Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas chaos brings New Year's clean up

It is something I noticed long ago. Christmas presents tend to cover the house once opened and it takes extreme effort to put things in new places. With young children the problem intensifies because they are constantly wanting to pull out a new toy to play with. With our two year old the attention span between one toy and the next is approximately a minute, so the room becomes cluttered again very quickly. So over the next day or so, I will wage a war to bring order to the chaos once again. It's time to sort through the old toys to see what needs to be put away for later, what needs to be put in the bedroom, what needs to be in the living room, and how to consolidate everything into new orderly places. The two year old will still want to pull everything out to play with, but at least she won't have all of it in one spot to tempt her constantly. The tree will be coming down tonight and we can move the furniture back to its normal locations. We have to achieve some kind of order by the weekend so that I don't go crazy next week when my husband goes back to work.

I have definitely entered the "Ugh! How long can I carry around this child before he decides to come out" stage. I realize that it isn't time yet. We have five more weeks. But, I can't chase after the kids like I used to. I can barely get the normal household chores done (and only the most desperately needed at that). I tire out every few minutes and I need naps more than the kids do. So next week will feel like a marathon. My husband will be back at work and my parents won't arrive to help out until the following week. I will have to get the kids back to a normal (non-holiday) routine after they have been thoroughly spoiled. I also have to find baby sitters for while I go to two appointments that week. On the plus side, I'll be so busy it will go by quickly.

So, it is vital that I bring order to the chaos this week. Clutter affects my moods and makes me cranky and depressed. If I feel like the house is in order, I will be able to make it through the tough spots easier. After all... if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Ballet and the importance of field trips

Since we are homeschooling, one thing we are trying to do is arrange various field trips for our daughter. It is tricky getting good age-appropriate ones for a four year old. However, when our daughter started getting hooked on anything ballet, we thought it would be good to go see the Nutcracker this Christmas. She was able to see her first ballet this evening, and her imagination is going to be full of it for some time to come. It was a very nice production and very magical to the eyes of a four year old. We were a little worried that she would freak out during the applause since she usually does. However, we talked about it before hand and she actually clapped some herself a few times. When she didn't, she at least refrained from going into the screaming tantrum she usually goes for. One thing we forgot about was the type of seats you find in auditoriums like that. She is a little light for those seats that flip up. One of us had to hold it down for her so she didn't get swallowed up. Overall, it was a great experience for her and an enjoyable one for us.

She has been wanting to be a dancer and dances to just about any music, so showing her what it really looks like seemed to be a good thing to us. It also helped that she is already familiar with the music thanks to Disney's Fantasia. I guess the next step will be a preschool level dance class (once she masters the potty training). That will be where the rubber meets the road. Will our headstrong daughter take instruction on how to do something? Or will she insist on doing things her own way and therefore lose any benefit a class could give her? I'm not sure which way she will go. I can see her doing well, because it is something she loves. But, I can also see the possibility that her lazy side will decide that it is too much work. We would love for her to put in the work and do well at dancing, but it is still extra-curricular as far as we are concerned. If she tries it and then decides against it we will let her stop, but only if she has put in the required work for that class series. With her personality, we will have to work extra-hard to instill disciplined habits.

We would also love it if our kids learned a musical instrument and developed their art skills. They will need some kind of sport, martial art, gymnastics or dance to get in the physical education aspect of schooling(a walk in the neighborhood is a nice start, but doesn't do enough in the long run). We think we have the basics of reading, writing and arithmatic covered OK. My husband's strong point is music, literature, and science. My strong point is history, theology and research. That covers a wide range of topics, so we keep coming up with wish lists of other things we would like to teach our kids to put the icing on the cake so to speak. One thing we still have to decide is languages other than English (should we do modern languages or classical languages for example). Should we require the musical instrument instruction or be satisfied with some other type of music instruction should they not be interested when we think they should be? (So far they love it when Daddy brings out the harp for them to play on). So, we get off onto tangents thinking about the future schooling of our kids from time to time. We have to bring ourselves back to reality by reminding ourselves that our oldest child is just four. We have time to work it all out. If we keep our education goals in mind, we will do just fine.

So, for a four year old, field trips that expose her to new and interesting things are a good thing. We are going to try to do something once a month. January we are thinking of a snow trip (since we are fairly close to some nice snowy mountains). What better way to introduce the concepts of seasons, weather, and even some basic physics than sliding down a snowy hill. Mommy will need family or friend volunteers to go with Daddy and the kids for that one. Too close to my due date to be heading into the mountains. We haven't figured out February's trip yet, but I suspect it will be the visit to the hospital to meet child number three (and lots of discussions about babies and families). Once things are growing again in spring we were thinking of a visit to a farm (seasons again, animals, crops, and the way we get our food). Sometime in summer, we could do a beach trip (seasons, oceans, different geography). I'm not sure she's ready for the local fire station yet. We may save that one for next year. One other thing that the field trips are good for is to get us adults out of our routines and do something adventurous.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life's surprises

Just when things seem to be going smoothly and I'm tempted to be complacent, something comes up to throw me off balance again. This morning my picture perfect pregnancy had a hiccup of sorts. Bleeding that shouldn't have been there. Turns out everything is fine. We just need to be on the lookout for any further problems. It also changes our plans to go out of town for the holidays. After my previous pregnancy ending in a miscarriage, I was constantly second guessing and worrying early in this one. Once the baby started kicking like crazy, I stopped being such a worrier. This was more what I was accustomed to in my pregnancies. Now I find myself tempted to start worrying again. I suppose that this is where faith comes in. Without knowing what is going on, without knowing what is coming in the future, we just have to trust God to take us from point A to point B whether that involves good or bad. It is hard to do sometimes (especially for a planner and control freak like myself), but there is also a comfort in it. And I have seen prayers make a difference in many different ways, so I'll be trying that therapy every time I'm tempted to worry again.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Somehow the Hallelujah Chorus seems appropriate now that our Christmas music program is over. The Christmas Cantata went well. We heard lots of good comments. We are still exhausted however. We had kept the kids up well past their bedtimes the last two nights and tonight, child number one asked "are we going anywhere tonight?" in a slightly apprehensive voice.

My husband, the music director of last night's performance (also known to some in the chorus as the song fairy since he arranged a good number of the songs in the performance) didn't get much chance to recover and had to be in to work 2 1/2 hours early this morning. The poor guy is terribly tired and the kids are making up for missed Daddy time. By the way, he wants to know which of you taught child number one to give her Daddy a wet willy (Uncle Rick?). Kids and chaos are reigning in our house tonight.

Notable recent quotes:
Child number one (at a recent singing practice): "Let's get out of here before something else happens."

Mommy (to child number one who is loudly complaining about her sister playing with her hair): "If you lay your head in your sister's lap, she has permission to play with your hair."

Child number two (frequently): "Again! Again! Again! Again! Again!..."

I am very happy to have the Cantata performance behind us. Now I can concentrate on Christmas craziness that needs to get done before we travel again for the holidays. Even so, I am trying to make it fairly simple. Too much stress during this time of year makes me sick, and I don't want to be sick when I'm so close to delivery time.

Well, that's all for tonight...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Interesting family dynamics

We are frequently very amused by the antics of our two daughters. Especially as the younger one is getting old enough for her personality to start showing itself. Child number one is a serious child most of the time. She likes to have fun, mind you, but she also feels a desperate need to boss her sister around. On the other hand, Child number two is an action child. She loves to climb and loves anything with wheels. They will occasionally play together and have giggle parties. We have noticed though that it is the younger one who will dump water or leaves or what not on her sister's head. The younger one (only two) initiates pillow fights. Sometimes the older one thinks it's funny, sometimes she doesn't.

This brings me to a funny episode we had yesterday during a timeout. Which illustrates why we don't do timeouts in our family much. The older child received a timeout. This is a new discipline method for us, because our previous method didn't take her enough away from fun things to learn the lesson. However, up until yesterday, the timeouts had always occurred while child number two was down for a nap. This time child number one was placed in her chair and a timer set. Child number two sees this and proceeds to pull up a chair next to her sister. She seems to think it is a new game because she is happily sitting next to her sister in a timeout. Child number one, starts to freak out because she doesn't think her sister should be doing that. She breaks the rule of quiet during timeouts to try to stop her sister from imitating her timeout. It doesn't work and Mommy has to lengthen her timeout because she broke the rule of her timeout. So child number one has to sit in torment while her sister sits quietly next to her and Mommy has a hard time not laughing about it all. Needless to say, Mommy and Daddy had a good laugh over it after the kids were in bed.

We can see that the family dynamics between them will be very interesting in the coming years. Now, what will happen when baby number 3 arrives, will probably stir things up a bit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cloth diaper decision

OK, so I am blogging some more this week. After doing some research and talking to a few people, I have decided to go with cloth diapers for baby number 3. I may talk to a few friends I know who have used cloth diapers recently and know the various brands available now. But, unless I hear something to change my mind, I think we will be going a very basic and simple route. I'm leaning toward the flat-fold diapers that are one size fits all based on how you fold them. Plus some type of diaper cover that fits a little like a disposable (that way I don't need to use pins). I won't need to change my laundering system much from what I am currently doing with the cloth training pants. I think that the only thing that I haven't completely decided on yet is whether to go cloth 100% (such as while traveling and during errands) or to use the occasional disposable (like when we have a babysitter who doesn't know what to do with cloth diapers). If I can firm up these decisions in the next week or so, I'll be able to get the supplies and have one less thing on my to do list.

Some people may call it the nesting instinct, but my wanting to get things taken care of soon is really more of my personality type than anything else. (I was planning out my college courses back in Junior High. Yes that's right, I was actually trying to plan what to take which quarter. I know, it was highly unrealistic and had to rethink every time I changed career plans. But, that doesn't stop me.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pleasant surprises

This is a hectic time of year for me. It always has been, but with my husband being the musical director of our church's Christmas program this year (and believe it or not, I'm singing in it at 7 1/2 months pregnant), that adds more stress than usual. I've been holding off on doing much Christmas shopping until after the program this Sunday. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I was out shopping yesterday for some needed clothes for myself, that I walked right by a stack of items that I wanted to get my husband for Christmas. I think that this is the first time since we got married that I got him a Christmas gift that he'll have to wait until Christmas to find out what it is. Up until now, we would agree on items ahead of time or do our shopping at together.

I also had pleasant surprises from my daughters today. Both did what they should for potty training. The older one actually stayed on the toilet long enough to poop there, and the younger one let me know that she pooped and wanted something done about it. It gives me hope.

And finally, My oldest daughter came up with the great idea of making an alphabet book. She likes to make books, but this was an actual coherent idea that she came up with all by herself. She made a page for each letter and drew pictures of things that start with that letter. She would ask me for ideas from time to time, but she was picky about what she would draw and came up with most of the ideas herself. I was especially impressed with "U is for Unicycle" and "V is for Volcano." She also took the time needed to do the whole thing in one sitting. She was working on it for about 3 hours straight (and I took a nap during about half of it). It is so nice when she decides to do something that interests her and is useful in either helping her learn or demonstrating what she has already learned. The homeschooling has been a little difficult to work in lately, so this was a breath of fresh air.

It would have been nice if the whole week was like this, but alas, it has had plenty of rocky moments. I probably won't blog much for the rest of the week. I have to work in a dentist appointment and extra rehearsals in an already busy schedule.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Simple pleasures

Today was child number two's second birthday. We had just a family birthday party and, except for a few little glitches (like the birthday girl being down for a nap for the first hour and a half of the party), I think a good time was had by all. She enjoyed opening her presents and playing with them. She is still into package ribbons and loved those as well. But, the thing that reminded me of the joy of simple pleasures was when we blew up seven birthday balloons this morning and showed her how to play with them. We bounced them. We bonked people with them. We had balloon wars with them. She had the biggest happiest grin on her face.

The balloons are temporary of course. They will all be gone in a day or two. However, considering how little I paid for them, they are a great treat for kids. There are many similar things to do with kids. My kids love to have an occassional half hour of bubble blowing. They love to go outside and play in the dirt/mud. They are in heaven if I take them to a local park that has swings.

I love to get toys that my kids will play with for years, but I have to remember not to overlook the little things, the simple pleasures, that make normal days special. Wouldn't it be nice if we all took the time to find the simple pleasures that make our adult lives feel special. I like to reread a favorite book on occassion or work on a craft project. Things that my sensible side tells me that I don't have time to do. But, I feel so much better after I've indulged in my little treat. What simple pleasures do you have that lighten your daily load? Do you ever do silly things like twirling across a grassy field singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music...." My husband does. We also like to make popcorn on Sunday nights when we come home from church. And, the everyday things that make us laugh are a treasure. If you haven't thought about these things lately, I hope you do. Take the time to enjoy a simple pleasure today.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unexpected impressions

Do you ever discover that people have an impression of you that is not what you think of yourself. OK, so that happens all the time. I mean a drastically different impression. Just recently it has been brought to my attention that I am considered something of a health nut among some of my acquaintances. Oh, they haven't actually said anything of the sort. But, I have noticed that I will say or do something that seems perfectly normal to me, and they will respond in some way that tells me that what I said or did is completely alien to what they consider normal.

I think I first noticed hints of it among some other Moms of preschoolers when I mentioned that I was avoiding caffeine while pregnant or trying to get pregnant (I don't have it much anyway since I don't want to get addicted and then try to wean myself off again should I decide to get pregnant in the future). They couldn't imagine going without their coffee. Then I noticed similar reactions when I would mention to people that I tried to walk several times a week with the kids (In fact I didn't do this until I had kids. They like the outings and it keeps me from feeling too cooped up). Now that I'm getting fairly late in my current pregnancy, the walks don't happen as often and I count a trip to the grocery store as exercise. My family went on an outing to a community event recently with friends and had the choice of standing in a long line to ride a shuttle bus or walk close to a mile. Our friends were puzzled that I, the pregnant woman, chose to walk. They kept asking me if I was OK or if I needed a rest. This so astonished me that I began to realize that I really must be different.

I have never considered myself to be any kind of health nut. I walk because I enjoy it and it helps in my kids routine. I avoid caffeine because it is recommended when pregnant. I have never dieted or followed food fads. I use the good old four food groups to teach my kids healthful eating and think the food pyramid should be trashed as way too complicated. I don't care if my food is organic or has anti-oxidants. I buy my food based on what is easy to prepare and relatively inexpensive. I eat large portions and add bacon fat to my vegetables. I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not (that applies when I'm pregnant, too). I do try to keep myself to the same rules that I give my children and eat a variety of foods at each meal (3 of the 4 food groups before any dessert). If I didn't, they would call me on it. I don't exercise excessively (unless taking care of a preschooler and toddler can be called excessive exercise).

So, when did my normal behavior (in my eyes) turn into weird behavior to so many people I encounter? I do admit that I have always been a little abnormal. But, growing up, it always seemed to me that I had the surface appearance of normal, which became dispelled once people got to know me. Now, somehow the surface appearance of normal is starting to dissipate. It makes me wonder, am I really changing much? Or is it that the world is changing around me? I suppose that it is possible that both are happening. It is just a little startling when you realize that you don't fit the categories anymore that you thought you did. Hopefully the changes are for the better.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Home at last

We returned home today and are glad to be here. It's tough to be gone for a week with small children even when you have help. I also sleep worse when I am away from home (even though I was at my parents' house, sleeping in my old bedroom). So, I'll try to keep this posting fairly short and try for an earlier bedtime tonight (it doesn't usually work, but I'm not usually this tired).

Thanks to those who have given me input on the cloth diaper issue. I'll be checking out those websites soon. I'll have to do a lot of things soon, seeing as my count down is now at 9 weeks to go. On a daily basis, that is a lot of time. In the grand scheme of things, Yikes! it's almost time.

For those following our homeschooling posts, We have managed to keep up the schooling fairly well while traveling. In fact my daughter was starting to get tired of the same old toys and games and was asking for schoolwork on her days off. We have a smallish plastic file box that we keep the current homeschooling supplies in. It has folders for a lesson plan book, the current main lesson book, supplemental workbooks, coloring books, drawing paper, writing paper, construction paper, stickers, a ruler and a small box holding pencils, pens, tape, glue, scissors, etc. I have found this a useful system for me. I keep it up to date easily, since it is used nearly every day. As she finishes one book, I replace with new ones that I've been storing in the closet until they are needed. When we go on a trip, I just pick up the whole box and put it in the car. The craft items are also useful when we go places where she will need entertaining. Since she is still so young and I am just a few months into homeschooling, I use the lesson plan book more for recording what she actually does rather than planning out the lessons ahead of time. My theory is that I can use it to set goals and create a broad outline, then look back over the year to see what specific progress has been made. Then I can use that information to better plan for the next year. I fully expect that as we go from year to year, the planning will become more detailed and it will turn into a true lesson plan book where I chart out the lessons ahead of time. Right now goals and flexibility are the order of the day. One upcoming challenge I see is how to adjust the learning schedule when the new baby comes. It is tempting to take a break from homeschooling for that time, but I don't want to break a good habit that we have been developing. I'm thinking of switching gears some (since she will have recently finished her current lesson series on phonics) and do a lot more reading practice. She will probably enjoy the attention and the stories, the parents and grandparents can do it easily, and most important she will still be learning. If anyone else has some ideas about this, feel free to share them.

Well, that's all for now. G'night.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Diaper issues

I have made various comments in my blog about the fact that potty training has been a trial. My oldest child is now four and still resisting finishing her potty training. I have noticed that my second child who will turn two in a week is developing the same habits as her sister did. Both were in disposable diapers as infants and began official potty training at about two. Neither seems to care when their pants get soiled or wet. This has gotten me to think more seriously about using cloth diapers with child number three who is due in early February. I am already washing out cloth pants with my oldest so I have passed through the grossness barrier I felt when I was a new parent.

What I would like is if anyone who reads this who has experience with cloth diapers and potty training thereafter would give me their opinions and share their experiences. I am hoping to make up my mind about this in the next month so that I can get the supplies I will need either way. So, tell me what worked for you, what you liked or didn't like. I want to get my kids on track with potty issues earlier than has happened with my first child.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More on the chaos front

Traveling to visit with grandparents is a great challenge to the daily routine. I feel that I have accomplished a lot to miss only one day's homeschooling so far. I think the kids play harder when they are with grandparents. They seem to think after a few days that new experiences should be the order of the day. We have managed to keep the limit on videos to two a day, same as at home, despite the pressure that all the adults in the house are more exhausted than the kids by evening. We have put the kids down for bed a half hour early every night and they have been sleeping late by at least another half hour. We have found that an outing of some kind, even if it is getting groceries, helps cut down on the cabin fever problem. However, the adults find that we don't get a lot accomplished. That shouldn't be much of a surprise when there is a four year old and a nearly two year old around. I find myself astonished at the people who manage to run home-based businesses in similar circumstances. They must not sleep much. As it is, I am just averaging about 6 hours a night when I would prefer 10 (seven months pregnant now). Though, much of my staying up late has nothing to do with housework or business. There is also a difference between having very little energy and being sleepy. So, today I will feel that I will have accomplished a lot if I manage to get the kids a bath.