This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

What’s with all the ‘Tude?

I love my kids. Obviously. We all do. But these days, the rose-colored, “isn’t-she-just-the-cutest,” “isn’t-he-so-funny” glasses have been ripped off my face and scary little monsters aren’t just for Halloween anymore.

IMG_0161The scary little monsters have invaded my house and, even worse, invaded my kids.

I love blogging. I’m so glad we picked it back up, and, even though we’re starting out slowly, I really hope we continue to blog for years to come. I love that I get to share fun anecdotes about my kids. I love to hear from others that they are going through similar issues with their own kids, and I love to feel that sense of camaraderie, that I’m putting something out there that someone else might relate to or appreciate.

But mostly, I love that these blogs have forced me to keep records of my years with two, soon to be three, young kids. My sweet husband even printed off all of the blogs from the last year and half and gave them to me in a binder. There are times where I pick up the binder, turn to a random page, and am immediately sent back in time. I gush and sigh and sometimes even cry when I think about those little moments, moments I would certainly haIMG_0090ve forgotten about had I not written them down. Moments I can’t wait to share with my kids one day. I can picture us sitting around this binder, laughing and pointing at each other, like the families you see in magazines. So happy.

But as many fun little anecdotes and cute little stories my life has been filled with, recently it seems it’s equally full of some tough little moments, too. Especially lately. When all the ‘tude entered my house and invaded my little darlings.

The ‘tude, you ask? That’s a whole you-know-what load of attitude. So much attitude, in fact, that you can’t even call it that. You have to short-hand it, and you have to say it while pulling a face.

The ‘tude.

It hit Sophia first. My sweet little Sophie. You know, the one I wanted to speak up more. Yeah, that one. Well, she must have decided to heed my advice because she’s speaking up, alright. She’s got something to say about everything: bathtime, brushing her teeth, getting in the car, climbing up the stairs, going down the stairs, reading a certain book, eating certain foods. The ‘tude is strong in this one.

Too cool for me, that's for sure.

Too cool for me; that’s for sure.

The worst case of ‘tude was at the grocery store a few weeks past. It’s only now that I can write about it without experiencing PTSD. It was bad. The grocery has these carts with the cars in front. Great, right? Well, most of the time. But Sophia had a bad attack of ‘tude that day and decided she didn’t want to sit in the car with Noah. And I, being a complete idiot, took her out, informing her she would be sitting in the top part. In retrospect, I should have kept her in the car, even if it meant stuffing her chubby little legs and arms back in every few steps to keep her from whacking them on the aisles while attempting to escape.

Well, it seemed that Sophia wasn’t all that stoked about sitting in the top of the cart either; she’d actually preferred to just be carried, so we had what ended up being a stand-off. I’d put Sophie in the seat, and she’d whip her head back so fast I’d have to catch her before she really hurt herself.

I was determined to win the fight, though. I was 13 weeks pregnant at the time, and I take my kids to the grocery store with me every week. It was not the time to start carrying Sophia around with me while shopping.

I was also in a predicament. I had picked up a roasted chicken for dinner that night (I really stink at making meals in the early months of pregnancy and, let’s face it, those chickens are better than anything I can make), and it was sitting in the cart, along with 20 other items, many of which were produce. I didn’t know how I could, in good conscience, abandon the cart and leave the store. And what about dinner? What would we have for dinner?

So, we ended pulling over in front of the raw chicken and had a full 15 minutes of meltdown. It was AWESOME. Some people ignored us and kept walking – God bless them; others gave a sympathetic smile – I think I sneered at those people; and then there were the people that walked past with nothing but judgment and disdain all over their faces – I think I actually growled at them.

We ended up leaving, paying for the groceries we did have with a screaming Sophia on my hip. The sweet checkout lady offered stickers and I think my response was, “NONE FOR HER! ONLY FOR HIM!” (Yes, I realize I sounded like a crazy person, but, seriously, do you think she deserved a sticker?)

As we were walking out, Sophia kept saying, “Sticker? Sticker?” Noah had a strip of about five. I said, “Sophia, if you sit in the cart, you may have a sticker.” The crying instantly stopped, Sophie happily sat, took her sticker and, if it weren’t for the blotchy face and tear-stained cheeks, you would have never known she’d just been through a battle. A battle she’d won.

I loaded up the car, sat in the driver’s seat and cried. Cried hard. The kids were quiet while I did this. Sophia sat and admired her sticker and I think Noah, so exhausted by the whole event, fell asleep. I think their total lack of empathy made me cry even harder.

This picture was taking right before a meltdown. It's amazing how quickly things change.

This picture was taken right before a meltdown. It’s amazing how quickly things change.

The ‘tude beat me. Beat me good.

And then there’s Noah. That’s right, Noah. Don’t think I’m letting you off the hook here.

Ever since Noah started school, he’s been a… (how do I put this delicately) terror. Life’s different and he’s learning to cope with all the changes. I get that.

What I will not sympathize with is the attitude he’s gained from all the changes. Noah was always pretty even-keeled. He may be more sensitive then other kids, but for the most part, he’s easy to please and easy to distract when things aren’t going his way.

That all seemed to change this month. School started and so did the ‘tude. Maybe he’s just more tired than normal, and since he’s refusing to take naps (makes me cry just typing it), he definitely gets a little crabbier than he used to, but it isn’t just the tiredness that has changed in my son.

He yells. He argues. And most of the time, he directs it all at me. Sometimes, I feel like he’s literally giving me the once-over, eyeing me like I’m the enemy and he’s trying to find a way to defeat me.

I’m not joking. I’ve caught him with that look several times now. I usual counter it with an “I love you, Noah” (you know, to remind him that I’m not the enemy; I’m actually the mother who loves him).

But the fact remains, our relationship has changed. I’m the mean lady who makes him do things, and he’s the poor, oppressed little boy.

For instance, the other day, we were running late for school. Lots of things had happened that particular morning that helped run out the clock and, at around 8:45, I had finally gotten everything together and was about to head out the door to make it to school by 9 when I realized Noah was missing. Where was that boy?

“Noah?” I called. “Where are you?”

“I’m upstairs!”

“Well, come down. We need to get in the car and go to school!”

“NO.”

“Yes.”

“I’m not coming downstairs!”

“Noah, if you don’t come down, we’ll be late!”

“I WANNA BE LATE!!”

My crew- happy because Daddy's around. They save up all the 'tude just for me.

My crew, happy because Daddy’s around. They save up all the ‘tude just for me.

Wow. That escalated quickly. And I was in a pickle. My 3 year old was OK with being late, and I was stuck trying to find an argument as to why being late was a bad thing. Let’s be honest: It was no skin off his back if he was late, and, thus far, he had had a nice, easygoing attitude about school. Far be it for me to impart some of my neurosis and crazy, stressed-out attitude about school on him. Maybe he could be saved from that. So, how do I make him fear being late without equating that fear to school?

In the end, I think there was a threat, perhaps a bribe – I really don’t remember, it’s all a blur – and we ended up making it to school just a few minutes late. I apologized profusely to the teacher, who really couldn’t have cared less, and Noah skipped into the classroom, completely unfazed.

Ahhh, kids. They’re the only people in the world who can get your blood pressure up blisteringly high and then, with a quick hug and peck on the cheek, melt it away.

So, maybe we’re just going through a phase. Maybe with school getting underway, we’ll find a healthy balance. Maybe it’s a warm-up for Halloween. You know, they’re giving me all the frights I need so I don’t have to watch all those scary movies that keep me up at night. Maybe this is God’s grace, giving me a chance to deal with all the ‘tude before our new baby arrives in March.

I just wish the ‘tudes would occur at different times of day. I can handle one screaming kid at a time, but when they’re both melting down and yelling, that’s when I feel like my life is an acutal horror flick and I just want to shout at myself on the screen: “Run, Sarah! Get out while you still can!”

I never would, though. I always have to see how those scary movies end.

Am I Doing the Right Thing for My Daughter?

I was one of those weird kids who always liked getting a grade. I liked knowing how well (or how poorly) I was doing. I liked having a barometer to go by.

It’s no secret that real life doesn’t usually come with grades, or stickers, or anyone to tell you how well or not well you’re doing. I miss that sometimes more than others, but no time in my adult live have I missed it more than I have in the past year and a half.

Life with a toddler with epilepsy, although minor in the grand scheme of things, is tough. Really tough. Medicating my daughter to control the seizures brings on some terrible behavioral changes. And that’s tough, too. What’s even tougher, though, is the knowledge that I’m the one who’s deciding my daughter’s fate through all of this. Although my husband is, of course, behind me through everything, the truth is, I’m the one with her most of the time, I’m the one who sees the majority of her “episodes,” I’m the one who decides that they warrant a call to her doctor’s office – knowing full well that I’ll likely be told to increase her medicine, and I’m the one who, for the most part, has to deal with the side effects of those increases.

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I don’t like it. I know I’m her mother, and I understand the doctors can’t do much more than they’re doing right now because they haven’t actually monitored Anna having a seizure, but I don’t want to be the one in charge through all of this. I want someone to tell me, definitively, “Yes, these are seizures. You’re doing the right thing.”

The truth is, I hate to see her mood swings, her tantrums that turn into fits of rage without any reason. Fits that I can’t bring her back from until I can get her to take a drink of something, anything. But the truth also is that I hate to see her unresponsive stares, her limp neck, her eyes rolled up in her head. Those periods, like the fits, feel like eternity.

I guess, the truth is, I just want someone to tell me I’m doing the right thing.

That’s why, when I spoke to Anna’s nurse on the phone a few weeks ago, crying because of episodes Anna had had that past weekend, I couldn’t help it. The nurse, Melissa, had always been kind and sympathetic, so I put the question to her.

“Am I doing the right thing here? Would you medicate her if she was your own child?”

“Yes,” she said simply. “I would.”

There was more to the conversation than that; more tears, too, I’m sure, but that answer alone was enough for me. I had posed it to Anna’s neurologist at her August appointment, and he’d avoided answering, giving me statistics and “most likely(s)” instead.

I’m grateful for Melissa, and I’m grateful for my husband, family and friends. They believe I’m doing the right thing for my daughter. And the truth is, that really helps.

 

My Fear of Halloween

I used to love Halloween when I was a kid. I got to dress up and run around with my friends and collect candy. Really, what’s not to like? I remember coming home with my pillowcase full of candy (yes, we used pillowcases for maximum candy capacity) and dumping it all out on the floor to survey my loot. It was a wonderful time.

IMG_0544I feel like I might be alone in my feelings when I scan Facebook and see tons of people dressed in different, creative costumes, and I somehow, still, get uncomfortable even looking at them.As an adult, I find Halloween uncomfortable. Sure, I am beyond excited about dressing Austin up for his first Halloween, but don’t expect to see me dressed up. I have so much respect for people that keep dressing up year after year, but I’m just not one of them.

Is that weird? It seems weird. Maybe it means I’m an insecure person or maybe it means I have no creativity or maybe, it just means that I just don’t like to dress up. It’s very hard to say.

People keep asking me if we’re taking Austin trick or treating and, I guess, I just assumed we would until I stopped to think about what that would mean. Austin is 10 months old and isn’t walking or talking. So trick or treating would consist of us carrying him around and saying “trick or treat” while the poor adults giving out candy shoot us dirty looks because, obviously, it won’t be Austin eating the Kit Kat bar when we get home.

After thinking about that, I decided that maybe we would just hand out candy and dress Austin up. Austin, but definitely not me.

 

What Would MacGyver Do?

About a year and a half ago, my husband and I decided to switch Brayden’s doorknob so the lock was on the outside of his door.

It seemed reasonable. It was right around the time he started giving up his nap and right after we’d switched him to a “big boy bed” because he’d learned how to climb out of his crib. Because he wasn’t napping, he (reasonably enough) didn’t want to stay in his room during nap time and liked to open his door and either shout things down the hallway or (the lesser of the two evils, actually) just present himself to me in the living room.

Switching his doorknob so the lock was on the outside, I figured, would help my sanity.

And I was right. I remember my motto was, “I don’t care what he’s doing in there, as long as he’s contained for an hour and a half of the day.”006

That’s still my motto, actually. I do feel a little bad about it, a little embarrassed maybe when I tell people, but, more than anything, I feel like it’s the right move for my sanity. He plays in his room with his cars or his Legos, he pulls his (really heavy!) Tennessee chair into the middle of the room, he piles things into his closet or he lies next to his door and pretends like he’s snoring, but, whatever he does, he does it in there.

That’s why, a few days ago, he couldn’t hide his smile when he locked himself, Anna and me inside his room for 40 minutes.

I don’t really know how it happened. It was Sunday, and Kevin had just left for Walgreens to visit its clinic about a lingering cold. I was trying to get the kids and myself dressed for the day. (Yes, it was about 10 a.m. And yes, I feel good about that.) We’d just finished in Anna’s room and were heading to Brayden’s when I decided to play around with them for a bit and pretend I was going to nap in Brayden’s bed.

Brayden and Anna both gathered up all their blankets and stuffed animals and tucked me in, and Brayden climbed in next to me and promptly pretended to snore. Anna, we decided, was going to “be in charge” and sit next to the bed in Brayden’s Tennessee chair.

As soon as I closed my eyes, though, and really contemplated napping, Brayden (of course) immediately jumped out of bed and started running around the room. I remember him deciding he needed something in the other room and running out, and I remember hearing the door shut behind him when he came back in, but I definitely don’t remember hearing the click of the lock.

We played “nap time” for about five more minutes before Anna decided she wanted her milk and ran to the door and tried to open it.

“Open, Mommy!” She whined.

I opened one eye, assessed the situation and decided it was a task for Brayden.

“Brayden, please open the door for Anna.” I shut my eye again.

I heard his feet run to the door and his hands try to turn the knob.

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“It’s stuck, Mom. I can’t open it.”

H grinned at me, and I felt the smallest flicker of panic, but I shut my eyes again and told myself it wasn’t possible, to ignore it.

“Come on, Brayden. Open the door for your sister.”

“Mom, it’s stuck. Can you open it, please?”

I heard him try to turn the knob again and decided it was time to deal with what was going on myself, unfortunately. (His bed really is comfortable!)

I tried the knob. Immediately, I rounded on Brayden.

“It’s locked, Brayden! Why did you lock the door?”

He grinned again, his eyes sparkling with glee. “Now we’re all locked in here forever!”

I pushed to the back of my mind the thought that this must be what he feels like during nap time every day and tried to figure out what to do. I had no phone, was still in my pajamas myself and the key was on the top of the doorframe on the other side of the door.

My first thought was, “What would MacGyver do?” (Not joking even a little bit.)

My mind went to the comb in Brayden’s dresser drawer. I grabbed it and started to twist off one of its teeth. It immediately got stuck in the keyhole.

Awesome.

I twisted off another comb tooth and stuck that one in. No go.

I sat on the ground for a minute while Anna petted my face and said, “OK, Mommy?” and then I had an epiphany. Of course, the clothes hangers! I pulled 010one out of Brayden’s closet and, feeling incredibly MacGyver-ish, fashioned it into a key. I shoved it in the keyhole, wiggled it around and… nothing.

What? How could that possibly be right? I jammed and wiggled some more. Nothing.

OK, don’t panic. Kevin will be home soon, thank goodness. At least it wasn’t a day when he was at work or traveling, and at least all three of us were together on the same side of the door.

Brayden snickered from across the room. He’s loving every second of this, I thought. Oh, well. No time for that right now.

I had another idea. Even though I was still in my pajamas and it wasn’t ideal, could I climb out the window? (We have a ranch, so there wouldn’t be a fall.)

I went to Brayden’s window and opened the blinds. I unlocked the window and pushed it open and remembered the screen. Hmm. Did I really want to go there? No, I decided. Not yet. I stationed Brayden at the window to watch for “daddy’s car” and played with Anna to get her mind off her milk. It would be fine, I told myself. Of course, it would. Kevin would come home soon.

And he did, thank goodness. About 10 minutes later. We were saved!

Now I’m just left to monitor Brayden closely anytime I’m in his room and to fight with my conscience every day during nap time. That’s right. Even after that experience, I’m still not ready to let nap time go. But I also didn’t punish him for locking us in his room. So, there’s that…

 

My Daughter is a Hot Mess (and Totally OK with it)

A few months back, I blogged about baby-led weaning and giving it a go with Sophia. For those who may not know what baby-led weaning (BLW) is, the short version is simply letting your child learn to be an independent, wonderful eater by letting him or her take the reigns on the whole feeding thing, i.e., they feed themselves real food instead of being spoon-fed from jars. (Wow. That was my short version?)

Anyways, Sophia took to it from the get-go. She was an eating all-star. Bananas? Yes, Please. Green peppers? Don’t mind if I do! Toast with hummus? Load it up!IMG_8727

Yes, sir. My girl can eat. At least, I think she can.

One of the biggest lessons BLW stresses is that “Food before 1 is just for fun.” They say that all the time on the Baby-Led Weaning Facebook page (yes, I am a member).

To which I say, “All this effort cooking, all this work cleaning up after… it’s all for fun? Riiiight.”

Anyways, it’s supposed to be all for fun. And believe me, it’s real fun cleaning up 95 percent of the food I offer to her off the ground and it’s a freaking blast discussing the budget with my husband when I know just how much food is wasted in the house due to BLW.

IMG_8744OK, so it isn’t that much fun for me. But Sophia seems to love it! And I see the perks. I watch the hand-eye coordination develop as she picks up a carrot and turns it in her hand. I see her having a blast exploring the different tastes and textures of all kinds of different foods. And, it is nice, having her join us at mealtimes, eating the same things we are, instead of having to eat in shifts so someone can feed her from the jar.

So, yes, she’s having fun. But is she eating ANYTHING or just tasting a whole heck of a lot?

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Those who know my little girl know that she does not look like she’s missed a meal. The girl’s got rolls. (Apparently, she gets it honestly. My parents love to remind me that they had to make it a point to clean under my fat rolls a few times a week when I was a baby. My dad swears there was a Cheeto in there once. Har Har Har.)

So, I shouldn’t be worried, right? She’s obviously eating plenty. She’s got plenty of energy. She’s developing fine.

Sure, I shouldn’t be worried. But I am. Because I’m a Schmidt. And if the Schmidt girls can do anything well, we can worry with the best of them. (We get that honestly, too. My mother is the queen of worrying. Maybe it’s a mother thing, but I think we’re on a whole other level than most.)

So, I worry. I worry about what exactly my little girl is eating. Is she getting enough protein, enough dairy, enough grains, enough veggies, enough fruit?

In the back of my head, I can hear those BLW Facebook members shaking their heads at me. “Food before 1 is just for fun, Sarah. Chill out.” To which I say, “Shut up.”

IMG_1659I expressed my concerns early to my pediatrician, who told me that the whole BLW program sounded fine but just to make sure she’s still getting a little rice and dairy daily, too.

And with that, my problems should be solved. Just a little bit of cereal and yogurt? No problem.

Actually, it’s a big problem. It turns out that my little self feeder won’t take the spoon. Absolutely flat-out refuses it. She keeps her lips so pursed together, I couldn’t pry them open with a… spoon.

And if I can get her to open her mouth, usually by trickery, like making her laugh (great parenting if I do say so myself), and I actually get stuff in her mouth? She spits it right back out, maintaining eye contact the whole time as if to say, “Is that all you got, Mom? I could do this all day!” (Think Schmidt from “New Girl”)

So I, Sarah (Schmidt) Stulberg, have absolutely no control over what solids Sophia is choosing to eat.

OK, I have some. I put the stuff on her tray, sure.

IMG_1643But what she ACTUALLY consumes? I have not a clue.

And so, I fear the 9-month check-up at the end of November.

Yes, I’m a worrier, but, more than that, I’m a kiss-up. I really like to make the doctor, or anyone for that matter, happy. I do as I’m told and I follow directions. I would even do extra credit if possible, and I would totally wash her chalkboards if she had any in the office.

Just typing all that out makes me a little embarrassed. Who wants to be a kiss-up worrier? I mean, one is OK, but two will drive you nuts.

Maybe Sophia is on to something. I mean, she’s not trying to impress anyone and she definitely isn’t worried about the fact that her skinny gray sweatpants cut off the circulation around her cankles (even though they’re size 18 months).

Nope, my girl is cool and confident. She’s enjoying life and thoroughly enjoying making a mess at mealtimes. She’s not stressing about doing it right and following all the rules. And, even though I will continue to worry, I know, deep, deep down in that sane part of my brain (be it however small) that she’ll be just fine.

<Sigh> I wish I could be like her.

A Dog Can Wait

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She’s really very sweet.

I’m not ready for a dog. There, I said it.

I don’t dislike dogs. I swear. I love them. I grew up with them. They were my buddies when I was young and, really, just a constant in my life: always there, always happy to see you, always ready to be loved and love you back. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Two toddlers, as it would turn out.

My parents are out of town this week, and they asked us to watch their dog Kelsey. She’s a sweet dog. She’s older, she’s fairly overweight (if by “fairly” you understand that to mean “grossly”) and she loves my kids. Fine. No problem. Bring it on.

It really isn’t that hard, all things considered. She sleeps in her own bed in the living room, which is nice because she slept in our room the first night and snored like a banshee, my husband is in charge of feeding her and taking her out in the mornings and evenings, and she doesn’t bark much or demand much. Really, the only thing I’m in charge of is taking her out one time in the middle of each day (which, actually, can be hard because it’s freezing this week and bundling up two kids to walk a dog for 10 minutes is just not worth it). I do it, though, and I’m happy to help my parents. Truly.

But Kelsey also likes company, and that’s just not something I’m at a place to give right now.

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Look at how cute she is!

That sounds horrible and selfish, I know. And it’s not like I’m not petting her or talking to her throughout the day, because I am. But she’s always underfoot. Always. So instead of constantly tripping over or running into two toddlers throughout the day, I’m also now tripping over and running into Kelsey.

I don’t like that, as awful as it sounds. I just want space sometimes. I need to be able to walk the length of my kitchen to make the kids lunch without running into three obstacles in my path. I need to be able to sit on the couch during nap time and work on the computer without a dog trying to jump on my lap. I just want to be alone.

Fellow mothers out there understand that, right? Hopefully? Even if they have dogs? I pray so, and that I’m not some horrible person who is crazy not to crave the attention of a dog after countless hours spent wrangling two kids who can do nothing by themselves yet.

I give so much all day long – and I truly don’t mean this to sound utterly selfless because, of course, it isn’t; I give all day long because I have to give all day long – that any time I have a minute or two to myself, I just want to be by myself. Sometimes, I want to be by myself so badly that I don’t even have anything left to give my husband when the kids are in bed at the end of the day and he just wants to talk.

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Ugh. She’s being so sweet with Brayden here. I really am a horrible person.

I don’t want to talk, at that point. I want to sit. I want to work or watch mindless TV or read a book. I want to do something purely selfish, something thattakes me purely out of my life as a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers.

I’m sorry, Kelsey. I just don’t have anything left to give at this point in my life. I’ll sit next to you, I’ll take you on walks and toss you a treat now and then… when I think about it… but I’m just not ready for another companion. I already have two, incredibly needy ones. I appreciate that you’re not that needy, and I know you’re just trying to fit in and go with the flow this week at our house, but I’m not ready for you.

It’s not your fault; it’s mine. Hopefully, someday, when the kids are older and more independent and I’m able and willing to carry on conversations with people when I have five minutes to myself, I’ll have more to give. I know the kids would love it. I know that then, I’ll be ready.

Losing the Right Way

Today on “Good Morning America,” I found myself yelling at the TV. I don’t usually get very fired up, and I don’t know if it was the second cup of coffee or the fact that what I was watching was hitting a nerve.

The story’s headline read, “Parent Charges ‘Bullying’ After 91-0 Rout in High School Football Game.” Apparently, a high school football team in Texas beat another football team by a great amount and a parent decided to cry foul.

images2The anchors at GMA discussed the story briefly, informing me that the coach claims to have done what he could to mitigate the loss, i.e. putting in third-string players and letting the clock run out.

OK, that’s the end of my football knowledge, but after reading the article here and watching the story on GMA, I found myself angry.

I’m angry not because there was a blowout but because we’re turning into a society where it’s not OK to lose. And it’s up to our parents to fight our battles.

Do I take bullying seriously? OF COURSE.

imagesBut, in my opinion, this is not bullying. This is a game, and, most of the time, one team wins and one team loses.

We are really doing our kids a disservice by making them feel like winners all the time. That isn’t reality and I fear what our society will become raising kids who only know how to win.

I think it is much more important to learn how to lose.

As teachers of primary school kids, my co-workers and I would lament the fact that kids are no longer taught coping skills. Their parents do that for them. Kids get in fights with other kids over toys or games and their parents immediately come to their aid, either to diffuse the argument or to tell the person in charge of the problem.

All too often, that becomes one of teachers’ primary jobs. They have to listen to and diffuse arguments for upset parents.6a00d83454ca3969e2015432fc9b9c970c-320wi

And whom are they really helping?

Again, I’ll say it: I take bullying seriously. It is absolutely something that I have no tolerance for and, as a teacher, I was fully aware of situations that might be considered bullying. But losing a game, a competitive game filled with voluntary players, cannot be a form of bullying. We are using that word too loosely anymore and our kids are suffering for it.

Instead of arguing for a better grade, complaining about unfair treatment and worrying that a child is not feeling good about his or her self all the time is not where our energy as parents should be spent.

It should be spent on helping our kids understand that they won’t be good at everything. That it’s OK to not be perfect. That you have to make mistakes to learn and that sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

I may sound cold here, but I am going to make it part of my life’s work to help my kids understand those hard and real facts of life. Because life is hard and real. The sooner they understand that, the better off they will be.

I feel bad for those kids who lost the football game in Texas. I’m sure it was hard. I’m sure it was embarrassing. But, they know now that they have a lot of work to do. Instead of complaining that life isn’t fair, use it as motivation! Work hard. Practice harder. Accept loss and build from it.

I’ll end this post with something my mom and dad always used to tell us as kids after a loss or a tough day. Believe me, it made me mad whenever I heard it, but it’s the truth and I still find myself quoting it over and over again.

“Suck it up, tough it out, and be the best you can!” – John Cougar Mellancamp

So, to the losing team and, especially, to their parents, I’m sorry you lost. Learn from it and move on. We’ll all be better off for it.

Cat’s in the Cars

Brayden has always been obsessed with cars. And I mean obsessed. We have “parking lots” full of carefully lined-up cars all over our house. His first word was “car-car.” He has to have at least one car with him wherever he goes. And I am constantly, CONSTANTLY tripping over the hundreds of cars that litter our house.

I’ve been waiting for him to forget about his cars, trucks and vans and switch to another fixation for as long as I can remember. I’ve recently given up. The kid likes his cars. I can’t change it. It’s honestly nice that they give him so much joy.

IMG_4480He’s very sweet about it, too. He carefully pushes one behind the other, trying to keep them in line. He makes them talk to one another: “I’m going to the zoo, truck. Where are you going? Oh, you’re going to the zoo, too? OK, let’s go together! It’ll be fun!”

It makes me smile… as I’m racing by him to do something else.

What follows me – always – is the inevitable question: “Will you play cars with me, please, Mommy?”

He asks it so nicely, every time, and so sweetly. And yet, every time, I tell him I’m too busy to play with him. Every time, I’m running to do something for Anna, or running to get everything together so we can get out the door, or running to get everyone ready for bed or… you get the picture.

The other day, when I really had nothing I HAD to do right at the moment, Brayden’s voice came from his room: “Will you play cars with me, please, Mommy?”

I opened my mouth, ready to answer him that I was too busy, when I shut it again. No, I wasn’t too busy. I certainly could play cars with my little boy. And, suddenly, there was nothing I’d rather do.

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “Yes, Brayden. I’d love to play cars with you.”

I entered his room and he looked up at me with bright eyes. “OK, Mommy. Let’s play cars.”

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Brayden clutching his car when he falls asleep

He smiled. I smiled back at him and kneeled beside his bed. He brought me four of the eight cars he was playing with, and proudly showed me how we each had four, that it was even. I marveled that he knew what “even” meant.

Then, we played. We drove our cars to the zoo, the beach, the movies, a restaurant and – another new word I didn’t know he knew – the desert.

I watched him as he carefully lined up his cars in a jungle. Without warning, the words to “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Cat Stevens came into my head:

“My son turned 10 just the other day
He said “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw?” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do” He said “Thats okay”
And then he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m going to be like him”

By the end of playing cars with my son, I was, unsurprisingly, in tears. I finally understood what Cat Stevens was talking about. I understood how easy it was to be too busy, how easy it was for the years to pass too quickly and for you to be too late to enjoy your kids. I don’t want that to happen. So, I’m vowing right now, on this blog, that I’m going to play cars with my son once a day, if even for only a few minutes.

I figure that’s the least I can do. The rest of the stuff I surely won’t remember, but you’d better believe I won’t soon forget how bright my son’s eyes were when I took five minutes to play with him the other day.

 

 

Kids Eat the Darndest Things

Before there was Austin, there was Charlie.

And now, there is Austin and Charlie.

Charlie is very good; great, actually. He doesn’t touch any of Austin’s toys and is so good with him. I wish I could say the same for Austin. Since Austin has become mobile, he has taken to wanting Charlie’s toys instead of his own. This is really cute and fun, until he shoves one in his mouth and I die a little inside. Maybe these are the “good germs” that people are always talking about, but I doubt it.

Charlie knows he's in trouble!

Charlie knows he’s in trouble!

Austin also likes to climb on Charlie, pull his tail and poke him in the eyes, and my poor little Chuck just takes it. Which he’d better or I would kill him.

Having a dog and kids is work. I vacuum/sweep once a day, at least, and Austin still ends up with fistfuls of dog hair and treat crumbs. I can no longer call these “good germs,” I’m pretty sure. But, at the end of the day, I’m always left feeling a little sorry for Chuck. During the course of the day, there is a lot of, “No, Charlie!” “Ew, Charlie!” “I hate you, Charlie!” and, most often, “Go outside, Charlie!”

So, the other day, I was feeling bad for Charlie and I wanted to take Austin to the park. I decided to take Charlie with us and thought, what great pictures I’ll take! It was going swimmingly, until I took Charlie off the leash to let him run around for a little bit, while I got some of those mandatory pictures of Austin in the fall, next to leaves, outside, looking delighted (not really).

See what a wonderful time we were having before the poop!

See what a wonderful time we were having before the poop incident!

As I was gearing up for picture number 38, I glanced over to see Charlie rolling in something. I yelled at him and, as he trotted over, I could already smell it: poop. His whole left side was covered in poop. He then decided to lay right next to Austin, and the poop was transferred. I wanted to cry, but there was no time. We had a situation. I grabbed Austin, put Charlie on his leash and made a beeline for the car. This is where the real trouble occurred. I took off Austin’s random dog poop-stained pants and put him in the car seat. I tossed the stroller into the back and then Charlie and I had a stare-off.

You see, even though Charlie is only 2, weighs about 80 pounds and is eye level with the back of my car, he will not jump in. This is typically when I say, “I hate you, Charlie.”

As I was trying to find the right angle to lift him with the minimum amount of poop transfer, a lady with a leashed dog came up and first asked if the dogs could play and, second, why wouldn’t my dog jump in the car by himself.

Before I could tell the woman as nicely as I could that I hate her, too, two little kids ran up to ask if they could pet Charlie. I could see the smiling moms behind them and just said, “No, it isn’t a good idea.” The moms gave me dirty looks and I thought, “You know what, I should have let them touch my poop dog!”

I finally decided, screw it, and threw Charlie in the back, getting poop on me and the stroller, and climbed into the driver seat. The whole way home we had the windows down because Charlie smelled and we were listening to Austin’s music. There will be no more park days in Charlie’s future, unless Kyle is there for poop duty.

What am I Supposed to Do with All This… Art?

Noah and I have been doing a lot of coloring lately.

Sophia takes a nice morning nap, a nap that Noah has no interest in (believe me, I’ve asked a few times), and, because of it, Noah and I are housebound for at least an hour every morning.

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Sure, there are days when we skip her nap, and there have been days when we’ll go outside with the monitor in my pocket, staying in close range of the house. But, for the most part, it’s Noah and me, in the house together, trying to stay quiet and entertained.

So, we’ve been coloring a lot. We paint some days and play with Play-Doh others. There are days when Noah watches a solid chunk of PBS and other days when he plays with his toys while I lie in the middle of the floor, facedown. BUT, if either of us had to chose what to do to keep busy, we would both choose to color.

Coloring is one of the things that I really looked forward to doing again once I had kids. I love it. It’s very therapeutic. No thinking required. And Noah and I have really in-depth conversations when we color, sharing our opinions about art and the world around us.

For example:

“Noah, do you want to use any other color other than beige?”

“No. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? Look how Mommy made Ariel’s hair three different colors. Isn’t that fun?”

“Yes.”

“So, do you want to use another color??”

Nodding, he picks up the white crayon. And… I go back to my own picture.

Ok, so maybe not in-depth, but we’re talking.

It’s really lovely. It’s our time.

That said, in that time together, we have created many beautiful pieces of art. We’ve acquired quite the collection. I know, because after every coloring session, I take the pile of coloring pages we’ve worked on and shove them in our “Art Bin.”

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Note unattractive, unorganized gray bin in foreground and beautiful piece of furniture in the background. Quite the upgrade!

Our “Art Bin” is a gray, plastic storage bin filled with anything art-related. And it is a mess.

So, tonight, my wonderful husband (you’re still reading these, right, Adam?) and our very kind neighbor brought up a piece of furniture that I decided would be just perfect to store and organize all of our art things. It would look nice (as opposed to the gray box) and would be very helpful in keeping me organized.

That was when I stumbled upon the very large stack of coloring pages I couldn’t bear to throw away the day they were created. It is a very large stack.

And thus began the age-old problem for all parents: What should be saved, and what should be pitched when it comes to your kids’ work?

I know that this is just the start of the problem. I mean, they’re coloring pages! And most of them only have one color on them! That’s not worth saving, right?

BUT WHAT IF IT IS??

What if, years later, Noah becomes a famous artist (I can dream!) and he returns home and asks to see his earliest works of art? What would I tell him? “Umm… I threw them all out, but I remember there was this great picture of Elmo on the potty that you colored mostly black. I could probably recreate it for you if you just give me a minute… ”

What if, while writing his valedictorian graduation speech (It could happen!), he asks to see his “file” filled with all of his treasured works and I have two things in it? Would his speech’s title change from “The Best Parents a Kid Could Ask For” to “The Tragic Tale of an Unloved Child”?

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These are very real, very exaggerated concerns that I have to keep in mind.

Or, I could just save them all now and let “future me” deal with it.

I think that’s probably the best plan.

And, when our basement becomes a space you’d see on the TV show “Hoarders,” then the crew can come in and do the pitching for me. Win, win.

I mean, how mad would I be with myself if, due to Noah winning the Nobel Peace Prize (Did you just roll your eyes?), all of his things are considered priceless, and I could have taken Adam and I on a fantastic trip by selling all those priceless items on eBay but, alas, I threw them all away years earlier?

Don’t worry, Adam. I won’t let that happen. (By the way, we’re going to need more bins.)