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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

holiday highlights

Here are just a few of my favorite moments from Christmas...

Christmas Eve, as we were preparing the house for Santa's arrival, Evan let us in on a little secret: "You know something? Santa likes chocolate milk best. We should make his milk chocolatey."

Evan came tip-toeing into our room at 6:45 Christmas morning, not quite sure it was late enough. When he saw Max, and realized that it was, the first words out of his mouth had nothing to do with the presents. He said, "I can't wait to see if Santa and Mrs. Claus liked our cookies!" (Not sure why he thought Mrs. Claus would be in attendance.)

It took Evan three hours to open all of his presents. Literally.

It took Max minutes to open all of his presents....and then he stood at the pantry signing "Please" for breakfast. When we didn't immediately go over to help him, he took it upon himself to open the pantry, reach up for the Cheerios box, and bring it over to the family room. Mr. Independent.

Evan loved his surprises from Santa, but for the first time this year, I saw that Magic Moment: Back in September, we were at Target and Evan saw a tractor trailer truck from the movie Cars. He loved it and said, "I really wish I could have that truck." I told him that he could put it on his Christmas list and maybe Santa would bring it to him. When he opened the present and saw that tractor trailer truck (this was at about hour 2:45 in the 3-hour unwrapping process), his mouth hung open in stunned silence. After a pause he said, "This is JUST what I ALWAYS wanted!" He remembered wanting it, and it hit him that sometimes, wishes do come true.

Max has coveted Evan's baby doll for weeks now. Evan only really wants anything to do with the doll when he sees Max heading for it, but once there was even a wrestling match over it (and I had my first glimpses of my boys fighting over a girl--yikes). Naturally, Santa was THRILLED to be able to give Max his very own baby doll for Christmas...you know, since he loves baby dolls so much. Only, Max won't have anything to do with it. In fact, when Max walked into the family room Christmas morning, he saw a brand new Max-sized chair from Santa, and sitting in the chair was the baby doll. Max went right over to that chair, grabbed the baby doll by the arm and flung it across the room. The only time Max expressed any interest in the doll whatsoever, was when Evan was looking at it.

Santa brought Evan a whole Playmobile Construction Site. There are cranes and excavators and conveyor belts and skid steers and lots of Construction Workers. I was playing with him yesterday afternoon and we ran into a little confusion....he kept calling all the workers "Guy." So it went like this, "You tell your guy to come over to my guy and say, 'Hey, guy, can I see your crane cab?' And then my guy will say to your guy, 'Okay, guy, and you can move the controls like this.' And then the guy will move the guy's controls." So I suggested that he come up with some names for all the Guys. Okay, well you may remember that Evan has some.....issues....with naming things. Like....Training Pants the fish. And Bear Ticklish the Elf.....Anyway, here's the conversation:
Me: You know, you could give each of the guys names. Like....Joe or Thomas.
Evan: [thoughtful deliberation] Okay, my guy is Workman and your guy is Mr. Workman.
Me: Well....okay, but what about something like Ed or Pedro?
Evan: Oh, okay. So this guy is Hand and that guy is also Hand.
Me: [OMG, what is WITH this kid?] Why don't you think of DIFFERENT names for each guy?
Evan: OH! This guy is JoJo and yours is CoCo.
Me:..............Let's just call them all Guy.

But my favorite moment of the whole day....even better than the squeals of delight with each discovered toy....even better than the hugs and kisses and the shouts of "Thank You Santa!"....even better than spending 12 straight hours in one room of the house and not getting bored and not getting tired of each other......was this:

...two snuggly boys, still in their Santa jammies, watching a pre-bathtime Christmas special together after a long, magical day.

Lesson Learned:

Truly, the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

play with your food

Today we made Yogurt Finger Paint!Or....in Evan's case....Yogurt Regular Paint.
Lesson Learned:
Looks like we'll stick with the edible art supplies for awhile......

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the cavewoman in me

There is nothing like pregnancy and motherhood to better remind us just how primal we are.....still. Regardless of the evolution of our species that has brought us to where we are--and who we are--today....Regardless of the technology that exists now to make life Easier, Faster, Better....Regardless of how much research has taught us and how much we Know....Regardless of just how Civilized we all are....the raw emotions, the instinctual behaviors, the way the body and the mind and the heart Just Know what to do, all remind us that as much as things change, so much more stays the same.

The first time I recognized just how amazing and Bigger Than Me my Pregnant Body was, I was about 24 weeks into my pregnancy with Evan. I wasn't a big meat-eater, but had craved meat--particularly hamburgers....particularly McDonald's hamburgers--my entire pregnancy. Just past the halfway point, however, I Could Not Get Enough red meat. I would stop by Mickey D's on my way home from work and order a hamburger. Then I'd get home and cook spaghetti with meat sauce. It came as little surprise then, when my Obstetrician called to tell me that my bloodwork came back showing that I was anemic. As it turned out, I had been self-medicating. An iron-supplement helped restore my iron levels and my cravings subsided to less-nauseating desires.

And then, my baby was born. And I had a job to return to. I had dreaded the thought. In fact, I refused to acknowledge the thought of returning to work. But I had to. We had just bought a big new house--I had to. And then, two weeks before my contract was going to start, I realized that I just couldn't. It was suddenly clear to me that I would, literally, sell the house. Hell, sell a car. I just wouldn't, no....COULDN'T, leave my baby. It wasn't a choice. The Cavewoman in me was baring her teeth and thumping her chest. And when I called Sam at work and told him, he recognized her. He came home from work that day with financial statements, spreadsheets, and the understanding that you don't mess with Mama. We worked it out.....and ended up keeping both the house and the car.
.....Months later, Evan had an anaphylactic reaction to trace amounts of milk in the rice cereal I was feeding him. My first thought, once I was assured that he was alright, was: What if this had happened at daycare? What if it wasn't trace amounts of milk that he was exposed to, but an entire bottle of milk-based formula? I literally shudder when I think about it.

There have been countless moments of Cavewoman Mama since then....mostly protective instincts, gut-feelings, and the unbelievably amazing way that the body prepares for and behaves during labor and delivery.

And then this....
Last week, I weaned Max after fourteen months of breastfeeding. He had self-weaned within the last few months down to three feedings a day: before nap, before bed, and at 5 am when he woke up too early and came into our bed. A few weeks ago I was able to help him to drop the naptime feeding and he handled it beautifully. I decided to drop the last two feedings at the same time because it didn't make sense for me to feed him at 5 am and not bedtime....and quite frankly, I didn't want to fight with him at 5 am. I wanted to just tell him that we were All Done Nursing. He knows All Done. He signs All Done with great gusto when ready to get out of the high chair. It made sense.

And it worked!

He whined a bit, but seemed to understand. He went to bed beautifully and slept well.....and has every night since. He's such a good boy.

I'm not doing quite so well. I don't remember going through this with Evan....but with Evan, weaning was a much more gradual process....but I'm having this very strange distant feeling from Max right now. It's not just because we're lacking the snuggle time we used to have twice a day....it's more than that....it feels...biological....primal....Cavewoman. At one point in our evolutionary history, it would have benefited a No-Longer-Nursing Mother to feel an emotional wall between herself and her No-Longer-Nursing Baby...it would allow her to attend to a new baby, perhaps, or for the Baby to be off learning hunting and gathering skills from the older Cavekids. I don't feel sad about this....I'm just noticing it. I know that once my hormones rebound from this transition we'll be right back on track. And I'm still connected. He's still my little lovey....my boo boo boy....my fat little buddha baby......

...he's just a little more Big Boy now.

Lesson Learned:
Sometimes you need to put away the parenting books and resist the urge to Google and just Be a Mother.

Friday, December 17, 2010

baby loves pot roast

I have never in my life bought beef that wasn't already ground up. Seriously. I've also never bought any meat still on a bone. I'm not really adventurous when it comes to cooking or eating meat, but this recipe looked really perfect for a snow day. I had to bring a cheat sheet with me to the store to ensure that I got the right kind of meat for this one. I was looking for Beef Chuck Roast. The cuts of meat were packaged to look like really big steaks. It had a sticker on it that said, "meat for marinating." Hopefully that helps any other meat-buying novice out there.
Crock Pot Roast
recipe adapted from Parents magazine
2 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into large-ish chunks
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
2 cups dry pasta (I used rotini)
baby carrots
green beans
Coat crock pot with cooking spray. Put in chunked meat, spaghetti sauce, and water. Cook on low for 7.5 hours. Add uncooked pasta, carrots, green beans, and peas (or whatever other veggies you have on hand) and cook on high for 45 minutes. Throw in a handful of baby spinach leaves for the last 5-10 minutes.
I've never eaten or seen "pot roast," so I'm not sure what the traditional consistency is, but this is like a super hearty pasta dish. The meat is fairly shredded by the end and the larger chunks can be cut with a fork. Most of the liquid is absorbed, so it's not soupy at all.
Lesson Learned:
A super easy, super delicious meal that your whole family will love. Seriously, even Evan liked this one. Well, minus the noodles and veggies and with all the "sauce" scraped off the meat, which he then dipped in ketchup. But add raw carrots and pear slices and even he ate a balanced meal!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day!

Which around here means.....

Lesson Learned:

Good for the soul.

Friday, December 10, 2010

just what the doctor ordered

I have witnessed tantrums that deserve to be written about on several occasions. I have watched a baby writhe in defiant anger and a preschooler become so unbelievably obstinate that it takes every ounce of control to see the situation through to the end. I have felt my blood pressure rise at the sights and sounds of my children acting in ways that I thought only Other People's Children acted.

But none of this could have prepared me for today. Today is a day that will live in infamy. At least in my own memory. Today is a day that, in similar future situations (god help me), I will refer back to in an attempt to deescalate an impending public tantrum. From this point onward, today will be known as The Day I Tried to Get Both Boys Vaccinated at The Same Time All By Myself.

Holy, Tantrum.

Now that I've had time to regain my composure (and pour a healthy-sized glass of wine), let's take a look back, shall we?

The calendar square was marked, but I had put this day out of my mind until late last night. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was to bring a doctor-shy, one-year old and a I'll-Do-What-I-Want three-year old to get flu shots in the morning. With no Daddy Reinforcements. Hmmmm....time to strategize. Older one first? Younger one first? Pin-'em-down and poke 'em or take a more gentle Here's What's Going To Happen approach? Decisions, decisions....

Before the appointment this morning, I talked to Evan about what was going to happen. Luckily, I had some pretty enticing errands to run today, so I worked in a little bribery: "So, Evan, today we're going to get our Flu Vaccines. I need you to be a Big, Brave, Big Brother because Max might feel a little nervous about it. You don't need to be nervous about it because YOU know that a shot pinches for a minute but doesn't hurt for long." This was met with deliberate avoidance of eye-contact. "And besides, after the super-fast visit to the doctor, we get to do so many fun things! We get to go to the toy store that has the train table that you love to play with so much! We ALSO get to go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make cookies this afternoon! Doesn't that sound like fun?!" Evan perked up at this, but still seemed a bit reserved. I dropped it for awhile. Later, during snack, I said, "Okay, let's finish up, it's just about time to go get our vaccinations!" At this, Evan crossed his arms across his chest and put on his best grouchy face, "I am NOT going to go. THAT is my decision." Oooooooookay. So that's how we're going to play.

Somehow we got TO the doctor's office without incident. We even got into the room without so much as a whine. I bear-hugged Max and exposed his chubby thigh. Evan dutifully held Max's hand while the baby got poked and said, "It's okay, sweet lovey." And then. Then the nurse looked at Evan. Then he stomped to the door and crossed his arms and said, "I'm just walking out this door." So I said, "Not just yet, hon..." And then It Was On. Full-force, kicking, flailing, screeching, yelling. At one point he was under a row of chairs with a death-grip on the legs on either side of him. He was growling and thrashing. I would not have been surprised if he had started foaming at the mouth. It was animalistic.

And Max. My poor, sweet, just-got-a-shot baby. Instead of getting hugs and loves from Mommy, he was standing in the middle of the room, somehow avoiding the fray, just hysterical. Purple-face, breath-holding, screaming sobs to the point of shaking. It was the most upset he has ever been. And yes, I do remember how upset he was, just last week, when I was holding a nebulizer mask over his face.

Somehow I was able to get Evan into a bear-hug and said/yelled to the nurse (who was sweating as badly as I was), "JUST DO IT."
And it was done.
But it wasn't DONE, because *I* wasn't done. I, who had just gotten a more intense workout than I have since labor....I, who, was so embarrassed by the behavior that my child displayed that I am contemplating switching pediatric practices...I, who, felt so sorry for my younger child, who was exposed to such an ugly outburst....I, who, admittedly, hold grudges....wasn't ready to move on to a Happy Day quite so easily as my 3-year old.

The 12-minute drive home was a 12-minute lecture. Which, I know, was about 11.5 minutes longer than my 3-year old was able to pay attention. We got home and it was Time Out for a LONG time. Time Out in our house is really just a cool-down/separation time. It's time alone in his room, but he can do whatever he wants there, as long as he's not throwing a tantrum and stays put until we go in to Talk. I wasn't ready to Talk for close to an hour. Wanna know what he said when I finally went in there?

"Wow, Mommy. I just had such a nice time reading my books."


This kid knows Exactly how to push my buttons.

We somehow got through the afternoon. I was stilling holding on tight to my grudge (I'm working on that, by the way), but I was able to be a present and pleasant Mommy. Sam got home and I headed out for my own Time Out. Time to cool down.....Time by myself. I headed to the grocery store, so I could at least feel like I was checking something off The List.
Guess what I found?
And guess what I'm doing tonight?
Lesson Learned:

Mommy's Time Out was just what the doctor ordered. I got home to three happy guys, eating dinner together. Had some snuggle time, reading on the couch with the littles before heading up for baths and bedtime. And again, am reminded to Not Sweat The Small Stuff and be thankful. Oh, and next time, Daddy has Shot Duty.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

true balance. ENOUGH!

My poor little Maxwell.

Last week, ear infection.

Monday, bronchiolitis. Breathing treatments every four hours. Not sleeping. Not eating. Not his easy-going, happy-go-lucky self. He's been a Hold-Me kid for the past three days. He's been a raspy, rattly, wheezy, pitiful little thing.

And then, this:

And this:

And this:
As it turns out, this is Exactly what a penicillin allergy looks like. Yesterday was Day 10 of Amoxicillin that was prescribed for the ear infection. Most reactions to the drug occur as a pinprick rash on Day 9 and a widespread spotty rash on Day 10. He was right on schedule. So, out with one, in with another, that's how it seems like allergies work around here.

But that's okay. When I saw this baby at 4:30 this morning with these red spots all over his poor little wheezy body, I was Worried. Like the kind of worried where you know you don't need to race to the ER, but you're wondering if you will soon. A penicillin allergy is the best news I could have heard at the doctor this morning. Well, that coupled with the clear lungs and "beautiful" ears that the check-up revealed....it was a good appointment.

And now my poor little spotty, but not-as-wheezy baby is enjoying his first Good Nap all week, thanks to a healthy dose of Benadryl.

Lesson Learned:
As is always true, it's helpful to look at the bright side.

Today, I am thankful for a penicillin allergy, and am thinking of Kristin and Isabella. Today, Kristin, a fellow food allergy mama, is sitting at Isabella's bedside. The four-year old has been having seizures caused by meningitis. She is in a drug-induced coma and has sustained an as-yet-undetermined amount of damage to her brain. Her daughter may never be the same once she recovers from this illness, and yet even Kristin is thankful that her daughter, though changed, is still with her.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

preschool diaries: a big day

Evan played with Play-Doh today.

AND he played with a fire truck and a delivery truck at the Toy Store set up in the Home Living Center.

AND he drew this picture of his family:

AND he ATE SNACK. ("Apples, bananas, grapes, AND raisins. I was a big mouth boy.")

AND he watered the plants as the classroom helper.

AND, at group time, he told the whole class that his little baby brother was so sick that he had to go to the doctor. And at the doctor, he had to wear a mask to help him breathe. And now he has to wear the mask at home to help him breathe, but not all the time.

Lesson Learned:
Maybe all this time he thought he was allergic to school, too.

Monday, November 29, 2010

a balanced universe

The banner headline from today would read: Evan Passes Milk Challenge. The bi-line, however, would read: Max Has Bronchiolitis. I want to be celebrating that unbelievably wonderful and unexpected headline tonight with a family trip to Sweet Frog. Instead, I'm counting down the minutes until I can give my baby his next nebulizer treatment to help him breathe.

You know, Universe, I wouldn't mind a little *less* karmic balance sometimes.

So, Part 2 of Evan vs. The Cow was first thing this morning. We arrived at Dr. B's office well-equipped with Milk, Chocolate Syrup, plenty of distractions, and a complete change of clothes. We needed all of it. Evan first drank 1.5 ounces of chocolate milk and, after only a moderate display of obstinance, drank the additional 3 ounces. Almost immediately after finishing the last of the milk, Evan got really quiet and cuddled up on my lap in a little ball. His tummy was obviously hurting him. The nurse and Dr. B came in every few minutes to check him out and talk to him, and Evan tried really hard to put on a happy, brave face for them. At minute 54 of our one hour wait/period of observation, Evan puked. I was ready....the trash can was right beside us, but I wasn't quite fast enough. The extra clothes came in handy.

At this point, my heart just sank. We were thisclose to getting a pass, I thought. But....Dr. B came in with a huge smile on his face and a hearty, "CONGRATULATIONS!" for Evan. Yes, Evan threw up after ingesting milk, but No, he does not consider him to be allergic to milk. This, according to Dr. B, is an Intolerance. Sure, "stomach pains" and "vomitting" are often listed as symptoms of an allergic reaction, but that doesn't mean that Evan has to avoid all dairy as we had been doing. "So what does this mean as far as restricting his diet?" I asked. "It means that YOU don't restrict his diet at all. Evan will restrict his own diet. He'll self-limit his intake of dairy because at a certain point it will start to upset his stomach." So, if he wants a slice of pizza, I can give him a slice of pizza. If he starts to refuse it after eating half, that's my cue that he's had enough. Sure, occasionally he might overdo it and get a tummyache or even get sick. Who hasn't occasionally over-indulged?

The important thing: There was no allergic reaction. No wheezing, no swelling, not a single hive. These are the things that Dr. B was looking for. These are the symptoms we saw during Evan's severe reaction to milk as a baby. And these were the things that, in their absence, gave us the Pass. A good day, indeed.

And then we got home.

To our raspy, rattly, wheezy baby.

Our baby, whose ear infection was clearing and who, aside from a mild, pesky cough this weekend, enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. Our baby, who all of a sudden sounded so Sick, that his mommy called the pediatrician and took the next available appointment.

He tested negative for RSV and was diagnosed with Bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the bronchioles. The nurse practitioner gave him a nebulizer treatment on the spot. (Whoa, THAT was an experience. If you've never tried to hold a mask on the face of an angry, screaming, writhing baby....a mask that's connected to a tube that is rapidly wrapping itself around the writhing baby's kicking legs....a tube that's connected to a loud whirring machine....a machine that's right next to a 3-year old who is covering his ears and shouting, "THIS IS TOO LOUD. I DO NOT LIKE THIS NOISE"....a 3-year old who is also saying, "I think I'm going to throw up some more,"....and all of this is going on for TEN CONSECUTIVE MINUTES.....then you're really lucky and I'm really jealous.)

She also wrote a prescription for Albuterol so we can have this fun again every four hours until Thursday and then every six hours until next Monday.

Lesson Learned:

I haven't been this happy since the two times I found out I was pregnant. Truly. To outgrow three major allergies by three and a half is something to be celebrated.

And I haven't had a baby this sick since Evan's reaction to milk. It's like my life as an allergy mom came full circle in one hectic morning.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Evan vs. The Cow: Part 1

Big Day around here: This morning was Evan's MILK CHALLENGE! And Max has his first ear infection.

That's just about all you need to know about the ear infection. Here are the details on Evan's morning:

Just like in the egg challenge, Evan was to ingest tiny amounts of milk in increasing dosages until he had ingested the equivalent of a full serving. Starting at 1/4 tsp., we were working our way up to 3 ounces, which would have equalled about 6 ounces over the course of the 4+ hour test.

I say "would have" because we didn't quite finish the test. Not one to routinely Not Finish Things, I'm left feeling a little....well, unfinished. Ill at ease. Unsettled.

I need to look at the positives!

EVAN DRANK MILK TODAY!!! And we didn't go to the emergency room!

He drank the equivalent of about an ounce and a half before he vomited. Yup. All over the testing room. But this was after the most stubborn display of lip-clenched, angry-eyed, You-Can't-Make-Me tantruming those nurses have seen in awhile....probably since Evan's egg challenge. And, it was after the I've-Tried-Everything-Else decision on my part to suggest that after each teeny sip of milk, he chase that taste away with a gulp of juice. So Dr. B wasn't convinced that it was an allergic reaction, perhaps just a behavioral reaction. You know, tantruming plus a liquid-filled belly of milk and juice doesn't always sit well.

So we went on with the challenge.

We waited an hour to make sure there were no other signs of a reaction. During this time, I called in the Daddy Reinforcements. Daddy brought with him the Chocolate Syrup Reinforcements (and Max, the Cheering Section). The chocolate syrup worked wonders and Evan downed the 1.5 ounce dose in three big swallows. Success! We were one dose and one hour from The Official Milk Challenge Pass!

And then he threw up again.

So we ended the test. Dr. B still isn't convinced that it was allergic, but we were ALL ready (after more than four hours) to call it quits.

That leaves us with REALLY good news:
Evan can be around milk! We're not worried about contact reactions anymore, and we're not worried about cross-contamination. We're not EVEN worried about accidental exposures because the likelihood that he would accidentally ingest more than he drank today is slim.

So what does this mean?

For now, no major dietary changes. Dr. B said we can go ahead with baked goods that are made with milk, though, so that's a pretty huge step. (Although I still prefer my vegan cookies and cupcakes to anything "traditional.") It means that we can be a little more relaxed about ordering food for Evan from a restaurant. We can send him to birthday parties with a little more confidence that the icing on the birthday boy's cupcake won't make him an itchy mess. We can let him play at the Barnes & Noble train table and not have to wipe down his whole body to ward off contact hives from the Goldfish dust the other preschoolers left behind. We don't have to hound our family members and friends to hose down after eating before touching our kid. We don't have to worry that a stray piece of shredded cheese in the guacamole might send our kid into anaphylaxis.

And next Monday, we're going to finish off this beast. We'll return to Dr. B's office for Milk Challenge: take 2. We'll try 1.5 ounces of (chocolate) milk first and then the full 3 ounces. If we make it past that, it's considered a True Pass; an outgrown allergy. If not, then we'll at least know his threshold. From there? We'll see....but tonight: we celebrate some really fantastic news.

Lesson Learned:
I'd just like to take one snarky minute to say, "So There!" to the first allergist who treated Evan. At that very first, life-changing appointment, we were told that, due to the severity of Evan's reaction to the skin prick test, "Evan will never outgrow his milk allergy." What depressing news to tell these two new parents of a healthy 11-month old baby! We had just been told that our baby would never live a normal dietary life. We were told that he would always be at risk for having a severe and life-threatening reaction to a food so common that we would have to be constantly vigilant. What we needed that day was a little positivity, a little hope. Instead we left that appointment scared for our little boy and feeling completely lost.

Thank you, Dr. B, for giving us that hope. This may not be an outgrown allergy today, and it might not be an outgrown allergy next week, but we are optimistic for the first time that our little boy may not be The Allergic Kid his whole life. And THAT, in itself, is reason to celebrate tonight.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

it's all write, ma

Some kids are born doodlers. I was one of them. To me, there was nothing better than a freshly opened 64-pack of Crayolas. I think that may be why I became a teacher, actually--I was in it for the school supplies.

I was a doodler, a colorer, a drawer, and eventually, a writer.

Evan is not one of those kids. I have an entire cabinet full of art supplies that has been largely left untouched. Until Max came along.
I was trying to find a way to get Evan interested in drawing and writing, since conventional Art isn't looking like it's going to be his Thing. And then, I stumbled across the idea of an at-home Writing Center. (Thanks again, Playful Learning!) Why I didn't think of it earlier is beyond me. I am, after all, a former kindergarten teacher. I'm pretty sure our breed INVENTED writing centers. (Thanks for nothin' Mommy Brain!)
Writing Centers are important because they encourage authentic writing. Don't just give your kid a piece of paper and tell him to copy letters that you've pre-written. That's handwriting. I don't care about Evan's handwriting. I want him to WRITE. And to LOVE to write. And to feel inspired to write. That's what a Writing Center does. It's an organized and accessible space for writing materials of all sorts. Here's what ours looks like:
Some of the materials in our Writing Center:
*paper (lined and unlined)
*index cards (white and colored)
*notecards (with envelopes)
*extra envelopes
*a roll of register tape
*sticky notes of various colors and sizes
*spiral notebooks of various sizes
*letter stencils
*letter stamps
*letter stickers
*desk nameplate cards with alphabet strips
*sentence strips
I spent about $35 total (on the mini-drawers, the cork boards, and the Post-It Wall Pockets--are they not the coolest things you've ever seen? They stick on to the wall with sturdy double-sided mounting strips, but are apparently easy to remove and won't damage the wall--I had all of the other supplies left over from my teaching days.) and the center came together in just a couple of hours.
I have seen beautiful Writing Centers with pegboards and acrylic file folders and miniature buckets filled with perfectly new crayons. They're gorgeous but pricey, and I was operating on a budget and a timeline. This works for us.
And look!
He dove right in! In fact, while I was assembling the Center, he grabbed a pencil and a spiral notebook and took Daddy and Max on an Animal Exploring Mission. He looked for animal tracks in our playroom and recorded what he found in his Animal Exploring Notepad. See?! AUTHENTIC WRITING!
Max was into it, too:
But who could resist that drawer full of 64-brand new Crayolas?
Lesson Learned:
If Evan ends up not being an art or words kid, that's alright with me. It's worth it, though, to give him spaces in the house where he can try on all sorts of hats to find what fits. Which reminds me....we are in DESPERATE need of a dress-up box for the I-Don't-Wanna-Wear-a-Costume Kid. I smell a new project!


Lesson Learned:
I've said it before but I'll say it again: Time to babyproof!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Today's my birthday...my 31st birthday. You wanna know how I celebrated? I bought myself a new vacuum. BUT....not just ANY vacuum...a DYSON.

And the icing on my birthday cake?

I was able to combine my Kohl's cash AND my 30% off coupon to get this $449 Dyson for $260.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Lesson Learned:
So I guess my excitement over the vacuum AND the deal I scored solidify my standing as a Certified Mom, huh?

Friday, November 12, 2010

mommy and fire trucks

Because of last night's puking, we cancelled our Fun Friday plans and opted instead for a Jammies Day. We had a nice, snuggly morning, but by 10:15 am, we had read all of our library books, played with Every Single Little People playset we own, and emptied the supplies from the Art Cabinet about a dozen times. So, we were ready for an activity.

Luckily, I have been browsing a website lately that was just full of ideas. So, thank you Playful Learning, for the inspiration.

In honor of the season, Evan and I made a Tree of Thanks. I had picked up a pack of silk leaves from the Target $1 section a few weeks back, thinking we could do something with them. Evan and I talked about Thanksgiving and what it means to be Thankful. Then, he told me what he was thankful for and I wrote his ideas down on the leaves. I added a few of my own and Evan came up with a few things that Max is probably thankful for (like, graham crackers). I added a loop of string to each leaf, found a vase and a few carefully selected branches ("From the GROUND, Mommy! Don't damage the ALIVE TREE!" reminded Captain Planet.).....

And there you have it. Our Tree of Thanks. I think we'll keep adding to it over the next few weeks. Maybe we'll bring it to Thanksgiving Dinner at the grandparents' house and have the extended family add their own Leaves of Thanks.

Lesson Learned:
"Hmmmmm....I'm thankful for.......hmmmmmmm.....le's see........Oh! Mommy! AND fire trucks."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

vomit and other tales from school

I was puked on tonight--like, full-force, Exorcist-style puke--for the first time since Peter threw up all over my Girl Scouts uniform in first grade. After, I had to sit in the clinic with Peter, with his head in a trash can, while we waited for our moms; his to take him home, mine to bring a clean set of clothes. That afternoon, I was the only girl in my Girl Scouts troop that wasn't wearing her uniform. I was a little traumatized.

As I was cleaning up the puke tonight, I remembered Peter and then I started thinking about other moments from first grade that seem as vivid to me as moments from last week. Has it really been twenty-five years? First grade was a pretty good year for me. It was before my school anxiety hit me head-on in second grade, AND my best friend, Daniel, was in my class.

This one time, in first grade, we were working on a project about the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are. Daniel was writing with a pencil that he had sharpened so much that it was essentially an eraser with a graphite point. (He was *that* kid, that spent 15 minutes at the pencil sharpener every half hour.) His little first-grade hand was all scrunched up as he tried to grasp it, but he refused to use the perfectly-sharpened spare pencil that I had in my pencil box and had offered to him. (I was *that* kid that was annoyingly Always Prepared.) As our teacher walked over to our desks, she looked down at Daniel's pencil and said, "Daniel, I'll never be able to read your chicken-scratch writing if you continue to use that nub of a pencil." This, to Daniel and me, was hilarious. I'm not sure if it was the image of a chicken scratching on his paper or the word "nub," but Daniel and I could not stop laughing. For weeks afterward, Daniel would do his best Miss H impression and repeat that line and we would just fall into hysterics.

Another time, it snowed. It was the first snow of the season and we were all, understandably, Very Excited. In an effort to appease the masses, Miss H allowed three students at a time to go and stand at the window to watch the snow fall for a minute or two. There was one girl, though, whose name I can't remember, who had just moved to our neighborhood from Florida. Because this was the very first time she had seen snow in her WHOLE LIFE, she got to stand at the window THE WHOLE TIME. This decision by Miss H was seen as grossly unjust by the rest of the first-graders.

Then there was the time that my cat, Mittens, followed me to school. Our house was about a mile from the school, but not quite far enough to be on the bus loop. The neighborhood moms organized a carpool, but on nice days we would walk or ride our bikes to school. One day, my cat followed behind our gang at a comfortable distance--we had no idea we were being tailed. Mid-morning, I was called to the office over the loud speaker. When I got to the office (shaking, I'm sure, because I had been CALLED TO THE OFFICE), there was my cat, sitting with the secretary. Apparently, Mittens had jumped into an open window of a classroom across the pod from mine. I'm not making this up. My neighbor was a student in that classroom and recognized my cat, probably because of her distinctive white paws (get it? Mittens?). It was the talk of the lunchroom, let me tell you.

Lesson Learned:
It's probably not likely that it will be another 25-years before I'm puked on again. Bummer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

to keep up with the Joneses' kid?

A few years ago, I was taking a walk with Evan, then just a baby, around my neighborhood. As I turned the stroller around the corner and down another street, I saw a bunch of the neighborhood kids gathered together.

One child, maybe 8 years old, was on his knees in the grass, with his hands behind his head. Another child, not older than 10, had a rifle slung over his shoulder and was grasping him by his raised arm. A third boy stood in the road facing the boy on his knees, separated by a distance of less than 10 feet. His rifle was raised, pointed directly at his playmate's face.

The guns were fake, but my horror at the scene was real. I went home, shocked and saddened by what I had seen. Where had these kids learned to "play" like that? And what kind of parents allowed that type of play and those types of toys in their houses?

That night, I fired off an email to the parents of the kids involved. I described the scene I had witnessed and wrote that, if MY child had been "playing" like that, I'd want to know about it. I also wrote that what I had seen offended me and that, as the parent of a very young child, I didn't feel comfortable with that type of behavior going on in plain view around my neighborhood. I asked the parents, because the guns used actual BBs, which could actually be physically harmful to a casual passer-by, to please restrict their children's play to backyards only.

I'm sure my email was met with a bunch of irritated eye-rolls and mutterings of the "overly sensitive, naive, first-time mother." I don't know what the real responses are, actually, because I never received any.

But the gun-play continued, and it continued in the streets and front yards in certain sections of the neighborhood. And so, we stopped taking walks in those areas. The kids have grown up to be middle-schoolers and so the gun-play was neglected in favor of texting and sulking in their bedrooms (and sports, art, music, and volunteerism, to be hopeful).

But the guns are still in my neighborhood, passed down to younger siblings and picked up by the next wave of elementary school-aged kids who live here. The parents of the kids who play with the guns now are my friends, and we've talked about the gun-play. None of the parents are happy about it and most have rules related to the type of play allowed and when and where the guns are to be used. But if none of the parents love the idea of their kids playing with guns, then why the hell are there so many kids playing with the damned things?

It's because everyone else is doing it.

Every parent says the same thing: All my kid wants for Christmas/his birthday is an AirSoft Rifle, and if I don't buy my kid one, then he'll have no one to play with because Every Other Kid is playing with his own AirSoft Rifle.

Well, I can tell you this with absolute certainty: my kids will Never Own an AirSoft Rifle or any other BB gun. Evan's never even had a squirt gun. I just plain don't see the point.

In my house growing up, we didn't have guns. The kids in my neighborhood filled our summer days with baseball, Barbies, and bike riding. We did have the occasional Super Soaker and Nerf Ball Blaster, but they didn't look like real guns. And we certainly didn't stage mock executions in our front yard. Yes, times have changed, I get it....but it's BECAUSE times have changed that I feel even more strongly about my position: my kids won't play with guns because REAL KIDS are USING REAL GUNS to inflict REAL terror and harm. Why would you let your kid make that into a game?

So where's the line? This is where, as parents, we're going to have to figure it out as we go. Is "Cops and Robbers" okay if the cop is holding a gun-shaped stick? How about soldiers? Can my kid play at defending his country?

And what do I say when my 10-year old begs for the ONE thing that EVERY other kid in the neighborhood is playing with? Do I set him up for social isolation? Do I prevent him from going to other kids' homes for fear of him being involved in gun-play where I can't monitor what he is playing?

What's a parent to do?

Seriously. That's not a rhetorical question. I know my oldest is only three, but I want to be prepared for when he DOES ask for a toy (a gun, a video game system, whatever) that we don't necessarily approve of, but that every other kid has......do you give in and get it for him? Or do you, ahem, stick to your guns and risk his social standing in the neighborhood?

Lesson Learned:
It's really easy to say, with absolute certainty, how you'd act in a certain situation before you're in it. Just like I swore I'd never use TV as a kid-sitter while I surfed the web on the couch during Quiet Time, or use marshmallows and chocolate chips for bribes to get my kid to use nice words or pee in the potty. When exhaustion, desperation, or lack of a better option has set in, I've been known to change my position.

So can I say, with absolute certainty, that my kids will never play with guns? Maybe not.

But I'm sure going to do my best to prevent it because I CAN say, with sincere and complete certainty, that the thought of seeing Evan or Max, on their knees in my front yard with a rifle pointed at their face, makes me want to throw up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the good

Ladies and gentlemen, we're back on track. My sweet little snuggly Evan is back.

A lot of variables came together to help Evan get through some of the difficulties that he's had lately:

Evan is no longer taking any medication. We figured that we can deal with the sleep challenges, we can NOT deal with the quick-to-temper, tantrum-prone, anxious kid that the medicine was helping to create.

Evan's sleep is improving, for now....I think it's just going to be a cyclical thing....a period of good sleep followed by a period of frequent night-wakings, probably triggered by transitions, illness, growth spurts, etc.

Evan is responding to the incentive programs we've been using: sticker charts, chocolate chips, special time, etc. But he's not dependent on them. If we forget to use the sticker chart one day, it's not a tragedy. It doesn't affect his behavior negatively, only reinforces the positive behavior. The random Marshmallow For Being So Sweet helps, too. I think the best thing is to randomly "catch him being good" (to borrow from my teacher training courses).

And finally: Evan is more than 2 weeks older than Three And A Half. My pediatrician tried to tell me that the six months between 3 and 3.5 were the toughest for the vast majority of kids. I didn't believe her while we were in that window. I felt like my kid had forever changed and I wasn't going to get him back. I swear, it was like the lightswitch flipped that week he turned 3 and a half and we ARE back. The past two weeks have been lightyears better than the six months that preceded them.

Not that I think we're out of the woods for good. I'm sure every stage of development will bring with it it's own set of challenges....but I think we can take a few deep breaths and just enjoy our boy...for now.

And now, because I have been Seriously dwelling on the negative lately, here are a few of my favorite recent Evan-isms:

**Evan came into Max's room right before bedtime. After talking to Max and me for a few minutes he stopped himself mid-sentence and said, "Wait, Mommy! I can't chat now! I'm missing out on reading time with Daddy!"

**At various times over the last few days, he'll stop what he's in the middle of and say, "Which reminds me! I need to _______." And then he'll go do whatever it is he was so suddenly reminded of.

**He's started calling Max his "darlin." Not like he's unintentionally dropping the G...but like he's intentionally fakin' a drawl.

**As we were walking back to the car after Parent-Teacher Conferences, I said, "Isn't it funny that Mommy and Daddy went to preschool today instead of you?" and he said, "Which reminds me! What can you tell me about your day?" just like I ask him when I pick him up from school.

I just love him.

Lesson Learned:
I'll just consider Getting Through these last six months to be another notch on our Parenting Belt. This notch was bigger and louder and uglier than previous notches, and we'll certainly be able to use what we've learned about ourselves and about parenting, but we're movin' on. Darlin'.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Naturally, our Halloween celebration began with a Civics lesson. I couldn't help it. Election Day is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, people. Let's maximize on this teachable moment. And so, there was a Jack-O-lantern face ballot:

Once the people (or, person) had spoken, the Jack-O-Lantern was carved. I did the carving, Max did the supervising.

Daddy and the boys worked on a less dangerous Pumpkin Decorating Project. Although, Evan still managed to get his hands on a pumpkin carving knife, which Max is careful to keep a close eye on.
Finished products!

Our Great Pumpkin:
And our Toolman Evan:
And after the Neighborhood Kids Party, it was time to Trick-or-Treat for the Very First Time Ever:

Evan isn't a "costume" kid. He's not a "talk to strangers, or even people he kinda knows" kid. He's not a "upset our normal routine by going out after dark and staying up past his bedtime" kid. So Halloween isn't his fave night. BUT: Man did he do a great job! Evan wore his "costume," he rang doorbells, he spoke to our neighbors, he stayed up late, he scored some candy (thanks to my great neighbors for providing Evan-safe candy!), and he Truly Enjoyed Halloween. I'm so proud of him. The choice to go trick-or-treating was his....we weren't going to push the issue...and I know that he was stepping outside of his comfort zone to do it. We encouraged him and stood right beside him, but he didn't need much support once the Trick-or-Treating had begun. He ran up ahead to the next house yelling back to Daddy, "Just try to catch up to me, Daddy, you can't catch me, I'm TOOLMAN EVAN!"

And Max, in classic Second Child fashion, was thrilled to just go along for the ride. And he even kept that ridiculous pumpkin hat on All Night Long.

Lesson Learned:

The only thing better than seeing your kid muster up the confidence to do something that takes courage, is seeing the look on his face when he realizes that the payoff for all that mustering is CANDY.

Monday, October 18, 2010

preschool diaries: an update

It's been some time since my last entry in the preschool diaries. It's not because I no longer need the therapy. Ooooooh, no no no no no. It's not that. It's because things with Evan have been spiraling in so many different directions that I didn't know where to start. So here goes....

Several weeks ago, we ran out of Evan's Zyrtec. We had been relying on the allergy med. for decent sleep. I had read about "allergic insomnia," where insomnia actually IS the symptom for an allergic reaction. Well, Evan is allergic and Evan has insomnia. Seemed like it made sense to medicate him so we did. And it helped! Nights weren't perfect, but they were better. We kept waiting for his behavior to improve (a decrease in tantrums, less anger, fewer screaming episodes, etc.) now that he was getting better sleep....but it wasn't quite a clear correlation. So, maybe the Zyrtec wasn't our best fit? When we ran out of the medicine several weeks ago, I bought Claritin to replace it. The two days that Evan had Claritin coursing through his system were two of the absolutely hardest days of my life. Evan was a different child. He was scary. He had no self-control. He was up in the middle of the night crying for "school to be closed for weeks and weeks and weeks." He was anxious (even more so than usual). He was jittery and couldn't make eye-contact. He was miserable. We were miserable.

So we stopped all medication (except for the nasal spray that we have to use to keep his chronic congestion at bay). We crossed our fingers that his sleep wouldn't be thrown totally off-course without the drugs, but the alternative--keeping him on the drugs--was out of the question.

That was just over two and a half weeks ago. Since that time, we are seeing at least one night-waking per night, but we don't think he is spending that much time awake after we tuck him back in. His behavior has been a roller coaster.....we have really, really good days and really, really bad days...but I don't think it's allergy- or sleep-related. He's just a very anxious, very controlling, very stubborn child.

No offense, kiddo.

His hardest moments follow the most stressful-for-Evan situations: having playgroup at our house is really hard for him. School, of course, causes anxiety. A change in schedule or routine can throw him into a tailspin, etc. It's all very clear in hindsight--after every Very Difficult Time, I can trace back to the event that acted as the catalyst. I need to be better about anticipating what is going to be difficult for him...and help him deal before, during, and after the event to keep the resulting tantrums to a minimum.

We have put several different Incentive Programs into effect. There is a sticker chart to record daily behavior. Stickers can be earned when he remembers to: Use nice words; Use nice hands; Be a good listener; Have a happy dinner (yup, this was a major meltdown time); and Keep pants dry (yup, we're dealing with this now, too). If he earns a a certain number of stickers during the week, he'll earn Special Time on the weekend. His choice of activity, his choice of parent "date."

There's also a "Happy Bath" sticker chart. If he comes to the bath the first time he's called, he earns a sticker. Three stickers earn a chance to read extra books in the playroom before bedtime.

And finally: "Okay, Mommy Chocolate Chips." Every time I give him a direction, as in, "Evan, it's time to go upstairs and get dressed," if he says, "Okay, Mommy" and Just Does It, he gets a chocolate chip. Can't say, "no," can't say, "in a minute," can't freak out, can't feign hearing loss.

I think these "programs" are working. And it's definitely helping me to focus more on the positive points of our day than the negatives. He either earns a sticker/chip/special time or he doesn't. I can keep my emotions out of it....I'm trying really hard not to take everything so personally. It's hard, though.

So that's where we stand. Preschool is....well....no real change there. He has played a few times, I hear. When I picked him up from school last week, he took me into the Rainy Day room where they had spent their recess time. He walked me around the room, showing me the things he had used. This is a really positive step. He's still not talking to the other kids and he's not interacting with anyone in any sort of structured activity, but he's taking baby steps toward involvement. And, and! He talked about school. He told us all about the Helpers Chart. He told us what the different jobs were and who had done which job that day. He told us what job he would like to do someday (Napkin Helper, Chair Stacker, and Garbage Man) and which one he wouldn't (Weather Man).

Lesson Learned:
I think we're on the right track. It's been a long six months. For me, and I'm sure for him, too. It's got to be tough to be so little and to not know what to do with the stress and anxiety that I know he feels. It's my job to help him learn how to deal, though, and I'm not sure that I'm doing a good enough job of that. But we're getting there. One day at a time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday, Max!

I waited for him for over a year...15 months, actually. I know that, in the grand scheme of my life, 15 months is just a sigh. And I know that many, many mothers would give anything to have to wait ONLY 15 months. But I was waiting for My Baby....so 15 months (the first 6 in particular) felt like an eternity.

And then, one dreary, rainy day in October of 2009, we had a yard sale.

My OB had warned against it. She was pretty sure that scheduling a yard sale for the Saturday of my 39th week of pregnancy was a surefire way of having my baby on the Friday of my 39th week of pregnancy, and she wasn't going to be in the office that day. Don't worry, I assured her: I'm not having this baby until I rid myself of this unnecessary clutter.

And I didn't! We had the yard sale, made a few hundred bucks, and I went into labor that night.

My baby was proving himself to be a very considerate and convenient baby and I was basking in my good fortune as my contractions came, every hour on the hour, all night long. The next day, Sunday, October 11, 2009, my labor continued very evenly and comfortably. We were at home, enjoying an unseasonably warm day with the Big-Brother-to-Be and a bunch of the neighbors who were getting a kick out of timing my contractions.

Finally, at about 5 pm, Sam and I decided to mosey on into Labor and Delivery for a long night of laboring and delivering.

Oh, no we didn't.

By 5:15 I was out of my mind in labor. By the time we reached the hospital at 5:30 I was 5 cm. My contractions were coming so close together and were so intense that baby's heartrate was plummeting. There were too many nurses in the room and the doctor didn't leave my side. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew it wasn't good. I was given an oxygen mask and told to relax and breathe. Then I heard the words "emergency cesarean" and something bigger than me erupted: "DON'T TALK ABOUT A C-SECTION," I roared, "I'm having this baby HERE." I was given an injection of an asthma medication....something that relaxes the lungs during an asthma attack. It had the same effect on my uterus and was able to slow down the labor to allow the baby to make the progress he needed to.

That was all it took. Calm once again came over me and Maxwell Keenan Harris was born at 9:15 pm...blood in his lungs, partial placental abruption and all. It was fast, furious, chaotic, and frantic....and I was thisclose to emergency surgery. I thought, with an entrance into the world like THAT, we were in for a doozy of a time with this kid.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Max is calm. Max is even. Max is strong-willed and persistent yet flexible and changing. Max is my eyes-sparkling, tight-hugging, belly-laughing, ever-contented little Buddha Baby. He is my brick. He has the fattest feet I've ever seen. His ears have these perfect little imperfect folds in the tops. He lights up when he sees his brother and melts into me when he's sleepy. He is leading us along the way towards becoming a Big Boy....but still lets me rock him to sleep. When he's happy he's ear-to-ear grinning and shrieking with delight. When he's sad, he's absolutely perfected the Offended Baby Sob.

Max is a talker. He was an early babbler...trying to get a word in edgewise with his brother. Now he talks for communication, for self-amusement, and for the comedy. If ever there's a lull in the conversation, you can be sure that a hearty "GOMP GOMP GOMP" is on the tip of his tongue. Max is an artist. Give him a crayon, a piece of chalk, spaghetti sauce on his tray, anything.....and he'll create something beautiful....even if it's just the look of pride and satisfaction on his face as he admires his own work. Max is the kind of baby that turns heads. I'm not just saying that he's gorgeous because he's mine--this baby is the Uncontested Kind of Gorgeous. But it's not just his features: Max is charming. If he catches your glance, he'll reel you in with a Just-Try-to-Look-Away Stare. He looks at you with just the hint of a smile....so you'll work to get that smile to spread, but you won't have to work hard. He had you at Hello.

Max has made me a more relaxed Mommy. He's a laid-back, easy-going, it's-all-alright kind of kid. I want to be just like him when I grow up.....only, not quite so bald.

Max had the ability, in his very first millisecond of existence on this earth, to stretch my heart to twice it's size. I had worried during my pregnancy about Loving Two....how could I possibly love another with the strength and ferocity that I love my One at home? And then I touched him, saw him, and heard him in that first moment of life and the question became: How could I not? The amazing thing to me remains the fact that my love for my two is equal in that I love them both with every ounce of my being....but I love them differently. I am a different Mommy to Max than I am to Evan. That could be because they are of different ages...or in different ranks in the birth order sequence (I'm an "experienced" Mommy this time around)...or maybe it's because they could not BE more different from one another. Whatever the reason: it feels right....and it feels as if it's always been this way. Was there really a time in my life before Max? Maybe not...maybe he was always with me....I just hadn't met him yet.

In hindsight, I still feel like waiting those 15 months to meet my Max felt like an eternity. And, of course, the 12 months he's been with me have passed as quickly as a blink. SLOW DOWN, TIME! Thank goodness for digital photography and the ability to capture those 12 months of memories on film....and set it to music:

Lesson Learned:

Happy, Happy First Birthday to my sweet baby Max. I love you, my little fat Buddha Baby!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

preschool diaries: The Talk

It was inevitable.

I knew, at some point, on some distant day, the time would come to have The Talk with Evan. I just didn't think it would be so soon--he's only three and a half! I assumed that he'd hear something on the playground or on the bus and that he'd have questions for his dad and me. And on that distant day, we'd be ready to talk to him about it. I should have known, though, that the time was near. We are, after all, sending him to preschool at a Baptist Church.....

And so, the other night after dinner, we had our first Family Talk about God.

Let me back up just a bit. Sam is not religious. I, while not a practicing Anything, have studied quite a bit in an effort to find my path. For some time now, I've been somewhere between Agnostic Theism and the Eastern religions (Buddhism and Taoism, in particular), with one foot now making it's way over to the scientific branch of the tree in Noetics. So, needless to say, when our little one came to us with questions about God, we were without a Good Book to consult with.
So here's how it went down:

Evan began singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." I joined in. Evan looked at me, shocked that I would have knowledge of this secretive world of Preschool Sing-a-long Songs. When the song was done, I asked, leading, "Do you know who has the whole world in his hands?"
"God," he said.


"Mommy, who is God?"

[Glance at Sam. I started it, guess I'll take it from here....]

"Well, God is many things to many different people. Some people believe that God is the creator of all of us and of all of the things on Earth. Some people believe that when people die they go to God in Heaven. Some people believe that God is bigger than anything you can imagine and is everywhere around you. Some people believe that God is within each one of us...and we just have to find him there. Some people believe that God is just an idea. People believe different things because of how they were raised or what they were taught. The important thing is to think about what YOU think God is."


Evan: "But does God change color?"

[Glance at Sam.]

Sam: "What do you think about God?"

Evan: "I think God changes color."

And that was that.

Lesson Learned:
"God Changes Color": The chameleon God.....The God that changes as your beliefs/opinions/knowledge base changes? I think this kid is becoming more like me every day. Scary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

preschool diaries: The Note

Let me preface this by saying: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And that's why this is so hard.

The note in the communication folder on Tuesday read, "Today was a rough day...." The note was unneccessary. It was clear from the tear-stained cheeks that the day had been difficult. The follow-up phone call with Mrs. D shed some more light on the situation:

For the entirety of the school day on Tuesday....three whole hours....Evan cried. She said it wasn't tantrum/disruptive crying, just sad, quiet crying. The worse kind of crying, in my opinion, because tantrum crying is annoying and you can just ignore it. Sad crying demands attention and is, well, sad.

She said that Tuesday was the worst day of his three weeks of school, but no day had been easy for him. Evan does not do anything in school. Ever. He does not play at centers, he does not sing along, he does not even eat the snack. She says he follows directions; when it's time to clean up, he cleans up. When it's time to come to the carpet, he comes to the carpet. When it's time to listen to a story, he listens to the story. He'll play with one certain truck on the playground and he poured one scoop of rice at the rice table once, but that's the extent of his engagement in preschool. He just wanders around the perimeter of the classroom, keeping a careful eye and a safe distance from the activity the rest of the class is involved in. In addition, she said that she can see the anxiety all over his face all day. He'll watch the kids play at a particular center and she can tell that he wants to go....she'll bring him over and try to get him engaged and he refuses. She tries to bring him to where a quiet friend is playing nicely and he refuses to play. She has tried to let him be and he comes to her asking for help finding something to do.

She said, "He kind of baffles me." To which I replied, "Mrs. D, he has been a mystery to me for all three and a half of his years." And I quickly cleared my throat to choke back the tears. My baby. My sweet, thoughtful, complex, baby.

I know she cares about him and I know, because she's reaching out to me so early on in the school year, that she's a wonderful teacher who is going to help him. Thank goodness. I don't know if I'd be able to continue to send him to a place where this was going on and no one seemed to notice or care...

So what do we do?

What can I do to eliminate this anxiety? And I agree with Mrs. D that that is what this is....he's been prone to social anxiety before (in play group and soccer, in particular). And he's dealing with the repercussions of feeling anxious: his sleep habits, which we had finally gotten under control--not perfect, but not horrible--are back to being pretty rocky. And we're seeing an increase in the tantrums at home that we have been combatting all summer but had been making progress against. Not to mention that he's got the right, or wrong, genes for anxiety issues anyway: I was a mess. I learned to deal with my social and school anxiety over time, but it was hard and took a long time. And I'm still not finished dealing--I'm the one who stresses for months about hosting the neighborhood bunco game at my house. I'm the one who flushes crimson when I find myself addressing a group of people. I'm the one who blogs because the thought of saying all of this to a real live therapist makes me want to throw up.

And I know how it feels to deal with school anxiety and I know it doesn't feel good. So I want to shield my little boy from having to experience this endless stress and fear and uncertainty.

But how?

And of course there's the flip side: Mrs. D assures me that he is not yet, but what about if or when he becomes disruptive in class because of his unwillingness/inability to participate? What then? I know, I know: Don't worry about things you don't need to worry about yet....but that's the other piece of anxiety: Unnecessary, preemptive Worry. We can't help it.

I would say that I'll sleep on it and come up with a game plan once I've had a good night's rest, but between Mr. Up All Night and Mr. Hungry at All Hours, I'm pretty sure that won't happen any time in the near future.

Lesson Learned:
Every child faces difficulties, and some would say that this is a pretty minor difficulty, and in the grand scheme of things I know that I have to agree. But when your child's difficulties are the same as yours, you know how Minor can very quickly feel Major.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

the kid

This will not be a sentimental post. I'll save that for the First Birthday post coming in a few weeks. That said, here's how you know that your Baby is becoming a Kid:

He walks over to the shoe basket, finds his shoes (yeah, they're leather, slip-on booties with giraffe appliques on them, but they're SHOES, nonetheless), walks to the door, and starts banging his shoes against it while looking at you and shouting, "Owwwwww!"

He WALKS. Period.

He can hold his own against his Big Brother in a fight over toys, sippy cups, snacks, or mom's lap.

He enjoys a blanket-and-cushion fort for the hide-and-seek and play value, not just for the destruction and pulling-apart-of-blankets-and-cushions value. (And the Big Brother is most thankful for this development.)

You have completed, ordered, received, and watched a million times his First Year of Life photo montage. And it makes you cry Every Time.

He "drives" cars around the kitchen making motor noises and narrowly avoiding your feet.

You let him play with Play-Doh! And he plays with Play-Doh for almost five whole minutes before eating it!

The 8-year-old at the table next to yours at Rita's looks at your "baby," who is wearing an adorable onesie, and says, "Hey mom, why isn't that Kid wearing pants?"

Lesson Learned:
I'll bet that 8-year-old's mom was thinking, "But that was YOU, wearing a onesie, bouncing on my lap, just last week, right?"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

pet shop boys, remix

We had fish. Two of them. For four days. Then, one day we went in to feed them: Sharky was floating, upside down at the top of the bowl and Training Pants was at the bottom of the bowl, vertical, pointing directly up at Sharky. It was very weird.

Evan asked what happened and I explained it like this: "Well, they died. When animals are at the end of their lives, they die. Goldfish usually have very short lives. Animals like cats and dogs live for a much longer time than goldfish."

"But all animals die?"

Moose is our chocolate lab. He has already lived for a long time. The inevitable is near. We have not yet discussed this with Evan, and I saw an opportunity to broach the subject. So I said, "Well, yes, sweetie. All animals die someday."

Evan became very quiet and thoughtful. I was waiting for the questions to follow about Moose. Instead, Evan said, "Well, I guess we'll have to go to the pet store and get some more fish."

So we did!

I'd like you to meet Scrufty the Betta.

When I told the girl at the pet store that our goldfish lived for only four days, she said, "You need a Betta. They're the ultimate no-maintenence pet." We're on Day 3 and Scrufty is looking good.

Lesson Learned:

"Scrufty," for those taking notes, is the name of Farmer Pickle's dog on Bob the Builder.