This Amazing Girl is Three

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Cora is three! Three!  I can hardly believe that 3 years ago I was being induced and having the easiest labor and birth of all the three I have experienced so far!

One of the weirdest parenting thoughts I have when we are celebrating the kids’ birthdays is the part were one second they are just here. These little beings go from non existence to entering the world in full force. How can something go from not being into being? A living thing. A baby. A physical representation of the future. and hope. and all that stuff.

It is so hard to comprehend that there was a time before Cora. That for 27 years of my life I wandered around this planet NOT knowing Cora. How could there have ever been a life without her? Without her siblings?  It is one of the mysteries of life I suppose, but it also gets me all emotional and weird when I start letting myself go down that path of thoughts. Babies are magic that way.

Cora Elizabeth is our spunky, sassy, plucky, bold princess of a daughter. She is fiery and full of spirit. She is sweet and courageous and fearless. She is everything I ever dreamed of having in a daughter (though it does make parenting her a bit more difficult than expected!). Happy Birthday wild girl!

These Kids Right Now

It has been a whirlwind few weeks you guys. We are all a little under the weather, but we are trucking through and working towards getting quality rest. Today Bryan was working from home and he looked over at Grey and I sitting on the couch watching a little tv. He commented on how quickly it seems Grey became old enough to just sit and watch tv. And that he can’t really remember what the other kids were like at this age. So I decided I am going to attempt to regularly write posts that list what is going on with the kids right now. Let’s begin!

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1/ henry has been really into shields ever since we decorated that at Cora and Grey’s party. He has been drawing them and cutting them out on his own. He even talked Bryan into using his C&C machine to make one out of wood.

2/ He is really in love with Ninjago. The movies, the legos, the iPad game all seem to draw him in nearly everyday.

3/ His teacher has commented to me on multiple occasions that his fine motor skills are very impressive. He is always cutting out tiny things he has drawn or putting together and pulling apart tiny legos.

4/ Henry is obsessed with his friend Aaron. We talk about him all the time. What his name starts with, what he is doing right now, where is he, can we draw him a picture.

5/ His appetite has been pretty low lately. I weighed him this week and he has lost 1.8 pounds since this summer. He is definitely the sort of kid who is more interested in doing something than eating. It is definitely not something I want to change, but I also don’t like seeing him lose weight.

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1/ Cora loved her party. She is still asking if all her friends are coming over because she loved having everyone here.

2/ This kid is all princess all the time. She got several pairs of princess shoes and princess tiaras at her birthday party and they are in steady rotation around here when she is home. Also, her magic wand and her sparkly purses.

3/ Cora has been a little better about wearing pants. This probably sounds funny, but around the time summer started last year she demanded to only wear dresses. I was fine with it since the weather was nice and we were potty training. Now it is colder and its more sanitary for her to wear pants.  It was quite a struggle but she is better about wearing pants. Usually WITH a dress.

4/ Cora is definitely our story teller. She loves to pretend and get us to participate in her creative play. She loves to act out scenes from Tangled, pretend we are in school and she is the teacher, and be a doctor and give us all check ups. We love it.

5/ Cora has been really into yogurt and whole apples lately. She will almost always say yes to both.

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1/ Grey wakes up between 4 and 5 am almost every day. It is pretty much killing us.

2/ He has gone from taking 2-3 steps at a time to walking across the room in the last week. Go Grey Go!

3/ He is very interested in imitating us right now. He claps, waves and shakes his head when we do. It is truly adorable.

4/ He absolutely hates having his nose wiped, which has been a major issue lately since all the kids are sick and snotty.

5/ He loves bananas, sweet potatoes and apple sauce. He could eat them all day, everyday, forever. He is definitely the best eater of the three kids right now.

On Getting My Kids Into College

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This kid is less than one year away from starting kindergarten. I think most people know that where your kid goes to school is this weird polarizing issue in parenting.

In California, schools are rated with an API score with number ranging from 1-10. This score is based solely on test scores and do not take anything else into account, for instance, funding, immersion programs (spanish and mandarin immersions are popular here), teacher to student ratios, etc. Despite, considering these issues, people usually take one look at the API score and judge whether a school is “good” or not based simply on that. For us, the school Henry is zoned to attend is not a 10. It isn’t a 1, but it isn’t a 10. Lots of people consider this elementary school “bad”. And I am torn.

I know that a lot of things go into a child’s education outside of school (parental involvement, limits on screen time, reading to your kids, etc) and I have read a lot of opinions on sending your kids to the “bad” school (specific to California or not) and what is important (hint: getting your kid into college may not be.) Yet, I am pretty torn. I have conversations with my mom friends, educators in the field who are active and involved and know what the situations look like. And we agree with each other that the home environment, learning opportunities and stimulating creativity and a curious spirit are just as important as the school our kids attend. But I also talk to parents who say student to teacher ratios, music programs and libraries (which are surprisingly not found in every elementary school here) are very important. And I cannot help but agree with those parents, too. For the record our zoned school has a library, but no music and a relatively poor student to teacher ratio compared to surrounding districts.

And so I don’t really know what to do. My first priority is to raise kind, curious, compassionate individuals who are capable of taking care of themselves.  But what is the path I need to follow to achieve that? Is it highly rated schools that offer lots of electives, activities and opportunities? Or is it a decent school, with some flaws, but a focus on the home environment and the opportunities and experiences we provide outside of school? I feel lost in this particular aspect of parenthood.

On Doing Things (for Others) for Myself

I have been giving a lot of thought to the things I do in life and the reasons behind them lately. I am reading the Happiness Project and still recovering from an illness.  It is often the plight of mothers, and to some extent women in general, that there are times when I feel like I am putting a lot of effort into things for which I receive little acknowledgment or appreciation. I love baking, cooking and having a tidy home. I also love taking the kids to various activities, making crafts and giving gifts and sending notes to others. Oftentimes these things I do go unnoticed, or simply unrecognized. And it can be easy for me to feel overwhelmed by how much I do and how little the people for which I do these things seem to care.

Sometimes it feels like once I can acutely put my finger on what I am feeling, the answers seem to come right to me. In The Happiness Project, the author discusses how she spent one year changing certain aspects of her life, how she dealt with things and how she could change her perspective in order to reach the height of her happiness spectrum. She decides to throw her Mother in law a birthday party for various reasons she describes in the book and to fulfill her “Act the way I want to Feel” amendment, attempts to do so without getting too involved in how the other family members don’t appear appreciative enough. So she writes “I must admit, however, that at times before the party, I felt that Jamie and the others weren’t appreciative enough. I was happy to do the planning and I would’ve been annoyed if anyone else had tried to take over, but still I wanted my gold star.  I wanted [the family] to say, “Wow, Gretchen, you’re really putting together a terrific evening! Thanks so much for your brilliant, creative, and thoughtful planning!” That wasn’t going to happen – so let it go. Do it for myself.”

Maybe this just points out how immature and naive I am, but I feel like it was always very engrained in me that I was supposed to do things for others. That being a good wife meant doing good things for my husband. Being a good mom meant doing things for the children. That being a good family member means saying yes as often as you can and doing everything for everyone else. And while I will completely acknowledge that I do take joy in a lot of the things I do for others, it means that doing things expressly for the acknowledgement isn’t going to work. I don’t mean to make it sound like I will never again throw a birthday party for my kid if they don’t thank me for the effort  (I realize that children, as a general rule, are not usually able to appreciate all the things their parents do until they are parents themselves). But  I have to look for the part of the things I am doing that I love, that bring me joy and kind of let the rest fall away.  And so I am editing my life. I am stepping back from the things that suck away my time and energy and finding new ways to get involved int he things that bring me joy and replenishment. Over the next few months I will probably be more specific as I start to make concrete decisions, but for now, this is where I stand.

On Trying New Things (& continuing to surprise myself)

We had a really busy weekend. We celebrated franks first birthday(!!), we braved Ikea on a Saturday at lunch time, I tried bikram (hot) yoga for the first time (having no idea it was totally appropriate to basically show up in your underwear?) and Henry and I saw Monsters, Inc in 3D. It was a full, busy and happy weekend. My favorite kind of weekend.

The highlight, though, for me was taking Henry to his first gymnastics class (without parent participation). I got to sit in a little observation area where I could watch what Henry was doing.

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In this picture Henry is in the center, wearing a blue shirt with white sleeves and grey sweatpants. He is sitting in a circle with one teacher and 3 little girls.

I have wanted to put Henry is gymnastics for a while, in a “real” gym, as opposed to the little/my gyms.  Henry is a very physical kid. Kinetic is the word Bryan taught me this weekend. Being able to run and jump and put forth a maximum amount of effort makes Henry happy. The happiest he ever is. Exponentially happy. Indescribably so. So I wanted to find a setting for him to have the opportunity to do that, plus learn some new things (like forward rolls!) and experience a group setting with an authoritative figure who isn’t related to him. So gym class it was!

And so, since this new blog is supposed to be about me, I am going to quit talking about Henry, and, instead talk about my experience watching Henry have this experience. Oddly, and unexpectedly, it was a very emotional 50 minutes for me. Henry was so excited and eager. He did such a great job listening!! He was kind to the other children! And he did a really great job trying all the skills he was encouraged to do. I was so proud (even though I know I have little to do with it). And watching this little boy participate in the world all on his own was such a treat. Seeing him finish a “routine” and then put his hands in the air (like a real gymnast :)) was amazing. It made me giggle out loud while simultaneously bringing tears to my eyes. I felt like such a cliche – the mother who cries on her child’s first day of school. I never thought I would be that mom because I always knew it was important and healthy for kids to have lives independent of their parents. Boy, was I surprised by my reaction.

I know this is just one step of thousands that Henry is going to take on his very own path to find himself. And I also know there are lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles left before we have to let go of that little boy. But it still shocks me at times that Henry is already so mature and capable of things. However, seeing Henry be such a happy, excited and outgoing kid in a new environment was like a gift. I spend a lot of time hoping that my parenting gives my children permission to be themselves and that, despite whatever adverse behaviors they exhibit, who they are is wonderful. And even though he isn’t even 3 yet, being able to see him jump in and get into it, felt like a tiny victory.