A Chat With My Former Self

You’d think by the time the third kid rolled around, JDubbs and I would be prepared for everything three-year-olds have to offer.  Temper tantrums? Piece of cake. Potty training? No sweat. Transition to big girl bed? Nailed it.  Taking away her Binkie? Um…  I said, Taking away her Binkie?  Well, you see…it’s like this…

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Oh boy.

Like most new parents, we came into this parenting thing with some preconceived notions of how our kids were going to be raised and how they would behave.  We would never raise our voices and we would never say things we would regret.  We would only empower and uplift them at all times, and we would never lose our patience or be one of “those” parents who give in to the iron will of a toddler.  We would parent them as we saw fit, and they would oblige.  Because when it comes to parenting, it’s all a matter of consistency.  Am I right, Former Self?

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Reality: parenting is consistently inconsistent.  Consistently confusing.  Consistently hair-raising, exhausting, rewarding but still confusing, inconsistent and evolving.  Just because you raised one child does not mean that you have any idea what to do with the next.  Or the one after that.  Because these little people do not come with instruction manuals, and they come with a whole lot of independence, opinions, and the beats of their very own (and very loud) drummers.

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Yes, Little H was a great sleeper as a baby.  Yes, she was super easy-going and was down to just follow along on the coattails of Brother and Sister’s lives, spending way more time in her carseat than doing Tummy Time, eating way more take out that organic homemade baby food.  Yes, she transitioned to a big girl bed like a champ and has been peeing in the potty for months.  The perfect third kid.  Flexible, adorable, and fun.

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But then the beat of her own drummer kicks in and girlfriend has a lot of opinions that don’t necessarily jive with what we were expecting.  Won’t even consider pooping in the potty.  Has become standoffish and grumpy to friends she has known her entire life.  Has opinions about whether or not she’ll take a nap today or ever and she definitely insists she still needs her Binkie.

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As with our other two, the Binkie Fairy made her appearance shortly after Little H turned three, leaving a gift behind and the promise that naps would never again happen in this house.  For a while, JDubbs and I were strong.  Two weeks in fact.  But in those two weeks Little H stopped napping, incapable of soothing herself to sleep, spent half her days with her entire hand in her mouth and became an overtired, exhausted wreck.  I wasn’t looking so great myself. Something had to give, and apparently it was her immune system.  Soon after we took her Binkie away she came down with both a sinus and an ear infection, probably from being so run down.  And this three-time Mommy said, Enough.

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So what if she is three? She didn’t start taking a Binkie until she found a rogue one under the changing table when she was one.  So what if we took a stand and said we’d stick to it?  Little girls have to sleep, they need to not stick their hands in their mouths after walking through their siblings’ elementary school (probably reason #2 she got sick, actually).  Mommies need their babies to nap while they do things like run the book fair and apply for new jobs.  Everyone needs to sleep and be happy and wake up rested.  There is a time and place to take a stand, but now is not that time.  So back off, Former Self–I know a little more than you do.

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The presumptuous childless person I used to be would shake her head with judgment and say, She’s going to regret that and JDubbs’s pre-fatherhood self would reply, We’ll never give in like that. It’s all about being consistent.  And then we’d go spend a carefree afternoon at the beach drinking margaritas because, oh yeah, our pre-children selves lived in San Diego and had money and time and energy to burn.  Those two had no idea what they were in for.

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No excuses, pre-baby Self.  I thought I knew it all.  I thought being a mom would be the most gratifying, fulfilling experience of my life, and to an extent, that is true.  But what makes it so gratifying is that I am so much more accepting of my flaws.  I now know that I do not need to be perfect.  I will lose my temper, choose the easier road, pick my battles, feed them fast food, let them watch too much TV while I catch an extra half an hour of sleep on the weekend because I am only as good a mother as my body allows.

I have a feeling that once summer comes, with adventures galore and siblings at home, Little H will catnap in the car and her nap will become a fond memory.  Maybe her Binkie will hang around in the evening for a while, but one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to beat myself up about it or punish her for it.  Every one of my children have been different, uniquely blessed and presenting unique challenges.  For every dollar I saved on diapers when she potty-trained early, I will spend five more on braces when she’s thirteen.  But you know what won’t be on my radar then?  Her Binkie.  You know how I will remember these last two months together at home?  Nostalgicially, blissfully, practically perfect.  And my Former Self can judge all she wants, but this mama really does know what her babies need.

Enjoy that Binkie, Little H.

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Batting Practice

The minute the sun decided to come out of its slumber, and the grass turned the slightest bit greener, the kids, JDubbs and I were ready to stop hibernating and start living again.  With t-ball right around the corner, Jax started growing antsy to start practicing his skills.  So we took the kids to the local baseball diamond and savored every second of it.

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At first the girls were more interested in being cheerleaders than participants, but we eventually won them over.  Life isn’t about being a bystander, after all.

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This particular boy is so no bystander; he is always eager to get out there.  Always eager to get better at everything he does.

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And he’s getting pretty darn good!  Come on, girls, your turn!  Batter up!

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Em might be a pretty good hitter, but she frolics along the base path like the ballerina she is.  It’s a joyful sort of way to move, and I hope she never loses it, no matter how many outs she makes.

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Little H doesn’t dance around the bases; she has and always will hustle.  She hustles through life and knows what she wants.  Two different girls, one crazy boy, and a life that is full of practice for all of us.

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 We just have to keep on hustling, keep on dancing, and stay eager for every season.  Play ball!

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5 Empowering Pictures Books For Girls

5 empowering picture books every girl should read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Em’s birthday is three days away, and as with all holidays in this house, I made sure to buy her at least one fabulous book that resonates with her age, her sensibilities, and her awesomeness.  I saw Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small in a book store months ago, and knew then and there that this was the book for my girl.  It arrived yesterday, and when I read it cover to cover, I discovered something magical, something worth sharing.  Which got me to thinking…I have more than one magical book worth sharing, and there are so many girls who need books like these in their hands.  These are five empowering pictures books to buy your daughter, niece, loved one, even yourself.  These books teach girls more than plot, character, setting.  There are deep, significant messages within them, and those messages are powerful and important for girls of all ages to hear.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Bloom is the story of a powerful magical fairy who protects her kingdom, but she isn’t frilly or girly or what the king and queen conceive as “magical,” so she leaves the kingdom to live on her own, which is fine by her.  After the kingdom is left to its own devices, the king and queen realize they need Bloom, but she will not return.  Only a young girl named Genevieve, considered to be so ordinary, can persuade Bloom to share her powers, and save the kingdom.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? is the true story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the United States, who defeated the odds and all the naysayers to do what no one thought could be done.  In the face of adversity, she never backed down.  It’s a remarkable story for any young woman, especially one who is interested in nonfiction.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Every little girl will want to be Elizabeth Blackwell when they grow up!

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

We gave Little H The Gardener for her third birthday–not because it was necessarily appropriate for her reading level, but because it’s a story that both my girls should grow up reading.  The main character, Lydia Grace, grows up in the years after the Great Depression and has to leave her farm to live with her uncle in the city. She has to be brave, braver than any young reader could probably imagine.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The epistolary format makes the difficult subject matter easier for younger readers.  I love this book because of Lydia Grace’s strength in the face of so much hardship, and her continued love of beauty, no matter how dark her surroundings.  It’s a subtle, but critical, reminder to everyone that every cloud has its silver lining.  Lydia Grace’s character is one worth sharing.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Oh, Extra Yarn.  This is one of my favorite books that we own.  If you like books illustrated by Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, for example), this book is possibly my favorite yet. Annabelle discovers a magic box of yarn that never runs out, no matter how much she knits.  She lives in a dark and dismal little town, but even in the face of total incredulity and disdain, with a little persistence, a bit of kindness, and some extra yarn, Annabelle makes some big changes.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Even when the evil Archduke arrives to buy her magical yarn, Annabelle cannot be swayed.  She is a simple, yet badass, character worth emulating and sharing with all the little readers in your life.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Annabelle is probably one of my favorite characters yet for young readers.  You don’t think she’s going to be as awesome as she is, but just wait for it.  Extra Yarn is a book I cannot recommend enough for readers of all ages.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Last but not least is The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski.  Did you notice that I didn’t even comment on the awards these books have won for illustrations or merit, but am focusing solely on my opinion?  Well, there is more than just awesome language in these books.  The illustrations are just remarkable.  We gave this book to the big kids for Christmas this past year, because I just can’t imagine an early reader’s library without it.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

After all the words fall out of the book her beloved teachers loans her on the walk home, the little girl has to imagine all the stories behind the amazing illustrations.  Every page has a line or two to begin the story, then the readers have to finish it, resulting in a different tale every time you read! The clever teacher is a very minor character, but I can only hope my kids have teachers as intuitive as this.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Without any kind of compensation or affiliate link, I give you my five favorite books for young girls because, along with The Princess In Black, these are stories that every young girl should hear.  I own all these books and truly love them.  These photos are just simple cell phone shots of well-loved pages, not propaganda or what’s hot right now.  For every book like these worth recommending, there are a dozen passive princesses asleep in their towers or awaiting true love’s kiss.  Heroines in picture books are even more important than heroes, if for nothing more than their singularity.  The girls in your life deserve better.  Show them the world is theirs for the taking, the appreciating, and the commanding.  They deserve to see themselves empowered in every story told.

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An ABC Egg Hunt

I would say one of the hardest things about being a parent to more than one kid is the need to remember that your third kid needs just as much of your time, energy, attention, and patience as your first one (or second, or third…).  Because there are so many people around to entertain her–her days spent with me, afternoons with brother and sister or friends, bedtime with Em–she isn’t the best at playing independently, but she’ll get there.  Her constant need for attention sometimes has the undesired effect of me just throwing up my hands and saying, “Can’t you just go play!?” instead of encouraging me to dream up some fun activity for the two of us.  I have been working on renewing my teaching credential–a process which has kept the blog low on my totem pole of priorities–so I have been even busier than usual, fielding emails and requesting transcripts during time that I used to spend perusing Pinterest for fun literacy activities like I did for Jax or Em (cue the Mommy guilt).  I could have just as easily spent this morning encouraging Little H to keep herself occupied, but with the recognition that both she and my blog were being grossly neglected, I pulled out an old favorite to meet the ever-increasing needs of my very bright three-year-old.

Alphabet Egg Hunt Matching Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I have come up with many upcycling uses for last week’s plastic Easter eggs that help my kids with various needs–spelling, counting, rhyming.  Little H already knows her letters, upper case and lower case, but I thought this would be a good exercise in letter sounds.  First I wrote all the upper case and lower case letters on egg halves, like so, and spread them all over our front deck.  Hooray for a warm spring day!

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Then she and I hung out, matching letters, matching colors, talking and smiling.  Since she does already know her letters, we focused on the sounds they make.  She would find a letter, I’d point out what color it is so she could find the match, then we should brought it to me she’d tell me what sound the letter makes.

Alphabet Egg Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It Alphabet Egg Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It

For a three-year-old, she’s one smart cookie, my H.

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Last kids deserve all the love and enrichment and attention as the first ones.  I’m lucky enough to be home with her, and I need to make every day matter, in big ways or small.

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 It’s good for both of us.

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Winter Cell Phone Photo Dump

As the winter fades, so do these bright memories of quiet, indoor life together as a family.  That’s my favorite part of winter–the togetherness.  Soon, their excitement to spring out the screen door to explore the woods in the sunshine will outlast any tantalizing treat I could conjure indoors, and why would I try?  They’re growing, exuberant, vibrant, and can’t wait to have room to stretch and run and flourish outdoors.  Spring is here, and the quiet peace that comes with winter is fading fast.

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I hardly ever remember it while it’s happening, but there is a reason the Earth has a quiet season…to survive, to contemplate, and appreciate.  That’s what the winter is for me.  To huddle close, savor, and remember that every season is dear.  The quiet moments are just as important as the loud ones.  Grateful for our quiet season, but looking forward to see it go!

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A Paw Patrol Paw-ty!

Little H had a pretty fabulous family birthday party over the weekend, if I do say so myself.  It had a lot to do with the guest list, with lots of family making the trek up north to celebrate us, but the birthday girl herself was pretty darn cute.  It doesn’t hurt when big sister takes the time to make sure you are party ready, from your fingers down to your toes.

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Thanks to Pinterest and the dollar store, I found plenty of easy ideas for Paw Patrol party food, including serving it in these over-sized dog bowls with silly pup wording.  I’m pretty sure the Chew Toys were gone before the party even started, and I may have made my kids addicted to Cocoa Puffs!

Paw Patrol Bday Party @ Rub Some Dirt On It

With the party set up, it was time to welcome family and enjoy the unseasonably warm spring weather.  What a day!  All of Little H’s cousins were there to celebrate, and because they range from teenager to not-much-bigger than H, I called in reinforcements.  Nothing brings cousins big and small together like bubbles, and nothing makes me happier than bubbles and sunshine.

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Indoors, nothing made Little H happier than an entire house decorated with the Paw Patrol everywhere she turned, filled with people who love her, yummy food, and awesome gifts.  It was the perfect day to be a three-year-old.  Or related to a particularly fabulous three-year-old!

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And cake!  Mmmm…an extra perfect day to be three.

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Such a glorious celebration, so much love!  So grateful to everyone and so proud of Little H.  Happy birthday little one!

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It was definitely a day to remember!

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And Then She Was Three

Over the weekend, something pretty wonderful happened.  This little one turned into a big girl.  Little H is three, and she has the spunky and silly personality to show for it.

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She had a lovely, fun-filled, delightful birthday morning.  We got a late start because we were so busy having pancakes before Daddy went to work, opening presents (two books and the Air Patroller from Paw Patrol!), and picking out the perfect birthday dress (not entirely a tomboy, after all!).  We went to Morning Garden and shared apples and buns with friends, Mommy finished knitting H her very own little kitten, and planted wheatgrass.  Then home for lunch and a nap so when the big kids were done with school, our adventure could continue.

After school (and many birthday hugs), we went to Lego Club at the library, where Little H continues to amaze me with her creations.  Apparently I need to let her use our Legos at home more often!  Then we went over to Pizza Chef where we met up with some friends (mostly Jax and Em’s friends from school, but they are such sweet kids, they make Little H feel like one of the gang).  She truly felt loved and very special!

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This was just day 1 of a three-day celebrating extravaganza.  An epic Paw Patrol party with family was up for the next morning, as well as a sunshine-and-fun-filled Sunday morning outside.  On her actual birthday, though, Little H felt the love from near and far, with family and friends.  We are lucky to have this precious little girl, but she is sure lucky to be so loved as well!

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Happy birthday to our darling baby girl!

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