Friday, July 29, 2011


So I've been thinking about preschool. Nola is ready to learn stuff. Her verbal skills have really sky rocketed recently and it makes me realize how much she would love activities, crafts, educational toys, markers, and paper. You know, boquets of sharpened pencils.

There's a lot of home school curriculum out there for preschoolers. A complete set of books, schedules, and educational toys to take you through a year of learning averages around 300 dollars. Ummmmm. That's nice. They really would be helpful, but I'm not sure how necessary. When I looked through the list of what you get in these kits, I realized that it would be pretty easy to pull the books together from the library (Has anyone told you about the library? It's crazy. You get to take books home for FREE! As long as you bring them back.) The educational toys are pretty cool, but I could accomplish the same goal using things we have around the house for the most part.

I could totally nerd out on preschool stuff for Nola. I am just a tiny bit. But I was inspired by this blog post to chill out a little bit. After reading it, I boiled Nola's schooling down to three main goals. First, introducing Nola to Jesus. Second, giving her interesting life experiences and talking about them. And third, reading to her like crazy.

The first goal, introducing Jesus, is interesting. There's no lesson plans for this. No killer kids dvd to explain Him. Jesus is a matter of the heart. He is a spiritual experience. Yes, I can read to her about Him. We love the Jesus Storybook Bible. But in the end, Jesus is a Person she has to meet. I can only put them in the same room together (if I could be so bold to say Jesus would come when I ask) and see what happens. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. I'm not interested in teaching her about a religion or showing her how to act like a charismaniac. (Although I do think it's important that she participate in our faith community and it's pretty darn cute when she raises her hands and sings during our worship services). But I hope I will be successful in introducing her to the One who loves her even more than I do. And then I pray that He captures her heart like He captured mine.

The second goal, having experiences and talking about them, is super fun. It takes energy sometimes but that's all. Basically, I don't want Nola, or Violet for that matter, to just sit around all day watching PBS (although I think that station is awesome and has great kids programming, and sometimes we do watch it all day). I want to take them places and do different things. Simple things, like grocery shopping or taking our dog for a walk are perfect times to talk about what's happening. (The Zoo and Children's Museum are great, too, but the experiences don't have to be fancy or expensive.) Nola makes great observations, and I think the question phase is just around the corner. Yay! She says sarcastically. Actually, it's awesome that she asks questions and it's important that I take the time to respond to her. It's the little things, really. On a walk with our dog, Saint, we stopped to admire a squashed bunny on the side of the road. Thank GOD that experience did not get all the questions I feared! But the caterpillar we found had "black and white stripes" and "he didn't like it when we touched him". That experience was great education. And it's really all she needs for now.

The third goal, reading like crazy, is fairly self explanatory. The only thing is I sometimes have to remind myself that other things can wait while I read to her. Sitting down and reading two or three library books is an extremely important use of my time right now. Dishes and vacuuming can wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. (If you saw my house most days, you wouldn't think I have any problem whatsoever pushing the dishes and vacuuming aside.)

I'm still surfing the internet for that perfect preschool book or curriculum or awesome educational toy that will turn her into a genius. I can't help myself. But before I click "add to cart" I remember my three goals and ask myself if it's really necessary, and then I don't usually end up buying it.

At 2 1/2 living life with us is all she really needs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mundane Monday: July 25 2011

It was hot yesterday. The a/c works in our car, but on reeeeally hot days it can't keep up very well. I decided to live through it though. I knew Ryan was going to be gone all day. First at work, then at a film shoot in the evening. When I know I will be alone with the girls that long, getting out of the house for most of the day helps me keep my sanity.

We had a very busy weekend so I let Violet take her morning nap. When she woke up we zoomed out the door to have lunch with Ryan at Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee? Yes. It's very cheap. And I needed to go grocery shopping after. Ryan was kind enough to go there with us so I didn't have to do one more in-and-out-of-the-car routine with both girls. Does anyone else find that one of the most exhausting things about motherhood? Buckles and straps, and watching out for cars in parking lots. I usually reach back and unsnap Nola when we arrive somewhere. She is now able to get out of her seat, open the car door, and shut it behind her. It's a blessing and a little worrisome.

After lunch Ry left us and we went shopping. Ten minutes later I realized he had left with our grocery cash. Blast. I called him. He cursed. He said he'd come back. I didn't hear my phone when he called me to say he was back at the store. I suddenly see him rounding an aisle, looking like I had just stuck needles in his eye. So sorry about that, baby.

I put both girls together in one of those race car carts. Violet loved it at first. She grabbed the steering wheel and smiled past both ears. The girls looked super cute sitting side by side in that thing. But about halfway through our shopping trip it was too much for Violet. It was too close to nap time, and she had exercised her tiny little muscles long enough. She kept slumping down in the seat and laying her head down on the side of the cart.

We made it through the heat back home. The girls laid down. Violet fell asleep instantaneously. I could hear Nola talking and singing and being a little restless. After an hour of hearing her mess around, I went in there to lay the law down. When I walked in, she was getting new panties (there was nothing wrong with her old ones) and Violet was awake. I started to give a speech about letting her sister sleep and going to sleep herself, but instead I said, "Well. Want to go to the library?"

I gave Violet a quick snack and off we went. Nola loves the library which makes me so happy. She does get bored around the time I want to find books for myself, though. And she couldn't read books in the stroller because there's not enough room in the "bottom bunk" of the stroller to open up a big children's book. So she followed me around the boring aisles and generally annoyed me. She grabbed two empty book holders and they had a little conversation. One was falling off the shelf and needed rescued. "Help me! Ayudame!" At one point I let her lag behind a little, only to turn around and find she had climbed on TOP of a large table. Yep. I was that mom. It was at that point I decided it was time to vacate the premises.

We almost went to see Ryan at his film shoot, but decided it might not be a good time for my little hungry, cranky hooligan to visit a set.

I tried to tell her that the reason she was having a hard time being happy and obeying was because she was tired. She didn't seem to think so.

We headed to Wal-Mart for what I thought would be a quick trip. When we were leaving I couldn't believe it was already six o'clock! Since Nola hadn't napped, and Violet took a shorter one than usual I was totally planning to put them to bed at seven. Yeah, we didn't quite make it. We got close though. By the time we got home, unloaded, fed, and satisfied with a mini episode of Wonder Pets the girls got in bed by seven thirty.

After the girls went to bed I forced myself to pick up the house before I crashed on the sofa. It didn't take long and I was so glad I did. It's so much easier to wake up in the morning with a clean kitchen. I watched a movie on Netflix called Shades of Ray. It was a romantic comedy interesting enough to keep me intrigued. It stars Zachary Levi, if you're a fan.

When Ryan is gone I have a hard time going to bed. Especially if I know he'll be coming in around midnight. That's just early enough that I could stay up and still be a human being the next day. So I tried. Around twelve thirty I just couldn't make it anymore and I crashed. His shoot ran a little late and he came home around one thirty.

One more mundane detail about the day. Violet pooped in her diaper twice! Twice! The first time it was because I didn't take her potty after nursing like usual, the second time I don't know what happened. I just missed her signals, I guess. Also, I've recently added iron fortified cereal to her breakfast. The last time I did a diet change (adding solids) she took a few days to figure out her new system. Maybe that's what it is...

How mundane was your Monday?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Success and Failure: A Potty Post

First the success. We went to the bookstore recently. One of my and Nola's favorite activities. Nola grabs a few stuffed animals, plays with the train table, and even looks at a book or two. I grab a book or magazine and watch her play, occasionally stopping to read her a book when requested.

We usually go just the two of us. It's not too exciting for Violet. But all three of us went recently, and while we were there Violet told me she needed to poop. Not in so many words, of course. She looked at me intently and grunted and grunted. She stopped. I said, "Violet, do you need to go potty?" She grunted and grunted some more. So I took her to the potty and she pooped!

Slight coincidence? A little bit. But it's evidence that she does recognize the feeling of needing to go, without immediately letting it loose. If I hadn't taken her to the potty right away, she probably wouldn't have waited, say, until we got home. But it was a good chance for her to start learning that we will take her to the potty if she communicates her needs. Get it? That's why they call it elimination communication. She communicates to us when she needs to eliminate. Fancy sounding words for such a gross part of life.

Lesson learned? A few little grunts really may mean "Take me potty, please" in Violet talk.

And now for the failure. Violet woke from a morning nap while I was teaching my preschool Spanish class here at home. I quickly went and got her and ran back to class. I didn't take her potty like I usually do when she wakes up. Then I proceeded to go on with class and completely ignore her. She was happy in her bumbo seat. When class was over I picked her up and got a nasty whiff of number two. Sure enough, she had pooped. I can't be sure, but I don't think she was poopy when I got her out of bed or I would've smelled it. It was rather foul.

Lesson learned? If I want her to use the potty I have to offer it at predictable times, consistently. At this age the goal is not for her to be able to "hold" her elimination, the goal is that I will take her when she needs to go. We're still working on our communication (like the success story above) so right now we are relying on routine. I have a feeling she was waiting for me to get her out of bed before she pottied, but when I didn't take her like usual she thought, "Well, I'm not holding this forever so guess I'm going in the diaper." Also, she may have been showing signs of needing to poop during class but I was ignoring her. I wasn't communicating with her. It's a two way street, that communication. If she's communicating, I have to listen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Home Run: A Sappy Post About Life

When I was in school I hated sports. HATED them. I wasn't ever very good at any of them, and I was afraid of the ball. Many sports require a ball, so this was a problem for me. In the third grade we were all required to be on the basketball team. When I found out that at the end of the season we would take a road trip to Columbia, MO and play another team...I cried. I'm pretty sure I cried all the way home. And it was a half hour drive.

It didn't help that I went to a small church school. My P.E. class was everyone from sixth through twelfth grade. Than meant that teeny tiny twelve year old me frequently had to play dodge ball with the ginourmous sixteen year old boys. They threw hard.

One day we went to a baseball diamond to play softball. The worst. A nightmare for me. I was really scared of the ball in softball. They throw it at you! Right at your face. And you either hit it with the tiny pole you're holding or it hits you. Even underhanded pitches scared me. My usual P.E. teacher (Stacy Schromm, a teaching legend who deserves her own sappy post) always made me suck it up and try. As she should have. I needed to learn to do hard things. But this day we had a substitute.

Enter David "Buck" Hudson. One of the pastors from my church.

I don't remember if I was crying before I even went to bat, or if he could just tell I was scared. Or maybe I swung and swung and never hit it. That might have been it. Either way, Buck stepped in and saved my day.

"I'll bat for you, and then you run to first base."

Such relief. And then, he not only batted for me, he hit a home run for me! Even the big boys who crushed me in dodge ball couldn't always hit a home run like that. It was epic. I felt like I had hit the home run, but all I had to do was run the bases.

Some days we need to push ourselves. Do the hard thing. Learn the lesson. Other days, we need someone else to come along and hit the home run so all we have to do is run the bases.

Thanks, Buck.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Quote

"I think the most significant work we ever do, in the whole world, in our whole life, is done within the four walls of our own home."

Stephen R. Covey (The guy who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Marvelous Monday!

Nothing mundane about this one! Fourth of July! Woohoo!

I love holidays. I love having something to celebrate. I love traditions. I love the marking of time even though it makes me sad sometimes. I love them so much that I occasionally get a little uptight about the festivities. I'm not a perfectionist at all whatsoever. What we do doesn't have to be perfect, but we have to do SOMETHING!! I think it was when I realized that this was Nola THIRD Fourth of July that I sort of freaked out on the inside. She's already had three of these! We only have fifteen Fourth of July's left with her! (Assuming she magically turns into a complete adult overnight and leaves our home at the age of eighteen never to be seen again.) I was scrambling for traditions.

Since the Fourth of July was Monday this year, the whole weekend felt like a holiday to me. We left Nola's kiddie pool outside the whole weekend. We left it in the driveway which looked a little ghetto. Sorry neighbors. But this way it got soaked in sunlight and was practically a hot tub for the girls. Violet doesn't seem to be a huge fan of the water, but I think we may have been catching her too close to nap times every time we took her out. Nola doesn't like to put her face or head in the water, but she loves playing with toys. She spent most of the time getting in and out of it. She would grab her floatie, which she called "rescue boat", throw it out of the water and then go get it yelling, "Say Rescue Boat!" Followed by a pause while she waited for the audience to respond and finishing off with "Good yelling!" Thank you, Dora and Diego.

The girls slept late on Monday morning. It really felt like a holiday. After breakfast, which included an appetizer of a popsicle for Nolie (This was a last minute purchase while I was scrambling for traditions to make this the best Fourth of July ever since we only have fifteen left), we went for our last swim of the weekend. The water had turned a little cloudy by Monday. Eeew.

We had scrambled eggs and sausage in tortillas for lunch. I'm getting better at making home made tortillas, and faster. I was proud of how quickly I rolled them out.

Nola and I made a Fourth of July treat. We dipped strawberries in white chocolate and then dipped them in blue mini m&ms. The m&ms were a little too big and heavy, but they still tasted good. I was supposed to use blue sugar crystals. Guess who was out of all things red and blue for cake decorating? Hy-Vee the night before the Fourth of July. So I bought a bag of mini m&ms and sorted all the blue ones out like a maniac.

The girls took naps in the afternoon and Ryan and I fought about vacuuming. I'll spare you the details. But we were both wrong and we said we were sorry and we forgave each other.

Once the girls were up we headed to Ryan's parents for dinner. I brought along some flour and a huge star stencil to make patriotic stars on their front lawn. It worked pretty well. Next year we'll do a bigger stencil. We were copying these people.

We did a few fireworks at Ryan's parents house, and then everyone followed us back to our house. We put Violet to bed and then proceeded to shoot loud fireworks off right beneath her window for a couple hours. Poor thing. She slept right through it though. It was fun for Nola being old enough to stay up and watch the Fireworks. She liked them. Every once in a while she thought maybe they were scaring her, but then she'd jump right back into it. She loved the snappers. Of course. Who doesn't? Those things are awesome. And she loved the snakes.

When it finally got dark we took a little walk down the street and up the hill, while Grandpa stayed with Violet. Our neighborhood is just perfect for seeing the fireworks all across the city. We saw quite a few of those floating lanterns, too.

And that was the end. It was a good Fourth. How was yours?