Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Nutcracker's Sweet

My little girl is growing up.

So, so very fast.  When I think about the fact that she's almost five; that we've already seen her through nearly 1/4 of the time we'll have raising her... I just treasure the wonderful, joyful little lady she's becoming.

And recently, she proved it again with a pretty major milestone: her first ballet recital!

She has been asking to take ballet for at least a year.  We even threw her a ballet-themed fourth birthday party, because she's just been obsessed with dance.  She has been taking gymnastics for ages, but we knew that this fall was the time to jump on the dance train.  

And, seriously?  She does it beautifully.  Not that she's a prodigy by any stretch, but she does exhibit much more grace than I had imagined she'd be capable of, given what happens to her body if you've ever watched her run.  It's not a bad thing; coordination just isn't one of her strengths.  At nearly five, she can't catch, throw, kick or otherwise manipulate a ball with any grace, but the kid can sure dance!

The recital was adorable.  We were lucky, because even though he had to work, Casey took some time off in the middle of the day to meet us at the high school so he could see her perform.  The kids danced to this song, Holidays at Home, and she was so over the moon excited because her costume was pink.  Not just pink, guys.  Her favorite color - pink!

The cherry on this ice cream sundae was definitely little brother's response when he spotted her on stage.  It was hilarious, actually.  When the curtains opened, Logan, who was standing up in Daddy's lap exclaimed, "THERE'S LEAH!  I SEE HER!  HI, LEAH!" in his cute little voice that echoed through the otherwise quiet auditorium.  She couldn't see him, but we could clearly see her big grin and little wave while the other audience members had a chuckle.  

And, naturally, I couldn't have been more proud if she'd just been elected president.  In fact, I didn't make it all the way through the performance before the tears hit me.  I know it sounds cheesey (like you expected anything else from me?), but I just couldn't help myself.  I'm so in awe that we've made it to this point - the point where she's a real little person, who selects dance over gymnastics, who is smart and kind and brave enough to get up on a dark stage and perform in front of a crowd without hesitation.  It's amazing to me!  

Even seeing her name printed in the program was a WOW, I'm a mom! moment for me.  It seems like just yesterday that I was picking out that name just for her!  More than that, it seems just yesterday that it was me up there on stage - in a choir concert, in a band concert, a dance recital, a musical.  I lived out my young life on a stage, a field and in a pool... how did I so quickly trade places with my own mother, cheering on my daughter?!  I was overwhelmed with awe, pride and love.  She's a keeper, that kid of mine.

Time.  Holy moly, how I wish it would slow down.  

They were adorable.  And she was so very proud of herself.  I don't blame her; that feeling was mutual.

Monday, December 8, 2014

We added one and became BIG

Okay, so here's the scene.

It's July.  There is a massively pregnant momma with two in the neighborhood kiddie pool.  She's soaking her feet while watching the two littles play.  A few people ask her when she's due or comment on how nicely her kids are playing.  End scene.

Fast forward about three weeks.  It's mid-August.

Now, the same children are playing in the kiddie pool.  The same giant-bellied mom sits on the same edge soaking her feet and watching her children play.  The absolute only thing that's different this time is that she now carries a tiny and very new baby in her arms, partially concealed behind the blanket she's using to shield said tiny baby from the sun.  This time, people are remarking on the tiny baby, asking her questions about sleep, breastfeeding and adjusting.  Amid the questions, she fields no less than three inquiries from wide-eyed bystanders wondering, "are ALL these yours????"

Wait... what?

You mean the two that nobody has ever before - no, not even once - counted as "ALL THESE!" and the tiny baby I'm carrying?  Why yes... all these are mine.

It's true that I've always wanted a big family.  I knew that eventually we'd get the looks and comments that are surely inevitable when you see a tribe of small children.  I get it, I really do.  I mean, even I can appreciate that at some point it just seems like too much.  But I had no idea that we would hit that point at... three.

During my pregnancy, I wasn't on the receiving end of any comments that suggested to me this was coming.  Sure, the occasional person commented on me having my hands full, but that happened even when I was pregnant with Logan.  Besides... it's true.  Having a toddler and a new baby is a lot under any circumstances!  I was conscious of the fact that, since I already have a girl and a boy, I was spared the comments about trying for a specific gender.  But the fairly constant stream of commentary and insight that people have been kind enough to share has been a huge surprise to me, and required some adjustment, since adding Olivia.

On another note, it would seem that there's a general assumption about having three; that is, the only reason to have three is if you were trying for the other gender.  I've run into this one a number of times when I'm out with Olivia and people find out that she's the third (it happened a TON in Hawaii, for example.  Since it never happened to me when I was pregnant, I've paid attention because it surprised me).  Automatically, 100% of people assume that I have two boys at home.  It is really interesting; people don't ask what the other two are, they say "So do you have two boys at home?"  It has been the same script in literally every instance.

Mostly, none of this bothers me.  I find that most people are eager to lend support.  I've been on the receiving end of a lot of kindness in the form of people who are willing to hold doors and show patience to the fact that doing anything with one adult and multiple little people naturally requires a little extra time, energy and volume.

But not everybody is so kind.  There is definitely a bias that exists when my troupe of small ones comes through, and sometimes it really puts me over the edge.

For example, we recently stopped into an ice cream parlor that had three small tables and a row of high tops with spinning stools.

After purchasing our ice cream, I directed the kids to go and sit down.  The parlor was empty but for an older couple who had pushed all three tables together to make one large table.  As we're walking toward them, me with the baby in carrier and two kids' coats on one arm and three ice creams in the other, my two small children in my wake, the lady informed me that she was saving these seats for her family and we couldn't sit there.

Are you serious?  Is this real life?

I know.  She can claim the law of dibs, and she'd even be in the right.  Seats at a table are equal opportunity -- I get it.  But, really?  I literally can't sit my kids at the high tops because they're too small, and there's not enough of me to watch them spinning precariously from four feet up and tend the baby, and that's before you factor in the ice cream.  Not to mention, her party didn't even arrive until we were taking our last bites, and when they did?  Ugh.  It was a pack of adults accompanied by one who was roughly Leah's age.  We ended up standing, which was not fun, especially because it took every ounce of my self control not to shoot her and her still empty table really dirty looks.  (I've already decided that in the future, you don't get to play that game with me.  Ummmm, sorry.)

I do understand that I've "gotten myself into this situation" or whatever charming colloquialism you'd like to apply, but really.  It doesn't take a genius to know that the right thing to do is help a tired-looking outnumbered momma out.  Having an awareness of when the needs of others are greater than your own is so obviously the right thing to do, regardless of the circumstance you're in, that it is really frustrating to me when it's not the law of the land.

So that's where we're at.  I adore having three, but I was absolutely not prepared for the input I'd receive from the rest of the world, or how frequently I would have to deal with it.  Like I said, mostly none of it phases me - and I certainly don't mean to complain here on my little corner of the internet.  But it is both interesting to observe and an adjustment for me, one I wasn't prepared to have to adjust to.

At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

On coming home, and festivities

Well.... in this house, we FINALLY have our daddy back!

After being gone a record breaking 672 days in a row {nope.  I refuse to acknowledge the hyperbole there, because that's exactly how long it feels like he's been gone}, we finally are again a two parent household.

Whew.  Just in time for me to have maintained my sanity, but it was a narrow miss. Once upon a time, back when I had one new baby and was shockingly naive, I thought having him gone for three weeks was a big deal.  Hah.  Those were the days.

At any rate, Casey has arrived to at least as much fanfare from this crowd as Santa earns. The kids and I were all thrilled to have him home at last.

We didn't host Thanksgiving this year, so we were all in the mood to get the Christmas decorations up and running while Casey was still in town.  Which meant that they were up a week before Thanksgiving this year - not our tradition, by the way.  But, the kids and I enjoyed the warmth and joy they created throughout the house as we toughed out those last difficult two weeks without Daddy.

We even let the kids decorate the tree this year for the first time ever.  So, if you've been to our house, you might have noticed that there are huge sections of tree where three or five ornaments are clustered together while other areas remain entirely bare.  It's topped with a giant paper star made and decorated by Leah. I know, I could have re-decorated it while the kids were sleeping, but it brought them so much pride and joy to squeal and decide where to delicately (and sometimes not so delicately) place each ornament, I couldn't bring myself to change a thing.  They neither see nor care about the "flaws," so why would I?

Casey arrived home just in time for the Parade of Lights, which really shouts "Open Season!" on the holidays as far as I'm concerned.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Maggianos before rushing out to watch the parade.  Unlike in past years, the weather was actually really lovely.  It was cold, but that perfect kind of cold where it's both festive and completely bearable.

The kids enjoyed hot cocoa, and Casey and I had coffee as we watched the parade.  

And I was again reminded, as I always am at this time of year, how very blessed we are.  And, guys?  I absolutely adore having a tiny baby to snuggle.

Ugh, seriously.  Be still my heart.  Little Livvy did a great job.  She hung in there and didn't fall asleep until the very end, but she didn't cry or fuss either.  She was wonderful!

It's strange, because for the first time I'm very aware of the finite number of Christmases I'll ever have snuggling tiny ones.  I definitely did not feel that way in that photo up there. {sidenote: look at me all glowy!  First baby in her 9 month old glory.}

I wasn't remotely aware of it in 2012 either, though, to be fair, I wasn't really capable of being aware of much outside of our very immediate needs, as I was still in the process of recovering from Logan's birth three months later.  Yowza.

It was so much fun.  At the risk of bragging a little, we have really, really nice kids.  I am so impressed with how kind they are, and how much awe they are capable of in situations like this.  Their excitement was palpable, and they wanted to give everybody a high five.  They clapped and cheered all the different floats, bands and balloons, and were absolutely ecstatic at seeing Santa.  There was a weird gap in the parade where they last several floats including Santa were like 15 minutes behind the rest of the parade.  The kids didn't complain or whine, they just patiently waited for the Man in Red to arrive.  It was so sweet.

And, when they got home, they couldn't wait to sleep by the Christmas tree.

Although things didn't go perfectly the entire time, and there was some bickering and they were definitely up past their usual bed time, it was so sweet to watch and listen to these two that night.  They were mumbling I love yous and holding hands (until poking each other became more fun).  

It absolutely warmed my heart.

It's funny how, as parents, our mistakes flood our vision and stand out more clearly than anything else.  I am constantly aware of how much I do wrong and areas I can improve.  Moments like this make it clear that, while I'm far from being perfect, I must be getting something right amid all the mess.  Those sweet ones up there are pretty great little humans!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homeschool update: November

I had to take time to document just a few of the things we've done so far this year on our homeschool journey:

Learned and memorized American history sentences starting with "In 1492, Columbus made the first of four trips to the Caribbean on three Spanish ships named the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria" all the way to "In 1820 Henry Clay worked out the Missouri Compromise allowing Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state."  We've read a number of fiction and non-fiction stories to support our weekly learning, and are currently working our way through An American Girl: Meet Addy (1864).
Coloring skills in progress...

We've memorized the states and capitals from Augusta, Maine to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Leah loves pointing out states and capitals, and to my sheer amazement, even our little Logan knows his share.

We've been working on skip counting, and have memorized all the multiples from 2-14.  For the record, skip counting means that she's counting by 2's, by 3's, by 4's... to 14's all the way up to multiples of 12 for each number.  Yep.  This might be my favorite part of the program, because even though she doesn't realize it, she's just mastered pretty much every multiplication table she'll ever need to know.  Through this process, Leah has also figured out the rest of her numbers and can currently count and recognize numbers upwards of 100.

We're learning about the human body, including the different types of muscle, tissue, the axial skeleton and all the various systems (digestive, excretory, circulatory, etc).

In school, she's had art lessons, done science experiments, completed weekly presentations on everything from Columbus's journey to the Caribbean, to simple show and tell, to researching and presenting info on her favorite state.  They are currently building a life-size model of the human body and all its organs and learning about music by playing the tin whistle.

At home, besides working on our weekly memory work, we also work on reading, sight words and spelling, 

 put on dances and plays, 

(a very serious business, I might add)

use all sorts of methods to practice addition, colors, shapes and fine motor skills, 

enjoy lots of different art projects and crafts, 

play with different kinds of disgusting, delightfully goopy substances,

and enjoy precious moments when the whole family is together.

More often than not, we do it all without the use of a comb through our hair and while wearing interesting outfits or jammies - because that's just plain more fun.

Even Olivia Joy gets in on the action!

....Alright, so maybe she's got a few years.

I can't even begin to describe my own awe and gratitude for the amazing little learner our girl is.  It's all about background knowledge, this program.  No, she doesn't magically understand it when we talk about the secession of the Southern States, nor do I expect her to incorporate such language into her daily vocabulary.  But, she is hearing that advanced vocabulary every day, training her brain to work in ways that will benefit her for a lifetime and learning concepts that will give her a framework to - when she's ready - synthesize and build on her knowledge in a way that I find so awesome and exciting... though, admittedly I'm a super big Nerdy McDork on the academic, brain-development front.

Although we've had our fair share of figuring things out and adjusting as we go along, I feel so very, very grateful for this opportunity for our family to be together, and to share in the joyful and challenging process of learning and growing.  It is amazing to be able to watch those precious little ones every day!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating Halloween 2014

We were so lucky that, despite his busy schedule, Casey was home for Halloween day.  Granted, he flew in the afternoon before and flew out early the morning after, but the kids and I were so happy to have him home to celebrate one of our favorite days of the year.

We started the day with a little party for the kids we go to school with, and it was a pretty good turn out!

There were games, crafts and food, and tons of fun and creative costumes.

I also put together a little scavenger hunt for the kids.

As part of the scavenger hunt, I gave the kids a list of items to find under the heading, "I MUSTACHE you to find..."  Well, our whole family got in on that action.

And our little mouse did wonderfully.  She was quiet, cute and calm the entire time.

After lunch and a much-needed nap, we did a little pumpkin carving.

It was the first time we've ever let the kids in on this action, and I think it's fair to say that they LOVED feeling the goopy, squishy pumpkin guts!

The decor this year required a few last minute touches.

We enjoyed our traditional Halloween dinner, and before long, it was time to set out.

Our kids absolutely adore Halloween, which is so much fun.  That spooky white ghost guy in our front yard?  They shook his hand, named him Fred and loved on him all month long.  Every day after dinner, they begged me to take a walk to see the Halloween lights in our neighborhood and we watched Toy Story of Terror,Curious George's Halloween and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown more times than I can possibly count.  While trick-or-treating, Logan had to stop each and every time to inspect the candy he was given, and was so cute and brave about walking from house to house.  They are at such a joyful, excitable and just plain fun age; I am grateful I get to experience these wonderful moments with them.  

Another awesome year down, and above all else, I am just so happy we were all together.   

I changed my font at