The seeds of tradition

What with all the bellyaching i've been doing here lately i wanted to make sure to note in writing all the really sweet and wonderful things that have been happening around these parts, especially as we lead up to Christmas.

Although Henry has been a tad bit blase about Christmas decorations this year, i think it's only to tone down the shock and awe Silas expresses each time we see brilliant lights or favorite Frosty decorations. He literally squeals with delight and loudly requests which decorations we need to see on our drive home.

Both boys had a ball decorating the Christmas tree this year and were downright helpful-- no quotations needed. Henry also displayed some very serviceable wrapping skills and helped me wrap a full night's worth of gifts one weekend. It's taken a bit of planning and prodding from me, but both boys have made treasure boxes for each other in secret and seem to relish having a gift, especially a secret one, to give the other.

It's not always reverent but they heartily request to listen to watch and listen to the Christmas music box each night. Henry especially loves the story of how Gran and Nonna gave it to me the Christmas when Henry was still in my belly.

Henry has been dutifully counting the days to Christmas using the advent calender i made a few years ago. He's even patiently re-attached the little felt ornaments when Silas has blown in like a tornado.

And today we made a go at celebrating the Solstice. Especially with it being a fairly new special day i didn't try to do anything too dramatic. I'll pat myself right on the back for that one. We read a book on the solstice that i checked out from the library, then we said a little verse about the darkness, lit a few candles and talked about the light coming back. Then Henry suggested we blow out the candles which both boys loved. Voila-- small ceremony achieved. I get the sense we planted a seed and i hope we reap the benefit next year.

I promise to illustrate this post with pictures but that will mostly likely happen after the holidays. We're t-minus just a matter of hours until both sides of our family join us for an exuberant and joyful time at Christmas!


Keep the Numbers Low

A friend of mine with many children posted the following on her facebook status the other day: "Siblings are a bad idea, best to keep the numbers low." Her message was intended as a tongue and cheek statement, but i have to say i could have expressed the sentiment myself once or twice.

Henry and Silas have an extremely close relationship which currently consists of playing really nicely or enjoying each others company 35% of the time and being upset about something the other is doing 65% of the time. JT thinks my percents are off, but i think that if i sat down with a clip-board and a timer for a day i'd be pretty close.

Beyond simply playing together, you get occasional glimpses of loyalty. In the moment though, this devotion is hard to appreciate because it usually surfaces when one of the boys is getting in trouble. If Silas has been told he can't have a treat, suddenly Henry is yelling at us to let Silas have a treat and to stop being "mean" to his brother. Hopefully standing up for each other will develop into broader personality traits as they get older, for now it's one of those things you try hard not to laugh about.

I know i've posted a lot about the difficulties we've gone through in the last six months with Silas. And i wasn't making those difficulties up. But, as Silas seemed to hit an upswing, Henry went on the downhill. What i came to realize though was how much "milder" any episodes were when you were dealing with just one child. It really does make a difference, at least for our boys, to have both of them at the same time while you're trying to discipline, encourage, or comfort.

I find that if someone gets wild, the other one gets wild, that if someone starts misbehaving, you suddenly have two monkeys jumping on the couch. If someone gets a timeout and begins wailing as if the world is ending, the other one will join in (and sometimes make himself genuinely upset) just because of all that negative energy in the room. With one, you usually have a bad moment, address the situation and move on.

This helped me understand that Silas probably wouldn't seem as challenging if he had been our first or was an only. I also think that Henry's behavior issues now seem so much worse than when he started experimenting with bad behavior between 2-3, because now he has an audience egging him on.

People talk about how the move from 2-3 kids is easier than 1-2. In this area i can see why. The whole dynamic changes with two. I am promising to keep an open mind about why all this sibling strife is worth it. People tell me strong bonds can emerge and i've certainly seen siblings with enviable relationships. But i'll continue to tell people feeling bad about having an only what a great situation that can be too!


Extremely delayed Silas Medical Update

Sometime in the fall JT took Silas back in for the 6 month ENT checkup to make sure Silas' ears were still okay. Everything looked fine but one tube had fallen out completely and the other one was about to. So they took them both out and wished JT and Silas on their merry way. I was frustrated because essentially Silas had surgery so he could have tubes in for the spring and summer-- not typically our high season for ear infections.

The doctor had agreed with JT that it was too bad they didn't last longer, but also indicated that since he was a year older he may have outgrown the problem. I was skeptical at the time and am even more skeptical now. Silas woke up congested and discombobulated and clearly not feeling well this morning.

JT stayed home with him and he pretty much layed in bed or sat on the couch and watched videos for the biggest part of the day. He didn't have much of a fever but he did keep getting flushed and he was definitely not his normal self. After nap he woke up even more out of sorts and immediately started saying that his ear hurt. Hallelujah for real speech! I immediately called the Dr. and we got an appt for this afternoon.

By then his eye was watering and boy could you just tell he felt miserable. Indeed he did have an ear infection in the one ear he was complaining about and the Dr. thought it was possible he was developing pink eye. She gave us an RX in case he wakes up with it disgusting and clearly pink eye. Otherwise she said it could just be due to his cold. We got his antibiotics filled and his first dose administered tonight. Hopefully he'll be feeling better tomorrow morning, although we'll have to see about school. In the meantime, Henry kept trying to convince us that he should stay home sick as well.

The problem is that he's had a cough for 2 weeks or so that is just stubborn but sounds somewhat bad. So he'll say he feels bad, (cough, cough) and it sounds believable. Wish us sweet dreams as we all try to get a good nights sleep.


Christmas with a 2 and 4 year old

Christmas this year is fun in lots of new ways. This is the first year Silas is consciously involved in the unfolding of Christmas. And everything is a delight. The big snowflake street decorations, the twinkling lights on Christmas trees peeking through front windows, as well as all the decorations on our tree he can reach.

Henry is also into Christmas in a new way-- he remembers it of course, and trots out all manner of details of things that happened last Christmas that we haven't talked about since. He is also much more intrigued with Santa and seems to be wrapping his mind around the "magic" of Santa. We're setting out to write our letters to Santa this week and i'm curious to see what winds up in Henry's this year.

We're not in a bonafide "up-cycle" with both boys, but we've had a decent-enough string of days i think it's worth being positive and grateful for all the fun craziness the boys bring to our life. Silas' newest thing is loving to take all his clothes off. Mostly he does this indoors, but even still it's been FREEZING here and it gives me goosebumps just to see him naked walking around on our super-cold floors. He does run warmer than me to be sure, but it also seems like he has to be on the verge of hypothermia before he'll admit he's cold. Just to make things interesting he also now feels compelled to jump on the trampoline once all his clothes are off.

We have found a solution that's been working pretty well. He comes home, immediately wants to take all his clothes off, we agree he can do that and run around for a few minutes and then put on his warm fuzzy pajamas. We've accumulated several pairs of fuzzy footed pajamas and he really loves them. So he's being rather "un-Silas" about being persuaded to don them.

We're keeping up a pretty good pace with Christmas prep. We try to hold down outside commitments this time of year which allows us to be home, crafting, wrapping, cooking, and preparing to see our whole family. We can't wait!


Christmas Organizing

I had a query about how i prepare for Christmas-- when i start working on things, how i get organized etc. I thought this just might appeal to someone else so am drafting my response in the form of a blogpost.

First of all this is me we're talking about, so a spreadsheet looms large in this conversation. I actually now use google docs and have a gift giving spreadsheet that has data in in for the last 5 years. I have everyone listed in column A that i give gifts to. Then a new set of columns each year that detail my ideas, where i think the gift will come from, the budget for that person and the actual amount i spent on them. I color code them as i make progress on the list, bright green when they're all done, yellow when they're in-process or part-way done and white when they're not done at all.

Just to give some scope to my list versus your own gift needs, i have 28 rows on my spreadsheet. This includes the shopping i do for family and a few friends, as well as the gifts i buy for the kids on behalf of family that sends us money.

I generally start thinking about gift ideas for folks sometime in September. I do very little shopping at this point but begin mapping out ideas i have for each person on my list. More and more i strive for a mix of handmade and purchased gifts. I put a lot of thought into what each person would like. I use a combined method of asking for gift lists and then just thinking about what i know about that person, their interests, their taste-- and what i've been inspired by. I spend a fairly substantial chunk of time looking around on etsy and save ideas i have for others in my favorites.

I keep hand-written lists in a small notebook of all the hand-made projects i'm working on. I got underway with those by the beginning of November and have tried to work steadily on them in the evenings and during naptime on the weekends. I tend to cluster my purchased spending online, and do it right around Thanksgiving. There are great sales, still plenty of time to have things shipped, and then i can cross all my purchased gifts off my list and focus on what i'm still working away on by hand.

I can't reveal pictures of what i'm making this year because i don't want to spoil the surprise, but i'm making sure to take pictures of everything as i complete my projects so i can have a big handmade holiday wrap-up post!

How do you organize your gift-giving?