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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Takeaway

We don't decorate until one week before Christmas. I enjoy the holidays, but I do not enjoy the melodramatic months long build-up. I want to eat my Thanksgiving turkey with a pumpkin on the table, not a pine wreath! I want the holidays to be something fun and relaxing instead of a huge pain in the butt.

Our family has accomplished that balance and I feel like I am becoming quite an expert on low-stress fun holiday experiences. There are so many family traditions and commercially mandated traditions (hello Elf on a Shelf!) that if you tried to do it all you wouldn't have any time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Parents especially feel pressure to participate in a vast array of traditions that there seems little time to be still. Between chopping down your own forest tree to baking an alarming amount of sugar laden high fat treats, there seems to be little energy left for the things that actually matter.

Since I fancy myself an expert, I thought I would share some tips for making your holidays fun, low-stress occasions.

Traditions -  If moving that little Elf around every night and exclaiming at the silliness is something you want to do, go with it. But try and establish some simple traditions that are unique and special to your family. We have a tradition of breaking plates on New Year's Eve. (long story) Each year we create a plate for each member of the family at one of those pottery places and use it for the year. Then at New Year's Eve we break the plates with the Hammer of Change (long story). The next morning the new plate is there at the breakfast table to greet everyone. Even though it is weird, no one else does it and that is what makes it special. Don't try and participate in every single holiday experience with the worry that your children will be missing out on some important piece of fun if you leave something out. They just want to hang out with you and do something memorable. Keep that in mind! Choose a few things or even just one thing that you will do every year and have that be your tradition. Ignore the extraneous.

Food - If you hate to cook, don't. If you love to cook, don't overdo it. If you have family members that want to help with the cooking, let them. If you prefer a restaurant, eat there. I tend to go overboard with the cooking and baking. This Thanksgiving I had awesome help in the form of my sister-in-laws and we had a great time pie-baking and prepping Thanksgiving dinner. I took a deep breath this Christmas and decided I would dedicate only one day to holiday baking. Know your limits and involve the other members of the family as much as possible.

Gifts - Give gifts out of love, not obligation. It is not a contest.  I don't have much to say about setting a budget or the shopping aspect because that varies so much by family. We do a lot of shopping online and our Christmas shopping consists of taking the kids to the toy store and asking them to point out what they want. One of us then takes the kids out to ice cream or something and the other buys one or two gifts for each kid from the ones they expressed interest in and we are done. My husband and I do not formally exchange gifts. We will typically pick out a few things that we both want and buy those. The best part is we wrap those things up and open them on Christmas morning and act totally surprised! We each have five brothers and sisters plus numerous nieces and nephews and both of our families have developed nice, affordable methods of doing gift exchanges without making everyone feel obligated to buy 30 presents every year. Do not let the stress of gift exchanges dictate what you buy. If you do not have the money to buy expensive presents, then don't. You can let your loved ones know what they mean to you with a nice handwritten letter or homemade gift and if they don't appreciate your efforts than they are surely the ones in need of some holiday spirit.

I feel like I have given a nice long lecture to everyone which really helps me scratch that teacher itch I get now and then. I have many more tips and advice, but I'll stop there for your sake and mine.

Happy Holidays!

















Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mischief

We are pretty lax with the television watching around here. Hubs and I love movies and are surely passing that along to our kids. I find cartoons entertaining and I think if you are supplementing the TV viewing with plenty of other activities that everything will be all right in the end.

Problem is that the boys have been fighting quite a bit lately. And when I say fighting, I mean cage match style.  The uptick in fighting the past few weeks has resulted in several things. I am getting a lot less done because of the need to closely monitor all their interactions, the house has gotten a bit messy because of said close monitoring, and the children have been watching a lot of TV because for some reason the soothing sounds of Yo Gabba Gabba smooth over the arguments.

They are learning how to get along in their new positions. Little Man is not so little anymore and is starting to assert himself as a big boy, while Big Boy wants to keep things the way they were with him in charge and getting all the big boy benefits. They are trying to find a new footing as equals rather than as big brother and baby. Princess B, meanwhile, has had no problem filling her role as the baby of the family.

I have gotten in the habit of letting them watch TV whenever the fighting starts to be more than I can take. A few days ago I decided it was time to turn off the TV and make them work this thing out like proper gentlemen instead of through reruns of 1960's cartoons. I stuck them in their room and said, "Play together nicely. If you fight, you have to work it out alone. I don't want to be involved." I then went downstairs and waited for the punches to start.

But they didn't. At least I don't think they did. There has been some crying, but I think they are figuring it out finally. Today they played together all day long. I heard a few arguments, but they seemed to have worked them out. There were markers, sugar, a bottle of syrup, and electrical outlets involved. But if the mischief was achieved with a sense of brotherly bonding and cooperation, then I'll take it.

I know having two boys so close in age is going to lead to fighting and it is no where near over, but I am hoping that the fighting and the playing will bond them together and when they are adults they can look back on it all and have a good laugh.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Whatta Man, Whatta Man

I had my birthday this week and once again my husband has gone out of his way to make the event memorable. He has always been able to surprise me and his favorite method is to whisk me away for an adventure.

When we were dating he surprised me with a trip to NYC for New Year's Eve and even though I knew before then that there was something very special about this guy, when he did that I knew I wanted him to keep surprising me over and over again.

There was the time when he told me he was taking me out to dinner and we ended up at a Shoney's an hour and a half away from our house. He told me he had heard there was something great about this particular Shoney's. Turns out it was the closest restaurant when dinner time hit and we were actually on our way to Virginia Beach for a weekend away.

Or the time when our anniversary snuck up and he decided that an impromptu getaway to Seattle and Portland was in order. We booked tickets and were on the flight four hours later. It was a magnificent trip.

Or the time he loaded us in the car and took us all to West Virginia where we toured a coal mine. Or the birthday where he put gifts in the trunk of the car and stopped every ten minutes on the side of the road to make me open them one by one.

There was the 30th birthday party that was completely unexpected and totally appreciated. There's the beautiful necklaces he has given me to represent each of our children. And of course, this past couple of days where we had so much fun family togetherness that I thought I was going to vomit. It was great.

I am glad that his surprises are the good kind and that in all other regards he is dependable and predictable. I know he will always be around and I know he will keep surprising me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Say Uncle!

We are settling back into a routine after having an amazing Thanksgiving week with our family visitors. We hosted my husband's brother and his wife, his sister and her three kids, and his other sister. It was a full house, but we had such a great time.

People are typically surprised when I share that my husband and I both have five siblings. Our families are very similar in some ways. This is probably one of the things that makes us compatible. We have very similar expectations about what family should be like. Things like having dinner together at the table every night that we can, spending quality and quantity time together, and making decisions based on what is best for everyone and not just one person. We both grew up learning about sacrifice and compromise.

We are still working on our own family and I highly doubt we will make it to six as our parents did, but I am very hopeful that when our kids grow up they will have the relationships with each other that Brian and I have with our siblings.

My kids have nine aunts and uncles, including many excellent bonus aunts and uncles, that love them rotten. (for those that are counting, I have one brother that is deceased, but I am sure if he were still with us he would also love my kids rotten) These are the type of aunts and uncles that not only take the kids to the playground, but actually play tag with them. Aunts and uncles who will sit on the floor and read a book over and over and over. Aunts and uncles that are willing to correct their behavior when we aren't there to do so. I wish they all lived closer.

And with these aunts and uncles come numerous cousins. My kids have a cousin who is 18-years-old that was more like a cousin to my little brother and is now more like an aunt to my kids. (if that makes sense) They have a cousin currently growing in a belly in the Virgin Islands. They have big boy cousins that pick on them just enough and little baby girl cousins that help them learn how to be gentle. There are 13 cousins in all and that number is just going to grow.

There are many reasons for having a large family and I can definitely see the benefits of keeping a family small, but for us I think bigger is better. Now that I am an adult I can really appreciate the gift that siblings are. I know not all adults enjoy close relationships with their siblings, but I hope that we are able to nurture close relationships between our children so they will have close relationships as adults.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chore List

Oh yeah, I have a blog. . . . . . .

The last few weeks I have been getting a handle on this thing called housekeeping. I noticed that the little things were taking over. It is hard to be cool, calm, and collected with your (very hyperactive) children when there is a mountain of laundry and nothing to eat in the house and your car is in the shop.

I have done the thing I never thought I would do. I have made a chore list. Now I am not against the chore list. In fact, I very much look forward to creating chore lists for my children as they get older. This chore list is for me. I actually researched the most effective ways of keeping your home clean and am attempting to keep things in order so that when my kids ask to paint a picture I don't have to spend 15 minutes trying to find their art desk. I feel like such a hausfrau.

So the chore list has been in full effect for three weeks now and has proven successful. Four weeks ago I would look at the floor that would need mopping and feel stressed about when I was going to have time to get that done. Now it has an allotted time and I can delete those thoughts from my CPU. No need to worry about when I will get it done. It's on the schedule. This method really works for the teacher that lives inside my head.

I guess all the housekeeping blogs are right. If you just schedule a time for it and do it, the house practically takes care of itself. Except it's actually you doing all the work, but everyone else (cough-husbands-cough, cough) seems to think it happens by magic.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who ya gonna call?

We are a little obsessed with Ghostbusters around here lately. Big Boy has watched it everyday since Halloween and is now a learned expert on the finer nuances of the movie. He told me today that he really wanted one of his best friends to come over and watch it with him.

"Well buddy, not all moms and dads want their kids to watch scary movies. Ghostbusters might be too scary for her."

"You can tell her mommy that it's just pretend."

"Well, maybe you can come up with some reasons that she should be allowed to watch it."

And for the next ten minutes he laid out his reasons why all four-year-olds should be allowed to watch Ghostbusters. Here are some of my favorite.

1. The scary lady ghost in the library will be nice to you if you will just be quiet when you are in the library.

2. The marshmallow man monster is really funny and he is not scary at all.

3. The Ghostbusters are heroes because they protect all the people from the ghosts and monsters.

4. New York City is really far away from our city. It is all the way past China so those ghosts in that city can't get us in our city.

5. The skeleton ghost in the taxi is not a ghost. He is just skeleton. Skeletons are real, but they don't really drive taxis. That is just a pretend part.

6. The song for Ghostbusters is really funny and she would like to sing it with me.

7. The Ghostbusters have really big guns.

8. The green ghost gets boogers all over the Ghostbuster's face and that is really funny. Boogers from a ghost!

9. The scary dog is the scariest part, but you can cover your eyes and pretend it is a nice dog.

He also managed to unknowingly eat an entire plate of food while he was distracted by all the talking and that is a major accomplishment also.

Tricky Mommy

Four years is really not that long to have known somebody so I try to cut myself some slack when I discover a parenting method that works like a charm with Big Boy. Some days I just want to smack myself in the forehead and yell, "Why didn't I think of this two years ago!?" Today is one of those days.

If he is taking a class or participating in a group activity, he has no problem going with the flow and doing what he is asked, but if I try and encourage him to do something, say practice writing his name or color a picture, he is always resistant. I have tried the usual tactics. I use the super excited, "this will be sooooo much fun" voice. I bribe with promises of cartoons, candy, and video games. I tell him it is just for big boys, but it just doesn't work. The child is stubborn when it comes to cooperating with his mother.

Today I had a fun little activity that I thought he would love. Building with mini marshmallows and toothpicks. I figured this could occupy him for hours. He loves building things, he loves marshmallows, and he loves toothpicks! Win, Win, Win. But no. He wasn't interested. I started to try to convince him with the usual tactics and then decided that I would just do it by myself. I sat down on the floor with a pile of marshmallows and toothpicks and started building a skyscraper.

"Whatcha doing mommy?" I heard over my shoulder about two minutes into my activity.

"Building stuff with marshmallows and toothpicks."

"Can I try?"

"Well, sure honey."

And slapping forehead with palm now. Could have been doing this all along! He would be able to read and do algebra by now!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sticks

I started looking at things on Pinterest. Ugh. What a time suck and also what a marvelous way to make yourself feel like a lousy parent. So many cute little things on there that good mommies do for their children. Snacks that look like the Eric Carle caterpillar, interesting animals figures made from paper tubes, toddler comfy pants made from an old t-shirt, and of course lovely decorated kids' rooms that are cleaned and photographed daily.

My kids seem to be missing out on an entire world of homemade crafts and snacks resembling cute woodland creatures.I am sure this will drop their SAT scores by ten or twenty points. It makes me wonder how these parents have time to do anything else. Do their kids actually do these crafts or is this something the parent is doing while the kid stands there and watches? How do you get a toddler to sit still long enough to make a melted crayon shaving parchment paper butterfly suncatcher?

I have tried some of these little crafty things with my kids and they are always uninterested. They like to paint, color, and use play-dough, but they do not like to be informed what the end product should be. My kids lack an interest in these types of creative pursuits and I usually end up doing the craft for them. If I am the one doing it than I might as well do a craft that I enjoy rather than a snowman made from popsicle sticks.

Today I gave my kids a box full of sticks from the forest. I also handed them some yarn, a pair of scissors, and some masking tape. They were busy for nearly two hours and it involved practically no planning or participation on my part. Now that is what I call crafty. Maybe I can sell their creations on Etsy?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar High

I read an article about how to trick your kids into not eating their Halloween candy. Most of the strategies ended with the parent sneakily throwing the candy into the garbage so their kids couldn't eat any more. The strategies are creative. One involved "feeding" the candy to the jack o' lantern and then throwing it away and telling your kid the pumpkin ate it. But I have a better idea. Just don't trick or treat if you don't want your kids to eat candy.

I know I spend a lot of money on good candy to hand out to trick or treaters and the idea that it is being thrown in the garbage is annoying as heck. I buy it because I want the kids to enjoy it. I also think it is a lesson of ingratitude to go house to house saying thank you and then trash it all as soon as you get home.

I can appreciate not wanting your kids to eat tons of candy, but still wanting them to experience the trick or treating fun. Just take them to a few houses and let them enjoy those few treats. Everyone wins!

We spent about an hour trick or treating this evening and we got a ton of candy. I told them they could eat however much they wanted. They ate five or six pieces each and aren't begging for any more. I can't handle begging well so I will just be letting them eat as much as they want and it will all be gone in a week.

Letting them control their own candy intake can teach them a variety of lessons. If they eat it all in a day, they will feel sick and won't have anymore candy. If they eat a few pieces a day, they can enjoy it for longer.

Or maybe they will just learn that candy is delicious and Halloween is awesome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Three Nights Sleep

Hooray! Princess B has slept through the night three times in a row. I wish I could say the same about myself. I know most moms go through these nights. The baby is finally sleeping, but you're not convinced that she is actually sleeping. Instead you wake up in a frantic sweat imagining that your baby most definitely has suffocated on the one sheet and blanket you allow in her crib. You jump out of bed and run to the other room to find a baby peacefully snoozing.

You get back in bed and are almost asleep when you startle yourself awake with the thought that maybe, just maybe, your mother's intuition was trying to tell you that there was something wrong with one of your older children and you mistook it as a warning sign about the baby. Maybe the older one has wandered out of the house because he has been sleepwalking or the two-year-old is having an asthma attack.

Now you get back out of bed and very quietly open their door and make sure they are both alive and well. Now back to bed. Wait, is your husband breathing. You better poke him a couple of times and make sure he hasn't had a heart attack in his sleep. Oh good. He's okay too.

So you start to drift back to sleep and then it occurs to you that maybe you should call your mother and check in on them too . . . . .

and that is why you are still tired even though the baby is officially sleeping through the night.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cleverness

We were looking for a place to go for dinner and dad asked Big Boy where he wanted to eat. A little information to help everyone understand how funny this story is. Dad's favorite food is Indian and when he asks the kids where they want to eat, he always tries to talk them into Indian.

Big Boy: I want mac and cheese. (he is referring to Noodles and Company)

Dad: Eh, I don't really feel like that. How about something different? Maybe Cantina 18 (a sit-down Mexican restaurant next door to the Noodles and Company)

Big Boy: I want mac and cheese!!

Dad: Okay if you can tell me the name of the restaurant with the mac and cheese we will go there.

(A minute of silence)

Big Boy: Indian.

Dad: (excitedly) You want to get Indian food!

Big Boy: No, the name of the restaurant is Indian.

Dad: You want to go to an Indian restaurant?

Big Boy: No, I want mac and cheese.

Dad: That's not the name of the restaurant.

Big Boy: The name of the restaurant is Indian because I just gave it that name and now it is called Indian. Let's go to Indian and have mac and cheese.

Can't argue with that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Case of the Hates

I've been expecting the "I hate you" for awhile from Big Boy. He's been using the word hate to describe many things lately.

"I hate carrots because they are orange and I hate orange."

"I hate learning to write my name."

"I hate washing my hands with soap."

"I hate going to bed and sleeping."

"I hate watching this cartoon."

And so on. Today we stopped at the playground near our house after going to the store. Usually we walk or ride our bikes to this park, but we were in our car this time. When we were done playing and it was time to go, Big Boy asked to go home and then ride his bike back to the playground.

"Tomorrow we will do that," I answered. That was the wrong answer.

A tantrum of epic four-year-old proportions ensued and ended with the declaration, "Mommy, if we don't ride my bike to the playground right now, I will hate you!"

And there it was. Hanging there in the air, the threat of hatred. I suppose the threat is better than outright hatred. Either way, I was happy that I didn't react to it. I just repeated what I had said, "We will ride our bikes to the park tomorrow." And I told him that it made me sad to hear him say he will hate me. I left it there and buckled him up to drive home.

By the time we arrived home (30 seconds later, we live right around the corner), he had changed his tune.

"Mommy, if we ride our bikes to the park right now, I will love you again." Hopefully, he will actually love me when we ride our bikes to the park. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tinkering

Like all good strategies, the new ideas we are using with Big Boy are going to take some tinkering. I learned very quickly yesterday that taking away a privilege for misbehavior isn't going to work, because what happens when you have taken away everything. I knew that was a possibility, but I was hoping that he would freak out a bit the first time computer time was taken away and straighten up immediately, but he didn't care. Once he was down to zero computer time, I didn't have a leg to stand on and he knew it!

He had a long talk with dad last night about his innermost desires and turns out he just wants some money to buy the movie Home Alone. We sat down before bed and worked out an allowance plan and ways for him to earn extra money by doing various chores off the good things list we made yesterday. We also decided that computer/tv time starts out at zero and he can earn time by doing school prep stuff (writing, reading, worksheets, etc). He wrote all of his letters today and then we sat down and had a very enjoyable story time together. He was able to play 15 minutes on the computer and is now watching Super Why. That strategy seems to be working better for him.

As far as disciplining for misbehavior, I am going to stick with the verbal reminders. We have been counting down from 5 for a long time now and that still seems to be working for the most part. You really have to try all different kinds of things and mix it up quite a bit to find the strategies that work for your kid. Like I wrote yesterday, I want to see my kids (and myself) exhibit some better self control so we are going to keep working on that over the next few months.

As we muster our way through this parenting thing and get ready to start school next year, I know we are going to have to become more organized and more consistent with things. I am not worried about discipline at school because I know he will behave fine. I want to see our home life become more organized and predictable. Sounds boring, but I could really use a few doses of boring and I think some more predictability will help both the boys settle down a bit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rewards

I am trying something out that I am not in favor of all. I am using rewards to try and improve my four-year-old's behavior. I am facing many challenging issues with him right now. Mostly typical preschooler things; not listening, being too rough, wandering off, creating huge messes, and so on.

We sat down together and made some charts of good things to do and bad things to do. If he does the good things, he gets to earn computer/tv time. If he does the bad things on the list, he loses the computer/tv time. I am using small rocks in a jar. Each rock is worth 15 minutes of computer/tv time. He gets to start the day with four rocks.

The charts are simple and he came up with all the ideas himself. Good things include doing schoolwork, practicing writing, helping with dishes, reading, and sweeping the floor. Bad things include hitting, saying mean things, biting, and (this is my biggie) not listening.

Today was our first day and it has not gone well at all. He had lost all four rocks within an hour. I thought maybe I was being too harsh, but losing fifteen minutes of computer time for biting your brother's head seems reasonable to me. I know he is testing me out today and I really don't like the feeling of being in a battle of the wills with a preschooler, but I am ready for him to start learning some self control so the time we spend together can go back to being positive and happy.

I didn't want to start using the things he likes to do as a reward for good behavior, because it isn't my ideal style of parenting. It's not who I want to be. But at the same time, I would like to have the energy and willpower to do the fun things with my kids. I have two other children that I need to be playing with and teaching and I can't do that when my day is full of keeping the Big Boy in line.

We will see if any of it works or if it is all just pointless. I know that even if his behavior improves we will likely be changing strategies in a few months, but my main goal is to help him develop better self control and self regulation which are both things that I lack at times.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hanna



http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44736685/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/police-adopted-child-was-starved-left-outside-die/

I haven't blogged in quite a few days and the above article is why. I keep wanting to sit down and write something about this tragedy, but simply can't find the words. I keep starting and stopping to delete everything because it simply doesn't seem adequate enough.

I have been following many comments in the news stories and on adoption message boards. People grieve in different ways and there has been an outpouring of grief from the Ethiopian adoption community, but at the same time there is an undercurrent that makes me uncomfortable. I have seen many, many comments from adoptive parents about how they are grieving for what happened, but they are very focused on the possible negative repercussions for adoptive parents. They are worried that adoptive parents of Ethiopian children will all get painted with a broad brush and universally condemned. This may happen, but I think this is missing the point. The adoption community should be focusing on how to stop this from happening again.

Parents adopting from Ethiopia are required to submit to a home study process. A social worker schedules visits with you and then writes a report to submit to the adoption agency explaining why you are qualified to adopt. I have never heard of anyone being turned down. The fact is you can say whatever you want to a social worker. You can coach your current children to say whatever you want them to say. A home study as it is done now is never going to weed out abusive parents. In fact, the main thing most parents worry about before their home study is making sure their house is spotless, but not too spotless. You don't want to look neurotic.

So what is the answer? How can adoption agencies ensure that children do not end up in abusive homes? I think a couple of unannounced visits from a social worker should be the norm and I think the children in the house should be expected to speak with the social worker unaccompanied by their parents. If parents are unwilling to allow their children to speak privately with the social worker, this should be a red flag. (This may already be the case. Big Boy wasn't talking when we went through the adoption process. The social worker sat on the floor and played with him for awhile.) I also think parents should submit names of people who can recommend them and rather than having them write a letter the social worker should contact them by phone or in person for an interview. But even if these simple measures were put in place, possible abusers could still end up being approved.

I think it is also critical that prospective adoptive parents are educated on the challenges and risks of older child adoption. We consider ourselves good parents, but we did not feel like we could handle or were prepared for the challenges of adopting an older child. Unfortunately, too many people take on this challenge without knowing, or maybe without accepting, that it may turn out to be a very difficult experience. It may be roses and sunshine or you may spend years questioning your decision as your life is forever altered by a young person who has many issues that you weren't prepared to handle appropriately. Education before you adopt and education after you adopt. There needs to be more support groups and more parenting classes to help parents with the unique challenges of adopting older children. 

I thought an adoptive parent on a message board hit on a fantastic idea. Older adoptees should have a phone number or emergency contact that speaks Amharic that they can call and check in with at least once a week. If the child misses a planned call, the social worker should be sent to check up on the family to make sure the child is okay. This won't help toddlers/babies, but it would be a measure that will help older kids who are forced into a new culture and new language have a support system if they need help. How do you call 911 if you have never heard of it and don't speak English? Who do you tell about abuse if you are isolated and don't have any friends? I am sure there are parents that would see this as an unnecessary and obtrusive measure, but I would be willing to participate in such a system if it saved one child.

Sadly, none of these things may have saved Hanna because her parents were followers of a depraved and sadistic child abuser. I don't know how to stop that except to educate people that the teachings of the Pearls are abhorrent. Yes, your children may obey you without question after you beat the living daylights out of them with plastic tubing, but is it worth it in the end? Are you prepared to see your grand babies getting beat with a plastic tube also? Are you prepared for your children to turn into adults who are too scared to think for themselves or speak out against injustice? Do you want your children growing up with fury in their hearts?

Please keep Hanna in your thoughts and if you can please donate some time or money to organizations working to end child abuse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Preschool

We made the decision not to enroll Big Boy in preschool. He starts kindergarten in one year and I am not worried about him being behind academically or not being able to adjust to being in the classroom, but I am starting to worry that he needs something more to do than staying home with me and going on playdates a few times a week.

He is where he needs to be academically. He is learning to write his name and identify letters. We read everyday. We are working on counting and we are always doing experiments and talking about the world around us, but sometimes he just seems hopelessly bored. Like he needs something more.

My gut reaction to him seeming bored is, "Good, kids today aren't allowed to be bored enough!" (grumble, grumble, grumble) But at the same time when he is bored he just pesters me endlessly. I like parenting and all that come with it, but I have no intention of sitting on the floor and playing with my kids all day long with no break. I need time to get other things done and to make sure I don't turn into a mombie (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mombie )

So maybe I should send him to preschool one or two days a week. Maybe then when he is bored at home he won't spend the whole time pulling on my clothes, blowing in my face, wiping boogers on me and laughing, begging for snacks, and telling me he is afraid of the dark in the middle of the day. But at the same time I want him here with me. But maybe it would be better for both of us to get used to a little bit of separation before the big FIRST DAY of school in one year. I'll be tossing these thoughts around in my head for a few day, but will probably just stick with what I am doing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Locked Out

Big Boy ran out on the second story back patio this evening when he heard lightening. He likes to climb on the planters so I ran out after him to keep him from falling. I turn around just in time to see Little Man coming out behind us and closing the door before he yells, "I locked door!" The door was in fact locked and I was stuck outside with both the boys.

Luckily our new across the alley neighbors were sitting on their back patio eating dinner. I called for help and the neighbor came over. Every door to our house was locked, including our interior garage door which we rarely lock (unless you're a robber/rapist/murderer, then it is locked all the time and guarded by a vicious dog.) She was good enough to text hubs for me.

I was trembling because Princess B was inside alone. She was in her crib napping (thank goodness), but she was still alone. I also had a batch of cookies in the oven. Finally hubs rescued us from our balcony prison and I was relieved that Princess B wasn't screaming. Cookies were burnt to a crisp.

I am very thankful that our neighbors were outside and especially relieved that Princess B was in her crib napping and not inside crawling around. I was able to make friends with a nice new neighbor who was the lucky recipient of a plate of cookies. Funniest thing about it . . . . this is the second time this has happened. Blush.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Forced Apology

I had one of those run-ins today. You know the kind. Your kid does something you consider minor to another kid and the other parent loses their cool when you don't discipline your child. I didn't see the event in question here and neither did the other parent, but she demanded that I drag my kid out of a playplace and force him to apologize to her child for something he may or may not have done. I refused.

That's the short story, but it did get me thinking about apologies in general. Is the practice of forcing your child to apologize a good parenting move? I know that I have done it on occasion and I know many parents think it is their responsibility to make their child apologize for anything and everything, even minor misunderstandings or accidents.

I've only been a parent for four years so I am sure my opinions on these things will change as I become more experienced, but from my limited experience I think forcing kids to apologize is not productive.

For one thing, I don't want to teach my kids that they can do something mean and simply apologize and be done with it. Apologies are nice, but actions are better. Asking my kids what they could do to make the person they hurt feel better seems to be a more effective way to encourage them to analyze the effect of their actions on others and then remedy the situation. Sometimes it may be a heartfelt apology. Other times it might mean something different.

We need to admit that we don't always know what is going on in kid world. Maybe a child swatted another kid, but maybe two seconds earlier that kid had spit in his face. It would be very demeaning to force a child to apologize to someone that was actually the aggressor and I don't want to make that mistake with my kids. I want them to know that I will stand up for them if they are being falsely accused of something or if they were simply defending themselves. I will also withhold judgement if there is no proof that they were the responsible party.

This article sums it up nicely. http://www.slate.com/id/2182349 

When I am faced with these situations, I will always try to be on the side of common sense and fairness even if the other parent thinks I am a bad parent.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Melkam Addis Amet!

September 12th marked the beginning of the new year in Ethiopia. Little Man is Ethiopian and since bringing him home we have made an effort to celebrate this holiday to help him connect to his birth culture and this year we decided to have a little party for our friends. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_calendar

The most important thing of any Ethiopian celebration, like most cultures, is food. Lots of food. Delicious food. The party was on a Monday and I started the cooking process Friday afternoon.

The base of many Ethiopian dishes is a type of spicy butter. It is really a necessity in ensuring that the dishes have an authentic taste. In order to make this butter, you must must melt butter and then simmer it in spices. The smell of this simmering butter set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Once it has simmered you remove the solid spices and pour the butter into a container. It is best to make a large batch so you can use it on more than one occasion.



On Saturday morning I began the cooking by baking several loaves of Yemarina Yewotet Dabo, a spiced honey bread. I am a novice bread baker at best, so I had some trouble getting a good rise out of the yeast, but the bread still turned out delicious. I suppose it is hard to go wrong when you add a cup of honey to something!

The most challenging dish I decided to prepare was Doro Wat, the Ethiopian national dish. This is a very spicy dish seasoned with berbere, a spice unique to Ethiopia. Ethiopian cooks and restaurants tend to develop their own versions of berbere because it is a mixture of many different spices. The berbere I used was purchased at a market in Addis Ababa. I won't go into great detail about the six hour process, but it did make for some beautiful cooking photos.




Most commonly known Ethiopian dishes are stews. The stews are eaten with injera bread which is a spongy sour dough flat bread used to pick up the food. I purchased my injera from a local Ethiopian woman because it is a long process and can require specialty equipment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Injera

I also prepared two lentil dishes of varying degrees of spiciness. The doro wat was incredibly spicy even though I cut the berbere in half! I had to tone it down a little bit to be palatable to western preschoolers.

I spent about 15 hours cooking and preparing for our little party so it was very exciting for me to see everyone enjoying the food. We had three children attend who were adopted from Ethiopia along with many of their friends.


The children learned how to eat Ethiopian food and were also invited to construct the Ethiopian flag out of paper to celebrate the tradition of boys preparing pictures to sell. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enkutatash Below are some of the artistic recreations of the Ethiopian flag by 3 to 5 year olds.
We had a great time and my house still smells like Ethiopian spices and food. We have been enjoying the leftovers for several days and I was really pleased that Little Man had a great time!

Here is the website I used for my Ethiopian recipes. http://www.ethiopianrestaurant.com/recipes.html

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons

My kids are too young to really show much interest in what happened on 9/11 so we definitely didn't sit them down and talk to them about it, but we have kept the tv off the channels showing the footage of the attacks. I know they hear us talking about it, but I think we will be waiting until they are school age before we sit down and discuss the finer details.

I have read many parenting blogs and articles about how to talk to your kids about 9/11. I think it will be different for each family, depending on how your family was personally impacted. In general, I agree with the vast majority of what the articles say, but I do part ways with many of the comments. It seems many parents see 9/11 anniversaries as an opportunity to illustrate to their children the great evil that humans are capable of bringing on each other. Many parents seem to think that it is okay to use this day as a day to make their children terrified of people who are different or who disagree with us.

I think this is the wrong lesson to take from 9/11. A few dozen people did something evil. But thousands, and one could argue millions, illustrated the human capacity for good. We shouldn't focus on the murderers, but on the firefighters who rushed in and saved people and on the civilians who stepped up on that day to help strangers.

My children aren't old enough to comprehend the pictures or stories of 9/11, but when they are I hope the lesson they take away is not that people are evil, but that during evil times people are capable of great good.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

*Warning* Not for the faint of heart

Every parent has an arsenal of stories about poop. The time the baby's poopy diaper exploded all over the car seat or those first few weeks of potty training when the underwear is smeared with poop. I think my experiences with feces could win awards. I'll keep these anecdotes vague so as to protect the identity of the specific culprits.

I had a baby diaper explode so bad that the poo was all the way up in the baby's hair and all the way down the legs to the toes. I once simply threw away an expensive baby outfit in a public park because it was too disgusting to even bother trying to wash. One of my babies had to be changed, clothes and all, ten times on one airplane trip (it was a really long flight, but still). Once when I was changing a diaper the baby pooped right as I pulled it off and it flew six feet away dirtying the carpet and getting all over a book shelf. One of my kids once ate the other one's poop. One child pooped on the wood floor and then spread it around with their fingers, closed the door to the room, and I didn't find it until it was dried to a nice, crisp crust. I once had to use a stick from the forest to push a giant poop from one of my children down a camper toilet. One time I had to pull a swallowed two foot long thread out of a baby's butt. I measured it.

I am sure most of the people reading this have their own poop stories to share. Please do if you are so inclined! Hope everyone enjoyed reading about the poop!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brown Like Me

A few days ago Little Man painted Princess B brown. Now if you know Little Man, you know he is a lovely shade of brown, while Princess B sports a pinkish tint. When I discovered the deed, I had a bit of a mind freak. In the course of a minute, I agonized over the mess, whether she ate any of the paint, and, of course, why did he choose brown? There were many other colors of paint to choose from and he picked brown.

Now I calmed down and immediately told myself not to make a big deal of it. He probably just grabbed the closest paint. He isn't trying to subconsciously tell us something. But what if he was?

When you adopt out side of your race, you face many challenges. Anyone that tries to deny this is being naive. It is a common assumption that families are supposed to match each other and people tend to get a bit judgemental when they don't. I think this is changing, but it hasn't completely. There are white and black people who do not think it is right for white people to adopt children of color. I know that I sometimes get distracted by being defensive about what other people think about our family. What I need to be doing is helping Little Man develop self confidence and pride in who he is and make sure he knows he is infinitely loved.

So that brings us to the point where he has painted his sister brown. Was he trying to make her look like him? Is this better than him trying to paint himself pink or white? Or did he just happen to choose the brown paint and next time he will try and paint her blue. I don't know the answer to these questions, but I know he goes to bed happy at night and I guess that is what matters the most at this age.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gems from the 4-Year Old

"Mommy, I think I will rub my nose instead of picking it."

"My brain forgot how to tell my legs how to move so I cannot walk to bed."

"I will eat my rice if I can have a quesadilla." Ten minutes later, "I tricked you. I'm not going to eat my rice!"

"If you don't stop at the stop sign a car will hit our car and then you will DIE!"

Mommy, I brought you a soda. Aren't I a helpful boy?"  Stares while I open it and take a drink. "Mommy, can I have a drink of your soda because I such a helpful boy?"

"Okay mommy. Okay. I have a deal. You will not wash my hair and I will put my face underwater."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Calculations

You buy some outlandishly priced, individually packaged fruit snack pouches because your kids begged and there was a coupon so whatever. There are ten pouches in the box and you have two children who can eat the fruit snacks. If they are allowed one pouch a day the fruit snacks will last for five days. Easy right?

Do not make the following mistake. The following is my inner dialogue:

"It's late and I want something to eat because I am bored."

"Hmm, nothing in the fridge and I don't really want to pig out on ice cream. If only there were something that was sweet, but low calorie."

"Fruit snacks! Perfect. I will have one pouch of fruit snacks. Yummy."

That was two nights ago. Today I got to witness the "There is only one fruit snack left so you have to share it" meltdown of 2011. Two boys, one fruit snack pouch, no holds barred.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

These Days

It would be ideal to be the mom who is constantly engaged with her kids, coming up with cool craft ideas, happily singing little songs, and staying patient and kind, but it is simply not me.

Some days I am so engrossed in my own book that I hardly notice they are there. Other days I just want to blast my Dixie Chicks in their ears all day even though they would rather be singing Wheels on the Bus. Some days I sit in a lawn chair while they scamper around me outside because I am too tired to get up and play catch or whatever with them. Most days my house is a mess and I am not motivated to clean it because I know they will follow behind me messing it up again. Some days I yell too much. Some days I think that I have lost my mind for deciding to stay home.

But some days are beyond fulfilling. I work on their ABC's and their math because I am the teacher type. We make cookies because I like to bake. Some days we kick our legs and splash each other in the swimming pool. We talk about science and conduct experiments. I argue with them about tv time and computer games and snack consumption. Some days we spend hours at the museum, just because we can. Some days we read dozens of books together because there is nothing I would rather do than read. Some days we paint and paint and paint and paint. Some days we play tag and hide and seek and then stuff our faces with cookies.

And some day they will be big and this will all be over. So today I am remembering to appreciate it and trying to slow time down a bit so these days aren't over too fast.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playground Charades

I like the playground. I like it a lot. Mostly I enjoy it because I can sit back and relax while my kids go berserk. The only bad thing about going to the playground is other parents.

Now I remember a time kids played on the playground alone. When parents sat on the benches and talked to each other or read a book while their babes frolicked unhindered on the dangerous and hot metal equipment or even let their kids go to the playground alone. Gasp! Those days are long gone for some parents, but not for me. Give me a hard bench and a good book and I will ignore my kids for hours.

But it isn't always easy. Even I sometimes give into those looks from other parents, as they watch my kids go down a slide alone and headfirst. They look up and glance around the playground, desperately trying to figure out which neglectful parent allowed their child down the slide without standing at the bottom and clapping "good job!" while giving step by step instructions to proper sliding. I often lay my book down and go stand in the vicinity of my children so the other parents are not tempted to call child services.

Whenever I go to the playground, I have to engage in a game of charades of sorts. Does this other parent want my kids around her kids? If I sit down, will the other parents start hovering over my kid and look around fearfully if he climbs too high? I watch body language and listen so I know their tolerance level. But really, I just want to sit and read. Sure, I am keeping an eye on my kids, but I really don't want to follow them everywhere.

Playgrounds are made for children and there is nothing worse for a kid than trying to climb up a slide ladder only to have another mom's butt in his face. So if your kids are too small for the equipment, take them to the toddler playground. If you are going to play on the equipment with your kids, then play, don't hover. And please just leave me alone with my book and learn to ignore my kids like I do!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Flash Point

The sibling rivalry has been at an all time high around here since we arrived home from vacation. the boys may have spent a bit too much family fun time together and are now jockeying for position at home. All the fighting this week has made me think about an issue that probably pops up with multiple child family. When is the right time to intervene in an argument?

Let's say you take the approach of letting the kids work it out with each other. I fall into this camp, but what I have found is they just don't know how.  This philosophy may be more practical when they are older, but right now they are not capable of knowing when to stop hitting and start talking. I could let the physical fights play out, but they tend to escalate if I don't intervene and it doesn't seem fair to the smaller one. I try to time my intervention right. I want to make sure I am not stopping them from working it out with each other, but I also don't want it to get to the point of no return.

Once I intervene I attempt to get them to come up with a solution to the problem on their own, but sometimes the emotions are in control and they can't get to that point. Sadly some situations don't get solved, they just go away. The toy gets put in the closet or one child is removed to another room to calm down. As they get older, they will learn to articulate their emotions with words better. Until then, I will try to time my interventions correctly and give them the words they need to analyze and solve problems.

Overall my boys get along well with each other and only get in a few arguments each day. I think this is great considering how much time they spend with each other. I wish there was a no-fail parenting solution for how to handle their fights, but I think a parent has to analyze and approach each situation uniquely. It's a bit more work than having a set methodology to follow, but I think the end results will be worth the extra time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winning at Weaning

It is time. I am done and she seems to be too. This two week vacation confirmed what I have known for a month now. It is time to transition from the boob to the bottle and a mostly solid diet. Like I have said in previous posts, I am not overly emotionally attached to breastfeeding, at least I thought. I didn't have trouble weaning my first baby, but this one is proving more difficult. And I am the one having trouble with it, not her. She seems perfectly content with the bottle and is happy to be rocked to sleep without having a boob in her mouth.

I don't intend on having another baby. At least not one that comes out of me. Because of that, the fact that I will probably never breastfeed again is freaking me out a bit. I like having a use for my boobs. I have spent so many years carrying these things around and they are finally coming in handy! I would like their usefulness to last a bit longer before I face the prospect of breast purposelessness.

So I am weaning, but I am not feeling very gung ho or enthusiastic about it and I am still sneaking in some breastfeeding sessions, mostly in the middle of the night. I am sad that I probably won't breastfeed again, but I guess that will leave me more time to work on my novel(s).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Packing it in . . .

For our anniversary once, oh so long ago before we had kids, we booked plane tickets to Seattle, threw some clothes in a bag, drove to the airport, and left. This all happened in the span of five hours. We spent three days driving around Oregon and Washington in our rental car and staying at whatever hotels we happened to find along the way. It was amazing and was not an isolated event. We booked tickets to London the day after the subway bombings because the price went down and were there less than two weeks later. It was the way we did things!

Fast forward five years. We are leaving on a trip in three days. We are taking all the kids with us and I feel like I have to prepare this time. I miss being completely spontaneous and doing things last minute, but I really can't forget to take a change of clothes on the plane for the kids or leave someone's inhaler at home. There are blankies to be washed and toys to be chosen. We have to mentally prepare them all for the trip and explain over and over what will be happening so we can avoid any meltdowns.

So here it is, three days before we are leaving and I am already in the process of packing. It's not my style, but I'm sure the extra preparation will be worth it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Co-sleeping Debate

I co-sleep and I know lots of parents who do. I also know lots of parents who lie to their doctors, family members, and friends about it because it can be unsafe and you are never, ever allowed to do anything with your child that might be slightly dangerous. Ever.

The fact is parents are going to co-sleep with their babies. It just happens, especially if you are breastfeeding and the baby is waking up every couple of hours to eat. For me, it comes down to this. My baby does not sleep through the night and is up every few hours to breastfeed. If I had to get out of my bed, pick her up, sit and feed her, and then put her back down I would be a walking zombie everyday. I think this is more dangerous to my children than the risks that co-sleeping may pose. I am far more likely to get in a car wreck because I am sleepy than I am to roll over on her in the middle of the night and not notice. I think many parents have come to the same conclusion I have.

It would be more responsible for the powers that be to instruct people on how to safely co-sleep rather than simply saying not to do it. A little education can go a long way. If parents know the basic rules, they will follow them.

Co-sleeping has saved my sanity for sure. I would not be able to fully function day to day if Princess B didn't spend most of the night right next to me in bed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bubble Blunder

I was very excited to do a little activity with the boys today. I have a book with 365 fun ideas  to keep your kids busy and I have never used it. I decided to open the book today and do the first activity I saw. Here is what I turned to:
Bubble Pipe
Help your child make this simple bubble pipe. Poke a pencil hole on the side of a paper cup, one inch from the bottom, and stick a drinking straw through it, halfway into the cup. Pour dish detergent into the cup until the straw is covered. Add a little water and a few drops of food coloring. Blow gently until beautiful colored bubbles froth over the rim of the cup and fill the air.
Sounds fun right? So we construct our pipes. Immediately the soap solution starts seeping out of the edges of the poked holes and gets all over the counter. I put the cups on a tray and carried them outside to the porch before they made a bigger mess. Now we are outside and I hand the boys each a pipe.

Little Man immediately sucks instead of blows and gets a good taste of soap in his mouth. Luckily it didn't seem to bother him. Straight straws do not work because the liquid soap just seeps out, so I run back inside to get some bendy straws. 

By the time I get back outside, Little Man has poured all the soap out of his pipe and is rubbing it all over his body. "Don't touch your eyes," I remind him. He listens to that and happily rubs soap all over his body from his soap puddle while Big Boy and I try out our bubble pipes. They work how they were supposed to and we have fun blowing out frothy bubbles for about two minutes before our soap solution r out.uns

Then Big Boy rubs his eyes. I will give him credit for being tough and not crying about it. We go inside and rinse out his eyes in the sink. While I am doing this, I see Princess B crawling out onto the porch through the door I forgot to close. By the time I get back over there she is sitting in the soap puddle!

I grab her and go to the kitchen sink, which is not full of dirty dishes for once. I plop her down, spray all the soap off, dry her, and put on a new diaper.  Back outside I go to check on the bubble fun. Little Man is covered head to toe in slimy dish soap film. He goes in the sink and gets rinsed off. I leave him sit there with the water running to run after Princess B who is headed for the open door again. By the time I get back, Little Man has sprayed water all over the kitchen floor.

Two minutes of fun for all that effort. They are now watching cartoons and I am glad I decided to skip the food coloring.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon . . . and was TORTURED!!

http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Dish-Spoon-Mini-Grey/dp/0375836918/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311543841&sr=1-1

We checked this book out of the library last week and boy were we in for a treat! This is a little story about what happens to the dish and the spoon after they run away. They turn to a life of crime, serve prison sentences, and eventually reunite in a shady second hand shop. The best part by far is when the dish gets tied to a chair and tortured by a thug played by a vicious looking serrated knife.

I'll admit, I kind of enjoyed the edginess of the story. We don't shield our kids from scary things and we speak frankly with them about most things. It was just really odd to come across a torture scene in a children's picture book. (cue rant about America's violent culture.)

The illustrations are grand and the story is witty, if you don't mind reading a book about loan sharks, kidnapping, torture, and prison to your kids!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's just business

One of the things I hear often about stay at home moms is how nice it must be to have the opportunity to hang out with your friends during the day while your children have playdates. It's true. It is very nice, but I don't look at these "playdates" as mere social visits.

When I was working I enjoyed the company of my work colleagues and considered them friends. I was a teacher so we each had our respective classrooms, but would also have regular daily and weekly meetings, including eating lunch together most days. The playdates that I attend are similiar to those meetings and lunches.

Most of the time I am home with my children doing the tasks that are required when you have three children and a home to care for. Loads and loads of laundry, the coordination of arts and crafts projects, shopping, preparing, and cleaning up after three meals a day plus snacks, diaper changes, potty training, ABC's and 123's, and so on.

But a few times a week for a few hours at a time, we get together with our "work" colleagues. The children scamper off and play with their friends. This is called "socialization" and it is very important because it gives me a chance to sit and talk with the other mothers. This is when we discuss the business of being mommies. We discuss our childrens' schooling, our discipline methods, where the week's best deal on milk is, and we share tips and advice on how to best manage the things we do. We also delve into more interesting topics, but somehow it seems we do spend much of our time discussing this whole parenting thing.

So yes, as a stay at home mom I get the opportunity to "hang out" with my friends often, but I would be lost without these "business" meetings. These sessions give me a chance to run by other mothers what I am doing and get their input and ideas on how to improve things. This is exactly what I used to do at work, except now I get paid in slobbery kisses and poopy diapers instead of dollars and health coverage.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peas

So your two-year-old has just shoved a pea up his nose. What do you do? Here are step by step instructions for handling this problem.

1. Ascertain which nostril the pea has been shoved up. You may have to hold child upside down and use a flashlight.
2. Press your finger down on the opposite nostril.
3. Tell your child to blow their nose. (hopefully this is a skill they have developed! If not you may have to get creative.)
4. Duck as pea launches out of the nose. If you have other children make sure they do not pick up the pea and put it in their mouth.
5. Laugh as loud as you can.
6. Try to explain between laughs that they shouldn't put anything in their nose, no matter how funny it is.

I'm embarrassed because I considered getting the tweezers before I did the obvious thing! Either way, there is no more pea in his nose and we all had a good chuckle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chocolate

I want some chocolate. Really bad. Maybe some of that Dove stuff with the inspiring quotes on the wrappers. Heck, even a bag of M&Ms would be excellent right now. But there is not a piece of chocolate in my entire house.

Three years ago I would have loaded up the baby, went to the store, purchased five different kinds, and enjoyed them in relative peace. The dynamic has now changed. First I have to consider the logistics of getting all three ready to go out in public, loading them in the car, unloading at the store, and then wheeling around the store. Is the chocolate worth it? Then I must consider the inevitable whining for them to have candy also. Do I want them to have candy? Is it possible to hide it from them? Most importantly, do I want to share? Ugh, such a hassle to calm a craving.

I guess a squirt of Hershey's syrup will have to do for now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Babysitting

An interesting article. This isn't about adoption, but I have had similiar experiences.
http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/18/arce.latino.mother/index.html

Many parents that I know have kids that don't "match" them. Some of these children were adopted and others have parents of two different races. Even two people of the same race can produce an offspring that doesn't look like them. My two bio kids look like their dad's side of the family and my adopted son is a different race. I often get asked by strangers if I am babysitting. I have been asked if I work for a daycare. I have had someone tell me that it is very nice of me to take on someone else's kid even though I was already busy with two of my own.

There is obviously a racial element to some comments because my son and I are of different races, but I wouldn't call the people making these comments racist or even prejudiced. They are making assumptions about the relationship between two people and that is something that will start to change as Americans become more comfortable with the reality of adoptive families and multiracial families. The best thing I can do is politely correct people and explain that he is my son and I am not the babysitter. By politely correcting people when they make assumptions, I can help more people realize that not all families "match."

It is especially important to answer questions from children at the playground and other places. I have been asked some incredibly nosey and rude questions by kids under the age of ten! One little girl once asked if Little Man's real mommy was dead. Yikes! Luckily he was just a baby when that happened and I was easily able to talk to her about adoption and what that means. I hope her paradigm about what a family looks like was changed by our conversation.

I hope to set a good example to Little Man that adoption is a source of pride and there is nothing wrong with telling people. I have come across strangers who help him with this process. Just the other day a cashier was grinning at him and when we were done checking out she leaned over and quietly asked me if he was adopted. I told her he was. She then gave him a high five and said, "I was adopted too and it is so cool to be adopted!" He was smiling from ear to ear.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Camp

Big Boy is off to another week of summer camp. This is his third summer camp experience and he is really enjoying it. The Parks and Rec in Raleigh, NC is amazing and offers great opportunities for all these little city kiddos. All you local people should really check it out. And if you don't live here you should move here cause it is pretty awesome.

He will be at camp from 9 - 2 each day this week so I have to drag my butt out of bed to get him up, pack a lunch, and get him to camp on time. Quite a feat for me. I guess this is what starting kindergarten will be like. And I probably should have put him to bed before 10:30 tonight. We'll see how he is in the morning!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Foodies

All the advice out there says that you shouldn't try and force your kids to eat. That it will only backfire. Just serve them dinner and let them choose what to eat or not. Yeah, whatever. We spend way too much money on fruits and veggies to have them sit on a plate untasted. I think there is a way to get a child to eat new foods without damaging them for life. It is called bribery.

In the past two days, Big Boy has eaten tomatoes, lettuce, a hamburger with all the trimmings, asparagus, and raw broccoli because my husband bribed him with a trip to the movies for eating his veggies. At first I thought this was a bad idea, but then I thought about it. I didn't eat tomatoes until I was 25. Seriously. I avoided tomatoes at all cost. There was no particular reason except I had at some point in my youth made up my mind that I didn't like them.

One day I sat down with a container of grape tomatoes and I ate every single one. By the time I was done, I liked tomatoes. I don't want my kids to miss out on foods just because they are stubborn like me, make up their minds when they are two that they don't like a particular food, and must stick with that decision forever in order not to lose face.

So maybe this whole extrinsic motivation thing will have dire consequences on Big Boy, but I think he will be fine. I hope that he will be far more open to trying new foods than I was. I don't want him to miss out like I did. Now if only I could get over my aversion to onions!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Mom

Today I was taking a bath and heard a little knock on the door.

"Mommy," Little Man sobbed.

Slightly annoyed at my alone time being interrupted I said, "I'll be out in just a little bit baby."

"Mommy, I sad. I want a hug."

I doubt many mothers could resist those words. So I wrapped a towel around myself and opened the door. I sat down on the floor and gave him a good squeeze until he felt better.

I guess that is what being mom is all about. I have no doubt that my son and I are attached and continuing to do so with each day. He has been in our home nearly two years now and my life would not be complete without him.

I am sure many adoptive parents latch onto the moments when they knew for sure that they had attached with their adopted child. For some, the moment comes right away. Other parent's slowly form that attachment. Sadly, some parents and children are never able to form the secure attachment that is desired in an adoptive parent and child relationship.

I fell in love with Little Man the moment I laid eyes on him, but attachment is different than love. There are many children that I love, but I am attached only to my own. Parents know that feeling of attachment. I have attachments to both biological and adopted children, but there are differences between the attachment I have with my bio kids and the attachment I have with my adopted son. My biological kids will never wonder about their other mother and how much better or worse she may be than me.  I am sure at some point they will wish they had another mother, but for them it will always be a fantasy.

This may be a crass way to put it, but with Little Man I have competition because there is someone out there who brought him into this world. I hope she had the opportunity to gaze into his eyes at least for a moment and feel that tidal wave of love the way that I get to everyday. Will he wonder about what life would have been like with her? Definitely. Will he compare me to her? Probably. How do I feel about that? I don't know yet.

Siblings

I was reading an blogpost about having more kids to make sure your child doesn't turn into a spoiled narcissist. While I understand the sentiment, I don't like the attitude that somehow your child will be damaged if they are an only child. 

If you have an only child, you are more likely to be able to afford some of the things that families with multiple children cannot. You would only be having to help one child through college. It would be affordable to take more vacations. Your child will have more attention from the adults in their life.

As a mom of multiple children, I have accepted that many of these things will not always be a reality for us. At least not until our big lottery win! We gain some things though. Our kids always have playmates and when they are adults they will have a shared history with each other. We will have more people to support us when we are older. I totally plan on living in one of their guest rooms at some point.

I know many adults who were only children and they are perfectly normal people, mostly. I have friends who have chosen to have one child and stop there. Their children are just as wonderful and delightful as mine, mostly. It seems like the number of children you have is another pointless battle in the mommy wars. Either way, the kids will be fine.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Enjoy It

Earlier this summer we planted several planters full of flower seeds. The planters are now full of blooms and the boys are seeing the payoff of the work. Big Boy is careful to remind me to water the plants everyday and each afternoon they take a few minutes to check on all the planters.

Yesterday one of the blooms had broken off during a windy summer thunderstorm. The flower still looked nice. It was laying on the cement and I probably would have left it there. As we were coming in the house, I noticed that Big Boy had picked up the flower and was examining it. Being a family prone to allergies, I asked him to leave it outside instead of bringing it in.

He looked at me and said, "But Mommy we can still enjoy it." Indeed.

The flower is in a vase on my desk now and I am sniffling a bit, but I'm not sure if the allergies are the cause.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Playground Socialist

I freely admit that I am a playground socialist. It's a loaded word, but I take no shame in it. Playground socialism helps my kids learn that they are not the only people out there and it pays to be nice to others. Here are some of my "socialist" rules of playground etiquette.

1. If you bring a toy to the playground, it is your toy unless you put it down to play with something else. Once you put it down you do not get to take it away from the kid who wanders up to play with it. If you don't want to share it, don't bring it.

2. You may play with other children's toys provided they are not playing with them and you ask nicely. If they say no, then move on.

3. Don't hog the equipment. If someone else is waiting to swing or go down the slide, you finish up and let them have a go.

4. Others are freely welcome to our sunscreen, diaper wipes, band-aids, and snacks. If we forgot something important, we would hope that others would also share with us.

5. If we are at a play area with mechanical rides and there is an extra seat, let another child ride on it too. Even one you don't know and even if it was your money.

6. If you see a child running away from the playground, getting hurt, or in danger of some kind and the parent doesn't notice, bring attention to it. And bring attention to it without judging or being rude.
7. Don't hover over other people's kids if you know the parent/caregiver is right there. Some five-year-olds look like three-year-olds. If you are really worried, ask  (nicely) if they know what the kid is up to. A good way to do this is by saying, "Is he good on here?"

Wow. I could carry on with this list for hours, but I will stop there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sand

When you go to the beach, you must give your whole self over to it. If you think too much about the sand in your hair and between your toes, it will drive you crazy. Sunblock is important, but just makes more sand stick to you. It gets everywhere, in every crevice. You can't win if you try to fight it. You have to simply accept the fact that there is sand everywhere and it will get on you.

The waves keep coming. Sometimes they are big and you have to lock your knees to keep from falling over, but other times the gentleness of the waves can calm you. . If you sit next to the ocean, the waves will keep coming. There is no break. There is no vacation.

Parenting is the same. You really have to give up that in control feeling to fully enjoy what you are doing. Like the sand and the waves, kids will get everywhere and do whatever they want. I figure we can either curse and fight or we can give in, sit down, and make a sand castle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Closet Shall Remain Locked

In my house there is a closet. In this closet there are treasures many. Games, paints, books on every subject, puzzles, markers, and the list goes on. . . . This closet is locked. I experimented with keeping it open for a few weeks. This loosening of the rules meant that everyday I was faced with games, paints, books on every subject, puzzles, and markers scattered all over the entire floor. I appreciate the impulse to allow children free access to these sorts of things, but I just can't do it. I don't like throwing to be the main use of these items. I want my kids to sit and do puzzles, play games, color, and paint. I want them to read books and sit quietly all day long, but it isn't going to happen. So the closet stays locked.

The other day I noticed the closet hadn't been opened in a long time. The art on the walls was months old and the only books we had read were the ones we had checked out from the library. Puzzles sat unappreciated. I decided I had to be more active in giving the kids an opportunity to use all these things in a controlled way. Enter the Do Box. (Lots of giggles on that one. Good thing I didn't call it the doodoo box.)

Every evening before I go to bed (or in the morning while the kids eat breakfast) I sneak into the closet and put things in our Do Box. Today we had finger paints, a geometry game, a book about the planets, a puzzle of our solar system, some writing activities, and a matching card game. The kids look in the Do Box and pick out which activities they want to do. Brilliant! I have been doing it for a week now and my kids are way more engaged with each other and with me. It is a load of fun!

So the closet will stay locked for now, but I'll take the time to get things out of it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why July Fourth is the Best Holiday!

#1 - You can wear an American flag bikini top at the festivities and only look slightly ridiculous.
#2 - Fireworks!
#3 - You don't have to worry about choosing the wrong gift for someone.
#4 - Fireworks!
#5 - Eating outside.
#6 - Fireworks!
#7 - Corn on the cob, watermelon, those cakes decorated like flags, etc
#8 - Fireworks!
#9 - Parades.
#10 - America is awesome!



That being said, the fireworks here in Raleigh were cancelled because of thunderstorms. Boo!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ode to the Barnes and Noble Train Table

Perfect height for little guys and gals,
Full of fun trains like Thomas and pals,
But look out, no, wait!
Someone else had that train!
Give it back and please don't cry.
There's plenty of trains for you to try!
Say excuse me, don't be rough!
Being the little one can be tough.
Let's play together that will be fun!
No, you don't want to and you're done?
This train table isn't really that fun.
Let's go while you're still stable,
And get away from this cursed train table.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Puzzling

Rules for completing puzzles:

Rule #1: All edge pieces are to be sorted out beforehand and the frame of the puzzle assembled before anything else.

Rule #2: Complete the puzzle by working from the edges towards the inside.

Rule #3: The last piece you place must be significant, like an eyeball.

Rule #4: The puzzle must be completed at all costs.

Four-year-olds don't follow the rules so I have to leave the room when Big Boy is doing a puzzle so I don't damage his young ego or twitch nervously when he is doing it wrong. He completed two puzzles today (28 piece and 46 piece) and was very proud of his accomplishment. I was proud of myself for not standing over him barking orders while he did it. Win! Win!

(I also sort my candy by color then eat it in ROYGBIV order.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mystery of the Vanishing Poo

Big Boy: I pooped in my underwear.

Mom: Take it off then. Wait, there's no poop in your underwear.

Big Boy: (sheepishly) I took it out.

Mom: Where is it?

Big Boy: In the toilet.

Mom: There is not poop in there and you didn't flush the toilet. Where is the poop?

Big Boy: I put it in the car.

Mom: You walked all the way downstairs and put it in the car and then came back up here without me noticing?

Big Boy: Yes.

Mom: I picked up one little piece that was on top of that coloring book. Is there any more?

Dad: (interjecting) That poop could have been on the coloring book for days.

Mom: No, it had to happen in the last 12 hours because I put that coloring book there last night  after I brought it up from downstairs.

Mom: Is there any more?

Big Boy: Yes. I don't know where I put it.

Mom: (sighing) You can't remember where you put your poop?

Big Boy: No.

Mom: Oh dear.

End Scene.

Join us next week for the next episode of Mystery of Vanishing Poo. Will Mom find the poop? Only time will tell!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What a beautiful . . . .err I mean what a great book you're reading!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ir=Women&icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl3|sec1_lnk2|73640

I admit I constantly want to tell the little girls I know that they are beautiful and cute and precious and lovely in so many ways, but I do agree that it can be counterproductive. I know I enjoy getting complimented on my appearance, but as an adult I have already established interests and personality traits that have nothing to do with my looks. This issue goes deeper because I think it can be counterproductive to compliment a child about anything.

For instance, if you are always telling your child what a great helper they are this could lead to the child growing up to be a person who is overly concerned with doing things for other people. Or if you focus too much on your child's interest in dinosaurs she may grow up to be a paleontologist. Telling a young girl that they are beautiful may just cause them to grow up thinking that they are attractive and that could have dire consequences.

Joking aside, the article does have an important point and that is to make sure kids know they are capable. They can look beautiful, but they can also ride a bike really fast or memorize their multiplication tables. So while we should guard against setting our daughter's up for low self esteem regarding their appearance, we can still tell them they are beautiful now and again, but maybe do it after we have asked what book they are reading.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I Don't Know Why My Caged Bird Sings

Every sunny morning I wake up to the beautiful screeching of my little parakeet. She was given to me as a birthday gift. She used to have a friend with her in the cage, but he met with early demise. I have my suspicions that it was a homicide, but I lack proof of her misdeed.

She is clearly depressed. Melancholy at least. Sometimes I catch her looking sadly at herself in her little mirror and I wonder what she sees. Does she see bird failure? An ugly malformed beak? Or does she see what I see? A gorgeously trim and athletic bird vixen.

She has been through falls and attempted escapes. She once hid under our oven for three hours, patiently waiting for us to forget about her. But we didn't. Her cage has been thrown across the room and dumped on the floor. Yet still she sings. Why cruel fate? Why did you deliver this wonderful little bird into the hands of our family? She deserves so much more than grubby little hands trying to open her cage and small babies tipping her home over.

For now, I have given her a new home. One very high up. The last time her perch was so high it resulted in a Mt. Everest like climb for an 18-month-old, but I believe he is ready to let go and just look at her without attempting a dangerous climb in the hopes of spilling her cage. And I am ready for the old bird to have some peace.

She sings still. And again wakes me at 6:30 am. Live on blue bird, live on.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Footprints on the floor

My floors are dirty. Cheerios, spilled juice, spots of dried milk. One of the reasons we purchased this home was because of the expansive, beautiful hardwood floors. I promised to take care of them, but had no idea what I was getting into. Cleaning the wood floors in our home is a backbreaking two hours of labor and it is impossible to do when two boys are running around and one baby is getting into everything.

I now mop once, sometimes twice, a month. My floors have never looked the way they did the day we moved in to our home. God, these floors were gorgeous. The sun reflected off their waxed surface and there were no scratches to mar their appearance. But now there are scratches and the sun doesn't shine so brightly. They are a bit dull and there is always some debris piling up in the corners.

Occasionally I kick myself for not taking better care of them and get in gear to clean them properly. But then as soon as I am finished two sets of footprints and one set of hand prints and knee trails show up on the freshly mopped surface. I am reminded it isn't so much the floors that matter, but what happens on the floors that counts.

(and sappiness over, thanks for reading)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wheezy

Little Man has the asthma. Not awesome at all. But there is a silver lining because I have a wonderful story about making an ass out of myself!

Important Note: We adopted Little Man and it is visually obvious that we are not his bio parents. You need to know that or the story doesn't make much sense.

The pediatrician has just gone over all the new medications that Little Man has to take. I am feeling distracted because he is screaming and Princess B wants to breastfeed. In my head I am thinking, "well husband has this too so we know how to handle it." I say to the pediatrician, "Well, my husband has asthma too." She looks at me like I am crazy and says, "Asthma can sometimes have a genetic component, but it isn't contagious so I doubt your husband had anything to do with it since he isn't genetically related."

I should really think over sentences before I let them flow out of my mouth.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cartoon Quotes

I love cartoons. I love the thirty minutes I can get to myself while my kids watch a show. It is beyond awesome. What I have noticed with my kids is that they are each uniquely effected by having the television on.

Big Boy can sit and play with a toy or look at a book while the television is on. Often you can ask him what he is watching and he won't be able to tell you because he is not paying attention. Little Man however is rapt and drawn in by the television shows. He can quote characters and sing the songs. The television is not background noise to him. So I am at the point where I have decided that it is probably best to only have the television on for a short time each day.

I could leave it on for a couple of hours with Big Boy and he would watch and play drifting in and out of the room, but I am a bit alarmed that Little Man can sing the Wonder Pets theme song word for word. I am going to start working on his Shakespeare memorization instead.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Whiner, Whiner, Chicken Diner

http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/06/17/6883577-whining-is-the-worst-sound-in-the-world-study-confirms\

This made me laugh out loud! Whining is the soundtrack of my life. Little Man is especially bad about the whining. Big Boy didn't whine much as a toddler, but Little Man is another story. There is not an hour in the day when noise is not flowing out of his mouth. Sometimes he is talking and saying super-duper cutie things. Sometimes he is crying or needs something. But mostly it is whining. Just constant whining with no apparent goal.

I admit I have lost it a few times with his whining and just shut myself in my room for a bit so I can have a little bit of peace. It really just grates on me. I have even done some research on methods to stop whining. Unfortunately, most of the methods have to do with when your child is whining at you for something. But Little Man just whines. He just walks around the house whining for no reason. Drives me crazy.

This weekend my husband said something that has put it into perspective for me. He pointed out that Little Man is a noisemaker and that is how he expresses himself. Makes the whining sound a bit different. It still grates the ears, but it's just who he is. He is very expressive with sound and is constantly communicating. It ties into his tendency to be orally inclined. He likes to have his fingers in his mouth, likes to gurgle with his drinks, and likes to chew on his toys even though he is nearing three years old. I think it all ties together.

So, yeah, maybe a kid whines a lot, but if we put it into perspective it may annoy us less.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kung Fu Adoption

Took the kiddos to see Kung Fu Panda 2 today. I spent most of the movie standing in the entrance hall rocking the baby to sleep. (yes, I took a baby to the movies) Although I missed some of the film, I was quite pleased to see the topic of adoption handled with humor and love. The panda discovers his goose father is not his biological parent. He spends the movie trying to discover some of his roots and as the character puts it, "When did I fit in such a little box? Why don't I like to wear pants? Who am I?"

As an adoptive mother, I enjoyed the message that even though bad things may have happened to make adoption necessary, your life is still full of family and friends that love you very much. The movie encourages adoptees to learn what they can about their roots and do so while practicing awesome kung fu.

We are open with our son about his adoption and roots, but it is hard when you just don't know much. Someday my son will go on a journey to discover where he came from and who he is and I hope he finds satisfactory answers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Zap Pants

Introducing the latest in potting training technology! Does your little one keep peeing in his pants? Does he ask to use the potty and then just sits there with a vacant expression in his eyes? Our potty training pants will have your little one peeing in the potty within days. I give you Zap Pants!

Forget those pull-ups that get "cold" when your little one pees. What you need is an "electric" reminder to get your toddler in gear! When your precious one is wearing zap pants, the will get an "shocking" reminder not to pee their pants! Our patented technology gives your son or daughter a "spine-tingling" reminder that they need to use the toilet and not their pants when they need to make weewee or poopoo!

Buy now! Batteries not included.

(I'm only half joking.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Phone Calling Amid the Screams

How do you teach your kids to be quiet when you are making a phone call? I run a non-profit from the comfort of my home and there are times when I need to make a phone call. Doesn't really help people have a positive impression of the organization when there are three kids screaming in the background.

Today I turned the Thomas toons on for the older ones, shut the door, and then spent 15 minutes putting the baby to sleep so I could make one phone call. Just one. One little phone call. Naturally, as soon as I dial I have to hang up before it rings because the two-year-old has decided that Thomas is no longer entertaining and is screaming to have a snack. So I take care of that. Attempt #2. I dial and have to hang up before it rings because the baby has now woken up. I put her back to sleep. Attempt #3. I dial and have to hang up because I hear the two-year-old sneaking into the garage. Attempt #4. I dial, it rings, no answer, and I leave a message. The last ten seconds of which had a baby screaming at the top of her lungs. Sigh, at least the four-year-old was quiet the whole time.

It took me over 45 minutes to make one phone call. Good thing I don't work a payinng job from home. My ass would get fired.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Princess Boys

Yesterday at the store my four-year-old son picked out the product below.
I was excited about this development. He passed over the Cars and Toy Story body wash for this one! The first thing I thought about was this new blog I am doing. What better way to get traffic than to write a little entry on how your son shows a preference for "feminine" things and how you are totally fine with that. Maybe he would start wearing dresses!

At bath time last night, I decided to get some quotes to use in my "my son shows a preference for feminine things and I am totally all right with that" blog entry. "Why did you choose this bubble bath?" He answered, "Those princesses are pretty and I like pretty girls." Basically it is a toddler version of the SI swimsuit issue. Not sure how I feel about him being naked in the bathtub with these stunning ladies now.