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.

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.

Selling our House

We are selling our house!

There is so much to do to prep a house for sale. My sweet husband has been working tirelessly for a couple of weeks now. He has been packing everything extraneous, fixing “small” annoying problems, cleaning up the yard, power washing the exterior of the house, touching up trim, hanging decor in new locations for staging purposes, spreading rock, mowing weeds, and working his regular full-time job. I don’t think he has slept more than 5 hours per night for the past couple weeks.

The kids and I (and our cat!) have been staying with my parents for the past week and a half. I just couldn’t handle the constant disruption to the preparation process, and it was getting to be hard for the kids, emotionally, to see their things being packed away to be opened…sometime later. We are very thankful we can escape here!

We had some wonderful people come help us clean up the yard and deep clean the house. I was so thankful for their work! I did some light staging, but nothing too fancy. Our goal was to present a house that is clean, spacious, and light. I feel like we have achieved that goal!

We listed the house on Monday and had a showing on Tuesday morning. That was exciting, but the  buyers didn’t like the location of our house. I am hoping we have a few more showings this weekend, and that one of them is the right one!

Please join us in praying our house sells soon, and that the buyer is one who will be blessed by owning our home. We certainly have been blessed by being there. Our neighbors are WONDERFUL, all of them. We hope we can move to a new house with neighbors who are just as pleasant. (I feel like we have great neighbors everywhere we live. We have good neighbor luck! Carrie and Karen, you know I mean you! But this particular set is even greater than our average neighbor set so far, because it includes everyone on the street!) I hope the buyer will love our street and the people on it just as much as we do.

The kids and I will be living with my parents until our house is under contract. Pray it goes quick, for my poor parents’ sakes! 😜

More to come on Monday… Hopefully I’ll get to write that the house is under contract! Wouldn’t that be fun?!?!

 

The Fourth

I just love holidays. Particularly Independence Day and Christmas. We have some solid family traditions. And it’s sure fun to see the kids excited about the same things we get excited about!

Our day started with some red, white, and blue crêpes. I couldn’t have the white part (white chocolate chips) because I’m eating dairy-free while nursing Sugar Plum. But the red (raspberries and strawberries) and blue (blackberries and blueberries) parts were delicious! imageimage

After breakfast, Hula Girl and I made it our goal to get festive! We painted our nails red, white, blue, and silver. Then I did the old Pinterest star-braid hairstyle in her hair. She loved it.

Jonathan took Hula Girl and Monkey Man to our city’s wet parade. Basically, it’s a giant community water fight and some people walk down the middle of it. Everyone gets SOAKED and everyone has a good time.

My mom and grandma came to visit for the day and my mom helped me with some house chores while Sugar Plum napped. We made a delicious lunch and tried to get the kids to nap.

After nap time the kids and I walked  up the street to ask the neighbors for the best location to sit out and see fireworks. We ended up spending the evening eawith almost everyone on our street, just hanging out and chatting. The kids were running wild with the neighbor kids, and they got their first taste of lighting fireworks at home. Monkey Man did not approve, saying, “Fireworks are FIRE! What if something catches fire? We need to make a fire safety plan!” Hula Girl could keep lighting fireworks all day every day and never tire of the sights, sounds, and smells. She was in heaven. Sugar Plum slept through it all.

Our favorite tradition on the fourth is eating saltwater taffy. We get several pieces for each of us to enjoy during the fireworks display. The kids begged for it all day long, and I kept telling them, “You may have one piece now and one piece later, or you may have two pieces later!” After about six times of choosing to have two pieces later, Monkey Man finally asked, “Is it LATER yet?”

We ended the night with glow sticks on our walk home. Just before heading inside, we stopped and looked up at the stars as a family. In a time when our country, which was built upon beautiful principles that we celebrated Monday, has eschewed propriety for laziness, moral depravity, and indulgence, it was a wonderful relief to look up and realize that this isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come. Hallelujah.

Venturing Out on her Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gelato- 14 Months

My little boy just melts my heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hula Girl’s Art Table

Hula Girl and I do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to “projects.” I tend to have a finished vision in mind and she couldn’t care less. She is much more interested in the process and discovery than the actual product. She LOVES to paint, color, tape, glue, and make a mess. A huge mess. There is some innate sense of hatred of paint that resides deep in my soul. Every time we pull out paints (water colors, tempera paints, finger paints, doesn’t matter), I end up a stressed-out ball of frayed angry nerves and I don’t tend to mother with very much gentleness or grace. I don’t know what it is about paint that does this to me.

And it’s not just paint. Hula Girl puts everything in her mouth. I mean, EVERYTHING. (I’m actually looking into this from a more medical/psychological point of view right now because I mean it when I say she puts everything in her mouth.) She knows that she’s not supposed to, but she does it. From the very first of our art endeavors, when I handed then-10-month-old Hula Girl some crayons and a piece of paper and proudly posted pictures of the scribbles all over Facebook, to our most recent watercolor masterpiece at the easel encounter, she has had her supplies taken from her for putting them in her mouth. I am not kidding. I have had to stop the activity or take supplies each and every time we have ever attempted art, because she is always tasting and sampling and chewing and licking and spitting. Drives.me.crazy. (My poor mother-in-law has had to hear all about this over and over. Sorry, Momma C.) Thank goodness kids’ art supplies are generally considered non-toxic (although you’d have to pay me a LOT of money before I’d admit that maybe the artificial dyes aren’t so bad after all…)

Anyway.

I have been wanting to test a theory. I have been pondering the idea that perhaps Hula Girl has been so obsessed with putting art supplies in her mouth partially because she knows it makes me so upset. What if I just gave her free access to them and didn’t care about what she actually does with them? What if I just let her go for it using whatever supplies she wanted to use to create anything she wanted to create? Would we still have the mouthing issue? I have been talking it over with Jonathan and he said we could create an art space for Hula Girl somewhere in the house.

Then, last Friday we were given a free “art table” for children. It looks like this. Some random neighbor we’ve never talked to before chased me down when I was out on a walk with the kids (actually, I was terrified about this random person running behind me!), and she offered the art desk to us since she doesn’t have any kids. I said we’d take a look at it, and once we did, we knew we had to have it.

Since it was used, Hula Girl and I spent some time on Saturday afternoon washing it and making it a bit more presentable (we removed the white board section before we soaped it up). It wasn’t in really bad shape, but it had some writing on the white board that was done in permanent marker, and it was a bit dusty. Hula Girl was a great help when we were washing it. I gave her a sponge and let her go for it. She ended up with mud all over her feet, a trend that continued throughout the weekend. (Mud messes I can handle; paint messes, not so much. Weird?)

I ran to Walmart (our favorite store, duh) and stocked up. Like, STOCKED UP. Hula Girl now has access to white board crayons, regular crayons, markers, watercolor paints, colored pencils, regular pencils, erasers, tape, glue, scissors, paper, and stickers. I am planning to add playdough (homemade), 3-D supplies (like egg cartons, etc.), and chalk. I will also add other supplies, and specialized supplies (like glitter crayons), as she gets older.

She has been busy. She has spent 2.5 hours total over the past three days just cutting. My floor is covered in little tiny scraps of paper. But she is busy and happy and she feels that the work she is doing is very important. She keeps putting stickers on paper and cutting them in half so that Jonathan and I can “learn what happens.” She has painted, colored, taped, and written the letter “N” over and over. Absolutely nothing I would have wanted to do in my supplies-hating heart.

And do you want to know something else? She has not put any of her supplies in her mouth, with one exception. She put the glue stick on her lips because it reminded her of chapstick. She hasn’t done that since. 🙂

 

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. 😉

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yup, me and seven of my good friends. Can you believe it?! I have SEVEN friends whose birthday is the same as mine. Yowza. However, I do not have the most common birthday: September 16. So that’s good, I guess.

Anyway, I’ve been absent from posting for quite some time because we have had a whirlwind of adventure around here.

Jonathan was asked by his supervisors to attend the Love and Logic conference to become a trainer for their facility. It was a 3-day conference and I was terrified to attempt single-parenting for the duration of that conference, so I decided to take the kids to my parents’ house so I’d at least have help for bedtime. Several firsts happened there; namely, Hula Girl slept in a big bed for the first time (and stayed in it all night, albeit waking several times), and Gelato slept through the night from his dreamfeed until our first morning feeding. Unfortunately, Hula Girl woke five times that night, screaming, so I wasn’t able to relish the sleep. Also, Gelato hasn’t slept through the night again since then, and in fact, he’s getting worse. So. Frustrating.

Moving on.

On the 13th, we celebrated my grandma’s 90th birthday. We threw her a surprise party, and she just loved it. Of course, we had to have ninety candles on the cake- it was definitely glowing. Then my grandma allowed Hula Girl to swipe the frosting off the cake with her finger and eat it… gross. I am still not sure exactly how much cake Hula Girl consumed that day.

That evening, Jonathan’s parents arrived from California for a week-long visit. It was wonderful having them here! Gelato was really thrown off his sleep game by our “vacation” and the first few days back were really really hard. But since Ama and Papa were here to take care of Hula Girl, I was able to focus on Gelato and be consistent with him where I needed to be consistent. So now he’s back to pretty good naps. Thank goodness. I will be writing a separate post detailing Ama and Papa’s visit.

Saturday, I threw Jonathan a surprise party for his golden birthday. He turns thirty this month, and since his parents were in town, I wanted to celebrate a bit early. I have never been able to keep anything a secret or a surprise from him before, but I worked really hard on it this time and he was totally unaware! Our across-the-street-neighbor made a Quidditch pitch cake with golden Snitch cake pops, all the decorations were gold, and I stuck with gold-themed gifts. Hula Girl and I even painted our toenails (and my fingernails) with gold glitter nail polish. It was fun!

Sunday, Jonathan took Ama and Papa to the airport and then we spent the afternoon and evening settling back down into our little family-of-four routine.

Today I have worked hard to just get right back into Hula Girl’s and my regular routine. We had milk, read books, ate breakfast, did chores, colored, read more books, had roomtime, went outside, had lunch, and now she’s down for her nap. This afternoon I will be taking her outside in the backyard so she can have a bunch of free play time out there.

I am hoping to get my little Gelato man to sleep longer tonight. That would be the ultimate birthday gift. I. am. so. exhausted.

 

Hiatus Over (It’s a Long One!)

As pointed out today by Chelsea, I have not blogged in a while. Funny thing about pregnancy brain is that I really truly thought I hadn’t blogged in 3 days. But then I realized it’s actually been two weeks. Oops. Guess I’m a bit behind. I was napping some days, but other days I was reading a book series. Now I’m reading The Help just because I’ve heard it’s good. Yes, reading frequently distracts me from other things in life, like this blog.

Let’s see… what have we been up to around here?

The weather has been absolutely fantastic for the past week. Punxsutawney Phil was wrong wrong wrong when it came to our outlook this spring. We definitely got maybe a couple extra weeks of winter, but we’re certainly in spring mode now. All week long the temperatures have been in the 70s and  the skies have been sunny and cloud-free. It’s even been less windy- dare I say mildly breezy- all week long. Hula Girl and I have been taking advantage of this weather and we’ve been on the go!

Monday was our trip to the YMCA, where Hula Girl splashes around in the Pirate Pool. Unfortunately the Pirate Pool was closed. I think they replaced all the water in the pool and the water temperature was only 78°. Brrr. So we kicked around the big pool and the lazy river, but Hula Girl was very sad that she couldn’t run around and splash as she normally does.

Tuesday was storytime as usual. A funny thing that happened here was that Hula Girl and I got a chance to practice her obedience. We were headed out the door of the children’s section to the checkout machines. She started to run. I called her by name and said, “Come here.” She did not listen. So I got out the big guns. “Uh, oh.” Yes, it took those two little words spoken in an almost-singsong voice to get her to stop in her tracks and turn to face me. Then I said again, very firmly, “Come here.” She smiled, came running over to me, and hugged me. I knelt down to her level and said (whispered), “When mommy says, ‘Come,’ you come. Say, ‘Yes, Mommy.'” She said, “Ye-thhhh, MO-mmy!” Then we walked on, holding hands. The librarian watching the whole scene smiled and said, “She’s so obedient!” Why yes, Ms. Librarian Lady, she is. Thank you for noticing. We’ve worked HARD to keep her that way!

Wednesday was our hang-around-the-house day. Hula Girl woke up Wednesday morning with a runny nose. She had also woken up numerous times in the night just kind of whining. Great, she’s sick, I thought. I was quite disappointed. We played outside a bit and played inside a lot (with the windows open). I put her down for her nap early, and lo and behold, she slept for… 1 hour, tops. Greeeeaaaat… I will say that Wednesday provided me one of the more pleasurable experiences in my week. When I put Hula Girl down for her nap that day, I put on a swimsuit, slathered myself in sunscreen, and laid out on my balcony overlooking the reservoir and read a book. Those of you who know me in person are thinking, How long did that last?! Yes, it was totally unlike me, and I will rarely do it. But it seemed like a great idea at the time. And I’m pretty sure I got some good vitamin D. After all, I was using the horrible sunscreen left over from last summer. (I will try to find the post and link that one here soon.)

Thursday dawned and Hula Girl didn’t seem so sick after all. She only had a few whining sessions the previous night, and was silent after 10. No runny nose, just slight congestion. Therefore we deemed it necessary to have a visit from Grammy, who accompanied us to the park. Oh, the glorious sunshine.

Today we had another bum-around day but we also visited the playground at the elementary school near our house. Have I mentioned that schools around here are on a 4-day-a-week schedule? SO nice for their teachers, but really, how do the kids learn anything?! Their year is not very much longer than traditional school years. My neighbor tried explaining it to me one day by saying that her kids are in school longer each day. Based on the times she provided me, her kids are in school exactly 6 hours less each week than my students were when I was teaching. I can’t imagine teaching everything I taught with 6 hours per week less time to teach! So, maybe not so nice for their teachers. Hmmm… Anyway, we visited the playground here and Hula Girl got her kicks swinging and sliding and collecting rocks. Cool.

As far as generalities for Hula Girl go, she’s getting so much more grown-up these days. She’s talking much more clearly, she’s attempting to pronounce words accurately (hence the Ye-thhhh, Mommy!), she’s able to name and identify all her colors. We’ve been working on letters and numbers here and there, and her letter flashcards (index cards on which I wrote the letters of the alphabet in purple marker; high-tech stuff only in my house! lol) are her favorite possession. Of course, this morning she tried to wash the “o” and now it’s a blob. But she loves those flashcards. She has really been great about using the potty. We have had some accidents here and there, but we’ve cut out all rewards for going potty. She stopped asking for them, and I am not going to remind her. 🙂 I think her new reward is getting to wash her hands. She would spend hours standing on her step stool in the bathroom, washing her hands and toys, if I let her. Sometimes I turn on the water in there (she can’t reach the faucet- just the water stream) and tell her to wash her hands because I need a few kid-free minutes in the kitchen. She’ll poke her little head out the door and say, “Hi, Mommy! Wah-ans!” (Wash hands!). She’s really quite proud of herself. And let’s face it, water’s fun.

My pregnancy is going well. Yesterday marked 20 weeks. So, halfway there… or MORE than halfway if I get my way. I’d like to deliver a week early this time. Hula Girl was induced on her due date and arrived one day late. I want to feel what it’s like to actually go into labor. I’m doing some research on natural birthing methods. I’m not sure I could actually handle it all-natural (I mean, that epidural really made things easy last time), but I kind of like the idea of at least going through most of labor in an upright position (unlike last time, when I was forced to lay on my left side for 14 hours straight). Actually, now that I’ve written the last two sentences, I think I will just do a separate post on that topic once I have done more research and have more to say about it.

As far as the pregnancy goes, some fun things have been happening. I had already been feeling Gelato moving around in there for a few weeks, but now Jonathan has been able to feel it from the outside. And today as I have been sitting here writing this post, I have actually seen my stomach move a few times when Gelato’s given a particularly hard twitch. None of it actually hurts yet, so I know Gelato’s still quite little.  I actually threw up this morning out of the blue. I haven’t had nausea for weeks, but after gulping half of my glass of supercold water, I just had to do it. So weird. I felt fine afterward, so I just took it more slowly the next time around.

I have been having some aches and pains in my back and hips. I have also been hot. I am kind of not looking forward to our summer here, where it’s expected to be in the 90s and 100s every day from May to October. But my plan is still in place to laze around in the baby pool in the shade of the house every day while Hula Girl naps. Maybe the nice breeze/wind will help cool me off a bit, too.

Okay, I will be posting more frequently again. Pinky promise. Then you won’t have to read mountains of information all at once. 🙂

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