Lemme brag on my children.

For those of you that only come to my blog for my children…  You know who you are.  😉

My girls have had a complete turn-around in behavior lately.  Sophia has turned into this wonderfully sweet little girl.  She’s acting like a baby so much less.  She’s throwing fits less.  She’s back-talking less.  She’s playing by herself and with her sister very well.  I’ve seen her talk to Abby, consider her needs, and try to help.  I’ve been brought messages like “Abby told me she pooped.”  I’ve seen her get her feelings hurt because of Abby’s attitude.  I’ve seen her feel love when Abby says “sorry” to her.  I’ve seen her choose to do the right thing (share, apologize, hug, etc.) all by herself.  I’ve seen her offer to help me and actually help me.  I’ve seen how much it means to her for me to let her help me. I’ve seen her persevere in learning to read and ride a tricycle.  I’ve seen her broken heart when a friend chose to play with others instead of her.  I’ve seen her memorize bible verses and sing new songs that I didn’t teach her.  I’ve seen her love her daddy more than anyone in the whole world.

Now Abby.  She is now a toddler!  If she wasn’t already…. She’s just started playing by herself and is finally “into” something.  She’s super into babies and wants to do everything with babies.  She now must take one (firmly gripped with a bottle in hand) EVERYWHERE we go.  Feed the baby, change the baby, put the baby in night-night.  All by herself, without direction from me.  I have heard this child use new words every day and communicate full ideas using up to 4 word sentences.  I’ve seen she and her older sister play by themselves for an hour actually talking to each other like best friends.  Here’s a story for you.  I told Abby if she hit sister one more time, she would go to time-out.  She walked away and sulked.  Then, she came back less than a minute later, looked right at Sophia and said, “Sorry,” clear as day.  Unbelievable.  Unbelievable what she’s learned just from watching.  I never would have dreamed of asking her to say “sorry.”  I would’ve thought she was too young for it.  What a nice surprise.  She’s since said “sorry” a handful of times.

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The excitement that fills my heart to move on to this new bigger girls’ stage!  OH!  I can’t explain what it’s like to witness these girls growing up.  The girls that they are becoming warms my heart like no other feeling in the world.  I guess, you know, if you’re a parent, too.

Eat this, then that.

Humor me.  I’m rejoicing in a small victory today.  Lunch time woes.  Both of my kids have it.  “Lunch?!  I hate lunch! I want to throw lunch in the trash!”  Interpretation: “I only like to eat sweet, snacky foods–fruits and snack crackers and cookies.”  Today, my patience paid off–for BOTH of my children!

Lunch for the children today was meager: pile of tomatoes, pile of real mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 wheat bread slice.  I would’ve made a grilled cheese with tomatoes, but they wouldn’t eat it all together like that… They each ate the bread.  They each ate the tomatoes… and then, the cheese was left.  They looked at what Mommy and Daddy were eating and started losing it.  “I WANT a SANDWICH!”  (Of course, I know better… We’re eating fancy paninis, complete with pepperoni, cheese and veggies.)

They see the whole grain chips and hummus we’re eating.  My 19-month old: “Chip.  Chip.  Abby chip.”  It started with Sophia hollering and beggine and continued on to Abby.  The easy thing to do would be to just give in–give them each some chips.  After all, they’re whole grain.  Or, I could simply have put chips on their plate in the first place.  However, I had a sneaking suspicion that neither of them would eat this foreign looking cheese.  I was right.

Since Sophia asked for a chip first, I told her that she would need to eat some cheese before she could have any chips.  After flipping out and yelling awful things, she finally asked to leave the table to go play.  5 minutes later, she was back.  She ate a piece of cheese and got a chip.  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later and lunch was finished.  Abby didn’t quite understand the concept so well, though we’ve done it many times.  (Either that, or she’s stubborn as a mule.  I think she’s stubborn as a mule.)  After 10 whole minutes of screaming her head off for a chip, she asked to be all done.  Then 10 minutes later, Abby came back to the table and asked for a chip.  This time when I said, “Cheese first, then chip,” she ate the piece of cheese and then ate the chip.  (Sophia helped.)  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later, and she was also completely finished with her lunch!  AH!  Victory is mine!

It’s a simple rewards based system that teaches children the importance of eating what’s more healthy first before moving onto the junk.  Some people don’t like to reward with food, but it’s such a simple concept that is effective.  As long as your rewards aren’t crap and as long as what you’re using to teach them to eat is truly healthy food, then I think that it will teach them good eating habits.

Another trick we use with our eldest is dessert rewards.  When she completely finishes her (well-balanced) plate of dinner, she is rewarded with a (reasonable) dessert.  Dessert is usually fruit, sometimes a fruity popsicle, or something sweeter like chocolate or a cookie.  I want to teach my kids to eat EVERYTHING, appreciate foods with different flavors, textures and colors…  I think it’s working, little by little.  The trick is having the patience to be okay with screaming for a few minutes.  My kids sure can throw fits!  I bet yours can, too.  😉

I cried because I was so beautiful–a rant.

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about, nothing new to parents of a little girl: Do I tell my daughter that she’s beautiful?  Immediately, my gut response is “You betcha!  Absolutely!”

Start now and never stop.  Tell her through those awkward pre-teen years.  Tell her during the difficult teen years.  Tell her when she starts dating and gets stood up for the first time.  Tell her when she realizes her “first love” was a d-bag.  Tell her when she gets married and is walking down the aisle.  Tell her when she feels like a whale pregnant with her first child.  Tell her.  And, then tell her some more.

Does that make me a bad mother?

I want my girls to feel beautiful.  Are they going to feel beautiful just because I say so?  No.  I realize that there’s much more to it than that…

Comments on appearance is such an icky topic.  It always brings up weird stuff in people.  For me, it brings up the wicked teenage years when I lost over 30 pounds at the vulnerable age of 16.  I got comments on my physical appearance for the first time in my life.  It was off-putting.  It was always the same people over and over, too.  I just got tired of it.  Talk about something else!  And, some people, honestly, I didn’t believe.  Like, once I got the strangest compliment from a gorgeous and popular, thin girl in my high school.  (I think she was dating the quarter back at the time.)  She actually told me, in line at the cafeteria in front of God and everybody, that she thought I had a great butt.  Maybe, I’m just not “girly” enough, I don’t know how girls talk to each other, but this was weird… right?  I had such a horrible self-image, and all of these comments made me more obsessed with my appearance and more obsessed with keeping my body a certain size and shape.

What is the message that my daughter is getting when I tell her she is beautiful?  There’s a difference in my story.  No one told me I was “beautiful.”  Well, at least that’s the difference that I see.  People were commenting on my new thin body, on new muscle tone, downed pant sizes and tight buns, apparently…  But, none of my peers, or teachers or friends ever said, “You are beautiful.”  The only ones that ever did were boys…  and those I clung to like a starving tick behind your dog’s left ear.  I fully invested myself in these relationships because I didn’t have enough self-esteem to believe it myself.  When I put on make-up and voraciously fixed my hair, it was to do just that: “fix” myself.  When I dressed up, I never thought I looked good, I always hated the first 10 things I put on and settled with number 11.  (That’s all normal teenage stuff, right?)

There was a definite shift in my thinking when I was pregnant with my first daughter.  I felt the undeniable feminine beauty of housing and growing a child.  I was becoming a mother and knew that this was beauty that could neither be denied nor taken away.  Becoming a mother is a lot like being a child of the King, my relationship with God can’t be taken from me.  It is.  And He is mine.  And, it is beautiful.  So it is with being a mom.  The God-given gift of carrying a child in your womb is one of the most inherently beautiful miracles of the world….

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  When I stepped on the scales at the labor/delivery ward to be induced on that fateful day 3 years ago, the number jumped passed two bills…. And, I knew it would… Did it sting?  Sure, how couldn’t it?  Did I feel beautiful?  Yah, I did.  A mighty beautiful and swollen, pregnant mama carrying within her the mostly beautiful baby girl her eyes had yet to see.  This began a beauty revolution in which I wanted my girls to know that they’re beautiful–that they are God-made and He said “It is good.”

Let me tell you where my thoughts are coming from.  As you can imagine, my little 3-year old is a parrot.  A parrot and a mirror.  She repeats everything she hears.  She takes it on.  The most hilarious thing that she says is a quote from a book that I am not recommending… maybe, you’ve heard of it: Pinkalicious.  It’s a bit of a sensation, I think… Oh, what a book.  We’ve read it 18,000 times.  We’ve nearly worn the jacket right off that library book.  We’ve had it for well over a month and read it more than once a day sometimes… Shew.  I like to hide it sometimes.  Anyway, in case you haven’t read it, it’s about a girl who turns pink from eating too many pink cupcakes.  This is what she says about being her favorite color, “I cried because I was so beautiful!”

So, out of nowhere, I will hear Sophia say this.  She often hollers it out throughout the house.  It’s quite hilarious because she’s quoting a very funny moment in a book.  But, I also here her calling out things like, “I’m pret-ty!  I’m pret-ty!”  She also told me in the library a few days ago about “the most beautiful little girl in the purple sweater.”  It’s sinking in.  She’s commenting on other kids…

Here’s why I don’t think it’s so bad.  I’m a thoughtful person.  I know that beauty is not just what I see with my eyes when I look at my daughters.  I know that it’s also about what I know about them, about who they are.  It’s also about what I feel about them because I know them.  It’s about who they are and who they will become.

The problem is that my girls really are physically beautiful.  (Is that a problem?)  Well, they get comments all the time.  Abby’s red hair is a magnet for all gushy,over-talkative,pseudo-aunties.  Often during said gush session, Sophia will yell out, “My hair’s beautiful, too!”  Or, “I’m pretty, too!”  Just yesterday a man on the square told us that our girls looked like they came out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Nice.  Lovely.  Yes.  I eat it up… But, what are these messages sending them?   Will they stop?  And, what happens when they do?  When they go through those awkward years of 11-14?  I’ll still be telling them how beautiful they are.  Will they believe it?  And, what about when they’re 16, 17.  Will they believe it or will they look for boys to tell them that?  And what about sibling rivalry?  I didn’t have a sister, but I’ve seen enough made-for-TV movies to fear what jealousy may exist between the two of them…

I’ve read all this stuff like “When you tell your daughter she’s beautiful, make sure you say ‘inner beauty.'”  Or, flat out, “Don’t tell your daughter she’s beautiful.  Tell her she’s smart, she works hard, she’s good at ________.”  Or, “If you do tell her she’s beautiful, be sure to greater emphasize her other characteristics.”  What the #@#!#%$!  Besides this being totally confusing, I want her to know she’s beautiful!  Is that so bad?  I want her to know that I think she’s beautiful!  I also want her to know that she’s smart…  and strong… and kind… and loving… and nurturing… and independent…and interesting… and worth knowing… . I also want her to know that she’s loved… and adored… and cherished… and enjoyed… and loved by the King…  I want her to know that the Father thinks she’s beautiful.

It’s like beauty is this thing that some people have and some people don’t.  That’s just not true in the eyes of the Father.  That’s because the Father truly sees.  He truly sees the whole person, the whole forgiven beauty that is His child.  I want to love like He does. I want to foster that in my girls.

But, how do I do that?  How do I navigate the ugly stigma that is attached to “beauty”?  I don’t want to tack on “inner beauty” to every compliment like some caveat or some over-used cliche that my girls will need therapy for. I can’t (won’t) keep my girls out of our culture.  At the same time, I don’t want my girls to be obsessed with their physical appearance, worried that they have to look just so or worried about when it will fade.

That’s what they say, right?  “Beauty fades.”  May I respectfully say, “Bull $#*@!”  My grandmother was the most beautiful woman I can remember in ALL OF THE WORLD!  Not a touch of work done.  White as a ghost and very overweight in her old age.  But, skin as soft as silk and a heart of pure gold.  An absolute gem of God’s pure light.  And, her husband loved her boundlessly, with a lifetime of faithfulness to prove it.

What can I do other than thoughtfully parent every age, hoping to nurture my girls into strong, beautiful women. Beautiful women who know who they are, know they are loved by me and loved by God.  What else can I hope for?  Does telling them they are beautiful sabotage that?

I don’t think so.  What do you think?

Ultimately, my daughters will have to navigate within themselves a feeling of beauty–of inner beauty, of outer beauty… everything.  They’ll have to navigate within themselves every kind of self-feeling.  I’ll nurture what I can.  But, I want my daughters to know that I think they’re beautiful.

UTAH.

Utah.  It’s hot.  It’s sunny.  It’s dry and desert-y.  It’s stinking gorgeous.  But, I may not want to go back for a while.

I had never been out West.  I had never been much farther west than where we live right now.  Until we took a nearly impromptu family vacation to Moab last weekend.  The conditions weren’t quite right, but we thought we better go soon if we were going to go this summer.  I was itching for a camping trip; it was really still too cool to go here.  And, we’d neer been to Moab and really wanted to visit the national parks there…

We looked at the forecast and planned the trip.  Just as soon as we got everything in order: asking for time off, booking a campsite, etc., Will got some kind of stomach virus (the Monday before we were to leave Friday morning.)  Will, the strong-man that he is, didn’t let on how debilitating this virus was to his body.  He powered through, as he always does.  (Maybe, he can give birth to our next two children?)  So, not knowing how yucking his illness was, we continued on with our planning.

After stress building because of his recent illness (and my unknown onset) and a regretful argument the night before, we were on the road by 7 a.m. on Friday.  Woohoo.  May I count the plentiful reasons to leave so early!  Wowee.  It was the most wonderful car trip we have ever had.  It was perfect, really.  The kids had breakfast in the car, “read” 20 books a piece, had more snacks and sang songs, and all of a sudden we were half-way.  We stopped at a park for a super-early picnic lunch (10:45).  After letting them run their energy off, they sacked out in the car right as we crossed the UT border.  We made it by 2:00!  It’s like 430 miles!  Anyway, great trip over.  We were able to set up tent, get some ice cream and head into the park for a little sight-seeing, all well before dark.

Dark.  That’s where things turned evil.  In the night, Abby kept waking up making these wretching sounds–like dry heaving.  She never cried for me to get her up, but the wretching was awfully disturbing.  She had had diarrhea that evening.  It got me to thinking about my own constitution.  Queezy.  I tried not to think about it.  Only imagining it, right?  By the time morning came, my belly was not in the mood for a 7 a.m., 5-mile desert hike.  In fact, my belly was only in the mood for diarrhea and vomiting for the next 12 hours.

After crapping my guts out in the camp bathroom about 30 different times,  my body ached and my fever got up to 101.4.  Since we were camping and the forecast now told us the highs were around 99 for the next two days, we thought we had better pack it up and head home before things got worse.  At 11 a.m. Will miraculously got the tent packed up, and we headed out.  He was such a trooper that day.  You can imagine that we had to stop a few times on the 430 mile drive back home… It was rough.  I’m not gonna lie.  We all napped, though.  A LOT!  I was basically asleep the whole time.  My girls were so wonderful.  They could tell I was miserable, and the minimal amount of whining and crying can only be attributed to a gracious God.  We made it home, and now have the stories, the memories, and the pictures…

YAY!  Pictures.  Here’s a few fun pictures of what we did get to see during our VERY short trip to Utah.

A Mother’s Wish

I want to make a memory of today, of something I just witnessed.  I want to make such a vivid memory that I can recount every detail to my girls when they’re adults.  My mind is always so foggy, my memory so disjointed and unclear (thyroid symptom?)  I fear I won’t remember.

Today’s been pretty rough day.  It began abruptly at a 5:45 bang on our bedroom door, followed by a 5:46 climb into bed over the top of me.  Yup.  Sophia.  She needs some boundaries. (By the way, I was up past midnight last night; so, I did not welcome this sweet face so early.)

As I groggily came downstairs at about 6:30, I was met with the unmet tasks of yesterday–horribly crusty kitchen with a sink full of dishes, 2 new shrubs to plant out in our front flowerbed, the next week’s grocery shopping, 2 loads of unfolded laundry, and a houseful of tornado-toddlerdom, i.e. every kind of toy everywhere.  (I’ve been taking some time off from housework.  Still recovering from a recent stomach illness.  More on that later.)

This might not be so bad if I had woken up a bit cheerier… or let’s say, if everyone else had, too…

So, Sophia went to bed after 9 last night, and she woke up before 6.  She is CRANKY today.  She is every bit of 3 years old today. The way she is talking to me sends my head spinning, my eyes rolling, and body shaken.  I tell her to do something, and she yells at me, “NO! I DON’T WANT TO! THIS IS MY KIND OF LIFE AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!!!!!”  You can be sure that this kind of behavior is met with time-outs and apology sessions…

How’s Abby today?  She’s getting new words every day.  Just a few days ago she finally started verbalizing “no” and doing it very well.  Now, she yells (in a very sweet 18-month old voice) “NO!” after I tell her to do something.  Then she rolls all over the floor laughing.

WHAT the WHAT?!

Where was I?  Was there a scene I wanted to savor?  It wasn’t them helping dig the holes for the shrubs… or them helping me get new soil mixed in… or even watering them…  though, it sure made me think a lot about how God is working on my patience…

About 20 time-outs later sometime after cleaning up lunch, I hear, “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”  I look around the corner, and both my girls are on the ground.  Abby has tackled Sophia from the front, arm tight around her neck.  She sitting on her knees, hugging her heart out, laying her head on Sophia’s shoulder.  Sophia’s smiling ear to ear, trying to be patient enough to hug her back, her legs wrapped around behind her.  There is only sheer joy.  “Abby’s hugging me, Mommy!  Abby’s hugging me!”

They’re becoming best friends–following each other around everywhere, wanting to be just like each other.  They’re playing together better all the time and also doing their share of fighting and wrestling.  It’s the most beautiful thing a mother can see.  I want to savor it.  I want to pause and make this memory of this moment last forever.  I want to tell my girls when they’re in the late 20s about this day.  I have a feeling if I remember it, I will tell it through choked back tears.

The Ongoing Fun of Two

Oh!  My kids are SO hilarious right now.  And, by hilarious, I actually mean ornery-as-can-be!  The newest development in the sage of raising two is time-out behavior.  For a while now, when Sophia cries her heart out, yelling “Cooooooow-booooooy,” during a 3-minute time-out, Abby will go on the search for Cowboy and bring the stuffed animal to her.  This morning, after taking Cowboy from Sophia’s hands during a time-out, Abby goes after whatever toy she can find to take to Sophia–over and over and over.  I take it away from Sophia.  Tell Abby, “No.  Sister’s in time-out.”  And, she goes and finds something else to take to her sad big sister.  Here’s the tension: It’s sweet, right?  Abby’s compassionate.  She wants to give Sophia something to make her stop crying.  I want my girls to relate sweetly to each other as sisters.  I want to encourage compassion and empathy–sticking up for each other, etc.  But, it’s a time-out.  When will she be old enough to learn that when you’re in time-out for doing something wrong, you can’t have a toy?  I guess, at this point I need to just pick her up and take her away for 3 minutes.

–I just looked over at Abby, and she has unzipped my wallet.  When did she get old enough to do that?—

We’ve started time-outs with Abby, too… and this is also difficult.  She’s throwing toys and hitting, unacceptable things that Sophia never really did.  She goes to time-out almost excitedly.  You know, it’s “big girl.”  Sophia does it.  Well, yesterday after Sophia and Abby had an altercation, Abby went to time-out at the bottom of the stairs.  I went to Sophia to console her sore head.  I asked her if she wanted me to kiss it.  Immediately Abby jumps up arms stretched out making kissy faces and noises.  It was all I could do not to fall all over the floor laughing.  Straight face.  Discipline.  Follow through.  This is important.  Poor Abby is not getting the same parenting that Sophia got.  I’m coming to grips with that fact.  They’re going to have different stories.  They’re going to be different people based on a lot of facts–internal and external… and birth order is one of the unarguable facts.  They will get parented differently.

–Alright, I just put Sophia in time-out again for getting water from the faucet unattended–AFTER I gave her a vase that I told her she could “pretend” with, “no water.”

She’s whispering to Abby, coaxing her, “Abby, go get Cowboy for me.  Abby, please….  Please Abby, go get my Cowboy.”

Abby takes her a shoe. “Shoe,” Abby says.

“I don’t want a shoe, Abby.  Go get my Cowboy.”

Abby doesn’t get her Cowboy.  She walks off and plays.  HAHAHAHAHA!  —

Okay, I should probably go parent these little monsters.  😉

Child proof

Does my coffee table look a little cluttered  Do you notice anything on the coffee table that’s a little out of place?  Maybe that big piece of pink chalk right in the middle?  I noticed that this morning…  Yah, it’s been there for probably 2 weeks.  It is a complete wonder that a pink chalk line isn’t circling the living room–pink scribbles on the brand new sofa or pink on the rug.  It has literally just sat there for 2 weeks.  Shew.  I guess, I do have pretty amazing kids… Or else, they haven’t noticed it.

My eldest really surprised me this week.  Our house is pretty well kid friendly but my no means “child proof.”  We don’t have any cabinet locks or foam pads taped to corners or gates on the stairs.  We’re “always” watching them; so, I think it’s important to teach what’s okay to get into and what’s not…  Most chemicals and things are out of reach.

Except for the dishwashing liquid.  I’ve got to watch out.  If I leave the dishwasher door open, Abby will get out the dishwashing liquid and pretend to pour it in!  So cute.

This week, though, while I was NOT watching Sophia, she got into something that gave me a BIG scare.  She was standing at the kitchen counter playing with a tea cup, a tea bag and a packet of sugar.

I left the room for just a minute to take Abby to Daddy.  I heard Sophia yell, “I think I just hurt myself with a knife!”

She had pulled out a huge utility knife from the knife block and sliced her palm with it.  It bled like crazy.  I freaked out.  Thankfully, it was nothing that a little Neosporin and a princess band-aid couldn’t fix.  It was really eye-opening, though.  I keep forgetting that she’s just a little girl, not even 3-years old.  We had a good talk about.  She definitely understands now that a knife is not a toy, not for little girls, and the shiny part will cut you.  Thank goodness a lesson was learned without a trip to the emergency room.

Back to the craziness that is life lately…