Monday, December 5, 2011

Now That He's Tasted Freedom...

Londo and I have been tossing around the idea of converting the Pookie's crib to a toddler bed. But when the Pookie wakes up in the morning, he sits in his crib for 30 minutes or more playing. He's confined and happy. I have time to get up and get ready before he's calling for me to get him. And it's hard to change something that's been working so well.

Or had been.

Over Thanksgiving at my inlaws, the Pookie slept in a pack 'n play in a guest room, as he always does. We set it up where we always do, next to the guest bed. It has a lovely wrought iron headboard and footboard, with the footboard about a foot away from the pack 'n play.

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

During the visit, the Pookie figured out how to climb out of the crib. He put a leg over the top and used the footboard to pull himself out. He showed us himself how he did it.

The pack 'n play is so low that it wasn't a problem. But we were concerned about what would happen when we got home and he was in his tall crib.

The first night back, it was too late and I was too tired to figure anything out. So I just rocked him to sleep and put him in his crib as usually. He slept through the night, woke up and started playing in his crib. So I got up and went to wash up, leaving the monitor with Londo.

A little while later, Londo hurried into the bathroom to let me know he was going to get the Pookie. He said that he heard the Pookie over the monitor say, "I get down."

Londo rushed into the nursery to see the Pookie with one leg going over the crib rail. He put the Pookie's ankle back on the inside of the crib. And then got him out of the crib.

And that was the end of the crib.

We converted the crib into a toddler bed, and the Pookie's been transitioning. We've all been transitioning. It's not been easy.

The first night, he was up in the 2:00 hour. I tried to get him back to sleep for an hour and a half, and then I just brought him in bed with us. The Pumpkin was already there anyway. He woke up early, too.

Londo and I have never minded having the kids (and dog and cat) in our bed. It's the main reason we got a king-sized bed. But the rule is that anyone in our bed has to let the others sleep. The Pookie is still learning that rule.

But he is learning. When he wakes up early in the night, he's pretty good about falling back asleep with us. On top of me if the Pumpkin is cuddled next to me, because he's such a mama's boy he has to be close to me.

But when he wakes up at 5:00 or later, he is pretty much awake and trying to play with us or get us up. So I've been teaching him that if he's awake and wants to play, "Where do you go?" He now answers that with, "In my room." And I say, "Go on then." And? He does!

Overall, we've been up early a lot this past week and had some rough nights of sleep. We didn't think this transition would be easy, and boy were we right!

I'll end on a good note, though. Last night, the Pumpkin came in our room in the 2:00 hour, going right to sleep in between Londo and me, not even waking me. The Pookie toddled in our room right about 4:00. He climbed into bed easily enough, and he tried to get comfortable. But he could not get comfortable or settle down.

When he actually sat up and started to look around--for something to get into, no doubt--that's when I said, "Are you awake and want to play?" and after I asked about where he should go to play, he heads off to his room. I fell back asleep.

The other morning that he was up that early and playing in his room, every half hour he would come in to check in on me and see if I was ready to get up. It was disrupted sleep, but it was better then not sleeping at all.

I thought he would do that again. But instead of getting woken up a bunch of times, I woke up when my alarm went off at 6:30. I bolted out of bed, my first thought being what the heck had the boy been up to for the last 2 and a half hours!

I didn't hear anything, so I tiptoed down the hall. I didn't hear anything through the door, so I very quietly eased the door open.

I could barely believe my eyes. The Pookie was sleeping sweetly in his toddler bed, his Cars blanket pulled up around him. Asleep! Back in HIS OWN BED! Which he went to and got in by HIMSELF!

I didn't know kids really did that. And I certainly don't expect it to ever happen again. But it was pretty cool. Who knows what will happen tonight.

So now, every night before I go to sleep I ask myself, "I wonder which kid will come to bed with us first tonight?" It's a sweet thought and a neat place to be in our parenting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Signs That They Are Listening, and Learning

We went to the inlaws for a lovely Thanksgiving. My inlaws have a big game room that has lots of toys and exercise equipment. One toy in there is a little ride-on/peddler tractor, which is fun for the kids.

One day, Londo and I were chatting in another room while the kids played in the game room. We heard a scuffle that ended with the Pookie crying. I let out a big sigh, Londo and I shared a look that said "here we go again," and I put down what I was doing. In other words, I didn't run in there to see what was wrong. I went, but I took my time. I figured it was another case of the kids arguing over a toy and whining and crying about it.

When I got to the door and looked in, the Pookie was sitting on the floor next to the tractor toy with the Pumpkin next to him comforting him. She had her arm around him and was telling him it was okay, that he was okay, that she was sorry.

I thought, maybe I was wrong; maybe they weren't arguing and crying over toys. Maybe he hurt himself and his sister was making sure he was okay. But I did hear her say she was sorry, although not for what.

I knelt down next to them and asked the Pumpkin what happened, knowing that she's still at the point where she will tell us when she did things she wasn't supposed to.

She explained that she wanted to ride on the tractor toy, but that her brother wasn't letting her have a turn. So she pushed him off. But he fell and hurt himself and started crying.

I had a split second to decide which way to go with my parenting. I could:
1. Scold her for pushing her brother and lecture them both about taking turns, sharing, etc.
2. I could praise and encourage the compassion she was showing her brother.

It was a no-brainer for me.

If I teach my kids anything, I hope it is to be thoughtful of others. I hope they are compassionate and kind and inclusive and stand up for others. I hope they care about each other and are there for each other throughout their lives. I believe that by teaching thoughtfulness of others, they will be better about sharing and so many other things.

In fact, one of the phrases I repeat again and again in our house is, "It's not fun or funny if someone is upset."

When my daughter told me what happened, I instantly realized that even though my daughter pushed her younger brother off a toy because she wanted to use it, when he was hurt and/or upset her immediate reaction was to comfort him and apologize. Even though there were no adults in the room with them telling her what to do. Even though he was off the toy and she could have it.

She didn't just take the toy and go off on it. She didn't ignore him or laugh at him or anything mean like that. She didn't just care about getting what she wanted.

She immediately left the toy and went to her brother. She immediately cared more about his being upset than the toy. She apologized and comforted him.

And that is success in my book. In that moment, I saw that perhaps my and Londo's parenting was working. That moment was evidence that what I'm trying to teach my kids might actually be sinking in. It was proof that my kids are learning the lessons I think are most important.

It was a moment to remember, cherish, and record for prosperity so I can revisit when I'm wondering if they are listening to me at all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving -- Four Years Later

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a happy Thanksgiving. I had a wonderful time, and I'm so thankful for so many things in my life. Including my blog, even though I have not been very active lately.

On Thanksgiving four years ago, I set up this blog and wrote my first post. Over the next four years, I wrote pretty regularly, writing down stories about my kids for posterity, creating poetry to reflect my feelings about motherhood, sharing the wonders and frustrations of parenthood with others going through similar life experiences.

Except for recently.

Lately, I just haven't been writing. I haven't been posting on my blog, on Facebook, on other people's blogs, on Twitter, anywhere.

It's not for lack of material, or even ideas about how to write the stories of my life. I often come up with ideas and write it in my head. I just don't type it up on the blog. It's not as if I'm busier now than I was before, considering how busy and sleep deprived I've been since having kids. I have time to read and play on my iPhone and put together jigsaw puzzles (my latest obsession).

I've just not done it. I've not felt like it. I've not followed through when I have felt like it.

I always wondered why people who blogged regularly slowed down in posting and even stop blogging. I was always sad when bloggers I enjoyed stopped blogging. I never understood how they could just stop blogging.

I don't want to do that. I don't want to stop blogging. I'm not going to close my blog down or just leave it up in the air. Although, now I totally get how it happens.

I'm going to keep blogging. I've been doing it for four years now. I know I'll get inspired to blog more often again. I miss writing and recording my life and stories about my children. I don't know how to feel inspired again, but I will keep working on and try not to let too much time pass between posts. I know that the longer I wait, the harder it is to get back into it.

I am just going to accept that this is where I am in my life. I don't feel guilty for not keeping up with my blogging or my friends' blogs. I refuse the guilt that is so easy for moms to feel. Instead, I'm going to just try to capture my life when I think of things to write, and just do it when I can. That's all I can do.

And how have you all been?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Tell the Truth

The Pumpkin has a very active imagination. She loves to make up songs, stories, names and, well, everything. She is taking drama class again this year, and she loves to pretend to be things. Most often lately she's wanted to pretend to be a teacher and I am the mom teacher, which is a cute idea.

She also loves to be silly and does things just to make people laugh. Part of her silliness is making up funny things, combining her love of thinking up things and being silly. She comes up with all sorts of things, and I'm constantly amused, as is Londo and the Pookie.

But it can be hard to figure out exactly what to believe sometimes. I know what she makes up when I'm right there (she is not really marrying her brother), and I can also guess quite a bit of what's made up about school (they do not have a classroom horse so they can learn about taking care of horses). But sometimes there are stories she tells that I don't know if they are true or not.

And just to keep me completely confused, she either doesn't understand the concept of "true" or thinks it means something it doesn't. Because after she told me the story about the classroom horse? She looked at me, nodded her head and said, "It's true." One time she even said, "True story"! Kids these days learn that internet speak early!

One thing that drives Londo crazy is when people lie to him. So he's worked to explain what is true versus what is a lie to the Pumpkin for years. She either isn't getting it or is pushing her boundries to see what stories she can get away with. Either way, it can be frustrating for all involved.

If we can't believe her when she says something is true, then it become really hard to trust that she's doing what she should be. For example, if we ask if she washed her hands after she used the potty, we've heard her insist she has even though we saw her NOT do it. But other times, she insists to the point of tears that she has and we don't know if she has or not, which must be extremely frustrating for her if she really is telling the truth.

I always keep in mind a phrase one commenter on Ask Moxie who was a teacher would say to her students' parents: I'll believe half of what the kids say happen at home if you believe half of what they say happen at school.

I know it's a normal development phase, and the book Nurture Shock claimed that the ability to lie shows intelligence in children. But it's still frustration.

On the bright side, she does have an amazing imagination and tells very interesting stories and comes up with very creative games. That's the part I concentrate on, even when she tells me that she truly had the toy first, not her brother, when I know she didn't. Who knows what that girl of mine is going to come up in her life? I can't wait to find out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Camping Trip with Kids

Two weekends ago, Londo and I took the kids on an overnight camping trip. That's right, this Family That Travels went to the woods! And stayed in a tent!

I may not seem to be a camping or outdoorsy type of gal, but I actually love the outdoors and really have enjoyed camping. I have very fond memories of camping with my family, and I had a great time going with Londo and friends when we were in grad school. The trips haven't always been perfect, but that's part of the point. It's not just that I like the idea of camping, it's that I'm willing to accept that "roughing it" may be rough at time!

On the flip side, Londo has been camping regularly his whole life. He has all this knowledge about living in the outdoors, and he gets more enjoyment from nature (especially woods and mountains) than anyone else I know. He has all the gear and then some.

We've been wanting to take the kids for a few years, but Londo was concerned that the kids were too young. This year, we decided that they were probably old enough for us to try it. We decided we would go this year, this fall. Just an overnight at a nearby campgrounds to try it out. And that's what we did last weekend.

You know how you can like the idea of something but in reality it doesn't live up to your idea? Well, I'm happy to say that didn't happen! And it really was because of Londo. He made sure that things went smoothly, that there was enough to entertain the children, that we had everything we needed and that we were all set up.

It also went so well because we went with my brother, his wife, their teenager and their 5 year old twins. My brother and SIL were campers before having kids, their teenager is awesome, and the twins are fun and play really well with my kids. It was a smart plan to go in a big, fun group.

For this first trip, we rented a camping site at a state park about an hour from our house. My brother's family got the spot directly across from us. It was one of those spots that you pull the car up to and lay out your tent on a flattened, gravel surface. It had a metal, circular area for the camp fire, including a grill top for it. It also had a picnic table, an electrical outlet and was right near the bathrooms.

What can I say. We weren't going to rough it too hard for our first trip with a four year old and two year old!

The first unexpected issue we ran into was one I never suspected we'd have to worry about. Londo had laid out the tarp along the gravel and was just getting the tent ready to put up, when I realized that there were peanut shells EVERYWHERE. This was not some case of a few shells left behind and easy to clean up. They were all over every part of the gravel.

Okay, people. The first rule of camping is leave the area as you found. I don't care if peanut shells are biodegradable. They are litter when left behind all over the place. Not only that, but they are a serious health and safety hazard for my daughter who has a peanut allergy!

This campgrounds are specifically aimed at camping with families. And with peanut allergies on the rise, I find it irresponsible for people to leave behind peanut shells literally covering the ground. There were so many that Londo quickly abandoned the idea of sweeping them away. We ended up switching campsites with my brother's family, and then we all mostly hung out at our peanut shell-free campsite.

I know most people don't have to worry about a peanut allergy, and peanut shells are biodegradable, so I couldn't get too mad about it. It's just that we always have to be so aware of the peanut allergy. We can't leave it home even when we're camping in the woods. And that's why we bring the EpiPen everywhere.

Back to camping. It was my job to keep the kids occupied while Londo set up our tent and campsite. We started off looking at cool mushrooms, moss and bugs (that I didn't even flinch at, for the record). But after a while, they were starting to get interested in what Londo was doing.

So I came up with a game: Nature Scavenger Hunt! I gave them five things to look for (a red leaf, an acorn, a brown leaf, a gray rock and a white flower) and told them the boundries around the campsite where they could look. I helped them find the items and put them in their own piles on the picnic table.

One of the cutest things a kid said during the trip was my nephew who was looking for one of the items and having trouble. This adorable 5 year old says, "Oh who am I kidding. I'm never going to find it!" It was really hard not to laugh at that. Of course I helped him out a bit with that item, and then he ended up winning the Nature Scavenger Hunt!

After that, Londo and my brother taught my teenage neice how to build a fire, while the younger kids ran around inside our big, 6-person tent.

Food was a major source of entertainment. Londo cooked hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner, and we all sat at the picnic table enjoying the meal. Londo also brought a pan of popcorn to put over the fire, and my brother and SIL brought the makings for smores!

Londo also brought each of the kids a glow stick, which of course was a hit! Now there were two problems with those. 1. My kids did not want to put them down to go to sleep because they were so awesome, especially the Pookie who didn't understand why he couldn't keep it and stare at it instead of going to sleep. 2. There wasn't one for me. Hehe.

By bedtime, the kids were totally worn out and went to bed pretty easily--once I seperated them and put Pookie to bed first and then the Pumpkin, like I do at the beach house. When we try to put them to bed at the same time, they just feed off each other and go crazy and don't settle down at all. But Pookie first, then the Pumpkin works well.

Once asleep, the adults all hung out by the campfire, talking and laughing. My kids slept through it. My SIL went to hang out with her teenager for a while, and my brother, Londo and I stayed up a little later until I couldn't keep my eyes open any more. I crawled into the tent, snuggled up to the Pookie and fell asleep to the sound of crickets and two of my favorite guys talking about football.

You may be wondering how we all slept, four of us in a tent, including my not-so-great-sleeper daughter and my very-used-to-his-crib son. And the answer is: crappy--just as we expected. But because we expected crappy sleep, it did not ruin the trip or even really cause concern or dissappointment or frustration. We simply did not expect to sleep well, so when we didn't, it wasn't a problem.

The Pookie woke up crying and trying to get comfortable within 10 minutes of my falling asleep. I finally got him back to sleep by singing Hush Little Baby while jiggling him a little against me. He spent most of the night tossing and turning, sleeping on me more than not. Londo slept on the other side of the tent, next to the Pumpkin, and he said she helicoptered all night. So crappy sleep, but definitely some sleep. And we made it to morning!

One of my favorite parts about camping is waking up in the morning to the sounds of nature, remembering where I am and crawling out of the tent to see what the day is like. And it was a lovely morning.

We had eggs and bacon cooked on the campfire for breakfast. Then, my SIL and I took the kids on a hike through some trails, while the guys took down the tents and packed up the cars. The nature walk was awesome. We saw so many cool-looking mushrooms and moss, a catapiller, falling trees to climb over and even a white-tailed deer that ran right across our path only a few feet from us! We did take a slight wrong turn, so the hike ended up being longer than we'd planned, but no matter! There were piggyback rides and shoulder rides to help the kids along, stops for snacks and cool things to look at all along the way.

The trail ended at the lake, when Londo and my brother came walking up to us and finish the walk around the lake to where they parked the cars, with a brief stop at the lake's empty beach to play in the sand for a couple minutes.

The kids had an awesome time, as did the adults. Even the teenager admitted it was fun. My daughter even declared it the best time ever! In fact, everyone wants to go again as soon as possible! Because, you know, we're a Family That Camps!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Question of the Week - The Things They Remember

I was driving the kids to school the other day, and we passed by a car that was pulled over by a couple police officers. My daughter said that the police were helping the person whose car was broken or out of gas. I went ahead and told her that they had actually stopped the car because the person in the car had done something they shouldn't have.

So of course the Pumpkin says, "Hey Mommy! Remember that time when the police man pulled you over because you were going to fast?"

Yes, yes I remember. But why must she remember? And why must she bring it up every few months? Grrreeeaaaat!

She doesn't remember the nanny we had for the first 2 years of her life and then the next year for her brother. She doesn't remember the last trip to the zoo. She doesn't remember having adenoid surgery and the wonderful care we gave her after. The girl can't even remember if she brushed her teeth 10 minutes later!

But she does remember the one time I got pulled over for going a little too fast (though at a completely safe speed) trying to get her to school on time.

This week's question of the week is:
What does your kid(s) remember that you wish he/she/they would just forget?

It's often the bad words they remember, or the thing you said that you don't want them to repeat, isn't it? I'm just hoping that she is also remember all the wonderful things I do that show what a good, upstanding citizen I am. Not the time I cursed or got in trouble with the law!

How about your kid? Does she remember the time you flipped out when she pushed the boundaries too far? Does he remember the time you forgot to bring something he needed for school? Do they seem to forget things you think are important but don't let you forget the time you made a mistake? What do you wish your kid would just forget already?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Work/Life Unbalance

Well. Work just took over my life for a little while there. I mean took over!

For those of you familiar with software development, we were in the final stage of a major release. For those not familiar, software development tends to be cyclical, and at the end of a release cycle, things get insanely busy. That's when everything has to be tested completely, all bugs fixed and retested, all the help completed, all the code finalized and packaged and ready to be deployed. It's hectic. Some releases more than others. This one was a crazy one.

I almost sent out an SOS for chocolate and more software testers! (I wonder what SOS is in binary...)

Before kids, the craziness of the final phases of the release and release weekends was not as big a deal. Sure, I'd miss Londo when I'd work really long hours. Yes, I had to drop activities and housework. Of course I missed snuggling with my dog and cat. But it doesn't last long, and I can make up my time with everything else after the release goes out.

Since having kids, this time period of the software development life cycle is really difficult. Londo has to take on all the things I let go, from housework to dropping off kids. For a few days in a row, I had really long days in the office, barely seeing the kids in the morning and getting home after the kids were in bed. I wasn't able to keep up with the dishes or laundry or cleaning the kitty litter boxes. It was just crazy.

As hard as this can be on Londo, it's even harder on the kids. The Pumpkin handles it okay. She acts out a little for Londo, and she's still adjusting going back to school. I think the area where I see it the most is her interactions with me. I'm having trouble explaining exactly what it is, and maybe it'd be going on anyway, but I feel like I'm getting a LOT of boundary pushing from her. What I really dropped the ball on though is the school stuff and her activities. I missed a deadline to sign her up for an activity I know she wants to take, but I talked with the teacher and they can let her in. Whew.

The Pookie, who is a total mama's boy, has really been missing me. I knew that he was fussy at home with Londo. And in the mornings when I would see him, he was totally clingy to me, not even eating breakfast unless he was in my lap. But I talked to two of his teachers (one yesterday afternoon when I picked him up and the other this morning when I dropped him off), and they both immediately said that he'd been really clingy at school. They wanted to make sure everything was okay. When I explained that I hadn't been able to be around much because of work, they both said that made sense and explained why he was so clingy. I assured them that the busy period was over and told them about how we spent all weekend together*. They both said that he'd been a lot better yesterday and that explained that also.

I truly believe in having a balanced work/life balance. But sometimes things don't work out in an even or fair way. Sometimes, work takes over. Or when I was out with knee surgery, life takes over. It's not just for my sanity that I can't be a workaholic and work crazy hours like that regularly at this point in my life. My kids need me to be Mom, too.

And now, I can get back to my normal balancing act, with a few fun things thrown in for me, too. Like blogging.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dinosaur Shorts

The other morning I was getting the Pookie out of his crib and marveling at how much of a boy my 2 year old is. I said to him, "My boy, my boy! You are such a little boy now! What happened to my baby?"

He looked at me with his big, blue-green eyes and said the words I wanted to hear so badly, "I your baby."

"You are?" I just about squealed, as I nuzzled into his neck. "You're my baby?"

"Yeah," he nodded and he cuddled into me. "I your baby T Rex."

And you know what I said to that? "I'll take it!"

As my husband later pointed out, when the Pookie pretends to be Baby T Rex (a regular game of pretend in our house), he is especially cuddly. Also, I will take the cuddles and babying any way I can.

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My kids love dinosaurs, and not just as a rain coat. The kids regularly pretend to be dinosaurs, especially T Rexes and Baby T Rex. They like to stomp around and roar. They also have a couple of little dinosaur toys that they play with. We also have a really great dinosaur book that they, especially the Pookie, loves to read and push the button that makes the T Rex roaring and stomping sounds.

One morning over this last weekend, the Pookie brought me the dinosaur book with some other books, and I sat there reading out the names of the dinosaurs, which he and his sister attempted to repeat. Some of these names are so funny to me, because it sounds like someone simply added "osaurus" to the end of a descriptive term. For example, there is the giganotosaurus, who is one of the largest (or most gigantic) of all the dinosaurs, even bigger than the T Rex. And there is also the Spinosaurus, who had (can you guess it?) spines on his back!

The Pumpkin started telling me about other "dinosaurs," ones that she was obviously making up. There was the Circleosaurus, who was the shape of a circle! And the Dinnerosaurus, who really liked to eat his dinner. I of course added the Kidosaurus, which was my kids when they were dinosaurs!

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My kidosauruses have been loving that show Dino Dan. It's a cute show, although it makes me wonder if older kids hallucinate too.

Hallucinations or not, the show is actually making it tricky for me to explain that dinosaurs are no longer alive on this planet. We seriously have enough arguments about whether or not trolls and other monsters exist (and are in the Pumpkin's room at night when the lights are off). And I'm still working on how I know things don't exist or if I've just never seen one.

(By the way, THANKS Tinkerbell's The Great Fairy Rescue! No, I've never seen a fairy, and no, I don't really believe they exist. But just because I've never seen one doesn't mean they don't exist, right little girl in the movie Lizzie who proves to her father that they do exist and he feels bad for doubting her? This totally validates for my daughter her getting upset about going to school because she is waiting to see if fairies come to the fairy house she built them. Sigh...)

But the kids, they love Dino Dan. When it comes on, my son goes, "Eh Dino Dan! Eh Dino Dan!" And they've come up with fun pretend games based on the show.

I don't mind the show in half-hour doses, but Dan is so obsessed with dinosaurs, I'm not sure I could be around him much in real life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Question of the Week - Quick Trips Out with the Kids

I hope you all had a good weekend. Here in the US, Monday was Labor Day, so we had a three-day weekend. It was a long weekend. A very long, LONG weekend.

We had just spent 6 weeks on summer break from school, and the first week back to my kids' preschool was only 3 and a half days. And then a three-day weekend. This is probably good for easing the kids back into the routine of school. But for us parents, we are just ready to be back into the school routine and not be so worried about what to do with kids who are getting bored at home.

We had hopes of going to the zoo one day, but I wasn't sure about my knee. I wanted to test my knee out, and I really NEEDED to get out of the house by Sunday afternoon, so we took a walk around the neighborhood. Londo pushed the double stroller on the downhills and uphills, which I found difficult with my knee. We aimed high on where we wanted to go, but my knee fell short. There was no way I was going to be able to make it to the far pond/lake, but I luckily realized in time that I was about as far as I could go and still make it back. So we turned back. No way I was going to make it around the DC zoo, which is all uphill/downhill, depending on where you start.

By Monday afternoon, I was going more stir-crazy than the kids, which is not unusual. I think I do better with the kids when we are out and about. I also think they tend to be better behaved when we are out and about. I got it in my head to go visit the pet store in the shopping center across the street. So after the Pookie's nap, I got their shoes on, got them in the car and headed to the pet store.

I like to call the pet store "the poor man's zoo." Sure the DC zoo is free, but it takes money to Metro down or park the car, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get downtown and around the zoo. But the pet store? It's across the street from us, free to park and has some cool animals to see!

So we went into the pet store and saw: lizards, a snake, a turtle, parakeets, canaries, lots of other birds, hamsters (though they were all sleeping), guinea pigs, chinchillas (CHINCHILLAS! how cool is that?), a rat, lots of cats including kittens, goldfish, catfish and all sorts of other fishes! Plus, there were a couple of dogs that people brought into the store to shop with them.

Oh, it was a lot of fun! The kids enjoyed themselves, and it was just a quick jaunt there and back. We left after the Pookie woke up from his nap and we were back in time to help cook dinner!

This week's question of the week is:
Where do you take the kids when you need to get out of the house for a quick and entertaining trip?

We generally go out for a walk or to the grocery store. We've also gone to home improvement stores and I've taken them to Target quite a bit. Errands with the kids can be fun, and you can get stuff done. But I think the best nearby store to take my kids is definitely the pet store. I even picked up some cat treats while we were there!

Where do you whisk the kids out to when you are desperate to get out? Do you run errands with your kids? Have you discovered a great store to entertain your kids for free? Do you get as stir crazy as I do spending long weekends at home? Or do you prefer to just kick back and let the kids play at home?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do

My kids are two years and three months apart. This has been really good spacing for my kids (although it can be rough sometimes on us parents). They get along really well. This makes me more happy that I can adequately express. I know that this is not the situation for all families. And I don't know if it will last, but it's absolutely heart-meltingly awesome to see my kids play together, hug each other, care for each other and generally enjoy each other.

Of course, they don't always get along. They fight and bicker and scream at each other and mess with each other. They are still siblings, after all. And I never want to put some rose-colored view of parenthood on this blog. But probably 80-90% of the time, they get along really well. They love each, and they love to do things together.

The Pumpkin is the oldest at almost 4.5, and she is used to taking charge. It's not that she is bossy, because she's really not bossy at all. It's more that she comes up with ideas of what she wants to do and she does them. Usually it is something really active and imaginative, and it looks like a lot of fun. So other kids tend to want to do what she's doing. And even if no one else wants to do what she's doing? She does it anyway. She loves to play with others, especially her brother, so she will encourage people to join her, but she won't stop her game if no one else is joining in. But because she has so much fun doing fun things, kids often join in. Especially her brother.

The Pookie is almost 2 years and 3 months old, and he loves to join in just about whatever his sister is doing. Not just because it looks fun, and not just when she encourages him to join her. Pretty much whatever she is doing, whenever she is doing them. Even when it's something she shouldn't be doing.

I'm sure you've seen the same behavior in action, perhaps in your own house or those of your family and friends.

In our house, we call this common and well-known phenomenon Monkey See, Monkey Do. The monkey in both cases is usually my son, though it can be my daughter as well. The Pookie sees his sister doing something or acting some way, and he does the same. I will then refer to him as Monkey Boy. And he will respond by saying, "oo oo ah ah." (It's very cute.)

The Monkey See, Monkey Do phenomenon can be a wonderful thing. When the Pumpkin is listening and helping clean up and sitting at the table for dinner and doing the things she's supposed to be doing, the Pookie follows right along! He listens, he behaves, he helps clean. But when the Pumpkin is acting up and misbehaving and not listing and not doing what she's supposed to? Well, Monkey See, Monkey Do. Which means it's TWO children misbehaving and having tantrums and killing us parents!

We have pointed out to the Pumpkin that her brother will do whatever she is doing, so she needs to be careful about what she does in front of him. This is especially the case when she is able to physically do things that he can't, because the situation can become unsafe. And she is starting to take that to heart.

However, we do worry about putting too much pressure on her modifying her behavior because of what her brother might do. That's just doesn't seem fair to a young child. So there is a balance somewhere that we are trying to find.

And I'm sure at some point the Pookie will not want to do anything his sister is doing. He certainly doesn't always do what she's doing now or want to play with her all the time. He does like to do play on his own (something my daughter almost never wants to do), sitting quietly and contently with his train set or blocks or books. And there are plenty of times that the Pumpkin will join in whatever he is playing and doing.

I'll take the Monkey See, Monkey Do phenomenon, even when they are both acting up and driving me crazy. I'm just so happy that my kids get along and like to do what the other is doing. Yes, it can make for some difficult parenting moments, but as I've even told my daughter before, they are siblings and should be on each others' sides. And if I'm yelling at them? They should especially be there for each other and support each other*. I didn't say this part, but I'd rather they bond together, even against us parents, than be divided from each other.

And isn't imitation the best form of flattery?

*This was when my daughter started mimicking me and yelled at her brother, who then yelled back at her. That's not the Monkey See, Monkey Do that I want to encourage. More a situation of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Girls Wearing Blue Isn't Enough

My husband and I had an interesting discussion last spring about raincoats. Kids raincoats and the gender implications of what is socially acceptable for girls to wear versus boys.

In this discussion, we talked about how my daughter has a dinosaur rain coat. It was a hand-me-down from a family friend whose two boys had outgrown a bag full of clothes, which they gave us for the Pookie. But the clothing, including the really cute dinosaur raincoat, were in sizes 3T and 4T. The perfect size for the Pumpkin, who loved that raincoat the minute she saw it.

The Pumpkin has always liked dinosaurs, which we've encouraged as much as we've encouraged dolls. So there was no issue in either of our minds that we'd let her wear the raincoat and that it would be socially acceptable. In this day and age, it is most people don't think it's a big deal if girls wear blue and dinosaurs and play with cars and trucks and be into most of the same things that boys are.

But what about the Pookie wearing his sister's green raincoat with pink strawberries and a pink lining? That does not yet seem socially acceptable, but why not? And will we, as parents of a young boy, let him wear a girl's raincoat? Will we let him wear pink as he gets older? Will we care if he still likes to play with dolls in front of his friends in a few years?

This is a big feminist issue for me, and has been for a long time. I feel like women have fought hard to come as far as we have with it being acceptable for us to wear blue, play with "boy" toys and run around in the same games and sports as males. But men, especially boys? They don't make pink clothes for boys (although my husband has some really nice pink shirts and ties). It's not socially acceptable for boys to play with dolls as they get older, unless they are "action figures." Older boys aren't generally invited to go to tea parties or have their hair and nails done at a party.

First of all, this is a shame for boys and men, this limiting of them from a young age on. Why is there an issue if boys mimic their moms and their dads in many cases by taking care of a baby doll or cooking in a play kitchen or playing with little dolls in a dollhouse? What if a boy really likes playing dress up and painting his nails and has a fondness for unicorns and pink and purple? Really, what is so wrong with that?

And what is it about the color pink that is so appalling to some men? Why do we call it pink instead of light red, which is all it is. (White added to red is called pink, yet white added to blue is called light blue.) I just don't get it. Nor do I get what makes a color a girl color versus a boy color. I don't believe it's based in anything evolutionary or innate. I think it's more likely due to marketing strategies by clothing companies.

Let's talk a little more about the raincoats, as a true example of how limiting society and marketing is to boys. During our discussion about the raincoats, we went to a website that had the dinosaur raincoat that my daughter wears, and we evaluated the raincoats on the site. This may be the same site that Londo and I looked at, but it was half a year ago and doesn't have exactly the same raincoats. However, it is very similar and has many of the same raincoats, including the same dinosaur one. I'd love for you all to follow along with the little exercise Londo and I did, so click the link and the site will open in a new window.

There are 15 raincoats on that site (when we looked, it had 16). Of those 15, how many do you think would be socially acceptable for a girl to wear? How many do you think would be socially acceptable for a boy to wear? If you walked into a physical store, which do you think (and count how many) do you think would be located in the "boys" side of the store and which (and how many) on the "girls" side?

Even if you subtract those three patterned but obviously girl-shaped ones at the bottom, there are still more than half that most people wouldn't put a boy in. But for girls? I honestly would think that a girl could get away with wearing ALL of them. Some people might not be comfortable putting a girl in the pirate or fireman or maybe even the space hero, but I wouldn't think twice about a girl in those.

But what about the boys? You know that most people would pick only five of those, and only five of those would be found in the boys side of a store. And honestly? I wouldn't have a problem putting my son in all but the bottom three, and then because those have that belted style is feminine, not because the pattern or colors. But if my son loves to dance, why not put him in a raincoat with ballet shoes? Why should he stifle his love for cats or fairies?

Not everyone would put their sons in all the ones I would, but don't you think we could start to stretch the boundaries a little for our boys? The ladybug one surely should be okay, as should that butterfly one. Those are bugs, after all, and boys are supposed to love bugs, right? Or do people pick only the parts of the stereotypes that they want to follow, with certain ones trumping others?

Just as I believe my daughter can do anything she wants and I encourage her interests in all (age-appropriate) areas, I think the same should be for my son. But I know that it's socially not (yet) as acceptable for a boy to do and like all the same things as girls. At a certain age, he and his peers will start being cognizant of what is considered okay and what is not. But how do (general)we change that for our kids?

But limiting our boys is not the only issue.

Let's now think about what all this says about typically "girl" things. Girl things are not good enough for boys. Girl things are simply too girly, therefore lesser and unacceptable. The "girly" things, from colors to toys to sports, are discriminated against.

What does this do to our girls as they grow up? What message are we sending to both sexes?

Women are expected to do it all. We are now expected not just to take care of the majority of the house work and childcare, but often we are expected to work full time too! To break through glass ceilings, we are required to talk and walk like the men around us who are in control of the business world, but we are also expected to still remain lady-like, keep our femininity, be sexy and nice and all that other crap that is lumped onto us.

Funny thing about my rant is, I like to be all those things! I love to wear skirts and makeup and jewelry to work, and still cuss like a sailor when we can't fix the defects in the computer system I work on. I like to talk trash in my fantasy football league, then sign off at the end with "Hugs and kisses!" I love having both worlds open to me.

But I've also felt the sting of sexism in the office. I've also been very aware when the men around me get certain opportunities that I don't get. I've also seen how maternity leave affects my assessment cycles, which are tied to my raises. And I've regularly been expected by some people to be the main person in charge of the grocery shopping and cooking in my house, even though I work as much as my husband. (For the record, he does almost all of the grocery shopping and cooking meals, while I have other household responsibilities like doing the majority of the dishes and bathroom cleaning. And no, that does not make him some wonderful, special man. It makes him my equal partner in our household. And I'm just as appreciative of him and all that he does as he is of me.)

I look at the women in politics or Fortune 500 companies, and I see the expectations for women who rise to the levels that were historically for men and the double standards regularly applied. Yes, women are "allowed" into the man's world. But we are still expected to retain the feminine.

The feminine that is considered lesser. The feminine that a man wouldn't dare wear/play/do. The feminine that is STILL considered lesser by men, because if it wasn't lesser then of course they would want to be able to wear/play/do it, too. And even though some might want it, even though our boys may have a ton of fun having tea parties, playing with princesses, taking a dance class or wearing a kitty cat raincoat, society will eventually either stamp it out of them or cause us parents to limit them so they won't be teased or bullied.

And that, my friends, sucks for everyone. Because it affects everyone. Not just us who are women, but also women's and men's mothers, wives, partners, friends, sisters and daughter.

We do have the opportunity to change this. Those of us with kids, we are raising the next generation. Let's raise them by showing them that girls things are fun and good and NOT lesser. They are just as good for boys as they are for girls. And those without children still are part the society who can either shame parents into following the limiting behaviors with our children or proudly support the changing of this paradigm.

We can change this dis-equilibrium, this discrimination. I hope we will. One raincoat at a time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Question of the Week - New Passions

I've been thinking about Jac and SarcastiCarrie's comments on my last post. Specifically, I've been thinking about how becoming a parent can bring out things we didn't realize we cared a lot about until we had children. Whether it's realizing we think more about feminist issues after having a girl as opposed to boy or about the institutional sexism of school systems that are geared towards girls over boys or even about high fructose corn syrup in bread, there are topics and areas of, well, life that simply didn't cross our radar until we had kids.

As I said recently, I've always been a feminist. I've even always been a bit of a hippie. But since having kids, I have become passionate about topics that I hadn't even thought about before. I'll bet you have too.

This week's question of the week is:

What have you become passionate about since having kids?

I've become passionate about feminism from a mother's perspective and how sexism will affect my kids. I've become passionate about eating healthy foods, organic foods and cutting down on sugars, artificial dyes and other processed foods. I've become passionate about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding. I've become passionate about infertility and the availability of fertility treatments to everyone. And I've become passionate about the Montessori method of teaching and Montessori schools.

It's not that I always rant about these things, or even follow through with the support I want to provide others and myself. But internally, I feel the passion for these things. I may not be able to afford to buy all organic, but I do prioritize some organic foods, especially the foods the kids eat. I may not want to give my son processed chicken tenders with high fructose corn syrup, but since it's all he'll eat most days I do give them to him. I may not be breastfeeding my kids anymore, but I do give a smile of encouragement and support when I see another mother breastfeeding in public. I may not have a lot of time to be involved with my kids' Montessori school, but I do explain the method and why it's been so good for my kids to people around when the topic of my kids' pre-school comes up.

As the kids get older and I start to have more time and money to myself, I do plan to support my new passions more. But even before then, I do feel the passion. And it amazes me that things I feel passionate about I didn't even have a clue about pre-kids.

What about your passions? Have you developed new ones since having kids? Do you feel fired up internally about feminist issues or race issues or the state of the schools today? Do you do anything to support other parents or their kids under the umbrella of your passions? Do you now buy all organic, locally grown foods when you used to live on Hot Pockets? Which new interests have you developed since becoming a parent?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Expanding My Thoughts and Topics

I have been feeling a bit stiffled on my blog lately, and I think it's because I'm not writing some major things I've been thinking about. I'm skipping some serious topics that pertain to my parenting because of some arbitrary distinction I made when I started this blog to stay away from things that might cause arguments or controversy.

But you know what? I'm not in that place anymore. I'm not as sensitive from pregnancy and nursing hormones. I'm not as unable to put together complex thoughts on deeper topics due to sleep deprivation. The focus of my thoughts have expanded outside the limitations of getting babies and toddlers to sleep, eat and poop. Although they certainly include those thoughts, too!

I'm a feminist, and I would argue that most people I know are to some degree as well. Do you think that a woman should be paid the same amount as a man doing the same work? Do you know that your daughter can be anything she wants to be when she grows up? Do you believe that women should have the same rights as men? I would say that most of the women and men I know would agree to all those. And that, my friends, makes them feminists. Your degree of feminism may vary from mine, but if we want our daughters and sons to be raised in a fair world where they can both be whatever they want to be, then be scared to say we are feminists!

So why don't I speak about feminist topics on my blog? I believe very strongly in raising my children with a firm foundation of feminism, as does my husband. Why don't I talk about issues of race or religion? These are also topics that I feel strongly about but rarely even talk about them offline. What good does that do anyone?

Keeping the thoughts and ideas we have in our heads means they stay in our heads. If we don't open dialogues about important topics such as racism, sexism, religion and politics, then how can we progress or come to agreements or simply just understand each other better? We will never be able to "just get along" unless we try to understand where others are coming from and communicate with each other.

I'm not saying that I'm changing the focus of my blog. Afterall, all the topics I had deep conversations about in college now have a different slant to them since I've experienced more of the world and, most importantly, since I've had kids. I have a different perspective now as a parent. I have different concerns as a parent. I have to make choices I never worried about before as a parent.

I guess what I'm saying I said in the title. I'm going to expand my thoughts and topics here on my blog. As always, it's important to me for me and anyone else commenting on my blog to be respectful and kind to each other. I love to hear other perspectives and ideas, so I hope others will share and not shy away from commenting.

Let's see how this goes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Question of the Week - Behind Closed Doors

As I said I would, I've been making a lot of trip to my parents' new beach house this summer. In fact, last week I spent the week there with both my kids and my mom (although we had to leave early because the Pumpkin got a fever). While there, I share a room with my two kids. Right next to the room is the bathroom we use.

I've realized that I feel very much at home there when I go in the bathroom to use the potty (yes, I call it that now all the time. Having kids, you know?). In fact as I go into the bathroom, I have to remember that I'm not at home and really think about who else is in the house. This is because I almost never shut the door when I use the bathroom in my own house.

I'm not sure if that's normal. It might just be because I have so little modesty. It's not like I ever shut the door before having kids, so it's not a forgetful-parent thing. It's just easier to leave it open. I feel less disconnected from my family members. And I just don't care if my husband or kids sees or hears me go to the bathroom. Although there are certain times when I do need privacy and shut the door.

This week's question of the week is:

What do you do in the privacy of your own home that you wouldn't do elsewhere?

Do you walk around naked? Do you pick your nose? Do you sing at the top of your lungs? Do you shake your booty to music playing as loud as it can go? Do you and your kids run around screaming happily? What do you do at home that you don't do outside your home?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sensory Sensitivies

She leans against the tile of the tub,
chin to chest, staring at the white
linoleum floor. Tears are streaming down
her rosy cheeks, her sparkley silver pants
are undone around her waist. She can't explain
exactly what is wrong. She can't find the
right words. She knows only that the pants
don't feel right, the waist hurts, she
doesn't like the buttons. She can't just
get over it, deal with it and move on.
In a hurry to get her to school and get
myself to work, I start to get frustrated.
But she stands there crying real tears,
and my mind brings me back to childhood.
I'm overwhelmed by a memory of a feeling.

(I lean back against the green chair,
eyes cast down, staring at the green-gray
rug. Tears are wet on my cheek, and I'm
kicking the pink shoes with white laces
off my feet. I'm so uncomfortable, frustrated,
upset that I can't explain what's wrong. I can
only cry and yell, insist it's not right. The
shoe isn't tight enough, it doesn't match
the other, it doesn't feel right. I can't just
get over it, deal with it and move on. Nothing
else matters; I can't focus on anything but the
wrongness of the shoe. I won't put my jacket on
and get in the car already. School can wait. This
shoe must be fixed, must be just right or I
won't be able to think about anything else.)


Mimicking my mother from almost 30 years
earlier, I take a deep breath and kneel
down to be on her level. I tell her I
understand it doesn't feel right, tell her
we'll figure out what's wrong. It turns out
to be the adjustable waist band, the buttons
inside the pants. (The shoe string is too
loose on one side, not as tight as the other,
uneven.)
I loosen the elastic and fold
it over the buttons so they won't push
into her sensitive skin. (She undoes
the bow and tightens the laces.)
I
check with her, and she nods, her face
starting to brighten. I zip and button
the fly. (She checks with me, and I nod,
starting to calm down and feel better.
She ties a new bow.)
One last check;
all better. (One last check; all better.)

After dropping her off at school, silver
pants perfect around her waist, I call
my mom. I tell her about my morning. I
thank her for the patience, the understanding
she showed me when I would meltdown over
things not feeling right. I hear her smile
over the phone line. Of course she was
patient about my sensitivities. After all,
she has always had similar sensory issues
herself. Her mother was not as understanding,
and when her memories come to her, I know
she chose to act differently from her
own mom. I respect her even more.

---------------------------

This was a scene from the spring of 2011, and from my own childhood. Though I don't have sensory processing disorder (SPD), I have always dealt with sensory issues, which I believe is also true to some degree for my daughter. I have great respect for those who have to deal with SPD either themselves or with their children. It is not easy to deal with, and it can be hard to find the extra patience and understanding that is needed in situations that arise from the disorder or sensory sensitivities.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some (of Many) Parenting Difference and Child Order

There is no question in my mind that child order plays a part in the whole nurture part of the nature/nuture equation. For the record, I'm a true believe in BOTH nature and nuture playing significant roles in childrens' personalities, temperment, behavoir and all that.

Since having the Pookie, I've been noticing some major differences in the ways I have taught things my first born and my second born. I would like to say I'm simply catering to the different ways that my children learn, but that's not it. It is definitely more a matter of child order and the fact that parenting two children is just different than parenting one. I am certain that parenting three or four or more would also be very different from parenting two.

For example, with the Pumpkin I would often ask her to recite things like numbers, the alphabet, words in other languages, animal noises, shapes, colors, etc. I would ask her all the time, and she loved to list the things she knew and answer any questions I asked her (well, on a good day when she wasn't being contrary).

Her nature has always been that she need interaction and attention, especially from adults, and she has always been very verbally advanced. Since her birth order was first born, we were able to give her a lot of the attention she wanted and she had my husband and me to converse with to advance verbal skills. And in order to entertain myself, I would teach her the names and sounds for everything (and I believe my husband did similar).

With the Pookie as a wonderful addition to our family, there is a lot more juggling and chaos in our household. I realized that I don't focus on him in the same way I did with the Pumpkin. I don't naturally sit there and teach him lists of things or quiz him on shapes and colors. I have to really think about teaching and asking him to name things.

His nature is such that he's more content to sit and entertain himself, and he's always thrived with fine motor skills over verbal skills. As the second born, he has his older sister to follow around and learn from, while Londo and I don't have as much time to focus on only him. This is definitely a different dynamic than we had with only one child in the house.

So though there's probably some nature involve, I have definitely nurtured my children's learning in different ways. Sometimes I worry about it, feel a little twinge of that mommy guilt. But mostly, I try to focus on the fact that the Pookie has three people to learn from in the house, and that he's picking up a lot of different skills from all of us. He also learns some things from his sister (who is two years older) that she didn't have the opportunity to learn at his age.

A good example of that is that the Pookie learned how to play pretend really young. I remember when he was just starting to interact with his sister, just starting to sit up and hold things, and she was very into using the play kitchen and pretending to make, serve and eat pretend food. At first, that baby boy looked so confused when she offered him a handful of nothing to eat, but he quickly caught on and pretended to munch on everything she handed him.

Instead of feeling guilty, I am going to keep focusing on the social interaction he gets from his sister and the fact that they are both able to learn a lot from each other. He'll get his share of learning lists and getting quizzed on what he's learned through his school career in the many years to come.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Question of the Week - Time for Projects

We are in summer break from the Montessori school that both kids attend. When we decided to put the kids in the Montessori school, we knew that there would be a 6 week period that we would have to cover somehow. Although the Pumpkin is old enough to go to some camps and the Pookie's previous daycare allows kids to come for a day or a week or whatever, those things cost money. And money is tight right now for us as it is for everyone else.

Luckily, Londo and I have wonderful, helpful family who live close enough to make kid coverage (mostly) work. My mom watched the kids one week, my MIL came up for another week, and they both will do other days coming up. In addition, Londo took the kids for one week and I will take them for another week. That will cover us for most of the 6 week period.

So that's what's been going on. It's quite a logistical feat, to get all this organized in a way that works for everyone, especially the kids. And things will come up to rock the boat, as they already have. But overall, it's a good plan and working pretty well.

Last week was Londo's week with the kids, and he took them down to his parents house for the week. That's right. I had the house TO MYSELF all week last week! I'll bet you think I would have spent the week sleeping in and writing blog posts and watching movies and generally laying around enjoying the peace and quiet.

Of course I didn't! I decided that with everyone out of the house, that was the perfect time to get some projects done. After all, the house has been in a state of disarray since I tore my meniscus just after I start a re-organization project in my closet and the guest room/my office. But finishing the organization of my closet depended on moving my old dresser out and into my daughter's room. But first I wanted to paint it so it would be cute, not old and fuggly. And finishing the organization of the guest room/office depended on painting the room first.

So that's what I did last. I painted. I may have taken on slightly too many painting projects, but it's been years since I painted ANYTHING. BC (Before Children), I used to refinish furniture, and I've missed that hobby a great deal. But that hobby, like with all painting, requires a lot of time devoted to it in which you get messy and can't stop in the middle of it. It also requires a lot of prep time and clean up time. And a place to do all of that without kids running around.

By the end of the week, I had two coats of a brownish, rosy color on the guest room/office walls, matching headboard and dresser for my daughter's room, and halfway painted shelves for my son's room (which I will finish this week sometime). Though my body aches in places I'd forgotten existed and my knee has really gone to the edge of its capabilities, I'm really proud of what I've done and so happy that I've gotten to do those projects! Now I can finish organizing everything!

This week's question of the week is:

What projects do you have on your To Do list that you haven't had time to get to yet?

The painting and reorganizing has been on my list for years, so I'm really glad I can cross them off. But I have other projects on my list.

Next up is hanging curtains! We have lots of curtains that we brought with us from our old house FIVE YEARS AGO. Besides lacking the time and energy, we also have some weird issues with the blinds on all the windows which has made it difficult to find curtain rods that will fit correctly.

I also want to frame and hang many prints, posters and pictures on walls of numerous rooms. And work on decorating the dining room better. And completely redo our kitchen (but we totally don't have money for that one!) And probably a ton of other things, but that's all I can let myself think about for now.

What about you? What projects have been on your list? Are they house-related, personal, kid-related or maybe even couple-related? What have you not been able to find the time to do? What would you do with a week at home by yourself?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Learning to Love the Beach

I love the beach. I mean, I LOVE the beach. It's my happy place, it's where I feel recharged, it's where I go in my head to escape where I am. (For example, when I was lying on a surgery table after 16 hours of labor, body shuddering and constantly dry-heaving, worried as heck about my baby who was not coming out, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm going to the beach." And I did. And then my little girl was born!)

I love everything about the beach. The endless expanse of ocean, the rhythmic crashing of the waves, the hot sun blazing down, the soft sand shifting beneath me. I enjoy lying down reading a book while I bake, sitting up under an umbrella watching the kids and people around me, standing in the surf while the waves come and go, and walking out into the water to dive through the waves just as they crest. I love it all.

I am a Beach Girl.

My kids, however, I'm not so sure about... yet. I'm pretty confident that I can turn them into Beach Kids, but it turns out it's not an instant thing. Good thing my parent now have a beach house less than 3 hours away, and good thing we are going to be a Family That Travels! Because I am working on it as much as I can.

Not last weekend, but the two weekends before that, I took the kids to my parents' beach house. The first weekend we went, I drove myself and the kids down to the beach house, where my parents and my brother's family were already vacationing. The second weekend, I went with my mom, my kids and my 5-year-old niece. Both times were good times, with fun dynamics. I mean, how cool is it to go on vacations with cousins who are close to you in age? I got to do that every summer at my grandparent's house in Cape Cod with my two cousins from my mom's side. It was always such a great experience. And now I can pass that on to my kids as well.

But back to the issue at hand. The kids and the beach.

We went last year, but the Pookie was too little to really have an opinion. He enjoyed digging in the sand and tried to eat handfuls of sand. The Pumpkin had been in previous years, and she was excited about it. But then we had a little incident where she got swept off her feet by a wave. Even though I immediately had her up and on her feet, it scared her and gave her a healthy respect for the ocean.

I don't know if she remembered that incident on some level of her consciousness or if she is just at an age where things are scarier than they were before. But either way, she was very scared of the water and waves this year. She clung to my hand or ran from the water the whole time we were at the beach that first weekend. She sat just at the edge of where the waves could reach and built a wall (out of sand, which didn't really last as long as she had hoped). I didn't want her to feel and think that she was "scared" of the water, so I gave her the words, "I'm a little nervous about the water" which was super cute to hear her say to other people.

At first, my son seemed excited about the water. He enjoyed getting his feet wet and feeling the sand. I sat him down with his sister to play in the wet sand and build the wall together. These kids of mine spend their entire outdoor playtime at school in the sandbox, so I knew they would love to sit and dig in the sand. And they were really enjoying themselves.

Then a big wave came all the way up to where they were sitting. I had my back to the water, so I didn't realize it and didn't give the kids a warning. It surged over the Pookie unexpectedly. It surprised him and was uncomfortable for his to suddenly have sand and cool water all over his legs, while he was simply sitting in the sand playing. Meanwhile, his sister jumped up, shrieking, and ran back a bit higher in the sand.

I laughed and said "whooa," and he was starting to settle down. But then it happened again. And that was it for him. He was UPSET! I picked him up and helped him back to our umbrella and chairs way back on the beach. He did NOT want to be by the water. He insisted, "No wawa! No wawa!" He didn't even want ME by the water. For the rest of the day.

We hung out back on the beach, out of view of the surf. My parents and brother watched and played with my daughter and her cousins. Then my brother, dad and the cousins went back to the beach house, while my mom and I stayed with my kids.

It was at that point, I was no longer willing to sit so far away from the water (practically out in the dunes!) and out of view of my daughter playing. I also wanted to help my boy get used to the being around the ocean, since my plan is to go to the beach house as much as possible (see above about me being a Beach Girl).

I moved my chair, the toys, our other stuff and my self down to where my mom and daughter were, encouraging my son the whole time to come. He came most of the way, then flipped out about him and me being closer to the water. My mom went back with him to where our stuff had been, and I sat down with my daughter to build a wall.

The tide had gone out a bit, and the beach was less crowded. I could see the Pookie, and he was upset about me being closer to the water, but he was more unhappy being away from me and having no toys back where our stuff had been. He soon came with my mom back to where the Pumpkin and I were playing.

He started getting upset again, but I quickly moved into distraction mode, as well as adamantly telling him I wasn't moving and that the water was not where we were. Plus, I got his sister to start playing with him.

Before I knew it, we were all happy. I had a great view of the ocean, the kids were playing in the sand, and my mom was able to sit down and relax. In one day, we'd come a long way. And even both kids even dipped their feet in the water right before we left, as the four of us all held hands, standing in the surf. It was lovely.

The next morning at the beach went more smoothly. I knew to set up closer to the water from the get-go, I made sure both kids were comfortable with their location (the Pookie started getting upset, but he was quickly mollified). We had a lovely time.

Plus, did I mention the airplanes? The Pookie LOVES airplanes (and any vehicle, or go-go), and he pointed out every. single. one that flew over the beach with advertisements. To everyone around. It was really cute. And we saw boats and seagulls and even dolphins! Both kids loved seeing those things and pointing them out. You know, like Beach Kids do.

The next weekend went even better! From the first hour at the beach, they were playing in the surf with their cousin. They stood their holding my and my mom's hands. Then they wanted to stand on their own more and more.

My daughter ran up and down the slope to the beach, chasing and running from the waves in a fun game. She stood "strong" in the water with her cousin, pretending their feet were on surf boards. My mom lifted them (one at a time) to jump over the edges of the waves as the water came up the beach. She jumped in the water and stood still so her feet would get covered in sand, depending on her mood and current game.

My son wanted to do what the girls were doing. He played and jumped and stood still and wanted me to let go of his hand before long (which was okay for little bits of time, but the waves and riptides at this beach are unpredictable, so I mostly held on to him or at least stood right next to him). At one point, he even said, "mo wawa!" A big change from the previous weekend! So I picked him up and carried him till I was waist deep in the water, with waves surging up higher. I even had to sheild his head with my body when one wave crashed right on our heads! That was as I was just walking us back out of the water. He started to look upset about that one, but I think he didn't because he saw I was laughing and having so much fun!

They are well on their way to becoming Beach Kids now! I feel like I got them both over the initial humps we encountered. I do want them to understand and be slightly wary of the power of the ocean. It's important to know what riptides can do, and why it's important to stay with an adult. We really did have a few scary-ish moments when a strong riptide came out of a seemingly small wave and start to pull the kids with it. They are still small, and the ocean is strong and vast. Luckily, my mom and I and the other adults in my family know and understand what needs to be done to keep them safe, without ruining the enjoyment of the beach.

Because, you know, we're a Beach Family!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Question of the Week - Pick an Era

I actually went out to the movies with my sister on Saturday night. I KNOW! I didn't think it was possible either, but events worked out in a way that we were both able to make it to a late show. And the stop at Starbucks for coffee made it possible to stay up to watch it.

We saw Midnight in Paris, which was a really good movie. Not only did I enjoy the plot and acting and directing and all that, but the movie focused quite a bit on the main character's (Owen Wilson) love of the 1920s (in Paris, no less).

I fell in love with the 20s back when I was in junior high. It wasn't just that the whole literary and artistic movements caught my fancy, but I became fascinated with the breaking away from traditional Victorian conventions to more progressive ideologies. Women were fighting for the right to vote, to wear short skirts, to be treated more equally with men. Automobiles were becoming a normal part of life, and changing every aspect of day-to-day life, from making traveling more convient to providing a private place for young women and men to make out. Speak easies, flappers, gangsters, partying all night, going about without chaperones, defying proper conventions... And on and on. This era had a vibrancy to it, a feeling of the world on the verge of big changes.

I enjoy history, and there are many eras that I really like. The 60s would have been a fascinating time to live in. The Regency era would have been intriguing. Heck, ancient Greece would have been thrilling! But there is something about the Roaring 20s that speaks to me.

So this week's question of the week is:

What era are you drawn to? And in any particular location?

The 20s in Paris is obviously what I am drawn to. But would I actually live then? No, I don't think I'd pick any other era to live in (at least in the past--a future era however...). I really enjoy the modern conviences of today's world, like the internet. I really appreciate all the rights and abilities I have as a women, considering how women have been so limited in the past. I am able to have a wonderful family with an equal partner, work in a job I enjoy (and make good money on par with the men in my position), travel to locations I want to visit, read, write and enjoy other hobbies as I want to.

And most importantly, I am totally in love with my wonderful husband and fabulous children. Who knows what my situation in another era would be. Would my chilren be this healthy? Would I be able to care for them as well as I can here, now? Would I have even been able to get pregnant, considering our need for fertility treatments?

After all, we weren't all Cleopatra in a previous life. Someone would have had to have been the village lunatic and all the serfs working the land.

What about you? What time period do you love? Would you want to live in a different time? And would the location matter? Do you think you could adjust to any time, any where, or are you happy right where you are?

And does anyone else love the Jimmy Buffett line from Boat Drinks, "You pick the century and I'll pick the spot"?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Family That Travels

Back in the Spring, before my torn meniscus and knee surgery and before Londo's back started acting up, I declared to Londo that we were going to be a Family That Travels. Sure, we've always been a family that travels (minus the first 18 months of the Pumpkin's life when she screamed bloody murder when in the car and carseat for more than 5 minutes). But we were now going to be a Family That Travels!

My parents bought a beach house about 3 hours from our house, and I planned to go almost every weekend from May to September! I would go with Londo and kids, by myself with both kids, with one kid or even by myself. When the kids went on summer break, we would take some of the vacation time to go to the beach and to my inlaws and camping and visiting friends! We were going to be so good at traveling as a family, that we'd be ready to hit Europe next summer (if only we could afford it)! Our bags would be halfway packed at all times, our cars ready to go, our mindsets open for whatever comes up. We'd be ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat!

In fact, we started this new paradigm one weekend in May, when on a Thursday we decided to go to visit my inlaws (a 5 hour drive with no stops--so about 7 hours with two kids). We just packed up and went, and we had a great time... until I killed my knee while hiking up a hill. A hiatus on the traveling was forced upon me.

It's been a hard month and a half with me laid up recovering and Londo limited. But finally, finally!, we are starting to get into the swing of being a Family That Travels!

Two weekends ago, I took the Pumpkin with me to visit a friend. We handled a very (VERY!) difficult car ride up quite well. This past weekend, I took both kids with me to my parents beach house, and we had a great trip! Plus my brother and his family were there until Saturday, and my parents were there the whole weekend. We've got some good plans for the upcoming weekends and weeks while the kids are out of school. Not all of them are travel weekends, but we are going to be flexible in deciding when we stay and when we go. And when we go? No problemo! Because we are a Family That Travels.

There was a time period in my life when I thought I'd become a travel writer, even going to grad school for journalism, concentrating in magazine writing. That was not the road I ended up on, but I still love to read travel stories and I love to write about my travels. In fact, I hope to write more with my new outlook on travel with a husband and kids. Until I'm able to get some travel under my belt in my Family That Travels, I am enjoying reading travel stories about other families. Currently, I'm reading Family Travels: The Farther You Go, the Closer You Get, short stories by my favorite travel guide series, Travelers' Tales Guides. I have A Mother's World: Journeys of the Heart waiting to be read next!

I'm inspired by what I am reading about other families and their travels, far and wide. I know that it can be difficult to travel with kids. But I'm hoping with the right mindsets and the decree that we are a Family That Travels, we will take the difficulties in stride and really focus on the fun things we can do and see as we travel. I know that it is possible, because I grew up in a Family That Travels. Oh, the stories I could tell you...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When You've Had a Runner

Last weekend, my daughter and I had a girls road trip! We went up to visit a friend of mine (MommyEm) about 4 hours away (with no stops, traffic or GPS giving bad directions--in other words way longer than a 4 hour drive). Her oldest is 4, just 3 months older than the Pumpkin, and her youngest is 1. We had a really great visit, and the girls got along pretty well, after a transition and warm-up period.

Most importantly, I had a great time hanging out with one of my best friends.

We spent a lot of time talking about our kids, who have some similar "spirited" traits. But they also have some very key differences. As do our parenting styles. But we support each other and don't judge each other. We know that kids can be difficult, and parenting is hard. Most importantly, there are a million "right" ways to do things, both as a child and a parent.

There were a few things that we had different limits about that got me thinking. Specifically, there are three times I'm thinking of:

1. When the girls were running around outside playing tag with another girl and my daughter went running off, I told her to freeze and come back. I hadn't been outside the whole time, so I checked in with my friend. She said that she lets the girls run all the way up to a spot that was WAY out of my comfort zone. So we modified it so that the girls stayed closer.

2. When we were walking from the car to the pool (where we had a fantastic time!), I told my girl not to run on the sidewalk. When we were leaving, I had no problem let the Pumpkin run down the grassy hill, which ended in a flat green area.

3. When going to and from the car in any parking lot, as well as crossing all streets, the rule is that the Pumpkin has to hold an adult's hand. (Although I do let the Pumpkin hold only the Pookie's hand as long as I'm holding the Pookie's other hand and I'm sure she won't let go of his hand.) Even going from a curb to the car door when there is no chance that the car next to us is going to move.

For one of these (or maybe more, I can't exactly recall), my friend asked why I was or wasn't okay with what was happening. I tried to figure it out, but what I said didn't feel right. I don't even remember what it was. But it certainly got me thinking.

But as I insisted on holding my 4 year old's hand the few feet to her car door, I realized what the difference probably was*. I turned to my friend and asked her, "Was your daughter a runner?"

My friend said that she wasn't. Her daughter would never have run off or into anything that might be dangerous.

My daughter meanwhile? Well, just image what a toddler with advanced gross motor skills, no sense of danger and who loved to run would be like. My daughter? She was a Runner. Before you could blink, she would be running straight for a street, a steep hill or whichever way you didn't want her to go.

I told my friend the story of when I was really pregnant with the Pookie one Easter and Londo got sick and couldn't go with us on the egg hunt in my parents' yard. As we walked outside, I enlisted my brother in law's help to chase after her when (not if) she started running off. Sure enough, we were in the un-fenced part of the yard for under a minute when she started running off. She's was a Runner.

Because she loves to run so much, I have created room for her to run, within limits. After the Pookie was born, I would let her run as I was getting all my stuff (and the Pookie when he started daycare) into the car. I gave her limits on where she could run to, when she could start (no cars could be moving anywhere on our street) and when she had to stop (if I say "freeze" she has to stop right away). For the first week or so, I ran with her, and then I watched her like a hawk, and finally relaxed a bit when I was sure she would stay within the boundaries I gave her.

But there are still too many scenarios that are just too dangerous in case she randomly bolts. And I have memories of a couple times when I nearly had a heart attack because she ran in an unsafe situation. So I will likely continue holding her hand on any asphalt, and I will still put careful limits on where she can run around, and I will worry about her running too close to the street.

Having had a runner, I have been irrevocably changed. It has become ingrained to worry about my child near a road or in a store or near a steep hill with a busy road at the bottom. I'm not sure those who haven't had runners will fully understand, and they might wonder why I still hold my child's hand crossing a deserted street. They might wonder why I yell "freeze" when my child is just playing tag with friends. Some might think I'm over-protective or a helicopter parent. (Again, this does not reflect my friend, just thoughts I've had over the years.)

But if you ever had the constant fear that your child might run off into a busy street with no warning, so fast you weren't sure you could catch them in time, and with so little thought about serious consequences... well, you probably are still holding your kids' hands, too.

*To be honest, I have no idea of other 4 year olds have to hold their parents' hands whenever they are on asphalt. I didn't pay attention to whether or not my friend had the same rule with her 4 year old. But I'm pretty sure I've seen other 4 year olds at my kids' school go in and out of cars and even cross the street without holding an adult's hand.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Question of the Week - Teaching by Example

This morning was I was on my own with the kids for the first morning since having knee surgery. Londo did get the Pookie out of his crib and watched him until he had to leave for work, letting me (and the Pumpkin who was in bed with me, of course) sleep as long as possible. Which was very helpful, considering I stayed up way to late last night because someone was wrong on the internet! (Love that pic, and thanks to @Cloud for linking to it in one of her posts.)

But I did stay up too late, and I was sore from the previous day, which was my first day back in the office including driving myself around. I was trying not to be grumpy, but I was. I snapped at my daughter and started walking away over her dillydallying instead of getting ready. After about three steps (hobbles with cane!) down the hallway, I realized I wasn't reacting well. So I took a deep breath, and said out loud so my daughter could hear, "I shouldn't have yelled. That wasn't right. I shouldn't lose my patience like that. I need to try that again."

I walked back into the bathroom and explained to my girl that it was hard for me to stand so long while she was flopping around, that my knee was very sore, that I was grumpy and I lost my patience. Playfully, I said, "I need to find more patience. Where do you think some might be?" And she laughing said there was some over there, pointing to the other side of the bathroom.

I went over and got some "patience." Then I told her I wanted us both to try again. I said that I was going to keep my patience and I needed her to focus on getting ready. Then she added, "And you shouldn't yell because it makes me sad." I told her I would do my best, and that I needed her to do her best.

Next thing you know, she's ready for the day in cute pigtails, the Pookie was already in a cute t-shirt with cars, and I was ready to drop them off at school and go to my first physical therapy appointment.

I tell that part of the morning to point out the way I talk things out loud in front of my daughter. Things I want her to learn and understand and also imitate when she is feeling the same way. This is a huge part of the way I parent. And I know it helps, because she adds things like the fact that I shouldn't yell, and she does try again with me, and we generally do better when I use this parenting tactic.

As the kiddos ate breakfast, I got some last minute things. I was finally ready to start thinking about leaving the house and making sure I had everything I needed for my physical therapy appointment. Then, I thought about the time.

THE TIME! Oh, man!

Normally, I usher the kids to the front hall and the "getting ready" chairs at 8:30 so we can be in the car and leaving by 8:45 to get to their school at about 9:00. BUT this morning, my physical therapy was at 9:00. I made that appointment before I knew that Londo couldn't do drop off that day and that my mom was out of town. I had to do the morning, do the drop off and still make my 9:00 appointment, which meant I had to have kids in the car BY 8:30!

And of course, it was already 8:30. And everything was taking me slightly longer than usually because limping with a cane is slower than walking with two working legs. I started to freak out, making it very clear to the kids that I was very frustrated that I hadn't accounted for the time correctly and that I wasn't mad at them. But I was freaking out. The kids? They were awesome. They hurried, put up only a little fuss about shoes and sun block, and generally were helpful and focused. But even with that, it was 8:48 by the time I got them in the car and backed out my driveway.

I was so upset. I started crying a little bit from the stress and frustration. And do you know what my daughter said? She said, "It's okay, Mommy. You just need to calm down a bit. Try taking some deep breathes, like this... in and out, in and out." I listened to her and did what she said. Darned if she wasn't right! I DID feel better!

I thanked her, told her I did feel better and then asked for no talking for a minute while I finished calming down. I handed them the rest of their toast that they didn't have time to finish in the rush out the door. And then I was able to think and figure out what to do. I called the place, told them I would be late to the appointment, and they said it was no problem. And I felt a TON better.

I thanked my daughter and told her that because she helped me calm down, I was able to "think think think" and figure out what I needed to do, which was call the place, and they said it was no problem that I was going to be late!

This week's question of the week is:
What have you seen/heard your kid(s) do/say that reflects something you've been teaching them by example?

Unfortunately, it's not always good things we teach them by example. Nor do they always use the lessons correctly.

My son has been saying, "I mad!" all the freaking time lately. He's not always really mad, but he likes to say it. The reason we taught him this was so he'd learn the words to say he was mad and stop his foot to show how mad instead of the hitting and pushing and biting he was starting to do. So even though it was a good lesson that the Pumpkin and I showed him how to express his anger, he's now doing it just to get a reaction out of us. But, you know, he's Two.

How about your kid(s)? Have you shown them how to do something? Have you expressed your words hoping they will do the same? Does it work for you? Or are they repeating your curse words instead of the good job praises?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just Say Yes, Of Course

The Pumpkin has been in a phase where instead of saying "yes" she answers "of course." Like most phases, it started out cute, but has become a problem.

At first, she just said it ocassionally. "Pumpkin, can I have a kiss?" "Of course!" It was adorable, and we would laugh. The girl loves to make people laugh. She said it in response to sweet questions, and we found it adorable.

But then she started saying it more, and it was a little frustrated. "Pumpkin, do you want milk?" "Of course!" She didn't say it all the time, but just enough to cause Londo and I to sigh. How would we know if she wanted milk? There was no "of course" about it.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next. She started saying it all the time. So much, that it has started driving us crazy. "Pumpin, are you going to do what I've been telling you to do?" "Of course!" Now, she was using it in ways that were in way "of courses." Things she was ignoring until we practically had to force her to do or answer, and we'd get "Of course!"

Finally, one day I'd had it. I responded back that it was not "of course." That "of course" was for when the answer was pretty much known, and that I had no idea that she had heard me and was going to do what I told her or that I didn't know for sure that she wanted milk. I old her that instead of answering "of course" that she should just say "yes."

She seemed to get it. And the next few times she said of course, I said, "Not of course. Just yes." And she'd say, "Oh, right. Yes." And after a few times of that, she stopped herself from saying of course and said yes instead. I noted it and praised her for remembering.

There has been a noticable difference in the last couple weeks. She really has cut way back on "of course" and mostly just answers "yes." This is how I know we are in one of those equilabrium stages, because she is making the adjust quickly, easily and without big arguments or meltdowns.

So let's hear it for the ability to modify behavoir at age 4! She listened to what I wanted, paid attention to why I wanted it, and has worked very hard to stop doing it. Do you think I can translate this ability to other areas of behavoir? Of course I'm gonna try!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Re-Thinking This Year's Vacation

Years ago, my dad (and mom) and I (and Londo) decided to buy a timeshare at a nearby beach from a family friend. It is a duplex with a deck overlooking the 9th green of a golf course, and has 3 bedroom, 2 bath, a kitchen open to dining area and family room. We would have it for one week and the end of May/beginning of June every year. It was a good size for us and our plans to grow the family. It was a set week every year, so that my dad and I could plan on our vacations way in advance.

This worked out perfect for me and my dad. I didn't have to worry about finding a place at the beach and coordinating the week and location and price and everything else, because it was already taken care of. It had access to a parking lot right on the beach with a clubhouse that included a bathroom and cafe. It was right on the golf green, and an easy walk to the golf course's clubhouse. There were lots of amenities that both my dad and I were very happy with.

Though it wasn't a good time of year for either my mom or for Londo, my dad and I have gone every single year since we got it, except the one when I was due any day with the Pookie (my dad went with my SIL and her twins).

In fact, the fertility cycle which we got pregnant with the Pumpkin was while I was at the timeshare. I did the 2.5 drive back and forth for two appointments and gave myself shots while at the beach house. The year after having the Pumpkin, we brought her to the beach house at 3 months old--her first beach experience. A couple years we had friends and/or family stay with us with their kids.

I love the place. I love the specific time set aside to go to the beach. I love hanging out with my dad and mom. I love bringing the kids, even though it's difficult to get them to sleep and the place isn't really kid-proofed. I love that it feels like a family vacation place.

But this year, I had to re-think the family vacation I had been planning all year. I had to re-think a lot of plans I had for May and June, which my half-organized closet can attest to.

This year, there was no way I could take the kids for any of the vacation as the only parent with my torn meniscus. My parents a great help, but I literally would not have been able to do any parenting of the kids. And this was their vacation, too, and it wouldn't have been fair to ask them to watch my kids and wait on me all week.

Londo and I had a big discussion about it. The beach is not his ideal vacation, and he didn't exactly relish the idea of spending his vacation days from work chasing both kids around in the hot sun with sand getting everywhere then going back to a place that wasn't kid-proofed. He would much rather stay home with the kids, where they would continue going to school during the day so he could work and where everything was set up to meet their needs at home. But he told me I should go with my parents.

In fact, he pretty much insisted on it. Saying it would actually be easier for him, because he wouldn't have to take care of me in addition to the kids! The vacation was between the time I had the MRI and my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, so I was free to go.

So I went. Sounds fantastic, right? Almost a full week at the beach without the kids and with my parents taking care of me!

The problem was, that was not the vacation I planned. It was not the vacation I wanted. It was not the annual family vacation that it was supposed to be. Stupid meniscus.

All I could see on the drive and at the beach and everywhere I went were the adorable kids. Moms were everywhere, and most of them seemed to have kids right around my kids' ages. As I hobbled around with my cane, I watched the kids longingly. When I was back at the house, I remembered how cute my kids were at the table there and playing in the family room. At the beach, all I could think about was how the kids played in the waves and dug in the sand the year before, and how I had envisioned taking them again this year. Heck, I even reread my own poem about it! It was tough, believe it or not.

I must admit, I did have a wonderful time. Just because it was not the vacation I planned, doesn't mean that it wasn't a good vacation. I actually spent the first couple days with two of my best friends from junior high, who also happened to be at the beach that same weekend. My parents really took wonderful care of me, making sure I didn't push myself and hurt my knee worse. Best of all? I actually got to lay down on the beach, read and worship the sun like I haven't been able to since having kids. I was even able to dig a hole just right for my knee so I could lie on my stomach.

The only reason I was even okay going without my kids and husband is because, as Londo pointed out, my parent now own a house 2 miles from a beach just a town up from the one where the timeshare is. He promised we'd take our family vacation for a week in August at my parent's house, when the kids were on summer break and my knee was healed up. After a bit of talking, I realized that this was the better plan for the family vacation.

I had thought I would go to my parent's beach house just about every weekend, from May through September. The torn meniscus changed my plans, and I've had to re-think my entire summer. I am glad that I got to go to the beach in June, and I'm looking forward to the family vacation in August.

And now my recovery from the surgery and the physical therapy I will be doing is of even more importance to me. If they go well, and quickly, I believe that my weekend plans in July will involve a lot of trips to my parent's beach house with the kids, and hopefully without Londo since goodness knows he needs and deserves a lot of time for himself as soon as I possibly can give it to him!

Originally, I had figured I would go to my parent's beach house without kids a couple of weekends in July or August. I was not ready for that time in June when I hadn't even gotten to take the kids to the beach by myself even once. I didn't need the time away from the kids I had barely been able to play with or put to bed for weeks. But that's how it worked out. Now, I can't wait to spend my weekends with my kids, at the beach and at home, with two working knees.

The Beginnings of a Ski Buddy

After lunch, my daughter and I went back up the "magic carpets" to the top of the bunny slopes. She wanted to keep skiing! With me...