Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ben's Perspective

Ben has an annoying a funny habit of stealing our camera, and sometimes he manages to turn it on and take pictures. Here is some of his latest work:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Morning Routine

Since we're not doing anything exciting enough to post about, I thought I'd describe my morning routine, just for the sake of documenting it.

My morning routine is the product of a long process of evolution. Back when I had only one child, it was easy for me to roll out of bed and start my day whenever he happened to wake up, which was (and still is) around 6:45am. Then I realized that this left me with little time to do important things, like take a shower, so I woke up a little earlier so I could get a head start on the day before he woke up.  Whenever I found a new thing I wanted to do, I would set my alarm a little earlier so I could get it done before wake up time. 

This habit became all the more important with the addition of another child because with so little time during the day to get important things done, getting up early became a necessity for me. Since Ben was born, I've tweaked my morning schedule here and there until I came up with the perfect fit for me, which I will describe below. 

My morning routine has some rules: 
1) I don't check email before quiet time, because once I do, I find myself wasting a lot of time on the Internet, which defeats the purpose of waking up before dawn. 
2) Kids are not allowed out of their room before 7:00am. If someone has to go potty at 6:30am, I take him quickly, and then tell him "It's still nighttime" (which I can get away with now since it's still a bit dark out) and put him back to bed with some books until 7:00am.
3) Morning routine does not apply on the weekend

Here's the schedule:
5:25am - Alarm sounds and I will my eyelids to open, even though all I want to do at that moment is to roll over and go back to sleep
5:30 - Run/walk on treadmill for 20 minutes
5:50 - Get shower, do hair, get dressed
6:15 - Start quiet time: prayer, daily Bible reading, and Bible study chapter if I have time 
6:45 - Get ready for the morning - check email, let the dog out and feed him, start breakfast, make coffee
7:00 - Get boys up and start the day

Lately I've been working on making sure that my mood and happiness is not dependent on my morning routine being completed in a smooth and orderly fashion. There are some mornings that don't go according to "my" schedule, and those are times that I find myself acting annoyed and impatient at Mark at the boys, simply because it is part of my nature (that I have to constantly ask God for help with and fight against) to bristle against change of plans. 

This morning is such an example: I had a late night at a Mom's Night Out and didn't get into bed until 10:30pm (which is late for me), so I let myself "sleep in" this morning until 6:25am. I basically only had enough time to get a shower before a certain little person started yelling at 6:40am that he had to go pee and poo, which turned out to be a twenty-minute ordeal. Before I knew it, it was time to start breakfast and start the day, which left no time for my quiet time. I found myself being rude to my husband and being short with Tommy because I was annoyed at both of them (and not for any rational reason) because I couldn't have "my" time that I thought I so desperately needed. Trust me, the irony of my bad attitude resulting because I couldn't have my quiet time with God was not lost on me. So while Tommy was still on the potty, I brewed myself a cup of coffee, said a quick but earnest prayer asking God to give me grace to be patient and kind to my family, and my attitude made a U-turn from annoyed to cheerful in just five minutes.

So while I'm learning to hold to my routine loosely, this is what my mornings usually look like. It has been my morning routine (minus the extra 20 minutes for treadmill that I just added about two months ago) for about a year now and it's working really well for me. And while I'm learning that it's not necessary, I do like having time to myself in the morning to get my head in the right place and get ready for the day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

An Interview with Tommy

My real-life and blog friend, Natalie, recently posted an interview with her daughter Anna who is two weeks older than Tommy.  This interview is pretty much identical to hers.  

What is your name?  My name is Tommy.

How old are you?  I’m three.

When is your birthday?  A firetruck cake.

No, WHEN was your birthday?  Oh. It was 3 months ago. (How did he know that?)

What is your mommy's name?  My mommy’s name is Mrs. Knapp.

What is your daddy’s name?  Um, Daddy?  Daddy Knapp.

What does your mommy do?  My mommy makes dinner. (I was making dinner at the time.)

What does daddy do?  He does work! 

What do you like to play with mommy?  I like to swing with Mommy.

What do you like to play with daddy?  I like to play games with Daddy.

What is your favorite color?  Green.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Ride my bike.

Where do you want to live when you grow up?  Home! (Oh, boy, let's hope not!)

What is your favorite food?  Broccoli is. And oranges. (Yes!)

What is your least favorite food?  Meat is. (Very true.)

Who does our family love most?  Hammers!  (???)

No, WHO does our family LOVE most of all?  Um, I don’t know.

Do you know what church is?  Yeah! What is it? It’s kinda like a triangle. (Is it wishful thinking that perhaps he's referring to the Trinity?  Probably.)

Where do you like to eat?  I like to eat at church.  

What do you like to eat at church?  Goldfish!

What is your brother’s name?  Benji.

Who is your best friend?  Benji is!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sick of Being Sick

Our family has been sick for what seems like the past three months. We may have had a week or two here and there of healthfulness, but overall, the kids have been coughing, sneezing, and lately throwing up, since November. Many other families we know can empathize with us.

On Friday a plague known as "Five-Day-Stomach-Bug" (which I didn't even know existed) hit us. It struck Ben first, who started throwing up at midnight on Friday and has had diarrhea ever since. Then it hit me on Saturday, but luckily only lasted 12 hours for me. But oh, what a horrible 12 hours that was! I actually lost four pounds in half a day. (Too bad that weight loss didn't make my jeans fit any better. Sigh.)  Then the plague hit Tommy on Monday afternoon when he complained for hours that his tummy hurt and finally culminated in him tossing his cookies all over the (luckily hardwood) floor. Meanwhile, by some miracle, Mark managed to dodge the plague bullet and remain healthy all week.

The past five days have been a blur of:
- rushing Ben to the bathroom the second I sense he's going to be sick
- disinfecting all surfaces of bathroom that sickness could possibly have touched, then doing it again just to be safe
- disinfecting sick toddler 37 times a day so he doesn't get anyone else sick
- making sure everyone else disinefects their hands 37 times a day so they don't get sick
- mixing Pedialyte drinks
- doing a bazillion loads of laundry from sickness I didn't quite catch in time 
- reassuring Tommy that there's nothing I can do about his sick tummy
- watching entirely way too much WALL-E for my taste

But now the clouds are parting and I can see some sunlight shining through. The current illness seems to be just about finished. Tommy was energetic and happy all day yesterday, and had barely a hint of any sickness. Ben is visiting the bathroom less and less every day. And my energy level has nearly returned. Some strong-smelling foods still make me queasy, but that should be gone in a few days.  

Being so terribly sick for the past week has made me so thankful for the days that we're all well. I'm looking forward to this weekend when we will likely all be well and will be able to do something fun as a family.  

I look so happy in this photo because Ben is finally sleeping, instead of pooping everywhere, and I can finally go tackle the mountain of laundry in peace.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentines for Boys

A tiny box of chocolates with a tiny Matchbox car tied on top...what more could a little boy want for Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 "To-Do List" Update

It's two and a half months into the new year, so I thought I'd give an update on how my "2010 To-Do List" is going.

1. Dramatically decrease Internet time.  I was off to a good start with for awhile, until a few weeks ago when I went back to my habit of using my laptop in the kitchen to browse Facebook or other sites when I should be doing more productive things.  I'm going to have to work on this one.

2. Read more good books.  Since Bible study started back up in mid-January, I've haven't had as much time to read as I did over the holidays. I usually work on my Bible study during my 'free period' of nap time (the downtime where I don't have any chores to do). I think I'm going to try getting it done in the morning before the boys wake up, so I have more time to relax and read during their nap time. 

3. Research homeschooling methods.  I'm doing well here too. I'm almost finished with a book about the Charlotte Mason method, which I really like so far. Next, I'm going to start tracking down books about Waldorf and Montessori, and any other methods I might come across.

4. Meal plan.  I haven't been doing much meal planning lately. In fact, the meal plan that is currently stuck on the fridge is from over a month ago. I still do my usual shopping routine of buying meats we like and lots of veggies, but I haven't gotten around to formally sitting down and assigning meals to days. I really want to get back to doing that because it takes the stress out of figuring out what's for dinner on a given day.

5. Make my own bread.  Still haven't found the Holy Grail of bread that we can all enjoy (and I can feed my family with a good conscience). Lately I've only been making bread when I want to eat it for dinner, such as with an Italian meal. Otherwise, I haven't been using the bread maker very much at all lately. It's been a bit frustrating trying to find a recipe that turns out right every single time and that we all like. Will need to revisit the idea of making bread later.

6. Exercise more.  I'm happy to report success here! Though not the way I had planned. Initially I was diligent in dragging the kids to the bike trail every dry morning, but I realized that I needed to do more than a stop/start two mile walk if I wanted a real fitness routine. So a month ago I started doing quick at-home exercises during the boys' nap time (another reason for decreased reading time. And then a week ago I started jogging for 15 minutes on the treadmill in the morning. I have to wake up at 5:30am to do this, but it's worth it because I feel so much better afterwards and for the rest of the day. Eventually I'd like to work up to 30 minutes on the treadmill, so I'm going to add on 5 minutes (and subtract 5 minutes from my sleep *sniff*) a week until I get to 30 minutes.

7. Read to the boys 30 minutes a day.  Unfortunately, I'm not doing well with this. I need to figure out different times of day to read them books, because right before nap and after nap isn't a very good time at all. The boys are too tired to sit still for 15 minutes (each session) of reading, and quite frankly, I just want to get them to bed as quickly as possible so I can go get a nap myself (yet another reason for my own decreased reading time!) I'm thinking that scattering book reading throughout the whole day is a much better idea - perhaps a book at each meal, a few books at nap time, books for potty time, and then one or two books before sleep times.  

8. Read the whole Bible.  I'm continuing with my Bible reading on schedule. I've read Genesis through 2 Samuel and now I'm halfway through the book of Psalms. I've so enjoyed reading about David's life, and a few times caught myself reading well past my stopping point for the day simply because the story was so interesting. This makes me think of John Piper's quick segment about how exciting the Bible is. After reading the detailed account of David's life, I'm finding the Psalms, which I've read many times before, so much more enriching and encouraging. It's amazing that David praised God so enthusiastically and whole-heartedly, not because his life was so trouble-free and effortless, but because he had so many troubles.

9. Memorize scripture.  I'm doing moderately well with memorizing scripture, but not as well as I could (or should) be. I memorized a few longer scriptures on contentment which have helped me a lot. But now I need to memorize other verses which aren't as instantly helpful as the others, but that are important to know and to hold in my heart. I would really love to memorize Psalm 63 and 103.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Progress in Contentment

Just about a month ago I wrote about the struggle I was having with contentment as it relates to my family size, and let's be honest, my "Iwannabepregnantnow!" attitude that mirrored my 3- and 2-year olds.   Since then I have been earnestly seeking God's help in learning contentment, through prayer and through a Bible study on the topic.  

I'm happy to say that since a month ago, God has been faithful to teach me contentment.  What has helped tremendously is memorizing Philippians 4:6-8:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

Whenever a thought of discontentment comes to mind - such as sadness at seeing a pregnant woman or a newborn, or jealousy at learning that yet another friend is pregnant - and I mean the very moment it comes to mind - I run that scripture through my head and  PRESTO! the thought is banished. Sometimes if I can't remember the whole scripture I'll just remember "...whatever is true..." (since it is not true that I'm pregnant, and it is true that everything happens in God's timing and not mine) and that is enough to banish the wayward thought.

What made me realize that I had come such a long way from a month ago was a moment last week when I was typing out prayer requests to email to my Bible study group.  I got to my own and started typing my usual prayer request: "Please pray for a third child and contentment as we wait on the Lord."  But I stopped myself and just stared at the sentence. 

And then it finally hit me: I need to want God's will above all else. My thinking, even if not confessed, has been "Lord I want a third child, but also your will to be done. But please give me another child (because that's what I really really really want)." 

I have been wanting my own way above all else, instead of HIS way, whatever that may be. I have known all along that this is the point I needed to reach, but had no clue how to get there. Now my prayer request has become "Please pray for God's will to be done concerning our family size, and for me to continue to learn contentment."

Another confirmation that God has brought me a long way happened last night when we visited friends who have a two week old baby boy, their third child. I held that warm, soft little newborn for a good half hour and felt nothing but untainted joy and happiness for their family for the blessing of that tiny baby. One month ago I would have been a puddle of tears just at seeing a newborn baby let alone holding one.

I haven't fully arrived at the destination known as "completely content", but I'm definitely on my way. I'm still not completely at peace with the idea of never having another child, but with God's help I'm working on it. 

Valentine's Day Craft

My favorite crafts to do with the boys are ones that are as open-ended as possible. I got this idea for a Valentine garland from my friend Jodi. I told them to rip up or cut up tissue paper and put it in a bowl, and amazingly, even though Tommy was given license to use his scissors, he still chose to rip up the paper. Then they were to glue it to the card-stock hearts I had cut out.  

I was surprised that Benji was interested in doing this and actually completed two of his own hearts. He usually only participates in crafts long enough to spill something and then he's bored after that. But today he glued very intently and stuck lots of his little papers to the glue. It was the first project that I didn't have to "help" him finish. I liked Tommy's technique of balling the paper up before sticking it to the heart - it's fun watching him figure out alternate ways of doing things. So, the boys got their obligatory craft-time in, we found a way to spend a rainy morning, and now our eating area is festive!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Letter to Myself

Dear Self,
I know that you've always had a love/hate relationship with your hair. You seem to like the way long hair looks, but hate the effort involved in caring for your very thick and dense head of hair. When you were a little girl, you liked the look of luxurious blond tresses down your back, but hated the time it took (your mother) to blow it dry and brush it out.

When you became an adult, you slowly shortened the length inch by inch every few months until finally around the time you became engaged, you chopped it all off. Boy, what a relief that was! Hair maintenance time was cut by three-quarters! However, you grew dissatisfied with your hair style and length over time, because you felt your hairstyle wasn't feminine enough. You thought you looked boyish in your haircut, especially because you tend to wear basic comfortable clothes, like jeans and t-shirts, which aren't very feminine. So you decided to grow it out. Then you cut it again. Then you grew it out again. Then you cut it again. You get the idea.

Please listen to me: your femininity and worth is not contained in the length of your hair. Your femininity is in every loving action to your husband, time spent listening patiently to a hurting friend, and in the special snuggle times with your children. It doesn't make you any less feminine to have short hair. And your worth is in knowing that you are God's child, that He came down to this earth to save you from certain darkness, and that He loves you no matter what you look like.

Please trust me in this more practical matter: you don't want to grow your hair out again, at least not for a very long time, like years. Do you like five-minute long showers instead of fifteen-minute long showers? Do you like hair maintenance that takes five minutes instead of twenty minutes? Then please quit growing your hair out and leave it short!  It looks cute!

That's it. Keep up the good work with those boys.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Benji's Day Out

You may remember from Tommy's birthday a few months ago that we started a new birthday tradition with the boys that includes choosing meals for the day and going out on a mommy date to get a treat and a new book.  Normally this would be done on the child's actual birthday, but with Ben this year we had to do it a day after his birthday because of Mark's work schedule.  

So, on Monday night, we all went out to Target together to pick out that special Happy Birthday Cereal, which turned out to be Cocoa Puffs (one of my favorites!)  We ate it for breakfast Tuesday morning and after breakfast we gave Benji his birthday present, a set of tools that look just like Daddy's.  Both boys were completely enamored with the toolset and it kept them busy for quite awhile.  

After toolset playtime, it was time to go to Barnes & Noble to choose a birthday book.  After consideration, I decided to narrow the selection down for Ben so that he had four good books to choose from, because if it were up to him, he would have chosen a cacophonous Thomas the Train Engine "book".  He selected a mommy-approved classic Curious George book.  After the book was chosen and I picked up some books for big brother, we headed to the Starbucks inside the bookstore and got our treats: a mocha for me, chocolate milk for Ben, and a peanut butter cookie to split between us.  

The rest of the day was pretty normal.  We went home for a lunch of hot dogs, french fries and on the more healthful side, blueberries and carrots. Luckily, I didn't set the oven on fire this time!  After naps it was time for dinner, which was spaghetti, meatballs, and homemade bread.  Benji seemed to enjoy all his yummy food and I think he enjoyed his few hours of having mommy to himself.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday, Benji!

Happy birthday, my sweet Benji.