"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, September 26, 2011

best friends

If you only have one child and are contemplating having a second, there may be a part of you that is worried that the Second Baby will do nothing but ruin the life of your First Baby. Even if you KNOW that you want more than one child, you may still be concerned about how your heart will fit the love for more than one...after all, it's already bursting at the seams.

And you're sad to think of your time, that is now dedicated to the care, entertainment, and need-fulfillment of your Baby, that will have to be divided between two. How will you manage to be everything to both of them all at the same time?

And then, there's the sibling rivalry. You're envisioning a lifetime of resentment; of bitterness and competition, pitting your two children against one another as they both vie for the attention and affection of you, their only Mother.

But just you wait.

There will be less-than-Rockwell moments, to be sure,  but the good will outweigh the bad by a factor of a million. Your heart will grow to hold them both, with room to spare. But more than that, you will bear witness to evidence of their love for each other, and those moments will replace any fears you had prior to or during your pregnancy. You will realize, a million times over before that Second Baby even turns two years old, that you didn't ruin anything for the First. You gave him the Very Best Gift you could ever give him. And you'll be filled with happy anticipation of how the addition of the Third will only Triple the Love Fest.

And all will be right in the world.

Today was a Rockwell kind of a day. (Well, after the banshee screaming that accompanied a tug-of-war over the Big Dump Truck, which ended with the Big Dump Truck in Toy Time Out and both boys claiming innocence and outrage over the injustices of the world....but we'll just focus on the Love Fest that followed...)

Max woke up from nap with time to spare for a quick snuggle and a snack before it was time to pick Evan up from school. When it was time to go, I asked Max to find his shoes.

"Go get Evan?" he asked.
"Yup, it's time to pick up Evan."
"At school?"
"Yes. School is over, so it's time to bring him home."
"Oh.....YAY!....I miss Evan!"

And my heart filled to the brim.

We arrived at school to find a very happy big brother, who came running over to us with a huge smile on his face and arms outstretched. I started to bend down to catch his hug, when I realized that he wasn't aiming for me...

"MAX!!" he called, as he enveloped his brother in a rare not-too-tight hug.
"I miss you Evan!" Max responded.

As they continued to hug, Ms. S smiled over their heads and said to me, "We talked about friends today and Evan had a LOT to say about his 'best friend,' Max."

And my heart started to overflow just a bit.

"Close your eyes, Max," said Evan, "I have something to show you."
Max closed his eyes and Evan led him over to the cubby area. He opened all three zippered pockets of his backpack, digging around for the surprise. Max waited patiently with his eyes closed, every few seconds saying, "Okay, Evan. My eyes closed."

And then Evan found them...


"They're Friendship Bracelets, Max!" he said, as he put one around Max's wrist. "I made one for me and one for you. We're best friends."
"Wow!" said Max, "Fank you, Evan!"

And my heart split wide open.

Lesson Learned:
Have that second baby. And then a third.

Friday, September 16, 2011

AIRPLANE!

As much as I love the movie, (excepting Ghostbusters, of course, is there a better comedy from the 80s?) I am not a fan of actually being on an Airplane. I'm just not a very good flier. I'm the bad kind of flier that can't even dull the pain by having a few pre-flight drinks....too nervous.

On our honeymoon, we had to fly, through the rain, to what I was afraid would be our final destination in a tiny 6-seater tin can with wings. If I wasn't still riding my wedding-high, I wouldn't have gotten on the plane.  I watch the scenes on The Bachelor, where the "happy" couple are crammed together in an itty bitty helicopter or seaplane, needing headphones to talk to each other, with sweaty palms wondering how on Earth so many people can "honestly" utter the phrase, "This is something I've ALWAYS wanted to do!" Liars.

And so, I've flown very few times in my life, and only when necessary. In fact, I haven't flown at all in the last 6+ years. And I was Totally Fine With That.

But then....
Then we decided to visit my Mom Mom in Florida. Evan had been begging to go back to her Beach House for months and I was looking forward to a visit with my mom's mom. We've made the 14-hour drive many times but we're going for a quick long-weekend this time and can't afford to devote that much time to travel in exchange for lost beach/visiting time.

And then....
Sam's sister and her boyfriend decided to get married! In Texas! Which is practically un-drivable no matter how long you plan to stay.

And THEN!
My brother and his girlfriend decided to get married!! In MONTANA! Which, short of renting an RV, (which is too close to camping for comfort in my book) is TOTALLY un-drivable unless you're a bunch of college kids on a road-trip to Wherever, Man!

Which we're not. We're a family of one normal adult, one neurotic adult, one worrier preschooler, and one Wild Thing toddler. How the hell are we going to manage flying? Not to mention the fact that when we make our near-cross country flights for the weddings, we'll add to that chaos a teeny tiny baby.

At dinner tonight, Evan was in tears, demanding that we drive. (Same kid that refuses to ride the preschool's school bus on field trips. Same kid that, at a local festival where kids can get into and push the buttons of and turn on the sirens of dozens of REAL (parked) work trucks, rescue vehicles, etc., prefers instead to stand at a distance, hands over his ears, saying, "Wow. Cool." Same kid that swears up and down that he's going to drive a backhoe or a grapple loader or a giant excavator or a hook and ladder fire truck when he grows up. A kid can dream....)

Max had to be forcibly removed from the library today because of his Wild Thing behavior (but I'll eat him up, I love him so). Can you IMAGINE him on a PLANE?

And then there's me.

And an infant.

On a plane.

Three separate times.

Shirley, I can't be serious.

Lesson Learned:
So help me figure out how to convince my four-year old to get onto the plane (I'm thinking lollipops and marshmallows?) and how to keep my 2-year old occupied during the flight. Also, feel free to share any other tips, tricks, must-haves, and helpful reminders of how to successfully, safely, and sanely travel with little ones.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

mind your manners

Now I know I'm no Emily Post....but sometimes it's not so much a matter of etiquette as it is just plain Being Polite.

....

The other day, as I was leaving the grocery store with a cart full of groceries and two happy kiddos driving the car cart, an elderly gentleman smiled and said, "My! Don't YOU have your hands full?" Now, I know he was just trying to be friendly, but really? Hands full? Actually, sir, I'm feeling quite hands-free today. See that Wild One in the passenger seat? See how he's strapped in and contentedly honking his horn? We're just fine today. Wanna see my hands full? Come with me to Target. So, yes, I admit it: We have our not-so-pretty moments. And sometimes my hands may be full. But they're full by choice, and I like them that way. If you happen to come across a Mom with her hands truly full, (juggling a slippery toddler hoisted on her hip, balancing an armful of shopping bags on the other side of her growing baby belly, and guiding a preschooler out the door with her elbow, for example) hold the door for her. That's all. She can handle the rest.

....and....

Don't tell anyone, at anytime, that she looks tired. Especially if that person is a pregnant mother. She is tired. She knows it. She doesn't need to be reminded of the fact. And besides, she chose babies over sleeping-in and reading the Sunday paper over (hot, not reheated) coffee on purpose. It's a small price to pay.

....and....

Can you believe that *four* people on *four* separate occasions have asked me if this baby was "planned or......?" !!! FIRST of all, what's with the trailing off? You're bold enough to question, basically, my birth control responsibility, but you're too shy to say the word "accident?" SECONDLY, this baby was definitely "planned." We have always known that we would love to have At Least Three Kids, and we've been very lucky.  However, if this baby WERE a Happy Surprise, do you really think I'd tell you, Oh, Neighbor I Can't Even Confidently Address By Name Because We Don't Know Each Other? Or, Acquaintance Sitting Next To Me At The Baby Pool? Or, Fellow Mommy In The Mommy and Me Gym Class? Or, Stranger Standing Behind Me In Line At Kroger? Please. And finally, not that this question would EVER be appropriate, but this is my THIRD baby!! Is it really so surprising that families would want more than two children?!

Lesson Learned:
As a basic rule of thumb: If it's none of your business to know the answer, don't ask the question. And if you MUST say something to the Mommy you're walking past, just offer a genuine smile and say, "Your children are beautiful." We all can agree with that.

Monday, September 12, 2011

make-your-own rice table

My boys sure are lucky. Not only do I spend an embarrassing amount of time on preschool/mommy blogs and Pinterest (thanks a LOT, Meghan), but I have some Really Clever and Creative Friends. And from these blogs, that damned time-suck Pinterest, and my very creative friends, I steal. All. The. Time. I steal their recipes, I steal their crafts projects, and I steal their Entertain The Kiddos Ideas. And my kids are all the more well-fed, subjected to arts and crafts, and thoughtfully entertained because of it.

This idea comes from an amalgamation of suggestions from two of my Most Clever Mommy Friends, Meghan and Krissy. These two former teachers were born to be around children. They were two of the best teachers that I ever had the good-fortune to teach beside, and their kiddos are some of the luckiest kids on the planet. And Holy Cuteness, you guys need to brace yourselves if you ever happen to be in a room with all four of their babes at once. 

So here it is, our latest Stolen Idea. We put together a Rice Table.

We already have the requisite outdoor toys, sand box and water table. But this we'll keep indoors. Great for too hot or too cold weather...especially when the Baby is here and we need a low-key entertainment option.

We started with a large under-the-bed storage box. I chose one with wheels to make putting it away in storage (the floor of our large coat closet near our family room) a cinch. Make sure to get one with a locking mechanism to keep the lid in place when not in use.  I added three largish-size bags of rice and...the best part...Rainbow Star-Shaped Pasta! The stars are itty bitty and I divided 4 1-lb. boxes among six large Ziploc bags. To each bag we added a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring (just add a drop at a time until you get the color saturation you're going for, especially in the secondary colors, orange and purple...you'll probably find green coloring pretty easily). Squish up the bag until all of the pasta is dyed and let dry. I kept my bags sealed overnight, then opened them to let them finish drying the next day.


The kids jumped right in. Max immediately began grabbing handfuls to fill up the measuring cups and other small containers I included in the box.


Evan started a bit more slowly, first using some of the tools I included (spoons, popsicle sticks, stirrers, cups with handles, etc.) in order to avoid hand-to-rice contact. This is a great Sensory Table for kids with tactile sensitivities or Sensory Processing Disorder. It allows for graduated sensory involvement (for instance, using tools first, before getting fully submersed in rice), unlike shaving cream (which Evan was unwilling to play with until just recently) or sand (which is hard to get unstuck from between the fingers, causing extreme discomfort to some kids).



Before long, all the pasta mixed up with the rice making the whole box "Rainbowed," according to Evan (and "Pitty!" according to Max).


And Evan began to get a little bolder, using the work trucks (a MUST at any play space in this house) to get a bit closer to the rice.


Meanwhile, Max got busy making me soup and birthday cakes.


Until finally, after about half an hour, Evan Made Contact.  And after he mustered the courage to do it, Evan proclaimed, "It feels good! Soft and silky. It's not itchy!" Total Sensory Success.


And, to no one's surprise, Max didn't stop with Hand Exploration. This kid's sensory experience is more of a Whole Body Experience. And he loved every minute of it.


Lesson Learned:
Fair Warning: This is an indoor project not for the Anti-Vacuuming-After-Play. Although I put a large picnic blanket under the bin, rice was Everywhere. It vacuums up easily, though, so I hope that doesn't deter you. If you want your kids to use it outdoors, just make a portable table. It shouldn't be kept outdoors all the time as it will attract bugs. 

I really can't believe it's taken me so long to put this activity together. Both boys really loved it and benefited from the sensory exploration. They didn't realize that's what they were doing, though. Evan was just a Worker Man at a Job Site and Max was just hard at work, mixing and stirring and cooking up a storm in his kitchen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

independence

"Water, pease, Mommy? I do it, Big Boy."



Oops...dropped the cup.



Try again...




Hmmmm....enough?


Nope.


Enough!



So proud.


Lesson Learned:
This adorable feat was followed by a full cup of water all over the floor. And tears over spilled water. So he did it Again.

more fishing fun

These boys love fishing. It may have something to do with the fact that the three times they've gone Real Fishing with Daddy, they've caught real fish. (Sam is worried that he's inadvertently created Unrealistic Fishing Expectations.) They also love Pretend Fishing, which is when they find any stick-shaped object and try to pick up any other object with it. Or just sit, legs dangling over the arm of the couch, with "rod" in hand and announce, "I'm fishin'!"  We've fashioned a real pretend fishing game in the past, which is still among the favorite games in the house that isn't truck-driving or couch-jumping or brother-chasing.

Today, we made a new version.

Pipe Cleaner Fishing!




The interest in the game lasted longer for Big than it did for Little, who preferred to use the pipe cleaners to accessorize. He wore them until lunch time. I love this kid.


Lesson Learned:
We string beads on pipe cleaners for fine motor practice (and addition/number sense...each pipe cleaner is like a mini-abacus). We make sculptures and, yes, glasses/bracelets/crowns/necklaces with them. We wind them around pencils and make little springs to boing to (and at) each other. And now we fish with them. Best part is, you use them how you want to today, straighten them out and reuse them in another way tomorrow. Practically free, creative, quiet fun.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

preschool diaries: welcome to the oaks

Last night was a sad night in our house. And this morning was a Very Sad morning. There were lots of tears, lots of times when a skinny four-year old body crumpled to the floor awaiting the Mommy to come and scoop him up and reassure him, lots of "But, [sniff] I wanna stay home with you and Max!"'s, two nervous tummies, and lots of holding back grown-up sized tears.

And then, after a seemingly endless sad morning, it was time to go to school.

So two little boys put on their Brand New Big Boy Shoes, one little boy put on his Brand New Big Boy Backpack, and the three of us braced ourselves against the torrential downpour as we hurried into our car...I mean, VAN.

(Our pre-preschool photo shoot. The first shot was natural, then I tried to make him laugh.)




(and succeeded.)


When we arrived in the Outstanding Oaks classroom, I showed Evan over to his cubby, where he would keep his things. As I was balancing his backpack, raincoat, and lunchbox on his tiny, crowded-by-other-backpacks/raincoats/and lunchboxes-hook, he stood close to me, one hand on my shoulder, eyes peeking around the room.

And then he saw the Construction Center. This classroom has an area of the room that I'm pretty sure the teachers designed with Evan in mind. There are blocks, a fully-stocked tool bench, construction trucks of every job imaginable, a castle building set, a Lincoln Log building set, a marble maze, and various other tool/construction/building materials and toys, including doll houses and "family" transportation vehicles, like an airplane ("for vacations") and a van with a roof that pops up ("for camping"). Doesn't get much cooler than that. (Although, with a mother like me, I'm not sure how he knows what "camping" is.)

"Um, while you're doing this.....can I go play?" he said.

"Are you sure you're ready?" I asked....

"Yup!" And he was off.

He wandered around for a bit considering the blocks, and then the tool bench, and then the building set, but not choosing anything in particular. His teacher approached him and said, "Oh, Evan! I love your shoes!" (Brand new black and white Converse Low-Tops that he picked out all by himself. Love that kid.) "I have some just like that at home," she continued, "Can we wear them on the same day and be twins?" And he looked at her with his eyes twinkling and a smile peeking out of the corner of his mouth.

I chatted with his teacher for a minute while I watched him navigate the blocks and trucks area. When he saw that another little boy had already set up all the trucks, he watched for a beat or two before saying, "Can I have the orange backhoe?" Luckily, the kid was the kind of kid who responded with a "Sure!" instead of a "No. I had if first." That could have caused a Major Setback. Instead, I watched as my Big Boy and the new friend played, independently yet side-by-side, with their trucks.

And then it was time. And so I gave a quick and quiet, "Goodbye, my love, I'll see you after school," received a teensy smile and a wave in response, and left the room with my Maxwell, off to spend a Mommy and Me morning together at a gym and art class (followed by a lunch date at Tropical Smoothie, which very well may be our new Wednesday routine).

***

And then there was Pick-Up. Max and I tip-toed into the room during Story Time. Evan was sitting on the carpet with the rest of the class (holding the "I love you, Evan!" lunchbox note I had written this morning). He spotted me and gave me a little grin, but didn't move, so I gave a little smile and wave and continued on through the classroom to wait in line to chat with his other teacher. After a minute or so, I heard a very familiar, Very Grumpy voice say, "I'm going home now." And then the meltdown began.

As I tried to discreetly motion him over to me with a, "Yes, we're going home now," look, his teacher began to tell me that he had fallen asleep during Rest Time (uh oh) and they had to wake him up (yikes) and that he had a "pretty grumpy" afternoon (well, they did, after all, disturb a sleeping grizzly). Evan does not arouse gently. More often than not, we're left wondering if there even IS a right side of his bed. And that's when he wakes on his own. Don't EVEN get me started on the wrath you face when you interrupt his slumber.

Evan is a highly sensitive child. (It's a technical term. I've read the book.) When he's uncomfortable (physically, emotionally, socially, medically, whatever) life isn't just "uncomfortable," it's unbearable. Transitions are really hard on him. He needs transition countdowns and verbal cues leading up to the end or start of an activity and needs some support and time to adjust in the new situation. Being awoken in a strange room, by a strange person, in a stimulating environment, with 11 other kids running around, is a big transition that is sure to make most people feel "uncomfortable." We've spent the last year starting to figure him out and finding ways to keep him comfortable in every way we can while maintaining a healthy family dynamic (i.e. he doesn't always get his way, even if that IS the only way to avoid a tantrum of epic proportions). And it'll take time for his teachers to figure him out (on their own and with our input) and it'll take time for Evan to find his place in his new classroom.

And so I know this. I know that every school year is going to bring with it a necessary Adjustment Period. But knowing that didn't make it any easier to hear Evan wail on the way home, "I don't EVER want to go back to school. EVER!" between sobs.

[heart. breaking.]

And so we arrived home, softened the afternoon with First Day of School Cupcakes and quiet time with the Wild Kratts on pbskids.org, and salvaged the rest of the day. More or less. He was able to tell us some Good Parts about his day...and didn't freak out when I mentioned going back to school on Friday.

He was asleep before 7:30 and that's AFTER his nap.

My poor baby.

Lesson Learned:
Fingers crossed for a wide-awake rest time on Friday...