Saturday, December 29, 2012

Early Risers

I am a morning person.  I can't help it.  Even on days when I have no reason to get up and no children in my house I am up by 7:00am.  I am not, however, ready to socialize right when I get up and certainly not before 6:00am.  It's like a magical time for me at which point I become capable of communicating.  Talk to me before that and I might bite your head off.  God blessed me with two early risers.  Julia is like her momma.  She might get up early, but she's not really ready to start her day yet.  She just wants to snuggle.  Amelia, my little social butterfly, knows no time at which she is not happily chatting away.  Now my girls go to bed at 8:00pm every night.  So 6:00am is an appropriate wake up time for them at this age (4).  Unfortunately, my little darlings had a hard time figuring this out.  They wanted to get up at 5:00 or 5:30am no matter what time we put them to bed.  We tried using a baby gate to keep them in their room until 6:00, but they just knocked it over and then it scared them and they started bawling.  Then we found my very favorite product ever.

The Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight.  This clock is amazing!  You can set it to turn yellow at bedtime then green when it's time to wake up.  It didn't take long for the girls to catch on to this.  In addition, this clock has several other cool features.  You can make it read just digital or just analog or both.  You can push a button and it will tell you what time it is.  There are games in which it will ask you what time the clock says and then you push a button and it tells you the answer.  It even has an alarm for when the kids get bigger and getting up early isn't so much fun anymore.  This clock retails for about $40.  We got ours online from Barnes and Noble, but there are several other online sources as well.

A Season of Change

I can't believe I haven't posted since August.  Obviously a lot has happened since then.

I finally achieved my master's degree in Physician Assistant Studies.  Now I'm studying for my national certification exam and looking for a job.

Julia has been loving her class this year.  She has show-and-tell every Friday in which she brings something that begins with a selected letter of the alphabet.  They are counting down 100 days of school and on day 100 they will have a pajama party.  They have already had an 80's dance party.  Her teacher was really impressed with her when she gave an impromptu performance of the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song.  I'm teaching my girls all the best things from the 80's and 90's.

Amelia's class seems to be in a constant state of transition.  They have had three lead teachers and at least two afternoon teachers since August.  All that change has been hard on the kiddos.  Fortunately, her newest lead teacher is excellent.  She has years of experience and is no-nonsense.  Just what a class full of little girls needs to quelch some of the drama.  Her Christmas party was tons of fun with decorating sugar cones like Christmas trees, tossing bean bags through a wreath, and balancing Hershey Kisses on spoons across the room and then placing them in a stocking.

We sold our first house and are now living with my parents while we build our dream house.  We signed the build contract two months ago and already had all of our interior and exterior selections made.  So far they have managed to uproot the two trees in the backyard, but one of the stumps is still lying there.  I was hoping the framing would be complete by the time the cold weather hit, but it seems that there are a lot of houses in progress with our building company.  We were hoping to be in the new house by March, but it looks like it will be more like April or May.  Praise the Lord my parents have built before and are reasonably understanding about the whole situation.

This is our lot before the trees came down

Friday, August 24, 2012

First Day of Pre-K

The girls had their first day of Pre-K on Monday.  They were really excited to get back to school and see all their friends and they couldn't wait to explore their new classes.  The girls go to a really small school, so there was nothing intimidating about this transition for them.  They were already very familiar with their new teachers and they have most of the same classmates still.  Julia is an Allstar.  Her class pet is a snake named George Washington and her teacher is a soccer junky.  It's a good fit for Julia because she's so creative and active.  Amelia is a Terrific Tiger.  Her teacher is on maternity leave, so time will tell what her class will really be like.  She is enjoying her substitute for now though.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keeping the Peace

Like any set of siblings, my girls have their moments where they play nicely together followed immediately by screams and tears.  Praise the good Lord for one bit of wisdom that I found somewhere on the mighty internet many moons ago that has drastically decreased the amount of bickering in our home.  On a calendar on the refrigerator (where all of our sanity saving documents can be found) we have the letters "A" and "J" alternating on every day of every month.  Each of our girls take turns being the Leader of the Day.  Big title that comes with lots of perks.  The leader of the day in our house gets to choose all things first, unless of course they are over-ruled by Mom and Dad.  This includes, but is not limited to dish color, seat at the table, car seat, movie, TV show, etc.  It also means that she gets to do things first, such as say her prayers first before bed.  Sometimes being the leader means that you have to be the brave one.  At our first dentist appointment we had no eager volunteers.  So the leader of the day was elected (by yours truly) to go first.  I think the beauty of this technique is that nobody really gets terribly sad (whines or pitches a fit) when it's not their day because they know that tomorrow they get the coveted title and all that goes with it.

How do you keep meltdowns at a minimum in your house?  Do you have any tips for dealing with sibling rivalry?

Sometimes I think they may actually like each other!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bye-Bye Bedtime Battles

We have a rather small three bedroom house in which the girls have always shared a bedroom.  In the beginning we had their cribs right next to each other and the headboard and footboard were solid.  So they couldn't see or bother each other.  As soon as they were able to stand up, bedtime became a challenge.  Suddenly, we were hearing giggles and screams coming from their room and we would walk in to find the girls facing one another jumping up and down in their cribs having a fantastic time.  At this point, we moved the cribs across the room from each other.  Now at least they weren't able to throw their bears and blankets at each other.  By 22 months they were climbing out of their beds, so we had to convert the cribs to toddler beds.  This is when bedtime really got wild.  Keeping the girls in their beds and quiet was a battle every single night.  My husband and I were doing all the right things.  We had a bedtime routine that we implemented at the same time (8:00pm) each night.  And yet each night the girls didn't actually fall asleep until more than an hour after we tucked them in.  We tried the "Super Nanny" technique.  We tried sitting in their bedroom.  We tried yelling.  We tried taking prized stuffed animals.  We tried spanking.  Each night my husband and I went to bed feeling like lousy parents.  We thought about separating them.  We thought about giving them away (not seriously).  I scoured the web for advice or at least parents that could sympathize.  I couldn't find anything helpful.

Finally, after our girls were three, we found a solution that seems to work for everyone in our family.  We have a whiteboard that lives on our refrigerator.  There are two columns, one for Amelia and one for Julia.  If the girls go to sleep nicely for us at night, they get a star in their column in the morning.  Once they get 14 stars, they get a prize.  Last time they wanted a new rubber ducky for the bathtub.  We took them to Wal-Mart and they got to select the rubber ducky of their choice.  Glorious!  I spent $1 per duck and got two weeks worth of easy bedtimes.  Money well spent.

These days we all sleep like babies, minus the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How thick is your bubble?

I took a quiz yesterday.  It's supposed to tell you how insulated you are from main-stream American culture.  I scored a 61.  Apparently the higher the score the less insulated you are and the lower your score the more insulated you are.  It's a highly flawed quiz, but I appreciate the point of it.  My score is supposed to mean that I should fit into one of the following three groups:
1)  A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits.                          

2)  A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits.
3)  A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.

What do these classes literally translate to in terms of household income?  The following table is from Wikipedia's Social Class of America article.

Academic Class Models
William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005
ClassTypical characteristics
Upper class (1%)Top-level executives, celebrities, heirs; income of $500,000+ common. Ivy league education common.
Upper middle class[1] (15%)Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals & managers with household incomes varying from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000.
Lower middle class (32%)Semi-professionals and craftsmen with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education.
Working class (32%)Clerical, pink- and blue-collar workers with often low job security; common household incomes range from $16,000 to $30,000. High school education.
Lower class (ca. 14% - 20%)Those who occupy poorly-paid positions or rely on government transfers. Some high school education.

So what does my background actually look like?  My dad is an engineer and my mom was a preschool teacher, which put us in the upper-middle class.  Upon graduating from college in 2003, I joined the ranks of the working class where I stayed until I got married in 2006.  At that point, we were in the lower middle class.  Once I graduate and start working, we will once again be part of the upper-middle class.

What I find interesting about all this is that it would be very easy with my background for me to be a very insulated person, yet based on my score (which I would say is fairly accurate) I am very familiar with average American culture.  So how did I remain so grounded and how will I help my children remain grounded?

Some may attribute it to all the moving I've done in my life.  Others may say it's because my parent's raised me to believe that you have to work hard in life and handle your money responsibly.  While these two thing no doubt play a large role, I think the primary lesson I was taught in this life was the meaning of the world blessed.

When I was in 5th and 6th grade, my best friend's mom worked for the Salvation Army in small town Georgia.  We used to go put together sacks of groceries for the people that came by.  We served food in our church one night a week for people in our suburban town in Ohio and built houses for the Habitat for Humanity.  I ran my first Race for the Cure when I was in 9th grade.  My dad and I went, just before I was in 10th grade, to a Navajo reservation in Arizona where we tore down the remnants of their church that had been burnt to the ground by arson so they could rebuild.  Later in high school and once I graduated college, I spent Saturdays building wheelchair ramps for people in the Tulsa area.  In college I gave blood at every blood drive, volunteered at the Methodist food pantry, and built a home for a family in Juarez, MX.  I went to Houston where I met homeless people that had run from gangs in other states.  In Philadelphia I made and delivered food to people with AIDs, worked at afterschool centers where kids had lost family members and neighbors to gang violence, and hung out with the homeless in the evenings.  Do you know what most of those people that I met told me when I asked them how they are?  BLESSED.  Blessed.  Blessed.  These people with bigger troubles than I have ever faced in all of my combined life tell me they are blessed.  These people know what blessed really is, but what they don't know is that they are also a blessing.  Spending time with people like theis is probably the biggest reason I am who I am today.

And with every opportunity I see, I try to encourage my children to be kind to everyone they meet.  I try to let them know how lucky they are to have all the food they want and a comfortable home to sleep in and a whole closet full of clean clothes to choose from each day.  I know people who are not so lucky.  I know people who live in fear that they will be the next victim in the next drive by shooting.  I know people who only eat when they are at school.  I know people that have to run from the past, lest it catch up with them and kill them for leaving.  I know people who don't know if they will see tomorrow or where they will sleep tonight.  I know people who own nothing but the clothes on their back.  If these people can look me in the eyes and tell me they are blessed, who am I and who are my children to complain about anything?  We are blessed every day of our lives, but especially so when we encounter these people.

How do you keep things in perspective for your kids?  What is it in life that helps you remember how blessed you are?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Teaching Kids to be Secure

My kids have reached the age at which kids start being a little mean to one another.  They are pickier about who they play with on the playground and call each other silly names.  While it would be beautiful if the whole world followed the golden rule and everyone only used kind words and counted everyone as their friend on the playground, we all know that isn't reality.  So this morning I had a little talk with the girls that I hope they will remember.  We talked about who they are.  I asked them to describe themselves.  At first I got words like "a person" and "a girl".  But, then we started getting into more descriptive adjectives, like kind and smart and creative.  Then we talked about how no matter what other people say about them, it will never change who they are on the inside.  So we have two choices when people say unkind things about us.  We can either let them hurt us, or we can remember who we are and chose to ignore those unkind things.  I'm sure this is a conversation that will be repeated on many occassions.  Well worth it if I can raise kids who work hard to live up to positive adjectives and are able to easily dismiss the unkind ones that others will callously throw in their direction.

How are you teaching your kids to be secure?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Organizing Hair Dodads

Well I didn't get everything done on my to-do list on my two-week break, but I did get some of it done. 

1.  Revising my Capstone paper ended up taking the vast majority of my time.
2.  I didn't even touch surgery books.
3.  I did manage to find time for a fiction book - The Romanav Prophecy.  It was well-written and interesting.  But the first half was pretty slow and the end was fairly predictable.
4.  I organized the bulk of my bathroom!  My messy drawers, cabinets, and linen closet have been driving me crazy for a long time and now that we are selling our house it was more than just a nagging annoyance, but a bit of an embarrassment.  So I cleaned up the floor of the linen closet, organized the make-up drawer that my children destroyed, and organized the space under my sink.  So much better.  Wish I had taken before and after pics, but most of these projects were done in small bits of time between writing my paper.
5.  We saw Brave!  As we were watching it, I thought that some of the parts might be a little scary for the girls as there are some very intense scenes.  However, when we left the theatre they said they loved it and wanted to go immediately the the Disney store to buy Merida's dress.  No nightmares yet.  I have to say that as a mother I loved the themes of this movie - duty to family and creating your own destiny.
6.  I did pamper myself a bit.
7.  We took the girls swimming, but I didn't manage to get to the pool by myself.

Once I got my bathroom organized, I turned my attention to the girls bathroom.  They had all their hair dodads in one overflowing drawer that was a disaster.  After looking online for lots of inspiration and really thinking about what would work best for us, I finally found the perfect solution.  I bought this fancy little number from for a mere $11.97 (site-to-store shipping is FREE).

Barretts, ponytail holders, and hairbrushes all organized by color.

Bows and headbands on the backside

Yes, two organizer things in one package!
This is the girls "nicer" jewelry

The back side houses sunglasses.
Look at all the room to grow!

I wish I could express to you how happy these things make me.  We can now get the toothpaste out of the drawer without everything else trying to jump out with it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Six months and counting!

Finally a two week break after a 24-week L-O-N-G semester.  Just six months left until my big graduation day (December 7th)!  Things have been even more crazy since the last time I wrote in here.  We found a great neighborhood that is building and decided that we would like to build our forever house in the near future there.  Jonathan is still hoping for a boy someday (and currently has a little bit of baby fever), so we need room to grow our family some more.  So in the midst of my Internal Medicine rotation we cleaned up our house and put it on the market.  We have had a few showings and will have an open house this weekend.  Hoping to sell soon because keeping the house tidy in addition to everything else on our plates is going to set us all over the edge.

These next two weeks I have several things planned.  Unfortunately some of them still involve school.

1.  Revise my Capstone paper (kind of like a thesis)
2.  Pre-read for my Surgery rotation
3.  Read a Fiction book!
4.  Organize my bathroom
5.  Take the girls to see Brave (okay, I might be as excited as they are)
6.  Pamper myself with lotions and a DIY pedicure
7.  Take a swim in my mom's pool (with and without the girls)

I kicked off my vacation by taking the girls to their first dentist appointment.  They did wonderfully.  Julia is the leader today, so she went first.  She was a little scared, but our dental hygenist is awesome and calmed her down in no time.  After Amelia saw how much fun Julia had, she couldn't wait to take her turn.

In addition to daydreaming about our new house, Jonathan and I have been planning another trip to DisneyWorld.  We will be going right after I graduate and this time we are taking both sets of our parents.  The girls are now tall enough that they can ride some of the "big kid" rides like Soarin' and Star Tours.  The promise of these bigger rides has been really great for getting the kids to eat their "growing foods" (veggies) each night at dinner.  We will have a full kitchen in our hotel suite so we plan to save a little money by eating several of our meals in our hotel.  We did go ahead and make reservations for a few of our favorite restaurants (Chef Mickey's and Liberty Tree Tavern) and we are going to try 50's Prime Time Cafe for the first time.  My parents wanted to get reservations for Le Cellier, but despite calling as early as we could, there were no openings.  Apparently if you pay cash for your room, you can make earlier reservations, but DVC members don't get to do that.  Hopefully that's something that will change in the near future.

I look forward to catching up with some of your blogs over the next couple of weeks.  Hope you are all having a good summer.