Friday, March 14, 2014

Rainforest Party

Whew! I learned my lesson from last year, and didn't mention Cadence's birthday party until after Christmas. She remembered before then, of course, but as long as I didn't bring it up, she didn't obssess about it. As soon as I asked her what sort of theme she wanted, she started going over the top crazy about her birthday. She even requested prayer, every night for a month-and-a-half, that her birthday party would go well, none of her friends would get sick from eating too much cake, and that the adults would help everyone arrive on time. {As a side note, James now thinks it's time for his birthday, and has requested prayer every night since HER party, that "Um, mine birthday go well." Who's willing to break it to him that his party isn't for another six months?!}
She decided she wanted a rainforest theme, with Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House books. She *needed* crocodiles, parrots, snakes, and a canoe on the Amazon River. She did research and made me read aloud all about the Amazon Rain Forest, the animals who live there, and the rainforest canopy. I made the mistake of asking her what sort of decorations we should have. Never. Again. 
"Oh, Mommy, I have a great idea! We should..."
And that's all I heard for the next month. 
A tree in the living room!
A river across the coffee table, with a crocodile who eats presents!
A vine going from the tree to the river, with a spider monkey on it!
Bats! But... what if some of my guests are scared of bats? No bats. 
A cake with a water fall and a canoe with Jack and Annie and a parrot and a crocodile!
"Mommy, I had another great idea for my birthday party! We could take streamers and wrap them all around the trampoline and cut out leaves and pain them green and put them all around the trampoline to make it look more like a rainforest. And we should get on the computer and print out all sorts of different Rainforest Animals and tape to the wall, so the guests can learn more about rainforests. And we can copy sections of my books so the other guests can read about the different parts of the rainforest and learn more even after they go home, and we can write down information from our research and hang the information on the walls for people to read and..."
I was so ready for this party to be over. 

My goal when I finally caved in and started decorating, was to let her help as much as possible. So I will note as I show pictures which things she helped with. Everything was her idea, although whether we executed things to her specifications is quite another story. 

Invitations with a monkey on a yarn vine. She tore the blue paper for water, and cut the yarn to size, as well as some gluing. The back says, "Swing on by for a party..."

The beginnings of the waterfall cake. The top layer caved in (what is with that?) but it made the perfect spot for the canoe. 

The banner - she cut the leaves from construction paper, colored the letters, and helped staple them to the ribbon. 

The animal wall - she chose all the pictures ("Look at that adorable crocodile coming out of the water Mommy, she is so CA-UTE!") and taped them to the wall. 

The gift table (a.k.a. Amazon River) with a vine leading to a tree. I saw the idea for the backdrop here, and was too tired to make it look tidy :P 
I saw the basic vine idea here. Some notes - I used grocery bags opened up, taped end to end, then rolled. Free! The kids painted it, as well as some flat opened bags. The flat bags I cut into leaf shapes. The tree is just rolled up grocery bags.

The leaves they painted, and the fruit Cadence drew, colored, and cut. What, you've never seen a tree with a strawberry, two coconuts, and an apple before?!

He eats presents!

She was quite pleased with her crocodile coming up out of the water. I let her help cut sponges into shape, then hot glued them to a piece of cardboard. The head was an outline printed on green paper - she colored his eyes, and added some extra large teeth to make it stand up better. I cut slits in the table cloth to let the ridges of his back poke through, and taped his head to the top of the cloth. 

This was supposed to be a joke - Tony asked her if she wanted a hippo eating a fish being eaten by a crocodile being carried off by bats for decorations, and of course she said yes. Then insisted he draw and color it by hand. Didn't he do great?!

The cake table. She cut the spiral snakes to dangle, and chose monkey cups for party favors. I let her pick all the paper goods from the dollar store, and she wrote multiple to-do lists and shopping lists throughout the process. Some with dots at the corners of each letter, "Just so it's fancier and makes you happy while you work Mommy." Uh. Thanks. 

The finished cake. It was actually one of the easiest I've done. It is just a rectangle cake and a single layer of a round cake, iced with green then blue icing added on (all just spread with a knife) for the river. The canoe and trees are made of chocolate. The canoe I found a tutorial for here, and the trees I saw the idea here. Be careful when using food coloring in white chocolate - it turns it a very odd texture, more like play dough really.  She found the animals and little guy (Jack) at Hobby Lobby, and wanted to use the little girl from her doll house for Annie. Works for me!

The "I'm tired, it's midnight, I want to go to bed" trampoline. I did like the sign we put up...

I think she liked it ;)

She also wrote the names of each kid on the label for their party bag, and the party favors were the cups, stickers, and pictures she drew for each cousin.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Schoolhouse Chancellor

The other day Tony walked in from work and said, "Every time I come home, it's more and more like walking into an elementary school." I had to laugh. Whatever could he be talking about? 

Maybe the character words on the mantle?

Or the good manners rules in the cafeteria dining room?

Or perhaps the plethora of things the kids have to say to get out the back door?

Or the bulletin board covered in art, science, and math papers? 

Perhaps it was the calendar on the sliding glass door that made him feel that way...

Nope, must have been the globe on the piano.

But of course, it could have been the art supplies and papers strewn all over the coffee table, or the cabinets full of construction paper, or the blocks stacked like the walls of Jericho, or the memory verse binder by the black chair, or...

Too bad we're not actually homeschooling *eyeroll*

Positive Reinforcement of Character Traits Through Coloring Cards

How was that for a long post title?!

Before I explain, let me say I saw this idea on Pinterest (I know, right?), and I cannot find the original blog! I would love to find this blog again, to give credit to the author, and because I loved what I saw and wanted to keep reading! So, if you know what I'm talking about, please leave a comment! 

Ok, onward.

We like to do a lot of positive training around here. One new thing we've started is working on one speficic character trait at a time. I print off that word in an outline format, and each time an adult catches them doing it, they get to color one letter from the word. I've been just choosing whatever they are struggling with  most, and there is no set time frame, or prize at the end - we just do it until they're finished. It has actually been working rather well. They are excited about getting recognized for their actions in a good way, and so they keep on doing it.So far we have done kind and helpful, and right now are working on obedience. 

Some rules:
1. They must be caught doing it spontaneously, just because they love the other person, not because they are trying to color a letter, and not because they were told to or reminded to. 
2. We do not in any way use these to bribe or cajole - "Don't you want to get to color a letter? You'd better start being more kind!" They just either get it or they don't, and we don't mention it at all between. We didn't start this to add a wheedling to their lives, but rather to reward them when they are good. 
3. We don't compare progress between siblings, and we don't always let both kids color just because one kid was good. This is sometimes hard, since they are used to doing everything together, but they are quickly learning that it is ok.
4. We try to make it easy to succeed, being quick to recognize any small action that would count. Especially at this age (2/5) it needs to be attainable or they will get discouraged and just not care any more.

Note: You can make any font an outline in Microsoft Word. Just Insert a WordArt, choose the outline option, and while the box is open to edit the text, change the font to the one you want.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kindergarten Enrollment and a Little Art Therapy

Last week Cadence finally got to enroll in Kindergarten. 

You know, like she’s been dying to do since she was two-and-a-half. Seriously. No exaggeration. 

It was kind of a stressful week. You see, she had known for months that the Monday after her birthday she would get to go inside her school (Finally!) and enroll for school this fall. 

Monday was a snow day.

Tuesday was a snowday.

Tuesday afternoon Cadence prayed earnestly for God to clear all the streets so they would have school on Wednesday. Thank the Lord He answered – I’m pretty sure she would have spontaneously combusted if they had cancelled school again

Now, she actually handled the delay pretty well, all things considered, for which I am grateful, since she normally has huge major issues with anticipation anxiety (hopefully more on coping with that later). But by the time we got home from the big event Wednesday, she was pretty wiped out emotionally. 

I tried having her jump on the trampoline, to try to expend some energy, but she was so tired from staying up until midnight and waking up at seven (anticipation anxiety anyone?) that she just physically couldn’t do it. So instead I busted out her new art kit and told her to draw her new school. It worked. 

I love art. Don’t you? 

She calmed right down, and was able to play and interact like a real, actual human being for the rest of the day. She even took a nap.

She was so excited to discover a crayon called – wait for it – Brick Red to color the elementary. She claimed the school as her own you see, and made me write in teeny tiny letters on the sign on the door “School Enrollment Next Week – Snow Day!”. Pretty sure she was working through a bit of tension with that one :P She really worked hard, drawing the flagpole on the right, and the column and ‘shelf’ she stood on for her picture on the left. She decided it was a sunny, summery day, and that her school needed several flowers.

Here is the finished product.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Correcting My Focus {Mama of Two Vs. Mama of Three}

Baby One
This weekend Cadence had a sleepover with her grandparents. While she was gone I felt so relaxed, so at peace. I spent time playing with the younger kids, getting down on their level, gently instructing them if they did something they weren’t supposed to. I loved it. And I suddenly realized –

I am so ready to rock this mother of two thing.


Yeah, you see the problem?

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. You see, it’s definitely not which child was gone that made the difference. Cadence is extremely easy to take care of the vast majority of the time. It’s the way I parented while one child was gone that made the difference. And let’s not even compare to the Mama I was with one…

I loved being a Mama. Quite frankly, I thought I would get bored, or frustrated. But I didn’t. And I still love being a Mama. But now I feel guilty so much of the time, like I’m not being Mama enough to them now. And I realized the other day, that’s entirely my own fault. I’m the one who changed, who shifted my focus, who decided that maintaining the same level of housekeeping / project output was more important than spending time with my munchkins. And I don’t like that it changed. So I’m going to attempt to do all the things with three that I had finally gotten used to doing with two.

Like getting down and playing with them.

And reminding them to pick up each toy before getting another one out.

And gently correcting them as they do something wrong, rather than waiting until they’ve already done it to punish them.

And doing fun activities and reading lots and lots of books – not just at bedtime – and going for walks, and playing outside, and having lots of random Bible stories acted out throughout the day.

And just, you know, putting aside all those unimportant projects, and actually paying attention to my kids, I have plenty of time in my day to do this. I just have to actually do it. Time to re-embrace this Mama thing!


"Hey, James, get off my hope chest and come here."
"No, me doing something."
Pause. Panic.
"Watcha doin'?"
"Um, me writing on bed with this marker."
Panic justified.
On the plus side, I now know exactly what I want for Christmas - a lock for the permanent marker drawer, and a new bedspread.

Cadence - "Hey, Mommy, I saw this really cool bed on Pinterest that when you lay down on the pillow it helps heal your cuts and scrapes, and like, if you have blood gushing out it will stop the blood, just "poof!" without even hurting or stinging, or waiting for the plasma to work on its own."
"Oh, that sounds really nea- wait. Where did you see this bed?!"
"You know, on Pinterest -  on my pretend iPod."
Something tells me I need to cut back on my Pinterest usage. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, ReC has been keeping us all busy with her mobility. She is fast, and quiet, and ornery, and she loves corners with sharp edges. She's also decided crawling is not good enough, and is trying (unsuccessfully) to get up on her feet. She's funny, and silly, and constantly on the go. And she. loves. food. a. lot.

I've been attempting to focus more on the kids, playing with and teaching them, rather than so much on projects and house stuff. I'm having a hard time, but I know it's important, and really it's what I want to do and enjoy doing the most. Again with the Pinterest thing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Randomness

James has been counting everything recently. Yesterday Tony asked him to find 5 trucks in a book they were reading. “One… two… three… me need 2 more!” Thinking it was a fluke, Tony asked him to find 3 trucks. “One… two… me need 1 more!” 
Hmmm. We may have a STEM kid after all. We shall see :)
After two months of getting up on her hands and knees/feet, ReC finally mastered…. Army crawling. 
She’s fast, and ornery too. It’s crazy. I’m not used to having a mobile baby. She gets into everything, and the instant I put her down in the living room she dashes under the coffee table to go sit on the tile and bang on the fireplace. And speaking of sitting, she’ll sit herself up to play with something she’s crawled over to, but she refuses to sit up if I sit her up. I’ll set her down and plop she just flops right over. 
It’s ridiculous.

Cadence meanwhile is very persistently growing up. Wednesday when Tony got home from work she dashed over to greet him, throwing out her arms and shouting, “THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WILL EVER BE FOUR!!!!!” I think he just about cried. We were planning to enroll her in kindergarten on Monday, but school was closed for a snow day. And then again today. I think she’s going to spontaneously combust from waiting. 

At devotions tonight we were singing, “Who built the ark? Noah, Noah! Who built the ark?” And Cadence jumped in with “Ham, Shem, and Japheth built the ark!”
Then she asked why we were laughing.


Meanwhile, filed neatly under "My heart can't handle this..."

I've been getting the next size of clothes out for ReC, and every outfit I pull out I think, "Oh, I remember when we did such-and-such with Cadence while she wore that outfit." It was my favorite age, and I just. I just. Can't. Humph. 

And it doesn't help that ReC learned to crawl last week, and Cadence keeps reminding us that she's enrolling for kindergarten this week.

Cadence, 20 Months                   ReC, 7 Months

Cadence, 22 Months                    ReC, 7 Months
P.S. No, ReC is not huge. She is average. Cadence was just that tiny. I never realized. Really, I had no idea.