Friday, September 30, 2011

Ah Yuh Yoo

Motherhood is a trip, but if it isn't the most fun I've ever had in my life, I just don't know what is.  Let's be honest though - there are hardships - moments, hours, even the rare entire day where things go so wrong that I figure I should just set my hair on fire myself and get it over with, before the whining or the arguing or the pushing-each-other-down-when-Mama's-not-looking, or the general cacophony or the incessant mess or the runny noses and bottom wiping and seemingly self-replicating laundry and removing-every-gross, non edible thing-she-can-find-from-the-baby's-mouth drives me clear around the bend.  Times when I'm counting the minutes until James comes home, because he is amazing and will swoop the kids upstairs to give me thirty minutes to breathe (How I adore that man).  Times when I have NO CLUE what I'm doing or how my mother managed to have a constantly immaculate house filled with homemade bread and hand-sewn clothes and forty five foster kids in addition to her own five "forever" kids.  Times when I wonder who in their right mind just gave me two precious children and let me take them home, because I canNOT seem to get it right.  Then, just as I'm looking for the matches (for my hair, ya see) there's some instance of absolute...transcendent joy: the J-bird reads a sentence or gives me a spontaneous hug and tells me a joke, followed by his amazing, magical giggle. or he makes up a (generally long) story and tells it to me in a very animated way that cracks me up... or Miss V says a new word (yesterday it was "Whoa!") or tells me, "Ah yuy yoo" or laughs hysterically at her brother or falls so sweetly asleep in my arms...and the "hair on fire" bits just wash away, leaving only the good stuff to linger in the book of memories in my heart.  That's sappy, but dang if it isn't the truth.

I think that, as a "mommy blogger" I have a tendency to only put the good stuff out there.  I write about the funny things my kids say or the sweet things they do, the cool craft projects that teach something, the fun adventures - the things I'm proud of, you know?  I don't mention that my son has a bad habit of arguing and whining or that the baby is getting 6 miserable teeth and likes to bite people hard enough to break the skin before running away to scale the back of the couch like a mountain goat, cackling. I write about parenting triumphs, but I rarely say anything about the giant Mommy FAILS (of which there are many).  I only post photos of myself that make me look the way I want to be seen, rather than the shots in which my hips look three axe handles wide and my hair is a rat's nest.  I only post quotes of things I've said to my children that underline the kind of mother I want to be all the time, rather than the things I say (or snap...or bellow) in frustration that I immediately want to take back.  I realize this is a normal thing.  We don't all go around listing out our faults for one another, but, especially for mothers of small children, wouldn't it help to sometimes know you aren't the only one?  I think that motherhood has revealed aspects of my personality, of my heart, my character, my soul, that I never knew were there.  It lays everything bare, the beautiful and the ugly, but then what I do with the knowledge is up to me.  I can stick my fingers in my ears and say "lalala", shut my eyes to the unsightly parts of myself and pretend, or I can face those truths, accept them, and work at being better.

And so, like most people, I'm doing the very best I can do, the majority of the time.  I'm striving every day to be better - to be more patient, to shut down the whining and arguing and biting firmly but with love, to use a quieter voice and a sweeter tone, to make our home life fun while still teaching and molding and shaping.  To turn off my computer and set down my phone and engage with my two hooligans, even if I AM tired from the baby waking up (blasted teeth) in the night for the first time in months.  Little things that add up to big things.  And I'm so encouraged and inspired by the love my children shine back at me - how they respond to teaching and jokes and tickles and stories and "adventures" and hugs and "I love you"s, to the simple things that make up our day.  Do I screw up?  Daily.  Shoot - hourly sometimes.  But do my kids still love me?  Thankfully, YES (so far).  And I love them more than the air I breathe.  So I'll keep working on being better, at chipping away the ugly.  I may actually get it right someday.  Of course, by then my children will be grown, and I'll only be able to use my perfect mothering on my grandchildren.

Ooooooohhhhhhhh (light dawning) THAT'S how that works!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Babsitter Bailey

When the J-bird was a baby (um...and toddler), we rarely ever left him.  Partially because we didn't know many babysitters, partially because he and I were so attached, and partially (mainly) because he would scream the.whole.time.I.was.gone.  He wouldn't stay in the church nursery.  He wouldn't let anyone else hold him.  He wouldn't even stay with James for very long.  He just wanted me.  Once, when he was about 8 or 9 months old, I had an unavoidable thing I had to do, and I couldn't take him with me, so my very gracious neighbor agreed to watch him for a few hours, the longest I'd ever left him at that point.  When I got back (breathless and rushing and near panic), she looked suspiciously worn out, and when I asked, she reluctantly told me that he'd long as she was holding him and walking around.  If she stopped moving or sat down, he screamed.  For three hours.  So, finding a good babysitter wasn't really an issue, because we couldn't leave him.

Miss V is wildly different from her brother in many ways, one of them being that, now that she's older, she's okay with spending time with someone other than me.  She loves Daddy time, she loves the church nursery, she loves to love on other people.  Because of that, once she hit a year old, James and I gave babysitters another try, and we've been so pleasantly surprised at the opportunity that a really great babysitter affords us to occasionally leave the house on our own with no worries.  Bailey is that babysitter.  We have a few girls who babysit for us, and we love them all, but we usually call Bailey first for several reasons.  First of all, the kids adore her.  She's young, but she's able to be firm enough to keep them in line while being super fun at the same time.  And - bonus - we come home every single time to a house that is as clean as we left it.   That's huge.

I babysat a LOT as a young teenager (before I got into the late-high-school, extra-curricular-schedule madness), and I loved it.  I was one of those who always cleaned up, washed dishes, wiped faces, etc...while making up scavenger hunts and other fun games for the kids.  It was work, but it always seemed like I was getting paid to play, and I loved that.  We feel so lucky to have found a babysitter who is exactly the same way with our kids.  Thanks, Bailey!  We sure love you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Craft

 This week's craft with our friends was all about apples - specifically, apples I picked off my tree this morning.

First, we looked at the apples and talked about all the different parts we could see on the outside.  Then, we cut them open and looked at the insides.

 We took out the seeds and talked about the shape of them, and then each child (or mother of the very small children) poked a hole in some dirt and planted an apple seed. 

 The big kids wanted to add leaves for decoration.

 The rest of the "craft" involved making their own snacks.  We dipped the cut-up apple pieces in chocolate and decorated with various sprinkles, etc...

 They decorated far more than they ate, so not much sugar was ingested, though, I confess, my kids do eat sugar - not ALL the time, but often enough that they aren't desperate for it whenever they see it.  I'm attempting to teach them how to eat all things in moderation.  We'll see if it works.


 This combination was my favorite.

 The kids preferred piling all the options on. 

And, like most crafts involving small children, this one made a glorious mess.  Seriously.  It was huge.  But worth it for the fun.  The kids played for a good while after faces and hands were washed, which gave Wendee and I a chance to drink a (second) cup of coffee and have some adult conversation.  I do so enjoy Tuesdays!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Science! Hopefully...

 Last week, I made guacamole with three avacados.  It was my first attempt and I'll tweak the recipe some next time, but the point is that I had three pits at the end and thought to myself, "Self, why don't you turn this into a science lesson and try growing an avacado plant with the J-bird?"  We've grown carrots and a baby apple tree from seeds, as well as some sprouted grass and a Chia pet, but we haven't tried the avacado bit yet, and NOW is the time.

 We left one pit out overnight, then peeled off the papery outer layer and checked out the surface.

Then we cut it in half to see what the inside looked like.

We put toothpicks in a second pit and submerged the bottom half in some water, placing it in the kitchen window.

Hopefully, it will sprout or do something other than just sit in the water, looking funky.  I'm going to have the J-bird draw a picture of it each week, to see how fast it grows. 

We gave the third pit to the J-bird's friend across the street.  It'll be interesting to see if they grow at the same rate.

Speaking of things growing at different rates, Miss V is teething like a maniac - her always sweet and happy disposition superseded by the pain of molars and canines, constant fussiness and crying, and an insatiable desire to bite people and suck on ice.  Poor baby.  She's sitting, teary eyed on my knee right now, as I type one-handed.  I think some cuddling is in order...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Big Fun

Four 4 year olds.  Four 1 year olds.  Four mamas and one newborn (not pictured).  This week's walking group!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lilliputian Potty Princess

A couple of months ago, I put Miss V on the potty for the first time, expecting nothing, but doing it anyway, because she was so curious about it.  Like all mothers, privacy in the bathroom is a thing of the past for me - if I'm in the bathroom, so is she (along with her brother, like as not).  In addition to being my constant restroom companion, Miss V is a second child who believes with all her heart that she can do anything her big brother can do.  The J-bird can do a somersault?  Well then, so can she.  The J-bird can go down the big slide at the park?  Well then, so can she.  The J-bird goes potty like a grown up?  Well can she.  She watches him closely, and then determinedly attempts it all, working at it until she's successful.  That first time I plopped her on the toilet, she, uh, went as though she'd been doing it all her life, and she hasn't looked back. 

She'll sit on the little potty chair or on the child sized potty seat I have, but she really prefers to go on the regular old big potty like a big girl.  In fact, she insists on it.  She still often wears diapers and still uses them sometimes, but I'd call her about 70% potty trained, and that's just because I haven't fully buckled down to the task.  While what we're doing is probably closer to this (as a friend once told me when I was potty training the J-bird, "You're really only training yourself!"), because I usually initiate the potty breaks, she does sometimes sign for potty, and she almost always goes when I take her.  Her diapers are dry more often than not, which is lovely, as it provides less laundry with the cloth diapers and less trash with the disposables (I use a mix). 

And, most importantly, Miss V gets to feel like a big shot, and though it all seems to be going by much faster this second time around, I comfort myself with the knowledge that she'll always be my baby, whether she's 1 or 51.  I'm brave for a whole minute or two sometimes.

...and then I grab her for a snuggle and beg her to slow down, and she just laughs.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Newport Day Trip

 We wanted to do something on the Oregon Coast over the Labor Day weekend, before it gets too cold and rainy.  Instead of going on the actual weekend though, James took the day off, and we avoided the crowds by going Tuesday.

 We picked Newport as our destination.  We've been out there before, when the J-bird was the age Miss V is now, and we thought it was time to go back.

 Our first stop was the Newport Aquarium.

 Our little lover of "ishies" was in Heaven.  She loved every second.

 The J-bird did too :)

 I have a photo of this little boy standing in this exact spot from our visit when he was bitty.  How the time do fly.

 A large portion of the Aquarium is outside, including a tank with a big octopus.  The boy was fascinated.

 There's also a series of walk-through tubes with sea life all around.  Pretty awesome.

 My family, in the jaws of a shark.  Terrifying.

But seriously, folks.  I watched Jaws at a slumber party when I was nine (sorry Mom!), and I haven't been the same since.  The idea of swimming in the deep ocean terrifies me.  Lakes are even a little iffy.  In fact, I used to be a little suspicious of the deep end of the pool.  I'd imagine something with very sharp teeth looming out of the gloom, and *zip*!  I'd be out of the pool.  Oh, I tried to look nonchalant about it, but....really....


 There's a little play area on the way out.  My kids never met a play area they didn't like.

 For lunch, we stopped at the Rogue Brewery, which has a little restaurant upstairs.  We ate our meals and then split a root beer float.

 Miss V particularly liked the whipped cream.

But her first taste of root beer (or "robot beer", as the J-bird used to call it) made her pucker up with a funny face.

 "Quit horkin' all the ice cream, boy!" 

 On our way out of town, I thought it'd be fun to stop at the beach.  Miss V's never been to the ocean, and we were right there.

Um, mistake.

It was windy. And cold.  And WINDY.

Seriously.  The rest of the Oregon was sunny and gorgeous.  The beach?  Not so much.

Did I mention it was windy?

We snapped a few photos, then am-scrayed back to the car.  Getting the children loaded and cleaned up, and then cleaning and bandaging the J-bird's cut toe (which he didn't discover until reaching the car, promptly dissolving into hysteria) took longer than our brief foray onto the sand, but hey, I figure that sometimes you just have to jump out of the car and walk by the ocean, even if it ends in disaster.

The children were very quiet and/or asleep for most of the drive home, and they went to bed early, both crashing HARD after a good bath (and a new band-aid for one little toe).  It was a fun, busy day, and one I'll remember.  Thanks, Newport!  We'll be back!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Portland Pirate Festival Fun

James came across a notice for the Portland Pirate Festival this week, and we decided that, yes, this was one of those things you just...DO.  So we headed out this morning, only telling the kids we were going on a surprise adventure.

They were surprised!  I brought some pirate-y costumes for them (NOTHING, compared to a lot of the other attendees), and we proceeded to pirate it up all morning.

Just inside the entrance was this gargantuan...bouncy...pirate-ship-being-eaten-by-a-giant-octopus...slide thing.  The J-bird was dubious.  He watched for a little bit, then decided to "think about it" for a while.  

So we walked around for a bit, looking at all the costumes

listening to some pirate music and looking at the booths.

and finding some smaller bouncy masterpieces that seemed more the J-bird's speed

 and boy, were they!

 Miss V would've loved to join him, but since it was only for age 10 and under (no adults allowed), she just got to watch.  Maybe next Pirate Festival....

 The J-bird bounced and climbed and went down the slides and played with some kids.

Then he played in a bounce house for awhile

     And after about half an hour, he was feeling SO brave...

       ...he wanted to give the big ship by the front entrance a try.

                                                                         so he did!

      Again, too big for little Miss V.  She was getting bored...

         so we stopped for lunch and a shaved ice

          Now THIS she could dig!

It was a little warmer than I'd anticipated, so we picked up a little pirate do-rag for Little Miss.  I don't usually go for skulls on babies, but hey - when in Rome, right?

      We watched a blacksmith work


                                      and a puppet show

       and Miss V played with a mermaid!

  Oh yeah...and we got some new toys for the "dress up clothes" bin!

My baby was VERY excited to wield a sword.  She didn't put it down until it was time to go home.

So the Portland Pirate Festival - TOTALLY worth going to.  Our little pirates had a blast, and so did we!