Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blanket Time 101

When Nora was still a newborn, a trusted friend of mine asked me if I had started blanket time with Phoebe. She probably could sense that I was overwhelmed having a busy toddler and a newborn that was not quite on a consistent schedule, and she knew that blanket time would be a blessing to us. As I'm in the process of blanket training Nora (slowly but surely!), I wanted to document it here -- both for my own use later, and also for my sweet friends who have asked me about it.

When I am blanket training, my goal is this: to teach my child to remain on the blanket joyfully with one quiet toy and one book for thirty minutes. It can be done! I promise! If I can do it, anyone can do it. And blanket training produces beautiful fruit.

In order to blanket train, you need a heavy blanket and a baby. You also need a fun (but quiet) toy and a book, if you're going to do it just the way we do it. (But really...this is just the way we do it. This is not gospel.) Gather up a timer and something for you to do (I've been folding laundry while training Nora), and you're all set.

The first thing you need to do is put the blanket on the floor. You can use a heavier "fleecy" blanket or fold a big blanket to a reasonable size. Both of our girls have been trained to sit on a 2'x3' blanket. You just want to make sure that the blanket doesn't move around too much because trust me, your child is going to test the limits anyway and you don't need the added frustration a thin blanket will cause. Place your child on the blanket with their toy and book, and tell them to stay there. Set your timer (I suggest starting very small...five minutes is a long time, especially for younger babies) and get busy with your busy work.

But watch that baby with at least one eye, because I guarantee that baby is going to find out if you mean what you say. When your baby ventures off the blanket (be it a finger or their entire body), gently remind them that Mommy said to stay on the blanket. Follow up with your preferred method of discipline...I think you know what I mean here...let's just say that "time out" won't work in this situation. Your baby will probably cry, and you might want to as well. Just stay the course. Repeat this process until time is up. I've noticed that it's generally a little easier on the baby if you're not staring them down; fold your laundry, read your book, but don't leave the room. The most important thing here is being consistent: when baby wanders off the blanket, follow through by returning them to the blanket and disciplining them.

After you've had success at five minutes, start extending the amount of time spent on the blanket. Work your way up to thirty minutes. This may be a sloooooow process. I started training Nora (a little inconsistently) around her birthday, and we're still not up to thirty minutes. My goal is to have her there by the time her little sister arrives.

Blanket time has been such a HUGE blessing in our house. After we trained Phoebe, I noticed a huge difference in her ability to focus on a toy for longer than five seconds. She was also more responsive to other directions. But more than that, the boundaries of the blanket have brought us tremendous freedom. We can take her to meetings and expect her to sit quietly. She's a delight to bring along for doctor's visits. And I'm excited to see some of this same fruit in her sister.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sleepaway Camp

When Mops and Pops offered to keep the girls for a few days, we jumped at the opportunity! We had no plans other than a few projects here and there, but we knew it would be great fun for all parties involved.

Michael and I enjoyed some quiet, restful time together. We were able to meet for lunch a few times, and we even ventured out on a date at something like 9:00 on Saturday night. Michael got to work slightly longer hours, and I got to tackle a few nesting projects in the house. I caught up on some much-needed sleep and was even able to have a leisurely date at Panera with a good friend. The time was such a treat!

We missed the girls terribly, but it was a delight to get to go back to the newlywed days -- if just for a few nights. And while Mom assures me that we were missed too, it appears that the girls had a blast spending time with their Mops and Pops. Highlights of the long weekend included lots of dressing up, ice cream with sprinkles, baking brownies, and sparkly princess crafts.

Phoebe wearing nearly the entire dress-up bucket

Working hard on our crafts

I'm so 'cited!

Lucky Charms and Clifford... this is the life!

And now the girls are back, sleeping sweetly in their little beds. We couldn't be more excited to have them home, nor could we be more thankful for the sweet time we had apart. What a blessing it is to have grandparents (on both sides!) that adore our babies!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

She Works Hard for Her Money

Nora is now at the age where I can put her to work. (Start 'em young, I say!) She loves to do business with a rag...

...and will occasionally use it for its intended purpose! I'm hoping that she'll start copying her sister, who loves to wipe up sticky spots on the floor.

Nora is also all business when it comes to the dishwasher. (Her sister was, too!) As soon as I open it, either to load or unload it, she eagerly comes padding into the kitchen. If she can get away with it, she thinks pulling silverware out of the basket is a mighty fine occupation. In a few months, she'll actually be helpful...I think!

And of course, I've already mentioned how much Nora loves to help with laundry.

But Nora's new big girl chore is feeding Jake. Phoebe is now passing on the scoop to her younger, more eager sister, who thinks all things puppy are fantastic. Her scooping method still leaves much to be desired, but she's more than happy to carry the cup to Jake's bowl for delivery. And I never worry about spilled dog food, since Jake is always more than happy to vacuum it up as quickly as possible. (Nora does happen to be pretty particular about picking up the pieces that miss the bowl.) I can tell that Nora loves feeding Jake since I busted her feeding him lunch the other day; I'm sure Jake loved his extra meal!

And Nora's favorite part about feeding Jake? She totally sneaks tastes of his food when I'm not looking. Gross.

Monday, January 18, 2010

That's Okay, Mama

It was the third spill of the day, and it wasn't even noon. I was so frustrated, and so ready to just scream or cry or just completely lose it. But she looked up with those big brown eyes and chirped, "That's okay, Mama!"

She was right. I didn't want to admit it, but she was. The spill was small, and even if it hadn't been... well, she's two. Two-year-olds are clumsy and uncoordinated and they spill things. She didn't spill the milk on purpose, and she certainly wasn't trying to make me do more work. So I fought back the tears, kissed her head, and wiped up the spill, begging her to be careful with her cup.

I mentioned the spill to Michael later, when he came home to eat lunch. And he said that yes, it was indeed okay. Even though it was the third spill of the day. And then, he said something profound.

"Honey, it's as if God has that phrase recorded on her little lips so you'll hear it all day long."

And I do hear it all day long. Spills, accidents, potty mishaps... it's all okay, Mama. Although I want to scream, "No! It's not okay!", she's right. And my husband is right - it's something I do need to hear. Often. When things seem to be falling apart, they're not, really. When things feel out of control, they're not; He is in control.

And when Phoebe brightly remarks, "That's okay, Mama!" it's as if I can hear Him whisper, "I'm making good from this, child." And He is.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 (give or take), naptime reigns supreme. We're in the middle of Nora's transition to one nap, so those hours can be a little off... but generally, I can count on two hours where all little people are snoring. Only very extraordinary circumstances will cause us to skip naptime.

Of the two girls, Phoebe is easily the better napper. (I think Nora is afraid she's going to miss out on some action if she naps!) She can sleep through pretty much anything: vacuums, barking dogs, even Mommy coming in and out of her room. All she requires is Lamby, and she'll sleep just about anywhere. I am so thankful for her sleep habits; they are a consistent blessing to this tired Mommy.

But for six days straight (yes, I'm counting) Phoebe has experienced "night terrors" during her nap. She cries out - often hysterical, to the point of almost throwing up - with her eyes open and glassy. She reaches for things that aren't there, semi-conscious. And although she can answer simple questions, she's not fully aware of her surroundings. It usually takes around ten minutes to get her to snap out of these episodes, and then she'll go right back to sleep. The pediatrician ruled out some possible causes, and we're clueless as to what's causing these.

Today was the first day Phoebe mentioned her bad dreams. As I tucked her in for her nap, she asked to sleep elsewhere; she feared that the monsters could get her on both sides of the bed. We prayed and talked about the dream briefly, but she was ready to sleep. An hour and fifteen minutes later, she was crying.

I'm at a loss as to why she's suffering so. And yet, her suffering - as small as it may be - is ordained for His glory. My heart aches for her in this season of bad dreams, and I pray that it will end quickly.

In this time where so many are suffering greatly, may we all be encouraged...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snow Day

I thought it was hee-larious when the schools around here decided to cancel school at the threat of snow the next day. They predicted close to an inch, but really... all we got was a few flurries. When it finally did start snowing (around 10:30 in the morning), I bundled the girls up for our requisite "snow day" pictures.

twirling in the snow...

can I just stay here on the porch?

Phoebe was a little disappointed that we didn't get to make snowballs, but it was still fun to see it snow. As usual, Nora was just happy to be there... and VERY happy to be outside!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Aliens for Breakfast

Two mornings a week, I brave the cold and the early morning traffic to receive physical therapy before Michael goes to work. I leave before the girls wake up and am home by a few minutes after nine; it's a good fit for our schedule, especially because I expected these appointments to be tremendously inconvenient.

Michael has the privilege of handling breakfast for our hungry little munchkins on these days, which is really nothing out of the ordinary, since Michael declared himself Mr. Breakfast when we first got married. But really, it's still a lot to juggle solo while the kids are so small. (Yes, I know it's going to get even crazier in the next couple of months...)

But one morning last week, Michael decided to up the fun factor for breakfast. The girls got to eat aliens for breakfast. Their morning banana (which is normally consumed while waiting for the rest of breakfast to hurry its way onto the table) was transformed into a space creature with raisin eyes, M&M ears, and marshmallow mouth. Y'all, Michael is so cool.

(alien missing its marshmallow mouth)

I'm consistently delighted by the ways we parent differently. For me, it's so hard to think beyond our normal, everyday routine; I have to plan and be intentional with things that are "extra" fun. Michael pretty much oozes fun out of all of his pores and comes up with all kinds of creative play. It's really so much fun to see how God put us together as teammates in parenting. I can pretty much guarantee that if it was up to me, we'd never have something as fun as aliens for breakfast... I'm so glad that our Littles get something other than oatmeal every once in a while! (They did, by the way, eat bagels after the aliens... Daddy's good about making sure they have a well-rounded meal!)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nora is 15 Months Old!

Nora turned fifteen months old yesterday! She celebrated with a noseload of snot and a fever. She's carried it into today, and I'm done blaming it on teeth since it's turned a lovely shade of green and her cough is something nightmarish. Because of her sickness, I stayed home from church with her today and enjoyed some sweet one-on-one time. I really forgot how much I love this age - although, I think I've said that every month now. Honestly, I just love the little person our little Nora is turning into!

At fifteen months, Nora...
  • still has six teeth, unless one has broken through in the last two days. I'm not worried -- they'll all get here eventually!
  • is about to bid farewell to her morning nap. Although she takes an hour long nap in the morning with great success, her afternoon nap can be frustrating for her. I will probably start working on her nap-dropping in the next couple of weeks. (I would much rather her take one good afternoon nap than two mediocre naps when her sister arrives in less than two months!)
  • walks, runs, dances, and twirls with gusto. Nora learned to twirl to music right before Christmas, and I'm pretty sure it's the cutest little move she's got.
  • loves music. She loves for us to sing songs, particularly ones with hand motions. Her favorites are the Itsy Bitsy Spider and Jesus Loves Me, and she attempts to do the motions for both of those. But really, Nora loves any music and will dance along enthusiastically.
  • is in full-on "Wanderer Babbler" mode. She loves to wander...and babble...all day long. After weekends, Nora particularly likes to babble "Dada..." as she looks for him around the house.
  • is talking more, although I can't seem to think of any new words. She will attempt to repeat almost any word. She was a doll trying to say "applesauce" today...
  • is working on being more independent, although it's SUCH a process with her. She's so social, blanket time and playpen time have been quite a challenge. Mommy's priority for the month is really extending the amount of time Nora will spend by herself... as in, getting her to go longer than fifteen minutes successfully.
  • now enjoys using crayons and pencils, and appears to be favoring her left hand. (We've suspected left-handedness for a while now.) Nora also got to paint for the first time this month, and she only tried to eat the brush once. Success!
  • LOVES to put laundry away. I've busted her three more times pulling laundry out of the hamper and putting it away in her bottom drawer.
Happy 15 Months, Nora!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's My Pleasure

I am SUCH a sissy about the cold. And y'all, it is cold. We've been feeling pretty cooped up since I'm unwilling to let my children (and myself) play outside when it feels like it's twelve degrees outside, so it was time to take a field trip.

Chick-fil-A, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I've never actually braved the Chick-fil-A ("Chicken House", as Phoebe calls it) playground on my own with both girls, but I decided that yesterday, it was time. And can I tell you that it was an absolute pleasure? Chick-fil-A was slammed yesterday with other moms (and a slew of preschoolers), but I have seldom received service this good anywhere... and I mean anywhere.

The employees were all delightful. A friendly gentleman delivered our meal to our table, helped me situate Nora in a high chair, and affixed little placemats to the table for each of the girls. Later, he entertained us (and other tables of small folk) with his bird whistles. Other employees checked on us at least three separate times, offering refills, extra napkins, or waste removal. (Did I mention that I spent a whopping $6.30 on lunch for the three of us?) The restaurant was clean, and the many small children playing on the playground (and making noise in the restaurant) were treated as honored guests. This mama will definitely be taking her little ones back to play (and eat) many more times this winter!

Phoebe must have been influenced by all the friendly employees. Yesterday, I asked her to let Jake in, and she did so with great delight. When I told her, "Thank you," she caught me off guard with her response. With a smile on her face she said, "It's my pleasure, Mama!"

No darling, the pleasure is all mine!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Invisible Woman

Although I seldom watch video clips that show up on blogs or in my email, my mom sent me this one today and it was tremendously encouraging. It's a sketch called, "The Invisible Woman." I've read a summary of it somewhere else (you can read it here), but it was particularly moving to see it performed.

I wanted to share this here in case it might encourage some of you. Friends, you are not invisible!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Laundry Game

My girls both have loved The Laundry Game. The Laundry Game is this: to remove laundry (clean or dirty, it doesn't matter) from whatever receptacle in which it happens to currently reside. As fast as possible. Laundry baskets, hampers, and drawers are all fair game; bonus points for laundry taken from the dryer while Mommy is trying to load (or unload) clean clothes. Peak playing age for The Laundry Game is twelve to eighteen months.

Tonight, Nora invented a new variation to The Laundry Game. It started off like any other Laundry Game might, with Nora mischievously cracking open her bottom drawer. After I deterred her efforts to dump out her jammies on the floor, she changed course. Our after-bath pile of dirty laundry was lumped outside the girls' room, waiting to make its trek to hamper. Nora, quick thinker that she is, scooped up some of her dirty clothes and started putting them away in her half-open drawer.

I called Michael back in the room to watch; I was already giggling to see her diligently putting away her clothes. But Michael, instigator that he is, started pulling clothes out of the drawer and tossing them over her head and back into the pile. Completely unaware, Nora put away the same articles of clothing three or four times. By this time, I was in hysterics.

then...she figured it out. Nora stood at that little pile and threw herself a little fit! She made an aggravated noise I'd never heard before, and then she got back to work until her sister distracted her with some noise from the living room. Bless her heart!

And as much fun as that was, it's even more fun knowing I can add another tiny worker to my crew tomorrow morning! Nora, putting away laundry is now
your job, sister!

(By the way...the grainy picture is from Michael's was the best we could snap between fits of giggles!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Letting Go

The other night, I had a come-apart. You know the kind: ugly cry, quivering lip, and totally out of control, thanks to the insane amount of hormones running through my body right now. I think it was brought on by a funny tone in Michael's voice, or something equally significant.

The last several weeks have been, quite frankly, overwhelming. I mentioned earlier that my back was starting to bother me. Something about three babies in three years? Since then, I've started twice-weekly physical therapy to strengthen my out-of-whack hip joint. I'm still in nearly constant pain, but I'm starting to feel some occasional relief -- which is, well, a relief. I also discovered at my last check-up that I was anemic, which explained the first-trimester exhaustion I was feeling. And on top of all that, I've been battling a nasty cold (which appears to be turning into a sinus infection) for over a week now.

So I reached a breaking point. Things have been less than normal, but I've been trying to carry on as if everything was fine. Instead of shifting into survival mode, me and my big prideful self have been trying to be supermom. (I think sometime last week I rattled off something to Michael about planning curriculum for Phoebe? She's two-and-a-half. Seriously, Sarah?) And in pretending nothing was wrong, I earned myself a heaping helping of burnout.

Michael informed me that it was time to do some letting go. We started analyzing things that I was doing that were causing my physical pain, as well as things that were taking too much energy - both mental and physical. I'm having to shift myself into survival mode about ten weeks earlier than I'd planned, and it's hard. I hate being out of control, and my pride takes a hit every time I set out paper plates for dinner and have to ask for help unloading the dishwasher.

Oh, how confident I am in my own strength! But the Lord says to me, as he said to Paul in 2 Corinthians,

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

In my self-sufficient, carefully orchestrated days, I so often remove my own need for supernatural power. If I can handle things on my own, what need do I have for grace? As I continue to let go over these next several weeks, I am so thankful for sufficient grace!