Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2-Year-Old Delight

Sweet Pea is in the throes of toddlerhood. She's 2 1/2, and full of feisty, spicy, zesty spunk. She gets into mischief every single day.

Yesterday she didn't get seated right on the potty and made a mess. She spilled a bottle of lavender essential oil trying to cover up the smell. And she dunked a washcloth in the toilet to get it wet so she could clean up the mess. And she sat on our bed when she was done...but she had forgotten to wipe.

Oh mercy!

This afternoon I noticed that she was too quiet. I went in to check on her and found her sound asleep in her bed. Naked as a jaybird. When she came out after her nap, I sent her to bring me her clothes. She came back in wearing a nothing but a tiara and Princess Sofia high heels, and carrying a glittery gold purse and a baby doll.

Too much cuteness!

Right now she's tearing around the house wearing Sofia the First undies and a big sister's training bra. Someone brushed out her curls this evening and she looks like a dandelion gone to seed. Her whole body is decorated with green marker artwork, and she has black sharpie "lipstick" on her lips. Every minute or so, she'll stop in her tracks, wildly wiggle her hips, throw up her arms and yell, "Waggle Waggle Dab! I dancin' like a rock star!" And then she's off again, giggling like crazy.

She tears me up! I can hardly stand it!

At night she climbs into bed with me for our bedtime cuddle ritual.
"'Nuggle me, Momma? Pretty please you 'nuggle me?"
I could send her to her bed because I take evening meds that make me super sleepy and I just want to sleep. But I don't send her away. I pull her close, stroke her face, and feel her melting into me. She strokes my arm with her little fingers and sings me little love songs that she makes up on the spot. They are her own, free, imaginative tunes. They usually speak of what we did that day, how much she loves me, and how 'nuggles are her favorite things. She bats her eyes at me and asks very politely for a "sleepy snack." This is our routine and I am prepared. I produce the string cheese that I had waiting on my nightstand. She eats her cheese, sharing nibbles with me. I hold her for a few minutes more. Then she rolls over, squeezes me tight, kisses each cheek, my forehead, and my lips. I kiss her back. We whisper "I love you forever" and she climbs into her own bed in the corner of my room.

So much love. So much joy. So much delight!

Is she a stinker? Heck yes! But oh, my heart! How I love my little Sweet Pea!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Unearthing Treasure

Sometimes I feel like raising a child is like unearthing buried treasure. It's such a long process to watch your child grow and develop, and there's not much in parenting that's more fun than when you child discovers his/her talents, gifts, and passions.

Snapper tried a lot of different things over the years. She did Scottish Country Folk Dance, ballet, swim team, karate, musical theater, volleyball, choir, and piano. She stunk at dance, was fair at volleyball, and has been outstanding at everything else. Now she's a freshman in high school, and is honing in on what she loves.

Snapper loves performing.

In 4th and 5th grade she sang in her school chorus. She lit up the stage with her animated face and whole-hearted singing.

In 6th grade she totally wowed us by winning her school's public speaking competition, and then going on to take 2nd place out of all the 6th graders in the entire county!

In 7th grade she recited Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" and got top honors. She also landed--and totally owned--the part of Sally Brown in "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown."

In 8th grade she sang in chorus again and sang a solo in a Christmas special. She also was in "Annie Get Your Gun" at school. In April she sang in the state vocal festival and earned a Superior for her solo.

This year she started piano lessons. She is singing in concert choir at the high school and was a soloist in the fall concert. She recited a poem in the mandatory school-wide poetry recitation competition, won for her class, and earned a spot in the final. She went up against the other 19 finalists (five from each grade) and took third place in the high school! That achievement earned her an invitation to join the JV Debate team in the fall, and an invitation to audition for the spring play. She auditioned and landed one of the female leads. With the encouragement of her choir director, Snapper entered in a vocal competition.

The competition was today. Snapper is only 14 years old, and she has some pretty amazing pipes. She did a great job on her song, "Songs My Mother Taught Me" by Dvorak. The judge started to give her critique, and then she changed her mind. She said, "You have so much potential. I'm going to give you a voice lesson here and now. I want to see what you can do." So she did. She spent seven minutes with Snapper, giving pointers and having her do a few vocal exercises. Then she had her sing part of her song again.

Y'all, it completely took my breath away. I'll let you watch the video so you can see what I mean. I think today would make it onto my list of Top Proud Mommy Moments.

The video is a brief clip of Snapper's initial performance, followed by a couple of vocal exercises, followed by a clip of her second try at the song after the little voice lesson. The judge was so pleased! She was beaming and delighted with the change. She never did critique Snapper or tell her what rating she got. She'll get her score sheets back at school on Monday.

Oh...by the way...she doesn't get her vocal talent from me! LOL!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Habits

I love the start of a new year. I know it isn't really any different than any other day, but symbolically it is. The first few weeks of the year always feel so fresh to me, and I've found it to be the best time for me to make any changes that I need to make. I don't do New Year's Resolutions, but I do evaluate myself and work on establishing new habits. On the list for this year:

1. Tighten up the boundaries in our home. If there's one thing I've become more and more aware of on this mothering journey, it's that kids feel safer and function better if they live within the healthy limits of secure boundaries. Honestly, I find that I am more secure within healthy boundaries, too.

So what do those tighter boundaries look like?

Holding to Routines

I have morning routine charts posted in the kitchen and in the kids' bathrooms. The charts are very simple...a picture and a few words for each task. The kids must do their tasks in order. I'm back to being firm about these routines.
1. Up and dressed
2. Make bed
3. Hair and deodorant
4. Care for animals
5. Breakfast
6. Brush teeth
7. Clean up your trail (in other words, do a quick pass through the house and put away your stuff)

After school routine
1. Shoes put away
2. Bring mom your school folder
3. Clean and put away lunchbox
4. Snack
If it is your laundry day, start your load
5. Throw away trash
6. Homework
Cleaning chore (MWF only)

Evening routine
1. Care for animals
2. Dinner
3. Kitchen chore
4. Tidy your room
5. Shower and brush teeth

On weekends we have a routine, too. After the regular morning routine is done, the kids each do their cleaning chore. All week long I collect items that have been left out and put them in a box. The kids must do extra cleaning chores to redeem their boxed items. One chore gets three items out of the box. One Saturday per month we go out and do a barn and coop cleaning. After that, everyone is free to play.

Sticking like glue to these routines makes more successful kids. And less stressed Momma. Having the routines posted makes it easier, too, because when I see someone out of line, I just send them to look at the chart. No nagging.

Healthy Eating

We always are pretty healthy eaters, but we tend to get sloppy over the Christmas season. January is always a great time to get things cleaned up and back onto a healthy track. For us, this means severl things.
1. I am back to gluten free for me. I'm gluten intolerant, and my doctor suspects I have celiac disease. I opted to forego testing and just assume I have celiac. I was gluten free for three years and it transformed my health. When I was pregnant with Sweet Pea, all I could keep down was dry sourdough toast. My intent was to go back to gluten free eating after Sweet Pea was born, but I never did. Today is Day 3 of no gluten, and I already notice a difference in my skin. Awesome sauce!
2. For the rest of the family, it's back to only one sweet per day. Maybe it's a piece of candy after school, or syrup on pancakes with breakfast, or a soda if we go out.
3. It's also increasing our veggie load at dinner. It's so easy to boost the veggies, often by doing something as simple as adding grated carrots or zucchini to a meatloaf, putting pureed spinach in spaghetti sauce, or requiring three extra bites of broccoli. If a kid eats three extra bites of veggies at every dinner, that's 21 bites more of veggies per week!
4. For me, it's getting off my lazy butt and fixing a better snack for the kids after school rather than stocking a basket with Cheez-It pouches. It's very easy to spread peanut butter on five pieces of whole grain toast, or to throw yogurt, banana, and frozen strawberries into the blender.
5. Consistent meal planning is key. I'm always good at this, and I'm right back to it after two weeks of flying by the seat of my pants. Having a crock pot and an Instant Pot help tremendously in following through with cooking at home.

Cutting Back on Electronics

We're not an electronic-friendly home. We have a TV (Netflix only, no cable), a Blu-Ray player, computers, Kindles, and a Wii. But I like for those things to be turned on as infrequently as possible. Here are our electronics rules, back to being enforced after a month of laziness.
1. No TV on school days
2. Paper homework done before electronic homework can be started
3. Weekend Wii time must be earned by reading during the week. For 4th grade and up, they earn 30 minutes of Wii for every hour they read. For the younger kids, it's 30 minutes of Wii for every 30 minutes they read.
4. Computers are for schoolwork only.
5. Kindles may be used only after routines are completed and inspected.
6. All Kindles and computers must be plugged into the charging station in the office at 8:00. The only exception is for Snapper, who is in high school, and often needs to be online later.
7. On weekends, no TV or Wii until weekend chores are completed, and not before 3:00 p.m.

Mommy and Daddy have new rules, too.
1. No social media until the kids are at school.
2. Electronics are shut down during homework time.
3. No phones at the table or in bed.

What are some of your New Year habits or hacks that work for your family? Please comment! I love to learn from others.