Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First Day of School, 2016

We kicked off a new school year today! Each kid took a turn coming into my room for a private parent-student conference, answering aloud the questions I read them from the plaque. I wrote down exactly what they said.

First Day of: 5th (I can't even...)
I am 9 (She then thought maybe she should add a percentage, but decided against it.)
63.6 lbs, 46'6"
My teacher is: My Mother
I love to: Play on screens
I want to be a: Doctor or Vet (her normal answer is vet - I haven't heard her say doctor before.)
Favorite color: Purple (She went back and forth between purple and magenta, but finally settled on purple.)
Favorite book: Cam Jansen (We have been ordering them from the library as quickly as we can, because she is just blowing through them.)

First Day of: 3rd
I am 8 1/4 (He was very specific) =)
63 lbs, 45.5" (Should have been 45.6", as in 45 1/2 - boo, my math.)
My teacher is: My Mom
I love to: Play video games (He speaks the truth.)
I want to be a: Scientist (I've never heard of this almost felt like he said the first impressive thing he could think of, but who knows - maybe it's been kicking around in his head!)
Favorite color: All of them!
Favorite book: Ricky Ricotta (He then added Cam Jansen, too.)

First Day of: 1st
I am 6
48.4 lbs, 3'11" (Ummm not sure why I wrote 11", considering the only two options were whole and half...)
My teacher is: Mama
I love to: Color (Really. Seriously. Girl can COLOR ALL DAY.)
I want to be a: Spy (You can't tell, but she is wearing all black behind that sign, because, silly, that's what spies wear!)
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite book: Snow White (She recently discovered my copy from when I was little, where something new pops out on every page, and she LOVES it.)

Elliot (When I first asked him his name, he said "E" because he saw that I was going to write and figured I needed help.)
First Day of: PreK
I am 4 (he actually said 3. This is the one answer the kids gave me that I didn't write. I just thought it would be too confusing when looking back. We've been trying to convince him he's 4 for the last two months, but he's still not on board.)
34 lbs, 33.6" (Again, I botched the height...not sure why that was so hard for me! haha)
My teacher is: Daddy (Apparently, Ryan is teaching him all sorts of things when I'm not around.)
I love to: Paint (We don't do a lot of painting at home...maybe he's trying to tell me something.)
I want to be a: Elliot
Favorite color: Green
Favorite book: Thomas ("The Thomas book with the dinosaur!")

Note to self for next year - buy real chalkboard chalk. The sidewalk chalk wrote great, but it was hard to write with the super wide tip.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Character Training

This summer, my friend Angela and I decided we needed to take a step back and seriously focus on character training with our kids. Right now, we are about 5 weeks in and having a blast! I thought it would be fun to document what we're doing, should we ever need to look back, and so we can have all of our resources / ideas in one place.


After some research, we decided to use "A Child's Book of Character Building" as our spine, and each ordered used copies from Amazon. It was important to have our base material be open-and-go, from a Biblical perspective, and to cover a wide variety of ages. We have eight kids between us, ages 9 1/2, almost 9, 8, 6, 5, almost 4, 2, and almost 2.

We got together for a playdate at her house to decide which character traits we would study - there were 12 covered in the book and we only had 6 weeks together, so we picked the top priorities for our families and narrowed it down in this order:
- Attentive
- Obedience / Creativity
- Tenderhearted
- Diligence
- Patience
- Contentment

Some traits were easy to eliminate because they felt like duplicates of others, and some traits seemed totally missing. (Angela bought the 2nd book in this series - I wonder if they're in there!)

We decided to cover one character trait each week (with the exception of the Obedience / Creativity week), and we both separately felt breakfast each day would be the best time to discuss - little kids' minds are ready to listen, and their mouths are full! Each chapter is broken down into five parts: definition, in the Bible, at home, at school, and at play. Ideally, we would cover one each day, but realistically, at least for me, I found myself covering either nothing at breakfast time (because...summer) or cramming two or three days-worth into any one meal. Fortunately, the readings are super short and the kids were always asking for more anyway. The readings sparked some really great discussions to get our days going, and then we had all day to notice each other doing (or not doing!) what we've been discussing. One week, I even make a checklist, and the kid with the most checks at the end of the week earned a special sleepover!

Angela and I decided to take turns hosting and planning the weekly get-togethers. At least 1/2 of the weeks, we've had to change the time or date around (...summer), so we're getting plenty of practical life experience in a trait missing from the book - flexibility!

Character Training in Action:

This trait was first because it was at the top of both of our lists! After a quick snack where the kids got to catch up with each other - and, OK, where Angela and I got to enjoy some much-needed grown-up conversation - we headed outside to play our first game.
  • The Red Herring - Angela stood on one side of her yard, and the kids stood on the other, with big anticipatory grins on their faces. They slowly inched towards her while she - facing the other way - told a story of many red things, and the minute these ATTENTIVE children heard "red herring!" they had to dash back across the yard to their starting point before Angela could catch them. There were many shrieks of excitement and false starts ("a reeeeeed...PENCIL!"), and they each had a turn being the storyteller. It was a great way to make them pay very close attention, and they had a great time giggling and running around together. Unfortunately, it ended in a few tears - as many of these well-intentioned games do - when a few of the smaller children got unintentionally knocked over by their very eager older siblings. (Either that or because the sight of Angela chasing after them was very, very scary.) ;)
  • I Spy - Angela set many items out on a tray, and after letting the kids study the tray ATTENTIVELY, she removed the items one at a time, and brought the tray back to them. The kids had to guess which item was missing. Sometimes, Angela was sneaky and added an item or two. Their great little memories impressed me!
  • Simon Says - The kids took turns being "Simon" in Simon Says, making sure they were ATTENTIVE and only reacting when Simon Says.
The next trait I really wanted to work on was Obedience, and Angela really wanted Obedience, so we agreed to do both in one week. My family worked on Obedience at our house while hers worked on Creativity at theirs, and when we got together at my house, we combined the two. After a snack and some outside play, a rain shower brought our first activity into the garage.
  • Mother, May I...? - The kids took turns asking me if they could CREATIVELY get closer to me. Then, regardless of whether I said yes or no or amended their propositions, they had to happily OBEY. Animals seemed the main focus of their questioning - "Mother, may I take three slug steps towards you?", "Mother, may I take five kangaroo hops?", or "...Two bunny leaps?" There were also questions about ballet twirls and baby crawls. Overall, I enjoyed their creativity, but eventually, the game digressed into inappropriate potty questions and miscommunication over whose turn it was, and again, our game ended in a few shed tears. We are still a work in progress ;)
  • Coloring Page - I found a fun coloring page where you had to color exactly as you were told, in the order in which you were told. It may sound boring, but the kids realized that there is still a lot of room for individual CREATIVITY while still being OBEDIENT. On the back of their papers, they were told they could draw something familiar in an unfamiliar way. Some kids went totally out on their own, while other kids drew the exact example we gave to illustrate the uniqueness of the idea - whoops!
  • (There was one more - maybe two! Will remember once I get the photos added in!)
Back at Angela's, we had some super yummy quesadillas and prepared our little ones.
  • Bananas and Monkeys Card Game - Angela printed out a card game where the kids could either choose to give each other the matches they needed, or give each other monkeys (kind of like the Old Maid, or the Bear in Pit, but there were many monkeys). After the game was over, the kids who gave out the LEAST monkeys, and were instead tenderhearted in giving their friends the matching bananas they needed, were rewarded with very special tattoos. The goal of the game was not to get yourself the most matches, as they assumed, but to be the most TENDERHEARTED. 
  • Squishy Pillow - A variation on musical chairs, each child had to be TENDERHEARTED and share their pillow on the floor with someone else. Every time the music stopped, the kids rushed to sit on the pillows, and then one was taken away before the music started again. By the end, they were all sitting together in a heap on one giant floor pillow, in a fit of giggles. We had fun joking that the name of this game was "Squishy Cushy Tushy Pillow."
  • Fortune Tellers of Kindness - We helped each of the kids make a "fortune teller" - flash-back to when we were little! Hollah! - where the "fortunes" on the very inside flap had to be something kind. "I'm going to give you a hug", "I'll help you clean your room", etc.
While Angela's husband Adam came over to very DILIGENTLY help Ryan work on digging out the brick walk we're putting in around the side and back of the garage (yesssss, I know, we're always up to something!), Angela and I got the kids together for pizza and some play time before getting down to business.
  • Skewering Fruit - No one* was allowed to either eat the yummy fruit OR quit working until they had DILIGENTLY assembled a total of 24 skewers for everyone to share. One of my kids, who shall remain nameless JACOB, left the table after he decided he had made more than enough to contribute to the 24...when in reality, he wanted to see what his little brother - who has zero interest in anything fruit-related - was watching in the living room. We were surprised at everyone else's perseverance, and even the two 2-yr-olds excitedly got in on the action.
    * adults and children under 5 excluded from fruit-snitching - hah!
  • Making Whipped Cream - Angela put some heavy cream in two little mason jars, and the kids had to take turns DILIGENTLY shaking the jars for 5 minutes straight, until whipped cream formed. It was wonderful dipping our fruit skewers - or in the case of Ian (2), your whole hand - into the home-made whipped cream!
  • Feather-Blowing - A starting line and a finish line were taped far apart on my living room floor, and the kids had to take turns getting a little red feather from one line across to the other - without touching it. Abigail (5) was first, and quickly discovered that blowing the feather DILIGENTLY moved it quickly, but Hayden (almost 9) got extra points for scooping it up with his shirt and running it across the other line. I should have said, "Nothing can touch the feather!" haha. I was hoping someone would fan it over the line with a paper, but no one thought of that. (This was the only time I went to Pinterest for ideas, and there were virtually no activities for Diligence. The only other idea I saw was to have the kids work a puzzle that they knew was missing pieces - the goal being to work diligently until the job is done, regardless of the outcome - but we didn't have enough time.)
  • Super Detailed Dot-to-Dot - Angela's impulse-buy at the grocery check-out was a really cool dot-to-dot, where the numbers were really small and counted up into the mid-200s on each page. We picked out pictures we thought each kid would like (Angela and myself included - we loved doing this!), and thought the results of their DILIGENCE were very telling. Jacob (8), who typically has a lot of trouble finishing what he starts, was the first one done (and he did it well!), while all three girls (9 1/2, 6, and 5) worked away so patiently and seriously until they were finished - even turning over their pages to conquer the other side! They younger two little ladies needed a few pointers from their Mamas along the way, but we were very pleased with how well they did overall. Even Ian worked hard on his paper, and it was super cute.
Next up tomorrow...PATIENCE!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Where Ya Been?

OK, so it's been forever - just shy of two years.


I've hesitated updating the blog for several reasons:
  1. Facebook is so much easier.
  2. Some of the blog design was jacked up. I know that shouldn't be enough of a reason to quit posting details that I don't ever want to forget...but I'm a designer. With OCD. And I just couldn't look at it (or imagine anyone else looking at it) with glaring problems and error messages. So today, I carved out some time, rolled up my sleeves, and dug in to Blogger's crazy code. And even though I didn't add back in some of my friend Jen's beautiful design elements, I was able to remove the broken ones, which is good enough to get me back on track. 
  3. Facebook is so much easier. 
  4. No matter how many times I link to this blog on Facebook and ask people to comment on the blog, they still comment on Facebook, and then all comments tied to this blog post are lost. So if you came here through a Facebook link and are reading this, please COMMENT HERE. I don't want to lose your comments, dear friends - they are a dynamic, valuable part of this blog!
  5. Facebook is so much easier - in case you missed it ;)

But I am going to work on being more consistent from now on, and you can hold me to that. I am so sad I missed detailing many important events over the last two years - most importantly, the first year and a half of our 5th baby's life! So now I will go back and add things in - so even though it may look like I have been posting, the last thing I wrote about before today was my Baby #5 Announcement way back in June, 2014. (The two posts immediately following were saved in Blogger as drafts as not published until today.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

St. Patty's Day Parade

Jacob, Lily, and their good friend Hayden marched in our county's St. Patrick's Day Parade with their 4H club, the Mad STEM Scientists. Since their club's banner was not ready on time (their poor leader injured herself while her husband was out of the country on business!), these three little stinkers were asked to carry the general 4H banner for the county, and march out in front of all the 4H groups!

For three kids who had never been in a parade, they did an outstanding job - they waved like they were famous and took turns carrying each end of the banner (Jacob did significantly less carrying than the other two).

Sweet little sisters (and brothers) waiting in the crowd to cheer on their siblings!


Lily's favorite part of the day was getting to spend time with one of the 4H poultry clubs before the parade.

In the evening, we realized we were all burnt - both the marchers and the spectators alike. We certainly weren't expecting to be sunburned in winter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Samantha's First Lost Tooth

On January 12th, Samantha lost her first tooth! There was much rejoicing over being a "big kid" like Lily and Jacob. She was sitting in the car, about to take a bite out of a banana, when her tooth decided to JUMP out of her mouth and into her lap. She concluded it was afraid of the banana! (Elliot, after hearing the story, also decided he was scared of bananas, because he said eating one would make his teeth fall out, too!)


Today, a month and a half later, she lost the second tooth! It was hanging on by a thread, quite literally, and she honored her Opa with the privilege of giving it one final yank.

Track Back:
More Teeth Posts

Sunday, August 3, 2014

More Pregnancy Stats

Ok, since I'm a fan of stats for keeping track of things, I'm gonna update my last numbers:

03/05/14 - 09 weeks, 6 days - BP 090/62 - 131 lb - 10cm
04/02/14 - 13 weeks, 6 days - BP 120/70 - 134 lb - 16cm
05/07/14 - 18 weeks, 6 days - BP 100/70 - 140 lb
06/04/14 - 22 weeks, 6 days - BP 104/72 - 146 lb
07/01/14 - 26 weeks, 6 days - BP 098/70 - 154 lb - belly measuring about 30 weeks
07/30/14 - 30 weeks, 6 days - BP 100/64 - 158 lb - belly measuring around 34/35 weeks

More details:
I have gained 27 pounds thus far. In between my two July appointments, I was on 21 days of Amoxicillin for Lymes Disease. Yes, that's what I said. Remind me to show you the bulls-eye rash on my thigh some time. Fun times. Speaking of fun times...the first day of August brought with it the return of the horrible acid reflux I had until about week 22. Luckily, Ryan is an excellent supplier of my yummy berry-flavored Tums whenever I need them. Which is quite often.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2nd Birthday Letter to Elliot

Dear Elliot,
Tomorrow you turn 2. TWO. I am a little baffled by how that happened. You still seem so little to me, like such a YOUNG two, that it's strange you will meet your LITTLE brother in a few short months. How can anyone be littler than you?

But I've also seen so much growth from you recently. You're starting to talk more (YAY!) and seem to be enjoying the positive feedback. You're learning how to communicate not just through yelling and throwing things, which is a very nice change.

You're developing such a sweet little personality. You're starting to get silly, and inquisitive, and able to entertain yourself a little better. You love big Legos (Duplo) and figuring out how to take them apart and put them back together - either bringing them to me with an "Eh eh eh..." when you get stuck, or angrily throwing them across the room - especially any of the ones with wheels. "Cah! Cah!" (car). Still can't get you to say truck or bus or motorcycle or bike or boat or wheel - it's all still just "Cah!"

You still love Lily to death. And it is SO mutual! That girl will go out of her way to do anything for you. She LOVES getting you out of your crib in the morning or after your nap - something about hers being the first face you see that makes her feel very special. And I can't say I blame her ;) You bring her your cup, insisting, "Wah-wah! Wah-wah!" and she happily scampers off to fill your cup with water, shaking her head and grinning, "Oh, Elliot!" You fall down, and she drops to her knees to make sure you're OK - even if you're angry about falling and throwing things and yelling at her to leave you alone.

Actually, you're pretty tough. Always have been. You were never the kind of baby to cry after falling down or getting knocked over unless you were REALLY hurt. You just shake it off and get back up and keep going, like you didn't even notice - like it was part of the journey. Of course, if someone comes and SHOVES you over, I'm pretty sure you'll be very vocal about that (forget this crying nonsense - you are a YELLER), though I can't remember seeing that happen. The getting knocked over, now, is a daily occurrence. Comes with the territory of being #4, and you handle it splendidly.

You and Jacob have such a special relationship. You guys love to GIGGLE together. It's the cutest thing. You play side-by-side quite nicely, and he enjoys building towers for you to knock over, and ramps for you to drive your cars through. And oh the tickling! Sometimes he gets frustrated because you're eager to knock things over that he is not done building, or that he does not intend to have knocked over, and we're trying to teach him to work through TALKING to you about that, instead of just getting mad and carrying you out of the room. Usually when you understand his plan, you're good at going along with it.

Your relationship with Jacob has changed a little recently. It was a very strong PEER relationship, but in the past month or two, you've realized, "Hey, wait a second, he's a BIG kid...he can be in charge of me and help me with things and hold my hand when we walk through the parking lot." And you're letting him be that big kid, which is so good for Jacob. He really needs to be your big brother.

And oh, that Samantha. What shall I say. It seems you've both to some kind of truce. In your younger days, you were an avid hair puller - nowadays, you only pull Sam's hair, and only when she's not letting you get your way, so it's maybe weekly instead of many, many times daily. And she, in turn, has finally discovered that you are, in fact, a TODDLER. Not a preschooler or a peer who understands more fully what he's doing. Now, like Lily and Jacob have always done, she sees your shenanigans and just grins, "Oh, Elliot!"

She also just recently started taking an interest in mothering you. She has taken it upon herself to be the bathroom door closer, so you can not get in and splash around in the potty or take your matchbox cars there for a swim, and has recently started insisting she can take you out of your high chair when you're done eating. Of course, more often than not, that results in both of you in a heap on the kitchen floor, wondering what exactly went wrong and giggling as you scamper away. She also now insists that she's big enough to walk you places, and you will let her (sometimes) take your hand and lead you around. The transition from unpredictable slightly-older sister to 2nd mother/sister is keeping you on your toes.

You get sooooo excited every time Oma and Opa come to visit. You hear the other kids shout, "Oma and Opa are here!" and go running to the front door, yelling, "Oma! Oma! Opa! Opa!" louder than any of the rest of them. You love your Opa to carry you around allll day, and you love your Oma to read you books (over and over and over) as she snuggles with you on the couch.

You love Kacki to death. Her name was one of your first words - dare I say, before "Mama" was a regular? - and sometimes when you wake up, you will call for her to come get you from your crib, as if the mere mention of her name will magically bring her to your house.

But the first name you call when you wake up is "DAHHHHH-DY! DADDY!!!" over and over and over. As if every day was the weekend and he was always here to come get you out of your crib. When Daddy does not respond, you usually move on to calling for Kacki, and when that doesn't work, then you might call Mama as a last resort. Which is amusing, because 90% of the time, it's me or Lily taking you out of your crib.

It's good to dream big, kid.

In addition to your increasing vocabulary, your appetite has improved slightly in the last couple of months. You no longer live on air and water and animal crackers. You will eat real food (in moderation) from a bowl with a spoon or fork, just like a real live little toddler. You are still the pickiest eater I've ever seen, but this small improvement has me hopeful.

We love you so much, little guy!