Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Covet

Someday I will own one of these beauties:

Just not anytime soon. With a price tag of $499.00, it doesn't exactly fall in the "need" category. But, oh, it is glorious! I killed our vacuum getting a little too greedy with the wood chips, so I've been borrowing Becca's Dyson every few days. I never thought I'd be one of those expensive vacuum ladies, but this bad boy is amazing! Not only does it have awesome suction on both carpet and hard floors, the way it pivots in any direction is to die for!

Becca says you can get one of these puppies at Sam's Club for $350.00. So maybe in the next year or so I can justify spending that much. Until then, I guess I'll just keep being a mooch (OK, Becca?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

Mack finally started sleeping through the night consistently right after his first birthday. As with Amelia, after I did the Ferber method on Mack and he was sleeping through the night by the third night, I kept asking myself why, why did I wait so long to do this? I guess because whenever I got up the gumption to do it, Mack was sick, or the girls were sick, or I thought Dan needed to do it with me, or I figured I had to get up to put wood on the fire anyway so I might as well feed Mack. I knew he didn't physically need to eat, but as you may remember I've been somewhat sentimental about Mack growing up so I wanted to snuggle him. But eventually the need for sleep usurped the warm fuzzies and all it took was two nights of listening to some crying and it was done.

I did a little reading in Dr. Ferber's book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems to brush up on how to do things. The main idea is that we all have natural waking episodes during our sleep each night, but most people are able to fall back asleep with little disruption and often without even becoming conscious. But babies and children who can't sleep through the night haven't learned how to do that on their own. Babies younger than 4-6 months physically need to eat during the night, so getting up to help them is just part of the package. But after 6 months they can sleep all night without needing to eat. The trick is teaching them how to fall asleep without your assistance. When you put them to bed, you have to create an environment that they can duplicate when they wake up in the middle of the night, ideally in their own crib, in their own room, with just their regular comfort items like a binky or woobie or stuffed animal. If your baby can't put their own binky in their mouth, then you should put them to sleep without a binky or they'll never be able to recreate their "falling asleep" conditions when they awake during the night. Once the child becomes accustomed to the conditions that exist while falling asleep, they should be able to put themselves back to sleep when they stir in the night. Surprisingly, the adjustment period is usually a week or less.

The key to being successful with the Ferber method is in realizing that it's not just a "cry it out" method. You have to reassure the child periodically so they don't freak out and think they've been abandoned. Here's how things played out with Mack:

On the first night, I did 3-5-8 minute intervals. Mack's been pretty good about going to sleep initially, it's just the night waking that I needed to train him on. So when he woke up the first time, around midnight, I went in and patted him and put in his binky in, then left. He immediately stood up and yelled from the edge of the crib for 3 minutes. Then I went back in, layed him down, said a few words, covered him back up and left. He cried for 5 minutes and I went back in. I repeated the same routine and this time his crying tapered off around 5 minutes and by 8 minutes there was just an occasional whimper. Dr. Ferber says the child doesn't necessarily have to be silent by the end of a time interval, if they've calmed and are starting to fall asleep, you don't want to interrupt that. So I just waited a couple more minutes and Mack was asleep. I'd only had to go in twice! Mack awoke one more time that night, I think around 4:00am, and I repeated the same steps at 3 minutes and 5 minutes and he again fell asleep during the third time interval.

The second night I increased the intervals to 5-8-10 and he fell asleep during the third interval both times I got up with him. If your child is still crying at the end of the third interval, you just repeat the longest time interval (in this instance, 10 minutes) until they fall asleep. On the third
night I awoke with a start around 4:00am and realized Mack had never waken up during the night. Holy cow! I went and put wood on the fire and went back to sleep until Mack woke up at 6:30am. I think there was one more night during that first week that Mack woke up crying, but I just waited a couple of minutes and he fell back asleep on his own.

Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping child?

Yes, a sleeping child who remains that way until morning! Mack now sleeps from around 8:00-8:30pm until sometime between 6:45am and 8:00am.

Mack has finally become attached to his woobie. He hadn't really shown a lot of interest in it before, but a little before his birthday he started grabbing Amelia's woobie and kind of nibbling on it. So I started trying to give him his woobie more often. Once I started Ferberizing him, his woobie became more a part of his routine and now he is fully woobie-fied. I'll lay his woobie on my shoulder and he loves to cuddle it. When I lay him in his crib I put his woobie up by his cheek and he grabs it and snuggles his head over to it. When he's nursing he loves to pick up his woobie and move it back and forth and wave it around. If he wants to snuggle I'll tell him to grab his woobie and he actually knows what that means! Dan's not too pleased with me getting Mack hooked, but I figure it'll be good to have him attached to something as a comfort measure when it comes time to wean him off the binky. Woobies are awesome!

P.S. Dragonfly, I promise I didn't do this post to rub it in. You sure got a crappy deal on the night waking. Pun intended.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Boss Hogs

Our kids get awful greedy and bossy when it comes to snuggling Mama or Daddy. Typically in the morning I'll be snuggling Amelia or Mack and the other one will come over and demand to be snuggled, too. Amelia will say, "No, me!" if I'm snuggling Mack and climb on my other hip. If I'm snuggling Amelia, Mack will squawk and whack me on the leg until I pick him up. Lily is usually gone for school by the time the little ones wake up, but on the weekends it turns into a real circus. Poor Lily doesn't have a prayer of getting her Mama to herself! She usually just has to settle for a leg.

In the evenings Dan will sometimes lay on the couch and Lily is usually the first to lay next to Daddy. Then comes Mack with the grunting and squealing, followed by Amelia jumping on top to make a Daddy dog pile.

The difference is that when they pile on Daddy, it's all fun and games. But when Mama's involved it's a big competition with whining and jockeying for position. But at least our kids like us, for now. Before long they won't want to have anything to do with snuggling Mom or Dad.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hey, You Sexy Thang!

I look especially hot when I'm hauling wood, no?

Just Because They're Cute

Part of my problem with blogging lately is that I have these long stories to tell with lots of pictures and it's hard to find time to edit and post it all. So I've decided to try and do smaller posts mixed in with the big posts.

I took this picture of Amelia and Mack snuggling one morning last week.

No big story. They're just cute. And they're friends (most of the time.)

Kids sure make Christmas fun!

I'm finally getting around to the Christmas 2009 report. We were all traveled out from Thanksgiving, so we stayed home and my Mom came up from Utah and spent a quiet Christmas in Cokeville with us.

The entire Nate family (our adopted family, Dan's best friend Brian's family) was gone except for Brian's grandpa, so we invited Grandpa Perkins to join us for our Christmas Eve program. I asked him to tell us some stories about Christmases in this house (it's Grandpa's house that we live in.) He told a story of when his two oldest boys were young. On Christmas morning they saw footprints in the snow and decided they must belong to Santa Claus. After being gone for quite awhile tracking Santa, the tired and cold boys returned and said, "Those were your footprints, weren't they, Dad?"

Dan's Aunt Donna Kay sent homemade quilts for each of the kids. She picked out the fabric and had one of her neighbors sew the quilts. Her choices were absolutely perfect; she couldn't have picked better!

Amelia was absolutely giddy about her pink princess quilt!

Mack was pretty pleased with his as well. The fabulous thing is that other than the receiving blankets my sister Becky made, this is the first real "boy" quilt Mack has. He's been sleeping under hand-me-down pink blankets for the last year. So thank you, Donna, for helping Mack work on his masculinity while he sleeps!

Lily cuddles in her horse blanket on the couch nearly every day.

I made the mistake this year of looking at personalized stockings online while the girls could see. Amelia was in love with a pink one, but I didn't end up buying any after I discovered we had spent all of our Christmas budget. I've been pretty lame about stockings. Growing up, each of us, including the parents, had our own special stockings. Mine is the patchwork one that matches my baby quilt. My Mom's is the one with her name written in glitter glue, made when she was a girl. But the rest are just generic ones that seem to be used for a different person each year.

The white stocking is one that we mooched from Brian and Becca last year because I'd never gotten one for Amelia. Poor Mack had to use the old dog stocking that used to be Jake's. But the funniest stocking was Amelia's. Just before the girls went to bed, we layed out the stockings and Amelia exclaimed, "You didn't get my pink one!" Oh, was she pissed! I offered to let her use mine since it had pink in it, but she would have none of it.

Thank goodness for Grammie. My Mom asked quietly if we had any pink socks or anything, but all we had that was big enough was a pair of pink leggings. So we tied knots in the legs, told Amelia how cool it would be to have a "double-legged" stocking and voila, she was happy again.

I kept giggling every time I looked at her stocking.

On Christmas morning, the little girl voices began trickling in from the living room about 7:15. Thankfully, Grammie got up with the girls and watched them open their stockings while Dan and I lounged in bed. I kept thinking I should get up and go take pictures, but it was so much fun to just lay in bed and smile as we heard all the exclamations of joy. "A pink poodle, a pink poodle!"

This video is the only evidence that I was there on Christmas morning. Plus it demonstrates how bossy Amelia is and how she often needs to be reminded that some stuff isn't hers.

video

Mack was as cute as can be on Christmas morning. He loved all the things that were just the right size to grab in his hands and stick in his mouth. Especially the chocolate.

One of Lily's favorite gifts was a little Webkinz chihuahua. That girl is still seriously obsessed with stuffed animals, even after all these years. She named her puppy Chloe, after the dog in Beverly Hills Chihuahua. (Yes, we've rented that twice from RedBox.)

My girls always love getting new toothbrushes, no matter what time of year, but the fact that Santa knew to get a pink princess one put a big smile on Amelia's face. (Thanks, Santa, you know who you are!)

Is there anyone who doesn't eat chocolate for breakfast on Christmas morning?

After everyone opened their stockings and Santa gift, Dan went to feed the cows and horses. Mom got a kick out of that because it was a tradition from her youth that you could open your stocking, but you had to wait 'til Daddy got back from feeding the animals before you could open any presents. While Dan was gone we all lounged around and played with our new goodies. My Mom is a big fan of cowboy poetry, something her mother introduced her to. So I was quite delighted when I went into our little store here in town and found a CD of cowboy poetry by a local guy from the next town over. Mom loaded the disc in her laptop and sat on the couch giggling and sometimes cackling about the silly predicaments the cowboys always seem to get themselves into.

Amelia worked very intently with her new Playdoh kitchen set while I worked on pancakes and bacon for breakfast.

Lily got an Easy Bake Oven from Santa, but would you believe the dumb thing didn't even come with a light bulb to make the oven work? You have to use a plain 100 watt bulb, no soft light or high efficiency or anything like that, and we didn't have that kind. So the baking had to wait for another day.

Once Dan got back and we ate breakfast, we resumed the Christmas festivities and opened presents. It was really nice to kind of spread the morning out and not have it over in one 20 minute wrapping paper frenzy.

I made the mistake of letting the girls open their "big" present first. I don't know what I was thinking, I guess I just wanted to let them do what they asked. But it backfired because after Amelia tore into her doll set with a stroller, high chair and crib, she had just about zero interest in opening anything else. She just stood around asking, "Daddy, will you open my doll thing?"

Mack's favorite activity by far was climbing on all the boxes.

Once Amelia's doll set got opened, Dan disappeared into our bedroom to assemble all the pieces. He kept grumbling and joked, "I'll never forgive you." I replied, "Hey, this is the price you have to pay. I did all the shopping so the least you can do is put the toys together. Plus, it's man's work."

The girls spent the afternoon snuggled up in fleece sweatshirts from Brian's parents, Keith & Lynette, while they watched a movie and cuddled their new dolls.

Lily's big gift was a Best Friends Ink doll named Addison. After Thanksgiving the girls got ahold of all the toy catalogs that came in the newspaper and just like Becky and I did as kids, thumbed through the pages with sheer delight and longing as they considered all the possibilities. Surprisingly, Lily only cut out pictures of two toys for her Christmas list, one of them Addison. Lily has always been really good about enjoying and appreciating her presents, and I think every year she has exclaimed "This is the best Christmas ever!"

Mack spent much of the day sneaking into everyone's candy and drooling chocolate down his shirt.

Keith and Lynette returned to town in the early afternoon so we had Christmas dinner with them and Grandpa Perkins. Dan received a turkey from the mayor and town council as thanks for his work as a volunteer firefighter, so we had all the trimmings along with apple crisp that my Mom made with apples from her own tree.

Later in the evening Grammie helped Amelia with a new puzzle. Amelia is pretty amazing with puzzles. She can put a 24-piece one together all by herself, and a 50-piece with only a little help.

Lily was absolutely enamored with Addison and after changing her outfit and doing her hair several times, she settled down to write in the journal that came with Addison. And now, almost a month after Christmas, Lily still plays with her almost every day.

Lily was a real sweetheart for Christmas. She was sad and thought it wasn't fair that Daddy and I didn't buy each other any presents (we've done kids only for the last 3 Christmases while we work to get out of debt.) So as soon as Grammie got to our house, she hatched a scheme and had Grammie take her and Amelia to the store where she bought Dan and I a gift with her own money. She got me a little notebook, which I use for my to-do list, and a Baby Ruth candy bar for Dan. Amelia got me a set of markers and Dan a Mr. Goodbar. With the prizes from the girls and some goodies from our parents, we weren't empty handed.

We have really enjoyed our last few Christmases the best, where we've limited our budget and spent cash only. It has cut down on a lot of the stress of the season and the buyer's remorse after Christmas. It's a joy to focus on our children and see the magic of Christmas light up their eyes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Credibility and Consequences

Today was our ward conference at church, basically a two hour sacrament meeting with no Sunday School or Auxiliary classes. Sitting in the chapel with two toddlers and a restless almost-8-year-old was akin to a two hour wrestling match, but the speakers were so awesome that it totally made up for it.

The overall theme was families and how we can improve as individuals and parents within families. There were great suggestions about teaching small children and encouragement for those of us (aka all parents) who wonder if anything we say is sticking. There was the admonition to be worthy of having heaven's blessings poured out on our families. There was counsel to cherish our little ones and to make our homes the absolute center of their universe. There was the reminder to live by the teachings in The Family Proclamation.

But the talk that resonated most powerfully for me was given by our bishop Todd Dayton. He spoke of the constant vigilance that is required to be effective parents. We must have consistent follow through in order to have credibility with our children. If we threaten a punishment but don't enforce it, we lose credibility with our children. If we allow our children to misbehave without consequences, we are doing them a great disservice. We need to stop hemming and hawing, pleading, negotiating or just plain ignoring when our children are out of line. All behaviors have consequences and it's up to us as parents to help our children see the direct results of their choices whether good or bad.

Bishop Dayton gave the powerful example of Adam and Eve: God adored His children, His first two upon the Earth, and walked and spoke with them in the Garden of Eden. He explained how He had made all the beautiful and glorious things in the Garden especially for them, and they were free to partake of all of it, except for one tree. One little tree in the whole glorious place. And He told them that if they partook of the fruit of that tree they would be expelled from the Garden. But they were free to make their own choices. God expressed His love, told His children what was expected of them, and what the consequence would be if they disobeyed. And then here's the critical part of the story: When Eve and then Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, the Lord straightway cast them out of the Garden. He wasn't swayed by their persuasive excuse of how Satan had tricked them, He didn't cave because they were sorrowful, He didn't back off because He felt guilty for being too hard on them. He followed through. He still loved His children and blessed them with the companionship of His Spirit for the rest of their lives, but they had to live with the consequences of their choice.

Man, I needed to hear that. I needed that "permission" to get tough with my kids. I always worry about the emotional energy or vibe that flows between me and my children. I worry that I nag too much or that I'm always being "cranky mommy". And that has led to me being somewhat of a push-over. Dan is much stricter with the girls (Mack hasn't quite hit disciplining age, but he's awful close) and as a result they respect him more and whine to him a lot less. I find myself resenting that, but it's my own fault. The girls know they can whine their way out of a lot of things if they're dealing with Mom. Amelia is a very strong-willed child and rather than cracking down on her like I should, I worry that I'm a mean mommy if I send her to time-out 15 times a day. She can whine and beg, or sometimes cry and scream until she makes herself puke. She has perfected the dirty look to a tee, and I often just tire of the constant battle of wills that takes place between us throughout the day. But I realize that it is absolutely necessary to make her deal with the consequences of her bad behavior in order to shape her into a decent and productive human being.

So how can I achieve this goal without feeling like, or in actuality being, a mean mommy?
  1. I have to remember to stay calm, matter-of-fact about the whole consequence thing. Punishment is the natural result of violation of rules, not because Mom is mad at you or because you're a bad kid. It's just a simple equation of A+B=C.
  2. I have to remember to say I love you often. My kids need to know that I love them unconditionally.
  3. I have to give them the attention they need so they can feel that they are loved and they don't feel the need to misbehave to get my attention. For me, this means less time on the computer and better time-management so I'm not obsessing over housework during prime "quality time" opportunities.
  4. I have to remember to praise them when they do what I ask them. I'm the one who gets off on verbal praise so much, I need to be dishing it out a lot more.
  5. I need to give lots of hugs and snuggles, especially to Lily who seems to get the shaft a lot because the younger two kids are more demanding of my attention.

Tell me what you've found to be effective in disciplining your children. How do you maintain a positive camaraderie/relationship with your kids amid the need to correct and shape them into good people? What do you do when you've reached "freak-out" level to get yourself back on track? How do you give individual attention to each of your children while still meeting the needs of the entire family?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just what the doctor ordered

Getting out of town for the weekend totally hit the spot.

On Thursday evening the kids and I went to my friend Jenny's in Sandy. We planned to stay just for a couple of hours but we were having such an awesome time that the night morphed into a slumber party! Jenny is one of those friends that you can say absolutely anything to, so I just basked in our conversation and the night turned out to be a great therapy session for both of us. Imagine my delight when I stepped into Jenny's office to see the remodeling she and her hubby had done and I discovered a massage table. Jenny and I met in 1997 when we worked at Allen's Camera in Orem, UT and were both in the Photography program at BYU. She was taking some massage classes at that time but life finally became too hectic to work on a bachelor's degree and a massage license at the same time. Jenny recently resumed her study in the fine art of I-can-make-people-melt-at-the-touch-of-a-finger, much to my GREAT pleasure.

After getting the kids settled into bed for the night, Amelia requested a massage before Jenny started on me. Of course, she was mostly just ticklish, but she did lay still for a quick hand massage.

I've decided that if you don't have a friend who's a massage therapist, you just aren't living right.

I'm smiling because I got a THREE HOUR massage while Jenny and I talked until 1:00am. Glorrrrrrrrious!

I talked to Dan on Friday morning and told him about my massage. He asked (and I could totally hear the smirk in his voice), "Did you have to put out afterwards?" I exclaimed, "No! That was the best part!"

Jenny recently got dreadlocks, which just upped her coolness yet another notch.

Jenny's boys, Brahm and Oliver, and Lily didn't fall asleep until 11:30pm the night before, so Jenny let them sleep in and go into school late (Lily doesn't have school on Fridays.) We had a leisurely breakfast and the kids built a fort in the living room with Mack's port-a-crib, a small mattress, chairs and lots of blankets.

I was worried that Mack would get scared in his crib being all covered up, but as you can see, it was a sheer delight for him to play with the big kids.

Oliver (6), Lily (7), Brahm (8) and Amelia (3). (BTW, all these pictures were taken with my new Blackberry camera phone.)

I found this picture of Lily and the boys from 2005 when we lived in Midvale, just a few minutes from Jenny. Lily saw this and said, "Aww, Brahm and Oliver look so cute!"

On Friday evening we had a dinner date with my long-time college friend Brandi and her house full of boys. I had a brain cramp and forgot to take pictures, so I stole this one off Brandi's facebook profile.

Brandi made waffles, homemade syrup and bacon for dinner, complete with ice cream, fruit and whipped cream. I'm drooling now, just thinking about it. Brandi and I had a great visit while her hubby Frantz watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with all the kids. Amelia was totally on one the whole night and it was one of the few times where I was really embarrassed by my child's behavior. I guess I need to start whippin' some hiney around here!

On Saturday we lazed around in the morning and then went to see The Princess and the Frog with Lily's two best friends from my Mom's neighborhood, Liesel and Halle. I'd planned to take a picture of all the girls at the movies, but I spaced it. So here's some alternate photos:

Liesel, Amelia and Lily in July 2009 when Liesel and her mom Brooks (who is my idol and the famous Sewer of Woobies) stopped to visit us in Cokeville while they were at a family reunion in Bear Lake (just 45 minutes away.)

Halle and Lily at the Children's Museum in SLC in April 2009. We're gonna have to get that girl up to Cokeville this summer to ride a real horse!

Saturday night was family time. My brother Don and his family and my cousins Josh & Jenn and baby Bennett came to my Mom's for dinner (check out the recipe for chicken tortilla soup on my Mom's blog.) My SIL Lora and I talked books and she introduced me to a website called goodreads.com which is a place to list all the books you've read and find out what your friends are reading. I'm just getting started on it, so if you're a member, add me as a friend!

Here's my nephew Alexander, so pleased with himself for hacking into Grammie's computer:

Mack scored a big sucker on the drive back to Cokeville on Sunday. Anything to keep the children quiet in the car, right?

I came home feeling rejuvenated and revitalized from the good company, good conversation and good food.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cabin Fever

I'm going stir crazy in my tiny house in the middle of nowhere. So I'm headed to my Mom's this weekend. I want to go to the movies, visit some long-time friends, go to the temple, do some shopping, all the things I can't do right here in Cokeville.

I've been in a weird place emotionally for the past few weeks. I've been thinking a lot about myself as a mother, how I'm living my life in the here and now, what kind of wife I've been lately, and other such hazardous introspective thoughts. I've been going through the vicious cycle of wanting some time alone, then getting annoyed with everyone for needing me all the time, followed by guilt for being a selfish crank bag.

One of the hard truths of motherhood is that it is NOT for the selfish. When you become a mother, you have to be willing to subordinate your desires below the needs of your children. Having the ultimate responsibility for shaping how your child feels about themselves and the world around them is a pressure that requires constant checking of self-indulgence. Mothers certainly need time to recharge their tanks in order to be able to give back to everyone else in the family. But I find myself bitter and irritated when I can't just hole up in my room and read a book or whatever else it is that I want to do, and that's just not acceptable.

When I get feeling like that I start to panic because I know I'm not being the kind of mother that my kids need. And if I can't meet the needs of the three that I have, why, WHY, would I want to have another one? In some ways it would be nice to be done because once the youngest is about 3 or 4 it would be a lot easier to do so many things. Go to other people's house without worrying the baby's going to fall down the stairs or destroy something, go on trips and know the kids can mostly entertain themselves in the car, etc. And yet, I'm not comfortable with the idea that my family is complete.

Something I've discovered pretty clearly about myself after reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is that I really thrive on verbal praise and other words of affirmation. The other night when I told Dan I wanted to go to Utah for a couple of days, he was worried I might be mad at him or something. I told him that I just felt like I was sucking at all the important things with being a wife and mother and that I needed to go commune with my women friends and get some advice and a pep talk. He came back later that night and told me he thought I was doing a good job, that he hadn't noticed me being especially cranky or anything. He pointed out a couple of stressful things in our lives and said that he'd been feeling dissatisfied, too. He said I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the housework, etc. Hearing all those words, it's amazing how that soothed me. Words of praise and encouragement are like the balm of Gilead for me.

I have noticed the past couple of days since I first started writing this post that the Spirit has been whispering to me, helping me feel more positive. Making me believe that I'm doing a pretty good job. God works in so many ways and in addition to His personal comfort, He sends people to touch our lives in just the right way at just the right time. I've talked to a couple friends this week and that has helped so much.

So what started out as a self-indulgent whining session has morphed into a sigh-of-relief-I'm-doing-OK blog post. That's one thing I love about blogging. It lets me write and work things through in my mind. It's good therapy.