Thursday, December 29, 2011

Week O Grandparents

It started last week when Mom-Mom arrived and it lasted until tonight when the kids and I dropped Grandma Cathie and Grandpa off at the airport. Although they didn't do a lot away from the house, everyone involved was exhausted from the constant playing. Mom-Mom got to share Maddux's room with her, Grandma spent many hours playing dollhouse with Maddux, and Grandpa Jim was invited to alternate his time between legos and football, both exhausting for different reasons.

Mom-Mom left on Monday, after which we took a trip to the local ice cream shop so Grandpa Jim could buy Eli a big ice cream. (Apparently there was a football bet from about a month ago to settle up on. Eli also worked the deal so Maddux received an ice cream cone.) Then there was one afternoon when the four of them left, only to return after dinner, having gone to the bowling alley and then Target (to settle yet another bet determined at the bowling alley). Eli and Maddux were oh-so excited to have two playmates that had nothing else on their agenda but to say 'yes' to every request to play. I imagine Grandma and Grandpa slept a full twelve hours when they arrived at home…..

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

Today was awesome for our family. We all slept until 8AM-ish before the kids started to stir. We let them go wake Grandma Cathie and Grandpa Jim before congregating around the tree. In our house, Santa brings three gifts (just like Jesus got), and they are unwrapped and somewhat small. Eli was excited to find a Cars 2 DVD, a Star Wars sweatshirt and a 2-pack of Star Wars action figures. He immediately put on the sweatshirt and proceeded to wear it all day; I guess he liked it! Maddux was over the moon about her gifts: a ladybug umbrella, a Mulan DVD, and a Hello Kitty robe. For some reason she was funny about trying on the robe that morning, but she was still excited about it.

Santa also left stockings with small little trinkets, so we opted to open those as well. Eli and Maddux had so much fun with these small gifts; they got holiday M&Ms, socks, toy cars, costume jewelry, chap stick, Lego people… so fun. We had a church service at 10:30, so after stockings, we took time to grab a quick breakfast and get dressed. Maddux got all kinds of holiday-fancy, just as she had for Christmas Eve service. Eli wore his Star Wars sweatshirt. We joined our church as we shared a short service with another church. Immediately following, we were given the opportunity to bring boxes of food to a few families in need. We were very excited to be able to do this on a day that celebrates love for others. It really helped us keep our focus where it should be.

Once we got home we made Dutch Babies for brunch and opened a few more presents. Then Lehr and I gave Maddux and Eli our gift to them (we get them one thing). Eli got the space shuttle Lego set that he's been wanting for close to a year. Maddux got a dollhouse, complete with a few furnishings and a family. Both kids were super stoked.

The rest of the day was filled with playing, gifts, spaghetti dinner, and a birthday cake for Jesus (the kids both chose red velvet as the flavor this year: random and odd). My favorite part, by far, were all of the homemade gifts under the tree. Each child, on their own, drew pictures, picked school projects, and made other varieties of gifts for Lehr and I, as well as the grandparents. Eli put a lot of thought into it, picking a few special school projects to give to Grandma Cathie, Grandpa Jim, and Mom-Mom. Maddux followed suit by drawing a few photos, picking a few school projects, and choosing two 'crafts' she'd made in the last six months or so to give to them. Even better was their joy in wrapping the gifts (paper lunch bags decorated with crayons and foam stickers), and best of all was their excitement to give the gifts on Christmas morning. Love it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

The kids are all hyped up because the house is full of grandparents which means attention, attention, attention. This also means a little worse behavior from Eli and Maddux as their tolerance for anything less than NOW is non-existent. (With three extra adults in the house, why SHOULD they have to settle for 'no', or 'in a minute'?) That being said, everyone is having a great time. Eli played football with Grandpa Jim for extensive time both yesterday and today, and Maddux has dragged Grandma Cathie through her toys several times already.

We got working on the meatballs as soon as we got up this morning. Eli and Maddux happily helped Grandpa Jim and Grandma Cathie as they mixed the meat, added onions, worked in the eggs...the kitchen was full of chefs! Once we finished that we enjoyed a visit from Aunt Megan and Rachel. The kids engaged them in an outdoor football game as well.

Lehr had to leave early for church because he was playing, so I got the kids and myself ready and prepared to turn on a special Veggie Tales movie for them. (If you've not see "Saint Nicholas", it is AWESOME if you are trying to downplay the commercialized version of Santa...and the kids love it!) Right about this time, Grandma Cathie inadvertently cut her eye while putting in her contact lens. This resulted in a trip to urgent care, then the ER. Lehr was able to come and pick up those of us still at the house for the service, and we all met back at the house around 8PM. Grandma Cathie was fine by then, but she was sporting an eye patch, so the pirate jokes were running heavy all night.

The kids picked out a few books and we had a fire after a chili and appetizer type dinner. The kids are also allowed to open the gifts they got each other on Christmas Eve, so we followed through with that tradition. Grandma Cathie makes special 'balls' for the kids each year, so we opened that one as well. (Crepe paper wrapped in a ball shape, mixed in with a few coins, dollar bills, pieces of candy or gum, and maybe a few SMALL toys: the kids love it!) Maddux got Eli an R2D2 figure which he LOVED and Eli got Maddie a floor puzzle of the USA. She's not warmed up a whole lot to it yet, but she loves puzzles and he intends to do this one with her which will totally make her day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Break Is Here!

Eli and Maddux both had their last day of school for 2011 today. Maddux's class celebrated their holiday party on Wednesday, but Eli's took place this morning. Though I wasn't in charge of anything, I did want to attend and help, if I could. The party was quite the event. The room moms and some helpers set up five stations around the room for the kids to rotate between after set timed intervals. One had a fleece tie-blanket to complete (to be donated), one had a Bingo game with holiday M&M's, one had an edible snowman project, made from rice krispy treat, marshmallows and other candy, one had a really cute snowman ornament art project, and the last (where Eli started) was a sugar cookie decorating station. I had a blast helping the kids tie the blanket and then helping Eli with his snowman ornament...So glad I was able to attend!

I left Eli's party to pick up Maddux; she had spent the day doing fun holiday activities as well. We walked up to the bus stop because it was so warm. Maddux even wore a short sleeved shirt to school with no sweatshirt or jacket today....nutty! We got home just before Mom-Mom arrived. The kids clamoured for her attention all evening until we imposed bed time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

The kids and I have been moving through many fun "Christmas-y" projects this season. We've done light-seeing (several times), decorating, making cards and envelopes, baking and decorating gingerbread men, making ornaments for friends, and today we checked 'Gingerbread House' off of our list.

I am so not crafty. I love to do crafts, but my ability to pull them off is very limited. When it comes to the kitchen, the story is the same. I've seen several gingerbread kits in the past (I know you didn't think I'd tackle making one from scratch...), but I'd never seen anything but shoddy construction results: icing not holding, candies weighing down the roof, etc. I picked up a kit at Target last week, one that contained enough for five small houses rather than one big one to argue over.

When I pulled it out after school today, I warned the kids that sometimes these things don't work as well as we might hope. I told them it would be fun regardless, but to not get upset if a house collapsed due to it's own weight. (One of the children has a more difficult time accepting events that don't occur as planned or expected, so it's always best to warn him, uhhh, or her, beforehand.)

Upon opening the package we discovered two pieces that were already broken: awesome start. At least that made it easier to divide the houses evenly, right? When I finally broke open the white icing (it was really difficult.....another sign, I thought), I went to work putting one of the kid's houses together so it could dry and they could decorate. Immediately my mood brightened because the icing stuck and HELD from the moment I applied it. It was even better than hot glue! Maybe it had to do with the houses being smaller and not as heavy, but this project went off without a hitch. The kids had a blast decorating with gumdrops and little candy balls and colored icing. No arguing, no complaining, just smiles and laughter...kinda amazing. I will definitely attempt this project again next year. As long as I can find the same awesome green box at Target, that is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Here We Come A-Wassailing

One of my favorite things to do each holiday season is light-sight-seeing. We go at least once a week, usually 2-3 times. The kids have really come to love it as well (who wouldn't!), and we all have our favorite neighborhoods and houses that we revisit often.

My favorite addition to this tradition this year is the caroling. Eli has asked at least twice in the last week if we could sing Christmas songs while we drive. Mind you, I already have holiday music playing in the car, but that is not enough for my boy. So so so loving our place in life right now!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Sit Back and Relax

So we have ups and downs with both kids. Eli gets a bit 'unpredictable' when he is low on sleep and Maddux is going through a phase that I can't quite name because it encompasses so many *fun* aspects. For this post I am throwing all of that out the window and will shamelessly explain what just happened before bed.

At Eli's request, the book tonight was the Bible, specifically his Action Bible. Last night he read about the birth of Jesus with Lehr, so tonight we tackled when Jesus went to the Temples in Jerusalem when he was 12. Eli asked a few questions, and we moved on to the Orange Parenting video for the week. (I have the app on my phone and the kids absolutely love it...so do I!) This video was about struggling with having and wanting 'stuff', and how stuff is fine as long as it doesn't become more important than people or Jesus. We had barely turned off the phone when Eli said, "I think I will just keep four of my presents at Christmas and then give the rest to the family." (Sidenote: during the reading or the video, we talked about the opportunity we've been given on Christmas day to deliver food to a family who needs it. This is 'the family' Eli is speaking of.)

So of course my mouth is hanging open and tears are welling in my eyes and I want to say, "Oh sweetheart, you don't have to give up your presents." But I don't; I let him keep talking. "Mom, I think what I'll do is open the presents, and then I'll pick four to keep and bring the others, like maybe legos or books or cars, to the family when we bring them food." I take a deep breath and tell him that his idea is awesome and that I love his heart. I didn't want to make him sign a contract binding him to it, but I also wanted him to think about it more and hopefully go through with it, but of his own free will. I asked him to pray about it and remember that on Christmas morning. At this point Maddux says, "Mom, I think I'll do that next year. Not this year, but definitely next year." I told her that was fine and that it was a great idea no matter what year it was. But a few minutes later she changed her mind and said she wanted to bring some presents too, but she wanted us to wrap them back up so that the kids could open them for themselves. I then reminded the kids that we didn't know what family we'd be delivering to yet, and they might not have kids the same age as them. Eli said then he'd just bring the gifts back home and give them to someone else.

I fully realize that as amazing and generous as this conversation was, the thrill and shiny new of Christmas morning may change things. But it was a conversation prompted by the kids and I am choosing to see it as a step in the best possible direction. I think I'll go to bed right now and end my day on the best possible note.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harry Potter

Just before Thanksgiving, Eli and I started reading the first Harry Potter books. I read them before the kids were born, but haven't see any of the movies since the third one, and haven't touched the books in as long as Maddux has been alive. Eli has become interested due to exposure from his older friends, so I thought it was a good time to start the awesome series.

From the get-go, Eli was REALLY into the book. I read about a chapter each night (sometimes two nights if they were longer chapters), and we always started the reading by reviewing what had just happened. Eli could always tell me most everything that happened the night before. We finished the book last Friday, and watched the movie on Saturday. Eli was ecstatic.

One of my favorite parts of this whole process was seeing Eli 'see' the book in his head as we read it. He'd look at the tiny pictures at the start of each chapter, but usually he would tell me that the picture didn't look at all like he thought that character should look. When he finally saw the movie, he went into great detail with me about how different the movie was from the book. For him, Fluffy and Fang looked totally not like he expected, and he imagined the Quiddich field to be more like a soccer field with one hoop at each end. As Eli told me about this, his eyes were so animated...he was truly engaged. We've already started the second book....Eli can't wait to find out what Harry did to Dudley over the summer.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Santa Claus

Just a warning....this is what is going on in my head 24/7 these days. This is all just a stream of thoughts that are ending up in the same post, in no real order.

If you know me, you may think I'm a Grinch. I am not a fan of the premise behind the adorable elves everyone has in their house. I cringe each time someone asks my kids if they've been good this year and what did they ask Santa for. And I ask friends and family over and over again to 'back off' on the gifts. I'm not trying to defend myself, but I do want to let you know where I'm coming from.

For our family, Santa's always come with three gifts for each of the kids. Nothing big, usually a book or a small toy or a game. If (and I mean if) there is a 'big' item under the tree, it's been from Lehr and I. And we only give the kids one gift. When we talk about Santa, the truth about who Saint Nicholas was is the basis of our conversation; Santa was a SAINT who gave gifts to orphans.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas and all things traditionally representing the holiday. I believe in the good of Santa and the joy he can add to the season. I have many Santa decorations all over my house and I smile every time I see his face around the holidays. And I also love the concept of suspending reality in honor of innocently believing in some magic, Christmas or otherwise.

What I do not like is the frenzy that Santa (the distorted version, if you will) can cause in kids and parents. I'm sure most families in America have children that receive gifts from their immediate family, their extended family, family friends, etc. Do we REALLY need one more 'person' to give them gifts in excess? How many times have you looked around at all of the gifts you had to wrap, or looked around the tree after the gifts were unwrapped and though, "Where did all of this stuff come from?!" (Can I get a "STOP THE INSANITY"?)

Now I'm just rambling, and I'm so high up on my soap box that I can't even see the ground... I don't claim to have all of the answers or even some of the right ones; Lehr and I are working through parenting just like everyone else. But when I see my kids get involved in picking out gifts for other families we adopt around the holidays, or when I see them get excited about making gifts or cards for loved ones in lieu of store-bought gifts, I know that throwing that away in order to play up a Santa that spoils them would just be a disservice. And then I read a blog like this and realize that we are not alone in our quest, and that makes me happy.

So are we doing Santa this year? Yes. The kids will each get three gifts, unwrapped, from the fat man in a red suit. Hopefully what they will get from St. Nicholas is love and compassion for the families they helped me shop for. Will we do Santa next year? The jury is still out....

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Stealing

Gulp. Big deal. BIIIIG deal. Even when the item in question is small potatoes. The kids have definitely 'borrowed' things from each other from time to time, but until last week we've not had either of them take something from anywhere outside of their house (that we know of!).

Monday afternoons find us at Atlanta Swim for the kids' lessons. Once they finish the lesson, they may have earned the privilege of visiting the treasure box. Inside there are stickers, erasers, small toys, etc. Very close to the box are many other boxes with candy. Last week Eli earned the Treasure Box, so I let him go in by himself and pick something out. Sometimes there is candy in there, and on this particular day I asked Eli to NOT choose candy. No problem, he came back a minute later with a small eraser for his pencil. The rest of the afternoon went perfectly.

Fast forward to 10PM when I sneak into the kids' rooms to kiss them before I go to bed. Eli is snoring on his pillow, next to a half-eaten push-pop candy that is now stuck to his pillow. Busted. I knew exactly where it came from because there is no other place we'd been that carried such an item. I asked Lehr to talk to him at breakfast about it and I'd handle the big consequences when he got home. (Lehr said Eli's eyes popped out of his head when he saw Daddy pull out the candy at breakfast.)

When Eli got home from school we had a quick snack and then got down to the nitty gritty. Eli swore that he didn't know it cost money. I can believe that. However, I reminded him that it wasn't in the main treasure box AND I'd asked him to not get candy. If he honestly thought what he was doing was ok, he wouldn't have hid it from me. We talked about writing some sentences and then I informed him that he would be bringing the money necessary to cover the cost to the store the following week for his lesson.

While Eli didn't like it, he accepted all of this pretty well. As the week went on, however, I got nervous that Eli would hem and haw about actually apologizing once we arrived for his lesson; he is typically not comfortable talking with adults, especially those he doesn't know. So when the weekend arrived, I checked back in with him to make sure he still had his $1.06 set aside and to see if he knew yet what he wanted to say to the cashier. He assured me he had it covered. I took that opportunity to let him know that we would allow 10 extra minutes before his lesson for the apology, but that he needed to be on time to his lesson. If he was not able to do what he had to do by his lesson time, he would miss it, and he would then have to pay Lehr and I $20 to cover the cost of the missed lesson.

Monday arrived and Eli got his bag of money. While in the car I asked him to review quickly what he would say, which he did. I knew he was prepared, but I still didn't know what to expect. When we walked into the store, Eli walked right over to the counter and handed the cashier the bag, telling her, "Last week I took a push-pop and didn't pay. Please forgive me." It was a little rushed, but he looked straight at her and spoke loud enough for her to hear him. Really shocked and really proud. We struggle a LOT with Eli looking adults in the eye when it's a serous matter (even us), and everything about his apology was correct. I know he was nervous as heck because his leg was twitching, almost like he was keeping time with his knee, but he still did it.

One last thing: Eli asked me just before we left what would happen if the candy ended up costing less than we'd assumed. The line of questioning sounded a bit like he was planning to ask to buy something with the leftover money. Not cool. I quickly redirected him, saying that we were going to present them with this money and hope that they accepted it rather than calling the police because of the stealing. His eyes got big and he backed off.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dum-Ditty-Dum-Ditty-Dum-Dum-Dum

Eli's been rockin' the drums as much as ever lately. Lehr has had the opportunity to play more often at church which means Eli has been able to sit in the laundry room with Lehr while he practices. Of course he requests a playlist CD every week that Lehr plays, so that he can listen to and practice those songs for himself in his room.

Last week Lehr played six songs, and Eli really really liked two of them. He practiced a lot with Lehr and even got to attend Tuesday night rehearsal (no school the next day). Here are clips of the two songs:


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Polar Express

Maddux and Lehr went on a date to her school tonight. They were to dress in PJs and come prepared to drink hot cocoa. Done and done. Maddux picked out her favorite pajamas: pink one piece fleece footies with monkeys and candy canes all over. Daddy wore jeans :) All of the 4 year olds and their dads gathered in the social hall and received a hot chocolate and cookie. After everyone was seated, a special guest read from the book and then showed a little bit of the movie, and then read and then showed some movie. The whole evening lasted about an hour and Maddux ate every bit of it up. She really loved taking her Daddy to school to show him off too.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Tree

It has always been my preference to put up our Christmas tree and decorations the weekend of Thanksgiving. It takes at least a whole day (or three) and I love to enjoy them all month long. As we've done the last few years, we drove a few extra miles to a local tree farm to cut down our own tree. The kids love it, adn I'm not sure they'd be content to go to a parking lot to pick out a tree anymore. (I know I wouldn't!) The kids ran around the trees, measuring how tall they were compared to some and ultimately picking one that we all agreed on. (Honestly, they are all exactly the same!) Eli and Maddux helped Lehr carry it back to the hut where they shook it (to get out any wildlife) and wrapped it and stuck it on top of our car.

Maddux and Eli were exceptionally excited because the lady that runs the tree farm gave them each a candy cane (which we let them eat right away) and a small ceramic tree ornament, just like they did last year. My two elves are proving to be very into all things Christmas!

As expected, both kids really REALLY enjoyed decorating it this year. And an added bonus was that no ornaments were dropped or broken!! I think we've already read seven Christmas books and we still have a huge stack untouched. Happy Holidays :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

The kids and I have had a fun week. We've not done too many out-of-the-house things, but we've still had a great time. Tuesday we did do something I've wanted to do for a few years: pottery painting. Before the kids were born, I used to paint a bowl or a mug every holiday season. This was the first year I felt I could take the kids and they could independently participate. The whole thing went pretty well, actually. I did have to wipe Eli's bowl clean twice so that he could start again, but by the end the three of us walked out happy and not too covered in paint. We also made Pilgrim hat cookies. The kids loved delivering them to a few friends, after they sampled them, of course.

Today was just the four of us. We've never had Thanksgiving with just our family....we've always had family or friends, or both, join us. Although we had the TV on all day (WAY out of the norm for us!), it was a very fun, connected day. The parade is a must-watch for me and the kids really enjoyed and really got into it. After that was football, football, football, which Eli liked, and Maddux tolerated. We played some football outside, we all helped cook at some point, and we had a video chat with Grandma Cathie and Grandpa Jim.

Although the kids didn't really care for much of the main event meal, they sampled everything and never complained at all. IN FACT, when we said our breakfast prayer (before pumpkin pancakes - yum!), Eli even said (unprompted), "I'm thankful for Mommy and Daddy." It doesn't get much better than that!

Lehr and I got some sparkling grape juice for the kids to drink in wine glasses with us for dinner. That, coupled with a few candles and our china made it a very special meal. After we finished, the four of us went for a walk/bike ride around the neighborhood. It was so warm during the day that even though the sun was going down, it was still very enjoyable outside. We had a serving of apple crisp and ice cream for dessert before baths; the perfect end to our perfect day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Landforms

Eli's class has been studying the earth and it's landforms in the last few weeks. He's come off of the bus several times spouting all kinds of information about mountains or valleys or the such. Yesterday he bounced down the bus stairs carrying a paper plate, yelling "LAND FORM COOKIE!!!" His class had decorated large sugar cookies to represent landforms. Eli had an ocean, a river, a plateau, a valley and a mountain. And the stars were aligned because the first thing he asked me was, "Mommy, when we get home, can Maddux and I share my cookie for snack?" Life is good.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Lunch

Maddux had her Pre-K Thanksgiving feast today. Each child (aka Mom) got to bring in a dish to share with the rest of the kids, and all three classes ate together in the social hall of the school. I worked with five other moms to get the hall ready with food and decorations. All of the kids made their own Thanksgiving place mats, which we set out at tables covered in table cloths. Once they arrived, we ushered them through a buffet line (while we served them). So so many foods represented on the table: turkey, ham, bread, corn muffins, sweet potatoes, broccoli, corn, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, apples, cheese, grapes and carrots were all accounted for. I was very impressed at the variety on most kids' plates; several even came back for seconds!

Maddux and her friends wore special shirts to the feast, made out of pillowcases they'd decorated. The teachers had written their Native American names on the backs of the shirts. Maddux's name was "Wild Rose". It didn't surprise me at all that the word 'wild' was involved.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hot-N-Cold

What a day! The kids have swim lessons just after Eli gets off of the bus on Monday. This could send our week into a tizzy with the 'go-go-go', but so far it has really worked well for us. Today we hurried a little more than usual, just because we had Eli's baseball party right after swim was over, but it still didn't cause too much craziness at all.

We had a great few minutes at the house before we left, complete with Eli and Maddux getting along really well. Swim was awesome, as expected. Maddux is starting to goof off a little in class, now that she's comfortable with the teacher and the kids, but she is still flapping her fishy flippers pretty well.

The party was across the street from our swim lesson, so we had a 20-minute cushion of time between. The kids and I had some great conversation, complete with Eli telling me, "Mom, I love you more than you know." It's those moments that melt my heart. First off, how can your child saying that NOT move you to the core. But it means even more to me because it's something I say to the kids often, so it tells me that Eli IS listening and he DOES know that I love him.

Eli's party was fine - some crazy boys and some crazy behavior, but Eli did really well, keeping himself well-behaved the whole time. The kids watched some slide shows of game pictures and some video footage of the season. They ate dinner and received trophies for participating with the team. After that, the coach passed out four "MVP"-type trophies. Eli received one: Most Aggressive Player. We were so proud of him for giving effort at a level that allowed him to stand out in a crowd of many good players. Even more, I was shocked; if you had told me two years ago, even one season ago, that Eli's name would be in the same sentence as 'aggressive', I wouldn't have believed you. But that boy came a long way this season and he did start playing with more sense of urgency than I've seen in him before. It made for great conversations on the way home about how proud I was of his effort and unwillingness to give up. (The two of us were in the car alone; Maddux rode home with Lehr.)

Unfortunately, the great conversation was followed by a monumental meltdown by Eli when we got home. I don't even remember what set him off this time, but he was beside himself, out of control. 100% due to fatigue, still 100% unacceptable. The good news is these crazy 'episodes' are much fewer and farther between.

Children's Wish Family

As long as the kids have been on this earth we've had the opportunity to participate in an awesome celebration of the holidays through our local Children's Wish Family organization. We join forced with a few other families and adopt a family in need for the holidays. The families served by this organization are struggling with many things, finances among them, due to one or more child's illnesses. It has always been our goal to not just buy a gift or two for each family member, but to exhaust each 'wants/needs' list as best we can. Once again, we were fortunate enough to find several other families to join with us and serve a whole family.

We had a few no-school days in November, so the kids and I had a chance to tackle the lists together. I love taking the kids with me to shop for these families because of the conversations that come out of it. This year I was so proud that the kids each picked something from the dollar bin at Target for the child we were buying for. The money came from their own spending money - yay, God!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ike

Maddux was SOOOO excited to bring home her class pet this weekend. She was Star Student in her class last week, so her final privilege was to bring Ike home to stay for a few nights. Ike is a stuffed dog that gets into lots of mischief in the classroom. He came home with his bag full of clothes, a blanket and a bone. Maddux ate every minute of it up! She dressed him each day and each night (he had PJ's too!), and he slept in bed with her. Every morning, afternoon and night she fed him his bone in a bowl. Ike went to every store, every errand, every playground trip....he was a well-traveled dog!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perfect Day

Today was honestly a perfect day. No meltdowns (even though there easily could have been), no fights, and lots of good family time.

Last night we were out at an event with neighbors late...very late. The kids had to be up by 8AM, but they were up at 7:30, of course. This could have been a recipe for disaster given their 10:15PM bedtime, but they remained well behaved all day. We started our perfect day with a food drive. Another family invited us to help them collect cans in their neighborhood. The four of us drove around, picking up bags at houses for a few hours. The kids really got into it, watching houses for bags and trying to lift the lighter ones.

Once we got home, Lehr ran a quick errand, so the kids and I made a huge leaf pile. It was beautiful outside, so we raked and raked, then jumped and raked, then jumped again. A few hours later we had a quick lunch before going back out to finish raking the leaves and then bagging them. Six HUGE bags later, we were done. Then we moved to the backyard to mow and rake and sweep. Still really good moods. Just before dinner time I had to go to a shoot, but the kids and Lehr remained outside, playing and working until I got home.

Since it was late and we had no meal plan, we decided to try a new restaurant just down the street. We assumed it to be casual, but it ended up being a little more 'fancy', which meant it took a little longer for us to get our food and the kids had to be a little more 'controlled'. They totally stepped up to the plate, even though they were totally exhausted and the restaurant's offering of foods was very foreign to the kids. So many chances for meltdowns, but not one occurred. Lehr and I agreed to reward this before the moment escaped us. We stopped at Publix on the way home for some frozen yogurt. Then we lit a fire (it was really cold outside!) and ate our bowls of ice cream in front of the fire. Life is good :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Have You Considered?

Since Eli and Maddux were born, we've been trying to make our giving very known to them. Not to elevate ourselves, but to remind them that everything we have is a gift, and we need to share those gifts with others. If we can provide for others, it is both our responsibility and opportunity to do so. While we do several giving-type things during the holidays, the one that I think they enjoy the most is flipping through the World Vision catalog and picking out gifts such as fishing kids, mosquito nets, goats and chickens to have sent to families all over the world. While we're choosing what to purchase, the kids ask all sorts of questions and hopefully learn more about the world around them. Maddux asks about the chickens every year, though I still don't think she understands that at one point the chickens themselves may be eaten. And my favorite question of Eli's this year (even though we've covered it before) was, "Mommy, how do they use nets to catch mosquitoes?"

If this sounds like something you'd like to do with your family, I urge you to check out World Vision's online catalog (or request a paper one to be sent to you), OR check out a site our church is going live with this week: spendless2givemore.org. We hope you'll join us in celebrating our Savior's birth in a way that glorifies Him.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Star Student

Maddux was chosen as "Star Student" this week. That meant she brought home a poster to complete, decorate and color over the weekend, and this week she gets to help out with many classroom jobs. We filled in all of the blanks about Maddux on her poster, including her favorite animal (it's a giraffe this week). She got to tell the class about her poster and she got to help the daily helper feed the fish during the school day. But that is not the best thing, according to Mad Dog. This coming weekend, after her week-long reign as a star, she will get to bring "Ike" home. Ike is her class pet dog (stuffed). She's been clamouring to bring him home since school started, and since Eli brought Snappy home last week, she is REALLY excited to have her turn this weekend.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

No School

The kids had the day off of school today, due to a teacher workday. We decided to play, play, play, all day. We started with a fun breakfast, followed by a quick trip to the gym. Eli loves the YMCA, as his class has a computer (with limited access) and lots of drawing paper. Today he drew some pictures of shuttles, of course.

We left the gym and headed north to a park that we went to over a year ago. It has a great playground, even for older kids, a 1-mile trail, a 1/2 mile trail, a dog park, and a skateboard ramp/halfpipe-ish. We hit every spot. I'd packed the kids' bikes in the trunk so they could ride the paved trail. Surprisingly, we only did that for about 1/2 mile, but the kids did like it. We watched lots of skateboarders and even climbed on the ramp ourselves. Finally, the kids ran around the playground for about an hour, testing out all of the cool equipment.

After the park we grabbed smoothies quickly so we could make the movie: we saw Dolphin Tale. This was the first 'real' movie they'd seen in a theater (the three others were Pixar). Eli was totally into it. He'd read the short book several times already, so he knew the story. Maddux liked it, but I think it was a bit long for her, especially on a day when she'd been running around so much. We got home just in time for Daddy to pull into the driveway. Life is good.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Fish Are Back

I usually sign the kids up for a session of swim lessons sometime over the winter, just to make sure they don't completely forget whatever skills they mastered the previous summer. With both kids coming so far this last summer, I decided to do the session earlier than usual, starting today.

After Eli got off of the bus, the kids changed into their suits and we drove to Atlanta Swim. This time around Eli's lesson was first (while Maddux watched) and then they switched. They both ended up with the same teacher, but different pools, different times. Eli dove right in, literally, when he started his lesson. The second time around, the teacher even held a ring out further from the side, for Eli to aim for. Eli did great, keeping up very well with the 9 year old in his class, and he swam at least as well as the two 7-year olds (only 4 in the class). More than that was his enthusiasm. Eli couldn't stop smiling the whole time; he loved LOVED being back in the water.

Maddux's lesson went really well too. Her first 'swim' found her doing a doggy paddle with her arms, but still swimming ok. Most of the rest of the time she extended her arms much more and relaxed in the water. She was almost as excited as Eli; she's a fish as well!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Snappy

Eli got to bring home his class pet this last weekend. He had been waiting anxiously for this weekend since school first started and he heard about the opportunity. When Eli got off of the bus on Friday, his smile was bigger than the plastic case holding his class turtle, Snappy. He had great plans!

The first thing Eli did was find a big cardboard box and fill it with grass and rocks, to allow Snappy another place to run around. The he and Maddux took turns staring at him and watching him climb. We let him out on the enclosed back porch a few times as well...instant entertainment.

Even though Eli fed Snappy some dried shrimp before we went to bed Friday night, the turtle didn't eat anything. Eli's first request on Saturday morning, before we even started our day, was to clean Snappy's cage. Eli woke up early and went down to check on him right away, noticing his water was dirty because of the uneaten food.

Sometime on Saturday, Eli made another cardboard area for Snappy. This one was in the shape of a baseball field, complete with correct coloring. Snappy went from one home to another and back again all weekend. Eli brushed his shell, fed him, changed his water (or had us do it), and journaled about his turtle; it was a very busy weekend!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Halloween Wars

In the last week I stumbled across "Halloween Wars" on the food network one night. It seemed like something the kids would love so I tivoed all four episodes. Over the course of the last 6 or 7 days, the kids and I have watched the competition heat up as the teams worked with food (sugar!) and pumpkins to make some amazing creations in the spirit of Halloween. Eli and Maddux have been locked in; it's all they can talk about! So fun to share these random, but fun moments with my munchkins!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween

How quickly time passes. It seems like just yesterday that Maddux was a dressing up as a baby bee and Eli was a miniature monkey. Now the kids pick their own costumes, voice their opinions about which houses to visit, and have more fun with their friends than mom and dad on Halloween night. Sigh.

Last night was loads of fun, but it was bittersweet. We started the night walking up to the 'the rock' for the annual neighborhood Halloween parade. We met Virginia and William in the cul-de-sac for many pictures first, of course. Once at the rock, it was costumed mayhem. At least the kids stayed with us for the walk down, but they were more interested in walking with their friends than with us. Maddux stayed glued to Virginia's hip and Eli was back and forth between William and Drew. At one point Eli and Drew were holding hands, just like they did a few times at swim meets this summer....total best buds. Because of all the time we spent at the pool this summer, and Eli going to school with so many neighborhood kids, all I heard all night was, "ELI!" or "MADDUX!" And I only knew about 1/3 of the kids belonging to the voices. Crazy.

We ate a quick meal of pizza at the pool before the costume contest. When Maddux was a bee (three whole years ago!!) she won for her age group. This year there were several baby bees - totally sad for Mommy. While Maddux and Davis waiting in their age group, THEY were holding hands. I love that!

Soon after we started our trick-or-treat walk back to our side of the neighborhood (about a mile away). The only real rules we had for the kids that night were stay where we can see you and don't run through people's yards. I'd discussed this a few times with the kids already, reminding them that other kids would be cutting through grass, but there would still be candy for them when they got there. Then we talked about why we shouldn't run through lawns and flower beds, etc. and they totally got it. But you KNOW it all went out the window as soon as the fun started. Just before we began I reminded them that if they run through the grass, they had to skip 3 houses. (Gotta make it hurt to make the point quick, right?) It worked! Eli violated right away. And even though I felt like a big bad mommy for holding him back for three houses, he didn't do it again. And Drew and Davis stayed with us all night and they had the same rule. It was awesome.

At one point, our little group turned right while most of the rest of the neighborhood went straight, leaving us on a road with almost no other kids. It was kinda nice that way...less craziness, more conversations between the kids.... By the time we were about 3/4 of the way home, Eli and Maddux were occasionally skipping houses on their own because they had 'enough candy' (according to them). What a great night!

This morning the kids and I discussed all of the candy we got. They'd each had several pieces during trick-or-treating, plus one before bed. After they choose one for their snack this afternoon, they are each picking their favorite 10 pieces and we're donating the rest to the troops. I honestly got NO fight from them on this. Maddux even told me she was going to give one of her full-sized candy bars to the 'sol-ders'. Really really really cool kids, they are turning out to be.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Love A Book

Eli's first take-home project was due today. On Halloween each year, the first grade classes dress up as their favorite book character, complete with homemade front-and-back signs, and parade around a few of the school halls. We were given the poster board three weeks ago, with instructions about what to put on the front and back. Eli chose Mr. Popper's Penguins as his favorite book; we finished it just a week before the project was assigned. For his costume, he wanted to dress up as Captain Cook, the main penguin. One weekend we worked on the front (a book cover, complete with title and author). Eli drew a great picture and we cut out foam letters for the words. The other poster board was to depict his favorite scene; Eli chose the ending scene since it was the happiest for him. For his costume he wore black pants, a black hoodie and we made an orange nose. Adorable.

Maddux and I arrived to the school just as the parade was starting. Eli and his friends were all so cute in their unique outfits. Eli was the only penguin we saw, but many of the kids were dressed up as characters from books that Maddux recognized.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Faith In Action

This morning we spent our time at an Elementary School near our church. Lehr was in charge of the painting team, so any work Maddux and Eli did would get them messy for sure! It was rather chilly today, so after our initial walk around the school, Maddux was already asking to go play with the kids instead of paint with Daddy. She ended up staying in the gym all morning. Eli hung out with Lehr more than half of the time, spilling paint on himself no less than twice. But he did paint some lattice and provide smiles for many others who were working, so that counts for something.

The kids have done many FIAs, but every time brings new conversations because of their increasing age and awareness. This time we talked about how these classrooms didn't have Smartboards like Eli's school, or fancy playground equipment like Maddux's school. The end result was Eli commenting how excited he thought the kids would be to walk into school on Monday morning and see the new basketball and hopscotch paint in the back area. Cool.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parent-Teacher Conference

Yesterday afternoon, Lehr and I met with Eli's teacher for his fall conference. The main point of the conference this year was to review Eli's work and report card. This was our first conference with the teacher since this year has gone so smoothly. (YAY!) Eli seems to be doing really well. REALLY well. He is reading at the upper end of the spectrum and his math is great. His teacher recognizes that he loves to draw and create stories, which speaks so well to her character as a teacher; she looks for the good in our boy! We did ask about his behavior, just because of the past... She told us that he has been sent 'out' a few times for excessive talking, but she didn't seem concerned about it at all since it was never negative in nature. She ended many of her explanations with, "Eli is so bright." or "Eli doesn't miss anything - he keeps me on my toes." His report card was full of top marks, even in behavior. Only a few places were marked down...what a change from last year! I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face when we left; it was so nice to have such a great conference!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

Ever since Maddux has been around, we've made Operation Christmas Child boxes each holiday season. Eli and Maddux usually really enjoy this process; we always go to Target and raid the dollar bins for fun books, toys, and socks. This year was the first year that Maddux remembered what types of things we've put in the boxes in years past. She did a great job shopping with me. All of the toothbrushes, play jewelry, books, and crayons were picked by her, and when Eli got home from school, the three of us divided them into their correct box. (We did two for each age group: one for a girl and one for a boy.) The kids really got into picking out specific books, pencils, toys for each gender and each age group...it was cool to see them put so much thought into it!

Early Release Week

We have parent-teacher conferences this week at Eli's school, so he is on an early-release schedule each day. That puts him home before Maddux each day, giving us lots of fun play time each afternoon. Today I decided to take the kids hiking. We are very fortunate to have a great set of shorter trails just over a mile from our house. The kids hadn't been in a while, so off we went. With no worry of return time, we set out to throw rocks at the creek itself. This system of trails all lead to the same place eventually, but there are a million different ways to go. Because of that, I rarely look at the map unless I'm on a time schedule. I let the kids lead us to the creek this time which put us at a location I'd never been before. We were way further down than usual, and the hike back up was really steep. I opted instead to have us hike back along the 'shore' of the creek. This was fine except for two parts with extremely steep climbs on a very thin trail with a hill up on one side and nothing but rocks and water (waaaay down) on the other. I love that kind of stuff, but when you're the only adult with two kids who don't seem to have a concept of 'careful', it's quite stressful.

We all survived and made it back to our usual stomping ground eventually. One trip around the paper mill and then we started back to the car. Immediately Eli got stung by a bee. He was a trooper, only crying for a minute. The whole walk back, he held my hand, so I can't say it was sad for me! Also, the whole walk back, Maddux played hide-and-seek. She kinda played with herself because we never looked for her. We'd just turn around and she'd be out of sight, behind a tree. Crazy girl... I loved loved loved every minute of my time with them today...need to find a way to make them stop growing immediately.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Parade

On of our annual Halloween traditions is the Little 5 Points Halloween parade. If you're not from the ATL, L5P is a little more alternative section of town known for creativity and ink, and the parade itself crosses many lines. As sheltered as I try to keep my kids from many images or subjects on TV or in movies, this parade is something I really enjoy taking them too, and great conversations take place the week before and afterwards. One great thing about the parade is the very VERY realistic and gruesome costumes, make-up and masks. Because of that, and because we've reminded the kids many many times that costumes are not real, Eli and Maddux don't appear to scare too easily when it comes to Halloween. That makes it more fun for all of us.

This year the kids wore their costumes and brought their candy-collecting receptacles. Maddux rocked her Ariel wig, and Eli looked perfect for the part of astronaut, as we watched the many cars, walking groups, and floats pass by. A few pieces of candy and a few hours later, we ate at a cool new burger joint. Eli even ate two full burgers. (Stop growing!!)

Season Closer

We are in the 'post season' of baseball, and it's a double elimination tournament. We already lost one game, so every game we play now determines if and when we'll play again. Last night was a nail-biter, going into extra innings. We won, so first thing this morning we were back at the fields. Today's game was against the Bulls, which is the team of Eli's buddy, William.

Both teams played really well...we knew it was going to be close. Eli got a hit every time, two or three singles and a double. His fielding is what was so great though. In recent games, Eli has really stepped up his game, throwing more precisely and getting to the ball much quicker. Today he made an out at third by running the ball to the bag, and was involved in at least two plays that resulted in close calls at first base. Even though we lost the game, this was my favorite game of the season. Eli played hard, stayed really focused, and enjoyed every minute of it. Even after we lost (which means our season is over), Eli high-fived the other team and then asked me, through his smile, "Mommy, did we win?" I told him we didn't and he said, "OK", as he ran over to his team, still smiling. I hope he always has that much joy around this game!

As the coach debriefed the team, going through each boy's individual plays, he chose Eli to receive the game ball. So cool. During the regular season, every player gets a ball at some point. Not that they don't deserve it, but it's a given. In the post season, it is much more who really deserved it in that game. I was so happy that Eli's awesome efforts this morning were rewarded with the final game ball of the season.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cupcakes

I've been trying really hard to intentionally do fun things with the kids. I always have great ideas, great plans, but horrible execution. That is, I rarely do what I want to do with them because we're short on time, it'll make a mess, too late to stay up, etc. My control-freak self is trying to let go of some of that and be a more fun mom :)

Last week we searched for cool leaves at the river and in the yard and then did a leaf rubbing. Eli said he'd done it at school already, but he still loved the project. And even though Maddux didn't quite do it 'correctly', she had a good time too.

This week we made spider cupcakes. Sugar. Frosting. Candy. Oh, the horror. I made the cupcakes just before Eli got off of the bus so that we could decorate them together. That meant me doing the frosting and decorating and the kids just sticking the 'legs' in, but that was enough for them to feel totally involved. They loved it. And even though it totally trashed my kitchen and consumed my afternoon (and two trips to the store earlier in the week), I loved it too. Once we were done, we delivered a few to friends in the neighborhood...the kids REALLY liked that. Now if you'll excuse me, as I'm off to tackle clean-up now as my kids run around in a sugar frenzy :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trombone Shorty

Over the weekend we had a rare opportunity to include the kids in a musical event they would normally not be able to attend. Eli's current favorite N'Awlins talent, Trombone Shorty, was performing downtown Saturday night. Even though it was a late (10PM-ish start) show, it was all-ages. We offered it up to both kids, but Maddux voiced her preference to stay home with a babysitter and have a movie night instead.

I personally guaranteed that Eli slept a GOOD nap that afternoon (read: I 'rested' in the bed with him) before we had a quick snack and headed out. We planned to eat with some other friends attending the show: I even let Eli have a milkshake. (Crazy, I know!) We got to the show just as the opener was finishing her last song or two. Not much later and Shorty took the stage. Eli got so excited when he walked out with his horns....his smile was enormous! Eli stayed with Lehr and I, alternating who held him up to see, for the first half of the show. Fatigue was definitely setting in at this point (11PM), so Eli and Lehr went back to sit down and watch from the seats for a handful of songs. They came back up front for the end, and Eli was totally impressed when all of the band members switched instruments for the last song. Especially because Shorty took over the drum set.

Shockingly, Eli even stayed awake for the drive home, meaning he didn't sleep until 12:50AM. I'm not sure how we managed to not have a meltdown the next day, so I'll just chalk it up to a great experience!

Monday, October 17, 2011

That Boy Of Mine

How many changes can take place in such a short time once a baby starts going to school... Last year was his first year on the big yellow bus, and we saw the introduction of 'specials', the cafeteria, report cards, and many classroom procedures. At home we saw Eli start to read a little better, start to write a little better, and towards the end he even took an interest in drawing. This year, however, those changes are capitalized, to say the least.

Eli's favorite thing is to make books in his room. He draws, he writes, he cuts, he pastes. In addition, Eli has a few small notebooks that he always has in his room and/or backpack. I recently bought him a new one from the dollar bin at Target. Within a week it was halfway full. If I were even more obsessive about recording daily life with the kids, I'd take a picture of each individual page... The book is full of math, shark pictures, Star Wars pictures and lists. Yes, lists. Lists of dangrs animals (that's his spelling), vlnt storms (what 6-year-old uses the word 'vlnt'??) and dedly sharks. Awesome.

Last weekend the kids woke up a little before Lehr and I were ready to rise. Eli entertained himself very quietly, making a Darth Vador costume out of a backwards t-shirt, a black hoodie, and a red boom wacker. Love it.

Finally, every time I mow the yard, Eli asks to help. I usually let him assist me in the backyard, which usually results in a Roomba-esque pattern of mowing. The last few times, he's concentrated on making straight lines like I do. And now I'm proud to say that Eli mowed the whole backyard by himself last weekend. I was a great supervisor, encouraging from the side-lines and not lifting a finger.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oh, Baby Girl...

Where do I start.... The reason for this post is nothing new; Maddux is, has been, and always will be crazy, unpredictable, and awesome. At least once a month I'm just reminded how unique she is....

Mad Dog's two latest loves are homework and singing.

Homework:
This is what Maddux calls any project we do at home, especially if it comes out of a work book. I'm sure it started over the summer as I attempted to keep the kids from losing any pre-learned knowledge as they swam away their free time. At least a few days a week we'd pull out some workbooks and do 'homework'. Well now she is obsessed. She often pulls out the book (one of the big thick ones which is almost complete now) and asks me to pick out some 'homework' for her. Of course, because she is Maddux, when I tell her what the intended 'assignment' is, she often says, "Hmmm....well can I just (x, y, or z) instead?"

Singing:
This one is not something Maddux would admit to, but I think it is because she doesn't realize just how much she sings. In fact, just the other day I asked her to repeat the words to me and she innocently asked me, "The words to what?" as if she HADN'T been singing for the last five minutes. Maddie will sing as she is brushing her hair, making her bed, dressing her magnetic dolls, coloring, riding her bike, putting on her seat belt...you get the picture. And I love that half of the time the songs go like this: "Where is the green crayon oh it is right in front of me..."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mini Shorty

Eli is VERY excited about seeing Trombone Shorty this coming weekend. He listens to his music and memorizes it immediately. And when he does get to see him (on the computer or in person), I swear he memorizes his mannerisms as well. In this video, you'll hear Eli hitting each of the notes in tempo (not in pitch). You may also notice him 'wiping' his mouth around :30 - EXACTLY like Shorty does. Oh, and don't miss Maddux dancing so hard that she kicks off her shoe around :12...crazy girl

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Artist or Author?

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, Eli because a very focused author and illustrator. I remember 'way back' when Eli was in Pre-K; I could barely get Eli to color a picture of something he liked, let alone draw something. And writing? It was sometimes a struggle just to get him to copy the words "Happy Birthday" onto a card for a friend. Nowadays, you can find the boy working diligently at his desk on a book or three. Sometimes they're fiction, but usually they're non-fiction, based on something he's interested in for the day or week or month. Sometimes they are word for word from a book he's already read, but they are never copied - they are always from memory.

Eli's latest books include:
  • Lion King
  • September 11
  • Shuttles
  • Sharks
  • Sharks (another one - this one may have had 'dngr' in the title)
Only one or two of the books are actually complete, but I have no doubt they'll all be in publication soon.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friends, At Last?

More often than not, I'm seeing Eli and Maddux interacting positively and by choice. It's not just a Maddux-driven relationship these days, and I'm overjoyed. In the last week, Eli has asked to eat next to Maddux at dinner, read books with her in her bed, play in the front yard with her, and have room time with her. In addition, last Saturday morning found Lehr and I awoken by the kids around 7:30. Then nothing until about 8:30. In that time, Eli and Maddux played really well TOGETHER and Eli voluntarily read his sister several books on the couch. And during our after school snack time, which we talk about each of the kids' days at school, Eli has actually been showing interest in his sister. Just yesterday I asked her about a song they sand in music. She couldn't remember the words, so Eli asked, "Maddux, can you remember it tomorrow so you can sing it to us after school?"

Last night was the best...they ran around the front yard for a good thirty minutes together, bouncing the ball off of each other and running into one another on purpose. They they wanted to take a bubble bath together and snuggle during books. I must say I'm loving this new phase!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Buckle Up

Eli has a friend that lives one street over. They are almost exactly the same age, and they seem to get along great, though we've never really had the boys get together to play. Just two weeks ago my world was rocked when said boy rode his bike over to our house one Sunday afternoon and asked if Eli could play. The boys rode bikes in our cul-de-sac for about ten minutes before riding through the yards to this boy's house. Gulp. Playdate, but I didn't set it up.

New stage. Hold on, Mommy.

Late last week the same little boy came over and asked, but we had just taken dinner out of the oven, so it was a no-go. When he came over and asked if Eli could come to his house today, our Community Group families were pulling into our driveway. I told him that Eli couldn't go to his house, but he was welcomed to stay here and play with Eli and the other kids. He smiled and said, "Sure, I just have to go home and ask my mom. I'll be back in a jibby."

So scary for me that I am not longer in control of setting up Eli's 'playdates'. So sad for me that Eli now has a much more appealing offer after school than hanging out with Mommy. So not ready for this change.

I will say that this friend is a great kid, so I am not at all apprehensive about Eli's time with him. And he is every bit as polite as I could hope for when he knocks on our door and looks me in the eye while he's talking. (The fact that he said "jibby" makes him just a little bit adorable too.") But I'm still going to need a moment or five to adjust to this next new grown-up era....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Girls

Eli has two friends that are girls that live within a stone's throw of our house. He plays with them often enough and he really likes them both. I never see him get nervous or giggly about them though, even though at various times he's told me that he will marry each of them. There is a girl in his class, however, that I suspect may be his first crush. "E" was in his class last year and he had a bit of a liking to her then, as well.

The fact that she is the only repeat classmate he has this year was definitely good news to Eli. They even sat at the same desk-cluster for the first month or so of 1st grade. And often times when I go to eat lunch with Eli at school, he'll be sitting with or very near her and her friends. The main reason I think Eli like-likes her is his attention to her details. He'll tell me randomly, "Mommy, "E" has pink shoes with purple laces and a little white line down the side.", or "Yesterday "E" had carrot sticks in her lunch too.", or even, "Some days "E's" hair is really curly, but usually it's just a little curly." And when she sweeps the floor in the lunchroom after she finishes her lunch (apparently it's a privilege to do that!), Eli always sticks his feel out so she has to sweep them. (This is a detail she told ME the last time I went to school for lunch. Strangely, she had a silly grin on her face as well...)

It seems as though nothing is too insignificant for Eli to notice about this girl. And when I ask him if he likes her, he grins really big and says, "Nooo." Yeah, right....you're not fooling anyone.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Money Talks

In the past few months Eli has requested he be allowed to buy legos at Target with his own money. Two times he's been granted permission and fun math and savings talks have followed. We've also discussed tithing several times, and Eli has even participated willingly. But we had yet to really dive into savings and how to manage money as it comes in yet. And with Eli's last birthday and some recent extra jobs for Daddy, money has been exchanged more than usual.

So tonight we talked to the kids during dinner about how our family manages money. For them it meant setting up three piggy banks in each room (not a problem because they've received plenty over the years): one for tithing, one for savings and one for spending. We talked about what each bank was used for and we also let them know that any money put into savings would be matched by Lehr and I. For us, savings is not saving for a week to buy a set of legos, or even a month to buy a bigger set of legos, but more of saving for several, many months, maybe not even with a specific goal in mind. That bank is not to be touched without Mom or Dad present.

The conversation was great and the follow-up activity was even better. Both kids went to their rooms to get all money and banks. Lehr helped Maddux and I helped Eli as we then counted it all (hello, math!) and sorted all coins into dollar piles. Then we talked to them about how they wanted to divide it. I'm not sure of Maddux's strategy, but they piles seemed somewhat even. Eli wanted to split it totally even, three-ways. His bills lended themselves to one pile being a little larger, so I suggested he put that pile into savings, which he was happy with. I feel really good about the direction we're hopefully leading them in with money. So far Eli has been so willing to tithe when he receives money....hopefully it will continue, especially when he's able to see how much money God is still allowing him to use at his own discretion.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Good, Good Day

Lehr and I drove separately to church due to conflicting schedules today, so after church, Eli rode with me to his baseball practice and Maddux stayed with Daddy for a meeting and to get a break from the fields. Most Sundays find us struggling to extract from Eli what was discussed in church, or what his memory verse was. He loves church, he loves C3 (the kids' ministry area he attends, complete with a worship band, basketball, video games, and a drama each week), and he loves God, but he does NOT love talking when he doesn't want to. Regardless of how we approach it, the fatigue, the hunger, and the mood get the better of Eli and he tends to shut down when either Lehr or I inquire about his morning.

Today was so different and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I did so that I can do it again each week. Not only because of our discussion about church but because of our complete absorption in a conversation the whole time from church to baseball (about an hour). It was unprecedented!

I started off in the car asking about his verse. We've been working on verses at home so I asked if he learned a new one this morning. (They usually tackle one verse per month and this morning was the first Sunday of the month.) He couldn't remember it, so we moved on. When I asked about the 'sermon' topic, he couldn't remember. I dove right into the adult sermon. I told him how interesting and exciting it had been and then I just filled him in. I hadn't planned on doing that, but it just worked so I went with it.

Our sermon dealt with anger and how to deal with that in our lives, as believers. Since this is something we struggle with so much where Eli is concerned, I hoped to plant a few seeds in his head. Because I hadn't planned on delivering a sermon myself, much of what I said sounded like a retelling of the sermon to Lehr or a friend, with lots of, "Oh, and then...." and "but before that..." Eli seemed to track it all really well, which is amazing due to my poor attempts to recount things. We talked about how easy it is to get out of control when we are angry, and how getting out of control leads to bad consequences. I told him about a video we'd seen of some parents and coaches being out of control at kids' sports activities. There was even some, I informed him, that ended up fighting, physically. At this point he looked at me and said, "Mom, that's just crazy!" (Amen.) By the way, at this point I'm basically in shock over the level of participation in the conversation. Eli is SUCH the child that internalizes things and doesn't always participate, especially if the topic is scary or overwhelming or just not to his liking.

Towards the end, I was able to pull out of my poor memory a portion of James 1:19 from that morning: "....be quick to listen and slow to speak..." I then gave a scenario to Eli of the different outcomes rendered from the same situation handled in anger (quick speaking, no listening) versus grace (quick listening, slow to speak), using myself as the person in or out of control of my anger. Eli interacted with that part really well, which tells me he got it, even if only for the moment. It was awesome.

Once at our quick lunch destination the conversation changed to friends and what that relationship should look like. Eli brought up something that happened in C3 that showed less than friendly treatment of Eli by someone he counts as a friend. I reminded Eli that he was perfectly made by God to be treated with respect and kindness, and while he should love his friends gracefully, he should not surround himself with those who do not show that they value him or his friendship. We talked about how it feels to be on either side of his interaction that morning and to my relief he agreed that it was wrong what the other boy had done and he hoped he (Eli) never did the same to anyone else. This was really cool because of how Eli brought the incident up to me: it was without prompting or prodding of any sorts. PLEASE let this confiding be a trend that continues!!

Finally we talked baseball and the relationships on the field. Anyone who has been a part of sports has seen some kids who are better teammates than others. Unfortunately Eli has recently witnessed several examples of how to NOT be a team player. So far, he's done a good job of staying true to his character and I wanted to encourage him that he was on the right path. I also wanted to remind him that not everyone thinks the same way as our family, and while that's ok, we shouldn't change our values to follow others. I know how hard it is for me to swallow some of the choices other families make about handling things on and off of the field, and I'm sure it's even harder for Eli to wrap his little brain around any way other than what he has been taught.

Whew....that is a loooong retelling of a short hour. But it was a FULL hour, and I don't want to forget a second of my fully engaged, unplanned but intentional time with my sweet, keeps-his-thoughts-to-himself boy, so this post will be my reminder :)