September 22, 2013

The Littles

Some random tidbits about current life with the littles...

Seanin had his lip tie clipped on September 11 and has done beautifully with nursing ever since!  I'm so glad we had the procedure done.  He was fussy that day (understandable), but was back to his normal self the next day, and we noticed a big difference with his eating and sleeping habits.  And I felt as if he were milking the breast much more efficiently.  Praise God!

We did start putting Seanin to sleep on his tummy a few days ago with fantastic results.  He really had not been a great sleeper at all--ever.  Trying to get some sort of predictability to his daily routine was impossible, and you can imagine how difficult that made our school days (not to mention nights--oy!).  I wondered aloud if sleeping on his tummy would help, since he seemed to prefer cuddling on someone's chest while sleeping.  Ted tried putting him down that way, and lo and behold!  It was like MAGIC!  He goes 3.5-4 hours or so at night and has a fairly predictable 3-hour schedule during the day.  He rarely wakes up in the middle of a nap cycle anymore, and I am SO THANKFUL God pressed that on our hearts to try!

Zaden is adding to his vocabulary daily, and it is so fun to hear him chattering away!  One of my favorite things to hear him say is, "Bess-oo, Mommy!" whenever I sneeze.  He will stop what he is doing, run into wherever I am, and say that if he hears me!  Melts my heart!

Like Lucan, he went through a huge bus obsession.  When he first started talking, "bus" was easy for him to say, and so EVERYTHING on wheels was a BUSSSSS!  This led to great exclaiming in the car as he realized the power he had to name every. single. vehicle that we passed.  "Bussss!" he would shriek.  "Actually, that's a car."  "No, bussss!"

Similarly, all liquid is "milk."  If we are reading a book that has pictures of water, such as his Flashing Fire Engines story book that depicts a hose spraying water at a fire, he pronounces it "milk."  "Actually, that's water, honey."  "No, MILK!"

He is an amazing eater--pretty much anything he sees us eating, he wants to eat himself.  Heaven forbid that we should scoop it up to cool onto his plate before we sit down to, he wants us to scoop from the pan just like all the big people!

Zaden's eyes are as big as ever and look even more so since Ted buzzed his hair.  It was looking pretty ratty, since he twirled it while sucking his thumb, resulting in various bald patches where it got knotted up so badly that it either fell out of its own accord or had to be snipped.  I almost cried when I saw his near-bald head, but we're getting used to it (and it's growing back!), and I do love how his eyes look bigger than ever!

He still loves "Baby Say-nin" and "holds" him frequently: that is, he holds out his arms, we hold Seanin out so Zaden THINKS he is holding the baby, and Zaden smiles, coos over him, kisses him, and then runs away.  He also likes stealing Seanin's blankets and running around wearing them like kingly robes.

When Zaden goes down for a nap or for the night, he settles himself into his crib with his stuffed buddies arranged just so around him, lies down on his tummy, indicates that we are to put his blanket over him, pops his thumb in his mouth, goes to twirl his hair but remembers there is nothing left to twirl, removes his thumb, and says, "Daddy (or Mommy or Charis, whoever is with him), song!" and then we sing "Jesus Loves Me," just as we've sung with all the kids.  It will never get old!

Lucan is taking on more of a big brother role now that he has officially moved into Zaden's bedroom!  (That noise you heard was the cheering of Tobin and Arden who no longer have to share their space with a 4-year-old!)  The two little boys shrieked with giggles and delight the first few nights but seem to have settled down and are used to sharing now.  We kept Zaden in his crib since he doesn't seem to mind, and he is such a good napper...why mess with a good thing?!

Lucan still loves to build, anything from puzzles to train tracks to magnet structures to Legos to Math-U-See blocks.  He's quite protective of his creations and gets extremely upset when Zaden messes things up.  He will cry pitifully, covering his mouth in his distress.  It's hard not to laugh at the drama, but it does show Lucan's passionate, sensitive personality!  He even asks at times, "Mommy, will you please put Zaden to bed?!" because he knows that nap time is the best time for him to play without interruptions.  Although...then he often has to fight his big brother Arden, who enjoys building with the same play sets Lucan is working with while I do our afternoon school reading!

Speaking of school, we have not officially started any school-ish activities with Lucan.  I may start working with him on some writing.  He has begun showing a lot more interest in coloring and drawing than he has in the past and enjoys creating elaborate picture scenes on the white board when I let him!  The drawing below shows mountains with an orange tree and a blueberry tree on top and a person in between.  There is a small crooked tree in front of the mountain with the fruit trees on it.  To the right of that is Split Mountain (which we went to on Labor Day) with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in between the halves of Split Mountain.  Love it!  (Note that the green scribbles in the top left corner were NOT Lucan's doing and have nothing to do with his masterpiece, LOL.)

Lucan may be on his way to becoming a vegetarian; for some reason, he resists eating chicken in almost any form.  (Chicken spaghetti?  Hello?  Kid-friendly meal...he wouldn't even touch the noodles.)  On the other hand, he adores salad or veggies with Ranch dip and will often fill up on veggies and fruit, bypassing the main course altogether.  Thankfully he does like cottage cheese, cheese, eggs, sausage, and other forms of protein, and of course good ol' PBJs!

A food funny from tonight's I mentioned, Lucan really loves salad.  Tonight I made a Caprese salad--fresh tomatoes and basil from our favorite farm stand, mozzarella di buffalo, plus some olives.  Not all the kids appreciate this kind of salad, so we had carrot sticks on the table as well.  Lucan decided to have some salad.  He got halfway through eating it and then lamented, "Awwwww!  There are LEAVES in my salad!"  (Referring to the basil!)

Lucan has continued to do well with using the potty, although he still wears pull-ups at night.  He still feels the need to proudly announce his bowel movements...since the weather has been nice and all the windows are open in the house, we can hear him wherever we are as he shouts, "I DID go poopy on the potty!"  And he will continue to holler that over...and over...and over...until someone reaffirms him, "Good job, Lucan!"  Lord willing, the announcements will stop before he graduates...

September 20, 2013

Back to School: Chunking It!

Ready or not, here we go...

That was how I felt as Labor Day weekend approached!  My goal was to begin school again after Labor Day.  The lack of routine and structure for the older kids especially was really wearing on all of us.  After an extended break, I felt as if we were dealing with more squabbles and bickering than usual and general wild (though fairly harmless) behavior especially with the older boys, whose energy really needs more of a release than our house-bound, schedule-less summer allowed for.

On Labor Day itself we wanted to get out of the house and do something different, so we drove to Gaeta to Split Mountain--I'll have to blog about that later with pics.  That evening I was a bit in a panic, because I knew our "usual" school schedule needed to be thrown out the window now that we had a newborn in the house!  I didn't have time or energy to figure out HOW to do school; I just knew that we HAD to start for my sanity as well as for the kids' education, ha!

God mercifully gave me a brain burst that evening...instead of scheduling every little thing (which really does help us focus and get a lot done as a general rule), we are in a season during which "chunking" our time is going to be the best approach.  The older kids are far enough along that they can do a lot more independent work; plus, we need to give them opportunities to practice good time management skills (don't we all need to work on that?!) plus prove they can be responsible.

So our school days generally look something like this:

8:00 - 9:00  Breakfast, devotions, clean-up, morning chores, "hygiene time"  (Laugh if you must, but the boys needed "Put on deodorant" and "Brush teeth" ON THEIR CHECKLIST!!  They shower at night, but with the heat we were having when school began, they were already smelling ripe by the time mid-morning arrived!)

9:00 - 11:00  While I work with Kenna (reading lesson, math, handwriting) and do some reading aloud with her and the little boys, the older kids work on their quiet time (Bible reading, AWANA review, memory verses) math, language arts, to include their current reader, grammar, vocab, and a writing assignment each week (sometimes I still need to be involved with this--we just juggle), Rosetta Stone (Italian lessons), and independent reading (sometimes history, sometimes science).

11:00 - 1:00  The older kids are supposed to be practicing piano/violin during this time while I get lunch ready, but so far none of them has shown much initiative!  They seem to be more interested in free time--it probably doesn't help that I allow them to have free time when they finish their 9-11 block activities, so it's hard for them to keep track of that.  I don't really want anyone to begin practicing music until everyone else is finished with their work, since the piano is right in the middle of our work area, so I'm not sure how to work this other than encouraging them to be mindful of the time and take responsibility for their activities...much easier said than done, sigh.  Usually it dawns on me in the middle of the afternoon or even later that I never did hear any music, and then I do try to make the kids do their practicing then so they aren't completely getting away with not practicing at all...but there are days when it just doesn't happen.  So this needs improvement...

Anyway, we have lunch and clean up during this time as well, plus get Zaden ready for his nap.  I try to get some quiet activities ready for Lucan and Zaden (half the time Arden ends up playing with them too, LOL) for the next block of our day.

1:00 - ??  This is the time when we gather to do the rest of the older kids' schedule.  We read and discuss a Bible passage, pray for missionaries, sometimes read from a book highlighting 100 cities with prayer points, and go over our history and science.  I check any independent work that I didn't get to check during the morning as well.  It's a fun time of engaging with Charis, Tobin, and Arden, hearing them process ideas and pray out loud, and discussing things that make me delight in the privilege of being such an integral part of their growth.  Some days we don't finish until 3 or 3:30 (usually when our last chunk of time starts later than 1:00 for whatever reason).  Other days I hurry us up so that I can attempt to get a nap in while Zaden is still asleep.

We just completed our third week using the "chunked" time schedule, and I have to say that overall, it has been pretty successful.  Charis has figured out that she can maximize her free time by getting out of bed earlier instead of dragging down to breakfast at the last minute...also by happily setting about her work instead of moping her way through the less-favored assignments.  Her attitude has been positively sparkly! And the boys are s-l-o-w-l-y learning to take more responsibility without me nagging...but this will be a work in progress with all of us!

September 12, 2013

Random Notes about Life in Naples

* August 16 marked our one-year-in-Italy anniversary!  That was also the day we brought Seanin home from the hospital!  If you had told us we'd add another family member a year after we walked off the plane, I wonder what we would have thought then?!

* One funny thing about it being summer and people having windows open...we get a real taste of Italian family life vicariously!  Wow, they are loud!  Makes me feel better about my boys shouting and thumping and our littles screaming or crying!

* Speaking of loud neighbors, karaoke parties seem to be very popular here.  You know they are finally winding down when you hear the fireworks.

* We have recently learned about the dreaded tiger mosquito, determining that these are in fact what we have called "mutant mosquitoes," which are the bane of our existence here in Napoli.  Mosquitoes in general are horrific here.  Unfortunately, our landlord has only arranged for our yard to be landscaped ONCE in the 11 months we have lived in this house (it was done in April), so the jungle-like quality of our yard has undoubtedly contributed to the problem.  We are working with the housing office to get this taken care of, but there are also other house issues that need to be taken care of; I feel bad complaining about a junky-looking yard, but it HAS been frustrating to not feel like we are able to enjoy the beautiful area outside the house.  The kids don't want to play outside because of the mosquitoes, and we have kids who wouldn't be able to see over the weeds!!

* While it has been a very hot and humid summer, more noticeable because of the lack of central air in our house (we do have units on the main floor, in our bedroom, and on the third floor--the latter of which is very inefficient because of the large space and tremendous amount of heat up there), we were so relieved and thankful to have the heat break a bit in August.  Opening the house up in the early mornings has helped us be able to not use the A/C units much at all during the day, though Ted and I still turn ours on in the evenings to cool our room down so we can sleep comfortably.

* When I'm not too pressed for time, I generally try to hang our laundry out to dry.  I love the smell of clothes dried in the sunshine!  I figure since we're paying extra for using air conditioning, the least I can do to offset the cost is try not to use the dryer--PLUS it really heats up the 3rd floor even more!

* They weren't kidding when they told us life pretty much stops around here during the month of August.  Most Italians take their vacation then.  Stores/shops are completely closed.  One of our fruit stands closed up shop for at least 2 weeks.  Things are dead...unless you're on a road that leads to a beach.  Then you get to sit in traffic for upwards of an hour or more.  We had just started to figure out better times and routes for our own activities when September arrived and brought about more normalcy!

* An Italian cleaning lady really is a must.  I was desperate for Stella to return from her August vacation!  I just can't keep up with these tile floors!  Of course, having a baby in the middle of the month didn't help, LOL.  We were so excited to hear from Stella, not only to learn that we are getting back to our regular cleaning schedule (which involves having her grandson Salvatore over to play and work on English), but also because she told us the news that her daughter, Salvatore's mom, is pregnant with twins!!  This was delightful news, as we knew she had been trying to have another child for years.  We had actually joined with them in prayer about we need to pray for a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies!  So fun!