Sunday, September 22, 2013

Super Dawson's party

My Super Dawson turned four last Saturday and we celebrated with a super hero party. I found a whole bunch of super hero themed stuff at Target for 70% off so it all came together pretty easily. I usually buy scrapbook paper to do some of the decorating. All I could find was a huge pad of Super Hero themed paper at Michael's but wasn't going to fork over $20 for it. But then I remembered you can always find 40% off coupons online so I pulled one up on my phone and just bought the whole dang thing. I could stomach $13 and hopefully someone else can use the leftovers. (Never ever check out at Michael's again without searching for an online coupon! is the easiest place to find them.)

An easy banner with some of my favorite Super Dawson moments from this past year: 

 Scrapbook paper cut out for the front of the goodie bags:
$1 felt masks, a super hero blowpop, crayons (there's a line at Target with all of these themed crayon boxes for $1 so you could find one to fit almost any birthday party), the Superman snack holders and the stickers were part of my 70% off Target loot. I stuck some chocolate inside and called it good:
And the girl's version. I can't tell you how lucky I was that day in the Target clearance section. There were literally the exact number of snack containers I needed. Even the right amount of boys and girls. Crazy:
We had his party at 2:00 so we just had a table full of snack food. Normally I do a whole meal but I may be changing my ways because this was soooo much easier. And just pretend you don't notice that the backdrop is completely off center :) (Judie, this was not your fault! It started to fall down and when I fixed it, I did it uneven!!) I made the letters of his name out of foam board with scrapbook paper glued on top.

Judie made the city skyline and I loved how it turned out. If this seems slightly familiar, that's because we had a similar backdrop for Dawson's King Kong party last year. But in one of my less than brilliant moments, I threw that skyline away. So we started over for this one. (And this one I kept this time!)
 My sister's girls showed up in seriously cute super hero style. Quinn's pose!
Jon set up a little obstacle course for the kiddos, which they loved. It was nothing fancy at all but they thought it was awesome. Like Dawson's party ensemble??? I mean, really. I was obviously too weary to fight any battle regarding clothing that morning. I only have so much in me and it was all spent getting the house ready And if you'll notice, I also didn't have any energy left to gather all these sugar crazed kiddos for a group picture. This is the only shot of Dawson in on the party action:

 I love the ruffles!

 Another one of my Target clearance scores. These cute little super hero crafts kept them busy for a while:
There are no pictures of this boy opening presents. There were some major meltdowns during that segment (by him and me). If you've ever been to a birthday party for the five and under crowd, you can envision the mass chaos that ensues with at least eight kiddos crowded around like a moth to a flame. Its worse than a mosh pit at a concert. There are always at least three kids other than the birthday boy ripping into presents. The birthday boy was refusing to say thank-you and it just got ugly. So moving along....
It wasn't until I was looking through the pictures later that I realized Bennett was the one who actually blew out the candles! Little stinker :)

 The girls checking out their loot, in their adorable capes that my mother-in-law, Judie, made for everyone:
I couldn't stop laughing at Channing crawling around in his pint-sized cape. It was adorable. Would it have been awesome to get a shot of all the kids in their matching capes? Yes. Would it have been worth the rise in blood-pressure to make it happen? No.
These parties are super fun for me to plan. But I do tend to get stressed out during them. I am such an introvert. So having my house full of [very loud] people, whom I'm responsible to keep entertained, usually leaves me drained. I think I need to delegate the hosting duties to my husband and I'll just sit back and eat. ;) Can anyone else relate to this? Any stress-relieving party tips I'm unaware of? My mother-in-law suggested having all the kids sit with their parents during gift opening and I think that would help a TON. Well, I'm off the hook again until the end of February.

For more themed parties I've thrown for my boys, start here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dawson lately

Several months ago I was at my wits end with our second-born child (which wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I guess my wits don't really ever end. Because I'm there all the time). I had been praying for wisdom a lot. I needed some kind of breakthrough. I felt like I'd tried everything and had been praying over him nearly every night for the past couple of years or so. "God, help Dawson to be kind and gentle and loving. Fill him up with joy and peace." (And then one time he had a baby sitter named Joy so every time I prayed that, he'd interrupt me and say, "where's Joy?" :) God must have put a little bug in my ear (He's good at that) because this book title popped into my head that I had read about at some point and I went and looked it up on Amazon and just bought it. I don't buy books. Like, ever. If its not at my library or a loaner from a friend, I don't read it. But for some reason I was desperate enough and forked over the $9.78 and downloaded it onto my Kindle (the one I never use. Because I don't buy books. My father-in-law got it for free and gave it to me. So I don't feel too bad not using it.)

This book changed. my. life. And Dawson's life along with it.

First- let me say a HUGE apology to every mom with a fit-throwing toddler out in public who's parenting skills I was so quick to judge. Little did I know that it is so NOT about the parent but nearly ALL about the makeup of that child. We carried Bennett screaming and crying out of a public place ONCE when he was three. And I thought that had something to do with me. Ha. I needed a large slice of humble pie. By now, I've eaten more than my fair share. (I suppose that goes with the territory of motherhood, doesn't it??) Which is why I wholeheartedly agree with the statement that parenting is so much more about teaching us than about us teaching our kids.

If all of these words describe your child, please get a copy of the book, Raising Your Spirited Child, TODAY: Intense, Persistent, Sensitive, Perceptive, Difficulty Adapting (And the bonus traits--your spirited child may have some or all of these. Dawson has all of them: Irregular, Energetic, First Reaction is negative to anything new or different and Moody). (If these traits describe your child but you'd score them a 3 out of 5 or lower on a few of them, then they're probably just spunky, not spirited.)

This book helped me turn all of the negative labels I had for my child and switch them to positive ones. And to realize that all of the characteristics that made him so difficult to parent at 2 years old, will be celebrated when he's an adult (if directed in a healthy way). It also made me understand that he sees/feels/smells/hears things differently than an average kid. He literally has heightened senses, which makes loud, busy, crowded places a nightmare for him. I've learned what is likely to set off a tantrum and how to possibly avoid it. (He still has tantrums. A lot of them. But they're shorter and more sporadic. And I don't feel like I want to run away from home anymore.)
 All smiles. When he's ready:
(He started preschool a couple of weeks ago. Blogging time is hard to come by these days. And he's in 3yr preschool because his birthday is Sept. 14th) 

Life with Dawson is still very challenging. But thankfully along the way I've been learning that it's actually possible to stay patient and calm when your child is screaming their head off and trying to hit you and bite you and throw anything within reach at you. My patience goes a whole lot further these days. I still lose it with him occasionally (like when we're running late or when my husband's been out of town for the third night in a row) but God is really changing me in this area. I've also learned that its ok to remove him when he's out of control and hold him and hug him and whisper to him instead of trying to force him to stay in time-out for an hour (which I'd done before. Many times.) The balance of discipline with him is very hard but I just keep doing the best that I know how to do. And to accept judgment or advice from other moms who don't have a spirited child is fruitless. So if you are a friend to one of those moms, give her a bit more grace. And let her know that you know she has a hard job. But that she's the perfect person for it.

The biggest thing I've learned this past year is that when you have a spirited (or even just a spunky) child, you get a big dose of the hard stuff but you get an equal dose of the amazing stuff. You get a child with so much feeling. Dawson went through a phase last year where he'd compliment people on everything--"I like your hair, Quinn!", to his cousin. "I like your dress, Mom!" when I was wearing something other than sweats. "Cool trick, Bennett!" as he'd watch his older brother flip around the house. He's always had incredible manners, saying "please" and "thank-you" without any prompting. He also has a HUGE imagination and can get lost in play for at least an hour all by himself (when brother isn't around to interrupt him). He's quick to make friends wherever we go, not shy at all on the playground. But if we walk into a room where there are a lot of adults he doesn't know, he'll completely panic and freeze up. He's literally gripped the door frame with all his might before, and held on for dear life. (The complete opposite of Bennett. Bennett has a hard time being brave and making the first move with new kids, but if we walked into a large room full of people, if there were at least a couple of familiar faces or he didn't have to leave my side, it wouldn't even phase him.)

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood has been such a great show for Dawson, because he can easily identify with the way people feel. He's extremely empathetic. One morning I was lamenting about our new table. One of the boys had spilled a bunch of water the day before so one of the boards on the table had started to lift up a little. Dawson started singing the Daniel Tiger song, "If something seems bad, turn it around....and find something good!" He's so in tune to what people are feeling around him, it's amazing. While Bennett is extremely smart, he's usually in his own little world. Dawson, however, feeds off of every emotion of the people around him. It's very important with spirited children to not let them sense your stress because they will become extremely irritable. (A bit of an impossible task as a mom!)
Once he got stickers placed all around his frame, he pointed to the row at the top and then the bottom and said, "Mom, this is the rain and these are the bow."

A big challenge we still deal with is that he doesn't sleep through the night. He did up until he was three and we moved him out of the crib. I knew it would be a hard transition with him. Little did I know a year later he'd be sleeping on the floor of our room because at least then I can get to him more quickly when he wakes and can settle him back down right away. Not always, though. Sometimes he's awake, sobbing uncontrollably for 30 minutes at a time or more. Its not night-terrors. He's just a very light sleeper and has an impossible time settling himself back down once awake. And when he's tired, he's just so emotional and unreasonable. I'm not sure why we didn't have this problem when he was in the crib. But that's typical of life with him. There aren't straightforward answers to much of anything. According to the book, nightwaking is very common with spirited children. I just figure eventually he'll outgrow it. And I'm learning to tell myself in the middle of the night when I get woken up and feel so frustrated that its an opportunity to act out sacrificial love. I continually have to give up the idea that I deserve a good night's sleep. I'm working on being selfless, even at midnight when I'm just settling into a really deep sleep. It's taken me a long time to get there. But God is gracious with me and my slow progress. Plus, I suppose this is just payback since all three of my boys were sleeping 12 hours a night by 12 weeks ;)

* Dawson loves to ride his scooter. Fast.
* He hates to lose a race to his brother. (And everything's a race.)
* He loves to go to the library as much as Bennett does and he loves to be read to. One of his favorites is Richard Scarry's, The Best Word Book Ever.
* He's a good eater and isn't afraid to try new foods (he'll always refuse it at first and then we sing the Daniel Tiger song, "You gotta try new foods 'cause it might taste good!" and then he'll always accept a bite and usually likes whatever it is and then gobbles it down.
* He still loves King Kong and T-Rex but now has a new obsession with Indiana Jones. 
* Dressing up is still his thing. (look up the hashtag #superdawson on Instagram and you'll see several of his best-dressed moments.)
* We haven't done any organized sports with him yet (I think its a bit crazy to start that before five with a child who's prone to meltdowns) but he's very anxious to start. He'll definitely be our athlete. 

I am so thankful for this boy, who stretches me and teaches me and exposes my weak spots. I am a better person now than I was before he was in my life. He has always been the child who has caused me to lean on God the most. And that is a beautiful gift. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

perfectly imperfect

I've been meaning to post a before and after of our dining room table for a long time. There are a few reasons I didn't right away, which I'll explain. But first, here's the before, in all it's heat-marked, scratched-up glory:

My Grandad gave us a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel when we got married and we bought this table and chairs. I loved it at the time. Over ten years later, it had seen better days. I still vividly remember the first time it got a white heat mark from a bunch of pizza boxes when we moved into our second home. I was pretty devastated. (Yeah, that was obviously before we had kids. I've since learned to not feel so much connection to inanimate objects. Nothing is sacred now when left to their destructive devices.) And judging by all of those iron shaped marks, obviously I gave up completely and just started ironing my table cloth RIGHT ON THE TABLE. 
My genius hubby got his hands on some barn wood and, true to form, whipped up my dream table in just a few weekends. He's handy like that. 

So, this table has been done for many months. Here are the reasons I haven't posted until today: 
  1. The bottom needs another coat of white paint, preferably some chalk paint. But frankly, that's not happening any time soon. Sometimes good enough is good enough. 
  2. When Target came out with these chairs, I thought we were going to get a couple of them right away so I wanted to wait til we had those. But we didn't. We'll get all new seating eventually but I'm not sure when that will be. My plan is the two metal chairs at either end, three different antique wooden farmhouse chairs, all painted white, on one side, and a barn wood bench on the other. What do you think? I'll probably just need to see it all together to decide if I'd rather have all chairs or two benches. (Also, honey, those chairs are on sale now! *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*)
  3. In order to photograph and post about the table, that would require the room be clean and my side table looking mostly decorated! Let's just say this was my biggest hold-up :) Here's a good before for you of the space. 
Oh, and just to keep things real around here, this is what the table looked like before I cleaned it off to take pictures. This is our normal. I get discouraged sometimes when I see people (who have at least three kids) with beautifully decorated and spotless homes in the background of their pictures and wonder how the heck they keep it that way. Its beyond me. I spend all my energy during the day keeping them fed and not yelling at them: 
So without further ado:
 The first few days it was in, I found myself lovingly petting it as I walked by. I couldn't believe this beauty was in my house.
 I had to fight a praying mantis for these flowers today. (And by fight, I mean stay far far away from.)
I feel like the decorations here are just a tad too formal looking for my taste, and not enough personality, but I like it for now. Would you paint the birdcage white too?? I've debated that since I bought it a couple of years ago. This side table is my favorite piece of furniture we own. We got it at 50% off when an Asian antique store in Des Moines went out of business. It was one of those things that I absolutely could not believe we could actually afford and bring home. I will love it forever.

 I love every little imperfect piece:
 Here you can see how Jon just mounted the barn wood top right onto our old, newly painted, table:
I think there's way too much wood going on on this side of the room. I'm just working with what I have for decorations. Someday I'll move the antique shutters somewhere else and do a gallery wall of 9 botanical prints, evenly spaced in three rows.  
 And the full room shot with the casing Jon added around the doorway last year, which you can see better here.:
Jon even cut the leaf in the middle of the old table down so it was the perfect length. We can comfortably seat eight. Jon's been whipping these up from scratch and selling them now! We have a table for sale currently in our garage that Jon's anxious to get rid of, so if you're local and know of anyone who'd be interested, let me know! 
There's a long way to go to feel like this home is really "me" but I'm content to take it slow and revel in each new piece I'm able to add. I've kept this quote a friend told me a long time ago in the forefront of my mind: "Happiness lies not in getting what you want but in wanting what you already have." I'm beyond blessed and I would be a fool to see it any other way. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

I take my boys to the library.

We are so blessed and fortunate to live almost across the street from a fantastic library. I used to think I decided this house would be the one because of the nice white woodwork and great layout. But maybe subconsciously it was the proximity to so many books. :)
We've been going to the library on an almost weekly basis since Bennett could walk and talk. I signed us up for a Wee Read storytime when he was just 9 months old (And saved his nametag from it. Oh, the things you do with your firstborn!!).
As the years have progressed, there have been seasons where its been really easy and fun and seasons where its been hard and and slightly stressful. We never do storytimes anymore. But we keep going.

There was the time when Bennett was just barely three years old. He was recently potty-trained. I was at the library with him and baby Dawson and my three year old niece, Piper. Well, Bennett had an accident. I took him into the bathroom and stripped off his wet pants. I was standing there, wracking my brain, wondering what in the world to do and how the heck to get my naked child back out to the van without too much embarrassment (since of course I didn't have any extra clothes or diapers with me. I've never been that mom. That mom we're all thankful we're friends with when we run out of wipes/diapers/snacks/you-name-it.) Bennett and Piper are giggling at Bennett's nakedness and then they TAKE OFF. These two three year olds, one who's white little hiney is out in all its glory, laughing hysterically, bolt through the library towards the front door. I frantically grab Dawson and the stroller and the pile of wet clothes and speed walk/run after them, trying (with utter failure) to ignore all of those stern librarian eyes burning into me, wondering what sort of heathen children I'm raising and why in heaven's name I would dream of bringing them into their quiet sanctuary of a library. I have never experienced humiliation like that in my life. I seriously thought, "I can never step foot inside that place ever again."

But then we did. And I just pretended like it never happened. And thankfully I didn't see any whispers and pointing fingers. I survived the mommy humiliation. (And I'm sure, for a while, I had an extra set of clothes with me.)

Right now, Channing's at the age where he's much more interested in pulling books off the shelves than reading them. (We try to leave him at home with Daddy whenever we can.) And sometimes my boys dump puzzles out faster than I can make them pick them up and pull every puppet off the rack and start playing tag between bookshelves and get way too loud reenacting a T-Rex/King-Kong battle with the puppets. And sometimes I'm super stressed out and grouchy with them when I'm trying to get all of our books checked out and get the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of there. But we still keep going back. And we still love it. And most of the time they can follow the rules and use library voices.

I had a friend ask me once, "How in the world do you do it? Taking my kids to the library is the most stressful thing I can imagine right now!"

I just get really good at ignoring judgmental glances. I'm only partly kidding. The thing is, I have wild boys. I have boys that are loud and run more often than they walk and who leave a trail of messes everywhere they go. But I also have three boys who love books. As active as they are, they will always sit still to be read to. And my six year old told me the other day that reading books is his "most favorite thing in the whole wide world". (But only because he momentarily forgot about video games).

Y'all, I'm not trying to make you feel bad if you never take your kids to the library. I suck at a lot of things. I constantly feel like I'm failing my kids in a whole lot of areas (Too much TV and not enough teaching of the Word, to name a few.) But I hope my kids always love to read. I hope they always get excited over a stack of new books. I hope they read so they can keep learning even when they're 30 and 40 and 50. Maybe they won't. I'm sure my mother-in-law read to my husband all the time when he was little and he hates to read now. But I will do my darndest (and risk further humiliation) to make it stick.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Labor Day

Well, our no-labor Labor Day was wonderful. We got to spend it at the pool (belongs to friends of my in-laws and we've been going there on holidays since Bennett was a baby! 20102012) and for the first time, I didn't have to schlep the pack-n-play, hang blankets over windows and fret over whether my baby was going to fall asleep there or not. What a relief!! You deal with that stuff while you're in that phase and you cherish their sweet baby-ness. But once they're older, being away from home all day gets so much simpler and it sorta makes me want to celebrate. Don't get me wrong, when Channing turns 6 and I only have big boys in my house, I will probably bawl like a baby and watch our home videos of them as toddlers and eat a pint of ice cream every night (only because I don't like wine) for a week straight. But for now, I'm quite content to be done with the all that blasted baby gear. 

Since Channing was a bitty baby, he will sit in his Pop's arms FOR-EV-ER. I plopped him down there right when we got there and he stayed put for at least half an hour. It could have been more like 45 minutes, I lost track. Its so cute and so crazy, since my first two wouldn't have sat anywhere for five minutes unless they were being read to or watching a screen. It may be because Pop's belly is as comfy as a pillow top mattress ;) Who knows!

 These two. They slay me with their cuteness every time. I really don't want them to get older.

"Let's put this towel over us but our toes need to stick out." -Dawson. He's always all about the details and I love seeing things through his eyes.
 And the big kids. Practically teenagers. And the bestest friends.
I stole this next pic from my MIL. The kiddos watching Poppy make homemade ice cream! We had fresh peaches on top and it was amazing. 
This is Channing with his littlest cousin. Grayson just turned 6 months and can get into a sitting position from laying down already, plus he's already pulling up on stuff. Who wants to place bets on which of these two will be walking first? My money's on Grayson.
Channing loves babies and he starts "talking" to them in a squeaky little high pitched voice and reaches out and kind of tickles them. Its the sweetest. They sat out here and giggled at each other for so long. The scrunched nose gets me every time.
 I want a porch swing someday. With a big stack of books and I'll just stay there for days.
Its really fun coming back to this place a couple of times each year. (Although this may be our last time as they're getting ready to sell this house.) I feel like those are the memories that stick with you the longest. Makes me want to buy a cabin on a lake and go there with our whole family every year. Maybe its my childhood spent moving around constantly that makes me yearn for more consistency. I love experiencing new places more than anything in the world but I also love those memories you make when you revisit a familiar place over and over again. Old and new. Adventure and familiarity. I think I like both in equal doses.