Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Showing the snow who's boss

So the trip I mentioned? Went on as planned, with slight adjustments. On Friday morning, the weather report was saying snow and ice starting in the early afternoon, then following us to our destination (Oma and Opa's house). I had planned to leave right after school, but with that information, we decided to skip a day of kindergarten (I'll take my lashings now) and leave right after lunch. It was a good call - we drove on dry roads in the daylight and then sat in my mom's warm house and watched the snow fall that evening.

Pittsburgh got 6 inches of snow overnight that night. The next morning was the big event for which we traveled. Oma and Opa were to take Katy and David downtown to see Fiddlesticks - which is a young child's introduction to the symphony. Games, activities, instruments, and of course, a kid-friendly concert. We were debating up to the last minute about whether or not they should go, depending on the conditions of the road. But they decided to go for it - my mom said it was questionable on the way down, but they made it safely. Brian and I got to hang back with Luke (who was in toyland heaven).

A big part of the anticipation was dressing up.

You may remember these dresses from last year. And now Chloe has one, too!

Lukey loved Oma's house - especially the cool stool so you can help with cooking, crafting, and the like. Oh, and he slept through the night 2 nights in a row, which he hasn't done in MONTHS. Should we move in with Oma?

We do puzzles of every type.

Katy had requested jammies for Chloe, so she wouldn't have to sleep in her clothes, poor girl. So not only did Oma makes jammies, but a bathrobe, SLIPPERS, and a matching set for Katy. While we were there, Katy picked from the doll patterns and the scrap fabric and helped Oma sew another new outfit for Chloe.

TinkerToys were a new discovery this trip.

Katy had to prepare for her 100th day of school while we were there, since we pulled into our driveway just an hour before drop-off time on Monday. She needed to bring to school 100 of something, sorted into 10 groups of 10. When I was trying to think of an item which my mom would have 100, the first thing that came to mind was BUTTONS. She has jars and jars of buttons, I bet some of them are 30 years old. If you're ever missing one? Check with her - she might have it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Witching hour(s)

I remember a time in which my kids napped until 4 or 4:30 most days, and Brian got home shortly after 5. There were even a few days sprinkled in there when he would walk in the door and one of the kids was STILL ASLEEP from afternoon nap. Late nappers, my kids have been in the past. That wasn't much of a witching hour.

Several things have changed.

1) Brian doesn't get home until about 5:45. Once or twice a month, he has to stay and work at the rental, so it's 7 or 8pm before he gets home.

2) I have to pick Katy up from school at 3:30, so that is the latest anyone ever naps. And actually, the boys have been waking up closer to 2:30 these days.

3) Once a month, the school has early release and I pick her up at 2:30. Yes, that means that on those days kindergarten lasts an hour and a half. Only part of PM kinder that I don't like. (Three hours of witching on those days).

4) A couple of nights a week, we need to be out the door by 6 or so for an activity, so it's always my goal to have dinner on the table when he walks in.

This is what I would LIKE for the witching hours to look like:

- The kids enjoy a healthy snack around the table and talk politely about the day.

- I help Katy with her 10 minutes of homework, which she completes cheerfully while the boys do some coloring or cutting at the table.

- I set up something for the kids to do (a game, a craft, a train track) and they play with each other while I fix dinner. I intervene as needed.

Here is what actually happens:

- The kids start bickering on the way home about what kind of snack they are allowed to have.

- They whine and complain that the snack choices are "healthy" and try to bargain for a "regular" snack, despite years of the policy. No matter how much food I give David, he continues to beg for more until dinner is served. (I actually caught him hiding under the table the other day to catch the scraps that Luke dropped, like a dog. Not my finest parenting moment.)

- I drag Katy through the homework process. (And she's a good student and only has 10 minutes. Lord help me when I have a kid who isn't as motivated toward school and has hours of work to do!)

- Katy begs, pleads, and cries in request to invite the girl across the street to play. When the weather is nice, I don't mind at all if they play in the yard. But here's the thing: I don't know the family very well, and the girl is 2 years older than Katy. I don't get the impression that she really wants to play, unless there's nothing better to do. And certainly not every day, which is as often as Katy would like to invite her. I really don't mind having her over at ALL, but I just don't want Katy over there begging her to come every single day. This is hard to explain to a five year old who puts a seven year old on a pedestal.

- There are periods of play, mixed with fighting, thrown together with tears. I cannot let Luke leave my sight for more than 10 seconds, and I am constantly rerouting him from trouble. I feel guilty every time one of the kids comes up to me and pleads, "Will you read this book to me?" By the time Brian gets home, I feel desperate for him to arrive. But somehow, as soon as he walks in, I can't be sure why I was so flustered.

Any suggestions? What does this time look like at your house?

**side note: We are supposed to travel to my mom's this weekend and there's some snow heading this direction. We have tickets to a much-anticipated concert and I'm praying the weather doesn't force us to miss it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bonding with the Boys

Luke had a well visit today, and the when the dr. asked "how is life with Luke?" all I could think of was, "It's a full time job to keep him from injuring himself." It would take several paragraphs to describe the close calls and near misses the kid has had this month, not to mention the blood smear on the garage door from last weekend's incident. The kid is wild, and I ask myself a thousand times a day, "Where's Luke?" So Luke and I, we spend a lot of time together.

(This is partially why the dr. isn't concerned that he is only 22 lbs 2 ounces - which is 5 %'ile for an 18 month old boy, even though he's 32.5 inches, 50 %'ile. I guess he's just moving so much he's burning it all off?)

And I get lots of time with Katy, mostly because she demands it and needs it. She has homework and likes crafts and games and just...she demands it.

But I've been thinking lately about my middle child. He doesn't demand my attention in the same way, and I've found that the attention I give him is too often negative. He's a 3 year old boy, so I am constantly correcting him for screaming, pushing, being too rough, too loud, etc. And fighting with him to do the things he needs to do (go potty, get dressed, brush his teeth) because he doesn't want to stop what he's doing.

So I'm making a strong attempt to have some bonding time with David every chance I get. If I find a few seconds of down time, I'll jump into whatever he's doing and try to cuddle with him a little extra. He often gets up from rest time before Luke, so I'm trying to put aside what I need to do and play with play-doh, Zingo, or Let's Go Fishin'.  And it makes me teary to realize how excited he gets, to play with Mommy all on his own. He's such a sweet, sweet boy and he deserves some attention in this busy household.

So I'll do my best.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Tidbits: January edition

**So, I don't want to speak too soon or jinx anything or eat my words later...but is it possible? ...is there any way...that maybe, just maybe... *whispers* we might just have a mild winter on our hands? I mean, I KNOW that it's probably still coming. I remember March of '08 when we got several feet of snow (I remember because I was great with child and nervous about driving to the hospital in labor in said snow). But I have seen the 10 day forecast that stretches into mid-Januray and it's still looking...fairly mild? We've walked to school a few days in the past week, played outside all weekend, contemplated going to the zoo just for kicks. In JANUARY?!? I could get used to this. So, okay, Old Man Winter, if the way you roll is to wait for someone to post on their blog that they think it might be a mild winter and then BRING IT, I guess it will be all my fault.

**Gradually we are starting back into our routine - church stuff all started last week, Girl Scouts tonight, and tomorrow Katy starts a piano class. She has been very interested in piano since Oma brought us a keyboard and some primer books and taught her to play a few things. There is a perfect little class sold through the rec center that is a group lesson for 4-6 year olds, happening right when David is at school (almost too perfect to work - I'm having to carpool so I can drop David off at the exact same time piano starts). We know 2 of the other 4 kids already, and Katy is super excited about it.

**Last night I heard a thud upstairs after the kids were in bed, but no crying afterward, so I figured someone got up to get a drink. When I went to check later, I found David like this. I'm guessing he fell out of bed but was too tired to climb all the way back in?

**David's nap has been hit or miss, and we skipped it for 2 weeks straight around Christmas. So for now we've settled into this routine: on weekends and any day that Katy doesn't have school - he stays up from nap. On the days that Katy has school, he goes to his room and tries to lay down, but if he doesn't fall asleep, he comes down at 2:00. It's a good compromise for now, because he and Katy have several activities that are easier to do when Luke is sleeping (play-doh, legos, bingo, etc), so they get the chance to do these on off days. But then on school days, we try to rest, and he doesn't argue because he knows there are days he gets to stay up. He still falls asleep on most of the rest days, but only for an hour or so. Which is just enough time for me to catch my breath and make needed phone calls and feel like I have the energy to finish the day.

**Katy just hung on my arm for a minute and started to read the paragraph above. She got every word in the first sentence except for "skipped," "straight," & "Christmas." It's really fun to watch her as an emerging reader, but it starts to make you think...about what all she can read?!?

**Luke is so funny right now, although it's the kind of funny that is difficult to describe in a way that retains the humor. He imitates everything we do (like picking up the cereal bowl from the table to get the last little bit), nods "yes" with emphasis, and attempts to put on his shoes and coat when anyone opens the door. He loves to play trains, and constantly brings me a piece of wooden train track and shoves it at me, like, "Build me a track!!" We made spinach and artichoke dip and he ate a whole bowl of it with a SPOON and asked for more until we ran out. ?!? He's just a cuke, oddly hilarious with his own little quirks.

I hope your January is chugging along nicely. Let's hope it stays that way.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Forward progress

I can't remember a time that I made a written list of resolutions and managed to keep them for any length of time. But I've been thinking about a few goals that I've accomplished this year. Things that I've been meaning to get around to for awhile and finally did. This is an easier way for me to think about - having a list of goals that I will get to this year, rather than "From this day forward I will no longer ____."

Most of these happen to be domestic goals, but it's a start. I'll add some personal ones for 2012.

In 2011, I made some forward progress in these areas:

**Serving dinner at home to my family: I've struggled with this...well...since I've had a family. This summer I bought a Days-of-the-week wipe-off board at a garage sale for 50 cents and stuck it on my fridge. I also started doing once-a-month freezer cooking on a regular basis. On Sundays, I plan our meals for the week, pull out of the freezer what I need to thaw, and we're finally making it through the week without getting take-out. We usually eat out some on the weekends, just because we enjoy it and we budget for it. But during the week, dinner is on the table when Brian gets home from work or a few minutes after. *shew*

**Baking our own bread: Brian had a bread machine from his single days (can you believe that?) that has been sitting in our basement for years. I kept reading on blogs about women who never bought bread in the store and always baked their own, and while I wasn't sure I would go totally cold turkey, I wanted to try it. So I got it out, got a good recipe from a friend (thanks, Ab!), shared a bag of bread flour and yeast from Costco with another friend (thanks, Kate!), and baked my very own bread. DELIGHTFUL. Now, I'm not going to give up on store bought bread entirely, but I've been baking bread about once a week and using it as part of our meals.

**Stay within our grocery budget: I kept feeling like I couldn't find the time to cut the coupons and follow the sales the way I knew I should. And I was stressing over every cup of yogurt I put in the basket. And even though we had raised the budget a couple of times, I was STILL going over. I know it's only been a month, but this one is suddenly so much better. Emily, meet Aldi. Aldi, Emily.

**Keeping up with the laundry. Brian helped a ton with this one. We're in a routine now - I usually do a mid-week load full of stuff that we suddenly need, like a certain color shirt for preschool or a jacket that got really muddy. But other than that, we do a big push every weekend, and Brian and I are both working on it throughout the weekend until it's done. This is better than my previous routine, which was to wait until everyone is out of underwear and then swim in piles of clothes for 3 days, which might fall during a busy part of the week.

So for 2012?

**I'd like to figure out how to make exercise a regular part of my routine. Brian has done a great job with this and has been really consistent for over a year.
**De-clutter. It seems like there are tons of books out there on this topic right now (I don't read many books, but I read blogs and bloggers tend to read books and then blog about them), and I would love to decrease our stuff. One blog did a 40 bags in 40 days challenge during lent last year, which I think would be fabulous if I could get motivate.

**Get the whole family to eat more produce. I've been experimenting with ideas like putting the big bowl in the middle of the table so they are always looking at it, and slicing oranges with a knife so they look more appealing. I'd like to take more steps like these to increase improve this.