Archive for the ‘ Being a Mom ’ Category

Being Thankful: My 2010 Gratitude List

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’m ungrateful. I just don’t like the meal around Thanksgiving. I’m not a fan of turkey, candied yams, cranberry sauce or pie.

I really hate pie.

I do love watching football and being lazy with my closest family members and friends. I’ll give Thanksgiving that.

It’s also a time to sit back and really think about what I’m thankful for as the year comes to a close. So, here’s my gratitude list for the year.

This year (2010), I am grateful for:

  • My husband. There aren’t enough words to explain why.
  • My two boys, who continue to grow into amazing human beings right before my eyes.
  • Friends and family. I have an amazing support system and don’t know what I’d do without them.
  • The ability to meet G at the bus stop each day after school.
  • A pretty darn good work / family life balance. Even when it gets a bit overwhelming.
  • The overall good health of said friends and family.
  • New opportunities and old standbys.
  • Two stubborn Siberian Huskies who are getting older but still manage to act like puppies when they get the chance.
  • Accidents that didn’t turn into tragedies.
  • Music and art that moves me.
  • The words that flow through my brain.
  • My voice.
  • Bacon.

What are you thankful for?

Art That Moves You

I love art. I love looking at it. I love experiencing it.

I love it when a painting or photo or even a beautifully designed chair stops me in my tracks. There’s just something about certain objects that move me. Usually it has something to do with bold colors, a graphic image or a really simple subject.

Maybe that’s why I love this piece of artwork by my 5-year-old son, G. I first saw it on a bulletin board at his school. I didn’t know it was his, but I had a feeling it was. It was on the bottom, right-hand side of the board, and the only one without a name. Despite it’s location on the board, it stood out to me.

G noted that it was his, and that it was two apple trees next to each other.

Maybe it’s because it was my child that created the picture, but it moved me. It’s the first work by G that really made me think about him as the artist behind the picture and not just the child that completed a school project.

At the same time, I can see the influence of my husband and me in this picture. The symmetry and neat construction come from my accountant husband. The balance of color and graphic quality come from the more artistic, right-brained mom.

What really struck me is that I can see his vision in this piece of artwork. It didn’t look like any other “tree” on the bulletin board. It was well-thought out and presented in a way that was truly G.

Time for this proud mom to buy a nice frame.

Battle wounds and tests of motherhood

Nothing prepares you to be a mother. I don’t care who you are, how much experience you have with children or how many books you’ve read. Motherhood is something you have to experience to understand the sheer perplexities of the title.

When G, who is 5, put his arm through a plate glass door in our house last week, I was faced with a situation that I wasn’t ready for. There was blood. A lot of it. There was screaming. There was broken shards of glass all over the floor.

The thing is that, when you’re a mom, you stay calm (or at least make it seem like you’re calm) and handle the situation. No matter how nauseous you might feel. That’s your job.

While I certainly can’t say I handled the situation perfectly, I can say that I did my job. I have to admit, I almost panicked when I took G’s shirt off to assess where all the blood was coming from. It was flowing fast and all over the floor. And, it turns out, the gash was pretty big. The biggest I’ve seen up close. It was extremely clear to me that I needed to get him to the ER. I also had to retrieve his 23 month old brother from the other side of the door. Both boys needed to be told everything would be okay and cleared from the glass. And, yes, there was still all that blood to deal with.

Though I couldn’t quite get G to sit down, I was finally able to find a clean rag to wrap the wound. (I’m pretty sure there was a lot of me wandering around the room trying to figure out what to do next as well.) I made unsuccessful calls to my husband who I was sure would come home to an empty house with blood and glass all over the floor and to my friend (and nurse) who I hoped was still in her car after picking up her kids from the same daycare I just left. I was focused on getting G to the ER, and I could have used a little help.

The bleeding stopped after a few minutes. I managed to get the owner of the boys’ daycare to come over and pick up Biz while I took G to the ER. I got my husband by text in the ER, and my friend turned her car around to go to the house and clean the mess up. I have a great support system.

In the ER, the nurse practitioner took one look at the wound and said, “that is awesome!” (That is also why she’s and ER nurse, and I am not.) G didn’t even shed a tear at the hospital.

It was not a fun experience. I hope I never go through something like that again. In the days after the accident, I could actually feel pain in my arm when I thought about it.

In retrospect, it could have been a lot worse. In the end, at least I passed one of the many tests I will face as a mother. Everyone is in one piece, and G will have a great scar to go along with the harrowing story.

Six creative ideas for preserving kids’ school papers and art projects

Ever since G started kindergarten, I have been overwhelmed with papers and artwork. He has a folder that goes home with him each day, and it seems like it is constantly stuffed to the brim with worksheets, notices and art projects.

Not wanting to throw anything away, I initially started to keep everything in a folder. I had visions of myself flipping through its contents at the end of the school year, seeing how much G progressed in his first year of elementary school.

I couldn’t close the folder by mid-October, and I decided I needed a new tactic. (Actually, a few.)

Following are six creative ideas to preserve all those papers and projects your kids come home with. Some of them are mine, and some came from friends. (One friend pointed out that as the kids get older, the colorful papers and crafty creations get replaced by actual work. So, preserve early!)

  • Scan and/or take pictures of everything and save it to CD-ROM or flash drive. At the end of the year, you can make a photo book, complete with captions and stories about the projects. (I have G explain to me what each of his pictures depict. Like any artwork, it has more meaning when you hear how the artist was inspired.) With a program like iMovie, you can even make a short video with pictures, subtitles and music. And as an added bonus, you have some great gifts for the grandparents!
  • Put together a binder. If you’re not into digitizing everything, a binder is a good alternative. Use a 3-hole punch or sheet protectors to make a nice book of preschool, school or daycare papers and projects. I made G an “ABC 123” binder with all the worksheets he completed in nursery school. It was a fun way to see G’s progression in writing, and he used it as a reference when he wanted to remember what the letters looked like.
  • Store the papers and projects in a safe place. You can’t put larger items in a binder. Mid-preschool, I purchased a bin to keep my favorite pictures and larger art projects that came home with G from daycare and preschool. (The fridge got way too full.) Along with a date, I indicated where the artwork came from (school or daycare) and any necessary description of the piece. (It may look like a spider when you put it in. After a while, it just looks like scribbles, even for Mom.)
  • Create your own art gallery at home. Designate an area of the house for exhibiting the very best works of art. It could be a bulletin board in an office or kitchen. One of my friends strung some rope along her kitchen wall and hung her kids’ artwork on it with clothes pins. We converted a second kitchen in our house to an art room and fill the walls with an ever-changing gallery of work. Of course, if you’re short on space, there’s always the fridge.
  • Frame the really good stuff. Some pieces are just too good not to display in a more permanent manner. Showing off colorful kids art in a nice, black modern frame can bring some real pop to a room. For a more dramatic look, cut out a portion of the picture and use a larger white matte when you frame it. (Don’t forget to date it!) I framed G’s first paper from preschool, added a picture from the first day of school and created an instant keepsake for the hallway wall. The possibilities are endless when it comes to framing, and the framed artwork also make great grandparents gifts.
  • Make some placemats. I can’t remember where I heard this idea, but I thought it was a pretty good one. If you have a laminator (or access to one), take the pieces of artwork and laminate them. You can use them as placemats. They are easy to clean, and you can change them out on a regular basis.

In the end, you have some wonderful pieces of artwork to share with your family and friends. And you’ve preserved some very precious memories. Plus, it’s a great way to see how much your little one has grown up (both for him and you).

I’m sure I’ll be opening that bin of artwork for G in a few years, yearning for the days of the overwhelming simple alphabet papers and art projects.

It’s all about perspective, right?

Have some creative ideas of your own? Please share in the comments section!

Potty Training Part Deux

I recently started the process of potty training with my youngest son, Biz, though I can’t say it was a conscious decision. He’s 21 months old and was giving the ladies at daycare a hard time on the changing table. (He’s particularly stubborn and squirmy.) They gave him the option of going on the potty instead of having his diaper changed, and he went for it.

Initially, I was thinking that he wasn’t ready for potty training. I’d go along with it for consistency-sake, but I didn’t think it would stick. So far, I’ve been wrong.

My oldest son, G, was fully potty trained by the time he was 2 1/2. We had no issues with him. Not even bed wetting at night. He was actually trained closer to 2, but he put off buying the underwear for a little while. When he was ready, he told me.

Back to Biz, I figured I couldn’t be that lucky twice. Especially with two boys. (That’s what all the potty training articles tell you anyway.) And though Biz could certainly go the other way if he decides to, I really feel like he’s going to be even quicker than G. He readily tells me when he needs to go, and he’s already gone potty in a public bathroom. (G took longer to do both these things consistently.) He’s one determined child and when he makes up his mind, that’s it. He also has a killer potty celebration dance.

There are a lot of articles out there that tell you when to start (or not start) potty training, what to do and how to do it. I’ve never listened to any of these. Frankly, most of them don’t seem to work for me or my family. (I’ve never been good with charts.)

And, I think that’s the key to successful potty training. Find what works for you. We bought a potty for G at around 18 months, when he started asking for us to change his diaper. We simply talked to him about how when he’s ready, he could go to the bathroom on the potty like a big boy. And, yes, we modeled for him by letting him watch us go to the bathroom. (I do find that it’s a lot better for the parent of the same sex to model for the child in the bathroom. There are some things you just don’t need to explain at that age.)

I’m sure other parents think I’m starting too early. My response to that is that it’s not my decision. It’s for Biz to decide. I didn’t do a thing for G to get him potty trained. I just provided him the tools (i.e., the potty) and the encouragement to do it himself. And when he didn’t want to do it, I didn’t make it an issue. I’m doing the same for Biz.

Here’s hoping for a new year without diapers.

Not So Traumatic Kindergarten Transitions

My oldest son, G, started kindergarten this week. I fully expected it to be a traumatic experience for both me and him.

It was not. In fact, it feels like just another week.

At barely five years old (he turned five mid-July), this child continues to amaze me. I keep waiting for the event that’s going to really throw him for a loop. It hasn’t come yet.

G was an early talker and was fully potty trained by two and a half. (I mean really potty trained. No transitional night time diapers or anything.) When he decided to ride a bike without training wheels this summer, he got on the bike and never looked back. In nursery school, he would call the teacher out if she said anything incorrect.

The key to G is talking and prepping. While I was pregnant, my husband and I agreed to never use baby talk. It’s just not our style. So, from the beginning, I’ve always talked to G. I tell him what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, what’s going on around us, what’s about to happen, etc. And, we talk every night before he goes to bed about how our days went and what’s happening tomorrow.

For the big transitions, as long as I tell him what’s going on and what’s coming up, he knows what he needs to do. (The one hiccup I made was in his first year of preschool and I forgot to tell him about picture day. He freaked out a bit, and the teacher told me he wasn’t good with change. Fast-forward a year, and she told me he was taking over the class from the teacher. Go figure.)

Kids are human beings, and a lot smarter than we give them credit for. While I freaked out a few times this summer trying to figure out how to navigate the whole kindergarten thing, I never let G see this. We talked about how fun it would be and how his schedule would change. He was so excited this week, he’s been up around 5:30am every morning. He had a ball riding the bus with me and my husband on the first “mini” day with parents. And on his first day (without parents) when he had to wait for the bus to loop around the block because the bus driver didn’t see his daycare provider who was there to pick him up, he wasn’t phased one bit.

G’s one complaint so far? Having to sit at a table to wait for his bus number to be called at the end of the day. Apparently, that’s too boring for him. I’m thinking this will change once he goes to a full day next week. Hopefully he’ll be more tired after a full day, and the table sitting won’t be as annoying.

Now I have to transition into leaving work on time so I can be at the bus stop for G in the afternoon. I’m thinking I can handle it, with a little prepping from G.

Searching for some FOCUS

I have a lot going on.

I work “part-time” (though I pack in a full-time workload into 30 hours+/week). I am taking a particularly intensive graduate level class. I have a 19 month old and an almost 5 year old (who’s birthday is in 5 days and am in the process of planning the party).

I have two stubborn, and shedding, Siberian Huskies. I am in the middle of summer in Maine (who can keep up with all these fairs and festivals, not to mention getting in as much beach time as possible before it gets cold again). I am in charge of the family calendar, making sure everyone gets to where they need to be. I live in a big old house that is in the middle of a renovation that seems like will never be done.

Luckily, I have a very loving and supportive hubby who cooks, and a cleaning lady that comes every other week.

I’ve always taken on a lot. I am one of those people who can juggle many things and still come out with a smile. I’m pretty detail-oriented and have worked a lot on just keeping things simple and setting small goals for myself each day to get things done. I’ve been told that I would be good in an ER (and I would if it weren’t for all the sick people, needles and blood).

Lately, however, I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a hard time concentrating on any one thing. While I may be physically present in one location, I always seem to be thinking of all the other things I need (or want) to do later on. I thought I would do some research online and find some techniques to improve my concentration. (Can you tell I’ve done a few research papers lately?)

Here are 5 FOCUS tips to improved concentration I found from Sam Horn on About.com: Alternative Medicine:

  1. F = Five More Rule. The premise here is that in order to work through the frustration of getting through a task, just do it five more times. Read five more pages. Work for 5 more minutes. You end up getting your “second mind” (like a second wind, only different) and stretching your attention span to move further
  2. O = One Think At a Time. Tell your brain that you will think about certain tasks at certain times. For example, “I will think about party games and favors tonight after I put the kids to bed. For the next 30 minutes, I will get through these work emails. ” Alternately, you can make a to-do list. The list gets the tasks out of your head and onto paper, so that your mind doesn’t have to be the holder of the info.
  3. C = Conquer Procrastination. Ask yourself “Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?” Get yourself into the mental state that tells you if you just get it done now, you won’t have to deal with it (or think about it) anymore.
  4. U = Use Your Hands as Blinkers. I have to admit that I’m a bit skeptical of this one. The suggestion is to cup your hands around your eyes so that you only focus on the thing in front of you and, literally, blocking out the other things that surround you. (Working in social services, I’m not sure I’d get away with this one at work. They’d probably start diagnosing me.)
  5. S = See As If For the First or Last Time. When your mind is wandering, stop and really SEE your surroundings. I find I do this more and more when I’m with my kids. There’s really nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child. When my mind wanders, they help me bring it back pretty quickly.

So, there it is. They are pretty simple steps that anyone can do. And by writing them down, my mind already feels like it’s gotten the whole “how can I work on concentrating more” task out of the way.

Read the full article from About.com