Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Highs and Lows

Wow, Christmas with a two (almost 2 1/2) year old is a FAR different experience than Christmas with an infant!

There was lots of good stuff about it. Monkey had so much more of an understanding of Christmas (well, at least the commercial aspects of it). For at least a month beforehand, we've been talking about Santa, elves, snowmen, Christmas trees, presents, and Christmas lights, and he has delighted in seeing all the decorations when we've bee out. We got to do some fun and easy craft projects, like painting some "glass" (i.e. plastic) ornaments to give to our teachers and family members, and making Santa door hangers that Monkey decided really belonged on the tree. We practiced looking at, but trying not to touch all of the pretty ornaments and presents. We had a daily Christmas countdown, complete with a small piece of chocolate each day. And we looked every morning for Sophie, our Elf on the Shelf, who somehow managed to find new places to watch Monkey every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve (although I think she MIGHT make her appearance a tad later next year - I'm just sayin'...). We saw Santa at the mall and at a farm, and Monkey worked up increasing amounts of courage to talk to him and ask him for presents, although he never did get comfortable with sitting on the old guy's lap (and really, can you blame him?). And we watched Curious George and Elmo Christmas DVDs more times that I care to remember at the moment...

But, alas, now that it's over, we've got the inevitable letdown. Monkey still asks where Sophie is every morning, and still wants to do his Christmas countdown. When we moved his new kitchen set down to his playroom one night while he was sleeping, he asked Daddy the next day if Santa took it back! (that one still breaks my heart). And when he got to school yesterday, after four days off with Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Auntie, he cried when it was time for me to leave. :-( Poor guy - as fun as it was to ramp up the excitement, I guess I never really considered the after-shock. The good news is that we still have one more family exchange this Friday, after a semi-normal school/work week and no more visitors at the house, so hopefully that will help with the transition somewhat. But next week Daddy is back on the road for work, and we're gonna have to figure out how to entertain ourselves for the rest of what is looking like a long, cold winter! I'm thinking some trips to the Children's Museum need to get planned, pronto!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Day Care Double Standard

First off, I realize I didn't post yesterday - Way to stick to my renewed blogging commitment for two whole days, huh?

But, in my defense, I sort of have an excuse, and it's sort of tied to the subject of this post.

Monkey wasn't feeling 100% yesterday, and to top it off, his Daddy was reduced to a whimpering pile of mucous, becoming more of a hindrance than a help. Just one of those days, and I was exhausted by the time the boys got to bed.

But here's the question: Was Monkey "sick"? As in, could I still send him to day care today? (Monkey goes every other day, so we didn't have this dilemma yesterday...) Well, I asked myself this question, and decided to tally up Monkey's symptoms.

For starters, there was a very runny nose, which started over the weekend, and has caused us to run through our share of Kleenex and "I do it" moments (Yes, Monkey prefers to wipe his own nose, which often results in the snot being smeared all over his face - gotta love toddler independence). But a runny nose is practically a REQUIREMENT in day care, particularly at this time of year. I can't tell you the number of times I have dropped Monkey off, only to glance about the room and see just about every single kid with matching snot lines running from their noses to their mouths - apparently it's quite the fashion statement among the toddler day care crowd?

Next, a cough, again picked up in the past couple of days. Just your basic cough, which he seems to get and lose every few weeks or so this time of year, and not a particular reason for concern. Although he did have a bit of a spell Monday night, which woke him up crying and struggling a bit. But once he got some water and relaxed again, he was fine. And both runny noses and coughs are expressly listed in the day care manual as "OK to send to school," which we've done more than once.

But, as evening came, he started to feel a bit warm. In an effort to avoid the discomfort of the rectal thermometer, I tried one of those strips you hold up to their forehead. Those things basically suck, but I have had them work when Monkey's been burning up, so while I don't trust it to give me anything near a precise reading, I do expect it to give me a quick read as to whether we're in fever territory. Last night, however, I couldn't even get it all the way UP to normal. Yeah, I'm thinking that's wrong. So on to the digital thermometer under the arm. Squirming toddler + arm measurement = false "normal." So with apologies to Monkey, we went for the accurate reading, which was about 100.5 before I finally concluded we were "close enough" and took it out to soothe his complaints. Not a particularly high temp, and within the range that, even if he couldn't be in the classroom, he could be in the "sick bay." Hmmm...

Miscellaneous symptoms included first-time ever complaint that "my tummy hurts," followed by "tummy OK now" after some follow-up questions over the next hour. (And, can I just say, this is one of the great things about him becoming more communicative? I'm still not 100% sure if he had a tummy ache or not, but I look forward to the day when he can REALLY tell me what's bothering him). And one not-so-pleasant diaper change - I'll spare the details, but it wasn't a clear-cut problem either.

So herein lies the double standard: As an already tired Mommy who is supposed to be using day care days to do actual work to bring money into the house, all signs point to sending Monkey to day care. He really seems to just have a cold, not the dreaded flu, and the day care checklist suggests he's OK to go. But as the Mommy of a toddler who wants MY son to stay as healthy as possible, and is really hoping we can avoid the flu this year, I can't help but put myself in the shoes of the other mommies in the class, who would probably prefer that Monkey stay home. So who wins, Tired Mommy or PC Mommy?

And does the answer depend on the fact that this is day care, where parents usually have no choice but to send their kids, but also understand that they're going to be exposed to various germs, and just hope that this will give them loads of antibodies to make them super-healthy kindergartners? What if Monkey were scheduled not to be in day care, but a paid class of some kind - sports, music, what have you? Does the fact that these kids are more likely of the stay-at-home variety mean that they haven't "signed on" to the same risks of catching colds? But what about the fact that we're all paying for those classes? Does that mean we're entitled to try to get our money's worth, as long as the situation isn't more serious? And what about free activities - certainly those seem the easiest case for the "keep your kid away" approach - you don't HAVE to engage in that activity on that day, and no one there invited Typhoon Toddler or is benefiting from his presence...

Bottom line? It's tough being able to see both sides, yet being the one who has to make the decision.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Talking Shop

Well, it's no secret that I've neglected this blog horribly... But, in an effort to try to remedy the situation, I've decided to jump on the NaBloWriMo bandwagon (thanks for the heads-up, Kristen), Yes, it's National Blog Writing Month, and the goal is to blog every day during the month of November. I don't make any promises about my ability to actually pull this off, and I may bail if I feel like I'm totally stretching for things to write about, or if I have to give up precious sleep to get an entry done, but for now, I'm optimistic. I'm also trying to do the same for Monkey's personal blog, so we'll see how that goes.

On the subject of blogging, I was perusing a magazine in a doctor's office about a week ago, and I saw mention of a site that might be of interest to my fellow bloggers: . It was cited as a good way to print off and save your blog entries in book form. I've often wondered whether I should be doing something more to preserve my blog, and if I might be more likely to look back at it years from now in hard form rather than online. Despite all the amazing changes in technology, I still enjoy curling up on the couch with a good book, and I'd like to think that Monkey will some day as well. So, something to look into. Although I'd also be interested in hearing what others are doing to save their deep thoughts - please share!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Want My Extra Hour

Dear Daylight Savings Administrator:

I'm a big fan of the concept of "falling back," so you can imagine my disappointment when this morning I was awakened an hour ahead of our long-standing schedule by my 2-year-old son, who apparently did not get the memo on the significance of last night's time change. This, I should note, is despite my best efforts to tire him out through strenuous trick-or-treating and a later-than normal bedtime. It occurred to me that perhaps you need to do a better job of spreading the word to the toddler crowd, perhaps through a series of educational presentations at day care centers across the nation, or cleverly worked into timely episodes of "Sesame Street," "Curious George," or "Sid the Science Kid." Since it is, however, too late to implement such proactive members in time for this year, I would like to know how you plan to go about offering me a raincheck. Might I humbly suggest an all-expenses paid trip to a spa/resort of my choice, complete with all necessary babysitting services back at home? It's really only fair...


Still Tired in Toddlerville

Friday, September 11, 2009

We interrupt this blog...

... for a brief bit of promotion.

No, I'm not selling out to advertisers. For starters, I don't think I have quite the readership they'd be looking for. :-) But I do have a friend with something to share, and I wanted to do what little I can to help give her an audience.

Diane is a breast cancer survivor, and an amazing, creative woman. She has designed a ring as a symbol of many things, including her journey, and it is now available for sale. Perhaps you or someone you know might be inspired by her journey or her vision, and so, without further ado, I present to you the PINKie Promise Ring (TM):


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Acciental Learning

As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I'd share a story of some further evidence that Monkey is in fact learning something, somehow, somewhere...

I have this old wooden ring toss set that I was thinking of throwing away. It's just two intersecting pieces of wood that holds five pegs, with heavy yarn rings. The pegs have gotten kind of mildewy, and the rings are just kind of gnarled and gross ,for lack of a better description. Of course, once I got it out of the box to inspect it, Monkey was all over it, so I wiped it down as best I could and let it stay in the outdoor toy box for a while.

I should mention that the pegs, holes, and rings are different colors. Not something that really caught my attention, but it definitely caught Monkey's - I've discovered that he loves to put it "together," and gets almost agitated if I happen to, say, put all the pegs and rings on the "wrong" spots, which I have an annoying tendency to do, just to mess with him. So I guess we can check color sorting off the list - now I just have to wonder about his obsessive need to keep it in order...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tales of the Uninspired (or "Why Paid Professionals Will Be Educating My Child")

I've been chatting with some fellow Mommies lately about "Mommy Guilt" for failure to come up with sufficiently creative and educational activities for our toddlers, and the consensus seems to be that while some people have an amazing skill for this task, others of us, not so much, and, thankfully, our children don't seem to be any worse of as a result. Accordingly, I am hereby abandoning future educational efforts and turning my child's educational and creative future over to those who have a clue as to what they're doing.

I should probably mention that, yes, I have TRIED to be "Fun, Clever Teaching Mom," but the record suggests it is not just not in my genetic code. You be the judge:

1. Flashcards. I bought flashcards for Monkey with colors, shapes, and various objects. Monkey, in turn, has perfected the game of "[insert number of cards here]-Card Pickup."

2 Educational Videos. "The Letter Factory" has been met with "eh" reviews, but at least the entire video has been allowed to play once or twice. Monkey's response to "Meet the Numbers" was somewhat less enthusiastic: "Wiggles! Wiggles! I want Wiggles!! PLAY WIGGLES NOW!!"

3. Crafts. Despite Monkey's willingness to wear a smock for almost all crafting activities, Mommy's "mess" factor isn't quite ready for much yet. Play-Doh is a good way to kill about 15 minutes, until Monkey starts to eat the dough. I know it's non-toxic, but I'm not ready to encourage snacking on it. Crayons are OK. Unfortunately, however, Monkey doesn't like to share, so it's not a good joint activity, because Mommy's desire to use the red crayon is inevitably followed by Monkey's NEED to have "MY crayon." But at least most of the crayon stays on the page. And the table. And very rarely has it ended up on the walls. Or the, um, TV. Yeah, rarely. And those Dot Markers? Monkey likes to take the caps on and off, and put the markers in his mouth. I just don't feel like we have a future artist on our hands...

4. Magnets. Mommy bought a fun bucket of letters and a magnetic board to put the letters on to spell different words. Monkey's version of this game is to (a) dump all of the magnets on the floor, or (b) grab the magnets from Mommy and insist on putting them away. At almost no time are they actually on the board.

5. Cooking. Mommy has tried to make mealtime more interesting by letting Monkey "help" cook. Sometimes this is successful. Other times, not so much. Case in point: While making spaghetti, Mommy thought Monkey might be able to participate by breaking up the spaghetti noodles. Since it wouldn't be safe to have him put them into the boiling water, Mommy got out a big tupperware container, put in a handful of dried noodles, and showed Monkey how to break them in half. What followed was a shower of broken noodle fragments that I am sure we will be finding the remains of for days to come.

I'm sure there are a few others, but I appear to have (perhaps thankfully) repressed my memories of them.

On the plus side, everyday life seems to be teaching Monkey a ton whether I mean for it to or not. For example:

1. After a couple of trips to the zoo, Monkey is very interested in animals right now, and particularly in learning how to make their various sounds. His favorite is the lion, but he also enjoys monkey, cow, rooster, duck, and dog. We're still working on bird, cat, frog, and a few others, but he's a fast learner. He also loves to tell me about "dolphins jumping out of water" after seeing the dolphin show twice now, and also still talks about the "elephant getting a bath." Awesome.

2. Colors. We've pretty much got the basics down: Yellow, red, blue, green, purple, yellow (a/k/a orange), yellow (a/k/a brown), and yellow (a/k/a white). Can you guess what Monkey's favorite color is??

3. Name that Tune. If they ever bring this show back with a special Wiggles edition, Monkey will no doubt be crowned champion. He has an uncanny ability to tell me what song is coming up about two seconds into the song or video. But perhaps this isn't brag-worthy?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Call me immature, but...

I just bought Monkey an Elmo video about using the potty, figuring the more he hears about this whole potty idea, the more he'll take an interest in actually using it properly (versus sitting on it for five seconds, ripping up toilet paper, hopping off, pulling out the protective shield, flushing the toilet - you get the idea). Anyway, we decided to debut the video yesterday, and there was an entire segment devoted to different words for #1 and #2, perhaps the highlight of which was a bunch of kids screaming in unison "I really need to urinate!" Really?? Of course, Monkey WAS fascinated by all the talk about pee-pee and poo-poo, so perhaps they're on to something. Just ignore me while I snicker like a 12-year old...

It's Official - The Terrible Twos Are Here

Silly me... I thought Monkey started acting like a terrible two-year-old somewhere around 18 months. Little did I know what he had in store for me...

Since his birthday a week and a half ago, it's like someone flipped a switch, and he started having MORE tantrums with LESS reason behind them. Like this morning, I THINK he was upset that he didn't get the sippy cup that he wanted. Not that it's easy to tell, because when you ask him if he wants Pooh or Elmo, he responds with "Pooh Elmo." Um, yeah, they haven't made that cup yet, kiddo, I'm asking you to make a choice. And does receiving the "wrong" cup REALLY justify a five-minute screaming tantrum? Apparently it does...

I'm learning, though. I'm learning that if I ignore the tantrum, and go about my business (after assuring that Monkey is in a safe place where he's not likely to get injured if he decided to flail around a bit), the screaming AT me turns into screaming FOR me, and when I go back in, his arms are outstretched, wanting his Mommy, and he quickly calms down, telling me that he was "crying," in case I hadn't noticed. So, it's a start, but I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to tweak the technique when he inevitably throws a fit in public.

It's so disheartening to me when he throws a fit within like half an hour of getting up - it just seems to set the tone for the day for me, and I need to get past that kind of thinking, or we're gonna have a LOT of bad days over the next year or so. And I keep telling myself that I have to stand my ground and not just give in to what he wants, so he doesn't become spoiled. It's hard, though, particularly when Monkey is one of those kids who tends to hyperventilate when he gets really upset, and sometimes passes out. I've talked to his doctor, and read up on the subject, and I know in my head that the temporary passing out is just his body's way of protecting itself, and forcing him to take a breath, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch the handful of times that he's done it. So far, knock on wood, he has only done it once as a result of being purely upset, as opposed to injured, and I just pray that he never tries to use it as leverage.

Anyway, so as not to end on a totally down note, what are some of the good things that the Twos have brought? I think the highlight is that Monkey's communication continues to improve by leaps and bounds, and he is repeating and seemingly understanding SO much! When I was dropping him off at day care the other day (where he's in a new room), one of the teachers said to me, "He has older siblings, right?" Somewhat confused, I told him no, and asked why he thought that. He responded that Monkey is very bright, and has great communication skills for his age. That's so nice to hear, especially when I think back to the days I thought he would never say "Mommy." I still think he's probably in the middle of the pack as far as kids his age, and he is still difficult to understand at times, but it's always reassuring to have someone give that kind of a compliment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Separation Anxiety Revisited

Today was Monkey's first day in the Two's room at day care. And, alas, it involved many tears, his AND mine... :-(

He'd been transitioning for the past week, and it went well. Each day, I would drop him off in his old room, and his teacher would take him over to the new room to visit for increasing periods of time - By Friday, he spent pretty much the whole day in his new room. So, in the one sense, I was expecting today to go pretty smoothly - after all, if he didn't mind his teacher leaving him with new people, why would he mind it when I did it?

That said, he fussed during drop-offs for 1-2 weeks when we made this transition last year. At one year old, still not walking, and very dependent on familiar caregivers, he was a bit traumatized by all the new faces and all the kids up on two legs moving about the room. One year later, he is NOT happy to be leaving behind the teachers that he was at first so wary of. This year, it's still a bit of separation anxiety, the need to be around trusted adults, but I also feel like he's saying "hey, Mommy, THIS isn't my room!" Made more difficult by the fact that his old room is RIGHT across the hall. And it figures, as we walked into the building today, we were right behind one of his friends from the Ones room, and the two kids were smiling and waving at each other, making it that much more difficult for me to explain why were going to the OTHER room today, and not into HIS room with his friend. His "former" teacher was in the doorway as we came up the hall, and when she saw the fuss that was already setting in, she gave me a sad, sympathetic smile, and ducked behind the door so as not to make things any more difficult for Monkey.

So, in typical "how not to handle this" fashion, I started tearing up as soon as Monkey started crying and telling me he didn't want to go in the new room - nice job, hormones or whatever. I then spent 20 minutes trying to get him comfortable and entertained in his room, only to have him crying pitifully when I left anyway. His teacher tells me he only cried for 2-3 minutes, and I know I should just drop him off and make a quick exit.... sigh. So, we'll see how things go Wednesday. I hope it will be better, but I suspect it won't. History suggests that he'll be happily waving goodbye to me by sometime next week, but my heart will be breaking a little bit until then.

Friday, June 5, 2009

People vs. The Wiggles

I can't believe it's come to this, but it's time for me to put on my attorney's hat and step up with my defense of The Wiggles...

You see, I've noticed lately that when I mention Monkey's extreme love of (or, dare I say, obsession with?) The Wiggles, I get reactions ranging from sympathy to almost disgust. "Oh, you poor thing..." "The Wiggles? They're awful!" "Thank goodness our kids don't like them" "We won't allow them in our house"


I can understand the sympathy. Any parent who's had a child obsessed with a particular TV show, movie, or character knows how mind-numbing it can get to watch the same things over and over and over again - the endless fascination gene must spontaneously combust somewhere between the ages of 5 and 10.

But what I don't get is the hate. When I've pushed a little farther, here's some of the comments I get, followed by my rebuttals:

1. "They're gay." Really? THAT's your argument? I hope you don't mind if I don't even dignify this one with a response, because it's clearly an argument crafted by a 12-year old, and it's not fair to pick fights with children.

2. "They're grown men - it's just creepy." Yes, they are grown men - does that automatically make them pedophiles or something?? In fact, a little quick research will reveal that The Wiggles were formed when several of its members met in school, where they were studying to be elementary teachers - The Wiggles act in its earliest stages was a school project, attempting to integrate learning with song and dance. How dare they!! And speaking of creepy, I am extremely thankful that Monkey has never seen, and thus never developed any kind of attachment to the Teletubbies or the Doodlebops - if you ask me, those are the kinds of characters that nightmares are made of!

3. "Their songs are so annoying - fruit salad, yummy, yummy." Setting aside my original point that anything can becmoe annoying in high doses, is their music really that bad? I don't think so. In fact, I'm amazed at the sheer volume of songs these guys have managed to put out, with the not unexpected outcome that some stuff is better than others. But the variety is sure nice - I'd rather listed to an entire Wiggles CD than have to fast-forward through our Sesame Street to find the three Elmo songs that Monkey is currently interested in, and then repeat those same three songs when Monkey insists on "more Elmo" and refuses to listen to more than three notes of a song by Big Bird, Grover, or Kermit the Frog. Sigh... And really, what alternatives are you advocating? Barney, with his annoying "I love you" song? I'll pass, thanks.

4. "There's nothing educational about them." Well, I'll give you that it's not Sesame Street, with it's emphasis on counting and the alphabet, but Monkey has learned a TON from watching The Wiggles, if you ask me. For starters, colors - Monkey could identify The Wiggles by their shirt color long before he knew their individual name (and frankly, yellow is still providing a small amount of confusion, given the Greg/Sam switch, which is unfortunate). But let's also not under-estimate the value of the dances - MOnkey has gone from merely watching the DVDs, to standing up and kind of bouncing and swaying along, to actively copying the dance moves. He jumps, waves his hands in the air, turns in circles, makes animal sounds, pretends to rock his bear to sleep, says "shhhh"... all relatively on cue with the songs and dances that he's watching - it's so much fun to watch, and he's learning to follow directions, develop his fine and gross motor skills, and I bet eventually he'll even sing! (Although the latter part does scare me a wee bit, if you've ever heard his father sing...) He may not be speaking another language, but he is very involved in the videos, identifying objects and characters and participating as if he were right there - pretty cool, IMO.

Ironically, Monkey's unwavering devotion to The Wiggles appears to be, well, wavering just a bit in the past couple of weeks, with Elmo providing some strong competition of late. Of course this would happen just weeks after I bought Monkey tickets to a live Wiggles show, right? Let's hope that he doesn't lose interest in them altogether any time too soon - the concert's not until the end of August, and Daddy and I certainly don't want to be the only ones in our family singing along! :-)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Random Thoughts

I think that part of my lack of blogging lately is a lack of light bulbs going off in my head with big ideas of what to write about. Monkey is making lots of strides in his development, but we're kind of past the "big" milestones for now, and some of the smaller stuff doesn't seem to generate the same level of excitement to justify posting. But, since I hope to have Monkey someday look back on this blog to read about his early years, I think I'll attempt to play catch-up a bit and just share some random thoughts. Here's what's been going on at the Monkey House:

1. Food, Glorious Food -- The good news is that Monkey's menu of acceptable foods seems to be expanding ever so slightly! Vegetables are STILL, and I suspect will always be, a challenge, but Monkey has discovered corn on the cob, and he eats it with gusto! So much fun to watch! And, with the arrival of spring/summer, Monkey has become a bigger fruit fan, so instead of applesauce day in and day out, he has been feasting on yummy blueberries and strawberries. I thought I had him on pineapple as well, but that lasted all of about a day. Oh, and grapes, which already has me looking forward to the day when I don't have to cut them up for him to avoid a possible choking hazard...

2. All Choked Up -- Speaking of choking, please tell me I don't have the only toddler who insists on shoveling multiple fistfuls of whatever he's eating into his mouth?? It's not so much a manners thing, although, geez, slowing down a tad would sure be nice, but I swear he swallows half of his food whole, despite a mouthful of teeth. He's gagged more than once, giving my husband and I quite a scare, but I actually think he may just be one of those kids with a relatively sensitive gag reflex, as it's been triggered by things as little as a small, possibly sharp piece of potato chip. I struggle with being the mom who cuts and breaks up her kid's food until he's ten, and trying to teach him to take bites, at the risk that he just won't do it, or will take twenty small "bites" in rapid succession, defeating the purpose. :-(

3. Chug, Chug -- And also on the subject of food, I was told by Monkey's day care teacher a couple of weeks ago that one of the changes that will take place when he moves to the two-year-old's room (in less than two months - gasp!) is that they will start drinking from open cups instead of sippies. Am I the only one that thinks this sounds a bit soon, and, um, messy? Again, I don't want Monkey to be drinking from a sippy when he goes to the prom, but man am I not looking forward to the idea of him drinking from an open cup on a regular basis yet either! I've let him sip from my cup from time to time, and although he gets the basic idea, he's a bit too eager, and inevitably ends up with water down the front of his shirt. I know that it takes practice, and toddler-hood isn't always neat, but I'm just not sure I'm ready for this one. Maybe I'll let day care take the lead on this one, and I can just benefit from their tried-and-true teaching methods?

4. Potty Time -- Speaking of new challenges, I feel like full-on potty training will be upon us soon, and I am approaching it somewhat tentatively. Don't get me wrong - I can not WAIT to be done with smelly diapers. But something about them IS awfully convenient, you know?? It's not the idea of Monkey being potty trained that I dread (although it will sort of mean he's officially a big boy - sniff!), it's the process... Having to be constantly attuned to his signals, racing to the potty for numerous false alarms, devising and consistently following some kind of reward program, etc. Monkey has handled so many of his other transitions (sleeping through the night, dropping bottles, limiting paci use, etc) so well - I hope this isn't the one that we struggle with!

5. Story Time -- I LOVE that Monkey is finally showing more interest in books. He's still hard pressed to sit still for a story, and I'm sorry to say that we still haven't been able to incorporate a "traditional" bedtime story into our nightly routine, but he seems to be going for books as often as toys these days, and not always the same three or four books, either. Character books are still one of the biggest hits (Wiggles and Elmo, specifically), but he's starting to pay more attention to some of the Dr. Suess books, and I've once again renewed my hopes that someday he will enjoy reading as much as I do, for content rather than pictures! And yes, he actually says "read a book?" now, which I love. :-)

6. Outdoor Adventures -- I can't remember if I posted earlier about our severe cabin fever over the winter months, but needless to say, the arrival of Spring (FINALLY!) has opened new doors to things to do with Monkey. Unfortunately, it has also opened the door to new battles with Monkey's independent streak, and his desire to walk freely without holding hands. As you can imagine, this presents a problem pretty much anywhere other than in our fenced-in backyard. It's been a little hit or miss -- sometimes Monkey not only willingly holds MY hand, but wants to hold Daddy's hand as well, making it difficult for us to walk in and out of stores, etc. I think Monkey secretly hopes when we do this that we'll start randomly swinging him, a trick taught to him by my mother and aunt (thanks, guys!), but I think my husband is afraid of dislocating his shoulder, so we don't often play along. Plus, let's face it, it kind of slow things down a bit when ever five seconds you have to stop and go "one, two, three -- whee!" :-) But other times, Monkey does NOT want to hold hands, and left to his own devices, would appear to be on the verge of running off into a parking lot. Clearly this is non-negotiable, so Monkey has been getting a choice - hold Mommy's hand, or let Mommy carry you. You may not like either choice, but you've gotta pick one. I yearn for the day when he will walk calmly by my side - will it ever happen? I keep contemplating the monkey backpack with the leash, but it seems like more trouble than it's worth, especially when we're just making a quick trip from car to store. But lately, the desire to be "down" doesn't end at the store door, as riding in a shopping cart is apparently no longer the thrill it once used to be (unless said cart is shaped like a car, in which case the difficulty is getting Monkey OUT of it!). Monkey threw a royal fit in Gymboree a few weeks ago when, in a moment of kindness, I let him out of his stroller to sit in the little chairs and watch cartoons at the back of the store. All was well until it was time to leave, and I think I earned a few new bruises, as well as several sympathetic and/or questioning looks, as I struggled to get Monkey back in his stroller. Our evening walks around the neighborhood are also beginning to change, as Monkey is no longer content for up to an hour in his stroller as we walk around, visiting with neighbors, getting some exercise. Monkey wants to be "out" or "down" before long, adding a new level of parental anxiety to the whole process. And don't get me started on his "car rides" - Monkey has a cool radio flyer car that he used to love being pushed around the neighborhood in. These days, however, it's about two minutes before he wants to get out, walk, push the car himself. Nothing like pushing an empty car back to your house while carrying a struggling toddler, let me tell you...

Well, I think that's the end of my train of thought for now. Hopefully I'll be able to return to more regular, less rambling posting soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mommy Check

Is it just me, or do you ever miss the days of being in school, when everything was for the most part black or white - pass or fail, A or C, doing great or needs improvement? I miss some of that clear feedback now that I'm a mom, and wonder just how good of a job I am (or am not) doing with Monkey...

On the "pass" side, Monkey is healthy, happy* (yeah, we'll get to the tantrums in a moment), and showing us every day that he is learning new things and understanding so much. On the "see me" side, we have frequent tantrums involving pretty much every aspect of daily life - eating, changing diapers and clothes, and pretty much anything that challenges Monkey's growing sense of independence. "I do it" is an oh-so-common phrase around our house, and it's hard to teach Monkey that sometimes, no, he actually CAN'T do it yet. He CAN'T walk around cars without holding Mommy's hands. He CAN'T roam freely around the garage. And, as much as he tries, he cannot screw the lid on his sippy cup, and please, can't we avoid the mess of allowing you to engage in more futile attempts?? The good news, I suppose, is that I don't think we have any "fails," although I do worry that some of our problem areas, if not nipped in the bud, could prove more troublesome down the road.

I struggle to find the right method of discipline, both for me and for Monkey. And then there's the issue of getting Daddy on board, which is probably the subject of another post. I read the magazines and books, and I know what I'm SUPPOSED to do, yet the well-reasoned approach often eludes me in the heat of the moment. For example, when Monkey is rocking in his booster chair and giving me a heart attack with the possibility that he is going to topple over any moment and crack his head open, the calm "Monkey, we don't rock in our chair" approach is NOT my first instinct. To the contrary, last week it was a scream that almost gave Daddy a heart attack, BUT, it got Monkey's attention, long enough to stop what he was doing and allow me to run over from behind the sink, where I had been preparing part of his dinner. And, for what it's worth, I HAVE tried the calmer approach, and Monkey just smiles at me and continues what he's doing - why do they not mention this in those not-quite-so-helpful magazine articles, hmmm?? And yet, as much as the smart aleck in Monkey drives me absolutely insane, I know that he got part of it from me, so who exactly should I blame?

So, where exactly am I going with this? I guess I'd like a report card to tell me that, despite all the daily challenges, I'm still doing OK as a Mommy, that this is all normal and I'm actually averaging a B or higher at this parenting thing. I don't need a gold star or anything, but I do miss the days of feedback and the good feeling that comes with recognition of a job well done!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Kid, the Bully?

I really wasn't expecting it to start this soon (or necessarily at all, for that matter). But it happened - I got my first note from Monkey's day care teacher about a behavior issue... Monkey has apparently started being more "aggressive" towards his classmates - pushing them down, taking toys away from them, and sometimes pulling hair. Where is this coming from? Is it just part of the Terrible Twos - a child who is gaining independence and wants to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, the heck with what anyone else wants? Or is it Only Child Syndrome - signs of a child who doesn't have to share toys and time at home? I want to blame one or both of these things, as opposed to worrying that somehow I'm doing something wrong and raising a brat and/or a bully, but the real question is, how do we fix it?

You know, it's ironic... Monkey has a July birthday, which means that once "real" school begins, with kindergarten, he is going to go through life being probably the youngest kid in his class (unless we hold him back a year, but we haven't really considered that at this point). So in my mind, I've always worried that Monkey is going to be the small kid, picked on by the other boys. Perhaps he's trying to nip that in the bud by showing his "toughness" from the get-go?? Interestingly, right now he is actually one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in his one-year olds' class, so I wonder if that dynamic isn't playing into this a bit too - he's just showing that he's the big kid in charge because he can?

I'm not sure yet what our plan is to tackle this. Do I start randomly taking toys away from Monkey to teach him that he can't always have what he wants? Or does that just frustrate him more and increase the acting out at school? I hate to be always saying "no," but I also don't want him thinking he can always have whatever he wants. This is such a tough stage - they have the power of the tantrum, while we struggle with letting them have the tantrums vs. giving in just to keep the peace. Yikes - it's gonna be a long year....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mommy Confession

Here's the deal: I don't enjoy blowing bubbles with Monkey.

Of course, he LOVES it. And I really thought it would be fun, watching him chase after bubbles, etc. But here's the thing: Monkey's way of "blowing bubbles" is to dip the wand in the bubble solution, then just kind of FLING it, so that all the solution splashes to the ground (and on my pants, and on Monkey, etc.). Not a single bubble comes out of this motion - it's really just glorified splashing. And it is soooo not fun. But Monkey laughs hysterically.

At first, I was able to enjoy his enjoyment, because who doesn't love watching a toddler's face light up with laughter. But then.... sigh... I just got bored, and impatient, and wondered how I could talk him into doing something else.

And, in case you're wondering: No, he won't give up the want to Mommy so that I can blow the bubbles and he can gaze at them in wonderment and chase after them. Simply not an option. As Monkey is fond of saying: "I do!"

Bad Mommy. :-(

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And speaking of Elmo...

Let's all have a brief moment of silence, shall we?

In memory of the times, not so long ago, but not then appreciated, when Monkey and I could go to a toy store, Babies 'R Us, or anywhere we wanted in Target or Walmart, and Monkey would be happy just to be in the cart, looking at all the people and "stuff."

Before he recognized things like... Elmo. Mickey Mouse. The Wiggles. Pooh.

And before he screamed out that he must have these things, because they are "mine!"

I made the mistake of taking Monkey to Toys 'R Us today, looking for a step stool for his bathroom. My search took me through the bath and bedding sections, where there were Elmo couches, Elmo blankets, Elmo Sheets, Elmo towels, you name it. And Monkey saw it all.

And, being the sucker that I am, I picked up the cute Elmo hooded bath towel, and asked Monkey if he wanted it.

He happily grabbed it, and enjoyed checking it out for about - thirty seconds? Before it landed unceremoniously on the floor.

I can't tell you how many things I picked up to keep him from having a tantrum, and yet, ultimately we left the store empty handed. Sigh...

Elmo Not-so-Live

OK, I have a confession to make...

I think Monkey is in the process of committing Elmocide. :-(

I bought Elmo Live! for Monkey for Christmas, partly because he LOVES books with Elmo, and partly just because I thought it was so clever and wanted to see what all he would say when taken out of the box and "test" mode.

And Elmo is pretty cool - he tells stories, dances, tell jokes, sneezes... all kinds of stuff. And initially, Monkey was fascinated (the dog, on the other hand, was a little wary, but can you blame him?). But then we discovered the "uh oh" feature. For those of you not familiar with this furry little robot toy, apparently he has a sensor that can tell when Elmo has fallen down, leading him to say "Uh oh, Elmo fell down. Can you pick him up, please?" Then, once Elmo is returned to upright position, he says "Thank you," and tells the kind helper that he/she is Elmo's best friend.

Well, I don't know if Monkey became intrigued with this particular feature or what. After all, "uh oh" WAS his first word. But soon, Mommy began to go crazy listening to the chorus of "uh oh"s and "thank you"s. Then, Elmo started to get a little wonky, Monkey stopped picking him up and just started dragging him around by the arms, and now Elmo sounds like the lady who's fallen and can't get up, with a creaky case of arthritis to boot. He creaks every time he moves, and is constantly begging for help, to Monkey's deaf ears. So Mommy started imposing "Elmo rest times," with the help of the little on/off switch on Elmo's foot. I'm frankly at the point where I'm not sure whether to try to save Elmo or to hide him somewhere to let his batteries die out in peace. Would that make me an accomplice??

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm still here...

Wow, it's been a while since I've written anything.

Perhaps not coincidentally, it all seems to go back to when Monkey dropped his morning nap... Our new schedule seems to be working really well now, and it has for a while, but man, it's amazing how much less down time I have now that we're a one-nap household!

That morning nap was great for so many things, not the least of which, I should not, is for me to get a shower! Now I often find that non-daycare days are "slob" days, and Mommy often doesn't get a shower, although at the very least she gets up about 15 minutes before Monkey to get dressed, put in her contacts, slap on some makeup, and take a quick pass at straightening her hair. That way, should we HAVE to leave the house for some reason, we can minimize the embarrassment if we run into someone we know. Mommy's actually gotten pretty good at this half-baked routine, actually, and has ventured out to the mall, although she usually regrets it as soon as she gets into a dressing room with unfriendly lighting (which is pretty much all of them, right??)

And, there are now that many more hours in the day to keep Monkey entertained... Thank goodness that warmer weather is starting to make an appearance, because Mommy is running out of indoor activities and is desperate to get out of the house most days (hence the ill-advised mall outings...)! Don't get me wrong - I have tried to find my craftier side, but so far, Monkey must not be impressed, because he is much more interested in scrutinizing the art tools - taking caps on and off markers, putting markers in mouth, biting tips of crayons - than using the tools to create a work of art to hang on the fridge. Today I even broke down and bought Play-Dough, which I KNOW in my heart of hearts that Monkey will only try to eat, but yet I am holding out on the slim hope that he enjoys actually playing with it more. I've seen some scattered about the room at his day care, so perhaps he's already experimented with the tasting and is ready for bigger and better things?

I was also sorely tempted at Target today to buy him some fun outside things as Valentine's Day present, most notaby a bubble lawn mower and a couple of small kick balls. But I'm afraid that if I buy these, the weather will take a turn for the worse, and I'll be stuck with a cranky Monkey who won't understand why we can't go outside and pay with his cool new toys. Maybe the Easter Bunny will have to bring them instead...

I am seriously thinking of buying one of those Learning Towers for the kitchen. Monkey has gotten in the habit of wanting me to carry him around WHILE I'm making his meal, which can be somewhat difficult, as you might imagine. He also likes to try to "help" put the lid on his sippy cup, etc. So I'm thinking this might be part of his "I do" stage, and that he'll feel more included if I get him up to counter level in a safe place that he can watch and maybe start to help. Those things are expensive, but it might be worth it to preserve my sanity!

Anyway, that's the latest from Monkey Land. I will try to be better about posting, and I hope I still have a few readers out there!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An update...

It's been a while since I've posted, and I didn't want you to think that the napping strike had done me in. Thankfully, I'm stronger than that!

Actually, the strike lasted about a week or two - it's a blur now. Monkey has finally settled into something resembling a routine again, and is napping consistently in the early afternoon, without nearly as much fussing (although a little protest here and there, just to keep Mommy on her toes). Sadly, his total nap time is still only half of what it used to be, which means less time for me to play around on the computer, not to mention do more productive things. But kids grow up, and he wasn't going to sleep forever. Besides, how much fun is that?

So, we've been trying to fill our extended days with new activities, and I will freely confess that I am stealing liberally from my on-line mommy friends, particularly since the cold (more like ridiculously frigid!) weather limits our ability to get out of the house as much as I'd like. We've bought some new art supplies, and I'm hoping to turn the time between lunch and nap into a quiet "sit at the table and do crafts" time, instead of the current "running around the house and chasing the dog and throwing toys and tripping and falling" time. We'll see if Monkey agrees...

I'm also trying to implement some semi-educational activities into our day. To echo a sentiment raised by more than one of my mommy friends, I'm having some "mommy guilt" over the fact that I seem to spend very little time interacting with and teaching Monkey, and most of my time just trying to keep him from hurting himself or the dog. I know that he's picking up on new things, both at home and at day care, but a little more effort on my part couldn't hurt. So, I've been looking at things like flash cards for shapes, colors, etc. Again, for all I know, Monkey will have zero interest, but it's worth a shot! Hopefully I'll be able to post about new accomplishments soon...

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Great Nap Strike of 2009

I'm beginning to realize just how lucky I was...

Monkey has been a GREAT sleeper! Really, I've had very, very few complaints. He started sleeping through the night right around 4 months, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had to get up during the night with him since. Oh, he'll wake up from time to time, and sometimes he'll even cry, but it's amazing how often it only lasts for a minute or two and he goes right back to sleep.

He's been a great napper too. For as long as I can remember now, we've had the same schedule, more or less - two naps a day, one from about 10:30 - noon, and the other for 1 1/2 - 2 hours sometime between 2:30 and 6pm. It's been awesome - Mommy could shower during the morning nap, and get other stuff done, including work, in the afternoon.

And, perhaps best of all, we could brag to our family and friends about how well he went to bed. Almost as if on cue, Monkey would say "night night?", at which point I'd say "night night?" and he'd either (a) run to the bottom of the stairs and wait to be taken up, or (b) run to me to carry him up. We'd say night-night to Daddy, any visitors, etc., and Monkey would lay his head on my shoulder and give me a sweet hug as we went upstairs. I'd set him in his crib, where he'd take his paci, and then off with the lights and off to sleep - no fuss.

Well, needless to say, there's a reason this is all written in the past tense. Tor almost a week now, all schedules and routines have gone out the window. Monkey has decided to change up the game plan, only he's not telling us what the new one is...

We had a bit of a preview over the holidays, when we were traveling and his sleep got disrupted, but upon returning home, all was seemingly back to normal. Until last Wednesday - New Year's Eve. It's as if he wanted to do something significant to mark the start of a new year... It started with fussiness going down for naps, turned into refusing to take some naps at all, branched into fussiness at bedtime, and, most recently, took a whole new turn with an early 4am wake-up call. Mommy is TIRED.

I realize that the two-nap schedule couldn't last forever, and I'm willing to accept that, even if it does mean finding a new time to shower, possibly before I'd like to otherwise get myself out of bed in the morning... But isn't the remaining one nap supposed to become LONGER to make up for some of the lost sleep? Instead, it's gotten shorter, maybe an hour, if we're lucky, and often not without much protesting. When I say "night night?", Monkey now shakes his head at me, saying "no." When I put him in his crib, he immediately gets up on his feet and starts yelling. If I'm lucky, it lasts less than five minutes. If I'm not, it lasts until I'm afraid he's going to burst something, and we get up and wait to see if we can try again later.

This has to be temporary, right??? Surely my awesome sleeper can't have developed an overnight aversion to or lack of need for sleep?