Looking Back at Ellie Rosie

This year we’re going backwards, giving baby girl Ellie Rosie the chance to be first. She is small but mighty, we knew this from the moment we “met” her in the womb. She is our little firework.

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Elliott continues to love her kitties and all things pink. She also is quite the chicken whisperer and overall animal lover. Her all-time favorite cat continues to be Marie, from the Aristocats, and Bootsy (grey cat) is a close second.

She also has the biggest sweet tooth of the bunch; she loves Daddy’s milk and almonds (aka Original Soy Milk and Cocoa-dusted almonds).

She also truly has the most fun. I love watching her love life, it is an inspiration to me to slow down and play with my Rosie.

Here’s a look at Elliott Rose’s third year…

Ellie at three years…

Ellie at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Ellie’s First Year…

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Transitions…

You don’t have to tell me that change is hard. I have trouble eating something different for breakfast each day; I’m the queen of routine. The last few weeks have been especially difficult at home; So much so that we needed to put our heads together to figure out the reason for the increase in whining, tantrums, regression, and just plain cruel behavior. Once we started reflecting, we realized how many changes the kiddos have incurred in the last month. They have started to independently get dressed (picking out clothes to putting them on), wiping themselves, saying goodbye to Pull-ups at naps, starting swimming lessons at a new location, and the biggie- bidding Uncle JD farewell as he continuous his academic and professional journey in Chicago.

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What is it about change and transition that is so hard?

We are creatures of habit and change takes more energy, especially emotional and mental energy. Pediatric behavioral specialists believe the primary reason is because it requires that we stop something we enjoy and feels comfortable, in order to, do something very different that we need to do and may not want to do. Many of the negative consequences related to transition, even simply transitions like leaving the park or putting away a toy, require intense emotional management. Since strong emotions like anger, anxiety, frustration and sadness require practice to explore and manage; young children simply haven’t had the time or experiences to learn how to do it well. Our youngsters often look to us- their parents and caregivers- for tips on managing transitions; if we throw tantrums, they will, too. I often catch myself whining, complaining and throwing a pity-party from time-to-time and this negativity is as contagious as the common cold. I try to remind myself that like most things in life, prevention is the best medicine.

How can we help?

Create boundaries with freedom. We all know that people thrive in routine; perhaps because we have the comfort of predictability. I have found that if I set boundaries, create a structured schedule or routine and then grant freedoms within the structure, the kiddos flourish. For example, we eat and sleep at the same times every day but, what we do between these marker-activities is up to the children. Another example, we enjoy four different food groups at every meal: Protein, Grain/Starch, Vegetable and Fruit, but the V5 get to collectively- or individually- decide what we eat.

Prepare for change. We often give several countdowns to transition such as 15-minutes until clean-up time or 5 more minutes in the bath tub. If we’re at the park, they also always know that they get “one-more-thing” and after the last thing, we head to the car. These countdowns are more difficult with big changes, such as moves, starting school, surgeries, etc. From my perspective, you don’t want to start mentally preparing children too early where it can breed anxiety but also want to allow for adequate time to process. Any suggestions from our readers?

Transition Tunes. Life can be better as a musical. Certain activities lend themselves to a soundtrack such as cleaning up toys (clean-up song playlist); we love Daniel Tiger’s Clean, Pick-up, Put-away song. We also sing songs as we head upstairs for nap. We are always open to new tunes, so send them our way.

Visual Cues. It often amazes me how disoriented our children are to the days of the week. Nana B created a color chart for us which has a color for each day of the week. Each of the V5 has their own color and thus their own day. We try to celebrate each day by wearing the color of the day:

  • Lucky Lily Green Monday
  • Cool Blue Dude Tuesday
  • Purple Princess Bella Wednesday
  • Red Rosie Thursday
  • Orange-You-Glad-You’re-The-Only-Boy Friday
  • “Play-doh Rose” Pink Saturday
  • K-Mae Yellow Sunshine Sunday

It truly lends itself to a colorful wardrobe and the children have learned the days of the week. Frank also added little pictures of Nana, Uncle JD, himself and I to the chart so they would know who their primary caregiver was for the day. This was uber-helpful and cut-down on the number of questions each day.

Consistent Consequences. This is a difficult strategy for us. We have our go-to consequences based on our stoplight approach:

  • Green Light: you get a smiley at the end of the day. After three smileys, you get to pick from the prize bucket.
  • Yellow light: Verbal warning and a 2-minute time out
  • Red light: 2-minute time out and lose a toy

But, what happens when they earn several red lights? Or, the caregiver becomes so weary that they can’t keep up and thus be consistent. This is where we struggle. When the number of bad choices outweigh the good, it is tough to remain positive and thus reward the good choices with verbal praise, stickers, etc. I think this is when it’s necessary to let the little lights shine and truly make a big deal out of the good choices so, they can encourage more good choices but also fuel positivity so we all don’t become frowny brownies.

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Catch Quality Zzzz’s. Quality, routine sleep is definitely good medicine for physical, mental and emotional health. Life can get in the way of adequate sleep but it is well worth shifting priorities to achieve it.

 

Summer Snapshot

We love summer because it means we get to get outside and spread out! The backyard not only presents ample opportunity to burn off that infinite energy but also is an amazing classroom! The lesson plans write themselves as we stumble upon goofy looking bugs, chirping birds, and dodge rainstorms. Our new flock of hens has also fostered the children’s interest and love for animals, as well as, their care-giving skills. Ellie, Lily and Kali are truly the farm hands in the family.

Before the summer runs out, here’s a snap shot of each before they turn four in 3 three weeks!

Fam in Pool

Conductor Theo steering Thomas the Tank Engine home. Theo continues to be the intellect who loves to read, investigate and question. You can often find him nestles in on the couch with a stack of books. This little explorer loves to ask why and continues to be fascinated with space, dinosaurs and more recently cars.

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Our Dreamer, Ms. Bella is the most imaginative. She can relay the most fantastical story, make a figurine out of a fork and write a song in an instant. And… she LOVES her Daddy!

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I love this photo of our Fearless Lily. It articulates exactly where she’s at in life with the gash on her forehead, chewy tube around her neck and a whole tomato in-hand. Lily is a lover; she is the first to say hello and the last to say goodbye. She is also a serial hugger; one just isn’t enough for Lily.

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Kali-Meh, our little Emoji, is anything but “meh.” The emotions run strong in this young lady. She throws a serious tantrum but also exhibits the most empathetic concern for others.

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Ellie Rosie is our little mother hen. She seriously may be a chicken whisperer; she is the only one that they will coo for when she snuggles them. When she’s not in the chicken run, she will likely be bouncing on her hippity hop or cuddled up with her litter of kittens.

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A is for Astigmatism

It was only a matter of time before the children of Harry Caray (aka Frank) needed glasses, granted my poor vision didn’t probably help either. In fact, researchers have found that if both parents are near-sighted, the child has a 33% chance of also being near-sighted. This is the case for Theo, Bella and Elliott. We learned at their latest eye exam that all are near-sighted and have astigmatism.

What’s Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is caused by an abnormal curve of the cornea, or the outer region of the eye. Technically, it’s a refractive error because the shape does not bend light correctly. Their optician stated that their eyes look more like footballs versus the normal baseballs. In order to see clearly, light needs to be bent by the cornea and the lens of the eye before it reaches the retina.

How did we know?

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Since the V5 were premature, we have been seeing an eye doctor annually since birth. The early examinations were quite medieval and used an odd contraption to keep their eyes open during the exam. Now, the visits resemble an adult visit where they complete a variety of vision tests near to the eye and far from the eye. Then, the eyes are dilated (takes 30 minutes) and the back of the eye or retina is examined. The dilation is necessary to evaluate astigmatism.

In the end, you will receive a “score card” describing the prescription for the right eye (“OD”) and left eye (“OS”). It starts with the “spherical error,” or whether the child is nearsighted (can’t see faraway) or farsighted (can’t see close up). A positive sign indicates farsightedness whereas the negative sign indicates nearsightedness. The higher the prescription the worse the vision. The “Cyl,” or cylinder numbers describes the astigmatism and the “Axis” indicates which way the astigmatism is oriented. Finally, the “Add” section is used for bifocals.

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Getting Gear

There are several companies that make child-proof glasses. Our insurance company covered Miraflex and after 2 weeks, they’ve proven their worth in not only correcting vision but withstanding some trauma. You can choose from a variety of shapes and colors. Of course, our 3 chose their favorite colors: blue. purple and pink; they’re true to their brands.

First Impressions

When trying on the glasses in the optical shop, we observed different reactions.

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Theo was excited for his new gear, Bella appeared quite upset and slightly confused and Ellie was unsure. I believe its important to recognize these feelings as simply feelings and help children to understand that glasses are just like medicine and they can help to heal your eyes just like medicine does for the body.

The first few days required a lot of reinforcement.

image3For example, Theo thought it made sense to hide his glasses in a tree in the yard for almost a whole day. Many thanks to Nana for tracking them down. On the other side of the spectrum, Ellie’s words after putting them on were,”I can see you Mom!”

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Bella has also grown to love her glasses and has come to recognize how much they are helping her.  While it first it was disheartening to learn of their vision problems, it warms my heart to see how much better they can see and thus experience life now.

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V5 at their Dental Appt with Dr. Cece and her crew

Springtime Fun

Spring is by far my favorite season and certainly not because of the weather but rather because of the new life that abounds. February through April reminds me so much of pregnancy; Didn’t see that coming, did you? This late Winter/Early Spring is just like the 3rd trimester because new life is right on the brink but you are left trudging through uncomfortable, frigid rains for three more months. Then, finally the warm showers arrive and bring forth beauty from the vibrant green grass to the clear blue skies. The sun which previously only provided light now warms the air and brings the birds and critters out to play.

This spring has been especially fun because we have been able to get outdoors and experience all that this season has to offer… budding trees, mud, puddles and sunshine on our skin. Before summer arrives, I thought it be best to provide a snapshot of our spring time fun!

March

Late in March the kiddos got to travel to Chicago, stay up late and sleep over at Papa Ron’s to watch Uncle JD’s senior recital.

Uncle’s Concert

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NEIU recital

They were so inspired; we had to have our own performance that weekend. We present to you the Concerto de Quint!

April

April temps warmed up and we discovered a new park nearby in Deforest. They loved the racing slides!

Slide race

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Easter weekend, we got to celebrate Papa Ron’s birthday and go on an epic Easter egg hunt! Our little Easter bunnies filled up on their bunny oats and then found 50 eggs filled with stickers, chalk and clues to discover their Easter baskets!

Easter Oats

Easter Lily

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Out of the Mouth…

ThunderstormbannerYesterday evening was a stormy night. The V5 are not keen on thunderstorms and thus I made another attempt to normalize nature with use of a fable. When I was a “small” girl, I also was rattled by thunder. My Dad’s dad was quite the bowler and passed away when my Dad was young and thus my Dad used to tell me that the thunder was my Grandpa Joe bowling with his fellow angels. I shared this story with my children last night.

After our evening snack, instead of wrestling them to bed, I gathered them beneath the skylights in Theo, Lily and Ellie’s room. We turned off all of the lights and just took in the thunder and hail storm. They loved the lightning but the crashing hail and thunder rattled them all. I let them know that I was not scared because I knew that we needed the rain to help the things we loved to grow. I also shared that the big booms were the angels bowling. I reminded them that I was there to keep them safe and the angels were also there to look out for them from heaven. Kali Mae then asked if God would also keep her safe, and I replied, “Always.” Then, Bella chimed in to share that God wasn’t in the sky but that He was in her heart. Kali quickly added that Jesus lived in her heart; Theo confirmed the same for himself. I was speechless and could only smile. Kali asked me if Jesus lived in my heart and I said, “Yes, yes He does.”

The conversation quickly turned to whether God is a boy or a girl and I tried my best to save that one for another day. This completely took me off guard because we had never talked about this before. We read the bible and go to church but this was a conclusion that they had come upon based on their experiences at Sunday school. In all honesty, I didn’t think they were absorbing much from Sunday school because I always ask what they learned or talked about and I get the same answer… “I don’t know.” Turns out the Spirit is working and now all I can think about is this precious moment and praise God for His grand purposes and plans that are carried out independent of our actions. I will continue to pray that this newfound knowledge for Theo, Kali and Bella will continue to grow and help shape their identities as God’s beautiful children. I will also pray that God’s Spirit will continue to whisper in the ears of Elliott and Lillian.

As I reminisce today, I recall their dedication and what that ceremony meant. For me, I dedicated them the moment I found out I was pregnant because I knew this was a God-thing and I was simply along for the ride. I was called to fight for their livelihood and ensure their delivery. In the NICU, I was an advocate for their care. Once home, it was and is my job to create and maintain a safe environment for growth; growth in mind, body and spirit. These, however, are earthly concerns. I feel my primary responsibility is to love them; to love them with play, instruction and discipline. To love them by modeling; modeling love for others, modeling respect for their father and honor for their elders, modeling forgiveness, gratitude and thanksgiving. To love them by knowing my role; knowing when to close my mouth and open my eyes and ears wide to watch. When it is my turn to talk, I will love them with my words.

I await the day to share these words with my children.  I want them to know…

Instead of “Mama,” call me” home” because you will always have a place to lay your head with me.

I want you to know knowledge, to learn skills but most of all to maintain the attitude of one who humbly acknowledges they are still learning.

You will experience hardship. Life will trip you and then hit you when you’re down but getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way you will ever learn to appreciate the sweet taste of air. Life can hurt and time can heal. Falling and failing are part of the journey and the only way you will fly, is if you jump.

You also won’t always get what you want. You’ll want what your neighbor has, your first love to last, your pain to go away, and to save the world. But, our hands are too small, our lives to short and no bucket big enough to catch all the tears that the earth cries. These are the days for running in the rain.

Running away the worry, the pain, and the anxiety. Emptying the body of its strength so that all you’re left with is who you are and who you were made to be.

I want you to look at the world as your oyster. Every moment is the zenith. Find your strength and power from above, know your time, and get out of your way.

There will be those days; the days to lift your eyes to lift your chin, and seek out the blessings.

Slow down to go fast. Close your mouth to open your ears. Shut your eyes to open them.

Always apologize and own your mistakes but never apologize for who you are.

The world will ask you to stop crying, quiet down and button up. Choose to embrace your emotions, plant your passion, water it and watch it grow.

 

The Thrifty Gene

Do you have the thrifty gene? Not the “thrifty genotype” that’s another story for a different blog, but rather the innate desire to be frugal? I do and I certainly hope my children do, too. Signs that you have the frugal-kind of thrifty gene…

  • You maintain a minimalist wardrobe
  • You re-use Zip-loc bags
  • Forget about napkins, paper towels, Kleenex and other unnecessary paper goods with the exception of toilet paper
  • Use the library
  • Enjoy free entertainment
  • Cook from scratch and brown bag it daily
  • Seek to reduce water usage and electricity

These may sound like confessions of a cheap-skate, which perhaps it is, but it is also a list of habits and a philosophy that I hope to share with my children.

There is so much want, desire and greed in the world. So many people “thrive” and try to survive by chasing after the next big innovation, but what about maintenance? What about using what we have? Being grateful and counting our blessings. I, personally, believe life can be so much more when we live below our means and seek and savor the things in life that are priceless.

I know that my children will reap the benefits of frugality in mind, body and spirit as we continue to model ways to avoid waste by- not only preaching- but practicing the differences between “wants” and “needs” and being greedy versus grateful. At the ripe age of 3 1/2, I have already witnessed my children using this language and even discussing a need versus a want with each other; it makes my heart smile.

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What are the non-monetary benefits of frugality?

They include:

  • Creativity
  • Being green and friendly to the environment
  • Reduces waste
  • Keeps priorities in check
  • Fosters relationship and community
  • Keeps life simple

Those last two are what keeps me from drifting from my thrifty gene. The minimalist mindset reduces the number of choices, keeping it simple and crafting an environment where the healthy choice is easy. It also minimizes distractions so we can build true relationships that will last a lifetime.

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