Locked In!

Yesterday we had a harrowing experience.

It was just after rest time. Sugar Plum hadn’t slept for her afternoon nap, Monkey Man had energy for days, and Hula Girl was starving. It was a toxic mess on the brink of disaster. So we did the most logical thing. We went to the library.

However, it wasn’t so simple as that. First, all three children (and their mom, truth be told) had to get dressed. Half an hour later (how the children drag out the process of putting on socks for twenty minutes solid is beyond me), we were dressed. Then we had to scour the house to find our library books to return. We looked in all the usual places, under couches and pillows, between the beds and the walls, and in a heap in front of the bookcase (we wouldn’t want to put the books on the bookcase– those extra two inches would strain our young bodies beyond repair <eyeroll>). Then we searched all the unusual places and found books in the middle of the laundry basket, under a pile of toy bugs, and on Hula Girl’s sewing table. After we had stuffed all the books into three separate bags, I told the children to put on their shoes and meet me in the car. I grabbed the books and loaded them into the car, then came back inside for a couple of granola bars for the big kids’ snack. I also scooped up Sugar Plum.

Monkey Man and Sugar Plum were all strapped in and ready to go when I turned back to go inside and see what was taking Hula Girl so long. Uh-oh. I couldn’t open the door between the garage and the house. Somehow Hula Girl thought we had locked her in the house, so she had turned the deadbolt to try to unlock it. She locked herself inside the house!

“What’s the big deal,” you might ask. Well, the big deal is that when we bought the house, the only key we received works on only one lock: the front doorknob. I have no way of opening any other locks, whether they are deadbolts, doorknobs, chains, or sliders. Another part of the big deal is that Hula Girl has very low muscle tone in her hands, and the deadbolt is a super sticky one. She couldn’t turn it back!

After about five minutes of her trying desperately to free herself through the garage, I told her to meet me at the back door. Surely she’d be able to turn that deadbolt- it’s much easier. No dice. By this point, she was scared and crying, and I was starting to panic.

I couldn’t use the key on the front door– remember, it only does the doorknob. Also, the front door is secured with extra slider locks at the top (a great safety measure when dealing with young children), but Hula Girl can’t reach them, so I didn’t think the front door would work, either.

Thankfully, Jonathan had gone out the front door and he didn’t secure the slider locks the night before. So Hula Girl was able to let herself out that way eventually.

Guess what Jonathan did last night? We’ll never be locked out (or in the case of the children, in) again.

The whole time I was outside, trying to figure out a way to get my baby out of the house, I was thinking back to a time when she was barely two years old and she locked herself in her room during roomtime. I was ready to break down the door to get to her that day, but I ended up breaking in with a bobby pin. Fortunately I was able to avoid property damage yesterday, as well, but I was strongly considering it! Yikes, man.

After all this we went to the library, and Hula Girl brought home 87 books. I think that’s a personal record.

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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!

Minor Homeschooling Freakout

I’m starting to second-guess our decision to homeschool.

This morning I took Hula Girl to the library for storytime (Gelato stayed home with our amazing friend Joy who babysits the kids and they LOVE her, who was homeschooled by the way). We’ve been going to the same storytime at the same library for two years now. There are several families whose kids are around Hula Girl’s age and now they have littler ones who are around Gelato’s age.

We went to storytime in August just before our vacation, but we hadn’t been back for three weeks. And a lot changes in three weeks. First of all, there is a new storytime teacher. Miss Kirsten is no longer there, which makes us sad. But hopefully we’ll get used to someone new (with her newfangled ways of singing the ABC song and all!). Aside from that, the demographics today were just way different than ever before.

All the kids Hula Girl’s age were absent- gone to preschool. Their moms were chilling calmly with their younger kids and really enjoying the 1-on-1 time with their younger offspring. I asked several of the moms how the eldest kids were liking it, and how the family was adjusting, etc. One hundred percent of the moms said it was going really well and that their child loved it. One hundred percent of them also said it was hard getting used to having their child away, even if only a couple times each week.

This started two divergent lines of thinking in my head:

1. I am a terrible mother for not giving Hula Girl the opportunity to go away to school. I am depriving her of meaningful and fun experiences and she will miss out on all the “normal” things that her peers will reminisce about in college.

2. I feel bad for those kids who have to be sent away from their families to go to school, especially the ones whose moms aren’t working and just staying at home hangin’ out with their sibs.

The predominant thought was the first idea- that Hula Girl and Gelato are going to be deprived of something great by having to stay home with me all the time. And so now I’ve got myself worked up into a tizzy.

Because, let’s face it, it would be GLORIOUS to send my little chickadee off to 3 hours of supervised-but-not-by-me activities twice weekly.  She would have fun and learn, I’d get a break; win, win. And then as she gets older and goes into real school and Gelato gets into preschool, I’d get even more breaks. Win, win, win! And when they both get into school school, I’d get to go back and teach again! Win, win, win, win!

But is that really worth it to me? I want to be the #1 influence in their lives. I want to be the one making decisions about what they will learn and how. I want to be the one who knows their work styles and play styles best. I want to know what they’ve done all day. I want to know which friends they have been hanging out with. I want to know if anything has happened to make them feel uncomfortable or sad (or EXCITED or GLEEFUL, for that matter).

And I want them to learn from me and my mistakes. I guarantee Hula Girl will be a better cook than me- she has already started learning. And Gelato will definitely have a better ear for music than I do because I insist on his hearing it during a lot of his day.

Anyway, I am just feeling all wrinkly and prickly and disheveled and not-sorted-out right now about our schooling situation here. I think I’m also feeling a lot of hubris and trepidation and not-good-enough and can’t-even-handle-her-at-three-how-am-I-gonna-teach-her-until-she-graduates?!?!?!

And one more thing. This has NOTHING to do with this post, but I just have to say it. What’s worse than completing your entire P90X workout? Lifting your son out of his crib later. P90X Chest and Back=OW.

 

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!

I’m a Bad Parent (a.k.a. M.Y.O.B.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

The lady walked into the library in a huff.

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

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

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! 

Toddler Cookie Party

Back on December 15, we hosted a party for toddlers. It was actually a covert ploy to get to know several of the moms with toddlers in the area. We sent our guests on their way with mixed feelings about the success-rate of the party.

Our final count included 10 toddlers, 4 infants, and 11 adults. Not including our family. I was kind of freaking out. But freaking out in a good way- in the way that got the entire downstairs portion of our house spotless and all the preparations for the party done well in advance (if you count the night before at 11 o’clock- don’t judge!).

The Entryway featured Hula Girl's hot pink and purple cupcake Christmas tree and favor bags.

The Entryway featured Hula Girl’s hot pink and purple cupcake Christmas tree and favor bags.

I had several stations set up around our house. There was a “Pin the Nose on the Snowman” game, a felt Christmas tree with ornaments, a Christmas sensory table, and the cookie decorating area. First loved by toddlers was the sensory table. I knew it would be a hit- I am SO glad someone from my mom’s group suggested it. They also adored decorating cookies. One little girl decorated at least seven cookies! It was awesome.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

Felt Christmas tree for the kids to decorate again and again!

Felt Christmas tree for the kids to decorate again and again!

 

Christmas Sensory Table- we just filled Hula Girl's water table with peppermint-scented rice and Christmasy goodness!

Christmas Sensory Table- we just filled Hula Girl’s water table with peppermint-scented rice and Christmasy goodness!

 

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

 

Ready to decorate!

Ready to decorate!

I got ahead of myself; let’s get back to the preparations. We made spiced cider in the crock pot, we had coffee brewing. I had eggnog for eggnog lattes. I had put some peppermint oil in the sensory table, so our house smelled like a Starbucks with all the mixed aromas! We also had PB&J sandwiches cut out in the shape of gingerbread men, and I made some Christmas-themed fruit skewers (red grapes and honeydew melon skewered on $0.97 Christmas-colored swizzle sticks). Of course the whole house was already decked out for Jesus’ birthday celebration, so decorating was a non-issue.

Christmasy toddler snack food

Christmasy toddler snack food (good thing the formica countertops are hunter green, huh? lol)

On the morning of the party, Hula Girl was just so excited. She kept asking, “Are my friends coming today?” Of course they were coming! She named several friends she was looking forward to seeing.  She didn’t eat breakfast. She is not one to eat when she’s excited. Can’t imagine where she gets that.

Our party was scheduled to begin at 10 and the invitation clearly stated that it would conclude at 11. After all, I have a very excitable toddler on my hands, and I wanted to make sure she got something to eat before her nap!

At 8:45, we received a call saying that one of Hula Girl’s friends was sick and wouldn’t be able to make it. I was very grateful to that mom. Sure, it was lame for her daughter to miss the party, but THANK YOU for not bringing your flu-infected child to my house!

At 10:00, no one had showed.

At 10:05, we began to get nervous that somehow I printed the wrong date on the invitations. I checked. It was correct.

At 10:10, Jonathan started saying things like, “Well, at least we got the house all clean and we don’t have to make lunch for Hula Girl for the next week!”

At 10:15, two toddlers and their families showed up. Sigh. of. relief.

At 10:25, another toddler and his family showed up. Yay! The more the merrier!

BUT NO ONE ELSE CAME.

Yeah, 5 of the families who RSVP’d in the affirmative did not show, call, email, or send smoke signals. That irked me. Moving on.

Two of the guests were little girls right about Hula Girl’s age. One of them loved decorating cookies so very much. The other, much like Hula Girl, was more interested in eating the decorations and the cookies than actually making anything pretty. 🙂 The first one, Sprinkle Girl, ended up making a giant mountain of green sugar crystals on one cookie while her mom was looking the other way. Hah! It was classic. Her mom was so embarrassed and flustered, but we made sure to tell her over and over that it is a TODDLER party, we have a TODDLER too, and we know that TODDLERS do funny things like that.

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The other guest was a three-year-old little boy who is our neighbor. He was not interested, in the slightest, in cookie decorating. Not even to eat one! All he wanted to do was put his action figure in the Christmas sensory table (filled with rice) and make things explode. Boys. 🙂

Once the girls were done with the cookies, they meandered over to the sensory table, where Hula Girl stood back and observed her “friends” playing with HER toy. This was a very new experience for her and at first she wasn’t sure about it. Then she got into the spirit of things and tried to play along, only to be told “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” and “It’s MINE!” by Sprinkle Girl and Action Figure Boy.  She was unsure of what to do. Jonathan and I gently coached her to say, “I want to play, too,” and to ignore the other kids’ complaints. She did fine. She even made sure that the other little girl, Curly-Q, got to play with some toys.

Another big hit on the toddler scene was the Little People Nativity set. This is a set that Hula Girl played with for hours every day all throughout the Christmas season. It really appealed to all the children at the party. I was very glad that there were several wise men- those seemed to be the most desired characters for some reason. Maybe it’s because they are holding presents?

Both Action Figure Boy and Sprinkle Girl have younger siblings. I got to hold both of the babies- a 6-month-old boy and a 4-month-old girl. It was pretty funny to hold someone else’s child. Gelato outweighs both other babies by at least 2 pounds, and he just feels so much more solid compared to them. That’s my chunk!

Our party finally ended sometime around 1:00. Yes, two hours after the invitation said the party was over, people were walking out the door. That’s another story. And most of the reason I don’t call the whole thing a big success.

All in all, it was really good to get to know the other moms better. I will definitely be trying to set up another playdate with Curly-Q. We might try to do something with Sprinkle Girl, too. As for our neighbors, well, Hula Girl was a bit frightened by Action Figure Boy. We might hold off on playdates with them until she’s more used to socializing one-on-one. Otherwise they’d spend a really long time playing hide-and-seek. 😉

Hospitality Update

So remember this post, where I talked about Jonathan’s and my excitement about hospitality and church attendance and so forth? Well.

We went to church on Sunday. It wasn’t perfect.

Gelato actually napped around church pretty well. He woke early that morning so we were able to just go to the early service without disrupting his first nap. He missed his second nap but fell asleep in the car seat on the way home, and then when he woke from that short nap I moved him to his crib and he fell asleep for another 45 minutes, which put us at the proper time for his next feeding.

Hula Girl stayed in the nursery with very few problems. They didn’t have to page us out of the service, but when we arrived to pick her up, she was crying. They told us that she had just had a truck taken away from her by a little boy. On the way home, she told us that a boy had kicked her. Maybe he didn’t just take the truck? I can’t imagine that she’d be making that up- I don’t think she’s ever seen anyone kick another person (not in books, and definitely not on TV or videos- you know that’s not the way we roll). So I’m not sure about that one.

The service itself was fine. Except. Um. They didn’t do Advent. ?!?!?!?!?!?!

I emailed the pastor last night in order to find out why. I haven’t heard back. I know it’s not a denominational thing- I made sure to look it up and found lots of other churches in the same denomination that were doing special advent things- wreath lightings and so forth. Maybe it was an oversight? 

But it really bothered me. The first Sunday of Advent focuses on Hope. We have such great hope of salvation through the coming King! We ought to be reminded of that hope because, really, it’s what brings the joy to our hearts! Why celebrate Christmas if we have no hope? All I wanted to do was to have a little hope. 

Anyway. I will let you know what the pastor says in response to my email. 

On to the other topic of that particular post. The Toddler Christmas Extravaganza.

Yeah. I handed out invitations and made a few phone calls, expecting about half of the people to decline. Well… they all accepted. My count right now includes 4 infants, 11 toddlers, 2 preschoolers, and 15 adults. Whoa. Can I just take a moment to congratulate myself on my foresight? I scheduled this thing to last for an hour. I figured that’d be all Hula Girl could handle. Turns out it’ll probably be all I can handle!

Heeeere are my plans!

Refreshments:

  • Christmas Tree Fruit Plate OR Red and Green Fruit Skewers
  • Gingerbread-Man-Shaped PB&J and Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches
  • Coffee
  • Spiced Cider
  • Eggnog (for the coffee or by itself-gag!)
  • Milk
  • Water

Activities: 

  • Decorate Cookies (the Main Event!)
  • Christmas Sensory Table
  • Ice Fishing
  • Christmas Matching/Memory 
  • Felt Board Snowman 

 Favors (Treat bags stuffed with):

  • Jingle Bell Necklaces
  • Christmas Matching/Memory Cards
  • Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods
  • Clementine
  • Christmas Stickers

Okay, so I was just reading through that list of food and I stopped to laugh because I can picture Jonathan eating scraps of sandwiches for lunch and dinner that day. What else are we going to do with all the trimmings after we cut them with the cookie cutter? Haha! Poor guy. Never knew he’d have such lovely meals when he married me! Soggy sandwich trimmings-Dee-lightful! 

Anyway, we’re expecting mayhem. Our house is tiny, and it’s supposed to be quite cold, so there will be no escaping to the backyard. Thank goodness Gelato has white noise in his room and he can’t even hear the vacuum when it’s running. ‘Cuz I’m betting on at least two or three tantrums and at least a WHOLE LOTTA LAUGHTER! What fun we’ll have. 

And the moms? They’re STOKED. Five of them came up to me right as soon as I walked in to the library today. They were all saying, “Sorry we haven’t RSVP’d… but we’re definitely going to make it! We’re so excited!” Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels totally trapped at home sometimes!

And I’m insisting on name tags.

Hospitality

Jonathan and I just listened to a recording of the message delivered this Sunday by my old friend, who is now the pastor of my home church from childhood. The kind of hospitality and life-giving relationships that Ben (Pastor Ben? Pastor Brooks? How do I address him now? I literally grew up with him! He’s always been Ben to me!) spoke about really got to my heart.

Ben told the (fictional) story of a couple who joined the church, then joined a “Kingdom-Life Group”. The Kingdom-Life Group was a close-knit, fully-invested group of families who were “all up in each other’s business” in a good way. They all had a huge heart for the Lord and were keenly interested in living the way the apostles and believers did in Acts. They met frequently to break bread, pray, hold each other accountable, study the Word, and worship. But they decided to take it a step further. They were intentional about hospitality and missions. They wanted to get out into their neighborhood and win others for Christ. And they did. They hosted parties, they prayed, they went on walks with the intention of meeting specific neighbors. They were warm, inviting, caring, and, well, weird. Weird in a good way. People knew them, they knew their message, and even if they didn’t believe in the same things, they wanted to have a part in what was happening with those “Christians.”

Jonathan and I got so excited about that idea… but then we realized we’re kind of a long way from that kind of thing. Which was discouraging.

We’ve moved a lot since we were married. And then we made a lot of excuses. So, no, we really have no church that we call “home”. We don’t know many other young families who love Jesus and who are teaching their children to do the same. Heck, we haven’t even had either of our children dedicated yet. Yes, it is terribly sad. Yes, we have totally dropped the ball. Yes, we are heartbroken over the fact that we got so lazy.

So now we’ve got to be crazy-intentional. We ARE going to be attending church, starting this Sunday. First Advent Sunday of the season. Seems appropriate. We ARE going to step out of our comfort zones (including being nervous about missing naps, etc.) to stay at church and meet some new people each time. We ARE going to find out how we can host a small group in our own home (is that selfish? I just figured we can’t really afford a babysitter, and it would be easy to put the kids to bed by 6:45 and then have the group arrive at 7). We ARE going to raise our children in a church, in a community, and hopefully, if all goes well, in a Kingdom-Life Group of our very own.

So I guess we’re going to be taking all the right steps… just maybe a bit out of order. ‘Cuz the first thing we’re going to do is open up our home and practice some good old-fashioned hospitality. Starting December 15.

This morning I woke up with a hare-brained idea. I said, “Hey, would it be okay if I decided to invite some of our friends from Storytime over for a Christmas party this month?” It kind of blew up from there. Now we’re hosting a Christmas Cookie Decorating and Reindeer Games Party. And we’re expecting at least 10 families.   In our teensy weensy little home. That is half-filled with Goliath’s Christmas tree. Wahoo!

The whole point of this get-together, for me at least, is to get to know the names of the moms I see week to week. Huh? Yeah. I know that she’s Gracie’s Mom, and she’s Adam’s Mom. But I don’t know their real names. I don’t know anything about them. In fact, just by handing out the invitations, I learned that one mom’s husband works on the railroads in Minnesota, so she’s alone with her little girl day in and day out. I am betting that mom could use a little friendship. I would never have known. (Ironically, I have yet to learn her name. Whoops.)

I kind of want to establish a gathering place. My home is never spotless. My home is rarely even tidy. I can’t cook very well. My husband will have to be home if you want coffee, because I don’t know how to make it. But I can heat up water and soak a tea bag. And my couch, albeit old, is cozy. And the living room smells like Christmas. So yeah, I can handle this. In fact, I’m craving it. Give me a reason to keep things tidy! Give me a reason to try a new recipe (but give me grace when it’s a disaster!)! I can’t wait to welcome folks into our home. I hope one day my children will feel strange when we don’t have someone new in our home for a week. I just want to create a space that is welcoming, comforting, and serene. I want people to feel loved, served, honored, and relaxed when they enter our home.

Yee-haw. I just found my mission. 🙂

What will she be Like?

Okay, folks, I’m going to make a prediction here. Ready for it?

When it comes time for Hula Girl to enter school, choose a career, or make big life decisions, she will not settle for “good enough.” She will want to excel. She will want to impress. And she will want to teach all the other people around her how to do those things as well.

I can totally see her leading a study group on the 4th grade playground, just 20 minutes prior to the Big History Test. I can see her doing all the extra credit assignments in her Sophomore English class, even though she’s already got a 4.99 GPA. (Is that possible? My high school didn’t offer but one AP class. Of course, I was in it, but we didn’t get weighted grades. My college had to reconfigure my high school grades when I applied just so it didn’t look like I was dumber than the kids whose grades were weighted out of 5.) I can see her in college, cramming for all her finals and then sleeping through her first two days back home for Christmas to catch up on sleep she missed during finals week.

I can see her being extremely picky about her friends because Mommy and Daddy have taught her that there are things called “right” and “wrong” and she doesn’t want to be friends with kids who do the “wrong” thing sometimes. I can see her having a select few best friends who are awesome people who will encourage her and enjoy her even though she’s a bit anal sometimes. I can see her dating very few boys and holding out for THE ONE because she values herself so much. I can see her being One Hundred Percent Sure that the man she chooses to marry is Right For Her.

I can see her practicing her lines for hours in front of the mirror on a Saturday, just to get the leading role in the play. I can see her lining up soccer balls and shooting them at a goal in the backyard for hours after practice. I can hear her tuning her instrument and playing the same piece over and over, just to get the music perfect.

And do you know what makes me even more proud?

I can see her stopping whatever she’s doing, wherever she is, to help someone in need. It doesn’t matter whether that need is big or small, whimsical or dire, spoken or unspoken, physical or emotional. She has an uncanny (and sometimes unnerving) ability to sense when someone needs something, and she is usually correct in guessing what that person needs even if it’s not spoken. And she meets those needs.

My task as her mom will be to teach her to balance her life. She will need to know that it’s okay to go 150 miles an hour for a short amount of time, but that it’s even better to slow down (or-gasp!-stop) to smell the roses every now and then. I do have a pretty good idea of what I plan to do to instill this in her heart and in her habits.

I have already started putting my plans into action.

First, I am very intentional about showing her the wonderful things God has built into nature for our enjoyment. There is not a night that Hula Girl and I don’t spend a few minutes gazing out the window at the beautiful pink sunset. (Hula Girl’s first pink sunset experience was filled with joy- “Yook, Mommy! The sky is pink just foy me! God made it pink because he knows that I yike pink!”) Then her eagerness turns to pure excitement as she frantically searches the sky for the moon. We also spend time looking at beauty in rocks (we have a lot of granite in our backyard, so we look for the crystals), leaves, bugs, flowers, snowflakes, and animals. I remind her frequently, “God made this so we could look at it and see how wonderful He is,” or, “Isn’t God incredible? Wasn’t it so awesome of him to think about us when he made this?”

Second, we take time daily to list, discuss, and praise God for the things we are thankful for in our lives. On Hula Girl’s most recent list were things like airplanes, sheep, shouting, Gelato, dogs, clouds, and singing. (Those of you who know her best will be able to recognize that we made this list while she was in her swing.) We do this at least once a day, and she always has something new to talk about.

Third, we take special time each evening to reflect on the day and ask what things Hula Girl liked and didn’t like about the day. If she has trouble remembering everything that  happened that day, I remind her. She will then go into a paragraph-long-but-extremely-repetitive speech about something that she liked or didn’t like. Two nights ago, she told me that she liked sliding on her slide because she likes to slide and sliding is fun and her “New Baby” was sliding with her and “New Baby” likes sliding because sliding is fun and they like to slide together.

Allow me to close with today’s experience with Storytime at the library. I think this highlights many of Hula Girl’s qualities as they’re listed above.

We arrived at Storytime just before it started. I opened Hula Girl’s door, unbuckled her straps, and asked her to get her arms out of the carseat, but wait in the car until I came back for her. She did. On the way into the library, she wanted to stop and look for ladybugs on the plants. In November. I asked her to come quickly because we were almost late. She ran to the doors and then waited for me to come hold her hand while she walked quietly through the library. She whispered to me when she was inside, reminding me to use a “quiet voice”.

There were a few boys in the storytime room today who were new to the group and who could NOT sit still. One was even quite boisterous and disruptive. Neither of their caregivers (I don’t think they were with their moms- maybe their grandmothers?) could control them. The younger of the two came over to the girl next to us and shoved a book in her face, then dropped it on the ground and left. Hula Girl picked up the book, walked it over to the boy, and came and sat back down without saying one word. Then the older of the boys threw a tantrum and hit the woman he was with. Hula Girl turned to me and said, “That boy needs to use gentle hands.” Of course, neither of the boys left during storytime, so it was a bit chaotic today.

Aside from those two things, I did not see Hula Girl really participating/interacting much. I kind of thought she was too distracted to pay much attention. Turns out, she paid a lot more attention than I thought!

On the way home, Hula Girl said, “I yiked sto-yee-time today.” I said, “You did? What did you think about it?” She said, “I did not yike dose boys who were walking ayound and being youd. I did yike dose kids who were sitting down and yee-see-neen.” I asked her if she remembered what the stories were about. “Turkeys!” I asked her if she saw any of her friends. She named them. But then she repeated, “I did not yike dose boys who were youd. But I did yike those kids who were quiet.”

She also decided to teach the tiger puppet that she checked out this week (SO gross, BTW, but that’s another post) how to sing “If you’re Happy and you Know It”. Her “Tiger” version:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your paws!

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your paws!

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your paws!

If you’re happy and you know it, then your teeth will surely show it! If you’re happy and you know it, clap your paws!

 

 

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