Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Understandably Cute

I was telling a story about my kids to a couple of coworkers the other day. They are both young, unmarried, childless men who put up with stories of my kids while not looking bored (this may be because I'm their boss). At the end of my story, one of them said, "You may not realize this, but when you say what your son said, you say it with a lisp."

"Oh, no. I totally do that on purpose. That is actually how he talks!" I responded.

He commented, "That must be really cute."

It is. It is REALLY cute. But... he can be hard to understand. It was very difficult when he was a toddler (1 and 2 years old), and it's getting easier now both because he is pronouncing better and he is explaining better.

For example, when he said the other day, "There are no wings," I have no idea at first that he is responding to my question 10 minutes earlier about swinging on the playground. Luckily, he added, "There are tyeh (tire) wings, but no regoolah (regular) wings (swings)." From the extra details, I was able to connect his response to my earlier question.

When he was younger and he'd say something we couldn't understand, we would say "what?" and he would sigh and say "nevehmine (nevermind)." Which was also adorable! But... I would often respond, "But I DO want to mind. I WANT to know what you are saying. Can you explain it?" Usually, he just couldn't. Or we'd guess and maybe we'd get it. Or he was already moving on to something else.

I was concerned for a while. Afterall, the Pumpkin spoke so clearly so early that my previous n of 1 really skewed the data from my sample population. There were a few mispronunciations (like yea-yo for yellow or wobberwhy for butterfly), but she was just so verbally ahead of the curve that even the mispronunciations didn't last.

Londo and I both worried that the Pookie was not progressing in his speech as he should be. We brought it up at his two year well visit, and of course he was fine. Completely normal. We breathed a sigh of relief, but did try to work with him a bit on dictation and pronouncing his words.

But seriously? It's just so freaking cute! I just can't bring myself to correct him when he says things in his adorable little lisp. And because it's so cute we let it go, even the Pumpkin has some words wrong that she learned from him. My favorite examples are from Star Wars. They call Boba Fett "Bubble Fett" and Darth Vader "Dark Vader."

Who can blame me for not correcting it? I know they will learn eventually, that he will lose the lisp. But it's precious, and I'm going to enjoy it. Even while I'm trying to teach him so he can be understood, I'm still going to enjoy his cute ways of saying things.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stealing Kisses

The Pumpkin will give you a hug, kiss and snuggle any time. She is very lovey and sweet, very physically affectionate. I don't think she's ever turned down a kiss or hug.

The Pookie is often affectionate, but sometime he is not. Sometimes, he is not willing to give you a kiss or a hug. Sometimes he pulls away and yells, even when it's a kiss goodbye or goodnight, which are normal parts of his routine.

But I am creative and sneaky! And I LOVE kisses and hugs from my kids! So over the years I've come up with sneaky ways to steal kisses without him screaming about it and wiping it away.

When he was two, he went through a phase when he didn't want to give me a kiss. So I started saying this to him, "If you give me a kiss, I will give it right back." And he did! He would kiss me, and then I'd kiss him right back! Not only did I get him to kiss me willingly, but I got TWO kisses! And it really did work every time!

Now that he is three, he is really into superheros and Star Wars and bad guys. He often wants to defeat the bad guy (or be the bad guy). So the other day, when I wanted a kiss and he was saying I was a bad guy, I told him he could only defeat me by kissing and hugging me.

And it worked! He ran up and started hugging and kissing me, and I leaned back and said, "I am defeated!" Also, the Pookie vanquishes Londo with kisses, and they've been doing that a while.

Yesterday, I took him with me to the grocery store. On the way there, he said he turned into a bad guy. I told him I wanted my good guy back. How could I get him back so the good Pookie could go into the store with me? He said I'd have to give him TWO kisses to turn him good. The minute I opened his door in the parking lot, I gave him four, just to be sure.

This morning, Londo told him to get me. He jumped in my lap and said he was going to defeat me! I told him he could only defeat me with kisses! So he kissed me and I kissed him, and we both leaned over and said, "Uhhh. I am defeated." We did this a few times in a row, with each defeat becoming more of a cuddle into each other.

I never thought I'd like playing bad guy/good guy so much. But this is fun for the whole family, cause within a few minutes, the Pumpkin and Londo joined in with the kisses!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Going to Sleep on Their Own!

I have news! HUGE news! (No, I'm not pregnant.)

Last night, both of my kids went to bed on their own, with their doors shut, without a parent even sitting in the hallway!!!!

Why yes, my daughter is now 5.5 years old and my son is over 3. And no, I do not want to hear about how someone else's kids have been doing that since they were infants. Mine have struggled with going to sleep and sleep in general.

Although I hesitate to talk or write about any good sleep/going to sleep situations in our house since doing so always seems to jinx it, I really wanted to include this one good night on my (mostly inactive) blog. Considering the YEARS we've struggled with bedtimes and nighttimes and all the posts I've written to keep my sanity about things related to sleep (or lack thereof), I figured if there was any reason to write a third post this year, LAST NIGHT was the reason!

With the Pumpkin, we have had to make a very slow transition to just get out of her room while she goes to sleep. I think the Pookie would have transitioned quicker to going to sleep on his own, but since we had to stay with his sister, he wanted the same. We have made small steps, slowly progressing from nursing them to sleep, to rocking them to sleep, to lying down with them and signing, sitting next to their beds, sitting in their doorways, to actually one person sitting in the hall while they both go to sleep in their beds!

That last one was HUGE for us! It also freed us up a bit, since one person could sit in the hall reading or playing on the iPhone/iPad while they both went to sleep. Londo has been able to take a gym class twice a week at night, and I've joined an adult chorus once a week and still go to book club once a month.

But lately in my opinion (opinions differ in our house on this), the Pookie has seemed to need more sleep. He wakes up early and won't go back to sleep, so I have insisted that we start putting him to bed earlier than his sister. (Let's skip the parental disagreements here...) But I wanted to make sure we could put him to bed earlier and still maintain that bit of indepence we have in the evenings when one of us can actually go out and do something while the other puts the kids to bed, without causing the bedtime parent to sit in the hall for hours. My solution was to get the Pookie to go to sleep on his own with his door closed.

Apparently, Londo and I were on the same page about how the Pookie could go to sleep. Three nights ago, while I was at chorus, Londo did the bedtime routine, gave the Pookie a kiss, told him he had to check on the Pumpkin, shut the Pookie's door, tucked in the Pumpkin, went back to check on the Pookie like 5 minutes later and the Pookie was asleep.

Not even knowing that, two nights ago while Londo was at his gym, I did the bedtime routine, kissed the Pookie and explained that his sister was still doing something that might be noisy so I needed to close his door for him to go to sleep. I told him that big boys go to sleep with their doors closed (he wants to be big and strong lately) and that he was so capable that I thought he could do it! He was pushing back a little, but then I went with offering a reward, which often works with him. I told him he could have a special treat if he tried it. He said, "Okay. I can try it."

And guess what? He did it!

I sat in the hall while his door was shut and while the Pumpkin had her door open as she practiced writing and reading. I made sure she saw me there the whole time, so she knew that I was there even if the door was shut. When it was time for her to go to bed, I asked her if she wanted her door shut, and she said, "No. I like it the way it is every night."

I said in a tentative, tired voice, "Okay." And she asked why I said okay like that. I was trying to come up with an explanation when she said something along the lines of me thinking she should have the door shut. I explained that some day, she would need to be able to go to sleep by herself with her door shut. She said she understood, but she did not offer to do it that night. She went to sleep in her room with the door open while I sat in the hall.

But the next day, when she heard about and saw the Pookie get his extra piece of Halloween candy for going to sleep by himself with his door shut, she wanted to try it! So last night, the Pookie went to bed by himself again! And then, Londo put the Pumpkin in her room, kissed her and closed the door.

Within minutes, she was back in our room. I thought, "there goes that!" BUT, she just came out to tell her dad that it wasn't as scary as she thought it would be! And Londo pointed out that we were right in the room next door, doing exactly what we had been doing when the Pookie went to bed by himself.

She went back to bed and went to sleep! On her own! With her door shut!

Plus we started a rule a few weeks ago that neither kid can come into our room and bed at night until we open the door. We stay up watching TV or spending time together with the door shut. When we go to bed, we open the door. The Pookie almost never comes to our room before we go to bed anyway, and the Pumpkin is getting better about it. In fact, a couple nights ago, when we reminded her that she needed to go back to her own room, she went back in and went to sleep by herself (after a potty break)!

So nighttimes are going better in the caramama household! I have hope! At least until the next regression, when all bets are out the window!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Reprieve From Elementary School

Many of my coworkers and friends have a child the Pumpkin's age, and they are all going to kindergarten in the nearby elementary schools this year. They are feeling the pangs of their children growing up. They've been worried about school buses. They've been concerned about how their children will handle the true school environment. They've been nervous about teachers and classrooms and the right educational level for their children. They've been preparing their children for the new place, with new kids their age and older kids in the school, with no toys and more possibly more sitting than they are used to.

I feel like I've gotten a stay of execution. My daughter is staying at her Montessori school for her kindergarten year.

The Montessori school has a three year program for pre-schoolers through kindergarteners that they attend for ages 3, 4 and 5. The returning 5 year olds, including the Pumpkin, participate in "Kindergarten Club" and learn everything they need to move on to first grade next year. But she is in the same classroom as she has been with most of the same kids. I am still dropping off her and her brother in the mornings, and my husband is still picking them up from After Care.  Our routine doesn't change, and her overall environment doesn't change.

About half of the kids her age from her class last year are going to kindergarten in the elementary schools instead of returning for the third year at the Montessori school. In fact, her best friend at the school is going to public school, and she's been pretty upset that he won't be back at school this year. His family lives in another neighborhood so they wouldn't be going to the same school if she went to elementary school, but I know it will be hard for the Pumpkin without him at her school. I did set up a playdate with him soon, so she will get to hang out with him outside of school.

Fortunately, many of the same kids her age and the year younger are still there. There is continuity with the change, comfort with the new experiences. And this year, the Pookie is in the big kid class across the hall, and they are in After Care together. They've played so much together all summer long, that I know they will love being with each other in After Care.

The Pumpkin's mornings will be the same as always. She goes to the same class with the same teachers. Since she is older now, she is going to be learning new, bigger kid "work," which is what the Montessori method calls the learning activities in class. But after lunch, the big change is that all the kindergarteners get together in one room to have their kindergarten class. This class is actually being taught by the Pookie's teachers while he and the younger children are taking naps in another room.

At back to school night for the parents, I asked the main kindergarten class teacher what exactly did they do in kindergarten, how was it different from the regular Montessori work. She explained by giving an analogy about how they can teach in more detail, go a level deeper with the older kids. If you want to describe a fish's body to kids, you can break it down in to 6 parts to make it easier for them to get. With older kids, you can break the fish down in to 10 parts, showing more details of the fish. They will do the equivalent in kindergarten, explain things in more details so the older kids can go a level deeper in their learning. I felt very comfortable with the analogy and the teachers.

So even though my 5 year old will be in kindergarten, I have not felt the cutting-of-apron-strings or the letting-my-heart-walk-outside-my-body feelings that I see a lot of other parents going through. There is no bus to worry about, no older and unknown kids, no new classrooms or routines for my kindergartener.

Those I will have to worry about next year, when she goes to elementary school for 1st grade. Maybe by then she won't seem like my little baby girl so much anymore. Maybe she will seem older, hopefully making me feel more able to let her go off to big kid school. Maybe I'll won't feel like her younger years are over, won't be upset that she's in a new phase of childhood.

Maybe.

What I do know is that the Pookie has moved into the bigger kid classrooms, the ones for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. He's out of the toddler classroom and starting to learn the Montessori work. He's not a toddler anymore. He really is a pre-schooler now. He's transitioned into his next phase of childhood, and he has made the developmental leaps to support this transition.

And that means he's not my baby anymore!

I think I'm dealing with it fine. Though a little heart wrenching, I find it pretty cool to watch him grow and be a big kid. (And I don't miss diapers at all.) But it's still a tough transition for me. Based on my feelings about second-born child moving into pre-school class (which I already went through with my first), I just am not sure how I would have handled my oldest going to elementary school this year!

Thankfully, I have this reprieve. This year, I don't really have to worry about the next phase of childhood, one that we haven't been through before, one that is even less within my parental sphere. I can hang onto my daughter in this phase for one more year. And she can enjoying being the big kid in her class, being a leader and helper in her class, roles that she loves to have. She can finish the third year of the Montessori program, where the kids put together all the things they've learned in the previous years.
Next year, we'll deal with first grade and elementary school. Next year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For When I Forget... Again

Sometimes, I lose my way.

Sometimes, I forget all the things I've read, learned, felt was right and worked hard to incorporate. Sometimes, I'm just stressed and busy and frustrated. Sometimes (at times too often), I'm not the parent I know I can be.

Believe it or not, the Pumpkin is now 5 and the Pookie is 3! Though I love these ages, they come with certain difficulties. (How's that for an understatement of the obvious?)

The Pumpkin went through some difficult developmental regressions at the end of the school year, but she has now made that magical leap forward in her thinking and acting. She is becoming a big kid. But she's at that edge where she wants to be a big kid and so capable, but also she does not want to be a big kid and do certain things. Luckily, she is at a stage where logic mostly works with her (I can hardly believe it, but it's true!). And I can indulge in some babying when she's feeling the need for it.

The Pookie is in that phase of 3 that Ames and Ilg wrote their book for: Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy? He is all about boundry pushing and testing the consequences. He's adorable and sweet and absolutely contrary. In fact, I started saying to him the nursery rhyme about Mary Mary Quite Contrary and reminded my husband that we sang the same song for the Pumpkin when she was this age. Up is down, black is white, and of course no is yes!

Here's a perfect example of his contrariness: I told the kids to wait on my brother-in-law's porch while I went to get their rain coats from the car because it was raining. My BIL tried to stop the Pookie from walking out from the cover over the porch, and the Pookie said, "It's not raining." As I walked back to the porch, my BIL told him it was raining. The Pookie walked into the rain, turned and looked at my BIL and insisted with a scowl on his face, "It's not raining." As it rained on him. As the drops of water literally fell on his head! Ugh! What do you do with that?

Apparently, what I do is get frustrated and snappy. I was at my inlaws without Londo, and I was trying to get a lot of work done over the weekend, watch the kids and spend time with my inlaws. I was low on sleep, but still trying to do it all.

I brought the kids to my mother-in-law's family reunion, where I didn't know most people, the only other kid close to their age was their 8-year-old cousin, there was a peanut-heavy dessert on the table and I was the only one with a strange accent. I am used to being the Yankee/city girl down at my inlaws, though I'm from the Mid-Atlantic, the suburbs of Washington DC. But I still notice the double takes I get when I open my mouth around more distant relatives.

So I was stressed. Tired. Concerned about the peanut allergy. Trying to entertain while keeping safe while keeping them in line. The kids did pretty well, but it ended poorly. The Pookie peed in his pants, minutes after I asked if he needed the potty. The Pumpkin did not stay where I told her to while I went to find something in the car to put the Pookie in (thankfully, I don't clean out my car much and I found an old pullup). Luckily she did not go near the food, but I was still frustrated.

I could go on. But the point is clear, I think. I was stressed and frustrated and snapped at the kids (quietly so the relatives wouldn't raise an eyebrow), and we went home early. Later that night, after the kids were in bed and I had done some work, I was hanging out with my brother-in-law. I bemoaned the family reunion and the frustrations of dealing with the kids. He was all sympathy and let me vent. But he said something offhand that gave me a eureka momement.

My BIL asked, "Well, did they at least have fun?"

I felt myself snap out of a fog. I was still for a moment. Then I looked at my BIL and answered, "You know what? They did. They really did."

Isn't that the point of summer break and going to family reunions and, well, of being a kid? Have fun. Sure, I still need to keep them safe. I definitely need to hold the line when they push their boundries. Of course I need to teach them how to behave and how to listen and follow directions. I also need to let them have fun. Not only that, I need to have fun with them! I need to remember that Playful Parenting works so well with my kids. I need to remember that when I get frustrated, things only get worse. I need to remember to loosen up, let go of the stress, separate my frustrations with work from my home life, enjoy my kids. Enjoy being a parent.

When they don't listen, I need to figure out how to make sure they listen. Yelling isn't the only way. When they want to do something, I need to think before I say no and consider why not. When they are goofing off, I need to let them goof off. When they push the boundries, I need to hold the line and then distract them with what they can do.

Basically, I need to remember the kind of parent I want to be, strive to be, have been and can be. When I forget, I need to remember. Since that eureka moment that my BIL unintentionally gave me, I have refocused my parenting.

And since that moment over a week ago, things have been so much better. I have been enjoying my kids, and I know they have been enjoying me. I've yelled much much less, and they are listening much more. I have loosed up, and we are all having more fun.

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer! Ours is getting better every day!

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...