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!

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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! 

Doh-dee-mime Success!

Well, this week’s storytime provided me plenty of reasons to chuckle.

Remember last week’s storytime?

This week was pretty much the polar opposite. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the library with Hula Girl was a brand-spankin’-new poster, the size of the window in the door, stating:

Our Storytimes have Changed!

Bumblebees (0-15 months) Mondays at 10

Time for Tots (15 months – 3 years) Tuesdays at 10 and 10:30

Something Cutesy that I can’t Remember (3-5 years) Wednesdays at 10

Yes, they reprinted the poster, made it about 4 times as large, and stuck it right there on the front door of the children’s wing. Teehee.

The next thing that made me feel giddy was today’s handout. The theme listed at the very top was “Quiet” and the sign language showed the sign for quiet. Our books for the day were The Quiet Book and Shhhhh. I am pretty sure Miss Kirsten was planning to follow last week’s “Noise” theme with this week’s “Quiet” theme anyway, but it just made today’s theme seem so ironic.

There was one part of storytime that frustrated me- the loud discussion held by some moms prior to the start of storytime. They were talking about last week and how one mom’s children were the ones to blame for the pandemonium. I will admit, one mom did bring in 4 of those boys over 4, but that does not mean that the other moms then have the right to discuss her parenting style, children’s behavior, or rights without her present. I think I have not noticed much “mom gossip” because I have intentionally kept Hula Girl and myself mostly at home during her life (even though I am well aware that it exists everywhere- after all, these are the same ladies with whom we all went to high school and if gossip reigns there, why would it stop when we all grow up?). It just really bugged me that these ladies felt the need and the right to have that very demeaning conversation right then and there, including acting out scenes and pretentiously describing “What I would have done….” Sigh. Women, who should be kind and patient with one another, and who should be able to lean on each other for advice and ideas about raising these kiddos, are just plain cruel sometimes.

Anyway, on with the success part.

Hula Girl participated! She has always been a watcher and observer at storytime. Each week we sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” and do the hand motions. There is also a “Let’s get Ready for Storytime” song. I have tried to move her arms and hands along with the others for a while now, but she isn’t really interested. However, all this week, she’s been wanting to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” at home and she’s been practicing the hand motions. We do it at every meal, and at least 10 other times throughout the day. Apparently all that practice boosted her confidence, because when it was time for “Twinkle, Twinkle”, she was ready. She had her little hands up and made the best little diamond she could possibly make. It looked like she was clenching her fists together, but she tried!

And when it was time to get the shakers, she walked over to Miss Kirsten but didn’t take a shaker. Evie asked her mom to come with her, and I suggested that she show Hula Girl what to do. She happily agreed, but then Hula Girl still wouldn’t reach in and take one. I had to go help her with that. I think next week, given the opportunity, she’ll know what to do. But when it was time to put the shakers away, I said, “Go put your shaker back in the box!” and she ran over there and put it in, then danced in the middle of the carpet until I asked her to come sit down. That’s my girl!

Of course, she chose her same spot, on the “U”.

After the official storytime was over, we were coloring (again-success! Hula Girl got to color as long as she wanted- she didn’t try to stick a crayon in her mouth!) and the moms were talking more than usual. Another mom and I were talking to Evie’s mom about her pregnancy (she’s due in June). The other mom has an almost-2-year-old boy. She is new to the storytime, but she was very friendly and outgoing. I finally got up the courage to talk a little more to her after we got out of the storytime room, and I asked her how she meets people and/or finds activities in the area, since we’re new and I’ve had very little success. She said she’s newer and has faced the same struggles, and that she’s thinking of just starting her own playgroup. YES! She’s also a member at the Y (we’re planning to become members soon, too), and she said there’s a lot going on there. Another YES!

We exchanged numbers and she just texted me asking if we want to join her and her son for a picnic at the playground after next week’s storytime (weather permitting)! I am very very excited, since this is our first real planned “playdate” since we’ve moved here. I sure hope the weather stays nice like it has been for a few weeks.

So, all in all, doh-dee-mime success. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

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