Monday, June 30, 2008

A Good Day

We've had a good couple days around here lately. Clara seems to be getting the messages I've been giving her. She's been telling the truth and even showing some maturity at times when a couple of weeks ago she would've chosen to argue -- disagreements equivalent to the importance of whether or not a penguin can fly. She's started to tell me, "Well it's okay if you think that and I think this and it will just be okay because we can use our imagination." Some of the times she chooses to settle things that way it has taken a lot for me not to continue to counter with, "No, really, penguins can't fly" or whatever the pertinent information is, but I know the more important lesson is how to settle a disagreement. Not to mention, it's pretty impressive for a 4 year old to have figured this much out.

She's even showing some restraint towards her brother. Today Jonathan tried to take a toy from her while we were down at a neighbor's house and when she didn't give it up he resorted to pulling her hair. She did nothing to retaliate, rather let me handle it. One of the other parents that was down there made a point to tell Clara he was really proud of her for showing such restraint and then looked to me to tell me I had done a good job. I think we both needed to hear the encouragement lately and it made Clara's day. When we came home for dinner she said, "Mommy! Did you hear Mr. Chris tell me he was so proud of me?" He didn't even know what we've been going through around here lately -- it was very timely.

Jonathan on the other hand didn't learn much because once we were home he tried to take yet another toy away from Clara and when she didn't give it up he threw something at her. He sat in time out. I don't think Clara ever had to sit in time out this early, and this isn't even the first time Jonathan has either. It was, however, the first time he sat in time out alone, without me holding him there -- so I think he's starting to really hear me too. I am starting to think he's been picking on Clara a lot longer than Chris and I realized, but she was getting blamed for it. When I catch him and discipline him, he turns on the biggest pout you've ever seen, a real pro!...chin slightly down, eyes looking up so they're wide open, big puffy cheeks and the bottom lip pushed out ever so slightly. He runs to me like he's expecting me to comfort him, but when he gets to me he throws his arms around me and simply kisses me and then walks away. Guilty Conscience, I think!

The kids started swim lessons today so our mornings just got busier. They're only a half hour long, but they ask the parents to leave so that the children won't be distracted. I should be able to stay and watch the last 2 days (next Thurs and Fri). They take the lessons at a swim school in Lemoore, but the school is actually at someone's house and backyard pool. I suppose the pool is a little less intimidating than the bigger public pools you'd typically go to. There were about 6 swim teachers in the water -- 2 taught classes of 5 (Clara's class) and the other 4 just had one younger child for private lessons (Jonathan's class). Jonathan, of course, cried for pretty much the full 30 minutes because I had left him (I could hear him as I waited in the front yard), but Clara thought it was the coolest. She said today they learned how to be boats -- I couldn't really get out of her what that entailed, but it seemed to be fun anyway... and she couldn't wait to show me the dragonfly her teacher had pulled out of the pool.

The kids have been really good lately and were laughing up a storm as we played chase just before bedtime tonight. I tell you, listening to those kids laugh their big belly laughs is the best reward any parent could ask for!

Friday, June 27, 2008

4 years

I can remember 4 years ago sitting in the cafeteria at Trident Hospital in Charleston, SC crying my eyes out to Chris. We were starting to hear rumors that we would soon be able to bring our little girl home with us that I had given birth to just 2 weeks earlier. I was pertrified. "What if I screwed her up?" I asked him. You see, in the the two weeks after I had Clara I went through many emotions, as all new mothers do, not the least of which was resentment that I was not able to bring her home with me when I had come home. Yet somehow when it looked as though I may finally be able to bring her home, I wasn't ready. She was safe in the NICU, she had nurses around her 24/7 that had far more experience dealing with babies. Many of them had grown children, which once again trumped my experience... Clara was safe there. I could visit her anytime, but not given enough latitude to do any damage. If I took her home all bets were off. It was anyone's guess if I could handle the responsibilities of being a mother. I'm sure many around me had far more confidence in me than I had at that moment -- including Chris. He laughed at me and assured me that we'd be fine.

Turns out Clara was an easy baby, she slept, ate and grew just as she should. She was a happy baby and things were no different as she grew to be a toddler. People have often commented on what a good child she is and I can only reply that I can't really take the credit, she has just always been that way. I felt prepared to guide her, but in many ways I felt that I didn't get the chances. She often seemed to know the right direction without my guidance. I'm starting to see, maybe I did have more to do with it.

For the last 4 years Clara has grown into a beautiful young lady. I have often referred to her as a mini adult, because her behavior seemed more like an adult than a child. Often I expressed that I wished she were more childlike. I'm beginning to learn I should've been careful what I wished for. She's been home with me from the start, and with Chris and I as pretty much her only influences, of course we have been pleased with what she is becoming.

Why do I bring this all up now? Because now, at 4, I am no longer her only influence. She's no longer playing beside her peers, but with them, and, of course, in her eyes they are WAY cooler than mom ever could be. Now I struggle with knowing the right way to guide her. How do I make my influence compete with the influence of her friends? We got into an argument one day because one of her friends told her penguins can fly...surely her friend knew more than her mom! Clara has started to bring behaviors home that are not typical of her. I, by no means, mean to say that Clara is, or ever was, a perfect child. She has certainly had her moments all on her own, but lately I feel as though I'm watching my foundation crumble under the influence of her friends.

Clara never used to lie to me no matter if the truth didn't rest in her favor, but now I get, "No, I didn't." when it's obvious that yes, she did. She doesn't always act as a friend should to her friends, and things that were once trivial to her (because they are in fact trivial things) are now big deals - sometimes worthy of an arguement. Where did my little girl go? I try not to blame these behaviors on her friends (even though I could match the behaviors to the names) because I know it is Clara's job as a child to bring these behaviors home to test them out. After all if it worked for her friends, why not for her as well. I know that it will forever be my job as her parent (along with Chris) to lay down the foundation and guide her in making the right decisions, to stand strong each time she tests the boundries and eventually our consistence and guidance will pay off. Not to mention, if it's not the neighbor kids, it will be her classmates that present her with new behaviors to try out at home.

I'm not so worried any more about doing something that may screw her up, but rather, I'm scared that I'll miss my mark. That I won't do something and the influences of her friends will be the stronger guiding force. How do I keep my footing? How do I know when to intervene and when to trust that the guidance I've given her thus far will be sufficient? Won't the lessons be easier to learn when she's made the mistakes on her own? How do I teach her to be the one kid that goes against the crowd and reaches out to the kid that the others have cast aside? How do I get her to identify with the individual and not the group? How do I teach her that the kids who are consistenly mean to her are not her friends, and that just because they're mean to her, it doesn't excuse her behavior when she gives it right back to them? How is it fair that a 4 year old needs to learn these lessons now when I'm not sure she has the capacity to truly understand the situation?

The other day I was shocked to watch Clara spit on the floor in Wal-mart. She was standing on the back of the cart as we waited in the checkout line and I guess it was one of those curious moments when she wondered if she could get her spit to fall through the holes in the cart to the floor without actually hitting the cart. "Did you just spit?" I asked in disbelief. "No" was her answer. Now, I understand the curiosity (I can't say I've never done my own spit experiments), but the lying I didn't understand. It was something we'd been discussing pretty heavily at home, punishable by an immediate time out session, no matter what. But here I am in line...what do I do now? Anywhere else in the store I would've pulled her out of the way and proceeded with time out, but we're already waiting together in line (how different is that from time out anyway), and Jonathan really needed the wipes we had gone in to get. I just glared at her searching my mind for a fit punishment, finally settling on no TV for 1 day. She hardly seemed phased, we're so busy these days, she doesn't watch much TV anyway. Her lackadasical attitude only got me fuming even more, making my punishment seem ineffective at best. As I buckled her into her carseat I decided to probe this issue a little more. I told her I was disappointed in her and asked her if she knew what that meant. "It means that you're gonna take stuff away", she said. (Any other time I would've laughed at this response.) I told her it meant that I was not proud of her behavior. She understood that one, with little more explanation she sat in the backseat with her head down, not even looking out the window for the whole 20 min ride home. It broke my heart, but I thought maybe she gets it now. However, I realized that given her reaction, she may be thinking I'm not proud of her at all. So once we got home, I let her brush her own teeth as she got ready for bed and then made a big deal about what a great job she had done, telling her I was so proud of her. She lit up and said, "you're proud of me now?" So I explained that I'm always proud of her, just not always proud of her behavior and I think she got it. She hasn't lied to me since then. So maybe I haven't totally been replaced by the friends -- there may still be hope!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jiminy the Frog

Yesterday was Clara's special day. I tried to let her make little decisions throughout the day to increase the chances that she would feel special, like what to have for dinner. She requested 'long noodles with sauce on the side' aka, spaghetti -- and it was a big hit with both of the kids. They didn't always like spaghetti, but thanks to Lady and the Tramp, Clara has seen how much fun spaghetti can be to eat.

and sometimes it's a really good thing that Jonathan want's to be just like his sister!

After dinner, Clara wanted to go for a walk. We used to go for a walk together most evenings once it cooled off some, but it's been difficult to keep that up with her being in Tiny Tots. We haven't been able to go for as many walks so that she can get to bed at a reasonable hour, since she has to be up early in the morning.

We couldn't find Jonathan's sunglasses. Thankfully, Clara has more than enough spares!

The sunset was beautiful, as always around here.

Makes me miss the beach even more!

When we go for a walk we pass a park with this really tall slide. The first time Clara climbed up and went down all by herself she was soooo proud. It has become a ritual since then, anytime we pass it she has to go down the slide once before we can go on with our walk.

After our walk we sent Jonathan off to bed and got ready for our slumber party. Clara wanted to wear a princess dress. She narrowed her choices down to either Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, because 'both of those princesses slept in their dress'. She decided on Snow White because it had short sleeves. She said she didn't need long sleeves like Sleeping Beauty because it was hot outside. Perfectly Logical!

We brought blankets and pillows into the living room to camp out in front of the TV so we could watch Muppets Take Manhattan. Funny thing, apparently in Clara's mind Kermit the Frog looks a lot like Jiminy Cricket. So much so that she would tell me I was wrong -- Jiminy is a frog, not a cricket, and he was the one who married Mrs. Piggy. I would even point it out to her everytime they said his name in the movie, but she wasn't buying it, after all they called him Phil in the movie too when he had amnesia. Trust her, that's Jiminy the Frog!

Clara was really curious about how to make popcorn, so I let her watch it pop in the microwave. I only popped one of those mini bags, because I'm not always in the mood for popcorn. She ate the whole bag herself, minus the handful I threw to Clemson (He likes popcorn a lot).

We painted our toes to match while we watched the movie.

I even taught Clara how to throw the popcorn up and catch it in her mouth!

At 11:30pm I tucked her into my bed. We had watched our movies, ate popcorn and m&m's, painted our toes and even played a couple rounds of Hi-O Cheerio! It was a good time!

Oddly enough, an 11:30pm bed time does NOT mean she'll sleep in the next day. She was up at 7am this morning! UGH!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tiny Tots

Clara has been starting to feel a little left out or pushed aside lately. At this point Chris or I would typically take Clara for some special one on one time, but that's simply not possible for me to do right now while Chris is away. I think her feelings are in large part coming from the fact that she doesn't quite understand why it is that I go to Jonathan's tumbling class with him and don't come to her class. I don't think she realizes that my presence is mandatory in Jonathan's class. And, of course, since Jonathan and I go for a walk each day that Clara is in her class, she knows that I get plenty special time with Jonathan and I could tell she was struggling with the whole idea. She told me numerous times last week that she missed me, as if it's not enough that we're apart more now with her being in Tiny Tots, but I've also traded her in for special time with Jonathan. So I asked her if I could come to her class with her. She was really excited that I would want to come, but then broke my heart as I was putting her to bed Sunday. She told me she had a secret to tell me, and then whispered in my ear that it was OK if I changed my mind and decided I didn't want to go to her class. I was saddened by the way she seemed to think it was a burden for me to come. I assured her I wanted to be there as long as she still wanted me to. She was glad to hear it. So Monday Jonathan and I headed to Tiny Tots with Clara. I had spoken with her teachers last week, so they would expect me. We had a great time and Clara seems to be feeling a little better about everything.

The day started with dancing on the rug as we waited for the rest of our friends to come to class.

Then we did an art project. We colored tigers for this week's jungle theme.

Next was time for some free play. Clara diapered her babies...

then fed them breakfast.

There was even time to play a matching game with Mrs. Mila

and time to work on a few puzzles with Jonathan

and Emily

I was surprised that when it came time to go outside, the children wanted to bring a book to read instead.

We came in and washed our hands for snack time.

Snack was 'Monkey Mix' in keeping with the Jungle theme.

The morning went well. Jonathan was so good and so excited with all the 'new' toys that he played pretty well off on his own with the blocks and cars, leaving me to give Clara some of that much needed one on one attention. I got a lot out of the day myself. I don't think Jonathan ever looked up to make sure I was still there, which I never would have guessed. That definitely put my mind at ease some about being able to leave him with a sitter (once I find one!) Plus, I saw the way Clara interacted with her friends and she's not as much a 'follower' as I thought she'd be when around kids her own age. In the past I've only been able to really watch her play with kids slightly older which typically leaves her doing anything they tell her to. I've been worried she wouldn't learn to stand up for herself. I'm starting to see my kids are much stronger than I give them credit for.

Clara and I have also scheduled some special girl time this weekend. She's going to have her nap on Saturday so that she'll be ready to stay up late and have a good old fashioned slumber party with me. She requested the Muppets as her movie. We'll make popcorn and paint our toenails. I haven't thought of much past that, but I want her to feel extra special, so if anyone has any other ideas, I'd love to hear them (keeping in mind that she's only 4)!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Clara made this poster for Chris. I am so proud of her, she did a great job.

And the kids got 'Dad Tattoos'

I am very fortunate to have married a man who is such a wonderful father to our children. He's a natural at being goofy and works hard at being a better dad all the time. I'm no longer offended when Clara makes a comment alluding to the fact that Chris is the fun parent, or even the nice one. I know we both play roles that are important in raising our children right, and I'm just glad Clara and Jonathan know Chris so well, even if he does have to be away from us more than most men are away from their family. Whether he's here or not, Chris is an involved parent and I hope our kids are always proud of him and appreciative of the sacrifices he makes, both as a father and a serviceman.

Happy Father's Day Chris, We love you!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday the 13th

So, aside from Jonathan drinking from the toilet we had one other strange happening around here yesterday for Friday the 13th. When I got Clara up from her nap yesterday she had this huge red bruise on her arm. She was wearing a sleeveless dress yesterday, so I was sure it wasn't there when I put her down for her nap. It was brighter yesterday, I didn't take the pic until this morning once I knew how it came to be.
I was really worried. It's one of those times when you wished you could say for certain you were the only one who had cared for your child so you can automatically rule out any wrong doing. But seeing as how she was at Tiny Tots for 4 mornings last week I immediately started asking her questions about how the bruise came to be and if anyone had been hurting her. I really wouldn't suspect the lady's that teach her Tiny Tots class of anything, but when a large mark like this shows up on your child, you have to cover all the bases. I went through a long discussion with her about how no one is allowed to hurt her and she should tell me if anyone does even if they've told her otherwise, I won't be mad. She simply told me, "No one's hurting me, Mommy".
I could only take her word, but still when I got into bed last night it wore heavy on me how such a bright bruise could happen without her remembering even running into something. Then it dawned on me -- the orientation of it, which I had thought earlier was a perfect match for a thumbprint if someone had grabbed her with their right hand --was also the perfect placement for her to put her mouth. That's right, a hickie. I almost wanted to wake her right then to ask her if that's how it happened.
Sure enough when I asked her this morning, she admitted that's what she had done. At first she told me, "no", but once I told her I wasn't going to be mad I just needed to know -- she admitted to it. So today when anyone asked how she got that bruise, I got to explain that my 4yr old had a hickie! It's probably the only time I'll ever be relieved to see my daughter has a hickie!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cool Drink of Water

Today I took Clara to her Tiny Tots class and then Jonathan and I went on our walk. I wore my pedometer today and was a little disappointed to see that it's only 3 miles that we walk, but by the end of it the pedometer said I had taken just over 6600 steps -- a good start for the "10,000 a day" a lot of people advocate.
Anyway, I got home with just enough time to shower before picking Clara up. When I turned off the water, Jonathan showed up in the bathroom (in that seemingly magical way kids always do at that age) to greet me as I opened the shower door. First thing I noticed was that he had one of Clara's little bathroom cups in his hand. I recently bought one of those dispensers with the little 3oz Dixie cups for Clara to be able to get to water whenever she needs it. So I saw Jonathan with the cup and thought, "Wow, he figured out how to pull the cups off." Clara still struggles with it sometimes. Then I realized it's full of water - and that hoping he had also learned how to work the faucet was perhaps too ambitious. So where did he get the water?
You guessed it! I went into the kids' bathroom hoping to find their step stool in front of the sink and the toilet seat closed, but no. The step stool was actually in front of the toilet and there was water all over the toilet seat and floor. As I was taking all this in, it dawned on me that there was a cup in the trash can (Clara is allowed one cup a day, she sits it on the counter after the first use and then at the end of the day, throws it away after brushing her teeth). So I looked in the bathroom trash to see no cup was in there anymore.
So in recap, while I took a shower today, my son took a cup out of the trash and used it to drink water out of the toilet --
Does this take me out of the running for Mother of the Year?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tumbling Tykes

Today was Jonathan's 2nd Tumbling class and just as I suspected, he was ready to go for it today. As soon as we got there he was ready to climb. He even tried some new things today.

Like hanging on the bar...

and climbing on the mats...

and walking on the balance beam...

and going through the tunnels...

and even getting ON the parachute!

He had a great time running around like he ruled the place today.

Tiny Tots

I didn't get the chance to post this pic of Clara the other day. She and Caroline were getting ready to head over to their first Tiny Tots class on Monday. Clara's not constipated, that's just the face we get when we ask her to smile for a picture. I try not to make her pose for too many pics anymore because I either get this face or the mean face after 5 minutes of me trying to get her to stand still, look at me, and not grimmace!

Tuesday they made kites and did water play. She got to bring the kite home today.

Today they made windsocks. I told Clara I may try and stick around for a class soon to see how she interacts and get more pics. The sheet they handed out on the first day said parents were welcome. She seemed to like the idea of me 'coming to school' with her.

Dance Class

After Sesame Street Live, we had just enough time for Jonathan to get a nap and then head across the street for Clara's 1st dance class. We had a slightly unsuccessful search for dance clothes the other day. We found shoes and a skirt, but no leotards, so Clara insisted on wearing the skirt over her shorts. I was relieved to see that no one was wearing dance clothes when we got to class.

2 of our neighbors are in Clara's dance class as well. Here's a picture of her with Emily again before class began.

Here they are doing stretches and warm up exercises

They were supposed to walk across that line on their toes

Clara couldn't wait to try those tap shoes

Like a pro! (The little boy is our other neighbor, Brady)

Marching around the circle

I had a hard time keeping Jonathan away from his sister. He didn't quite understand why he couldn't do what she was doing. As soon as she took off the tap shoes, he put them on (I tied them so he wouldn't trip himself) and once the instructor told everyone to stretch out on the mat, there was no stopping him.

Clara doing sommersaults on her own!

Clara loved the class, but later she told me, "They didn't teach me how to dance like a ballerina." I guess she wasn't impressed with all the little details, she just wanted to dance!

Sesame Street Live

After a frustrating morning dealing with Comcast, I am back online. I was not able to access the internet all day yesterday and most of the day today. It took a lot of time and a lot of frustration to get someone from Comcast out here to find the problem, but the man who did show up was wonderful and stayed until it was fixed, even though the problem had nothing to do with their service. We had a really busy day yesterday and I took lots of pics, which made not being able to log on and share them all the more frustrating. Thankfully it was a brief interlude and I can share today instead.

First thing yesterday, I loaded the kids up in the car for a short drive to Bakersfield, CA to see Sesame Street Live, When Elmo Grows Up. Bakersfield is about 1.5 hours away, but with Chris gone, I look for anything to make a day go faster, so off we went.

Clara and Jonathan dressed for the show

Elmo and Dorothy

At the show


Making music


Leaving with their loot

It was a good show. Last year in VA we made it to see their other show Elmo Makes Music. I preferred that show, but that could just be because I didn't have to drive so long to get to it :) Jonathan really enjoyed the show. He does a Cookie Monster impersonation that's hard to describe, I should try and get it on video sometime. So everytime he saw Cookie Monster, he did the impersonation, and everytime he saw Elmo he yelled, "la la la la" in reference to the theme song for Elmo's World.

We had really good seats, front row center. Technically we were in the second row, but no one sat in the front row so that the characters could come out into the crowd throughout the show and shake hands with the kids. Clara got high fives from Rosita, shook Grover's hand, and the purple monster with the horns helped Clara bonk his nose to make his horns blast. It was so cool to see her face light up each time a character interacted with her!