Four months of catching up….

2 Apr

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in four months. Shame on me!

It has been a tumultuous four months so I will cut myself some slack. My husband’s job is a little safer than it was so we may not lose our house after all. I keep hoping that everything will work out. Even though we are outgrowing our home, I want to move on our own terms, not because of foreclosure or lay-off.

The girls had their birthdays so Ellie is 4 now and Eva is 3. They love to tell people how old they are. Ellie also insists her name is Madonna now, since she saw Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime performance. She used to be Taylor Swift but now she’s Madonna (and boy do I wish she was still Taylor Swift). Eva, however, is now Taylor Swift….oh, excuse me, she’s Doctor Taylor Swift. You go, Eva!

Ellie uses the potty all the time now. She only wears a diaper to bed or on car trips. She’s not comfortable using bathrooms at stores so she prefers to wear a diaper when we go out and that’s fine. I’m not going to push her to use the potty when she’s not comfortable. She will use it at other people’s homes if we take her potty seat with us and that’s so convenient. Eva is still sitting on the potty at least once a day but hasn’t used it in awhile. She’ll get there when she’s ready. I have definitely been able to cut back on diapers, wipes, and diaper cream since Ellie isn’t wearing them much anymore and that sure helps the grocery budget.

Both girls can count to twenty now and Ellie is learning how to read. She loves dogs so we started with two of her favorite books, “Go Dog! Go!” and a collection of ten stories of Biscuit the puppy. They are both good because they are somewhat repetitive and the words are simple so she understands them quickly. She is also writing and spelling. A few weeks ago she wrote “Taylor” on a piece of paper (pre Super Bowl, pre Madonna) and the other day she wrote “Daddy” on a sheet of notebook paper. She gave it to her daddy and I found it the other day, folded up neatly with his important papers. A treasure!

Eva is doing more coloring and starting to make straight lines. For Ellie, lines were the precursor to making letters so I bet we’ll see some letters from Eva in the next few months. Eva speaks as well as Ellie does, despite their year difference in ages. People are usually amazed at how young they are after they listen to them talk.

One thing I’ve changed in these past few months is I am letting them watch more television but only shows I think are appropriate. We watch PBS Kids shows: Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid, and Martha Speaks. Sometimes they watch Dinosaur Train too. They have picked up a lot more information from these shows than I was teaching them, particularly vocabulary and learning about how things work from Sid. They love Sid the Science Kid!

The shows take up an hour and a half to two hours of our day. The rest of the time is spent playing, helping me around the house, learning, reading time (I read out loud to them), and adventuring. They are great at putting clothes in the dryer that I hand to them from the washer, sorting the recycling into the proper bins, helping with yard work, feeding the cats, and cleaning the living room. Not so great at cleaning up their own room but we’re working on that.

Neither one takes a nap anymore and they are now in toddler beds instead of cribs. They really like the toddler beds and so do I. Now, when they get up earlier than I do, they usually play quietly together until I get up. We did have some adjusting to do at first when we switched to toddler beds. Every morning Eva would wake up, get in Ellie’s bed with her, and then shove and/or kick Ellie out of her own bed. My formerly quiet, shy, sweet child has become quite the assertive little lady. It took a few stern talking-to’s before she realized that this wasn’t appropriate behavior.

That reminds me of what happened today when we were checking out at Target. I always try to speak to my girls in a way that they can understand but I don’t use baby talk either…and of course they often repeat what I say.

While we were checking out, I was holding each girl by the hand, one on each side of me and Ed was putting our bags in the cart and paying. Ellie kept playing with a button on the side of the counter and I told her to leave it alone a few times. She would laugh and reach for it again so I leaned down and smacked her hand away from it. She looked up at me and said, in the most serious tone, “Mommy, don’t do that. Your behavior is unaccpetable. Don’t behave like that, young lady.”

The cashier, an elderly woman, smiled at my husband and me and said, “Have a good evening, folks” with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. Yes, we have a lot on our plate with these two little girls. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, though. They are pretty cool kids.

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Subtraction and addition

29 Nov

It has been quite a stretch of time at our house lately. My husband has been working through a 12 night stretch with no time off. Tonight is night 11, only one more to go and then he gets two nights off.

Because of his schedule, I’ve been taking care of the girls all day, every day, by myself so that he can sleep as late in the day as possible. By the time he gets home in the morning, eats a little breakfast, and gets ready for bed, it’s usually 10 am. The girls and I get up at 10 am and he goes to bed and sleeps six or seven hours. He wakes up in time to spend a couple of hours with me and the girls, usually eating dinner and playing together, and then the girls go to bed and he goes off to work.

Not much time in there for anything else right now but I’m not complaining. One thing I have been doing is being hard on myself for not working with the girls on teaching them anything new. I’ve just been trying to get through each day of taking care of the girls, cooking, cleaning, medicating our cat regularly (we have a cat with an enlarged heart), doing laundry, doing yardwork, taking out trash and recycling, and making sure everything is running smoothly. I woke up this morning thinking, “I must try and teach them something today!”.

God has his own way of doing things, though, and I didn’t make any special effort to teach the girls anything. Once again I was just trying to get through the day. Around 1 pm, Ellie asked for a snack and Eva asked for a drink so I hurried downstairs and fixed them juice and got a pack of Lance crackers for them. Cream cheese and chives are their favorites. Back upstairs, I put out the crackers and juice on their table and they sat down in their little chairs to have their snack. Each girls gets three crackers. Eva eats hers as they are, stuck together, but Ellie likes to separate hers like some people do with Oreo cookies. She pulls them apart and arranges them on the table and says, ‘Now I have six crackers!”. She enjoys eating them, savoring the whole process.

While they snacked, I plopped down into the rocker we got when Ellie was born and put my feet up on the stool. Ahhh! A moment’s rest. I am sitting there, just daydreaming about getting back in bed and sleeping for another eight or ten hours, when I hear Ellie say, ‘I have six crackers. I’m going to take one away and eat it and then I will have five crackers.”

What? I think I just heard my 3 year old doing basic subtraction! I look over at her and she has her crackers arranged in two rows of three, a rectangle of crackers, and is picking up one cracker. She eats it and between bites she repeats, “I have five crackers now. I had six but I ate one so now I only have five.”

She finishes her cracker and picks up another one. I say to her, “You have five crackers. If you eat one, how many will you have left?” She looks at them and says, “Four, mommy!” and eats the next cracker. That’s all the prompting she needs. Each time she’s about to eat another cracker she repeats the same concept, “I have four crackers. I take away one and I have three crackers.” I just sit and watch and marvel at her little mind. She has picked up on the idea of subtraction without me pushing her to learn it. I briefly explain to her what subtraction is and she says, “I like subtraction, Mommy.” I’m not sure if she likes subtraction itself or the act of subtracting crackers by eating them but I’ll take it.

After their nap and dinner and playtime with Daddy, we were getting them ready for bed. Ellie was using the potty before bed and she pooped and peed. She has been peeing in the potty for a long time but it has only been in the last couple of months that she’s started pooping in it regularly. Now that she is using the potty all day, Eva is interested in going and has gotten over her fear of the potty completely. Yet she doesn’t quite have the control aspect down so she often goes in her diaper before making it to the potty (when she decides she wants to try using it). Tonight after Ellie finished, Eva ran up to her Daddy and said she wanted to try using the potty. He put her on it and she said, “I’m going to go pee-pee and poo-poo.” Pretty soon we heard a plop! YES!! Eva has pooped in the big toilet. YAY!!!

I love progress! In all things, even if it is a tiny amount of progress, it is so life-affirming. Even if it is just my two year old taking a poop. I long for the day when I don’t have to buy diapers, or baby wipes, or diaper cream. I have two jumbo boxes of diapers on hand and I dream that when I run out of them, maybe I won’t have to buy anymore. A girl can dream!

“Tomorrow is another day”

16 Nov

I never saw the movie “Gone With The Wind” until I was in my 20’s. My husband was so amazed that I hadn’t seen it, he went right out and rented it. I always liked how Scarlett O”Hara put off her worries by saying, “Tomorrow is another day.” Yes, it is.

Things are a little brighter today. My husband found out that he won’t lose his job right after Christmas…but he will lose it before next Christmas, roughly a year from now. At least we have a lot of time to figure out what to do next and for that I am thankful.

I spent the morning with my daughters. We laughed and played. Ellie is learning how to do Connect The Dots in her preschool workbook and at the same time, she’s learning to count higher than 10. Since Eva is right beside her, watching what she’s doing while she plays with her own toys or colors a Disney Princess, Eva is also learning to count higher than 10.

“Eleventeen, twelveteen, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenteen!” Eva laughs and squeals, so proud of herself. Not bad for a 2 year old!

After lunch and naptime, we went out to the horse farm to visit Sticky. The farm owner had mowed all the grass around the barns so we got our balls out of the trunk (soccer ball, pink softball, and two T-balls, plus two plastic golf clubs) and kicked, swatted, and threw balls for a couple of hours. The girls joined hands and played “Ring Around The Rosie” more times than I could count, falling down and then popping right back up to do it again. They ran all over, chasing each other, laughing, arms raised to the sky. As it grew dark, Ellie pointed and said, “Look Mommy, a star!” Sure enough, a big bright star shone just above the tree tops. We watched a jet make a silvery trail through the sky and watched as the trail faded away.

Yes, tomorrow is another day and I plan to enjoy it just as much as I did today.

 

Home

15 Nov

An hour ago, I was signing onto the computer to write a blog post about the progress I’ve been making with the girls in terms of some minor discipline problems we’ve been dealing with and how wonderful Ellie is doing with her potty training and how Eva is really coming into her own in terms of personality.

All of that seems less relevant now. My husband works at night and always calls me on his break and his lunch break. Tonight as the blue of the computer screen flashed on, he called and informed me that the decision had been made and sometime soon, his job would be gone. His company was closing operations in our city. Goodbye, job security. Goodbye, sole source of income for our family. Goodbye, health insurance. And most likely, goodbye, our home.

I try not to cry as I type this but all I can think of is how to protect my daughters from the changes that are going to come and they’re going to come right after Christmas. I am thankful that we know ahead of time and it’s not a sudden thing. We have time to try to figure out what we’re going to do but at the same time, I am mortified at the thought of possibly (probably) losing our home. It is just a townhome in a building with three other identical townhomes, all of which are empty. Yes, we are the only people still living in the building. It’s quiet but it’s sad to go outside and see six empty parking spots that once used to be full and three yards becoming overgrown and unkempt while we try to keep up with our own little patch of grass.

This is the only home my girls have ever known. It’s small, it’s crowded for us, but this is the home where I got pregnant and didn’t have a miscarriage, where I carried my first baby to term and brought her home and a few months later found out I was pregnant again and then brought my second little girl home a year after the first. This is the home where my cat Pee Wee, whom I’d had since he was a tiny kitten, stood up to get a drink of water and then flew into the air as if he’d been shocked and died in my arms of a heart attack at age 15. Almost five years of our memories flow through this house.

I keep telling myself I will be strong tomorrow morning and not let my girls see how upset and concerned I am about the situation. I will pretend it’s just another normal day in our routine. I will praise Ellie for her use of the toilet. She is wearing panties all day now, no diapers except to bed at night. I will laugh at the bubbly personality that Eva has suddenly started showing off like a fancy new dress. My previously quiet child has become this happy, squealing, playful little girl. I will hope that these moments will be etched in my mind forever so that when we leave, I will carry them with me no matter where we end up. I will ask God or Santa or somebody to help me get a new digital camera for Christmas so I can document the day for us all to remember how we celebrated Christmas before we lost our home.

I’m sorry, I’m crying too much to type anymore. Good night.

“I’m hungry, I’m full, I’m hungry” AARGH!!

9 Nov

This morning, at the most unlovely hour of 7:51 am, I was awakened from beautiful, wonderful, restful sleep by my Ellie’s cries from her room. Thinking something must be terribly wrong for her to be crying, I threw off the warm, snuggly covers, disturbed my cat from her peaceful sleep as I rolled over almost on top of her, and leaped out of bed like a superhero ready to take on whatever…..

Only to go in my daughters’ room and find them standing in their cribs smiling at me. “Are we awake?,” they asked, almost in unison. Bleary eyed, I stared at them each in turn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for a new day.

“No, we are NOT awake.” I blathered at them, barely awake myself now that the initial moment of panic was over. “What are you crying about, Ellie?” I went to each girl and checked their diaper. No poopies. That was good. I hugged Ellie and she whispered to me, “I’m hungry, Mommy.”

OH NO. Must be another growth spurt coming on, I thought. Well, at least she didn’t wake up at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning like she has in the past when she’s had a growth spurt. The girl can eat when it’s time to grow and her body doesn’t care what time it is or how little sleep I’ve had. W hen she’s hungry, she’s hungry.

This morning I made five scrambled eggs. Normally I only make 4 and I eat some of them myself. This time I made 5 and split them between the two girls, with a little more going to Ellie. She said she was hungry, right?

An hour later, after me telling her a zillion times, “Eat your eggs, Ellie” she finally said, “I can’t eat anymore, Mommy, I’m full” and handed me her nearly full plate of eggs. I ate the cold eggs myself and wondered what happened to her raging hunger that she had just an hour ago described as, “I got a hole in my belly, Mommy.”

The girls played all morning and took a short non-nap in the early afternoon. I say non-nap because lately we’ve put them down for a nap, something they both still need or they are cranky and/or wild the rest of the day, and they sit in their room and talk, throw toys back and forth at each other, and in general don’t nap.

We met my mom for dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. The food is good and inexpensive and there is so much decor that the girls are constantly asking, “What’s that? What’s that?” even though we’ve already been there several times. Eva ate most of a side order of baked beans with pork, a slice of garlic bread, some fries, and two cups of lemonade. Ellie ate a kid’s pork special, fries, garlic bread, some of Eva’s baked beans, and a cup of root beer. You’d think she was hollow as much as she was packing in! For dessert, their grandma gave them some Little Debbie snack cakes shaped like Christmas trees. They ate them in teeny, tiny bites, savoring every little bit.

You’d think they were full. We left the restaurant and drove out to the horse farm to drop off some feed for Sticky and on the way home Ellie piped up from the backseat. “Mommy, I’m hungry. I’m hungry again.” Oh my! All the way home Ed, Eva, and I listened to Ellie say, “I’m hungry” over and over again even though we kept telling her we’d get something to eat at home, we were on our way there.

We didn’t make it home. We finally broke down and stopped at a coffee shop (Barnie’s) and got the girls a Bavarian Cream muffin to share. We brought it home and they sat quietly, munching their muffin half, seeming to wind down from the day. I did too, watching them get covered in yellow crumbs and tiny bits of chocolate frosting. Laughing at their toothy muffin crumb coated smiles as they started tossing bits of muffin at each other. By the time they finished, we were all shrieking with laughter. The girls could barely brush their teeth, they were still laughing so hard.

We have a rule in our house. If you make a girl puke from laughing too much after she eats, you have to clean it up. I invoked that rule tonight as my husband tickled the girls til they could hardly stand it but he knows just when to stop and avert that disaster, thank goodness.

All day I kept thinking to myself that this was certainly not the healthy eating I had envisioned for my children when I had them but seeing how much fun they had and how much they enjoyed themselves tonight made me realize that sometimes I’m just a stick in the mud. The odd thing to me is that my husband, who is a good bit older than me (14 years), is much more laid-back about what they eat than I am. I guess it’s because I’m obese and don’t want my girls to end up this way so I try to be more careful about what they eat but my husband says when they’re having a growth spurt, let them eat what they want as long as they are eating (and of course not a bunch of cake or cookies or things like that, which we don’t keep in our house anyway).

I just wonder what tomorrow will be like. Probably more of the same: ‘I’m hungry, I’m full, I’m hungry again”. Here’s to Ellie and Eva. May they be taller than their short parents! Yay!

 

 

Colton

5 Nov

I use my cell phone as an alarm clock and as soon as it went off this morning I noticed I had a text, an email, and a voice mail…all at 9 am! Very few people call me so I knew something was up. Yes! My brother and his fiance were at the hospital soon to have their first baby, Colton!

Of course, I couldn’t rush over there and sit with them while they went through labor. I had to take care of my own children. I spent the morning playing with the girls and gave them Cheerios for breakfast, something they haven’t had a lot of yet. We are just starting to give them bowls of cereal with milk to eat since they are finally capable of doing this without spilling it all. Oh my!! I don’t know what happened but after they finished their Cheerios, they were so hyper it was amazing. I could hardly keep up with them. It’s not unusual for Ellie to be pretty active, she has always been an active child, but my sweet, quiet Eva was right there with her, shouting, growling, running around, throwing things, having all kinds of fun. It was neat to watch and participate in but wow, what was in those Cheerios?

By noon the girls were ready for a nap so we all napped for a couple of hours. I got up and went to the hospital while my husband took over the girls. I had already checked my brother’s fiance’s Facebook page and right at the top was a picture of a brand new baby boy. Colton was here! He’d been born at 3:41 pm this afternoon.

When I arrived at the hospital, only my brother, his fiance, and the baby were in the room. Everyone else had left by then. I held little Colton and just looked at his tiny features. I enjoyed listening to my brother say how “He has everything, even tiny little fingernails” and “He’s flawless” as if he were a diamond. I watched his mother feed him and burp him like an expert and felt so much pride and love for this little family, my heart could just burst. Mostly, though, I remembered being at that same hospital for the birth of my daughters and holding them just like that, looking at their tiny features, and just soaking up being in their presence.

I read a quote somewhere about how having a child is like having your heart walk around outside of your body. Oh that is so true! When I came home from the hospital I went straight upstairs to see my daughters. I opened their bedroom door and the first thing Ellie said to me was, “Mommy, did you have another baby?” She was a little confused about where I had been and what I’d been doing!

I put the girls to bed tonight and they kept asking me questions about the new baby. I finally remembered I had my cell phone in my pocket with pictures of him on it so I took it out, pulled up a good picture of Colton, and showed it to them. They each looked, and looked again, and asked to look again….they asked more questions about him, they made little coo’s of admiration at him. They were completely enchanted. I can’t wait until they get to meet him next week!

Welcome to the world, Colton! Live long and prosper!

Hugs

4 Nov

LHA Pandemonium, aka "Sticky", my Arabian stallion

Yesterday afternoon my husband took over taking care of the girls so I could have some time to myself. Oh joy! I have not had time to myself, to do whatever I want to do, in awhile. I do go out by myself sometimes but usually just to deliver Avon orders or do the grocery shopping.  This was real ME time and I went to my favorite place…the horse farm where my Arabian stallion lives!

There is nothing like the warm fuzziness of a horse’s winter coat and my stallion is just getting his. He is bay (brown body with black legs and black mane and tail) and when he has his winter coat he is so fuzzy that I call him my “teddy horse”. I love to just stand beside him with my arm over his back and lean against him and absorb the warmth and vitality of him. It’s like his lifeforce revitalizes me through the contact. I am a renewed, happier, calmer woman when I go home after visiting my horse and my husband and daughters understand this.

My stallion’s name is Sticky. That’s his barn name, anyway, which is a nickname. His official registered name is LHA Pandemonium but he’s only called that on paper. He got the name Sticky when he was born. He was the first foal my husband ever touched and he said, “Ew, he’s sticky!” LOL! And the name….stuck. I owned Sticky’s mother and I bred Sticky and have had him for almost 9 years now. I know him like I know my children because I have been with him every moment of his life, every step of the way. Every look, every movement, every swivel of his ears or flick of his tail, every tremble of his sensitive nostrils, I can interpret. I think it’s like that for anyone who has a connection to their horse and I also feel like having a horse that I bred, I waited for 11 months to be born, I have raised from birth to the gorgeous, mature stallion he is now…all of those things have made me a better mother than I would have been without this experience. I am patient, nurturing, calm. I teach in small steps and short lessons, just like I do with horses. Each lesson builds upon the previous one but nothing is ever forced. There is no pressure to learn, only gentle, patient guidance.

I recently finished reading the book The Tao of Equus. Initially, I was skeptical about horses and people being so connected that a horse could mirror a person’s true emotions but the more I read, the more I realized that Sticky does mirror my emotions. When I arrive at the farm, I am usually wound up tight from stress, from having such a busy lifestyle most of the week, and he is wound up from not having enough exercise and being out doing something. I take him out and we walk around, he grazing on as much green grass as he can stuff into his mouth at a time, and me just walking beside him and after awhile we are both calmer and ready to focus. Yesterday I took him to the round pen for some exercise and to refresh his memory on his training. It’s been six months since he’s had any training lessons or riding.

The thing I remember most about yesterday’s round pen work was that he’d trot around a bit, stop and look over at a mare (a sweet old mare, 29 years old, who could care less about him but any mare is “his”, to him), and then turn and come to me. I know that he would love to go and “visit” some mares. It has been a long time but they aren’t my mares so we can’t do that. I get his mind back on working and he behaves himself very well, doing everything I ask, but finally he keeps stopping, turning to me, and walking right up to me. He puts his head down as if he wants me to hold it in my arms so I do and he stands there with his head against my body, ears forward, eyes open, just standing there. I push him away at first because I’m uncomfortable. What if he pushes me over? I am more cautious now since I had a vertebral fusion in my neck done in June.

He comes back and stands that way again and this time I tell myself to just let him, just give in to the moment. He stands there and I can feel his breath on my shirt. His ears move a little but mostly they stay pointed forward, at me. I rub the sides of his head gently, slowly. He is warm and so full of life and energy. I feel as if he is trying to give me a hug in his own way and I enjoy it. We stand like this for several minutes and I think he is asleep but when I look down his eyes are open, reflecting the sunlight coming through the trees over us, and he is looking around. Finally he raises his head, moves to the side of me, and trots off in a perfect arc around the round pen as if he never stopped. I tell him to canter and he moves smoothly into a beautiful canter and after two laps I tell him to whoa and he stops, faces toward me, and I walk to him and give him a hug. He lets me hug him and then moves over to the side of the round pen where he can see that old mare and stands staring at her.

I am rejuvenated by Sticky’s attention. I don’t know what it means and I try not to anthropomorphize (sp?) his behavior. I try to just accept it for what it is, a really wonderful moment in life.

This afternoon my younger daughter, Eva, woke up from her nap and I could tell she was a little disoriented. She came right over to me and leaned against my leg. I put my arm around her, gently rubbing her hair, and enjoyed this moment too. Soon she will be bigger and may not want to lean against me like that but I will remember it forever. I am glad I took the time to enjoy it.