Archive for September, 2009

Tomato Troubles!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Have you ever had one of those “learning experiences” as a mother that you didn’t realize WAS a learning experience until way after the event? Well, let me tell you about a “tomato event” recently at our home. My “sweet” 3 year old son (Brady) was carrying around tomatoes. He was telling me how he would like to throw them. I told him that probably was not a good idea.

Fast forward about 20 minutes, I am working at putting dishes away in the kitchen. Brady comes out to the kitchen and says “um, mama, you need to come with me to the bedroom, something tewwible (his pronunciation) has happened.” I think, “oh no.” I had completely forgotten about the tomato at this point. I was quickly reminded of the tomato when I arrived in the room. There was THE tomato, with spots of juice all around the shelf, spots on his clothing neatly piled on the shelf, spots on the floor, spots on the wall…. You get the point.

I immediately picked Brady up and sat him down in a “time-out chair.” I didn’t say much except, “stay here, I am going to clean up the mess you made, we will talk about it later.” He sucked his two fingers (his way of coping with stress) and didn’t move. I could tell that he was stunned at the reaction of that tomato. I cleaned it up in 2-3 minutes maximum and came out to talk to him.

I asked him why he would do that. He explained that he just wanted to stick his finger inside the tomato and feel what it felt like. He apologized (several times), hugged me, ran and apologized to mammaw and papa, and the event was done.

My mom told me at the time that he really hadn’t known what he was doing. I immediately told her that he needed a time out because I had told him not to play with the tomato. Now understand, my mother isn’t a “pushover” grandma. In hindsight she was right, but so was I.

How many times in life do we act or speak without really knowing what or whom we might hurt. We often go in with our eyes wide shut. How many words have been said to loved ones or even strangers (maybe during road rage) that later you regret? How many times have we yelled or maybe over-reacted to something small our children have done? However, “tomato troubles” are a part of life. Learning to think about the mistake (in this case, an undeserved timeout) afterwards is an important process for children and adults alike. We all need to learn that no one is perfect; we all squish some tomatoes sometimes, and the important thing is HOW we handle ourselves after the tomatoes have already been ruined.

So this day, my son learned an important lesson (well, a few). First, obviously he learned not to squeeze a tomato. Second and most importantly, he learned that he will make mistakes (as we all do), and the best way to handle it is to think about it for a few minutes (or longer, if needed) and ask forgiveness or do whatever else is necessary to keep the tomatoes fresh in our lives.

Hot stuff

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Though it’s the most rewarding job in the world, sometimes it’s hard being a parent. I worry about everything and then I worry that I’m worrying too much. This is particularly true when it comes to my son’s health. He has a cough – do I call the doctor? His appetite is off – there must be something wrong – not that he’s just being a picky eater like his dad. He ate a penny – do we rush him to the emergency room?

I’m probably not alone in my fears, real and imaginary, over my child’s well-being. And I’m really not just some nervous mom who freaks out over everything relating to her child. Last year, Andrew spiked a high fever that wouldn’t go away.

I brought him to daycare one morning and he was a happy kid, eager to spend the day playing with his friends. Half way through the day, my cell phone rang. Caller ID told me it was daycare’s inside number – the one only used when they call to say there’s something wrong with your child.

I raced across town to find him curled up in a ball in the front office, whimpering and burning up. The thought of seeing him like that still breaks my heart.

The weeks that followed were full of trips to the pediatrician and every emergency room in the county. No one could explain to us why nothing would bring down his fever, which had crept up to 105 one very scary night that again landed us in the ER. Still unable to tell us what was wrong with Andrew, his doctors finally admitted him to the hospital. For six very long days we were cooped up in the hospital with the doctors running all kinds of tests and all kinds of tubes hooked up to my baby. They called in oncologists, radiologists, infectious disease specialists, urologists, nephrologists…we had a team of 9 doctors coordinating Andrew’s care.

Andrew’s case was apparently unusual, with none of his symptoms adding up to one clear diagnosis. We were at a teaching hospital, and they were all meeting daily to bat around his case, trying to figure out what was wrong. At one point someone tried to tell me this was a cool thing – they were discussing my son in a round table like they do on those medical shows on TV. It definitely wasn’t as cool to me as it was to them.

The good news in all of this is that we were released from the hospital and, other than the minor coughs and colds, Andrew’s been completely healthy. He also started walking the day we were released and has happily been cruising around on his own ever since.

So do I freak out a little bit every time my son runs a fever now? You bet I do.

But I also learned to trust my instincts. If something seems off, it probably is. And it’s okay to call the pediatrician a couple times to reassure yourself. That’s what they get paid for.

Ping, Whir, Babble…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Hi, I’m Grandpa Wednesday, and I’ll be sitting in for two weeks, while Wednesday Mom is visiting Husband/Daddy in Southeast Asia. Thanks to Navy scheduling, those two are finally getting the honeymoon they should have had seven years ago. But that’s another story…

We’ve now had 48 hours as “parents” of a two-year-old. The basics are coming back quickly, but there’s no doubt that many of the trimmings have changed. The first thing I noticed was the toys. When our kids were this age, it was the child who talked to the toy. (And we said, “Isn’t that adorable.”) Today, there are few toys that don’t whir, talk, or otherwise make their presence known. So far, none has initiated a conversation, but I’m suspicious that they may be plotting something.

Case in point: the trains. As you learned last week, Wednesday’s Child is in the midst of a “train phase.” His prize possessions include two complete sets of trains. The simple wooden ones I remember well, though the number of possible track pieces seems to have multiplied geometrically.

Set two is an engineer’s dream. At least five remote controlled locomotives, each with a wireless controller, its own sound effects, cars, people, and other accoutrements.  My Powerbook laptop is a simpler tool to use. From what I can tell, the object of the game is to get as many trains running at once as possible, then set them all to create a spectacular crash at the bottom of the mountain.

I’m mastering all of this slowly, but Wednesday’s Child seems unfazed. He simply moves from one controller to the next…pushing and pulling the levers to make it all go smoothly. Mind you, this is the same kid who can pull up the Thomas the Tank Engine videos on Mom’s iPhone in about the time it takes me to figure out how to answer mine.

Different isn’t bad; it’s just different. Today’s toddlers can be just as creative as yesterday’s; they just have a much larger palette of options from which to choose. What matters is that Mom or Dad… or even Grandma or Grandpa… are around to help and applaud at the next great accomplishment.

Excuse me… there seems to be a caboose off the track…

More later,
Grandpa Wednesday

We’re Going Bowling

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Potty Training… My son has been pee trained since he was barely 2-years old. He rarely ever has/had accidents. The other stuff, not so much success! I have tried EVERYTHING, read up on the subject, bought the books, tried the rewards, tried the punishments, sat him on the potty every 20-minutes, watched his cues, and everything else that everyone else has told me (and trust me, everyone has an opinion about WHY my child doesn’t want to poop on the potty).

My son has this obsession with bowling (it can be “real” bowling or the arcade style pins on strings). So, I came up with the brilliant plan to reward him for his “pooping in the potty” with a trip to the local arcade/bowling alley. Last Friday, guess what happened. We had a poopy in the potty! I asked my son who he would like to invite to go bowling, he replied “daddy.” So we got on the phone and called his father who agreed to meet us later that evening.

Arriving at the complex, my son blurted out “wow mama, a lot of people must have pooped on the potty today – look at all of the cars.” It is always funny to me how a 3-year old’s mind works. Of course everyone at the bowling alley had to be there because they too must have pooped on the potty. I wish I could tape all of those adorable comments and questions and save them for those days that I need a laugh.

We started our adventure at the “big balls.” In my son’s world, this is the “real bowling.” I am proud to say I had four strikes, my best game ever (and no, I didn’t use the bumpers). By about the sixth frame, my son was getting a bit tired of this “big ball bowling” and was ready to go to the other bowling. Well, we were going to finish our game. So I allowed him to bowl for me a few times.

Next stop, the small bowling game – this was quick and painless. Then we made the fatal mistake – deciding to eat dinner together at the complex. Obviously this was uncomfortable, since we have recently terminated our marriage. My son was starving by this point (NOT a good thing at 3-years old). So we went in and ordered our food, then I took the big boy back out to bowl the little game again while we waited for the grilled cheese to arrive.

It went downhill from there, as hunger took over. Ironically the man who has never disciplined our child AT ALL had the audacity to tell me that our child was being “bad, a brat, and I had no control.” I guess I find this ironic because I am actually much more strict than his father OR most of my friends. And we get compliments from strangers about his behavior. Yup, my little “angel” screamed, squealed, and disobeyed the rules. So after dinner, bowling night was done. And guess what I found about 3-hours later…… Poop in my son’s pants.

Sigh ~ maybe next time will be the time that it all “clicks.”

Escape Artist

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Bedtime has never been easy. He fights sleep until he literally can’t keep his eyes open anymore. It’s like he’s afraid if he conks out, even for a minute, he’s going to miss something.

Once the little guy mercifully passes out, he never stays asleep. He gets up 2, 3, sometimes 4 times a night. The doctor finally told us that we had to let him cry so he would learn to put himself back to sleep.

That was hard – particularly when he would start sobbing and calling out for his mommy. But we followed doctor’s orders. So we didn’t think much of it last week when he got up around 11 and started crying.

Except then we heard a tremendous THUMP over the baby monitor, followed by more howling. Hubby and I vaulted off the couch and raced up the stairs. As we reached the little guy’s room, he was opening his bedroom door!

Thinking it had to be a fluke, the next night we again put him back in the crib. A mere five minutes later, we heard the telltale BUMP of his feet hitting the floor. By the time we reached his room, he was sitting in the corner, playing with his toys, smiling broadly at his escape act.

So we can’t put the little guy back in his crib. We have been trying to get him a toddler bed, but it seems the entire world had the same idea. EVERYTHING is on back order until November. And in the meantime, we have him sleeping on his mattress on the floor.

I use the term sleeping loosely – because every 3 hours he is waking up and toddling into our room. Sometimes he throws open the door screaming “MOMMY! DADDY!” causing instant paranoia that the house is burning down or some other imagined tragedy in our sleep-induced haze. Other times, he creeps silently over to the bed and just stares at us until we open our eyes, disturbed by the eerie feeling that we were being watched.

No matter what we try, this little guy is not staying in his room. I figure we can’t be alone in this, so I’d love to hear what worked for you!

Thomas, Thomas and more Thomas…

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

There is no doubt that your child knows who Thomas the Train is. We all know how much fun it is to play with trains. The degree of imagination that electronic toys can’t master, trains can entertain just about everyone from toddlers to school age kids and even adults.

My son was first exposed to Thomas this past spring. At first he wasn’t too impressed, but over a short period of time his obsession has climbed to new levels. We made a trip home to PA this past summer for a couple of months. When he saw his older cousins had buckets and buckets full of Thomas items his brain kicked into gear and the wheels started turning. He quickly became so infatuated with all the trains that sometimes I wonder what is going through his mind. We were able to visit the Strasburg Railroad and spend a “Day out with Thomas.” The look of excitement on his face as we rode on the train was priceless. It was quite a thrilling day for both of us.

When my son sees Thomas or any of his friends faces on TV, in a book or on a dinner plate his eyes light up and he goes crazy..literally. Lately, it’s hard for me to shop in stores because my son can spot Thomas a mile away. Countless aisles are dedicated to every accessory known to man for this train set. Just when I think I’m in the clear and can leave a store without buying anything Thomas, my son will spot something four aisles over. We’ve spent hours at the demonstration tables, watched movies over and over and over, have built many tracks (which of course leads to trains crashing into one another) and have studied the brochure that comes with the trains. He knows 95% of them by name and can point to the correct one when asked.  It amazes me how he can memorize all the different faces and know them by name.  I am sure there are many other kids out there who have mastered all the train names and faces.. right??

To make learning fun for my son, I have been using his favorite toys, Thomas trains, as learning tools. We review colors, numbers, letters and shapes with his trains (as well as all their names). He has been doing a great job learning the basics. Thank goodness for Thomas and his friends!

Coming Back Home

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

A few short weeks ago, I moved from my rather large home to my parents’ small, 1960s ranch. To give you an idea, my house had two playrooms, an office, and my son and I each had our own rooms (with our own closets). Well, now we share a room (and a very tiny closet), my office is my red chaise and laptop, and the playroom is my parent’s living room.

It was surreal to me as I was hanging up clothes into the closet that I used for 20+ years. When I was 3, like my son, I slept in my crib in this very same room. I have to be honest, there is a huge part of me that enjoys being home and having my son sleeping right across the room, rather than 5 rooms away. Don’t get me wrong, eventually I do want to have my own bedroom again. But for now, it is nice to see him sleeping. This is a luxury that my light sleeper never gave me. I would open his door and hear “hey mama.”

In honor of “coming back home,” I have made a list of the five biggest surprises of returning to my parents’ house:

1. Shockingly, no one is getting on each other’s nerves yet. Yes, my dad runs around in his underwear. My son runs, screams, and makes messes. My mom and I have yet to run out of things to talk about during our late night chats. But be aware: if I ever forget to put a cover on a plate before I use the microwave (her only rule), I may begin to get on my mother’s nerves.

2. I truly think that everyone is better off with this multigenerational living. Cultures that practice this style of living, know what they are doing! One caveat: you have to actually all REALLY like each other for this to work! My son LOVES getting the extra hugs, kisses, and giggles from mammaw and papa. My parents are staying young listening to the pitter patter of his little feet. And I secretly think my mom loves that she wakes up to a clean counter, table, and dishes. We are truly the essence of teamwork.

3. Sometimes less is more. We are in a much smaller place right now. But you know what? That requires us all to be closer, in the same living area. Ironically, before we moved in my parents had the leaf in their table making it quite large. Once we moved in, we realized that it just wasn’t “intimate” enough, so we created a small circular table by removing that leaf. Again proving, less is more.

4. Okay there are times that sleeping in the same room as my son isn’t the greatest. Like at 4am when I hear, “hey mama, are you in here?” Or when I am laying there and really have to go to the bathroom, but don’t want to wake up my light sleeper with the creaky door. I also wonder how it will be, when we are in separate rooms again. How will he adjust?

5. The biggest surprise…My son and I are happy! We visit my son’s father a few days per week (he is currently residing in our former home). Sometimes we meet at the old house, other times at a park, and sometimes at other random locations. But when it is time to go, there are no tears. My son is ready to see mammaw and papa. When asked where he wants to go (which I am afraid his father sometimes does to try to feel vindicated himself), my son proudly says “home, to mammaw and papa’s house.”

Happy Grandparents Day Mammaw and Papa!

It gets easier

Friday, September 11th, 2009

There’s a chill in the air. The boys in pinstripes pulled it together and are in the hunt for the pennant. Our jackets have come out of the back of the closet. It must be time for fall.

I can’t write about back to school. My son isn’t old enough for school yet and his routine in going to daycare hasn’t changed. But this time of year reminds me of bringing the little guy to daycare for the first time. It was traumatic – and the trauma was all mine.

I was fortunate enough to spend 5 months at home with my son. You could probably count on one hand the number of hours that we had spent apart. When I went back to work, we would be away from each other at least 10 hours at a time. Over the course of my last month home, I planned to “transition” him into daycare and, by that, I really meant break myself in.

I made my husband come the first time I dropped our son off. We spent WAY too much time lovingly making up his crib, folding his spare clothes and putting his bottles in the fridge. After an hour away, I started getting twitchy and begged my husband to bring me back so we could reclaim our son.

My first day doing the drop off solo, I fought back tears the entire time, jaw quivering when I had to hand my baby over to the strangers who would be watching him. By the time I hit the car, I broke down into hysterical sobs. It took all my self control not to run back into the building and abduct my son.

I indulged the hysterics for a few minutes before pulling myself together. I went to my favorite diner for breakfast. I forced myself to keep busy. That lasted a little over 3 hours before I went racing back to daycare to reclaim my kid.

Those first days were the worst. In the ones that followed, the tears stopped, the lump in my throat got smaller and I could hand my son off to his caretakers with a genuine smile. There are still days where it’s hard to leave him in the morning, knowing that he’ll be spending virtually all of his waking hours with someone else. The time apart really does make us enjoy the time together even more.

So to those moms and dads who may be bringing their little ones to daycare or school for the first time this week, just remember, it gets easier.


Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. It is always one that is celebrated with flags, parades, BBQ’s, friends, family, good times and, of course, the start of football season!! It’s a holiday I remember fondly as a child as a last hurrah before the cool breezes of fall (and school) settled in.

Unfortunately, the past few years just haven’t felt like the Labor Day I always remembered. My husband was thousands of miles away, it was still extremely hot where I live, and family members were three time zones away. I want to make sure my son experiences fun adventures whether it be for a holiday or any day with or without daddy around. One thing I have learned about being in the military is the quality of friends. It is indescribable. We are all in the same “boat” when it comes to everyday life. Without my friends, my life would be dormant. And so, together with friends and kids of all ages, my son and I were able to celebrate a wonderful Labor Day weekend full of fun just as I remembered from my childhood.

We managed to keep ourselves busy all weekend. We played games, ran through sprinklers, I was able to participate in some much needed adult conversation, stayed up late watching movies, devoured some delicious picnic-like food (including ice-cream) and — best off all — received a phone call from my husband! As I tucked my son into bed, I asked him what his favorite part of the weekend was. His response was “pay fends.” (translation: play with friends)  It was one of those “mom moments.”  I was so happy to know that I had been successful in showing him how much fun everyone can have with their friends. (I was also happy to hear him speak with words to describe his feelings).

Taking life for granted is something from my past. The lessons, experiences, and tragedies I have learned from over the years make me grateful everyday for what I have. I can only hope I give back as much as I take in.

Back to School

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Fall has always been my favorite season. As a student, I loved getting organized for the new school year, finding out my teachers, and seeing all of my friends again (in my new clothes, of course). As a teacher, I loved fall because of the fresh beginnings. I secretly always loved the scheduling (which was difficult, but like a puzzle just waiting to be solved). I loved watching the kids walking in on the first day of school. As a mother, I love fall for the seasonal activities (love the local markets and farms that put up corn mazes and parks for the kids), hayrides, fairs, and more!

This year, my son is 3, the typical age that students begin preschool. I have been trying to decide if I should send him this year or not. I am sure there are moms reading this blog yelling “SEND HIM” and others yelling “WAIT.” As a work-at-home mom, it would be nice to have 2 hours to work a few days each week. But my son has had so many “new adventures” lately, is it time to throw something else on his plate? Or is too much change, too fast – – too bad?

I think most people do preschool for the socialization and education. I don’t worry much about either of these. My son is SO social and involved in a “cub scout” type program, playgroups with and without me, and one sport (either soccer, swimming, or gymnastics – depending on the season). He adjusts well to new situations, but prefers mama to be with him (is it wrong that I like that??). And education has never been an issue. I am certified for preschool through grade 8, and have my masters for K-12. And between my teaching business (which offers classes to preschoolers) and websites (like Grow Up Learning) there is SO much out there. I have been schooling him at home since he was two. He was a little speech delayed, so I thought I should work more academically with him (in a playful way). We do nothing formal, more learning through play, throughout our entire day. We do some activities from sites like Grow Up Learning (my son loves the physical and crafty activities the most).

We have focused on a letter, color, shape, and number each week. But we do not do workbooks, or a lot of sit down work in general. For example, during the week of St. Patrick’s Day last year, our color was green, and letter was m. We made letter “m” cookies using a cookie cutter and premade cookie dough sheets (one of the best inventions EVER). Then we decorated them with green icing. We talked about the words that started with M – March, mama, mammaw, milk, etc.. We listened for the “m” sound when we talked at dinner or drove around and talked to each other. We looked for the color green while out walking or driving (which in March is VERY easy to find). So, does my son need a more formal schooling for this school-year?

I went and toured a few preschools. The one that I liked had AM only for 3-year olds (and if I haven’t mentioned it, my son is NOT a morning person – yes, neither am I). Another one that was decent was 20-minutes away. I am not sure if getting in 6-hours of work (per month) is worth the drive or cost. I found some great places for NEXT year. But you know, I get a “gut feeling” when making decisions. And I just didn’t have a “YES” feeling at any of these places. Why are these simple decisions so monumental?

Little man is staying home for another year. I got a phone call from my neighbor (and close friend) and we are going to do a babysitting co-op. Our sons are a few months apart and like brothers. We are each going to take both boys for 3-hours per week. So we both will have 3-hours of time to work (or in her case, take care of her ill aunt). The boys will have each other to play and socialize. While the boys are together, I can easily plan and find educational activities. And we both are going to focus on certain skills each week WITH the boys. I am going to try some more formal “reading readiness” type activities. And I am going to TRY to be more organized and purposeful with our learning. Is it strange that I am secretly excited to be the one that teaches my son all of his letters, numbers, math, reading, etc?? I love that “ah ha” moment in kid’s eyes, when it all clicks. I surely hope I can balance this adventure! I will keep you all posted. Until next Monday – enjoy all of your new adventures, take life one day at a time, and remember to give and get those kisses and hugs now (someday they will be teenager, and we will not be cool anymore).