Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Around Here

These days. What fun! We try to spend as much time outside as possible. Trying to balance an insanely demanding and busy job with the practice of present parenting is a challenge, for sure, but it's so worth it. Sorry I've been so absent. School starts in 30-ish days! Here's a recent clip from the news.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy One Year, Tate!

Dearest Tate,

Not a single day goes by when I don't stop and think, "How did I get so lucky?" You add so much to our lives. You make the funniest scrunched up faces. Your hair is so curly on the bottom; I can't bear to cut it. We jokingly call you "mullet-on-the-go." You love to point things out to us all the time--airplanes and trucks and dogs. You have the sweetest gap between your front teeth. 

You love to eat but are very opinionated about what we put in front of you. You prefer cheese and avocado (and anything sweet). 

We celebrated your first birthday this past weekend. We just had one family with kids so as not to overwhelm you. The rest were some of the adults who make regular appearances in your life. Henry juiced lemons for lemonade, scooped out avocado for the guacamole, and helped stir the cake. It was a simple and lovely affair. 

You are so loved. We are so lucky. 

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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Garden

Oh, the Garden!

I had such reservations about it because I had quite the black thumb when I lived in Denver. It turns out that automatic irrigation makes all the difference. We are able to set our watering days and times and then forget all about it. The only work I do in the garden is pull out weeds (which is actually quite satisfying to my sense of order). 

We are growing strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash--oh my! 

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Intentions for Vacation

Vacation is upon us! It's hard to fully embrace the feeling of "vacation" when I have to get a school open in fewer than 50 days, but it is time for vacation. And we only get to live this wild and precious life once, so I don't want to lose sight of this time. And I am freaked out by the fact that 14 years ago I joined Teach For America and moved to rural Louisiana to teach 3rd grade in a town with only five stoplights. It doesn't seem long ago at all. In 14 more years, Henry will be 17 years old and heading into his senior year of high school. They always say it goes fast; I believe them and I really am trying to savor every last drop (even though I've been whining lately and struggling a bit with how hard it is to have two young children so close in age). 

So, vacation. We are heading to Michigan with Matt's family. Vacations with family are so nice, particularly at this stage in life. Henry and Tate will be thrilled to see Grandma and Papa, and it will be so nice to get a little reprieve. 

I'm a little sad to think about our last trip to Michigan two years ago. I had just found out that the baby I was carrying wasn't developing and I was waiting around for the natural miscarriage to start. It was a hard time, for sure. My heart goes out to those of you who are dealing with something similar. 

I will definitely have to do a little work while I'm gone to keep up with e-mail and make sure everything is moving ahead for the school, but I'll try to keep my work restricted to times when it's easy to multitask (like when everyone else is watching sports or other TV). 

Mainly, I want to relax. I want to talk and reconnect with others, read something super-light (and fit in a few books for work), maybe play Scrabble with Matt which we haven't done in ages, go out to the movies with Matt since we never make time for dates, dance, and play with my boys like there is no tomorrow. 

So excited! 

Do you have any fun travel plans for the summer? 

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Toys for Henry

We're finally getting to a place where it feels like the toys we buy for Henry will be developmentally appropriate for years and years. For example, he loves these legos now, and I'm sure will get many years of use out of them. 

Plus, I like to minimize the amount of toys that are available at one time and instead rotate through them (which was hard to do when we didn't have very many toys). Now that summer is hear and Henry is home full-time, here are some of the new toys he has available:
He still mainly gravitates toward building "airplanes" with all the spare blankets in the house, but I like having other options available to him as well. 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now

On Friday night I was e-mailing back and forth with a friend of mine from college who serves as the volunteer IT service provider for the school I'm working to start. Our website is experiencing a glitch, and she was helping me sort it out. We finally realized I needed more storage area on the server. Rather than purchase more, I was asking her if there was anything we could delete. The thing taking up the most space was my old wedding website (not 2000 Dollar Wedding, but our actual site for guests). I asked her to give me a chance to read through out one last time before she deleted it. 

You guys, I used to be fun! I used to be interesting! Reading over my old bio reminded me that I used to have hobbies! I used to sew and collect things and read. 

And now? Right now I wake up (and cuddle with all three boys for about 15-20 minutes every day which is very awesome and sometimes we have dance parties--Tate really starts bouncing when the music is on) and then get ready for the day. I frantically try to pick up clutter that I was too tired to clean up the night before. Then I work non-stop from 7:30am-3:30pm (or 5pm, depending on the day). And then it's the dinner/bath/walk around the neighborhood/story time/breastfeeding blitz. And then it's 7:30pm and both boys are asleep and I frantically work until 10:00pm or 10:30pm because I have to get to sleep because Tate wakes up several times in the night. 

And it's five of those days back-to-back (punctuated with frequent evening events, like board meetings, from 7-9pm). And, honestly, the weekends are harder than the weeks because at least we have childcare help Monday-Friday. 

But! (I promise this is not another whiny post). I am starting to see the faintest glimmer of light at the other side of this tunnel. Tate is finally starting to sleep consistently from 7:30pm to 6am or 6:30am. If I go to bed at 10pm or 10:30pm, I can get eight hours of sleep. What?!? (Let's overlook the fact that once he FINALLY started sleeping through the night, I got 150 bug bites--chiggers, maybe?--and was up all night trying to resist the urge to itch). But that's besides the point. 

My baby (who will only be a "baby" for one more month!) is finally sleeping through the night and I am regaining my brain capacity (slowly but surely). 

When I was pregnant with Henry, I remember my midwife telling me that I just needed to make it through the first year. Since I tend to be an over-achiever, I figured that it would get easier for us before the year mark. I knew that I would force myself to nap when Henry napped and that I would intentionally reduce my workload in order to accommodate the new stress in our life. 

But she was right. And I was way wrong. It actually took me 16 months to get adjusted (but who's counting?). 

So we are coming up on the year mark with number two. This time around, we knew that we would be pushed to the very edge of our capacity. And it hasn't actually been that bad. But I'm still glad this part is almost over. 

Don't get me wrong; I am cherishing as many moments as I can. When Henry asks me to talk to him while he's pooping on the toilet, I sit in there (breathing through my mouth), knowing that the day will come (all too soon) when he is locking me out of the bathroom. They are too precious. This time is too fleeting. The days are long, but the years are short. 

But in the meantime, I want to reclaim the aspects of myself that are important to me and carry them next to me as I move through my days as a mother and a full-time+ worker. I think this newfound sleep is going to help a ton. Additionally, Tate and I are getting close to wrapping up breastfeeding. At eleven months, we are only nursing first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I am already enjoying this slow process of reclaiming my freedom and my body. So as I set goals for myself each month, I really want to focus on what I need in my life on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis in order to fill fulfilled as a human being. 

I know I'm never going to be the same person that I was before children, but I want to reclaim those parts of myself that have gotten lost in the new mother hustle. I'm looking forward to it! 

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Encouraging Reading


I feel so fortunate that Henry loves reading right now. I know that may not always be the case, so I try to encourage it while he loves it. We read to him every night before bed, but we also read to him at various times during the day if he asks for it. I even read him the same book over and over if he requests it (I figure he's getting something out of the repetition--even though it drives me bonkers!). 

We go to the library every one to two weeks. I urge him toward non-fiction and realistic fiction, since he's three and is still trying to understand the real world. It's actually pretty easy right now. He wheels in his little suitcase full of his books, returns all of the previous one, and then sets up his suitcase on a table. I pull a book off the shelf and ask, "How about this one?" I select them based on his interests, so he typically says yes and then takes it to his suitcase. While he's going there and back, I'm searching the shelf for another appropriate book. 

We have one basket for library books and one basket for books he owns. Beyond that, we store the rest of his books in the closet. On a nightly basis, he likes to trade one of his old books for a new book. 

We accidentally stumbled upon Daddy Does in our collection (from my teaching days), and I realized that Henry is ready to memorize pattern books and "read" to others. He is not using letter-sound correspondence at all, but he is practicing how to hold the book the right way, flip the pages correctly, and understand that each page contains words that need to be read. 

I took a chance and ordered these pattern books, and Henry loves them. We've started a third basket of books that he knows how to "read." I read him one and then he reads me one out of his basket. He also keeps some of them on the toilet, which is adorable. 

I'm really picky about early readers. I can't stand phonetic books that try to isolate a particular sound but end up with a story that doesn't make any sense. Children need to learn from the very beginning that reading should make sense and when it doesn't it probably means they need to reread to fix their comprehension. I would much rather have Henry practice phonics in a more isolated way (Montessori is great at this), while simultaneously providing Henry with whole reading experiences that teach him to read for meaning. When he "reads" his pattern books, he relies heavily on the pictures, which is actually a great strategy for young readers to learn. He's also learning that sentences need to make sense grammatically. The third piece he needs to learn is letter-sound correspondence. Then hopefully he'll be able to put everything together. 

The other thing we've been doing lately is cloze reading. I'll read several words in a sentence and then pause for Henry to say the next word. It's a way for children to practice reading for meaning because their guesses should be directly connected to the context clues. I started doing it for fun, and Henry loves it. He's already really engaged when we read, but it's amazing to see how closely he's paying attention. And I do think it helps him "monitor for meaning while reading" and "think critically and analytically about text and content." The things he remembers from books blow my mind. I started experimenting to see what he remembers from books we've already read, and when I read "Astronauts need to go to _______," he said, "college." 

They have the most amazing absorbent minds! 

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