Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pacey Perfect

I awoke this morning, listening to the rain, and trying not to think about the very limited time I have left with the boy-os this summer, but finding that rather difficult. I am lucky to have an entire month off, but it just seems too short, and with a surgery coming next week, I really only have a few days left to spend the whole day with them. After that, it is back to work and all too soon, back to school for them. Back to the grind and craziness that stalls and quietly lingers on the side of the road during the summer months.

As I was thinking about this, I heard the soft padding of little boy feet sleepily track down the hardwood hallway, and peeked a Pacey face at the doorway. I pulled back the covers and invited him in for some morning snuggles, something he and I have always done. The sleepy little Linus always looks the same, save for some variations in pajama and height. The only constant variable: balled up in his skinny arms is his blue blanket, which he long ago dubbed "Kee-kee." He and Kee-kee tumble into bed and neither of us say anything for quite some time. He curls in, and for a brief moment, I believe it is several years ago, when he was much smaller, and would tote his beloved, much younger blanket, and reach to be lifted into bed, smelling faintly of a morning diaper, his round head of curly baby hair, slightly sweaty. Even then, we would always spend a few quiet moments before either of us would break the silence and the magic of the early morning.

I revel in this vivid and strong memory, almost smelling the diaper and feeling the curly, sweaty hair brush my face when Pacey shifts, and I am transported back to the present and see the boy he has become. His arms and legs lanky, his face narrowed, and his head no longer filled with soft, baby boy curls. I pull him into a tight bear hug, knowing that one day, perhaps soon, he will be too big for this quiet time in the morning with his mommy. The snuggles will be fewer and farther between, and while I will have these memories, I will always miss the Pacey Perfect mornings.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Simplicity

Fabulous find #49291-- the local aquarium has a 35 minute Creek Cruise for $7 a person departing hourly starting at noon. I stumbled upon this hidden treasure while sitting at the doctor's office, and snapped a picture of the smallish ad in the free parenting magazine with my iPhone. I was certain with a ridiculous level of giddiness and pride that no one else was privy to such a great find. I failed to realize:
  1. It's tourist season, and
  2. It's a free parenting magazine in a doctor's office. Label this post "Duh."
Feeling like I held a sacred revelation, I waited the perfect amount of time to disclose my find to the boy-os-- enough to allow them to anticipate the adventure, but not so much that they nagged me about it unendingly. We eagerly approached the ticket counter at 1:30, only to find they only had tickets left for the 5:00 cruise. This would have been nice to know when I called at noon and asked if the cruises typically sold out and if we got there 30 minutes before would that be good and was assured it was all good. Luckily, we were there with a friend who has a membership, so we quickly changed plans to spend some time exploring the museum, and I was proud of the boy-os, who had gotten pretty excited about a 35 minute cruise around the marsh, when they were just as excited to be around all of the fish on the other side of the glass.

In an attempt to completely tire them out, we decided to do the nature walk to the other building, which takes 10 minutes, one way. We found a room on the way to the nature walk, where there were stuffed animals, a chalkboard wall, a magnetic fishing game, hopscotch, books, and a mini-aquarium. It was pretty basic by design, not grandly decorated or overly emphatic in an attempt to be a cool room at the aquarium. In short, it was simple. Understated.

Simply perfect for a 5 year old, so Gage, of course, was fascinated by this room. Those of us who know Gage are not surprised. He is often in what we call "parallel world," a space he enters that has him playing happily on his own alongside, not with, other kids or adults. Don't mistake this for the idea that he isn't social. Oh no. He will talk to anyone, even the guy in the car next to us when we both had our windows down. "Yes, he's friendly," I often find myself saying. And let's not forget about the time he attached himself to another soccer mom's leg during a game when he was two. I felt the need to profusely proclaim, "Really, we love him and show him affection, I swear!" He is just so comfortable in his own skin, and totally into the really simple things-- like this room.

I sat back and watched him find puppets and stuffed animals to engage in a great battle, tote his favorite "squib" (see Gagey-isms post for translation) to the book area, complete several games of "ho-scosh," and wrangle several buckets of magnetic fish. I felt like I was looking at one of those Family Circus cartoons that show the tracks little Billy takes all over the yard. He came over to me every so often to show me a puppet or talk about what he saw, but mostly he was completely absorbed in this free play-- even on our second visit after the nature walk and otters and snakes, which he was also excited about.

Watching this moment of pure abandon on the part of my 5 year old, struck me quite powerfully. I often feel like we inundate them-- with TV, with toys, with activities, with stuff. It took a simple room with simple toys to completely enthrall and engage a young mind that is already full of wonder. I know these were new items and new is always better than the same old toys you play with every day, but it did not take new and flashy toys to catch his eye. It took new and simple-- basic playthings that allowed him to make the rules and create his own "new parallel world."

Before we go getting way too serious (this post is not meant to invoke tears), let me just say I don't want this to end for him. I want to jump into his parallel world-- invited, of course, and live like he does... Minus running into the glass window like he did at the gym today. That would probably be something I could live without.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Post-Vacation Burn Out

So after a great, great almost week in Key West, the husband and I finally came home sweet home following a spontaneous (I'm maintaining the positivity I had throughout the whole experience), spur of the moment detour in Cincinnati. And who knew that the Cincinnati Airport Holiday Inn is really in Kentucky? Erlanger, Kentucky to be exact. So, not only did we get to extend our honeymoon one day longer, I also get to check Kentucky off on my list of states to visit. Hey, it may have only been the Holiday Inn, but my tired, Key West feet were on Kentuckian soil, so it counts.

We were greeted in the airport by the two crazy boy-os holding handmade signs. A fabulous surprise to say the least. Not much beats the sight of this:

We had some good moments after that unbeatable high with a puppet/costume character show, a few rounds of slapjack, and some computer games. But their excitement at being home and my pure exhaustion from a week of 100+ temps and walking around and relaxing (which is exhausting) was not a good mix. So we'll start again tomorrow.

What I've been thinking about today is this post-vacation burn out that is hitting pretty quickly. Does anyone else get a little over-idealistic when they are on vacation? I don't mean looking at the idyllic scenery and dreaming about a time when this is a daily vista. No, I'm talking about getting a superhero syndrome from O magazine. Or Real Simple magazine. I blame them both.

I have never really looked at Oprah's magazine before, but it was pretty inspiring. Either that or there is some sort of mind-altering drug infused in the paper. I left Key West truly believing that I was going to start eating organic, shop at the farmer's market and buy seasonal fruits and veggies year round and plan my meals accordingly, eliminate processed food from all of our diets completely, add to our recycling plan to include Capri Sun pouches and involve Pacey by starting a blog for him to track how many we save, so he can become a total 21st century kid who does good and then blogs about it (do I need to continue?). It seemed like such a good plan. Until.

Until I got home today and realized that, though the intent was good, the dream may not unfold quite as seamlessly. In my O magazine, Key West haze I saw all of this falling into place nicely and neatly, and probably in the next two weeks I have off before I return to work.

Um, ya, not so much I realized as I tried to help Pacey put together the ship in the bottle kit we found, which seemed like the perfect gift at the time. This must have been another instance of the O magazine, Key West superhero syndrome. If you find yourself picking up a miniature ship in a bottle kit, thinking it's a good idea for your seven-year-old, please, save yourself and put it down. I will take one for the team there, thanks.

So as the night wore on, I did a pretty good job of staying the fab mom whom I know is under all the sunblock residue, making sure I reminded the boy-os that Mommy is a little tired, so let's try to behave the best way we know how. (It worked a little-- once I was almost reduced to tears by the ship in the bottle, and I did get a little stressed by Pacey's jumping and bounding). And I realized, quite humbly, that those are some lofty goals to which to aspire, and the post-vacation burn out is at least teaching me to pace myself. I am going to add some of that to my 101 in 1001, (mine coming soon to a blog near you) and hope that within the next two years, I see those happen from time to time. And I'll still keep my O magazine and Real Simple close by for inspiration.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I know I can be slow...

but really, how could I have not figured this out before? Why has it taken seven, yes count them, seven years to grasp this whole parenting, being a mother thing? Yes, I know that I have been pretty successful at keeping them safe, not allowing them to jump from their windows, etc. I have also been pretty successful at the nurturing them and making them feel loved thing, too. But why oh why, did it take this long to figure out how not to pull out my hair each day and how not to dread any extended time at home with them by myself? I feel so empowered by this new skill I have gained-- like I can conquer the mom world with a single blow of play-doh and coloring books. Right now, both boy-os are sitting quietly and intently coloring; Gage in his trademark monochromatic style (color of choice today is blue) and Pacey making Littlefoot a rainbow of colors, down to his summer-ready toenail polish. And all of this easily completed in a few steps:
  1. Gathering and organizing all of the craft and art supplies in one place. And if they ever claim to be bored, I have a whole arsenal of supplies ready to go-- it's ridiculous how much there was scattered between their two bedrooms!
  2. The simple suggestion that they go get a coloring book from the coloring book box (there is one of these now!) and sit at the dining room table and color.
Okay, now I know that this seems so simple, and I have definitely suggested things like this before, but it's actually working now. I think because I am doing a little less of expecting them just to play on their own all the time and more of suggesting , directing, and engaging them in activities. I know, this is sad coming from a teacher. When would we leave our classrooms up to the kids to decide what to do all day long? I still want them to learn to entertain themselves, too, but the balance of entertaining themselves and also being directed is important. (I know, duh.)

Countdown to Kindergarten

Here is Gage with his countdown calendar. When preschool was over at the end of May, he thought kindergarten would immediately follow, and he also didn't understand the concept of 3 months. I tried to tell him about 90 days, but that was just too abstract for him to grasp. So I printed out monthly calendars for the summer, so we could cross of each day and keep a countdown to the first day of school. So far, it has been a big hit.

Each night, he loves crossing off the day, and then every few nights, we count how many days are left and write it on the day we just crossed out. He's learning a little about the concept of time passing, but we are also practicing counting past twenty and writing our numbers, which as you can see (maybe), he sometimes writes backwards. I think writing on the wall is messing with his head!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon Ban- Update

A few days ago, I officially entered dictator mode and banned all Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon watching at the Rock House. I usually don't let them watch TV all that much, but lately all they have wanted to do is watch Cartoon Network. There were already shows on those channels that have had the ban implemented, but after hearing them incessantly recite various snippets of inane humor, I decided enough was enough. I scoured our cable guide to find any other child-friendly (read actually child-friendly and parent approved, unlike some of the shows on CN and Nick) channels that they could watch during their TV time. I made a list of about 6 or 7 channels that have seemed to have met boy-approval. Again, I'm sure I'm late in the game here in deciding to take action here, but I'm deciding to be happy with my progress and not look back.

So here's our list of mom-approved, boy-tested channels:
PBS Kids
Discovery Kids
Noggin
Two local PBS stations
Disney (sadly, this needs to be monitored at times-- I'm not ready for them to watch Hannah Montana, etc.)

So this morning for Saturday morning TV, they were watching Trading Spaces, Boys vs. Girls on Discovery Kids. Much better than The Misadventures of Flapjack, right? :)

Oh, and the image above is a free image courtesy of photo8.com. All of the images from this site are in the public domain and can be used for any purpose. I probably will share things like this from time to time-- just the instructional technology side of me.




And I saw this really cool signature creating site on a friend's blog that I just had to try out. MyLiveSignature allows you many different options for creating your own digital and customized signature.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rediscovering

This has been a great week full of fun and activity. And somewhere in the midst of that, I have had the luck and blessing to rediscover why I love being a mom. Yes, I admit-- I have always found myself somewhere in the middle of loving my life as a mom and being completely frustrated, which I'm sure is true of many moms. I completely love and appreciate my boys, but I was often confronted with a complete lack of patience, creativity, and energy. Not all of the time, but enough for it to always bother me.

Somehow, in someway, all of that has changed this week. I am always grateful for my month as a stay at home mom, but part of me always dreaded it, too. Not because I didn't want to spend time with them, but because I had no idea what to do with all of our time. It would completely overwhelm me. Suddenly, I am full of ideas, full of energy, and totally loving every second of what we have done this week. Maybe it comes from finding happiness and not living with a sense of frustration for past mistakes and lost dreams, or maybe it comes from finally finding confidence in what I can do as their mother. Either way, it is the best gift I could receive. I feel like I have rediscovered my boys and figured out a little more of how to do this mom thing a little better.

Now. We are off to the park. :)


Thursday, July 09, 2009

How I Made a Garbage Truck

It was fun building a garbage truck! We had to screw a lot of stuff together. Here is the movie I made! by Pacey


Gagey-isms

Gage is a master at saying words the wrong way, and I am always saying I need to write them down in his baby book. I'm sure there are a few in there, but I figure this is a good place to record his own renditions of words. I have probably let him say them the wrong way for way too long, and Jon is making me correct him since he is going to kindergarten (the picture is of him at registration) in the fall. He should probably learn the right way. I think it is me holding on to one of the last threads of his "babyhood." He is growing up! And some of these are already fixed-- no need to worry.

Okay, so here's the list. I will remember what I can now, and then update as he "mis-speaks." :)

fra-ssert=dessert
fra-mote=remote
wabanna=banana and has recently morphed into bee-anna
squib=squid
My heart is beeping.=My heart is beating.
hook=hood
gwub=glove
plugger=the electrical plug on an item or the actual outlet
boice=voice
ca-no-ca-nut=coconut
ba-na-hind=behind

Just writing these down made me laugh out loud!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New Family Challenges

It has been interesting over the last 10 months since we have all been living together to see what it is going to take to figure out this blended family thing and how to do it well. We were talking just last night about how we didn't realize just how hard it would really be. I think we both knew it would be challenging, but until you really get into the thick of it, I don't think you could really imagine just how challenging.

I can see how, if we just blindly went through it, things could get really messy pretty quickly. Pacey and Gage are still so small and need so much hands-on parenting that if we both went along according to our own agenda with them, they would be confused and we would both be frustrated. What I have liked is that we have stayed pretty aware of what is going on. If something does not work well with the way we handle things with all three of the kids, we have talked about it and worked together to figure out how to better handle situations. I like that we are co-parenting and communicating. I think that will make this a fulfilling challenge, rather than one that makes us want to bang our heads against the wall. Or we may still bang our heads against the wall, but at least we would be working together. :)

Gage and His iPod

I couldn't resist getting a clip of the sweetly singing Gage this morning. My goal this summer is to update this blog more frequently and make it more of a habit. Enjoy!

video