Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One step forward...

Nubby had a minor potty regression this week, but is back on track. The trigger seems to be having my attention divided, particularly when the guys are home. It's just not on Dan's radar to ask or check to see if she needs to go, so I have to be extra vigilant until she gets back to alerting again. Fortunately, we have 2 months to get her back into the routine.

We've got an abundance of social things going on these days, more than we can keep up with, actually. A nice change from last fall when things got overly lonely. Nub and I went to a local beach with another family and had a lot of fun. We have open house for school tonight (not at all social) and another playdate on Friday.

The Jedis are settling into their routine, and A-man is clearly going to have a rough year. His teacher is dismissive and unpleasant. Communication with her tends to confirm every negative thing I've ever heard about Steenrod. She sees wiggly boy who can't stay on task. I know a smart boy who is a perfectionist and who is constantly working out a narrative in his head. Dude will be a writer of something. He struggles to focus on the task at hand because he really does have the channel changing inside his head all the time.

Last night I worked with him on actual homework for 45 minutes, then another 45 after dinner to work on his spelling lesson. He should ace it, but he just doesn't always understand the directions. I was sure I'd be homeschooling IM if the need arose, but school is much more of a challenge for A-man. I do feel that something is wrong when he has a teacher he doesn't like and who seems to not like him, or at least seems to be only able to focus on the negatives that she sees in class. However, I know his attitude would be better if she were more encouraging. Now that I'm on this end of the parent-teacher relationship, it's time for me to be the stereotypical parent and blame the teacher, only I usually tend to blame my kid ;). I know my boys are nutty and are a handful.

Steenrod has a tendency to try to push those kids out to protect their standardized testing scores. What they don't get in their shallow perspective is that my kids are really bright. I feel like NCLB makes drones, and my kids are just a lot more imaginative than traditional education is set up for. Still not feeling like homeschool is right for now, but I may have to make a change for A-man in January to protect my kid from hating school forever!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

School begins and nesting takes over!

I'm feeling good about the Jedis' first week back to school. They balked at the routine a few times, but mostly they didn't have time to fight it now that they leave 45 minutes earlier. The bus ride isn't that long; they are just on the first run, and it does give them time to eat breakfast at school. They have the option to eat at home if they get ready in time, but A-man isn't usually hungry right away, and they eat the same stuff for breakfast at home: juice, fruit, cereal, maybe a waffle. It's $.30/day/kid and saves us a lot of hassle.

We're still working on training the Jedis to cross a small street, walk safely through a small parking lot, walk along a dead-end street, and come up our street independently. It's 3 blocks, but I can't see the whole route from home, and I want them to do it reliably by the time the baby comes. Yesterday I met them at the stop and A-man totally walked all over the place and was not at all safe. Makes me very nervous! I think he and I will go walk the route a few times today for practice. The big thing is to avoid having to wake and load a toddler and a baby to drive 3 blocks every day in the winter. I'm very nervous that I'll tumble down the stairs while holding M's hand and carrying baby sister. We've gotta make this work!

I've been able to get the guys through their homework after school as well, a policy I was unsuccessful in enforcing last year, opting instead to wait until Dr. O' was home to help me settle everyone and keep M out of the way. Now she colors or plays while I sort through papers and help the Jedis get the work done quickly so that they don't have it hanging over their heads the rest of the evening.

While my home has had its clutter mess and random disasters, I've felt good about the routine. I did a Weekly Home Blessing on Wednesday and was able to have Dr. O' bring home a new colleague for dinner, for which we had Tuscan Chard soup and Peach Crisp and, of course Caprese salad ;). I overcooked and over-diluted the soup, but it was still pretty yummy. I couldn't find my peach crisp recipe, but I found one that worked well enough, but I think it had too much butter in it. Oh, well!

Having an impromptu dinner guest over makes me notice all the grimy spots around my house, so I attacked my kitchen on Thursday and Friday, eliminating clutter and wiping and straightening everything. I have a box of papers left to sort and a few freezer shelves to scrub, but I'm nearly done. I'm going to the hardware store to see if I can find some touch-up paint for the kitchen rather than painting the whole thing. I don't think the dude we bought the house from actually left that paint here, just lots of other rusty and useless ones. Thankfully, there's a hazardous waste collection day soon!

The next project room will be the bathroom. In each room, I'm trying to freshen and clean everything, optimize storage, and make sure I can be happy with how it looks for a while since I'll be busy with 4 kids. I hope to paint the bathroom yellow and get a changing table into it to store cloth diaper paraphernalia.

My hope is to attack each room one week at a time. Our house is just starting to feel settled after a year. I think the gift of real furniture from some church friends and moving the table into the kitchen have really made me feel like making his place feel like home is possible. I've been able to keep up completely with laundry this week, and we're hoping to pick up some more free second-hand furniture this afternoon, and then we'll have more places to PUT the laundry :).

The car situation is effectively settled, but I'm not ready to share details until we have the car, which will be in a few weeks. Let me just say that God provides immensely and beyond what we could ask or think!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And just like that-- summer is over!

The plan to get the Jedis out the door with Dr. O is going very smoothly! He gets up at 6, putters around and gets ready, has a little coffee with me, and gets the Jedis up at 7. Little M wakes up on her own around then. We get the boys dressed and out the door around 7:25, and then it's just M and momma for the day, at least until sister-baby arrives in about 10 weeks.

After such a struggle with the Jedis last year, I'm a little shocked at how much easier this arrangement is, but it took a lot of work and thought over the summer. We have the house in better order overall and are working to settle a few more areas. Our night-time routine is to give IM some melatonin after dinner, play and watch some shows together, do a quick clean-up and prep clothes and backpacks, and then we send kids to bed at 8. They can play or read until 9 when the room lights go out. IM has earned a reading light to use until 9:30 so that he will be quiet and let A-man sleep, but he's been falling asleep pretty soon thereafter. It's a miraculous difference! I'm waiting out this week of school to phase in zinc and omega oil supplements. Just getting to sleep sooner has made such a big difference for both boys, and only treating one with supplements has done the trick! 9 or 9:30pm to 7am seems to be the right sleep amount for their age, and they're finally getting it without us having to sit and make sure it happens.

Dr. O' and I are getting to bed sooner too, and I'm able to wake up better. Yesterday I woke up and helped the guys get out the door. I figured out a few small projects to knock out and talked to my best friend. M and I went to La Leche so she could play with her friend, and then we opted to stop for lunch at Tim Hortons (chicken salad!) on the way home. I should've put M down for a nap, but we're having trouble timing it. I kept laundry running and puttered around trying to prioritize projects without much success. At 3 it was time to pick up our Jedis from the bus stop. They were really happy with their first day and happy to come home to some Rice Krispie Treats. For the afternoon, they played with toys, told me about school, watched some shows, and cheerfully agreed to put away laundry between Netflix selections. It was smooth and nice. I made some simple chicken, home fries, and corn on the cob for dinner and got heartburn anyway. Oh well.

This brings us full circle-ish to this morning. I was able to sleep very well last night, woke up feeling great despite toddler girl's fussy morning (teething). The guys left with no trouble and in plenty of time. Dr. O' has faculty in-service this week and will be busy trying to cram in any remaining preparations for the semester.

I want to make the most of this time alone with my M. Sharing momma with the baby will be a big adjustment. She gets very bored being the only kid at home, and I can't sit and play all day. I need to figure out a few things we can play or do together and some things she can do alone with momma nearby. Making the dining room into a play area is a big step in that direction. She will play solo if I'm nearby but won't play in her room upstairs alone. This morning she watched a bit of Caillou, and then she played with play-doh at the table while I made bread and yogurt. Then she cleaned it up willingly and ran off to play trains in the dining room. She asked me to color with her, so we got a big sheet of paper and cut hearts out and colored them, which she thought was great. I'm going to try to get her down for a nap today since she's been whining quite a bit today. I'm conflicted about trying to keep naps in her schedule, but she does seem to need them from time to time.

This leaves me trying to be as productive as I can reasonably be and trying to structure my time so that I can slack off or do fun stuff when opportunities arise. Self-Discipline is what I've always struggled with, and I know I'm bound to work hard several hours a day, whether I choose to or circumstances dictate. The key is to do it in an organized and effective enough manner that I can see the rewards of my efforts and not feel guilty when I'm not as prepared as I feel I should be. The guilt is so pointless. I have a lot on my plate with high-need kids, a moms group that I do a lot with, adding Children's Chapel back in on Sundays, and having a baby here shortly. I like being busy, and I like it to be on my terms :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting out of an ugly rut

I had a few dark and moody days this week, with pregnancy hormones, fractious and LOUD kids, and a lack of motivation to get my home in order, leading to more trouble on all fronts. I was not kind to my kids, and I felt like such a failure at one of the things that I've put the most effort into and have identified myself by. If I can't be a loving momma, what the heck am I doing?

I've had some prayer and some reading time. I'm coping much better the last few days. I've been making progress on organizing the house in ways that have gone unfinished since the move, and I'm feeling calmer. I have been using our jobs chart extensively, to the point of insisting that the kids and I do every job on the chart before they got any screen time. It has been working-- a routine with work for the kids always works for us! They cause less trouble and are more compliant when they are doing more to keep our house running smoothly. The trouble is being the one who has to initiate it and get through the initial whining and protest. But it's always a solution that works for us. I'm calmer in cleaner surroundings, and they are too. Have to file this reminder to myself for later crises!

Definitely feeling the pregnancy weighing down my mid-section these days! I struggle a bit to get up off the couch or floor. The baby is very active, and the kids can't wait to meet her! The emotional stress of this past week and the coming of little sister are making me feel much better about the boys returning to school.

We had the most quiet night in a long time last night. M has been waking due to tummy problems requiring emergency diaper changes in the middle of the night, but she's much better now. We put IM on a dose of melatonin, and he fell asleep by 9:15, and he's often up until 11 because he can't fall asleep. He's doing a lot better with attitude and impulsivity today, which is what we needed. We're going to experiment with the dose and try a few other supplements to help him with anxiety and impulsivity, issues that I think caused him to score in a low working memory range last year, test results that I seriously doubt now. A-man is doing great in general, with the occasional whining jag. I never thought he and I would have such a peaceful summer!

We've had some rough days recently, but I'm hopeful that we're going to end this summer break on a good note!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

End of summer- fun little adventures

I totally forgot to post and boast a bit about a family adventure the kids and I had last week! We went to the free (read "crowded") Youth Fest at Wheeling Park, where we handled long lines, lunch, and swimming with 3 kids and a pregnant momma. IM got to ride the waterslide five times for free that day, and A-man got to ride it with Dan when he took the boys back later. He also took them on a pedalboat ride and played a round of minigolf with them. The whole day was free and without serious meltdowns! I could never have pulled it off a year or two ago!

Since then Dan and I celebrated our 13th anniversary. If I would've known on my wedding day that on our 13th, i'd be expecting our 4th child, and Dan would be done with school and have a job, and we'd have a house, I would've counted myself even more blessed than I already felt that day. Granted, i'd be puzzled by how we ended up in a little Appalachian city that we occasionally drove through when traveling between my parents' house and his, but I guess that's why we don't get to know the details ahead of time-- it would ruin the surprise. We are very different people from the two kids who married each other, and I'm so thankful for the lessons we've learned over the years and how we've grown together.

Tonight is another end-of-summer event, the library pool party. The kids had no trouble coming up with 8 hours of reading (IM did his in one day). It's at the same pool where they had the Youth Festival last week, and it's the pool closest to our home, so it's a fun and easy outing for all of us.

In order to attend the swim party tonight, we had to pick up passes from the library this morning. The kids did a great job getting out the door, and I was the slacker who forgot my purse and M's bag. M did as M does and of course pooped her pants at the library. She NEVER does this at home. However, before she potty trained, she always pooped her diaper at the library. Some people store reading materials in their bathrooms and call it the library, whereas my kid likes to poop in the actual library. I was unprepared and had to clean her up and make a hasty exit, which was rather hampered by the librarian wanting to make sure my kids got prizes and stickers for completing their reading. Not my priority since I was carrying my wiggly toddler whose skirt was authentically being worn in kilt/commando-style, but the Jedis were jazzed about some random Oriental Trading stuff.

We returned home, retrieved fresh drawers and my purse, and made a quick Kroger run for a few items. The minions were all really reasonable! Such a relief to be able to shop without anyone going cuckoo-bananas! Time to try to get M back on a nap cycle and try to get a little resting and nesting done!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

M-girl Milestones!

My goals for M-girl following Christmas were the following: Weaning (she had a minor chip on a tooth that was unpleasant, and her second birthday was approaching), saying "goodbye" to "chupis" (her pacifiers), no more bottles (a later habit from when she needed a big load of milk to get a night's sleep, but which turned out to cause a lot of stomach problems), and perhaps an introduction to the potty. She weaned at exactly 22 months with no trouble at all, and I was expecting Newbie very soon after. She gave up the bottle of milk or milk substitutes this summer, and
"chupi" has ceased to exist to her. Such a relief! Unfortunately, all this maturing has led to very little napping, but I hope to re-establish that in the fall, even if for an hour a day!

Around the time she weaned, she begged for a pink frog potty at the store, and I bought it. It sat in the bathroom mostly collecting dust or being used to climb up to things, although she would use it appropriately on occasion. Then this summer she began to take off her diaper and refuse to put another one on. I hadn't wanted to do this now! I wanted to wait until school started, but I couldn't let her pee on the floor either! So I got books and videos from the library and from Amazon, ones that had worked for the boys, and ones we'd never seen before. I set up a little DVD player in the kitchen and let her sit on the potty and watch the Elmo and Potty Power DVDs as much as she wanted. For a few weeks, she peed on the floor a lot. Then she went back to diapers. Then two weeks ago, it all clicked! She mastered pee one week and poo the next! It was amazing! She has internalized the message of these irritating videos so thoroughly that she quotes them as she's doing the various steps in good potty use and related hygiene.

A little musing I've done on the subject of potty training and advice: There are people who give potty advice because their kid potty trained themselves, and these people don't know how hard it can be with a resistant or too-busy child. Plenty of other generous and gracious souls (Danielle Haley, for example) know better and fully acknowledge that their kid potty trained themselves and have no obtrusive advice to offer. There are also people who can follow every step and read every book and still fight an uphill battle for months or even years to establish potty training/learning with their children. I know I'm in the third group, and I hope I'm in the second. I know better than to be in the first. It's not about knowledge or method. It's about the kid. Tell me that I should've used Elimination Communication with all my kids, and I'll get stabby ;).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pool lazing, more VBS, good soup!

We went to the La Leche swim playdate today where M played with her little friend C. We stayed 3.5 hours! It was our first trip to Oglebay pool, which is pricey but nice. Before the pool, the Jedis went to another VBS, the one they attended last summer and really enjoyed. As soon as they got home, I fed them and popped them in the car. A got a bit too much sun, but everything else was perfect.

We came home at 4, and I wasn't sure I'd have the soup ready for dinner. I skipped making stock from the roasted chicken in the fridge and used some bouillon paste for broth. The estimated time was perfect, and Dan ran to kroger for some multigrain baguettes. The soup was truly a hit! Everyone ate it, and 2 kids had seconds! It has chard, pasta, beans, sundried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and spices and herbs, plus some bacon that I left out of Dan's portion. He enjoyed his with some Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious, and there's one bowl left!

Here's the recipe