Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Zoo because of Swine Flu

Don't worry. Non of us has swine flu, nor do we know anybody that has it. But our school system is taking steps to prevent a swine flu outbreak because there have been confirmed cases of swine flu in the Fort Worth school district.

Garrett was supposed to take a field trip with his preschool classmates to the Fort Worth Zoo tomorrow, and I was going to chaperon. We found out today that this and all field trips in the school district are cancelled until further notice. I am very disappointed about this because I was looking forward to taking pictures of all the kiddos looking at the animals at the zoo with their looks of wonder and amazement. Since Garrett can't really tell me much about what he does at school, this would have been a good time to see how he interacts with them. I suspect Ava is his favorite because that's who he talks about the most. Our conversations go like this:

Me: "Did you play with your friends at school today?"
Garrett nods his head.
Me: "Who did you play with?"
Garrett: "Ava."
Me: "Who else?"
Garrett: "Lana."
Me: "Who else?"
Garrett: "Adam." (Adam hasn't gone to his school since before Christmas.)

As you can see, Garrett is less than forthcoming (by not forthcoming I mean "not able") when it comes to telling me about what he does at school, so I was looking forward to seeing him in action. I have gone to his classroom a few times, but my presence there is more disrupting than helpful, so I don't go often.

Although I am disappointed about not going to the zoo tomorrow, I agree with the school district's decision. As I said above, Fort Worth school district has one confirmed case and 3 or 4 suspected cases, so they shut down the entire school district until May 8 at the earliest. The dividing line between our school district and Fort Worth school district is less than 5 miles away, so that's pretty close to home. There have also been several confirmed cases in Dallas and a few other surrounding cities. I would rather everyone stay home for a week or so than have Dallas/Fort Worth look like Mexico City does now, a ghost town. Even though we haven't seen a lot of cases yet, the swine flu has brought one of the largest cities in the world to its knees, and that's nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). People here are concerned about a major flu outbreak. There is a large Mexican/American population and a lot of travel back and forth to Mexico, so chances are good that we will see more cases.

I went to several drug stores today to get surgical masks for me and Garrett. He has a doctor's appointment tomorrow with the neurologist. Even though the neurologist won't be treating sick patients, per se, his office is in the professional building with a catwalk to Children's Hospital. That sounds like a high risk place to me, so I thought I'd get some surgical masks. But, of course, they were sold out everywhere. A worker at Walgreen's told me that even painter's masks at Home Depot or Lowe's were sold out. I'll call the Dr.'s office tomorrow and see if they recommend we come or not. I've already lined up child care for Erin and would really like to get this appointment over with. Garrett only goes once a year to make sure he is progressing in his development and not falling farther behind.

Our plans for this weekend are to stay home and avoid contact with other people until the swine flu scare is over. It may seem like fear mongering to some people, but what would you say if we didn't take precautions and it turned out to be a major pandemic with thousands dying. It's not worth the risk.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Discipline at the Duke's

Discipline has been a struggle lately with Erin. At 6 years old, for whatever reason, she has decided that she doesn't want to mind anymore. She thinks she can do anything she wants and nobody can stop her. Until just recently, her main punishment for misbehaving was being sent to her room, and that worked well enough. But not anymore. I had to come up with a new plan, what I call "Erin's Behavior Management Plan" or EBMP. I can't take credit for inventing this system. It's a combination of Supernanny techniques and things I learned as a substitute teacher.

Here's how it works. I took a poster board and divided Erin's behaviors into 3 categories: Required, Points, and Demerits. Required are things she has to do in order to get her reward. Points are good behaviors. Demerits are bad behaviors. The poster board looks like this:

I got some play jewels at the store and assigned the "star" for Required tasks, the "circle" for Points and the "square" for Demerits. Every time she completes a required task, she gets a star put into a glass jar. A circle goes in for each good act (Point), and a square goes in for each demerit. Twice a day we count up her stars, circles and squares. If she gets all three stars, and five NET circles (net = circles minus squares), she gets her reward: TV time, computer time or Leapster time. If she doesn't get five net circles or all three stars, she doesn't get to do those things.

We've been using this technique for about two days now and it seems to be working. There is less yelling on my part and less arguing on Erin's part. Erin is at least trying to monitor her behavior, i.e. not yelling as much or disobeying as much. I think this system has done a couple things. First, it has taken the personal confrontation out of discipline. Instead of her acting up and my getting after her, which became a "me vs. you" mentality, my reaction has become a very simple "You're getting a square for that" response and we move on. Secondly, since I give her circles for all her good behavior, I am focusing much more on the good things she does and encouraging her to do more good things, like saying "You'll get a circle if you help me with this task." She is much more cooperative and is very motivated to earn circles. I'm not saying that this method has instantaneously turned my little darling into the perfect angel, but I think it has helped. And I expect I will have to tweak it from time to time so that she doesn't learn how to "game the system" or just do the minimum to get by.

Do you have any discipline techniques that work well for your family?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Roller Girl

Erin got a pair of roller skates for her birthday (thank you, Darla!!), something she'd been asking for. Roller skating looks a lot easier than it is. I remember learning to roller skate at the local roller rink when I was about her age. My learning process consisted of hanging on to the hand rail and pulling myself along the perimeter of the rink. If I lost my balance, I would just hang on to the hand rail. Erin is learning on our back patio, which has no hand rails, so Mommy and Daddy are her substitute hand rails. Her she is right after she got her skates on.

And Daddy helping her take her first tentative steps.....

Now Erin tries it on her own.....

But takes her first of many spills.....

Before she finally got the hang of it.

Honestly, she didn't get the hang of it. She still doesn't have the hang of it. I just like happy endings. And this picture makes it look like she's really skating.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Party at the Park, Erin's 6th birthday party

I decided to save a little money this year and have Erin's 6th birthday party at a local park instead of renting a bounce house room or Chuck E. Cheese. I rented the pavilion, then went to Party City and spent a small fortune on paper plates, table covers, etc. So much for saving lots of money. Invitations went out and we were all very excited, until the weather forecast predicted rain on party day. The rain came right on schedule on Friday and lingered all day. Since the rain was supposed to continue into Saturday, I ran to WalMart and got a bunch of games we could play under the pavilion: Pin the Tale on the Donkey, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc. But the weathermen were wrong (no! really!!) and it didn't rain on Saturday. Granted, it was cloudy and muggy during most of the party, and there was a little mud in the park, but overall the party went off as planned. The kids played at the park, blew bubbles on the basketball court.They painted sun catchers.

Notice the pinata in the background, hanging from the tree. We had pinata issues.

They ate pizza.

The cake was "Littlest Pet Shop." They were out of Hannah Montana, which was the theme of her party.

And Erin blew out 6 candles. I can't believe she's 6! Time really flies.The pinata was a bit of a fiasco. There is a plastic loop that comes out of the top of the pinata. You string the pinata up through that loop, which I did. Erin was the first to hit the pinata, and after two whacks, the whole pinata, intact, falls to the ground. The plastic loop could not support the weight of the pinata, so I just tore the pinata open with my hands and scattered the candy all over the ground. The kids still had fun grabbing the candy.

Then Jared, Gary's nephew was nice enough to climb the tree to cut the rope down.

After a lot of fun, food, cake and candy, it was time to go home. Erin decided to open her presents at home so that she would have more time to play with her friends. I thought that was a great idea!!

By the end of the party, the sky had cleared and the sun was shinning brightly. It turned out to be a really fun party. Happy 6th birthday, Erin!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Wrap-up Post

Things have been pretty hectic around here this week. Erin's birthday party is tomorrow (Sat.), and I am getting everything prepared for that. It will be at a pavilion at a park near here and it's supposed to rain, so I am getting some games that we can play under the pavilion and trying to plan for the worst. I just wanted to post about our Easter Sunday. The Easter Bunny came bright and early and left some candy and gifts.

Later that morning, we went to Smithfield United Methodist. They always have a beautiful, moving and LOUD Easter Service. The choir was accompanied by the Hand Bell Choir, a four piece brass band, timpani drums and the organ. It was a joyful celebration of Jesus' Resurrection. I always get a lump in my throat when the congregation sings "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" accompanied by all those instruments. Our celebration could probably be heard for miles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Weekend 2009

We had a very busy and meaningful Easter weekend. Good Friday evening was spent at church with a beautiful and appropriately somber musical presentation by the choir, accompanied by violins, an oboe and the organ. It told the story of Jesus' crucifixion through songs and Bible passages. It was a very moving event. The Hand Bell Choir played a wonderful arrangement of "Were You There?" as we accompanied a flute soloist. I will post video on the Alliance United Methodist Hand Bell Choir blog soon.

We spent Saturday morning at a wonderful Easter Egg Hunt organized by Smithfield United Methodist Church. Both kids got plenty of Easter eggs.

I couldn't get any pictures of Garrett gathering Easter eggs because I was too busy chasing him around the field. He was not interested in hunting for eggs at all! He saw the big open field and just wanted to run. Even thought the field was big, it was not fenced in and Garrett could easily run into the street if I let him get too far away from me. So I spent my Easter egg hunting time chasing Garrett and trying to convince him that picking up plastic eggs out of the grass was more fun that running in an open field. He remained unconvinced and consequently only gathered a couple eggs. Oh well. The Easter Bunny brought plenty more on Easter morning.

There was a bounce house there that both kids thoroughly enjoyed.

But sometimes, examining the floor of the bounce house is more fun than actually bouncing.

Both kids got to see the Easter Bunny. Erin had no problem sitting on his lap and posing for pictures.

Garrett was a little shy of the Easter Bunny, but showed him the boo-boo he got at the playground.

By the end of the morning we were pretty tired, but had a great time. Here is Erin relaxing after lunch at McDonald's.

Thank you to the United Methodist Women of Smithfield United Methodist Church for putting on such a fun Easter egg hunt. We had a blast!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

Hope everyone had a happy Easter. I just want to post a couple quick pictures of the kids in their Easter outfits. We had a very fun and meaningful Easter weekend. I will post more details later, but here are kiddos in their new Easter outfits. Thank you Mamaw (Gary's mom) for the adorable outfits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Totes are here!

I was the lucky winner of a giveaway at Hoosier Homemade. My prize came in the mail today. It is these two adorable cloth totes that my daughter is modeling. Liz, at Hoosier Homemade, makes these totes and sells them on Etsy. Click here for a link to her Etsy site.

And here's a close up shot.

Erin immediately went for the pink cupcake one, but definitely saw possibilities in the "bug" one as well. Being the bag lady that she is, she found the perfect furry friend to put in each tote.

Notice the coordinating lining inside each bag. These totes are expertly handcrafted and the perfect size for a child to carry around. They make a great gift bag. Look for them to reappear on Easter Sunday right next to the kid's Easter baskets. (I had to confiscate them from my daughter so that I can fill them with goodies for Easter). And don't forget to visit Liz at Hoosier Homemade to look at all her totes.

Thank you, Liz, for the adorable totes. Erin and I love them!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wednesday's Walk...Easter 2005

If you want to participate in Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane, click on the button above to visit Lynette Kraft's blog. You can link your memory post there or view others who have posted their favorite memories.

Since it's almost Easter, I'm doing Easter memories. Last week I wrote about Easter 2004 when Erin was about 1 year old. Click here to read it if you haven't seen it yet. See how she's changed from a one year old to a two year old.

Erin had her first Easter Egg hunt at church in 2005 and she just loved it, even though a lot of the kids were older and could find the eggs faster.

And here's all the candy she could fit into her little hands from the Easter egg hunt. She was very proud of herself.And of course, the Easter Bunny came to leave her things in her Easter basket on Easter morning.
This year, she was old enough to open the plastic eggs by herself.

Here she is again carrying as much candy as she can. Seems to be a common theme. She must have been going through a "How much stuff can I carry at one time?" phase.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Erin's Birthday a.k.a. The Dreaded Music Box

Before I get to Erin's actual birthday, let me put things into context. This will help you understand what comes later. Erin went to a friend's birthday party Friday night. It was a mock sleepover that ended at 9:30, so Erin was up past her bedtime even for a weekend. Here she is in her jammies, carrying her pillow and stuffed animal to the mock sleepover.

She had a great time but was grumpy the next day due to lack of sleep. She got to open a couple presents today, since it's her actual birthday. The rest have to wait until her birthday party in a couple weeks. She was all smiles in anticipation of opening presents.
Inside bag number one: Five "Junie B. Jones" books. Big smiles!!

Now, what could be in bag number two? Could it be a doll? A stuffed animal? Jewelry? Make-up? Drum roll please..........

A music box. This was not something Erin had considered and her reaction showed it.

A little more background: Erin has been playing with one of my music boxes for several weeks and loves it. She has been asking Daddy for a music box for a week, so this music box didn't come from nowhere. She said she wanted one. Anyway, after she had a few minutes to settle down and think about things, she decided to give the music box another chance.

Now, the inside of the music box looks like this, with gum and a toy cell phone:

Erin has always been a big fan of boxes and purses, places for her to store and carry around her treasures. The actual definition of "treasure" is still up in the air, but right now gum and a toy cell phone have the privilege of residing in the music box until she finds new treasures.

Happy sixth birthday, Erin!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Botanical Gardens........Again!

I love taking my kids places and giving them the opportunity to appreciate things they don't see or experience every day. That's one reason I took them to the Botanical Gardens a couple weeks ago. Read about it here. But when I take the kids, especially when I'm by myself, I don't get to appreciate some aspects of a particular place, like peace, serenity, taking pictures, not having to worry about a certain 3 year old jumping into a fountain. So a couple days ago when I had to run an errand down by the Botanical Gardens (while the kids were at school), I decided to take advantage and visit the Botanical Gardens all by myself.

It was about 8:30 in the morning and the Gardens were mostly empty except for the gardeners putting in new spring flowers. I had the most relaxing time and got some neat pictures.

The tulips were in full bloom.

And the pink roses were beautiful. They still had dew on the leaves.

The forest was very peaceful and I could hear birds singing everywhere. Unfortunately I couldn't get a good picture of one.

The ducks must have been wild, because they didn't come up and beg for food like the ducks at the park. I had a hard time getting a good picture of them.

It was a wonderful little escape from my hectic life.