Wednesday, December 10, 2014

22 1/2 Months

It's been two months since my last Maleah update... and, sadly, this will probably be the last one before the big Maleah-is-Two post!!! 

I have to say, I am so glad I have written out all of these posts! I go back every so often and read from the very beginning. Sometimes it feels like life is just racing and I can barely keep up and it's nice to know that while time may be marching forward, my memories are not fading. 

Stats
I have no idea how much Maleah weighs since we have not been to the doctor since July (praise God!). I think she's in the 27-28 pound mark and she's probably 33-34 inches tall. All I know is she looks really little in certain moments and other times I swear she looks 18!

Schedule
Maleah's days look something like this:

6:45 - wake up, sippy of milk
7:15 - leave for school, listen to Veggie Tales, Frozen, or Taylor Swift on the way 
7:40 - eat breakfast at school - lately her go-to is a Nutri-Grain bar. I absolutely hate them,                 but she asks for one every day and the only other thing I can get her to eat lately for 
            breakfast is a biscuit or muffin!
9:30/10 - mid-morning snack
11:30/12 - lunch, sippy of water
12:30-2:30ish - nap
2:30/3:30 - afternoon snack
5:00 - I pick her up from daycare! Happy!
5:30ish - Get home, cook/serve dinner
6:00-8:00 - play, read books, do art... whatever we want!
8:00 - bath, books, milk... in bed by 8:30ish

We have finally grown {somewhat} accustomed to Blake's new work schedule. As I have mentioned before, he now works three nights a week as an athletic tutor on campus. Since eating dinner together is a priority to us, I have really had to figure out how to make it happen when Maleah and I get home at 5:30 and Blake has to leave at 5:45! One of the other nights he works is a Wednesday, so we actually go out to eat together (or eat at our church) and get to spend some quality time as a family. The other two nights, Blake usually cooks or reheats something I have already prepared (like soup or quiche). I clean up after he's gone which is sad because I hate cleaning up the kitchen, haha! But I'm so glad that we make an honest effort at spending time together on those busy nights.

The other adjustment to our schedule has been Thursday mornings. Lately Blake has kept Maleah home for an extra hour or so to spend some time with her since she doesn't get to see much of him on the weeknights. He gets her ready and takes her to school. This is also nice for me because it means I get to leave a little later for work.

Eating
I am SO glad Maleah is such a good eater! I really hope her good eating habits continue. Over the past couple of months she has experienced a new food: POPCORN. She LOVES it! I, too, love popcorn so I'm always happy when she wants to share a bag with me! A few nights ago we were watching television in the living room after dinner and she said, "Light off". So I turned off the lights. And I really should have seen it coming... but her next request was "Pah-corn?"! This is our new favorite thing to do!

I have made an effort over the past month to start cutting down her milk intake. This kid seriously loves milk (like her mama) - so much so that I haven't really let her have a lot of cheese or yogurt (two other things she loves). So I decided to try to cut back on her milk intake so that she could enjoy other dairy products without hurting her tummy. I try to only give her two cups of milk a day - one at breakfast and one at dinner, and I offer her half a sippy of milk before bed. I would like to start working towards eliminating the bedtime milk in anticipation of potty training, but there's no rush. She's been eating Stonybrook Farms YoToddler! yogurt and enjoying some shredded cheese during her day... and apparently those things make her very happy!

Potty Training
Speaking of... I'm really not in a rush to potty train. Mainly because I know it's going to take a lot of work! I think she is definitely showing some signs of readiness, so we might try giving it a shot over Christmas break. Just depends! If not, I think we will work with her over Spring Break. We will be home all week during both breaks so it seems like a natural opportunity to stay home and work on it. I'm thinking that during Christmas break, I might just try several times to actually get her to go in the potty so she realizes what it's all about. And I might bring out her little potty seat to put in her bathroom so she starts getting used to seeing it and using it. 

Development
Over the past month, Maleah had another huge spurt of language development. She went from just piecing sentences together to now saying 4 and 5 word sentences, at times. One afternoon in the car, she kept saying something and it took several times for me to understand, but she was saying "Let me see that phone!". I started cracking up when I realized what she was saying!!! She is also getting better about saying what she wants (instead of just being asked yes or no questions) and she can even sometimes say what might be bothering her. 

I haven't done a great job of working on shapes and colors, but we're trying! She can identify a circle and heart... that's good, right!? And a star! So that's three shapes. So far she hasn't mastered any colors, but she's getting there!

And she repeats everything. EV-ER-Y-THING. 

Discipline
Thankfully the past two months have been mostly free of serious discipline problems. I have been firmer with her when necessary, but for the most part she hasn't needed too much serious correction. We have had a few fits that resulted in her having to sit in her room, but nothing terribly crazy. She has started hitting (and kicking) more, which is always a challenge to discipline... do I spank her to teach her hitting is wrong? I think not, so I just grab her hand (or foot) and tell her "NO hitting/kicking" and to "be gentle, use gentle hands". Generally she pulls back and hits you lightly, then just brushes her hand against you, then goes and hits random objects instead of you. So...... that sort-of classifies as progress!

The past few months have been hard on us, with Blake starting his new position. Sometimes it feels like all we do is work, come home and work, go to sleep, get up and do it all again the next day. It's hard to see what sort of impact we are having on our daughter - the most precious thing in our life! Some days I feel horrible for having to go to work. But, then I think about my relationship with my mom... who worked outside of our home. We are super close! And I know that while time is fleeting, I am making the absolute most of every moment with Maleah and, hopefully, we'll have a healthy and close relationship as she continues to grow. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

ABCs of Advent

Several people have asked about the ABCs of Advent book I am making with Maleah. (I say "I" because we are primarily doing these activities when Blake is at work... though he helps too when he is home!) I used a couple of websites to gather ideas and then changed some of the words to be more meaningful to us. I also tried to make the activities something simple (lots of coloring sheets and construction paper!!!), doable (for a weeknight, even!), and memorable. 

Most of these don't have to take more than 10-15 minutes, but they do require a little bit of preparation - mostly for you to get the materials together. Ideally what I will try to do next year is get all the materials ready ahead of time and create a box that we can just keep at hand during the season. It would have all the printables, construction paper, crayons, glue, stickers, etc. that we would need for each day. 

I will be posting pictures of several of our activities on my Instagram if you want some ideas! And hopefully next year I can make a post of our entire book. The book is just construction paper - I plan on laminating what can be laminated and the rest, I'll just put in there! I will probably put it in a binder or paper folder, depending on how thick it is. Don't forget to use acid-free paper, stickers, and glue in order to preserve your memories! 

And, of course, you don't have to make an entire book! I think even doing just a few of these activities would be a great opportunity to share the meaning of Christmas with your child!

A: Angel
Color a picture of an angel. Read the story of Gabriel visiting Mary. This can tie in with the prophecy candle if you start this on the first day of Advent.

B: Baby Jesus
Create a picture of Baby Jesus in a manger using your child’s fingerprints and paint. Talk about how Jesus came to earth as a baby in very humble beginnings.
http://www.craftymorning.com/baby-jesus-in-manger-fingerprint-craft/

C: City of Bethlehem
Paste a map of Bethlehem in the book. Trace the route Joseph and Mary traveled. Discuss why they were traveling to Bethlehem.

D: Donkey
Color a picture of a donkey. You can glue black yarn or felt onto the donkey’s mane and tail. Read the story of Joseph and Mary traveling on a donkey. 

E: Evergreen Tree
Decorate a paper tree with ornament stickers. Talk about the significance of the evergreen (how the green color represents renewal or new life and freshness. Evergreens do not die – which reminds us of eternal life in Jesus.

F: Family
Write a list of all our family members and say a special prayer for them. Talk about Jesus’ family – Mary and Joseph – and how they were chosen by God to be Jesus’ parents. You could paste a photo of your family into the book.

G: Gift of Grace
Fill up the word “grace” with stickers of gift boxes! Talk about how Jesus was the ultimate gift of grace from God to us!

H: Holly
If possible, have a live or faux branch of holly for your child to examine. Let your child color or paint a picture of a holly branch. Discuss how holly is often used at Christmas because it reminds us of Jesus. The prickly thorns remind us of his crown and the bright red berries remind us of his blood. Jesus came to be a sacrifice for us and his birth is a reminder of how much we need him.

J: JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself)
Teach your child the “JOY” song (to the tune of Jingle Bells). Color this JOY picture from Seeds of Faith (reproducible). Discuss how knowing God and believing in Jesus gives us the joy and strength we need to follow God's commands to love others. http://www.chicagochurch.org/kingdomkids/Q5/1st_and_2nd_Grade/Q5U13L1_1and2.pdf

K: King of Kings
Create a crown using yellow (or your child’s favorite color!) construction paper, glitter, and stickers. Let your child be the “king” and discuss how Jesus is King of Kings!

L: Lamb
Glue cotton balls or white pom poms onto a blank lamb. Talk to your child about how Jesus came as a little baby, like a little lamb.

M: Manger
Using popsicle sticks (or strips of construction paper), create a manger filled with “hay”. Tell your child how Jesus was born in a manger even though he was a king.

N: Name of Jesus
Jesus has many names – Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Rose of Sharon. Have several of these names typed up/written on colorful cut-up strips of paper. Allow your child to glue them onto Construction paper. Discuss how Jesus got his name.

O: “O Come All Ye Faithful”
Print out the sheet music for this hymn. Talk to your child about the words of the song, sing it with them, and paste the sheet music into your book. 

P: Poinsettia
Share the legend of the poinsettia with your child as she colors a picture of a large poinsettia, using the colors red and green. (You can find the original story from Mexico online.) If possible, buy a poinsettia early in the season. Use it as a teaching tool when you get to this letter. You can read Tommie dePaola's The Legend of the Poinsettia

Q: Quiet Time
Christmas is a time for us to reflect on all God has done for us. One of the ways we can use our quiet time is to pray and to listen to God. Do this with your child for a few moments - just listen. You can trace your child's hands, cut them out, and put them in a praying "position" to paste in your book. Or, find a picture of praying hands and let your child color them and cut them out.

R: Rod (Candy Cane)
This day can be as in depth as you want it to be! There are so many options. Our plan is to discuss the colors of the candy cane and how it looks like a shepherd's rod. Print a picture of a shepherd and tape the candy cane to his hand to be his rod.  

S: Star of Bethlehem
Cut out a yellow star and decorate it with yellow or gold glitter. Read the story from Matthew where the shepherds see the bright star. 

T: Tell it on the Mountain
Jesus is the Good News who brings us Great Joy! We want to share it with everyone! Create a "mountain" out of brown construction paper and glue a small picture (or drawing) of your child standing on the  mountain-top. You can even draw a little word bubble that says "I love Jesus!" or "Happy Birthday Jesus!" on it. Remind your child that sharing the Gospel with others is important and exciting!

U: “Unto Us a Child is Born”
Read Isaiah 9:6-7 with your child. Type up the verses and then cut them into phrases of 3-4 lines each. Paste them in order onto paper and put them in your book!

V & W: Visit from the Shepherds & Wise Men
V & W can be done on the same day or split into two days. Read how the story of the shepherds and wise men visiting Jesus. (Note the time difference on the visit from the wise men.) Talk about how far they traveled and why. Color a picture of shepherds and of the wise men to put in your book.

X: X is for Christ – Greek Symbol
Cut two long, thin rectangles out of construction paper. Help your child glue them in the shape of an "X". Discuss how "X" is the Greek symbol for Christ and how it is often used to shorten "Christmas". (While we don't advocate calling it X-mas, it shows our children that there is a reason people often refer to it as X-mas.)

Y: Yet to Come
Celebrating Advent at Christmas is not only a way for us to reflect on Jesus' birth, but also to look forward to Jesus' 2nd Coming. Read Hebrews 9:28 with your child. Let your child color a picture representing Jesus' second coming. http://www.coloringpagebook.com/category/jesus/

Z: Zzz... time to rest!                                                                                                                This should be done on Christmas Eve (if possible). Create a "bed" using sheets of construction paper. Make a "blanket" (you could weave construction paper if you're feeling extra energetic!) and "cover up" a picture of your child's face or drawing of themselves. Remind your child that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ and that our celebrations include a lot of exciting activities and time with family! They will need their rest for Christmas Day!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Santa: Revisted

To Santa or not to Santa, that is the question...

Last year I professed some of my reservations with the Jolly Old Elf. It was easy to make a declaration of being a no-Santa family because my child was too young to even care about the guy. This year, though, is different. She is old enough to go along with the story, she definitely recognizes him in pictures, and she can definitely tell you that he says "Ho! Ho! Ho!". So... now we've got to think again. 

I wanted to quickly re-visit my post last year and share a few "tweaks" to the ideas spinning around in mine & Blake's heads!

Santa
While I still have serious reservations about Santa, I think we are coming to grips with his role in our Christmas activities. We still don't have a problem with the character himself (hello, we have already had our Santa pictures made!) and I really love the story of Saint Nicholas. But as far as the whole lying to our kids/using Santa as behavior management will just not really be the focus of our Christmas. We still aren't 100% certain how we will "do" (or not do) Santa, but this year we aren't really talking about Santa bringing us gifts very much. I don't really know where to go with that... one idea I had is to let "Santa" fill her stocking and let the other presents be from us - after all, Saint Nicholas brought simple gifts. I don't know!!! I just know I do want Maleah to have a little bit of imagination and wonder to her Christmas, but I just don't want Santa to be the central focus of it all. Thank God she's not quite two and we still have time to figure this out!

Gifts
Last year I was really scattered with gifts for Maleah - I tried to do the whole "something they want/need/wear/read" (but ended up with way more than 4 presents). Gifts are just my love language... I love giving and getting presents! I ended up buying a lot of stuff and she really was only interested in one or two things that morning. So... here's what we have settled into: Maleah gets toys for Christmas. Done. Haha!

Seriously, though, we thought about it a lot and decided that we will primarily buy Maleah only toys as gifts for now. And those toys will be fairly limited - as in, we might buy her one large toy with some accessories to go with it. And we might get a couple other fun toys. We won't be buying her shoes or clothes or anything like that until she starts asking for them as gifts. 

Why? Well... here's why: Honestly, we don't really buy Maleah toys throughout the year. Sure, we might pick up a few things here and there for a treat (like the day I bought her a bunch of baby doll accessories in the middle of the summer!). We do, however, often buy books, puzzles, and art supplies throughout the year. So Christmas is a special time when she can get a few things she wouldn't normally receive during the course of the year. 

The grandparents are on board with this, too. This year each set of grandparents is buying Maleah some type of indoor/outdoor activity! I am really excited about these items. 

Lastly, our stocking stuffers are pretty basic - I have bought Maleah two character shirts and some character socks to put in her stocking. But I'll also probably put some crayons, candy, and finger paint. But that's about it since her birthday will be right around the corner!

Blake and I aren't really buying gifts for each other, either. We will do some stocking stuffers but we have really enjoyed going shopping after Christmas together with our Christmas money. Since we are both off for an extended time at Christmas, it's a nice way to spend an afternoon!

Giving
This year, Maleah was able to participate in our Operation Christmas Child shoe box packing party. While I know she didn't totally understand what we were doing or why, I loved having her be a part of the process! That is a ministry I hope we continue to support year after year!

We hope to also visit a nursing home with my mom & Fred one Sunday afternoon when they are planning to do Christmas carols. I know the people they see each Sunday afternoon would love to have a visit with Maleah!

I really hope we can instill a spirit of giving in Maleah, especially at Christmas time. There are so many ways we can give this time of year and we are trying to make her a part of those experiences as much as possible.

Advent
This year, our children's minister put together a packet of Advent resources for families to use. I am so excited about this! We are lighting candles at home and talking with Maleah about what the candles represent. Each week, we are trying to pull a phrase out of the lesson as her "take-away". This week's candle is the Prophecy Candle - we discussed how the Bible tells us God's plan for us and how that plan included Jesus to come as our savior. He came as "Emmanuel, God with us." That is the phrase we are repeating over and over this week - how all of God's plans pointed to him coming to earth in the form of a baby. We are also learning "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". Check out the resources - it's not too late to start!!!

I am also working on an ABC's of Advent book with Maleah - loosely based off of the ideas from this website. I'm making some changes that will be a little more appropriate for Maleah's age. We will have to double-up on some days (like Saturdays & Sundays we can do 2 or 3), but the idea is to try to do one a day. They don't have to be super elaborate... most of ours will involve coloring! But I think it will be a really sweet memory to preserve and pull out each year!

Lastly, we are following an Advent reading plan with the Jesus Storybook Bible before bedtime. We usually read her a story from it anyway, but this plan is tailored for the Advent season! 

Oh! And I bought a little snowman advent calendar. It isn't exactly what I wanted, but... he's cute. Maleah like snowmen. So, there ya go. 

There are lots of other things I want to be able to do with her - a Jesse tree is high on my priority list!!! But celebrating Advent is not about how many activities you can squeeze in before December 25th! Blake and I want what we do with Maleah to have an impact on her, so we aren't going to be hard-pressed to make things happen every single day when reality just does not always allow for our plans to go perfectly! But we are going to try to celebrate intentionally! 

Christmas Tree
I did well buying ornaments this year - we bought one for our family, one for Maleah, one to hold our Santa picture... and then I bought a couple extras because they were only $5! I really have a thing for ornaments. So far Blake & I have not bought each other ornaments, but we're working on it (I think).

Other Traditions
Christmas PJs - Maleah's got some cute pajamas that she'll be receiving for Christmas Eve and she can wear them to Christmas breakfast! She has a couple other pairs of Christmas PJ's from a consignment sale that she can wear until Christmas Eve.

Baking - I decided I'm going to try my hand at baking some Christmas goodies this year. First on my list is a pecan pie... never made one. We'll see how that goes! And I also want to make some cute Christmas cookies and maybe a fudge. I used to bake all the time but just haven't had the energy for it. So we'll see what I come up with. And hopefully Maleah will want to help out!

Well... that's all the thoughts I've got for now! What are your ideas for this season? Have your traditions changed as your children have grown?