Saturday, March 8, 2014
We completed our first week of tot school yesterday. (I'm using the term school very loosely here, Bennett is only 2.5!) Bennett asks for projects every day so I wanted to start having school time set aside three mornings a week to encourage me to foster his desire to learn. I like the tot school curriculum because it's all about learning through play.
Bennett LOVES school time. I have everything in a bin in Bennett's closet so I can easily pull things out and set up on the dining room table without having things out all the time. I also have a binder with each week in a separate sheet protector (right now I only have A, B, and C printed out).
Before starting tot school I went around the house and found items I could use - alphabet puzzles, foam letters, alphabet cards etc. and put them in ziploc bags in the bin. When we have school time I select something from the bin and get it out so he can have free play with something he doesn't play with everyday at the end of our time together.
I tried to use things I had around the house but I did buy the following:
cardstock - I print the lacing cards and puzzle then glue to cardstock and cut out (this is the super budget way to do things. I also use black and white ink)
sheet protectors - I use these to cover most of the worksheets so I can reuse them. (I had Crayola dry erase markers in our craft bin. They work really well and wipe off easily) Bennett has already gone back to a few of the worksheets and wanted to do them again.
dot paint - Incredible. I love it because he can have painting time without making a mess.
I recommend going to a dollar store and seeing what you can find there.
I would also like a laminator because I want to use a lot of this for Ainsleigh, and once I have a few weeks behind us I can set out three or four puzzles, or three to four lacing cards, and let him free play for a while.
I borrowed a few things from my mom as well. My mom was the director of a preschool for many years. She's like a walking, talking preschool ideas Pinterest board. I borrowed Unifix cubes from her and a couple other items, but the best thing she provides is her ideas. And her time. She prepped week two and three for me when she was here on Thursday, and she worked with Bennett on his school time Friday morning.
My plan is to work with Bennett three days a week on tot school and four days a week on the Before Five in a Row reading curriculum. I had to buy the Five in a Row curriculum, but if we do homeschool we will likely use Five in a Row so I want to start it now.
Spending time on tot school is giving me the opportunity to test the homeschool waters and see what I think. If I can't handle fifteen minutes three times a week with a toddler I'm not going to make it with a first grader.
We only have one week behind us, but it's been a good week. Bennett is having fun, I'm having fun, and I feel a little bit proud when he asks for school time, or repeats something he learned. I am being very careful to let Bennett lead. I don't want him to be bored, or feel like school is a forced activity. I always ask if he wants to do school time, and if it ever seems like he needs a break we'll take a week or two off.
And when I set out a number sheet and ask him to make Unifix cube towers on each number I don't stress about finishing the task. On Wednesday he hit number seven and decided that was enough so we set aside the worksheet and built tall towers while he talked about the colors he knows instead. It's all about what Bennett enjoys, which is exactly what I want to encourage and focus on.
I like tot school because it's cheap, the curriculum is free, and its focus is learning through play. I found all of the information and curriculum I needed HERE. I found THIS blog post really helpful as well.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Ideas for posts come to me all the time: when I am cooking dinner, changing diapers, looking for clothes for the kids (I really need to catch up on the laundry). The ideas pile up in my brain, but when evening (finally) rolls around I always turn to something else.
I am deep in the trenches of parenthood here. I know I only have two at home, and I know how blessed I am to have them, but I am exhausted. At church on Sunday I watched a mama in the cry room. She had five children with her, many of them young. As I observed her all I could think was, "She has two more. TWO! How in the world does she do it?!
I spend a lot of my day with Ainsleigh in the Ergo. She has finally settled in and likes being worn, but most days I wish for one crib nap - that lasts longer than ten minutes - so I can have a little break. Although the way Ains looks at me when waking from an Ergo nap is pretty wonderful.
At night Ainsleigh sleeps with us, and at some point during the night Bennett comes in with us as well. We are halfheartedly trying to convince Bennett to sleep in his own room, but he's as interested in that as he is in toilet training. Read: not at all. Although yesterday J told Bennett he could drive a car when he toilet trained so he is suddenly more interested in it. Okay, that story requires a lot more explanation, but I'm going to leave the short version because I'm tired and trying to write this before someone cries.
In the last week I've had so many conversations with friends about how overwhelming parenting is. I've witnessed tears, and eaten cake at 8 pm, and cried, and agreed that most of the time I feel like I'm not doing anything well.
I know I'm not the only one who is grateful and exhausted. Can we just take a moment and admit that we are all struggling? I want to find joy in serving my family, but sometimes it's really hard to feel happy about doing another load of laundry, or dishes.
Can we also agree that living in community would make life much easier? If someone would watch the kids for two hours every day my house would be clean, dinner would be cooked, and I wouldn't have to wonder where in the world Ainsleigh's only pair of jeans is. Of course I don't want the kids to be with someone else two hours every day, but having that time would make things a little easier. Although I would probably use the time to read, or blog, or take a shower without wondering if Ainsleigh is crying (most days, yes, she is).
I think I've been writing less because it doesn't feel as important as other things, and people, in my life. I still need it, but I don't feel as compelled to write. I'm sure some of that is exhaustion, but I think a lot of it is a shift in my priorities. I don't write when Bennett is awake, and the kid does not sleep during the day, and once evening rolls around I want to spend time with J. And around 6:30 Ains goes to sleep in my arms and there she stays until I hand her off to J or take her to bed with me.
I think I'm finally realizing that I'm not going to be a blogger. I'm not going to make money from it. I'm not going to advertise, or do giveaways, or seek ways to promote my blog. I don't care enough to put forth the effort. I just don't. I don't care about Twitter, or branding, or finding a niche, or blog conferences, or growing my stats. I just want to write when I feel like it. (And I am so grateful that there are people who read what I write when I manage to sit down and do it.)
When I write what I really want to convey about my life is this: I love my children - all three of them - my family - immediate, extended, not related but part of my tribe - and Jesus. I want to keep this writing space because I want to, not because I want to generate something. So I'm letting go of that little dream; that idea of being a blogger. This is not a goodbye, or a break, or anything close to that. I've just been thinking about my priorities a lot, and I wanted to write some of my thoughts down. And I want to be honest about where my heart is so that I can look back and see where I am at in this season of my life.
It's actually really difficult for me to set that dream down. I feel as if my accomplishments are few, but the Lord has been encouraging me to see what I am doing - raising little people - as important and worthy.
I'll write, of course I'll write, but when it comes to striving I quit. I'm not going to write because it's been a few days and if I don't write people might stop following me ... I'm setting all of those worries down, and letting this be what it originally was: a place to write about my life.
Someday life will be about me, but for now it's about them.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I need to say two things before we start:
a) by biblical parenting I do not mean "spare the rod ..." etc. If you are gearing up for a spanking/anti-spanking lecture you won't find it here. And I don't want to find it in the comments.
b) we all parent differently. This post is a little bit about what I am doing right now, and the resources that are helping me.
I've been at a complete loss on how to effectively discipline Bennett for a while. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, but the things I did do either didn't work, or weren't very effective.
A few weeks ago I began looking into gentle discipline, or grace-based discipline. I wanted to read some parenting books from a biblical perspective, but the books that are common in the parenting circles I run in (also, the church) made me a little - and in some cases a lot - uncomfortable. Now if you are my friend and reading this don't get offended. I am not judging you, or your parenting, or the way you choose to discipline. The books made me uncomfortable.
Then I found Pastor Crystal Lutton's book Biblical Parenting. It is SO good. And short. Short is good when you are a parent and have very little time to read. Pastor Lutton writes on the subject of grace-based parenting, and how to parent kindly and gently without being permissive. She also breaks down the rod verses and what they really mean, which was really interesting.
Pastor Lutton explains the idea of grace-based parenting as such: "Punishment creates the illusion of a lesson learned by demanding results while Grace-Based discipline teaches the lessons and trusts that when they are learned the results will be present."
I've been spending way too much time trying to control Bennett's behavior. Pastor Lutton's method is all about teaching children self-control, because it is impossible to control someone else's behavior.
My attitude and parenting methods have changed immensely in the last few days. And Bennett is responding really well. We went to Target today and he was able to walk next to the cart the entire time. Usually he starts out walking, but I end up putting him in the cart because he is all over the place. I feel a little silly saying, "You need to stop ...." all the time, but it works. At Target he saw a huge display of colored vases and charged towards them (what kid can resist that?!). All I said was, "Bennett, you need to stop yourself from touching the vases." That's it. One simple sentence. He didn't touch them. He stood very, very close. He stretched his hand out. Then he stopped.
When that sentence doesn't work - and there are many moments when it doesn't - there are more steps to follow. I love this book because it's all about teaching my children to love Jesus through my actions. Pastor Lutton also presents the idea of a window, which I can't even begin to explain, but it's really helped me know how to handle different situations that come up throughout the day. This is one passage from the window chapter that I just love:
"As a parent you will need to act both as authority and servent, but choosing which way is to take priority will depend upon the age of your child and what you are trying to accomplish ... A servant is kind. An authority is firm. As a parent you must be both, but sometimes you need to emphasize kindness and other times you need to be firmer. One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is determining which role you should be in."
Implementing this kind of parenting has required so much prayer and patience. I could feel myself wanting to yell when Bennett walked out of his room starkers this afternoon and peed all over the floor, but I kept my calm and was able to recognize he was seeking attention/trying to get out of rest time.
The days have felt so long lately. I am very tired and overwhelmed, but I've managed to stay calm and use the new methods I've learned. There is so much wisdom in Pastor Lutton's book. I've been reading Two Thousand Kisses a Day by L.R. Knost as well. And I use a little bit from the Love and Logic books too. I want to read Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson as well.
I recommend taking a look at gentle parenting, whether you are a believer in Christ or not. I like the idea of being able to guide Bennett within a set of boundaries I am comfortable with. I love finding books that encourage faith based discipline without the pro-spanking chapters. I like that Pastor Lutton emphasizes the parent as authority, but encourages kindness and empathy as well. I think I've done a poor job of considering Bennett's feelings in many situations, but I think we can get to a better place with the tools I am acquiring.
I don't know everything about parenting (who does), but I do know there's no way I could do this gentle parent thing without the power of Jesus. I've finally found books and resources that make sense to me. And now I am going to take a break and head out with friends. Today has been incredibly rewarding - the Target run - and incredibly frustrating - the absolute refusal to leave clothes and a diaper on. Dessert and girl time is in my near future and I. can't. wait.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Jon and I took a class on herbal antibiotics this morning at the birth center where Charlotte was born.
I hesitate to write about that place because my words have been twisted, my motivations criticized, my intentions questioned. All I can say, over and over and over, is that we acted with love.
I believed wholeheartedly that was where we were to go. You don't choose to birth out of hospital because you want the easiest route. I still believe the hand of God guided us there. We see a singular event, but He sees the whole map and He is the creator of that map. I choose to trust the hands that made me, even when it's so dark I can't imagine day will come again.
Through our decisions lives were altered. I hate the shameful pall that hangs over Charlotte's birth; that heavy, awkward burden I carry. I exhort others to lay down their guilt, but I can't shake mine. Nearly four years after Charlotte died people hear her story and experience heart and life changes. I believe that's why she was born.
As I sat in the kitchen of the house where Charlotte was born I took notes, I listened, I learned, and I felt the weight of what happened to us. The heaviness and darkness of trauma. The dreams we left in that place.
I'm still angry I didn't get to experience the postpartum haven I expected. During the class a stack of wooden trays on top of the refrigerator caught my eye and I found a well of bitterness in my soul. I ate breakfast off one of those trays mere hours before Charlotte died.
I wanted lunch and dinner too. I wanted a baby who lived more than an hour. I wanted her life - her dreams, her hopes and her sorrows. I wanted more. I hate that some believe I could have had more; that I chose death for my daughter out of selfishness and naivete.
Things that I read, words that were said to my face, condemnations that were whispered when my back was turned are etched in my heart. When I can't sleep I run my hands over the carvings and defend myself. I don't know if that need to defend and protest will ever go away because the markings are deep and I visit them often.
Though there is trauma in that place there is comfort as well. The walls hold the echos of Charlotte's first heartbeat. The wood floors supported my pacing feet as I labored. I learned a lot in that house. I became a mother there. A mother. Then a grieving mother. But first, a mother.
And as the days lengthen and winter unfurls into spring I hope this birthday will be easier than the last. I hope for kindness and the relief of having space to remember without accusation and criticism pulling me to a darker place. I want to celebrate Charlotte's life this year. I want to find joy in who she briefly was. I want to pry the negative words from my heart so something positive can take root and begin to grow. I believe there is light everywhere, even in death, and this year I want to seek it out.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
It took me somewhere in the range of nine months to figure out how to make a good gluten and corn free tortilla. Of course it's free of nuts, dairy and eggs as well. I've had the basic recipe for a long time. I got it HERE. But I couldn't make it work perfectly for me. The dough was sticky. The dough fell apart. The dough worked, but the taste was mediocre, or downright awful. I threw away entire batches. I got mad. I got frustrated. And then I figured it out.
The only flour that I have had success with is the perfect flour blend from Namaste Foods. I buy it at Costco. Now, I can't figure out how to make anything else with this flour, but it makes a mean tortilla.
So Namaste flour plus the rest of the ingredients - minus xanthan gum because it's in the flour blend & I use coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar - is the magic mix. The tortillas come out pretty small. Next round I think I'll double the batch so we can have bigger tacos.
Form into balls, roll out on parchment paper (use a little brown rice flour if dough sticks to roller) use a bowl to make each tortilla into a perfect little circle, and warm over medium heat until it's as done as you like it.
We can finally have tacos again. And elephant ears. I can't wait to try this out with butter (or ghee) and cinnamon sugar.
I'll leave you with a picture of Ains, who shouted at me the entire time I worked on the tortillas. Her new nickname is Queen Squawkers. She is going to love that when she's a little older. It's almost as good as Grumpy Bear. Maybe we should combine it - Queen Squawkers Grumpy Bear. Now that's a nickname.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
I was folding laundry when it happened. Fold, stack, check the kids, fold, stack, check the kids, fold, stack, check the kids, pause. Bennett is building towers while Ainsleigh kicks around on the floor. Between them is a space, a little bit of floor where their sister should be.
I spend my days caring for babies, keeping house, running errands, and helping our family function. Underneath the minutiae of the day to day is the constant feeling that something is off. The world is off kilter, forever tilted a few degrees south of what I expected and hoped for.
It is darkest winter here. The weather is unforgiving. Snow storms followed by rain storms. Days of staying at home and watching the toddler climb the furniture and ricochet off the walls stacking up and toppling over with a sudden crash that leaves us all uneasy and on edge.
This is a valley. I recognize it. The balance of the house is off. Sadness and grief seep from the walls. I write less. I read less. When the kids go to bed I sink into the couch and turn on the television. It's in the valleys, in the weeks - months even - when the voice that insists someone is missing becomes impossible to ignore. It's amazing that a little girl who hardly cried has left a space that roars.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
I can hear Bennett talking to J in the kitchen. He is detailing his day, which was very eventful.
"Daddy the firemen come to see me. They did. About the crackers. The firemen tell me not to eat the crackers ..."
While I was at the specialty hospital this morning having Ainsleigh's eyes looked at (all is well) Bennett was at my mom's with my sister and her kids. When my sister stepped out of the room my three-year-old niece opened the pantry door, got down the goldfish crackers, and handed out snacks to everyone.
My sister wasn't sure if Bennett ate anything, but his lip began swelling and his breathing changed so she called 911. The paramedics and firemen spent thirty minutes at the house monitoring Bennett. By that time I was on my way home so they left with instructions to watch him closely for the rest of the day. Bennett is not allergic to wheat - he's intolerant, but not allergic - but my sister was very proactive about calling and making sure someone with medical knowledge and equipment was in the house just in case the situation worsened.
It's so hard for me to stay calm when things like this happen. I know he was in good hands. He was probably in better hands with my sister than me honestly. My sister is very good in terrifying situations, especially if the terrifying situation has anything to do with blood, or hospitals, or paramedics.
I worry about taking Bennett places and after a day like this it's hard for me to resist putting him in a bubble and keeping him with me at all times. Every birthday party is a minefield. Everywhere we go there are foods that can make him sick. A couple weeks ago we walked into an Asian restaurant. I stopped in my tracks in the doorway and looked at J. "Peanut sauce!" I said. Peanut sauce and eggs! It's everywhere!" We haven't gone to a Chinese, Thai or Asian restaurant in two years because the risk is too high. When the restaurant was suggested we thought it sounded good because we hadn't gone in so long. I didn't realize why we had avoided those types of restaurants until we walked in the door.
I try to be calm about Bennett's food allergies. I do my best to be relaxed because I know his allergies are inconvenient, but I have to keep him safe. I can't explain the feeling in my stomach when a mom pulls out a bag of snacks at the park or coffee shop. I live with so much fear, but I don't want to pass that on to Bennett. And I don't want him to feel like there's something wrong with him.
I know I've written about Bennett's food allergies and my concerns, but it's a constant element in our lives. There's so many things we can't do because of potential hazards. Tomorrow night our church is providing child care so parents can spend time together for Valentine's Day. It sounds like a great event, but they will be serving pizza and Bennett is too young for me to put him in a situation like that.
When Ainsleigh was first diagnosed I was talking to our pediatrician about how I was coping. When I told her I felt overwhelmed she said, "Ainsleigh's issues are really intense right now, but in the long run they will be easier to manage than Bennett's food allergies."
You know what? I agree.
I'm tired of spending so much time thinking about food, packing food, looking out for potential food hazards and creating an environment that makes Bennett feel normal while keeping him safe.
I know I'm going to receive comments about living with food allergies, how it's manageable and everything will be fine, but I honestly don't want to hear it tonight. Tonight all I can think about is my baby boy and what he went through today.