Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Home(school) improvement: Update on #2

Yesterday was lovely. Jordan took off work at 1:00 and we took the kids to the zoo for Suzi's birthday. We had such a good time, and while we were there we purchased a family membership, so for the next year we'll go to the zoo a lot. It'll be the perfect way to break up a week and spend time together, particularly when the weather gets cooler.

Today has been hard. I decided to make a pinata for Suzi's birthday party today, and because I let the girls help me (of course!) they had to have a bath when we were done. This was probably too much activity for me to take on in one day. I got kind of snippy--probably set myself up for it.

Pinatas hanging out to dry

Seeing the contrast between a day Jordan is home by 1:30 and a day he isn't home until 5:00 made me realize that I frequently fall apart midday. It would probably help to give all of us some kind of break shortly after lunch. Today I took the girls outside after lunch (so I could put another layer on the pinata). Right after coming inside seems like a good time to read some books and maybe see if I can get the girls to lie down for a little while. If I could manage to get the girls to take a nap or read some books or even just stay upstairs and play quietly for 20 minutes or so while I grab some coffee and read a book, I think I could be a much nicer mother to them in the afternoon. It would also remove the temptation to show them a movie the last hour or two before Jordan comes home.

Anyway, just some things to think about. I'm going to get started reading my book now while Robert naps.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Home(school) improvement week 2: Don't yell, connect

It's Suzi's fourth birthday today! I love her so much and am so thankful for her.

This week's goal, and where we are now:

The #1 thing I hate and want to change is that I yell at my kids. I know the techniques. Lock myself in the bathroom until the urge to scream and pull my hair out subsides. Count to ten. Take a moment to silently imagine your knee-jerk reaction playing out, then take a deep breath and react calmly. These things and others have indeed helped me.

But, you know. I've got three kids. It's not a matter of implementing these things just several times a day and then saying whew! Glad that's over! No. It's nearly constant. And when I've got the baby in the ring sling and am changing a diaper/helping someone in the bathroom and the other child picks that exact moment to throw a fit or make a big mess or whatever, it's hard to think. Right now, on a good day, I can usually handle things well for most of the day. Then I get tired and start running out of patience. It's not just me, either. Jordan and the grandparents also seem to have a hard time. And I am with them all day (8-5), five days in a row, alone.

What I want to change:

I don't honestly know how much I can improve upon this in a week, but I'm going to try. Here's what I'm going to at least start consciously working on.

1) Adjusting my expectations. Do you ever catch yourself expecting your little kid to behave like an adult? I sometimes do. A reality check on what is developmentally normal for the child's age can help. A young child isn't able to think things through fully and they are still working on gaining control of their bodies. One of my best friends has an admirable amount of patience with children, both hers and other people's, and something I've always noticed is that she doesn't let little things bother her. I'm going to try to remember to ask myself, before I tell the kids to stop doing something, why I am upset by it. Is it mildly annoying but I could let it slide? Or is it dangerous and I need to take action? There are many battles I wish I'd never started.

2) I want to read Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves again, this time all the way through.

3) Listen more than I talk. When there's conflict and I stop myself from fussing at the girls long enough to listen, I frequently come to understand things much better. This leads to a peaceful resolution a lot faster. Also, I think I get so hung up on taking action right away when there's a conflict that I don't give myself time to think of what I really want to say.

4) I know all the other items on my home(school) improvement list will help with this as well. I'm going to continue to work on #1. It's coming, just slowly.

Do you have issues with patience too? What do you do about it?

Stay tuned for the follow-up Friday!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Home(school) improvement, week one progress

This wasn't this week, but now our art time is a little different after reading The Heart of Learning. I used to hand them the supplies and run off to do other stuff, but now I stick around and help. Suzi comes up with an idea and I help, or even make a project of my own (see snake above). Getting involved makes a huge difference.

Anyway, we started the week with a big burst of energy and enthusiasm. On Monday I took the girls outside for a while in the morning, had a great time doing circle time, and read 20 or more books. We had a wonderful day, and at the end of it I was so, so tired.

Tuesday I was tie-dyeing at my parents' house, a project we are doing for Suzi's 4th birthday party. I was not present with the girls, but my parents were and they had a good time visiting.

Wednesday was our best day. I took the girls outside from about 8:45 - 11:00, which was the only feasible time to do so because it was so hot. I got laundry going in the house and walked around with Robert while they played. Near the end of playtime, Suzi started a little game of pretend and told me I was the king. She wanted me to "talk like a king." We had fun. I tried to get some of my make-believe skills back. Then Ivey helped me hang the cloth diapers on the line. When we went inside, we tried to do circle time but Baby Robert cried through a lot of it. I decided to cook bulgur wheat for lunch, something we'd never had before. When I looked for bowls, I discovered we were behind on doing dishes. We would have to use a couple of bowls out of a graduated set that were really more for cooking. That left us with small, medium, and large bowls and I took the opportunity to tell Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I told Suzi I was Daddy Bear, Ivey was Mama Bear, and she was Baby Bear (according to bowl size) and we were eating porridge. She loved it, requested a repeat performance of the story, and ate all her "porridge" without complaint. Then she ran off and continued to play Baby Bear for the rest of the afternoon. Days don't get much better than this.

Case in point: Thursday. I took the kids to the botanical gardens to walk with a friend and her baby. This is our new Thursday activity, and last week the girls loved it. This week Suzi whined through most of the walk, telling us she wanted to go home. (Clearly she doesn't appreciate that it would be ten times easier for me if we stayed home in the first place!) Every little thing seemed to irritate her. It was just not Suzi's day. We went home, ate lunch, and she took a nap. Then we read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." I was so tired after this one. Trying my hardest to get my kids some exercise and outdoor time and be present with them and only getting whined at in return makes my head hurt.

Today hasn't been any better, unfortunately. It rained too much last night for us to go outside, and the baby has wanted to nurse and sleep all day and cries every time I put him down. I don't really want to wear the baby after doing it so much already this week. The girls wouldn't pay attention when I tried to do circle time. I also had to get up really early this morning so I'm tired. The girls are wrecking the house and fighting and I am yelling.

Oh well. I knew I wasn't going to be perfect, especially right off the bat. Clearly I need to work on techniques for handling stress and keeping patience on a difficult day. I want to figure out how to start over fresh when things get off on the wrong foot in the morning. I also know that some of my objectives are intertwined, and once I establish a good daily rhythm and get started earlier in the morning, this will be easier too.

Stuff I learned:

1) Make the kids the center of the day, and all the chores will fall into place. Worrying over chores all day won't get them done any faster.
2) Right before circle time is a good time to pick up toys together. I told the kids "oops, there is nowhere to sit!" We all pitched in so we could move on.
3) Suzi will do lots of things if I speak in a "king" voice and command it.
4) Don't freak out over sand being dumped out of the sandbox, just give Suzi a tiny broom and dustpan and let her put it back in.
5) I have a long, long way to go.

I'll close with a picture of Ivey. One afternoon recently she fell asleep eating. This is about how I felt by 5:00 today! Hopefully next week will go a little smoother.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Home(school) improvement week 1: Present with my children

This week's goal:

Spend more time truly present with my kids. Read more books, sing more songs, take walks and talk. Cut back on movies and computer time.

Where we are now:

The internet is not a huge obstacle for me; just a little one. I check email and Facebook a lot, but I try to make it quick. When I do stay online for a long time, almost all of what I'm reading is parenting-related. The baby is frequently nursing at the same time. I don't play games or frequent any forums. And the TV? During the day it is off. The only time it's on is if Jordan watches the news and doesn't turn it off before he leaves for work. I used to let Suzi watch a movie every afternoon, but we are working on that and she didn't watch any this past week.

So what is the main obstacle? There are two. The biggest distraction for me is the urge to get things done. It drives me nuts that there are toys all over the floor and I'd like to get them picked up before we do anything else. Or there's this drawer I really want to clean out. Or we might be running out of clean diapers. It's so nice to see one cleaning task done that I sometimes get carried away and will clean almost all day. The problem is I'm not including the children. I just sort of halfheartedly answer their questions and shuffle them off to play while I clean.

The other big obstacle is that I dislike being forced into a game of make-believe. I loved it as a child but I stink at it now. I'm not sure why, but it's kind of sad.

What I want to change:

1) Singing songs/circle time - Recently we've taken to singing songs together in the morning. It sort of grew out of me sitting and nursing Robert, and not being able to do much else with the girls at the moment. It's sort of what might be considered "circle time" if we were being formal about this. I'd like to learn more songs and expand this time, and maybe include a discussion of the day of the week, weather, etc.

2) Cleaning tools for the kids - To solve my problem of being distracted by housework, I'd like to get a set of little cleaning tools for the kids to use alongside me. They both love to wipe things with a damp cloth, and what kid doesn't like to use a spray bottle? I still have to do the housework, obviously, so this will allow me to be present with them while I do it. Someone told me this idea a long time ago but I haven't really gotten around to it!

3) Take laptop outside with me - The kids like to play outside in the mornings, and I like to spend a little time online. I am actually finishing this post in our backyard right now while they run around and play. (Oh and I am also nursing Robert in the ring sling--multitasking!) When we go back inside we can sing songs and get started on a fun activity! I'd like to make it a point to get them outside as early as possible each day after breakfast. Letting them run around a little while in the morning sets the tone for our day.

4) Make a felt story board - At a yard sale Saturday I bought a green felt puzzle mat for $1. I'd like to mount it to a piece of foam core board and use felted sweater scraps to make little people and things we can use to tell a story. Miss Ashley had one of these when we did our Waldorf group--but hers was fancy and made with expensive wool.

5) Make an effort to be more present with them during our time together. This is the simplest and most important step.

I will post Friday about how it's going!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Home(school) improvement: a 10-week series

As I've mentioned, we've selected Oak Meadow as our homeschooling curriculum and will start officially this fall. When I purchased the kindergarten set, I also ordered two philosophical/instructional books the home teacher is supposed to read. I just finished The Heart of Learning, which explains the Oak Meadow approach and also gives lots of advice on parenting in general. I loved it and it has helped me recognize some improvements I can make in our home. We will not be starting main lessons until at least mid-August, but there is no way I will be able to go from where we are right now to the lovely homeschool experience I envision my children having overnight.

There are five main changes I'd like to make, and they all will require us to establish habits. This will take time and needs to be accomplished gradually for it to last. I think the best way to handle this may be to spend a total of 10 weeks on these goals. I will spend one week on each of my five points and then, once I've done all five, focus on each one for a second week. By the time we finish it'll be August, and hopefully we will be ready to jump into homeschooling!

Here are my five goals:

1) Spend more time truly present with my kids. Read more books, sing more songs, take walks and talk. Cut back on movies and computer time.

2) Less yelling and more connecting. When Suzi and Ivey are fighting for the umpteenth time in a day, it's so tempting to yell stop it!!!! and send Suzi to play in her room. But when I keep my patience and listen to what the girls have to say, I frequently learn a thing or two.

3) Feed our family better. I plan to implement the Waldorf grain of the day and serve more fruits and vegetables. This will involve more advance planning and some new recipes, too.

4) Expansion and contraction. Work to better understand these concepts and discover new ways to offer both experiences when needed.

5) Establish a daily rhythm. Eat together at the table, get up early to fix breakfast, offer alternating opportunities for expansion/contraction. Improve environment so materials are more accessible.

Blogging about this will keep me accountable and help me remember where we started and how far we've come. I think I will start #1 on Monday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Busier than ever before

It's been a hard few days. I have three pretty unpredictable kids who are all too little to be of any consistent help. There is no way to be prepared enough so that our day goes smoothly. There will be poopy diapers when I am both nursing Robert and eating lunch, and loud arguments when the baby just settled in for a nap. Stuff like that, all day long.

In just five short years, I will have a nine-year-old who can make her own sandwiches and pour her own water and dress herself (appropriately). And I will also have a six-year-old and a five-year-old who can use the potty and pick up toys (hopefully). Things will get easier, and I'll get better at this. It's right on the horizon. I can see it! So I'm just trying to enjoy this time with three awesome, delightful littles. Their sweetness makes all the messes worth it. I know someday I'll miss this.

A few things I want to remember:

Ivey says "I wanna nursie-booboo!" And when I decline, she asks "Maybe later?" I've been nursing her to sleep at night about half the time. She calls Robert Beeby Bobber. We have to keep a close eye on her to make sure she's not poking him in the eye or turning over his bouncy seat with him in it.

She is also strangely good at burping the baby. She says "burp burp, Beeby" and pats him gently on the back and can get him to burp even sometimes when I can't. Then she holds one fat little hand up over her head and says "I did it!"

Suzi's dance recital should've been this weekend, but she dropped out a few weeks ago. She liked the class, but when they revealed the frilly, ultra-girly costumes she said no way. It was so not her. I'm not sorry though, because I don't want her to wear clothes she feels awful in. She has her own unique sense of style (see above photo). What are we teaching little girls, anyway, when we make them dress up for the delight of others despite what they want? Can we extrapolate that to the teenage years when girls want to dress to please boys? I could do a separate post on this. And later I might.

Suzi seems excited about homeschooling and sometimes asks when we are going to start. I'm excited, too. I'm almost done reading The Heart of Learning and then I will start looking through the Oak Meadow kindergarten lesson plans and try to build a loose weekly schedule. I love what I've read so far. But that is also a separate post.

Yesterday's good news: The kids like to eat barley! Who knew? The bad news: We are going to have to get laminate flooring. As much as I like carpet, there's no way to keep it clean with little kids!

And Robert? Sometimes we catch a glimpse of a little half-smile, but no laughing or anything yet. He's awake more and more now. His eyes are going to stay blue, I think, and they are beautiful. It's hard to tell if he is "easier" than his sisters or if we are just a little more practiced now. Maybe both?

I'm pretty sure the adjustment to having one child was much harder than the transition from one to two, or from two to three. Figuring out how to parent in the first place was tough. But boy are we busy these days!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A craft for Mother's Day

I saw a photo on a blog of a birthstone tree of life necklace yesterday and loved it. It cost $200 though! So I went to my favorite local craft shop and bought some sterling wire, crystals and a little pearl to represent our birthstones, plus mother of pearl for the top. Before Jordan got home from work I'd finished these. It wasn't that hard and I enjoyed doing something special for our moms.

Then I took some of the leftover stuff and made myself the teeny one at the top of this post with a "moon" in it. Yep, I made myself a Mother's Day gift. I'm wearing it right now. I think it turned out okay but I really want to try this again later.

After I'd already completed three of these, I googled and found this awesome tutorial at Cut Out + Keep. Now I really will have to try it again, because this lady has it all figured out and I so appreciate her sharing it.

They were fun to make. I'd highly recommend trying it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WW: Strawberry pickin' pics

This strawberry picking trip last Friday was my first big event out with all three kids. I had help, though... Megan took Aiden and Evie too and the other moms in our group were happy to hold the baby, or keep an eye on Ivey for a minute when needed.

Megan and Evie

Now look closely at these two--they are my favorite.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So far today

Mama Susie and Robert meeting for the first time on Sunday

Handled a major newborn poop blowout. It was while his diaper was off, during a change. This is my third child and I've never seen a kid get this kind of distance with a BM. He got it in my hair but thankfully my face was out of the way. Had to clean up our bassinet/changing station.

Broke up at least ten sisterly disagreements including hair-pulling, pushing, hitting, baby doll custody battles and crying. Sigh. Is there a right way to do this? Because I have no idea what it might be.

Stepped on at least one sharp toy.

Scrubbed Jordan's dirty dishes from making buffalo wings but he got up with Robert this morning while I slept so I'm not really all that irritated.

Finished at least three loads of laundry and started washing diapers.

Straightened up enough so that we can at least walk through here.

Watched Ivey pour her sippy cup water into plastic teacups and use it to wash her baby doll and decided I couldn't come up with a good enough reason to stop her, especially when she's having such a good time.

Nursed a baby boy and held him and loved him and

Typed this post one-handed. I am getting pretty good at this.

It's been kind of a rough morning, but also good. I got a lot done even though I'm not nearly finished. In a little while we're going over to my parents' house to spend time with my grandma. I'm calling it a day.