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Category Archives: Parenting

The First of Lasts

The weeks have flown and I’ve tucked T in for the last time as pre-schooler. Okay, it’s not really the first time we’ve encountered a “last time.” But this is not like the last midnight feeding, the last diaper, the last time we used a stroller before graduating to riding on Daddy’s shoulders. This one stings with immeasurable intensity from which I’ve found no escape for months. It drags with it other lasts – various story times and sprout groups, Mommy and Me yoga, our routine of “projects” and planning our day over breakfast. There is a void that O can fill only partly, at least for now, since he’s still a bit young to partake in most of the activities that have crowded our calendar over the past few years.

My husband keeps reminding me that I was the wild one, the woman who traveled for a living and never wanted kids. I could not have known the joy I would get from going on “turkey hunts” and reading Pete the Cat with the sweet boy with light in his eyes. Maybe that’s why it hurts so much – in this case, T’s first comes with the excitement of a child gaining a new adventure, while my last showcases only what I’ve loved so much and have lost. Tomorrow seems both infinitely far and too soon to bear.

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“Fill Your Backpack” game courtesy of teachingheart.net (thank you!)

 
 

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Five

I never thought we’d be here. For so long, the days and months and years stretched before me, in all their glorious infinity. And then today I looked up into my sweet boy’s face, his big, blue, five-year-old eyes, and died just a tiny bit.

Five weeks to kindergarden. It makes my heart lurch every time I say it, think it, pass by school supplies in Target. Five weeks to the end of glorious infinity, endless days of story time and science center and play groups and trips to the zoo. Five weeks until my sweet peanut, with his quick smile and gentle heart, will sit at a desk for six hours a day. Alone. Without me.

Breathe mama, just breathe…

I’ve been fortunate to have a job that has allowed me the flexibility to keep T at home. He’s never gone to pre-school but is well traveled, well spoken, well socialized. He is just as comfortable (at five!) running around in his underwear (he is a boy) or wearing a tie (sometimes simultaneously). And yet I struggle with not just the idea of our flexible lifestyle changing – no more mid-week trips to the beach or spontaneous outings to Philly or NYC- but also with the question of whether our neighborhood school is even a good choice for a boy who sits still exactly zero hours of the day. I want him to love school, to enjoy learning, and my heart hurts just thinking about his natural energy and curiosity being stifled. And of course the pink elephant, my baby is growing up.

Breathe mama, just breathe…

Five more weeks. Five weeks to spend at the pool, watch movies outside, and lunchtime soccer games followed by pie. Just a tiny bit more time to sleep in and go to bed late, take a week or two to visit Grandma, or meet me downtown for lunch on the days I need to go into the office. Only five weeks left to be my baby, before becoming my kindergardener.

Fly, my son. I’ll be here when you land.

 

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Pie for lunch? Thanks, Mom!

 

 

 

 
 

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Three!

My sweet son –

Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.

I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.

You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.

As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in family, Parenting, Remember

 

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Sneaky Eats

When DH and I first started dating, my stepson, J, was eight and a SUPER picky eater.  I’ll admit that, at the time, I (a) had little experience with kids in general, let alone one who saw me as the person who “stole his dad” and (b) was still determined not to have any kids of my own.  Regardless, it took about two weekend visits with J to realize he refused to eat – or drink – almost anything I would consider healthy for a growing boy.  And despite my hesitation about my role in his life, J’s eating habits and attitude toward nutrition bothered me – a lot.

The first rule at our dinner table has always been “try two bites” – some are tinier than others, but more often than not one bite leads to several rather than just one more.  The second rule, which I never made secret, is “you can know what you’re eating, or I can hide it.”  Meaning, you can tell me you hate the cauliflower we got at the farmers market and will never eat it, but I WILL find a way to incorporate it into a meal.  It took some time, but our battle over food ended up bringing J and I closer. Over the past several years J has discovered he likes all kinds of foods – including vegetables! – that his eight-year-old self would never have considered edible. I take every small taste as a tiny victory, acknowledging that he has totally different rules (i.e., apparently none) about what goes into his body once he’s home with his mom.  And I’m proud to report that, in recent months, he’s even starting choosing water over soda as his beverage of choice!

That said, there are times when getting good food into J, and now T, is still a challenge.  Unlike J, T is less hesitant about trying new things, but also less likely to take more than the two required bites.  We never force him to eat – when he says “finished,” he’s finished.  That makes every bite he does take even more important.  Here is a list of five ways I’ve found to get a kid of any age to eat almost anything:

1.  Blend it.  My mom got me a Baby Bullet when T was nearly one.  At the time I thought I would only use it for a few more months before he outgrew its need.  Wrong.  I still pull out BB a couple of times a week.  When either of the boys won’t eat, or when we need a quick “meal” as we head out the door, I pull it out and blend up a smoothie.  Spinach, avocado, yogurt, fruit, wheat germ, the list is endless. Depending on the ingredients, sometimes I sweeten with honey, fruit juice, or agave nectar.  I also use it to blend up leftover veggies for the freezer for later.

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2.  Freeze it.  I found these super cute Monster Pop things on clearance at TJ Maxx last year.  They freeze in no time, stand upright on their “feet” (helpful in the freezer since they didn’t come with a tray), are easy to clean and simple for a toddler to push up.  My favorite thing to do with these is to blend Greek yogurt with a bit of fruit and freeze.

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3.  Pack it.  My mom is my biggest ally in my quest to feed my kids healthy, locally sourced food.  She found a sweet bento-type lunchbox somewhere and sent it to T.  Not sure why it works, but that kid will eat pretty much anything I can back into it’s tiny little squares. Small Potatoes also has some cute bento ideas.

4.  Hide it.  I have tons of cookbooks, but one of my favorites for kids is the Deceptively Delicious book written by Jessica Seinfeld.  She has all kinds of ideas for using fruit and vegetable purees in everyday dishes from scrambled eggs to pancakes to pasta.  As I noted above, I do use my BB to blend up leftovers, but trips to the farmers market usually mean one or two veggies purchased solely to blend/chop/freeze for later.

5.  Cook it.  In the past year J has started to show an interest in cooking, and I’ve showed him how to make some simple, healthy meals. T has been in the kitchen with me since before he was old enough to sit up on his own, and is often on the stool next me adding veggies or stirring the pot.  Both boys also join us on trips to the farmers market and are encouraged to ask the farmers/vendors questions about how to prepare something or how it’s grown or raised, and also to pick out something they want to eat that week.  There are tons of articles about how kids are more likely to eat something they helped cook, and we have definitely found this to be true in our home.

What do you do to get picky eaters (adult or child) to eat? 

Wishing you many healthy, peaceful meals!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s my life and I’ll sleep if I want to!

I fell asleep at 8:30 last night.  On the couch, in front of the TV, with T still fussing himself back to sleep after being woken by a short barking fit from the dogs.  And at 11:30, when DH finally managed to get me awake enough to stand (I know it’s shocking, but I can be quite a bear), I stomped up the stairs, brushed my teeth, put on pjs, and fell back asleep until 7:30 when I heard T reading to himself in his crib.  It.  Was.  AWESOME.

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I know so many moms, parents, people, who berate themselves for being tired.  They have a long list of ailments, maladies, poor nutritional choices, exercise inefficiencies, impotent vitamins, anything and everything that they think they are not doing properly, hence their sheer exhaustion.  Since becoming a mom I’ve spoken with so many others who are apologetic about their yawns and bloodshot eyes.  Their body has let them down, and they are truly sorry. 

WHAT?!?!!!  Sure there are days when I wish I had more energy to do just one more thing, play with T a few more minutes, go a few blocks further with the dogs, finish that last chapter.  That’s my mind saying “You only get one chance, take it!” not “your body is unworthy of this brain!”  It’s like a badge of honor to be tired, and the ultimate reward to be able to sleep well after a busy day.

So I did, for a really long time.  And this morning, when I woke and my headache was gone and my eyes were clear and I spoke with sweet words and hummed through the day with the patience of a saint, my brain – and the world – thanked me.

Do you feel like you get “enough” sleep?  Does it change your outlook on your day when you do?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Parenting

 

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Brand New Year

One of the things I love about living here is there’s no shortage of stuff to do. We spend a lot of our free time taking advantage of all things urban, but there are plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. This year we decided to celebrate the new year by taking a hike through the NCR trail, former railroad beds that are now protected as public space.

It’s been pretty cold the past few weeks so we bundled up, wrangled the dogs into the car and headed out early. Oscar and Harley spent nearly the entire drive with their faces pressed to the windows, whining in anticipation – it had been quite a while, but they clearly remembered the fun they’d had on previous outings. Within minutes of hitting the trail T grabbed a walking stick, knowing by some instinct how to use it. He was quiet for a stretch, uncharacteristic for him, and I looked down to make sure he was okay. “What’s up peanut?” He was looking off the path, down to the creek, and turned back to me cupping his ear. “Ere?”

I should mention that I’ve been showing him signs since he was about three months old. He can hear (at least when he chooses to) and I’m no teacher, but I decided before I even got pregnant that I was going to try it. For months I showed him signs while saying the word out loud and finally, finally, a day came last summer when he signed “more.” As in, “I loved that watermelon you gave me and now I want MORE!” And he used that one sign for a long time, before finally mastering a few others. Not that lack of sign language skills kept him from communicating – that kid wakes up talking to himself and goes to bed the same way.

My little man, enjoying his hike!

My little man, enjoying his hike!

But this day was different. We walked for nearly two hours, stopping to watch wildlife, crunch snow, and scale the stone embankment. T motioned that he heard something and then, if he knew what it was, signed the word. He pulled out signs for animals I never realized he’d learned, making their sounds out loud. And not just signs – words flowed out of him like we’d been having these chats forever. Stick, snow, dog, tree, water, daddy, outside, walk, jump, tired, hungry. Maybe T sensed the magic of it being a new year to leap head first into bold new territory. We had a great morning, my son and I, and I look forward to many more walks down that path.

Do you have plans to work on a new skill or achieve a goal this year?

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Parenting, Remember

 

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Planning Ahead – Ten Things to Shop for Post Holiday

It’s funny how people change over time.  Ten years ago I would have been the frantic idiot in line at the mall five minutes before closing on Christmas Eve, arms laden with stuff that may or may not have been on anyone’s wish list but at least would allow me to cross someone off my gift list. My dad was usually less frantic, standing in line behind me.  Fast forward a decade, and I actually pride myself on being able to count in years how long it’s been since I’ve set foot in a mall.  A downsized gift-giving list and dedication to shopping local and sustainable whenever possible can take most of the credit.  That said, the day after Christmas is my Black Friday and so far no distance, weather event, illness or hangover has prevented me from this annual ritual.

By the time the holidays roll around I usually have a list of things I need, want, or would like to replace.  I hit the stores with a simple plan – think outside the box, don’t buy more than I can use, and put it somewhere I’ll remember for the following year. Here is a list of ten things I look for when I hit the stores after Christmas:

1.  Ornaments and lights.  This one is obvious, but there was a time when I just packed up the old, half-lit bulbs and tossed any broken ornaments and figured I’d deal with it the following year.  Now we usually buy one new ornament as a family, typically one that commemorates something that happened that year, and the rest we get 60% – 75% off.  I also try to stock up on those little stockings, which I use as silverware wrappers and gift card holders, and smaller ornaments that I use on top of packages instead of bows.  Now that he’s old enough, I also scoured the discount ornaments for something I can use as a base for T to customize next year for the grand- and god-parents and found some cute snowflakes that will be perfect.  And don’t rule out ornaments as gifts for holidays other than Christmas – in past years I’ve found Star Wars for my brother who loves the movie series, Nascar for my dad who collects that type of paraphernalia, and multiple cows for myself who can’t get enough of them.

2.  Tableware.  I have a really hard time paying a lot of money for disposable paper so unless we have holiday-appropriate tableware when we need it, we’re out of luck.  After the holidays I stock up on plates, cups, napkins, and serving trays.  Some stores have a collection of holiday wares in “non-traditional” color schemes like blue, yellow and magenta, and I love when I find some pretty champage glasses or tablecloths I can use for some other party.  A few years ago I replaced my chipped dishes with a set of beautiful white china rimmed in silver that I found marked down by 80%.  We still use them and have long since gotten our money’s worth.  This year I snapped up some great little cocktail plates that will hold a wine glass and purple tablecloths – party of the “non-traditional” holiday color collection – that I’ll use when the Ravens reach the playoffs. I also found some placemats and a table runner I’ll use on the coffee and side tables in a beautiful aqua blue.

Look at all that loot!

Look at all that loot!

3.  Linens and sheets.  Flannel sheets are great, especially when you find them on clearance.  I’ve also found rugs, pillows, throws, and dish towels.  Last year I found small fleece blankets which I bought for $2 each for gifts for the pups.  This year I scored a couple of kiddie hooded towels which T will love to get later in the year.

4.  Toys.  T and J both have birthdays in the two months following Christmas and while we are usually done shopping for the event well before then, sometimes I’ll come across stuff that we pick up for the occasion.  But when the stores start marking down toys, first 60% and then 75% or more, I buy and store them for Toys for Tots the following year.  Last year I got $100 worth of charitable donations for less than $25, and used the trip to the donation box as a chance for T to learn about giving to others. Don’t forget the pets – sets of toys packaged especially for gift giving are often on sale as well.

5.  Sporting Goods.  I”m not sure why these go on sale with the holiday stuff but every year I take the opportunity to update my camping supplies and check out the bikes, wagons, scooters, and every assortment of golfing equipment and sports ball.  This year I had my eye on a new air mattress (in the same aisle as camping) but talked myself out of it on the premise that I could probably find it cheaper online.

6.  Bakeware and cooking essentials.  I’ve already mentioned tablecloths, placemats and table runners, but there are plenty of other great deals to be had.  I finally replaced my beat up pot holders with some new ones I found in a hodge podge of discounted cookie sheets and cupcake wrappers.  This is a great time to find holiday-themed kits (think cupcake and chocolate covered pretzel), stuff to decorate cookies, and baking equipment packaged for the holidays like cookie presses and mixing bowls.  This year I bought a few packages of gingerbread and sugar cookie mix, which will keep well into the new year, and a red cookie sheet liner that I snagged for $1.72.  I also took the opportunity to stock up on all the packaging supplies I’ll need for next year’s neighborhood cookie exchange, including some super cute gingerbread house boxes.

7.  Packaging.  Also obvious, but this is another thing I hate spending a lot of money on.  We do a pretty good job of reusing bags and boxes but sometimes it takes a while for them to cycle back.  I stock up on coordinated paper, bags, boxes and tissue for “Santa” gifts, and find other bags and paper for the rest.  I love when I find pretty gift boxes or even decorated cardboard boxes that don’t need to be wrapped.  This year I grabbed a bunch of gift card holders including some that are basic enough they can be used for pretty much any occasion.  I also scored a several giant gift bags, enough small handled bags to use as “stockings” next year, and several containers to package and dress up the wine bottles we tend to give throughout the year.  But my favorite score was two fabulous red totes I’d had my eye on for months, with which I plan to (finally) organize by trunk.

Holiday38.  Craft supplies.  Places like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics stock plenty of crafty stuff in time for the holidays, including tons of kid-friendly stuff.  From the holiday surplus I culled paints, markers, stickers, pipe cleaners and pompoms, plus a bunch of kid-friendly craft kits that he’ll grow into by next year.  Bonus score:  Multi-packs of crayons we can grab and go when we eat out – it’s not like T will care they have stockings on them!

9.  Gifts and stocking stuffers.  I can appreciate the pre-packaged gifts that stores put out during the holidays, stuff like electronic coin banks and hair hockey tables and mitten sets, but not so much the prices.  I don’t buy this stuff to have it “just in case,” but occasionally I come across something that will be a great match for someone on my gift list.  This year I brought home several book “safes” with the hollow middle, which J and his cousins will love.  I’ll probably wait another week or so but I usually buy several glove and scarf sets, which I donate to charity during the coat and mitten drive.  A few years ago I purchased a set of glass candle holders that I gave as a wedding gift later that year, and often find pretty plant bulb sets that make sweet Mother’s Day gifts.  And this is a great time to find picture frames, some of which I keep and some will be used to gift next year’s holiday pics. Several stores now have dollar sections, great for stocking stuffers pre-holiday; they are even been post when the stuff is 70% off.  I cleaned up at Michaels, finding everything from glow sticks to model car kits to temporary tattoos, everything but the edible treats we’ll pick up closer to Christmas.

10.  Storage.  Craft stores have their holiday baskets on sale most of the month before the holiday, and they are even cheaper after.  I usually hit this section after a good look around the house to see what needs to be organized, revamped, or redone.  This year the craft supplies are getting an overhaul thanks to metal buckets I found for less than $2 each; the bathroom towels will find a new home in baskets on the wall; and we will finally have some sort of system for the various cords, remotes and controllers that have overgrown the media center using the felt totes I discovered on an endcap at Target.

As I hauled in my goods DH rolled his eyes a bit but I know he’s pretty proud not only of the money we save, but of the fact that we don’t need to scramble around last minute.  I usually make it to retail box store, a craft store and a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes, which provide a great supply of lights and ornaments.  Places like CVS and Walgreens also have a nice selection of packaging and toys. Many years, in addition to preparing for Christmas future, we stock up for other coming events such as birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, weddings, even Easter.  With a little foresight and planning, post-Christmas clearance can be one-stop shopping for a year full of great times.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Parenting

 

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