Monday, November 27, 2006

Gingerbread Fun

While I cooked Thanksgiving turkey, the kids and Scott put together a gingerbread house. Here are a few photos:

The kids and Scott all had fun, but I think the boys' favorite activity has been picking off the gumdrops and candies every day since. Josh will bring me to the gingerbread house and say, "This one is loose..." In other words, "I need to eat that one!" This year's gingerbread house will not be a family heirloom, so we decided to let the children have fun slowly eating each piece of decoration. There are still plenty of candies left, so the gingerbread house fun should last for a couple more weeks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

With the time change, my kids are now up at around 6:00. This does not make for a happy family, as Mommy needs a little time with the Lord and with her coffee before her little ones get up. The first couple of days after the time change were difficult for me. The boys were up and cheerful and dressed and it was only 6:15 and I was barely out of bed or still in bed.

Then we did this: We put a clock in the boys' room and told them to stay in bed or play quietly until the clock said 7:00. The boys (ages 3 and 5) have loved the responsibility, and Mommy has cherished the needed quiet time to prepare for the day. This has really worked for me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bed time here at our house, part 3

My children are like stair steps- all coming in nice, even 19 month intervals. When Carter was three and Josh was the prescribed 19 months, God blessed us with a sweet, spirited girl. Sophie has been a true blessing to our home. She has certainly shaken things up! I usually hear something like, "She's spunky, isn't she?" or "She has a lot of personality" within fifteen minutes of meeting someone new.

But we are talking about bed time, arent' we? I have described our experience with bed time with our first two children. Both boys followed a schedule, and were happy sleepers. When Sophie was a newborn, I became much more flexible with her schedule. I had to be! Carter and Josh were busy active little guys, and I no longer had the freedom to focus solely on my newborn.

I think both Sophie and I benefited from my new-found freedom. I still followed the pattern of feeding right after she woke up from her nap, and I would try to keep feedings at around every two to three hours, but after that one 'rule' I was much more flexible. If Sophie fell asleep at the 'wrong' time, this was a blessing and not a problem!

(With Carter and Josh, my mother had found it astonishing that I would try to keep my babies awake until the prescribed nap time. Her philosophy was that if a baby wants to sleep, let him sleep. After Sophie, I saw and I felt the wisdom in my mother's words.)

The amazing thing to me was that even though I was no longer so rigid about the schedule, Sophie slept through the night at around the same time both boys did. I did not need to be so afraid! I think all those scary, worse-case scenarios (i.e. if you do not follow a rigid schedule or if you rock your baby before bed or if you let your baby go to sleep fifteen minutes after a feeding- your child will not sleep through the night until he is a teenager...) are based on fear.

Now I have come to believe that if you are happy with your baby's routine, or lack thereof, and your baby is happy and growing, then there is no need to change what you are doing. Different families have different needs, backgrounds, and goals. Some of us count the days until Baby sleeps all night, others are perfectly fine sleeping with or next to their babies for many months in order to feed or cuddle Baby at a moment's notice.

If your baby is cranky, you are miserable from lack of sleep, or your husband is asking, "When are we getting our bed back?", then you might want to seek counsel from another mother or email me and I'll help however I can.

Sophie will be two in December. At bedtime, I read her a book, turn out her lights, rock her, sing the Gospel Song, pray, and then sing God is so Good. I usually finish the last song while I am standing right next to her bed. In the bed she goes, with her blanket she has had since birth, along with her soft baby that she has also had since she was an infant.

I love bedtime with Sophie! I get special time alone with her, and I relax and rock while my husband wrangles our rowdy boys up for bed. While I used to rush as fast as possible through putting my babies to bed, I now love to linger and often will sing our special songs several times before I put her in bed.

With our boys, who are five and three, we do jammies/teeth/bathroom and then (I've joined them by now) often read a book. Then it's time for prayers, kisses and hugs, and in the bed. Before my husband leaves the room, he tells them a story which always starts out, "Once upon a time, there were two boys named Carter and Josh..." and proceeds to recount their day.

Bedtime is a source of great joy, and of great relief. Scott will often say, "You made it" and I'll breathe a sigh of contented relief. Then it's almost bedtime for Mama before my little stair steps are up and at it again.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Laundry help

There is one single thing that has helped me the most in the area of laundry control and expense. As a family of five, we produce a lot of laundry. Every day we wear five shirts, five pairs of pants or skirts, five pairs of socks, and five sets of underthings. This adds up fast, both finacially as well as in terms of time.

Washing clothes is one of the main sources of non-negotiable expense in our house. You can't eliminate it from the budget, but you can seriously cut down on the actual amount of expense.

So here's the tip: Make sure clothing is truly dirty before you wash it. Wear dresses, dress pants, work pants and shirts, and even play clothes twice or more before throwing them into the dirty clothes hamper. Lest you think I am crazy (or am a 'dirty' person) for saying this, I am not the only advocate of this method. Its proponents include Martha Stewart, Elisabeth Elliot, and most importantly to me, my mother.

When we lived with my mother, she would often help me catch up on the laundry pile. One life-changing day, she said, "Tami, your family has more laundry than any family I've ever seen. You wash more clothes than I've ever seen. Your children can wear their clothes- even play clothes- more than once!" My mother faithfully raised four children, so her words hold a lot of weight for me. This stopped me in my tracks. That night, I told the boys to lay their clothes that they had worn that day out for the next morning, instead of putting them in the hamper.

I've never gone back to my old habits.

This saves money in at least three ways:

-Your clothes will last much longer- too frequent washings causes fading, wearing, and misshapenness (not sure that's a word, but if it is, it means loss of shape). This is Martha Stewart's main point.

-You will save money in detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets.

-You will save electricity. The washer and dryer are our main energy outputs after the air conditioner/heater.

I don't have to convince any mother of the mental help cutting even one load will produce.

By the way, I hope it goes without saying that there are days that my kids get too dirty to re-wear their clothes. When we go out, I try to make sure they look nice and fresh. And Sophie, at twenty months, usually makes enough of a mess at meal time to earn a clean shirt. If the clothes get stained, wash them right away! If they smell, in the wash they go. And OF COURSE, this rule does not apply to underclothes!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bedtime here at our house, part 2 (a few more words about babies and bedtime)

Yesterday I posted a bit about our early experience with bed time. We were strictly 'Babywise' parents with Carter, our oldest. Three hour schedules, never ever rocking at bed time- this system has both pros and cons, but I have learned with experience that such rigidity is not necessary to achieve the goal of even very young children happily going to bed.

When Josh was born 19 months after Carter, I had some pretty significant problems while we were still in the hospital. We ended up staying for almost a week while I recovered and got my strength back. He was also very jaundiced and had to stay in the nursery unless I was feeding him.

This made for a difficult time for me as a mommy with a new baby whom I loved so much. Carter had stayed in my room after he was born, and I found his 'rooming in' with me to be helpful in establishing good breastfeeding as well as providing a great opportunity for bonding. Because of my own difficulties and Joshua having to stay in the nursery, when we left the hospital I felt like I was still in a daze. But I was happy to be recovering and taking a beautiful baby boy home to see his big brother.

After we got home, it took me several more weeks to fully recover and regain my strength. God was so gracious to me! Josh slept so well right from the beginning.

I kept him on the same three-hour feeding schedule, nursing him right when he woke from his naps. At night, he would wake up just once and go right back to sleep after I had nursed him. I don't remember him 'crying it out' at all. This could be because he spent his first week on the schedule of the hospital nursery. (He was fed on a fairly strict schedule there, and then would go right back on the bili-lights.)

I know for sure that God was with us! I had a newborn and a 19-month-old and was very weak, but I don't remember that time as particularly trying (maybe I have mommy-amnesia, but I really remember this as a sweet time). We also moved four states south (from Kentucky to Florida) when Josh was six weeks old, and both boys made the transition smoothly.

Josh was sleeping so well at six weeks that when we moved I put him in the same room as Carter. Carter never skipped a beat, and when I would go get them in the morning, I would often find Carter standing in his crib smiling over into Josh's crib. What sweet memories!

Tomorrow: A girl is born: here comes Sophie (and more about bed time- I think I digressed a bit in this post!)

For mother's of boys, only

If you don't have children yet, or have only girls, you may not want to read this post. Really.

If however, you have one or more boys, share a knowing laugh with me as I recount the following conversation I had with my three year old today:

J: Mom, what's my bottom do?"

Me: "It goes poop" (I told you not to read this if you don't have boys!)

J: "What's poop do?"

Me: "It goes in the toilet."

J: "What's the toilet do?"

Me: "It flushes."

J: "Then what's it do?"

Me: "It goes down to the sewer." (I'm no toilet expert!)

J: "What's the sewer do?"

At this point I was at a loss of knowledge about the waterworks system and what exactly the sewer doos, so I just moved my hands in a back and forth/swishing motion and said, "It doos this..." This seemed to satisfy him and off to nap he went.