Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Break

It's Spring Break here and we have been packing it in all week. About a year ago I decided we would go to Disney for Spring Break. My original thoughts about a family trip to Disney was that the kids would have to be at least be 3, 5 and 7. I figured the youngest being any younger than 3 would be tricky with naps and things she could do, etc. Well this year would be the last Spring Break for my soon to be High School Graduate and the first for my Kindergartner. How cool would that be? And the Princess of my crew would turn 4 while on the trip and could totally party with the Disney Princesses. So we were 'tentatively' slated for this time together in Orlando during Spring Break. I found a place for us to stay and started mapping out the trip. A few months after the school year started, we discovered Paris' show choir group would be in Orlando for a competition about 2 weeks prior to Spring Break. I wanted the trip to be special for her since it was her last Spring Break, but now it just seemed redundant and the notion of taking a 2, 4 and 6 year old became less appealing to me, so we postponed those plans for this Spring Break.

You can't have Spring Break without some sort of fun activities, although for some just being out of school is the major event. We kicked off the week by visiting Swaders, one of our favorite Fun Parks in town. Swaders has go karts, batting cages, minituare golf, laser tag, video games, kiddie bowling, ice hockey and a huge crawl and play place. Gotta love it. We're used to traveling to Fredericksburg to the ultimate family Fun Park - Funland. Swaders is similar, but it's not as big and doesn't have the dedicated Toddler area or Rock Climbing wall feature. We decided to go with similar and closer this time. The kids had a ball.

The Second day of Spring Break was Mireya's 4th birthday. We have season passes to King's Dominion. That's King's Dominion - Fun and Only to the kids...way to go on those commercials KD, it is ingrained in my kids brain. We had taken the kids the week before for their Opening Weekend of the park. They loved every minute of it. We told them we would be going back for Mireya's birthday and they were counting down the days. Needless to say they had a great time riding rides, playing games and eating all that yummy overpriced food. I don't really get on rides, but I enjoyed playing games, winning prizes, people watching and eating all the overpriced food too.

Day Three found us at our new favorite hangout, the indoor pool at our local gym. It is like a small water park on one end ,complete with a pirate ship and water spouts everywhere. We've been going there about once a week for a few months and the kids look forward to splashing around and playing. They all love the water and it is important to us that they are aware of water safety and know how to swim. We started taking some additional swim lessons for this year. A refresher and reinforcement for the older two and a introduction for the youngest who took to the water like a fish. For whatever reason my kids get ridiculously cold while at the pool. This became apparent even when Paris was their age. It doesn't matter if it's 100 degrees outside, they start shivering and shaking uncontrollably. Their lips start turning blue, but they are still begging to stay and play. They have come to LOVE the waterfall hot tub which only one of them is actually old enough to get in, but the younger two scream the loudest for a turn. I'm aware of all the issues and concerns of having small children in a hot tub, so we let them put their feet in or a sit in our laps for a few minutes to warm up. Of course they think it's there own personal 'hot pool'. Nothing more than taking a bath in a tub much bigger than the one they have at home. Pass the soap please!

That night we went to see the Greatest Show on Earth under the Big Top and it was so much fun. I clapped, hollered and cheered for all the awesome acts. I did miss 'brother man from the fifth floor' as the Ringmaster. He had been with the circus in that capacity for the last few years and was really good! He replacement paled in comparison. I must say the show was not as dynamic as it was last year, BUT there were a few acts that totally mesmerized me and had my heart beating 30 miles a minute. The Tigers and Elephants are always a favorite. A few of the felines were visibly not feeling "Opening Night" and had to get a few roars and paw swipes out of the way. It added a layer of trepidation that had me praying everything would go as planned. I will admit that the Animal Cruelty group protesting outside did their job in sharing their message. For the first time, I was really torn watching the Horse, Tiger and Elephant portions of the show. I had a few pangs of sadness for the animals through the realization they have been taken out of their environment and forced to do this song and dance for my viewing pleasure. Of course we didn't get out of there without paying for the especially high and marked up twirly-light up toys and gadgets or that $8 box of circus popcorn. I told the children they better eat every kernel in the box. Makinley loves popcorn and made sure that $8 didn't go to waste.

Day Four the children got to hang out with their little cousins for some outdoor fun at the playground. Don't know what happened to the beautiful and warm weather from the days prior, but it was frigid out that morning. Reya had a meltdown upon arrival and refused to play. So she served as the heater for my sister in law and I. The other kids seemed oblivious to how brisk it was, they were running and playing to their hearts desire. I penciled in possibly going to the drive-in to watch their double feature. Their format typically has a kid centered showing followed by an adult feature. They were showing "Hop" which I thought the kids would like to see, but by early evening all I wanted was to rest and regroup. So that got erased from the lineup.

Day Five was another cold day and there was rain in the forecast, so we went back to the pool along with all the other Spring Breakers in our zip code. We had tickets that night to hang out with Nutzy and the Flying Squirrels at the baseball diamond, but the cold and wet weather sidelined those plans. Jalen and a friend had a sleepover. He and this little boy have been planning and wanting to do this since the first week they met almost a year ago. Jalen was super excited. He ran upstairs packed his stuff and made his way off to his first sleepover. I gave him some ground rules, a little insight on spending the night at someone else's house and then prayed he would have a good time. I emphasized that if he wanted to come home all he had to do was call me and I'd pick him up. That call never came. Can't wait to hear all about it when he comes home today.

As he was leaving, the girls lined up to give hugs with tears of sadness in their eyes. Reya said she wanted to sleep @ someone's house too. Well Mama saved the night. I told the girl's we would have our own sleepover and we would all sleep in Jalen's room/bed while he was gone. I rallied them up the stairs and told them to put on their princess nightgowns, grab their pillow pets and meet me in Jalen's room where we would watch a movie. Reya told me I was a genius and ran to get changed. Even Paris decided to join us. She wanted to watch "Princess and the Frog", but was overruled by her younger sisters, who are also proud owners of the DVDs. So we all piled up on Jalen's bed to watch "Snow White" and have our own all-girl sleepover. I must add that Paris bucked the system by not putting on a nightgown, but we decided she could still come in.

It has been a great week. Mireya's birthday was celebrated at least 3 times this week at a variety of restaurants. She loved the ice cream sundaes, hot fudge cakes and crowds of people singing "Happy Birthday" to her. I love that we got to do some fun things and make some great memories together. I casually glanced at the proposed school calendar to see when Spring Break will be next year. Operation Disney may be in full effect.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Incentives, Development and Motivation

Each child is different and different things motivate and cause them to 'want' to do something. Jalen is the oldest of the little ones and just sort of rolls with the flow. He always has and that boy has been on the go since the very early weeks of his life. It took him until about 3 to potty train, he held onto a pacifier it seems for just about that long. I tried many different ways to get him to go to the bathroom and to give up that pacifier. From treats, sweets, stickers, small $1 toys and he was not moved by any of them. He did think the stickers were cool but he lost the excitement after a few days. He is not a sweets eater by any stretch of the imagination and didn't even try candy until this past year. The $1 Matchbox cars worked for a little while, but just didn't entice him over the log haul. I tried the Paci Fairy, your a big boy, send it off to a child in need and he just wasn't having it. I even cut the pacifier down as recommended by our Pediatrician to dissuade him from sucking it. A helpful note is don't cut down the last pacifier in the house when you have a child who relies on that to sooth himself and go to sleep. That was a "Sleepless Night in Midlothian" which required an emergency visit to Walmart and quick sterilization to bring peace and rest back to the house. For him it just took age and readiness and he started using the bathroom and gave up that pacifier....FINALLY!! Our new task are coloring/hand writing, catching a ball and riding a bike. Not necessarily in that order. I'm sure in 'his' time he will master these tasks too. He is playing soccer this season and I casually threw out a challenge/reward to him. If he scored a goal I'd get him a Star Wars toy. Well right up until his next game he doubted he could do it, but I'm happy to announce that he upped his level of intensity on the field this week. He was very instrumental in his team scoring a goal. Did he make it? Well if you take the little girl from the other team who put a foot on the ball he kicked to the net out of the equation, then he 'likely' unassisted would have scored one. His version is the girl thought his kick needed 'help' so she kicked at it too. This proved to me that if something means enough to you, you will find a way to make it happen.

Reya never really cared for a pacifier. She potty trained closer to 3, writes, colors, and pedals with ease. She is a mother's helper and my little Miss Independent. She has the sweetest heart. Simple praise and affirmation are great motivators for her. The thing about her is she has to be in the mood to 'want' to do it or you likely won't get much out of her at all. This has been proven time and time again, don't let the sweet face fool ya! Reya also loves 'all' things sweet. She has a major sweet tooth and can be persuaded to do a thing or two for a treat. The one thing we have not been able to conquer is sucking her finger. It's the oddness thing. We tried several things, to include "Thum" which is supposed to deter the finger sucking after the first application. Well it didn't phase her at all. There are finger guards you can buy but they are mainly for the thumb. She sucks her index finger. She mainly does this when she is tired. We've tried some other things to soothe her when she is transitioning to rest or sleep periods, but have not been successful. We may be tackling this one for a while. Everyone including the Dr. and Dentist have been encouraging her to give it up, but she has yet to let this one go. I have friends who were finger/thumb suckers and it took them years to outgrow it. Some admit they still do it. The visual of my daughter sucking on this finger beyond 4 is troubling, but we'll keep working on it.

A pacifier never intrigued Kinley. She potty trained within weeks of her 2nd birthday. That training took about a week to accomplish. She also has a bit of a sweet tooth and her potty training was exclusively due to her love of a sweet reward. On occasion she'll have a incident, but I guess with two siblings ahead of her that are already handling their business on the potty, she was 'all in' on the concept of going to the bathroom. Makinley is motivated by fun!! She writes and colors exceptionally well for her age. I'm amazed that she has the grip down. She loves 'capturing' and kicking a ball. Her hand-eye coordination is awesome. We watched her swinging a bat the other day and had she connected with that ball it would have been dangerous. She is exhibiting great athletic ability and interest. Not to mention she is fearless....a chip off the old block!

Paris potty trained at 2 also. Took to a pacifier, but easily gave it up. She rode a bike at a early age and was motivated by encouragement and belief. Knowing that you believed in her was half the battle. She enjoyed sticker charts and working toward larger goals. Allowance was also a big plus for her. That hasn't changed, but she works hard for her money. She participated in a lot of activities when she was younger. Soccer, gymnastics, dance, swimming, scouts, piano, horseback riding and eventually softball. We won't talk about how the owner of the stable thought she was a natural with horseback riding and encouraged her to continue. What was supposed to be a fun summer camp activity turned into Paris begging us to buy or rent a horse so she continue down this path. She was often recognized for her great natural athletic ability. With hard work and determination she will continue to achieve great things.

Each of the children are so unique. We've had the joy and sometimes pain of watching things unfold for Paris. We now get to see how much these current challenges, incentives and paths change over the course of time for the younger ones.