Monday, October 31, 2011

Heckled by My Daughter Again While Running With Stroller

It really is no wonder that it's hard for Moms to do any serious training.  This weekend Hubby took Little Buddy to get a haircut so I decided to go for a nice run with the Single Bob Stroller.  Now this is quite a treat for me because the Double Bob Stroller is so huge that it's hard to get the motivation to even take it out of the garage.  Still, even just getting prepared for a run is a lot of work.  Since it was a little chilly, I had to get blankets, snacks, water, and music.  And that's just for Munchkin Girl.

Once I was finally prepared, we set off on the crisp Fall day.  A few minutes into the run, I was feeling the pressure.  I've been sick so my chest is still a little tight.  Within three minutes I encountered a huge hill and had to slow to a walk.  Munchkin Girl started saying something.  I couldn't hear her because it was windy and the canopy was fully extended.  I tried to just agree with everything and keep going.  "Yes, definitely."  "Uh, huh, that sounds good honey." 

She got more and more insistent and eventually I had to stop running, pull open the canopy and ask her what she wanted.  She said,

"Mommy, it doesn't feel like you're running.  Why aren't you running?"

Really??!?!!  She made me stop running just to tell me that I wasn't running???

We kept going and came to a stoplight.  I turned right and again, she started saying something and being very insistent.  Finally I stopped again and pulled the canopy since I still couldn't hear her.

"Mommy, that was a red light.  You forgot to stop and wait for it to turn green."

I didn't realize that I brought a Heckler with me on my run.  Maybe it's time to join a gym.

I will say that at the end of the run, as I pulled her out of the stroller, she said, "Mommy, thanks for letting me wear my slippers." 

Point for Munchkin Girl...It's nice when someone appreciates the little things in life.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Merits of Letting Daddy Interfere

Why Daddy Should Decide our Weekend Activities Sometimes

Sometimes Hubby just isn't practical.  And sometimes he wants the kids to grow up immediately.  A perfect example was our first Christmas with Munchkin Girl.  She was seven months old and he insisted that we needed to go buy a real Christmas Tree and his reasoning was that Munchkin Girl would think it was really fun.  The seven month old baby. 

I grew up with a fake tree and always thought it was fine.  I don't deny his heart was in the right place.  He wanted to bond with our little daughter.  However, he just didn't realize that a seven month old wouldn't care about a tree at all, let alone whether it was fake or real.  I gave in like I always do and spent the entire Christmas Holiday cleaning up pine needles and fighting with the dogs to get them to quit drinking the water from the tree.

This brings me to this Halloween.  With Munchkin Girl at 3 and Little Buddy at 18 months, we were both excited about pumpkin carving.  Then Hubby decided to take it to a new level.  He decided we needed dry ice.  I don't know much about dry ice, but I do know that it's not something you want your 18 month old to be sticking his hands into.  At first, I protested.  I said they weren't old enough to appreciate it and it would be a total hassle and could even be dangerous.

Then I had an epiphany...why not?  I'm lucky to have a Hubby who wants to put in the extra effort to have fun with the kids.  If I end up having to clean up a little extra, so what?  So I let go...and look what my Hubby did...

The kids thought it was super cool and we had it bubbling while they cleaned out the pumpkins.

Then, it evolved a step further.  Since the kids can't really hold knives and carve a pumpkin, they got to paint the pumpkins while Daddy did the actual carving.  They really enjoyed this and I was so glad that I didn't stress over the mess they were making.  Admittedly it took a lifetime to clean up this spectacular mess, but it was totally worth it.

dry ice with little kids

I guess the moral of this story is that I need to chill out and have fun.  It's an ongoing process, but I'm happy to report that I'm making progress in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Austin Ironman: It was the Best of Trips, it was the WORST of trips.

Saturday was the long-awaited Ironman race for my darling Hubby.  I was thrilled to go because we were finally going to visit my very best friend and we were so excited to let our kids play together.  (She has a daughter just a little younger than Munchkin Girl).  However, things did not quite go as planned and to an outsider, this trip would probably be considered a monumental disaster...Consider the evidence:

  • The day before we left, Munchkin Girl and I came down with terrible colds.  We were both hacking away all night and literally didn't fall asleep until 3:30am the first night.  She woke up every 15 minutes with painful couging that made her cry and sob in agony.  I had no medicine for her cough and was helpless all night.
  • Hubby flew down two days later for the Ironman and Frontier LOST his bag.  This bag contained dozens of items to do the Ironman, such as shoes, clothes, etc.  He briefly considered running naked but decided that was a poor option.  On the other hand, we'd already spent thousands of dollars to come to, and he'd spent hundreds of hours training for the grueling 6 hour race.  In the end, he bought all new stuff and did it anyway, which was a huge expense for us and quite a fiasco to drive all around Austin in search of the correct gear.
  • After the race, we drove almost 2 hours to San Antonio to take the three kids to Sea World.  They were so excited to go.  To our dismay Sea World is closed during the week.  Who knew?  It was like a Vacation moment...I swear I almost pulled a Chevy Chase and demanded they get Wally World/Sea World open for us.  We ended up going to the San Antonio zoo, which I don't recommend.  If you've ever been there, you know why.  I won't go into detail.  On the way home, we got stuck in traffic and it took us another three hours to get home.  The kids weren't thrilled at all to be stuck in dead-stopped traffic for three hours.
  • Lastly, my parents were taking care of the dogs and they got into a teensy fight with a skunk.  All I can say is Yuck.
Amazingly, I still consider it to be a FANASTIC trip.  People always say that during adversity that you find your true friends.  I always knew my friend was a true friend, but this trip brought that out in new and incredible ways.  Consider the evidence:

  • We show up sick.  If I'm being honest, I wouldn't have been that thrilled to have sick house-guests.  We had medicine everywhere and we were both coughing constantly.  Not my friend.  She opened her house happily to her germ-challenged friends.  I quote, "I don't care if I get sick.  I'm just happy you're here."  She wasn't just saying it.  She meant it.  It's pretty nice to have someone care that much about you.
  • In trying to figure out where everyone would sleep, she literally offerd to sleep on her screened porch if needed.  Again, she meant it.  She would have literally slept outside.  Luckily, we didn't need to take her up on this offer, but she still gave Little Buddy the nursery and put her own daughter to sleep in the Pack and Play in the Master closet.  Her poor little girl didn't even get to nap most days because my Little Buddy was sleeping in her bed, but she did it happily. 
  • Before I came, she loaded up on my favorite cereal.  I was so happy.  I love my Quaker Oat Squares.
  • After the bag came up missing, she and her husband changed all our plans, dropped everything, and tried to help us find it and her husband spent the entire day helping Hubby at the airport, checking in at the race, and eventually at the bike stores buying all new stuff. 
There are dozens of other ways she was awesome and the best hostess ever, but I can't type forever.  Research shows that women who have supportive best friends have better marriages, are happier, and live more fulfilling lives.  If that's true, then I'm set for life.  I hope all women have a best friend like mine.

The other good news is that our little girls got a jumpstart on being BFFs.  They took every opportunity over the 5 day trip to hold hands.  This went well of course until Little Buddy decided to tackle them and ruin the moment.  Oh well, probably won't be the last time that'll happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clues That Your Three Year Old is Growing Up Fast...Too fast...

  1. When she says to you at a stoplight, "Mommy, the light was red.  You're supposed to STOP on red."   Sheesh, talk about a backseat driver.  Okay, I did coast through turning right on red but still.
  2. When you take her shoe shopping and ask her to look in the mirror.  She says, "Stylin".  That's it.  Just Stylin.  As in Stylish, but she shortened it.
  3. When she says she wants someone to play with.  "You can play with me," I say.  She shakes her head.   "No Mommy," she says.  "I don't want to play with YOU.  I want to play with one of my FRIENDS."
  4. When she says, "Mommy, is there something I can help you with?"
  5. When she says, "Mommy, can I borrow your iPad for a sec?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Insight on How to Cultivate Little Brains

Don't you just love it when you read a book and it really changes your perspective?  When it really makes you start thinking about things in a new way?  I recently read a book written by a Kindergarten teacher and it really has changed the way I interact with the kids.  For example, here is one section that really opened my eyes:

"Decode your child's questions.  A curious child's questions may seem never ending but they reflect a child's cognitive and emotional development.  Parents should take their child's questions seriously and answer in a way that will strengthen and deepen the relationship.  Don't just always say 'yes."

Keep in mind that Munchkin Girl talks ALL the time.  Even though I do try to to answer her, sometimes I can't hear her in the car very well so I find myself saying, "I don't know.  That's a good question."  Or, "Yes, you got it!"  I never tell her to stop talking, but I don't really appreciate what she's saying.  My mind is always on which customer I need to call back or what needs to be added to the grocery list.

It never occurred to me that her questions would help her in her development.  So, the other day on the way home from my parent's house, it was late and I was alone with the kids (seems to be a common theme on this blog, huh??  He's an orthopedic surgery resident).  She was murmuring something in the back and so I asked her to talk louder so I could hear. 

"Mommy, where did the sun go?"

"It went to bed already," I replied.

"Mommy, where is the sun's bed?  Is it comfortable?"

Look what happened when I really listened and took her seriously!  I really got to see her little mind at work and it made me so proud that she made the jump from me telling her the sun went to bed to her thinking about the sun's bed.  Being a Mom really can be fun if you're not distracted.

Another section that really helped me was the section on Play:

"Promote the artist in your child....Make learning fun.  For example, 'Is there something blue in this room?'  Give your child a notebook and play Blue's Clues.  Help your child find different shapes in the environment..."

Normally I put the dishes away in the morning, and again, my mind is in the clouds, thinking about all the things I need to pack for the day, both for myself and for the kids.  I sell medical equipment so every day I have to pack my car full of equipment, my computer, etc.  However, I decided to really focus on Munchkin Girl this time.  As I was putting away the dishes, I asked her to help me.  I kid you not, she picked up the crockpot cover and looked at me and said, "Mommy, what shape is this?"

"That's an oval," I said.

"Is that different than a circle?" 

So I took her over to her chalkboard and showed her the difference.  Now she loves to draw ovals and she's so proud of herself for knowing what it is.

This book also says:

"Play is an expression of the soul.  Take children to a park to swing."

I happen to agree with this.  My kids definitely think swinging is good for the soul, even Little Buddy who isn't even old enough to do it right yet.

One of the things I have loved about writing this blog is the wonderful people I have met along the way.  The author of this book, Susan Case, sent me this book several weeks ago to review and although it sounded interesting, I've been busy and didn't get to it right away.  Plus, my daughter is only three so I wasn't sure how much it would apply.

I have to say, I think even though the title is about Kindergarten, I really did enjoy this book and I think all Moms could really get a lot out of reading it.  I found it to be pretty inspiring and her love for children really comes through in her writing.  Her ideas and persepective as a teacher helps me see what my daughter is capable of learning.  The book also has good tips on how to get kids ready for school.  I will say that it is also geared toward kindergarten teachers, so I recommend that you skip the first two chapters and then go back and read them later when you have time. 

The book is called Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. Susan taught Special Education, Early Childhood, and Kindergarten and now edits and writes. You can visit her blog at Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.

If you do read it, let me know what you think! 

PS...I got no money at all for this review and will make no money off the sales of the book.  I just really did like it!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Secret Amusements and Heartache of a Working Mom

Secret Amusements and Heartache of a Working Mom

Yesterday Little Buddy was sick.  He didn't feel good and he needed his Mommy.  I wanted to cuddle and hold him and make him feel better.  Instead I had to drive 6 hours in the car to an important customer meeting in an attempt to salvage my big deal of the year.  Since I'm in sales, I'm really feeling the pressure that always comes at the end of the year. 

I'm lucky because I have a nanny so I don't have to cancel important meetings when the kids are sick.  On the other hand, there is nothing more excruciating than having to worry about your son's cough when you're 200 miles away.  Frankly, my nanny probably has it the worst because I have to pry my hands away from phone to keep myself from calling every 10 minutes to check up on everyone.  How is he?  Is he crying?  Does it seem like Munchkin Girl is sick too?  Does he still have a fever?  What is it?  Have you given him Advil?

Poor girl.  I don't know how she puts up with me.  To combat this nervous energy while I was stuck in the car, I decided to find ways to amuse myself.  I had to stop at a gas station on the way down to pee.

Look closely.  The soap dispensers have been removed for unknown reasons.  Instead, they placed a mysterioius blue liquid into a catsup bottle and placed it on top of the counter.  I opted for Purrell at this location.

Okay, I'm sorry.  Maybe I have a dirty mind, but why can't they just change the name of this franchise?  Does it really have to be KUM & GO???!!??

This was an advertisement for a tech center.  Frankly, I thought this was pretty clever marketing.

I had to pee again on the way home, so I tried to pick a classier gas station.  I was fooled.  Check out this sign, taped to the lock.  Very comforting.  Oh, so the door DOES lock...

Just in case you were smoking at the gas station, here is where you put your cigarette butt.  Nicely labeled.

By this time, the nanny had taken Little Buddy to the doctor and they put him on some oral steroids to help his breathing.  Mommy likes medicine so I was happy.  My meeting went well, but it was a long day in the car being stressed about Little Buddy.  I decided to treat myself to an ice cream cone from MacDonald's.  I heard they only have 80 calories.  At least that's what I tell myself in order to rationalize an ice cream cone at 2:00 in the afternoon.

I pulled up to the window and ordered. 

"I'm sorry Ma'am, we don't have vanilla ice cream cones."

"What," I almost screamed.  I really did feel almost frantic.  "Are you serious?  Did McDonald's discontinue ice cream cones???"

"Ma'am you're at Wendy's not McDonald's."

Oops.  Mommy needs a vacation. Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Announcing the Winner of the Funniest Mommy Blog Post

Thanks so much to everyone for sending in all of your hilarious posts!  I really enoyed reading all your stories and being exposed to your wonderful blogs.  If you didn't win, don't despair.  I plan to announce another contest this winter, so stay tuned.  The next contest will be for the best recipe and/or craft.

Today I am going to announce a winner and a runner-up.  The winner will get the code to display the following button on their website:

Without further ado....the winner is...

What's Up Sippy Sup

It was an ordinary evening at our home. My husband had just gotten home from work, I was starting     dinner and our 2 year old was playing with her little pink kitchen set in the room adjacent to our kitchen. How Leave it to Beaver of us, right? Somewhere between flipping the chicken and prepping the veggies, we notice our daughter’s chin is purple! Her entire chin was purple, with little red spots. I quickly scanned the room for the culprit. No markers, no grape juice…nothing out of the ordinary. Still under the impression that she got something on her chin, we did what all good parents would do and gave her a bath.

While my husband was giving her a bath, I did the second thing that all good parents do and Google “purple rash on kid’s chin.” Worst idea ever! At this point she had everything from Leukemia to Measles to Syphilis. I hurry back to the bathroom and advise my husband to quickly remove her from the tub because “it says we have to seek medical help immediately.” Consumed with worry, trying not to puke from the knots in my stomach, we drove to the kids urgent care clinic near our house.

We’re now in the examining room. The nurse pleasantly took my daughter’s vitals (all normal), but I swear she couldn’t stop staring at the purple chin in wonderment. That gives you the warm fuzzies. Then the doctor comes in. She examines the purple chin, she takes a closer look at the red dots, she looks up at us and says, “Let me get the other doctor in here to take a look.” Holy crap. At this point, I have the sweats and the shakes, along with my twisted stomach. And I’m petting my daughter’s head like some sort of weirdo. Meanwhile, my husband is playing the delicate roll of calming the mother/wife and entertaining the child. Then the second doctor comes in. He gets down on my daughter’s level and gives the purple chin a once-over. Then he gives her whole body a once-over, looking for other mysterious purple blobs. There were none to be found. He explained that the purple blob was a bruise and the red dots were broken blood vessels. It was at this point that he reassured us that it was not Leukemia, Measles , Syphilis or anything else Google said (I’m sure doctors hate Googling parents. I’m sorry to all the doctors out there, I couldn’t help it). He asked us if she had been playing with the vacuum cleaner attachment, suctioning her chin. Yeah, because that’s such a great toy for a 2 year old, we play ‘suck your face off with a vacuum’ all the time. We quickly put that theory to rest. He then asked if she was drinking from a regular cup and was suctioning it to her chin, thought he admitted he typically saw that in much older children. That was a good thought but she is still a sippy cup carrier, so we poo-pooed that theory as well. We left the doctor’s office, reassured that it wasn’t serious but still unsure of what actually caused the purple chin.

Back at home, the dinner was cold, we were still unsettled and my daughter’s chin was still purple. My husband and I paced around the kitchen, like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, trying to figure out what could have caused the purple chin. We were looking over at our daughter, puzzled, while she was back at play in her little pink kitchen. She turned to look back at us, with big bright eyes, sensing our stares. And when she turned around, her arms were at her sides and there was a little pink teacup stuck to her face, covering her little purple chin perfectly. We all stood there in silence, staring at one another. She giggles and the cup falls to the floor. Mystery solved.

This is a wonderful website.  They also sponsor a great community on The Blog Frog.  I recommend you go join up!

The runner-up is....

I also really loved this post so you should definitely go check it out as well. 

Thanks again to everyone!  This was really fun!! :-)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Facebook Pressure to go Apple Picking is Intense

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I can't resist looking.  I know I shouldn't just like I know I shouldn't have ice cream at 9:55pm, but I do it anyway.  And everytime I look, I feel like everyone else is having SOOOO much more fun than me.  Everyone else is constantly at the zoo, swimming, at football games, etc.  With fall in full swing, everyone is out picking apples and going to the pumpkin patch. 

Well I say, NO MORE PRESSURE!!  Hubby had to work yet again this weekend so this morning when I woke up and he was gone, I knew I wanted to enjoy the beautiful Fall Day, but I realized that there is no law that says you have to go to the pumpkin patch to get pumpkins.  They sell them at the grocery store.  They also sell apples so we don't have to pick them ourselves.  Of course I would like to go apple picking, but all the places are really far away and Fall is a busy time, especially when your husband works every weekend.

Instead, we went walked to the park right by our house.  You know what?  The leaves were beautiful, the kids had a blast, and I'm proud to say....I'm Katie and I didn't go apple picking this year.  Sue me!! :-)

First we climbed trees....

Then we got a little tired and took a break...

Kudos to all of you who did go apple picking though...can we have some of your homemade pie??!?!??

Friday, October 14, 2011

Secret Grooming Habits of a Busy Mom

1.  Eyebrow plucking
Today I had a few extra minutes before Little Buddy's doctor's appointment.  I glanced in the mirror and noticed that my eyebrows were out of control.  True werewolf style.  I looked around my car for tweezers and couldn't find any, so I started pulling out my eyebrows with my fingers.  I was afraid I would forget to do it if I didn't take care of it right away.  The sad thing is, this seemed totally normal at the time.

2.  Ironing
I haven't even bothered to unpack my iron since we moved 6 months ago because I choose to ignore wrinkles.  If I'm being honest thing, I didn't iron much even before kids.

3.  Time to get ready for a big event
We had a wedding a few weeks ago and I had a full 15 minutes to get ready all by myself.  It seemed like absolute luxury.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Games NOT to play with a three year old

Ever since my daugher was born I've been waiting for her to grow up so she could play board games with me.  Hubby won't play board games under any circumstances (even when I make lavish promises and/or threats, I've tried both)

Since I knew Hubby was going to be working late again tonight, I decided that tonight was the night.  Chutes and Ladders says it is for children three and older.  Hooray!  Munchkin Girl is a bright three year old so that should work great.  I had visions of us happily playing Chutes and Ladders after dinner...she would laugh and expertly move her game piece all around the board and would suddenly know all the numbers...a truly idyllic scene, right??

Well...let's just say that I think they should change the box to ages four and older...or maybe Munchkin Girl is just too hyper.  This pretty much sums up our night of Chutes and Ladders:

Yes, she is looking the other way while reading a book and singing.  There is still hope.  Little Buddy will grow up someday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quit ganging up on my kid!!

Quit Ganging Up on My Kid: When your Kids are Bullied in Their Own Neighborhood

Tonight I had to watch my three year old get thrown to the ground by an older neighborhood girl.  She did hit the girl first, but my poor little daughter looked so confused and hurt when she got up off the ground, that it really made me wonder what kind of conflict is good for kids and teaches them a lesson and what kind of conflict is damaging to self-esteem.  

She does LOVE playing with the neighborhood kids but it worries me a little because she's only three, one neighbor girl is four, and the other is six and there are a bunch of boys so things get pretty rough out there, both physicall and emotionally. 

Today was a perfect example.  She was thrilled when everyone was outside and she hurried out there to play.  Everything was rainblows and sunshine for about 15 minutes when suddenly the two older girls decided they didn't want Munchking Girl with them anymore.  I saw them whispering and they ran away together.  Munchkin Girl looked confused, then took off after them.  In order to get their attention, she started hitting them and running away, kind of like she was trying to play tag.  Unfortuantely, this really irritated them.  She walked up to one of the girls and hit her playfully and this girl seriously threw her to the ground.  She put both legs and arms and all her strength into it.  It literally looked like a football tackle.  Of course the girl's parents weren't out there, so I tried to intervene but she just sassed me and told me that Munchkin Girl deserved it for hitting her. 

I asked my daughter later why she was hitting the girls.  She said, "I was trying to be funny, Mom."
Yes, she needs to learn not to hit others, but will this sort of thing affect her self-esteem in the long run?  People Magazine ran a story this month about a seventeen year old boy named Michael Ford-Berry who committed suicide because another teen was making fun of him for being a virgin.  This boy was targeted and felt so humiliated that he eventually took his own life. 
Luckily I'm far from the teen years, but I started thinking about what I can do to make sure that she doesn't let this neighborhood conflict affect her.  The good news is that A new study was released in Translational Pyschiatry that shows research that positive parenting can truly affect children in the long run, as much as genes can.  There is a gene that affects some children called the 5-HTTLPR and it leaves kids more susceptible to feeling depressed and anxious.  This study looks at these children and whether positive parenting can help with these negative feelings.  The study says:

"Parenting is one well-studied factor affecting youths’ level of positive affect. Children and adolescents who experience warm, sensitive, supportive and positive parenting have been shown to exhibit higher levels of positive affect, demonstrate better social-emotional functioning and are at a reduced risk for the development of psychopathology."

We all learn lessons in life every day.  On this day, Munchkin Girl got sick of all the drama and wandered off in search of the boys.  Smart girl. 

I learned that even though I can't control the neighborhood kids, I can control my own behavior and I can try to provide a positive, healthy envirnoment for my daughter and hopefully she'll grow up confident and able to defend herself emotionally against anything that comes her way. 

Note:  I did publish a version of this story first at Quit Ganging Up on My Kid on Technorati.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Will Exercise for Cupcake

Sometimes people ask me why I wake up at 5:30am to exercise.  I tell them it's because it gives me more energy.  Because I feel better all day.  Because it gets my brain working.  All those things are true, but if I'm being really is the real reason...

Cupcakes!!!  YUM YUM YUM YUM AND YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Someone stole one my articles...And I'm very flattered!!

Last night I was googling myself.  We all do it, right??  It's fun to see what comes up, especially now that some of my articles and posts are getting published in online magazines.  I write for Technorait, which is an online magazine and on it I published my article on how bottle feeding does not make you evil (it's basically the same one I posted here on my blog too). 

I was curious to see how highly it was ranked on Google, so last night, I googled "bottle feeding evil".  Look what I found:

See the very last item on the list?  Don't click on this link...I think it's a weird virus link, but what caught my eye is the way it starts out.  That is word for word exactly the same as I published on Technorati and also on my blog.   I clicked on it and it's a very bizarre website with no contact information.  It just has a bunch of articles and pictures about breastfeeding.  They changed the article a little bit, but not that much.  It's very clear that they just cut and pasted my article and then posted it on their own website.  I tried to send them an email to protest but they have no contact information listed.  After I got off the site, I did a virus scan and sure enough, there were alerts but my computer took care of them.

I have to say that I feel very strongly about this....I'm so flattered!! :-)  I should probably be mad that they hijacked my stuff, but honestly I think it's awesome they noticed and liked it enough to steal it...I'd say I'm moving up in the world.  I'm really curious to see if this has every happened to anyone else??

Friday, October 7, 2011

Getting along with brothers is hard

Every night before Munchkin Girl goes to bed, she wants me to tell her a story about when I was a little girl.  I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but I hardly remember anything about when I was a little girl, at least not anything specfiic.  The things I do remember are things I don't want to tell, such as when I got my name on the board at school for talking too much or when my Dad killed the snake that crawled from the sewer.  Not exactly inspiring so mostly I make things up.

The other night I told her about how I used to fight with my brothers, just like she fights with Littly Buddy.  But, I told her, a brother is your best friend and she should really try harder to play nice with him.  She responded with something slightly profound.

"But Mommy, he's so little.  I don't know how to play with him.  What should I do?"

I opened my mouth to reply but found that I was at a loss.  At 18 months, Little Buddy really is hard to play with.  He doesn't throw the ball back.  He takes toys away.  Hmmm...maybe that's why I always hear so much crying between those two.  Maybe they just aren't quite compatible yet.

I was quite happy today to see them playing happily together...just don't focus on the fact that they're playing in yucky dog water with no shirts on.  Kids will be kids, right??

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Choosing to Bottle-feed Does NOT Make You Evil

Choosing to Bottle-Feed Does Not Make you Evil

This is another one that I published first at Technorati

In the 1950s, bottle-feeding was very common. Lactation consultants didn’t exist and women didn't read dozens of books about lactation. Nipple shields weren’t invented yet and they certainly didn’t have high-powered breast pumps. Neither doctors nor Moms knew what we know now: that breastfeeding prevents illness and allergies and even boosts intelligence.

Breastfeeding has really taken off since the 50s and now it is far more common for women to breastfeed, at least for the first few months. The unfortunate side effect of this breastfeeding craze is that now it is almost taboo to bottle-feed. I literally heard a nurse gasp at the hospital when a woman told her she did not want to even try to breast-feed. Women today are judged harshly for making the choice to feed formula instead of breast milk.

Although I chose to breastfeed for the first 6 months, I eventually switched to bottles. My daughter had terrible acid reflux and she wasn't gaining weight and I never knew how much milk she was actually getting. I was also working and the pumping situation was creating an enormous amount of stress. My daughter was only sleeping a few hours at a time, even at six months and I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Something needed to give and I chose breastfeeding. Once I switched to bottles, I felt like a new woman and like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. This may sound dramatic but it’s true. I blame the hormones.

Instead of sharing my joy with the world, I hid these feelings of relief because I felt guilty about it. Everyone from the doctor’s office to strangers I met on the street made me feel like I had given up. Like I had let my baby down by feeding her bottles. Almost like I was a bad mother because I wasn’t pumping anymore. Today, I think that a woman who chooses to feed formula, especially for the first few months, is seen by society as someone who doesn’t love their baby enough.

A study was released this week regarding the long-term effects of bottle-feeding on Reuters. The study followed kids born in Germany from 1995 to 1998. At age 10, the children were reevaluated. The study found that it didn’t make any difference to their long-term weight whether they were fed formula or breast milk. The choices their mothers made for them as infants didn’t affect their weight one way or the other.

Now that we have this new evidence that bottle-feeding might not be as bad as we think, I say we make a decision as women and as a society to stop judging others for their choices. Some women have a hard enough time transitioning to new mother-hood. New moms should spend their days watching the baby, cuddling the baby, encouraging the baby to sleep instead of worrying about what people will think of them. Some moms have easy babies who never cry, but others spend 6-8 hours a day pacing around the living room trying to get the baby to stop crying. The last thing those Moms need is to worry that their neighbor will make a snide comment when they feed their kid a bottle of formula.

Now don’t get me wrong. Breastfeeding is great and I don’t dispute any of the scientific evidence regarding the benefits. I just think we need to give new Moms a break and support and encourage instead of judge.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Improve Fine Motor Skills in Your Preschooler

How to Improve Fine Motor Skills in Your Preschooler

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We have already been reprimanded by the local Kindergarten teacher and Munchkin Girl is only three years old.  Several weekends ago our local elementary school offered a fun program to kids ages 3-5.  The idea is to have a bunch of crafts and games and get to meet the Kindergarten teacher.  I was really excited and so was Munchkin.

We found a good station right away and my daughter happily started coloring.  Pretty soon the Kindergarten teacher walked over.  She seemed very warm and we introduced ourselves.

"This is my daughter," I said.  "She's three and is very excited to be here."

The teacher looked down at Munchkin and smiled but then grabbed the crayon right out of her hand. 

incorrect way to grasp a crayon, learning to write
"She's coloring the wrong way.  See?  She's making a fist," the teacher said.  "You really need to break that habit before she gets to Kindergarten.  You wouldn't believe how many children come to Kindergarten and are still coloring this way!  It's because they don't have strong enough muscles.  You really need to work on fine motor skills and fast!  Here honey, do it like this," she said.  She grabbed Munchkin's hand and pressed her fingers together and contorted the crayon so that she was coloring with her fingers "pinching" the crayon.

The teacher walked away and everyone was staring at us.  It had never entered my mind before to think about how she was holding her crayon.  This wasn't exactly turning out to be the fun experience I had in mind.  I was actually beginning to panic.  She needed therapy!  She was going to need extra help!  If I was a good Mommy, she would already be holding her pencil the right way!  Maybe if I didn't work, I would have been able to cultivate her fine motor skills....and ON and ON and ON went my brain.  You get the picture.  General frantic thoughts of a doting Mommy.

Then I took a deep breath.  She's not even 3 and half yet for crying out loud.  She's a very bright kid so I'm sure she won't go to high school holding her pen in a fist.  That being said, although we work on fine motor often, we clearly needed more practice and maybe some fresh ideas.  I decided to consult with my good friend and former Kindergarten teacher, Susan Case.  Susan is an expert on young children and even has her Master's Degree in this field and is the author of Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. I told her what happened and here is some advice from her, which I think every Mom should know:

It is disturbing that the kindergarten teacher made you and Little Munchkin feel badly for not holding a pencil correctly. She is three! Having her self-esteem nurtured and playing/learning with age appropriate activities are far more important than doing something she is not ready to do.

The ability to correctly grasp a pencil is achieved after the large and small muscles have gone through stages. There is a process of development called "big to small" and "proximal to distal". This means that children develop the larger muscles of the trunk, shoulders, and arms before the smaller muscles of the hands, wrists, and fingers. Using the finger muscles to “correctly” grasp a pencil can only be accomplished when the muscles are strong enough and the child is interested and willing.

Developing fine motor skills can be frustrating and challenging for some children. Watch your child’s level of frustration. Use praise and rewards for accomplishments. Gradually increase the time of activities. This play/work time needs to be pleasurable, attainable, and rewarding so that your child will continue to engage and make progress.

Young children learn through sensory-motor integration. They enjoy learning with interesting textures and materials. The following activities will foster fine motor skills:

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills:
  • Pouring sand, water, salt, sugar, rice, or beans using bowls, funnels, spoons, cups, tubes, rolls, colander
  • Sorting small objects with interesting textures like cotton balls, pastas, sponges, and rocks placing them into egg cartons
  • Pushing objects through a slot like pennies or buttons into a Piggy Bank or container with a slit in lid; pushing pegs into a board
  • Picking up marbles and putting them in a jar; for variety, have child stand up and drop marbles into jar or drop balls or other small objects into container or sack
  • Building with blocks, logs, legos
  • Lacing with lacing cards – poking string through holes and pulling
  • Grasping wooden puzzles pieces and placing correctly
  • Arranging rocks, leaves, beans, cards, pasta, sticks or whatever interests child
  • Picking stickers off page and successfully placing onto something
  • Playing with Play Dough and clay: pulling, pressing, stretching, rolling, pounding, squeezing, pinching
  • Squeezing glue bottles, water guns, sponges
  • Shaking bottles of glitter
  • Beading necklaces with yarn or pasta wheels and lacing string
  • Pushing pipe cleaners into foam shapes with center cut out or push into colanders
  • Marking with fat pencils, crayons, markers, and sidewalk chalk
  • Cutting with child safety scissors which are blunt and fits hand. Opening and closing the scissors as well as cutting increases hand strength.
Over the past several weeks, we have spent time working on all these ideas and have come up with a few favorites.  We still have lots to try, but one thing I have noticed that these activities keep kids busy for hours!  We don't usually make anything super cute that I can put up on Pinterest, but the experience is the fun part!  I also didn't think Little Buddy would be able to do much with this at 19 months, but he's been great.  He makes a HUGE mess but can do everything big sis can do!

 First, we tried a squeeze bottle project.  We mixed equal parts flour, salt and water and the mixture into four different squeeze bottles with some paint at the top:

increase strength, improve fine motor skills
activities for toddlers, raining day activities

Next I got a bunch of Christmas stickers and Munchkin Girl peeled them all off and stuck them on her tree.  Little Buddy had fun with this too, although I had to peel his stickers

Toddler playing with stickers to improve fine motor skills

We also have really enjoyed pouring.  We use water, buttons, even colored rice.  I bought some paper cups and put letters on them and they use them for pouring and also to practice learning the letters.  I also get out plastic measuring cups, spoons, etc., anything that's fun for pouring.  This makes huge messes, but literally will keep them both busy for an entire hour so the cleanup is worth it!!

They also enjoy playing with money.  Lots of money.  I took an old empty salt container and took out the top silver part.  This made a perfect jar to drop pennies into.  It was a little hard to get the pennies out, but I have lots of pennies.

After all this, I'm happy to report that with just a little bit of practice and coaching, Munchkin Girl can hold the pencil correctly!  I try not to push her too hard though, because as Susan said, she's still learning!!

crayon grasp

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    If you enjoyed this post, you will love our book!  Susan and I teamed up and released The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn in July, 2012.  If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kid clings to your leg and cries, this is the book for you!  As we did above, we give you a Mom's point of view and a teacher's point of view, so that you can do activities that not only keep the kids busy, but also keep them motivated to learn and develop their natural curiosity.  Kids behave better when they are given challenging projects to work on, which will in turn give you more free time to do the things you really need to do, like washing dishes, paying bills, and relaxing so that you can be a better Mom!

    We were thrilled be to be given the opportunity to talk about this to you in person!  Check out this video we created to show you more about the book!

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Am I a Helicopter Mom??

    Am I a Helicopter Mom?

    I actually published this article first as Children who Play Outdoors are More Confident on Technorati, which is a great website:

    A few days after we moved into our new house, our doorbell rang. Obviously I was expecting a new neighbor. What I wasn’t expecting was a five-year old without a parent, asking if our daughter could come out to play. I was very shocked that a parent would allow their child to run around the neighborhood alone at 7:00 at night. What kind of parent does that? Don’t they know the rate of kidnappings in this country? Not to mention the risk of getting hit by a car. Since that day, I haven’t lost the memory of that little girl all alone on our front porch, and I’ve been very strict about always being outside with the kids and never leaving them alone for even a second. That’s just smart parenting, right?

    Maybe not. An article was recently published in USA Today that is a stark contrast to my idea of good parenting. This article discusses an idea that is truly revolutionary to me. You should let your kids play outside. Unsupervised. Often.

    According to this article, allowing the kids to play outside is one of the best ways to ensure that a child grows up with high self-esteem and the ability to solve problems. Of course I want my kids to grow up healthy and happy, but by closely supervising them, I may not be giving them the tools they need in life to learn how to be healthy and happy.  I wouldn't call myself a Helicopter Mom normally, but this article made me wonder. 

    In the past, when I did let the kids play outside, I watched closely for any behavior that needed to be fixed. If I saw my daughter hit someone, I intervened and explained that there is no hitting. I expected other parents in the neighborhood to do the same. I also tried to keep them from eating dirt and bugs and I tried to keep them out of the mud. All this time I was convinced I was doing the right things, so I was shocked to read this article and learn that I may be depriving my children of some of the basic foundation they need to grow up confident and happy.

    I have definitely seen it firsthand: when children play outside, there is no doubt they get time to interact with other kids in a totally unstructured and unsupervised way. Proponents of this free outdoor play argue that children learn to stick up for themselves. They learn to think creatively to come up with games to play and they learn to be assertive. According to this article, kids today who don’t have the chance to play outside have a tendency to be more depressed and ridden with anxiety. I don’t want that for my kids! Yet creative outdoor play has always taken a back-seat in my mind to safety, mostly because I didn’t understand the full benefits of free outdoor play.

    An article was also released on this topic in the Journal of Play that closely mirrors the USA Today article. Lenore Skenazy wrote the book, A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, and she was interviewed with a colleague named Hara Marano about the results of the research they have done over the years on the decline of free play in the United States.

    “Kids need to play outdoors where they have space to explore and run around. Also, playing in the dirt seems to strengthen the immune system…without free outdoor play, kids lack the ability to gather and play spontaneously, and that in turn causes a serious lack of social skills. Gathering and playing freely with others lets kids practice many aspects of democracy and when free play is denied, so are these opportunities.”

    Again, this is a very new idea to me. As a Mom, I take responsibility for my kids. I have always felt that I should be teaching them right from wrong. How will my kids learn not to hit if I don’t tell them? I am ashamed to say that it never occurred to me to just let the kids learn the lesson the hard way. If my daughter hits someone and they hit her back, will she hit again? Possibly not.

    However, I have a very hard time with this, because I don’t want anyone to hit her. I don’t want to watch my son ram his toy car into our neighbor’s bike. It goes against every Mommy instinct I have to watch my child struggle with getting their bike off the curb and not run out and help. If someone pushes her at school, I want to be able to step in and demand that someone make the child stop pushing. However, Ms. Skenazy would probably tell me that if I don’t let my kids work it out on their own, they will be prime suspects for bullies in the years to come. In her interview, she tackles the subject of bullies:

    “By playing regularly with other kids – playing freely- kids gain social skills that become a natural deterrent to bullying. They learn how to handle disruptions. They learn how to negotiate disputes….And they learn how to be assertive, which is the single best defense against bullying.”
    By giving the kids the opportunity to play outside I am giving them the gift of independence and confidence. The problem with all this is that I also looked up the statistics on kidnapping. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every day over a thousand kids are reported missing in this country. How can I possibly even consider not supervising the kids while they play outside?

    For me, I think I will have to come up with a happy medium. I will have to find a way that I can watch from a distance and make sure there are no strange trucks lurking around the corner. Ms. Skenazy also gives some tips on ways to create a safe environment for unsupervised outdoor play that I intend to follow.

    One thing I am certain of is that I will not judge parents who do allow their kids to wander around unsupervised. After all, the kids are really learning the great life lessons of independence, assertiveness, and how to eat bugs without getting sick.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Shopping in Pajamas

    Shopping in Pajamas

    I buy clothes at Walmart.  And Kohl's.  If I'm feeling really crazy and somemthing big is coming up, like the first day of school, I'll make a trip to Gymboree (only with a coupon).  I don't even usually shop at Baby Gap.  Too expensive.

    I do, however, always make sure the kids are presentable.  I NEVER let Munchkin Girl leave the house without brushing her hair.  I don't let either of them leave our house in pajamas, even just to go play out front in our own street. 

    I'm the same way.  I'm not fancy at all, but rarely wear T-Shirts and sweats in public and my hair is only in a ponytail if I'm actively running.

    Yesterday felt different.  I needed to run some errands and Munchkin Girl had just woken up from her nap.  I was feeling so cozy in my sweats and t-shirts.  I decided to get radical...

    Check her out at Macy's...looking at perfume in...her PJs!!!  I have to say, it felt WONDERFUL!!!  Very liberating to break out of my normal routine. 

    She actually got lots of compliments and thought it was entirely fun to be shopping in PJs.  When we got home my husband said,

    "Welcome Home Bag Lady."

    And he was just being honest...I really did look like a bag lady.  Shopping in PJs wasn't nearly as charming on me as it was on Munchkin Girl.  I probably won't start doing it all the time, but sometimes it's really nice to break out of your comfort zone.