Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Minimally Hoarding

Adam and I have officially moved all of our belongings to Kentucky (well almost all - a few still left at our parents' house). If you recall, we only moved enough of our stuff to live fairly comfortably for a year in an apartment. Most of our stuff was left behind.

All the pride I have felt in my minimalist skills over the last year is being crushed by the boxes of cassette tapes, VHS tapes, and memorabilia that are currently stored in our garage. Today I was able to clear enough space to get our minivan back into the garage - yippee! I told Adam I have a goal of getting the truck in there by August 1. So here's to another round of purging and minimalizing! Ready, set, trash it! ;)

(We really had no time to actually go through our stuff before we moved it so we packed everything and I am now going through it. It's not ideal, but it is what it is.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Adding a new sibling (newborn)

I have some parental advice to families who are about to add a new sibling. Some of it is my favorite advice that other parents gave us - the stuff that actually worked. My disclaimer is that we've only done this twice, so we are far from experts. That disclaimer alone is enough to shy me away from ever giving out any advice ever. But a huge part of me wants to record my parental thought process at this moment in time with 3 littles. So if this "advice" post merely serves as a journal of my thought process then it has done its job.

1) Do your best to not say "No" for a week or two and really as long as you possibly can. Of course, I don't mean let the children have whatever they want. I'm only talking about things related to the new baby and what I'm saying is - don't be negative (see what I did there? - haha). For example, your toddler's hand is coming in to touch babies eyes, resist the temptation to gasp and say "don't touch!" or "No, no, no!" Instead intercept their hand and guide it to a safe spot on the newborn. This requires diligence - sooo much diligence because you have to be right next to your baby and toddler during every interaction they have. But you are cultivating your toddler's feelings about their sibling. By saying "don't" and "no" and by gasping, you are telling the toddler that the new baby is scary or even worse telling them touching the new baby is a no-no. This can build feelings of resentment and fear towards the newborn. So intercept those little hands and guide them in how and where they touch the baby. After those initial feelings towards their sibling are solid, you can relax a little and say "No" or "Don't" when you need to. You will know when your toddler's feelings are solid because they will become relaxed with their younger sibling.

2) Say "Yes" to your older sibling as often as you possibly can. Anytime older sibling wants to "hold" or "hug" or "touch"  or help bathe or help change new baby, allow it and make it happen! This can be exhausting too. Sometimes, they may want to hold for only 2 seconds and then not want to hold baby and then come back 5 minutes later wanting to repeat it. This won't last long. It will get old. If it is absolutely not a good time to "hold" baby - like mom is nursing baby, then still don't say "No" instead say "Absolutely you may. Let's let baby finish eating first. Would you like to touch baby's feet while we wait?" But remember, with newborns, there is always something going on, they are napping, pooping, eating, burping, and so on. It will seem like there is never a good time. Before you say "wait", try to think "is there really a better time?" Maybe right now is as good of a time as any. And as far as helping goes, the goal is to promote any and all interest your older sibling has in the baby. There are all sorts of ways even a young toddler can "help" with a bath or diaper changing. Get them up on a stool with a soft toy they can wave in front of baby or ask them to fetch diapers or wash cloths. Ask them to test the water for temperature (do a pretest yourself).

3) Going along with bullet paragraph 2, always tend to your older child first. This was the BEST advice other people gave us. Your newborn may scream and cry (which is hard to listen to), but your older child will REMEMBER that you helped the baby before you helped them. So always help older child first, unless safety is a concern. This extends for a long time, until your baby is about 6-9 months old I'd say. The first two bullet paragraphs are really just while you are establishing a relationship between your siblings. 

4) Enlist close friends and family in your strategy of shaping the sibling relationship. Hopefully you have some help the first few days at home - recovery from delivery and caring for a newborn is huge. Other people can't do a whole lot to care for the newborn, but they CAN help a whole lot with the older siblings. Their positive affirmations will boost big sibling's confidence, which is soo important. Most any child who is told "Wow, you are such a great big sister" beams with pride and wants to live up to that.

5) Look for and see your older child's intention and acknowledge it. This goes along with all of the ones above it. You know your child better than anyone. You know that their heart of hearts is not to harm a newborn baby. Caroline is 6 years old and still doesn't know her own strength. She often does something to Lucy or Henry that she doesn't mean to do. And she is SIX. Of course, a younger child is not going to know how to gently cradle a newborn's head or to caress their skin or avoid the eyes and soft spot on top of the head. If I fussed at Caroline every time she had hurt one of her siblings along the way, she may think she is better off not interacting with them. Instead, try to intercept it and if you don't, still acknowledge what they were trying to do. They may be curious as to what the baby feels like or they may be longing to show affection. Whatever that intention, SAY it. Say "Oh how sweet, you want to love on baby sister by touching her. Let's try it this way instead". Praise them for their sweet intentions. And when you aren't sure of their intentions, always give them the benefit of the doubt. They will want to live up to your praises. 

6) Praise almost every interaction. And if newborn baby happens to not cry while older child is doing something with them say "Oh look she likes it when you do that. She knows her big sister is touching/hugging/holding her!" (Even if you know the newborn couldn't care less. 

7) Remember that almost nothing hurts a newborn. So relax and do your best not to gasp! Your toddler is watching you and reading you for cues!

8) Most of my advice is related to newborn siblings and relationships. This is my only long term piece of advice. I may have more of these as my kids get older. Don't give in to the lies that siblings are supposed to fight and not get along. A lot of people accept this as a fact. But don't allow it. If it's not acceptable in your home for your children to argue or be enemies, then they won't be. Set the bar where you want it. 


In conclusion,

The main point here is to be intentional about building/framing the relationships of your children starting on Day 1. This strategy is a lot of work because it requires your presence in every sibling interaction (really to make sure the newborn is safe by guiding those eager hands). An exhausting strategy is not really something you need when you've just had a baby. So heed #4 and enlist help. Also, give yourself grace. If you hear a "No!" or a "Don't" slip through your lips, don't beat yourself up. Those reactions are natural. This strategy goes against what the fibers in our bodies want to scream when toddler claws are headed for your newborn's eyes. By committing to #2 and saying "Yes" as much as possible you will open up soooo many opportunities for positive interaction between siblings. Those opportunities will overshadow the occasional slip up of a "No!" 

One final piece of advice,

9) Soak it in! Relish in it. I say all the time- Sweet sibling moments are gift to moms from God! Those moments will swell your heart like few other things.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

May Happenings

I pretty much Beam with pride all year round with my totally amazing kiddos, but the month of May has some extra Beaming due to all of the end of the year celebrations and happenings. My kids have gotten awards and gotten to show case themselves so there was lots of Beaming happening in May.

The first weekend in May was Derby weekend! Adam went to Louisville to cover the actual derby while the kids and I stayed in Frankfort. I had actually flown to Frankfort to tour schools and secure an apartment for us last year on Derby weekend. Adam and I got to go the Governor's Derby Celebration in downtown Frankfort. As we walked around the festival, we kept pointing out things we could do with the kids. It was really special for me to take the kids there this year. We just wish Adam was with us, but we made the most of it!

The girls both ran in 1K race that morning. They were supposed to be in 2 different age groups with Lucy's age group running last, but we had some friends with us and the dad was running so I felt safe scooting Lucy in there so they could all run together. The race was a down and back. The girls were so brave and did awesome!

A friend of mine stayed watched Henry while I chased the girls with the camera. About halfway through the race, I could see Lucy was struggling so I hopped in the race with her.

I was so proud of how my girls did especially without their Daddy there to help me run with and cheer them on.

We then went to the inflatables and played and played!

Face painting! Right when we were leaving, Caroline mentioned she might want her face painted - what?!? That's huge for that girl. If the line wasn't a 30 minute wait, we would have done it, but the kids were all so worn out, I was worried they weren't going to be able to walk to the car. I told her the next time we see face painting - she is doing it! Fingers crossed she still wants to.

We ended the day with Derby Pie while we watched the race on television. We watched the preshow so the girls could pick a horse. Caroline picked Dortmund and Lucy picked Carpe Diem.

That Sunday night was the Awana Awards night. I have more pics of Lucy because Caroline was sitting in the middle of the sanctuary and I couldn't see her until she got on stage or her award.

 Lucy's group sang the Cubbies song while on stage. Lucy LOVES this song. Caroline also loves this song and is sad that Sparks don't have a song. She uses the Cubbies song and changes some words =)

I have no idea why Lucy's face is so sad with her certificate in her hand - haha - she was really happy about it I promise. Lucy wore her ribbon pinned to her outfirt the next day too.

Caroline completed Book 1 in Sparks.

That same week we had Parent Night at ballet. The girls both got certificates for completing a year of dance. For some reason, Lucy's ballet skirt kept falling down. We had to fix it over and over.

On Mother's Day weekend, Lucy, Henry and I traveled to SC. I sang at a Mother's Day Tea where Adam's mom spoke to a group of ladies about Naomi and Ruth and God's providence. And on Mother's Day itself, we had Baby Dedication at church. My precious boy was so sweet.

The girls showered me with homemade pictures, a breakfast of waffles, and lots of special cuddles. We played at the pool in the afternoon and had a lovely evening in.

Caroline's school held Enrichment Night where we went around all the enrichment classes to see what the kids had been working on.

Caroline was most excited to show us the Art stuff. She LOVES art class and puts soo much effort into her work.

The music teacher had drums set out where the kids beat out a rhythm. This was Lucy's favorite.

We traveled over to the gym (it was me and all 3 kids after 5pm so it felt like traveling). The gym teacher had a game where the kids had to do several activities to decode a message "Exercise is Fun". Several of them I thought I would have to demonstrate for Caroline, but lo and behold she knew what it was - like push ups. Guess they do learn stuff in gym =P

I have no pictures of the library because Henry was done at that point and he was on my hip in the sling while I pushed the stroller with all our stuff and followed the girls - ahhh the good moments ;) But the library was really neat. The kids had all worked on a "report". They had read a non-fiction book, written a short summary and then recited their summary on video in front of a green screen. We got to watch their videos. Caroline and her partner did a report about Hurricanes. Caroline's partner was very shy, so Caroline did all the talking in their video. She recited 3 facts about Hurricanes while the other little girl pointed at the eye of the hurricane on the green screen. The girls had read the book and found the facts themselves. I don't remember all the facts, but one that stuck out to me was "Weathermen study hurricanes." - haha! Fascinating fact there.

Caroline's birthday was also that week.

The girls also had their last Angel Choir performance on "big stage" at church. I love that they are in the same choir together and the director always stands them together. Next year Caroline moves up to the grade school choir. The Beam girls make their presence known in Angel choir. They can be heard above everyone else and they LOVE singing.

The last song was called "Praise God with my Tambourine". Each child had a percussion instrument. It was loud and they all loved that song.

I interrupt this series of events to bring you some phone pictures of the mundane days.   

Lucy helping me vacuum. She even wrapped the chord and put the vacuum away when she was done. I then asked her if she was "like a 10 year old or something?" She said, "No. Just like a 4 or 5 year old." Precious girl!

Once in a while I find that Lucy has migrated to Caroline's bed for the night. Sweet sisters!

Caroline's class tie dyed a shirt one day. Caroline wanted to wear a tie dye shirt to school the day they were tie dying shirts :)

Lucy reading to Henry. And yup, she's really reading. It's a BOB book. Her interest and desire to read has been huge this year. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with seeing Caroline do it. 

Self-imposed time out - haha!

I know this picture is hopelessly blurry but this sums up so much about lucy and Henry right now. She loves to try and hug and hold him. In her mind, she is so much bigger than him. In reality, there is less than 10 pounds difference and only about 6 inches. 

A beautiful afternoon for baseball! You know what's entertaining? Watching 4 people attempt to play a game of baseball. Bases loaded and no more batters - haha! 

I want to play too!!

We went to go pick strawberries on May 19th and they weren't ready to harvest yet - boo!! We got some fudge and visited the petting zoo though so it wasn't a total loss. Lucy is scared of most large animals but Caroline loves it!

Swimming! Oh the swimming we have done! We are at the pool all the time! I have very few pictures because managing my 3 fearless kids at a pool is sooo much. Lucy is also swimming but I haven't had a chance to really work with her. She will forget she doesn't have her water wings on and will run and jump in! Henry is like my Caroline was. He wants his head under the water. So it's a constant battle keeping him alive as well.

A few days before Caroline's party I worked on her cake and I broke TWO cakes as I flipped them. I haven't broken a cake in YEARS. There were lots of tears shed that day. In addition to packing for a move and a teething baby - shew!
At the Dollar Tree picking out some prizes for friends at Caroline's BDAY party. I look over to see Lucy evaluating the options.

This girl's hunger to read just doesn't stop. She has her head in a book so much  these days - probably about 2 hours everyday now that school is out. And getting her attention when she is sucked in is nearly impossible.

School let out a week later than it was supposed to due to our snow make up days. On the last day of school, May 28th, they had a graduation ceremony. Caroline received awards for all three art competitions she has competed in. She also got an award for being Student of the Month and she got a Kindergarten Completion Certificate. Watching her hold all of her awards was so cute! 

You can't quite tell in the pic but Caroline is sitting in Mrs Mauer's lap. Mrs Mauer was the aide in Caroline's room. She loved our Caroline and we were so thankful for her!

So proud of our big girl!

Caroline and her teachers.

To back track a little, Memorial Day weekend was especially busy for us. We celebrated Caroline's birthday with a party with friends and family, we moved into a house AND Adam and I went on an overnight trip to Cincinnati for our 10 year anniversary. I joked that when you have 3 kids and family coming to town, you knock everything out at once. 

So the month of May was full...even stuffed! I am loving having all 3 of my kiddos at home for the summer. I'm pretty sure this summer will go by too quickly!