I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turningΒ 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. πŸ˜‰ I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. πŸ™‚ He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. πŸ™‚

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚

 

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. Β 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. Β 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. πŸ˜‰

Candyland

Hula Girl received (and gave) several games and toys for Christmas this year. I just want to highlight a few so we don’t forget how awesome things were in the week post-Christmas in the future. Classic memories were made and are still in the making! Let’s hope they’re still making in March!

Disclaimer: We do not spoil our children. If it sounds like Hula Girl got a lot of presents, it’s because she really only gets new things at Christmas and on her birthday, which are conveniently spaced about 6 months apart. We don’t do a lot of “just because” toys. I also want to state that I do not generally buy a lot of toys that make noise or have one function. And even when we have that kind of toy, I encourage Hula Girl to use it for other purposes if she sees fit.

Hula Girl’s favorite present this year, bar none, was a dollhouse we scored off of Craigslist. I had mentioned to my parents that I’d like to give her a dollhouse this year. I had a nice wooden number in mind. Alas, they are way expensive and my dad was too busy to build one for her. But I really wanted her to have one. So my mom, doing what my mom does best, kept her eyes peeled for a bargain. And whoa, her bargain-location device was in tip-top shape. This dollhouse is awesome. It’s a Loving Family dollhouse by Fisher Price. It includes ALL the accessories. Working lamps, radios, music boxes, and hot tub bubbles are just the beginning. The horse neighs. This thing has not just an infant seat for the baby, but it also has a bouncer, a swing, a crib, a tub, a changing table, and a baby gym. Just for the baby. And then there are all the other things for the other four members of the family plus dog and horses. My mom scored a sweet deal. And Hula Girl has logged at least fifteen hours playing with that dollhouse (alone and with family) since Christmas.

Hula Girl’s second-most-played-with Christmas gift is her small baby doll. It came with a stroller and that baby has had more trips around the staircase than she knows what to do with. Ama also included an extra outfit for the baby. The moment the baby was out of the package, she was stripped naked (a recurring theme with ALL of Hula Girl’s baby dolls lately). But yesterday, all she wanted to do was to put the new outfit on the baby and then switch to the “old” outfit, and back. She’s really making strides with her dexterity- she can put the shirt on all by herself, but still needs help with the pants. Still, impressive, considering she has never before done anything but rip clothes OFF the baby dolls!

Other gifts that come to me off the top of my head include her trampoline, Sit’n’Spin, puzzle, nail polishes (thanks, Grampy! her toes are sparkly pink right now!), stamp set (to be opened and used when Daddy’s gone back to work- thanks, Nay-Nay!), and her play kitchen. Basically, the girl RAKED it in this year. Which was great, because she is at the perfect age to really appreciate a lot of these gifts.

Another special gift was her Jesus Storybook Bible. Girl made me cry when we opened it up and looked at the pictures and she told me the whole story all the way from Adam and Eve through David and Goliath (including the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and so on). Looks like she’ll be quite familiar with the Word. That makes me so happy.

But let me tell you about Candyland. A game requiring absolutely no skill whatsoever, not even reading. And yet, I.cannot.win.that.game.

Hula Girl gave it to Jonathan for Christmas, per Ama’s suggestion that she give him something they can do together. A game? Less than $5? Requiring no reading? Done.

We have played it three times as a family since Christmas, and I don’t know why, but I always end up at least twenty-five colorful spaces (that look like Laffy Taffy now, BTW, for those of you who don’t play an updated version of Candyland) behind both Jonathan and Hula Girl. Of course, Jonathan has won the majority of the games. But even when Hula Girl does win, she couldn’t care less. She doesn’t understand the concept of “winning” or coming in “first” yet. All in due time, my love. Stay sweet. πŸ™‚

But I DO understand the concept of LOSING. And I keep.on.losing. Like, not by two or three spaces. Or even two or three turns. By the time Jonathan gets to the Candy Castle, I’m still chillin’ at the GINGERBREAD HOUSE. Yeah. He gets all these double-purples and I get like, orange. I have yet to get a special space card. No lollipops or ice cream cones for me. Heaven forbid I get the chocolate.

Hmph.

Guess Candyland’s not my game, after all.

Pull a Rabbit out of the Hat!

Today has been a pretty nice day so far! I have actually been well enough to play with Hula Girl, which I haven’t done in about a week. I know, bad mommy skills on that one, but I have just been so run down. However, today I had no choice- Jonathan went back to work so I would have had to pull a rabbit out of the wellness hat somehow even if I were still feeling so icky. Fortunately I did not need to become a magician.

Hula Girl and I spent the morning playing with her clean diapers. She likes to “help” with laundry, so we play a lot during that time. This morning was super fun as she’s been really into laying on her tummy and laughing for no reason lately. So while she did that funny little dance, I piled all her diapers on top of her and let her giggle. Then I reached through those microfleece layers and tickled her little toes. Oh, how she loves “Tickle Toes!”

Our next adventure involved looking at the Mommy and Baby on the car seat box. Yes, it’s still sitting in my living room, even though we got the car seat installed on Saturday. We’re sick, all right?! We’ve been busy gardening! I don’t really think I need to make an excuse. It’s only been 3 days. Anyway, Hula Girl has been very into noses lately. She likes to point out noses whenever she sees them. Animal noses, human noses, cartoon noses, you name it. If it’s a nose, she points to it. So cute!

After nap time and lunch time, Jonathan came home to visit. Hula Girl was very excited to see her Daddy. After all, it had been, what, five whole hours since she saw him last! I can’t say that I blame her. It is very exciting to have him home at lunchtime. Since he’s doing training for his job this week, it will be a week-long event! Something to look forward to every single day!

Our visit went really well yesterday. We were concerned that Hula Girl might be really nervous and crabby- she’s got a pretty marked case of stranger anxiety. However, she cried only once, when a man in glasses approached her, but then she was fine the rest of the time. She even went and played with the girls’ fingernails (painted hot green) and hat tassels (who wears a hat indoors in spring!? Middle schoolers!) and chewed on some Tupperware. It was great to see those girls!

All in all, I’d say our outlook is improving as we are getting over this mondo-illness. Thank goodness!

What’s the best magic trick you’ve ever seen?

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