Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Riddance

January is by far my least favorite month. It's long, it's cold, and due to the post-Christmas wallet resuscitation underway, retail therapy is out. I'm unmotivated to get us out and about and as a result, we get sort of stir crazy.

Last Thursday night Chris and I were chatting and having a glass of wine after a mutually crappy day. We were talking about all the house projects and what we still have on our list of "Phase 1" projects (all the things we can do ourselves or have someone else do for relatively low cost. Bigger projects like a full kitchen remodel will wait a little longer). We started talking about our kitchen and Chris happened to mention that he thought it would look really good if we removed one of the cabinets, opening up the kitchen/dining room a bit more. We chatted a bit about it and went to bed.

Fast forward to Saturday morning: we got up, rearranged some cupboards and got rid of some extraneous stuff and...knocked down a cupboard.


I love this about Chris and I. We don't really agonize over decisions about house stuff. If we think it would look good and Chris thinks he can do it (he's really good at DIY), we tend to just go for it. A trip to Home Depot, a wall patch, plenty of spackle and some paint later, you can barely tell there was ever a cabinet there.

As you can tell, we also don't shy away from color!
It's really made an amazing change to the feel of the kitchen and dining room. Chris actually put together a photo album of all the changes we have made to this house since we moved in and it's pretty impressive what we've accomplished in 18 months. There is still plenty left to do, but I'm really happy with everything we've done to make this our first real home.

And with that, adios January! Back tomorrow to check in with how the year's To Do List looks after Month 1.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Photo Post

I'm not really feeling the blogging mojo today, so I'll just catch up on some photo posting. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to seeing the back end of this long, dreary month tomorrow...

Ready for a "swim" in the hot tub

Who needs bunk beds when they'll fit in an old changing table

Snow painting

I posted this on Facebook - Chris took Pacey out to do
errands with him and sent him in with these when they
got home.

Playing our monkey game


Water beads/Aqua Gems. These things are
awesome. 

Budding scientists

"Mom, YOOK! My TONGUE!"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Game Face

Some observations following the purchase and playing of several new games with my kids (as a reminder, they are 5 and 2 3/4):

* Preschoolers have the attention spans of gnats. Gnats with ADD.

* Games have come a long, long way since I was a kid.

* Neither of my kids cares one iota about winning or losing. I have no intention of introducing the concept at this point...it's much easier not to deal with the inevitable drama. I am guessing that this is exactly opposite of how my husband would approach this, given that he lives to win. Related: I sort of hate playing games with him. We can just about get through a (tense) round of a knowledge-based game, but I flat refuse to play Monopoly with him.

* Both kids are TOTAL CHEATERS. This makes me laugh because they are not cheating to win, just to...well, I'm not sure exactly.

* They are surprisingly good with turn-taking, as long as I am directing the flow of the game.

* I started out just managing rounds of the games between the two of them and then it occurred to me, I could...play with them! Not that I find preschool games particularly riveting, but it is slightly more tolerable to play along rather than just nag them through completion.

* I am instituting a No-More-Than-Three-Games-in-a-Row rule. This is partly so they don't get bored with them too quickly, but mainly to preserve my sanity.

* I had no idea how difficult it would be to introduce the concept of rolling a dice. I'm not even talking about understanding the subsequent moving of spaces or whatever, just the rolling itself. Pace can roll a dice like he's been playing craps since he was two (yes, I know the singular is die but I just don't like the way it sounds), but Brighton just does NOT get it. We have this photo safari game that requires rolling a dice and moving around a board. She can't seem to let go of the idea that she needs to get the dice to land in a particular place on the board. At this point I've harped on about "just letting! it! go!" long enough that she's developed a sort of Dice Rolling Paralysis. I hope I haven't scarred her for life.

* As far as activities go, I think the game genre rates well above Chase Me/Tickle Me games, but definitely not as high as coloring. I do love me some coloring.

(In case you're curious, the four games we have now are: the photo game I've linked to before (9/10), Pop-Up Pirate (7/10), Monkeying Around (8/10) and Hi-Ho Cherry-O, which we haven't played yet)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Letter to My Daughter

As your third birthday approaches (sob), I find myself wanting to capture you as you are right this minute in as many ways as I can. I'm gathering little video clips that I hope will amuse you one day, and you are more than happy to pose for pictures so I have plenty of those too.

Pacey may have technically broken me in as a mother but, my dear, you challenge me daily to find my inner peace and appreciate your spirit for the bright spark it is. You are so very passionate, which is both a blessing and a curse. You love me fiercely and I absolutely soak it up, for one day I feel confident that you will believe you hate me. Your auntie and I are going to place bets on how old you are when you first shout those words at me.

We had a really hard day this week. You want so badly to be in charge of yourself and, for the most part, we have found compromises that allow you to feel independent and still get us to where we need to be at the right times. But sometimes you dig your heels in so deeply and it triggers my own fairly epic stubbornness and there is yelling. Lots and lots of yelling. We're really working on potty training you right now and I am still struggling to find a way to make it work with your strong will. It's really easy to plan these theoretical strategies but the reality is, if you don't want to sit on the potty? You won't.

Your language has absolutely exploded and every day you say something that amazes me. You love to narrate what you're doing and are experimenting with saying what I think you think are shocking things to see what my reaction might be. You can be extremely dramatic and I confess that I am becoming hardened to it; two weeks after you got a VERY minor scrape on your knee you still like to fake cry about your owie and tell me you need a "rubber band" (what you call bandaids) to make it feel all better. I have to work not to roll my eyes sometimes. :) You make a nice complement to your brother, who is more of the strong, silent type and are starting to sense when he could use your help communicating. You stopped calling me Mama a few months ago and it's almost exclusively Mommy now, except when you call me "My Best Girl" (which is what I call you...I sometimes hope I never have another daughter so that I can call you that forever).

Although you love princesses and fairies with your whole heart, you're pretty open to almost any activity. Your imagination is taking off and it's so fun to listen to the various characters you pretend to be on a daily basis. I have to try to capture your pretend phone conversations because they are hilarious and tend to illustrate for me just how carefully you are watching and listening to me.

I finally figured out the other day that this funny little expression you make sometimes is your attempt to mirror my "are you sh1tting me with this nonsense?!?" look. All I can say is that if it is at all similar to my version, it's no wonder that it has little to no effect on you and your brother when you're giving me a hard time.

You've been in school now for about six months and you have screamed and cried and clung to me at drop-off time nearly every single school day since the beginning. Until this week, suddenly you trotted off to find your beloved Teacher Emily and waved me off without a peep. I felt a rush of relief and then, I confess, a teeny bit of sadness. Although it always made me feel guilty to peel you off of me and hand you howling to your teachers, it made me feel good that despite my flaws, at that moment being with me trumped the promise of any number of gloriously messy activities.

You make my heart sing and you make my heart howl with frustration. I wouldn't trade you for the world, my best girl.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I'm Loving - Winter Edition

Winter has finally - as we knew it would - arrived with a vengeance. Last week we had several days with temperatures significantly below zero, with our characteristic stiff Minnesota winds making it especially unpleasant. Today we are actually getting some snow and, though I cringe as I say it, I'm thrilled. If it's going to be winter for several more months - as we know it will be - we ought to at least have some snow to play in. The kids are absolutely mad for sledding, even down the very mild incline in our driveway (hooray for small children and their minimal expectations). Anyway, there are a few things that have been mitigating the misery (for me) of extremely cold temperatures and I thought I'd share.

1. Tazo Green Tea, Zen Flavor - I don't usually love green tea, but this is a really nice, refreshing flavor. I can't really drink caffeine after about noon anymore (hello, thirties) but I love hot drinks in the afternoon when it's miserable outside. This is a really nice option. And kind of funny since I bought it for Chris's stocking and I appear to be drinking most of it.

2. Chapstick Overnight Lip Treatment - I am sort of a chapstick addict, especially during the dry winter months. This just has a really nice, smooth texture without being gummy...I keep it in my car so it's cold when I put it on and really soothing. Plus, it reminds me of my sister. She's had a tube of this in her purse about as a long as I can remember :)

3. Our hot tub. I was NOT sold on the concept when we moved in, partly because I perceived that they required a ton of maintenance and partly because I am really paranoid about the kids around water. As it turns out, the maintenance is almost nothing (well, technically it is nothing for me since C does it all) and all entrances to the tub are secured in such a way I don't worry about the kids. Anyway, the hot tub is in a sunroom just off the master bedroom and the sliding doors across one wall look out into our backyard. We've ended up using it most evenings and it's really nice when it is snowing to open up the doors and enjoy the chill without having to actually be outside.

4. Kneesocks and slippers:
Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

5. The indoor swimming pool and splash pad. We joined this fitness center around this time last year and it is such a great option in the winter. Especially now that the kids are reliable enough that Chris will go in with them and I can watch from the side!! Oh, how I hate to be wet. They are both so much more comfortable in the water this year and we will be signing them up for swim lessons in a month or so. The water in both the kids' pool and the big pool is nice and warm so they won't have to suffer the full-body shivers and blue lips I did during my swim lessons.




6. My new gloves that allow me to operate my phone while wearing them. C picked these up for me at Costco this weekend and I am sold. They are thick enough to keep my fingers mostly warm, but thin enough that I can do the fiddly things like fastening five-point harnesses around wiggly children. Best of all, the thumbs and pointer fingers are covered in some sort of material that allows your touch to register on the iPhone. Much better than the solution I had planned, which was to cut slits in my crappy $1 Target gloves.

Mostly, though? I'm loving the fact that one way or another, this winter will end and we'll have another gorgeous summer to help us forget about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Help Me Shop!

This morning I tackled the kids' playroom, which was a complete disaster. I've noticed over the past 3-4 weeks that more and more they are avoiding the playroom and tending to just hang around me upstairs while I'm doing various chores. I don't mind their company, but they are generally pretty good about entertaining themselves and have historically spent a lot of time in their playroom so I figured they are getting bored with their toys.

It was a good chance to take stock of the toys we have and weed out some of the ones that don't get played with anymore (or never really did). We actually did a good job of not going overboard for Christmas so we don't have a ton of new toys that got integrated into the mix. We do have, however, quite a few toys that the kids have outgrown or just aren't that interested in.

So anyway, I filled up two garbage bags - one to throw and one to donate - and re-organized all the toys and put them away. So now we have a clean playroom, but we really need some new toys for the kids to play with.

So here's where you come in. I need suggestions for good toys. Pacey and Brighton are 5 and 2 1/2, respectively. Toys we already have (or have tried without success) include: Duplos, blocks, balls of all types, cars and a race track, trains and plenty of railroad track, art supplies, stuffed animals galore (which no one plays with), a couple of baby dolls, puzzles, plenty of dress up items, a (crappy) play kitchen with food and a few games.

I went to Target with the kids to look today and we left without anything because I just couldn't figure out what to get. The only tv shows they watch are Dora, Diego and Curious George. They love movies but I'm not really wild about movie tie-in toys. I'm not into gun/weapon toys. I think that lights-and-sounds have their place but in general get boring really quickly.

For both kids I am considering this wooden castle and some figurines to go with it, but Brighton's birthday is in May and I want to get her a dollhouse. I don't know if that would make this redundant? Or maybe we just start creating a neighborhood?

It's been so long since I really played with toys, I have a hard time separating my own feelings about toys from how the kids will see them. Both kids make a beeline for the pretend play areas in their classrooms, but haven't seemed very interested in the kitchen, etc we've had here. Pacey's typically more into figuring out how things work and likes toys that have lots of different "functions." He seemed really into this Batcave toy at a birthday party recently but I worry that it was just the novelty of it. He doesn't know who Batman is, so I wonder if he'd really engage in any pretend play with it versus just discovering the functions and then being done with it.

Other things I have considered but not pulled the trigger on and would love any feedback include:

Zoobs

Flexeez

Imaginets

A dollhouse - anyone have one they love?

A Tag reading system

So, tell me what gets played with at your house, and how much of it is independent play vs. needing adult interaction/supervision.

#parentingfail

I walked into my room where the kids were watching a movie. Brighton was sitting behind Pacey giggling.

"Watcha doing?" I said.

"We're kicking!" Brighton chirps happily. She demonstrates that she is pounding on her brother's back with her feet.

I admonish her sternly. "We don't kick, that's not a game. Do you want him to kick you?!?"

She nods eagerly.

Doh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cheese, please

I kind of thought I would feel a stronger urge to come and write in this space when I'd had a bad day. You know, vent my spleen and move on. So far, that hasn't been my instinct. I'm not very good at just splatting words on the paper and there's nothing like re-living annoyances while you edit your writing.

However. Today? Was a hard day. It's really cold today and my kids were especially ornery all day. The cold makes me so crabby anyway, and any patience I can usually summon up for the fights over getting kids in and out of the car/school/store/wherever evaporates instantly.

Brighton's tantrums are definitely getting fewer and further between, but today was just one after the other. I know she's fighting a cold so I tried to have sympathy for her, but the knock-down-drag-out meltdown over not being allowed to LIE DOWN in the parking lot at school and make a "snow angel" (in the nonexistent snow), wearing her Snow White dress (that was one fight I was NOT having this morning) when the Real Feel temperature was -10 was just infuriating.

Pacey's really flexing his independence muscles and really likes the praise he gets for doing things by himself. I encourage him to tell me when he doesn't need help, and I hear a lot of "Pacey do it!" from him.  Although it can be challenging, I do try to allow him the extra time to do something on his own if he wants to. However, he has also taken to using the desire to do something on his own as an excuse to just not do it. The Coat Wars continue...I am currently fantasizing about summertime when we can just get in the damn car and go without a fight every. single. time.

Huh. What do you know, this IS sort of therapeutic  I feel de-grinchified enough to post a couple of recent pictures. I haven't had my camera out much because we really haven't been doing anything interesting lately. I did notice when I reviewed these photographs just how much the kids have been growing and changing lately. A good reminder that these exhausting days of relentless attending to needs won't last forever.

We get the most gorgeous afternoon sunshine in our bedroom.
Lately, Pacey has been hanging out with me while I exercise
and Brighton takes her nap. 

I'm grateful that his need for glasses was identified and that
we are able to provide them for him. But I secretly hate them.
I hate that they cover up his beautiful face. 

STOP WITH THE GROWING UP ALREADY

A rare photo of Pacey smiling (he smiles,
just not for photos)

Handwriting practice

This picture makes me indescribably proud. If you look
carefully, you will see a P, an A, a backwards C and an E. Just
one letter to go and my little man can write his name. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reasons Why Today is a Good Day

1. I got a babysitter to come watch Brighton while I took Pacey for a follow up with his ENT to check his ear tubes. SO much easier to do these appointments with just one child.

2. Pacey aced his hearing test. Behavioral tests have been pretty unreliable in the past, but he totally rocked this one. He completed a lengthy test that involved placing a peg in a board every time he heard a beep. His attention span was awesome and his hearing looks great. His ENT commented (again) that Pacey appears to be doing very, very well developmentally. He sees a lot of children with Down syndrome, so he has a frame of reference and it made me proud.

3. After the appointment I dropped Pacey off here with the babysitter and ran a few errands by myself. Nothing super exciting - the library, the drugstore for some controlled substances (Sudafed) and I treated myself to a Starbucks chai latte - but exponentially easier to do these things without hauling kids in and out of the car. The temperature gauges finally reflect that it is January in Minnesota, so the less time I have to spend standing outside the car wrangling/coaxing/cajoling the better.

4. At the library, I picked up five books that have been on my To Read list. My system when I come across a title I am interested in is to add it to my Amazon wishlist. If I'm not 100% sure, I will download the first chapter to my Kindle (iPhone) and read it. If I like it, it stays on the list. Then, periodically I go through the list and look for cheap used copies of the various books or, if I feel like splurging, might order it new. Recently though, I thought to cross-reference my list with the library's online catalog. There were about 10 available at other branches of the library so I just requested transfers of half of them, added my name to a wait list for some newer titles, and received an email this morning telling me they were ready to pick up. Couldn't have been easier and my favorite price too.

5. We recently purchased an elliptical training machine from Costco. It's currently set up in our bedroom (sexy!) which leaves absolutely no excuse not to use it. I did a 30 minute program during Brighton's nap yesterday and loved it. I'm actually looking forward to using it again today. It never fails to amaze me just how good exercising makes me feel. It's such a no-brainer and yet sometimes so hard to motivate.

6. There are new episodes of Thursday TV to watch while I fold laundry.

7. I am actually going out tonight with a couple of girl friends. Our three families get together on a pretty regular basis for dinners (Boxing Day being the most recent) but we decided we needed a little break away from the kids and a dinner we didn't cook.

8. My friend Sharda started a blog. She's smart and funny, is an attorney and mom to an adorable munchkin, Desi. Go check it out, and if you feel inclined, leave her a comment. I know most of us blog for ourselves and for a record to look back at, but it's kind of a kick to know people are interested too. Oh, and be nice. She probably has lots of incriminating/embarrassing photos of me and I'd hate to provoke her into using them against me ;)

9. My husband officially accepted his new job role at work. I am constantly amazed at his ambition and confidence, and he is clearly extremely well-respected in his field. This new role seems to have put a spring in his step and I love seeing him happy. Plus, the busier he is the fewer times he calls to bug me during the day (just kidding honey).

10. Duh, it's Friday!!

Happy weekend everyone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Test

video

Do me a favor - let me know if you can play this little video. I'm experimenting with methods of posting them.

(it wasn't my birthday)

(she's signing as well as singing, hence the arm flapping)

Talk Before Sleep

Gradually, gradually (OH, SO GRADUALLY), Pacey is starting to talk. I mean, he's been saying words for a couple of years, and even stringing a few words together here and there. Brother makes his needs known. But recently, when I stop and listen to the two kids together, they are having actual conversations (and arguments...lots of arguments). It is seriously music to my ears.

Brighton, for her part, is becoming very interested in emotions and what they mean, so we do a lot of talking about whether we are happy or sad or (most recently) angry. She obviously really understands what it means and surprises me with some of her observations (upon being scolded, "Mommy, you angry!") Anyway, she quite likes to discuss things after the fact and this morning at breakfast said to me, "You drop me. I cry." Obviously I'm not in the habit of dropping my children, so I asked her what she meant and she clarified, "You drop me, I cry, my school." Ah, yes. She was merrily recounting the fact that every. single. time. I drop her off at preschool, she screams bloody murder for approximately three minutes and then proceeds to enjoy the hell out of her morning. Judging by the twinkle in her eyes this morning as she casually reminded me of her crying, the performance is completely for my benefit torture.

Show me happy

Show me sad

Show me angry

Show me surprised
The two kids are also starting to gang up on me. As the Coat Wars continue, I sometimes have to actually wrestle Pacey into his coat, a process made challenging by his ridiculous strength and bendability, and then made nearly impossible by Brighton's grabbing my arm and yelling, "Leave him alone!!!" I totally love that she's coming to his defense, but so not helpful.

I'd say that Pacey probably talks more to Brighton than anyone else in the course of a day. As a result, she is at least as adept as I am at translating his sometimes mysterious pronunciations of things. It's really sweet when he asks for something I either don't hear or can't understand and she'll tell me, "her wants xyz" (she's a little mixed up on pronouns right now). Again, though, not particularly helpful when I know perfectly well what he's asking for but am declining to agree to his request.

Brighton requested that Pacey read her her
pre-naptime story
I think a lot about Pacey and Brighton as siblings, and what the experience of having a brother with special needs will mean for Brighton. I hope that it means she will ultimately be a more tolerant and accepting person, and that she will be comfortable with people with varying abilities. I am realizing that she has absolutely reached an age where she is taking her cues from Chris and I, although she has no idea yet that he is any different. I hear her congratulating him when he uses words, or completes any one of the tasks that he earns praise from us for, "Good job, Pace!" It's not condescending in the least, and neither of them thinks it's at all strange that at age 2.5 she is praising him for things she's been able to do for months.

My kids are totally the yin and yang to my parenting experience. They could NOT be more different from each other, and seeing their differences really allows me to appreciate each of them for their own unique selves. Having a second kid felt like a pretty big leap of faith, but I will be forever grateful that we closed our eyes and jumped.



He's vanilla
She's chocolate



One last note, as I want to mark the timing...Didder and Doodoo are no longer. More and more Pacey has been calling Brighton by her name, and Doodoo has long since been retired for Pacey, Pace or (adorably), Pacey-roo. *sniff*

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Overcoming Inertia

Well, it's a good thing I didn't make any resolutions about posting a certain amount, huh??

It took me pretty much all of last week to blow off the cobwebs of the holiday and actually get moving again. We really had a lovely few weeks of just hanging out together, not having to be anywhere at any particular time. It was long enough though, that I sort of lost my groove in terms of Getting Sh*t Done.

It's something I've noticed staying home full time now; if I get out of bed and hit the ground running, I can accomplish a phenomenal amount in a day. If, however, we laze around in the morning, it's almost impossible to get focused for the rest of the day. Not a terribly profound observation, but sometimes I forget that. It's actually become one of the defining differences between weekdays and weekends (I've mentioned before that without a 9-5, the days can really blur together). I am learning to be ok with the slower weekend starts, with not getting a darn thing done except enjoy each others' company. But if I don't make a point of starting Monday off with a bang, the whole week can end up being a wash.

So anyway, after a pretty sluggish week last week, made worse by the fact Chris was traveling all week for work (no one to appreciate a tidy house at the end of the day), I finally kicked into gear on Friday. I cleaned most of the house and got a project that has been nagging me underway. The kids' bathroom is the only one with a bath tub and, like the rest of the house, had ugly frosted shower doors when we moved in.

If you've ever tried to bathe children in a tub with doors, you know it's basically impossible. And yes, I still give my kids baths every single night. What can I say, I like them to smell good. Plus, I figure if it's never NOT part of our routine, there will be less need for those delicate conversations around the development of body odor and OH MY GOD GO TAKE A SHOWER YOU STINKY, STINKY CHILD. One of the first things I did after we moved in was have Chris take the shower doors off to allow me access to referee the bath time wrestling sessions. Removing the doors was great, but left the metal track attached to the side of the tub. I have had permanent bruises underneath my kneecaps for approximately the last 4.5 years from bracing against those damn tracks to lift kids out of the bath (we had the same issue in our last house). Recently the kids have decided they like to get in and out themselves, which, hooray for independence, but had me CRINGING every time they stretched their little legs over the side, clearing the metal by millimeters.

Anyway, very long story short, I finally got up the impetus to do something about it. The internet explained exactly what I'd need to do, and a helpful older gentleman at Home Depot set me up with the tools I needed. I got so inspired that I grabbed a gallon of paint while I was there to cover up the grubby white currently on their walls. Friday afternoon was pretty much spent scraping caulk and then over the weekend with some help from Chris, grubby white became Jamaica Bay. I am currently scouting out some things to pretty up the walls and make the bathroom generally more kid-user-friendly (why the towel bar over the toilet??) and I plan to post some pictures when it's all complete.

In other news, we received our first real kid board game for Christmas. It's called Photo Safari and is extremely well designed for young children - I highly recommend it. However, teaching a 5- and 2.5-year old to play a game requires rather a large amount of patience. For the time being they are pretty happy for me to basically direct the game (now your turn, move here, roll this, etc) and no one really minds who wins or loses. It does require me to sit with them for 30 minutes at a time when they want to play it. Which is about 64 times a day. I love that they are so into it, and it's a great alternative to the iPad/iPhone games they are more accustomed to playing. It's good for me too, to try to let everything else go for just 30 minutes and focus on helping them learn all the important parts to playing games.

I have lots more to say, but in the interest of keeping this "object" in motion, I'll save it for another post. Happy Monday all.