Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pieceless Puzzle

My daughter just got this for her fifth birthday: the Pieceless Puzzle. (She got the "Ages 4 & Up"; I think this one is "Ages 8 & Up")

Check out this video (and enjoy the background music that takes me back to the days of Bob Barker):

The pieceless puzzle is a pretty cool idea! My favorite feature is that you can just grab it and throw it in the drawer for clean-up, and you don't even need to put it back in its box!

The drawback I see is that once you figure out how it goes together, it is then really easy to do. Your brain and fingers remember how the little shapes go together, so it becomes too easy pretty quickly.

The fact that there is an image on both sides helps with this a little.

I should point out, however, that we have this problem with most of our puzzles. They always become too easy after we know them too well. I have thought that there should be puzzle libraries, so you can check out a puzzle, put it together a few times, and return it to the library. That way we wouldn't have boxes of puzzles that no longer challenge us stacked in the cabinet taking up so much space. (But I can't give them away yet, because I have younger children who can use them someday. So the space, it is taken up.)

But I can see why this wouldn't work. Imagine how many pieces would be missing from the library's puzzles!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

60 Months

Dear Middle Girl,

Just as you did five years ago today, you make the sun shine in my life. Your joie de vivre was evident early on, as you were a lively dancer even in mommy's tummy. After your birth, during which you treated mommy well, you were holding up your head and looking around the hospital room: "well, hello, mom and dad, where's the party?"

You are a social girl, much preferring being with people over being alone. At school, you are focused on friendships and who is playing with whom each day. You find it difficult when a friend wants to play with another child. You have always had a talent for making friends quickly. Ms. J in Room 6 two years ago was so impressed that despite being the youngest in the class, it was you who befriended the children who were having trouble adjusting to preschool. I think it is your smiling eyes that make people feel special.

You have a bit of the devil in you, though. You often have a look on your face that says, "I've got something up my sleeve!" And at least once a day, you just can't help yourself when it comes to getting a rise out of Big Girl or The Boy.

You are getting pretty good at the alphabet, including knowing what sound each letter makes. If I read you a book, you can pick out the words after I say them. (For example, I say "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," and you say "That word is Fish, that one is Two and that one is Blue!" because you recognize the sounds they start with.)

You love puppies, horses, princesses, fairies, gymnastics and dancing. You can spend long periods of time playing make-believe, either with toys or with dress-up. I like watching you make up stories with your play houses and hearing what the little figures say.

You have a special affection for babies. When you see a baby, suddenly you can't see anything else. You get quiet and focused on the baby and can just look at her for as long as she'll let you. You find it hard to resist putting a pacifier in her mouth or giving her a toy to hold, but you'll content yourself with just giving the baby friendly looks if you need to. You have always felt this way about babies, which is really fortunate since you had a baby brother at such a young age.

When you giggle, I can't help but be happy. I love snuggling with you and sharing a giggle. For you, they come from way down deep inside you in your basic core of merriment and vivacity. When I hear that sound, I can feel my spirits lifting. My peanut, you truly make the world a better place.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Truth about Three

This is a follow-up to my "Ode to Three." If you haven't read it, please go here (or scroll down a few days) and read it first.

Then come back to hear more about it!


I need to share with you the background of my post "Ode to Three." Picture me at my computer, composing loving thoughts about my children. While writing about the wonder of the first baby, Big Girl was standing next to me throwing a HUGE fit because she couldn't find her silver locket. Tears flying, much yelling, not pretty.

While writing about my two daughters, so devoted to one another, Big Girl was bawling that Middle Girl had "given" her MG's gold locket "to keep forever" and now WANTS IT BACK!! WAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

While waxing poetic about how wonderful it is to have three children, The Boy was putting stickers all over our wooden TV cabinet. Daddy came home and said, "TB, WHAT have you been up to?" Between that and throwing every ball we own over the fence and into the pool FIVE TIMES last weekend, we're sure glad to have our three!

So, now that we've both enjoyed a good laugh about that (and SIL S. gave me a pat on the back for still being able to focus on the positive in my writing during that scene), it's time for the TRUTH about three.


It takes them less than ten minutes to make a complete mess out of any room in the house. And often, this is happening in two or three rooms simultaneously.

One urges another to remove all of the couch cushions and turn the couch into a trampoline.

One decides to tackle the others and knock them to the ground (over and over) whether they like it or not.

Another decides to wail and moan and play a victim instead of just getting away from the tackling sibling.

You know how kids suddenly do ANYTHING to get your attention when you're on the phone? Now imagine three kids doing it, while also competing with each other over who can be the loudest and most demanding.

You think you've got it made, two kids have agreed on the same thing for lunch! or are in agreeable moods for an errand or the walk to school! But wait, before you thank your lucky stars, there's another kid in the mix, and they are NOT agreeing to the plan.

I'm so used to the chaos at this point that it has become background noise. I don't really hear them anymore! I wish I had a dime for every time I've been talking to someone and they say "Um, I think your son is trying to get your attention," and I suddenly realize he's been wailing at me and pulling on my leg and I hadn't even noticed! So, yeah, the chaos has pushed me over the edge a bit.

When other mothers find out I have three kids, they almost always say, "You have THREE? I don't know HOW you do it." and I just give them the answer my moms have both given me about coping with kids: you just do it.

The thing that seems to give people pause most often is the idea that they would be outnumbered by the kids. With two, each parent can handle one kid, and everyone is covered. Each child is holding a parent's hand, and that lessens the chances of somebody running off. But it's okay - we learn that we all need to take responsibility for our family. There are only two parents, but the kids learn that if we all help watch out for each other and share ownership of our family, we'll all be okay. And I think that's a really great thing to learn. I admit, it's not like they act this way all the time, but I think it's an underlying lesson that slowly is taught just by how the family works. We can't rely on someone else to take care of everything, we have to participate in order for our world to work.

And similarly, we can't control everything and have it be a certain, precise way, we've got to relax a bit and be flexible and creative. Because there are other people around who demand (and deserve) a say as well.

So bring on the chaos. I don't mind it. (Well, sometimes I need a break from it, but that's okay too. We learn that we need a break and we find ourselves a getaway sometimes.)

Yeah, maybe three ain't always so pretty. In fact, I'd say it's messy, but also ... beautiful.

Budding photographers

This morning, there were mysteriously FORTY new pictures on my camera. forty. 40. Four-Tee. Seems a certain duo got all photojournalistic on me:

Here you go, for your enjoyment!

We are true believers in the value of an in-depth study of our subject.

Then we have the following series. Truly a collaboration.

Yes, you read me right. FORTY of these.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

First Reconciliation

On Wednesday, the whole second grade class received the sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. It was a nice evening for the children, their parents, and the teachers, principal, and priests. No siblings were there, so the parents could focus on their second grader.

Big Girl was in a mood when we were getting ready to go. She was not happy about her wardrobe and wanted a fancier option. This was an enormous fit. The Hubby and I figured she was nervous about her one-on-one time with the priest. I finally got her to get dressed by letting her wear my necklace. (I had asked her what jewelry she wanted Mommy to wear, and she requested purple since it is the color of Reconciliation. I have a set of purple flower necklace and earrings from W's wedding, so I decided on that. During her fit, I offered to let her wear my special purple flower necklace and she was very happy about that idea and agreed to get dressed.) The Hubby and I both thought she looked fantastic, and she got unsolicited compliments from some of the other parents as well.

It was RAINING so we put Big Girl in tennis shoes and carried her black satin shoes in a bag. We put on our coats and got our umbrellas and waded over to church.

It was a nice ceremony the children had prepared, and the Monsignor discussed the lost sheep with the children. Our assigned pew was front and center, and Big Girl raised her hand to enthusiastically answer Monsignor's questions. The Hubby and I were a little surprised about that...

When it was time for the confessions, the three priests each took a seat spread apart on the altar from one another. One by one, the children came up and sat with one of the priests. The parents waited at the bottom of the altar stairs. Big Girl was one of the first, and was directed to Monsignor. We couldn't hear their conversation, (we didn't know what she was planning to say, but she did figure it out ahead of time) but I could see Monsignor's understanding face looking at my daughter. After each child was done with the priest, he or she brought her candle (made by their Big Buddies in 5th grade) to the teachers to light and leave on the altar.

When we got back to our pew, Big Girl said she had been nervous about talking to the priest, and didn't look him in the eyes, but looked at his stole the whole time instead. But she also said she felt "renewed" from her talk.

We had to walk across the street in the downpour (switching Big Girl's shoes again) for the reception, put on for us by the 3rd grade parents. The children had made placemats for themselves and had assigned seats for their ice cream and cookies. The P family had seen us battling the elements and offered us a ride home, which we accepted!

She is just in that stage where she sometimes seems grown-up but still acts little too. We are privileged and happy to be making this journey with her.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's happening right now

Middle Girl and The Boy are playing "High School Musical." MG is Sharpay and told TB to be Ryan (Sharpay's brother). The Boy packed up his Cars into his Cars lunchbox, told me "I am Ryan," and headed upstairs to play HSM.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our Special Day

On Sunday, Big Girl and Mommy went to American Girl Place for our special day in celebration of her big accomplishment: she has stopped sucking her thumb! Mommy is SO proud of her little girl for achieving a difficult goal that requires HARD work over a long period of time, and Big Girl is very proud of herself.

The day was pure magic. A whole day spent holding hands! The kind of day after which you draw stars and hearts all over it on your calendar.

We dressed Elizabeth for the outing. She wore her Holiday Gown and cloak.

At the American Girl Place, we did many fun things together. We saw the show, which featured eight talented girls and four adults performing eight songs depicting scenes from the Historical Dolls' books, as well as three songs about girls' friendships. Big Girl had seen it before, and enjoyed it even more this time I suspect. I could not help tearing up throughout the performance! Something about watching those girls perform brought back some memories for me!!! One of the last songs was a tap dance, and the two girls in that number wore cool red shoes. The whole thing was great! After the performance, the girls from the show came out and signed programs and talked to the girls and their dolls.

Then it was time for us to have tea. Elizabeth had her own seat and her own cup and saucer. Big Girl and I chose apple cinnamon tea. They served us tea sandwiches as well as scones and other goodies. At the table there was a box of "Table Talkers." We took turns taking one from the box and asking each other questions.

We also did lots of looking around at all the dolls (each has her own section) and shopping for outfits. Big Girl had to choose whether she wanted to get Elizabeth's hair done, take a photo with Elizabeth, or buy an outfit(s) for Elizabeth. Mommy said she could choose any two. After much difficult deliberating, she chose to take a photo and buy one outfit (which required another hard decision).

We came home with a framed "Magazine Cover" photo of Big Girl and Elizabeth (it looks like they are on the cover of American Girl magazine). We also got a book of short stories about the colonial girls, a red ballet outfit for Elizabeth, and a souvenir miniature doll for Middle Girl.

We were there for about five hours and enjoyed every minute we spent looking, eating, and talking together. She thanked me many times for giving her such a special day, and I thanked her for all she had done to make it possible! As Big Girl said, "this will be a day I will always remember!"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why I Don't Home School

Big Girl has a science assignment: Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque. I asked her to please read me the instructions. "Have your child hold various items from around your household in front of a sunny window. Discuss how much light comes through each item. Put each item in your chart under either "All (transparent)," "Some (translucent)," or "None (opaque)."

Then I said, "Okay, BG, go collect some things." "No, I want you to do it," said BG. "And I want you to hold them up to the light, too," she added. "No," I said, "this is your assignment and it says for the child to do it." "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!!!!!!!!!" she shouted. "WHY DOES THE CHILD HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING???!!!"

I told her that it is fair, since she is the student, after all, the one doing the learning. But she yelled some more about how the child has to do everything, and then stomped around the house for a while muttering about how the child has to do everything.

Eventually she came to me with a bunch of items and I sat by the window with her while she held them up and we talked about the light coming through.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ode to Three

Nothing on earth can compare to the first baby.

When two people become three.

Two people who love each other and can't wait to share their love with a new person of their very own. Two people looking into each other's eyes and knowing the baby will be as amazing as the person looking back.

Then, holding hands and quietly looking at the baby together and marveling at her beauty. No baby on Earth has ever been this beautiful. Marveling at how lucky the three of them are to have each other.

Watching every little facial expression and every little movement. It's all so profound. This little, perfect person is us. It's like our hearts joined together and made something new, and it's living outside of us and still inside at the same time.

Then walking with a sweet little toddler, one hand in Daddy's big hand, one hand in Mommy's soft one. Both parents smiling down at their treasure and then smiling over at their partner in life.

When baby number two enters the family, things are different this time. Gone are the shared glances over the new baby or the precious toddler, replaced by two parents running after two kids going in opposite directions. Or mom up nursing in the middle of the night while dad is down the hall helping the three-year-old back to sleep. But the parents now have more than they ever imagined. They have the sight of their firstborn gazing quietly at the new baby, their new baby, a person in this world who will stand by them and understand them like no one else could.

They have the discovery of their two little loves, who are somehow each the parent's whole world, walking hand in hand, or sitting nestled together with a book, or having fallen asleep in a hug after one crept into the other's bed.

They have the one-child-one-parent time, which now feels like a vacation, a gift. As any opportunity for your child to reveal more layers of herself to you should be.

But that's not what I'm writing about.

I'm writing about THREE.

Three finally made me feel complete. Like everybody we were waiting for is here with us.

Three is a gift to the children in the family. This time, when the child meets the new baby, she looks over at her sister and shares a knowing look. This baby is our baby. We will all always have each other. It's not just the two of us braving the world now, we are a group. We have our US.

The children always have someone to play with. They always have someone on their side. No matter which part of themself they want to be today, there's someone who can understand them. Even if others can't.

Three is a gift to the parents, too. For one thing, they have the amazing phenomenon that the same two people could produce such different children. And maybe it's actually not about the parents and their hopes and dreams for their new child, but it's about stepping back and letting their children be. Be who they will be. And learning about humanity from them. Loving the differences, the beautiful individualities.

My three little ducks have taught me to give them space.

Space to have a tantrum and figure out how to deal with it on their own because mommy is helping someone else with their diaper. Mommy has learned that they will be fine without every need being met every second. In fact, they may be better off that way.

Space to forge out these sibling relationships in their own way. Because when it comes down to it, they will take care of each other whether I tell them to or not.

Space to be who they are going to be. Because they are more amazing than I ever thought possible, and no matter what their gifts and talents turn out to be, what matters is love and happiness. Which comes from who you are and who you have and how you treat them, not how well you do in school or on the stage or field.

My babies have the knowledge that they have a safe place to fall. A family of five that will love them no matter what. Ten arms make a good net.


I've been preparing this post in my mind, waiting to write it here until I was allowed to share some good news, and that time has come!

Congratulations R and S! I'm so excited for you! Three is a magic number!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A typical conversation

The Boy: Why is it nap time?

Mommy: Because that's what time it is.

The Boy: Why is that what time it is?

Mommy: Because the clock says so. Time marches on. Time to take a nap.

The Boy: But, but, .... Why do we have a clock?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shopping with our Christmas money

We went to the bookstore and the girls each got some books and then decided to pool the rest of their money to buy the complete set of American Girl DVDs.

We are reading the books one chapter a night at bedtime. Middle Girl likes having some chapter books of her own. We watched the Samantha movie, but it had a "scary" scene in it (Big Girl had read the book so she knew it was coming, and psyched out both herself and her sister) so we'll have to pick the right time to watch the others (not too close to bedtime or when anyone is feeling tired).

The Boy didn't take long to decide on what he wanted. He got a book about basketball at the bookstore. At the toy store, he got a Lightning McQueen race track that Cousin L had gotten (and The Boy had coveted) and a set of Mr. Potato Head and his friends Mr. Corn and Ms. Carrot.

The race track has seen a lot of action. A LOT. If you put more than one car on, they sometimes crash! What could be better?

At first, The Boy was not comfortable with the idea of mixing up their parts (putting Mr. Potato Head's hat on Mr. Corn, for example). In fact, he SCREAMED when the girls wanted to show him what it would look like. Eventually, though, he has gotten used to it and even laughs about putting the arms in the hat hole. Now, that's progress.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Special Outing with our Friends

After we got home from our vacation, we went to see Disney Princesses on Ice. E and S gave tickets to Big Girl and Middle Girl, and vice versa. The moms chaperoned. Needless to say, it was an unusually big Christmas present for this group!

First, we met for lunch and had a dignified meal (my kids had their favorite: spaghetti). Then, with new doggie/dolls along for the ride, all six of us in one van, we drove down to the Sports Arena and got there (gasp) early!

Finding our seats took some trial and error, and we partook of some cotton candy and sno-cones (but proud to say we resisted the MANY other opportunities to buy Princess shtuff), and S did not know why it was taking so long for the show to start. We really were quite early, especially for this group.

We were full of anticipation!

And the show did deliver. We saw all of the Princesses, as well as their male counterparts, and Tinkerbell, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. There were at least two musical numbers from each Princess's movie. We saw silverware and candlesticks dancing, acrobatic pairs skates, a swordfight with a fiery (yes, fire!) dragon, and fireworks inside the arena. The looks of awe and wonder on my daughters' faces was worth my admission price! I'm sitting here trying to describe it without Disney cliche's, and failing!

Creatures of the sea entertained us with "Under the Sea!"

Now, having said all that, the show was made for my girls. I mean, ice skating Princesses, it's two gifts in one! But there's no reason to see it without a little girl.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's a New Year

It's been raining for the past few days, continuing today, but I managed to have no raindrops during my walks to and from church this morning. The air was cold and clean-smelling, and felt cleansing as I breathed it in. It felt like a good start to a new year.

I know, I know, it is January 6th. But I missed my traditional start-to-the-year this year (watching the Parade and visiting the floats - which reminds me it's been a couple of years since we've been in town for that and the kids might not remember it anymore) since for some reason Grandma's town's TV coverage of the Parade is pathetic and incomplete despite the fact that they, too, have a Festival & Parade and you would think they of all citizenries would appreciate it. This morning's service was Epiphany, the last of the twelve days of Christmas. The church had all of the Christmas decorations up and the wise men have appeared at the Nativity scene. We sang "We Three Kings," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and the kings-related verses of "The First Nowell." Our exit hymn was "City of God," so we can put away the Christmas music and focus now on Ordinary Time. Walking back home after this service, breathing in the washed-clean air, it really felt like an end to the Christmas season and a start to a fresh new year.

Big Girl and Middle Girl return to school in the morning, and maybe I am feeling up to being back in the school schedule. Maybe. Maybe?