Thursday, September 28, 2017

What's Working and What's Not

I've learned a lot of lessons in my short tenure as a parent, and I often think about what the topics of each chapter would be if I were ever to author a parenting book. I would probably call one chapter "Sleep is more important than anything else." I'd have an entire section dedicated to things I never thought I would hear myself say, such as "I love that you want to be Mommy's helper! Now go watch tv." or "Please don't kiss your bus driver. He doesn't like it."

This type of book would never work out for me, however, because my target audience would be people like me, and people like me don't read parenting books. I personally despise or get bored with almost all parenting books. There are a couple that I appreciate (Baby Wise, I'm looking at you), but mostly I only read reviews of parenting books, just enough to get the gist. I'm really dedicated, as you can tell.

But even though I don't enjoy reading parenting books, I do love writing and I am a parent and so I'm going to write some stuff about that today. If that's not your jam, we have more in common than you think and you can be excused to read about something more interesting, like a "Where Are They Now?" article. I find those delightful.

My amateurish approach to parenting could probably be best described as Process of Elimination. Figuring out what works and what doesn't. Stop the bad, continue the good, rinse and repeat. Here are some things that are working lately. (Notice use of the word "lately", as in I fully do not expect these things to work forever because they probably won't.)

1. M&M's for potty training.

Potty training Gwen has been a gift from heaven. June took monnnnnnnnnnthssssssssssss to potty train. And many failed attempts prior to the months of potty training. She was 4 years and 9 months old when she really started to grasp it, and even then I became one of "those" parents I had previously made fun of because I packed her potty and took it with us on trips. I had to time all outings based on when she had last used the restroom.

People gave me tons of advice. "Have you tried a sticker chart?" "Give her m&ms every time she goes." "Buy her a really awesome toy, put it on top of the fridge and tell her she can have it after she goes without accidents for a week." We stickered, we rewarded, we bought the magic toy. That Cowgirl Jessie doll lived on our fridge for nine whole months. June would wave to it as she walked by the kitchen. "Hi, Jessie! Have a good day!" She was unmoved.

I hate to be a jerk and compare, but I'm trying to point out a blessing here. Potty training Gwen was better than any Christmas of my childhood. Even the one where I received the "That Thing You Do" soundtrack. It was a miserable day or two. And then she got it. Every once in awhile she slips up. And we handle it. And I don't give her an m&m every time she goes. I give her a hundred m&ms. Because I'm so happy.

June's failures were really mine. Because she just wasn't ready. And they have to be ready. Lots of people had told me this, but they would always back it up with "By the time she is 3, she will be ready." June was honestly not ready until she was almost 5. I wish I had just accepted that and not tortured everyone.

2. Job Charts vs. Plain Old Pressure

At the start of the school year, you can hear moms across the country mapping out the perfect job chart for their kids. This job chart will be the one that works, they think. Well, our job chart has already kind of failed, but we've also found a good replacement.

This is what I came up with for each of the girls. Morning and evening routines on a laminated sheet of paper that they could check off before school and before bed and then wipe clean for the next day. It kind of worked.

But what has worked better has been using Alexa.

Such kitchen organization you have never seen. Lest you can't believe your eyes--yes, that is a beautiful corner of our counter dedicated to an Airwick plug-in, Echo dot, dish scraper and a random peach. Don't act like you don't have this corner in your house because I know you do. Every morning, we tell Alexa to set a timer. First one is 15 minutes for the girls to eat their breakfast. 10 minutes to go potty. And so on and so forth. Is this terrible? Maybe. But it works really well. Except for the time the timer went off and June hadn't finished her muffin so she stuffed the remaining half in her mouth and couldn't swallow it and gagged it back up. But she made it to the trash! Win.

3. Reading Lessons

Part of the morning routine is a quick reading lesson. We read bedtime stories each night, but June and I (and Gwen often sits in to observe) spend a few minutes each morning working on her reading skills. I love this book:

And it sits on the end table next to the couch where we read together each morning. You may notice that the title references "100 easy lessons" and goes on to mention "20 minutes a day." Well, that's just not how we roll. We have been doing these reading lessons about 4-5 days a week since February. We do about 5-6 minutes a day, because that's our threshold. June has learned a lot. I have learned more. It turns out that getting frustrated at your child does not help them read. So we stopped trying for 20 minutes a day. We definitely don't do a full lesson a day. We do a few lines a day. We start with a prayer. This is for me. And we're enjoying it a lot more.

I had to mention it because this week we finished Lesson 50! And June read several words by herself. Win!

Okay, that's about as much parenting talk as I can handle. I'll have to stay up extra late tonight watching something frivolous in order to get that out of my system.

And some miscellany:

Trying curlers on the girls.

Final product:

Nope, not so much. They definitely have my hair, poor things.

Did pigtails on the girls this week. Afterward, June exclaimed, "We're fancy pigs, Gwen!"

Back in swim lessons after way too long away. Loving it.

Still the best. And he potty trained himself last week.

Not really.

June's solution to the sun being in her eyes but still wanting to look at the camera.

Halloween ice cream at Friendly's. A ghost and a bat. This is right before I escorted a screaming Gwen out, and I adopted my new mom-phrase everyone around here hates: "Ice cream is a privilege!"

We were able to have the Wilkes over one day while their parents went to the temple. We've been trading off with them, and it is such a huge blessing. Both for the kids and for the parents. A little sanity has been added back into my life because I can go to the temple with my hubs!

The End.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Much a Post about Nothing

So I've been wanting to post a house tour ever since we moved here several months ago, but I've been rearranging some stuff so that will be my next post. Hold me to it!

We've been up to...the same daily stuff as you. School is still happening, church is still happening, kids are still being kids.

Gwen has been potty training. Potty training is the worst, though Gwen has been way easier than June. Still, I can't imagine feeling prouder while watching my child at her high school graduation or even watching her receive the Nobel Prize. Potty training is a big deal in my book. Because it's such a huge pain.

Check out that vintage bathroom!

 Harris is still the best baby ever.

And looks nothing like me. Sigh.

I've been on a healthy eating plan and have been taking lots of pictures of my meals to keep myself accountable for my Instagram community. Posting pictures of food feels weird.

So I usually try to put some kids in the background so I don't feel so trivial.

I'm still trying to get better at little girl hair. My parts are still always crooked.

And I'm still terrible at french braiding. Simply awful.

After I take a photo of June, she insists of taking some of me. My morning look is considerably less cute than hers.

This is my floral nightgown I sport ALL of the time at home. Dan says he feels like he's married to him mom.

It's sad that June's photography skills aren't that much worse than mine.

And she always wants to take a picture of my hair too. So here it is, The Unwashed Ponytail Look.

Gwen continues to dress herself every day because little kids can have crazy outfits and still be cute.

After a long summer without a strict nap schedule, Gwen has been fighting me on getting back to the routine. So I often find her like this at about 2:00 p.m.

 That was just the most boring post ever. I'm going to work on a scandal so there's something to write about next week.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I like this Fall Thing.

Is this what fall is like? If so, sign me up. We didn't have a very hot summer, but even still the temperatures in the 60s and 70s have been fantastic. 

I think I won the Worst Attitude in History Award when we moved to New Jersey. Just a refresher--we moved from 70-degree temps in Jacksonville to freezing cold winter temps in New Jersey this past January. I was six months pregnant and really unhappy about the move. Unfortunately, I let too many people around me know as well. I really regret that.

New Jersey has really grown on me since then. I would live here forever if it weren't such an expensive place to live. But it's beautiful, and there is so much to do. New Jersey gets a bad rap, but once you're here, it can really win you over.

But ask me again in winter. I might be singing a different tune. Heather + Winter = Heather in footie pajamas and 6,000 blankets while scared to drive, wondering if I'll ever be able to see people again. Not my best look.

Anyway, last week we went raspberry picking at a local farm. We also went on a hayride and will be returning for a corn maze.

School has started, and June is happppppppppy about that. We're all happy. I have this part inside of me that wants to be a homeschooling mom. I know that seems out of character for me, but it's there. So when June was home the last four weeks, I was excited to all be together all of the time. And we enjoyed together. And then it became apparent that I'm not a homeschooling mom. And that June is not a homeschooling child. And that school is a good place. Especially since she begged to go everyday and started regressing on her potty training.

I've been trying to work on doing June's hair better this school year because I'm terrible at hair. I cannot make a straight part. Truly. And I can almost french braid. Like maybe 1 out of 5 times I attempt it. I think I just need one more finger on each hand, and then I would have it. So I've been working on some styles that don't require braiding. 

June started kindergarten this year, but she will be in the same self-contained special ed class as last year. It only has a few kids in it and includes kids from Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st grade. 

I guess you could say she's growing up! Shooting up like a weed. Not really, she has the Jolley girl genes and is not growing very fast. But this is a weed in our front yard that I made her take a picture next to in order to show how big the weed is, not how big June is.

And Day 2 of school:

Then this past weekend, we drove 2.5 hours to go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in order to see Amish Country.

Side note: When did I become my parents? It doesn't seem too long ago that my dad would call a family council, where he would hand each of us five kids a perforated piece of paper on which he had typed our vacation itinerary using WordPerfect software (of which he was a huge fan). And I would enjoy tearing off the perforated edges while he discussed the seemingly endless details of our family trip for what seemed like years. And we stuck to that itinerary. I have to hand it to my parents. They set goals for us to leave early in the morning, and we left on time. We did not take breaks to stretch our legs or get fresh air or even eat sometimes. There was lots of in-the-car eating that took place. We might stop at a park for a picnic lunch the first day and would maybe get to stay in a Motel 6 with a pool, in which we could only swim if we had taken a 30-minute nap in the car so my mom could have 30 minutes of quiet. 30 minutes was the rule, and my parents did not care one iota if you really slept or not, as long as they did not have to hear words coming out of your face for that half-hour. It's a great rule I want to use with my own children.

Since I've already digressed--I remember a long family road trip where my dad stuck to the itinerary to the point where my little 8-year-old self thought I would perish of starvation. And when I say long family road trip, I mean that we often drove from Missouri to Utah (like every summer) or other faraway places, like Canada. We did all of the church history sites in upstate New York, and another time we went to Washington, D.C., where we all pooped out before my dad could realize his one dream of seeing the Supreme Court (besides his other unfulfilled dream of seeing Four Corners). Anyway, on one of these particular trips, my dad had scheduled that we could stop driving at noon for lunch, and since it was the second day of driving and the cooler was empty, we were going to get fast food! Glorious!

We were all counting down the minutes until noon and thinking of the amazing hamburgers and nuggets we were about to ingest when my dad crossed a time zone. And we were back at 11:00 instead of noon. And my dad said, "Only one more hour until lunch!" And he meant it.

I thought that was cruel then. Now, I think it is parenting genius.

All this to say that I used to be the world's biggest procrastinator but I'm slowly becoming a planner. I planned an itinerary for our Amish County trip and sent it to our friends who were going with us, and it was like Doug Beck lived on through me.

This is just page one, for a one-day trip.

Honestly, the planning went way better than I could have thought, and now I have to apologize to my dad for being such a turd sandwich as a kid.

We rolled into Lancaster at 10:30 and went to Amish Village where the kids fed goats, horses, mules and pigs and played on an Amish playground. In fact, almost every location we stopped at had animals and playgrounds, so the kids played all day. We took a tour given by a formerly Amish-turned Mennonite woman, who gave what was probably a lovely tour in which I would have asked the most questions, but instead had to quickly exit and take care of a crying baby. 

Next, we picked up sandwiches and salads at Isaac's Restaurant which is located next to one of the only remaining steam trains in the country. There was also a fudge shoppe where Amish candy was sold, and you know we got in on that action.

Next, we took a horse and buggy ride. If you go, I totally recommend this place:

True to form, there was an Amish-built playground here too, as well as several animals to pet.

In the end, Dan decided to make the huge sacrifice of sitting out on the buggy ride full of loud, little children so that he could watch Harris.

Here we are leaving him behind. Doesn't he look so sad?

Here's the row of across from the row where June and I were sitting, filled with Gwen and our friends, the Wilkes. We also had Sophie Wilkes sitting up front with the driver.

There's June's arm in the pink hoodie. I kept having to grab her hand and pull it down because she kept whispering to the driver, "I like your beard" while attempting to stroke it. And yes, I asked him if I could take this picture, and he said that was fine.

Again, I had a million questions for our sweet driver but between the cars whizzing past us and the kids yelling from excitement, I could hardly hear a thing. I did hear him say that most Amish houses start out as ranch houses, but when their families get too big, they simply tear the roof off and build another level and then put the roof back on.

And here were the cars passing us as we were on the shoulder of the road.

Also, the Amish live among everyone else. I thought they lived in their own communities, and maybe they did a long time ago, but where we were you would see an Amish house next to a non-Amish house all of the time. So interesting!

One day, I'm going to go back all by myself, and I'm going to ask all the questions I want.

Next, we went to Oregon Dairy where the kids could play and eat ice cream. No pictures. My bad.

Then we drove home. I drove, and everyone else slept, and it was really nice.

The end.