Monthly Archives: November 2011

Updates and Holidays!

So I can already see that my blog posts will be less frequent during the holidays.  Things are joyfully busy around here (i.e. lots to write about, but no time to write it!)

Our updates:

(1) Thanksgiving: wonderful time with Nana, Aunt B, our cousins, and not a single kitchen disaster (this totally makes up for the time I cooked the turkey upside down…)

(2) Happy Birthday to my husband (!):  so grateful for the day this guy was born, the day I met him, the day I married him, the birthday we just spent with him and all the birthdays we hope to share with him in the future.  Happy, happy birthday!

(3) Advent:  As we prepare our home for the holidays, we are trying to prepare our hearts for a celebration of our Savior’s birth and our souls for the day He returns.  How’s that for a “to do” list entering each day?!

(4) Update on E: Thanks to all those praying for E, and to the doctors who have cared for her and advised us (this includes her primary care doctors as well as additional doctors in our circle of friends & family who have offered insight and counsel).  It looks like we are on the tail end of a cold that really hit E’s respiratory tract (and then took a short break before hitting it again even harder), and we have learned a lot about what to look for and do if something like that happens again.   Not since E was a baby have I snuck into her room just to listen to her breathing at night.  Let’s just say I have done that several times this week (and into S & T’s rooms too, even though they have been fine, and E is truly fine now…).  Those breaths are so, so precious.  E (and her mama) are breathing very easily now, praise God!

(5) Update on the blog: I’ll check in when I can this month, but there is so much living to be done right now I can barely find the time to write about it.   So think of us as we dress E in a sheep costume for the church nativity play, head out of state for an early Christmas/family gathering, taking E&S to see the Disney Princesses on Ice, help T eat despite his new obsession with the words “no” and “yuck”, welcome family into our home for Christmas, and celebrate every moment of hustle/bustle AND quiet/peace we find in this holiday season.

…and remind me (after the holidays) to tell you about the e-mail I sent to Santa last week  : )

Short version: I will continue to post when I can this month, but will be back to more regularly scheduled programming in January!  Merry Christmas!

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You know when… (Thanksgiving edition)

E is feeling so much better today (Thanksgiving).  I’ll give an update after we see the doctor again Monday.  In the meantime, I am so thankful for the hustle and bustle of children in the house today, and that E feels well enough to be right in the middle of all of it!  On the kid front, we have our own 3 kids, 2 of our nephews and a niece for the holiday.  I love, love, love it.

In other words: you know it’s going to be a great Thanksgiving when the first thing you cook is playdough!

Enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving prayers

Written last night (the day before Thanksgiving):

I have been trying to write a post about today, but I couldn’t get it right, so I will just say that E is fine now, but we spent several hours with E in the pediatrician’s office this morning doing breathing treatments.   Pray that this thing responds to the medicine we’ll continue to give her and that this is her last negative respiratory episode ever (how’s that for asking for what we really want?)

We spent last Thanksgiving in a plastic surgeon’s office inspecting an infection in S’ split finger (which had been stitched a week before); praise God the recovery in that finger surpassed anything we could have expected.

Next year, I want to write, “we spent last Thanksgiving recovering from a day of breathing treatments with E; so far it looks like that was just a random respiratory event, hallelujah!”

I love my family, who is in town for the holiday and has been awesome: using medical expertise to encourage me to get E to the doctor quickly (Aunt B!), watching the other kids while we went (Nana & Aunt B!), and being there when we I needed another set of ears at the doctor’s office & E simply wanted her dad (thank you, husband!).

So during your Thanksgiving grace, include a prayer for E (who is breathing easily now, thank heaven).

I am thankful for lots of things today, but most especially for my family and the community that surrounds us (including all my readers : )

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

36 hours

Sunday morning: at church listening to E sing in the cherub choir during their very first performance…absolutely adorable

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Sunday afternoon: at the local middle school track, with E & S riding their training-wheel bikes and pushing T around in his mini-coupe…one of our best afternoons

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T in his mini-coupe, S on her bike, & E must have been running a lap at this point (she likes riding bikes, but she LOVES to run...)

Sunday night (prepare yourselves for the twist we were unprepared for…): at the emergency room with E (who is now fine, thank God), after she walked downstairs at 11pm upset because it “feels like there’s something in my throat”; we could hear the raspy breathing…very scary

Monday 1am: relieved to find out it is just a cold/croup that caused some swelling in E’s trachea and that there was medicine she could take to reduce that swelling…ultimately we have nothing to worry about…

Monday 2am: putting E to bed; getting into bed; saying goodnight to my husband who had to stay home with the sleeping S & T, but of course did not sleep a wink while we were gone

Monday 6:15am: up with T, preparing for a day at home with all the kids (no school for E, who is fine but will be exhausted)

Monday afternoon: all three kids still in their pajamas at 4:30pm…(mama is still in her pajamas too…), at what time of day do you just decide that everyone can stay in their PJ’s until bedtime?

Monday evening: finally collapsing in bed, thankful for healthy children who will be wide awake and smiling at 6:15am.

Quite a 36 hours…

The upside, the downside (and clearly not enough of the outside)

The upside to having a gas fireplace in your house: 

easy firelight…just flip a switch and the whole family can enjoy the cozy living room.

The downside to having a gas fireplace in your house: 

someday, friends will invite you to make s’mores outdoors and on the way there one of your children will enthusiastically volunteer to “turn the fire on” and ask you to show them where the switch is.

It’s clearly time we introduced our children to more of the great outdoors.

Besides, how hard could it actually be to go camping with three children, ages five, three and one?

Don’t answer that…

What we’ve been up to

I was AWOL for a few days recently.  Here’s what I’ve been up to…

(1) Surviving (and recovering from) my husband’s 5 day work trip last week…we are so happy to have you back!  Thanks for working so hard for our family.

(2) E was bumblebee of the week at school this week!  Everyone in her class gets a turn, and she loved hers.  Every day there was something special (her favorite toys to school one day, her favorite outfit the next, etc.) that we were able to help her prepare.  One day she was encouraged to invite her whole family into the classroom to share a family tradition.  While our favorite family tradition (making a gingerbread house) was a little too complicated for our half hour slot, we had a great time showing a picture of E with a past house and helping the kids make the faces of gingerbread men on big round cookies.  Cue the icing and the facial features made out of m&m’s!  (Nothing like getting the whole class on a sugar high then saying goodbye and wishing the teachers good luck :  )  Thanks to E’s teachers for making her feel so special this week and for letting all of us visit. And thanks to dad, S & T for helping share our family tradition with the class!

(3)  Helping S through a tough week.  Though S had plenty of special stuff going on this week and I promise you we have had lots of fun (her regular preschool one day, attending the “grand opening” of a kid’s playplace with all of us – dressed in our dress up finest – another day, hosting playgroup at our house another day…), it can still be hard when your sibling is having such a special week at school.  We are working hard to teach celebrating others (I struggle with when it is the right time to make the spotlight equal and when to help the girls take turns having their special moments…more on this later)  But this week for E – with a new report on how they made her special that day at school each afternoon – was a little hard on S, despite my determination to give S a special thing each day to report too…

Anyway, S is such a wonderful, wonderful sister, and the reality is that she just wanted to be in Kindergarten with E this week with all those special things going on at school.  We figured it out when an initially cute moment for S during E’s special day at school turned sad.  The story: S was there to help us share our family tradition.  At the beginning of the activity, the Kindergarten teacher told each child to sit on the mat while we gave our talk/demonstration and to stay there until their name was called to go sit at the table and begin work on their cookie.  This rule didn’t apply to E or to S, who were both a part of the demonstration.  Well, after the last name was called, we realized there was one patient little person still sitting on the mat.  It was S (who – again – had been part of the demonstration, but apparently plopped down as soon as we were done with that because she remembered the teacher saying that kids would be called from a seat on the mat to go make their cookies)  Anyway, when we saw S, my husband immediately told her, “You can go make your cookie!  There’s a chair for you at E’s table!  E is already there.”  S replied, “Ms. H told everyone NOT to move from the mat until she called their name, dad!”  We actually had to get Ms. H to come over and officially release S to go to her chair.  The sad end to the story is that we later realized that three year old S was actually trying to demonstrate that she was ready for Kindergarten too…there were lots of tears from her when our activity ended (almost an hour of tears in the school hallway, the parking lot, the car and then at home…they started the moment she realized she was leaving with us instead of staying with E at school.  So sorry, S!  We love you, and if it makes you feel better, you will be in Kindergarten before you know it.  You are such a great kid and such a wonderful sister and we did our very best to give you an extra special week at home, which you did love, by the way :  ).

Then, later in the week, S got sick.  I will spare you the details, and just say, “poor S!”  She has received lots of TLC and been made to feel very special on her own.  Now we are simply at the point of being grateful that she is feeling better (and that overall, our family is very healthy…thank you God).

(4)  Marking milestones for T.  He has learned to say the word “no!”, heaven help me.  Also, just yesterday, when S had the blocks out, T walked over and used three of them to build a tower.  He pointed at it, laughed, then promptly kicked it down.  We did that for about half an hour yesterday afternoon!  T made a gingerbread face at school too, by the way :  )

(5)  Creating a cleaning schedule for our house.  I pride myself on being a “homemaker” for the family, but I might be the worst “housekeeper” in the universe.  I finally made a schedule for getting things done (i.e. designating times during the day for basic stuff (e.g. created a revised chore chart – our last one was too complicated – and setting a daily time to review it), designating a day each week for larger stuff (e.g. putting laundry away), and creating a 5 week rotation for things I just haven’t been doing (e.g. vacuuming the whole upstairs one week, cleaning porch toys another week, etc.).  I know the schedule is not completely realistic (and that the chore chart is going to be the death of me…more on this later too…are the ages of 5 & 3 too young for this?), but it at least gives me something to shoot for.

(6)  Prepping for Thanksgiving: a poster of things we are thankful for is growing on our wall, our grocery list is being made (all those family favorites, mmmmmm….) , and family is preparing to visit.  Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday : )

(7)  Christmas shopping!  We are *trying* to get an early start on our holiday “to do” list this year so we can focus more on Christ, family and friends during the wonderful season.  More Christmas details coming later!

I woke up early today and have been typing in a quiet house.  But it’s 6:30, which means the kids will be up any minute (I can’t believe T is still asleep…maybe he’s tired from our 4:30am playdate, which is why I was up so early today…love you T!).  Anyway, I’m off to start our day!

a banana saved, a vote lost, and our apologies to candidate X

Last week, at a candidate’s card table, 101 feet away from the front entrance of my polling place, during a brief stop to vote between pre-school pickup and lunch (i.e. the kids were hungry):

Candidate to S: I see you’re helping your mom vote today….

S to candidate: and I see a banana in the basket under your table…

(An innocent comment by three year old S, obviously, but so well timed and so funny…I mean we already knew 3 year olds could be bribed (I mean, positively reinforced…) toward good behavior.  Now we also know they can be bribed (I mean, persuaded) to influence their mom’s votes!)

That will be one banana, please.

S is clearly ready for the political arena, but I’m not sure the political arena is ready for her.

As a side note, a political party gave her a sample ballot to play with, and when she asked me how to fill it out, I (1) explained what a vote was, (2) told her the people who got the most votes would have a very important job, (3) showed her the names on the ballot and the bubbles next to each, and (4) told her to fill in the bubble next to the person she wanted to vote for.  Her response?

S: “Well, where is [my friend S’] name?”

Me: “Um, it’s not on there.”

S: “Well, I only want to vote for her”

Me: “Well, they do have a special space on the ballot where you can write someone’s name in.”

S: “Great.  I’ll write her name in.  I know how to write most of the letters.  You know, I’m always going to vote for my friend S.”

So sorry, candidate X.

You should have given her the banana.

The worst game of “Clue” ever (alternate title: “Goodbye Kitty”)

The mystery: a chunk of S’ hair is missing…who dunnit?

The answer: S, in the playroom, with a pair of Hello Kitty scissors.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this came two days after I had given her a “real haircut”, and my skills are lacking enough that you can’t really tell the difference between the unevenness of what I cut (I will improve, I promise!) and the part that S did.  Still, she took out a clump that shortened a section of her shoulder length hair by another 2 inches.

Check out the crime scene!

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I call this photo "Goodbye Kitty"

Don’t worry.  I had a serious talk with S about playing with scissors, especially near the face, and about leaving scissors where T might be able to reach them.  Then my three year old helped me clean up her hair off the floor.

Love you, S.  Your independence and style will serve you well in the future.  I just want to make sure we all get there (relatively) intact.

“Making it perfect vs. being nice” (alternate title: teachable moments and lessons I need to re-learn)

A few weeks ago, the girls pulled the comforter off mom and dad’s bed and used it to play “jump on something squishy” for about half-an-hour.  I have no issue with that.  Actually, I was thrilled they had discovered a fun way to get some energy out on an indoor afternoon.

When they were done jumping, I asked them to put the comforter back on the bed.

Approximately 5 minutes later, from the other room, I heard a genuinely upset E telling S to “stop doing that!”

I walked into the room to see what was going on and realized quickly that both girls were upset.

It turns out that they were both in tears after S had tried to help make the bed, and E had clearly communicated that those efforts were not up to standard.  E was very intent upon having the top comforter lay very smoothly across the mattress.  S was trying to help, but in the process of “helping” had wrinkled a section of the bed E had already fixed.

Bottom line: both girls were doing the job the best way they knew how.  E, at the age of 5, knew how to make it more “perfect” and was insisting that they best way S could help would be to “stop helping”.  S, at the age of 3, was doing the best she could to follow mom’s instructions and was confused and disappointed when her efforts were found lacking by her big sister.

Honestly, it broke my heart:  both my girls doing their best to help me and ending up at odds with each other.  There are about 100 ways I could go with this post from here, but instead of taking those roads, I’ll tell you that I was able to “fix” the immediate situation by praising them both and declaring “clean-up time” over.  S immediately ran off to play.

But as E looked back at the bed, she became upset again.  She had worked hard, and it didn’t look the way she really wanted it to.  (This is the kid who, when asked to clean her room, ignores the piles of papers and dolls on the floor, and begins categorizing her books by type…she is, at this stage of life, very detail oriented…)

So I asked her what I thought was a leading question with an obvious answer:   “E, which do you think is more important, making something perfect or being nice?”

E, without hesitation and with the absolute innocence and honesty of a five year old replied, “making it perfect”.

Her answer initially surprised me (and made me very glad that I had asked the question so we could discuss it), but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the answer to my question is in no way obvious – to E as a 5 year old, and to most of us (myself included) as an adult.  A discussion about this could get complicated:  I want the person who designs my car’s safety features focused on perfection (but also want that person including as many minds as possible in its development, which requires working well with others); I want my kids to set standards and work toward them, but not at the expense of simply being nice.

I write this from the perspective of someone who struggles with perfectionism but places extreme value on just being nice, and (in a long ago life) found a solution in working and living alone.  But, it turns out, I like being around people, so the struggle continued, and looking back over my own life, I am embarrassed at how many times I have probably chosen getting something “perfect” (according to my definition) instead of including others in a way that would have been nicer for them.  I was worse about this before having children.  (I am eternally grateful that my current instincts lead me toward letting them almost do everything, even though it means our brownies are full of eggshells, etc.)  But in spite of that shift brought about by some part of my personality that kicked in when I became a mother (or was beaten out of me by the realities of parenthood!), I have to occasionally have to remind myself that it is more important to include and celebrate people’s contributions than to have things be “perfect”. (Prime example:  I recently insisted that we lay the Halloween lights on top of the bushes so people driving by the house could see them at night, instead of allowing E to push them inside the bush like she wanted, so that they would be in the dark shade that makes their light visible when E peers into the bushes at them in the middle of the bright, sunny day… Well, several days later I had to admit to E that I had made a mistake when I imposed my own idea on what I had identified as “our project” and encouraged her to share her vision again.  Then I helped her push them all back into the bush so we could admire them at midday in their shady surroundings.  Honestly – they are pumpkin lights, and the kids are the one we bought them for anyway; not the random people who drive down our street at 9pm!)

Anyway, back to the original story . . .  in that moment, as E and I looked at the bedspread, I had to tell her that my question (“perfect or nice”) was a hard one, but that – most of the time –  the right answer is that is much more important to be nice than make something “perfect”.

I also had to tell her something that I have had to learn the hard way: that most things are never going to be completely perfect anyway.  We do the best we can, and then we have to let it go.

I don’t think E understood at first, as she kept insisting that she was trying to make the bed perfect, for me.  She was trying to do something nice, for me.  So I told her I didn’t need her, or the bed, to be perfect.  But our whole family needed her to be nice.  This included being nice to herself…giving herself credit for good efforts even when things didn’t turn out exactly right.

At that point, I showed her something that I had initially hesitated to mention.  The comforter of the bed was completely smooth, but unwittingly, she had put it on sideways.  I told her that even though I noticed that earlier, I hadn’t planned to say anything about it because I was so proud of her “happy helper” attitude and her “best efforts”, that it didn’t matter to me that the bedspread was sideways.  I had made the decision to be nice – to celebrate her efforts and make sure she felt good about her contribution, instead of shifting the bedspread around to make it “perfect”.

I asked her how she would have felt if – after all of her hard work – I had come in and told her she needed to stop helping because she couldn’t do it exactly right.

She told me that she would have been upset, so I immediately reminded her that I had not done that.  I had hugged her for a job well done.  In our house, if you do your best while being nice and having a good attitude, then you’ve done the job right.

I’m not sure how much of the conversation she’ll remember, but at least it has given us a foundation and the language to address issues if they continue to arise.  It is probably more controversial than I even realize (I took a break from a writing a few moments ago to flip through a magazine, and the first article I read referenced the value of high standards as its very successful businessman/author unabashedly revealed he had learned that he needed to be a “perfectionist” to succeed.   Despite that perspective, we are choosing a different path.  I know my daughter – sweet, loving, eternally nice E, who has a tendency to want to do things “right”, benefits from hearing me say that (1) things don’t need to perfect, especially if getting them way creates internal or external angst, (2) that she is “right” with me, no matter what.

So in our house, we are delivering the following message: (a) do your best, (b) decide to be happy in the midst of imperfections, and (c) prioritize being nice.

P.S.  I am getting another chance to practice this tomorrow, as we are collecting leaves to wax and hang up as decorations in our house, and I am taking the advice of this author to keep my mouth shut as the kids collect the leaves, even if it means my house is covered in waxy dried up brown leaves for the next two weeks!  (Her words as she gives instructions for the activity: “go on a nature walk, find the most beautiful, colorful, perfect leaves. OR just zip your mouth, let the kids pick up the ones they want, no matter what they look like…there is no better way to ruin a creative endeavor with your kids than by being bossy and controlling!”)  Amen, mama!  and thank you for the reminder as we go into what should be a very fun day waxing leaves!

P.P.S. In case this post leaves anyone thinking otherwise, I want to emphasize that E might be the most joyful, nicest, most pure of heart kid that I know.  Her intuitive, sensitive, and loving nature also make her one of the best big sisters in the world.  She only struggles with “nice” when it comes into conflict with her people-pleasing nature (i.e. seeing someone wrinkle the bed that mom asked her to make).  And yes, I do realize that having a kid like that makes me about the most lucky, blessed mother in the world.  E, if you read this someday, I hope the idea that your mama wants you to be nice to yourself (by letting go of some perfectionist angst while still holding onto whatever standards you set for yourself) brings you comfort and peace.  You’ve already got love in spades!

P.P.P.S.  So that people don’t think I am the “Keeper of the Perfect Bedspread” that E picked up on somehow, can I say that (for whatever reason and much to the chagrin of my husband) my perfectionism has never taken the form of needing to keep a perfect house.  The bed I referenced might actually be made 1 out of every 3 days, and our house is in general disarray.  For better or worse, my perfectionist nature tends to pop up when I am asked to submit something professionally or when I am attempting to accomplish certain types of tasks.  For an example, you can click here.  (Note: my favorite part of that post is the mention of how having kids made me “change my definition of perfect”…)

P.P.P.P.S.  I think this absolutely varies according to kid.  The lesson was important for E, but other kids might need the opposite lesson (i.e. encouraged to pay more attention to detail).  E works very hard to get things “right” and can be devastated when it doesn’t turn out that way.  At this age, she needs to hear that fun, nice processes are more important than perfection.

P.P.P.P.P.S.  Only a perfectionist would have this many post-scripts.  I promise I’m done now, but can you tell I am anxious about this particular post?!

Character Confusion (alternate title: our apologies to the neglected Princess Leia!)

E (age 5), looking at a package of candy she received while trick-or-treating:  “Mom, what kind of candy is this?”

Me: “It’s a Starburst.  You’ll love it.”

E: “Oooohh!  Starburst!  I will love it!  All the boys in my class love it!  Some of them said they were going to dress up as different kinds of Starburst characters for Halloween!”

Me: “Um, I think they’re talking about Star Wars.  That’s a movie.  The candy is totally different.  Have a piece…”

(In our house, we are totally unaware that anything other than a Disney princess – or an add for candy – could occupy a movie screen.)