Friends, Neighbors, Allergies, and Cheese

Yesterday started with beautiful weather; it ended with freezing rain! A huge thunderstorm moved through right as we arrived at our play date, which was thankfully moved to our new friends’ house instead of the park. We were grateful for our friends’ hospitality, and the kids had a lot of fun playing with their bunny. 🙂

Today I get to play hostess as I will have three of our neighbor’s kiddos over this afternoon. I plan to make cookies and then let the kids run wild. The house is clean, and since the kids are four and up, I’ll most likely be able to make some dinner while they’re here since they’ll need a bit less constant supervision. Before they come over, we will have some rest time and I hope to read a bit of Charlotte Mason’s Home Education.

Monkey Man slept in until almost 9:00 this morning. That is the first time any one of my kids has ever slept past 8:30. I was worried about him! He seems to be all right, except for his seasonal allergies, which are really dragging him down right now. We have been giving him some raw honey and a couple of my friends have mentioned some essential oils to use. We’ll try that today!

I think I’ve discovered why Sugar Plum has issues with dairy. I think it’s related to Jonathan’s migraines. Sugar Plum has always had a rough time of it when I’ve tried to introduce dairy into my diet. I had some cheese last night, and today she was just crying and crying while she held onto her little head. She’s done that in the past when I’ve tried cheese (we live in Wisconsin, after all). We’ve been experimenting with keeping Jonathan off dairy for a few weeks, and then trying cheese. Each time we’ve tried it, he’s had a migraine the next day. It’s becoming quite obvious that while dairy may not be the only trigger for his migraines, it certainly plays a part. And I’m thinking it’s the same for Sugar Plum. She gets little baby headaches when I have dairy. Poor thing! So… no dairy for us. Good thing I’m weaning her soon. I’m ready to eat pizza again.

Getting Connected

Today we tried out a new church. We had tried one for a few weeks when we first arrived here, based on the recommendation of a couple people we contacted ahead of time. However, we didn’t like the church for some reason or another (I honestly can’t say exactly why, it just didn’t feel like “the one”) and so we decided to keep looking. Then we moved from the old house to our permanent house, and holidays and sicknesses happened… so we finally found got it together enough to try a new church today!

The verdict: we liked it! The big kids went to children’s church, which is something new for our family. We usually like to keep the children with us in the service, but I think both Jonathan and I realize that this is one of the kids’ rare opportunities to interact with people outside the confines of parental supervision. We decided to go ahead and use the resource available to us to enable us to focus better on the message.

Sugar Plum stayed with us in the service, and she did well. She is a very quiet girl by nature, except when she is excited about eating, and we frequently get comments like, “Oh! I didn’t even know there was a baby behind me! She was so quiet!” So we figure it’s safe to keep her with us. It is nice to just have one to corral between the two of us.

The message was delivered by someone who wasn’t the senior pastor. It was good, but I am definitely excited to see what the senior pastor’s style is. That will be the main deciding factor for Jonathan and me when we evaluate the church in a couple of weeks. Hopefully we will like his preaching and we will feel more and more at home as time goes on. It would be so nice to have a church family again. We really miss that part of living in Colorado.

I also have to mention my friend, Gwen, and let you all know how wonderful she is. I was having a particularly rough time of it this week. I called her yesterday and explained some of my struggles. She listened and reminded me of how God sees me, which was the thing I really needed most. Then she got practical (I love a friend who is practical! Some people get upset when friends try to problem-solve instead of only listening, but I do SO appreciate it). She asked me if I had been able to connect with moms here in Wisconsin, and my answer was that I have only found one or two mom friends because I’m home so much with Sugar Plum’s napping. I told her that I would really love to find a group of moms who do a Bible study or something, but that I’m not on Facebook so I couldn’t find that information easily. Do you know what Gwen did?! She offered to look up some groups and send me the contact information. She is making sure I have no excuse to be alone. You guys. Her simple act of love for me was the most meaningful moment of the past month for me.

Be like Gwen. Be a friend.

Thanks, dear friend!

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.

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!

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. 🙂

 

Hula Girl and her Buddy Boy

Hula Girl absolutely adores Gelato. She calls him her Buddy Boy. And he loves her, too. He walks around the house calling her name, “Wa-wa!”

Every morning when he comes in her room with me to get her up, the first thing she says (quite loudly) is, “Hi, Buddy Boy! How was your sleep?” (Forget you, Mommy!) He grins all huge and toddles across the room as fast as his little sock feet can carry him, always leading with his tummy. They bonk heads as he crashes into the side of her bed and they giggle in each other’s face. Then he opens his mouth and plants it on her eyebrow and she shrieks, “Mommy! He’s giving me a kiss!” Every single morning.

Hula Girl likes to sing a little ditty about Gelato. It goes something like this:

“Oh, Buddy Boy!

You’re my Buddy Boy!

I love you so much, Buddy Boy!

How I just love my Buddy Boy!

Oh, yes, I love yooooouuuuuuu!” 

When we were in California, Jonathan and I took Hula Girl to the beach one day while Gelato stayed with Ama and Papa. We arrived home and the very first thing that happened was a glee-filled sibling reunion. Gelato came out of the bedroom and saw Hula Girl standing there next to the fridge, and he ran over to her and threw his hands up to her shoulders (haha, like she could even try to pick him up) while laying his head on her chest and saying, “Up! Up!” He was smiling like he’d won the lottery the whole time.

Today on the way home from the doctor’s office, Hula Girl said, quite out of the blue, “Mommy, [Gelato] is my little brother. He is my Buddy Boy.”

It sure must be great to have a sibling. I hope these two will stay close forever. What love they share!

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!

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.

 

We’re having another Toddler Party

Yup.

Since our Christmas party wasn’t the rollicking success we’d hoped for, I was pretty bummed. Jonathan actually convinced me that we need to do this again, though. We really want to build community and reach out to those around us. And plus, it’d be great to make friends. 

So, we’re doing a Valentine’s Day party! Wahoo! 

We’re inviting some of the same people, and some different ones. All girls this time. The two older girls who couldn’t make it last time because they were in Texas, the same shyish girl who did attend, the one who was sick and so couldn’t make it, and a set of twins who are AH-DORABLE! Ages 5, 3, 2.5, 2, 2, and 2. Plus Hula Girl is 2.5. So we should have a fun time. 

I plan to do the sensory table again- the only one who’s seen it before didn’t really get a chance to play in it because the boy was being so loud. 🙂 I am going to dye half of the rice reddish-pink and fill it will all things Valentine-esque. 

We’ll make a craft. I am thinking nothing TOO Valentine-y. My reason for this is that we’re going to have the party on Valentine’s Day and therefore the parents probably wouldn’t want to display a pink/red/hearts galore project for another year. I think we’ll make something like picture frames or tissue paper flowers or something like that. I’ll have to scope it out on Pinterest. 

I don’t think I’ll plan too many games. Last time the kids were really not interested in any games or activities outside of the sensory table and the cookies.

OOOOH! We’re going to make puppets. And then the girls can put on a puppet show. I will have a theatre ready for them. What a good idea. Now to decide whether to use paper bags or socks…

I am going to have chocolate-dipped strawberries, heart-shaped Jell-O (don’t mind my previous post about eating organics- holiday treats don’t count), and I’ll probably have some kind of fruit and veggie platter or something that’s a not-so-make-you-sick-to-your-stomach alternative. Of course we’ll drink pink punch. And I’ll have strawberry syrup in case someone wants to make strawberry milk instead. (GROSS.)

Overall, the party will be less ambitious. But hopefully more people will be able to make it this time and it will be a bit more relaxed (the moms of these particular girls are already storytime-chat-friends; you know, we cluster around afterward while our kids run amok playing with puzzles and puppets and banter about the insignificant details of life that we for some reason feel comfortable sharing when we don’t even know each others’ first names). I did extend the time frame on the invitation by 30 minutes. Maybe if they see that the party ends so close to lunchtime they’ll actually leave on time! 😉

Wish us luck! We’re handing out invitations tomorrow! 

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