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Samantha Loewen

Samantha Loewen

Wednesday, 01 January 2014 07:00

Resolutions

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Last year, I set out the following New Year's Resolutions, and this is approximately how that went for me...

1. Spend more daily time with God. I've actually been better with this one, but more recently than earlier in the year - and I had completely forgotten about this resolution. 

2. Don't gain weight. Success again - I seem to be quite thoroughly rooted at my current weight. I had also wanted to possibly lose some of my belly flab, but that didn't happen.

3. Write a novel. That's what I said. I've got 25 pages or so down. Fail.

4. Get out more. Clara's been going to occasional playdates, and was enrolled in gymnastics in September which gets us out every Thursday morning. Clara loves her gymnastics class, and I love socializing with the other Moms. This has been a great thing. 

5. Make more money. I have no idea if I've made more money, and I no longer care. We have more than enough to pay our bills, so seeking anything more than that is not something I'm going to do. I may decide to start making money blogging (I keep saying this...) but I think I've decided to give away anything I would make through blogging anyway, and I've been kind of a flake lately on this blog - which has actually been a nice break.  I appreciate not feeling as though I HAVE to have a blog post up in a certain amount of time. If I feel overwhelmed with life, I don't need to blog and I want to keep it that way and just blog because I want to, and not because I have to. 

So, because writing a list of resolutions is essentially writing a list of things to do in the next year, and I love to make lists, so I'll do it again this year...

1. Prioritize my time with God. Lately, I've been really enjoying my time reading the Bible and God has been teaching me so much. I know that my walk with God ebbs and flows, and it won't always be so easy, but I want to keep my time with God a priority through the following year. No specifics really, just spend time daily with God. 

2. Regarding my health - I need to start making an effort. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Evidently I don't care enough about my 'weight' or what I look like to make a change in my habits, but I'm starting to notice some scary things. If I eat too much sugar at once (about one can of pop), I notice myself feeling an odd sort of shaky - almost sick.  I have diabetes all over my family, and I know I'm at high risk for it. I suspect I'm walking a fine line. Also, for the last few months, I've woken up almost every morning unable to feel my hands because they are completely numb. Bad circulation can lead to heart attacks, etc. and I really don't want to leave my daughters without a Mom until they are at LEAST my age - hopefully much, much older. Many things are out of my control, but I need to start taking better care of myself - if I die of a heart attack or diabetes complications, it could totally be my fault, and I don't want my daughters to think they weren't important enough to me to try.

3. Spend time by myself. Whenever I finally have an hour to spend all alone I don't even know what to do with myself and so the time is usually not very productive. It's happened only once - maybe twice - last year that I was able to escape to a coffee shop to be by myself and spend time blogging, writing, or doing what I wanted to do. This year, I want to get away at least twice a month to spend time doing something that doesn't involve meal planning, house cleaning, or child raising. I need at least a little bit of time for me - to be me. I can work on my novel during these times, but this time - no pressure!

4. Figure out school. I'm on the fence about how to handle my children's education - leaning strongly towards homeschooling. We have so many options here: Public School, Catholic School, Private School, and Homeschooling.  Growing up I really only had one option - living in a small town with a single parent - and I kind of wish my choices were that simple. I've been making all kinds of pro and con lists, and I just keep landing on homeschooling as being the best option for us, and so I need to figure out what this looks like - and start schooling Clara in September. By this time next year, Clara needs to be partway into a preschool curriculum somewhere!

5. Spend one-on-one time with each member of my family. Brian and I talked about having Daddy-daughter and Mommy-daughter date days, and we haven't started doing this, but there's no reason we couldn't. I want to start doing this, as well as making sure that Brian and I find time at least once a month to go out together alone.

Well, that's that. Wish me luck this year. Good luck to all of you on your New Year's Resolutions! 

Sunday, 29 December 2013 19:41

Christmas Chaos

Last week, our 'Christmas' began on Sunday afternoon and ended on Saturday evening (yesterday).  For those of you counting, that's seven straight days of Christmas for our little family.  Actually, December 27th was our one 'free' day last week, but after the five days previous to it, it felt like a lot of catching up. 

When I was a child, I loved the craziness of Christmas. I loved the go-go-go of daily family gatherings. I loved the treats that were everywhere that we didn't usually get every day, and of course I loved the gifts! I loved Christmas concerts, dressing up and spending time with family who only came to visit once or twice a year - usually on Christmas. 

I have to admit that I still love all of those things... but it's different as an adult. There's a lot more work involved.

When I was a kid, it was my parents who 'footed the bill' for most of Christmas - and spoiled us rotton. Now, I'm the one doing the spoiling - spending too much money, and worrying about where it will all come from.  It was my parents and grandparents who spent time cooking and baking to supply all of the wonderful meals and treats that were spread around everywhere all season long. Now, I'm volunteering for a lot of the cooking and baking also and although there are few things I love more than spending time in my kitchen - even before the reno - and I don't begrudge it for a second, it adds extra pressure to the holidays. 

For the next  few years, when we come home from a family gathering, it will be Brian and I who are cleaning up from the inevitable chaos of that morning's breakfast dishes and wrapping mess that we rapidly created before rushing away for the day - probably much later than planned.  We will be finding homes for our gifts, as well as any gifts given to our daughters who are too young to understand yet that the middle of the kitchen table is probably not the best home for their new Magna Doodles. We will stay up until much too late trying to get the girls to finally sleep, and then when we are certain they can no longer be awoken by the noise of dishes clanging together we will clean up the kitchen and our wrapping mess to be ready for the same thing again the next day. Then, we will collapse onto the couch in front of the TV and spend the next two hours (probably all of which will occur after midnight) letting Netflix entertain us.  Despite their late nights, the girls will wake us at the same time each morning - probably only a few hours after we have finally fallen asleep ourselves and we will zombie through the holidays on much too little sleep. 

But it won't always be this way. 

It won't be long until the girls are able to make - and clean - their own breakfast mess, help with gift wrapping for each other and grandparents, and find homes for their own Christmas haul.  In just a few years it will no longer be quite the problem it is now if they choose to stay up until after midnight talking, reading, or playing with their toys. Soon we will be staying up late to watch Christmas movies together. 

This year the girls were too young to be able to deal with the excitement of Christmas, and it manifested itself in too little sleep and sometimes very grouchy little girls. Soon they will relish the excitement, and maybe - like I did - they will thrive on the constant upheaval and change of a busy holiday season.  I'm looking forward to really loving the crazy again and not just being exhausted by it. It will come.  

Friday, 20 December 2013 09:43

Dreaming of a Time When My Children Slept

There was a time, that feels like many months ago, when both of my daughters fell asleep shortly after bedtime and slept peacefully in their beds all night long. It was a beautiful time, and I took it for granted...

Yes, I creeped into their room to take these photos. It felt kind of wrong, but they're just so darn cute when they sleep...

If you can catch them sleeping, which it seems as though they never do these days.

How do you get two little girls - aged one and three, who share a room with no real options to separate them - to sleep? 

It started shortly before we took away Clara's soother (so I guess I can't blame her lack of soother, although I still kind of suspect it's related), that we would put the girls to bed and instead of giggling at each other breifly and falling asleep - they began to party for two hours or more. Seriously, two hours or more - we would put them to bed at around 8pm and by 10:30pm they might finally be sleeping. 

It kind of snuck up on us, because at first we thought the giggling together was cute, and that they were bonding as sisters and we didn't want to discourage that. I loved that they enjoyed this time together. But soon 5 minutes became 15 minutes, and suddenly they were becoming so worked up with each other that the giggling - and occasional crying, because I think they just couldn't handle the excitement - began to last an unbelievable amount of time. 

We also noticed - quite suddenly - the effect that not getting enough sleep was having on Clara. We began to see a toddler who was pretty much whiny and tantruming all day long. Ever seen that Gilmore Girls' episode where Chris drops his 3-year-old Gigi off for Lorelai to babysit, and the child is a terror? That was Clara for a few days, except Clara doesn't actively get into stuff as much as she cries, whines, begs and talks back. Then one night - miraculously - Clara slept for a full 12 hours overnight. The next day she became the most beautiful little girl. She played alone happily for long periods of time, and played happily with Audrey and me without grabbing toys or demanding that things go her way.  We had a few minor incidents, sure, but nothing that lasted and she was happy to comply with almost everything all day long. I hadn't realized how much difference a few hours of sleep could make in her life. 

At first we didn't really know what to do about it - and we just dealt with it in the moment, instead of trying to solve the problem. If Audrey wouldn't sleep, we would try to figure out why by giving her more milk, changing her diaper, letting her play longer... and suddenly she was staying up later and sleeping in longer, and keeping her sister awake at night also.  We were frustrated, because we didn't want to start disciplining Audrey for laughing - how do you explain that to a baby?

One night, we decided to just let them be and 'see what happened'.  Thinking, that if we didn't jump in to try to 'fix' the problem, that the girls would find an equilibrium and fall asleep on their own.

Were we ever wrong. 

At 10pm we went into their room and Clara was jumping on the bed - completely naked - and Audrey was hyperactively bouncing in her crib and cackling maniacally. It was a little bit terrifying, and we realized that letting children raise themselves was probably not a good option... unless, of course, we intended them to become wild animals which is the direction they seemed to be going. 

Nanny McPhee... we NEED you!

Now that Clara's behaviour had evolved into what was clearly unacceptable behaviour - she had gone from simply giggling to jumping on the bed and taking her clothes off, and THAT we could discipline her for - we gave her a warning and then stood by her bedroom door until she began to jump on the bed again. As warned, she was disciplined, and then I stood by her door, intermittently entering her room to catch her misbehaviour until she gave up and fell asleep after only about 10 minutes of struggle. 

The next night, we decided to take this approach from the beginning - and start to actively be parents.  

We got out the Scrabble game and sat at the kitchen table (just a few feet from their bedroom door) and quietly played a game while taking turns going into their room to discipline Clara for misbehaviour.  In the process of this, to try to help Audrey learn what is appropriate night-time behaviour also, we would lay her back down in her crib if she was standing, give her back her soother if she had thrown it on the ground, and tell both girls to be quiet, and that it is bedtime.  

On one of the first few times I entered the room and saw Audrey standing, upon saying 'No, Audrey... it's time to sleep', she threw herself down in her crib as though pretending to sleep. ("No really, Mom, I was sleeping the whole time!") And I realized that she understood that she was supposed to remain lying down also.  From this point, I gave her a warning also - I told her to remain lying down, and not to throw her soother on the ground. 

After about an hour of hovering by their bedroom door, both girls had finally given up - Clara much sooner than Audrey - and fallen asleep. 

We are now ready for a few more nights of evening battles - hopefully they will decrease in length over the next few days - and we hope and pray that they will have relearned how to quickly fall asleep at bedtime. 

So now, if someone were to ask me how to get two kids to sleep in the same room - and actually fall asleep at bedtime? My advice would be to NOT ignore the situation, and to be consistent and stubborn - hold out longer than they do.  Our purpose now is to make sure that staying awake at bedtime isn't fun for them anymore (which is sad for me, but necessary for them). 

Do you have any ideas for us, or any other families that might be experiencing this also? 

It's not every day that Cinderella walks through our front door, but here she is, stopping by to pick up the soother for Snow White's baby... I should maybe back up a little...

Months ago, when we had lessened Clara's soother usage to only while she was in bed - and when we wanted her to sleep in the car - we informed her that when she turned 3 years old, she would no longer get to have her soother at all.  This was in the far distant future, and since she no longer had her soother in her mouth when she was out in public or even most of the time at home, we didn't think it really mattered to let her keep it under her pillow for awhile longer.

Now, typically, I'm a fan of getting rid of 'baby habits' (things that you don't want your kids doing when they start school like being in diapers, drinking from a bottle, using a soother, etc.) as soon as possible because the longer a child has these habits, the more difficult they can be to 'wean' from.  I also typically have the mentality that 'if you have to do it eventually - you might as well get it over with'.  So, I would not probably have allowed Clara to use a soother up until her 3rd Birthday if she hadn't become a big sister at under 2 years old, which meant she was moved to a toddler bed at about 19 months and was toilet trained at 22 months. Since so much changed for her in such a small time, and she was so dependent on her 'gummy', I allowed her the small indulgence of keeping it for awhile longer.

Shortly after the agreement to remove the soother at 3 years was made, she experienced a few things that made us a bit lazy about the whole thing. She became quite sick at one point, and since she was almost always nearly sleeping - we let her keep her 'gummy' while she was sick. Then, it became a means of comfort for her if anything in our life was amiss - such as a huge renovation - and over summer we went on a couple of trips with at least nap-length drives and so she seemed to be using her soother more and more. As she had it more and more, she began to try to keep it in her mouth more and more - even when we had no 'good' excuse for her to have it.  For a week, I tried to stay strong about the 'only in bed' rule, but Clara's determination won over when she decided to then spend every waking moment in bed. I suddenly had a toddler who would spend more than half of her day in bed - lacking energy or joy - because she didn't want to be without her gummy.  Since I had already made the promise to take it away when she was 3, I didn't feel like it would be fair to take it away sooner. 

So, I gave up. I let her have it all the time. Her 3rd Birthday was only a couple of months away, and I decided it would be easier to end her dependence cold turkey. 

As her Birthday neared, we continued to remind her of this promise.  She knew the story, and when we asked what would happen when she turned 3 she would recite "I won't get my gummy ANY MORE!".  But this statement didn't bother her at all until a few days ago, when we began counting sleeps. She started to avoid the subject, and when we were down to two days, she started seeming visibly stressed.  I knew we couldn't back down, so I tried to think of ways to make the transition somehow easier for her.

I recalled hearing about something that Disney would do in a circumstance like this - where you could write a letter to your favourite princess, and she would write a letter back.  I heard about this being used somehow in the context of a child 'growing out of' something, but I couldn't quite figure out what the letter would accomplish. Would it be simply congratulatory? Would it be a deal made between princess and child? Also, I was skeptical that it would work - a letter in the mail? How real could that seem to a 3 year old?

Anyway, her birthday snuck up on me anyway and in the end I wouldn't have had time to contact Disney.

This brings me to the morning of December 10 (the day before her birthday) when I decided to tell her this story to go along with the gummy-taking event. I wanted to give her some reason to WANT to go along with it:

       Clara, when you are 3, you can finally be a REAL princess. But princesses can't have gummy's, so you can't have your gummy any more.

She seemed happy enough with this story, and then I overheard her repeating it. "When I'm 3, I'm not going to have my gummy any more - and a REAL PRINCESS is going to come!!"

I quickly jumped in to explain that a princess wasn't going to come, but that she would BE a real princess - but as I was explaining this, I realized that I could probably make a real princess come after all...

A nearby business in our city, called Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo that hosts birthday parties - complete with Disney princesses - or you can hire a princess to come to your home if you are having an at-home birthday.  When Clara was watching her afternoon quiet-time TV, I called them up and asked for what may have been an unorthodox favour - would they be willing to send a princess (Cinderella) to our house to talk to Clara in person and to take away her soother? I was extremely flexible on the time, so we were able to work out some time in the afternoon. 

Clara knew nothing of this plan until the next morning when I told her that Cinderella would be coming to take the soother for another baby somewhere who needs it. Clara was animatedly playing with her small plastic princess figurines, and she suddenly seemed very stressed about this situation. 

"No! Cinderella can't take the gummy! Snow White needs it!"

So I asked Clara if Snow White had had a baby, and when Clara nodded, I explained that Cinderella was going to come and get the soother for Snow White's baby. We continued to play with the figurines, and I suspect she didn't actually think Cinderella was going to come...

But she did! At 12:30pm, Cinderella walked through the door.  Clara reacted with a bit of awe, confusion and excitement.  She ran from Cinderella to Brian and back a few times over, exclaiming randomly that 'That's Cinderella!!'.  

Cinderella gave Clara a gift that the mice had made for her...

Her very own Cinderella ball gown! (That we had purchased at Target a few days earlier, and I had set it in the closet and told the woman at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo where 'Cinderella' could find it)

Cinderella then told Clara that she could stay for a little while, and so Clara got out her Disney story book and immediately had Cinderella read Cinderella to Cinderella.  As she read, Clara would point to the pages at the cartoon Cinderella and say 'That's ME!!! And You!!! We're BOTH Cinderellas!!!'

I informed Clara that she could take Cinderella downstairs to play with all of her toys, but I don't think she was a little bit afraid that if she dared move that Cinderella might disappear.  She said 'No! I want to stay right here!'  I felt bad for the older Cinderella, since 'right here' was basically at the front door where she walked in, but no one complained.

After reading Cinderella at least once, and I also heard Alice and Wonderland being read, the Cinderella's began to play in other spaces of our (new) main room. They played with the princess figurines on the living room floor, and then the 'real' Cinderella painted Clara's nails. I think Clara was in heaven. 

Of course I made them pose...

And they each had one of Clara's birthday cupcakes. Cinderella stayed longer than I paid her for, taking time from school to be with Clara. I am so unbelievably grateful that this worked out, and for this teenage girl who took time out of her day to spend time with a 3-year-old. I can't imagine how magical it must have seemed to Clara to see her hero in person, and be able to spend one-on-one playtime with her! 

It was a fairy tale dream come true! 

I was going to post about how her first gummy-free day had gone, but I'm already at 1500 words and I'm sure we don't have any idea how Clara's first few gummy-free days will be, and after a few days I'm sure I will have more to tell. So, for another post... 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 06:35

Reminiscing

Have you seen those Gilmore Girls episodes where Lorelai crawls into Rory's bed at 4am and starts reminiscing about the night Rory was born?

"It's so hard to believe that exactly this time, many moons ago... I was lying in exactly the same position (Rory: Oh, boy... here we go...) Only I had a huge fat stomach, and big fat ankles and I was swearing like a sailor..."

Anyway, I understand the sentiment.  I love reading over the girls' birth stories on the eve of their Birthday - remembering how tiny and new they were, and how I felt as a Mom.  In Clara's story, I felt insecure and afraid, and completely in awe of this little person who had lived inside my body for such a long time before I was finally able to see her face. 

I started pushing at 6:30am on Saturday morning, December 11, 2010 - and at 6:36am, Clara's first tiny cries filled the delivery room. She was just under 8lbs, covered in slime, and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I had no clue what my life was about to become - I doubt any new parent really does - but I knew that I had changed in some huge way, and would never again be the same. 

Today, my oldest daughter turns 3. 

My Dear, Dear Clara,

I can't quite define how or why, but you continuously seem more coherent, more perceptive and articulate, and more complex as an individual.  You voice thoughts that come from nowhere but your own head, and play games that no one else has taught you. You understand our grown-up explanations for things more and more, and despite the fact that you are increasingly headstrong and often difficult, you are also becoming much easier to relate to and communicate with. 

Your favourite movies these days are Mamma Mia - for the music, and a cartoon Jesus movie that I bought in a Walmart bin for $5 - I think you intrigued by - and able to recognize - the spiritual depth of the story.  Of course you are still in love with Barney the purple dinosaur and Thomas the Train - and do not, ever forget Cinderella - but you are beginning to 'get' more and more on an adult scale. 

You are also repeating everything you hear, which means I need to seriously censor what I say...

You have grown more as a person this year than any previous year, and I know that technically people change more in their first year of life than in any other year, but I really feel as though this year is the year you have changed the most. 

You are beautiful and independent, stubborn (I say that lovingly) and intelligent. I am in love with - and terrified by - the person you are becoming. I fear that as a mother I will fail at guiding your many personality traits in positive directions, and that some of your gifts may go unnurtured by my lack of focus.  I am excited, however, in all of the traits I see in you that are so much like me - because you have one thing that I lacked: a Mom. Many of my failings and childhood issues came from my insecurity as someone who was not quite sure of my place in this world. In that way - you will not be the same. Despite my failings, I trust and pray that my simply being here - and loving you endlessly - will help you to blossom and excel. Despite my failings, I know that it matters that I am simply here.

I love you. Despite how much you drive me crazy - particularly lately since you've discovered that yelling louder will ensure that you are noticed - I love you immensely. I'm excited for all of the years I pray we will have together, and I'm so looking forward to getting to know you better - even as you get to know yourself better. 

Cheers - to you, and to (I hope) many more birthdays, dear girl! 

Love,Mom

 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 16:01

I'm Not Ready for This...

Last week, I began noticing a terrifying pattern...

This little goose egg began to stay awake at night for up to two hours. The first night we were confused. She cried when we put her to bed at the usual 8pm, but she was changed and fed, and we made sure she wasn't too cold or too hot. We typically try to encourage sleeptime for the girls by not indulging their excitement and letting them stay up 'just for fun', so we did everything we could to figure out her issue without picking her up.

Finally, we picked her up. Tears stopped instantly, and she happily pointed to the door. As in "Take me THAT way, now!"

After a few minutes of listening to her happily chatter, and double checking her to make sure nothing was wrong, we put her back into her crib - only to have her melt down again.

Still confused, since Audrey is not typically one to challenge bedtime, we gave up and let her stay up with us. We let her play in the room while we watched our evening TV show. She again seemed completely happy and just played until about 10pm when she started seeming sleepy again. When we finally wanted to go to bed ourselves, we brought her back into her room and this time she fell asleep almost instantly.

I think the next night was better, but the night after that we had the same situation on our hands. Then, after the third sleepless evening, we began to fear that this pattern was indicative of Audrey's naptime nearing an end. I am not ready for this...

After those few days last week, we have held onto our hope that Audrey still requires a nap, and she has napped - and fallen asleep for bedtime at 8pm - successfully all of this week. Maybe it was just a phase - maybe part of a growth spurt, since we have noticed that she has begun to eat triple what she ate before - and hopefully this won't happen again for a very - VERY - long time. 

I did a bit of research ('Yahoo Voices', Daily Mom) looking for a list of signs that your child may be done napping.  I used these websites, plus came up with a few ideas of my own, regarding what to look for when your child seems to be growing out of naps.  They include: 

  • Nap Resistance - when your child starts fighting naps, it may not be an indication that naptime is over because some kids are way too excited about life to want to slow down and sleep - but it could be, so look out!
  • Naptime = Playtime - when your child starts playing throughout their naptime instead of actually napping... again, this could be a phase or a sign that their bedroom/crib has too much stimulation, but it could also mean your child is ready to let go of naptime.
  • Early Mornings - when your child is napping, but the hours seem to be coming off their usual nighttime schedule, it may be time to rework the hours into their overnight schedule. 
  • Late nights - Same as having sudden early mornings, having sudden late nights could mean your child no longer needs the extra daytime sleep.  This is what we saw with Clara - she suddenly had trouble falling asleep until about 2 hours after bedtime, which was the typical duration of her afternoon nap. 
  • No More Cranky! - When your child is no longer cranky during the time they would usually be napping, they may no longer need one.  You may discover this on a busy day when you just don't have an opportunity to let your child take a nap at their usual time - or you may notice their nap getting later and later with no repurcussions. 
  • More Crankiness - I don't know what the medical reason for this might be, except to say that when your schedule is 'off', you might act 'off' too.  We saw this with Clara. She became increasingly lethargic and 'bored' seeming, and when we started skipping her naptime and just offering a 'quiet time' she became a much happier little girl. 

I think this is one of those things that each family will interpret differently - some families may prefer late nights to losing that afternoon quiet time for awhile, while some families will be happy to no longer need to work naps into their schedule.  The important thing to remember is that kids (and adults, actually) need a certain amount of sleep and although some people need less than others, the typical number for a 2-4 year old is about 12 hours at least.  If your child is ditching their nap - make sure they are still getting the amount of sleep that their body needs! 

With Clara, we didn't experience all of these signs. In fact, she initially started wanting her nap MORE than before, and we struggled to keep her awake sometimes because we knew that a nap in the afternoon would mean she wouldn't sleep at night until as late as 11pm or even midnight.  She would still wake up at about 8am, however, and then be grouchy and sullen all day long.  As a whole, she became a much happier child after we ditched her naps completely.

In their place, however, because she still needed a bit of time to wind down at what used to be her naptime, and because she now had a baby sister who was regularly napping at that time, we gave her a 'quiet time' where she is allowed to watch movies or play quietly. So, I get my quiet time to blog (not lately, of course, but it'll happen again...) or whatever, and she is less likely to wake up Audrey either.

Now that Audrey is back into napping regularly, I am momentarily relieved - I hope not to revisit this for many months - maybe even years!

How did you know when your child was ready to ditch their nap? 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 13:29

Construction Kids and Living in Chaos

The past month has taught me how beautifully adaptable kids can be.  We have been in the midst of renovation chaos, and the girls have been rolling with the punches. The other day while I was working on something upstairs, Brian was putting together some of the kitchen cabinets in the basement while he was watching the girls. 

They decided to help...

"Here, Clara, I'll hold this together while you attach that thingy-ma-bob"

It's possible they were just playing... When I was about Clara's age, my Dad built the house I grew up in. I distinctly remember coming to the construction site with my blue squeaky rubber hammer and 'helping' to nail in some baseboards. It's funny, because I clearly remember that it was a rubber hammer I was using and yet I believed for years that I had actually helped build that house. It will be interesting to see how Clara remembers this time when she is older. 

My girls are insanely observant. We have known this about Clara for a long time, that we will change one small thing in a room and she will instantly be drawn to that small thing. "What's that?" Recently her Grandparents changed the small rug that they used by the back door for shoes, and the first thing she said when she walked in was "You got a new rug!" We were impressed, because we hadn't noticed the rug at all.  In the past few days, we've noticed that Audrey has this same attention for details.  The progress on our kitchen these past few days have been marked by small changes, and when she enters the room each day, she will immediately point to whatever she notices that is new. This week, the kitchen sink and faucet were one of the changes, and she points immediately to that side of the room, wanting to take a look. 

Tomorrow will mark the end of four full weeks without a proper kitchen. I had hoped everything would be done by November 15 - wishful thinking, I suppose, since half of the project we had to do on our own, and we are not construction workers... this has been slow going. 

Amongst all of this chaos, it has been difficult not to get discouraged. With two little girls who need constant attention, we haven't been able to get much work done very quickly. Even with all of the babysitters we have been recruiting, the extent of our progress has had to happen in 1-2 hour intervals in the evenings and weekends, and sometimes just one of us can work at a time. Also, because so much of the project is done with power tools, we can't do most of it after the girls go to bed at 8.  Did I mention this project was coming along slowly?

This is the chaos as it was yesterday morning...

Last night, however, I put in a couple of hours installing our laminate flooring and although I really only completed a few more feet - I managed to bring it to a point where suddenly the project feels as though it is near completion. Looking back over what we had accomplished so far had me feeling excited instead of discouraged for once. And now I can't wait to continue! Here's a sneak peek at the difference so far:

From this (before the renovation began):

To this (same corner from a different angle):

To this:

It's hard for me to see what the finished product will be in this picture, because I have trouble seeing through mess. I'm so excited to finally be done with this chaos!

Sunday, 24 November 2013 22:11

Audrey's First Birthday Party

Just short of a full month later, here are some of the photos taken at Audrey's first Birthday parties...

First, despite our initial intentions, we bought her a few gifts ourselves and we had her open them at our house on the morning of her birthday, before we left for Party #1. 

Clara got a bit excited about Audrey's gifts, and we had to repeatedly remind her that it was Audrey's birthday, and to let Audrey open her gifts by herself. We did let Clara help every so often when Audrey clearly needed some assistance. 

That evening, we went to Brian's parents house for Audrey's first party.  For a few reasons this year, I asked our Moms if they would be willing to host Birthday parties for Audrey's first birthday this year. We were getting ready for our upcoming renovation, and I just wasn't sure we'd be able to host anything for Audrey in our home. Also, although neither of our families are very large, and we have only a few friends that we insist on inviting to our girls' birthdays, when we collect them all together, it's quite a crowd - larger than any one location can comfortably host. So, our Moms were willing to do this for Audrey for this year. 

Brian's Mom got some cute ideas from Pinterest...

At first, Audrey only picked at her mini-cake, but soon she was grabbing handfuls and stuffing them in her face.  This is her 'I can't believe I ate the whole thing...' look, 

even though she didn't. 

I love all of the gifts she got. We tried to encourage people to not bring gifts for her, and the few items we did get for her were brilliant. The girls have an insane number of toys, and it's almost impossible to think of things that aren't just repititions of gifts they already have, but that classic old telephone is a gem, and the Melissa & Doug condiments kit with matching magnetic lids is a great way for Audrey to practice her coordination and colour matching.  She also got some books, and clothes, and a few other toys that were great compliments to the girls' toy collection. 

My Mom hosted a party for her the next day, and it was time for more cupcakes! 

Clara got a few small gifts at my Mom's party - what are your thoughts on that? Should siblings get small gifts at their siblings parties? I've heard conflicting perspectives on this, and I can agree with both sides of this argument. I don't know if we'll actively try to do either though, so I'm curious to hear other opinions... 

The chocolate icing beard... 

By the end of Day 2, Audrey had mastered the art of opening presents.

We had a great Audrey-focused weekend, and I am so grateful to our families for hosting these parties for us at this time in our lives. I hope that Audrey won't hold it against me for not hosting her parties personally, but I wanted to make sure she got the attention she deserved.  When Clara turned 1, I rediculously overplanned her first Birthday - for Audrey, I underplanned by asking others to do it for me.  I guess that's just life... 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 21:27

Gymnastics, and Lesson Taking

I had an interesting discussion with a friend awhile ago about whether or not to start a child in lessons/classes early (or not) and about which classes were better to begin earlier than others. I had always said that music is something that can be picked up later in life, and physical activity must be done early. My experience told me that beginning piano lessons at age 13 did NOT slow me down, and I pretty much caught up to others in my age group after about two years - so piano lessons could therefore begin at either age 7 or at age 14, and you would all end up in the same place by age 16 (ish).

Athletics didn't work this way for me - my Dad had no interest in sports, and so there was no encouragement to become involved in team sports when I was a child. At about age 12, I decided I wanted to do something active - like my friends were - and joined a community soccer team. It became quite clear, quite quickly, that I would never catch up. I had been too inactive for too long, and so I quit and decided that 'if only' my Dad had encouraged athletics when I was young, maybe I could have been athletic as a teenager as well. Sigh.

Anyway, my friend argued that for some people it is the opposite - beginning music early is imperative if they are to truly learn and grasp all of the concepts, and athletics come naturally so some can pick those up later in life and be just fine. 

Oh.

So all these years I thought I could be a ballerina if only I had been exposed early enough... and the truth was? I'm musical. Music is natural to me. Sports are not. And likely, no amount of experience could have kept me on the court that day my elementary school basketball coach told me that it was probably best for me to sit on the bench for the rest of the tournament... 

Anyway, I am making a general assumption about my daughters that may or may not prove to be true in a few years: I'm assuming that they will also lean toward music and academics and struggle a bit more in the physical education department. My husband and I were both the types to avoid gym class at all costs, and both of us excel in music. 

For this reason, I decided that I will (for my daughters) encourage physical education early. Brian and I will have to really push ourselves out of our comfort zone to do some of these activities with them, but I also wanted to get them involved in some kind of classes/lessons as soon as possible. 

Enter gymnastics.

Excuse the rotton photo - I was trying to catch a running subject without getting anyone else in the picture. Didn't quite work.

Last week Clara attended the last class in her first 10-week session of gymnastics. She is in a class for 3-5 year olds (yes, I know she's only 2) but the administrator, who is a close friend of ours, told me that she would likely be ready to start already this year. Intellectually she is not slow for her age, and because she is used to hanging around with kids who are in the 3-5 year old age group, I hoped this would go well.

The first week was a bit of a surprise. Clara has never been clingy with me, and for this first class she insisted that I stay with her. She participated in almost nothing that the other kids were doing, and I was nervous that she would always need me beside her and would never be confident enough to run and jump with the other kids. 

The second week was encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging, because she attempted a few of the activities and seemed more confident than the week before. Discouraging, because she seemed to be really awful at sitting, listening, and following directions. She was 'that kid' who spent her time running around doing other things and paying little or no attention to what  she was supposed to be doing. As someone who teaches kids myself, I know how it feels when a parent remains too involved in a class setting - the more a parent is involved with their kid, the less able the teacher is to interact with the child, which makes it almost impossible for the teacher to properly teach. I knew that on one hand, if I was always stepping in to try to get Clara to 'sit still and listen' I was robbing the teachers of the chance to figure out how to get my kid to 'sit still and listen'. But, on the other hand, if the teachers were spending all of their time trying to get Clara to 'sit still and listen', then I felt bad for the other kids whose experience would be diminished because of my daughter.  

For the third class, I left. The teachers knew where to find me, and I had explained to Clara that I would not stay. After about half an hour I guess there were a couple of kids who had meltdowns and wanted to come see their moms (I was informed that this sort of thing always happens in groups - when one kid gets the idea, at least one other will follow).  She stayed up with me for a little while, and then I took her back downstairs to her class and left her there, where she remained for the rest of the class.

I should probably add that for the first few classes I bribed her with cake pops from Starbucks if she listened to her teachers... 

For the remaining gymnastics classes, she did pretty well. I don't think she ever got to the point where she was brave enough to do everything that the other kids were doing - she's a pretty timid little girl, and I think trampolines kind of freak her out - but for the rest of the session she only came to see me once, and I was told that this time she hadn't been the 'first kid' to call for her Mom that day. I was pretty proud of her. 

So anyway, my plan is to keep her in something that is physically active at all times, and to introduce some kind of music classes at some point in the future - if our budget allows, that is.

I struggle with the idea that so many talents require a lot of work and practice - that if my child chooses someday to be an expert *whatever*, I hope that they have been given adequate training for that to be possible. I know that some things - like ballet, I believe - require you to begin early. If you want to be a ballerina, but take no ballet until you're 16, I believe you don't have a shot anymore. Recreational, maybe, but at this point you are 'too old' to ever be a professional. I know I can't put my daughters in everything, because I also think that kids are way too busy these days, but I would hate to know someday that their dreams could not be realized because of my choices for them.

What are your thoughts about lessons and classes? Should kids start early? Later? Are kids in too many things these days? What did you do for your kids? 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 08:00

Kitchen Renovation Part 1

Back in September, I wrote this post on my dreams for our new kitchen.  In a nutshell, that post includes photos of our kitchen - as it was - as well as my thoughts and dreams about what to do instead.  Some of those thoughts and dreams have changed slightly - some things from necessity, and some because we had a 'better idea'. One week and 5 days ago, my kitchen changed from this:

To this...

And from this (on the other side of the room):

To this...

I didn't think to take a photo of the laminate that was in the kitchen before, but we pulled it up to discover this old linoleum.  We've had a few 'glitches' - to say the least - in this whole project. First, the window, which was supposed to be in on November 1 so that day 1 of the demolition would also include installation of the new window. However, there was something about a glass company strike and we find out the day before the renovation was to begin that our window would be delayed for a month. So, the window has been boarded up and will be installed last - after everything else is (hopefully) already completed. 

The next issue happened when we asked about the pocket door - and could we choose our own design for it? (I wanted frosted glass panels, but not the one that actually says 'pantry') So, our contractor told us to go buy whatever we wanted and he would install it.  Because we needed a 22" door, we had to order it in ($350 door, by the way...) and it wouldn't come in for a number of weeks also. After some searching, we discovered that no one carried 22" doors (24" is the smallest) so we would have to order in from anywhere - and our contractor was needing the door early so he could frame it into the wall.  Anyway, as it turned out it was possible to increase the size of the door opening to 24" and we were able to get an in-stock door (in the style we wanted) for $100. We were also able to cancel our initial door order.  So that one worked out ok.

Now, the boarding has been done...

And most of the electrical, although you can't really see that.

Oh yeah, and where I used to be able to see this wall when standing in the kitchen? (Excuse the packing mess)

Now I see this chaos! Which will hopefully someday just be a normal living room...

So there we are so far. I hate renovating. The mess is atrocious and everything is always lying around because right now nothing seems to have a home. Or, at least, not a home we can get to. 

Sigh. I hope to be done soon. 

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