Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 A Year in Review

When I think about the past year, Act I and Act II comes to mind. Act I was the first half of the year where I was finishing up my third pregnancy and Act II was the birth of Natalie at mid-year (May 26th) and her early babyhood. This is a good time of life. I can feel it. You know sometimes when something is happening to you and you just know very deeply "I'd better cherish this." Well, this year has been that kind of year. Maybe because I suspect that Natalie will be my last baby, I am taking special care to enjoy every transition and change, not just with her, but in watching the other children develop relationships with her and with each other. Also because this is probably my last year with all of us at home together all day, because while I have investigated homeschooling for so long, I'm still on the side of the fence where I'm probably going to send Frannie to K. So I spend a lot of time watching my three babies play and fight under this roof and I appreciate it all so much.

While I know that this is a special time of life, it has its challenges.
Adam is now 2 1/2 and this whole year has been a challenge with him and his temper. I've written a few posts about it, but have actually refrained from mentioning it too much because I don't want it to sound like my difficulties with him are the biggest aspect of our relationship together. The truth is that we spend a lot of time having fun and I enjoy his developing personality a lot! He's got a funny little sense of humor. He calls me Thomas a lot. He purposely says things that he knows will get an exaggerated "What!?" reaction out of me followed by excessive tickles. Everyday he requires a lengthy dose of cuddling and tickling. He is very sweet to Natalie (although now that she is moving and ruining his trains he's getting pretty mad!) He loves to be read to, and yes, he is absolutely in love with all trains (thank you for all the train Christmas presents everybody!)

As far as his temper goes, learning to manage that has been hard! I sometimes marvel at how "smart" I can be in some areas but how quickly this 2 year old can completely give me a run. Essentially Adam is Veruca Salt- when he wants it, he wants it NOW! And if he doesn't get it NOW then you will pay. You will be on the other end of a blistering scream the likes of which my father has heard from his side of the phone many times. Other times it starts off as as a sulky whine that ends up being a crying scream. I've learned that all things lead to crying eventually. I have tried all manner of tactics to improve things and really the only things that work are time outs for bad attitudes and counting to 3 for commands. The counting to 3 is because otherwise I could ask him to come to me all day long and he wouldn't. If I get to three and he still hasn't come then I go get him myself and he gets a little swat on the bum. Since he is minding so much better, everything else is better. On my side of things, the crying for other things doesn't bother me as much because I know he is a sensitive kid. I am accepting the fact that sometimes I will be THAT mom with THAT crying kid in the store especially if he is tired or if his sister is poking him too much. Most of the time he's very delightful to be around.

As far as Frannie goes, she's my ultra girly-girl sweetie who loves dresses and giggling. She also requires a lengthy daily dose of tickles and cuddles. She enjoys crafts and cooking together and she and Adam play all manner of games. Some favorites of hers are "jump in the pillows" where she gets all of the bedroom pillows and puts them on the floor and she calls "ready, set, GOOOO!" as they race down the hallway to jump into the pile. She also likes "Jumpin' Daisy" which is basically her and Adam jumping on the bed while I sing this made up song. Both she and Adam ask to play "Work that Body" almost every day. Work that Body is another made up song game where I sing this rhythm and they run around. I change the rhythm up and directions up and they move accordingly. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes fast, and I often throw in a FREEZE! She is very helpful in terms of getting things for the baby when I need them and overall she's just a sweetheart. The one thing she hates is to clean up her toys and her room. She turns into a wet noodle at the very mention of such a task. Fortunately one day last month I gave a random frustrated threat that if she didn't start cleaning Santa wasn't going to bring her any presents and all of a sudden I've got a decent picker-upper on my hands! A Christmas miracle! So thank you Santa Claus for putting a little fire under my girl's bum. I hope this lasts. It probably won't.

Little sweetie Natalie can do no wrong. She's the darling of the house right now. She constantly surprises me with what a little mover she is. A few days after I shot the picture of her standing, I caught her climbing up the first stair step. She is just wasting no time with learning to get from point A to point B. She turned seven months old the day after Christmas.

From Jason's perspective, life could probably be separated into three categories: Life at Work; Life at Home; Life on a Bike. At work he gets somewhere between 50-100 emails everyday and is always writing checks, filling orders, problem solving, you name it. He does so many things at the office I can't even categorize them all. When he gets home we have dinner and he has time to be with the kids. He is also with the kids early in the morning. One of the most helpful things he always does (and I appreciate this sooooo so so much) is he gets the kids their oatmeal and feeds them before he goes to work. He then puts a movie on for them and leaves for work. At about that time Natalie wakes up and so do I. Doing this gives me an extra 30 mins to one hour in the sack since I don't have to wake up when Adam does. I LOVE YOU FOR THIS! Every Saturday morning he goes for a long bike ride and I think it is his favorite part of the week. He has a biking blog where he writes about his travels and experiences. The man loves his bicycles.

As far as trips go, I was able to go visit my Aunt Carrie and cousins Miles and Parker in October. I will post pics and more details in a a separate post! I'm so glad we went to visit her and the kids. I am hoping in 2010 that Jason and I find a way to do more trip-taking, particularly camping.

I continue to teach Bradley Method classes. I'm teaching two sessions a week, Friday nights in Claremont and Saturday afternoons in Chino. It is wonderful to share the time of pregnancy with other couples and one of the fun off-shoots is that I've made some friends along the way too.

So 2009 is done and gone. It's been a year of homemaking and family and lots of hugs and kisses from little arms and hands and sweet little lips that say "Mom. I yuv you."

Big Standing Girl

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fun Christmas Crafts

The kids and I did a lot of fun crafts this year. I wanted to post them because one in particular I learned about last December and I remembered it all year long and was eager to try it. So here is a rolldown of Mrs. Crafty McCrafterson's Christmas creations.

Number one is the snowglobe soap I learned about last year from Sonja. These are very easy to do with children, and not time-consuming. But they are fun little things! Click on the link for instructions. Frannie really enjoyed giving these out to her friends!

The second item is a spin-off of an ornament gift I received in junior high school. See, I have a mind like a steel trap. Sometimes. Anyways, all you do is buy clear ornament balls, fill them with a little bit of confetti or glitter and use fabric paints to doodle on your design. Adam did the one on the left, Frannie did the one on the right. I like it!

The third one is basic salt dough ornaments. I think I may make batches of this dough regularly because the kids had so much fun painting these. Essentially their style is to squeeze as much fabric paint with as many different colors onto one piece as possible. It's okay. They're 4 and 2 and I'm learning to let go! My delightful neighbor Reem did some too. I'm thinking they could paint trinkets for any season of the year. Then they can hang them out in the garden somewhere.

The last craft is my own brain-child. And the kids didn't help except for picking out their own fabric. For the past two years I've wanted to crochet the children their own Christmas stockings. It just hasn't happened because it is a craft that takes quite a bit of time and by the time I think about it again, it is December and we need stockings Now! So I had this idea to make fleece stockings. I let the kids pick out their own fabric (I picked out the owl one for Natalie because it reminded me of her middle name Meadow) and then used an existing stocking as my pattern. I cut it out, glue-gunned the seams, turned it inside out and viola! In about fifteen minutes I had three stockings. Each stocking cost about $2.50.

There is one more craft I've had my eye on and I have all the materials to make it. It is this embroidered hand prints idea. Hopefully I'll get to it, even though the craftiness of Christmas is over.

Merry Christmas 2009!

I love this first picture where Natalie has a wad of my Aunt Lisa's hair in her hand. Babies are so good at making their presence known either through a nice hair grab or glob of drool (such as on Uncle Don's cane) or a nice "Well how do you do?" bit of spit up on the shirt. Such impropriety! I love it. That's why babies are so wonderful.

The second picture shows my brother Bryan (behind the stairs) cousin Liam (he was the reader to the kids) and my other cousin Rhiannon is on the far right. Initially I was sitting on the couch with Adam when Liam came around and sat down. Adam, being the shy soul that he is, wasn't really going for my attempt at introductions so instead I said "Adam, do you know what Liam's very favorite thing is? It's trains! Isn't that right Liam?" Liam of course is a good sport and played along and we had a short conversation about trains and Liam said how great they were, and all of a sudden Adam was A-OK with Liam and he let him read him a story. Soon the other kids were wanting to hear the story too so that is how the couch pile up happened. Very cute!

I didn't get many other Christmas pictures because boo hoo me, I came down with a head cold on Christmas Eve night! After opening presents on Christmas Day morning (and taking just these few pictures) I went back to bed and fell asleep.

By all accounts my dad made a super excellent awesome machaca and eggs breakfast with spanish rice and beans. He also made a cheesecake. Go Dad!

At my inlaws house there was prime rib, chicken marsala, green beans, carrots and other yumminess. Go Castillos!

And of course on Christmas Eve, my mom made her traditional meal of cornish game hens, wild rice, veggies, and gingerbread muffins. Go Mom!

The children got many wonderful presents this year. This is the first year that Frannie really understands the concept of Santa Claus so her reaction when coming down the stairs was priceless. She was so excited! And of course it is all real. Santa really did come down that chimney and eat those gingerbread muffins and drink that milk and set out a nice dress for her and a wooden train for Adam and an alligator xylophone for Natalie. He really did fill the stockings too. Amazing. And he did it all so quietly he didn't even wake up Daddy who was asleep right on the couch! Frannie says he must have said his "HO HO HO" like this (whisper soft) "ho ho ho". I told her she's right. He must have said it really soft so as not to wake Daddy.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas and the Swine Flu

I was awakened this morning with a little tickle in my throat that got me thinking, "Oh, no. I hope I don't get sick." As I'm lying there half awake and half asleep, my brain starts cataloging the places I've been in the last three days. Have I been around anyone sick? The "computer" keeps running and I suddenly have a vision of myself from the night before.

You see, last night I went Christmas shopping. At Target of all places. (I hate Target but it is so convenient, being one block from the house, that it sucks me in.) At any rate, after the kids were in bed I hopped into the car to pick up some odds and ends for Christmas. Shopping was good, got what I needed. I got home a little after 10pm and after setting down my purse and keys I headed straight into the kitchen. Right there on the counter were two little gifts to greet me in the form of two dainty shortbread cookies that my mom had made with the kids that evening. I popped them into my mouth and probably grabbed some tea to veg in front of the computer.

Why is this important? Well it isn't really, except that during those thoughts it occurs to me that I haven't heard any news about the swine flu for awhile. What happened to the swine flu? What happened to the signs in front of every drug store including Target advertising the availability of the vaccination? What about the anti-bacterial handwipes that used to be placed near the cart pick-up area? What happened to all that? It seems that the swine flu has magically vanished.

Or is it just Christmas?

Have any of you noticed any swine flu news since mid November? Other than this one article, reporting 800,000 pediatric doses were recalled and the recommendation that parents not worry, "Children 6 months to 9 years old should get two doses about a month apart, the CDC says." It seems that all of a sudden the world has fallen silent.

Does the swine flu still exist? Has the vaccine been so magically effective that flu rates have completely plummeted?

Or is it that, God forbid, something gets in the way of people going out to stores to buy Christmas presents? Which if that is the case, was the swine flu really something to ever be worried about at all? I mean, why are there no news segments about "keeping healthy during this holiday/flu season" with recommendations to sanitize your shopping cart handles? Because my behavior last night, of going shopping with lots of people, keeping hold of a cart handle and touching many objects, only to return home to pop a sweet straight into my mouth, is what EVERYBODY does this time of year.

I suspect come January 4, once the holidays are comfortably behind us, the swine flu will once again resume its place in the American consciousness. I would not be surprised to see a second wave of urgings for people to get their shots. Will the signs once again be posted outside every store? Will that former news article emerge again and parents be told to perhaps get their child a second dose? Come to think of it "Children 6 months to 9 years old should get two doses about a month apart, the CDC says" seems to be very convenient timing if you ask me.

We shall see.