Favorite Children’s Museum so far . . .

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I had heard for a few years that Waco’s museum was a must-see, but it took me until now to actually visit. And I was NOT DISAPPOINTED! Really, I was calculating in my head if we would be able to do four or five trips a year to justify a membership I enjoyed it so much. The girls and I made it a half-way stop on our way to Keller for our cousin weekend. An hour and a half from Austin, an hour-and-a-half from our DFW destination — just right. I planned to spend two hours, which we did, but we rushed through several rooms the girls could have played much longer in. There was a tea room for practicing manners and having a tea party, a people of the world room for dressing up and playing instruments from other cultures, a bubble room, a sound room (with that floor piano!), a simple machines room, a big model train, a toddler sized community complete with a road, cars, signs, stores and house. And more…what am I missing. Oh, a black widow and tarantula and other aquarium-life. And a pioneer days room with a wagon and butter churn, dress up clothes and lots of period toys and activities. And a Native American room with a tipi and drums and animals and such. And more! Really. Plus a typical natural sciences museum with exhibits (which we pretty much just walked through on the way to the bathroom.)

We will be back!

Room Share (Second Attempt)

Posted by PicasaI spent all day today rearranging bedrooms to put the girls together for sleeping and give them a playroom. This was my plan even before Elizabeth was born, but when we tried it, she just didn’t sleep well with her sister near. We’re trying again, and I hope it works well. We’ve got a month to figure it out before school starts. And if we have to revert, at least I got a lot of decluttering out the work. 

Not much fits here besides their beds — Elizabeth is on a full-sized futon. Caroline is on a twin-sized captain’s bed. Between them are some crafting component shelves stacked on each other to serve as a nightstand with lots of space for their books. On the opposite wall are some bookshelves (IKEA) with a shelf of Caroline’s stuff (her birthday books — I make one for each girl each year instead of scrapbooks, her sports trophies, some pictures) and Elizabeth’s stuff (same, minus the sports trophies.)

I must point out the lovely pillows on the girls’ beds. Caroline’s was made by (Great) Grandma Bindel — a ministry she started when John and his siblings were adopted into their new homes. She made each of them a Jesus Loves John (or David, or Michael, or Elizabeth) pillow to have in their new home. Then, all the cousins wanted one, so she made more. Eventually, it became Grandma’s thing — Jesus pillows for new babies, family friends, etc. Caroline’s was one of the last she made. I actually think that my niece, Sophia’s, was the actual last that she made, about six months after Caroline’s. That meant little Elizabeth would not have a Jesus pillow. Of course, Grandma’s tradition was too loved to let that happen. Within days of Elizabeth’s birth, (Great) Aunt Patty had the pink blanket made that says “Jesus loves Mary Elizabeth.” My sister also started a project where she embroidered and sewed most of the polka-dotted pillow, sending it to Elizabeth’s Godmother, Aunt Carlye in Wichita Falls to take to Grandma to stuff. I was so happy to have both. Then John’s sister, Elizabeth, came to visit, bringing one of her childhood pillows that Grandma had made. And that is why Elizabeth’s bed is a constant reminder that Jesus loves her — and is a constant reminder that lots of other people love her, too.

Summer Day Camps

This is new parenting territory for me, and I find my thoughts overwhelming on the subject. That makes is blog-worthy, then. Right? Since Caroline is now school-age, the idea of summer camps is in our face. I can’t decide if all these camps — with such amazingly fun themes such as “Mad Science,” or “Annie” acting camp (which she did last week and has thus prompted these thoughts), ice skating, or Camp Twin Lakes at the Y where kids get to do the zip line and Tango Tower, or gymnastics camp, or ballet camp or whatever — are just that, amazing opportunities or if they are just expensive babysitting.

On one hand, these seem like a great opportunity to keep a bored kid busy during the summer, trying out a fun activity. We don’t have time during the week to do *everything* Caroline would like to do — gymnastics, swimming, ballet, piano, soccer, softball, basketball, ice skating, and acting…so summer camp programs give us the perfect avenue to experience these activities without a full commitment. Like with this “Annie” camp. Caroline has wanted to be in a musical, but when I looked into auditions and rehearsals for children’s theater, it didn’t fit with our schedule with weekly late-night rehearsals and such. That’s when I discovered this camp and thought it would be perfect!

She loved it. But it was pricey ($250 for the week, actually one of the more expensive programs, I realize) from 9:30 to 3:30. Again, she had a great time, and I have some adorable videos and memories of seeing her on stage at Friday’s performance, but it was hard not to see if as handing my kid off to someone else all day. Sure, they rehearsed their lines and practiced the songs. She enjoyed being with other kids. But they also watched a movie during lunch. Every. day. A whole. movie! I figure that’s about $60 I spent for my kid to watch a movie while she ate, which she could have just as easily done at home for free! Most of the kids seemed to be familiar enough with the director and the procedures and each other that I think they are there every week.

At this point, I don’t need these camps for child care. I realize that for dual-income families, these camps are a must for summer childcare when school is out. And we very well may need them in five years if I return to work in a non-teaching field. But for now, I can’t justify the expense for more than one of these “experiences” per summer. And oy! What will I do when Elizabeth is old enough to want to participate in one of these, too? (Which, actually, she already does but, alas, is just not old enough!) 🙂

Or maybe, as my neighbor and I have toyed with in those “what-if” type discussions, we just start running our own camps.

Regardless, this camp thing is something I will put more thought into before next summer, deciding if I allow Caroline one camp again or if we’ll be ohlala extravagant and try two or three. And I guess once Elizabeth is old enough to go and *I* feel it is worth her time, then it will be time for me to get a j.o.b. to pay for all these awesome extras.

Never say never

Add it to the list.

“I’m never getting married!”
“I will not be a teacher!”
“I won’t move to the suburbs.”
“I’ll never have kids!”
“I am not getting a mini-van.”

Really, pretty much, if I say I won’t do it, you can probably count on me doing it five to ten years after the pronouncement.

Today, after much discussion (really, whining on my part), John and I traded it our 2007 Honda CRV for a 2005 Honda Odyssey. An older car, you wonder? Why yes, we normally wait about ten years to get a new vehicle, choosing to pay cash. I’ve only had the CRV for five years, but I convinced John that we could make an even trade and get an older Odyssey. The girls and I love to have friends tag along with us places, and that was just not possible (or very uncomfortable) with the CRV.

So, we took our beloved CRV to Covert today and left with an Odyssey and $226. I’m happy. Caroline is thrilled. Elizabeth cried all the way home from church (before she fell asleep) that “this is not our car!” I think she’ll grow to like it.

My Momcation

I have been planning this since Elizabeth was one, I think. Early on, it came in the form of fantasizing about being hospitalized, alone in a hospital room where I could only read or watch TV. I figured I’d get my tubes tied and have a mini-vacation. Then I learned that a tubal is an out-patient procedure, so I just got an IUD instead.

But still, I dreamed of getting away. Not for a girls’ weekend, as many of my friends do. I wanted time ALL. BY. MYSELF. Call it the fantasy of an introvert-who-mothers-a-couple-of-extroverts. I need some time alone to recharge, but my baby also needed me. Still, I knew and looked forward to this get-a-way, planning it for once Elizabeth was weaned. So, two weeks ago, she nursed her last time. And I told John I was leaving him for 24 hours. 🙂

John worked from home Friday, so as soon as he was finished, around 5:00, the girls told me “Bye, mom!” They were eager to go to Chuck E Cheese for dinner and play with daddy. I headed to Embassy Suites (booked thanks to my Hilton Honors points.) A call ahead confirmed their free cocktail hour from 5:30 to 7:30. I arrived right at 5:30, checked in and dropped my bag in my room, and then headed for the bar. I enjoyed a couple of free Cosmos, a couple of free glasses of wine, a pizza for dinner while I read a book. And then I took a piece of cheesecake and another free glass of wine up to my room where I watched a little cable TV, took a bath, and read some more before falling asleep around 10:30. I still woke up a few times during the night, but the room was dark and quiet, so I fell back to sleep easily. I love the things living in my house, but they are noisy — girls who talk in their sleep, cats who puke in the night, and a husband who brings bright LCDs to bed. A night without that was sweet! I got out of bed at 8, showered and dressed and went to the free breakfast before heading out for some shopping. I bought a new dress, two new shirts, and a (NON-NURSING!) bra. Then I went to get my hair cut and highlight and then to see Bad Teacher and get a pedicure. A wonderful 24 hours. Time to appreciate my lovely family and home. Time to recharge my batteries by treating myself and remembering the things I took for granted back in my pre-child days.

I picture this “alone” time as an annual treat. And I’d like to also include an annual weekend alone with my husband to that. I loved the baby days with my girls, but a little independence is much appreciated!

On Weaning

Since I have tried often these past few weeks to remember details of Caroline’s weaning, I decided I should record now what I remember of Elizabeth’s (and of Caroline’s) since I will obviously forget most of it very quickly.

Caroline’s weaning, as I remember it now, more than three and a half years later, was easy. She nightweaned sometime shortly after her second birthday with the help of a late-night banana snack. And I assume we stopped nursing in public at some point, though I don’t remember that. After I was pregnant again (with the doomed pregnancy, not Elizabeth), my milk supply decreased and nursing became uncomfortable. By that time, Caroline was only nursing before her nap. One day, about a month or so before she was 2 1/2, I decided to take the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach. She didn’t ask to nurse. She did not take a nap. That is a tough position for a pregnant mom to be in: Do I sacrifice naps in order to wean? Or do I continue nursing uncomfortably and face tandem nursing?

My minimum nursing goal had always (well, since college, when the idea was what *other* people should do, as I was not planning to mother my own!) been two years old, with my true goal being 2.5. I was fortunate to have Dr. Kathy Dettwyler as a professor for a women’s studies course where we learned about the benefits of breastfeeding and breastfeeding in other cultures. Her cross-mammalian and cross-cultural research puts 2.5 (human) years at the minimum optimum age for weaning. In practice for me, teething is finished by 2.5 and kids are verbal enough to communicate their needs. While I think breastfeeding beyond 2.5 is wonderful if both mom and toddler are willing, I was not willing, in either case, to continue. Now, while I was not willing to continue past 2.5, I was not willing to stop (nor were my children) much before then as toddlers need human milk, too! Major brain development continues in the second and third year of life, and the immune system is still quite vulnerable. Human milk and the process of breastfeeding (the close contact, responding to the child’s needs) promotes coordination and brain development. Many of the challenges of the twos are soothed by nursing as well, and it is a tough decision to take that tool out of one’s parenting toolbox! And while I myself do not rely on “natural” child spacing, preferring the medical interventions of birth control, those who do have to admire God’s amazing tool of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms (following ecological breastfeeding, which means no bottles or pacifiers and no ignoring of nighttime needs, i.e., “sleep training”) find that their bodies naturally space their children 2.5 to 3.5 years apart, giving each baby just the right amount of nursing time!

So, with Caroline, I did not quite reach my optimum goal of 2.5, but we were close! After deciding to go with the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach, I realized I was offering to nurse her for that nap each day, due to my exhaustion. She just did not ask again! A few weeks after, she did ask once. I let her try to latch on; she sort of looked, and then went off to play.

Elizabeth will be 2.5 next week. I have felt quite done with nursing her for a few weeks now. Last week, I just decided, close enough! I am done. This time, this was totally mom-led weaning. She did not nurse in public any more, but she nursed much more often than her sister did at this age. I really did not know how it would go. She asked. She begged. But she could be distracted — by a snack, a banana at bedtime, a book. Even now, a week in, she asks to nurse in the early morning, about 6:30, which means we’ve been getting up at 6:30! But, she is sleeping better. She is fine all day. And she can talk to me about it.

I am so thankful that I had the knowledge, even before becoming a mom, about the benefits of breastfeeding and extended nursing. I am thankful I had a supportive (himself a former nursing toddler!) husband. And I am thankful for the like-minded friends I have found who have reinforced for me that this not-so-mainstream parenting choice is the best choice for us.

And now, having spend 24 months gestating and 58 months lactating in the past seven years, I am very happy to be nourishing nobody but myself with my body!