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


video

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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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tate's First Birthday Party



Tate is almost one. Wow!

It's time to start party planning. I'm excited to celebrate this little guy.

So far we've kept all of Henry's birthday parties simple with a little celebration at home. I think that's the route we'll go again.

Time: 

  • 11:30am-2:30pm is his most vibrant awake time during the day, and it's perfect for serving lunch. Then again, it might be more fun to have an afternoon/evening party, since it will be a little cooler outside and we could move out to the deck. 
Activities:
Tate loves being outside, so I do think an evening/dinner party would be fun. 
  • Baby pool
  • Bubbles
  • Hose + dirt = mud fun for the three year-olds
Food:
I think the best part of Tate's birthday will be preparing for it with Henry. What kinds of things could we make together? 
  • Homemade lemonade
  • Birthday cake, of course, with a giant one made out of blueberries? 
  • Feta, pesto, and cherry tomato pasta? 
  • And maybe macaroni and cheese?
  • Garlic bread? 
  • Fruit kabobs? 
Extras:
  • Hang our birthday banner
  • Set out Tate's first-year scrapbook (better finish it!)
  • Set out Skin So Soft for people who want a little protection from the mosquitoes
  • Make a cardboard 1 for a group photo (which Henry can help paint, and it will be faster than making a piƱata!)
  • Oh, balloons. I think Tate will get a kick out of those.  



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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Schedule


Summer is upon us! 

Several months ago, Matt and I were brainstorming what to do with Henry for the summer. We still have a nanny for Tate (which is awesome because I work from home right now while the site is being prepared for the school). I really wanted some kind of nature-based camp, but a) it's hard to find something for three year-olds and b) I had a such a negative experience with his first daycare experience, that I'm cautious about where he spends his days. It's so hard to know how a childcare facility will handle conflict between children. First and foremost, I want my children to feel safe. I don't want a childcare facility to reinforce the idea that my child should "stick up" for himself. 

At his last conference with his Montessori teacher, I asked her what she thought was the best way for a three year-old to spend the summer. Her first recommendation was that we stay home with him. When I told her that wasn't an option, she recommended that he stay home with the nanny. 

The truth is, I think Henry is going to love being at home this summer. It's been harder and harder for him to want to go to school in the morning because he has to leave behind me, Tate, the nanny, and my co-workers every day. I like the idea of giving him a long, leisurely summer (like Simple Parenting).

With that said, I think it would be really helpful for him to have some structure to his day. Perhaps something like this:
  • 7:00ish = Wake up and snuggle with us in bed; get dressed; make breakfast
  • 7:45ish = Clear his breakfast dishes and wash the dishes (move the learning tower over to the sink and put on our water-work apron)
  • Until 9:30am (when Tate goes down for his first nap) = Play with Danielle and Tate
  • Continue independent play until 11am (with the option to fix himself a snack during his play/work time)
  • 11:00ish = Begin lunch preparation
  • 11:30ish = Eat lunch w/Tate and then clear and clean dishes
  • 12:15ish = Walk to the park
  • 2:30pm = Tate's second nap; Henry and Danielle read books and then Henry plays in his room by himself quietly
  • 3:15pm = Make a snack
  • 3:30pm = Play with Danielle or go on an adventure with me (to the YMCA pool, library, play date, etc.)
  • 5pm = Help with dinner
  • Bath
  • Evening walk
  • 7:00pm = Books and bedtime by 7:15
I still need to figure out what he can make for his lunches and some new activities to put on his shelves, but I think the general schedule looks good! 



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Monday, June 2, 2014

11 Months: Happy, Happy Birthday, Tater Tot!


Oh, Tater. You are the sweetest. You are so full of personality, and you add so much to our lives on a daily basis. You make our family more vibrant, more fun, more hilarious, and more interesting. We feel so lucky to be around you and to bask in your presence every day. 

You love being the center of the action. Right now we are waiting for the school portables to be delivered, so several members of my team work out of our house every day. You love having all the ladies around! You are always trying to get their attention while they work, and you are desperate to bang on a computer like everyone else does. When there's construction going on in the street or in our backyard, you are glued to the window. You are so curious and observant. You blow me away with your intelligence on a daily basis. 

This month you accidentally learned how to stand. It's a bi-product of trying to use two hands to do something else. You're so focused on the activity at hand that you don't even notice that you're standing! The second you realize it, you plop right down. You also learned how to use slides this month. At the park, you know how to climb up the stairs, turn around, and slide down on your stomach by yourself. On our little slide at home, you walk straight up the front of the slide and then slide back down. Over and over. 

Your laugh is frequent and contagious. You think Henry is the most hilarious thing on Earth. 

You are finally, finally learning to sleep through the night. Mainly because you are not sick or teething! You've had a pretty constant stuffy/runny nose all winter/spring--I think thanks to the germs Henry brings home from school. 

You continue to love your pacifiers. You like having one in your mouth and one in each hand. It's hilarious. 

You are hilarious. You honestly bring so much joy into our lives. Your hair is growing into a curly mullet and we can't bear to cut it. We just call you our little hockey player. You love snuggling and wrestling. You really are pure joy. 

Thanks for being you, Little Buddy. And thanks for sharing yourself with our family. 

We are so grateful. 



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