Monday, February 28, 2011

Why My Kids Stay Up Late (and why I don't feel all that guilty about it)

At night, I often go to bed before two or three of my children fall asleep.  Ivey has to be in bed at around 8:30.  However, she has played in her crib for hours on end since she was a tiny baby.  She always loved to silently and stealthy play... or sweetly sing to herself.  Sometimes, she would wake up in the middle of the night and just hum or babble or play.  Many a time have I woke up to tiny hints of noises over the monitor, only to look at the video screen and see her waving her feet around in the air at 4am.  She can keep herself entertained for hours.  Now that she's in her toddler bed, you'd think she would get up at night and play.  But, it seems that when it's dark outside, she likes to stay put in her bed, still playing till 11:00 or so.  She sleeps very well, and always has.  It's not unusual for her to get up at 9:00 in the morning.  She still takes a good 2 1/2 to 3 hour nap in the afternoon, also.

Honestly, as long as she is happy and healthy and getting all the rest she needs.... and as long as I put her in bed at 8:30 and have that time to myself, I don't really care.  I choose my battles, and forcing her to conform to an earlier, and arbitrary bedtime is not one I choose to fight.  We do not have daycare and her twice a week "preschool" doesn't start until 9:00.  When the twins were old enough that the nap had faded out, I learned the trick of making them think you expect them to sleep, going in on occasion to tell them to get back to bed, standing in their room and giving the evil eye to make sure they knew you meant business... and then leaving the room, knowing that they will now just play super duper quietly and get along great in order to think they are flying under my radar.  With Ivey, I pull the same thing.  I know that this is just how she ticks... but I make her think that I expect silence and sleep.  Then, I get silent, lounging in bed play until she finally drifts off.

Now, Asa and Addison have a room set apart from ours and the girls' rooms.  I make sure their teeth are brushed and everything is done that needs to be.  I write their "seatwork" for the next day on the board.  Then, I tuck them in.  A lot of times, most of the time, I leave them with their lights on.  They know that once I tuck them in, I expect nothing out of them... but they can just turn off the lights when they are ready to go to sleep.  Some nights, they both stay up and read.  Most nights, Addison reads while Asa works on some LEGO robotic creation.  They know that they have to have their work completed and their tummies fed and their clothes on and their chores done before we start "lecture time", which usually begins when Ivey goes down for her afternoon nap.  Some nights, Asa stays up late in order to get all of his seatwork done for the next morning.  In my opinion, this is time management training.  What happens if they oversleep and don't do their seatwork?  Then, we can't start "lecture time" on time... and everything lasts forever.  It's a consequence so dire that I don't think it will ever happen.  For a while, Asa asked for an alarm clock so that he could get up earlier to make sure it all gets done early enough to have adequate playtime before chores and school.  Sometimes, he still uses it.  They hate wasting time.

I started feeling guilty for not having a more typical night time routine for Asa and Addison.  Nine nights out of ten, I do not tuck them in to their beds with the lights out.  I even told Jeff recently that we needed to change things to fit the mold a little better.  Tonight, I realized that this late night time that they spend in their room is just as educational as any lesson I formally give them.  Asa sits for hours upon hours with gears and motors and axles, making things I can't even begin to figure out.  Addison started the first book of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" on Tuesday, 6 days ago, and is now on book 4, "The Silver Chair".  Why take this time away?  I get the "me" time I need, and who's to say they don't need their own "me" time, as well.  Thus, I renounce myself of all guilt and just enjoy the freedom that we have to be flexible.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday To You

I cannot believe it has been a whole year.  One year ago, I was meeting our sweet little Olive for the very first time.  The day that your baby is born, that moment where you meet a whole new little person... your little person... for the first time... is just plain amazing.  It's an experience that you don't get many of (some more than others), and it's one that Jeff and I made sure to savor each and every time.  A year ago today, we got a huge present from God.  Not the kind of present that you open on Christmas or your birthday.  The kind of present that comes to you totally unexpected and unsolicited.  The kind that reminds you that you are thought of... that you are loved.

Olive's birthday party was like most first birthday parties... squeezed between a naptime and bedtime.  Although she made it for the cupcake (which she scrunched her nose up at... and handed to her sister), she hit the sack before presents could be opened.  So, we had Party Part 2 tonight.  Olive really loved opening her gifts, and she was thrilled with each and very one of them.  As a matter of fact, she loved them so much... they got her to walk!  She took her first really real steps tonight! I have no doubt that over the next week, she will be up on those chubby little feet of hers and mastering her new skill!

Congratulation, my little caboose!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday night, Jeff was able to come and spend the night, working remotely on Friday. It worked out great. He was able to have a little getaway, the kids and I were able to see him, with no internet or email he was able to work with very little distraction at all, and I was able to get some help packing up and closing up shop. My crazy week long trip was a huge success. We romped in the leaves, played in the dirt, caught moths (but Addison never touched one because of his concern that they may carry diseases), completed a week of school, we watched "How To Train Your Dragon" a total of eight times, played cards, Addison completed the first two books of the Chronicles of Narnia, we roasted bratwurst ad marshmallows over a fire, and we cut out all the distraction that pulls us in so many directions and had a great bonding trip.  Success!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 4

The weather was beautiful again today. Sunny, warm, breezy. Perfect weather for butterfly chasing and fort building. We got back in the van today, for the first time since we got here. We headed out to get more milk (two gallons just wasn't enough) and to go to the Panorama Farm Market, or “the apple barn” as we call it.
On the way, Ivey was talking nonstop. She screamed to a pasture of cows, asking them if they would like a juice box. She sang her hybrid version of Twinkle Twinkle and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. At one point, she had her little hand up in the air, fingers spread wide. She was waving it at Olive, telling her “It's okay.” “It's okay, Olive.” Olive wasn't crying, or even upset, but Ivey was determined to let her know that things were alright. She even told her “Don't cry, Olive. Don't cry.” I was reveling in the sweetness of sisterly love when Ivey popped out with... “It's okay, Olive. The dinosaur will get you soon.” Hmmm. Not so sweet, after all. She even proceeded to show Olive what I dinosaur says when it gets you, “RARR!”, followed by more calming requests for Olive not to cry about it when her time comes and the dinosaur actually gets her. Hmm.

At “the apple barn”, Asa and I ate fried pies, and Addison and Ivey chose ice cream. Ivey decided to be extra sweet and share her ice cream with everyone else, except Addison, of course, as he is completely grossed out at the thought of eating off of someone else's spoon. We headed back up the mountain and went back to work... getting dirty. The pile of Georgia red clay that was left over from construction is becoming the highlight of the trip!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mommy & Me & Me & Me & Me Mountain Trip

On a whim, I decided that the kids and I could use a change of scenery. So, on Sunday, I packed up all of our school stuff for the week, food, bottles, diapers, three duffle bags of clothes, a sewing machine, DVD's, my espresso machine, and everything else that would fit and took off for a week in the mountains. Jeff's parents have a cabin near Ellijay, and the thought of enjoying this budding Spring-like weather there sounded like the perfect little homeschool stay-cation to me.

I was a little intimidated at the thought of getting there, getting unpacked, and turning on the water, etc by myself. So, my wonderful brother-in-law (he has his moments) met me up there and helped me get situated. That evening, I cranked up the fireplace, made some chicken fettucini, and settled in for a night of movie watching with the kids. Olive went to bed in the only bedroom, leaving Ivey to hang out in the great room with us. She was a little wild, but eventually managed to fall asleep... eventually. The next day, we went outside and started building a tee-pee fort. I helped the boys lean some limbs in the crook of a tree and persuaded them to take over, giving them a project for the trip. Ivey loved being able to play outside. She loves it, and we don't have a fenced yard anymore so I can't just let her romp around at home. Here, she stays close to the cabin because she hates walking on the slick leave covered slopes. No cars, no people, nothing but nature. 

Those kids were completely beat that night, but Ivey couldn't sleep. I had Olive down in the bedroom again, and Ivey was over-stimulated in the room with Asa, Addison, and myself. It just didn't work. The boys fell asleep at about 10:00, but Ivey stayed up tossing, turning, poking me in the eyes, flopping on top of me, and wreaking general havoc until about midnight. Then, she was awake, and miserable, from 4:00-4:45. It was the pits.

Today was a full day. We managed to get in a very full day of school, including the LEGO robotics program. Addison hasn't been interested in a different book series since he finished the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. He has a very hard time finding a book that he deems “worth his time”. It has to be a series, since he reads to fast. He is just picky about the subject matter... and he is reluctant to try a new book that he hasn't heard good things about. I actually had to make him read the first few chapters of “How to Train Your Dragon”, knowing that he would love it. Sure enough, he kept reading and devoured the entire series in no time flat. Well, I came prepared on this trip. I brought the first two books of the Chronicles of Narnia. Today, I made him read the first three chapters of the first book, which took him very little time. He read another chapter, then another. Now, he's on chapter 11. I am glad I brought the second book with me. I guess I should have brought the third, as well.

After last night's sleeping disaster, I decided to do some rearranging. Ivey needs her own space, away from everyone, to be able to sleep. So does Olive. The problem is, there is only one bedroom. Well, the shower has a tile floor with only a small boundary, so I put Olive's pack-and-play in it. Instant sleeping quarters. Olive was happy as a clam. Ivey had a pallet of super comfy blankets on the blanket floor. Both girls took great naps and woke up happy and refreshed for a late afternoon hike. We played in the leaves, Asa and Addison rolled around and wrestled like puppies, and we even built a fire in the fire pit. We ended the night with grilled bratz. With the new sleeping arrangements, I had both girls in bed by 8:30. It was a total success!

So, now I sit here at 10:00, enjoying the quiet. The boys are in the loft watching a movie. The girls are asleep. I don't have piles of laundry yelling my name... no house to clean... no bills to file... no guilt for sitting and doing nothing. I was hoping to sew a mei tai carrier to use for strapping Olive to my back tomorrow, but I forgot my measuring tape and pins, so it's not going to happen. I was going to convert my velcro cloth diapers to snaps, but I forgot the instructions. So, instead, I will set the boys' morning work on the table for them to do when they wake up, and I'll continue to do as little as I can get away with.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ivey's Movie Reviews

For a short period of time, Ivey was stuck on Finding Nemo.  When the Asa and Addison were two, they were stuck on it, too.  They even had a Nemo party on their second birthday.  With Ivey, Nemo was fairly short lived.... but Ice Age seems to be timeless.  That girl has watched all three Ice Age's 4,000 times each.  Every time Jeff works from home, he gets to listen to Sid and Manny banter back and forth.  I'm just glad there are three movies so we have more material to work with.

Another one of Ivey's more recent favorites is Monsters vs. Aliens.  You can tell our sweet little girl has big brothers.  She is into dinosaurs, Monsters, and she is completely entranced by the "walking robot" in Monsters vs. Aliens.  She has even decided that the piece of construction equipment that is working on the new gas station at the corner of 85 and 92 is actually a "walking robot".  I am sure she will be disappointed when it's just a gas station.  The other day, she pointed to me and said, "My mommy".  She pointed to Linda and said she was "my grandmomma".  Then, she pointed to herself and said, matter of factly, "My a robot."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Asa's Super Fast LEGO Car

That's my boy.

Last night, Asa rode back from dinner with Jeff and I had the other three with me.  As we drove past the soccer fields, I pointed them out to Addison.  I'm always trying to probe and see if any sport or activity sparks their interests.... and then hoping that interest is an affordable one (unlike gymnastics, sorry Asa).  The fields stretched way back, and in all directions, the rows and rows of huge stadium lights shone brightly.  "Check out those soccer fields, Addison!  There's all different ages playing.  Do you see those kids playing on that field?"  Addison studied the scene.  He thought for a little while.

"Wow.  Can you imagine owning all that property?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Day Sunshine

Last weekend was gorgeous.  After a long winter with way too much rain for a mom of four to handle, it was so nice to finally see the sun, get outside, and enjoy ourselves.  After the boys finished up their individual work, we ran a billion errands.  Exhausted, I unloaded the groceries, fed everyone lunch, put the baby to bed, and decided that I needed to find a way to spend the rest of the day outdoors.  So, I left the lectures and lessons I had planned for tomorrow, and we hit the yard for some hands-on education.  Asa and Ivey worked on collecting worms for a compost bin.  Asa put dirt, food scraps, worms, and a little water into a formula can, poked holes in the top, and put it in a dark place so the worms can get to work.  Asa finished up the day by reading a book, and Addison sat outside and read for the entire afternoon.  It turned a crazy errand-running day into a relaxing, enjoyable one!