Monday, December 24, 2007

Paybacks

My mom claims amnesia about many of my childhood misbehaviors, and now I can see why. These are the kind of things you would rather forget, filling your memory banks instead with visions of warm family dinners, laughing children happily playing in the glow of the Christmas tree, and GRATITUDE.

I realize it's not in the nature of a Five to be gracious and appreciative of how much he has, and I realize he just had his birthday AND it's almost Christmas, but after he has spent four days being treated to the following activities:
1. Trip to downtown Seattle for a ride on the holiday carousel, lunch at McDonald's (added bonus of a Bionicle toy in the Happy Meal), and a tour of the gingerbread houses
2. Fun evening with Nanny and Papa, including ice cream bars and staying up late
3. Trip to Bellevue to see Snowflake Lane (another McDonald's dinner and Bionicle toy), where people dressed as tin soldiers drum along the street and it "snows" outside
4. Trip to the Seattle Aquarium and Pike Place Market, complete with s'mores brownie and Pike Place doughnuts
...... you might think that a simple box of Christmas presents on the porch wouldn't send him into a tizzy of unhappiness.

Short version: (Bad decision of Mommy #1) Opened box from Auntie Em, which contained (gasp!) TWO presents for Bitty Girl and (horror of all horrors!) ONE present for him. We discussed the fact that when we visit said Auntie in 3 weeks, we were going to do birthday/Christmas presents then. These were just sent so we didn't have to haul them home, since Audrey isn't coming. (Bad Mommy decision #2) And his present is a lovely wooden fire truck, but since it's not a hunk of lead-painted plastic crap with weapons attached, evidently it's not enough to be exciting. Then a box of presents from my dad--books, which he liked, hand-knit sweater (see above about plastic, lead paint, and weapons). Hence the Christmas Eve Tantrum of Ungratefulness.

While I left the house to brave the grocery store crowds, he recovered while making pizza dough with Daddy. (Addendum to list of Fun activities above: #5 - Special homemade pizza dinner, with toppings he chose, for Christmas Eve) We ended up having a nice dinner and everyone got to bed, complete with the Night Before Christmas reading, letter and cookies for Santa, but it just set the wrong tone.

Maybe we did too much in the days leading up to it? We spaced things out, made sure everyone got good sleep and plenty of time at home. I just think we can't underestimate the power of presents and Christmas, especially in The Boy who is too young to really understand the whole "spirit of the Season" thing. But we talked about it in small doses--baby steps.

I'm sure I was the same greedy, ego-centric five year old. My mom just doesn't remember... Lucky her.

Next year, it's the soup kitchen for him. Or something that will help us all realize just how lucky we are.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The December 12 Curse

December 12 just doesn’t seem to be a great day in our family.
Flash back to 2002 – my water broke and I went to the hospital, delivered The Boy 2 days later 6 weeks before his due date.
2003 - Getting ready for Pat's neck surgery
2004 - Can't remember, but there must have been something
2005 - Had my amnio with Bitty Girl the next day, worried about a bad ultrasound
2006 - Complete blur, I'm sure someone had a tantrum
2007 – The Boy, almost 5 years old, is up all night throwing up, after Bitty Girl had her own barf-o-rama the two days prior.

The Boy is five. So many changes in the last year, evidenced by the comparison of his birthday and Christmas lists.
2006 list, which fits on the front of one page
Dinosaurs, bike with training wheels, scooter, skeleton model with body parts, watch, Spiderman costume, Red Power Ranger costume, Playmobil traveling farm, Darth Tater Mr. Potato Head

2007 list: (three pages long): condensed version includes:
Star Wars: various battle packs, action figures, light sabers, books, and videos
Rollerblades
Scooter
Power Rangers
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: various costumes and action figures
Transformers
Bionicles: Red, Green, and black
Books: Dinosaurs, Superman
Knight and dragon figures
Robot hands from the museum store

So there you have it. At Nearly-Four, he was just beginning the transformation (to use one of his favorite action figure lines) into a full-fledged, marketed-by-Target-and-Toys-R-Us preschool boy! Now at Five, he’s deep, deep into it. And my attempts to thwart it are getting weaker by the minute. I just don’t have the energy, nor do I want to make something so forbidden that it becomes his one-track obsession.

But every time I hear angry words or see some violent act, I can’t help but wonder….am I encouraging it? I’ve read the studies, but I’ve also seen how boys play guns with sticks, straws, and their fingers, in the absence of any violent toys or television.

On one hand, I am SO proud of the boy he’s becoming. He is smart and funny, helpful, loving toward his sister (most of the time), curious and interested in the world around him, dramatic, assertive, strong-willed, tall and thin—all muscle and bone, talks non-stop, and you can see the new ideas and bits of knowledge exploding in his brain.
On the other hand, he’s bossy, quick to get upset, very impulsive, whiny—especially to Mama, loud, constantly badgering us with questions or requests for toys or treats, complaining that someone else has a better house or toys or life or parents, slow to warm up in a new situation, and not easily adaptable.

I’ve said it before—I am alternately delighted with him and completely annoyed with him. I either have this overwhelming rush of love for this amazing creature I helped create, or I want to run screaming from the house to get away from the World’s Most Obnoxious Boy.
I guess that’s the charm of being Five…

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I can't help myself

I just feel like I have to write a blog post, even though I'm free of the daily requirement of NaBloPoMo.
Two big things today:

1. It snowed about 4 inches. Not expected to last, just exciting enough for one romp in the snow and a few pictures.
Audrey was introduced to the concept of snow as a snack..

AND.......
2. I crunched the Volvo. I rear-ended a Sears delivery van going through a big intersection. My light turned yellow as I was crossing the intersection, so I kept going, and all the cars in front of the van stopped. I couldn't see them because of the van, so poof! Luckily, I wasn't hurt. The van wasn't hurt - tiny scratch. But my poor bumper.. oh my. The worst part is that we have no collision coverage on this car, because it's so old. So it may be totaled, depending on the cost to fix it. I'm in big trouble, because Pat loves this car almost as much as he loves me. Maybe more now.




So while I thought I was only getting a new furnace for my birthday, I may be getting a furnace AND a new (read that cheapest decent used car we can find) car. I must have been really good this year!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh to be 18 months old again!

As I approach my 35th birthday next week, I've tried to put myself in Bitty Girl's shoes and think about what it would be like to be her. She spends so much time lately screeching and whining and pointing and yelling "NO!" at us, and I feel terrible that she's so frustrated. Lack of words is most of the problem, because she just can't tell us what she wants. And the other part is that she wants everything The Boy has, and that's just not possible for Miss 18-month old.

So here goes. If I were 18 months old......
1. I would rejoice when someone told me to take a nap or go to bed at 7 pm.
2. I would give as many hugs and snuggles as she does.
3. I would rule the kitchen like a queen from my highchair, commanding all my meals.
4. I would take lots of naps in the car.
5. I would still love Elmo.
6. I would love to hang upside down, make silly faces, and blow raspberries on people's tummies.
BUT....
7. I would also be very frustrated to have everyone shutting doors and locking me out of places I want to go.
8. I would be FURIOUS if they tried to distract me when I was upset by offering me some other snack or toy.
9. I would want to do everything my brother does too--it looks more fun than my stuff.
10. I would get tired of people talking about me as if I weren't there.
11. I would get sick of getting schlepped around in the car for everyone's trips to school, the store, and other errands.
12. I would get upset if they pretended to be interested in playing tea party with me, and then actually read the newspaper or tried to clean up some of my toys.
13. I would scream with protest if they made me come in from playing outside before I was done just because they were cold.
14. I would get mad and splash them if they got soap in my eyes in the bathtub.
15. I would try so hard to run and play with my older cousins, because they look like they're having so much fun.
16. I would assert my 18-month old authority and try to boss my family around.
17. I would try to make my voice heard in a family with 2 out of 3 loud people.
18. I would get tired of them telling me what to wear. I want to wear my jellyfish shirt, darn it!

We love you Bitty Girl! We are sorry that you don't have the words you need yet, and that you are at the mercy of our busy schedules sometimes. We appreciate that you are tolerant of our craziness, and that you seem to love us in spite of it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

May I have the envelope please?

And the winner, for Dumbest Mommy on Earth.....

ME!

It's as if I just hopped out of the cabbage patch, I swear. Like I haven't been his mama for nearly FIVE years. Tonight was a family Pancake Dinner at my husband's school, combined with a Bookfair. We actually planned to go. Ahead of time. Like the idiots that we are.

So we went merrily about our day, errands and toy ogling at Target, Bitty Girl taking only a one-hour nap, making Rice Krispie treats, lah di dah... The nap should have sealed it for me, but no, I'm like the girl in the horror movie who keeps walking toward the dark closet even though she knows the killer is in there.

When we arrive at the school, it's nice and early, so no big crowd yet. The Boy is suddenly nervous and refuses to go into the gym, where a teacher and parent that he knows well are cooking pancakes. We let him stay outside for a few minutes, but it's cold, and I had to chase Bitty Girl, so I made him come in. He could sit in his Dad's office, which is in the gym (hence the P.E. Teacher thing). He got a little upset, but seemed to calm down.

One visit to the bookfair should have given us our first. Big. Clue. He was overwhelmed with all the big kids, too many books, and of course gravitated toward the awful Spiderman or Transformers comic-book/magazine type things, instead of all the perfectly wonderful books there. We left the Bookfair without buying a book, and headed for the gym to get in line for pancakes.

Dinner part was fairly uneventful, except for the Bitty Girl problem. She didn't want to eat, didn't want to sit on my lap, wanted to reach across the table and hug/maul the 6 month old baby of the school counselor, wanted Daddy to hold her, was tired, etc. The Boy was actually pretty good, entertained with the person dressed up in a Clifford the Big Red Dog costume, although he got a little rough and pulled Clifford's tail a couple of times.

So what do we do? WE GO BACK TO THE BOOKFAIR. Like complete numbskulls. Like someone just dropped this kid in our laps and we have no idea about his personality or about parenting. What happened to the "quit while you're ahead" or "cut your losses" mentality? Dad took him first, and I followed with Bitty Girl.

Upon arrival, I see Dad having trouble with the "wanting weird comic book Pokemon" thing, so he took Bitty Girl and I took over with the book issue. Instead of just buying him the dumb $4.00 Transformer book that he wanted, and would be guaranteed to provide me with hours of mind-numbing bedtime stories, I decided to take this one to the mattresses. I said I wouldn't spend my money on those books, but he could use his allowance for them. Five minutes of whining and whispered, angry arguing later, I dragged him out. He was starting to kick and fuss, but escalated down the hall, and outside erupted into the hitting, kicking, spitting fury that we haven't seen much lately. Last year at this time, I think we saw a lot of it. We never learn.

Somehow, he calmed down enough to get in the car. We sent Bitty Girl home in Dad's car, for her own personal safety. I managed to take some deep breaths, get him to ride home quietly, and defuse some of the anger--for both of us.

We didn't really discuss things when we got home, both kids were hungry (unfortunate after a Pancake Dinner!) but he knew it was time for pajamas and a story. Bedtime was fairly smooth, I managed to keep myself calm, and he went to sleep fine.

What I am practically too exhausted to reflect upon is this: I SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING! It was Textbook Boy Behavior, and I am just stupid. First of all, we shouldn't have gone to the dinner. Or I should have dropped him off and let Dad deal with him. Less Mama Drama, less Bitty Girl factor. And second, we should have either avoided the Bookfair entirely, or told him we weren't buying books FROM THE START, and that he could use his allowance for anything he wanted.

I feel frustrated because I get so angry and embarrassed at his tantrum. It's at his Dad's school, for crying out loud! And then I feel terrible that he gets so upset, because it's scary to be out of control like that. And then I feel like an idiot mama for not seeing it coming, and for setting the appropriate expectations.

Sigh. To quote one of my favorite kids' books, the type of book I was TRYING to encourage him to get, (Lily's Purple Plastic Purse), "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Taking a deep breath

Holidays can be stressful. Thanksgiving was early this year, so the inundation of Christmas music and lights and decorations started a week early.

But I am determined to be at one with it. More this week than ever. In the last three days, we have had THREE friends or family members with weird heart-type stroke issues. One was running a marathon and collapsed, one had a small stroke at home, and one had a mini-stroke symptoms at work. These are young people--two are 38 and one is 47. Various combinations of heart defects, heart blockage, stress, and family history, but all of it is scary. So far, they are all doing well and will hopefully have some answers later this week.

While we're still in the throes of the worry and not knowing all the answers, I'm trying to take the lesson of taking a deep breath, slowing things down, and not getting overwhelmed with birthdays and parties and presents and ridiculous unimportant stuff. I know what's important--it's just easy to let other things cloud my vision.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thankful, but...

irritable and tired and stressed. I've noticed a strange paradox, or correlation at least. When I'm worried about a friend who's sick or going through a hard time, and I should be most thankful for my healthy family or stable job or beautiful children, I seem to be the grouchiest, most impatient contestant for the Nastiest Mother of the Year! I find myself short with the kids, distracted, and just plain grumpy. I know it's because I am distracted and worried about something bigger than my day-to-day life, but it's frustrating because it's exactly those type of things that help ground me and remind me what life's really all about, and how many blessings I have in my life.

But really, being irritated at my kids for wanting me to play with them? Or snapping at The Boy for the crumbs on the floor? Not my ideal parenting day, that's for sure. But we did play outside in the cold sunshine, practice the bike without training wheels, play baseball, and play "Chase Bitty Girl." So I wasn't all nasty and ungrateful.

I'm also nearing the home stretch of this National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) where I've been posting every day, and I'm exhausted! I feel like I never have time to go back and edit a post, even if I wanted to polish it up, because I have to write another one! So maybe next week I'll go down to a few posts a week and cut myself some pre-holiday slack.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Two Wheels

I just read a blog post from Catherine Newman, one of my favorite Mama writers, about the "milestones you never read about." Her blog is here and you will laugh and cry!

Yesterday I came home from coffee with friends and walked right into a major milestone. The Boy was in the backyard with Daddy, riding his bike WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS! I felt like I was invading a private moment as I watched my husband run, hunched over, around the basketball court with his hand behind the bicycle seat. And the wobbly, baby bird way The Boy was riding the bike, with focus and determination but also a huge smile on his face made this Mama Bird so proud.

I almost didn't go outside because I was afraid the Mama Drama effect would ruin his momentum. That suddenly he'd be rendered incapable of riding because I was there. But I did, and he wasn't. I prayed silently that he wouldn't have his first big fall because he was looking over at me. He didn't. They did a few more laps and then it was my turn to hunch and hold.
We did a few laps, and he's getting the hang of it. It was freezing November outside, and too cold to spend hours mastering this new thing, but at least he was riding, with the wheels off.

He's been a sporadic bike rider, going for stretches of riding every day and then leaving the bike untouched for a week, but over the summer had really mastered the training wheels. Every time he would have a big fall or some episode of riding to the park and getting too tired, he'd give it up for a while. He's a December baby, and the bike purchases always seem to be in the fall, right before his birthday and right before the crummy weather hits. And again, here we are--training wheels off right before we may get our first snow of the season.

But riding a two-wheeler with no trainers is a big deal, a big step toward being a big kid, and he was proud of himself. Maybe if the rain stops I'll be in for more hunching and holding.

Photo coming soon--I have a memory of my sister taking a big fall right after she posed--while riding--for her "no training wheels" picture, so I didn't want to take the chance on the first day.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Two Tired Turkeys



Make that four. We survived Thanksgiving weekend, but are all tired and two of us have colds. Bitty Girl is making that croupy cough sound as I type... hope it doesn't get worse.

We had big Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, The Boy and Hubby had dinner out on Friday, we had friends over to watch the Apple Cup on Saturday, and went to the Science Center today. Lots of germs mixing together, late bedtimes for The Boy three nights in a row, and everyone having their schedule disrupted.

We all have work and school tomorrow, and Bitty Girl is going to cough on her Grandma and Papa but hopefully not get them sick before they leave for Hawaii on Tuesday.

We need some rest to gear up for my birthday (no party planned), The Boy's 5th birthday 11 days later (small easy party planned but need cookies for two preschool classes), two Christmas parties, and Christmas 11 days later.

So we grit our teeth and remind ourselves that it's about family and the spirit of giving and NOT all the stuff. But we could all use a little more sleep.

Hopefully I'll be inspired to close out November with some better blog posts this week! 25 days and going, at least...





In honor of Bitty Girl being 18 months old today, we had a little fun with the shampoo...
A great name for a rock band--The Anvil Heads!

Yes, that's snot running down Pee Wee Herman's nose... She's one of us with a cold...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

To Plan or not To Plan...

No question about it. I am a planner. I like to know what's on the calendar, what time we're supposed to be at the party, and when we have a play date. I am married to a planner, as well. If you're guessing we're not very spontaneous, you're right.

But Thanksgiving weekend brings hubby's side of the family into town, which now involves many aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as the crowd of second cousins, numbering 11 all under the age of 7. Yes, our Thanksgiving dinner was loud and messy.

Notice I said Thanksgiving weekend. That means it's not just Thursday. There are events planned all weekend, including a Friday dinner out, and now various trips to the Aquarium or Science Center or Children's Museums. And trying to coordinate everyone's schedules and naptimes and preferences is interesting, to put it lightly. There are various levels of planners and non-planners in the group, which often leads to interesting discussions and stress levels.

Tonight we extended an open invitation to the family to come watch the Apple Cup football game at our house, for anyone who didn't have tickets. (It's the annual University of Washington vs. Washington State University game, in Seattle this year) There is normally a big Saturday evening gathering at my in-laws, but because of the football game, the gathering was canceled. I was determined to be non-planned about it, leaving things open and figuring we'd get pizza and not worry about who was coming or not.

And by this afternoon, after a barrage of phone calls about tomorrow's plans for the Aquarium, I was still in my laid-back, non-planner (and very non-me) mode. The kink in these plans is The Boy, my first born who doesn't like surprises and who was counting the minutes until his guests arrived. He was really patient all afternoon, SO EXCITED, and very helpful. When he found out his cousins weren't coming after all, and then had to wait an hour for the friends who were late, he was naturally disappointed. He handled it well, thanks to a movie, and then had fun playing with his friend. Slight wobbles of control, but we made it to the end of the game safely. They were both a little wild, thanks to late bedtimes and family gatherings, but they were great considering all that.

So the non-planning started out thinking it might be 10 adults and 9 kids here today, and it ended up being 6 adults and 4 kids, 2 of them mine. So of course we had too much food, but I was very proud of myself for not being stressed about it. Fewer people was actually easier. But both hubby and I agreed that if you PLAN things and have a TIME set for dinner, that maybe people would actually let you know if they were coming AHEAD of time and SHOW UP on time.
But hey, we're laid-back, spontaneous party planners today. And amazingly enough, it turned out fine. Except that our team lost and my sister, the stinkin' Cougar, had to call me to rub our noses in it.

And at least now our house is clean. Maybe we should have people over every 2 weeks--that way we're forced to dust and vacuum and clean the bathrooms!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankful I was not there

The Alderwood Mall near our house opened at MIDNIGHT on Thanksgiving for the crazed shoppers. Details and pictures of lunatic shoppers here..
There is no way you will ever catch me doing this, no matter how good the deals are. Unless it's a line for the last pieces of food on Earth, there is nothing I need that much. I was thinking that people were nuts to get up and shop at 5 am, but starting at midnight? Frankly, it grosses me out. We all have too much stuff, and I'm all for bargain shopping, but not when it involves a ton of new things we don't need at a time when no one should be out.

I was happy to be home with my family Thanksgiving night, and to wake up Friday morning at 7:30 am--thank you, my sleeping-in angel children, since you went to bed late--and have a nice, leisurely morning at home. That frantic Christmas shopping frenzy feeling will start soon enough, but I sure didn't need it on Thanksgiving evening. Plus I'm mostly done with the shopping, so that kind of crazy midnight shopping would end up being unnecessary spending. And our major Christmas present--a new furnace, thank you very much--cannot be purchased at any mall.

Ok, maybe if they had furnaces 50% off, I would have braved the crowds. Those things are expensive!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful...for all of it

I celebrated Thanksgiving morning by throwing a temper tantrum. Full Mommy style, complete with stomping upstairs, slamming the stair gate and banging around until I got into the shower. Nothing major, just our typical morning before some sort of holiday/family gathering. I'm always harboring some sort of subconscious stress which renders me extra-sensitive and easily irritated by everyone else's annoying behavior. Like Bitty Girl's incessant whining, The Boy's unending questions after he watched a movie, and Husband's desire to make a nice pancake breakfast. Someday we'll figure out how to break the tantrum cycle, but evidently not this year.

I felt slightly better after my shower, but unfortunately, the damage is done. It just disrupts the environment enough to set everyone on edge. Luckily, The Boy and Husband left at noon for the Thanksgiving gathering--Bitty Girl and I will join them after her nap. This year it's at my sister-in-law's house, only 10 minutes away.

So she's sleeping, I'm writing instead of making the salad and trying to make myself look presentable (difficult when I have bad hair, nothing to wear, etc.). But a couple of hours of quiet will hopefully be enough for me to settle down enough to have fun this afternoon.

Because I really am thankful...
  • Thankful that I have two beautiful healthy perfect babies. I know every day, every minute how lucky I am. I'm trying to be thankful for the constant questions and curiosity and whining as the whole package--it's difficult, but I'm working on it!
  • Thankful that I have a wonderful husband who puts up with my tantrums and my craziness and my mess. No, he's not perfect and has his own (quieter) tantrums, but he's still amazing.
  • Thankful that we have a big family Thanksgiving gathering, with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles. In spite of the noise and craziness, it's a wonderful 30+ year tradition in my husband's family and I'm lucky to have married into it.
  • Thankful that we have a house, jobs and plenty of food. Especially this time of year, and in spite of all our worries, I know that not everyone has these things.
  • Thankful for a million other things: that my mom and Steve are safe and having fun in Europe, that my niece Maggie is doing so well and staying so healthy on her oxygen, that none of my loved ones are in Iraq, that my grandma is watching her great-grandchildren grow up, that it's a beautiful sunny day.

I will update later with any delightful anecdotes from Thanksgiving dinner. Hopefully it will not include another tantrum on my part.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More like Terror-yaki

It's a catch-22 with eating out. We hardly ever go out to eat these days, and then when we do, one or both kids act up, so we think, "This is why we never go out!" But then I feel guilty, like we're not preparing them by practicing proper restaurant behavior.

We only went to teriyaki, for Pete's sake. My husband had a half-day of school, so we both picked up The Boy from preschool and went to his choice of dinner, which was his favorite teriyaki place, where the owner/chef and his daughters love him and always come say hello.

I'll give him the fact that he had a long day of school and tomorrow is Thanksgiving and he's very excited to spend the day with his cousins. But it went downhill the minute we walked in the door. He got weirdly shy when the woman at the front said hi and commented on how tall he's getting. He's so self-conscious lately--things that never used to bother him cause the weirdest reactions now. Then he threw a slight fit about not getting a Sprite. (We never get Sprite there)

And the manners--oy! He got several warnings, but when he pretended he was in a pie-eating contest and tried to eat the rice without his hands, by slurping it off his plate, he got a one-way ticket to the car with Daddy.

Bitty Girl didn't help, either. She shrieked for crayons, shrieked for a water with a straw, shrieked while the rice was cooling down, wolfed down a few bites and then shrieked to get out of her chair.

On the way out, we noticed it's almost a full moon--that's not helping anyone either. We have enough Thanksgiving craziness without the pull of the tides.

Overall it was a lovely dinner. We're hoping that they are saving all their good manners for Thanksgiving. But we're not holding our breath.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Evil toy stores

Lately The Boy's favorite thing to do is visit Toys R Us. That sounds terrible--he has a million other things he loves to do, but frankly, when we have a morning with Bitty Girl, we're fairly limited on our choices. She's just at a difficult age, hates to stay in the stroller, and runs everywhere. So that rules out the children's museum and even makes the library difficult. (They hate when you take ALL the books off the shelves at once.)

So often our choice on his non-school days (Tuesday and Thursday) is errands like Target or the dreaded Toys R Us. He loves to go look, and he's actually great about leaving without buying anything. Bitty Girl stays in the cart pretty well and he's happy, so it works for a trip every few weeks. It's just the whole atmosphere I hate. Wall-to-wall plastic, marketing of overpriced toys, and I'm sure lots of lead paint, all screaming, "BUY, BUY, BUY!!"

The whole toys/marketing/media thing is a major point of contention for me. I am frustrated with the marketing of every show and character into every area of our lives. But I am also a bad overshopper, and am guilty of overbuying for past birthdays and Christmases. So we're stuck in this world of having too many toys, having a kid who naturally wants every new toy he sees, and not knowing how to get out of it. I can't just throw out all his toys and give him a set of blocks at this point, since he goes to preschool with kids who have these toys and watch these shows.

Our first attempt at avoiding the marketing is just to keep it simple for birthday and Christmas. The Boy's birthday is December 14, which makes it just a month of gifts. I overdid it last year for a variety of reasons, so we're determined not to do that this year. Having no money helps in that area! We're also trying to emphasize the toy donation--we donated some new toys to Toys for Tots, and are going to have him donate a few of his used toys before any new birthday/Christmas toys enter the house. And we talk about media messages and why the toy store has so many toys and how they just want you to buy more and more.

I guess we just keep working on it, and keep fighting the battle. Either that or move out to the middle of nowhere, live in a tent and let him play with sticks and rocks. When I'm cruising the aisles at Toys R Us, that actually sounds good. Well, not the tent part. I'm not a camper. Maybe a small cabin with plumbing and heat, but only sticks and rocks for the kids...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn

The tables have definitely turned. When Bitty Girl was born, and for about the first 16 months of her life, I spent countless hours trying to protect her from her brother. The Boy has always been a physical kid, and he loved her from the start--always very interested in touching her, wanting to hold her and play with her. There have been some "drive-by kickings," as one friend put it, but most of the time his intentions are honorable, if just a little too rough.

As she's grown and formed her own opinions about being poked and prodded and developed the perfect "screech of protest," she's picked up a few tricks of her own.

These days, it's more common to hear his muffled laughter and look over to see her completely smothering him with her never-ending hug. Or he's crying because she inadvertently whacked him with a toy or stepped on his head. And when she hurts him, she seems like Miss No-Short-Term-Memory, with a little smile, like she has absolutely no idea why he's crying. But since he's upset, she has to give him a hug and repeat the smothering. This usually makes us all laugh, thankfully.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Soggy Breakthrough!

No, it's not about diapers...
The Boy started a new round of swimming lessons 3 weeks ago, and we decided on a Sunday morning lesson so Daddy could take him. (Note: see posts from about past horrendous swim lesson and gymnastics classes experiences with substitute teachers) He loved the first three lessons, did great, and luckily the same teacher was there each time.

But today--A SUBSTITUTE!!! And luckily Daddy was there with him, to avoid any Mama Drama. He was a little nervous, but he agreed to participate and had a great lesson.

The funny part is that he loved the substitute teacher. Daddy thought the teacher was a little silly and not that great with the kids, doing things like starting off by splashing water on the kids, and then having them splash each other. If The Boy had been upset, I might even have called the pool supervisor to talk about that teacher's approach.
But guess what part The Boy loved? Of course...THE SPLASHING! He said he liked the sub better than his regular teacher.

Who knew swim lessons could provide us a lesson in expecting the unexpected? When the thing we were dreading--a substitute--arrived, and ended up NOT being the kind of teacher we wanted The Boy to have, of course he loved it.

But who's complaining? We know he's comfortable in the water--he just needs to get through the beginner lessons before he's a huge 10-year old in the preschool lessons.
As long as he was happy and participating in the lesson, I'll keep my mouth shut and the phone on the charger.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What is it with them?

I've been leaving the house to work on Saturday mornings for weeks now, trying to sneak out by 8:30 and coming back around 2:30, during Bitty Girl's nap. It makes for a tiring morning for Daddy, but it keeps me slightly saner during the week, not having to work 2-3 hrs every night.

And I feel guilty for leaving and guilty when I'm gone, but it's actually kind of nice sometimes. I can sit like a real grown-up at a coffee shop or the library, and actually get some work done when I'm semi-awake.

The hard part comes when I get home. Why does The Boy, who is used to going to preschool 3 days a week, act so weird when I get back? He's usually fine if Bitty Girl is still sleeping and he gets my full attention. But once she wakes up, he's too physical and too rough and they need constant monitoring. And of course, it's usually when we're trying to clean up or get ready for dinner.

I know he misses me when I'm gone, and maybe it's because it's the weekend and he thinks I should be home, but it's so hard! I get so irritated at him, because she needs my attention too.

Sigh.. I wished for this mama's boy and I definitely got my wish.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best Policy

The Boy has a fabulous memory for songs. He often comes home from school and sings us a song he learned, and usually knows every word. Tonight he taught us a cute song about windy days that goes something like this:
"It was so windy today, so windy that my (fill in the blank - he said 'glasses') blew away.
They are nowhere to be found, listen to my windy sound" And then you make a windy, shushhing blowing sound.

So we all had fun blowing and making windy sounds. Later, I complimented him on remembering the whole song. I said, "You must have really been listening well to remember the whole song."

And he replies, "I was listening.
I was quiet because I was in time-out."

So much for my vision of him sitting quietly in the circle following directions and absorbing every word the teacher said.

Pat and I both tried not to laugh at his honesty, and asked why he was in time-out. He said he wasn't listening. So we switched gears and congratulated him on making a good choice to sit quietly and listen after he had been put in time-out for talking. I also thanked him for being honest and telling me about being in time-out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Drawing a blank

It's only half-way through November, and I'm already drawing a blank. Blogging every day is difficult because I didn't plan ahead with a theme. Also, instead of being able to go back and rework a previous entry, I have to turn around and write another one the next day. Plus I'm exhausted and it's always late evening.

The obsession with dental hygiene is contagious around here--now they brush their teeth together!

I'm feeling guilty for the lack of journaling about the Bitty Girl I've done. For The Boy, I wrote a journal entry at least every month, and have tons of other little funnies written down on various scraps of paper. I'm worried I'm going to forget the things I'm not writing down. At least I capture a few in blog entries.
So to close tonight's entry, here are things I want to remember about Bitty Girl:
  1. The strange game she plays with Daddy where they put bacon (plastic from the play kitchen) in between her toes. It's one of her few words--"bay bay"
  2. The way she sits at her table and has a tea party with her dollies that she's struggled to stuff into the rungs of the chair or flop up onto the table.
  3. The way she swoops a toy around (usually one of her brother's action figures) and makes the growling/flying/swooshing noise.
  4. Although I have deemed it "just not right," the fact that at nearly 18 months old, she already knows (and loves) Darth Vader, Spiderman, Dora, and the scary Halloween masks and decorations at Target.
  5. The way she methodically carries things from one container to another, one by one, to fill or empty something.
  6. Her sense of humor--she already loves to hide and play peekaboo, or run the other way, giggling, when we ask her to come do something.
  7. The sound of her laughter, especially when she's laughing at her brother
  8. The way her face lights up and she lets out a screech of delight with this little excited scrunching up of her hands when she hears the garage door open and she realizes Daddy is home!
  9. The way she silently and solemnly (and firmly) hugs other kids, even total strangers. It's like she's on a hugging mission and is programmed to hug everyone she sees.
  10. The fact that she's so good-natured. When she wakes up in the morning, she will sing and coo and play in her crib for up to an hour before we go in to get her. And when we finally go in, she just smiles at us, so happy to see us!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

THWONK!

That's the sound of the stick bouncing off Bitty Girl's head. The stick that just left the hands of her brother as he threw it down. We both heard it - THWONK! She looked up at us, startled, slow-motiony, before her face twisted up into the cry of pain and surprise. I think I said, "Oh my God, what was that?" and am hoping I didn't swear at him. I ran over to her, as she was crying harder now, determined that she wasn't bleeding or hurt badly, and gave her a hug. That's when I noticed he was crying harder.

I know he didn't throw the stick at her on purpose. They were both holding sticks, she imitating his sword-waving, bad-guy shooting, and banging on the basketball hoop pole to make music. I asked her to put her stick down, and he tossed his down too hard without noticing that she had walked over to set hers down on his stick pile. Thus the location issue of her head at the bottom of his stick's path of descent.

I felt a mix of anger and pity for him. I was mad that he threw the stick and that it hit her, because he should know better. But I know how it feels to watch your actions unfold and hurt someone, and then not know how to take it back. And I felt torn--I needed to comfort her because she was the one who got hurt, but he was much more upset than she was. And I felt mildly irritated, because he was crying and crying. I wanted to say, "Shut up - why are you crying? You're not the one who just got beaned with a stick!!" But I didn't.

She calmed down quickly and then we both hugged him, although he continued to cry for a few minutes. I said, "Did that scare you?" and he said, "Yes. I didn't throw it at her."
I said, "I know. She's ok, see? But do you see why I ask you not to throw sticks?"
Sniff, sniff, "Yes."
We talked about how it could have poked her in the eye or scratched her face or cut her head, and how we were lucky it was just a little bonk.

She was fine except for a little bump. It wasn't her first and it definitely won't be her last. So it ended up being a good lesson for all of us, and I had that sigh of relief and word of thanks for the guardian angels that it wasn't a direct poke in the eye or a big split open scalp wound or something that would have completely ruined our nice afternoon.

I think her life motto might be "That which does not kill me (or impale or lacerate or seriously wound me) makes me stronger." At this rate, she's going to be superhuman by the time she hits kindergarten.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Putt, putt, putt, BOOM

That's the sound of my great idea backfiring. During Bitty Girl's nap, The Boy was aimlessly wandering around, not finding anything particularly independent to do. So in my infinite Mommy wisdom, I suggest having him tell me a story and I'll write it down. We've done this before, more in a "caption of the picture I'm drawing" kind of way, but not much with big long stories.

He seemed excited, so I grabbed a notebook and a pen. He wanted to illustrate it, and we talked about making a book, etc. I'm thinking I'm so smart, I've got him turned on to writing, etc. I already know he's a great storyteller (ahem, that's nice word for LIAR), but he really does have a fabulous imagination, memory for details and does a great job taking over the bedtime stories some nights.

First story he wants to tell is the Army guy story. His friend at school has some camouflage outfit, so now he's into soldiers. I'm thinking, "At least it's not a Ninja Turtles story."
(Cue creepy foreshadowing music for silly mommy who can't see this coming)

So we begin. First, he talks faster than I do, so he's no easy transcription job. The story is about some Navy guys in a submarine who are going out to kill a shark who's been hurting scuba divers. Lots of good details, including the big bow and arrow that's going to STAB the shark until it DIES. Then a long explanation of how the Navy guys go run up into the mountains to get snow, which they grind up and bury for an hour until it turns into a fossil and when they dig it up, it's turned into METAL! Metal that they need to make motorcycles and "RINE speeders," as in submaRINE. I am not kidding - he made that up himself.

We stop that one when he says he wants to tell a Ninja Turtle story. And then a Star Wars story... I should have seen it coming. I'll continue this post with the story transcription tomorrow - I am too tired to do it justice tonight, but here's my point. I got frustrated when he was basically retelling me a movie he saw. I know he's still remembering the whole thing, and some of the details he added are flat-out hysterical. But it didn't seem like HIS story, and that's what I wanted.

What did I expect? That a nearly-five year old could tell a perfect story with a beginning, middle, and end? That a boy obsessed with bad guys and guns and violence is going to tell a story about rainbows and making friends?

I have to chalk this up to learning, and realize that he enjoyed himself, and making Ninja Turtle books of his stories are better than none at all. And--sigh--I have to keep transcribing for him.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Groundhog's Day

I know it's not until February, but we are living like that Bill Murray movie, where every day is brand-new! We watch Bitty Girl doing something sassy, struggling to be independent, flashing her temper, and we find ourselves SURPRISED! Suddenly, we remember--The Boy was just like this at 18 months. How could we have forgotten?

Yes, let's see... 18 months. The age where husband had to build a gate across the driveway because The Boy would bolt out of the backyard. The age where I actually bought (but never used) one of those harnesses to keep your kid from running away in a crowd. The age where, at the family 4th of July picnic, he was obsessed with the teenagers' pick-up basketball game at the other end of the park, and had to be carried to the car screaming.

Direct quote from the wonderful journals I used to keep monthly for him. (Sorry Bitty Girl, not quite so on top of things 2nd time around)
"The Boy is an absolutely delightful tornado--he is sweet and funny with so much spunk and determination, but he never stops moving, runs us ragged, and has quite a stubborn streak! Wonder where he gets, that, huh? It stinks to see my own stubborn sassy face staring right back at me. He sleeps very well, is generally so happy, but is just VERY 2 - already. Typical toddler and typical boy - we keep saying, "This is what we signed up for, we just didn't know we were going to be so tired!"

So as we say these things in 2007, we act like the words have never sprung from our lips...

Maybe it's like that amnesia of labor "they" tell you about--you forget how much it hurt to have the baby or else you'd never consider having another one.

So Bitty Girl, keep reminding us, and please be patient.... We seem to be slow learners.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fishbowl of Tears

Today I took The Boy to the children's museum, and they have a great art studio. Each day they have some appropriately-themed project for the kids to do, based on a famous artist's birthday, etc. So today, for Veterans' Day, they have this very nice, respectful project of "decorating a brick." The brick walls outside the museum are being decorated by brick-sized pieces of plastic vinyl that the kids decorated in honor of veterans in their families.

Now to the fishbowl reference. If you didn't have a veteran in your family to honor, you could draw a name from the fishbowl. A fishbowl, sitting on the counter, filled with tiny slips of paper, on which are written horrifying things like "John Smith, 22, Private First Class, May 12, 2007." I felt sick. That bowl is full of the names of poor young men and women who DIED, most of them probably in Iraq.

I fully believe they should be honored, and I thought it was a great project. But those people shouldn't be DEAD!!! I didn't know how to explain it to The Boy. Since he can't read yet, it kind of went over his head. We've been talking about soldiers and Army stuff lately, and he has a very light understanding of what soldiers do. They talked about Veterans' Day at school, and we've talked briefly as well. I feel like I missed a teachable moment, but I just can't start talking to him about Iraq. Not yet. He has so many awful grown-up things ahead of him to worry about, I just want his innocence to continue for a while...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Schlepper

Filling and emptying. Filling and emptying. Over and over. She carries her treasures, one at a time, from a box to a cabinet or bag. Seventeen months old, and her sense of purpose is strong and amazing—she definitely knows where she’s doing. Her face is serious and determined, and even the sound of the dishwasher or the pantry cupboard opening does not change her course. Efficiency is not her strong suit, and why should it be? She’s in no hurry. Her entire agenda consists of the “now,” of carrying her dolls and spoons and cups from their original cupboard to a new bag. The latest? A paper grocery bag, recently emptied of some bigger clothes from the garage. She discovers the empty bag, and in goes her most precious possession—Baby Jeff, followed by four pairs of her shoes. Poor Jeff. Next a few assorted Tupperware cups and lids, the spoon from her tea set, and some stolen action figures from her brother.

I love watching her. She carries things one at a time, scurrying across the floor on her quiet little feet. If she has a bag, it’s slung over her shoulder and she carries it proudly, even if it reaches down to her feet. Pick up item, carry over to new cupboard. Open cupboard and put item in. Walk back to original pile of items, choose a new one. Pick up item, carry over to new cupboard. And so on, and so on. Dear God, please let her be organized and neat like her father. I seem to have inherited my mom’s piles and perpetual intentions of “getting organized” but 10 years with Pat hasn’t changed my evil ways. Audrey makes a huge mess in seconds, but she seems to like putting things away, so we’ll try to encourage that one.

What’s going on in her brain with all this organizing? She has great fine motor skills, and can pick up tiny pieces of stale food or lint from the ground, put them in her mouth, and then retrieve them with a “blech!” and run them to the garbage. Another favorite activity—finding bits of trash and running over to the garbage, demanding that someone open the cupboard for her, and flinging her trash into the garbage can. She’s getting better at leaving the trash in the can, although yesterday Pat did utter the words, "Did you get that out of the garbage?” I turned to see her “Who, me? look” and her hands full of crusts from her brother's leftover jam sandwich, sneakily pulled out of the garbage when I forgot to completely shut the door. She was quite insulted and let out a loud protest when we took the crusts away. Maybe she was telling us that should have gone in the compost and not the garbage.

She must be building synapses and connections and pathways with all her organizing. She learns what fits inside what, and how much you can fill something before it overflows or becomes too heavy to carry. (Note to Bitty Girl: You can fit inside the biggest soft-sided cooler if you squeeze sideways. Your brother and Mommy are too big.) She learns how deceiving clear plastic tote bags can be—why can’t I grab what’s inside, since I can see it? She learns about zippers and how you have to pull the sides of the bag apart to make the top opening big enough to put things inside. She learns just how quickly Mommy responds when she whines. Hopefully she’s going to learn the words “help, please” “open,” and “cracker” soon—we’re all getting a little frustrated with the “eh, eh, eh” whining. We're making progress with the signs for help and please, but I think she secretly likes to see how far she can take us, whining and fussing, while we say, "Audrey, show me 'help, please' or Do you need help?" over and over. She only relents when everyone is frustrated, then she does the "help please" sign with an amused smile, like she just gave in because she took pity on us poor speakers.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Big K

For years, we've been throwing around the idea of Kindergarten. Of course he'd go someday, and of course he'd be ready for all-day, how glad we were that he's a December baby so he'd be nice and old. But there it was, lurking in my mailbox--the school district flyer announcing the Kindergarten Information Fair on JANUARY 12, 2008. Ummm, that's in 2 months? This can't possibly be for us?

To make matters worse, we decided to tour this K-8 school that's part of our public school district, but is a "choice" school, so you get in only by lottery. It's a parent cooperative, so there's a volunteer requirement with committees and parent meetings. Of course we loved it. It's a beautiful building, designed for the co-op program, with these great pods of classrooms that have flexible meeting space outside each pod. Of course you have to have space when you require the parents to spend 1/2 day a week in the classroom. The place is crawling with parents. But it seems like an amazing place, so we threw our names in the hat and will try not to get our hearts set on it. The regular neighborhood school would be fine too (note to self: set up another tour)
If we get into the co-op, we'll figure out how to swing the volunteer thing with a 2 1/2 yr old at home and my work schedule.

During the whole tour, although I was thoroughly impressed with the program, and the idea that this would let us avoid the hideous issue of middle school, I kept thinking, "I'm in the wrong place. What am I doing here? Lance isn't possibly ready for KINDERGARTEN!"

But he is..or he will be. We have a long time before September. It's crazy that they make you register so early, but I'm convinced it's for the parents--so we can do our freaking out thing and then calm down a little over the spring before the summer freak-out begins.

So I'm alternately trying to deny the fact that he's actually going to kindergarten and worrying about whether he'll be able to read by next year, or tie his shoes, or keep his hands to himself. Since his dad is an elementary school P.E. teacher, we fully realize that all kindergarteners do not actually possess these skills, but they are things that make the transition much easier.

But this is my baby, and this week I have actually, honestly thought to myself--maybe we should just send him half day and then he'll still be home some of the time. WHAT??!! I have officially lost my mind. This is the kid who makes me count the hours until bedtime some days.

It's official. The January registration is definitely for mommies like me. If I can get through his 5th (how is it possible?) birthday, the actual school registration, and his last spring in preschool, maybe I can dry my tears over the summer enough to be presentable for his first day of school.
sniff....sniff.....sniff....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Grace

We've been saying grace before meals for months now, just trying to pause, hold hands and say one thing we're thankful for that day. Audrey usually gets left out, because she's in her highchair and it's too far to reach. We ask her at the end, and then Lance fills in that she's thankful for broccoli or her babies or something. The grace time is usually filled with Lance sneaking food, pulling uncomfortably on Pat's thumbs, being silly, or taking control of who goes first.

But tonight we forgot to say grace until we were almost done, and Audrey had already eaten and gotten out of her highchair. She was standing next to Pat, so he asked if she wanted to hold his hand. She "told us," through her usual "uh, uh" and trying to climb onto the chair, that she wanted to sit at the 4th chair like a big girl. We helped her up, and she sat there, BEAMING, holding my hand on one side and Pat's hand on the other, like such a member of the family! When we finished and dropped hands, she signed "MORE!" So we did it again, with bigger smiles and a few more tears in our eyes.

I'm thankful for my kids, no matter how fast they're growing up.

Editor's addition: Amazing Grace tonight - 11/16/07. She was fussy in her highchair, didn't really want to eat dinner. We let her get down, and she was whining and pulling at us while we tried to finish dinner. Finally, she went into the family room to play with a book. The Boy suddenly says, "We forgot to say grace!" And she pops up and RUNS back to the table and grabs our hands, standing calmly and quietly while we give thanks, with tears in our eyes...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Always amazing, that Nearly-Five

Now the story about alternative rewards.


Brief history (see Nov 3 post for reference): Lance has had some small issues at preschool, with bringing home notes (not every day, but 1 or 2 a week for a few weeks) that he "had trouble making safe choices" or "needed lots of reminders to keep his hands to himself" or "was throwing balls at people in the gym." We started out by taking away the privilege of an evening video if he had a tough day at school, but it just seemed to make him angry at us and ruin our evening.

So we came up with the "reward for a good week" idea, and last week it was a Ninja Turtle cartoon from the movie store. But I quote myself from Nov 3... "We plan to use it again as needed, but use alternative rewards like a special meal out or special activity, so it's not always a movie."

Lance and I discussed it yesterday. I said, "You know, the reward doesn't always have to be a movie. Mommy and Daddy would like to talk to you about other ideas for rewards."
I'm expecting this response: "I only like movies and Star Wars toys. That's what I want." and figuring that we've just ruined any chance for intrinsic motivation and he'll always need to be paid for good grades or bribed to do his chores--he's a lost cause at Nearly-Five.

But here's what pops out of his mouth!
"Mommy, I have an idea. Maybe the special reward could be a trip out to breakfast on the weekend, to the Original Pancake House, or maybe special time with you at the park, or out to lunch, or you could take me roller skating, or maybe ICE SKATING! "
My eyes actually filled up with tears. I was so proud we had to call Daddy at work right away and retell.
"But Mommy, sometimes the reward could be a movie, right?"

And last night before bed, a STUMPER! He went through a phase of asking questions about God and death when he was about 3, including, "What happens to your body when you die?" "When will I die?" "How tall is God?" "Where do people live in Heaven?" and "Will I see Grandpa John in Heaven?" But the stumper questions have tapered off, probably while Star Wars stories and Ninja Turtles thoughts are killing off brain cells.

Tuesday night's stumper: "Before I was born, before I was in your tummy, where was I?"

Uhhhhhh. Somehow with this amazingly verbal, sharp kid, we have avoided the actual body parts discussion about the mechanics of how babies are made. He knew the word "uterus" and how Audrey was in a bag of water and how she came out, but he was satisfied with the explanation about how Daddy has something in his body called sperm and Mommy has eggs (which, by the way, is HYSTERICAL to him. I think he pictures egg cartons in there..) and they go together to make a baby. But he never asked the famous HOW DO THEY GET TOGETHER question.

I know, you're on the edge of your seat.... how did we answer? Luckily Daddy was in the room too. I reviewed the egg and sperm part, and said he wasn't a baby yet. Daddy saved the day, saying that God knew he was going to be our baby, he just hadn't decided what he would look like yet. That satisfied him--I could just see the wheels turning, picturing a big room with a bunch of babies on shelves, waiting to be mailed...

Amazing, that Nearly-Five.

No particular place to go

We definitely needed a slow-down day. I always feel like we're rushing around. Either getting to preschool 3 days a week or running errands, dashing back home for lunch and Audrey's nap, somehow I'm always sweating. How fun is the park if Mommy is anxiously checking her watch, saying, "5 more minutes.. how about one more slide?"

So Tuesday I timidly suggested that we just stay home and play outside. I braced myself for the typical whining about wanting to go look at toys at Target, but he said, "ok, mom. I want to stay home."

Amazing. That was all it took. We had a leisurely breakfast, played tea party and the ever-popular "fling your toys all over the floor," then bundled up to go outside into the sunny but cold morning. Lance dug in the dirt and played (don't get me started, at least he's outside) "shoot my stick guns at the bad guys" while Audrey and I blew bubbles, played in the sandbox and the clubhouse, and rode her trike. Lucky for us, we weren't the bad guys. At least not today...





It was delightful. No one felt rushed, everyone got some fresh air and unstructured play time. We need more of these days. If I can come up with enough fun "inside" options, it might work once a week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bluebeard and Hermit the Frog

Not much today except to show you how quick and tricky Audrey is. You turn your back for a second while she's happily coloring and playing with stickers in her highchair, and BAM!

She basically licks the crayon and rubs it around her face like lipstick... yummy.
The worst part is how smug she looks about it, like "This is just the beginning, silly lady..."

On to the other kid. We got some Muppet Show videos from the library, so we're deep into explaining the difference from Sesame Street and why Miss Piggy is so mean, and Lance calls him "HERMIT the Frog!" I told him it was Kermit, but I love Hermit more than I loved "macanoni." It's hard to correct him when I like his pronunciation better. And he is usually so correct with his words--my mom said I was the same way--so I treasure the little slips.

More tomorrow about his wonderful list of alternative rewards...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Menthol sleep curse

I have the problem of falling asleep while putting Lance to bed. The deal is I lie down with him for a quick story and a 5 minute snuggle, but often I can't make it through the story and 5 minutes horizontal means I'm asleep. He's often shaking me, saying, "Mommy, finish the story" or "What?" when some complete nonsense mumbling about work or a grocery list comes out in the middle of the story. It's pathetic, I know, but I'm tired.
And tonight we put Vicks VapoRub on his chest because he was coughing, so I was lulled to sleep by the mentholy-eucalyptus vapors in the air. My husband had to come in and wake me up--twice--before I dragged myself out of there.

The worst part of falling asleep is that I'm ruined for the rest of the evening. I stagger around the house, trying to remember what amazing organizational tasks or huge amount of work I was going to accomplish tonight, but really I just straighten papers, eat some cereal, check email, and remember that I HAVE TO POST A BLOG ENTRY because I am trying to do one every day. I need a theme if I'm already writing about falling asleep putting my kid to bed on November 5.

But it was either that or be depressed about how much our new furnace is going to cost.

Time for more Vicks, I think...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Will I ever learn?

I find myself feeling crazy, disorganized, and out of control and then I look at what I put on my own plate.

Saturday's example:
8:30 am - trying to leave the house in the middle of morning breakfast chaos to get some work done at a coffee shop and the library. (This has been our Saturday routine lately so I can get my work hours in and not feel so exhausted and insane trying to work every evening after kids are in bed). I leave after being grumpy and stressing everyone out.
9:00-11:00 am - spend 2 hours at a coffee shop, actually get some work done, but feel mostly guilty for being so crabby in the morning
11:15 am - quick stop to Trader Joe's to buy the noodles I forgot last night
11:30-2:00 pm - spend 3 hours at the library, continuing to work but mostly being tired and restless, wishing that if I had free time without kids on a Saturday, that I could actually be running errands, early Christmas shopping, cleaning my house, or visiting a friend.
2:00-2:30 - make a mad dash into the consignment store that I never have time to hit without the kids, and if I'm trying to bargain shop and not buy new things, I have to go there occasionally and check things out.
2:45 pm - go home to crabby-just-woke-up Audrey and wild-Mommy-just-got-home Lance, try to cook pasta for my dinner w/friends tonight BEFORE the other friends come over with their 1 yr old to watch the football game on tv.
4:30 - friends and 1 yr old arrive, Audrey tries to hug their baby to death, chasing him around like he's catnip. I frantically try to clean dishes, get chips and salsa out, get some dinner for Lance, peel Audrey off friend's kid, fix my hair for tonight
6:00 - leave the house, complete with pasta dinner, to meet group of friends for dinner. I leave husband there with 2 kids, dinner partially scattered around the kitchen, friends still there with their poor mauled baby, and a hurricane of toys.

Whew. And I wonder why I feel stressed?

P.S. - I had a nice time with friends, got home at a reasonable hour, and got to set the clocks back. And because of darling husband, house was completely cleaned up and kids were snug in their beds. That extra hour of sleep is a myth, unfortunately, when the kids wake up an hour early with their little clocks still on Daylight Savings Time. But I still woke up with the overwhelmed crazy feeling.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nearly-Five is so...

capable, funny, able to laugh at jokes. I don't know exactly what it is, but I am really enjoying Lance right now. We've always had fun, but lately he's just so grown-up. Maybe it's the contrast with Audrey, Miss "Trying to be grown up but really still such a wild toddler/baby girl," or maybe it's my mama heart realizing that his last year of preschool is a huge milestone, the beginning of him moving slowly away from my clutches.

Don't worry--not that much has changed. Of course I'm alternately wildly loving him, watching him sleep or laughing at his silly antics or marveling at his deep thoughts and GRITTING MY TEETH in annoyance at his rough play with Audrey, constant GUN-SHOOTING-BAD GUYS-VIOLENCE play, BURPING on purpose, or his NONSTOP TALKING.

I'm just more aware these days of how BIG he is, and how much he can do. The other day I was upstairs getting Audrey resettled during her nap, and Lance was playing outside in back. He came in, took off his shoes, went potty (wiped all by himself) and went back outside--gasp!--without any help from me! And he often clears his plate without being asked, says "thank you" and "excuse me," and quite often is spotted playing sweetly and actually sharing with his sister. He plays "reverse psychology" with us sometimes, saying "Mommy, do NOT eat your broccoli!" and laughing himself silly.

After a couple of weeks of issues at school, bringing home notes about hitting and playing too rough at school, we set a goal for last week. If he had 3 good days (one week) at school (which included Halloween on Wednesday), he could pick out a movie at the movie store. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (don't even get me started about my feelings about the movie, or the road we've gone down in terms of superhero/fighting tv) cartoons make a powerful incentive, obviously, and he earned it. He was very pleased with himself, and as much as I hate the external reward idea, it worked. We plan to use it again as needed, but use alternative rewards like a special meal out or special activity, so it's not always a movie.

I'm so proud of the boy he's become. Of course "proud" from me comes with all sorts of silent worries and fears. Poor boy can't avoid that--no matter how I try to hide it, I know he can sense them. He's doomed to a life of First Born Type A, I'm afraid.. But the thought of kindergarten next year makes me a little nostalgic (ok, a little excited too--he'll be gone every day!) and a little freaked out at how just yesterday he was this tiny baby who arrived too early.

It's the time of year, too.. Every November I think about being on bedrest with him, and Christmastime reminds us of his 11 days in the hospital. It reminds me to be thankful for my many blessings, even if it's through gritted teeth some days.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dr. AB, DDS

We're calling her Dr. Audrey, DDS. The girl is obsessed with her dental hygiene. Slightly ironic, since she only has 6 1/2 teeth, many fewer than her peers. She loves to brush her teeth.

We hear "Aaah, aaaah" and see her running toward the bathroom, finger in her mouth, about 20 times a day. If she finds the door open, she climbs up on the stepstool herself, her forehead barely reaching the counter, and grabs blindly for the toothbrush. If anyone slips and says the word "teeth" or "brush" or (heaven forbid) "brush my teeth," she immediately drops what she's doing and heads for the bathroom, "aaaah-ing" all the way.

And don't try to discourage her--it only makes her want to brush more. We had to add another cup and bring her own toothbrush downstairs, with her own toddler toothpaste. She somehow repossessed Lance's Spiderman toothbrush, but luckily he didn't mind.

She would seriously brush her teeth every 10 minutes if we let her. And she'd stand there for 10 minutes or more, brushing and drooling down her arm. She's really brushing--you should see the technique--it's better than Lance brushing his own teeth. I wonder if she can brush too much?

I guess it's a better habit than playing in the toilet. Which, by the way, she blissfully ignores. Right now, anyway.

Already a day late

It's the theme for my life. I'm going to do the "blog post a day for November" thing, but I decide on Nov 2 to start. Ah well... you know what they say.
So here's my Nov 1 post - seems like someone with kids could come up with something the day after Halloween.

It was actually better than I expected. Lance had school that day, so a full day of Superman and candy was bound to have a bad ending. But when I picked him up, he had had a good day, even after getting PUNCHED by another boy. Seems they were breaking each other's Lego ships, and the other boy just had it. But the important thing here--Lance didn't hit him back! (Oh, and he wasn't hurt either). We rejoice over small things in this family.

After a crazy dinner and donning of costumes, Anakin Skywalker (that's Darth Vader pre-dark side for those of you uninformed) and Yoda were ready to go...


Luckily, I have angels for in-laws, and they volunteered to stay late after watching Audrey all day. So they made us dinner, and Grandma stayed to answer the door while we all went trick or treating.

Lance loved it, as usual. Audrey did well for about 30 minutes, seemed intrigued with the "putting things in my bucket" business, but didn't really get the candy part except some mild interest in a lollipop.

Lance and Pat went out for another hour after Audrey went to bed, bringing home a ridiculous amount of candy. Somehow my Jedi mind trick worked, and I was able to get him to trade all but 15 or so pieces of candy in for a trip to the toy store. Another Halloween miracle.

The funniest part came when Lance came home and was getting ready for bed. He LOVES answering the door, but (eerily like his mother as a young trick-or-treater) only if he can be in CONTROL!

So I've compiled Lance's List of Halloween Non-negotiables:
  • Lance must answer the door.
  • Lance must hold the candy bowl. (unfortunately for the trick-or-treaters, this was about 18 inches too low for most of them)
  • Lance must CHOOSE the candy for them. Mommy must keep her hands out of the bowl.
  • Lance gets to say Happy Halloween and make any comments or ask any questions about their costumes.
  • Lance must say Good Night and close the door.
  • If Lance sees any more kids coming up the driveway, he must wait with the door open, depriving them of the opportunity to ring another doorbell.
Sigh. I have a picture of myself at about age 8, sitting outside in my nightgown and coat, with the candy bowl and a book. Mom wanted to stop answering the door, but I insisted on giving out the rest of the candy.

Word has it from Pittsburgh that my sister's baby Maggie (18 months old) insisted on giving out the candy herself too, and wouldn't even let Mom sit on the same front step.

Control runs deep in our veins...

Happy Halloween - may the Force be with you as you try to keep from eating the leftover candy. Ours went to school with Daddy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Truth about Happiness

My eyes nervously scan the display of brightly colored pictures. An attractive bulletin board display of kids’ artwork, highlighting their Second Steps curriculum about feelings.

What makes you happy?” chirps the title above the board.

I see a few pictures, mostly drawn in pink or green, showing stick people and flowers, authored by Megans and Amelias and Annas, that say things like “I’m happy when my mom hugs me” or “I’m happy when I’m with my family.” But somehow, my eyes are magnetically drawn (by the Force, possibly?) to a picture drawn in yellow crayon in the center of the display.
“I’m happy when my mom takes me to a Star Wars parade.” By Lance.

(photo coming soon)

Nice. His happiness is based on a lie, since he’s never been to a parade, let alone a Star Wars parade. I just remembered he saw some people in Star Wars costumes on tv in the Rose Parade last year, so I have to come clean--it's not a complete lie.

His last drawing was “I’m scared of thunder and lightning,” which was reasonable, if somewhat exaggerated. But I have seen that his favorite book is “Attack of the Clones” and I was briefly afraid that his choice for “Where would you like to eat green eggs and ham?” was “With Darth Vader.” Luckily, someone else beat him to it.

Quickly, I search for the only thing that will keep me from falling to my knees, wailing and gnashing my teeth. Aha! “Transformers make me happy.” By one of Lance’s friends, of course a boy. And even better, from the famous you-have-to-wear-cool-clothes-to-be-my-friend boy: “I’m happy when my mom buys me Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Zurg toys.” And last but not least, “I’m happy when I get to be a pirate at school.” Lance just finished telling me that it was “very important” to that boy that he wore a belt every day and his pirate bandana. I can just imagine the morning getting dressed battles in that house.

Redemption! It’s not my parenting problem, it’s that darn Y chromosome. I guess I should be happy I made it on the picture at all—at least I took him to the parade. I’ll just have to wait on Audrey for the hugs and flowers of happiness. And on a positive note, the picture was wonderful – lots of little alien and starship-looking circles with legs and wings, and I’m sure “shooter guns.” But at least he’s using his imagination and his crayons. Maybe I could use a little Jedi mind trick on him one of these days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Slip sliding away…

Thanks to Paul Simon for the title...

I knew Lance would eventually start this. I’ve known it since December 14, 2002, when the doctor announced, “I see a penis.” He’s a boy. But he’s always been a Mama’s boy, and he’s been very verbal and dramatic, and despite being very active and physical, very much LIKE me—a girl.

But suddenly I am faced with almost daily flashes of his boy-ness, and the fact that he is running headfirst into the social pressures of being male. He has always been physical, needing to be outside running around. And I’ll admit I don’t quite “get” the love of digging in the dirt, but I think I did at his age. But he’s always had lots of girls to play with, thanks to most of my friends having girls first. And he’s happily played Princesses and dress-up for years (see future blackmail pictures of the pink butterfly costume and Ariel mermaid costume, complete with shoes). He even went through a princess-obsession phase last year, devouring Disney stories and fairy tales like a hungry ogre.

Not this year. It’s not just the “everything is a gun” or obsession with Superheroes and Star Wars. He’s a shining example of the budding male ego, thanks in part to his budding friendship with two boys at preschool – He was friends with them last year, but this year it’s going to a new level, with one boy clearly at the lead. Lance reports that his friend "hates girls, hates princesses, and thinks Barbies are stupid." He likes to chase the girls in the gym and play superheroes. Now of course I’ll admit that Lance likes to do much of these things on his own, but he's always had girl friends and happily played Princesses with them. His friend has two older sisters, which is probably the root of the problem—he’s forging his own identity.

Even more troubling is the insecurity I see in Lance. His friend is clearly the leader, and Lance has actually said things like, “He said I can’t play with so-and-so." "If he comes over we have to hide my Beauty and the Beast toys or the princess toothpaste (which, by the way, we only have because he prefers the bubble gum flavor to Power Rangers Fruit Burst),” or “He said we have to chase the girls,” or “I’m not going to a girl’s birthday party because we hate girls.” His own opinions are bad enough, but if he’s so worried about wanting these boys to like him at this age, I can’t stand the thought of junior high!

And he’s a compulsive liar. I think it’s the ego thing—have to be first, best, smartest, fastest. He tells the most amazing stories, but when they’re couched as truth, I’ll have to admit I get irritated. He has claimed to be a better baseball player than Ichiro, faster than a track star and Dash on the Incredibles, and taller than everyone. I am trying to go along with it, but I just can’t let him get away with the lying. It’s crossed over into other areas, like hitting someone at school (that’s another whole story) and then telling the teacher “someone else made me do it” or “I didn’t do it.” We’ve had many conversations about the difference between truth and stories, and lying and fibbing, and using your imagination for positive things. I cringe at the thought of what he’s told his teachers, and what they think of me.

There’s a new villain in town now. I asked Lance if he wanted to bring “shooshy pants” (like nylon running pants/sweat pants) as his extra pants on the pumpkin patch field trip day, and he said, “No, shooshy pants aren’t cool. A. says I have to look cool to be his friend.” I just about went through the roof, but calmly talked about how it’s your personality that makes you cool, and if you’re nice to other people and not what you wear. But I could see his face – I was just the blurred Charlie Brown adult voice “Waah wahh wahh wahh.”

He is a lot like Pat, so that’s both wonderful and frustrating. The black and white, no gray area attitude is hard for me. And he’s super competitive, so looking at Pat, it’s doubtful that’s something Lance will grow out of. We are working on sportsmanship and hopefully getting into team sports like soccer or t-ball next year will help improve that.

I always joke that “peer pressure will get him eventually,” more for things like potty training or crying for Mommy when he falls down. But the truth is, peer pressure already has him. It’s scary how stealthy it is, sneaking in at preschool and Target and in our words and the little amount of TV commercials he actually watches. (Tons of movies and DVD and OnDemand, yes, but not much network TV). I often wish we lived in the middle of a wheat field with only wooden blocks for toys.

Let’s not even get started with Audrey. I am nervous about Lance growing up in this crazy world, but am downright terrified about raising a girl. Macho ego is one thing, but body image and self-esteem and self-worth and mean girls is an entirely different side, one that I’m not excited to venture into. So while I’m wishing her older so they can play together better or so we can go somewhere without worrying about her naps, I’m going to remind myself that soon enough, she’ll be 12 and heartbroken because some dumb boy doesn’t like her or because some other girl has left her out of the group or because she’s not tall enough or thin enough or doesn’t have big enough breasts. At least I’ll be able to sympathize in that department. Lately with Lance I am just at a loss, in uncharted territory, like I got off the elevator at the wrong floor or talked my way into a job that I’m not qualified to hold.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Laundry

She takes each piece carefully out of the basket, inspects it for a loose thread or tag, and then places it behind her. She looks around at the clothes surrounding her, sighs, and stands up to put them back in the basket. She loses her footing when she slips on a shirt and goes down in a heap. Unfazed, she tosses each piece back into the basket. Then she notices me watching her. “Eh?” she asks me inquisitively. Now she smiles, struggles to her feet, and offers me a purple onesie.

Now I’m part of the game. She crosses the kitchen each time, tottering on her baby legs with her pot belly thrust forward, to hand me one piece of clothing from her basket. I say, “Thank you!” with enough enthusiasm to get a 4 ½ -tooth beaming smile in return, along with a little nonsense chatter that must mean, “Here’s my shirt. Not sure why I feel compelled to give it to you, but it makes me happy, so take it!”

Audrey loves laundry. Dirty, clean, she doesn't care. She played with the basket of clothes for at least 10 minutes, and then played with me and the basket of clothes for another 10 minutes. She starts with gentle tossing, and then flings the clothes behind her in laundry shot-put. She’s very interested in the “in and out,” “off and on,” “over and under” games lately. Yogurt cups with lids, Tupperware, and laundry baskets are her favorite toys. She takes these things very seriously—it’s fascinating to watch her concentration as she crumples a shirt in her hands, runs her hands along the printed design or snaps, and then decides whether to gently place it in the basket or throw it behind her.

She has become such a little personality these days. Walking makes all the difference. She has gone from walking to scurrying, almost running, in about a week. She still falls a lot, but gets right back up with hardly a nose scrunch of complaint most of the time, even when her falls are Lance-induced. She announces her intentions with hoots and screeches, and usually scoots toward the desired open closet, cupboard or dishwasher with an “uh, uh, uh” or a drawn-out “ooohhhhhhh.” Lucky for me, she hasn’t figured out how to be quiet and sneaky most of the time yet, unless she’s trying to get into the bathroom, in which case she’s silent. I’ve already lost her upstairs for a few seconds, when she snuck into the bathroom in search of Lance’s tub toys. She looks very pleased with herself when I find her, and frighteningly not-at-all-guilty. To this day, Lance cannot go anywhere quietly or sneakily, but with Audrey, I sense danger ahead…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

If only I could bottle it...

That baby smell. I swear I really WANT AB to sleep through the night without waking up, but when she wakes up and just needs to eat or snuggle, I have to admit I secretly love it. That snuggly, sweaty baby smell is almost more than I can handle. I get the overwhelming rush of love for her, combined with the fear of how fast she's growing up and what I'm missing in her "second baby chaos," mixed with the irresistible desire to stay in there and snuggle her forever.

She has this new habit of nursing until she's full, then laying her head on my shoulder, but lifting up, rearing her head back and flashing me a grin before flopping back down and closing her eyes. If I nuzzle her to breathe in that magical smell, she smiles as she's falling asleep. It's this kind of thing I want to remember when she's 15, dressed like a Goth queen, and hating me.

And on the days when I'm at work and she's with my mom or father in law, she often doesn't drink much milk, so tends to wake up once or twice in the evening. It's mostly just to eat more and go back to sleep, but it seems like she just didn't get enough Mama or Daddy time, so needs one more snuggle. Who can resist that offer?

I might have to use that silly Dreft detergent forever - that baby powder smell is powerful. Or powderful, I guess.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unglued

I have diagnosed Lance with post-traumatic non-swimming disorder. Either that or he has multiple personalities. It's hard to watch Lance come unglued. It seems to happen fairly easily, which worries me a bit. I know he's 4 and wild emotions come and go, but I worry that he has my temper and Pat's temper all rolled into one.

Our latest turmoil has been swim lessons, more specifically SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS for swim lessons. But after my last post about substitute teachers for gym and swim lessons, I vowed that I would act more like a kind, compassionate person (i.e. a MOTHER!!!) in situations like these.

So Friday 3/23, I was prepared with all the Zen I could muster. We had talked about it in advance, he still said no swimming for a sub. Since we only had 2 lessons left, I gave in and called the pool to see if the teacher was there. They couldn't confirm, hadn't seen her since the day before. We got all ready, hopeful that she'd be there. No luck, but at least he didn't shower. I handled it better this time - much calmer and focused on him, determined to be empathetic and more neutral. We had already discussed the fact that he didn't have to go in if there was a sub, but I asked if he wanted to think about it before going back to get dressed. He did, we sat for a few minutes, and then left. But it was on good terms, no arguing, and everyone seemed happy. (cue foreshadowy music). We made a trip to Target and had a good afternoon.

I convinced Lance to take a bath before Pat got home. (mistake #1) but it was fine until the end. Audrey was playing in the hall, happily throwing washcloths in and out of her inflatable bathtub. Lance purposely tried to get out before soap and shampoo, then got mad when I wouldn't put Audrey back in the tub in the hallway so he could play with her. (From Audrey's side, she was already done - she had been patient, gotten kicked out of the bathroom when Lance didn't want her throwing toys into his tub, played by herself, and was ready to go downstairs with Daddy).

So he got soaped and shampooed by an impatient Mommy--clueless Mommy who obviously didn't see the wave building. He asks to watch a movie and I said no, but maybe if he made helping choices until bedtime.

HE. CAME. UNGLUED.

Here's a sample of the 10 minute screaming tirade he unleashed on me. "Bad stinky Mommy! Go be someone else's Mommy! You are the worst Mommy - I don't like you! I AM going to watch a movie" I went downstairs for most of this, so he was screaming after me. And then when he came down to yell directly at me and Pat followed him, "Daddy. STOP. Stay there -do NOT follow me!"
He was still yelling at me, but he let me stop him, doing this weird "sit in my lap and half hit me, half snuggle" thing. He calmed down, we talked about feeling mad vs. yelling and hitting, and then the storm passed and he was fine for the rest of the evening. He was hungry too - ate a ton before bed. Again, what is my deal? I know I get grouchy if I don't eat, and he's the same way. I should have seen that coming.

I think it's all fallout from swimming, so we're done - we're skipping the last lesson and not signing up for more. Lance and I discussed this and he agreed. But what happens when he wants to play soccer?

As we were lying in his bed, we talked quietly. I told him that we love him no matter what, but that it's not ok to yell at me like that. I said we need to work on strategies for dealing with the mad feelings, like counting, breathing, punching a pillow, etc. I said, "What if you get mad at school? You can't yell at someone like that."
Lance said, "I don't get that mad at school."
Me: "Why not?
Lance: "Because they do everything that I like."

There you have it. Distilled down to its 4 year old logical essence: My way or the highway, and hold your ears...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Transparency

I'd never win in Vegas, even if I had the guts to gamble. I just have a crappy poker face.
And it's also proving to be difficult in parenting.

I think Lance's behavior might be a lot better if I had a better poker face. He seems so connected to my emotions, and when I'm really upset with him, he just falls apart. Combine this with his resistance to change and slow adaptability and poof! One big mess.

Turns out he has an issue with substitute teachers. (I can just see it now in elementary school - yikes.) On Monday, his gymnastics teacher was sick on the LAST day of the session. He froze when he saw the sub and refused to go in. Since it was the last class, parents were allowed to watch, so I dragged him into the room, but he refused to participate. Even watching the other kids show all their skills and having fun wasn't enough to get him to join.

And today his swimming teacher was sick. He's only had her 3 times, so it's not like they have this deep relationship, but he refused to get in the water for his lesson. We sat on the bleachers, watching the class, Lance shivering in his swimsuit and me not even being nice enough to offer him his towel. I was trying to semi-ignore him so that it wasn't some sort of reward, but I just ended up being snarky to him.

What bothers me the most about these kinds of incidents is how I behave.

I am really honestly upset at him. I'm not surprised that he resists a change in routine--I know exactly where he gets that one, since I cried hysterically the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade, sniffled into 3rd grade, and hated the first week of every new year/quarter all through college. But the fact that he's so stubborn and refuses to participate, even when I'm right there and he can see the other kids having fun--I just don't get it. I have this weird mix of irritation, that I'm sitting there with Audrey while he's not doing anything. And I'm mad that we're wasting the money on the class. And I'm embarrassed that the teacher and other parents don't seem to know how to react. And I'm sad that I'm not getting to watch him swim or do gym, etc. He's not screaming and throwing a fit - just silently, stubbornly protesting.

I should be--and in the future, I will be--more kind about it. I am conflicted about whether I should just leave (does that reward him) or make him sit through the class (does that punish him). Each time, I kept thinking "he's going to join in any second," but he never did. But I catch myself being so visibly irritated, and making mean little comments like "Wow, that looks fun - you're missing out." And then after we leave I am SO short with him.

Because after we get home from the non-class, I have to put a tired baby to bed, deal with her crying if she has also intuitively sensed Mama's agitation, decide whether Lance can watch a movie, clean up lunch dishes and other miscellaneous morning messes, and deal with Lance. And when he knows I'm irritated, he is EXTRA clingy and whiny or disobedient or uncooperative. He cannot stand when I'm mad at him. Then we have a tense afternoon, sometimes he recovers, but then falls apart when Pat gets home. It's like that "Just wait until your father gets home," except I never say that. He just knows Pat will find out. So there's inevitably a dinner argument, cleanup argument, or bedtime tantrum. And God help us all if Audrey doesn't go to bed easily.

But tonight, after Swimmergate, I think I set a new record for thick-headed Mommy. He was ok in the afternoon, helped Pat wash the car but was whiny and agitated, made it through dinner and a movie. Audrey went to bed early, I watched the end of Cinderella with Lance, and decided I needed to be off duty, and said Daddy was putting him to bed because I had to do some work. Somehow he wakes Audrey up while brushing his teeth and then has a fit and starts kicking Pat. We end up trying to get him to go to bed without any more stories or anyone lying down with him.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't take away this part of bedtime. This is like "Never go to bed mad."
So of course he won't go to sleep--says he's not tired, scared of monsters, has to pee, etc. And sternly telling him to stay in his room just doesn't work. You know what works? Lying down with him for a 5-10 minute snuggle, telling him I love him no matter what ("Even if you're mad at me?" "Yes, even when I'm mad at you."), and rubbing his back. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME? The kid needs his normal bedtime routine, especially after a day like today.
Why do I not see this ahead of time?

He's only 4 years old. He cannot deal with the complex emotions he feels when he's scared and then worried about letting me down or making me mad. He's a creature of his routines and does not do well when they are disrupted. He will be like this always, but will hopefully learn to deal with it internally, or we're going to spend a lot of time in the principal's office or conferencing with his kindergarten teacher.

I'm just mad that I can't hide my feelings better. For Lance's sake, it would make things much easier. Let's not even start worrying about what Audrey 1) Already senses and 2) Will react to when she's older...