Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ratty Mansion

I thought it would be fun to create a little house mansion for our ratty girls.  They really do enjoy it and it is great fun watching them poke their little heads out of the windows.  They do is so quickly though it was hard to catch it on camera.  Anyhoo....It has 4 floors.  I made it and the girls decorated it.  Good times!

Hello?  Anyone home?
Queen of the castle, little Ms. Daisy!

Mommy's little helper

Some days I just really, really enjoy Bren.  Yesterday was one of them.

Christmas 2011

Christmas was blessed this year, as it always is.  Jeff and I vowed not to go overboard like we did last year, he broke his vow.  We had a big Christmas and it was a blast, just the four of us.  We tried really hard not to do a lot of toys, as we are pretty stocked up on those types of things and until I can get rid of baby stuff for the daycare, I don't have a lot of room to grow in that department.  The girls got a lot of games, puzzles, and artsy stuff.  I got a makegup desk, new electric fireplace, purse, and much more.

It all seemed worth it when Brennan kept coming up to us and throwing her little arms around us and saying, "Tank you for my pesents!"  Oh man.  That girl is special.  Makes me want to go big EVERY year.

We were supposed to go to Silver Dollar City on Monday with the Chase family, but Kadyn woke up with a stomach bug the night before and needed that day to get her energy back.  The date was rescheduled for tonight.  Unfortunately, I have to work and won't be able to join them.  By the time I could join them it will be dark and I am not a fan of driving Ozark Mountains in the dark. I get a bit turned around.

My husband really cracks me up because on Monday afternoon he said, "I'm starting to feel that funk Darc."  When I asked him what he was talking about he said, "That 'I have to go back to work tomorrow' funk.  I just want to stay at home with my family FOREVER!"  Man, that makes me feel all tingly inside hearing that.  Feelings are mutal babe!

Modeling our new PJs the night before Christmas
Daddy has the best taste in cute winter wear.
Anything K-State is always a shoe in for Jeff.
Kadyn honed in on the big ones right away, of course!
Yes, Santa came through.  Our DOODLE BEARS!!!!
Oooo, beads to make my own necklaces?  Wow!
Another game to kick Mom's butt with.
Watching Mom open presents is almost as much fun as opening ours...almost.
The grand finale...the girls' first doll. They only had babies before this day.
Two days later, I finished my 750 piece puzzle.  One of my favorite gifts!
Thank you Lord for my family and especially for letting us join you for celebrating the birth of your son every year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What would've it been like?

This morning I had a moment.  It's a rare glimpse into what could've been, but never was.  My girls were playing with their barbies together so nicely.  It was precious and I had that happiness deep inside just well up in my heart as I watched them.  It was just so peaceful and sweet.  I felt that contentment that many mothers feel when they look at their children and know things are just as they should be.  It made me dream of a life I never got to have.

When I decided to have children I honestly thought I was going to have to go to work and leave my children in daycare.  When my first came along, I knew I had to do everything in my power to make sure I was the one doing all the raising of my child.  It was a strong conviction and Jeff and I took a leap of faith to make that happen.  He switched careers, we moved to a new town, and we counted every last penny.  The home we bought was in dire need of rehab.  While we lived there we dealt with a leaky roof, sewage spill in the crawl space, floors that were caving in, windows that no longer opened, leaky pipes, etc. etc.  Little by little we completely redid that house; it just didn't feel safe or sanitary to live in it in that state.  In retrospect we would have been better off renting, but there was just something appealing to have a place of your own to call home. We inquired a small amount of debt to make it possible.  In the middle of it all Jeff had another job switch as it began to seem we weren't going to make it on his commission only job.  It was a scary time financially.  It was then that I began to try to contribute by getting a job at a daycare outside the home.  I was OK with the decision because I knew I could keep Kadyn with me.  However, after one short month it became clear to me that was not the answer to our problems.  Kadyn had been to the urgent care twice with illness, I had been sick with her, and I knew in a few short months they would switch her to an older room then we would be apart. 

Therefore, the decision to start a home daycare was born.  I have been doing it ever since with only a short 6 month break when we moved to Branson.  The fact is, had we not bought a home and had to fix it up, we may not have had to start that daycare.  It was our decision to do so, so we made our bed and now we are still lying in it.  I sometimes wonder if my life is not one chosen for me, but one I chose by the decisions we made.  I can't change them, but it doesn't stop me from daydreaming of the life I really wanted, to be a mother with no other agenda than to serve my children and husband. 

It makes me wonder what kind of mother I would've been had that life been possible for us.  The decision to do daycare did save us for several months and still gives us the peace we need if months are really rough financially.  Although Jeff's current job does have a base salary, we also depend on the commission he makes to make our lives work.  My job is kind of like our insurance for the months commission just doesn' t role in like we had hoped.  Anyhoo...doing this daycare has certainly changed me as a mother.  I think I have turned into a "won't take any guff" kinda mom.  In a way, it becomes survival for me.  When you have 4 children in your house at one time, if you begin to allow behaviors to slip it can mean complete disaster down the road and you will be swallowed in complete chaos.  In a sense it saddens me that I can't be a more empathetic mother.  I worry if I am screwing my children up because of it.  At the same time, I look at my kids and see such wonderful, well behaved children (sure they have their moments).  But most of the time they are just really good, joyful kids.  We are constantly getting compliments on how well behaved our girls are.  Then I think, it's OK Darci.  God's got your back.  If you are an over the top military mom, God will convict your heart.  Just continue to seek his counsel and follow your heart.

I wonder how different my children would be without this daycare.  They have really gained an incredible amount of social skills being around the other children.  They have learned to be independent as Mom can not possibly attend to 4 children's needs at the same time, each has to wait his or her turn.  At the same time they can loose their patience with me because I can't tend to their beckoning call.  I wonder if this is a reflection of my own impatience coming out in them.  It saddens me a bit.  They are very good at keeping themselves busy.  They long to go places and do things and Bren even cries when we have to go back home, I wonder if this is because we are literally homebound day in and day out until the weekend hits. 
They see a mother who at times is going a little nuts as the only adult interaction she sees is those brief moments when parents drop off their children, pick up their children, when their father walks through the door, and brief stints on facebook when she gets a free moment to herself.

There was a brief amount of time after our move when I was able to have this life I dreamed of as a mother and it was glorious. I went to a women's bible study, now I read online devotions.  I went to MOPS, now I correspond with other mothers through blogs and craft all on my own.  I took Kadyn to storytime at the library, now I have storytime at home.  I had a regular playdate with a friend, now my kids have playdates 24/7 at home and I have a cup of tea by myself.  I was able to run to the store and pick up this or that if I realized I ran out of something, now I call Jeff and hope he can find to pick up those things after work.  I took Kadyn to the park on a regular basis, now we play in our front yard on trikes.  It was such a blessing and I loved every minute of it.  I'm so thankful for those few short months.

All this is not to say that I don't consider my life blessed as it is now.  The daycare has brought to my life a sense of accountability.  I feel very accountable to make the experience for my daycare children a positive one so I make sure to do crafts, learning time, story times, and other stimulating activities.  My children also get the reap the benefits of this.  It has also forced me to keep up with my household chores.  I have to have a house that is presentable when those parents walk through the door.  The kids are fed healthy well balanced fresh meals, my children reap the benefits of this as well.  It's very rare that I feed daycare kids left overs.  Lastly, it has been something to put on my resume when I return to work.  I may not have been teaching in a school system, but I have been teaching every day at home with other people's children and my own.  That surely will reflect well on my experiences for my career.

Some may argue that what I do is no different than having 4 children of my own all under the age of 5.  To that I say, perhaps until you do it yourself you will realize that caring for other people's children is NOT the same.  There will always be a pull that  is much stronger towards your own children and the way you conduct yourself when you are in the presence of those children and their parents is different.  You are on constant professional mode and you can't just let things slide because every day you are making an impression.   Perhaps I am too hard on myself at times with the way I run my business, but I have always given my jobs 100% and this one is no exception.  There is more illness when you open your doors to other people's children. There is more opportunity to allow yourself to be taken advantage of by others from parents who show up late to pick up their child, drop them off early without notice, show up with out diapers, formula, etc.  Rules that you may have in your home may not exist in their homes which sends mixed messages to the children and make it a lot harder for you especially when those children take it out on your own children.  Families of the children you watch may be broken and so the children come with special needs emotionally that your children may not have.  In fact, it has been pretty common for me and my home to be a refuge for a few mothers of children who I have watched.  I suppose they feel safe, supported, and secure in my home and around me.  So again, it is NOT the same I say!!!!

I could list a hundred negatives of giving up your home, privacy, and family (in a sense) to do a home daycare, but the one thing that I always say to rebutt all that is, it has allowed for me to stay at home with my children, and that has been the most important thing and the thing that keeps me moving forward.  At the end of the day, I have been able to be there for my children.  I have seen their first steps, heard their first words, fed them their first foods, kissed their owies, settled their squabbles, read them my favorite stories, helped navigate them through what it means to be a good friend and because of has all been worth it.  I know I don't have it in me to do it for much longer which is why I am done having children, but it has been a journey I will never forget and I have learned a lot about life and about myself doing it.  I look forward to the next phase.  At the moment it seems so close and I know it will be here before I know it.  I'm not sure I can actually say I will miss doing daycare, but I will miss my kids at this age.  It has been quite a ride.  I'm glad I got to ride it even if it wasn't the way I had always dreamed it would be.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Crafty Kiddo

Kadyn has always enjoyed being crafty and we did a ton of crafts together before she started school.  However, ever since she started school it seems to have been bumped up to a whole new level.  She is always standing on a chair in the kitchen dragging out the crayons, scissors, glue, paper, and her new favorite, tape. I've been wrapping presents quickly as I'm afraid K will use up all my tape if I don't.  Don't even get me started on the messes I've had to clean up despite the fact that K has already "cleaned it up."  But I digress.  I know it is all worth it.  I am actually very happy she is so passionate about it. Everybody needs something and this may just be her thing. day in particular she got ahold of some cardboard and worked on it all morning.  This is what she came up with.

She told us that it is supposed to be like those things that you stick your head through at Silver dollar city and take a picture behind.  This was supposed to make you look like a lion.

K is usually very good at matching colors when she gets dressed.  So one day I was very surprised to see her come out of her room in this:

It was as if her closet threw up on her.  I'll just chalk it up to her being....creative? 


Every now and then I catch what I can only describe as glimpses of God's love.  I guess what I mean by this is that although we know and accept the love of Christ sometimes it just really, really hits ya. It's almost undescribable.  It's overwhelming and yet, it makes me want to stay in that feeling FOREVER.  And when I say glimpses of his love, I also meant his in many different facets.  Let me give you a few examples.

One day as I was out and about I remember looking at people and it occured to me how many people many of us see as we go about our lives.  We don't think twice about them.  They have not real connection to us other than perhaps being in the same place at the same time.  Suffice to say, we care very little for them, that is in the sense of "love."  In fact, sometimes we get irritated with them.  You know what I mean:  the guy who tail gaits you on your way to work, the coupon lady in the grocery line, the family who brings thier coughing and hacking child to sunday school with the other children. Yes, we don't know these people or their stories, but God does.  And God created them.  Each and every one of them is his child and he loves, them so, so, so much.  He died for each and every one of them.  When I think about my love for my children and all these things combined and then just let it soak in for awhile, suddenly I get it, and I actually feel that same love for complete strangers.  It doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's almost magical.  And sometimes it seems to go just as quickly as it came.  Like a said, it's just a glimpse.

Another example is when I reflect on my life. I reflect on all my blessings that seem to be showered upon me.  Whenever I get caught up in feeling sorry for myself I am reminded of others who have so much less than me.  I think about all the prayers that have been answered and how bad things could've been, but God has spared me.  I sit and I soak it all in and then it comes again. That glimpse of his overwhelming love for me.

Lastly, today as I was reading a devotion I got that glimpse as I read this:

"They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached. The “undefiled in the way” shall have all this—not of merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for He has made them 'worthy.' In His sweet company they shall drink of the living fountains of waters."

I sat and I soaked this in for awhile.  I imagined my forever life with Jesus in heaven in my white as snow  robe.  I imagined complete happiness and bliss.  It was hard to imagine and it made me so eager to get to that stage in my life.  At the same time I thought of this and felt so incredibly unworthy.  I thought of all the sinful things I have done as a parent, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a person.  I knew I didn't deserve it but yet, I would be presented before the throne completely blameless, completely clean.  Wow!  There's that glimpse of love again. That overwhelming feeling. 

Thank Lord for the glimpses.  When I get them, you become so incredibly real to me.  It makes me so thankful that I found you and that because of you I can have hope and joy in life. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bren's 3rd birthday

Bren had a good day yesterday.  It was her 3rd birthday.  We had planned to do a big birthday weekend and go see the Festival of the Lights at Silver Dollar City on Saturday, then go to the Maze of Mirrors on Sunday and have a party for her just the four of us later that afternoon.  But the stinky weather ruined our plans.  So Saturday we made gingerbread houses.  Mine turned out to be a gingerbread cube, and Jeff's turned into a gingerbread trailor house.  The girls kind of settled to make decorated crackers.  They enjoyed it though.

Sunday I let Bren open one present early. My mother gave her some puzzles.  They spent some time putting those together and then I decorated for her party during her nap and she got to celebrate it fully when she woke up.  It was all Dora themed.  Each and every present she got afterwards had something to do with Dora. Mostly she got Dora dress up gear, a Dora wii game (which K loves), a Dora music book, and a Dora DVD.  She loved it and looked soooo cute in all dressed up.  See for yourself.  I love you baby girl!  Happy, happy, birthday!
Bren basically just put decorations on her cracker
K gave it a valiant effort, but ended up just settling for decorated crackers in the end.
Mom's cube
Dad won for best gingerbread house, or trailor house that is.
Notice the earrirngs?  We LOVE the tutu.
K decorated the wrapping paper for the gift from her.
Dora's twin?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No more guilt

There is so much hubbub floating around these days on the proper way to raise an infant.  To schedule a baby, not to schedule a baby, cry it out, no cry technique, the Ferber method.  Yada, yada, yada.  I have spent WAY too much time letting what I read make me feel guilty about how I choose to raise my own children and run my daycare.  Every time I read some of these articles I am left feeling like an awful, evil person.  Then when I post some of my thoughts and feelings on the subject I am left feeling that there are eyes of judgment all around me.  I no longer wish to live my life that way.  The truth is, I care about children and have devoted my adult life to them.  In the end I just want to raise and be around happy, well adjusted children.  Everything I choose to do with them in how I work with them and raise them is only intended to help them, and keep me happy in the process.  After all, what good am I to them if I am not happy caring for them simply because I am told I must do it this way or that way?  If this is the calling given to me by God, I don’t think he intends for me to be unhappy doing it.  I am writing this as one final “say my piece” and then I will keep my mouth shut.  Truly, my only wish is that all of us “mothers” would stop telling other mothers what is right or wrong for them and just support them as long as each and every mother’s choices truly has everyone’s best interest at heart and does what she does out of love and concern for everyone involved.

I am a firm believer on scheduling a baby, but at the same time after running daycare, I have come to realize that some babies just aren’t schedule babies.  It has caused me an incredible amount of emotional turmoil and guilt because in order to meet the needs of a demanding baby, I have to cheat the needs of the other children.  For those babies, I think being at home with their parents truly is the best thing and yes, I have even tried to encourage the mother of  a certain child I watch to stay at home with her, but was unable to convince her. 

With my own children I was able to schedule them fairly easy.  It did require some tough love and some crying, but it worked and they are happy, well-behaved, adjusted children.  It worked for our family.  I am a very scheduled person by nature and I think when I am unable to put a child on a schedule it stresses me out because it compromises the care of the other children (I’ll go into this more later).  So in a sense, not having them on a schedule is a detriment to their care because of what it does to me and my feelings about how I care for ALL of them.  All children deserve a caretaker that is happy, healthy, and enjoying being with them. 

I say this, not because I am set in my ways, but schedules actually help me better meet the needs of the children.  How?  When a child is on a schedule and crying around their usual nap time, I know it is because they need a nap.  If they start crying around their usual eating time, I know it is because they are hungry.  If they are crying at an unusual time that is not usually their nap or eating time, then I know it is something different like teething, illness, or just needing a hug or a snuggle.

Sleep has been my biggest stressor of all for babies who aren’t scheduled.  There are times I know they are tired, but they just WON’T go to sleep, they fight it EVERY time.  This is where many people would argue you just have to hold them and rock them until they sleep; to do otherwise is cruel and unusual.  Babies need this and you can’t spoil them.  Yes, I understand this.  Yes, I know about all the studies. Yes, I agree for newborns this is the case, and I have done this for newborns.  They have an uncanning ability to tune out the noise and chaos around them and fall asleep in the arms of their caretaker.  However, once a child reaches a certain age, that ability to fall asleep amidst the chaos disappears (for most); they become aware of their surroundings and trying to fall asleep with other children running around playing and being loud is just too stimulating in a daycare setting.  They are unable to fall asleep in the chaos.
This is when I run into trouble. I can’t close myself off in another room and rock and rock and snuggle and snuggle.  I have to be able to keep my eye on the other children in my care or I would be completely negligent if something horrible happened.  Then, there is also the dilemma of the baby who decides they are tired right in the middle of snack time, lunch time, story time, when someone needs to use the potty, or during preschool time.  A baby who can fall asleep on their own will not be short changed by these things because they can simply be laid down, a baby who is dependent on constant holding and rocking to fall asleep may be shorted by the other children during these times, or the other children will be shorted by the baby.  It really is a no win situation for me and leaves me feeling like I failed someone every time.  (Oh, and yes I have tried baby wearing to alleviate this problem, but after they get to a certain weight, this just isn’t very practical and summer months makes it seem almost dangerous because the baby and I end up sweating to death). 

Suddenly, being able to fall asleep on their own becomes survival for everyone.  They need sleep to be happy and healthy children.  I need them to sleep to be happy and healthy children, because children who aren’t happy and healthy make my job 20 times harder and end up cheating the other children out of a happy environment. 

I guess I can only speak from personal experience, but overall, all the children that I have watched who have been on schedules are happy children.  These last two weeks the baby that I have been unable to schedule has FINALLY started to fall into a schedule.  Guess what?  They have been the best two weeks that I’ve had with her.  She is happy when she is awake and when she cries, I know exactly what she needs so the crying has been minimal.  She still cries going down for naps, but slowly that time has been going down and we have even had a few times where she didn’t cry at all.  Her naps which once were only 30 minutes, are starting to lengthen.  This has made for a well rested baby that is MUCH happier.  So….it is working FOR US.  It has been a long time coming, but better late than never!

I’ll just end by saying this.  I have begun to feel that we shouldn’t bash each other as parents if we choose to use this method or that method for raising our children.   The important thing is that ALL people, children, and their parents, are happy in the end.  Mothers need freedom to choose a method without feeling like they will be judged for it because honestly, for every method out there, there is an opponent.  So to all you parents who feel guilty for doing it this way or that way.  STOP!  I know you love your children.  I don’t judge you.  About the only thing I think may be a mistake in child rearing is raising a child who doesn't know about his or her savior. But that's a whole other can of worms that we may have to open later ;) 

You think cosleeping with your children until they are 2 is the right thing.  Go for it.  You think having them in their own room from the get go is the right thing….go for it!  You need to be by their crib until they fall asleep, go for it!  You think letting them cry it out is the only thing that will work and save your sanity….go for it.  You think using cloth dipes is best, do it?  You would rather use disposables, fine.  You think breastfeeding is the best or formula, do it!  You think potty training in panties is best, great!  you think pullups are the way to go, give it a go!  You think scheduling them is the best thing for them, do it!  You think going with the flow works better for baby, go for it!  No two children are alike, do what works for them and you.  I respect that you only want what’s best for your child and you have the right to do what you feel is best as long as you are BOTH happy in the end.  God intends for BOTH of you to be happy.  If it works for baby, but not for you, find something that works for you both.  You BOTH deserve to be happy and baby will be better for it.  Oh, and just because I don’t do it your way and share the way I do it, please feel no judgment by me.  It was what works for me and is based on my own experiences trial and error.  My thoughts and opinions are (and can only be) based on my experiences with the children I have had under my care.

My love to all you hard working Mothers out there.  It's not easy. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

As the year draws to a close...

...I reflect on what 2011 brought to our family.

1.  My oldest little girl started school and it was one of the hardest moments of my life to date.  However, with the sorrow of passing out of a treasured phase in our lives with her, it also brought incredible joy to see her thriving in a school environment.  She has started reading pretty well and got her first bicycle to ride (with training wheels of course).  She is so creative and artistic.  Her preference for passing time is always to draw, color, write letters, or just create something artistic.  I love this!

2.  My youngest is out of diapers.  We aren't out of the woods yet, like I formerly thought (at least for night time), but we are getting closer each and every day. She can also recognize of the alphabet as well as tell me the sounds each letter makes.  She can count to 20 give or take a few numbers.  She talks your ear off and has made me develop my mother's skill of tuning out and saying, "Uh-huh.  Oh!!!! Really?"  It's survival sometimes. 

3.  I started 2 new children in daycare and one of them has tested me on every level.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster, but I am hanging in there and it seems to be improving every day. 

4.  My husband's business has been slowly, but steadily growing.  God has certainly answered our prayers and I am so incredibly proud of him.

5.  We have lived in our house for 2 years and we love it just as much, if not more than the first day we moved in.

6.  God finally gave me the courage I needed to decide to be done having children.  I was so emotionally raw over this decision for a long time, and he has helped me find the peace I longed for.  In addition, he has shown me what being a family of four will mean for our future and it looks very bright.

7.  My husband and I were able to get away for a vacation just the two of us.  Our first since our honeymoon 11 years ago.  It was a nice time to reconnect.

8.  God has placed a calling to teach in the public schools back into my heart and begun the process of taking courses so I can recertify.  It is exciting and a nice reminder of what makes me tic.  I am uncertain of when he will open that door officially, but I will be ready when it happens and happy to obey that calling.   

9.  We were able to get a fireplace to heat our basement this winter which means 100% of our house is useable all year long.  What a blessing!

10.  I have changed from a vegetarian to a occasionarian.  It has relieved some of the burden of having to be creative for EVERY meal.  However, by trying to adhere to a vegetarian diet most of the time, I haven't lost everything I learned and still feel I am doing right by my body.

2011 you have been good to us.  Thanks for the memories!