Sunday, September 12, 2010

And On His Farm He Had A...

Since our fabulous new loft bedroom premiered in early July, I have been attempting (begging) to find a consistent bedtime routine.  It started very ugly on my part.  It's pretty hard to go from snuggles and lullabies and soothing nite-nites - one of which never took more than about 30 seconds to put to bed, to two giggling giddy toddlers who have probably the coolest room ever (it beats the heck out of OUR room) and who are seemingly wound down until they get into their sleeping spaces, or should I call them "The Boys' Most Awesome Fort Ever" and decide it's a whole new place to jump around, talk to one another and climb under each others sheets.  The ugly - me stomping up and down the stairs threatening them within an inch of their lives with "IT'S NITE-NITE!  GO TO SLEEP!"  (Caps intended to read as if I was screaming because on several nights in the past two months, I was  - cringing admittance that I yell at my kids.)

Well, somewhere in the past month, I gave up.  I guess I got tired of listening to myself and tired of those stairs - after all they are the only ones on the whole property that are not part of a ladder.  So one night, I just let 'em have at it.  The next morning, I found Duke sleeping next to Jack which made me melt into an ooey gooey mess of a moment - my kids love one another!

Since then, for the most part, it's been working better - gee could it have been ME all along causing the delay? - cringing admittance I need to yell less and let it go more.  Typical routine has become- we read a book in the rocking chair, then some nights when it's not too late, we read a page of our devotional for toddlers, then Duke is up the ladder to his bed and laying down while I rock Jack and sing our old standby, Hush Little Baby (yep Mom, we still sing that song and I think of you every time I've done it for 4 years now - twice a night for nearly 3 of those), then Jack's up the ladder to his bed, rub his back a minute; me-"I love you very much" Jack-"I love you too" me-"Nite-Nite" Jack-"Nite-Nite", I go to Duke's bed, rub his back, sing Hush Little Baby, me-"Give me a kiss" kiss, me-"Nite-Nite", Duke-"Nite-Nite", check Jack for one last kiss, down the stairs and lights out.  I'm done.

Not bad given where we started from.  The only glitch, occassionally Duke likes to sing REALLY LOUDLY before completely passing out from exhaustion on the nights when he's overtired.

Tonight's chosen tune?  Old McDonald.  Except the farmer only has a chicken.  And he sang it three times, while I attempted to concentrate on making it all the way through Hush Little Baby with Jack without busting out a laugh that would bounce both of us out of the rocking chair.  I mean after the 2nd round of "And on his farm he had a................CHICKEN!  E-I-E-I-O!"  You would have been close to wetting your own pants, trust me. 

So I rush though the rest of the lullaby as I can safely without losing my composure figuring at any minute the chicken is going to turn into a cow or pig, get Jack in bed, only to find Duke - out cold. 

I could have sworn there were feathers laying near his pillow in the dark of the room.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome to the 4's!

Another birthday came and went...well that's what Cory and I will be saying about this year's festivities for us.  Jack had a great one as he rolled into his 4's.  It was a mixed theme - Starwars and Pirates.

We celebrated simply this year after last year's big joint Jack/Duke birthday bash.  Just a cake at school and presents at home.  But simple it was not apparently.

I need to just get it into my head that Jack really needs major advance preparation and reminders for any event that is outside the typical normal day.  I mean why do I torture myself thinking this is going to be the last exhibition of a being overwhelmed by attention moment he will have.  He's the one on the right by the way.  On the left - his completely opposite tempered brother.  I should have reminded his teachers to warn him when leaving the playgound, he's only been in the room a couple of weeks, they wouldn't have had any chance at knowing what result would come of him walking into his classroom to find me and his father with a the big pirate birthday cake he has been drooling over at the Publix bakery every week for nearly a year and all the tables decorated with pirate plates and hats ready to sing him a great big Happy Birthday song!

Instead, upon entering the room and surveying the scene, a crumpled mess he became on the floor and I spent about 15 minutes trying to console him and calm him down while assuring his teachers it was ok to let the other kids share in the cake and not to worry, that this was "normal" for us.  Let's face it, although he is a sweet, kind, wonderful, curteous, happy child 90% of the time, it's the 10% of instantaneously being overwhelmed by too many people, too different a situation that I struggle to figure out.

Ahhhh hindsight, 20/20.

A much better moment came at 5:45am - guess he's a morning person like his parents.

The best part of the day was waking him up in bed, along with Daddy who had been gone a full week, with his birthday cupcake lit up with a candle in the dark.  Something I started last year and which I cannot wait to repeat in 3 months for Duke for his 3rd birthday.  Alongside the cupcake, some small seemingly insignificant trinket or figure, but one that has been so wanted for so long that you would think I was handing a 16 year old keys to his first car.  Last year it was Guido and Luigi from Pixar's Cars.  This year, the Battleship Droid Commander.

We did make it through the party at school and returned home to a quiet night of opening and playing with our fantastic presents (I still have lots of thank you's to send out!).  He was a trooper even insisting Duke open some of his presents for him and they've been sharing them ever since.  I just hope we see the same generosity in a couple months.

Best line of the week came yesterday when out of the clear blue Jack pipes up from the back seat, "Hey Mommy!  Hey, I'm 4 now!!!!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

A New Zoo

Don't have a heart attack, it's true.  3 blogs in 6 days.  I may have a heart attack.  But there's too much good stuff going on and not enough time to call and chat with anyone.

As many of you know, Cory left last Tuesday (technically it was Tuesday, but in my bedroom it was Monday night at 2am), for a "work" trip to Wyoming with two salesmen from one of his biggest accounts for the hunting trip they earned for selling his many product lines this year.  Really, it's for work.  For me, it's 7 full days, including Labor Day weekend, plus the kids were out of daycare on Friday 1/2 day for Teacher Inservice and it's one of the two busiest times of the year for me at work with an upcoming buying show in Ft. Worth I have to prepare our people and systems for - ironically which he will be attending, after a 24 hour stay at home Wednesday this week, until next Monday night.  (Seriously, which one of you will be nominating me for Wife/Mom of the Year? - Kidding, I'm more of a "do" than "be")

So back to our weekend. 

I couldn't bear to think of a full weekend at the house with just me and the Younglings.  We did that just about all summer because with Cory's schedule each week (gone...), he really wanted to be home on the weekends and even if I didn't, I did want to spend them with the kids.  So this weekend it was all about them and me and anywhere we could be, other than home.

Friday, I picked them up at noon and we headed straight downtown to the McWane Science Center.  A tremendous place, with hands on exhibits, an indoor playground, mini aquarium and shark/ray touch tank (they are not brave enough just yet)  and right now special exhibit with Mr. Potato Head characters.  We even took in a feature at the IMAX Theather - Bugs!, which was probably not worth it for them since it was really a documentary type nature film, although I enjoyed the 45 minute seat and popcorn.  Well I did, after Duke calmed down from the theater going black and crying "I want to go Bye Bye!" about 20 times that first 5 minutes.

Overall - fabulous day for us, they are showing me how much they are growing up in these experiences by really paying attention, catching new ideas and behaving! 

Saturday, our first official "Stay Home" day of the weekend and I was blessed by them sleeping in until 8:30 - hooray!  We had to get to the grocery store, so we did a bit of that, stopped by Lowe's for some birdseed and a new pot of Russian Sage (I can't stand deadended summer plants, had to put something new in the garden) and of course called MiMi to wish her a Happy 65th Birthday!  (I know you are loving me telling the world that one mom!)

Sunday, Church Day, brought us to a morning of refreshment (they serve Starbucks at Church of the Highlands!) and an afternoon of guests.  "Aunt" Kay and boyfriend Dale joined us for the last of the lake days (it was a bit brisk in the water having dipped into the 50s the previous 2 nights) and we enjoyed cooking out with them and having some downtime.

And after all of this...somehow I had the energy to get the boys out the door by 8:30am today and on the way for the 75 mile drive to Montgomery with promises of elephants.  That's right, a "new zoo", complete with the elusive elephant that is always "sleeping" at the Birmingham Zoo.  It was just the right size for us, we enjoyed seeing the 3 African Elephants, playing in the playground, seeing an alligator up close-like 2 feet away!-having a cheetah and a jaguar walk right in front of our noses, feed the giraffes (Duke did too, while still holding on to me for dear life, after he was convinced the giraffe was nice and not going to eat his hand) and just have somewhere new to visit.  Again, angels the whole day and bonus - Duke stayed DRY the entire visit to the zoo.  So, looks like potty training is going to take a front and center activity in our house again - oh yea!...oh yuk.

In between all of this, I got some quality snuggle time with Jack (and Buzz and Woody) since our ritual was to put on a movie after supper and which Duke promptly zonked out during the first 30 minutes, we had plenty of opportunity for life lessons - which are much easier for me to work on with the boys when it's just them and me and not a lot of other people around to distract me from my goals - and even a bonus, I guess you could call it that.  Last night Duke wet through his pull-up and woke up at 5am - waaaaay too early for a start to the day I had planned, so downstairs he came, changed, and in bed with me (gee, darn!) for a few hours before I snuck into the shower.  I'm not a fan of co-sleeping, but on the rare occaission its necessary I am not complaining when I get to snuggle with my kids in bed, that is without them wriggling and giggling around.  I even got to bend another of our "rules", which I secretly love to do but know I have to be so very careful about, and let them have Cheerios in Mommy's bed while watching Dora on the tube so I could finish getting ready and pack the car. 

It was a busy weekend, and I'm EXHAUSTED, but overall I couldn't have enjoyed it more.  It is hard being a single mom a lot of the time and the thought of weekends alone, ugh.  But when we have times like this, it's all good.  The moments that we spend "together, alone" give me an opportunity and focus to really instill in them the values I'm trying so hard to put into their hearts and have fun at the same time.  With Cory gone so much, when he is home so much of my attention is focused on him, or him with the kids, that any other moments I can grab - I tend to grab for myself.  When it's me and the Younglings...well, it's all about them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Secretly I've Always Wanted to Be The Mom in Parents Magazine

I've read them every month since Jack was born, of course now I can skip the tips on "Better Breastfeeding" and "Tap Your Baby's Hidden Talents", but I still read on. Vowing with every article, to make that recipe, craft, workout; part of next week's agenda.

Yea, well.

Today though, we made these.

Aren't they crafty, hung just perfectly.  I'm sure there will be finches covering them any minute now.

Of course, it is September, in Alabama, where it can easily hit 90 mid day which is probably hot enough to liquify the peanut butter and make our lovely pinecone bird feeders melt in a goop on the grass below.
However, I can now check this one off my list of "things I better do with my kids before they are too old to want to do them with me so they have all these great memories of growing up with me as their mom."

Or I can just be happy I came up with something to keep them busy for 5 minutes while I filled up the actual birdfeeder without "can I help, can I help" trailing behind me.

Either way, mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Funny One

Admit it, we all do it, tag our children with personality traits before they are even old enough to have personality traits.

Jack - clean, structured, precise, needy, helpful, tender hearted, wants to please, momma's boy; the serious one.

Duke - messy, if there is something that can get on him, it does, full out all the time, loud, big loving, daredevil, no fear; the funny one.

Duke wins tonite.

It's not a suprise to those that know us well, we discipline our children. We aren't perfect parents but we believe in a parenting path which involves more than time-out. I promise we aren't some crazed, strict mom and dad whose kids will show up on Maury Povich (is he still on?) 15 years from now telling their story of spending hours in a closet with no food, no water, no light for a week. We just believe that in order to change certain behaviors at this age, it can require more than discussion.

We probably started this parenting path a little late with Jack, but at this point, the times we need to visit Mommy and Daddy's room are pretty few and far between. He understands what the limits are, and really as much of a straight and narrow kid as he is naturally, grace is used successfully much more often. Except when he decides he's big enough to go to the lake on his own - then the wooden spoon reappears for a brief moment (understandably, what's worse, a pop on the bottom or him drowning?).

Duke benefitted from Jack's learning curve. Essentially he was trained in the early years that if you didn't listen to Mommy and Daddy there were consequences. So by default, he usually follows the path of the straight and narrow within one warning. "Duke, we don't ... or you will get a pop on the bottom." 'nuff said. But there is one small behavior we are working on, which brings me to tonight.

I have boys, I realize this and I give a lot of room for consideration. I do not expect them to sit at a table and color for an hour undisturbed. They are active. They need to exert their energy. No problem here. But, I have my limits. Spitting is one of them. And it seems to be one of Duke's weaknesses.

In the past two weeks I've had two drives home (mind you that means 45 minutes) in which I have spent 42.10 of those minutes explaining that we "DO NOT SPIT". It doesn't help that his brother thinks it's hilarious when he does it and all but eggs him on in his comedy show. Well tonight I calmly explained when we got home, it meant Duke would need to go to Mommy's room when we arrived. They both know what this means, which brought about an entirely new discussion of how many pops on the bottom would be required (Side note - we pop 1 time and 1 time only for an infraction, that's it, the rest is their vivid imaginations at work. Some parents discipline in other ways, this is ours.).

"Duke, how many pops will you get?"
"No, you are going to get five."
"No, I don't want five, six!"

etc. I actually heard Duke say, "I get Two Five pops!" at one point. I'm now firmly convinced he hasn't counted past ten in preschool.

We arrived, and off to Mommy's room he went. He knew, didn't run off, moaned about it on the way, but knew he deserved what was coming. I just wasn't prepared.

Up to this point, when it's time for Duke to receive the consequences for undesired action he's been fairly accepting of the punishment, usually getting down from the chair he's sitting in during the discussion of what he'd done wrong, to turn around and accept his "pop". Tonight I had a moment in which I had to control myself...not for anger - come on, they are my kids! But from falling on the floor laughing.

The child walked into our room with a book he has grown quite attached to - Going on a Bear Hunt. We've read it several times for bedtime in the past two weeks. I do it with a British accent because at school they have a book on tape they play and the reader is British which makes it even more fun. "W'aahr goin on ah Beahr Hunt, W'aahr goin to catch ah BIG one, W'ahr not scaahd" The board book.

Tonite, when he realized as he sat in the chair and I talked with him about his behavior in the car and how he disobeyed me (multiple times) and continued to spit, that he would receive a consequence for that behavior, I noticed he was putting the book under his bottom as he sat in the chair. At first, I thought it strange, but when he pulled it out from under him and said "Pop the book" I could barely keep a straight face. He continued to try and position it down behind him as he stood up. The child isn't even 3!!! I can honestly say that since we instilled this parenting path, nearly 6 months ago, he's been popped maybe 5 times, tops.

So, I'm now convinced of one thing. He's not just The Funny One. He's actually The Smart One too!