Miller Halloween 2014

Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays.  This Halloween wasn’t quite as busy as last Halloween which made it all the more enjoyable!

My girls were easy this Halloween.  Stella saw a fairy costume in the store and was dead-set on wearing it.  I told her if we bought it, she wouldn’t be able to change her mind.  She agreed and never looked back.  This was the first of October, and true to her word, she never even mentioned another costume.

Harlo didn’t care as much for what she would be as long as she could wear “a gown all the way down to the ground.”  She cashed in her luck at Target, found a floor length gown in the form of an angel costume and she was completely satisfied.

An angel and a fairy – so fitting for my two big girls.

Then that left Grae on her own with no themed costume.  A cupcake? She would hate wearing that… Which lead me to… Kangaroos.  The perfect costume for me and Grae Bell in this season of life right now.  I cut out some felt, hot glued it to a headband and called it a day!
 
We got mistaken for bunnies more often than not, but if you can’t see that we’re kangaroos.. that’s more your problem than mine, is all I can say. ;) (my craft skills are limited – don’t hate!)

We rushed to Harlo’s Halloween parade at school first thing in the morning.  Of course Brady had an early meeting so I was on my own to get all of us ready and out the door by 9.  My girls both went with raggety hair, but what can we do?  Only the best we can!

 

From there, I had to rush (again) to get Stella to her preschool program.  I may or may not have been the ONLY mom in costume there, but again – what can we do?  To each their own, I guess.
Stella did so good in her sweet Halloween program.  I got this shot of her overwhelmed with excitement mid-performance.
That’s so my Stelly girl!

 

We had a relaxing afternoon at home before we headed out to our neighborhood trunk or treat.  Brady is sort of a poor sport when it comes to dressing up, so this year I didn’t make him. ;)

 (just kidding – he went as his alter ego, a computer geek.)
*Disclaimer to all you non-married girls out there… find the smart ones! They’re the best kind.*

We went all out on the make-up which is the highlight of my girl’s entire year! Harlo made the most beautiful angel and Stella the cutest little fairy!
Don’t even get me started on that little baby joey!

 Holiday mile-markers make me realize how much my sweet girls are growing up!

 I sure love this little crew of mine!
(thanks to neighbor Andi for making us pose for this picture on her porch! The only group shot we got all night!)

 

A Halloween success if I ever did see one!

Wishing you all the happiest November!

xoxo

 

 

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raising sisters as friends

I get comments all the time on how well my girls get along.  Whether from strangers commenting on how they’re sweetly holding hands walking the aisles of target, or from friends and family visiting observing my girls playing well together.  I have been reading some great books lately that have inspired me to share some of how we are raising these sisters to be best friends.

It is my belief that the love and relationship between these sisters started even before their journey to this earth.  How much our children have loved each other from the moment they meet is always a sweet surprise to me, and what I often remind expectant mothers worrying over their toddler’s life being uprooted by a new baby.  “You are not considering how much that toddler will LOVE that new baby,” I urge.  “Once they’re born, that toddler would not likely choose to send her back.”

Harlo was 19 months old when Stella was born.  She LOVED her baby sister.  It was like having the best little baby doll.  All day we played and doted over our sweet baby Stella, Harlo and I both.  I enjoyed letting her help me in every aspect.  She would pat the baby as I burped her, she would fetch me diapers and wipes to change her, she would rub her head sweetly while I nursed her.  This stage of sibling relationship was a sweet one – and quite easy to maintain.

As Stella grew, so did her personality and defiance.  When they were 1 and 2 and a half, Stella found quickly that she could pull Harlo’s hair and get any toy she wanted.  Harlo was quite timid and would shy away, giving into Stella.  I would quickly correct Stella, letting her know I was displeased about her actions toward her sister.  I would compliment Harlo’s patience with her younger sister and explain that she was still learning our rules and we would have to teach her how we behave and respect others.  I always made it a point to communicate this with Harlo so she understood that Stella was purely acting out of natural instincts, and not ill intent.  My goal was that no grudges were being bared between sisters.

That hair-pulling phase taught me a lot about communicating with my girls about each other.  Aiding their relationship to a more positive and loving one.  When my girls would do something nice for each other, I would (and still do) let them know that it pleases me, and tell them why.  “Harlo that was very sweet of you to get Stella’s boo when she asked, that’s how Heavenly Father wants us to treat our sisters.” or “Stella thank you for sharing your treat with your sister, that is so thoughtful of you!” I also point out how they have made the other sister feel, “Look how happy Stella is to have her boo.  Doesn’t that feel good to make your sister feel happy?” We also talk about how special sisterhood is often.  I remind them how blessed they are to have been given a sister as a best friend to navigate this life with.  In this instance, I am especially grateful to have my own sisterhood to model. “Do you think I would treat Auntie like that?  Or would I share with her and enjoy her happiness?” That helps give my girls a different perspective of sisterhood outside their emotionally charged situation.  I have experienced the blessing sisterhood brings to my life and I have also experienced how unsettling it can be to have strife in sisterhood.  My goal is that my girls will think of each other in how they act and what they say that they might be able to enjoy the blessings of sisterhood many years to come.

Saying my girls get along well and enjoy a sweet friendship is not to say that they don’t bicker and fight sometimes.  However, they are corrected the minute I hear an unkind word.  Talking disrespectfully to your sister is unacceptable in our home.  Using fighting words and not acting out of love will not be tolerated.  In their relationship right now, I step in and guide them through their frustrations.  I remind them to use kind words, communicate what they need from the other sister and that the other sister respects the boundaries being set.  “If we treat each other with love, we can all enjoy ourselves and have a good time!” I say often.  Just as I teach my girls to respect adults and use their manners, I teach them to act sweetly and lovingly toward their sister.

In A Charlotte Mason Companion, she writes, “Every childish quarrel loosens a bit of the family bond of esteem or love, til it eventually grows too slack to hold the members together.” She continues, “Sisters who never give in to each other when it comes to sharing playthings or sweets are likely to become jealous rivals of each other in later years.” My heart was lifted when I read this passage.  I feel that if I want my girls to grow up to cherish each other, I must help them have healthy habits in their relationship in these earlier, younger years.  Some people say you should let them work it out, but they can easily form bad habits in their relationship and right now I am directing them to a healthier pattern in problem solving rather than leaving it to their own, more limited devices.

I read an excerpt from Raising Godly Tomatoes that spoke to my heart.  I went on to order the book and have really enjoyed it.  On sibling bickering, she writes “If you really want to stop all bickering (and you should), then watch them closely and step in at the first angry look.  But don’t just tell them to stop.  After you tell them to stop, watch and see that they do.  If the bickering resumes, step in and give them specific instructions on how to act nicely and get along with one another.  Discipline as needed.”  Another concept Raising Godly Tomatoes teaches is called “Tomato Staking” when the children need to have an attitude adjustment, you keep your child near you until they can adjust their attitude.  My girls have responded really well to this.  I allow my girls plenty of free time in their day, but if they are going to talk disrespectfully or not act sweetly with their sister, they need to come stay by me and maybe get their hands busy with chores or helping me until I can see that their attitude is nicer and they can resume enjoying their sister. I have found this to be much more effective than time out.

This may seem like you would be over your children all the time, correcting behaviors and I’ll be honest, some days I feel like that’s what I’m doing.  But when they get the gist that disrespecting their sibling is unacceptable, you will be jumping in less and less and you will be able to enjoy your children more – and they will be able to enjoy each other more – which is the goal.  I have kept up on my girls from the beginning, but I think they would respond just as well to this method now if I hadn’t.  The “secret” so to speak in having children that get along is simply training them to do so.  Harlo doesn’t view Stella as an annoying younger sibling who interrupts her games and life in general.  She views her as her best friend, a companion to play with and enjoy life with.  I remind my girls often how lucky they are to be blessed with each other.  Both when they’re together and when they’re alone.  I make it a point to say nice things about Harlo when I’m with Stella by herself, and vise versa.  I want them to think fondly of each other.  Sometimes when they’re alone I can point out nice things about the other sister to give them a minute to think nicely of their sister, even when she’s not there. I’ve had a lot of special conversations this way.

I know I’m lucky to have girls that are nice and act nicely to each other, but I feel like luck only gets us so far.  If I am an active and intentional parent, I am much more likely to aid them to choose right choices.  Intentional parenting is always my goal and so far, it is paying off for us.

My effort in sharing this parenting style is not to correct another’s, but to give insight to how we do things and maybe that is helpful to someone else struggling with bickering children.  This is just simply our method and what works well for us.  If you have another method that works well for you, I feel happy for you! Keep up what works for your family!

I would love to continue this conversation in the comments if any of you have something to add to this or have any specific questions.

I am now off to enjoy these little sister girls of mine for the rest of the day – preparing for the big Halloween day tomorrow! Pictures to come! :)

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TIDBITS

 

 :: HARLO ::

 Harlo is in such a special stage right now.
I am noticing her growing into a mature little girl, right out of her babyhood.
She notices things differently now, she gets humor more, she serves selflessly.
Harlo is such a blessing to our home, and very specifically, to me.
She is almost always willing to lend a helping hand.  There are not many tasks I do without Harlo coming in to say “Mom, can I help you?”
She loves helping me with chores like dishes and folding laundry.
She takes her roll as the big sister very seriously.
We have talks about her being the oldest sister, the one Heavenly Father sent to me first to be my helper and to help guide her sisters to make right choices.  I can tell that after we have these little chats, she is much more willing to help when I ask her to, or serve her younger sisters, or act sweetly toward them.  I can tell she views herself as the helper who needs to guide her sisters through these younger, tougher years.
Yesterday she asked me what my chores are and I went through the list of things I do on a daily basis, starting with Grae’s 3am feeding.  As I got to about 9:00am, her eyes grew bigger and bigger and she told me “wow mom, that’s a lot of chores!” I agreed and explained to her that is why I need help.  For the rest of the day, I noticed she was more readily available to help me in doing the things I asked of her.
Harlo really enjoys learning!  She has such a sweet thirst for knowledge that is so endearing to me.
Stella struggles sitting and listening to me, so to prepare her for her school starting I asked Harlo if she would help me teach Stella all her letters.
That was all I had to do.
Stella sits much more patiently with Harlo to learn and before I knew it, Stella recognized all her letters, the majority of the sounds, and she could write each of them.
Harlo has been teaching her in the bathtub with foam letters and then around the table helping her practice writing.
This has been so sweet for me to watch as their mother.
They have such a sweet relationship and I am so grateful they have each other.
Over the weekend, I was packing away Grae’s newborn clothes and getting out the winter baby clothes I’ve had stored away.
Harlo especially enjoyed this!
Every outfit I’d pull out of the box she would say “seriously?! Seriously!” or “Soooooo cute!” or “Stop!”
We giggled over every little outfit or darling thing.
I love how our relationship is changing and evolving right now.
She needs me in a different way than she did as a baby and toddler, we now have more of a friendship that both of us can enjoy.
We have little inside jokes and we’ve grown to really know and understand each other’s hearts.
I know the things she would like and she knows the things I like and she’s mindful of these things, always pointing them out to me.
I know this sweet relationship will serve us both so much in this life.
Harlo has really clicked with reading these past few weeks.
She has been able to sound out words for some time, but I find that now reading books she needs less and less help and she is able to flow sentences together more.
This has been a very exciting new chapter!
She is such a whiz with computers and anything technology-based.
I have to really pace the screen time – she would enjoy hours on end of time with the ipad!
Funny side note: We decided to ban youtube from our home.. Brady put a parental control on it and  that was that.  No more youtube for any of us ….except Harlo figured out how to get around the parental control.  So the parental control ended up being just for me because I could not for the life of me figure out how to get one of my videos to play, but she surely could anytime she felt like it.
Ha! At 5 years old I’m already being vastly outsmarted in that department.
We are rounding the corner to her birthday and we have started planning in full swing.
She is enjoying so much planning out the details of her party and has already started making decorations.
This Halloween costume season has been the easiest yet.  Both girls made up their mind and never looked back.  I was shocked! (although we still have 2 days left – knock on wood)
I keep almost expecting motherhood to turn the corner as my older girls get older.  I found that I loved mothering babies and toddlers so much and was unsure how well I would do with older children (as silly as that sounds) but I am finding the enjoyment just lasts and lasts.  I love Harlo in this stage and I feel now that I will enjoy her at each and every stage of her life.  It’s HER that I enjoy, not the age or stages she’s in. (Although the stages have been a joy in their own!)
I have said before how blessed I am to have Harlo as the leader of my children, and I will say it over and over again.
She is heaven-sent!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we welcomed new kitties to our home.  They have been such a sweet addition! We have enjoyed them so much.  So grateful to be able to provide this sweet time for my girls.  I love watching how they interact with their kitties.  Stella smothers her kitty (Cali) with love, totes her around everywhere she goes, carries her like a baby and Cali just takes it even though she is the spunkier of the two.  They are the perfect match for each other!
Harlo is very sweet and tender with her kitty, Edie.  Edie in turn is a mellow, loving little kitty.
They couldn’t have picked better kittens for their personalities.

 :: STELLA ::

Stella Johan Miller.
The light that shines in our home.
I have said this before, but Stella has got to be the easiest child I know.
She is spunky! I’ll give you that, but she is just so go with the flow and happy go lucky nearly all the time.
She has her days and moments, but they’re so easily steered away from.
She has been the best little sister to Harlo – always her trusty pal.
But I have so enjoyed watching her in the role of big sister now to Grae.
Each girl has a very different and special relationship with Grae.
Stella is silly with her and can now make Grae laugh easier than anyone else in the family.
She loves her baby sister ferociously!
Being on the receiving end of Stella’s love is one of the greatest gifts in this life, and it will surely bless her baby sister.
Stella has gotten SO funny.
She is so quick-witted and has me gut-laughing all the time.
She is my lovey-est child.
She just L-O-V-E-S.
I think I’ve mentioned before but when Stella gets excited, she will grab the person nearest her and squeeze them or give them a little smooch.
The other day we saw her little friend from preschool and she was so excited she just wrapped her arms around her and kissed her on the shoulder. ha!
She is sometimes so consumed with Grae she will just smother her in a great big lovin. (We call this baby-rage and it runs rampant in my side of the family)
I have to constantly remind her to be gentle with loving littler things (like Grae or the kittens.)
Makes me giggle even as I write.
Stella is notorious for getting on the counter.
If we’re ever doing something around the table, it’s painful for Stella to stay in her seat.. she is always climbing up on my counter.
I know I was the same way and remember my mom always telling me to get off the counters.
The other day she told me a little boy was mean at preschool because he told on her.
I said “what were you doing that he told on you?” and she said “He told miss Rin I was on the table so Miss Rin said ‘Stels! Get off the table, silly girl!’ she wasn’t even mad, but it was still rude to tell on me!”
ha! climbing on the table at preschool.  That’s Stella!
Stella is now in Miss Rin’s preschool class that Harlo was in last year.
Miss Rin has seriously blessed our life so much!
She somehow just gets us and celebrates my girls little spirits so much.
It is so nice sending them to school to someone who just understands them.
I didn’t quite realize how big of a deal this was until I sent Harlo to kindergarten this year.
Miss Rin is one of those ones I wish would move up with them in every grade, at every school.
Stella is the best at making me feel so special and loved.
Last week I was getting ready for church and she came in and said “mom, you’re cute! You’ve got a cute little face!”
Talk about putting a pep in my step.
Our new thing is saying how much we love each other and thinking of the biggest number possible.
She’ll say “I love you 30-80!” and I’ll say “I love you, 60-51-8!” and her eyes will get big and she’ll say “Wow.  That’s a lot!” then she’ll say “I love you 8-8-3-3.  That’s a lot huh!”
The other day she was “texting” on my phone and wrote “8E1″ and said “that’s how you spell “eighty one!”
She has done so well with writing at school.
It’s always surprising to me with how quickly they pick things up.
Her only downfall is she is kind of a know-it-all which has made it hard to show her and teach her things.
I hope she does a little better for her teacher than she does for me. :D
Stella is such a joy to be around and we are so so lucky she is in our family.
I hope she always knows how loved she is by each one of us.
I am a blessed, blessed mama!

 

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miller morning time

The journey of motherhood is an interesting one, to say the least.

There have been stages of motherhood that have been much harder than others.  There have been times where I felt so frustrated I couldn’t see straight.  My children have gone through stages I wanted desperately to pass over.  Then, some stages that seemed to be less than ideal at the time, turned out to be exactly what I needed in life at that moment.

Rewind to 2011 when I was deep in post partum depression mode.  We had whisked the family away to California for the weekend, just the four of us.  We got the girls to bed, and 5 minutes later Stella learned how to climb out of her pack-n-play for the first time.  We tried a few failed attempts to get her to bed when I finally just layed her down in my arms, snuggled her boo close and hummed with her to see if she would fall asleep.  It was just the cocktail of mama she needed because a few minutes later she was fast asleep in my arms – the first time in a while since she was now a busy, up and about toddler.  My heart had been drowning in the woes of depression for months, but on that night when Stella lay asleep in my arms, I felt my heart get a little bit lighter.  I rocked her to sleep every night of that trip, then when we got home, too.  Each night that I rocked her, I felt my tender mama heart being healed.  What initially seemed like a bad night  was one of my sweetest, most tender blessings.

Fast forward to a more current time – deep in the baby coma after delivering Grae and Stella started coming into my bed at night again, which is not unusual for her.  What is unusual though, is that her big sister started following her in sometime during the night.  They would sneak quietly into my side, hardly taking any room.  With Grae still waking at night and coming in to eat, some mornings I wake up with my entire family snuggled close in my bed. In this time of transition where I have been so busy with a baby during the day, having my bigger girls sleepy and snuggly tucked in bed with me has been a tender mercy.  I know that this season of life will someday pass, but for now I am relishing in the sweetness of our current chapter.

 

(Follow me on instagram @cassmiller to stay up to date on our #millermorningtime adventure.)

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