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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

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Happy Father's Day sweetie. You are the best dad our two little ones could ever have. You not only want what's best for them but you want to be the best for them. You're constantly looking for ways to better yourself and you remind me ever so gently that there is a better way when I'm not being my best self with them. I love and appreciate so many things about you that I could fill an entire book with the wonderful things that you do for us every day. We are so blessed to have you as a husband and father.

I love that you...

Jump at any and every chance to introduce your kids to nature.
Let me sleep in almost every morning, if only for a few minutes, and you take care of the kids...without complaining.
Use silly voices and make up crazy words when you read books out loud.
Work hard every day to provide for your family.
Tell our children "I love you" every day.
Trust our kids and give them appropriate responsibilities.
Talk bees with Lily.
Give Reuben bounces on your legs.
Introduce them to different kinds of food.
Drink tea in the evening with Lily.
Are patient with them and don't interrupt when they are talking.
Get Reuben out of bed every morning and bring him into our room for morning nursies.
Are truly interested in what interests and excites them.
Are raising our children in the "training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4 NKJV).

But mostly I love that you love them with every fiber of your being.

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And Happy Father's Day to my own wonderful father who we will be traveling 1,500 miles by car with 2 kids to see very soon. Can't wait to see you Dad! Neither can Lily. :)


Friday, June 13, 2014

Our Current Favorite Children's Books

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We are avid readers in this house. I always had my nose stuck in a book growing up (Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and The Boxcar Children mostly) and still try to pick one up when I have the time, which unfortunately isn't too often since kids entered the picture. I'm usually in the middle of several books at the same time. I never used to do that but now that I have less chances to steal away by myself with a good book I have to make the most of my time...and my very long wish list of books. Nowadays though you'll mostly see me reading children's literature. And its usually the same ones over and over. These kids love to have me read to them and they know what they like. Here are some of their current favorites.

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1. Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond - I added this book to my Amazon list thinking that since its written by the woman who illustrated Big Red Barn - which was so well loved in this house we had to purchase a second copy after the first one fell apart - that we would love this as well. And I was correct. We borrowed a copy from the library late last year and Reuben fell in love. He received his own copy for Christmas and it is now the first book he selects when its reading time. He comes running to us with it in his hand crying "Buhbuh!" Its a delightful rhyming story that starts with a small bug out for a walk who "met a cat and stopped to talk." Pretty soon they're meeting all sorts of other creatures and making new friends. Lily has the entire book memorized and now "reads" it to her little brother. I melt in a puddle every time.

2. Building Our House by Jonathan Bean - I think this may be in my top 10 favorite children's books for the artwork alone. Its the story of how one family built a house from the ground up as seen through the eyes of the oldest child. Its great for my kids to read because they get to see the kids in the story actually helping build the house. There are plenty of pictures of tools, machines and equipment and explanations for how each work. This is the first book Lily said she wants to bring in the car on our vacation we're taking soon.

3. Doggies by Sandra Boynton - Who doesn't love Sandra Boynton books?! They're cute and silly and Reuben just eats this one up! Of course it helps that I make crazy and obnoxious sound effects when I read it. Its inevitable when its a book entirely about the sounds dogs make.

4. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judy Barrett and Ronald Barrett - Otherwise known as "the meatball book" around our house. This was a favorite of my siblings and I growing up. Yes, I know they made a movie based on the book but its nothing like the book except for the fact that food falls from the sky. The book is way better and dare I say funnier? I remember staring at the picture of the pancake covering the school building when I was little and wondering what it would be like to have your town attacked by food. My favorite was imagining myself wading through a house full of candy. Of course.

5. No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli - In this one, Leslie Patricelli's non-gender specific, diaper wearing, smiley, one-haired baby illustrates different examples of No No things such as eating the dog's food and then on the opposite page shows your child an example of a Yes Yes thing like eating a yummy banana. The artwork and colors are simple which I think really draws kids in. Reuben loves to read this book in bed and points to each picture saying "Nuh, nuh. Jes, jes" in a sing-songy voice.

6. The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum - Yes, this is technically an adult book. Or I should say its a book marketed and intended for adults because in our house this is Lily's book. Andrew took Lily to the feed store one day to get dog food. She went off to look at books and fell in love with this one. Of course her daddy's a beekeeper so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Andrew and Lily sit and look through it and he explains the life cyle of bees to her. Its a great book for beginner beekeepers both big and small. Lily now explains how things work to Reuben who is quickly joining in on the fascination with all things bees.

7. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen - Chris Van Dusen may be my favorite children's book writer and illustrator (and props, he hails from Maine!) and I think my kids tend to agree. All of the Mr. Magee books are a riot filled with beautifully detailed 1950's-era illustrations, but this one is by far the best. Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee go camping and have a run in with a curious bear. "On top of the waterfall, fifty feet up!" I hope Mr. Van Dusen continues the tales of Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee. We'd purchase all of them to add to our collection.

8. Go, Dog. Go!: P.D. Eastman's Book of Things That Go by P.D. Eastman - This little volume is a condensed, board book version of the original story. As far as I can tell though, this shorter version has almost none of the original text and is in no way similar to the longer, older version. But that's ok with my kids because up until recently they'd never heard the original and absolutely love this little board book. Lily received it for her 1st birthday and it quickly became a household favorite. Andrew and I even randomly quote it. This classic rhyming children's story depicts dogs getting from here to there on all sorts of modes of transportation such as skies, boats and cars. Their ultimate destination being the party waiting for them at the top of a tree.

9. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean - Pete the Cat has quite the following of little, obsessed fans from around the world. Including my two little ones. Pete is a cool, hip cat who plays a guitar and possesses a laid back attitude about life. Nothing is worth stressing over. "Just keep walking along and singing your song because...its all good."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mother's Day at the Park

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Before the month of May gets away from me (how can half of 2014 be almost gone already?!), I wanted to write about what we did for Mother's Day this year. When Andrew asked me what I wanted to do/where I wanted to go for Mother's Day I didn't have to think about it, I knew I wanted to take the kids to their favorite park which is about an hour away. If you're ever in the Lakeland, FL area check out Common Ground Park. It is a gorgeous...and clean...inclusive playground where kids of all ages can play side by side. Lily asks to go there at least once a week. Andrew was a little curious as to why I would want to spend Mother's Day at a playground watching the kids run around and play, but I couldn't think of anything better than spending the day that celebrates moms enjoying some time with the little people that bestowed that title upon me.

Little did I know how hot and humid it was going to be that day but we brought a picnic lunch and plenty of water and we survived. We actually did more than survive, we had a ton of fun too! Its really nice this season of life we're in right now. We seem to have settled into a comfortable existence just the four of us. The kids are gaining more independence and its becoming easier to relax around them and let go since one of us isn't chasing a baby or having to sit and watch everyone else have fun. We were able to run around the park, climbing ladders and sliding down slides with them. Its funny because every time we take a day trip some where or go somewhere as a family I think to myself "two years ago I was doing stuff like this at 8 months pregnant and 2 years before that I was too." Since the summer of 2010 I've been pregnant and having a baby every 2 years. So its strange not being pregnant and having a baby this summer. I'm enjoying it while I can. Nothing to read into there. Haha.

So here, in pictures, is what we did for Mother's Day. Not included were a trip to Target (super fun because we don't have one here) and a quick stop at Old Navy to return a vest I had purchased for myself online that turned out to be too big. Exciting stuff.

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^^This is the kids' favorite thing at the park. They call it the pipe slide. I have to admit, its pretty rad.
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After looking through all 357 photos we took that day I realized I need to make it a point to get in front of the camera more often. Especially when its my day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Back in the Saddle

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I was down for the count the past several days and boy has this house felt it. If you ever have any doubts as to your importance as "just a stay-at-home-mom"...get the flu. Or whatever it is I had (actually I don't recommend getting what I had - now I know why they call it The Runs). O.o So, because I was sick I wasn't able to give the kids the kind of attention they need and they have been showing us how they feel about that. I mean, Andrew was here for about a day and a half and rocked the whole stay-at-home-Dad thing but there's no substitute for good ol' Mom to an almost 2 year old. Or almost 4 year old for that matter. Anyway, the kids have been arguing more often between the two of them and both have been losing their tempers with each other. The endless hours of TV watching while I was bedridden didn't help matters either. I've been on a mission since this morning to reconnect with each of them and help them deal with the stress of basically having Mommy gone for a couple of days.

Its not easy getting back in the parenting saddle when you've had a "break" for a day or two. Except for the trips to the bathroom every 15 minutes and the confusion that accompanies a 2 hour nap in the late afternoon (Is it getting dark outside? Or is the sun coming up and I slept all night?), its kind of like a mini vacation. At home. In bed. By yourself. What I'm trying to say is, even I'm not quite back on my game yet. I've yelled. I've threatened. I'm not proud of myself. But sometimes you have a breakthrough that validates everything you are as a mom...and not just the give-her-a-break-she-just-got-over-being-sick kinda mom...but the kind of mom you dream every day you can be and work hard towards becoming. The type that is just there. No ulterior motives. No agenda. She just...is.

I had the opportunity to be that for Lily this morning. Right before lunch Lily was playing by herself in her room and Reuben kept coming in and turning the lamp on and off. Yeah, he was being annoying on purpose (Lily never had the opportunity to do that to an older sibling...the tragedies of being the oldest child) and she was getting more and more frustrated and eventually yelled at him and pushed him down right in front of me. He started crying and she ran away to her room. I consoled him, helped him feel better and then went to her. I started out with the standard "You know you shouldn't be pushing your brother, I know he was frustrating you, but that doesn't mean you can push him...blah, blah, blah." She didn't care. She wouldn't listen to me. She was angry and justifiably so. I picked her up and put her in my lap. She was having none of that and arched away from me and tried kicking me while yelling "let me go!!!" I held her little struggling body close and told her that I needed to talk to her about what she did and asked how she was feeling. She seized struggling as much and was simply crying when I suddenly had a realization. I got really close and whispered in her ear "Little brothers can be really annoying sometimes can't they? You just want to play in your room and they keep coming in and bothering you. I bet you would love to have your own house. You could have your own room and-" She instantly stopped struggling, her body went into a sort of calmly alert state and she whispered back "I would play in my room and he wouldn't be allowed in...Would you like your own house too Mommy?"

For the next minute we discussed the merits of having our own homes and she snuggled in close and said "I love you."

Sometimes you just need someone to understand your wildest fantasies and how difficult reality can be to bear.

I can't take the credit for this nugget of pure parenting genius. Seriously, go out and buy the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Or see if your library has it.

Its worth triple its weight in gold.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Conversations With My Daughter: The Anthropomorphising Fruit Edition

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January 21
Lily says she's "swishing" me away with her shirt (meaning she's hitting me with it) and telling me "You're a fly and I'm swishing you dead." I ask her to please stop hitting me because I don't like it. She continues "swishing" me. I get down on her level, look her in the eye and explain that when someone asks you to please stop doing something you respect their wishes and stop. She tells me flies can't talk so she doesn't have to stop. What the...?! What do you say to that?!

January 23
Lily (watching as I trace pants for her paper doll): He'll get a wedgie.

January 25
Lily: Reuben is big enough to flush the potty now! I didn't do it. He was the honors to do it! And he did it.

February 25
Lily (hugging me before bed): I give you all your love you need.

February 27
Lily: I don't like it when flies get smooshed. Then they hafta fly home to their mamas so they can get medicine to feel better.

March 21
Lily (upset because I wouldn't cuddle her when she was supposed to be going to bed): Do you feel bad about that?
Mommy: Yeah.
Lily (sadly but sweetly): I forgive you.

April 24
Lily (matter-of-factly discussing the chicken dish we had for dinner): Its not real chicken. Cause they run. Food doesn't run.

April 26
Lily (speaking to Mommy): I try to do things on my own. I try, try really hard and I do it. Let's find something that you can do.

April 27
Lily (laying Mommy and Daddy's bed): I'm afraid of the dark. I want to sleep in Reuben's room because someone's in there to take care of me. (sobbing) Reuben's my big brother and I love him!

May 1
Lily: But I don't want to go to sleep cause I have strange dreams!
Mommy: Well you could have a good dream.
Lily: No its going to be a bad one.
Mommy: What do you dream about?
Lily: Talking strawberries.
Mommy: Talking strawberries huh?
Lily: Yeah. That's not a good one.

May 4
Lily: Dad I'm going to draw a canvas out of paper.
Dad: Ok.
Lily: Dad, what's a canvas?
Dad: It's a drawing medium.
Lily: I can draw something medium.

May 15
Lily: Hey Mom. Maybe its not a safe idea to put this (ironing board) in the hall.
Mommy: Ok, I'll move it. Thank you for letting me know.
Lily: Yeah, cause we (her and Reuben) play in the hall a lot and we don't want to get a bammed head.