Friday, February 28, 2014

5 on Friday
Happy Friday everybody! Here is what we've been up to this week!
The rest time countdown. On Thursday I told Eva that she really needed to stay on her bed and get a good nap. Instead of sleeping I could hear her counting up to 10 in what I can only assume was a pretend game of hide and seek with her animals. At least she was practicing her counting skills, right?
Infinity scarf. I used the last of my Christmas money (sniff, sniff) to purchase a black infinity scarf from Amazon. Like any good consumer, I read lots of reviews before deciding which brand to purchase and let me say that I LOVE THIS SCARF! It is the perfect length for wearing in different ways and the perfect weight to be able to wear regardless of weather. Now I want it in other colors....too bad I'm out of $$.
The aquarium. Eva and I met my mom at the aquarium this week. There were some people cleaning the inside of the tank and Eva thought they were mermaids. I like her imagination and her connection to her new favorite movie, The Little Mermaid. Smart girl! {PS. Check out Eva's 1st ponytail!}
Happy. Our house has been rockin' with Pharell Williams song, Happy. We put it on and dance our hearts out. It always boosts my mood :)
My shadow. I am working on getting Eva to spend a little bit of time playing by herself each day. With just one child it makes sense for us to spend most of our days side by side. Plus I adore her two year old self so usually I'm happy to be her all-day-buddy. It would be nice if she was able to entertain herself more sometimes but she just loves people. I'd be flattered to think it was me that she loves but in other situations when we are around other people she is perfectly fine to leave me and be their shadow instead. #extremelysocial

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Weekend Update in iPhone Pics {2.23.14}

Well it's been a few days since the weekend...but here is what we were up to. Friday night we drove out to Frisco to see our nieces, Kiersi and Kayden, play volleyball. Their team was so cute and I was really impressed when they were able to hit the ball and get their serves over. I know the court is adjusted for their age range, but that still takes talent. Must be those Bradley athletic genes :) After the game we let Eva go stay Friday and Saturday nights with Nana and Papa. 
Saturday morning we got to sleep in for the first time in what seemed like a billion years. And by sleep in, I mean until about 9:30AM. Usually Eva is away on a Saturday night which means we are up early for church the next morning regardless. We enjoyed our sleepy morning and then headed to Starbucks for some breakfast and card games. We fell in love over games of Skipbo about 7 years ago so this is one of our favorites.
Saturday afternoon we visited the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus. We got some complimentary passes from a friend of ours who works for the Secret Service, so I don't want to say we were kind of a big deal, but....haha, jk. No special treatment here, although we did enjoy the free passes! Ryan is posed on the phone in the replica Oval Office and I posed by the two photos of President Bush's dogs that he actually had in the Oval office during his term. We also posed outside with the statues of both President Bushes. This really is a great center to visit and I learned some neat information. The craziest to see was how optimistic everything was around back to school time of 2001 - they had so many great programs and ideas in place - and then September 11th happened and changed everything. I'll just say that I would never want the job of President, so please, no nominations.
We had planned on visiting On the Border afterwards for National Margarita Day but there was a 2 hour wait! At 4 o'clock in the afternoon! We decided instead to eat at Cheesecake Factory. I photographed our 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake and would recommend it to all cheesecake and chocolate lovers!  Then we headed to North Park to browse around and ended up at Brookstone. I love this store although I'm pretty sure I've only ever made one purchase there. What I really wanted was there new chair. It looks like a regular club chair but has secret fold outs for back/neck and calve/foot massagers. This is awesome!!!! I sat there for a long time (probably too long, sorry Brookstone employees). Sadly, these chairs are mega-expensive and it is unlikely I will ever own one. A girl can dream, right? The other awesome product was their sand. It is made of 2% polymer so it feels like sand but isn't messy. The sand has a unique quality where it kind of clings back together. I didn't buy this either but it might end up in somebodies Easter basket.....
Saturday night by BFF Erica turned the big 3-0. We capped off our date day in Dallas by attending her birthday celebration along with some other fabulous college friends. I love getting together with old friends! Old, as in I've known them for a long time...not old, as in 30. 30 is still young :)
Sunday afternoon we played games for like 3 hours with our friends Jake and Laramie. I hate to brag, but I did win Settlers of Catan....after loosing everything else we had played.

Now I am enjoying this cozy Tuesday afternoon with a hot cup of coffee and a blissfully sleeping two year old. That is all.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Back Porch Sittin'

This morning I was enjoying some quiet time out on the back porch. My devotional for today included the following verse from 1 Thessalonians, "Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." As I looked around and started thinking about our back porch I was filled with rejoicing and thankfulness. Our porch may not be fancy, but it is filled with blessings and sweet memories that I want to share.

Eva's slide. I am so thankful that she has this small piece to play on and it makes me rejoice to think about our friendship with the Ford family who passed this along to Eva when their kids no longer used it. The gliding couch. I used this as a special reading spot in my classroom when I taught. I love sitting out here watching my little girl play. I love sitting here to read my Bible early in the mornings. The folding chairs. Now before you judge me as being part of the Beverly Hill Billies, just wait. I may wish that these chairs could be place somewhere else, but I don't mind them being there because of the reason why they are there. Those chairs are taking up space on our porch because on Sunday nights are home is filled with 30 students learning to love Jesus. I will gladly keep the chairs on my porch if that makes it easier for kids to fill our home. (PS The chairs can't go in that closet behind because it is FILLED with holiday decor.)
The porch toys. I like the life that these toys breathe into an ordinary slab of concrete. The water table, the ball, the box, the basketball goal - all of these are things that are used to have fun days outside! I don't really care how all of this looks from the golf course side of our yard if it means more sweet times outside as a family.
Our view. I'm so thankful that our view is part of the golf course. I would much rather see land and trees than the back of somebodies house. I rejoice when I think of how Eva laughs as she runs around and how lucky we are are to have this open space. Yes, I wish we had more of a fenced in back yard, but at least Eva has plenty of space to play! Also I love looking at a beautiful Texas sky. 
The field of dandelions. Technically these might be weeds, but to my two year old, they are a field of diamonds. Every time she sees one and says, "Mama! Yyoook! A FOWWER!" my heart smiles. She is so happy to pick them and bring them to me. It doesn't matter that they are short lived, she just finds joy in blessing me with them.
How abundantly blessed am I to have such a beautiful space to enjoy such a beautiful smile? How much does God love me to remind me of all these little hidden treasures? Happy Saturday....hoping you are spending the day rejoicing and finding things to be thankful for :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekend Update in iPhone Pics {2.16.14}

This update is technically a bit longer than a weekend update, because I'm starting on Thursday morning...but I have to many sweet memories that I want to post all together! Thursday morning we met up with our MOPS friends at the fire station in Denton. Eva is always interested in firetrucks when they zoom by with their sirens on so I figured she would enjoy this little field trip with her friends. 
She did have fun and was only scared once when the firefighters had to leave to respond to a quick emergency. I actually used to take my 2nd graders on a yearly field trip here as well so it was nostalgic to get to go back as a mama instead of a teacher. Afterwards I decided to take a much needed stop at Target so we could purchase a small toy firetruck to play with. It even has lights and sounds! #coolmom
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights for us were spent at the C3 Conference at Fellowship Church in Grapevine. They had a free photo booth so we enjoyed being silly :)
The speaker Thursday night was Dharius Daniels. I enjoy his preaching style so much! He is soulful and so enthusiastic for Jesus! He spoke last year at the conference and I was so happy when I heard he was returning for this year.
Fast forward to Saturday (read Valentine's post here)....Saturday morning Ryan and I had a date to go play disc golf. Neither of us had ever played and we had a blast! I guess the course is kind of old and some of the goals were missing so we made our own. Learning something new with someone you love is always exciting!
Saturday afternoon we took Eva to play at Casey's Clubhouse. This was our first time to visit this playground and let me tell you, if you live anywhere near Grapevine/Southlake/Trophy Club/Roanoke this place is WORTH THE VISIT. Such a neat playground! It's all free and there was so much to play with.  A huge part of it is designed to be like a tree house and there were so many features you don't find elsewhere. Wow! Best playground ever. I even took a turn in the super long slide. It was a bit bumpy for an adult.
Age 2 may bring with it some hard days, but Saturday was full of giggles and smiles. Eva was sooooo happy to run and play! We soaked up the sun and the sillies.
Sunday was filled with church and more playtime in the backyard. I was dying over Eva's pigtails and dress on Sunday morning. That afternoon she got to fly her Cinderella kite in the backyard. Sunday night we had a movie night with our youth group and watched Cool Runnings (in the spirit of the Olympics of course). I couldn't believe that most of the students had never watched or heard of this awesome movie. #imissthe90s

The only sad part of our day was realizing at bed time tonight that Eva was running a fever. Boo...there goes the chance of any outings tomorrow. I'm really hoping its just from the weather change, a busy weekend, and a no-napping day. She seemed fine tonight and was only coughing or sneezing occasionally so I am praying that she will be all better in the morning.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everybody is feeling loved today. I like Valentine's day as just a special day to show others love. It doesn't have to be romantic love, just kindess love. Last week Eva made these cards to send to her grandparents and great-grandparents and had a fun time gluing all the pieces on each of the hearts. It only took about 3 days of back and forth glue sessions to make 5 cards to send. She was really proud of them.
I took advantage of that beautiful snow to get a good photo of her in a Valentine's outfit. I thought it would be cute to have her holding hearts on a twine but she didn't quite get it. Oh, well...I'm sure everybody still enjoyed the photo.
Ryan is at a conference today so we made plans to go to Dallas and spend the afternoon with my mom and Grandma Dede. I am IN LOVE with this photo. I will be framing this one for sure. Such a beautiful photo of three of my favorite girls! And they are all in Valentine's colors so that makes it even better. 
Part of our plan today was to pass out Valentine's cookies to the residents and workers at the place where Dede lives. We decorated them yesterday and I wish I had caught on camera the moment when Eva POURED sprinkles all over the first cookies. Like a mountain of sprinkles. Haha, I hope that whoever ended up with that cookie is a big sprinkles fan! 
I really wanted to teach Eva that today was about showing love to others and not just eating sweets or getting little gifts. She was so sweet handing out the cookies and would walk up to each person and say, "Here you go. Cookie. VALENTINE!" It made my mama heart swell with joy to see her being so friendly to everybody.
I will have other days (like tomorrow!) to enjoy going on dates and celebrating romance with my husband. One day in 20 years Eva will be allowed to date a boy also. Until then I hope she always remembers how many people love her. I hope to create in her a desire to be a blessing to others. And I hope she doesn't burst from all those sprinkles she's consumed :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

For goodness sake, just go to sleep.

Anyone who knew Eva when she was a baby, knew that that girl LOVED her binky. After  maybe 6 months she did a pretty good job of only using it at bedtime and oh boy, was it a perfect sleep cue for her. Hand her that pacifier, she was happy and ready for bed. Worked like a charm. 2 years later though, we felt like it was time for her to give up her pacifier. You can read about how we did that here. This post is about the past few months since she gave up her pacifier and how life is now that we are past that mountain.

At the point of giving up her binky, Eva was a little over two years old, had transitioned to sleeping in a regular full size bed, and had entered into the "independent" stage of being a two year old. Wow. That was a lot going on all during one season of life. Let me share the truth about all of this. It was rough. Like really, for me it was one of the toughest season's of being a mom. Every single nap time was met with huge fits, decisions about disciplining, and rarely any sleep. Night time sleep was usually decent, although she did get in a habit of wanting us to lie down with her (which I didn't mind until it got longer and she didn't want us to leave) and she would wake up more often in the night. I read tons of information about toddler sleep habits so that I could keep a frame of reference for what was normal. I read lots of things searching for advice but unfortunately most of what I read was just other moms agreeing that "no nap" stage for two year olds is really hard. Every single nap time felt like this discouraging battle of trying to keep Eva in bed, constantly monitoring what she was climbing on top of in her room, and praying desperately that she would just give up and go to sleep. Regardless of consequences or intervening, each day was hard. And on top of that a toddler that doesn't sleep well gets soooo grumpy and emotional in the afternoon, so basically our home was an emotional meltdown waiting to happen between 1-8PM each day. For about 2 months straight. That's a long time out of each day to feel like you're struggling. Over Christmas Ryan and Eva's grandparents were able to help a bit and could actually help her nap some of the time which was the greatest gift ever. I was so worried though that after Ryan went back to work everything would be terrible again.

I know you might be thinking, "It's just a nap. Let it go." Yeah I agree that sounds good in theory, but seeing the affect that not napping was having on my child made it so clear that she really did need a nap, or at least a peaceful rest time, in her day. Also as sweet as I think it would be to co-sleep and snuggle up with her for a good nap, co-sleeping has NEVER worked well for us, even when Eva was much younger. She likes the "co" part but not the "sleep" part and the whole experience results in very little sleep for anybody. So here is what we did that finally worked for us:
1. We took any nonessential furniture out of her room. She has her bed, nightstand, and dresser. That's it. This wasn't done as a punishment but as a way to decrease her desire to climb and jump on furniture. I also took lots of stuff out of her dresser and stored it in the closet so that there is less for her to make a giant mess with. This helped me know that she would be safer and that I didn't have to worry as much about what she was doing.
2. We started calling it her "rest time". I don't know why but she seemed to accept this was more than calling it nap time, like I wasn't actually forcing her to sleep.
3. I let her pick where she wants to rest. She has to be in her room, but she doesn't have to be in bed. The truth is that making her stay on her bed was creating a big power struggle that I didn't feel like needed to be there. If she wants to feel in control by resting on the floor with a pillow and blanket, that's fine. It's a win for me as long as she is resting.
4. I turn on soft music and let her dance around her room for a bit without intervening. This seems counterproductive but actually lets her wind down and have some time to just be by herself. Also I'm totally okay with her getting out books and reading. She generally lies down all on her own now.
Most days now we read a few books, she plays and talks to herself for about 30 minutes, and then she will fall asleep for about an hour. If not, at least she has gotten some time to rest and I've gotten a much needed break to recharge. This has helped our family sooooo much! I'm not saying all of this will work for everybody, but I really wanted to share because I didn't find a lot of answers or positive ideas out there when I was in the middle of this huge struggle. I'm glad we didn't just give up her nap time but were persistent in finding a system that worked for us.She doesn't sleep every day, but we aren't battling it out either. And do I regret that little pacifier that led to all this? I don't think so. I feel like we would have gone through this transition about some point and it was just the last catalyst not the eternal enemy. 

My final advice to other mamas going through this same dilemma.... know that it won't last forever! Find what works for you. Find another mom who can give you positive, encouraging advice. Try to stay calm on the hard days. And as always, drink coffee and pray to Jesus :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Keeping Learning FUN

In the fall I started working with Eva on a few early learning concepts - things like recognizing letters, counting, fine motor skills, etc. Every time I wanted to work on a "letter of the week" with her though she would run off or loose interest very quickly. She clearly had some kind of reluctance to those ABC's. It didn't matter if my idea sounded good on paper or was really cute on Pinterest, she wasn't up for it. So I backed off for a while and didn't worry about it. I believe that kids learn so much through play time and just being a kid and doing kid experiences. I really wasn't concerned. I figured she would come around to those ABC's eventually. I'm writing this post to share some of the FUN new ideas that I've come up with (some on my own, some from Pinterest) to share with other mamas. Lots of these will work with all pre-k age levels because you could change up what your child is doing. I am also not making an attempt to compare Eva to any other kid. Maybe your 2 year old can already read - great! Maybe they don't know letters yet - no worries, Eva didn't know any letters until about a month ago. All kids learn at their own pace and will likely pick up on everything they need to know just by living life around parents who love them. Our days are not just spent doing learning activities all the time. Some days we do lots of these, some days we do none. She will hopefully be learning the rest of her life, so I feel like it is equally important for her to have days where we just go to the park or the store or watch movies or build a cave out of blankets. Having said all that, here are some FUN\ ways we've been learning :)

I read an idea about starting with letters that are meaningful. I decided to start looking at letters again by making our own ABC book. We slowly created some letters, usually 1 or 2 every day or so. I started with the "E" for her name and then did "D" for Daddy and "M" for Mama. I printed off small pictures and we glued them on a hand drawn letter (not the fanciest but a 2 year old doesn't mind). After that I let her tell me family members that she wanted in the book. If their name started with a letter we already had, we added their picture. If it was a new letter I drew that new letter and we added  it to our book. She LOVES this! She asks to read her book all the time. We now have 12 letters and she can tell you who's name starts with each letter. I used supplies we already had so this FUN activity cost us nothing and got her interested in letters and making that connection that letters mean something. I did put each page in a page protector because I didn't want this to turn into a game of ripping the pictures off the letters (although that is definitely a fun task for any two year old).
We also already had a full set of alphabet cookie cutters. We've used them for play dough but then she mostly wants to rip them apart instead of look at them (putting things together and then taking them apart is a very appropriate skill and teaches them about how stuff works). This past week we used the cookie cutters to dip in colored paint and make art. I set out only the 12 letters she is already familiar with so that she can really focus on learning those. 
We also have had foam letters for the bath tub since before she was born. As a baby she chewed on them. As a bigger baby she just played with them in the bath water. I got the idea to show her how the letters in the book can match her foam letters. Then I showed her how I could write the letters on cards (cut up paper). She can now match up the letters! We call this our letter game. And every time she gets 3 matches I tell her that she "wins!" I do silly "good job" things as she as playing her game like cheering in a whisper voice. 
 Foam bath tub letters + letters written on cut up pieces of paper = big learning FUN!
For Christmas Aunt Amanda gave Eva a puzzle of linking up letters. At first her favorite thing was to punch out each little rubber letter and make a huge mess. There is that taking-apart-putting together skill again :)  Now we play another "game" where she looks for the letters that she knows. She can name B, E, J, A, D, and M (oops! upside down) and tell someone who's name starts with that letter. For N (sideways!), K, H, C, P, and G she can recognize it enough to tell me who's name starts with that letter. I just love that she is learning and having so much FUN with all the different ways to see and make letters! She's even gotten to where she can recognize letters around the house, like on wall hangings, and in books. {Insert rejoicing from my former teacher heart!!!}
 When we were taking these pictures I was trying to get her to look at me. Ryan told her, "Put your eyes on Mama," and she clearly thought he meant to literally put her eyes on me. Hehehe....
The other skill we are working on right now is counting to 10. Back before Christmas she could usually count from 1-10 just aloud (like not counting objects) but then we stopped for a few weeks and she forgot a lot. So we've been working on counting aloud and counting objects. Having been a teacher I would say that it's really important to work on both, although again, not something to stress out about at age 2. So we make counting FUN! Eva loves goldfish crackers and I found this cute fish bowl counting sheet so she can put the fish in the bowl with each number and then eat them. Yum!
Nana and Papa gave Eva a huge pack of foam sheets and foam stickers from Christmas that she uses to make art. I figured why not turn her art into learning?! We sorted a few into piles that were the same and then she helped make the picture cards above. I did go back when she was done and slightly adjust the placement of each sticker so that it would look like a more standard grouping. She really enjoys doing this counting activity and I think it has a lot to due with the fact that she made the cards herself.
When we play this game we line up all the number cards that have 1-5 written on them and say the numbers in order. Then we flip all the picture cards over and mix them up. She picks one to turn over, counts the pictures, and then matches the color of the card to the number. This way she is counting and learning to recognize the written number. One day we might make bigger numbers but for now going up to 5 is great.
Finally here is a FUN cold day, indoor activity. It's not counting or letters but we did enjoy doing it. I used to be a big scrapbooker and have tons of old scrapbook paper. I cut up a few different pieces and separated them in a muffin pan. She got to pick out the pieces and practice putting one drop of glue at a time on them. That girl can do the teensy-tiniest drop of glue I've ever seen. 
Look at all those organized squares of paper! (She wouldn't have cared if I had just dumped them all on the table but I liked it better this way. Plus she could see her options better this way. Clearly.)
She glued them on a bigger piece of paper. I let her have all the say-so in picking out which squares and where she wanted to glue them because art should be about creating. We also used these squares to make cute Valentine's Day cards for her grandparents.... I will post that soon when they've all received them in the mail :) 
In case you were getting the interpretation that we live some sort of dream life where Eva does everything I plan out for her I wanted to share this picture. This picture is the image of an activity from Pinterest. The child in this picture is carefully placing the fuzzy poms on the corresponding rainbow arch, carefully one at a time, in perfect precision. I printed this off and got out the fuzzy poms. I showed Eva what to do. She poured the poms all over the floor and then had a great time tossing them all around in the air. Just some proof that I have a completely normal toddler and that not all activities go as planned. Although pouring out a whole pan full of colored poms can be FUN too :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekend Update in iPhone Pics {2.9.14}

Happy Monday! Here is what our little family filled our weekend with. On Friday temperatures were still freezing cold but we wanted to get out and walk around so we headed to Grapevine Mills Mall. Mostly we just walked around but we did let Eva ride the carousel. It felt good to be out and about after so many cold days stuck indoors. 
Friday evening we went to see the Byron Nelson HS Freshman boy's basketball team won. It was a good game and I caught this action shot of one of our students. 
We sent Eva off to stay with my parents on Saturday and my fabulous husband planned a great date night for us. It was full of sweet, romantic surprises! First he dressed up fancy and snuck outside so that he could ring the doorbell to "pick me up" for our date. 
And in his hands were these beautiful daisies! I was so surprised to get flowers! The best part about receiving flowers before a date is that when you see them on the counter the next morning you get a sweet reminder of your date the night before. 
Then he took me to eat at Brio. We ended up eating outside on the patio because there was an hour plus wait inside and I've actually always wanted to dine on their patio. They have a beautiful set up with lights above and for most of the time we were the only ones out there so it was like having a private patio. Thankfully they did have those giant heaters which the put right beside our table. My toes were a bit frozen but my heart was so warm and happy that I didn't care. I ordered artichoke crusted beef tenderloins and my meal was sooooo yummy. I wish I was eating more of it right now.
Then we headed to Buon Giorno, a hip coffee shop in Grapevine. We spent a few hours playing games and enjoying good conversation. I sure love this man! Thanks for such a special date night, honey!
After church on Sunday some friends invited us to go bowling at Main Event. Check out Ryan's action shot. When I saw the picture he took of me I laughed because you can't even see that I'm holding a bowling ball.... I look more like I'm doing the robot. But I did bowl a 60+ game which is pretty good for me.
Sunday night we had BSM at our house. I love how Eva is just sitting on the couch acting like one of the big kids. She has done such a great job lately of staying quiet and sitting contently with her friends while Ryan is teaching.

Hope your week is great and filled with some Valentine's love :) I will be enjoying the Olympics and looking forward to warmer weather later in the week!