Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Snippets

Kids always have a way with words. It’s the combination of tone, expression, and word choice that make their phrases awesome. I have been trying to keep track of sweet things that have escaped my children’s lips over the past few months. I never want to forget their sweet words and thoughts.

Hula Girl’s teacher is of the same mindset. She loves listening to and reporting the words of the students in her care. She delights in them as much as their parents do! Here is a portion of a recent email I received from her:

[Hula Girl] said the cutest thing yesterday, and I actually wrote it down to tell you!  The last word on the spelling pre-assessment was “spoil.”  I used this sentence, “When you go to Grandma’s house, she will spoil you with treats, candy, presents, and staying up late.”  As I walked past [Hula Girl] she looked up at me with the happiest face and said, “Boy, does she EVER!”  It was precious!

Monkey Man has his fair share of intriguing things to say as well. Most of the time, he is quite imaginative and he tries his hardest to impress people.

A couple weekends ago, our town held a fall festival. (By the way, living in a small town that celebrates EVERYTHING is awesome. Downtown streets have been closed down at least three weekends in the past couple months for festivities. That might sound annoying, but there are easy ways around the closures. It’s so much fun to be here and be part of a town that is so focused on families and fun!) We attended the festival in the afternoon once Sugar Plum woke from her final nap of the day. We walked through the booths and roamed through a couple stores downtown. We decided to go to the coffee shop for dinner. We ordered some sandwiches and things and while we were eating, a local band came in and began setting up for an evening performance.

The band was made up of members who have adult children. They had banjos, violins, drums, guitars and keyboards. It was interesting to watch them set up and unpack their instruments; Monkey Man was especially interested in the process of tuning instruments. He was watching the woman with the violin with such interest that she invited him up to watch more closely. She asked him if he liked violins, and he said, “Yes! I am good at playing the violin!” She looked at me as if to ask if this was true. I shrugged. I asked him, “Where did you learn to play?” He said he had learned at school. “I’m the best violin player in my class!”

Ok, first of all, he was only in school for a grand total of 6 days. I’m certain he did not learn to play violin. But perhaps there was an instrument station in his classroom?

The woman then showed him how she tunes the violin and how she plays different notes. He was absolutely enthralled. So much so that her husband came over and said that if they can find their child-sized violin, he will give it to us so Monkey Man can learn to play for real. I think we will be enrolling him in violin lessons soon!

Both kids are very interested in art right now.

Hula Girl gave this paper to me and Jonathan last night. Each side is a different type of sunset.

Monkey Man created this picture for his self portrait for our schoolwork at home. It is him in the sky with a rainbow and clouds; the figures on the ground are looking up at the clouds and finding pictures.

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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!

10-Year Reunion

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

I agree on all counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Yep.”

Classmate: “Do you like it?”

Me: “Yep. It’s nice having a house.”

Classmate: “Good.”

End of conversation.

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

Thanks, Facebook.

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

And can I rant about one thing?

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

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

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

 

Top Ten Tips for Tearfree Tot Travel

We arrived home from our vacation about a week ago, and I am still amazed at how well my children did. I expected meltdowns and drama, especially from the 3-year-old. But we only got smiles, excitement, curiosity, and perhaps a fuss here and there at the end (from the 1-year-old). I think a lot of it has to do with our kids’ personalities.

Hula Girl, the 3-year-old, is the incessant questioner. She is always wondering about anything and everything. And when she’s done wondering about what’s in front of her face, she thinks back to yesterday, a week ago, or even last Christmas, and asks us random questions about past times. “Mommy, when we met Mr. Chris and he was showing us houses, why did he drive a white truck?” (Folks, Mr. Chris showed us houses in May. She went to three houses that he showed us.) Needless to say, her mind was abuzz and quite occupied with all the things to see and think about.

Gelato, the 13-month-old, is just plain happy-go-lucky. He let us know he wasn’t too excited about riding in his stroller and car seat all day long, as he has recently learned to walk and wanted to try out his new skillz, but he was fine as soon as we got moving. He had a steady stream of snacks and he fell asleep pretty quickly once we got in the air or on the road.

Obviously everyone’s kids are different, so there will be some things that worked well for my kids that wouldn’t be so hot for every family. But some things probably have mass appeal. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are some ideas that worked for us.

  1. Glow sticks. My friend Jaclyn recommended this one to me and she is RIGHT. You can get these things from the dollar section in many major stores. Cheap, self-contained fun. All you have to do is rip open the wrapper, crack the stick, and give it a little shake. The only note here is to avoid using the blue/purple ones in daylight- they do not show up at all in the sunlight. Green and yellow glow brightest overall. We got several varieties- fat sticks, small “bracelets,” and even several smaller rods that connect and bend into a ball. Kids loved these. LOVED.
  2. Snacks. The key with snacks is to not give your children junk you wouldn’t normally give them. You don’t want an upset tummy on top of traveling stress. We stuck with apples, crackers, rice cakes, and granola bars. All organic. I did two types of crackers- one sweet and one salty. Honestly, the rice cakes and crackers were a bit too messy for my liking, but the kids were happy with the offerings. It really helped Gelato to be able to munch an apple during takeoff.
  3. Routine. We have a pretty regular routine. My kids get up at the same time every morning, and they nap and go to bed at generally the same times every day. They eat meals at the same times. Everything in between sleep periods and meals is generally in the same order. Give me a time and I can probably tell you what my kids will be doing at that time next Tuesday, within about 15 minutes. THIS HELPS TREMENDOUSLY when traveling. I scheduled our flight times to coincide with Gelato’s nap times so that we’d have the best chance of him actually falling asleep on the plane. He did, and other passengers were appreciative. We also stuck to our routine pretty much the entire vacation. We had two nights that were later nights than we expected. But we did not have severe behavior problems, with one notable exception- wait ’til you see the pictures of THAT one!!! HA! We were not stressed out, we were able to relax, and everyone had an enjoyable time because we knew what to expect. **I’d also like to point out that my in-laws are AWESOME and they respect and utilize our routines and schedules while we are visiting them. It really helps add to our fun and relaxation because we know our kids are well taken care of and they’re on schedule so they’ll stay at their optimum the whole time, too. It’s absolutely fantastic to have such support!!!**
  4. Surprises. Hula Girl was so surprised and overjoyed to be tasting her very first lollipop on our plane ride. We have never let her have candy really, so this was something she had truly been longing for. She always walked past the displays of the “World’s Best Lollipops” in stores and asked me if she could have one. I always agreed that they were pretty and looked good, but turned down her request. What a delight for her to open her backpack and find a pink strawberry shortcake flavored lollipop just waiting for her!!! (We gave it for her to suck on so her ears would stay clear. Worked like a charm!) Other surprises were things like a portable DVD player and an Elmo video, the glow sticks, and for Gelato, some small cars and animals he could play with.
  5. Pieces of home. Hula Girl had her blankies and Daisy, her bear, to sleep with. We also brought her Gro-Clock and her sound machine. Gelato had his sound machine and we brought one of his sheets to put on the pack ‘n’ play so it would smell more like home. We brought some of the kids’ favorite books and toys.
  6. Organization. I had a list that showed me every piece of luggage and exactly what was in each bag or suitcase. We carried on two car seats, a suitcase, and three bags. We checked two larger suitcases. My bag held all of Gelato’s plane essentials- change of clothes, diapers and wipes, snacks, water, and small toys- along with my own plane gear- a light sweater, my glasses (I never check these; I’d be lost without them), and a book in case Gelato fell asleep- and all our travel documentation- IDs, birth certificates, boarding passes, etc. Jonathan’s backpack held random electronic stuff like cameras and phone chargers, Hula Girl’s DVD player, a book for him, etc. Hula Girl’s backpack held her travel snacks, toys, and crayons. The carry-on suitcase had all our kids’ sound machines, Gro-Clock, and random extra things. Our checked bags held Gelato and Hula Girl’s clothes and Mommy and Daddy’s clothes. I was GLAD things were organized well. Plus I like lists.
  7. Plan ahead. Sounds like organization. But it’s different. And I was fortunate enough to marry into a family with a mother-in-law who indulges my whims and has a few of her own. Therefore we knew what activities we’d likely be doing, what we’d need for them, and what we definitely would not need to pack. We knew we needed lots of swim gear since there was a splash park nearby, but since we didn’t want to pack our (very expensive) sunscreen, we just had my mother-in-law get some in advance. She also got coconut oil and baby wash to make sure our kids’ skin was pampered and our clean clothes stayed that way on the flight.
  8. Talk it up. We made sure Hula Girl was SO excited to travel. We made it sound like an adventure for sure. We read books about traveling on an airplane and watched videos about going to the beach. We acted out scenes during which Daddy and I got stopped by TSA and were searched while we were getting to our gate. We reassured her that if TSA stopped any of us, none of us would get left behind. She practiced how she’d greet her relatives, and we talked about what to do if she couldn’t find someone she knew. (In case you’re wondering, we told her to look for a MOMMY WITH KIDS and ask for help. She can spell her name and she knows Jonathan’s and my phone numbers by heart. So that helps me feel more comfortable. We even practice “getting lost” a lot at home, just so she knows what to do and is SURE of herself in the event it happens someday.)
  9. …But don’t talk it up too much in advance. My daughter is a worry wart. (I have no idea where she gets it…) She gets VERY excited about things and she can’t sleep for DAYS in advance when she knows something is coming up. Therefore we did not tell her the exact date, but just kept conversation focused on what we’d do when we get there, and how great it would be to see Ama and Papa. We finally told her on the morning of our flight that THAT was the day we were going to see Ama and Papa. It definitely worked out for us.
  10. Expect delays and rudeness. When you’re traveling with children, SO much work goes into planning, organizing, corralling, carrying, and keeping everything (and everyone) together. Any task, from checking in to going through security to using the restroom to actually boarding the plane, takes about five times longer than it would if you were alone. And when you consider the bundles of energy and excitement who squirm and hop along with the massive amounts of luggage and the GIANT CAR SEATS you have to haul around… well… just know it takes a long time to get from here to there. At least 2 hours longer than you’d imagined at first. And other people are generally helpful… but some flight attendants can be downright snarky and rude. Especially the ones we flew with. We were interrogated several times on each flight- “Did you purchase tickets for your children? Are they supposed to be sitting there? Are your car seats FAA approved? I’m sorry, but I just need to SEE the approval sticker. I’ve never seen people bring car seats on the plane before. Are you sure you don’t want to gate check the car seats? Do you want to make sure to sit near the back so that other passengers aren’t bothered by your children?” And on and on. And do you know what?! There was NO NEED for them to be rude to us. We got in, we got out, our children were SILENT the entire flight (except for the one time Hula Girl burst out in a song from ballet class). Again, other passengers were very pleasant, offering to help carry bags and watch items for us so we could manage. But the flight attendants… wowie wow wow.
  11. BONUS TIP!!! Purchase tickets for your children. Even if you don’t do the car seat thing (which I am vehemently AGAINST but whatever), at least it gives your child AND you a bit  of room to stretch out. The other passengers will appreciate it. 🙂

Sudden Snuggler

Gelato at thirteen months plus a week and a half or so:

Oh my goodness, is Gelato a snuggly little guy these past two days!?!?! This is a HUGE exciting thing for me because that little boy does.not.stop.moving.or.hold.still. Ever. But the past two days he has been clinging to my leg and burying his face in my shoulder and giving my arms huge sloppy kisses and trying to bonk his head into my face at any spare moment. It’s SO cute. Yesterday it wasn’t so cute because he was also crying and whining a lot. He’s getting a couple of teeth. But today they weren’t bothering him so much, so I got a lot of goofy grins and happy squawks instead.

He has also been really cuddly with Hula Girl, which she EATS UP. Girlfriend is HUGE on touch (Pretty sure it’s her #1 love language), and it’s killed her that he doesn’t like to snuggle very much. She just wants to hold his hand and cuddle him like she did when he was little- but he doesn’t want anything to do with it. But the past two days, he will literally run into her and topple both of them over just so they can roll around and cuddle. He even came over to her bed at her naptime just to give her giant kisses on her eyes and nose. She about died out of sheer bliss.

Gelato’s second favorite activity is talking. Little Man talks all day, every day. He greets me with, “Mo-neen!” when I walk in his room. He wants to “wa! wa! wa!” everywhere we go. He grabs his “oos? oos?” and wants me to put them on his feet for him. He brings me “boo!” and wants me to “read-ee? read-ee?” He tells me when he’s “Hun-ee,” and wants to “EAT! EAT! EAT!” He hears a “doggy” saying, “Woof. woof. woof.” He tells me when he wants some water to “dink, dink, dink.” He can mimic anything we say and he spontaneously says new words every single day. Along with the words listed above, here’s what I can think of off the top of my head: [sister’s name], door, closed, open, ball, truck, car, toys, dance, happy (SO cute), night night, nurse, cup, spoon, rock, horse, phone, bye, banana, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cheese, apple, applesauce, did it!, help, Mommy, Daddy, Riley, gentle, tickle, peek-a-boo, Ama, Papa, fan, noise, shh, climb, up, down, swing, swim, inside, outside, potty, tub, teeth, stop, and go.

Gelato is ACTIVE. He is a huge climber, and I tend to let him climb. If he can get up, he can get down. It takes a lot more time and infinitely more coaching to get down. But I let him do it. Two days ago, he climbed up to the top of our inherited playset in the backyard. Just wait until I show you a picture of that one. The rock wall (?!?!?) he climbed is over six feet tall. Kid’s thirteen months old. And he climbed to the top of a sixish foot rock wall. Ridiculous. (I need to point out that even though I LET him do this, I was also holding my hands about 2 centimeters from his body the entire time. I didn’t touch him, but I was READY. He does not get to adventure out on his own… yet.)

We’re still nursing. Gelato actually skipped two nursings one day when we were in California because Jonathan and I had taken Hula Girl to the beach (another post) and we left Gelato with Ama for the day. He did really well with it. Didn’t drink any milk, drank a ton of water, but still took good naps. I am pretty sure he’s never going to really like milk that much. Fine by me. He LOVES yogurt and cheese. And there’s always ice cream….. ha!

Gelato is still not much of an eater. Although I say he has foods he LOVES, he only eats a small amount of them compared with the amounts his sister ate at his age. Some days he surprises me, like yesterday when he ate two whole adult-sized pancakes plus a cup of blueberries for breakfast. That’s like a week’s rations, folks. Even when he’s acting cranky and whiny and says he’s hungry and wants to eat, he usually eats about a 1/2 cup of food altogether and then he’s done. He’s a pretty small little guy, I guess, but to see how much he does and compare that to how much he eats makes me worried he’s not getting enough. But I don’t push it. I just offer whatever we’re having and if he doesn’t want a lot, he doesn’t eat a lot. He sits at the table with the family and we wait until everyone is done. He has good manners and doesn’t fuss to get down. Usually.

Everyone always comments on how happy he is. He truly is happy, and he has this little squint wrinkly nose thing that he does when he’s trying to get people to smile back. It makes him look like a total goofball, but it’s adorable. Everyone smiles then and comments on how cute he is. Even when we were traveling to California and we’d been up since 5:45 am and he had to sleep in his car seat on the airplane and in the car, he didn’t cry once all the way through the shuttles, trains, cars, airplanes, airports, rental car offices, or on the drive to Ama and Papa’s house. (He also met and wooed a Swedish girl who looked the part- white blond hair, slim, beautiful. She was about 25 years old and she let him play with some animal app on her iPad. It had music [his third love] and he thought that was GREAT. The only word she knew in English was “dance” and boy did that come in handy. Gelato danced to the music and she laughed and cooed away in Swedish. They kept each other company for an hour in the rental car office. Thank you, Swedish girl!)

Gelato in three words: energetic, opinionated, happy

I love having a son.

Reining her In… Advice Welcome!

Hula Girl has been engaging in some age-appropriate-but-exaggerated-beacause-of-a-lot-of-changes naughty behavior lately. I have been trying to figure out what is the best way to give her the support she needs to feel safe and secure but to downplay a lot of the defiance. Jonathan and I have brainstormed, searched our parenting books, read through the archives on several blogs and groups I’m part of, asked our moms, and prayed for wisdom. We feel like we’ve got a plan now.

First of all, I want to make it clear that Jonathan and I are extremely cautious about any and all discipline tactics we use. He is a therapist, after all! 😉 We do not use spanking, and time out in our house is a very untraditional sort of thing. I generally use a lot of gentle physical touch and tons of empathy when talking Hula Girl through her rough spots. But when the entire day is rough, my tolerance for her childishness just gets lower and lower to the point where Jonathan has to take over completely for a few minutes when he gets home just so I can regain my composure.

I also want to point out that Hula Girl is a very compliant child by nature. Her wildest temper tantrums have been due to overtiredness or low blood sugar, without exception. She is generally happy, eager to please, and very very smart! She does not have to be told more than once not to engage in any particular behavior. Her age, however, puts us in the prime time frame for battles of the will, if I should choose to engage in such things (I don’t).

The last clarification I want to make is this: because she is only three years old (and a young three), Jonathan and I try very hard to balance age-appropriate expectations for her with her actual abilities. For example, she can remember things freakishly well. She remembers people she has met once, a year ago, by name. Sometimes she will ask me about a random person and she will have to explain when and where we were when we met that person before I have even a clue what she’s talking about. And yet, she remembers exactly what color their eyes were and what kind of shoes they had on their feet. This makes me and Jonathan believe that she will remember a rule we set in place for a long period of time. So our constant question becomes, “How much of this behavior is childishness (age-related), and how much of this is foolishness (choosing to do the wrong thing even when she knows the right thing to do)?”

I took the kids swimming at the YMCA on Thursday. They had closed the pirate pool, so my only option was to hold Gelato while Hula Girl floated and splashed around in a life jacket within an arm’s reach in the big pool. It actually worked out quite well, especially when another 3-year-old little girl came over with a pool noodle for Hula Girl to play with. The two of them kicked, paddled, and dunked around for a while, and all was well. I gave Hula Girl the typical warning that we needed to leave soon and asked her to choose whether she wanted to leave in two minutes or five minutes (this is a Love and Logic tactic). She, of course, chose five minutes. I gave her a 2-minute warning. Then when our time was up, I said, “Do you want to swim to the steps or have me pull you on your noodle to the steps?” She chose for me to pull her. But then she wouldn’t get out.

I reminded her that she had chosen to stay five more minutes, and that five minutes was up. I even offered her two choices on how she wanted to get out of the water (like a horse or like a dragon). She refused again. I looked into her eyes and said, “I can see you’re having a hard time leaving right now. It’s hard to leave when you’re having so much fun.” She agreed. I continued, “We are leaving now because it’s time to go home for dinner.” She grudgingly took my hand and we walked over to our towels.

I had to fumble around with our towels and swim bag for a few seconds, and before I knew it, Hula Girl was walking back toward the pool. I was shocked. She has never tried to leave my side before. Ever. I called her, and squatted down to her level. She said, “Yes, Mommy?” I told her to come back. She said no, turned around, and walked to the edge of the pool. I freaked out. Yes, she had her life jacket on. But she has not had swim lessons. This was a huge safety issue on top of her blatantly defying me.

Instead of panicking on the outside, I calmly walked over to where she was and took her by the hand. I got down to her level and told her, “You do not have the freedom to disobey me. It is unsafe for you to play near the pool alone. You will come with me now because we are leaving.” She came back with me, to my absolute relief. I asked her to stand with her back against the wall while I got out our towels and wrapped Gelato and her snugly. We changed our clothes and headed to the car.

While we were changing, I told her that it was not okay for her to disobey the way she had done. I restated the fact that it is unsafe for her to play near a pool without an adult nearby. I told her that because she had disobeyed, she would be getting a consequence. I told her that I would need to discuss her consequence with Daddy because I wanted to make sure it was appropriate. Then I told her not to worry about it (another L&L tactic).

We decided her consequence was that she could not take toys into her bath for a week. She loves water play, and since she disobeyed at the pool, we figured the closest meaningful consequence was to un-fun her bath. (Jonathan actually suggested taking the whole family swimming this weekend and not letting her participate, but I nixed that idea because I don’t like the thought of one of us having to sit out WITH her! Why make the consequence for me, too?!)

After the pool incident we had a busy day on Friday- filled with a 3-hour drive to a wedding, then the drive home that night. We arrived home at midnight. Needless to say our whole family was tired on Saturday.

And then Sunday happened.

Before church on Sunday, Hula Girl peeled and ate paint off her wall; licked fingernail polish; colored on Gelato, the wall, a chair, a door, and some furniture; and cut her hair. And it’s not like she’s not supervised. She was just using whatever tactics she could use to tell us she was feeling wildly out of control. She needed us to just take control back so she felt safe and secure. She was out of her routine, out of her sleep schedule, and just wonky all over. Plus her behavior has been deteriorating for some time now, so it was just the right time for a huge change in her life.

So now, here’s where we are:

  • We removed all toys and books from her room  in an effort to encourage her to stay in bed rather than getting out of bed to wander and play. We hope this will yield about 30 more minutes of sleep per day.
  • Hula Girl is under a strict “3-step rule.” She is not allowed to go more than 3 steps away from me or Jonathan at any time, unless we give express permission. This keeps her away from Gelato (she had started being more physical with him than I would like- not kicking or hitting, but rough hugs and some gentle pushing- enough to make me nervous) and it keeps her within my eyesight/arm’s reach at all times.

Of course, I am still doing plenty of superfun things with her and allowing her LOTS of freedom when we go outside. I don’t maintain her “3-step rule” outside at all. I am still interacting normally with her. It’s not like she’s being emotionally punished. I think the closer proximity is actually better for both of us as it encourages a lot more interaction and eye contact throughout our day.

While we have reined in her freedoms, we have also upped our talk of trust. We told her that trust means we believe she will do what we ask her to do, even if we’re not there to watch. We told her that she needs to earn our trust by doing what we ask her to do while we’re watching her. We will be stepping down our interventions incrementally over the next few weeks.

Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts about this particular age and how to handle some of these behaviors? Is there some fantastic article or book you’d like to recommend? We’re open to exploring lots of options!

 

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.

Friday’s Firsts

Both of my children had some “firsts” in their lives on Friday. I took them swimming at the Y, which was a wonderful break from the monotony. It’s been very cold here lately, so even going outside for a few minutes at a time is just tough. But a nice warm indoor toddler pool was just the thing.

I had to chuckle while I was there because I had Gelato’s carseat/carrier and I had put our towels and stuff in it rather than getting a locker. I brought it out to the pool area with us. I had Hula Girl walk in front of me, I carried Gelato, and I had the carrier swinging at my side. A little boy who was probably 8 or so looked at me with HUGE round eyes and said, “How many babies do you HAVE?!” Ha, guess he thought the carrier had another baby in it!

Anyway, our firsts:

Gelato: first time swimming and blew his first raspberry!

Hula Girl: first kid’s meal and first time she’s ever had her full name used in a “you’re in so much trouble!” kind of way.

Gelato’s are self-explanatory. Hula Girl’s kid’s meal came on the way home from swimming when I realized it was 4:50 and she needed to eat by 5:15, while I had to get Gelato down for the night by 5:30. So we stopped at Wendy’s. Can I just tell you that I hated every second of it!?!? I do not want my kids eating that kind of grossness. Alas, it was what we had to do. Then when we got home, it was freezing so I decided to rush Hula Girl to the front door and let her in to take off shoes and coat while I ran back to the car (parked in the driveway, where I could see it the whole time) to get Gelato. When he and I came in the door, Hula Girl was nowhere to be seen. I heard rustling upstairs (where she is not allowed to be by herself), and I said loudly and sternly, “[Hula Girl’s full name including both middle names!], come downstairs right now.” I heard scrambling, then, “Yes, Mommy! I’m coming!” She knew she was being naughty. Haha! I still don’t know what she was doing. Must not have been too destructive. (Don’t worry- our house is toddler proof. It’s not like she was guzzling medicine or anything like that.)

So there you have it! Would you believe that Gelato’s first swimming experience was literally seven full months earlier than Hula Girl’s? I don’t know why we waited so long to take her. Must have been because we lived in the world’s smallest town that only had an outdoor pool! 🙂 Thank goodness for the YMCA.

Haul out the Holly

Yep, another song for ya. Lucille Ball style. ‘Cuz Christmas just isn’t Christmas without terrible singing, creepy Santa masks, and ornamented spectacles. I apologize for the WB petition at the beginning of the clip. I’d also like to draw your attention to the last few seconds of the video, where the poster claims the video wasn’t popular because it was released after people lost interest in musicals. Yeah, that’s why it wasn’t popular. 

Anyway, I have had this song running through my head for the past couple of days, and I’ve been thinking about a comment conversation between Kristy and me. She and I were talking about how this time of year is supposed to be filled with joy and yet it is just filled with people rushing around. Kristy even commented that people seem LESS joyful at this time of year than at any other time.

I had to laugh at myself the other day when Jonathan and I were working on some decorating around the house (because, NO, of course we’re not done! We’ll finish decorating on Christmas). I was getting all flustered and frustrated because he was taking a long time to accomplish some task and I just wanted to move on to something else and needed his help. I ended up saying, “Come on! I just want to celebrate CHRISTMAS!”

Yesterday I was at Walmart (oh, you KNOW I loved it). It was 2:40, and I was due home to feed Gelato by 3. He had woken up from his nap early, so Jonathan was carrying him around the house trying to keep him happy. I was pretty stoked to see a line that wasn’t five carts long (unusual sighting at a Walmart on a Sunday afternoon just before the Bronco game). I happily joined the line and then realized that the lady in front of me had her cart filled with a thousand Yoplait yogurt containers, 35 bags of Fritos, enough pork’n’beans to feed all the relatives in My Big Fat Greek Wedding until they paddle back to Greece in their inflatable canoes, and about a gazillion boxes of Hamburger Helper. You got it- Extreme Couponer Alert!

Since I try my hardest to be kind to all, and it frustrates me when people are rude to total strangers, I decided to stay in the line. I figured walking off in a huff, or even trying to surreptitiously check out the next-shortest line would make the clerk feel bad. It’s not HER fault that the Red Plum insert just came out. She was smiling an apologetic smile at me, and it would have been somewhat insensitive to just run away. So I smiled my “it’s-okay-because-I’m-patient” smile and pulled out my phone to check Facebook.

Then another lady, cart laden with party supplies, complete with piñata, pulled in behind me. She made some sort of comment about being in a hurry because she had to get home to set up before the guests arrived. You can probably see where this is headed.

Not only did Extreme Couponer watch the Sales Associate scan every single item (and check the price of each one while it was being scanned), but then she pulled out a prepaid debit card that had exactly $110 on it- she bought it last week, after all. Turns out the Sales Associate at the register is not actually supposed to be on a register after all. She’s a Floor person who got called to the front due to Excessive Couponers inundating the Regular Register Folk with heaping carts full of processed-flour-and-corn-syrup-laden-but-cheap!!! items. Anyway, the Sales Associate simply CANNOT figure out how to process the card. I mean, it says DEBIT right there on the front of the card, so the machine must be making a mistake when it tells the cashier to press the CREDIT button! She simply cannot press the CREDIT button- after all, the card says DEBIT. So it must be an error made by the Extreme Couponer on the customer side of the machine. She tells the Couponer to clear everything out and run it again, this time hitting DEBIT. Three times. Each time, the Couponer runs it through but the machine does not give her the option to hit DEBIT. It tells her to tell the cashier to press the CREDIT key. This is all too much for our Floor Sales Associate who has kindly but naively stepped up to the rigorous and taxing challenge known as “Customer Service”. So she calls in her Supervisor- a girl who is younger than me by about 8 years. Girl swipes the card, hits CREDIT, and moves on. “Oh, I just didn’t know I could do that! Thank you so much for helping me! I am so sorry that I didn’t realize that could be done! <slightly embarrassed laughter> I guess it’s just this old brain of mine! I keep telling my husband that things just aren’t working the way they used to!” and so on.

Now it might sound like I was annoyed. To be honest, I was. After all, I knew Jonathan was home with a fussy baby and Hula Girl’s nap end time looming. That’s enough to make any Mommy antsy. But I decided to keep on smiling that patient smile. After all, Floor Sales People can’t really be expected to know all the tips and tricks of the register. So I made polite conversation with her and found out that she was pretty flustered because the day had been crazy, what with the holidays and the Bronco game and all. She seemed to be somewhat timid and she kept getting distracted when the PSA Lady kept saying her name (PSA Lady was calling for someone else with the same name, but you all know what it feels like when someone calls your name, even if they’re not calling you). So, I gave her a little encouragement and wished her a Merry Christmas. She was going to need all the encouragement she could get, because Procrastinating Party Person behind me definitely needs a little Christmas.

Throughout the Couponing/DEBIT Debacle, as I was keenly interested in what was happening in front of me, I couldn’t help but overhear, “<mumble mumble shuffle shuffle beep beep> Hi. Yeah. Of course I am stuck in the long line. No I am not anywhere near leaving. Plus there’s someone else in front of me. No, the cashier’s soooooooo slow. I can’t believe she’s doing the register today. I mean, come on. Don’t they know that today is a busy day? Shouldn’t they put the fast people on the registers? Yeah and the lady is buying like all the yogurt in the store. I am serious.” Et cetera.

Luke 2:10-But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Christmas sure isn’t about the decorations. It’s not about the wrapping. It’s not about the cider. It’s not about the holly. People need Christmas. Real Christmas. I hope Floor Sales Associate felt some Christmas from me. Isn’t it my job to bring Christmas to the world?

PS- Here’s a little shot of my peaceful Christmas with the family. Jonathan and I were snuggling with Hula Girl and we were reading Christmas stories together while sipping hot spiced cider.

Cider by the Tree

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