To dance or not to dance

I am NOT a stage mom. Every once in a while I get sucked into the train wreck show, Toddlers and Tiaras. I marvel at the lifestyle these toddlers live. Fake nails, spray tans, teased hair, and flippers. I really try not to judge the parents as their daughters are sitting their having their natural nails filed down with a dremel tool so acrylics can be applied, but it’s definitely a life that is so far from my own reality that I don’t profess to understand it.

We’ve had a bit of an issue lately with Morgan and dance. It’s been a multitude of issues that have made me question whether or not this is the right activity for us now:

  • She is the youngest in the class by at least 9 months. This is problematic, because a just-turned-three year old’s attention span is dramatically different than an almost-four year old
  • It’s on Friday evenings, after a full week of daycare and she’s spent. Which then impacts her attention span
  • She has an obsession with public bathrooms since potty training three months ago. So, we have to make an average of four trips to the potty a class (which means she probably loses 10 minutes of the 45 minute class in the bathroom)
  • The teachers tend to forget the dance steps they are teaching, and stop class frequently. To understand why this is an issue, read bullets 1-3.
  • After 30 minutes (remember to subtract the 10 minutes we spent in the bathroom), she decides she’s ready to go

So, we’ve missed the last two classes of dance to see if she just needed a break. And the two before that, she was either on the verge of getting sick, or just getting over being sick, and we left early. Now I’m stuck wondering if I started her to early (2 1/2), if I have her at the wrong dance place (given their inability to engage her as the youngest student), and if I’m wasting my money investing in two more pairs of shoes and three more months of dance before her recital.

Something tells me to try to stick it out. We’ve already paid the $55 for her dance costume, but I’m also a believer of not pushing kids this age. And although she sincerely enjoys her four trips to the bathroom on a Friday night, am I really doing her any favors if she’s that unfocused? It’s not like I have to drag her there – she’s so excited about the idea of going to dance, she just has no desire/focus once we get there.

So, all that said, I’m totally fretting over this decision. It’s not a big one, but it’s important just the same. I don’t want to encourage her to just quit activities mid-stream, but I don’t think at this age it’s going to be habit-forming. I don’t want her to miss out on something she enjoys if this whole lack of focus thing is just situational (newly potty trained and harsh winter of sickness). But I also don’t want to push her into finishing an activity she’s just not into.

I’m hoping next fall we can enroll in the class with some of her good friends from daycare. I think her experience would be much different if her BFF was there with her. But for now, I’m going to see if we can power through the next three months. If she starts acting like a tortured soul, we’re out…

No one ever said being a parent was easy.

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In need of a date?

My husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to go away for a ski weekend a few weeks back. It was wonderful – we were at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid – a little bit of perfection in the middle of a winter wonderland. We spent two days without an agenda – doing what we wanted, when we wanted. Food, drinks, a walk on the frozen lake, coffee, shopping, skiing, hanging out in the hot tub. It was awesome.

Since then, we’ve spent absolutely no time together. Life just gets in the way – kids with strep, a dog with kennel cough, work, work (did I just say that twice?), and some pesky snow storms. It seemed no matter what we did, finding time together was null.

Getting out for a date was not an option. With babysitters running a good $10/hr, an evening out requires a fairly robust entertainment budget, which just isn’t in the cards right now. So, something had to be done.

First, we stole some time on a Saturday morning. Deeming both kids old enough to play on their own for 20 minutes, we sat at the kitchen island, had a cup of coffee together, and talked. The kids weren’t allowed to bother us, but knew we were there if they really needed anything. So they played, we kept an eye on them, and we connected. Twenty minutes may not seem like much time, but you’d be surprised at what a difference it makes when you are feeling like you are neglecting your relationship.

Then came the evening date. Jake has grown accustomed to having his way at bedtime. We get done with a story and he expects you to lay there until he decides it’s ok for you to go downstairs, or until he falls asleep. This is problematic for us, as on nights that we are really tired, we fall asleep too and often don’t make it back downstairs until 11 or 12. So, my husband took him up to bed and let him know that he’d stay for 15 minutes after the story. Jake wasn’t happy, but he accepted it.

While he was up there, I opened the wine, cut up some cheese and pepperoni, and grabbed some crackers. He came down and we rented a movie. We actually paused the movie several times to chat and share stories about our week. It was a wonderful date night and great to reconnect.

We are ending the weekend with some family time. We’ve spent the day running errands as a family, playing puzzles and games, and will have Sunday dinner. I’d say that everyone is getting something out of the weekend that they don’t get during the week.

Marriages can fall apart when you bring kids into the already busy life. But as we’re finding out, just carving out bits and pieces of time goes a long way to reminding yourselves that you were a couple first, and should continue to be, even though your responsibilities have expanded to raising children. In need of a date? Just make it happen.

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New Year, Improved Me

Last year I vowed to make some changes in my life . Frankly, I did ok. Lost 20 pounds, didn’t diet, stopped eating a pizza every day for lunch, and reduced my stress – a little at least. More time with friends, more time with my husband, and more enjoyment with my kids.

But no resolutions are perfect, and neither am I. I’ve flown wildly out of balance again, stressing out between trying to get the kids to nap and bed so I can get some work done…and on the flip side, stressing out at work that I’m missing the kids. And if you’ve noticed that my husband isn’t in that equation, well, you’ve figured it out.

So here we go again, with a new year and new resolutions. Not a new me, however. That’s simply asking too much. Here’s what I hope for in 2011 – for me, for my husband, for my kids, and for my sanity.

  • More patience with my kids. Some days can be really tough – especially days where there is constant bickering, procrastinating (ever have a kid take 45 minutes to get dressed and out the door?) and drama. This year I will remember that they feed off my anxiety and drive to make the situation perfect. I will remember that “perfect” is not attainable and “go with the flow”. I will have more patience.
  • A little toning goes a long way. Losing weight was great. I did a happy dance in the Gap dressing room when I put on a size 8 and it fit oh-so-well. Now it’s time to tone. It’s not all about the body shape – it’s about the endorphin rush, stress relief, and better health that comes with it.
  • More fun out of life. No one really wants to be around someone who’s main focus is work. Or for that matter, who can only talk about their kids’ success with potty training. Balance is about getting more out of life – regardless of the number of hours one works.
  • More date nights. We’ve fallen into the rut of thinking a date night has to include a sitter, dinner out, and a big to-do. But New Year’s Eve we opened a bottle of wine and got a movie. It was fantastic. Date nights don’t have to be once a month. They just require a relatively early bed time for the kids, allowing some time in the evening to spend together.
  • It’s not all about me. I have been horrible lately with reaching out to friends (outside of facebook), sending prompt birthday cards (my sister’s birthday gift is still in my drawer six weeks later), and important things like sympathy cards, baby gifts, etc. Need. To. Correct. This.
  • More community involvement. The kids and I rang the bell for the Salvation Army on my birthday. And while I won’t get into the details, it felt good to do something for others. I miss this, and even though life gets busy, a quick stop at the food pantry with a bag of goods is not a big deal. I may not be able to give all the time in the world, but I’m sure I can make a difference somehow.
  • Corrective eating habits. More family dinners. Better food for the kids. Meal planning. More fruits and veggies. Seriously, this one resolution fixes many of the others.
  • Finally, and most important, I’m cutting myself some slack. I am not perfect. My life is not perfect. I don’t complete my job perfectly. But I do give everything my all. And in the end, that should be good enough.

I will get there. And I will continue to use this blog for what I’ve always taken from it: more appreciation for the little moments in life, some “me” time doing what I love (writing), and the community of support that comes from shared experiences. And with that, I’m resolving to post at least weekly. Way too long has gone by without this needed outlet…

Happy New Year – may 2011 bring out the most fabulous you possible.

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Why I love dinos…

My son loves dinosaurs. They tend to rule his world. And his imagination.

He loves them so much, he wore this outfit to school one day. And no, it wasn't Halloween!

This morning he was sharing a glimpse of his active imagination on the way to school.

“Mama, when my hands get really cold, I turn into a T-Rex. Not a baby, little T-Rex, a BIG, SCARY, ROAR T-Rex, mama” (insert scary T-Rex looking face here – eyes squinched, nose wrinkled, teeth showing).

“Someday I am going to fly into the air on a big rocket and I will turn into a T-Rex. A BIG T-Rex in outer space, and that will be so cool, mama” (insert arms shooting up to the ceiling of the car to simulate a flying into outer space experience).

“You know, mama, I can play lots of T-Rexes. There are a lot of ways to play T-Rex. I have my little T-Rex’s, the big T-Rex, I have squishy ones, and hard ones, I have a T-Rex glove that roars, I have T-Rex bones, and I can turn myself into a T-Rex!”

I happened to turn around and glance at him. His eyes were wide with excitement, a glimmer shining through them that was…well…undescribable. He had so much adoration for his T-Rex at that moment, and you could just see his 4-year-old mind turning, surrounding himself with his love for his dinosaurs. I often wonder what other wonderful things are going through his head that he doesn’t share. I took that story with me all day long, knowing that I had a smart young son with a wild imagination. And I love every minute that he shares with me.

Jake was doing his best to teach Morgan how to be a T-Rex by stomping on the bilko door and making T-Rex faces.

And for my most favorite T-Rex moment of all time, I bring you last Christmas:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC5P1S30ljU

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The ultimate shopping trip

I bet as you are reading this, you’re thinking “Wow, she had an awesome weekend at the outlets with the girls. Got a bunch of great deals, maybe a pedicure, and had a few glasses of wine with some great girlfriends”. Oh, the luxury that would be! No, the kids and I headed to the supermarket. The one with the carts for little ones to “help”.

Let’s just sum up the whole experience with two words: herding cats. The kids were thrilled with their new-found independence. They could walk behind me, pretending to be all grown up like, adding things we really didn’t need to their carts. Sure, you can call me a lazy mom, but do you know that certain aisles of stores are specifically merchandised to appeal to kids? Yeah, try saying “no” over and over to your kids as you have already relinquished your power as a parent. Yes, the ultimate power of making your child sit IN the cart, facing you, as you meander down the aisles. That power was gone. Caput. No more. When you have two strong-willed children you find that the one spot in the shopping cart that gives you this power is more of an issue than a help. A fight always ensues over who gets to sit where. I’ve long given up the idea of shopping cart bliss.

They were enthralled, overwhelmed, excited, engaged…goldfish, fruit snacks, cheez its, and oreos,  all within their reach. And what went in one child’s cart had to have a match in the other child’s cart. I estimate that we spent an extra 60 dollars on this trip alone – a good argument for leaving the kids with dada.

Oh, and the apologies. In almost every aisle, I found myself apologizing to others. “Sorry we’re blocking the aisle”. “Sorry my child just ran over your foot”. “Sorry we just banged into your cart.” By aisle ten, I’d found two kinds of shoppers were lurking through the store:

  • Those who empathized, either because they had kids themselves, or had at some point taken care of kids and knew that a successful shopping trip was no more than “trying your best”. From these shoppers, there were some endearing smiles, “I’ve been there” looks, a few good chuckles, and even one mama who said I deserved an award for having the patience to shop with my two kids in tow (thank you, I needed that!)
  • Those who clearly had it out for us – shooting me dirty looks, grunting at me when I apologized, and the WORST offender of all – getting back at little Morgan by practically running her over (this is no joke, he went right after her). To these people, I say, get over yourself.

In the end, we made it home – two happy kids, and one pooped mama. The kids couldn’t stop talking about having their own shopping carts and being just like mama. And that made it all (even the extra 60 bucks in groceries) worth it. It made it the ultimate shopping trip.

They look very "concentrated and quiet" here. Don't let it fool you - it's only because there is nothing exciting in frozen foods for them!

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Brotherly love

We’ve definitely seen an increase in the amount of bickering that goes on in our house. With the kids getting older, and Morgan becoming a preschooler like her 4-year-old brother, there is competition over everything. Over attention, food, toys, and of course, the aged old “MOM, Morgan’s looking at me!”. Morgan annoys Jake, and Jake annoys Morgan.

Thankfully, it’s not all of the time, although we do have our days where it seems constant.

The other night was an exception. We got home and Morgan was having a rough night. It was a combination of fighting off a cold, being tired from daycare, and being hungry. A triple-decker mess, if you ask me. There was tears, screaming, and a general feeling of being inconsolable. Hey, it happens. There are plenty of nights where I feel the same way.

Jake recognized that Morgan was just plain unhappy. So he sweetly looked at her and said “Hey Morgan, would you like to be my special helper and light the pumpkins?”. She looked confused. Bewildered. Shocked. Yes, Jake was trying to help her out.

She was so shocked in fact, she couldn’t answer. Knowing that if she just stared at him, Jake was going to get upset with her, I stepped in. “Hey Morgan, Jake needs a special helper with the decorations. Can you be his special helper?”

“Yes” (cue the hallelujahs!)

As they hopped off the couch and headed for the battery operated pumpkins, I reinforced Jake’s ‘I’m a big shot big brother’ status. “Jake, remember that Morgan’s younger, and you have to teach her how to turn them on”.

I watched as he gently divided which ones he’d get to turn on, and which ones she could. As the older brother, he’s learned the fine art of controlling things to his benefit. But she couldn’t have cared which pumpkins she got, she was the special helper!

He softly walked her through what to do. When they were all lit, he patted her on the back and said “Good job, Morgan, thank you for being my special helper”.

Proud of themselves, they got back on the couch and settled in for an evening movie. Jake looked at me, and in his proudest big bro voice said, “Mama, I calmed Morgan down. We’re all set here.”

Those are the moments of brotherly love I hold close, and rely on during those days of constant bickering.

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Daycare cares

This week has been a good daycare week. I have a lot of good daycare weeks. These weeks make all the difference.

Today was an exceptional day. I was dropping off Morgan, when her teacher and I were chatting about her independence and strong will. It was a shared sentiment – Morgan’s strong will and desire to be independent sometimes made her difficult, other times was a really positive, endearing trait.

The teacher asked me if I would  be ok with them starting her on a potty chart next week? The rationale was that she’d been trying to be like the big kids and was having some success lately. Are you kidding? I was ready to do a happy dance!  I recognize that kids will train when they want to. When they are ready. She’s only 2 1/2, but inside I was certainly ready to be done with diaper changes. She had shown interest before but it didn’t lead to any consistent effort. We’d started a potty chart at school, with instruction to stop using it if she wasn’t interested in it. While I was excited that she was making the decision to train, I have to say, I was ten times more excited that the teacher was watching for her signals and looking out for her. They really cared.

At the end of the day I was picking Jake up. He came to me all excited talking about the field trip they were taking to a haunted house. He couldn’t stop boasting about it, he was so excited! Knowing that field trips no longer occurred in the preschool, I had to ask the teachers. Turns out, they were planning on decorating the Little Tykes house in their classroom and creating a ‘spooky house’. The wonderment of it, the excitement, the imagination it sparked in his head was fantastic. The teacher told me “I’m not sure how spooky it will really be”, but in the end, it won’t matter. The energy and enthusiasm of a four year old can overcome just about anything – even cheap Halloween decorations from the Dollar Store.

My kids spend a lot – too much – time in daycare every week. It’s awesome to have days like this – days that balance out the guilt, the worry, the pressure of being a working mom.

Today, I’d like to thank the teachers at school, for granting me a bit of peace at the end of a wild week.

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