Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unpause

And...unpause.

I love living and knowing that I have a pause button.

There are two places that I love to reference when it comes to hitting the pause button. One, of course, is the fabulous Parenting, Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. Amber is not shy at all about hitting the pause button and living her life offline from time to time. Of course, she is a huge blogger with two published books, and thousands upon thousands of dedicated fans, and I am ME, but no matter who you are, the pause button is an effective one to have in your life.

The other is the show How I Met Your Mother. If you're not familiar, first, go directly to Netflix and start binge watching it. Second, to understand this concept, in the show two of the main characters have a system where they can pause an argument at any time, giving them a break. You can go out to dinner, you can hang out with your friends, you can have fun, and then, when you've got the time and energy to focus on whatever it is you're wrestling with, you agree to unpause.

Good system, right?

Over the past month, I've been in a state of perpetual pause with this site. Our summer life has been busy, and I really wanted to focus on living it. I wanted to hang out at the pool. I wanted to get a chance to play tennis. I wanted to let the girls do all the activities they wanted to. I wanted to use my afternoon that the sitter comes to get a pedicure, go shopping, and relax. Writing and editing this site isn't exactly an argument I'm trying to get away from, but it is something that requires my time and energy. And, while I'm writing, my full attention.

I needed to make a decision. Keep writing with a mind that wasn't entirely focused, putting out content that was of questionable quality, or hit pause.

I hit pause.

I decided not to make a big deal about it. I kept posting on Facebook and Instagram (albeit a bit more lightly). But I didn't make any sort of announcement. I stepped back, I took a breath, and I hit pause.

Was it a decision with no consequences? I'm not sure. If I'm not writing, you're not reading. And if you're not reading, no one is here. I could very well be unpausing to an empty room. Will everyone come back now that I've decided to unpause? I don't know. I hope so. I'm actually hoping that I wasn't the only one who put a pause on certain activities this summer. But I may have lost some readers, and I need to be OK with that. I think I am.

Pausing for July also meant that I didn't get to share some really great things. Madison turned five. FIVE. Remember the second post I ever wrote here? She turned two. I had a baby - two babies really - when I started writing, and now I have a kid. Not a toddler, not even a preschooler, but school aged kid. That's big.

I had my second summer trip to Blogger Bash in NYC, and the irony of talking up my blog to numerous brands while I knew I was on pause was not lost on me. Best time to be taking a break? Maybe not.

We finished our first year of competition dance, switched studios, and decided to dive more deeply in. We agreed to let Madison start private lessons, and to compete a solo this year. We decided on a preschool for Reagan, and we've started preparing for that. I'm attempting to declutter a bit. I'm working on new ways to get organized, get focused...in September.

We're busy now, but we're summer busy. Lazy busy. Busy with pool time and popsicles and tennis and dance and gymnastics and eating outside and seeing friends. Busy with two kids who are growing up and coming into their own. As July turns to August, our summer activities calm down and we can be lazy while we get ready for September. And I really hope that you'll still be here.

Unpause.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading For All

We've been doing our summer schedule for almost a week now, and we're just about getting used to it. The girls aren't having a "crammed with camps" summer, but they're also not having a "do nothing" summer, and that's an adjustment for me. Madison has some sort of activity every day - a 30 minute sports clinics or a swimming lesson, and she's in an intensive dance program that mimics her school year commitment. Reagan is taking lessons for the first time, and she's keeping up with her gymnastics as well.

This is all great. Madison is thrilled to be back to dancing, and I love that they're outside daily in the pool or on the tennis court, but it is definitely busy. We're not keeping up with the school schedule we had over the year, and the girls are crashing at night, often before I even make it out of the room. When we do have down time, they're reaching for the iPads. Most of those games are educational, but they're not exactly what I'd like them to be doing with their time.

So yesterday Madison and I went through her room and made two piles of books. A pile that she can read to me, and a pile that I can read to her.

It's fascinating what she put in the pile that I read to her. About a year ago I started reading the Little House books with Madison. We started with Little House in the Big Woods, and we read right through, stopping after The Long Winter (when Laura was a bit more grown up). After we stopped a few months ago, we moved into some other novels.

So it was surprising to me that in addition to the Rainbow Fairy and Never Girls and Magic Treehouse books that we've had sitting on the shelf, Madison added Little House in the Big Woods right back to the pile. I love that she's already found the pleasure in re-reading an old friend, finding new things she missed the first time, getting excited as she anticipates her favorite parts.

Both girls are still at an age where they tear through their books at various times during the day, and we save the majority of the read aloud time for bed. But this summer, I think this might be our down time during the day - the moments when we need to sit in the shade and take a break from the running and swimming and dancing - instead of at night, when they can't keep their eyes open to listen to an entire chapter.



””

Kids definitely get their ideas about reading from their parents. I love that Madison is discovering great books she wants to read again and again, but I don't know that she ever would have grabbed any of these Little House books on her own. I'm thrilled that the National PTA is kicking off a Family Reading Challenge. During July, the National PTA will help families with tips and activities to encourage families reading together. They're challenging parents to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how reading is a fun and important family activity all year round - not because you have to read, but because reading is something enjoyable to do.

We're definitely in. I love taking a little relaxing time after lunch to get into some reading with both girls before we head back to the pool or the tennis court or the dance studio. Want to join us? Find out more at PTA Reading Challenge.


  • 61% of low-income families in the U.S. have no age-appropriate books in their homes for children.
  • Good reading habits have a greater impact on a child’s reading skills than household income.
  • Nearly 40% of parents say their child does not spend enough time reading for fun.
  • 73% of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun.
  • Where parent engagement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average.
  • - See more at: http://ptareadingchallenge.org/ideas/blog-party-toolkit/#sthash.WxMESwua.dpuf
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    Monday, June 22, 2015

    Be Careful What You Wish For

    A few weeks ago, the pool opened on weekends.

    I wrote about how I was concerned about Reagan and how I'd have to push her, most likely kicking and screaming, into the big pool and swim lessons. But darn it, I was taking a stand.

    The next day she went in, tentatively and clinging to me like a baby koala, wanting me to stay near the steps, just like Madison used to. No one but Mommy would do.

    Then, a lightbulb went on and she realized it was fun.

    And we haven't stopped her since.

    No, seriously, we can't get her out of the "big cool" now.

    Sidenote: speech aside, calling it the "cool", instead of the "pool" is totally adorable and I have no intention of correcting her. She can make a /p/ sound so I'm not holding her back. This is just cute. And logical when you think about it.

    She hasn't taken swimming lessons yet, and even though she is a whopping thirty-seven inches tall, that still means that if she put her feet down in three foot area the only thing poking out will be the tippity top of her head.  Which probably won't help anything.

    So until swimming lessons have started, my rule has been that you either have to

    a) wear your floaty (which she hates with a firey passion and takes off every chance she gets, probably because it's small on her)
    b) go in with a grown up (which is me about ninety percent of the time) or
    c) stay on the steps.

    Reagan strongly prefers B the majority of the time, but since one of my celebrations in graduating to the "big cool" was that I could actually sit on a lounge chair with the grown ups every once in a while. So while I will go in with her at least once or twice every time, I don't like to spend all my time being Reagan's personal "raceboat".

    So since she hates the floaty so much, if I'm taking a "cool" break, she's been content with C. She knows she can't touch the bottom and she's not really a water daredevil.

    The older one with swimming lessons, who can touch the bottom, is wearing a floaty like a security blanket. The younger one, with zero swimming instruction, is not. That makes sense.


    Well, this past weekend I realized that it's a darn good thing that lessons start this week. Because this kid's confidence is high. 

    I'd been in with her, but I'd gotten out to do something with Madison, and I was drying off on a lounge chair while she played on the steps with a few of her friends. I reminded her a few times to stay there.

    I looked up a few minutes later and she was halfway across the pool.

    OK, that sounds dramatic. She had scooted over to the wall from the steps, and, holding onto the wall, was making her way around the entire shallow end. No fear, no remorse, just pride that she was doing it! All by herself!

    Before anyone freaks out that my kid was "unattended" in a pool she can't touch in, there is a lifeguard seated in a low chair at the very edge of the shallow end, whose entire job is just to watch the kids in the three foot area
     
    I scooped her out and put her floaty on, and she went right back in and completed a full lap of the entire shallow end, hanging onto the wall, complaining the entire time about how her floaty was getting in her way.

    Long story short, be careful what you wish for. All I wanted was for two kids to be willing to take lessons. What I got was a little fish who waits until I'm not looking to scare me.

    It might be a long summer.
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    Monday, June 8, 2015

    Free To Be KIDS This Summer



    Before I had kids, I remember watching a reality show (no, I'm not admitting which one) and totally laughing at the mom and her feeling on letting her kids get dirty. This mom was worried about the kids' clothes for goodness' sake. So much so that she wouldn't let the kids do kid things. Because heaven forbid those clothes get stained. Geez. Relax lady! They are kids! Kids get dirty. Not news.

    Fast forward a few years. I have two little girls who can easily rival any little boy in clothes staining ability. Probably more so, because in addition to the food stains (my children seem to drag their clothes through their food), and the mud and grass and disgustingness that my children find fascinating (sorry boy moms, you don't have the monopoly on this one), they are also drawn to glitter paint and fancy markers and "washable" makeup.

    Now I'm not quite as paranoid about stains as this reality show mom (still not telling you which one). But there have been days when I've got the girls in brand new shirts or dresses or bathing suits, and I can see the staining happening . In slow motion, like one of those movie scenes. NOOOOOOOOO....

    The other day Madison was wearing a t-shirt for the first time. She's just starting shopping in the "big girl" section of the store, and I'm proud when I find clothes in her size that I approve of. This was a basic t-shirt with a few summer-y, Hawaiian style flowers on it. She had it paired with a new pair of modest shorts that matched the flowers perfectly. Basic, cheap, summer play clothes, but she was looking cute.

    The girls are old enough now to have free reign over the basic creative supplies - crayons, washable markers, glue sticks. The stuff I trust them with. I'm not crazy enough to leave the paint or glitter out for a free for all, but I did have a freeing feeling when they could actually draw without having to ask for permission. On this particular day, they were stamping.

    And then I saw it.

    Madison was holding the ink pad with one hand and stamping with the other. But she was pressing the ink pad up against her body. She was literally stamping her brand new shirt with a quartet of colors.

    And I lost it.

    I snatched the shirt off her and started pretreating it and moaning about how she had this brand new shirt for one hour and you need to be AWARE of treating things well and how now I had to spend all this time doing laundry and her new shirt was ruined...and I realized I had become that mom. The mom who freaks out over stain removal and forgets that four year old kids are messy sometimes. A four year old shouldn't be freaking out over the possibility of a stain where they prioritize it over play.

    Seriously, laundry isn't the chore it used to be. What's great about detergent is that you don't have to choose sensitive skin over stain removal anymore. A detergent like all free clear (and especially all free clear OXI booster) can get the stain, keep skin free from irritants, and let you relax about laundry. You can live free. And how freeing is that?



    Stomp in the mud puddles.

    Eat the melty popsicle.

    Color with sidewalk chalk.

    And stop worrying about the clothes. Let the kids be kids, let the detergent handle the mess, and know that a happy kid is worth all of it.


     
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    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    You'll Miss it When it's Gone

    Reagan started speech therapy last week.

    Remember, way back, when I posted that Reagan was a late talker? And I ran into a super condescending mom that had me annoyed/worried/not worried/but yes still actually worried?

    Anyway, Reagan went through an evaluation when she was two, and she didn't qualify for Birth - Three services. Her speech was low, but not low enough, and because all the other categories they evaluated were high, she didn't qualify. Had her hearing checked, had her tonsils and adenoids done, all good signs.

    A year later, Reagan has a vocabulary that was light years beyond where she was at that initial evaluation. Unfortunately, a good half of it is basically gibberish to the majority of people she encounters - her articulation hasn't caught up to her brain yet. And because she is such a spunky, passionate, stick to her guns kid (cough - stubborn - cough), she hates being asked to clarify, hates being misunderstood, and will either shut down or melt down if you don't understand her the first time. Which is fun. And if you put her in a group of three year olds, you can hear that she's not quite where they are.

    So off we went for a private evaluation, where she had a thorough, speech focused session. And it came back that while most of her articulation issues are still considered age appropriate and she was only slightly low on the standardized assessments, the fact that she has so many of those issues and that they were a little more intense than they expect at three years old, that they make it hard for her to communicate, and that an outside listener can only understand her about fifty percent (they expect eighty) of the time, led them to suggest speech therapy. Once a week she'll have a play based session for forty five minutes and we'll work on catching her mouth up to her brain.



    The assessment was a few weeks ago, but we started today after figuring out the mess of a schedule. We've got our usual stuff going on in May, but in June, everything changes and we haven't put all the puzzle pieces together yet. Last week, because it was the first time, I was in the session with Reagan, although depending on how my presence impacts her, that may change. I tried to just observe and she barely acknowledged my existence. Before the therapist began with Reagan, she spoke to me.

    I know you think you want her to speak clearly. But I need you to know that some parents have a hard time when some of the old patterns start to fade and their speech clears up. It's still cute and you will miss it. For this to be effective, you need to be ok with losing some of that baby talk.

    I've written about adorable todderisms before. Both girls have had some absolutely adorable mispronunciations. Madison was "ka-sausted" and needed a "hop-si-pop" as a nice, cool summer dessert. Reagan was obsessed with "saw-cake-cake" "toomi zoomi" and her "taka mick" in the "pup-la" cup.


    If you don't speak toddler, that's EXHAUSTED, POPSICLE, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, TEAM UMI ZOOMI and CHOCOLATE MILK in a PURPLE cup. 

    And those are only some of the adorable things that were there...until one day they weren't. Right now, Reagan has those great syntax errors that are just as cute. Please to help me? I need my other one shoe.

    Speech is attempting to change that. Her first session, from what I could tell, was focused on getting Reagan to say all the sounds in each word - PLease instead of Peas, for example. The therapist played different games with her, all focused on slowing down and making all the sounds in each word, as well as structuring her sentences.



    And after one session, I totally get why she had to talk to me - why she has to talk to most parents. Obviously, we're there because we want to get our kids caught up. But it's hard to hear her lose that baby talk. Madison spoke so clearly and so early that I didn't have much time to miss it, but this is how Reagan speaks - how she's always spoken. It's part of who she is.


    Now I'm clearly not going to go sabotaging her and her efforts. By the end of her session yesterday she had grown pretty tired of repeating herself, and when I see her working hard I'm not going to stop it.


    What I am going to do is record her a lot in the next few weeks. I've got a new phone with plenty of memory, I've got my OneDay app loaded, and I am going to fill that sucker up with the last of this little voice, before she graduates from speech and goes to preschool and grows up and that's the end of it.


    Because you never really know to miss it until it's gone.

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    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

    Take Care of Yourself Too Momma

    I'm not the first to say it, and I won't be the last to say it. Moms, you have to make sure you are taking care of yourself and not letting things go. Yes, you have a lot to manage, but if the captain goes down, the ship goes with it.



    I know this. I do. But every once in a while I let things slide, I forget, and then I get reminded in the worst way that a little self care goes a long way.

    This particular reminder slammed into me yesterday. For the past few weeks - ok, MONTH - I've been having some tooth pain. I've not made it a secret that teeth and I are not friends. I have big time dental anxiety. Just about a year ago I found a dentist I clicked with, and I paid the price for a period of dental negligence. Over a course of four to five visits, I had a root canal, a crown, and multiple fillings, both old and new. I had a deep cleaning, and for the first time in a long time, my mouth was in good shape.

    Then, six months ago, I had to cancel my cleaning and check up for some reason. I think it was because something came up with the girls' schedule, Adam's travel, and our babysitter, but hey, it could have been anything. I canceled and I didn't reschedule. And I didn't reschedule. And I didn't reschedule. And I didn't reschedule. The office called and left messages, but I didn't reschedule.

    And then I got a toothache.

    That should have been my HELLO! YOU'VE BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD BEFORE! WAKE UP AND GET YOUR BUTT TO THE DENTIST! moment...but it wasn't. I blamed Madison's busy schedule, and Adam's busy schedule where he couldn't watch the girls, and the fact that I didn't want my only babysitter afternoon a week to be "wasted" at the dentist when I had everything else that needed to be crammed into those hours. I started chewing on the other side. Then I started avoiding cold drinks. Then I started taking Advil. And then I started absently rubbing the side of my mouth because it was generally aching all the time.

    And yesterday - surprise! - I ended up with an emergency root canal on top of a pretty disgusting infection. Which was such an intense root canal that they gave me the heavy pain medication because my gums were so beat up. Which kept me up all night itchy and feeling really out of sorts. Which led to a morning of intense nausea, headache and dizziness. Adam took over from the time I left yesterday, through dinner and bath as the aftermath had me feeling icky, and all morning while I curled up and tried to think of something that would make the reaction to the meds pass more quickly.

    Sidenote: This is not the first of the heavy duty painkillers I have had this kind of reaction to. I would make a TERRIBLE drug addict. In the future I'll be toughing it out with Tylenol.

    If I'd gone to the dentist six months ago for a check up, they may have been able to treat the tooth without resorting to the root canal. If I'd gone when the pain first started, the root canal probably wouldn't have been of the emergency variety, and certainly wouldn't have been as invasive. So I wouldn't have needed the meds afterward. So I wouldn't have spent several hours this morning sick from them, and curled up in a ball while two little children hovered over me, asking me if I was ok and bringing me very sweet and totally useless things. And while, yes, it's awesome to have a husband that picks up the slack when stuff like this happens, it's not like I was enjoying a leisurely evening and morning reading magazines and sipping tea. I was either in pain or sick. Awesome.

    Basically, because I didn't feel like making (or, let's be honest, having) a dentist appointment that would have taken an hour total, I spent yesterday morning at my dentist, yesterday afternoon at the endodontist, and a total of twenty four hours being completely useless to my family. And I have a minimum of two-three more appointments before this tooth is "finished". And I should point out that as of yesterday morning, I STILL didn't want to go in, because it wasn't a "good day"  or even a "good week" for me to have an appointment. Adam basically had to stand over me and MAKE me call.

    So yes, I'm all better now, and I know that the "good" pain meds are not my friends, and all's well that ends well. But it's just such an intense reminder that waiting until you absolutely can't take it anymore is never a good idea. I would never do that with the girls, so why am I ok with doing that for myself? If they need something taken care of, I call, and I schedule it. We make the time. We figure it out. We get it done. If we have to miss a park playdate, so be it. Their well being comes first. Why do I do that for them, but I am completely opposed to the idea that it also applies to me and my needs? When did I decide that doctor and dentist appointments were a luxury, up there with haircuts and massages? Because if that's how I'm going to think of them, the haircut or massage is going to win.

    I'm hoping that yesterday was my slap-in-the-face, practice-what-you-preach, wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment. And I'm hoping that this helps remind others to take care of yourself just as well as you take care of your kids and your pets and your husband and your house. Get your checkups. Get yourself in when you start feeling something isn't right. Taking care of yourself is never a poor use of time.

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