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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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.

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. 🙂

 

Valentine’s Day Party

This party was much more successful than the Christmas party.

I decided that we’d only invite girls (and one baby brother) to our V-Day fiesta. That was a good move. Girls are just a bit quieter and it was nice to be able to actually have a conversation with the moms while the girls played pretend. 

Two families came (I had invited four, but one grandma broke her foot, and the other mom had her parents come into town). So we had a total of two moms, three girls, and a baby boy as guests. Four girls- totally doable and totally easy. 

When the girls arrived, I brought out the foam cupcake kit that I had purchased at Hobby Lobby. I didn’t go all Pinteresty and have them do any cutesy craft this time. I had the supplies, but I just felt lazy. The girls didn’t seem to mind! They got to put on glittery sprinkle stickers… so that make them giddy. 

While they worked on their “cupcakes” I made up plates of chocolate-dipped strawberries, apple slices, and cheese cut in the shape of hearts. I also poured out some sparkling water and added some homemade strawberry syrup to make strawberry Italian sodas (so good, by the way).

After the craft, the girls munched for a while and then they moved on to playing. I had the water table set up with pink and red water beads; some metallic red, pink, and purple lip-shaped table scatters; some fake red rose petals; and some 3-D sparkly light pink styrofoam hearts.  The youngest girl was just-turned-two and she LOVED the water table. 

We also had Hula Girl’s kitchen out, and the older two girls loved it. They quickly found all the dishes and food and prepared a feast for the ages. I think we ate some cauliflower with corn-and-eggplant cream sauce. And a waffle on the side. Naturally.

The baby boys really enjoyed watching each other. The brother who attended is two months older than Gelato. He sat on the floor and chewed on Gelato’s toy while Gelato laid on his tummy and watched. They just stared at each other until it was time for Gelato’s nap. They were so funny! 

I had a good time with the moms. They are the two moms I have been going to storytime with since the beginning. One mom has the eldest girls, who are five and almost-four. You’ll remember a looooong time ago when I posted about them here and here. Sweet girls! Actually, the older one pushed her sister while they were here, and I called her over to me and told her that I don’t allow pushing in my house. She walked away mortified, and her mom gave me a thumbs-up. Later on she told me, “Yeah, it’s okay to discipline my kid! I know you’re a great mom! Thank you for saying something so I didn’t have to worry about it!” 

The other mom has the just-turned-two-year-old and we have known them since the little girl was nine months old. It’s amazing to watch other peoples’ children grow up! That mom is pregnant now, so we’re all very excited for her!

A favorite moment of mine was when I was reaching under my counter into the cabinet that stores my pots and pans, looking for my camera (don’t judge). I said something like, “Am I the only one who stores everything on the countertops in the cupboards 10 minutes before the guests arrive just so it looks nicer?” They both laughed and said something like, “We don’t ever have anyone over to our house- we don’t want to have to clean it!” 

That made me realize just how badly people need a place to GO to meet up. We’re not going to be invited to their houses until they feel comfortable enough with us to let us see their mess. I think for the next party, I’ll leave some unopened mail on the table by the door or something- make us seem a bit more human! 😉

Our next party will be the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. You KNOW we’re going to do the Irish theme up right. I am going to invite boys and girls this time. I plan to do a lot of activities with rainbows and potatoes. We’re also going to invite someone (not sure who yet) over on St. Patrick’s Day for a traditional Irish meal. Jonathan hates corned beef and cabbage… but we’re going to have it anyway. He can eat a lot of potatoes. Yahoo!

Adding a New Family Member

Well, we’re six months into our life with Gelato, and I have learned a lot of stuff. A lot a lot. While I was growing up, I always admired women in their 50s and beyond because I recognized the amount of wisdom they possessed. I had no clue exactly what path they had to take in order to arrive at this place of wisdom… I just figured it came with the grays. However, now that I’m a mommy again, I feel like I have probably aged about 10 years in six months and I am starting to realize exactly what kinds of things those women have gone through in order to be deemed wise.

I belong to an online group of moms who use the Babywise series to help inform and guide their parenting strategies. Several of the moms had newborns right around the time Gelato was born. It is fun to have a group of babies around the same age! However, now there is a new wave of newborns flooding the group, and it’s fun to go back and address some of the crazy stuff we’ve just been through- I feel like I have at least some understanding and some ideas about how to make it work!

One of my friends in the group has a son about six months younger than Hula Girl, and she just had another son about six months after Gelato was born! In fact, the spacing between both sets of our kids is 26 months. She posted a question recently asking how on earth she could handle her older son’s behavior now that she’s so tied down with the newborn. She also explained that she was feeling so very overwhelmed with the whole thing- a toddler and a newborn are hard to handle!

I decided I wanted to share my response to her here on my blog so that one day when it gets made into a blog book and my very own daughter (or daughter-in-law) goes through the same thing, she will have some of my own personal wisdom… as well as some understanding that she, too, made her Mama’s life difficult for a time. 🙂

Part of my friend’s issues with her older toddler were just crazy two-year-old behavior. The example she gave was that he took all the flowers out of a vase and drank the water. EEW! My kid’s never done anything always doing stuff like that (remember the time when she emptied a container of hand soap into her shoe?… or this morning, when I came down from putting Gelato down for his nap to find a kitchen full of frozen peas and corn!!! ) For anonymity’s sake, I’ve abbreviated her kids’ names- G is the older son, J is the newborn.

Before I address your more pressing question of how to deal with G, here are the things that I have been (slowly, painfully) learning in the last 6 months. In order. 🙂 It really truly helps to have a good perspective before deciding how you are going to handle the situation. (And before we all start thinking I’m awesome or anything… lol… I FAILED MISERABLY on at least 3 occasions that I can remember as clearly as if they just happened a second ago, along with at least 1000 other occasions that all blend together in one mommy’s-done-lost-her-mind fog. So, take my advice/ideas with a few grains of salt!)
1. Very short-term thinking- I adopted this phrase as my mantra in the very early newborn days when both kids were crying at the same time and I couldn’t leave Hula Girl alone for more than 3 minutes but couldn’t just ignore Gelato, either: “Everything will be different 20 minutes from now.” I really did have to take my days and break them down into 20-minute segments and allow myself to feel hope that whatever stressful situation I was currently in would be over 20 minutes from then. Sometimes, it was an even more stressful situation! But it was different.
2. Courage- I realized I was operating in fear 99% of my day- always nervous that “something” might happen: Gelato might wake early (he did most of the time from 9-24 weeks); Hula Girl might throw a tantrum (rare, but sometimes); our dinner might not be ready on time (who am I kidding… dinner is NEVER ready on time); I might not get any sleep ever again for the rest of my life (I have resigned myself to this one); life might always be this hard (I expect it likely gets harder); etc. But my daily readings brought me across 1 Peter and I was reminded that we are facing all kinds of things to develop perseverance. So for the next few months, my new mantra was “I am not afraid.” I needed to let go of that huge knot of terror and tension that I held buried in my lower chest/upper stomach region and just relax and know that God was not going to let me drown. It may be flipping uncomfortable, but there is no need to FEAR what “might” happen. I think this is hard because we’ve got such ideals in our heads. But I realized that what I feared was failure… as if a small baby’s short naps somehow indicated that I was substandard or that somehow I would never measure up to full mommy potential. I was afraid that I would NEVER be the mom I was supposed to be. But that is simply untrue. I am the mom I’m supposed to be. Already. My children are not supposed to have any other mother but me, and God has made it that way, and I trust him, and that’s it! I AM the mother they’re supposed to have. And you are the mother G and J (and Africa baby!) are supposed to have. That’s just how it is! So what is there to be afraid of?!
3. Perseverance- Ironically, 1 Peter played itself out pretty quickly in my life. All those trials during those months truly DID develop perseverance in me. My new mantra, one that I am repeating to moms all over the world right now, is “We can do hard things.” I can do hard things. Being a mom is HARD. But oh, well. I got this. I can do hard things. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and doing it. Like, tonight, I cleaned my house while Jonathan made dinner. That was HARD. We have a sick toddler and a baby who was just plain off schedule all day. On a Friday. Of the longest week ever. Did I feel like cleaning!? Heck, no. But I can do hard things. So I did it. That’s a stupid example. But that’s where I am right now. Yeah, it’s hard. But I can do hard things. It was really difficult not to BEG my husband to stay home from work today so I didn’t have to face the day alone. But he had a lot of clients scheduled and I can do hard things. So I sent him off to work with a kiss and a smile, put on my game face, and made today work. I did hard things.
So there you have it. Short-term thinking, courage, and perseverance. That’s where I am now.
As far as actually handling G’s behavior. Well.
If I can recall correctly, G is pretty cheerful and obedient. That’s GREATLY to your advantage. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this side of him is NOT normal and that he is using his behavior to express something that his little newly-two brain can’t seem to express verbally. Think of his behaviors as a new language… and that will get you somewhere. At least you’ll have more patience when trying to interpret what’s really going on.
I have found that a physically intense type of discipline is very important right now. I don’t mean spanking or yanking or grabbing or pulling… I mean VERY gentle hands redirecting, sometimes even without words, ALL THE TIME. I know it’s literally impossible to be hands-on with G right now for a lot of the time because you’re tied down nursing J. But while J is napping, be over-the-top hands-on with G. I find myself withdrawing from physical touch during the newborn days because SO much of my touch need is filled just through nursing, rocking, etc., with the baby. Jonathan has commented on it and I have to work SO hard to reach out to him… imagine what it’s like for our little 2-year-olds who used to be the sole recipient of that touch all day, every day… and now it’s withdrawn and redirected toward some strange little blob who cries, eats, and poops. Yeah.
So when I say physical discipline, I don’t mean just corrective stuff. I mean guiding, teaching, shaping, correcting, and training. Like, I will make up excuses to touch Hula Girl throughout the day in a positive way so that we have less behaviors to deal with. We started doing a daily massage/singing time. She’s old enough now to enjoy a short backrub while I sing her one song. Then she’s up and out of my lap before I can even think of another song to sing… but that’s okay! 🙂 I do hand-over-hand when teaching her to use a knife. I touch her knees while we’re sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to be called. We play patty-cake. I stroke her hair about 100 million times a day. I give her giant bear hugs when I come to get her in the morning and after her nap. Sometimes while she’s eating her dinner, I’ll reach over and poke her pinky finger with mine. Touch, touch, touch, touch, touch!!!
Another idea is to challenge him. If you see him drinking the water (or doing something that’s not exactly a HUGE deal), you might say something like, “Oh, I see you’re thirsty. I wonder if you could drink TWO cups of water!?!” Then fill a couple of cups about halfway to see if he can do it. (Of course he can.) Praise his efforts to meet your challenge. Laugh with him when you challenge him to do something kind of silly. It’s a subtle redirection of whatever behavior is on display. It shows him that you are paying attention to him and thinking of him, too.
When the behavior is really egregious and NEEDS to be addressed, I have found that using a combination of touch and whispers really helps downplay the emotions of the moment. I take her gently by the hand, bring her onto my lap and whisper to her about how it is sad that she chose to perform that behavior and what I would like to have seen instead. Then we practice the correct behavior. I DO NOT USE TIME OUT at all because so much of her behavior is driven by wanting my attention and feeling like she can’t have it… I feel like time out would only reinforce that thought and make her try harder.
When you’re locked in an all-out battle of wills, I suggest being the bigger person and demonstrating to him how to bow out gracefully. And by that I mean, how to break the tension. Pull a funny face, do a silly dance, even stop and take a picture of the two of you together. Throw him for a loop.

Finally, and this is CRITICAL- let G be HANDS-ON with J. Yep, he’ll be rough. Yep, you’ll find yourself saying “gentle!” over and over and over and over and over. I have found Gelato squished under Hula Girl several times. Meh. He’s tough. He can take it. As long as G isn’t doing anything that is harmful, allow him space to “meet” his brother. He craves a relationship with J, too. After all, he is very curious about who this little person is… and you MUST get out of the way so he can get acquainted. But any time G asks to hold him, LET HIM! (I love the relationship I see between my children already. Today, Gelato babbled something in the car and Hula Girl said, “He’s talking to me. He’s telling me how much he loves me. And I love him, too.”) I am a FIRM believer in just letting them be together on their own terms- supervised by me as an observer only as much as possible. It is important to reaffirm that they have equal standing and have every right to have a relationship that does not always involve MY intervention.

 

We’re having another Toddler Party

Yup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toddler Cookie Party

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

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

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

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

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

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

Pin the Nose on the Snowman!

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

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

 

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

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

 

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

A close-up of Christmas wonderland!

 

Ready to decorate!

Ready to decorate!

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

Christmasy toddler snack food

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

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

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

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

At 10:00, no one had showed.

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

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

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

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

BUT NO ONE ELSE CAME.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hospitality Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heeeere are my plans!

Refreshments:

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

Activities: 

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

 Favors (Treat bags stuffed with):

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

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

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

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

And I’m insisting on name tags.

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