to show he understood. Then he walked all around and picked up rocks and sticks and followed the neighbor’s dog. Finally I was too cold, so I brought him back inside.

I decided to bust out the rainbow rice sensory bin, which hasn’t been used since Hula Girl was 2.5. He thought it was great fun to pluck out the kidney beans and place them in the scoop one at a time. Then he thought it was fun to pretend to eat them by putting it up to his mouth and saying, “Mmm, Mummy! Mmmm, Mummy bean!” And then he thought it was hilariously fun to place the scoop on the floor and then tell himself, “Oop on beket,” and then move the scoop back onto the blanket. He giggled at that one for sure.

When it was time to clean up the rainbow rice, I got out the broom, and Gelato insisted on sweeping for me. He did a terrible job, but for a not-even-14-month-old, it was awesome. I left it just the way he did it and cleaned up the rest (aka the bigger mess) when he went down for his nap. After he was done sweeping, it was nap time, so I asked him to go upstairs. He went to his room and pushed the button to turn on his heater, then walked over to the curtains and tried to pull them shut. I thanked him for his help and proceeded to put him down from there.

He really is one independent, helpful, communicative little guy. I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with just him this weekend. It really helps to slow down and be able to show him how much I enjoy him!  I can’t wait for this afternoon- we’re going swimming at the Y. I think it will be way more fun since I won’t have to keep an eye on Hula Girl, too. I can just let him walk in the toddler pool and climb all over the pirate ship- I’m sure he’ll want to do the slide, too. But I am not ready for that one yet… at all. No slide today. 🙂

Dance Dilemma, Part Deux- Advice, PLEASE!

Parenting just got REAL, y’all.

We are experiencing a bit of a dilemma regarding our dance class. After class last week, it became apparent that Hula Girl was getting sick, and if you know my daughter, you know she doesn’t do “sick” well. I was hoping that was responsible for last week’s issues, and that things would be resolved this week, but I was wrong. When we went to dance on Thursday, several things happened.

First, Hula Girl woke up on Thursday morning and exclaimed, “I know what day it is! It’s dance class day!” She.was.thrilled. I was so relieved to see her so excited about it- I thought our day would go smoothly as it has in the past.

Second, when we got in the car, Hula Girl noticed “Tinkerbell” on the ceiling of the car and began talking to her. (“Tinkerbell” visits us frequently- she is the sun’s reflection off of phones, dishes, anything shiny. We feed her pancakes in the morning- Hula Girl is always AMAZED that there are tiny “bites” missing from the pancakes, teehee- and we tell her all about our day whenever she’s around. She really likes our family because she usually flies around at least once daily.) Hula Girl told me Tinkerbell was nervous about dance class. I asked Hula Girl what she thought we might say to encourage Tink to feel more comfortable about attending. She said we could remind her that Miss S. is a very nice teacher and that all her friends will be there. So I told those things to Tinkerbell. Then I asked Hula Girl how she is feeling and she said she was a bit nervous as well. I repeated our comforting messages to her, and she seemed to be fine.

Third, when we arrived at the dance studio, there was another little ballerina waiting to join the class. Uh-oh. Any change in routine is bad news for Hula Girl. She immediately got her very serious face on, the one where she stares at the floor in front of her and bites the left corner of her bottom lip. I brightly welcomed the new dancer and introduced Hula Girl to her. The little girl was absolutely adorable and I told Hula Girl that I hoped they could be good friends after dancing together for a while. Hula Girl blinked.

Fourth, when Miss S. showed up for dance, Hula Girl asked me to pick her up and then laid her head on my shoulder. Double uh-oh. She began to cry and said she wanted to go home.

Fifth, I sat Hula Girl down in the car and told her that I wanted her to think very carefully about what it is that is worrying her about dance. She told me she wanted me to stay in the room with them. I explained to her that mommies and daddies aren’t allowed in the studio with the dancers because the teacher needs ballerinas to pay attention. I reminded her that we’ve seen how the camera works and asked her if she was 100% confident that I would stay right in the chairs with the other mommies. She nodded, but said, “I want you to come in with me.”

Sixth, I laid it out on the line for her: “[Hula Girl], you need to think very hard before you answer. You have a choice to make now. You can quit dance and not come back to class again at all, or you can be very brave and go inside with your friends and do dance class today. Remember, being brave means doing something you are nervous about. What do you want to do?” She chose to go inside.

When we got inside I asked the owner of the studio if we could leave the door open just until Hula Girl gets comfortable in class again. She said that’s fine. Hula Girl would not go into the room with the other girls. I made her stand just inside the door (I stood in the waiting room right outside the door) and I told her that if we are here she needs to be doing the steps just like the other girls. She did a beautiful job.

You guys, she loves to dance. And I love that she loves it so much. And she’s great at it. It broke my heart to hear her say she didn’t want to do dance anymore. BUT.

I really don’t want to push her. I remember times in my life when I felt like people pushed me to do things (not my parents, by the way) that I wasn’t comfortable doing. I was such a people-pleaser that I caved. And hated it. (Example: when I was little, my parents had a convention in Florida and I went but was with a group of older kids who took me to an amusement park. I did not want to go on some ride, but they pushed me to do it. I did it, and was terrified. I still remember it and hate it.) BUT.

She needs to learn to struggle and she needs to learn to socialize a bit. I kind of think it’s appropriate for her, at 3.5 years old, to step outside her boundaries sometimes and get uncomfortable, as long as she knows I’m always there for emotional support. I feel like she’s leaning on me too much but I don’t know how to encourage her without her feeling like I’m forcing her into something (and I especially don’t want to spoil dance for her- I can’t emphasize enough how much she truly loves dance).

Janet Lansbury just linked this post on Facebook this morning. It’s about a mom who fears she’s ruined her child by providing a lot of love and attention. Her child is very uncomfortable in social settings and she’s asking for advice about how to help him out. Janet has some thought-provoking ideas and challenges, including: Stop fearing struggles, Let play be his, Gain a healthier perspective about feelings, and Set boundaries with confidence. I feel like we’re good on the last two, but I know Hula Girl struggles with the first two. She tells me every day, “I don’t want to do room time.” And when I take her outside and tell her to “just play” while I do work, she has a hard time figuring out what to do. She often climbs up on her play structure and calls out, “Look at me,” several times a minute.

So I wrote a comment to Janet on that post which reads,

Janet,

I have a 3.5-year-old daughter who is also very introverted and like the sweet mom in your post I have been very careful to make sure she feels emotionally supported her entire life. We have set very firm boundaries, and she is 100% positive that Mommy and Daddy are in charge. She knows we can handle things. She is very advanced in her language skills and has really never had emotional issues because we’ve worked hard to support her and create a safe place for her to express herself.

However, she gets SO very overwhelmed in social situations. For example, she has been attending ballet class once a week for six months. This and weekly story time at the library are her only consistent peer-interaction situations. She is okay with story time because the moms stay with their children. But in dance, she struggles to stay in the studio with the teacher and the other little girls when I’m not in the room. It’s against the studio’s policy to have parents in the room, and quite frankly, I want to be out of the room so she can focus and learn to dance- she has BEAUTIFUL technique and quite a bit of natural talent.

Recently she began saying she didn’t want to go to dance, and I am trying hard to figure out if this is a situation in which I should encourage her to struggle a bit-she LOVES dance and would be absolutely devastated if I told her we are not going anymore- or be respectful of her stated desires and let her decide to quit. I have strong feelings about these things because I quit everything I ever attempted when I was a child and I don’t want her to give up as easily as I did. I never learned to struggle.

Being mindful of this, I also don’t want to be one of those parents who pushes her to do something she really doesn’t feel comfortable doing. Is a weekly dance class an age-appropriate place to learn to struggle? Or should I assume that she’s able to comprehend enough to allow her the option of quitting?

Full disclosure: my heart broke in ways I didn’t know it could when she told me she wanted to quit. I want to examine my own motives deeply before I make a decision about all this. Any input would be very welcome and very appreciated. Thanks!

I am really hoping Janet responds to me or opens the question up as a discussion question on her Facebook page. I am just at a loss right now and I am really torn about what to do here. This is not for the faint of heart!

What do all of you think?

 

Gelato’s First Sentences!

Well, he’s hit another language explosion time, or so it seems! Gelato spoke in two full sentences today, along with the thousands of one-or-two-word phrases he usually uses.

I had him outside on the swing. He looked at me and said, clear as day, “All done swinging.” I asked him if he wanted to get down and he said, “Yes.”

Then later this afternoon, he and Hula Girl were bonking each other around in the kitchen cabinets (a very frequent pastime, unfortunately), and he got offended by something. He came crying to me and said, “Hold you? Up!” I thought it was so sweet that he said, “Hold you,” because that’s what I say to him when I pick him up- “Do you want me to hold you?” Aw. What a listener.

I have really been able to understand exactly what he wants and needs all day for the past few days. His communication is getting insanely clear. And his enunciation is so very well developed. And his little voice is just so sweet. I wish he could sound like he does forever. Well, until he gets married or something. 🙂

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