Co-parenting Years Later

I’ve been getting the itch to blog lately, possibly because my SIL started a blog and I’m enjoying it so much. Also, because SUMMER.

The kids did their month long stay at Patrick’s again this year. I think it’s their third consecutive year. Before that it was two weeks and a different wife or a different state or whatever, so the last three years have been mostly the same. The first summer was hard, because the kids were younger and they got used to “living” with their dad and then had to come home. Patrick and I have very different households. Not good/bad, just different. The second year was a slightly better transition, but still rough. This year; the kids are older, they missed stuff about our home and perhaps Patrick didn’t talk too bad about me or the kids have finally formed their own opinions, or we’ve also gotten used to the transion- possibly all of the above. They still miss their father, of course, but it’s no longer either/or, just a big picture of what our whole family looks like for them.

Right before I drove them down to Florida and dropped them at their dad’s house, we visited friends who were doing their annual camping trip at Montreat (North of Asheville). It was a great day!

I really enjoyed the month with just the littles. Last year was incredibly boring, maybe because they didn’t play as well together and Henry was still a toddler. This summer, they played together a lot, were kind to each other and Lorelei got to be the big sister. I also made sure we had something to do. I planned for us to do swim lessons, which were 8 afternoons over two weeks forcing us to get out of the house. That was actually really fun after the first lesson. The first lesson was torturous for everyone including the other swimmers that day at the pool.

August should prove interesting as well. Noah will be getting braces. We’ll be making the trek to Asheville three separate times this month and every other month for the next two years for him. The last trip to Asheville in the Kia with them broke me. I told Jason I could not do it anymore. The kids had quickly outgrown it and it was time for a bigger vehicle. I think Nora has shot up half a foot in the last year and Henry does not stay within the confines of his car seat especially when Nora gets upset with him for touching her. He thinks it’s hilarious actually. We went to three different dealerships and found a pretty sweet deal on a minivan, though I fought hard for a SUV or crossover. It was used, but only had a few thousand miles on it and was local. Now that the bigs are back, I’m settling into being a minivan mama again, but I do miss my Kia.

Happy to have them home again and all of us together.


Adolescence Continued

Nora is nine, she’ll be 10 in September. This is probably my favorite age. They are out of the horrific 7-8’s where they decide that lying is super fun and try on all different personality traits (most of them annoying) trying to figure out who they are since they aren’t babies anymore, but not quite grown enough to have their own ideas yet. It is a frustrating age for both of us.

Once they are nine, especially going on ten, they really start to become their own person. They are more comfortable with themselves and develop a sense of humor that’s actually funny instead of just repeating the word, “poop” over and over again. However. The hormones! Holy crap on a stick, if we thought she was dramatic before, now she adds aggression to that drama. Everything used to be the end of the world, but now everything is the end of the world and it’s MY FAULT.

She flits around singing songs and makes videos with her tablet in her room about DIY with her makeup and barbies and stuff, totally reminds me of myself at her age (minus the electronics). She wants to be cool with her brother and his friends, again just like me. However, she’s extremely generous and helpful to the point of me telling her that, “no, she can’t help me do ___” insert menial task in the blank, and “please can I just get it done myself?”. Though she is more submissive than my other two strong-willed children, *cough* Noah *cough* Lorelei, she has a feistiness to her that helps keep up with them. She is a classic middle child, though we have four children.

One thing we can agree on, is makeup. My mom made me wait until I was a teenager to wear makeup. Though, I respect her decision (I totally stole her makeup before school, since she had already gone to work) seeing the result of Nora putting on GODAWFUL burgundy and fuchsia lipstick at friend’s houses encouraged me to begin her with flattering (practically translucent) pale, pink/brown shades almost a year ago. She’s done well with these colors. I taught her how to apply them, she also got a sweet shade of pink lipstick and light blush. Skincare was also part of the lesson, though that’s a harder lesson learned.

yesterday we continued her journey with light brown eyeliner and brown/black Great Lash mascara. Had to start with the classics! (I think I started with teal eyeliner…) We sat at my vanity and I showed her how to apply them. She used to freak out over mascara when we had to use it for her dance recitals a couple of years ago, but playing with it at friend’s houses has gotten her more comfortable with it. I stressed that less is more and we are not Bratz or Monster High Dolls, we are merely enhancing our beauty. No need to start with a bold line. I also get Birchbox and recently started an ipsy subscription which is makeup and skincare samples mailed to you once a month. If it’s a color I don’t like or something I already have, I pass it along to Nora. She’s as excited about them as I am when they come in the mail.

I know that 9 years old is young for makeup, but it has gone over well in our house. It’s a fun thing, not a self-esteem thing and I want her to learn how to wear makeup well because it’s definitely something she is interested in learning about. She is turning into a beautiful, young lady. Seeing her in mascara was a little sad and happy at the same time. She is growing up.

Me and Nora

Nora rock climbing

Nora the astronaught

Baskin robbins

The last week of school I went with Nora on a field trip to Wonderworks. It was my first field trip with one of the kids. We had a good time and I got to hang out with three of her best friends. It was interesting to see her in a different environment.

Nora struggled a bit in school this year. 3rd grade is a more serious year, less fun more learning, but Nora basically refused. Some days she would do horrible on tests (30%) and given the same test the next day she’d pass with flying colors. It wasn’t until about two months before school was over that it all added up. We thought she was spiteful, but she just couldn’t focus. She was on the cusp of failing 3rd grade, but I thought what if it is a medical issue? We tried some medication and it was night and day. She busted her butt the last few weeks of school and managed to pass. She still has some work to do to catch up to her peers, but we have hope and she is no longer frustrated with school. I was worried that the medicine would make her feel gross, but it has improved over the years and she doesn’t even notice that she has taken it. She also says it helps with her anger (lots of drama at school with 3rd grade girls!) I think it just allows her to focus more on the problem than on her feelings at that moment. Though the year was difficult, she still maintained her generosity. She recieved awards for community service, best helper, and the Terrific Kid award for being a Super Citizen. We are just beginning the crazy that is the tween years and it is sure to be different, but equally as exhausting as it was with Noah. Though thankless, it has its own rewards as they gradually heed our advice and show signs of the adult they will soon become.


Adolescence

I don’t write enough here. I always want to, and plan what I’ll write in my head, but it never happens. Maybe I’ll make it a summer goal. :D

SUMMER GOAL NUMBER 565: Write more on the blog. *giggle*

I intentionally have decided not to take classes this summer. The first week or so was a panic attack because suddenly I was bored because I had nothing urgent to accomplish! There was nothing simmering on the back burner, there was just lots and lots of time to be annoyed with my children. Eventually I found comfort in not having to do things immediately. I remembered that I enjoy being home and began to just chill and do fun kid stuff and clean things and plan renovations.

A while back we recognized that we needed to shift our perspective a bit with Noah. He’s 13 in October, you know? It began to become quite evident that he and Nora are not the same age and therefore all the rules do not apply to both equally like they did when they were younger. He was still acting younger than he should (just like Henry, who is 3) and not helping much around the house.

The first thing we did was give him the chickens as his responsibility. Completely. Like, if they die, it is his fault. (Die of starvation, obviously.) The chore consisted of letting them out of the coop in the mornings before school and making sure they had clean water and food for the day. In the afternoons, checking on them (they are ridiculously stupid) and in the evenings putting up their food and water and securing them back in the coop. It doesn’t take long it’s mostly just annoying and dirty. I was nervous at first, but he actually did well with this chore. He doesn’t mind taking care of the animals and after a bit of transition we could rely on him to do it without prodding.

We also extended his bedtime. The kids go to their rooms around 730p-8p and are expected to be going to sleep around 830p. We now let him stay up with us until 830p. This accomplished two things; it separated him and Nora on the hierarchy family scale and allowed him some free time without the Littles to watch his types of shows and spend time with us. The stickler was that he had to keep an eye on the time and go to bed at 830p on his own. We would not watch the clock for him. If he couldn’t do that, then we would go back to a 730p bedtime. He caught on pretty quickly. We stressed that he was the oldest and needed to be a good role model. He needed to volunteer to do things and help around the house without being asked.

I’ve noticed some good changes in him as a result of these choices. He’s still an adolescent, but because we treat him as older he acts more responsible more often. He is still a child and loses his temper and cries about the unfairness of it all, but he also does the dirty dishes with out complaining (which is amazing because for a time he truly believed he could get away with doing only the clean dishes forever) and accepts more readily the limits we’ve placed. We aren’t looking for perfection, only growth.

It’s been fun having him up for a little while with us. At first it was a little weird especially when we would watch something older like Grimm and he would be in the room. He heard the word “sex” and occasional cursing! AAGH! We joke about how he’d love Rick and Morty. (OMG, no.) We also got an xbox. I enjoy playing games and hoped that our family was ready for a game system. We play Ori and the Blind Forest, Gears of War, Dark Zero and Snoopy. I remember fondly when I got a NES many years ago and playing Mario like a Boss. It’s been fun and is going well so far.

Art award

6th grade awards

Noah did well in school this year. He received the Perfect Attendance and Art award and moves on to Middle School next year. He complains about how short he is and talks constantly about anime. He loves to draw, especially chibis and still plays Legos for hours. His humor is awesome as well. His wit surprises me sometimes and I’ll burst out laughing. Mostly, he’s a fun kid, but this adolescent stage might kill me.


Something For Me

I’m still adjusting to life with four kids. If we had gradually moved from 3 to 4 I doubt it would be this difficult, but from 2 to 4 the jump is significant. I think I always wanted four or five kids, but the reality is a lot more stressful than I imagined, but the joy is there too.

One thing is for sure. There doesn’t feel like enough time in the day to get everything done or to give to each child. I ate lunch at 2p yesterday and held Henry for half the time. I’m always telling each one to hold on a minute while I finish whatever it is I’m doing. I know that that helps teach patience, which is good, but it’s still hard to hear myself put them off. Part of it is the fact that it is Summer right now. When the big kids start school I’ll be home with just Lorelei and Henry and then just Henry Monday and Wednesday mornings. I can’t tell you how much having my two year old in a morning program saves my sanity and allows me to stay home without getting majorly depressed.

It’s also hard to have any time to myself. I settle for time with just one child (nursing Henry, or working on something in the office while Lorelei plays on the floor with her babies) and try to remember that they grow up quickly. They really do.

I’ve been wanting another tattoo for over a year. You can’t get them when you are pregnant, so that was part of the waiting. The other part was being a bit of a snob and finding just the right place. I finally did and figured out a way to make it happen. Jason had to drive to Waynesville with me (twice) once to check out the place and show the artist my picture and the next weekend to actually get the tattoo. I was told it would take about an hour and a half and since Henry eats every couple of hours that would be perfect. Jason, being awesome, went with and didn’t complain even though an hour and a half stretched to three hours. The dude was very thorough and/or doesn’t know time management.

Geisha Girl Tattoo

I love how it turned out. It looks very dark in the picture, but the shading will fade to a light grey. The fan is colored pink, red and white to look water-colored (that’s why it looks washed out). It may seem crazy to go to all of this trouble for a silly thing like a tattoo, but it was something for me. While I still enjoy staying home, I get lost only thinking about the kids and their needs. I know in time I will get more freedom and be able to do the things I hope to do, but for now I am reminded that I am a person, learning and growing with my own thoughts and ideas, rocking an awesome tattoo with a few more in mind.


Lorelei and Pre-School

It’s hard to be realistic when what you want to be true just isn’t. I’ve stayed home for the most part with two other children as they became two and three years old, so when Jason and I decided to have kids I told him I wasn’t good at this staying home stuff. I knew I could give it a solid year without complaint, but anything after that was unsettled. I don’t think he believed me. He envisioned me loving it so much I stayed home with the kids until they started Kindergarten. The first and second year with Lorelei was great, but as she approached her second birthday things began to unravel a bit. She wanted to play more and more, became more demanding and I wanted just five minutes of adult thinking time without whining and crying in the background or to work uninterrupted on a project.

There are things I want to do still, but number four is on his way, so those things have gladly been tabled. I mentioned to Jason that preschool for Lorelei would be a good idea. There is a Christian Academy here that does half days two times a week minimum and after looking at the budget we decided to try it. At first, checking in with myself about the idea, I was hesitant to let her go, but then I felt relieved. It’s hard to realize that I’m not that mom. It’s hard to let the guilt go and figure out what I need while taking care of others. I wonder, though, who really is “that mom”? That mom who is perfect in every way and enjoys staying home and doing crafts all day, who never loses her temper or wishes she was doing something entirely different that morning. I think maybe we made her up and if we offered all the moms a break from mommyhood for a couple of hours twice a week, some would gladly take it. Lorelei being in preschool offers a balance. She gets new toys and time to play outside and I get time to do the things I want and need to get done without having to take the time away from her while she’s at home.

Lorelei climbing

Twice a week, Jason drops her off on the way to work and I pick her up at 12p. She is given lunch at 1130a and gets to play outside on the just-her-size playground. The first day I picked her up I asked her if she had fun and made friends. She said “yeah”, which is her amenable personality, but then after we got in the car and were on our way home she exclaimed, “Had fun! Slides!”, so I was happy to hear that. It’s been a little crazy this month, with a snow day thrown in there, but she is transitioning well. At this point she is realizing that this is the new routine and is resisting it a little bit, but the director told us that would happen. She also said there would be a period of peeling her off of us and giving her to her teacher and dashing out the door until she settled in, which would take about a month since she only goes half days twice a week.

Lorelei exploring

For me, it’s been great. The first day I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, but I transitioned easily. ;o) I’m finding that I enjoy the quiet and am developing a routine at home and am freed up for appointments. We were able to go see our accountant without bringing a two year old along and I’m set up to do my two-hour glucose test soon. I’ll be making the appointment for Nora to do her allergy skintest too. I haven’t been able to do that because Lorelei can’t be with me and Lorelei is always with me. The funny thing is, I miss her on those mornings. The great thing is, she’s in preschool just enough that I enjoy being home the rest of the week. I feel refreshed enough to stay home with her without wishing I was working or in school and can devote that time to her and the house without feeling trapped.

I am so grateful that I can stay home and even more grateful that we can afford preschool and that Jason is willing to compromise.

*Pics from our recent Shortline Hike*


Father/Daughter Dance

In our case, Stepfather/Daughter Dance. I asked Nora if she wanted to go to this dance and she said yes and was very excited and then she asked me what it was. I think all she heard was “dance”. Jason, being the devoted father that he is, agreed to go knowing he would most likely be bored out of his mind.

Nora and Jason

Thursdays are busy days. I pick Nora up from school and we come home. She gets a snack, does her homework and chores and gets ready for Ballet. She gets done with dance class about 515p. The dance, held on a Thursday, started at 6p. I had to make it even harder by being sick this past Thursday. The I’m gonna faint for no apparent reason kind of sick. Thankfully, Jason was able to sub in for ballet daddy duty with Lorelei and I could rest.

They got back from ballet and I had soup and grilled cheese ready for dinner and after Nora had eaten we began to curl her hair.

Nora

I had gotten her a cute dress that she could wear again and the ever important headband accessory. I was told by the school that the girls dressed in anything from flannel shirts and jeans to foo-foo dresses and their hair done at the salon. We went for an in between look.

Sassy girl, Nora

She loved having her hair curled and the diva definitely came out as she was getting ready. We have to tame that beast at times.

I got random texts from Jason while they were there. He could not keep up with her as she is a social butterfly and loves to dance. He asked her about dancing with him and slow dances were declared “boring”, although I think she danced with him once. It seemed like the parents stood around while the girls danced and chatted with each other all over the gym. She had a blast.

I’m so thankful for my hubby who willingly steps in and for my daughter who accepts him as her “fake dad”. The years ahead are sure to be very interesting.


Stay at Home Mom

I’ve been home full-time for over three years now. I was in school full-time for the first year of that and added a child during the second year.

When Noah and Nora were tiny, I was home during the day, but truly hated it. I worked a menial job at Starbucks which I enjoyed and hated at the same time. I wanted to be doing more. I wanted to be in school, Patrick and I fought all the time and were unstable, so home wasn’t really a happy or healthy environment.

Fast forward 8 years and I had the opportunity to stay home again. This time was different; a new husband and a happy, healthy relationship and stable home. I was in school and supported to obtain my degree emotionally and financially, but I still had reservations.

The first year was easy because both the kids and I were in school, so most of the day was taken care of, thankfully. The second year was both easy and hard because I had new-mommy hormones on my side, but a five year old at home to entertain for the last half of that year and the beginning of the next. Lorelei got older and started to play with Nora more and Noah went to live with his father at the end of the Summer of the third year. I feel like the past six months have been the true test.

It’s just me and Lorelei all day long and she’s almost two. Thankfully she still naps, but it’s only for about an hour and she needs that hour. Some days are really hard, but most of them are nice. We have our routine of breakfast in the morning, getting ready for the day and she plays (or we play) with her toys while I do chores around the house unless I have errands to run. She’s an easy kid. She entertains herself if need be and I find myself not so hesitant to play with her. I have to purposefully sit down with her and play puzzles and whatnot, but it’s more than I did with Noah and Nora, I’m sad to say. Playing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not even sure I played as a child. lol Nora is at the age now that we can put harder puzzles together and play kid card games. We save the library for after school with Nora because Lorelei is a lot more active now. The afternoons are spent doing homework with Nora and teaching her to respectfully take care of her responsibilities like picking up her room and cleaning out her luchbox and such. Noah is getting into Pokemon, so I’m sure I’ll have to learn to play that when he is here.

I was going through my archives on this blog, trying to get organized and realized that I’ve come a long way. There is a vulnerability you need with your children in order to connect. I kept that wall up as long as possible mainly from circumstance, but began to open up with them the extra year Nora stayed home. I learned a lot from that year and am glad for it. I don’t think every year you stay home is the same, since the kids grow and hopefully, so do you. With the new baby coming in June I have reservations about having a newborn and a two year old all to myself everyday, but I’ll probably roll with it.

The longer I stay home, the harder it will be to go back to work or school, but I still want to finish my degree. My blogs keep me busy and learning in the meantime and I live vicariously through Jason’s management postion. I think I’m just taking this gig one year at a time and one day I’ll look up in a few years and think, “where has the time gone?”


Ballet and Potty Training

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This is how Nora posed when I said, “Hey, let’s take your picture in your leotard.” She is so my child.

We have had a few weeks of dance class and it seems to be going well. She loves it and playing with new friends. I get a little bit of mommy time with other mommy’s if Lorelei will let me. Sometimes she’ll play quietly and other times she’s laying on the floor kicking me because that’s just the best game ever!

We have icy rain today. We have so much that driving, for me, is out of the question and we are out of diapers. I sorta planned to start potty training this weekend because it would be nice if she were potty trained before the new baby gets here and according to the “list” she is pretty much ready. Although, what two year old isn’t in a contrary stage? I decided to follow this advice since it is pretty close to what I did with Noah and Nora (I think), but so far, not a lot of peeing in the potty, mostly peeing at the dining room table and on the floor. We’ll get there or so I am telling myself. Such is life!

We find out on Tuesday what we are having, a boy or girl. I’m convinced it’s a boy, but hopefully we’ll know for sure then and I plan to update with a belly pic that week as well. I will be 20 weeks, halfway through!


Wiiiiii…..

We sold the Wii.

I originally bought the wii, on impulse, about two years ago. I had visions of playing it as a family, on my own and something for the kids to do as well. Noah and I played Mario often and so did Jason and I. Nora was young and never really had much interest in it except because Noah was playing. Over the last six months, what with having the baby and everything, we all lost interest in it, everyone except Noah.

“Can I play the Wii?” was a constant question from Noah, much like a crackhead needing his fix. During the school year he was only allowed to play on the weekends unless he got into trouble during the week. My thinking was that I could show Noah that video games are great in moderation in contrast to the way his father plays them (and sadly, the majority of my generation of males). When we moved to North Carolina the Wii wasn’t hooked up for a while, so Noah would play some old Playstation games every so often, but he mostly played outside. The Wii got hooked up about two weeks ago when our friends were in town to play their Country Dance and Smurfs Dance Party games. It was really fun! I thought about renting it after they left, but my time is limited. That is what I realized; if I only have 1-2 hours a day of personal time, I don’t want to spend it (by myself) on the Wii. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. Essentially, the Wii had become Noah’s. It had also become a point of contention in the household and was stifling Noah’s ability to play outside and use his imagination. “I’m bored” was a chant we heard if he wasn’t playing the Wii. The major push to get rid of it came when we noticed the difference in Noah’s attitude immediately following any amount of time on the Wii. Two hours was the max we would let him play it and we even tried a half hour with the same result. Attitude! Immediately after playing there was extreme whininess, fighting with Nora (above the normal amount), cockiness towards us, it all became too much!

We got rid of it last weekend and although I hated to do it because Noah LOVES it so much, I’m glad we did. This weekend Noah spent HOURS outside. He didn’t want to come in! He played all kinds of games with Nora; Army, farm, frisbee, you-name-it games. As a consequence we had gotten rid of all of the Playstation games a while back, so he was free of all video game temptations and we had a lovely weekend.

Doing all of this research on child development as well as homeschooling and Waldorf education has brought me to the realization that the best thing I can do for Noah is to NOT have video games in the house. It is better that he learn how to live without them than with them. He has a computer which he plays learning games on, but no internet connection. We are the weird parents that signed “no” to the permission form that would allow him to peruse the internet at school. But what about how the internet has taken over our world and how he won’t be able to navigate it? I would much rather he learned life skills than technical skills and since his brain is still developing and I’ve yet to read one benefit of video games on the growing mind, I think we’ll stick to playing outside. But, that’s just us. :o)

Noah on our hike Labor Day weekend

Having All the Ingredients

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I had two very ripe bananas this morning and the thought occurred to me to make banana bread. (I don’t like nuts in my bread, so therefore omission of nuts was needed) I grabbed my bread magazine and started going down the list of ingredients. It is at that point that I am pretty much committed to the recipe and all but holding my breath with the hope that I will have all of the ingredients. It turns out, I did! Yay!

It was a quickbread recipe, so really all we needed to do was mix the dry and wet ingredients separately and then together. Nora helped sift the flour while I mashed the bananas and put the rest of the ingredients together.

I am enjoying teaching Nora her schoolwork, but it is difficult to let her help me bake. I am reminded of the days I stayed at home with my grandmother while my mom was at work. I would help her make the coffee (much like Nora helps me) and I also remember baking with her. She had a hand mixer (manual) that I loved using. It looked a lot like this:

I have been trying to find one for Nora to use, but am not having much luck. I wonder what my grandmother was thinking as she let me help her bake. I don’t remember her getting frustrated with me, but I was really little, so she may have and I just don’t remember (hopefully Nora will only remember the good parts too!)

Nora is getting better at following directions and I am getting better at letting her help me do things. God is definitely teaching me patience. I don’t always succeed, but when I freak I get another chance to try again a few minutes later. Nora’s birthday is on Thursday and we will be having a little Labor Day BBQ/Birthday party for her on the following Monday (that’s when everyone is off) at Nana and Papa’s house. I still need to pick out a cake for us to make. Box or from scratch?? I’ll probably make it from scratch, but I may try a cream cheese frosting this time. I do not LOVE the easy powdered sugar recipe, it is so sweet! I think I will try a strawberry cake since that is her favorite. I am looking forward to it and another chance to get better at learning to bake with Nora.