Time Marches On

At the beginning of the last school year, a month or so after classes started, there was a new kid in Bowie’s class. I’ll call him C. He was put in the desk next to Bowie, and the two hit it off immediately. So much so, that C was moved to another desk entirely by the end of the day.

They were in cahoots right away. They were partners in crime. Allies. Joined at the hip. A duo unified against the outside world. From the moment they met.

Their energies are very similar, their interests almost identical. They played together every recess. There were playdates upon playdates. And as they grew to become the best of friends, we became close with C’s parents as well. And they actually helped us through a very difficult time this past spring.

The thing that keeps this from being perfect is that C’s family was here for C’s mom’s job, and were only here for the year. Meaning, they go back home on Friday. And home is Canada.

We have been promised a warm welcome if we ever find ourselves there, and we will probably plan a visit at some point. But for Bowie, it won’t be the same. His best friend will be thousands of miles away, not sitting across from him at the lunch table.

Bowie struggles to make friends. The combination of his sensitivity and emotional extremes and shyness make for a hard nut to crack. Most kids give up pretty quickly. C was an exception. He wanted to hang out with Bowie, and he accepted Bowie as he is.

We’ve told him that C is moving away. But, I don’t think he understands the real facts of the situation. And I’m really afraid of the day that it does all sink in. Especially since it will be the beginning of a new school year, and last year was, well, not awesome.

Have any of you had to handle this sort of situation before? With the age 7-ish crowd? When I was a kid, I was the one that was always the one moving away, so while I know what it’s like to have to leave a friend, I think watching a friend go might be a different sort of experience. I think he’s too old for me to get a book on the subject too, he’d probably just roll his eyes at me, and I’d seem insincere in my empathy.

I know we can’t protect them from everything. But, I’d like to, you know, soften the blow.

Help, Intertubes!

Discard Pile

I’m reading this great book about tidying up your house. Her words seem a little hokey at first, and some of it feels impossible. But, we’ve managed to clear out a whole bunch of stuff already.

In the book, she has a system for the purging. You start with clothes and books, then tackle miscellaneous items, and then move on to the more sentimental stuff.

I’m having trouble getting started with the boys’ room. Because it walks the line between miscellaneous and sentimental. With each little t-shirt and toy I try to toss out, I get stuck in this sort of mom guilt nostalgic state. How can I throw away his very first toy that his Auntie brought to him in the hospital? How can I toss this shirt when he looked so gosh darn cute in it (when it still fit him)?

I know that they are growing, and will keep growing, but I guess I feel like if I keep this stuff around I can somehow delay the process. There are toys that both of them are much too old to play with. Though, those toys do tend to emerge every once in a while as their Toy of Choice for a day. So, then I start to think, will they miss it if it’s gone? Then what do I do? Your baby rattle went to live on a nice big farm with all the other baby rattles that little boys got to big for.

Or an item is tied to a specific event or a special day we had. How can I let go of the dragon stuffie we got on that trip to Portland when he was a baby?

And they have zillions upon zillions of Matchbox cars. I mean, possibly a full ton. I don’t know how to purge that pile. Some of those cars hardly get touched, while some of them remain very popular, and I have to wrestle them apart because a fight will erupt over it. And I don’t know which cars fall into which category.

There’s also a cache of toys I’ve handed down to them. A mish mash pile of old Fisher Price goodies and other such stuff that were still in perfectly good shape, so I handed them over. Those have double sentimental value. I remember fondly playing with those toys as a child, and watching them play with them. A new generation getting enjoyment out of them.

Don’t even get me started on the books. I love buying books for them. I feel like they are a good investment. I want them to enjoy reading. When I’m at a garage sale or thrift store I generally clear the shelf. But, truthfully, they’ve both outgrown some of the titles, and I really should just donate them so someone else can enjoy them. But then all the memories come flooding back of cuddling up and reading those books to them.

I have no qualms about tossing broken toys, or cheap Happy Meal goods, or the little nonsensical items that come in birthday party goodie bags. But, even those I wonder, do they still play with these? Will they miss them?

If you’re an overall tidy type of person, and often toss things out, please tell me how you handle your kids’ items. Is it harder for you? How do you decide what goes and what stays? Am I just being a sentimental weenie about the whole thing?

toys

Working Mom

I recently got a job.

It’s a simple job, cashiering part-time at an adorable local produce market. Here’s me posing in front of my new workplace.

at work

We could use the money, I have child-free hours in my days now, and it keeps my anxious mind occupied. And psst…it’s a little bit fun. My boss is one of the dads from preschool, I love the market and have been a faithful shopper for years, my coworkers all rock, and I cashiered for 10 years in high school and college, so it came back to me like riding a bike.

I haven’t worked outside the home since I became a mom, seven years ago this month. So, I’ve never had to balance a job with kids. Right now, we’re using minimal childcare so as to maximize what my actual take-home pay is.

Before when I would get the “your kid is sick, come get him” call, which by the way has only happened to me twice before, ever, I could just, you know, go get him.

On Monday morning, I was working a simple 9-12 shift, my second week working there, and of course I get THE CALL at about 10:30. Ferris was at preschool, running a fever and refusing to eat.

Now, LUCKILY, the manager totally understood, the shift was half over, there was another cashier there, it was slow. So, I was able to leave and go get him. But, I started thinking, damn. What if this starts happening all the time? What if it happens with the other kid during my next shift?

But mostly, how do working moms do this????!!!! What do you do if you have a much less understanding manager and boss? Do most companies give parents enough time off in a year to deal with this kind of stuff?

I have a few people I can call upon in such times, but they were all busy. I guess I need a few more people. And maybe I just need to break down and find me another good, cheap babysitter. (All the good ones move away. Boo.)

So, I guess I’m just saying, tip o’ the hat to you, “real” working moms. I don’t know how you balance everything. It’s amazing. I hope I can get it all figured out.

Growing Up

Yesterday the director of Ferris’ preschool announced that there were 6 weeks left in the school year. And it triggered that familiar twinge I get each year at this time. Another school year in the books. My babies are another year older.

To add insult to injury, Bowie’s birthday always falls right around the last day of the school year. So he truly does turn a year older.

I know if you’re a parent and you’re reading this that I’m preaching to the choir. It’s tough to see the wee ones grow up into big ones. And then bigger ones. And it’s hard to think about the day they will leave the nest.

I will be just innocently going about my day, relishing in how little my children still are, and then I will see a picture of them from one year ago, and realize just how big they have gotten. And then I say, “Stop growing up so fast!” And I’m only like, half kidding.

But, when they do something completely amazing, like form their first full sentence, or read their first full sentence, or use the bathroom all by themselves, or help their friend up after they fall. Then you’re so proud. You puff out your chest and smile ear to ear, and think to yourself, “I made that. Me. I did.”

I remember when Bowie was little I would think, “Two is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” But then three was awesome. “Three is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” And then four was awesome too. And so on, and so forth.

Every new step comes with its own challenges and new horizons. And you look back on the previous years as being so easy. Why didn’t I just slow down and enjoy that more? Why did I think that was so hard?

But, every new step also comes with its own really amazing stuff. Suddenly your kid is capable of things you never even thought of waiting for them to do. And you can have conversations with them. And you can enjoy just hanging out with them. It’s much more relaxing at 6 that it is at 2, for sure.

I know the teen years are hard. Even if only because I was so terrible myself as a teen. But, I know that it will also be great for so many new reasons. And then when they are grown, yes they will leave me, but then I get to watch them go out into the world and become something.

I’ll sit back and watch and think, “I made that. Me. I did.”

boys at the park

 

When to Start?

Hey gang! My old sharing post that I wrote for Circle of Moms/Pop Sugar a few years back has recently been shared again, and also shared on other sites, so all of a sudden I got this big boost of traffic and new followers. Welcome one and all, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I want to talk about today is if and when you sent your little ones off to preschool. I was recently criticized for the fact that Ferris will start preschool literally the day he turns 2. According to this person, there’s no need to send a 2 year old to preschool, and he’s “just too young. You shouldn’t do that.”

We didn’t start Bowie right away at age two, but he was only 2 1/2. His birthday is in May, so when the new school year began in August, he was 2 and 2 months old. We didn’t get a spot at that time, we got one in December, when he was fully 2 1/2. Honestly, it felt like he was developmentally light years away from where Ferris is right now, and will be in September (when he gets to start). But, Ferris has one of those early fall birthdays, we have a spot waiting for him, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Maybe it comes across as me just wanting to get rid of him for a few hours a day. Which, I’m not going to lie to you, is a part of it. But, this kid is really, really ready for preschool.

From what I’ve gathered from all the people I’ve talked to over the years who did not or will not send their children to preschool at all, people have two main visions of preschool.

Some people think it is school, as in where you sit at a desk and a teacher teaches and gives projects and maybe you’ll get a little playtime.

Others think it is more like a daycare. They go off to be taken care of by other people for the whole day, 6 to 8 hours, and there’s little to no emphasis on learning or development.

Our preschool isn’t like that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of them out there. Ours is play-based, and there’s a bit of learning. That’s mostly for the older children (about to head to Kindergarten), but everyone has a dedicated music time, and stories are always read at snack time. The toys and games and activities chosen for the kids are also chosen to help them with specific types of learning and development for their age. Plus, they’re only there for 3 hours a day.

That’s why I’m ok with sending him there on his second birthday. He will love all the things there are to do there, and he will love the social aspect. But even after I explained all of this, that’s when I was told it’s just not necessary.

Of course it’s not necessary. I didn’t go to preschool. A lot of people my age didn’t go to preschool. But just because you don’t have to send your kids doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from it. And it doesn’t mean you’re slacking on your parenting. It just means you’ve chosen to send them to a place that has way more toys and games and activities than you could possibly ever have at your own house, and you’re allowing professionals to spend a few hours a day giving them some guidance.

All kids are different too. Maybe her kids (who are older now) weren’t ready when they were 2. And that’s ok! There have been kids at our preschool that just weren’t ready either. They will drop out of the program and wait a while, or maybe just decide preschool wasn’t for them and never come back. That’s just something we as parents need to evaluate. For our OWN children, not someone else’s.

What say you, readers? Did you send your child(ren) to preschool? How old were they? Did it work out? Would you choose to do it the same way again if you had it to do over again? Have you ever been criticized for sending your child “too soon”?

By the way, we go to a co-op preschool, where I have to work one day of the week. Until baby siblings are one year of age, they can tag along (in a baby carrier while you work). Here’s a picture of Ferris at school when he was about 10 months old. He’s going to LOVE it.

Baby on Board

You know those little caution signs you hang in your car’s back window to let everyone know there’s a baby inside? Baby on Board! We don’t have one, I don’t know why, I guess I never felt like spending the money and also saw one for sale at the same time in the same place. But, I’ve heard people complaining about them lately. “You think your baby is so much more special than everyone else on the road, you gotta put a sign in the window that says, hey, look at me, I had a baby! I’m special!” Or something to that effect.

But, I’m here today to tell you it doesn’t mean that at all. Here’s a few things a Baby on Board sign does mean:

–Warning: Distracted Driver. Babies and kids might be a distraction for the driver. Nay, babies and kids ARE ALWAYS a distraction for the driver. Pretty much the entire time they are in the car. Something is amiss–they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, it’s too sunny, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, they have to pee, the straps of their carseat are digging into their shoulders, because they just grew another inch since getting in–whatever it is, they’ve got to YELL and SCREAM about it. And sometimes things are thrown. It’s hard to drive like this. Is it unreasonable to expect the other drivers to deal with that? Totally. But, you’ve been warned.

–Don’t Drive Like a Shit Around Me. Don’t tailgate. Don’t drive 20 miles over the speed limit. Don’t weave in and out of traffic like it’s a damn NASCAR race. I have CHILDREN in my car. Know how much fun it is to rear end someone? Well, guess how much fun it is to rear end someone with kids in their car. Someone who is a grown up, responsible adult (ok, haha, just kidding) that the police are going to side with.

–Save Your Sanity: Don’t Go Where I’m Going. Don’t. Just don’t.

Discipline, Psychology, Swear Words and Me

So, I’m going to blab at you about kids and swearing again, sorry. If you’re a bit sensitive to swearing, now’s a good time to move on to some better blog reading. The thing is, the swearing preschooler in our house is still going strong, even at school, and I’m kind of perturbed that no one’s advice is working.

Thankfully, the F word seems to have waned a little bit. It still comes out from time to time, but nowhere near as often as “shit”. Shit is probably the word he uses the most on a daily basis. Well, it’s in the running, along with “want” and “juice”.

These are the main things we have tried to combat the swearing:

1. Pretending not to hear the words. This trick is a lot more effective when we are at home. Because when you’re at a preschooler birthday party, packed with other parents and kids, and he yells at top volume, “You’re just a stupid shit mama!” and you try to ignore it, you just look like a loser. Seriously. Like you don’t care, and aren’t trying. But, at home we’ve tried the tactic of seeming unfazed, to take the power out of the words. Because, that’s what it’s really all about, right? He’s somehow learned that particular words hold power. He has power by saying them. And power is all a preschooler really wants out of life, because their opportunities to have any are so few. But, all this tactic seems to have done for him is made the word more accessible, and more a regular part of his daily vocabulary. It’s similar to an adult’s use of swear words in that manner. Have you ever challenged yourself to not swear? Or even to stop saying any word? A college friend and I challenged ourselves to cut out the word “like”, at least in the context of “you know, like, totally awesome” and I think we made it…an hour? Point being, the more regular use a word gets, the more likely it is to pop out at every given chance. So, this isn’t working. At all.

2. Getting super angry when he says the word. We’ve also been known to make threats, like taking toys away, not going somewhere special, even the dreaded Soap in the Mouth (which pre-parenthood I was sooooo against, funny how things change. But, we get organic, plant based soaps so…are we less evil???). But, this comes right back to the power element of it. Us getting angry gives the behavior some pretty big time attention. Negative attention, yes. But when you’re 4, it doesn’t really matter if the attention is negative or positive, as long as it’s there. Hey, when I say “shit”, mom and dad flip out at me, awesome! So, obviously, this isn’t going to work. And in general, it makes all three of us miserable.

3. Replacing the word with other words, or encouraging him to choose words to say in place of swear words. We’ve repeated his own sentences back to him with different words, similar to the preschool teacher from my last post. We have also asked him to choose different words to express his anger and frustration. AND, we have ALSO suggested he choose and/or make up a new word that he can use in the same context he would use a swear word. For instance, “shoot” or “fudge”. So, you can still release the bad feelings by yelling out a word, but that word doesn’t actually have to be a swear word. This suggestion seems to offend him, and he gets angry and refuses. Still hammering home with this one, it seems like it should work so well.

4. Referring to all swear words as bad words that we don’t say. And if he hears it in a movie, or out in public, we will point out that the person saying it is an adult, but he is still just a kid, so it’s not appropriate for him to say it. Now, any fellow parent or child psychologist or anyone really can tell me this method is not effective with any child for any behavior. But, that didn’t really stop us from giving it a go. We are very, very desperate.

We were still seeing the occupational therapist when all of this first started, and her response was that he’s picked up the words, figured out how to use them in context, and refuses to stop using them no matter how much mommy and daddy plead because, “He’s so smart!” Which is a nice and thoughtful thing to say about my son, but really, not so helpful.

And I know my son well enough, and know parenting well enough, to know that eventually it will all pass. It will fade away, the luster will be lost, the words will make their way out of his everyday vocabulary. But, it seems to be taking an awfully long time for this to happen. And, I can’t really do anything about the Shock and Awe he’s causing the general public. All those perfect, do-good parents out there who never allowed these words into their child’s pristine ears. In addition to making a dramatic, taken-aback face at him, they also look to me for some kind of response. Something to the tune of one of the four aforementioned methods, which have all failed miserably for us.

I didn’t get much of a response last time I posted about this. I think simply because you guys just don’t know what to tell me. You probably haven’t had to deal with it (and I hope that you never do!). And that’s fine. But, what are some of your other methods of getting through to your kids about an undesirable, yet very stubborn behavior? How can we get inside their little brains, and make them think curbing their bad behavior was actually their own idea?

Behavior chart? Some version of a “swear jar” that will resonate with a kid? Any advice or idea very welcome at this point.

 

About the Size of a Lime

That’s how big my baby is.

Yep, my baby. I’m 12 weeks preggo as of last weekend.

I was really stressing out about when and how and why to come out to the Internet about my pregnancy. While I could not be more thrilled to be pregnant again, I’m also about as anxious as I think one human being could be. Especially since it’s been 2 weeks since my last doctor’s appointment, and I don’t get to go back for 2 more weeks. I need more reassurance than that.

I also thought getting pregnant again would just fix all of my feelings of loss and grief and fear, and everything would be right with the world again. Not exactly so. For a while, my feelings actually intensified; hormones I suppose. And then I felt guilty, like I was so fixated on conceiving this baby that I might forget the baby I lost. (I’ve since realized that’s just not going to happen.) And now, I worry all the time that things will turn out the same way again, I can’t seem to settle into reality mode and be happy.

But, I want everyone who was there for me during the miscarriage and the grieving process to also be able to celebrate with me. And maybe telling more than just our parents and siblings will help make things seem more real. Thank you all for your support, here’s to the future. And here’s to my little lime. (This is reminding me how much I miss margaritas.)


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

Farmland Adventure

When a toddler is old enough to hold an iPad or a smart phone, and you’re about to embark on a long plane ride–you are inundated into the world of apps for kids. At first it seems silly, apps on these sophisticated devices geared just toward children. But let me tell you, these can be lifesavers on a plane. Or at the grocery store. Or at the doctor’s office. Basically whenever you need them to go against all of their natural toddler instincts, and be focused and quiet instead. They can also be good learning opportunities, if you pick good ones. And it’s always fun to find a great new kids’ app and pass the word on to all the other harried parents.

A friend and fellow San Franciscan Aleks Petrovich, who does fantastic artwork, is getting into the kids’ app game with his company Gnomie. The first app, Gnomie Farmland Adventure, has recently been released for download on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. I’m excited to help get the word out about this fun app for kids.

It’s a fun way to introduce young kids (the app is good for about ages 2 to 5) to farm animals, the sounds they make and how to say the name of each animal in several languages. And there is a music video kids can sing along to and learn more about the farm. The app is very interactive, and easy enough for kids to use on their own. There is even a feature where you can record yourself reading a story for your kids to listen to later. A very fun way to stay involved, even when handing over your iPad to keep ’em quiet.

Good, solid apps for kids that actually teach them something are harder to come by than they should be, in my opinion. But, here is one that fits the criteria. Check it out, and pass the word on! And you can also follow Gnomie on Facebook or Twitter for more info, updates and deals.

A Kind Word

We’ve all been there: you’re at the store, or the post office, or a restaurant, or just walking down the street. And your child chooses that precise moment to throw an unprecedented Tantrum of the Century over something seemingly innocuous, something you could never have guessed would cause such a fit.

This has happened to every. single. parent. You can’t deny it. Kids are just like that sometimes. So, if it’s such a common occurrence, what is with the typical response? A snicker, a sneer, a TSSSSKKK, all eyes glued to you as if you were a street performer. Never a sympathetic glance, never an “Oh, honey, we’ve all been there, it will pass.” Not even a passerby that can completely ignore it, this totally normal toddler behavioral moment.

People who don’t have kids think they would handle it so much better than you. People whose kids are grown think they did a better job, and their brains have selectively deleted the memories of their own children doing this. And even people who have young children, EVEN the people who have toddlers, think you’re a terrible parent.

And, what can your response possibly be? If you leave the establishment, you’re an ineffective parent and you let your kid walk all over you. If you spank them, you’re an authoritative parent that abuses their kid. If you try to talk to them, you’re a stupid hippie. If you do nothing, you’re lazy and raising a spoiled brat, not to mention forcing everyone in the vicinity to listen and watch. There is NOT ONE SINGLE THING you can do in response to a tantrum that will please everyone in the room.

It puts so much undue pressure on us. And we feel so isolated, when we should feel like we’re a part of the large, diverse parenting community.

But, there was this one time when a mother surprised the hell out of me. We were leaving Bowie’s swim lesson, it was only the second or third time we had been there. He wasn’t quite into the routine, and he didn’t understand that he had to leave because the lesson was over. He was kicking, flailing, crying and screaming at top volume as I tried to pull both him and myself out of the swimming pool, as we made the long walk to the locker room, as I tried to get my clothes on, as I tried to get his clothes on. And, I got the usual response: nasty looks, judgmental stares, barely-audible snarky comments.

At the moment I was about to give up, when I had only managed to get socks and a Pull-Up on Bowie (and he was in the process of ripping them off, still screaming), I sat down on a bench in the locker room, just to catch my breath. And a woman came over to me and said, “I just want you to know, I have been there. You are doing a great job of staying calm. Don’t forget: it will pass. I feel for you.”

I was so stunned, that all I could muster was a “thank you.” And, I can’t, for the life of me, remember her face. I’m sure that we still see her there, week after week, in the locker room. But, I can’t remember which mom she is, so that I can say, “hey, thanks so much for that pep talk that one time. I really needed it.”

I can’t remember her, so I can’t repay the favor. But, whenever I have the opportunity, I offer my sympathies to another parent in the throes. And I urge you to do the same. Try to recall a particularly bad moment for you and your child (because there IS one there) and put yourself into their shoes instead of judging them into oblivion.