Lyra’s Third Birthday!

I suppose I should acknowledge that I am woefully behind.  But I’m going to revisit Lyra’s birthday party for this post and then I’m going to go back to Christmas day.  Yes… I’m that behind.  But I need to get these pictures up and memories written before I forget.  

IMG_0792.JPG

This year, Lyra’s birthday hit the Monday after our snow storm.  John got a snow day from work which was a fun element of the day.  But because the weekend was so cold and icy, a lot of places had weird hours if they were even open at all.  Originally we were going to do something a little different for her birthday but with the weather, we decided just to have my parents and John’s mom over to our house for dinner and cake.

Since Lyra turned one, we’ve let her pick out a birthday balloon from Harris Teeter and she had talked about getting a birthday balloon for a while before her birthday.  She was probably excited because Lucy got a birthday balloon at the beginning of December and she was totally jealous.  It’s amazing how something as small as a balloon is that special, but it is!  It hosts a load of entertainment before it deflates.  On the morning of her birthday we got out of the house and drove to Harris Teeter.  It was our first time getting out since before the snow hit for the girls and me.  John loves driving out in the snow and we were getting a little cabin fever-y because we’re used to getting out and about more.  Lyra picked out an R2D2 balloon this year.  We have some of John’s old Star Wars toys that she LOVES playing with and she loves “R Day 2” as she calls him.  We also let her pick out her cake – Hello Kitty.  I’m not sure if she has come by her love of the Kitty on her own because it was inevitable or because of my persuasion.  I love me some Hello Kitty so I was not mad at all about that.  ;)

After dinner at the house we got her ready for the birthday song.  She was SO excited.  Oh my goodness is three ever a good age.  She’s just so delighted by every little thing.  She got all her candles out on one blow.  And then afterward she asked us if we were going to surprise her(?).  She somehow got in her head that on your birthday your guests are supposed to hide and say SURPRISE.  So all of us went into the kitchen and turned off the light.  We counted quietly to three and turned the lights on and yelled SURPRISE!  Which made her so adorably happy.  This child is THE BEST EVER.  She’s so stinkin funny and cute.

After cake we opened presents.  She got a big art set, a snuggly blanket and pillow, a trampoline, and (the only thing she actually asked for) an umbrella.  The umbrella is pretty cute and matches her backpack and lunch box.  She was so happy with all her gifts.

We ended the night with her going over to her grandma’s house for a slumber party.  It was a pretty great day for Lyra.

Here are some photos.  The lighting is bad in all of them because the sun set as her “party” was starting.  Kinda bummed I didn’t get better photos, but alas, earwax.

IMG_0785.jpg

RDay2 balloon — notice the snow in the background!

L 3bday.jpg

So excited to blow out three candles this year.

L 3bday 2.jpg

with her cute umbrella.  trampoline in the background.

L 3bday 3.jpg

with her daddy!

L 3bday 4.jpg

this is so blurry.  no one else in the house knew how to use my camera but I wanted to include it anyway because I love my girl.

Happy Birthday Lyra!

Lyra is Three!

Lyra turned three and she is so not a toddler anymore, thankyouverymuch.  She will correct you if you call her a toddler.  Which makes me all sad and why does time go so fast and what have you.  Typical parent feelings.  It’s always so weird to me when I think about how I am someone’s parent.  Actually two someones.  And have been doing this parenting thing for three years now.  Weird.

So the twos weren’t “terrible” for us.  They actually started out pretty flippin awesome.  Toddlers are such funny people and it was so great that she was getting independent and helpful and able to express her feelings better.  And then two and a half hit and I was like “oh this is what people are talking about” with the dramatics and the tantrums and the HUGE feelings.  From all the books and posts I’ve read, Lyra is definitely considered “spirited” which is the twenty-first century term for what they call it when you have a kid that is stubborn and high energy and vocal and very in touch with their emotions.  This girl is so precocious and crazy smart.  I’m worried that she’s going to be smarter than John and me very soon.  And John is the smartest person I know, so it’s a little daunting.  But my mother-in-law pointed out that at least we will have the wisdom that comes with age so even if she is smarter than us, we will be wiser.  I take comfort in this.  I’ll take anything I can get.  Because I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t greatly intimidated by what Year Three has in store for us.  Prayers and good vibes sent our way, thanks in advance.

Let me say here that I think we got a good one in our little fireball.  I keep reminding myself that the qualities she’s exhibiting are ones that I want for her so badly as she becomes a young woman.  The self-confidence, the tenacity, the verbal expression.  You go girl!  The Future is Female!  A Woman’s Place is in the House and Senate AND WHITE HOUSE!  And all that jazz.  You know what I’m saying.  But also know that those qualities in a two year old that has normal developmental physical and emotional limitations is, well, challenging.  So when we have meltdowns because “I’m trying to do it by myself!” and all that, I just think, you are going to make a great woman someday.  You will move mountains.  You will change the world.  The current political climate isn’t helping women any, but my little Lyra Rose will help herself goddammit!  Just watch her pull the step stool out of the bathroom, bring it into the kitchen, and get into the cabinets we thought for sure she’d never get into so were not child-proofed, you watch her grab a dangerous kitchen tool and actually use it correctly and thank all the gods that she didn’t hurt herself while you were wiping her little sister’s butt and didn’t notice how sneaky quiet it got.

Oh how sweet she can be, though.  She is a snuggler and a damn fine one at that.  She loves herself a good cuddle in a soft blanket and I will eat that up as long as I can.  She loves her sister.  I often catch her in moments when she doesn’t know I’m watching and find her sniffing Lucy’s hair (yes, girl, I get it – baby smell is intoxicating!) and giving her kisses and hugs.  It’s nice to find her doing that when she doesn’t think others are around so I know she’s not performing.  She’s quick to help us if we need it and she can tell if we are worried or sad or upset and she will offer comfort.  She’s a hugger.  She loves to put her arm around friends, hold hands, and hug.  We have to remind her a lot that not all kids like this so she needs to not be so aggressively affectionate sometimes.  But of all the problems to have, I think this is a good one.

I’ve already said she’s smart and man, she is.  Her verbal skills are just through the roof.  Her reasoning and logic are pretty astounding.  But it’s her imagination that really knocks me off my feet sometimes.  Dramatic play is big at the moment.  Her ability to create and stay in-character and not break is awesome.  When she was dressed up as Princess Anna from Frozen for Halloween, someone asked her about her sister (Lucy) and Lyra immediately spouted off a long and detailed answer to the adult’s question about her sister Elsa because SHE was ANNA, not Lyra.  When the woman looked at me quizzically, I told her she was telling her about her fictional sister because since she’s dressed as Anna she IS Anna.  Oh, I could eat her up.

Lyra has never met a stranger.  She loves playing with kids of all ages.  She tends to gravitate toward kids slightly older because I think they are more on her dramatic play level.  Whatever playground were are at, whatever event we go to, she makes a friend and just runs off with them and has a grand time.  She needs no prompting at any social function to introduce herself and strike up a conversation.  I admire her so much.  I wish I had that ability now, but I never really had that natural ability, even as a child.

As far as quiet play activities go (things she does sitting at a table) – we have quiet play time during Lucy’s naps – she loves to color and draw and paint and play with play doh/kinetic sand.  She’s gotten pretty good at drawing stick people, she’s really good at faces.  When she plays with play doh or sand she usually makes them into “people” and then has conversations with them.  She loves a good craft, but crafts are not my favorite so we don’t do them as often.  I will sit and color with her or mold play doh and act out scenes for a long time, but putting together crafts is not my thing, so it is something I’m challenging myself to do with her more often in 2017.  Luckily she has a grandma that loves to craft with her, though!

She loves to play hide-and-seek.  It’s currently her favorite game to play.  She likes to play frisbee and soccer outside but hide-and-seek is still tops.  She really likes pretending to be Ryder from Paw Patrol and performing daring rescues with the pups.  She likes to play with her Little People sets and her doll house.

Lyra is still pretty petite.  She’s wearing 2t pretty comfortably.  A few things that are 2t or 24 months, depending on brand or style, are too short, but most of her things fit okay.  3t items fit well even though a lot are a little big.  But they aren’t crazy big  so they are wearable.  Her well child check isn’t until later this week so I don’t have her stats.  I’ll edit when I have them if I remember to do so.  I’m guessing she’s around 25 percentile for both height and weight.

I would consider Lyra a good eater.  Not a bad one or not a great one.  She has picky moments, but we can usually get her to eat something from each food group.  She is still going strong with her peanut butter oatmeal for breakfast which is almost always her request in the morning.  Which is just oatmeal I pile healthy things into with a good dollop of nut butter (sometimes it’s almond butter but she still thinks it’s peanut butter) and she eats it.  If she doesn’t eat it all I roll it into bite size balls and refrigerate or freeze and then give them to her as a snack.  She also loves her some mac-n-cheese, which I suppose is a childhood staple.  Her favorite candy is still the Annie’s Bunny fruit snacks.  So her favorite foods really haven’t changed that much this year.

She loves the movies Finding Dory  and Frozen.   Her current favorite tv shows are Paw Patrol (still!) and Care Bears – the tv version I watched as a child, it’s on Hulu, so it’s fun for me to see it again.  We still haven’t found a need to set limits on screen time as she would almost always rather play something or be outside instead.  So she doesn’t actually sit and only watch tv a lot.  I hope we are always able to organcially find a good balance without setting hard and fast rules because I think setting hard limits on things can often be more detrimental than beneficial.  But like anything in parenting, you have to keep reassessing and finding what works so we’ll see.

Lyra loves books.  She loves reading.  More and more she will bring longer books to me during the day and ask me to read them to her, books that aren’t just quick little reads.  She will sit still for good long stories now.  She’s memorized a lot of her favorites so she can “read” them herself.  She loves doing different voices for characters too.  I think we are so close to being able to start reading longer chapter books at night to her because she’s old enough to just be able to sit and listen to the story without the need for pictures. I’m itching for the day we can start Harry Potter.  I think we still have a couple years yet for those.  But we will probably be able to start Narnia soon.  I’m so stoked for getting into longer stories.  Since John and I are both big readers and were voracious readers as children, I think this is most exciting for us.  We are looking forward to encouraging a lifetime love of reading in our girls and so far, we are off to a great start.

I’m not positive if we had cut out naps for Lyra when I did her last update, but that’s probably the last thing I wanted to make sure I document.  A while ago, not even sure now, we cut out her nap during the day and moved up her bedtime.  I’m probably in the minority of parents here, but I LOVE it.  I am a morning person 100% so when Lyra was still napping and not going to bed until 8/9, I didn’t have much time at night after she went down to decompress from the day before I collapsed into sleep.  Now she goes to bed between 6-6:30 and I have hours to do whatever and I’m actually awake for them.  I’m just not a night owl, I cannot be productive after 9PM.  She wakes up for the day usually between 6:30 and 7.  Every once in a while she’s earlier than that, but lately it’s actually been closer to 7.  As a stay-at-home mom the break in the day that napping allows is nice, but Lyra is great at independent play and quiet time play when Lucy is napping, so if I don’t want to be involved in whatever Lyra is into at the moment, I have time to clean or sit and read or play piano.   I feel like I still get breaks during the day.  Of course there’s the odd day when the girls conspire to kill me, but I’d have those whether they are both napping 5 hours at the same time during the day or not.  So it works out for us.  Also, selfishly, I like that she isn’t tied down to a napping schedule and I’m actually looking forward to Lu napping less.  I know, I know, most people are probably like whaaaaaat?  But, I’m happy with our current schedule.  After saying that I’m sure it will be my luck that Lu will not cut out  naps like Lyra.  She seems to be taking after me more in the sleep area (as opposed to Lyra taking after John, he doesn’t like naps), so she will probably nap til she’s in first grade like I did.   Whatever, we’ll figure it out! :)

I think I’m going to do a separate post about her actual birthday.  Originally I was going to make one massive post, but this is quite long as is, so I think I’ll break them up.  I also have a pile of Lyra quotes John and I have been keeping that I will add in one of the upcoming Lyra themed posts.  So this is it for now.  Lyra at three.  My kind, brave, confident, talkative, friendly, energetic, courageous, amazing girl.  She loves big and we love her bigger.  I’m so so so thankful she made me a mother.  What a wonderful adventure we’re on!

b&w ly 2.jpg

Santa Visit

The last two years we’ve gone to the local Feed Store to see Santa for free.  Unfortunately, this year he was having some health issues and couldn’t do it.  The other few opportunities  we had for free Santa visits didn’t fit in our schedules, so we decided to do our first genuine MALL SANTA visit.

We decided on a day to go to the mall to see Santa.  After the Santa visit John took Lyra and I took Lucy and we went our separate ways in the mall so the girls could pick out their presents to each other which they would open on Christmas Eve.  Then we met up and had a fun dinner.  It was a wonderful day.  And probably another tradition we will start.  I love having a young family and getting to start traditions we will carry on through the years.

I had extremely low expectations for the Santa visit.  I was expecting both girls to lose their shit to put it lightly. ;)  Even though Lyra loves Santa and was excited to meet him, I figured once she got up there she’d lose it.  Lucy hates strangers right now so I thought she’d scream.

Standing in line as the anticipation was building, Lyra got quieter and quieter.  Lucy was oblivious.  When the time came and we plopped the girls on Santa’s lap the girls attitudes could be summed up by two feelings sadness (Lucy) and fear (Lyra).  They humored us a tiny bit by kind of smiling and looking at us, not the photographer.  After we tortured them enough Lyra said very quietly to Santa “Merry Christmas, Santa.” and then walked away.

Here’s the pictures:

img_8732img_8733img_8734

Til next year, Santa!

Christmas Cookies

In mid- December our friends Heather and Kevin came over to make cookies with us.  We have done this with them before but it was extra fun this year because Lyra was old enough to really help and decorate.  Heather is an excellent baker and brought over three kinds of dough and homemade royal icing along with icing bags with different tips.  We provided the sprinkles, the cookie cutters, and the oven… ha.  Kind of slacking.  But it was fun!  I think this will be an annual tradition for us.  It was nice having Christmas movies on in the background with the house smelling amazing all day long.  Kevin helped John finish up some of the outside decorations on the house while they were here too.  It was a super Christmasy day.

img_0680

img_0684img_0687img_0691img_0692

And Lucy was there too.  But she didn’t help too much with the cookie making/baking/decorating.  She did help by looking cute.

img_0702

Piano Lessons

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-high-quality-resolution-downloads-around-the-house-1-1000x666.jpg

The rental space where the hair salon used to be is now a McCalister’s Deli.  It’s been a lot of things over the years including a really gross smelling pet store, but in the early 90s, part of that space was the Snooty Fox Hair Salon.  It was in the Snooty Fox Hair Salon, impatiently waiting for my mother to get her hair cut and colored after school when I overheard my mother telling the hair stylist that I would be starting piano lessons the following week.  What did you say? I asked and my mother replied You start piano lessons next week. But I didn’t want to start piano lessons, especially since no one had asked me if I wanted to play piano in the first place.  I sulked the rest of the appointment, refusing to talk to my mom.  My mom assured me I would thank her later because learning an instrument and how to read music was something that was apparently essential to being a well-rounded human being.  Fat chance my young mind thought.  The piano was boring and why would I ever need to read music?

 

***

 

If you could pluck Mrs. Deck out of her 1970s house, surrounded by split-levels in her perfectly modest middle-class neighborhood, and place her into Victorian Era American Deep South she would fit right in, no need for a costume change.  The inside of her house, at least the only parts I was privy to, were also stuck in a long-ago age with her plush green carpets and wonderfully intricate oriental rugs.  The furniture was all made of dark mahogany wood, the couches and chairs looked delicate and uncomfortable and made of completely impractical fabric – silk or satin or something, though I wouldn’t know because I was never allowed to get too close to any furniture other than the hard piano bench.  You had to take your shoes off before you entered the home and set your shoes on a specific tiny rug by the door.  Even in socked feet, you still weren’t allowed to walk on the rugs, instead you had a tiny sliver of space on the green carpet in between the rug and the small sofa in order to reach the piano.  Shuffling precariously over to the piano, Mrs. Deck insisted you go to sit on the bench from the left side which meant you had to squeeze by her sitting on the edge of her plush chair by the piano.  Just getting to the piano was quite the feat.

 

She didn’t use a metronome to keep count.  If you needed it, she would clap harshly in time.  I always went too quickly and the clap clap clap mixed with a metal clink of her bejeweled hands would only make me more nervous so I would continue to play too fast until she insisted I stop and start over.

 

When I had successfully completed a song in my work book, Mrs. Deck let me choose a sticker to place on the piece.  The sticker selection was always very random – Looney Tunes one week, elaborate flowers the next, sometimes stickers you’d find at a Teacher Supply Store that said things like “Great Job!” or “You Did It!” written on shooting stars.  Even as I got older and stickers didn’t seem age appropriate, I still had to choose one to place on a finished piece.  I suspect she made her adult piano students do the same, though I never had the courage to ask.  When my piano book had a sticker on every page, I got to go to Currier’s Music World downtown and pick up another book.  This store was almost as curious as Mrs. Deck’s time traveling home.  There were antique wheel chairs for sale beside the piano sheet music for the songs of New Kids on the Block.  I loved going in there and browsing.  I’m not sure if Currier’s is still in operation but I hope that it is.

 

I was mostly terrified of Mrs. Deck.  Aside from being the primmest and most proper person I’ve ever met, she insisted that we “play a game” with the student before or after our lesson.  As a child I was extremely shy and quiet.  I didn’t like to talk much and answering things on the spot was nearly impossible for me.  But Mrs. Deck would pull out piano flash cards and the other student and I would have to sit at her feet like little dogs and answer music related questions at rapid fire to win things like pencils with treble clefs on them.  I never did well in these games.  The other student always dominated.  Not because I didn’t know the answers, but I was afraid to speak and the more questions that went by without me answering the more Mrs. Deck would say things like “Rhianna, you know this!  Answer!” or “Why aren’t you answering any questions?  Have you not listened when we went over this?” which made me retreat into myself even further and break into cold sweats.  If I was playing the game before my lesson and not after this scared me more because it was hard to play the piano with clammy hands and the anticipation of my upcoming lesson with clammy hands that would surely upset Mrs. Deck was too much to handle.  It was a viscous cycle of performance anxiety.

 

Throughout my years of lessons with Mrs. Deck, there was something that made the time fun.  Some evenings I would hear the crack of a can and a chip bag opening from a faraway room.  Shortly after I’d hear a man laugh loudly with the sounds and laugh track of the tv show Seinfeld faintly floating through the air.  When this happened, Mrs. Deck would calmly excuse herself and retreat to one of the mysterious other rooms of her house.  I’d hear whispers from her and grumbles from a man before silence.  Knowing that Mrs. Deck was married to a man that liked drink a beer, eat chips, and laugh at Jerry Seinfeld saying something like “and what’s the deal with club sandwiches?” was too funny in my young mind.  I never saw her husband, but I imagined him perfectly average looking, wearing a dirty white, too tight undershirt over his beer belly, kicking back on a garish looking La-Z-Boy chair just trying to decompress from his day at the office.  This helped humanize the larger than life Mrs. Deck to me.  It made my lessons bearable.  Stifling the small laugh I had as she came back in the room after dealing with her piano lesson-ruining husband was a challenge, but I mostly pulled it off.

 

***

 

Once I was a teenager I had finally convinced my mother to let me switch piano teachers.  Mrs. Deck, as scary as she was, had really laid the ground work for learning to play the piano so my mother felt I could move on to another teacher that didn’t make me shake like a leaf with fear every week.  I could sight-read music quite well and had a small repertoire of music I could pull out to entertain at the drop of a hat.  Mrs. Deck made every single student play in a recital once a year which was my worst nightmare, so my only condition for continuing with piano lessons was that my mother find a teacher that didn’t make me perform classical music in front of my fellow students and their families.  She agreed.

 

I don’t remember my second piano teacher’s name.  It was Sherry or Sharon or Cheryl, something like that I think.  And I was allowed to call her by her first name.  She played the piano for a local Baptist church and taught children lessons from her home.  She, unlike Mrs. Deck, was securely in the 20th century as far as dress and speech and etiquette were concerned.  My friend Brittany attended the church where she used to play and told me she had a nervous breakdown before leaving that church and going to the one where she was the current piano player.  I’m not sure if that’s true, but I do remember her seeming a bit manic, a bit off, but she was so much less terrifying to me than Mrs. Deck that I didn’t care.

 

Each week she would let me look through all of her piano books – most of them pop music and Disney – and pick out which songs I wanted to learn.  Lessons were much more relaxed.  I chose the songs, she helped me learn to play them.  I learned songs like “I Swear” by Boyz II Men and “Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules along with a good heaping of Celine Dion songs.  Celine Dion was big at the time as Titanic had just been in theaters.  I’d pick out songs and take her books home with me where my mom would take the dog eared pages to her work to photocopy the music so I had my own sheets and didn’t have her books for weeks at a time.  I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, but that’s how we rolled.  One time she had a perspective student come to her house with his mother at the end of my lesson.  She had me play” A Time for Us” which was the love theme from the Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet.  She told the mom I was her best student after I finished and told me I made her look good.  I found this odd considering she wasn’t really responsible for my ability to play and because I was pretty mediocre.  I only had two more lessons with her after that finishing out the month.  If I was her best student, what was I even doing there?  I knew how to read music and all she was doing was offering me was a person to keep me accountable to practice because my mom paid her for me to play piano at her house once a week.  That was the end of piano lessons for me.

 

***

 

As time went by I played the piano less and less.  Part of the deal for me quitting lessons entirely is that I would be disciplined enough to practice on my own.  And I was for a while, playing my way through the illegally photocopied classics of Simon and Garfunkel.  But sports and friends and school took over my time and I stopped playing the piano.  Once I was in college and moved out of my childhood home for the first time I wouldn’t live in a place that had a piano until I was almost 26 years old.  Every once in a while I would sit at the piano and plunk a few notes.  I hadn’t really sat down and learned to play a song for about 15 years.

 

This past fall I was extremely busy.  Being a full time stay at home mom is pretty exhausting as you’re always on and it’s actually quite hard making sure a toddler and baby don’t kill themselves.  Add into this a part time side hustle that was finishing up and getting extremely busy and a husband who was so tapped out from working so much, it was pretty stressful in our house from the end of October until December 11th – the day after my job ended.  I found myself in rare quiet moments during those chaotic weeks, sitting at our piano and learning Christmas songs from a song book John had.  Since it had been so long since I had played the piano my hands were stiff at the keys and it took every ounce of concentration to read the music.  I found, however, that it was amazing for stress relief.  My mind could finally turn off from the thousand things I had to do and focus just on the notes on the page.  My fingers stretched and strengthened and after as little as five minutes a few times a day, my playing improved and I could play a couple Christmas carols with my eyes closed and a few others with relative ease.  I would enter an almost meditative state playing which was so welcome.  Whenever I started to get sick to my stomach with worry over what I had to do, I would tell myself to take a break and sit at the piano.  It helped.  It helped so much.

 

My taxing side job ended before Christmas and this semester should be much easier for John.  I anticipate the stress level in our house being so much lower the rest of winter and into spring.  But something that came out of those crazy months was a renewed love of the piano.  Maybe not even renewed, but just a brand new love as I’m not quite sure I loved it when I was a child.  The lessons Mrs. Deck engraved on my fragile young mind are still there clear as day.  It takes me a little longer to figure out a song, but I can still do it.  And I still have a lot of the photocopied sheet music from Sherry or Sharon or Cheryl that I am very much looking forward to (re)learning.  Our piano is sorely out of tune and I am still very much a mediocre player, but I play and I like it and it heals me and that’s all the matters.

 

In the coming year I hope to play more.  What I learned 20+ years ago is finally paying off in a way that matters to me.  Concentrating hard on only the music, I have a productive and healthy stress relief.  And my mother was right; I do appreciate my ability to read music.  I can tune out the world on my out of tune piano.  Right now I’m working my way through two classics:  “Clair De Lune” by Debussy and “All by Myself” by Celine Dion.  I hope to have them mastered at the end of the year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.