Special Flower or Weed?

I have repeatedly heard children called flowers. Each one unique and special.

Whoever coined this phrase either never had kids or is a grandparent who has forgotten what having small children is like.

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My toddler is not a flower. She’s a weed.

Oh sure, she looks cute with her little pigtails when she smiles up at you. Her giggles of delight could make angels sing. But two seconds later, she’ll have found a crayon in her sister’s room and be coloring all over your walls while you’re making dinner, totally ignoring the toys you gave her to entertain her.

I had always thought coloring on walls was an exaggeration. I never did it as a kid, and neither did my sister. My oldest daughter never did it. My youngest? Not once, but twice so far.

Thank god for magic erasers.

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You can get them here. In bulk. Highly recommended if you have a weed in the house.

I was also spoiled by my first child when it came to potty training. I read the books on how to potty train a child, and DH and I applied them. They worked! We had a total of two accidents, and DD1 was potty trained.

After a solid week of intense training, DD2 was no closer to be trained than when we started. We showed her the books and what she was supposed to do. She just grinned at us. Or stomped her foot and shouted, “No!”

I’m telling you, weed. A spiny one at that.

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Oh sure, some of these stubborn traits will serve her well later in life. I can see her stubbornness propelling her to CEO of her own company. I will probably be less worried about her succumbing to peer pressure as a teen as she isn’t a “pleaser”.

But right now, I need to be able to make dinner without my house getting trashed.

They don’t make playpens she can’t climb out of, so we must now jealousy guard all writing utensils.

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Okay, not legal playpens.

I should’ve bought stock in Pampers with how long she’s been in them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She gets pampers at night because I don’t want to be woken up to do laundry when there’s a leak. During the day, she gets whatever generic brand Target carries.

Yeah, I’m mean. But that’s the way I roll these days. Maybe if she’s a little uncomfortable once in a while, she’ll be more apt to learn. Gotta make it her idea . . .

 

How about you? Any guidance for someone living with a weed instead of a flower? Tricks to help them morph into a flower? Or perhaps just some potty training advice when you’re trying to train a weed?

Hulless Barley

What is Hulless Barley, you might ask?

Here’s a pretty good look at it:. Not pearlized barley, mind you, though this is what most of us think of when I say barley. Hulless is quite different from its processed cousin, both in taste, texture, and fiber content.

I came across hulless barley back when we were really trying to add more whole grains into our diet. I really like it. To me, it tastes faintly sweet and nutty. I can take or leave rice, but I actually will eat hulless barley without butter or other toppings.

But then, our local grocery store stopped carrying. Yes, I could drive across town and get it from the organic store, but let me tell you about shopping with a toddler and preschooler in tow.

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So, yes, we make one trip to one grocery store per week. My husband and I make the grocery list together, and one of us goes on a mission to acquire the groceries while the other stays home with the kids. It’s sort of like a mini-mission impossible: get out of the house without either child noticing and going into a fit of tears because mommy or daddy is leaving.

Of course, if you ask them if they want to go to the store, the answer is always no. If you take them anyway, there is a price to pay, and I’d rather them cry at home than at the store.

Anyway, we gave up on the hulless barley and moved on to other grains.

Then, my love of Amazon reminded me I could check there.

Lo and behold, while Amazon didn’t sell it, one of their third party vendors did. On prime, no less, and their with shipping included was less than what I’d been paying at my local grocery store. You know I hit that Buy button.

So, we made it with stir fry the other night. Yes, that’s right, barley instead of rice. Delicious. And really good for you. Then, I had it the next day in my lunch. But, I’d forgotten what eating such a high fiber food when you aren’t used to it does to you.

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Moderation. I won’t forget again.

 

How about you? Any whole grains you like? Perhaps something new and amazing, or something you’d like to warn the rest of us about?

The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

No, I’m not joking. The lunch lady at my daughter’s school is, indeed, a chemical engineer.

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I was shocked. Chemical engineering is hard. Damn hard. She graduated from a good school. Had a terrific job at a Fortune 100 company. Then, she and her husband (who is also an engineer) decided to have kids. She went back to work after their first child was born, but she didn’t go back after their second child and has no intention of returning to her old job.

Why?

She can’t work and do all of the things she needs to do with kids. That includes finding care for them during the multitude of school holidays and over the summer, getting them to and from school (school by us starts after most people have to be at work, and gets out long before most people are home), and getting them to the myriad of activities that require a day time chauffeur.

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My first thought was what a waste of human capital.

She is smart and well-educated. She was doing some cool work on batteries I barely understand, and there is so much more she could have contributed.

But an antiquated education system designed during an era when women didn’t work outside of the house has created a paradigm where a chemical engineer puts aside four years of grueling college work and another six years of industry experience to serve lunches and chauffeur kids around.

Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like such a waste?

Yet, I am starting to understand as I struggle to find .

Our VP of HR hires a nanny during the summer even though her kids are all in elementary school. As she said, it was the only way to get them to all of the soccer camps, ballet camps, and various other summer activities that suburban children are expected to attend or risk “falling behind”.

Yeah, already worried about falling behind in elementary school. Because if all the other kids are in soccer camp and yours isn’t…  You get the idea.

I have no idea what a good solution to this is. I like to delude myself and think that there are people out there working on it, but I fear there aren’t.

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That for some reason we’re content with this waste of human potential. I’m not even sure why we’re okay with it, just that we seem to be.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it as out little ones become school-age. I’m already seeing the issues as we have to cart DD1 to dance class, tumbling, or swim lessons. I recently received the school schedule, and counted 21 days off that the kids have that do not correspond to a normal work schedule. So, yeah, gotta find some kind of care for those 21 days.

I wish there was a magical place I could drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up there in the afternoon, on every day I have to work. They would be educated, get the activities that they need, and the socialization. This magical place sends me a monthly bill, and all is well.

I suppose we all have our dreams.

 

If you have kids, how do you handle all of the activities, especially if they are during work hours? Any kid chauffeur services I’m not aware of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter was recently in a dance recital.

She had begged to get to take a dance class, and knowing how much work she needs on her gross motor skills and coordination, we agreed to let her attend.

There is a huge recital at the end of the year that parents are required to attend. A four hour recital, but I digress…

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After watching her dress rehearsal, and that of the group before and after her, she came back out from back stage and proclaimed that she was the best the dancer out there. I smiled. It’s not uncommon for children her age to be quite full of themselves.

When I didn’t agree, she asked me directly if she was the best.

I told her “no”.

Harsh, maybe, but I then explained that while she’d done a good job of going to class and listening to the teacher, she hadn’t practiced outside of the class. Her friend, who happens to be a year older, had gone home and practiced every night. It showed.

I told her if she wanted to be really good, she’d have to practice more than once a week.

She was not happy with me. She argued that she didn’t have a partner to practice with at home.

I agreed with her, but told her she could still practice her parts. She could always use a stuffed animal as a stand-in for her partner, like her friend had.

My daughter was still skeptical, but as we talked some more, she decided that maybe next year she would practice more. Which means she wants a second year of dance…

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I know this sounds harsh, and this next bit may sound like a deluded parent, but DD1 is very bright. A lot of things have come very easily to her because of it. She’s not yet in kindergarten, but she’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade level. Why? Because she wanted to read, was determined to read, and had taught herself to read by the time she started 4K. She was one of two children that could read at the end of her 4K year.

We encourage her love of reading, of course, but she’s the one that practiced and practiced. That pushed herself, especially when she saw some of the cool books out there that she wanted to read without help. She’s starting to eye up early chapter books as she saw a few of those that were My Little Pony.

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This one, to be exact. Which, of course, features Twilight Sparkle.

Her math skills have also came easily to her so far.

We practice a system of rewards for good behavior. She had six behavior points and knew she needed fifteen to get the treat she wanted. She was able to devise that she needed nine more behavior points to get the reward without any help from me.

Also, if you send her to her room and tell her to count to one-hundred before coming out, you must specify she must count by ones. Otherwise, she’ll count by fives or tens to get out faster.

So, yes, I’m glad she’s got drive and some natural gifts in these areas. I’m also not upset that she isn’t naturally gifted at dance. I’m glad she still loves dance and wants to be good at it. I want her to have to work for it, to have to practice for it.

I want her to see she won’t always be the best at something just by showing up. But I want her to have fun along the way.

She’s my Type A child. She’ll push herself hard, and I want her to learn that it’s okay to not always be the best. That it’s even okay to fail as long as she tried her best.

I bit of wisdom in there I should perhaps practice as well as preach…

 

How about you? Ever had something come easy? Something come hard that you really had to work for? Did the extra practice make you the best? Were you proud of your accomplishments even if you weren’t the best?

And Another…

Order from Scholastic Book Club.

Yes, my daughter came home the other day with yet another Scholastic Book Order. These things seem to be quite prolific.

If you’re not familiar with them, this is a pamphlet of books your child gets through school. You can then order your kids books, sometimes at a discount, and the school gets some free books in return.

It’s a win all around. Or, it’s supposed to be.

My house is filled with books. Book shelves are overflowing. Book bins are so stuffed, they are too heavy for DD1 to slide back into place.

Mountains of books.

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Looks about like my daughter’s room. Or my living room some days.

 

So, I inwardly groan when she brings home another book order with half the books circled. Okay, maybe not half, but darn near.

Does she really need more books? Shouldn’t all the ones we have at home be okay?

I mentioned my daughter wanting so many books during water cooler talk at work, and the other parents told me to be happy.

One mom had to force her kid to sit down and read for half an hour a night. Her son hated reading, and it was a battle that she dreaded. He’d actually take most punishments over being forced to read, but she didn’t want him to see reading as a bad thing to be endured, either.

Another mom told me to encourage DD1’s of reading any way I could. It would help her in everything. Her daughter had struggled with reading, and despite tutors and extra help at school, it had taken her to eighth grade to read at grade level.

I felt a little sheepish.

Of course my daughter reading is an excellent thing. I do promote it. And they’re right. I should rejoice when the book order comes home and she’s so excited to read she wants “them all”. The fact that my pre-kindergartner is reading Fancy Nancy by herself is a source of pride. I even let her stay up a little later on nights we open up a new books so she can pour through what we read together and learn the new words in it.

It was a reminder to count my blessings. Sometimes, the glass is half full. And yes, I am going to let her have the books she wants. Most of them, anyway.

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How about you? Did your kids love the Scholastic Book Club? How did you feel when the order form came home? Did your kids love to read? Hate to read?

8 Steps to Out with the Cold

It’s that time of year. Time to move the heavy winter sweaters to storage and start bringing out the spring and summer gear.

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This feels like a Herculean task this year. First, I have to get both of my little ones situated. Then I turn to my own closet, but the steps I follow are pretty much the same for all three of us.

  1. Is It Damaged – Anything damaged that isn’t easily repaired (or that I’m willing to pay a tailor to repair) is turned into rags. No one is going to wear it. If it is easily fixed, it must be fixed now. If it isn’t fixed now, it’s never going to be.

2. Does It Fit – If it doesn’t fit me or the toddler, the garment in donated. If it doesn’t fit DD1, it gets boxed up and the box is labeled with the size and the appropriate season. This makes it so much easier when I bring them out for DD2.

3. Has It Been Worn – This is really only applicable to me versus the kids. But I try to look long and hard at what’s being taken down to storage. Did I wear it a lot that year? Maybe not at all? If not, why not? Was there something that bothered me: the style, the cut, the color? If so, I donate it. My taste is probably not going to change in a couple of months. This year, I am giving my big heavy sweaters a second chance. It simply wasn’t cold at all this winter, which is very, very odd. Other things, though, I was ruthless on.

4. Will the Child Wear It? – While DD2 is getting a lot of hand-me-downs from DD1, there are certain things she simply won’t wear. I donate them. Mornings are hard enough. I don’t need to add trying to get kids into clothes they hate.

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5. Create the List – If there is anything I am donating that clearly needs to be replaced (say a ripped winter coat), I make note of it so I will replace it rather than forget.

6. Repeat – Once this is completed for everything going into storage, I then have to take stock of everything coming out of storage for DD2 and me. I go through everything, pair up outfits, and make a list of what we need. This is especially critical so there are no orphans (you know, that pair of plaid trousers you had to have only to realize it matches nothing in your closet. Not that I’d know anything about that…).

7. Take Stock – I now need to take stock of what everyone needs to make it through the season, but especially DD1. She’s not getting any hand-me-downs, so I have to buy most of her stuff new or through consignment sales. I want a solid list of what she needs so I can hunt it down.

8. Shop – The joy of online shopping! Yes, I do most of my shopping online, even for the kids. I buy at a handful of stores, so I know their sizes. It’s not like I’d have them try on clothes if we went to a store, anyway. I’d love to say I’m a shopping pro, but the truth is, I’m not. I know there are ways to shop resell shops and save a lot, but that takes time and time is something I don’t have. My favorite places to shop all have free shipping and I can return to the brick-an-mortar store for free. Some even have free shipping on returns.

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As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking, and I have to do it twice a year. Still, there’s a lotta things I have to be thankful for. The two amazing kids I do this for is a start.

I really envy my husband on this. Khakis and polo shirt. All year. *sigh*  Add this to my list of things I envy.

 

How about you? Do you have to switch clothes out for the season for you or your kids? How do you do it? Any tips for shopping for kids? I don’t shop after season sales because my kids growth spurts are too unpredictable right now, but there has to be others for busy moms.

 

 

 

 

Shark Attack

Ahh, the car ride into daycare.  I’ve mentioned it before, and boy how my daughter likes to spring the big questions on me when I can’t wiggle away. It’s like she knows exactly how to make me squirm and delights in doing it.

So, we’re in the car, and she waits until I’m pulling out of the driveway.

“You’re married to daddy, right?”

“Yes,” I say. I’m thinking this is going down the path of discussing her friend whose parents are divorced. My daughter still struggles with wrapping her head around it.

“So, you’re a girl and you married a boy, right.”

“You don’t get married until you’re a grown-up, but yes.”

“Boys can marry boys, too, right?”

I pause. I’m in new waters, and the sharks are circling. I know everything I say will be twisted around and retold on the playground. “Why do you ask?”

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“Bronson said so.”

“Well, Bronson’s not wrong.” For once.

“That means girls can marry girls.”

I pause again, feeling like the sharks are getting closer but still not knowing what to do or where this is going. “Yes.”

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“Well, I’m going to marry a girl when I grow up.”

I pause again. “Why is that?”

“Because boys are gross. Did you know Bronson farts and doesn’t say excuse me?”

I’m thinking, yeah, that doesn’t change much with age.

“What do you think, momma?”

“That Bronson should say excuse me.”

“I mean about me marrying a girl.”

And the shark just ate the surfer. Yeah, I knew something was coming, but I didn’t know until the moment the jaws closed.

I take a deep breath. “I want you to marry someone that loves you, is good to you, and will always be there for you. If they do that, I don’t care who they are.”

“I love you, momma.”

“And I will always love you, sweetheart.”

And at that moment, I realized everything I said was true.

 

How about you? Anyone ever spring a hard or unexpected conversation on you? How did you respond? Do you ever feel like your children, nieces, nephews, or whomever are baiting traps for you? Ever fall in? How did you get back out?

The "i" Generation

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I wish the above weren’t so true. Although, she is figuring out a fork. Just not as fast as she did my iPad.

There is a ridiculous amount of guidance out there on how much “screen” time you should allow your children to have.  For the longest time, children under two weren’t supposed to get any. Even if they had older siblings.

We tried to follow this with our first child, and I swear she could smell the iPad. She could find it tucked away in the back corner of a dark room, and she hated dark rooms. She would find it and come toddling out with it triumphantly clutched in her tiny fingers.

Our saving grace was that she loved being showered with attention more. Loved being read to, “helping”, anything that put her front and center of our world. So, we could get the iPad away from her without a complete meltdown.

I know, kids cry, etc. But when you work, you’d like your few hours with your child to be as nice as you can get them without a tug-of-war over an electronic device every day.

At a neighborhood block party, I asked some of the other moms how they kept their little ones away from their TV and iPad. They offered me a cocktail, told me to sit down, and then explained that they didn’t. If the pediatrician asked them about it, they’d lie.

Wait, what?

Most had older children, and they said it just wasn’t possible or reasonable. They then informed me our school district gives kids an iPad starting in kindergarten to do all of their homework, reading assignments, etc.

Still, I tried to keep her away from TV and the iPad for a while longer, but the realities of making dinner, doing laundry, and washing the dishes won out, and we allowed her to have Sesame Street.

That mostly made her happy, and she would drop TV like a rock the moment we could again give her our undivided attention.

DD2 is an entirely different child. She likes attention, but on her terms. She laughs, gives hugs, and even pets you to soothe herself, but she wants “alone” time. We were terrified at first that this was a sign of autism, but our pediatrician reassured us. DD2 was normal. DD1 was exceptionally high maintenance.

However, this means that if DD2 gets a hold of an iPad, there is no getting it back without screaming. It’s like stealing her favorite toy. Which, in a way, it is.

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So, we compromised, as parents so often do. She’s at a formal daycare all day, so she gets no screen time during the day. We figured a little at night while we’re making dinner won’t hurt anything. And if I’m truly honest, I’m concerned not introducing kids to technology early enough puts them at a disadvantage to their peers.

We took our old iPad and removed almost everything from it except some games specifically designed for her age group that her therapist recommended. These were games she was only allowed to play while she stood on uneven surfaces, for example.

She loves them, and they do seem to be teaching her things.

We still have story time and snuggle time. Playing with Fisher Price Octonauts time, Duplo time, and Magna Tiles (Magna Tiles are amazingly fun, even if you’re a grown-up). To that, we have added TV time and iPad time.

Everything in moderation.

How about you? Did your kids know how to work an iPad before a fork? Did you allow them to have any TV?  Could you lure them away from an iPad with books?

Guilt

Guilt is an insidious little bastard. Creeping into your thoughts and feelings and making you feel bad even when you shouldn’t.

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I feel guilty most mornings for snuggling with my toddler rather than getting up and exercising. I use my lunch hour to catch-up on work most days so I don’t have to stay late, otherwise I sneak in a little writing. And my evenings with 2 kids are chaotic, and exercising too late makes it hard to get to sleep. So, if I’m going to exercise, it has to be in the morning.

But that means giving up precious snuggle time. Time I won’t get in a year. I love the way she cuddles, and when she’s finally ready to wake up, she leans over and gives me kisses. Then she sits up and starts babbling. We “talk” for a few minutes then get up and start our day together. I work full time away from her, so these mornings are precious.

To hell with morning exercise and what I “should” do. Not giving up morning snuggles. And not feeling bad about it so it diminishes the experience. I’ll have to be more creative and figure something out at night. Or squeeze in a short walk at lunch. Something is better than nothing, and I’m not compromising my precious time with DD2.

And I’m done feeling guilty about it.

Just like I’m done feeling guilty about “not writing”. I’ve finished one book including rewrites and finished a second book including a first rewrite. All in 1.5 years. With two children, a spouse, and a full time job.

I should be proud, not guilty. And if I want to take a week or two off to percolate ideas, I’ll consider it a creative rest.

No guilt.

It robs me of enjoying a few weeks to let the creative juices flow, to let new and interesting ideas percolate, and to recharge my battery.

I’m going to enjoy my time thinking about new characters, just as I am going to enjoy morning toddler snuggles.

Struggling

I have really been struggling with my writing lately. I thought I had it beaten, but its back again in all its glory. I keep struggling through the revision I’m working on, and I did absolutely no writing this past weekend. First time in ages that’s happened. Nothing. Not a sentence. Not a word.

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I am struggling with several things at the moment, and I just can’t seem to get my writing past them.

I love lists, so here are the top 4 things pushing aside my writing:

  1. DD2  is struggling with some health issues. Not the kind that go away with a round or two of amoxicillin. We’re looking at 3-6 months to deal with them, if we’re lucky. Add to that our insurance doesn’t want to pay for treatments, and I am trying to find a way to get her to her treatments which only occur during my work hours. We’re fighting insurance, I’m working with my boss, and we’re looking at alternative treatment options, but this isn’t easy. So worry has been eating a lot of my brain space.
  2. Summer is finally here. For those of you that don’t live in the far north of the US, well, you might get more than 2-3 months of the year where it’s nice enough that you want to be outside. I mean, we had sleet last weekend that killed a bunch of plants, and we pulled out the heavy coats you never really put away. A birthday party DD1 was attending had to be moved indoors because it was so cold. Nice weather begs you to be outside, not hunched over a computer.
  3. Growing project list – there are a lot of things that need doing when you have a house and two children. I think my open project list hit 40 this weekend.
  4. Doubt – I have poured so many hours and so much of myself into my writing, and for what? I deleted the e-mail rejection letters, but that’s about all I have to show for it. Great, I have a book written that I’ve spent months revising. So, it seems, does half of America. I don’t know if I have the skill, or if I ever will, to write well. Perhaps I should put it aside and pick it up again later in my life (as I did 10 years ago when I quit writing the last time). Maybe writing is what you do when you’re retired if you hate traveling. I feel like there’s very little chance of getting my work published, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to keep at it. I regularly feel like more money is made off of people trying to become published authors (see the constant bombardment since I joined Writer’s Digest) than there are people making a living as a writer. I don’t have to write to enjoy these characters and their stories in my imagination. Sure, I’ll want to write again later. And I might again regret the years I gave up. I don’t know. But doubt isn’t helping get words on a page.