Real Life with Rita: It All Passes Too Fast

As of yesterday… I am two weeks out from my due date. It’s a time when many expectant moms are ever-so-anxious to meet their little one and be done with all that comes with pregnancy.

And there are plenty of good reasons for it… Who doesn’t want to finally see the precious face of a a newborn baby–especially one that is your own? Not to mention the level of discomfort that you have at this point in the game. Having an extra 30 pounds on my midsection and a basketball size weight in my front while chasing toddlers is not exactly my favorite thing. By 38 weeks doctors tell us the baby is safe for delivery anyway, so why not hope for things to move along sooner rather than later?

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I have never had expectations for an early delivery this time around. Maybe it’s because Jacob went past his due date and my hoping/wondering if I’d go into labor those last two weeks just caused it to drag on. But I think the truth is, with this being my third pregnancy in three years, I instead realize the pricelessness of time more than ever before. Time marches on at the same beat no matter what. This baby will arrive. This baby will grow. This time will pass.

It will pass all too fast. It all passes too fast.

I see my friends posting pictures of their babies that I feel like were born a week ago, but already they are 1, 2, 3, 4 months old! What?? My nephew is nearly a year old and I feel like it was last month we were waiting on his arrival! Jacob is a full-on toddler speaking words and playing silly games with Dorothy. Dorothy is a little girl who plays imaginary games, draws pictures that actually look like things and speaks in full sentences.

I’ve been asked if I’m all “ready” and if I have my bags packed, etc. I kind of laugh and shrug saying something about, “Oh baby number three… We have stuff. We’ll be fine.” I think some take that to mean I’m not excited. It’s actually the opposite. With Dorothy’s pregnancy, I was so excited, but I didn’t know what I was excited for. It was all a mystery. The only thing I knew to do with that excitement was to make lists and try to prepare. With Jacob, he was so soon after Dorothy, I was lost in the fog of still raising the baby Dorothy was (not even walking when I found out I was pregnant) in addition to building a house. I was excited but very much distracted with so many other excitements in my life.

 

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This time, I am excited because I KNOW what is in store and that it will be over in a blink and that there is nothing I can do to slow time down. All I can possibly do is live in the moment and not be anticipated the next one. Call me crazy, but my baby has not even been born and I already get sad about how quickly it will be suddenly be ‘big’.

It’s better to live in these final moments of feeling this babe wiggle inside of me.
It’s better to enjoy the magic of hearing it’s heart beat at the doctor appointments.
It’s better to capture the opportunity to talk to Dorothy about what will happen when the baby is born and ask her questions to hear her perspective on something she doesn’t fully understand yet.
It’s better to snuggle a little longer with Jacob while he is still my “baby” and I am not being pulled away by an infant that needs me.
It’s better to fully participate in the fun of taking two toddlers to the park or trick-or-treating.

I already spent too much time in the first three years of parenthood anticipating the next thing for my children or my life. Looking for the next milestone or next development. Those things come regardless of anticipating them.

I have a close friend due about a week ahead of me. It is their first. They had an induction scheduled, so they knew it was their last night at home together sans-baby. I thought so much about them that entire night. They knew it was their last night at home, just them, but they really had no idea what that meant. You can’t know how your life will change and how YOU will change. Adding baby number 3 (I imagine) is not quite the same as the change you experience with number one when you first enter parenthood, but after 2+ years of having a ‘baby’ in my house, I do know that life right now–two toddlers and no nursing baby, is different from what it will be when this baby arrives. It’s more of a change than just having our family grow by a number. This time of just Jacob and Dorothy playing, dancing, doing activities and chores…This time will pass and be a snippet of a memory in my life. By the time this baby is at a toddler age, Dorothy will be nearly five! FIVE… Are you getting it yet? TIME DOES NOT STOP. If anything, I think it speeds up.

 

In a blink, this baby will be here and life will be completely different. And in another blink, it won’t be a baby.

 

 

It’s easy to wish this baby were here now so I could know if it’s a boy a girl and hold it and see it with Dot and Jake–and be done with the preggo belly. But what is two more weeks? It’s two more weeks of this special time with my two toddlers. It’s two more weeks of soaking in the kicks and braxton hicks and the magic that is carrying a life inside.

It’s two short weeks.

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One Simple Change: Daily Pregnancy Stretching

Last Month’s Review: September

GoalWrite letters/Send mail to friends

Fail/Success? Epic Fail!! If you haven’t been able to tell from my blog/vlog upkeep, I’ve been busy. I honestly have had this post in my head for at least 3 weeks, but finding time to write has been tough. My ‘job’ workload has had me busy in the night hours and I am trying to get as much done prior to baby’s arrival next month as possible. During the day I have been going a lot with the kiddos. (And when I am home, there is the regular housework to be done!)

What I got out of it: I can at least say I have sent a lot of snail mail in the past month, just none that were simply for the sake of writing a letter. (I did start one letter!) However, I did send a multitude of thank you notes (for baby gifts and birthday presents), birthday cards and anniversary cards, as well as birthday party invitations for Lou. With many of these I included a personal note of at least a paragraph. Better than nothing right? 

Moving Forward: I have three friends I really wanted to send mail to that I have yet to get anything done with. I have not given up simply because September is over, though. October is full of festive reasons to send cards (birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween), so the mail doesn’t stop. I love that Dorothy helps me so much with cards. We’ve already sent five birthday cards and two anniversary cards in October. My mom was big on cards and I know she got it from her mom, my Grandma Rousculp. It’s a dying trend yet it is such a breath of fresh air to receive real mail. I’d love to pass that on to my kids. 

New Challenge (October)

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Celebrating our 5 year anniversary. Only 1 month until Baby Harris #3 is due! (November 10!)

Goal: Daily stretching and baby prep

Motivation behind the challenge: Everyone who has been through pregnancy knows the final months/weeks are tiresome for many reasons, but mostly because your body is so not itself, it is impossible to stay comfortable. I forget what I was experiencing recently that made Hubs ask if I’d been doing much stretching. I admit, even as a runner for so many years, stretching was never a practice I was great about. I did it before every practice or race, but mainly because I was told to and was doing so with other people. I always felt yoga during pregnancy was a great intention, but one I have never really followed through with pursuing. 

Being that my body is not nearly in the shape it was the first time I delivered a baby, I feel the least I can do is have my muscles more relaxed and prepared for what is to come next month. Stretching will obviously also help my daily comfort level. My goal is to stretch daily, which comes at night after the kids are in bed but before I start my work. Halfway into the month and I have forgotten four days.

Although not part of my ‘challenge’, I also would like to revisit the ‘hypnobirthing’ app I used with Jacob. I heard about this from my sister when it was becoming evident that Jacob was going to go past his due date and I really wanted labor to begin. Some mothers start this early in pregnancy and practice throughout the nine months, making delivery (especially natural) much more relaxed. Even the minor practicing of it I did for a couple of days did help me focus my thoughts and energy through delivery the last time. The pre-exercises gave me visions and ideas to focus on once labor began and I’d like to have that again.

Real Life with Rita: Finding Fall

I admit it. I’ve slacked in the blogging world.

I used to not understand when other bloggers said they’d lost motivation or had writers block. You can always find something to write about, right? I learned that as a journalist with a deadline. But when you have a million other things on your plate… Finding time to write a blog post when no topic is motivating you to sit down usually means it just doesn’t happen.

August was busy, making it hard to focus. But September, I just lost motivation. Maybe it was the fact I was expecting the fall season to begin moving on to fall blog topics, but instead the Bluegrass decided to hold onto the 90-degree weather, making scarves, boots and pumpkin spice lattes not really fit the vibe. Here we all wanted to change out our wardrobes, sip on warm drinks and enjoy the sites and smells of fall, but instead we were still planning trips to the pool to cool off!

The good news is September 22 welcomed the first “official” day of Fall and the following week saw the 60-70 degree days we’d been anticipating. And, given I still have pretty much zero spare time in my life, I do want to get back to my regular blogging.

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Blogging may not have been a high priority last month, but enjoying adventures with the two tots was. While I am anxious to meet our growing peanut (Dorothy named it (him?) George), I am doing my best to get out and have fun with Jake and Lou. Chasing two toddlers wears a mama out, but just imagining what it will be like next year at this time–with three and one that hardly if even walking–is exhausting.

I started the month with a baby shower/girls night. Some of my closest gal pals and I hosted a baby shower for two fellow mamas-to-be. Their due dates sandwich mine in November. (11/4, 11/10, 11/17) but they are both first-time moms. I decided to take the kiddos to Louisville with me the night before the event while Mingus stayed home and had all the husbands at our house for man-activities (including building our garage!) Taking two toddlers for an overnight trip somewhere other than one of the grandparent’s house can be intimidating, but I’ve learned it’s best to roll with it and make it work. It’s good for me and for them. We enjoyed a trip to the neighborhood park before they hit the hay, and then it freed me up for a cozy night of much-needed girl talk with two of my favorite ladies–something I rarely get anymore! We all enjoyed the shower the next day as well. If you have ever gone through pregnancy with a close friend, you know the special bond and joy you share, knowing you’ll have little ones to grow up so closely.

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The next week was low key, but I did make an impromptu shoe-shopping trip for Dorothy. I’d hoped to take on the task at a time when I could have some assistance in order to focus Lou on shoes while someone kept track of wily Jake, but I’ve started forcing myself to worry less about going into ever task with ideal kiddo conditions. It’s better to just take on the task and see how it goes. Even if ends up disastrous… you do survive, you might accomplish a little, and you learn something to help with the next occasion. I definitely learned Once Upon a Child in Lexington was a much better kid consignment choice than Re-Kid. At least with kids in tow. Re-Kid was incredibly too packed (aisle so close together), so unless the kids were right next to me, they were easily out of site. Also the organization was kind of all over the place (particularly when it came to finding shoes in specific sizes easily). Unfortunately, that was my first stop. I did find a couple of pairs of cute boots for Lou, but I wanted out fast! I nearly skipped the second stop, but being that I’d made the trip to Lex and Once Upon A Child was only a few minutes away, it seemed silly not to at least pop in. I’m glad I did and it was much less stressful than the previous stop. In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d come for. Oh, and did I mention the trip included the bonus of a stop to see none other than Holly Jo and her precious girlies.

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Mingus was away the next weekend and we had plans to travel to St. Louis for a wedding shower, but those maternal instincts told me my kiddos needed some deceleration in their lives. Instead we stayed home–went nowhere–all weekend. We had a great time and everyone was in fantastic moods. It even helped move Dorothy through some of the threenager habits she’d been developing and I’ve seen SO much less of it since. Sometimes I think that’s all a toddler needs. We, as parents, are always filling up schedules because of so many invites and options. It is easy to forget how the constant change in routine and going disrupts a little ones life. Sometimes it is our duty as parents to sacrifice the things we’d like to be go-go-going and doing in order to let the kids be kids in their own little peaceful world.

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Despite the warm weather, the kids and I had a week of fun celebrating fall that included nature hikes and afternoons outside. The following week we moved on to apples, which included a trip to Haney’s Appledale Farm to celebrate the first day of fall. It’s just a small farm, but plenty of apples for picking, a play area, picnic tables and treats for purchase. I went with two of my dear friends and their littles. Between three moms we had six under age three (plus my bun in the oven!): two almost-3-year olds, two 18-month olds, and two 3-month olds! It’s days like those that I remember how blessed my life currently is and how much there is to cherish. I know I’ll look back at these ‘good old days’ with my kiddos and friends when times were slow and simple in their own right. Sure, toddlers are exhausting, but spending a day to take in the joy of something as simple as picking apples with friends is what life is all about: the simple joys.

That weekend was our local Apple Festival. It’s the most time I’ve spent at the event since moving back to the area five years ago. Having two kids that could actually enjoy aspects of the festival–and not having to carry any babies–made it a must. Hubs was heavily involved with the fire department, which actually was a huge perk for me. Not only was there a spacious booth right in front of the grassy town hall  lawn where we could easily sit for a break, but it gave me reason to feel welcome at the city fire department building where we could cool off and little Lou could use an actual bathroom and NOT a port-a-pot! We watched the parade, enjoyed some carnival treats, rode some rides–partook in the giant apple pie AND giant cookie.

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The fall weather finally arrived this past week and we laid low at home, but I was happy to be pulling out the long pants and boots and sipping on tea both morning and at night. Now October has arrived and I think it’s safe to call it the fall season. We have less than six weeks until we are a family of five, and I can’t think of a better month to soak up the final days of life as we know it. We’ve already planned a trip to the pumpkin patch and have some birthday fun on the agenda for our soon-to-be 3 year old! Mingus and I are about to hit our 5-year wedding anniversary and, while we may not be doing anything extravagant, I think we have a lot to show for five years. Oh, and who could forget the amazing holiday all about costumes and candy?! I think the only fall-fun I am missing out on is football action! I have some hopes to see our currently undefeated high school team under the Friday night lights in the coming weeks.

Cheers to a Happy October to all of you! Fall is for real now and we know what jolly season follows!

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One Simple Change: Snail Mail and Personal Outreach

Last Month’s Review: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Fail/Success? Success! Although it took halfway through the month for me really figure out what I was doing. Initially my thought was I just needed to start focusing on learning and teaching particular things and research some of the activities and ideas out there. Homeschooling is becoming so common and collaborative thanks much to do with the social networking we can do through the web. There are so many materials and such out there online. Honestly, Google and Pinterest searches were overwhelming! Eventually I realized I had to have a laid out plan. A schedule of some sort, but most examples I found were too structured for me. I get that it works and is best for many people, but on any given day our schedule is different—we have places to go or I have things to do for my work during the day. But by the last couple weeks of the month, I’d found a way that works perfectly for us: The School Fairy Box. 

Together, Dorothy and I decorated a special box. Each day, only after we have eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and brushed our teeth, we open it up to see what the “school fairy” has left inside. Typically it is an activity involving nothing more than paper, crayons and maybe glue or sometimes stickers. Every so often it is a new book, flash cards or something more unique like Playdoh. I keep each week focused on one to two concepts and have outlined ideas for the next six weeks, not going further only because I wanted to see how this routine would work before planning too far out. 

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What I got out of it: By taking the time (which honestly was only about a day or two of hit and miss time) to determine how to approach incorporating focused learning into our day, I have created something that helps both myself and the kids accomplish what I wanted. Having the box makes Dorothy not only excited to do whatever is inside, but it also helps motivate her to go through the standard morning procedure. Additionally, the box forces me to not just plan in advance, but to have something fully ready the night before. I know I cannot afford to wait until morning to put my activity together and not have Dorothy watching or asking or wondering why I have the box out. The themes for each week are a huge help in driving a concept home. 

Moving Forward: I am excited to keep going forward with this and coming up with new things to excite my children’s learning. I am a lover of lists and planning so coming up with a weekly and monthly schedule is enjoyable to me. Doing this also makes finding ideas online less overwhelming because I can search for specific activities. September will be fun. In addition to more letters, we’ll also talk about the season of fall and have an apple week (because of the local Apple Festival, of course!)

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New Challenge: September

Goal: Write letters/Send mail to friends

Motivation behind the challenge: I did this for Lent a couple of years ago and loved doing it and recently I received a nice letter in the mail from a close friend whom I am not in touch with much anymore. Were it not for social media, I’m not sure we would know much of anything about each other’s lives! Even though social media gives us an easy sneak peek into certain people’s lives, personal contact is so meaningful. Of course, I also love writing and sending mail in general, so, in theory, this will be an easy challenge for me. I do know how the days get away from me, though, and even my evenings when the kiddos are sleeping are consumed by work. I’ve already sent an anniversary card this month, but I am not counting any cards I’d send typically (unless I include an extra note.) I’m hoping to send at least one a week. 

Real Life with Rita: Embarking on Life with a Threenage

Remember how I started the month reporting my One Simple Change update and how some of my adjustments with the kids had gone? I told you how surprisingly smooth it all was?

No more pacifier for Dot? No fight.
Two kids, one room? Sure!

Well, something then happened during the month of August. I think it’s a pretext to that thing I have heard about for years called “the threenager”.

I always heard of the “terrible twos”, but threenager was a new term I started hearing a few years ago, alongside noticing more and more people talk about three-year-old toddlers pushing the limits and sanity and patience of parents to a whole new level that two never saw. A year ago, my pediatrician (who has two daughters) explained it in a simple but sensible way: At two, a toddler acts out without any understanding. They are learning and trying to understand when things don’t go their way. At three, a toddler knows what they are doing and they begin to push to find out where limits exist–if at all.

Like every child, Dorothy has her traits and tendencies that make her difficult, but for the most part, she is a very agreeable child and aims to please. (Translation: I think I’ve had it pretty easy.) She doesn’t even like it when my facial expression changes to that of disappointment or concern. She will ask, “Mama, are you happy?” even when she just hears me directing a stern tone at Jake. But I am beginning to see her explore her independence and it is coupled with experimenting with trying to mimic what she sees in others. This includes actual people and things she sees on TV. I’ve always been particular about wha she can and can’t watch, but I am now finding fault with shows I was OK with for the past year.

For example,  Max and Ruby, an old Nickelodeon cartoon based on a book series, is super cute and something she’s always loved. However, I’ve found her mimicking Max’s tendency to use one word phrases repeatedly. He is the younger character and I suppose this is the extent of his vocab. In her case, it’s led to being less polite. Instead of asking, “Please, may I have more soup?” she will yell, “More!” or “Soup!” Mingus and I have been very committed to working on reminding her to use her manners and speak properly.

Even worse, the one word phrases have branched into two of any parents least favorite phrases: “No” and “Why”. She will even say “No” at times when her actions follow direction. While I’m glad she isn’t completely defying me, I still want to quickly correct this habit of rudely responding “No” to myself or anyone, for that matter. Both the “why” and “no” tend to be in whiney tones that drive me bonkers and continue no matter what response I give. (I have started using the “Because I said so” line frequently or even more simply: I don’t respond at all!)

The worst, though, is the disaster of nap time or bed time. She has never liked sleep. As an infant it was a constant battle. (She didn’t even like being cuddled or rocked!) Sometime after our early August vacation, she started defying bedtime. She goes through the bedtime routine just fine. She’s content to move from bedtime snack to books. She gets a little wiley by prayer time and singing, and that’s usually when Jon and I depart, but now she begs us to stay, comes out of the room a complete crying disaster.

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I am working hard to find a balance between accepting that she is moving into a new age and phase where questioning limits and boundaries is completely natural, but I also do not want to accept this as an excuse for her poor behavior developments. I also recognize that this little soul is extremely sensitive. She crosses quickly from A-OK to distraught and nearly unconsolable when she feels disappointment or disapproval coming down on her.

Additionally, I remind myself that she is not even three years old yet. It is easy to have unrealistic expectations for her when it is only a matter of months and she will be the oldest of three children. I have to realize that while I want her to behave a certain way, she is still learning much of what my expectations even are and her vocabulary is limited, so my reprimands and instructions are not always understood. In short, I need to keep my patience intact and not expect her to figure these things out without some guidance and attention.

I still consider myself blessed with the kind of child Dorothy is at this age. No one said any of it would be easy, but I am beginning to realize just how easy I have had it, particularly through the first 18 months of Jacob’s life. Despite having two kids so young and close in age, together they made it feel (more or less) like a walk in the park. These last few weeks have just been a wake-up call to the reality that Dorothy is just a normal child who is waking up to the reality of her freedoms and if I don’t put layout expectations for her behavior, they will spiral out of control.

For those of you who have been through this and similar stages with your kids, how did you move through it best?

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One Simple Change: Creating my own ‘Back To School’ routine

Last Month’s Review: July

GoalStart prepping Dorothy and Jacob for arrival of Baby #3

Fail/Success? Success! I am actually shocked at how well things went, honestly. I had three goals last month and I’d say we’ve accomplished two and maybe a half? Is that possible?

  • Doing away with pacifiers:
    My real goal was getting rid of Dorothy’s pacifier since she is going on age three. My first attempt came on July 2, after we had a group of people at the house for fireworks and such. Because she was going to bed so late, I figured it was as good a time as any. She was so tired that even if she cried for it, she would likely fall asleep quickly. She did ask for her “paci” before I turned out the light, but I simply told her we weren’t going to use it tonight. Much to my surprise, she did not fight me! Maybe it was the whole exhaustion thing, but she just accepted what I’d said and rolled over.
    That was pretty much the end of the pacifier for her. The next night was similar and after that she stopped asking. She does not even try to use them when she finds them in the house. I have given her one a handful of times for napping simply because she hates naps. It is the only thing that she will really get worked up about–and I only force them when I know they are a necessity (which oftentimes also means more resistance). The pacifier has hushed her and helped her relax long enough to fall asleep. I did not attempt to wean Jacob, but he primarily uses them for sleep at this point. 
  • Overnight pull-ups: We actually did not work on the overnight peeing any. Interestingly enough, though, there was improvement and in some ways I think it might be linked to the pacifier. The first few nights of no paci, she woke up completely dry! She did not maintain, but as opposed to maybe having a dry pull-up once every other week or so; Now she is dry several times a week. My theory is the pacifier is such a soother to her, that when she would start to wake-up with the urge to use the bathroom, she would keep herself in sleep mode with the pacifier. Now, on her dry mornings, she’s either gone on her room potty on her own first thing, or she wants to go right away. On the wet mornings, she still tends to take the pull-up off immediately. 
  • Two Kids/One Room:
    We’ve done it! The kiddos are officially roommates! And I love it (for the most part). It was halfway through the month when we moved Jacob into Dorothy’s room.Oddly enough, their first night sharing a room turned out to be the first time ever we’ve had a kid get sick. The two were completely unrelated. Dot had a little bug that lasted a few days, and actually meant diarrhea, so there was only one night of throw-up. Jake ended up with the same thing the next week and he had a rougher time at night. The awesome part of it was the fact the issues did not cause problems for the other sleeping child in the room. Apparently they are very heavy sleepers!
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    Most everything I feared about sharing a room has not been an issue. Dorothy ignores Jacob singing himself to sleep. Jake ignores it if Dorothy gets out of bed after we’ve left the room. Actually, she has taken it upon herself to let herself through the “secret door” into the other bedroom to sit on that bed and read books, as to not keep Jake away! (I have to bring her back to her room, though.) She’s done this in the mornings, too, when she wakes up before Jacob. She seems to have the understanding that he is sleeping and she needs to behave accordingly.
    I love hearing them together in their room. We’ve never had a video monitor, and I’ve never cared, but now I’d love one just to see some of their interactions. My favorite is to hear Dorothy in the morning when she realizes Jacob is also awake, say, “Hey there little buddy! How are you??” I also walked in one morning to find her at the foot of her bed (butted up again Jake’s crib) reading a book as he peeked over the edge to see the pictures. I love the best friends they are becoming and cannot put into words what it’s like to witness.

What I got out of it: I guess the ease of these changes goes to show that sometimes, as parents, we worry more about the complexity of things than we need to. Sometimes, we need to just “do it” and move forward and kids will actually roll with things, especially at such young ages.

Moving Forward: We vacationed with the kids sharing as room well. I’ll try to get Jacob’s pacifier weaned more before the baby arrives. (At least to sleeping only so I don’t have to deal with him stealing baby’s pacifier.) I probably won’t push Dorothy’s potty issue except to keep talking to her about the idea of keeping her pull-up dry. Instead, soon I’ll try moving on to potty training Jacob.

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New Challenge: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Motivation behind the challenge: Many parents are in full scale back-to-school mode, including  many with kids Dot’s age who are sending them to a pre-school program. I won’t be doing this with Lou and do not intend to send her to school before kindergarten. It’s part of the reason I am giving up working outside the home. However, I don’t expect that having her kindergarten ready comes without effort. So far, she’s pretty “on track”, but I like the idea of structuring her learning and activities into our daily routine more. This will help keep me focused on teaching particular skills and it will help me then do it with the next two kids. I am predicting it could be very easy to let some learning slip with the younger kids as life gets crazier. 

Right now Dorothy can:

  • Identify half of the letters of the alphabet
  • Distinguish letters from numbers
  • Identify the basic shapes
  • Identify all colors
  • Recognizes her written name

She has recently started to love puzzles and matching games. I’d like to continue working on those skills with her this month, but I’d like to move ahead on the rest of the alphabet as well. Another skill is pen control. I think it’s a little early, but I’ve found her trying to draw faces. She does a really good job doing a circle and then eyes and a mouth. (It’s not always the happiest face, mind you, but she gets the idea.) I recently purchased a mini dry-erase board that we have had a good time with. I’m not worried about numbers just yet (letters first), but I do want to have her understand the concept of counting better. She can recite the numbers but she currently does not connect it with the idea of counting items.

I previously shared these ABC activities and we are working our way through. If you are a parent who works at home with your children on specific pre-school learning activities, let me know some of your favorites. I know the struggle on this challenge is completely on me dedicating time. Dorothy will be more than happy to have Mama doing such activities with her!

Review: Hosting an Usborne Books & More Online Event

If you have a Facebook account, no doubt a friend has invited you to some form of online sales “party”. I know I’ve gotten a million invites and I’ve helped with or participated in many Juice Plus+ events. This past I hosted an event for Usborne Books & More, a product I was familiar with but do not sell myself. These are my thoughts on hosting one of these and the books themselves.

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Thoughts on the Usborne Books & More products

Why check out these books? Working with someone directly on recommendations and learning about the books is great when there is a world of books out there. Here are some things I have come to love about Usborne after spending more time looking at the options and building a wish list.

1. Watching the Usborne videos is very beneficial

Whether you are live at an event or not, the videos are very helpful in understanding these books, especially some of the interactive ones. Additionally, it is worth searching YouTube for specific books you are interested in, as there tend to be video previews of many of them. Many of the shopping pages themselves do not have pictures of pages inside the books, but you can easily find these on YouTube.

2. Fair to Good Pricing on Books

If you ever shop books, you can easily see that the books you are getting are a great price. Even the very interactive books. Probably the worst part about buying from or hosting an online event is that you can physically see and feel and flip through books. (Or maybe it is good, because doing so would make buying them all irresistible!) Having kids of my own, I can vouch for easily accumulating too many toys, but books are something always of value and what I consider a quality gift.

3. The Interactive Book selection is great

Sticker books, wipe-clean books, busy books… The list goes on and on for the books Usborne offers that are much more than just standard pages if you want something that has more of a ‘toy’ or ‘game’ feel to it. Their lift-the-flap and touchy-feely books are even top of the line compared to many other options out there.

Thoughts on Hosting An Usborne Books & More Party

Despite the fact my consultant had trouble with her live stream at the event and then the website malfunctioned right as the party came to a close (meaning no one could shop!), the event was a huge success in my eyes. Here are a few reasons I think I had such luck.

1. Listen to the expert (the consultant)

Through my own experience in direct marketing with Juice Plus+, I know and can respect that there is a proven method how to do things. If you follow the process taught and used by those who have succeeded, you will succeed too. It’s easy to feel your own ideas will work better because you are “different”, but I know better. The work I have done over the past 8 years has also taught me that as unique as things can be, there are methods for success that work for everything. Because of this, I followed my consultant’s directions for hosting the party–all of which were very simple. This resulted in fantastic pre-party participation, great party attendance and wonderful sales (despite some technological difficulties!)

2. Personalize your invitations

Although, this is likely a part of #1, because my consultant told me to send personal messages to those I invited, I want to reiterate this step and the importance of your verbiage. My consultant made it super simple to do by writing this personal message for me; however, I took it a step further and I think this made a difference. I took the time to customize her text to my voice, and then used it as a base to send an even more personal message to those I invited. I did this because I knew some friends were more likely to have heard of Usborne than others; I knew some have children the same age as mine; I knew some had older kids; I knew some were now in grandparent stage while others were also teachers. I tried to say why I’d thought of that individual’s interest to let them know they weren’t just the next person on my friend list that showed up to be invited.

3. Don’t limit your invites

Even if you are afraid people will be annoyed or offended by your invite, it does not hurt to politely extend the invitation–as long as you are personally inviting them. I was surprised by some of the people who got back to me and appreciated the info because they had never heard of Usborne. I was also surprised to see some of the orders come through from people I did not expect to purchase from me.

If you are ever invited to one of these events–online or in person–at least attend to educate yourself on the selection of books. Kid books are an exceptional gift for all occasions and all ages. I will even say, if you are a book lover, being a consultant for this company would probably be worth looking into. (I am not one and do not know the details, so I am saying this completely of my own opinion and freedom.) Sharing a love of books would be an easy thing to do.

 

If you are interested, my party is still open until tonight (July 15, 2016). Feel free to check it out and shop. If you are interested in hosting an event to earn books for yourself, I would be happy to connect you with my consultant, Kelly Kremer.

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One Simple Change: Preparing for Baby #3

Last Month’s Review: June

Goal: Get creative and cook fresh from the garden

Fail/Success? Success! We have been eating straight from the garden constantly and I love it. I’ve tried several new things with the fresh produce and nearly all of them were simple things I plan to (or already have) repeated. I actually did not experiment any with our beets, broccoli or green beans. The beets and broccoli are just SO good steamed with butter (and easy for the kids) that I had no desire to do other things. The beans, so far, we’ve focused on canning for storage.

Here are some new things I did try and loved:

  • Overnight Oats – This was easy and simple. I actually bought my fruit, but we’ll have our own berries soon that I can repeat with. I’ve done it twice and just need more yogurt to repeat! (Check #5 on this 10 Things Tuesday List for recipe I followed.)
  • Dipping Oil – I used our fresh basil along with a plethora of other herbs and spices to make a dipping oil that turned out fabulous! It’s a great thing to set out with bread if you have guests over. (I used #2 on this list. I left off the Parmesan for Mingus’s sake.)
  • Zucchini Chips – I followed this recipe a couple of times (minus the tomato) and made half with Parmesan and half without. More recently I kept it super simple and just cubed the zucchini, sprayed them with oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.
  • Zucchini Pizzas – Major win! I’ve done it twice and once even made some with no cheese for Jon.
  • BBQ Kabobs – I’ve never made any kind of skewers or kabobs and this was fun to put together–Dorothy enjoyed it too. I loosely followed this recipe, but primarily used lots of veggies (peppers, onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes), pineapple and chicken and brushed with Maul’s barbecue sauce.
  • Chicken & Pineapple Marinade – I had leftovers of nearly all my skewer ingredients, so I decided to marinade them the next night and simply wrap them in foil to bake. I found this kabob recipe and used it’s marinade (pineapple juice, soy sauce, honey, Sriracha, garlic) for my leftovers and served it over brown rice.
  • Salmon Patties – I’ve never experimented making these with an egg substitute and haven’t thought to do it since discovering duck eggs. I looked up a recipe and we will definitely be making these a staple in our house now.
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Cookies – We had just enough rhubarb to do something but not a pie, so I’ve had this recipe marked in one of my allergy-friendly cook books for awhile. While they were very tasty, I think I’d prefer to use my rhubarb for something else and stick to simple oatmeal cookies.

What I got out of it: Eating straight from the garden is one of my favorite things about summer. It makes dinner prep so easy every night, because there is always plenty of food in the house. Trying these new recipes has not only made my family happy, but it’s helped me realize how easy it is to find simple recipes, given me the confidence to adjust things to our liking or needs, and it makes me enjoy the cooking process more. 

Moving Forward: We have plenty of zucchini and squash to keep experimenting with as summer continues. I’m also looking forward to tomatoes and peppers coming on later. The cucumbers are just beginning to really produce as well. (I see pasta salads in our future!) Blackberries will be ready for picking soon, which will bring for some breakfast and dessert fun. (We had blueberries, but our bushes are young and the kids had them all eaten before we were even back to the house!)

New Challenge: July

Goal: Start prepping Dorothy and Jacob for arrival of Baby #3

Motivation behind the challenge: There are several things I know I need to do with my two kids that, if I’m being honest, I’ve just been too lazy to tackle. Considering the kids are not even 18 months and 2 1/2 going on 3, none of them would be that big of a deal, but since I have already experienced what it’s like to deal with a newborn and a toddler, I can anticipate what a newborn and two toddlers will be like. A good example of me learning this the hard way Dot’s potty training. To most, I started potty training Dorothy early at 20 months. She definitely would have been young to do it before Jacob was born (only 15 months). It turned out I started the process and not long after Jacob was teething–meaning he got fussier and needed more holding and nursing, which made for staying on Dot harder. I am not sure I would have done it differently, but that experience tells me I need to work through the changes I can with these two now, before baby arrives in November.

On my to-do list for this month are:

  • Doing away with pacifiers: I’ve relied on Dot’s forever because it’s just been easy. She doesn’t use it much anymore. But definitely expects it for sleeping. I need to have her off of it well before the baby arrives, because at that point, there is a good chance I’ll have them scattered throughout the house again and I don’t want her picking them up. Jacob uses them too, but I honestly think he’ll be easier to wean.
  • Overnight pull-ups: Dorothy is fully potty trained but still wears a pull-up at night. I originally thought she’d slowly start to not pee at night, but I think she sleeps so heavily she doesn’t even know she uses the bathroom while asleep. There are nights she is dry or sometimes she’ll wakes up in the morning and go on the potty in her room. Other mornings she wakes up to a full pull-up and takes it off herself–which tells me she knows it shouldn’t be full of pee and doesn’t like it. Many days she doesn’t nap anymore, another reason I believe she sleeps heavily at night. I have to figure out how to teach her to recognize and wake up when her bladder is full.
  • Two Kids/One Room: While we do have two bedrooms plus a nursery for the kids, I am going to have Jacob and Dorothy share a room. This will leave our guest room open longer and I think the hardest part will simply be on us during the early weeks of transitioning the two. I like the idea of them being used to sharing the space so that when we travel, it’s not a big deal if they sleep near each other. (We had our first experience of letting them share a room last week. While getting to sleep took awhile, they both slept through each other’s wake ups in the middle of the night. They were awake early, though.) Jacob still being in a crib should help since at least one kid will be confined.

There are some other things I plan to accomplish before baby’s arrival, but these three are on my radar for July. I’ll start with the pacifiers, as I suspect some fussing about it at bedtime, so I might as well face that while they are in separate rooms. I should probably work on night time bathroom breaks next, but I’d also like to get them used to sharing a room because that may be our setup during our August vacation.

Wish me luck or leave me your advice. I honestly think these tasks are harder on the parent than the kid. They are creatures of habit in all areas of life right now, so any change is hard, but usually a day or two of something new and they forget the old method. I just have to be disciplined!

The Top Items a Toddler Mom Needs at the Pool to Keep it Simple

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Remember last winter when you were so excited for the first big snow and you couldn’t wait to take your little one out? And then you did it once… And were worn out and fine to not repeat! Between dressing the toddler in the bundling up the kid(s) and yourself and then managing them in the snow and keeping the clothes on—was it worth it?

Now it’s stinkin’ hot outside and the pool sounds perfect–but will it be more tiresome than it’s worth?

I’m here to tell you the pool fun can be fun, simple and still refreshing to YOU. But it still needs to be done right or you can end up with madness. We have to pack up and drive for our pool trips. My problem was figuring out what to bring for two toddlers without going overboard. Not to mention I had to get them inside the pool AND carry my stuff in one trip. (And those under age three can’t help carry much more than a floaty toy!) 

How do you avoid eight bags of stuff? Here’s my top items, suggestions broken down into 3 bags; however, you can easily combine these bags, especially if you have only one kid.

Bag #1: Wet Items

Obviously, nothing should be wet arriving at the pool, but leaving you’ll want the wet stuff in one bag. Initially I keep toys/water gear in this bag. 

Item: Swim suits
My suggestion: Swim shirts.
I have one of these for Jacob and need one for Lou. They help so much with the sun cover and are much easier than sunscreen. I suggest two piece suits for girls to make potty breaks/diaper changes simpler. (I also do hats, but I know many kids won’t wear them.) Also, I dress and sunscreen my kiddos in the car. It’s convenient to open the back of my van and do it there. It makes containing more than one toddler much easier! So you know the others are safe while one gets dressed.

Item: Swim Safety wear
My Suggestion: Stearns Puddle Jumpers.
Although they are bulky to pack, they kids wear them well on the occasions they get in the deeper pool. (I have a traditional one and an infant style.) I also like my inflatable raft/carrier they can ride on but deflates for packing. 

Item: Sunscreen
My Suggestion: 50+ SPF
While I actually prefer traditional lotion (and it’s what I use initially), I highly suggest having some spray sunscreen and a sunscreen stick for faces. If you plan to be out more than an hour you NEED to reapply on your kids and the spray will be much easier once they are already running wild. 

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Item: Toys
My suggestion: Smaller inflatables, floating toys
This will vary with your kids, but the key is to limit it if you have limited bag space. Here are some tips.

  • I like the small inflatables because they pack up well and don’t take long to blow up. Lou loves something to float on even in the kiddie pool. (I bought $1 inflatable rings and she loves them!)
  • I prefer floating toys to diving toys because Jake sometimes falls over when trying to pick up the diving kind.
  • I suggest squishy balls and toys that hold water as opposed to things like water guns—they are kind of hard for young kids to use.
  • Another thing to try are items that can poor water (cups, watering cans).
  • I’ve also found mini fish nets to be a hit—kids love collecting things!

Bag #2: Dry Items

Nothing is guaranteed safe from wetness at the pool, but we try our best. One bag for be specifically for the dry clothes and items like your phone. But bring plastic bags for wet clothing/towels in case you need to put wet items into this bag when leaving.

Item: Towels
My Suggestion: Hooded towels.
You may have toddler-sized hooded towels for bath time, but I prefer them even for the pool. My kids like them and they stay on well. 

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Item: Shoes
My Suggestion: Croc-style shoes.
Pavement and concrete get HOT. Kids are in and out of the water. Jake is out as much as he is in, so I make sure he has shoes that stay on his feet well, have good traction, but can also be wet. Both of my kids are too young to tolerate the standard flip-flop/thong between their toe-style sandals at this point.

Item: Dry clothes
My Suggestion: Bring extra!
I like to have two extra sets of clothes. You just never know what might happen. Dresses for Lou because they are so simple and shorts & shirt for Jake. Making sure they are comfortable for the drive home is key because mine always fall asleep. Also, have a plastic bag for the wet stuff at the end of the day. (Just use a plastic grocery bag–we all have a zillion anyway!) 

Item: Purse essentials
My suggestion: Cash & phone
Leave your purse so it’s one less thing to carry. Put some cash (or your card if you think you’ll need it) in a safe place in your dry bag and take your phone. 

Bag #3 Food & Drinks

I list this bag separately because you may bring a cooler to ice items or, in my case, I know this bag will get torn through by both myself and kids at different points, so I don’t want to be digging among other things for snacks. Most pools probably sell food, but I like having my own. It saves trips to the concessions as well as money. And swimming makes kids hungry–trust me!

Item: Drinks
My Suggestion: Water
Being out in the sun, you and your kids need continued hydration. Fruit drinks and soda may seem more fun, but you need to get the water.

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Item: Lunch
My Suggestion: Peanut butter & jelly.
This sounds so simple because it is! You can whip up several before leaving the house but they are just filling enough while being light enough to really hit the spot in the hot sun.

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Item: Fruit
My Suggestion: Watermelon
This especially helps if you have trouble getting your kids to drink water. Any fruit is nice at the pool, but you can load a plastic container with watermelon and have an easy, refreshing snack that lasts awhile.

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Item: Snacks
My Suggestion: Serving-size dry snacks
I won’t give exact suggestions because you know your kids and I don’t. Having single-serving size things is helpful because toddlers can get unplanned things wet and if something were to happen, only a small amount of a particular snack gets ruined, not an entire bag. You can always prepare plastic baggies at home if you like don’t want the added expense of snack-sized servings.

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Who is expecting? Family of 5 coming this Fall!

Once upon a time… five years ago around this time… a guy and a girl got engaged…

Fast forward to today and that same couple is preparing to become a family of FIVE! 🙂

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You never know what can happen in five years!

Mingus and I are expecting an addition to our family this fall and we couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, you did the math right… Three babies in three years. Dorothy will turn three in October. This baby is due November 10–three months before Jacob will turn two.

Did you catch all of those numbers?

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But the truth is, we wanted our kids close in age. Jacob came a little faster than we would have planned ourselves, but I’m so grateful he is with us and I now get to see him and Dot developing into little playmates already. Seriously. Every day I’m in heart melting awe watching them. Now we have their next little amigo on the way.

We’ve known since early March, but we like to keep the news to ourselves and fairly low key for the first few months. It mostly has to do with the fact I simply I find an intimacy in having this special ‘secret’ to share with my husband when it’s just about us and our family. It’s such a miraculous thing and that will never be lost on me. Reflecting on that and sharing it with the person who is on this parenthood journey with me holds meaning beyond words for me. I do love to share the joy with family, friends and loved ones (and all of you!), but I also get a little self conscious making too big of a deal out of it for whatever reason.

For those of you who do love knowing any and all details available… Here is a rough video vlog of some of the initial updates on the pregnancy–including thoughts from Hubs and Lou and reactions from Jo and my sister when they heard my news. (Apologies in advance for poor video/lighting quality–many of the videos were shot late at night when I’d randomly think to do it! That also means I look pretty rough in some of them–eek!)

I’m also extra excited about this pregnancy because I have two of my closest friends on the road with me–both due with their first babies in November! Sara and Michelle (and their respective husbands) are very close friends to Mingus and I and my family in general. Our group of friends was together for the first time in probably six months (at least for Mingus and I to see them all) for a low key hangout of brats on the grill at our house on night in April. Both of my brothers and their wives were there as well. The news of each couple came out one by one, shocking the group with more excitement each time. We are all due within about two weeks of each other. It brought a whole new meaning to the term “crazy night” in that group of friend.

Also crazy (or maybe more coincidental), the night we all found out about each other’s news was exactly THREE years after the date when my sister-in-law, Holly Jo and I shared the news that the three of us were expecting within two weeks of each other. That time, we all had three babies in 24 hours. Both Sara and Miche (as we call her) were there the night of that big announcement and I am sure they never imagined then that three years later they’d be making the same announcement!

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Myself with Sara and Miche (as we call her) after finding out about our November “triplets”.

I am currently 14 weeks along–or just over three months and out of my first trimester. (Which was not all that bad… Some queasiness around weeks 6-8 but that’s about it. Plus exhaustion–pregnancy with two tots wears you out!) Oh, and in case you didn’t know… 14 weeks shows A LOT more the third time around than the first!

Dot’s excited and claims she is getting a baby sister (typical little girl prediction). I’m still/always faithfully taking my Juice Plus+ to guarantee, despite any pregnancy cravings or lack thereof, this babe is getting a full daily dose of 30+ fruits and vegetables every day. I truly believe (and know from the research specific to pregnancy) it has done wonders in my extremely healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as these healthy kids I am now raising. THIS is also why I did my One Simple Change smoothie challenge back in April. Trust me when I say  that trying to eat enough and eat well when keeping up with two toddlers is no easy feat, so I love getting that wonderful macronutrients in a smoothie and know I’m nourishing this nugget. (And I have done a good job continuing smoothies this month.)

We appreciate any and all prayers for this new little soul in our family. We are so blessed.