Monday, September 26, 2011

The Gobbler and the Grublin

We have an affinity for monsters in the Connelly House--monsters who love a good mess!  I'd like to introduce you to the two wartiest members of our family, the Gobbler, and the Grublin.
Our Gobbler is a large drawstring Grab Bag (I sewed it from a piece of 1 1/4 yard fabric) that loves to chomp up little trinkets and toys that litter the floors.  Whenever there's a big mess that takes just too long to sort out, his belly begins to grumble, he gives a loud growl of warning, and the Gobbler comes out of hiding to gobble up toys!  And oh, how you should see the kids scramble to snatch them away before--CHOMP--he swallows them into his big monstrous belly.  Teehee.
 Once a week, however, his belly begins to lurch and--BLEEARGH!--all the contents emerge again.  The kids have to act fast and stow them safely and properly away before he gobbles them up again!  It's so much fun!  And our house has never been so clean!  (If you're thinking of adopting a pet, I'd highly recommend one.)
(Some people have asked me where I got this idea--the books The Entitlement Trap and Teaching Your Children Responsibility by Richard and Linda Eyre are chock-full of this stuff.  In their family, they made a toy bag called the Gunny Sack.  I loved the idea and adopted it.  I also modified their family peg board to create our Chore and More Charts--they left a sweet comment on my blog.  Thanks, Eyres!)
 Our other pet monster is the Grublin.  I wrote a book about him for Lorelei in 2009 and Snapfish wanted it for an example, so they gave me the book free and two other book credits.  I've been meaning to make Gryffy a book too, if only I can carve out the time.  Oh, the story of the second child...
So here's The Grublin, decomposed by Wendy Connelly (c) 2009

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Elf Post

So this is how we've explained why Lorelei's Christmas bunk beds are being delivered mid-September after the clearance at the Elves' Alaska Furniture Mart: she found this letter in the mailbox today:
Dear Lorelei,

We have received your request for a double bunk bed with a ladder and have made special accommodations to work on it straight away.  You see, the world population is increasing at mind-boggling rates--about 400,000 new babies every single day, imagine!--and we just can't keep up with all those cheeky little brats asking for more More MORE every December and all the year through!!!

This is why I am happy to inform you that Santa Claus has given us permission to find a select few children around the world (and there are only a select few) who are not cheeky little brats always beggins for toys and things, and who are certifiably and verifiably already on Santa's Nice List, based on performance projections.  You, dear Lorelei, have been short-listed to Santa's Nice List, and thereby will receive your much-anticipated Christmas present early.  Tomorrow, to be exact.  Congratulations!

Now remember, when the elves arrive to assemble your bunks, that this is in fact your Christmas present, so please do not ask us for another big present, as it will have already been delivered.  However, we will still deliver your Christmas Eve pajamas as always, and see to it that our boss, Santa Claus, stuffs your stocking to the brim!

Once again, congratulations, and enjoy your new bunk beds.  We've worked very hard to make them extra special with all the jingle bells and whistles--ladder and all.  We'll be assembling them in your bedroom when you're in school--Shhh, dont tell the other kids in class!

Christmas Cheers,
The Elves

The big "little" things

Sometimes, in parenting, you measure success by the things that seem big, but really aren't--whether your kids are good at sports, come by learning quickly, or out-do all the other kids at the next developmental milestone (for the record, that's usually not us).  I'm guilty of it sometimes, too.  And as I mark our lives on our family blog, I often make mention of these so-called "big" things, and neglect some of the much bigger "little" things, to which I dedicate this post.
One very big "little" thing is that my kids are learning to set goals and to take responsibility for their lives, a little bit at a time. Earlier this week, I called home from an errand during which I had remembered that Gryffy needed to find a red object to bring to school, and Lorelei had some homework to do.  Lorelei answered the phone, and I told her what needed to be done, asking her to remind Daddy to help them.  When I got home, Lorelei promptly showed me this paper (above)--she had created her OWN To-Do List!  Without being asked.  Actually, she's just informed me that it's not a To-Do List, but a "Listening Chart."  When she can't remember what she needs to do, she looks at her chart to listen for a clue.  (I don't actually know what this has to do with listening, but I was super impressed by her initiative nonetheless.)  Here's Lorelei, explaining it to me.  Quote:
1. See that #1? That's when we had to pick up a red thing for Gryffy.
2. Number 2 is save my money up for something.
3. And #3 is that I am in a tent.
4. Number 4 is just a picture of Gryffy.
5. Number 5--drive home
6. Number 6 is my house.
7. Play tag.
8. A picture of me.
9. Me on the swing.
10. Ten is to feed Mr. Tubbins.
11. Eleven is another car driving home.
12. Twelve is the Monster (the Gobbler--more about this in a future post) 

Some really big "little" things I want to remember are my kids' random acts of kindness, which are frequent and thoughtful and yet forgotten far too quickly.  So here are just a few examples from this week:
1. Lorelei reading bedtime stories to Gryffy after they're tucked in... it's so sweet I can't bear to turn the lights back out, and part of the reason I like to have them in bed some nights by 7:30 is so that they can enjoy this reading time together.  Last night, Lorelei was pointing out things in an I-Spy Pooh book, helping Gryffy to find them.  She was also giving Gryffy a speech lesson, making sure she said words slowly and prompting Gryffy to repeat them.  "Okay, so, you say it like this: SSS-M-uuurF.  Now you say it, Buddy."
2. The way the kids bring me things without being asked.  Gryffy always stops to pick me flowers, and the gesture's so lovely that I don't even bother to save our flowerbeds--I love his purple petunias.  Lorelei, big girl that she is, just brought me a glass of ice water because she thought I looked thirsty.  And today, when I laid down with Gryffy during nap time, he got up for a moment, found two small blankets, and tucked one around me.  "That's for you, Mommy."  Then he snuggled up beside me and fell asleep.
3. Gryffy always brings me "Big Baby," a little plastic figure of the character from Toy Story 3 who lost her "mom," Daisy.  He always, always makes sure I give Big Baby a kiss because he knows that Big Baby needs a Mommy to love it.  Just about everyday, Gryffy finds Big Baby and brings her to me.
4. In the car this morning, after we'd dropped off Lorelei, Gryffy said, "I love you so much Mommy," just out of the blue.  Both kids do this a lot, to each other and to me.  And I melt every time.  I love our morning car rides because we always pray together and have a little pep talk before school starts.  It's one of those really big "little" things in our daily grind.
(Gryffy with the blanket he'd wrapped around me, after I'd snuck out to photo my sleeping boy)
 And another little thing I love is playing games with Lorelei during Gryffy's nap time.  I think she loves it too.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lorelei's New Room--A Sneak Peek

Lorelei's new bunk beds were supposed to arrive by elf delivery on Christmas, but Mrs. Claus called us today because she had noticed, while out shopping at the Elf Furniture Mart (of course!), the bunks were on clearance. The room has to be ready by Friday, which makes Christmas three months early. So here's a sneak peek of the room.

A scribbled drawing I had made, using Lorelei's beautiful owl artwork (which she is going to paint on the walls) as inspiration...
 Notice the "bright sky blue" I had labeled the wall in the photo above?  Not a chance.  When I consulted Lorelei, she insisted on pink.  She is the main designer, so alas, pink it is!
 Sugar Sweet, to be exact.  You'll see it next to the bedding below--she did a good job picking a match, at least.  I think she knows best!
 The "saffron" wall will have beanstalks painted all over, inspired by a piece of scrapbooking paper.  I think L will paint her owls on this wall, too.  She might add some bunnies on another wall, near the floor.  She has a penchant for drawing owls and bunnies.  She's already been helping me paint these beanstalks.
 Aren't her owls adorable?  Can't wait to see them on her walls!
 So there it is.  I have a LOT to get done between now and Friday!  And while I felt very sad about letting go of her old room and giving her the artistic freedom (with a bit of persuasion) to design a new one, I think it's going to be adorable!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Progress Report

My blogging on the Chronicles has been a bit sporadic lately, but for very good reason.  I've been setting up a blog for the Mothers Together program at church, which is something I'm passionate about and have felt honored to do--I just love these women! Still, I'm glad it's up and running now, and that I can dedicate some more time to our family blog again--hence this mod-podge post you're reading. 
1. I've been reading more (yes, more) parenting books, taking in more inspiring ideas, and realizing that the ones we've got in place are turning out to be excellent systems for our family.  You might remember the kids' (well, mostly Lorelei's) "Chore And More Charts" HERE. This has been fantastic, especially creating a super smooth early morning with whine-free violin practice, except that it's easy for Lorelei to forget some of the tasks all chunked together under her "Daily Jobs" in the afternoon, which is why I've brought them back out... our Pencil Jars.  O, how I love our Pencil In Priorities Jars.  I came up with these around the New Year (HERE), and they've been so helpful I mentioned them in my back to school article in KC Parent (HERE), because they're fabulous for breaking big things down into small tasks.  That's just what I've done with L's jobs, hoping she won't forget anything now... the poor girl is crushed if she misses earning a badge.  I think it's important that I do what I can to help her succeed, but at the end of the day, when it's time to count tokens, it's really up to her.  I'm hoping that by being consistent with our expectations, she'll learn to take initiative and do things without so many reminders.  Already I'm nagging a lot less, but my goal is that she's responsible enough to do things on her own, to move her own badges, and to tell us when it's time to count tokens.
2. Lorelei is beyond crazy about her Awanas Club, and her weekly goals (from our white board) have been to learn several verses each week since (in Sparks) they get to progress at their own pace.  I don't have anything to do with this, she's just totally motivated and wants to earn those sparkly jewels for her vest.  I was the exact same way as a little Spark.  I want to equip her to meet her goals, and Awanas offers the perfect tool for this--a CD with all the verses (if only they'd had these on tape when I was a kid).
For L's Suzuki lessons, she has to listen to her violin music everyday, and I've learned a little secret--the more she listens, the better she plays.  So I've started burning CDs with the songs she's working on played anywhere from 5-10 times in a row.  I took the same concept, and have been adding her Awanas verses to her Suzuki CDs, burning them together.  I have the verses play 3 times each, and voila--she's mastering them with hardly any effort on my part, and she's just giddy about it!
 This past week at Awanas, she went in ready to recite 8 verses!  Eight, word for word.  They only let her do half because it was the very end and they were running out of time, but I got to peer through the door as she recited one after another, and I could tell she felt so good about what she had accomplished.  It's amazing what a determined kid and a good strategy can do.  Three meetings in to Awanas, and Lorelei knows: John 3:16, 1 John 4:14, Psalm 147:5, I Cor. 15:3 & 4, James 2:10, Acts 16:31, a review verse, and John 20:31, plus most of the NT books.  I love the confidence kids gain through this program and the good study habits--it really carries over into school and life.
Poor Gryffy did not have such a good week--the Cubbies leaders got smart, and broke up the three little musketeers--Gryffy, Jack and Jonny--into different classrooms.  They were always so excited to be together, but I know three boys can be a handful!
 3. I'm tickled pink that Lorelei and Gryffy both love school this year too and have wonderful teachers, and that Lorelei has gone straight into kindergarten with confidence.  She got her progress report today, which seems so early to me!  But she was very proud, because I think she finds satisfaction in working hard and doing her best--all plus marks!
 Can you tell she's a little excited about that?  Just a bit?
 4. This boy steals my heart away.  While I was outside snapping pictures, Gryffy said, "Mommy-a, I-a pick a fwower-a for-a you-a."  (He adds the "a" sound after every word as he works so, so hard to pronounce them--it's really very cute, though I'm not sure his speech teacher thinks so.  He wouldn't cooperate this week, and his teacher looked a bit frazzled when they returned to the waiting room.)
 He always brings me flowers and tucks them behind my ears.  What a sweet, precious boy I've got.
 "Here-a yooou-a gooo-a."  Why thank you, Mr. Gryff.
5. And two weeks ago when we were in Des Moines, Mark twisted his foot and tripped as he took down his band equipment after a wedding.  He staggered into the hotel room where the kids and I were in bed, and said he thought he might have broken it.  It made him nauseous.  Lorelei rushed to nurse his foot with our ice pack (seriously, that girl is so nurturing) while I gave a little bit of sympathy, but was pretty sure Mark was being a bit of a baby over a sprained ankle.
A CT scan yesterday, and--oops--it really IS broken.  I guess I'm not winning the Year's Best Wife Award...
 ... but at least I helped to mow the lawn tonight.  Sorry, Hubsley.  I was a total failure last time he broke something, too.  It was his little toe, and it was horizontal.  HORIZONTAL.  I ran from the room, more worried about myself fainting than his horribly disfigured foot.  I guess he'll just have to stop breaking things, or at least manage to break them at work, where he has full access to an ER...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bubba and the Bumblebee

Bubba got stung by a bee.
He was trampling through the next-doors' plants when it happened.  There was a sharp scream.  He came running to me.  I went running to him. 

"Where's it hurt, Bubba?" I asked.

He pointed to his thigh and said "bee!"  We pulled off his pants and out fell the little monster.  I rushed him inside with Lorelei and we tended to his owie--Mommy gave Gryffy a frozen burrito for his leg, Lorelei (smart little cookie) gave Gryffy a cookie to distract him. 

He was so brave, bless his tender little heart. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lorelei's first big purchase!

Take a look at Lorelei's face here, and there's no mistaking it... the pride she feels.
Lorelei, you see, has been learning the benefit of being frugal, having a plan for her money, and saving up enough allowance (she can earn up to $5 a week) to buy the things she really wants, and what she's been pining after for months is this: a giant-sized Rapunzel. 

I wish I had learned more about money growing up, and while I feel somewhat unqualified in teaching lessons on finances, I refuse to raise children who don't understand how to manage and steward money.  I learn so much from (and with) my kids. 

On Saturdays, the banker comes out, and Lorelei counts her week's worth of tokens very carefully, depositing them into her savings, seeing where she's at on her financial goals.  She found some extra birthday money in a jar, and added this to her bank too.  With the excess, she's:

1) saving up to clothe the Build-A-Bear Mommy and Daddy have promised her for practicing 1500 songs on her violin this summer... she's almost there, and

2) has already put $60 into her 401-Car Plan, which Mommy and Daddy will match in contributions.  I know she's got ten years to go, but we'd like to think of it as an early lesson in retirement savings.

3) We're also trying to teach her to save a tithe for church.  She didn't like the idea.  At all.  And we didn't force her or try to coerce her too much.  But this will be one of our family night lessons soon, something we're working on along with her (We need to take another look at our finances, see where we're at this year, and make adjustments accordingly--time to break out and dust off those Dave Ramsey CDs! Trying to raise kids intentionally has forced us to raise the bar for ourselves--it's hard work, but it's a really good thing for all of us).

Lorelei, I'm so proud of you for making a plan for your money and sticking with it.  You got a really (REALLY) big reward, and YOU made it happen!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mr. Gryff Goes To Preschool

Buddy is a big kid preschooler, and he had to be a big boy for his big sappy Mommy. He thought he was helping when he picked Mommy a purple petunia. It made me wilt a little bit inside--he is my baby Gryffy, after all--but I knew he was ready.
 The Frizzle Fairy came by on her Magic School Bus to herald the day with Scooby Doo and monkey shirts and, yes, a roll of big boy Toy Story 3 underwear.  He wears them overnight now, too.
 We love this Backpack Fairy!  Gryffy is wild about Scooby-Doo, and snubbed the outfit we had set out the night before (this chore is part of his Bedtime Badge) to hitch a ride to school in Mystery Machine attire.
 He really did seem curious about that Backpack "Frizzle" Fairy.  Mommy read him her glitter-speckled note, and found him reading it again later in the day.
 Obligatory first day photos.

 Lorelei Lou-Who giving Gryffy a hug by the Who-Ville Tree.  She was so excited that Gryffy has two of her favorite teachers, Mrs. Bergdall and Mrs. McNally.
 C'mon, Mom... enough already...
 This is when he picked that flower and found me pulling out my camera again to capture his sweet heart for his Momma. Boy, do I love that little man.
 I still remember Lorelei's first day at Christ Lutheran 3 year-old preschool, taking a picture just like this one in front of the welcome sign before walking to the same Rainbow Room.
Gryffin. 2011.
Lorelei. 2009.
 He's usually a leg-clinger, but this morning Gryffy bolted for the front doors and his classroom.  His wobbly run is so dang cute.
 We were the first ones there.  I loved that when Gryffy looked inside, he saw Mrs. Bergdall, Mrs. McNally, and Mrs. Sprecher praying for him and his friends.
 It was earlier than we had anticipated, but the Connellys like to TURNIP on time!  Gryffy got out three puzzles and set to work.
 Many of Gryffy's friends are in his class, including his long-time little brother buddy, Rohan, here.  I think they could pass as brothers.
 Gryffy got a special early tour with Mrs. Bergdall because we missed the orientation day.  This gave him a lot of confidence, and he was strutting around the room in no time.

 Mrs. Bergdall tried to seat Gryffy on a shape carpet, but he would not have it.  "Free--I want free!"  He plopped himself down on the number three and wouldn't budge.  It's his favorite number.  Oh boy, these teachers are in for it!  He looks kind of tiny there, doesn't he?
 Gryffy joined the play-do table without a fuss and would not so much as look up as I fussed over him and said my goodbyes.  There were no teary eyes, though--I knew he was in wonderful hands, and that this was good for both of us.  We sure are wild about our happy preschool.
 We hosted a "Smart Cookie" Exchange for the kids in class.  Only boys showed up, and all the same ones that were at a playdate the week before, so they already knew each other.  The class is definitely boy heavy, but these boys are cool and collected--not too hyper or rambunctious.  Phew--did we luck out!  And I just LOVE the moms (the new friends and the old).
 I swear, the whole group of them just sat for a good fifteen minutes and decorated cookies.  Who would have ever thought boys could sit still that long?

 Jonny's not in Gryffy's class (below), but he's good buds with several of the others, so he's our honorary classmate.
This kid is mad about string cheese.  He begs for it in the grocery store and makes sure I make a special trip to the dairy section, even for a quick run-in.
 Everyone went home with a dozen cookies at playdate's end.  Just what every kid needs--SUGAR.
Gryffin John, you are pure joy to my heart.  All that ickle sweetness in the picture above--that's how I feel about you.  I'm so proud of how brave you were going to your preschool class.  You are gifted with numbers, an expert at sharing toys and the most thoughtful little boy ever.  I just want to squeeze your cute little cheeks and listen to your bedtime stories of monsters eating bunnies. I love you to Infinity and Beyond!  ~Mommy