Thursday, April 23, 2015

TBT -- the early years

I have been feeling particularly reminiscent lately as we prepare for Max's graduation.  I have been going through old pictures and gathering old memories.  Makes me so glad I have written down many of them here on the blog chronicling life through the years.  I love to go back and think about what I have learned and how I have changed...how WE have changed.  My kids love it too.

Life is swirling around me lately and I have put most of my blog ideas on the back-burner for at least a little while so I can "be there" with these kids right here and right now and enjoy where we are.  But the other day I had an idea.  I know that so many readers of this blog are young mothers who may like to see old posts, and I want to read old posts, so I'm going to try out having a "TBT" for a little while every Thursday until graduation to free up time and reminisce.  

And even though it's already 9:50 p.m. this Thursday, I didn't want to let this idea slip away one more week so here you go...a Q & A from a while back:

I have begun to try to categorize the questions that come in that go together. This post includes a bunch asking about what life was like for us with little toddlers. I thought they would be appropriate this week in light of this post and how my heart has been so nostalgic about the early days lately.

Please add in advice or ideas because I certainly don't have all of them and I know I have SO much to learn! I'm putting old pictures in this post so you will really believe that we were once in that stage :)

I am a young mother (ages 4, 2, and a baby) and I would LOVE to hear what life was like for you when you were in that stage. How did you handle the constant craziness? How did you discipline? (Time outs, spanking, ???) Sometimes my kids go to bed and I think "today was a total FAIL!" Any other general advice for this stage would be wonderful! Thank you. :)


There are a lot of questions like this in this post and it has made me step back and wonder: How in the world did I get here: from there?? ...and how did it happen so quickly?

How in the world am I not a "young mother" anymore?? I mean, I was just there. My friends and I were just gathering once a week letting our toddlers play while we made wreaths or wrote up drafts of our motherhood book we dreamed of writing together. (That was our kitchen in our rental home in Virginia. Isn't that lovely linoleum? See Max in the maroon on the right? And Elle's right behind them. I'm probably totally pregnant taking the picture.)

I swear I was just barely making a schedule for meeting all the neighborhood moms at the pool or for doing babysitting-swaps so we could get an ounce done without toddlers crawling all over us:(Gotta love those pants.)

I swear we were just at the farm together discussing diaper rashes and how to get our babies to nap better during the day.We would go "garage-sale-ing" on Saturdays to find the best board books and gently-used toys for our babies and we would strap our kids in the car and go to the Gap to get sale prices for clothes for our kids to wear the next season.(yes, I think that really might be drool...)

How did it happen so quick that there are no longer cheerios crunching under my feet on the floor nor toothpaste to clean up in the bathroom?I was just barely the one incredulously asking this question to older friends, "so how is it having a kid in high school?"

And now suddenly this boy:...is the one in high school and is millimeters from passing me up in height. I am six feet tall for crying out loud!

It really does baffle my mind.

I felt so busy as a mom of toddlers in such a different way than I feel busy now. It was constant physical drain from vacuuming out the mounds of laundry detergent someone filled the dryer with to bawling while sweeping up piles of beautiful hair my two-year-old just cut off of her head.

It was, like you said, constant craziness, and there were many nights I went to bed thinking "today was a total failure."

But then I remembered to do what honestly got me through those years: I went and watched my babies sleep each night. I would linger over their beds every single night, but for longer on nights following particularly harrowing days. There was something magical about those long eyelashes resting so gently on those chunky baby cheeks that got me every time. Made my heart fill up with gratitude instead of feeling like the end of the world was on it's way.

And then I prayed my heart out that the next day would be better.

As for discipline, I did spank my kids a couple times but I don't believe in that at all. I'm a firm believer in "time-out." But it has to be "emotion-free" on the part of the mother for it to be effective. If you stick a child in time out while you're hopping-mad it's just giving them the attention they want...toddlers will take any attention they can get, even if it's the negative kind. I love the "Love and Logic" tactics where you say stuff like, "I'm so sorry you chose to do that because it means you will have to spend some time in time-out. I hope you will make a better decision next time." I swear even toddlers "get" this.

Another thing I think helped so much through the toddler phases was that I always had a parenting book on my bedside. See below for more about which ones I'd recommend...

What I need to know is how you got through those real early years. [see above for answer to that part] I have a 4 year old a 2 year old and a six month old...that doesn't sleep! I am so tired and feel bad because I am not being the mommy I want to be. I can't get my little guy to sleep and I don't believe in letting him cry it out. But I also feel bad for my girls because I am a cranky mama. These early days pass right? Haha.

Oh I am such a believer in letting babies "cry it out!" That may sound horrible to you but they were all healthy, big babies at four months and I knew they could make it through the night just fine without me. I read a book (maybe "Baby Wise"???) that talked about how you go in and soothe them for a little bit and then gradually go in less and less until they just make it through the night.

It was one of the most horrible things to go through for everyone involved for two to three nights. I could only do it when Dave was out of town because he couldn't handle it. I stayed up and cried all night silently in the hallway while they wailed away in their crib. But in the end it was so worth that agony for a few nights because it made life amazing again and I could really enjoy my babies. There is something so miraculous about getting to sleep through the night again after so many sleepless nights.
Yes, these early days pass.

Much, much too quickly.

I've just started on my parenting journey (5 mths & 2 1/5 yr old) and was wondering what books you would recommend that have helped you through your own parenting journey?
My all-time favorite is I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch by Linda Eyre (who happens to be my mother). In fact I need to dust that puppy off and read it again. I know I'm biased but it is the best book ever for mothers to put their role in perspective and to take joy in the journey. A Joyful Mother of Children is also up there on the top of my list (also written by my mother). Teaching Your Children Joy sure makes you think too and is linked with "Joy School" which I am incredibly grateful I had the chance to do with each of my children (aside from Lu who I'm still working on). There's a Joy School link on my sidebar if you want more info. on that.

Post edit note: I cannot believe I forgot to mention "A Mother's Book of Secrets"!!! (One of my personal favorites:) The exciting news is that it has recently been reprinted and is available again here.

I've also read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk multiple times. It has had a big impact on how I talk to my children, and how I listen to them as well.

As far as traditions go, we did simple things. We went on a walk as a family every Sunday afternoon. We had Family Home Evening. Dave told the best, most imaginative made-up bedtime stories about Prince Max and Princesses Elle and eventually Grace. We talked about "Mirror Land" a lot. We read book after book after book after book. We kept things simple out of necessity, and it worked.

I have four children, ages 5, 3 year-old twins and a 20 month-old. My question is, did you have a routine when your kids were young? I feel like we're just getting out of the craziness that came with having the twins and our little one so close together and am struggling to find some sort of balance for our days at home. I know your kids aren't all that far apart and just wonder if you had any ideas on how to make our time at home productive, but relaxed and definitely fun. Thanks so much for all you share and how you mentor complete strangers like me through this blog! :)

I think every mother has to go through thousands of different phases of "routine." It changes each year whether there is a new baby or new extracurricular activities or a job change or even when you just want to pull up your bootstraps and get more organized. I have gone through phases where I have one day for laundry, one day for cleaning, one day for organizing dinners for the rest of the week. I've gone through years with colicky newborns who had reflux when just staying afloat was the only "routine" I had. I can only imagine how twins would most likely throw you in that category. I think every situation warrants different means of routine. We just have to make time to step back and evaluate what is most important at each stage.

Very most importantly, I think it's essential to realize as a mother of young children, (especially when those children are close in age), simply "being there" for them is enough. It's so easy to get down on ourselves that we didn't happen to save the world on any given day along with wiping off runny noses and kissing scraped knees. But we must realize that in doing these very seemingly insignificant tasks we are changing the world. If those little people entrusted in our care feel love and value it beats any other accomplishment in my book.

I'll just leave this rather lengthy post with two thoughts:

1) Have someone take pictures of you with your babies. I was looking through old pictures for this post and it made me sad that out of the thousands of pictures I have, I can count on one hand the pictures I have with my tiny babies. That makes my heart ache. I wish I would have captured the love I had for them a little bit better.
2) You may think your children will be in this stage forever:But they won't.

They'll grow up before you can blink.

Yes, it's a crazy time with toddlers getting into mischief and babies spitting up all over everything within a three-meter radius of themselves. But it passes too quickly and it will make you cry when you look back even if you take full advantage of having it there while it is in front of you.

My favorite quote:

“Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach. T. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with ‘Goodnight Moon’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.” Then she goes on and talks about some of the mistakes she made while raising her babies. “…the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make…I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of [my children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

--Anna Quindlen


How I hope I can remember to enjoy the "doing" a little more than the checking off "getting it done."

Because before I know it I'll be missing the teenage years just like I miss those baby years now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

let it go

The other night the stars aligned in such a way that I got to take three of Claire's four siblings to support her in her handbell performance (Dave was out of town, Elle was still at tennis).

It was a little thing...an aside to the art show that they do at a local furniture shop in town every year, but Claire had stars in her eyes about it and that girl has gone to support her older siblings on soooo many things over the years they could be there to support this.  So we all loaded in the car and took off for a glorious night of handbells ;)

...until we hit traffic a block before where we were supposed to turn into the parking lot.  We were stuck...had to wait through like five red lights to finally make the turn.  I was sad because I knew they were only performing a few numbers and it was time for them to start...so close yet so far away!  And then I started fuming because why in Heaven's name do they pick the very most crowded place with zero parking for the art show that everyone and their dog wants/needs to get to to see their child's art displayed?  As I was complaining to the kids Grace smiled and told me I was doing a good job "not getting as mad as I usually do." ha!

Which needless to say calmed me down.  But when we finally got to the darn parking lot those handbells were nowhere to be found and we realized we made the wrong turn.  So we ran around and finally found those cute musicians in the middle of playing "Let it Go" of all things.


I smiled at Grace.  "This is for me," I told her with a smile.  And I did let it go.  We were there, our girl was gleaming:
...the light was golden, and we even had a photographer friend standing right next to us who took a picture of our ragamuffin group.
Sometimes even those moments of sheer frustration in motherhood and the complications of life can lead to golden moments if we're still enough to just let it go and ENJOY.

Monday, April 20, 2015

jobs and parenting

Lucy has never been super motivated by our chore/job/money system dealio.  (see HERE and HERE)

She actually does her jobs and makes her bed just so every morning, but she doesn't mark of the chart.  I guess she hasn't been too motivated to earn money until last week when the book fair rolled around.

She had two books she was dying to purchase so that girl finally got busy.

(Our printer broke so we were improvising a little up there.)

Yay, right?

Except that she used her favorite Sharpie marker to mark off those jobs of hers (she cannot get enough of Sharpie markers)

So when I took her chart off this is how the freshly re-painted wall looked:
Oh boy, you win some and you lose some right?  Ha.

Lucy clutched that new book she was able to buy with her own hard-earned cash close to her heart.

And she read it all in a day.

Which makes me feel ok about a little permanent marker on the walls.

In other news, watch this funny but full-of-very-wise-advice parenting video my parents made below.  I feel so strongly about this stuff (the whole "Talk to Your Kids about Sex" is so important in my book...see HERE and HERE.):


We haven't done "the talk" with Lucy yet...she's for sure not ready, but those talks with all four of our older kids when they were eight have proved to be pretty great seed for healthy conversations as the years have gone by.

Lots of other videos about all kinds of parenting things on that "Eyres on the Road" YouTube channel (there are some funny home movies on there too...just re-watched the Oprah segment...funny times I tell you).  You can now get these as a podcast on any podcast app just by searching for "Eyres on the Road."

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

March little things

Ok let's talk about beauty one more time.  

Those cute girls up there AND their surroundings.  

Did I mention I love the desert?  Don't ask me about that again in August, because my love affair with it ends by then...or certainly by October when it's still over 100 degrees.  Oh, and don't ask me in the midst of the allergies those dang trees cause or the valley fever filling my lungs with spores (ha!), but for now, I adore it.  
In March one of my dearest friends from high school came to visit.  We had talked about having all the girls come and do a little reunion like we did back HERE, but alas, life got too crazy and it ended up being just me and Maureen...and my girls ;).
...who call her Aunt Mo Mo because they have known her for as long as they've been living as just that.

And I shouldn't say "alas" because it was SO great to get that girl one-on-one and really catch up.

Maureen appreciates nature like we do (in fact, she sells the most amazing greeting cards with her photography on them that I adore...I'll have to see if she has a website I can add in here to share).

So it made sense to go enjoy the golden light with her at the Riparian close-by while she was here.


Maureen and I went antique shopping and found one of my most favorite things...an antique yoke.  It deserves a whole post on itself so I'll save that for later.

Our salads at one of our favorite places we ate with all the girls last time they came deserve their own post too (they are SO good) but I'll post it here for time's sake:)
(That salad is from a place called Hillstone and it is called the "thai steak salad."  If you ever get a chance you should try it.  You will not be disappointed.)

Love that girl and all that she is and all that she has taught me over the years.  She is a newborn ICU nurse and I don't think there could be a better one.  Love you Mo!

Maureen's visit overlapped with my parents who came to watch a couple of Max and Elle's games.
I talked about how they saved my bacon back HERE.  Oh boy I love them.

Did I already mention they whisked the kids off to see Cinderella one night?  
Do you think the girls were excited?  Love that picture.  And I loved that movie too.

"Have courage and be kind.  When there is kindness, there is goodness.  Where there is goodness, there is magic."

What a wonderful message and I want my girls to always remember.

Right after they left Dave's sister and her six kids came to stay with us. I wrote more about their visit back HERE, but here's the end of it after Dave got home:
(a little love at Elle's tennis match)

...and at Max's game too.
So grateful for these good-as-gold and kind-to-the-heart teenage cousins.

March is already pretty hot here so we were so glad to finally get some trees and plants replanted that didn't make it through the winter.  Hope they make it through the HEAT now!

Sometimes Dave and I look at each other, our eyes shining when we go to bed at night and look around at our house that the kids have actually taken care of.  Some weeks they're just ON on those jobs and zones (talked about back HERE and HERE) and we look at each other in wonder.  Some weeks one of them even decides to go the extra mile with her checkmarks:
And other weeks we are so frustrated we could just die because we think we are complete failures as parents.  Those charts are empty and the house has sticky fingerprints on every wall you can see and we just shake our heads hoping the next week will be better.

Am I alone in that?

Parenting is a giant roller coaster I tell you.

The elementary school did class pictures and I know I'm biased but I can hardly stand how much I love those two smiley girls in the front of each.   

They have the best classes and the best teachers.  We are so lucky.

I'm holding on to my last two elementary school kids like nobody's business.  Only one more year with them both there.  So weird to think that all four of my girls were there once.

Some of Lucy's latest:

 ...can't wait to hear what the "different" part of the story is...

We are at various tennis courts and volleyball courts in the valley what seems like non-stop these days watching these two.

It is nutty/crazy and there are a lot of logistics involved getting the other girls where they need to be if they can't be there, but we trying to balance it all and soak it in as much as we can.

I wrote this on Instagram, but having these two fourteen months apart was the best surprise we've ever had.  I questioned that a bunch when they were both babies needing such different things and I didn't sleep night after night with all their crazy antics, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

 I love all the great athletes they get to work with too.

This is how Lucy spends her time at the tennis matches when we drag her there kicking and screaming (not really, but kind of sometimes!)




 Sideline friends:
 A gorgeous view of the sky from the tennis courts:

Sometimes we have "google hangouts" (aka "extended family home evening nights") on the computer.  My girls obviously thought this one was pretty funny.

Lucy is blessed with some really, really cute friends.  One day I found this when they were in their make-believe world:
 up closer:
 ...their own little placemats.

Lucy adores her Legos and when she's not playing with friends (and sometimes with them), she's building all sorts of things which she stores in her little dollhouse.
 Let's get a closer look at some of those:


I was worried at first that she wouldn't be able to see those teeny things very well, and that her fine motor skills wouldn't be able to handle them, but she has learned to use them no problem (thanks specifically to one particular friend who is really good at Legos...thanks Emma!)

Speaking of Lucy, she had a long-awaited 2nd-grade performance at school on healthy living.  She put her Chinese sports day uniform to use and was over-the-moon excited about this (talked all our ears off about it for a month before the big day).

So I went to the performance for the other kids at school during the day AND the second performance for the parents that night.  She cracked us all up because for as excited as she was about the big event, she sure didn't show it up there!:
 I got Claire in the audience too:
 Apparently living a healthy life is very serious business :)

 When we talked to her after and asked her why she was so serious she told us they had given everyone really strict instructions not to look at the stage where the other kids were performing the little dances each class got to do.  You can almost see it in her face below, she's trying so hard to follow instructions and not look!

There's the smile.
Love that girl of ours, and those good-as-gold friends of hers.

Some other supporters who came to watch that night:

One of the kids' friends (and mine too...we've known her for years), got baptized.  After years and years of going to church her mom finally gave her permission.  We were so excited for her and loved sharing that special day.

In other March news, we had spring break (more about that back HERE...still awaiting Grace's whiz-bang awesome post she's going to write up about Hawaii for me...).

And Max's friends started getting their mission calls.  Makes my heart jump to even think about that!  I need to write a lot more about that and what Max's plans are soon.

This is just a random picture I took when I lingered after family scriptures one morning, the girls were eating breakfast and all seemed right in the world...
I can't believe we're at mid-April now.  In a little over a month my son is graduating from high school.  He is living it up this last couple months and I sure don't think he'll have any regrets of not enjoying high school enough!

Happy Wednesday!

Love, Shawni
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