Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 2014

August was a nice mix of days at home and a trip to Minnesota. The kids fill up the days with playing outside, playing inside, and an occasional park, library, or museum trip. We've been going to the pool with Papa after supper a few times a week. (No sunscreen needed and 2 adults!)

M4 finds the ball popper so funny!
 M4 has really gotten into playing with the big kids. Instead of just following them around he pretends with them and can participate a little.

Driving to their camp site.

He continues to enjoy stories. Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb is a top favorite and he can sort-of recite it to us if he wants us to read it to him. He also loves to look at this little baby-safe book of family photos. He points to each person and names them. Sometimes he gets his toy phone (still a top favorite toy) and points to who he is calling.

One day M.G.'s "special job" was to make this t-shirt bag. (Only way I could guarantee that I'd make the time to help her with it, sadly.) We were given a similar t-shirt bag at the 4th of July parade and we liked the idea. She cut the arms and neck out of a t-shirt and then I showed her how to use my sewing machine to sew the hem. She did the sewing herself!

This shirt was free with the summer reading program a few years ago. She was excited to bring the bag to the library for her books. The children's librarian saw her bag, loved the idea, and showed it to all the other librarians as an idea for the future. She felt pretty proud!

Papa worked on a house project this month. This kitchen wall has bugged me since we moved in. I hate how in photos of our big events we have this big plain back drop. We had trouble deciding what to do with it or finding art work. I took this photo and messed with it in paint to see what I thought might work.

This is our finished product! Papa attached bead-board and trim to the wall. My mom found beautiful cloth napkins and framed them as a gift to us. They add some nice color to that big empty wall.

M.G. stays in Minnesota for a week with her grandparents each summer. Now that M2 has finished kindergarten it was his summer to go as well. They decided it would be fun to stay together instead of alternating where they stayed. Since Papa had a work trip that week, I decided to bring the younger two to MN too. We spent half the week with Grandma and Grandpa M while the older two were at my parents. Then we switched houses for the 2nd half of the week. Papa was able to join us for the last couple days! It was a fun week for all of us filled with all sorts of activities!
Swimming at Grandma and Grandpa M's house!

Watching ducks with Grandma and Grandpa B!

We're wrapping up summer vacation here! I have meetings tomorrow, so the little two are headed to daycare for a practice day. We're so glad that Grandma and Grandpa M are coming for a few days this week and then my parents will come next week to help out for the first day of university class. School starts on Tuesday! I think everyone has some jitters, but is very excited.

I took the girls to Great Clips on Sunday and Papa trimmed the guys' hair. He invested in clippers to help it go easier. We took a few photos with everyone looking sharp. M3 wanted a short haircut and has been talking about it for a couple months. She waltzed right in and had a great time. I'm not quite used to her new look, but she really likes it. She'll be going to preschool in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and then daycare those afternoons.

I need to bring in a family photo and a photo of M4 for his new daycare classroom (Toddler 1). This was our first take and it melts my heart. I'm sure I'm going to be looking at it a few times during that first week of school!

And here is the whole gang! Now I won't feel as stressed about getting the perfect first day of school photos. (Or posting them any time soon!) I enjoyed this summer so much, but it just went so quickly. I'll miss them all once they head back to school and daycare. The older 3 are so excited though, that it will be great to hear about their adventures!

Monday, August 11, 2014

(cow) milk trial, day 1

When M4 turned one we started giving him cows' milk in uncooked foods (the frosting on his cake, mac and cheese) and we tried giving it to him in a cup. He always developed red patches where the food touched his face. We quit offering milk, but he is ok with yogurt and cheese, so we know he isn't allergic to milk.

The allergist assured me that a rash on his face does not mean he'd have other negative reactions. If he is intolerant to milk he'd have a stomach ache or other similar symptoms. I'm hoping not to have to pump breastmilk for daycare this year and I know the kids there get milk at meals, so we decided to try M4 with milk at breakfast this week and see if he tolerates it.

He was ignoring the sippy cup of milk at breakfast today and had eaten all his food, so we were encouraging him to try it. He took a tiny sip.

Papa: "Was that milk good? Do you want more?"

M4: (shaking his head incredulously and patting my knee) "Mama milk."

Me: "Well, that is milk too, milk from a cow."


Papa and I: "Yes, cows' milk. Want to try some?"

M4: "No."

It was just like he thought we were playing a prank on him!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Experiments in Parenting: Special Job of the Day!

Here is my second post on the habits I tried to implement this summer. Of course we aren't 100% awesome at either technique, but I'm talking about general trends in behavior!

In the late spring I read a message board discussion about appropriate chores for elementary aged children. I was really surprised at what some parents had their 5 to 10 year old children doing on a regular basis... washing dishes, doing the loads of laundry independently (sorting, washing, drying, folding), cleaning bathrooms, and more!

Since I had some extra time this summer I thought I could teach some of these chores with the end goal of assigning more routine responsibilities to each child as school starts up again. Another goal was to not make the experience into a situation where I was forcing them to do all the work because I'm horribly mean all of the time.

With that in mind, I created "SPECIAL JOB OF THE DAY!" Each weekday morning I write down a job for each of the older 3 children for them to do that day. I can not believe how excited they were the first weeks to see what their job would be.

I try to come up with a variety of jobs for the week that use different skills (wash or dry the dishes, empty the dishwasher, set the table, help cook lunch, mop the floor, fold the clean towels, wash windows, help me organize your dresser drawers, water plants, weed at the garden with Papa) and rotate the jobs that can be done by everyone. We have about one day a week where the job is something other than housework. For example, they've been asked to write a card or letter to someone, help bake cookies before we have company, read a book to a sibling, and pick out lunch ideas from a couple cookbooks. I try to keep in mind that this is supposed to be educational and fun, so often I'm right there with them helping. It doesn't always save me time, but the goal is mostly to add that responsibility to the day.

It has been going very well. If I am slow to write down the task they always ask to see what they will be doing. Even if they grumble a bit, the jobs always get done by bedtime. No threats or time outs, we just all do our job because that is what happens when you are given a special job of the day. During the first week when one child was refusing to do her job another piped up, "But it is your special job of the day, you have to do it!" That worked and the job got done. Some jobs are tied to a time of day and it is easy to say that TV has to wait until the job is done, but for the most part they want to get things finished.

Most of all, this project has kept me motivated to get my chores done each day. I need to have washed the dishes if M2 is going to dry them!

One of my favorite parts of this project is the times where the kids anticipate their job or ask if I can give them a specific chore that week. Thursday has become, "clean so we can vaccum, pick up your toys, and dust your room" day. This isn't a new chore for them, but it is something that actually needs to be done by them, so I like to include it. They thought it was pretty funny last week when they picked up everything the day before so that they didn't have to do any work on Thursday. Of course this week we seemed to have every toy in the house out and at 3 PM on Thursday I was having to keep them on task quite a bit. But, overall we still are having a positive experience.

I'm guessing they will not be as excited to have new chores they are responsible for and I'm not going to keep giving them daily jobs once school starts, so we'll see how we blend "special job of the day" into "work you are expected to do each week."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

M3's quote of the day

M3, during snack time: "Are there bike races in our town for my age?"

Me: "I don't think there are any bike races in our town."

M3: "If there were, I'd win the gold medal now that I can pedal bike. Or, maybe instead of medals they'd give out chocolate chip mint cookies and I'd win 2 cookies because I'm so fast!"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

M3 on the pedal bike!


M3 has been asking to try her 12 inch bike again recently. She has been using a balance bike for over a year and has gotten much more confident on it in the last month or so. She tried the pedal bike at the beginning of the summer and didn't quite have it yet.

Last night Papa gave her a push and off she went! He coached her a little to look where she wanted to go and keep pedaling, but soon she caught on. She still needs help getting started, but I'm sure she'll get it soon!

In the video you can see Papa's "Staff" shirt from an engineering event from a few years ago. I always smile when he wears it on our bike rides and walks to the store as if we are some sort of group he is leading.

Sunday night update: Tonight M3 figured out how to push off and get started on her own! She also, more importantly, got the hang of stopping herself! She was independently riding back and forth around the cul-de-sac!

Quote of the day

M.G., in the car on the way to the swimming pool, "When I see the 'end road construction' signs I always think that they are from a group of people protesting road construction."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Experiments in Parenting: 4 part apology

Every summer I seem to try a few different ideas to improve our routine or work on those areas where I feel like I have dropped the ball. This summer I pulled a couple ideas from things I read and we've had more success than I expected!

4 part apology
I read an interesting article about teaching kids how to apologize. ( It's so difficult to say that you are sorry in a productive way, even for adults! And many times it is not very satisfying to have someone only say, "I'm sorry."

I found that this article gave suggestions that helped me make the jump from what I knew was a good way to ask for forgiveness to it being something we could teach. The general form is, "I'm sorry that I ____. It was wrong because _____. In the future I will ____. Will you forgive me?"

We don't ask them to always give a 4-part apology, but I often will when emotions are high or physical violence is involved. The first few times I walked through each step and had the kids make suggestions about what to say. Now the older two can work through it for the most part and the 4 year old needs a little help still.

What has surprised me is that taking the time to say all four parts diffuses the situation and usually puts the children back on the same team. In the past, I know that having one child apologize simply, without feeling, did not make a dent in hurt feelings or bad attitudes. You can't make, "Sorry," sincere if it isn't.

In trying this method I was hoping that down the road the kids would be able to ask for forgiveness out in the "real world" but expected that if one person did something that everyone involved knew was wrong that the apology I requested would fall about as flat as always.

Instead, it forces the kids to listen to each other. I am surprised at the number of times the offended party is itching to get back to whatever situation caused the initial drama. Having to pause long enough to hear someone compose 4 sentences allows everyone to come to their senses. Other times, if someone is rightfully upset or hurt it does bring some sincerity to the situation. (Using positive language for the steps is important.)

I have enjoyed seeing them help each other find the words to use and seeing the difference in how they treat each other as they move forward. Especially when both people have something to apologize for. If the toddler is around he'll say his version of "forgive!" after everyone has said their parts and he'll clap for them. Encouraging civil conversation, and having a form to help us along, heals a lot of wounds.

Today, in the heat of the moment, M3 bit M2. I separated them, had them sit for a minute or two to calm down, and then asked her to give a full apology to her brother. She said, "I'm sorry that I bit you. It was wrong because it hurt you and did not respect you. In the future I will ask first."

At that point M2, who had every right to be upset at his sister, broke into giggles and said, "Well, I'm never going to say yes to you!" Then she asked for forgiveness, he gave it happily, and they went off to play in different rooms, each feeling better. (Even with a 4 part apology I get to impose other consequences if the situation needs it!) 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 2014

Blog post titles are easy when posting seems to happen about once a month!

The kids finished up their swimming lessons. We decided to participate in only one 3 week session this summer. I think M2 and M3 will benefit from a year of getting stronger before trying to pass the level they are on. M.G. was VERY proud to pass level 4 on the first try this summer! She didn't expect to, but she worked hard and looked like a stronger swimmer this summer. They are looking forward to visits to the city pool, we went tonight and had a good time.

M.G. will finish up summer soccer this weekend with a tournament. She is torn about which sport activity to continue with in the fall. M2 has one week of soccer left and then will participate in a second, shorter soccer camp later in the month. He is a little soccer dynamo and it is fun to see him get out there and give it his all.

M3 built herself a microphone so that she could sing along to her Phineus and Ferb cd - she was putting a lot of feeling into each song!

She also suggested we both carry our babies so that we could get the vacuuming done, since both of our babies are afraid of the vacuum.

I found out yesterday that they should have classes for me to teach in the fall and it just happened to be the deadline for getting our calendar in at daycare for August. We're trying to decide if M3 should attend both daycare and preschool in the fall or if daycare would be sufficient. I hate to take away even more home time and the logistics would be tricky. But, she has really been looking forward to this milestone and we are happy with the program that M.G. and M2 attended.

M4 has been pretending to put sunscreen on us after watching us put it on the kids.

He has started to enjoy listening to books and will bring them over to be read. He has a few favorites and will really giggle when he hears them.
He's been talking more and more and will mimic us in a sing-song long string of babble that ends in giggles.

My parents were here for the 4th of July. We had a bit of heavy rain during supper, but still were able to have s'mores and see the fireworks.

Papa and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa M and took a photo outside of the church where we had our wedding.

Every summer we slip 'n side and use the kiddie pool at Grandma and Grandpa M's. They got it all set up and then it started pouring. The kids didn't care and had fun running around in the rain while playing. 

M4 wasn't too sure, but he had some fun before he was ready to go back inside.