Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

So we’re here. We’re home. We bought our house in October and moved from our temporary house in November. We still have boxes upon boxes to unpack and organize, but we will get there. No rush now. That’s a nice, but really strange, feeling. I tend to rush.

We pulled Hula Girl from public school at Thanksgiving break. School was a good experience for us overall. Hula Girl had a wonderful teacher who made her students’ lives at school fun. Even when the academics were way too easy for Hula Girl, she still wanted to go because she loved her teacher and she enjoyed her friends. My main comfort when deciding to put her in school to begin with was that I knew she wanted to socialize. She needed some practice speaking up for herself and being assertive. It took a couple months, but she got there. It was fun to see her develop confidence in situations where she needed to speak to other children and unfamiliar adults.

It was never our intention to use public schools for long. So when we moved to our permanent home, we gave it a few weeks and then kept Hula Girl home. We took the time between Thanksgiving and New Year to really focus on Christmas and all that season brings- TONS of activites, songs, crafts, reading together, and family time. We went light on the baking this year, mainly because our dishwasher broke in the beginning of December and doing all the regular dishes PLUS the baking dishes seemed like just a bit too much for me. Gotta know my limits.

For those of you who are wondering, Hula Girl is happy to be home. She really needed more challenging academics and she enjoys having ample time to read. She can knock out 50+ books in two weeks. She loves going to the library and impressing the librarians with her stacks of books. (I know some people who limit the number of books their children are allowed to check out. I limit my kids, too, to the number of books they can carry. Hula Girl has three library bags and she carries them all. Well, at least until we get to the door. Then I take pity on her and grab one and take it to the car for her. I’m a book softie.)

The socialization issue is really a non-issue for us. I feel like I need to address it, though, since many people somewhat close to me have questioned it. I think I’ve probably written about it before, and our views have not changed. As many homeschool families have already said, we would rather have our kids interacting with people of all ages in real-life situations than be stuck in rooms with twenty other people their age. Who will teach my kids better manners: the elderly neighbor who teaches Monkey Man how to paint and do papier mache; or a bunch of four-year-olds? Who will demonstrate careful attention to detail better: Hula Girl’s dance instructor; or her peers, who think that it’s an achievement to color mostly in the lines? And who will teach them to love Jesus best: her family, made up of two parents who put Jesus first and demonstrate the power of God’s grace and two siblings who give them ample opportunity to put that grace into practice; or the public school system, where Common Core determines all learning and all character education falls upon the shoulders of the school’s one guidance counselor, who presents boxed vague information about “getting along” and “bullying”?

Don’t worry. We’re not just keeping ourselves hidden away in our little hermitage here in the woods of Wisconsin. Hula Girl has many opportunities to interact with kids her own age. She has dance and Sunday School. We have neighbors right across the street with a little girl who is six also. The two of them get together and play and it’s like they’ve grown up together. They just have so much fun. Every afternoon, Hula Girl waits for C’s bus to drop her off, and then they go for walks or jump on the trampoline or go to C’s house and guzzle hot chocolate (C’s mom is much more liberal with the sweets than me!). We also have several other kiddos of roughly the same age in the neighborhood who will likely form a gang together this summer, with Hula Girl as their leader. And there are even kiddos Monkey Man’s age who will be junior members of the Summer Club. Winning!

So, for now, we have been working this week to establish our new homeschool/life routine. It looks like this most days, but some days the order of things gets thrown out of whack and we just adjust and go with it:

  • Sugar Plum gets up and nurses (yep, still going strong!)
  • Big Kids get up and we all have breakfast- Scripture memory, poetry, hymns, and folksongs happen during breakfast
  • Chore time- big kids do morning chores, I clean the kitchen, and Sugar Plum crawls around causing mischief (watch the cat food or she will eat half of it… ask me how I know)
  • Sugar Plum starts her nap and big kids start school
  • Monkey Man gets individual time with me while Hula Girl does independent school work
  • Switch
  • Free Play when independent work is completed
  • Sugar Plum wakes from nap, I nurse her, and all the kids have independent play time in their rooms or in the basement playroom while I make lunch
  • Lunch- I read chapter books to the kids while they eat (Chronicles of Narnia is our current series)
  • Free Play- the part of the day during which the three kids go nuts and look so darn cute while they do; the big kids engage with Sugar Plum and make her the Princess of the castle, take her on rocking horse rides through the “meadow,” and defend her from imagined dragons
  • Nap/Rest time- each kid goes to his/her room to sleep or rest; I only have one napper these days, but the other two are very good about resting quietly while they read or play with their toys
  • Snack- I usually have fresh-baked bread or cookies ready for this time of day, and we eat them with tea; snack time is wonderful
  • Varies- sometimes we have dance class, sometimes the kids play with neighbors, sometimes they do a table activity like play-dough, and so on
  • The Finish Line- Daddy walks in the door and is greeted with buoyant smiles and enthusiastically leaping monkeys

And my New Year’s Resolutions (which, by the way, I have actually kept this far! I think it’s a record for me.)

  • Whole foods, plant-based diet (except honey)
  • Drink 60+ oz of water per day- I hate water
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Pray specifically for each child and Jonathan every day
  • Exercise (That one is a bit vague on purpose. I don’t do anything specific to exercise while pregnant or breastfeeding. Never have. Probably should. Meh.)

And that’s the haps. I’ve completely disconnected from Facebook. I don’t miss it. I do miss some of you, though. Email me or text me and let me know how you’re doing.

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“It’s been 84 Years…”

Not quite that long, but it surely feels like it’s been 84 years since my last post. It’s really only been just over a year. (Can anyone identify the source of that quotation, by the way? Chelsea, are you reading?) My excuse? I forgot my password. I feel really sheepish saying that. Passwords are recoverable. However, I have a separate email account associated with this blog and I forgot the password for that as well… so… Anyway! Now I’m back.

So much has happened over the past year. We’ve added a new family member, our little Sugar Plum, who is five months old today. Monkey Man is almost four years old; Hula Girl just turned six recently. We completed our first year of real homeschooling. We’ve added new chickens to our flock. And all sorts of other things in between.

I wanted to get back to blogging because I don’t really keep track of our lives in any other organized way. All my kids’ baby pictures can be found on Facebook, but nowhere else. I want a place to store all our memories again!

I’m just going to jump right into writing about what happened today. I’ll go back and fill in details as needed, but I don’t really want to try to recap more than I already have.

This week Hula Girl has been taking a ballet class at dance camp. The funny thing is, she has the same ballet teacher she had waaaaay back when she first started dance. She quit dancing back then because she was just too shy to continue on. However, she started back up two years ago, and she has flourished. Hula Girl does so well with dance. She has beautiful feet, she takes corrections well and applies them consistently from the first time they’re given, and she observes her teachers carefully so she rarely misses a step. I know that all moms whose daughters dance think their daughters are just the most beautiful little ballerinas they’ve ever seen. I am no exception. Hula Girl astounds me with her grace and self-assurance when she dances. We plan for her to take separate tap and ballet classes in the fall.

Another funny thing about Hula Girl’s dance class is her reaction to a new girl in her class who has Down syndrome. Hula Girl loves kids with Down syndrome, especially if they’re of Asian descent. She once told me she wants to be Chinese and have Down syndrome, because she loves her friends who have Down syndrome SO MUCH. (Some of her favorite Sunday school friends have Down syndrome. Two of them are adorable Chinese girls.) The new girl in her ballet class has a darker complexion as well. I was SURE she would come home talking about the new girl with Down syndrome. I was half right. She DID come home talking about the girl. She said the girl is new to dance and that she is excited to see the girl trying so hard when it is something she has never done before. She said she is proud of the girl for doing her best. I asked her if she noticed anything else about the girl, and she thought for a minute before answering, “I really liked the way she had her hair braided!” It is such a rewarding experience for me to see my daughter being so accepting and encouraging of children with all abilities and skin tones. I want to impress on my children that NO ONE is better than anyone else, for any reason. I want them to learn to love and appreciate everyone, and to find ways to encourage everyone. Hula Girl is doing these things, and it makes my heart so thankful.

Monkey Man has a lot of fun at Hula Girl’s dance classes. He stands in the corner and does all the steps along with the dancers. We actually planned to have him take a rhythm and movement class this summer, but he backed out of it. I think it’s so interesting because he loves getting everyone’s attention– he is always walking through stores saying hi to everyone– but he doesn’t want to participate in dance class because he’s afraid people will watch him! We aren’t pushing the issue with him. Jonathan danced and we would love it if Monkey Man wanted to try it out, too, but we will leave it up to him to decide whether he wants to do it, and when. He knows the option is open to him.

Both children are also interested in taking gymnastics classes and joining a soccer team. They are both very athletic, and Jonathan and I are all for them trying out as many different activities as they’d like to try while they’re young.  We are also planning to start music lessons soon. I never learned to read music (I have tried, but it befuddles my mind),  and I feel such a sense of loss over this that I refuse to let my kids feel it too! So we will start piano lessons soon. I am certain that music lessons will be fun for Monkey Man. He is introverted, and he has always had an extra measure of musicality.

And now for a bit about our little Sugar Plum. She is just the easiest, sweetest baby you could imagine. She only ever cries if she is extremely overtired, extremely hungry (has only happened once in her life), or cold. Otherwise, she is just all around mellow. Nothing makes her smile more than seeing someone she loves; eliciting a laugh takes herculean effort. Most of the time she can be seen just gazing around the room and quietly taking it all in. She hasn’t rolled yet, but she is trying very hard. I am certain she will be rolling within a week or two. She looks much more like Monkey Man and Jonathan than she does like Hula Girl and me. However, she has red eyebrows, which leads me to believe she *might* have my red hair. So far she is taking after her siblings by growing superfine, uncertain-colored hair all over her giant head.

Jonathan and I are doing well. Just keepin’ on keepin’ on. I’ll let you know if anything specific happens. Haha.

The Chicken Dance

Wednesdays are always hectic in the mornings. The kids get up at 7:30, and we have to leave by 8:20 in order to get to Hula Girl’s dance class on time. This 50-minute chunk of time seems adequate time for most people to eat, dress, brush teeth, and leave, but TODDLER TIME is sooooo sloooooow. Somehow I put breakfast on the table at 7:35 and the kids still aren’t even halfway done by 7:55. 20 minutes into breakfast, and they’ve eaten like half a bowl of oatmeal and a few strawberries. I find it’s best if I just give them a quick breakfast and then plan for a larger morning snack than usual on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the hectic nature of the morning, yesterday I made sure to review our memory verse, read our poem for the day (“At the Sea-Side”), and pray for our sponsor kids. The kids so enjoy these activities at breakfast time. Monkey Man enjoys the poetry, and Hula Girl likes talking about what kinds of things our sponsor kids are doing, how the weather is where our sponsor kids live, and how we can pray for them. And of course both kids love the chance to show off their memory skills.

A couple days ago, I posted that Monkey Man doesn’t really join in memory verse recitation with the rest of us. Well, two hours after I published that post, kid was spouting off the entire verse. I knew he was able to do it, but he just wasn’t yet. He has decided to jump on board with family memory verses. It’s so much fun to see the kids gobbling up God’s word and taking it to heart. I even got the chance to correct their behavior using scripture yesterday when they were bickering. l asked them to say Ephesians 4:32 with me (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you,”) and then I asked Hula Girl what she needed to do in order to obey. She stopped arguing, said, “I forgive you, Monkey Man,” and they hugged it out.

Another awesome part of doing family memory verses is being able to address deeper spiritual issues. The other day, Jonathan got the chance to explain God’s forgiveness through Christ. Hula Girl was asking, “What does it mean that God in Christ forgave us?” Jonathan explained that Christ died once for all, and that our sins are forgiven because of HIS sacrifice, not because of any good thing we’ve done. She liked that a lot.

Anyway. Dance was great. The recital is coming up in two weekends, so the girls are really just working on fine-tuning their performance right now. Their sweet teachers are great at what they do, but this time of year is just crazy with so much going on. We will all be glad when the recital comes and we take the summer off.

After dance, we went to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and then we went and picked up the dance teachers’ gifts and cards. Our final errand was to get Monkey Man’s hair cut. To say the hairdresser loved him would be a major understatement. She was amazed at his speech and how sure he was with himself. He wanted his hair to be short on the top so he could “put gel in it like Daddy.” He also asked her to blow dry his hair (SO funny to see a hair dresser blow-drying a tiny little boy’s inch-long hair strands!), and he asked her to put gel in it when she was done. She got a kick out of all his requests and so she indulged him. He was definitely spoiled.

When we got home from our errands, Hula Girl disappeared to her room to work on her projects (she loves to write notes to people and glue them to pictures she’s created) and Monkey Man laid down on the couch to listen to an audio book from the library. We had a hot lunch of soup and popcorn! Then it was rest time.

When the kids got up, we spent about 10 minutes on Hula Girl’s reading lesson, and then we read 20-something books from the library. It is so cozy to be snuggled on the couch with those two little people. Monkey Man leans his head on my shoulder while I read; Hula Girl holds the cat on her lap and drapes her legs over mine. We put a blanket over all of us (the cat included, we wouldn’t want to forget Riley), and we read until we’re out of books. It took an hour and a half yesterday.

Our final activity before Jonathan came home yesterday was letting our youngest baby chicks out of their brooder for a while. I tried to keep them contained to just a blanket on the floor, but they were WILD. We have five little chicks who are 5 weeks old; our “big girls” are 9 weeks old and out in the coop already. The “little girls” are not as tame as the “big girls” because they were older when we got them and hadn’t been handled as much as young chicks. They were literally flying all around the playroom, and three of them even climbed up on Hula Girl’s head. Monkey Man enjoyed fishing them out from under the train table and the futon, and I just walked around cleaning up any messes. Oy. After 20 minutes of that, we rounded them up and returned them to their brooder so we could all get some rest! Thankfully, Jonathan is in the process of moving them to their bigger brooder in the garage as I type this, so I won’t have any more chickens living in our guest room. Ever.

Wednesday was not very school-heavy, but it was certainly educational. Every day is educational, in one way or another. And who says academic lessons are the most important lessons?

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

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!

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.

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?

 

Dance Dilemma

Now, many of you know that my Hula Girl is a very reserved little girl. Reserved to the point where she is extraordinarily uncomfortable around new people and she doesn’t talk to them for at least 20-30 minutes. Even if they bring her gifts (sorry, Alyssa). It bothers me a lot when other people call her “shy”… she definitely acts that way, but I don’t want her labeled like that forever in her own mind. I generally jump the gun and just explain to folks that she’s reserved and she’ll need a bit of time to warm up. If they respect that, she does well and within a short period, she’s laughing and shouting to them as if she’s know them her entire life.

Another aspect of Hula Girl’s personality is that she is a very quick learner, and she’s a perfectionist to boot. She remembers dance steps after doing them once. She has beautiful technique (for a three-year-old) and makes corrections naturally when her teacher gives them. She can even take what she learns in class and apply them at home- when she teaches me how to dance. She loves correcting me: “No, Mommy, you need to point your toes like this, with your heels together. Look.” Her dance teacher says she has a lot of potential and that she’s really fun to work with because she learns quickly.

For things like dance class, where it’s a weekly event but only for an hour or so, the key for her is consistent exposure. She does really well when the same girls attend week after week with no new students. I try to be really proactive about telling her what changes she can expect if I know in advance. For instance, if A isn’t going to be in class next week, I talk to Hula Girl about it in the car on the way home and on the way back to dance the following week. She likes to be prepared.

We recently had a shake-up in Dance Land. Just before we moved, our dance studio moved, too. Hula Girl would point out the old studio every time we passed it, and look for the new one and shout about its location, too. It took her about four weeks to be able to walk into the new studio and not have to ask me, “Mommy, is this the new studio?” She needs that reassurance.

Then we went on vacation and missed dance for two weeks. I tried to prepare her for her return to dance last Thursday as best as I could by running through her class music and doing a full “class” with her here at home the day before we went back.

And then there was a new girl in class when we arrived. And one of the regulars wasn’t there. Earth. Shattering.

Hula Girl actually seemed to take the new situation kind of well. She walked right in and got on her spot. But that was the highlight of the class. The rest of the time was spent rolling on the floor, assuming first position and then jumping down onto her bottom, crawling like a baby instead of walking on her toes, grabbing the other girls’ hands and holding on so tight the other girls couldn’t make her let go, and shouting all kind of off-topic things to the teacher in the middle of instructions. The teacher had such a hard time with her she even spoke to me after class.

Hula Girl and I had many short talks about it during the week. I reminded her that I expect her to have better behavior. We acted out what to do and what not to do.

So today everything seemed fine.  She told me this morning, “Mommy! I know what day it is! It’s Thursday! It’s Dance Class Day! I LOVE DANCE CLASS!!!!” She knew what she was going to do when we got to the studio, and she knew what expectations we had for her during class. I asked her what she was going to do in class today and she replied, “Listen to the directions and obey. If Miss S tells me to be in first position, I will stand in first position until she tells me to move.”  Okay.

But then. Somehow she just couldn’t handle it. I don’t know what triggered it. One minute she was happily sitting in her spot, waiting for class to begin. The next she was running out of the room crying. She told me she was nervous and that she wanted to go home.

I told her it’s okay to feel nervous and that we’re here to have fun and learn. I asked her if she really wanted to go home or stay in class. She said she wanted to stay but she wanted me to come with her. I asked Miss S if I could sit with her in the corner of the room by the door for a few dances. She obliged. Hula Girl went back to dancing with the other girls and was doing really well, except with a somber face.

I am thinking she was afraid Miss S was going to be mad at her for last week’s behavior and she felt like she had to be absolutely perfect or we’d all be upset. I think she was really feeling pressured by our expectations.

And then… the studio had closed-circuit TV installed so they can shut the door to the studio and parents can observe classes. Today was the first time it was in use. I left the room and shut the door behind me after a few songs and then watched Hula Girl begin to cry and bolt across the room after me.

After a long hug break and a lot of tears, Hula Girl told me she wanted to go home.

So we left.

Once we were in the parking lot, she realized the other girls were staying in class. Then she was very upset because she wanted to be dancing, too.

You guys, she LOVES dance. Absolutely loves it.

It was so hard for her to realize that the choice she made to go home instead of facing her fears at the studio meant that she couldn’t finish dance today.

I could have been harsh about it and refused to take her back to dance. Instead I told her we will try again next week and I took her to Starbucks and got her a pumpkin spice steamer (which she ADORED) and we talked about her feelings and our expectations and what will happen next week. I assured her that I am extremely proud of her for being able to tell me how she feels and for sticking with the choices that she makes (even though she really didn’t have the option to change her mind this time). I focused on the positives- “You did what you said you were going to do today! We went in the studio, put on your shoes, and you sat down on your spot just like we talked about!” I really encouraged her and let her know that if she’s wanting to stay in dance, I will support her and help her feel comfortable there in the best ways I can.

We are going back. We’re going to go early and see how the camera system works. I’m going to show her how I will see her the entire time. We talked about how the camera is like Skype with Ama and Papa- even though they’re not here in the room, we can still see them and hear them. That resonated with her a bit. She relaxed a bit and said, “Oh. You will see me the whole time!”

If, however, she struggles next week, we’re not going to waste money or anyone else’s time. We’re going to take a break.

And this, my friends, is why I really don’t think sending her away to preschool just for the sake of “experience” is necessarily a good idea for her. It will be quite traumatic, and for what purpose? Just for me to get a break? And if I plan to homeschool for real, the experience will be absolutely unnecessary.

Ay, yi, yi. It is difficult to find the balance between supporting her emotionally and challenging her to expand her horizons. Anyone else have experience with a painfully (dare I say it) shy child? Any tips?

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