A Letter to a Big Girl

I wrote the following a few nights ago.  Excuse the late post!
Dear Sweet Daughter-of-Mine,

I know most of my letters to you mention you sleeping next to me.  Someday you may understand that the night’s quiet is a mama’s recess.  And again, you and your little tootie sis are here: bottoms up in the air, nearly touching, with blankets draped carefully…

Downstairs there are balloons, streamers, and somewhere buried in a drawer is your “birthday” banner.  I suppose I could hang it for the sister workers arriving tomorrow: it boldly says, “Bienvined@s!”  

I think back four years to the night I labored to bring you into the world…

I didn’t know at that moment how fast time would fly!  I didn’t realize that the pain, anxiety, and fear of the unknown would be such a contrast to the sunshine you brought into my world.  And I had no idea that your birth would later be an achievement for me–that in that moment I could take in the world.  And win.

You are my sweetest companion!  You’re constantly by my side, and with me on every errand!  You ride in my buggy, marking off items on my grocery list, begging me for sugary cereal, princess crowns, and another Playdoh.  You skip along beside me whining when I rush into the school, and playfully run off to hide every chance you get!  You sneak into my bathtub, pull up a stool when I cook, and demand to be at my side during meals, meeting, and bedtime.  You, my sweet, are a pain…and a joy…

Yesterday, as I combed your hair, I found a thin silver hair–and I pointed it out to Victor.  A little streak of wisdom shooting through the top of your crown–reminding your momma to listen when you speak.  “Everything dies, right, Mama?”you said a couple weeks ago as I mourned our lost chicks.  

Slow down, my love! 

You’re growing up too fast, and your mama isn’t prepared for the big version of you…

Happy Birthday, Little Ale!
Love, 
Mama

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The Golden Hour

Any parent can tell you the golden hour of the day is when the kids fall asleep.  Freedom!  It’s that time where you can read, watch a show, or maybe even just clean up the uneaten food they left all over the table in various bowls… 

This week our oldest had some kind of stomach virus.  (I swear it is because she won’t stop drinking the pool/bath water.) In addition to tummy troubles, she was restless, unable to sleep well, whiny, and overall, not very fun to be around. 

The third night, I literally gave my husband a high five as we walked home from a friend’s house.  The girls BOTH fell asleep in their strollers on the way home.  I began mentally planning what to do to fill up my golden hour.

Then the little monsters woke up.

I tried all my normal tricks: breastmilk, singing, fake sleeping, the silent treatment.  We took them out for another walk at 11:30pm, hoping they would fall back asleep.  Immediately I should have known we were in for a long one when Ale, looking around at all the dark houses, exclaimed loudly, “Heeeeey! What’s going on here?!  Why are all these people asleep?!”

Here are my monsters today. They took a break from plotting my nervous breakdown to be sweet with each other.

Three About Three

  
Three years old is either going to make me or break me.  

There are moments of sweet.  There are moments of sour.  And then there are moments of, “I’m just gonna…”

I’m just gonna:

1) Eat it–Ale eats everything, but seems to be in a lull for her normally voracious appetite.  We can’t pick up her dishes after a meal if any food is left in the dish.  By the end of the day, I wash no less than four bowls and an assortment of cups and utensils.  She won’t share her food with her Papi.  We can’t save it for later in the fridge.  I can’t even give it to neighborhood dogs, because… “I’m just gonna eat that.”

2) Play with it–toys are all over the living room.  All over it.  Play Doh toys.  Dress up magnet dolls. Baby dolls.  Little People.  Barbie dolls.  Matchbox cars.  If I ask her to pick up something and put it away, she can’t, because… “I’m just gonna play with that.”

3) Wear it–Ale is really interested in her dresses.  Her fancy dresses.  Her sun dresses.  Her tutus.  Her flouncy skirts.  She doesn’t want them buttoned, because that would make it difficult to remove them and throw them onto the floor.  We can’t pick them up and put them into her closet, because… “I’m just gonna wear that.”

Happy Siblings Day! (Hug an Only Child)

According to the Facebook posts, today is National Siblings Day.  I don’t know exactly who thought this one up–but I suspect that it is a day for people to share cute photos, and therefore, it came into existence after social media decided to take over the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot of family lately.  We took a trip last weekend to a neighboring state to visit with some of the isolated friends that live there.  There are two families and no one else for miles around.  The first family has five kids and the second has twelve…  Yes, you heard me right… twelve…  It is that family of twelve that recently gave us our latest sister worker.  Both families live humble lives on farms, and the way they work together to survive is admirable.

Sometimes we talk about how selfish it is for us to have had Rocky here in the city–when all he wanted was a place to run around and smell.  It feels like that with Ale too.  She was in her element on the farm!  She wasn’t afraid of wondering in and outside with the others.  They took her to watch the cow being milked, and later the baby lambs drinking from bottles.  She would come inside the kitchen (which is a separate entrance from the interior of the house) and ask for a drink or a snack.  How I wish that we had some land she could play on!

And how I wish she had family nearby.

Sweet Ale doesn’t have siblings yet, and that is always painfully apparent when she is with other children.  She really loved one of the babies (10 months), and kept trying to feed her a bottle.  Another little boy would grab her by the hand and pull her off to look at the animals, and it wasn’t long before she asked to see the “coco.”  (Cócono is another word for turkey.)

Because she doesn’t have siblings, Ale has learned to play alone.  But watching her entertain herself makes me think of how I would play with my siblings and cousins.

Ale is content.  She is building blocks and singing to herself as I write this.  She has never had a brother knock down her towers of blocks–and she doesn’t yet know the pleasure of singing with her sisters.  She just finished swimming outside in her plastic pool, and it won’t be long before we head to bed.  Ale doesn’t know what it is like to have a brother to hang onto, but she hangs onto us in the pool.  She will be sleeping with us too–because I can’t bear to have her sleep in her own bed without a sister to cuddle.  And tomorrow, we will read countless books together, because she has to learn the right way to read before a little sibling begs for story-time.  She just brought me a piece of plastic cake and I pretend to eat it, but one day she will know the joy of making mud pies in the back yard with siblings in tow.  Ale doesn’t know what she is missing, but I sure do…

Happy Siblings Day!

 

A Letter to My Almost-Two-Year-Old

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Hi My Baby,

Today it hit me like a ton of bricks.  You, my sweet angel, are almost two!  How did this happen?!  How did you grow so fast?!  Where have the last two years gone?

I remember two years ago: I was awaiting your arrival with great anticipation.  I must have washed your cloth diapers a dozen times–washing, hanging them to dry, folding them…  I spent my evenings making a blanket for you, and dreaming of the day I could hold you in my arms.  I watched video after video of other births, and prepared for my own by buying everything my doctor would need.  I began to envision the painless perfect moment you would be in my arms…

Now I watch you play with your puppy, both of you a tangle of limbs and bodies.  He pesters you by nipping at your ankles and following you around.  You boss him around, telling him, “No!” when he tries to take your toys or jump on you.  He’s a good fur brother for you to practice on before your space gets invaded by a real brother.  He’s also your first thought in the morning!  You come pitter-patting into the kitchen smiling long before your daddy.  Without waiting for mama to make her coffee, you walk to the door.  “Dog?” you ask, pulling on the knob.

You are a busy little girl!  You are currently “cleaning” with a sponge, but it won’t be long before you are on to something else.  I watch you play mommy with your babies, then set them aside to build towers of blocks.  I couldn’t be more proud of you, my love!  Your twinkling eyes flash mischeviously my way, right before your tower crashes to the floor spilling legos all over.  “Uh oh!” you cry out with glee.  It isn’t long before you begin singing the clean-up song, picking your blocks up to put in your grocery cart.

I know that one day this won’t be amusing, but I am proud of you for knowing what you want…or don’t want.  Your wagging finger and firm, “No,” in response to my question regarding bedtime makes me grin inside.  “Ale,” I ask, “Do you want to put on your pajamas?”  “No!” you say.  “Do you want to go play in the water?” I try out my fun version of asking you to take a bath.  “No!” I hear again.  Most of my questions are met with no–with the exception of one or two .  “Ale, do you want a cookie?”  “Si,” you say, smiling and reaching for a Maria.

“Pup,” you say to me, reaching your arms up to be held.  I snuggle you for as long as you let me, but you have so much to do!  Wiggling down, you run to your markers to write.  A few minutes later you tell me, “Bye,” as you blow me kisses and walk away.  You, my independent little girl, are so full of life!

Little Allie, your mama and daddy dreamed about your arrival two years ago–but those dreams just keep growing and changing with you.  I hope you always take time to play and enjoy those around you.  I hope you continue to keep busy with the things that interest you.  I hope you always feel powerful enough to stand up for yourself and say, “No.”  And I hope that you re never too big to want to climb up next to me for love and snuggles.

My almost-two-year-old, you are my all.

Lots of love,
Your Mami

Mommy Wars in Mexico

I’ve been thinking about these Mommy Wars that you hear about. (Without social media, would they exist?) Basically, this refers to moms judging one another for what they feed their kids, whether or not they immunize their kids, if they use cloth or regular diapers, if their boys are circumsized or not… The list goes on.

Well, if the Mommy Wars were Mexican they would different. They wouldn’t be about breastfeeding, childbirth, or food. Nope, this is what makes the list:

1). Does your kid wear shoes or go barefoot?
2). Do you cover your babies up sufficiently–even in 100 degree weather?
3). Does your kid bath, swim, or play in cool water?
4). Do you give your kids cold drinks or ice cream?
5). Do you coddle your kids enough or do you expect some independence?
6). Does everything get -ito attached to the end when talking to children? (Platito, besito, amorcito, etc.)

Basically, Mommy Wars don’t exist here because you don’t have to be a mommy to tell others what they should do with their kids. Mommy Wars at home refers to women feeling judged. Rarely does someone actually say, “Hey, woman, you shouldn’t sleep with your two year old.” Here? There are no boundaries…

If Juan Venada (John Doe) saw me carrying Ale without a blanket covering her mouth, he would feel the need to tell me what to do. Once a lady stopped her car on the street to give us her sweatshirt for the baby. Basically, if you are living and breathing, that gives you the right to tell people your opinion about raising children in Mexico.

Mommy Wars? I don’t think so… These are Pueblo Wars.

What Makes a Good Teacher?

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At Readers and Writers Workshop we talk about what it looks like when you are a good reader or writer. We make statements like, “Good readers look at the pictures to see what is going on,” or “Good writers write about what they know.” I feel like I have reached that point where I can say, “Good teachers reflect on their teaching.”

Because of reflection, lately I have reexamined a lot of things that are typical to see in a classroom or at school. And I have started asking myself, “Hey! What’s wrong with that?”

Example 1: When children run, jump, hop, wiggle.
This is what children do. They seem to follow the rule of thumb, Why walk when I can run? I had a student from last year that had one speed–full throttle. Not surprising, this year he busted his head open the second week of school. Good teachers recognize that children move different than adults.

Example 2: When children talk in a line.
What are we operating? A school or prison? As long as no one is being disturbed, I don’t see the point in a quiet line. Actually, the whole “line walking” thing leaves a lot to question. Good teachers don’t enforce ridiculous traditions.

Example 3: When children giggle or laugh and we shush them.
There is nothing better than a happy child. And how wonderful that we have happy children in our classroom! Why are teachers scared of a giggle getting out of control. Good teachers know that happiness is something that makes work a lot better.

Example 4: When children ask why.
How many times have you heard, “Because I said so”? There is nothing wrong with a student wondering why. We tell them to ask questions, and then when we have students who are inquisitive, it becomes a problem. Why? Good teachers know that inquiry is the basis for life-long learners.

Example 5: When children sigh with boredom when the same old lesson starts. If I were presenting a conference to a group of adults, and they loudly moaned when I told them what we would be doing–I would have to rethink that presentation. Why don’t we pay attention to children when they tell us with their body language, words, sighs, moans, etc. that we are boring the pants off of them? Good teachers pay attention to their audience.

Example 6: When students become excited, and we tell them to calm down.
This happens when we teach new games, when we learn new energizes, etc. We want our audience to be attentive! Why are we always complaining about their energy? Good teachers allow energy to flow.

Example 7: When someone farts and all the students giggle.
Farting is funny. For years I would give the old everyone-does-it-and-it’s-normal speech. Then I had a kid. We all laugh when she has gas. It’s especially funny if she has gas when we are just sitting around and it is quiet. Before you tell me it isn’t funny–think about the shows you watch on tv. I bet there is farting humor in most of them. I always choke back my giggles in class. No more. Laughing is allowed. Good teachers can see humor through the eyes of a child.

A good teacher recognizes when change needs to be made. A good teacher admits when she is wrong. And a good teacher vows to be different.

First Day of School Hatred

I am just going to put this out there: I hate the first day of school.

I used to love it, and part of me still does! But then there are the supplies still thrown all over the corner of my classroom… I never thought the day would come when I would complain about too many supplies.

It arrived with the 75 boxes of Kleenexes that some helpful students organized today.

There used to be a time when I would fret about supplies. Mama and I would scour the Sunday paper advertisements for the 1 cent sale. I loaded up on enough folders, glue sticks, and pencils to sink a battleship. It was necessary, you know, in order for my students to have what they needed.

This is one reason why teachers should make more money. We spend so much of our already meager earnings on our students. Sure you can write off some on taxes, but not enough to make a dent in my debt…

Before, my students families weren’t able to purchase the list of “suggested supplies.” They would envy the goodies the other students brought to school. So, we began community supplies. At the beginning of the year, I collected all the supplies–and we used them at our table groups throughout the year. It. Was. A. Game-changer.

This year, it took me three days to sort through Kleenex boxes, highlighters, and colored pencils. I had students with pencil sharpeners that look like toys, artist quality colored pencils, and pencil boxes organized with each pencil labeled. Back to community supplies! Rich or poor–learning to share is always a challenge…

Home Visit

Maci and Ale

I watched my baby last night–she was laying on a blanket in the floor, and Mama was “gettin’ her.”  In the South, that means that she was tickling her tummy all the while saying, “I’m gonna getcha, getcha, getcha!”  Alexandria laughed and laughed.  The sound makes my heart so happy.

During the night, she snuggles up to me like never before.  I can’t decide if this is because she’s extra snuggly (being away from her daddy and home), or if it has something to do with the pillow-top mattress we sleep on.  Hard Mexican beds don’t allow for a lot of movement during the night.  She cuddles up beside me, and I look down to see her cubby little arms tucked between us.  This morning Mama took her and played with her–letting me get a few extra winks.

At gospel meeting yesterday, she sat up on my lap.  It makes me sad that her papi couldn’t see her.  She was (is) so big!  Her cousins (from the youngest to the oldest) wanted to play with her during meeting.  I remember that, you know.  I loved sitting with my nephews in Omaha.  It gave me something to do other than listen…  Hence the reason why I said, “No” when my very capable niece wanted to hold Ale.

Oh, sweet Ale!  She is so loved!  My suegra (mother-in-law) loves it when her son tells her everyone loves our baby.  It makes me so content and proud to see everyone loving on my baby.  She’s got an important role, I just know it.  There’s a place that she’ll fill someday–maybe just giving unconditional love to God’s children!  Only he knows, but I hope he empowers me us to raise a beautiful, strong, kind, and helpful young woman.

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