Friday, September 30, 2011

A (lotta) Little Puppy Love

I have been working part-time housekeeping at Antlers Lodge these past couple weeks.  It has been fun to get out and get to work a couple hours each day.  Doug studies in the morning so the kids usually stay home but Charissa has joined me a couple times, carrying soap, scrubbing floors and feeling very, very important ;-)

Early this summer, Antlers lost a beloved friend and mascot, Jackson the St. Bernard.  While he will never be replaced, Antlers just wasn't complete without a gentle giant.  And so, Jackson Junior aka. "J.J." came to bring his own life, love and playfulness to the people of Cooke City.

This puppy is so much fun!  I love coming to work and seeing just how much he grew during the night - which seems to be about an inch per 24 hours.  It was hard to get a picture of him since he wanted to sprawl out in my lap but once he found this chunk of wood to chew on, he was preoccupied enough to get my camera within focusing distance.

"Yummy, yummy wood!"
Check out this paw!  It's the size of my whole palm!

This face makes me want to buy stock in dog food and go get one of my own.  I can hardly stand his cute, floppy, huggable-ness!

There is a lotta, little puppy love right here.
J.J., you will go far, sweet puppy friend!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Of Children and Sleep

Yes, I realize this title exclusive?  If you're a parent, you know what I mean - unless of course, you're one of those with a "he slept ever since the day he was born - he was even born at a normal waking hour!" parents.  In that case, praise God from whom all blessings flow and maybe our kids should talk.  But anyway...

Before my first was born, I thought crying it out was basically the most horrifying thing I could think of.  I would actually tear up picturing the poor children with "cry it out" parents.  Only heartless people would ever listen to their child without running to their aid.  Of course, I agonized over different sleep methods and devoured books:  "Ferberize" (please come up with a better name, someone) or "No-Cry" (doesn't that sound nice? Ha!) or the "Attachment Parenting Method" (which was my standard of perfection).  But then came the end of all my idealized notions...I had a child. 

Now really, Charissa wasn't a bad sleeper.  At least, I don't think she was - I can't seem to remember all that clearly...  She was up about every 3 hours to eat, like any other healthy child, and would conk right back to sleep afterward.  Nap time was a dream - I would lie her down and wouldn't hear from her again for a good 2 hours. 

But once she hit about 3 months, she started what we would call "The Screaming Time".  I don't think she was overstimulated considering we hardly left the house except for our perfectly scheduled walk at 10am.  I know she wasn't sick, or hungry, or feeling unloved.  I changed my diet all to shreds and nothing seemed to work.  I don't know what was going on; I guess it's called "colic".  All I know is, she would start screaming at 5pm and it would go on until 10pm when she would finally fall asleep in an exhausted pile.  We would take turns walking with her.  The one not walking would follow the other with a plate of food and spoon dinner into the others mouth. 

I wanted to be with her in her time of need, but after a few days of this (it lasted about 2 weeks - which is forever, by the way) I was feeling it.  Like, a LOT.  Eventually, after the first two hours or so, we would kiss her, pray for her and lay her in bed where she would scream for multiple hours.  I guess you could say I "Ferberized" (please, change the name) since I would check on her intermittently.  This was, of course, the "heartless" method of my past but it was better than my throwing her out the window - which is what would have happened.  Putting her in her bed to scream for hours was the most loving decision I could come up with.  I could have tried to grit my teeth and bear it, but the resentment and anger were more tear inducing and scarring for me than to simply place her in bed with all my love and goodwill. So, I struck out of the "Attachment Parenting" category.  And we were happy...eventually.

After "The Screaming Time" miraculously vanished, my baby girl was the most perfect sleeper you could imagine.  I mean, she didn't sleep through the night until after she was one, but as soon as I would lie her down in bed, she would go right to sleep, no fuss about it.  She still does.

Take 2: The Brandtinator

Mr. Brandt is a whole new animal.  I don't think I could have gotten two more different personalities.  Brandt never would lie right down and go to sleep like his big sis.  Ever since birth, he has had to "sing" himself to sleep.  It's hardly crying, more of a wailing, sing-song with an almost preoccupied note - like his heart isn't really in it.  But cry he must.  If I were to hold him, he would never fall asleep.  He would far rather have a conversation until he died of sleep exhaustion.  Believe me, I tried.  Sometimes I would rock him and he'd drift off but the minute he'd hit the pillow, it would be the end of all things.  There was no defined "Scream Time" this go around because "Scream Time" was every. single. night.  And again, I failed the attachment, "no-cry" parenting camp.  Sorry, ladies.  I gave it my all, but it just wasn't meant to be.  He would go through phases of sleeping 10 hours at a time and then after a road trip or a move, we would start at square one again waking every 3 hours.  At 16 months, he's finally sleeping through the night most of the time. 

Sorry I can't give you my sure-fire method to getting your baby to sleep.  Obviously, I haven't figured it out yet but when I DO, I will let you know.  If anyone saw Charissa at 6 months, they would have been in awe.  I thought about writing a book then - no joke.

All my hopes and dreams have been dashed about writing a no-fail sleep method book.  However, this is what I want to do: I want to encourage anyone in motherhood or expecting motherhood to learn flexibility in "methodology".  Don't read one book and be completely sold on it preaching from the rooftops.  Each baby is different, each one will do well with a different method and perhaps a pick and choose of methods.  I've seen babies absolutely thrive on the Babywise method, I've seen them hospitalized.  I've seen babies thrive on Attachment Parenting, I've seen them become a horribly spoiled full-time job with a "martyr mom".  All of these children had loving parents with nothing less than their child's well-being in mind.  But we have to keep this in mind: a baby is an individual with different needs, different tendencies, and different ways of saying things.  They have gifts, they have purpose, they have a sin nature.  Parents are the same way.  What "worked" for sister might not "work" for brother.  What "worked" for your neighbor might not "work" for you.  It's kind of a guessing game.  It keeps us humble.

I can't find a sleep method in the Bible, even though I've heard various "Biblical" arguments to support one or the other.  But I do know this: seeking to show your children Christ, and our need for Christ in all things, must be the goal of parenting.  That doesn't always mean life will be easy, and it definitely won't be "no-fail" on our part.  In fact, I think that's the whole point - we will fail. 

And the failure that will hopefully spur us on to seek Him more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


(Plugged toilet + 10 towels = mopped floor)

Friday, September 23, 2011

School Ideas: Foam Shapes

I bought a pack of colored foam squares from Dollar Tree with no idea as to their intended use - but just recently I discovered what they were for!  Charissa is learning shapes, colors and patterns this year.  I cut 3 squares, 3 circles and 3 triangles from blue, yellow & orange foam.  She loves playing with her shapes!

Here, I asked her to sort them according to shape.

And now, according to color!  
She's always so proud when she gets them right :-)

I printed off some free worksheets from The Kid's Learning Station for her to practice drawing shapes.  While she is very good with discerning the shape and color, she hasn't quite developed the fine motor skills needed to draw them accurately.  So while working on her tracing/drawing skills with the worksheets, she can still do patterns using her foam shapes instead of struggling with the fill in the blank worksheet.

First, I make a pattern (below) and then I give her three shapes (above) to choose from to complete the pattern. 

 She chooses the shape...

...and completes the pattern!

The choices can be made more difficult by having all the same shape of different colors, or all the same color in different shapes (did that make sense?  I feel confused...).  Eventually, I plan to start making patterns using three different shapes/colors but for now, two do just fine.

This was such an easy and cheap learning tool!  I used the shapes from the Kid's Learning Station worksheets as my template. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

School Ideas: LeapFrog Letter Factory

I know there are some pretty strong opinions regarding the connection of movies and education.  I understand.  But I have to say, because of the infrequency in movie watching around here, Charissa thinks watching educational movies is the biggest privilege ever.  She is also learning her letter sounds very quickly thanks to this little gem:

This is such a cute movie.  Little Tad goes to help his dad at "The Letter Factory" where they train the letters.  Little Tad tours the factory with Professor Quigley and in each room learns to say the letter's sound with them.  They are so much fun - the 'A's have a monster jump out so they say "AH!", the 'E' can't hear very well so he says "eh?", the 'H' room is very hot so they all pant 'ha, ha' and so on.  Even Brandt is enthralled - his favorite letter is 'H' complete with tongue hanging out in a pant ;-)

I purchased this movie in a pack with two other movies and it came with a bonus set of alphabet flash cards.  Whenever Charissa watches the movie (and she BEGS to watch the movie), I have her set the cards in a stack next to her.  Each time the letter comes she picks up the card...

traces the letter...

and then places it in another stack to the side.

Here is the link to a video of the Alphabet Song at the end of the movie.
(Blogger doesn't want to embed it for some reason.)

I purchased my videos on Amazon (*blush*) HERE

I paid $20.99 for: 
- The Letter Factory (age 2-5)
- Let's Go to School (briefly touches on a variety of counting, alphabet, animal families, days, weeks, months, seasons, etc.  Recommended for ages 3-6. Charissa loves this one, too!)
- Talking Words Factory (I'm saving this for later so we haven't watched it yet. Ages 3-6)
- 26 flash cards with the letter's picture on one side and the printed upper and lower case letters on the other.

(Note: The 'K's are in Karate - I wanted to mention that when they are in that room, Professor Quigley makes a remark about "becoming one with the alphabet" in an Eastern-type way.  Nothing huge at all, but I know some could be sensitive to that.  Just in case.)