Friday, February 27, 2009

Lent--Day Three

A blessed first Friday of Lent to you all...  How are you?

The week has been a full one.  Thanks for hanging with us through my various reports of new practices in place here in Gasperini-Ville.  We are definitely better for them and are trying to drive home consistency, consistency...  Day by day!  I am doing my best to lovingly mother with grace, offering up my imperfections and allowing Christ to infiltrate more of my day.  Thank goodness Lent offers us 40 days to try to get it right!

In the meantime, the boys and I have embarked on a special project together--The Jesus Tree.  I caught the bug through a recommendation on Building Cathedrals and ran with it...  Now, with a little felt and care for detail, we are embarking on day three of our tree.  Each "lesson" takes 15-20 minutes, just enough to capture the boys' attention with a brief Bible story about Jesus' life, the hanging of a daily "ornament" on our Jesus tree, and then the coloring of a picture to represent the story.  Overall, the boys' response has been GOOD.  They are still very young to expect their attention for the whole time--a 2-year-old's attention span is amazingly short!!!!  As GG encouraged, at least they are getting some exposure to the Biblical stories and the life of Christ.  Thanks dear!  Even better: by completing the Jesus Tree this year, we are starting a childhood tradition that can be carried along each Lent.  I am really excited to add this pastime to Gasperini-Ville's growing list...  
Blessings to you this Friday!  Prayers for a glorious weekend to come,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Practices--Part III

A blessed Ash Wednesday and beginning of Lent to you all...

Sacrifice being the theme of our next 40 days, this post goes right along with it. With our next new practice, our boys are unknowingly sacrificing their fledgling tastebuds for the sake of their overworked mama. In addition to our clothes-at-breakfast and bib-wearing policies, we've also added another--the eat-what-you're-served-and-like-it rule. ;) You can see where this one's going...

My boys were (and still are) quite un-adventurous when it comes to trying new foods and eating like "big boys". We've attempted having them eat like us, but have always caved, fixing them their own meals and causing their mama more work. In all of this their palate has only become more "refined". At one point, we were having to buy a specific type of mac 'n cheese because all others would be rejected. Ugh!!

So I stopped. Cold turkey. One night the boys were bedazzled with their typical dino-shaped nuggets of glory, and the next they were met with beef stroganoff and broccoli. Whoa. This totally rocked their little worlds. Thankfully, I will say they are good fruit and veggie eaters, so the broccoli went down pretty easily, while the beef stroganoff remained untouched. The new rule: "All boys must make a good effort* on all parts of their plate before a) receiving any more of one part and/or b) dessert. *"Good effort" is up to Mommy and Daddy's subjective decision. ;) If boys choose not to eat their meals, they may ask to be excused politely and may wait until the next meal to eat.

You can imagine the whines heard around our table--"Mommy, I don't like that sauce" or "Mommy, that chicken is so yucky". As soon as they start, though, I say my rehearsed line, "My ears hurt from all of this whining. You are welcome to eat the things you like and stay here or you may continue your whining in your room." At extreme stand-offs, I will merely place a time-limit on the clock and ask for a boy to start his meal before the elapsed time or he will be automatically excused from the table. With those practices in place, we have pressed onward and dinners have been rather pleasant. The only hang-up: my kids are going hungry and often, which is hard for a parent to see (especially the Daddy parent :).

Yet the biggest "Aha" moment came when I watch this video about San Damiano Foundation's work with starving children. The movie led me to tears as I sat and watched young children unable to sit due to extreme starvation. Later when flushing down the latest shunned dinner creation, I thought of the starving children again and how they would be sprinting, possibly killing, to have a bite of my children's wasted food. The only difference between those children and my own is that my own had never known starvation. If they knew the WANT of hunger, they would scarf down anything on their plates. Going "hungry" for one evening was not going to hurt them.

A few good things about this new policy is 1) the boys love breakfast and will eat to their heart's content every morning, therefore I know they are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals; 2) they enjoy having many of their old dinner favorites for lunchtime--mac 'n cheese, nuggets, PB and J make regular appearances around noontime much to their delight; and 3) we are starting to see some real progress even in just a few weeks. Just last night I made my famous "Cheesy Soup" with potatoes, onions, and celery. The boys have never touched this mama wonder, that is until last night. I was in disbelief as I helped our M spoon bite after bite into his mouth. Pardon me, is this my child??? In the past few weeks, we've also come to realize how much our T enjoys meat. Last week GG and I chuckled on the phone while T yelled in the background, "Mommy, I want meat. I want meat!!" Hysterical. The kid loves all things ground beef, steak, and sausage. We would have never really known this if we hadn't challenged him to branch out a little. Watch out arteries! :)

So there you have it, the last of our recent Gasperini-Ville policies to go 'round. No doubt I'll be updating soon with the latest tweak or alteration. No doubt, though, we are better off in our evolution and realizing day-by-day that change can be a good thing. We just have to be willing to work through the adjustment!

God bless,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Practices--Part II

Bibs. In the world of motherhood, they are staples. They offer a respite for the Spray 'n Wash bottle sitting on top of my washer. They make my children somewhat presentable amidst the dirt and grime of the their day.

Bibs are a bit baby'ish, though. And what mother wants to fight the bib battle when there are already so many other fires to put out?

I had abandoned bibs and the daily battles that ensued when I tried to put them on my boys. Even our beloved Bjorn bibs weren't cutting it anymore. Both boys knew how to remove them, so why bother? The Spray 'n Wash was getting a lot of attention. Overall, my children were looking more and more ragged as they continued to spill and abuse their poor clothing.

Yet the morning I found myself and my children sitting around the table dressed for breakfast, I knew our bib policy had to change as well. I was not going to let their crisp clothes go to waste that early in the morning!!! So we made some new rules.

With M just turning 4 and officially becoming a "big boy", I felt it was important to show him some manly deference. Our first rule, therefore, was "All children over 4 do not have to wear bibs until they spill. Once a child has spilled, he must immediately wear a bib." M was happy with this. Not only did it give him big boy privileges, but it also challenged him toward eating more neatly. Excellent. And might I say, he has become an extremely neat eater since!

The next "rule" or choice offered was as followed, "All children under age 4 may choose between a normal plastic bib or a towel draped over their shirts." Offering T some options for him to choose was wonderful! He took to the towel almost instantly (probably because it is something new and "more grown-up") and now asks for it every time he sits down. He also seems to grasp that when he gets a little older, he'll have new privileges just like his big brother. There is hope in his little world. :) I will say, though, that upon instituting this policy, we had a few stand-offs where T refused to put on his bib or towel. Remember, he is two and two-year-olds are SO very wise. ;) Here's an example of one of our little skirmishes: I said my rehearsed line, "T, would you like to put on your bib and join us for breakfast?" "No, Mommy, no bib," T retorted. "Okay (taking him down from his seat) when you're ready to wear your bib, you may join us. Otherwise, we are trying to enjoy our breakfast so you may finish your tears in your bedroom."
The mere possibility of not getting to eat and having to go to his room was all it took to make him acquiesce to the bib. Battle won.

The final rule is one both boys seem to understand, "All boys wear bibs when eating syrup." This is non-negotiable and essential for our pancake mornings. It will definitely be in place until they stop dipping their pancakes in syrup by hand--and perhaps that's an appropriate progression for this rule later on. "When you begin to use a fork and knife to eat your pancakes, you can stop wearing a bib for syrupy breakfasts." Magnifico!

So there you have it--three simple rules. They are not complex, but allow me to make some general guidelines, the children to feel some freedom, and all of us to walk away from the breakfast table more presentable now that we're dressed for our days. I mainly enforce the bib rule at breakfast for by lunch and dinner, they're already so dirty and scrappy, we're just ready to be done with the day. I also find the latter two meals to be generally less messy. No doubt, though, the bib policy would do fine extending throughout the day.

New Practice on the docket for tomorrow, Ash Wednesday--eating policies! How appropriate as we all begin to reflect on ways to sacrifice more during the Lenten season.

God bless you today,

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Practices--Part I

We are constantly evolving as a family of five. In this evolution we are making changes, adjusting, tinkering, and hopefully finding the right mix in raising our boys. Thankfully, I am happy to report a few recent changes have made huge differences in our day-to-day. Turning over a few new leaves in Gasperini-Ville has been just the antidote to cure some building ills... The results are worth reporting. We have found success and it feels awesome!! I thought I'd take a couple days to talk about a few of these changes, the resulting adjustment, and eventual success.

For some readers, our anecdotes may provide a light bite and opportunity for laughter; for others, I hope it offers you some food for thought as you take on the daily challenges of raising children. I am always eager to hear what's working for other parents... If anything, this will offer a distinct look at life in Gasperini-Ville for posterity (read: when our grandchildren are acting up, all we'll have to do is look back and see how much work it took to raise their fathers! lol.)

You see, we Gasperinis are not he most patient, most attentive, most obedient lot in the world. And who is? Yet a mama's intuition was sensing we needed CHANGE and now. We were all beginning to buckle under some dreadful old habits, which were fine at one point in our evolution, but now needed some sprucing and updating for our survival. In general, the kids are getting older and with age comes greater responsibility. We laughed the other day when pulling into the church parking lot as M said, "I don't want to be four anymore; I want to be three again" because he didn't want to attend Mass, but rather head straight to the church nursery. ;) And while it is tempting for parents to give in and "baby" their precious children, GG and I know in our hearts that challenging our little guys will do wonders for their future maturity, responsibility, etc. I have been especially inspired by the book Parenting With Love and Logic, by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay. It has helped to equip me with a proper perspective as I face the daily battles ensuing in Gasperini-Ville!

One of the first slight alterations we've made of late is the requirement of boys to be dressed in order to be served breakfast (I also applied this one to myself!). I know this change might seem rather insignificant and something the rest of the world figured out years ago, but remember, we're Gasperinis. Such a change has made waves in Gasperini-Ville--and good ones. We had gotten into a horrible rut of rolling out of bed and into our day, facing the day's tasks unkempt and unenthusiastic. I was constantly having to will the boys to get dressed--who wouldn't want to stay in his jammies all day? It wasn't uncommon for me to have to take clothes to the car because someone wasn't yet dressed before we headed out on an errand. When I would finally have them dressed, clothes would often be strewn all over the house (and car!), beckoning my extra energy to round them up in order to get laundry done. What a mess!! Something had to change.

So GG and I made the simple rule that no one was to be served breakfast without being dressed. The first morning we instituted this iniative, we met disaster. We managed a tearful and overly dramatic M, who is often rigid in the midst of change. In the heat of the moment, GG and I were tempted to get annoyed with one another and back down, BUT WE DIDN'T! We stuck it out and tried to maintain relative peace and order (at least with one another). After thirty minutes of tantrums and general unhappiness, the boys and I found ourselves dressed and around the breakfast table, ready to tackle the day. Day one was over and accomplished. Whew!

The next day, M (having had a recent birthday) had new toys with which to play and was engrossed. "Breakfast will be served for the next 20 minutes," I said as I laid his clothes outside the playroom. T had already decided to get dressed (his appetite winning him over) and was eating his cereal. The three of us (Baby J included) had an enjoyable breakfast and delightfully cleared our places, going on with our day. At this point, I gave M one last reminder that breakfast was soon to be over. No response--he was too enthralled with playtime to make getting dressed and eating breakfast a priority.

An hour and a half later, M came running up to me, "Mom, I'm so hungry. It's time for my breakfast." Mind you, at this time, he was completely naked, having tried to dress himself so that he could receive his meal. "Oh, I'm sorry, " I replied, "breakfast was over long ago. You'll have to wait for lunch, which we'll be having soon." "But I want my cereal," M retorted to which I replied, "Well, you'll have to look forward to that tomorrow. Why don't we get you dressed and ready for lunch?" And that was the end of it. Can you guess who was first to be dressed and ready to go the next morning? Now, I can barely get out of the shower before I have M running up to remind me that it's time for breakfast! Nice change!!

The following morning, my belovedly stubborn T was having a rough one. In his two-year-old wisdom, he was unwilling to get undressed and submit to the 2 seconds of being cold in order to put on his clothes. I knew how hungry he was, so I knew that despite his stubborn nature, he'd come around. At the steps he cried, "Mommy, I want breakfast." I replied, "We'll enjoy having you once you're dressed. Are you ready to put on your clothes?," "No!" said T. This exchange went back-and-forth for a little while, until M and I officially began eating and (overly) enjoying our breakfast. "Wow, this is so yummy. I love waffles and syrup," I exaggerated. This was all too much for our T, who immediately said, "Mommy, I'm ready to get dressed. Will you help me?" "Sure," I smiled--this was all music to my ears.

Since then, it has been smooth sailing and somewhat amazing to have this new practice as part of our daily routine. We are more efficient with our time; we are ready to go at a moment's notice; we are higher functioning and generally more pleasant in the mornings. That is, unless it's Saturday. Saturdays are off-limits. PJ's are allowed in full force at breakfast... and as long as the boys would like to wear them. Now, isn't that nice? I just love a little compromise.

As I mentioned in my last post, we've still have many hang-ups in our days, but I would venture to say they'd be a lot worse without this new practice in place. I am less frazzled and more patient as a result. 

Next Up Tomorrow: our new bib-wearing policy--get excited!! ;)

God bless you today, even if you ate your breakfast in jammies!!  Hugs and prayers,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Giddy

Tonight is date night in Gasperini-Ville! GG and I are gearing up for a pizza and Slumdog menagerie! Pinch me, please?! :)

Yet how in all this excitement do I already miss my precious cherubs, who were wonderfully whisked away by Mimi and Papa a half hour ago? Thank goodness for absence to make my heart grow ever fonder! It's been a rough week for the boys and I; we desperately needed a break from one another.

Thank you, M and P. We are so blessed by you.

Hope all of you are enjoying a great weekend!
God bless,


Movie Review: FANTASTIC!! GG and I really enjoyed the film and thought it was so well-done. It reminded us of one of our all-time favorites, The Red Violin, because of the nature of the flashbacks and keen development of each timeline's characters and plot. It was so good that I almost forgot I was watching a fictional tale--I still have to remind myself, at times, that the story was not true. Everything was just so believeable... We agree with The Academy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why?

Why does a dog insist on rubbing himself in dead things?
Why does he innately go looking and finding and rubbing and... yuck?

Why does he then bring his filthy self to my door and want to come in?
Why does a mama have to then take time out of her day to bathe this creature, getting wet and gross and dead-deer-smelling all while wearing something new and cute?

Why? 

And how's your day going? ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hands Dirty

As part of getting our yard prepped for spring, Gasperini-Ville is doing a mid-February pruning per the recommendation of a local landscaper.  

On Sunday, GG trimmed the crepe myrtles, taking care not to whack them, but instead trim any wayward twigs and take a little off the top of the uppermost branches.  Excellent work.  We did a little web research before sending him out, not sure whether to uniformly cut the branches or allow for a more natural look.  Most sites recommended easing up on the uniformity, so au natural we went.  

Yesterday, I tackled the hydrangea, ornamental grasses, day lilies, red twig dogwood, and butterfly bush while the boys scurried around the yard, trains and adventures afoot (baby J was napping indoors, of course).  After an hour or so pruning, I ventured back inside, aglow by the wonder of gardening--it is therapy, for sure!  Investing in the care and maintenance of living things no doubt brings meaning and purpose to one's daily existence (especially when they can't talk back or disobey! ;).  No wonder nursing homes with pets and plants report lower mortality and greater vitality among the residents.  The gardner in me has taken hold!!  Now onto the St. John's wort and Russian sage tomorrow, followed by bed cleaning, mulching, fertilizing....

I can't wait to see the fruits of our efforts come bloom this spring and summer.  I saw faint evidence of the coming beauty when I pulled out the dead stalks of the former day lilies.  Small green shoots sat nestled below the surface, offering hope for all of us praying for winter's end.  The butterfly bush even seemed to spruce up and sit a little taller after I left her a third of her former size.  Pruning is, indeed, a good thing and she needed a lot of help.

Perhaps some inner pruning is in order as well?  
Happy Tuesday and God bless,

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gasperini Diner

I write this morning from the kitchen, where I am attempting the world's most perfect pancake. Not really, but I am at least trying to make them presentable, round, and fully cooked, which is a feat in and of itself for this mama. The art of pancake-making has escaped me in my younger years--the batter being too thick, too thin; the pancakes overcooked, undercooked, sticking to themselves, folded, misshapen, and everything in-between. I admit to being a horrible pancake-maker.

But not this morning! I think I'm finally getting to the bottom of it... Today the batter is slighty lumpy, but not too lumpy. It is a little runny, but not too runny. The pan is hot, but not too hot. We are cracking this mystery! And how metaphorical on this Monday to be reminded that the best things come after much tweaking and by taking a moderate approach. As a mother when I get bogged down in either extreme, I find myself less effective and dissatisfied. A good lesson to remember today as I tackle a weekend-ruffled home and three energy-packed, precious boys!



And who doesn't love good lessons (and good pancakes) when you have smiling faces such as these to greet you in return? The boys consumed two different batches of pancakes and we all enjoyed our high fructose syrupy delight (much to a mama's chagrin--has anyone found good syrup without the toxins?? I digress...) Hope this also greets you with smiles and warmth on a Monday. One more to go until the Lenten season begins--live it up! :)
I happened upon this situation after running upstairs briefly!  lol.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Be Mine?

What a glorious afternoon it was...

We frolicked over lunch and playgrounds and walking trails for hours. We even had enough left in us to stop by Michael's craft store on the way home to facilitate M's Valentine-making. This year we decided to have a go at making heart-shaped crayons to stick on homemade cards for M to pass out at preschool.  And I'm happy to report an *awesome* outcome!!!  Not to mention, the whole project was really age-appropriate for my little men, offering keen manual dexterity practice for their tiny fingers. They had a great time initially peeling crayons and purposefully breaking them (yes, this time mom was asking them to be broken! :) and were more intent throughout the project than I ever expected! Here they are, my focused little worker bees...
After the crayons were paper-free and small enough (~3cm/each), we arranged them in varied patterns in the bottom of a heart-shaped silicon muffin pan. Then we stuck the pan in a 250F oven and watched... for over 25 minutes... until all the crayons had melted. Out came the pan for more waiting and cooling until...
Voila! Beautiful heart-shaped crayons! My own heart lept at seeing the almost-artistic quality to the designs. Don't they look faintly Impressionistic? We were all so excited!! 
Finally, we took glue dots and stuck the crayon hearts to card stock cards with the saying "You Color My World, Valentine". M had also written his name on the cards to accompany the crayon. In the end, this was the final product. Magnifico!!
My sister and her boys made these cards last year, so I have to officially pay her credit for such a fabulous idea. She had seen the prototype in a magazine and had beautiful success! I double-checked details here and found that these holiday crayons are more than popular. We might just might have to make some more to give away for future events! All in all, this project receives an A+ for offering the G's a little fun on a February afternoon. And it also makes a mama's heart glow to see her son so excited about something he made! He can't wait to pass them out to his friends... ;)

God bless and much love--get pumped because it's almost the weekend!! Woo hoo!

Flying High!

A morning at home listening to Thomas the Train...
A lunchtime gathering at a local park...
Valentine-making for a special boy's tomorrow delivery...
It is shaping up to be a wonderful day.

Glad to be back in the fold!
I'll update later with pics.
God bless,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ticking Time Bomb

I am sad to report that T, GG, and M have now all fallen victim to a random (and rather virulent) stomach bug in the last 48 hours.  

So the real question is, when am I going to start tossing my cookies?

As I type, I'm munching on a Chipotle burrito bowl.  If this is to be my last meal, why didn't I choose better?  I really like Chipotle!!   :)

Off to spray down a child's car seat...  Hope you're having a better start to your week!!!  
Please pray for us--especially that Baby J might be spared of this stomach virus!  Thank you!
God bless,

Update 8am 2/10: Ugh.  If a mama's going to get sick, better to have it happen after her cherubs are in bed!!  Thank you for your prayers--so far J is holding out and I'm praying the antibodies are prevalent in the mama's milk he drank this morning! :)  We are hanging in there.  The worst is over...  As you may guess, I will not be eating Chipotle for some time.  ;)  Cheers to a better Tuesday!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Happy Birthday!



To our dear first-born, M:

HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY!!  
We love you beyond measure!

Last year I retold his birth story.
This year, I'm just in awe that GG and I have been at this parenting thing for 4 years now (and yet we still feel like newbies!)  If you will, please say a prayer of thanks for our little/big guy today! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Virginia Winter

"Mommy, Daddy, 
come see out the window.  
There's something 
magical outside." -M

That "something" yesterday morning was, indeed, pretty magical for central Virginia.  It was a thin layer of snow, covering just about everything from the grass to GG's car parked outside.  For M, it was such an exciting sight to which to wake up and he pranced around until we were able to come and confirm the magic of it all!  Too cute.

Later, the boys were itching to get outside, so up I went to rummage through their closet, praying the whole time that I had two pair of hand-me-down boots to facilitate their adventure.  There they were, in sizes 8 and 10!  Lord, have mercy!  They couldn't have been more perfect!!
My little snowmen
Out they went and in they came a bit later, soaking from head to foot, but so happy for the fresh air and energetic outlet.  Sure enough, as soon as it came, the snow melted yesterday afternoon and weather predictions boast 50-60 temps for the weekend to come.  Our snow day is gone, but will be treasured until the next one!  
Wet tush, here I come!
God bless!

Monday, February 2, 2009

First Dance

At the annual Knights of Columbus "Polish Night" this past Saturday, our T surprised all of us taking to the floor with gusto and cutting an impressive rug!  His dancing partners were the sweetest and so inclusive, which thrilled the little guy to no end.  Dancing... and with big kids?  Nothing could be better in his little world!

Of course I totally was the ridiculous, camera-clad mother moving around the dance floor and taking a million photos!  lol. :)  I might as well do it now while he doesn't realize or care--homecoming dances in the future will not be so easy! 

Have a great Monday!!
God bless,