Monday, June 28, 2010

another successful day at home

despite getting off to a rocky start.  Hung over in the morning from a World Cup game party.  I didn't drink that much, but I did make a pack to shave my head if Argentina wins, so I must have been a little off the rocker.  Then in the morning I even threw up, in front of GirlFriend no less.  She started patting my back, and then she started imitating me.  Slightly humorous but not so good feeling to be vomiting in front of your kid.
Being at home with the kids during the day has been perfect though.  It feels so right to be talking to them, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and working them through their fights.  Maybe the fights are the biggest challenge.  I initiated a game of balloon golf where the kids took turns hitting the balloon with a paddle.  First they fought over who would get to hold the paddle.  I always try to stand back and let them settle things on their own at first, but this confrontation went downhill fast and ended with GF crying because she fell when LM tried to force the paddle out of her hand.  I gave them both a talking to: GF for not giving up the paddle so we could do our activity and LM for trying to take it from her. After putting the paddle in time-out for a minute I reintroduced it and they played nice for a bit.  a bit.  I showed LM how to hit the balloon first, this was a hand eye coordination strengthener.  He loved it, and even gave the baby her turn nicely.  But then the next time he got the paddle he refused to share and yelled at me.  I made him go to his room because he was so disrespectful.  When he came out he was in a better mood and they took turns well.  That was until the baby hit me on the head with the paddle.  It was blatant, and painful!  I guess she thought my head looked like a balloon.  I put her in time-out immediately and she sat there and cried.  To my amazement she stayed sitting there for the whole minute.  LM never stays put.  I knew that she didn't mean to hurt me, but she has to learn not to hit people.  I explained this to her, and told her it was ok.  She stopped crying, and she apologized.  She even gave me a kiss.  I really think that she understands what I say to her.
The kids are precious when they play together.  They laugh non stop with this funny 'eh-he-he-he-eh' barking laugh.  GF always laughs like that and LM mimics her.  So sweet.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First week with my new improved schedule

Monday and Wednesday, home with the kids and the other days in the office.  To my pleasent surprise it was manageable .  
Actually, I was really surprised with how energized I was on the days at home.  I anticipated twice as much exhaustion as I usually feel on week days.  But the contrary, the day felt natural, not taxing like typical work week days.  When Mari came home at night he even offered to take the kids to the gym and give me a break, but I didn't feel like I needed one and told him to leave them home so that they wouldn't be late to sleep.
Not that the day wasn't with it's challenges.  First off, they did not want to take a nap at nap time.  They had fallen asleep for about 15 minutes in the car and that was enough to rejuvenate them for the rest of the day.  This ended up totally throwing off their sleep schedule until Wednesday.  So that was a big lessons learned: don't let them fall asleep in the car!
On Wednesday we stayed home in the morning, so there was no issue with falling asleep in the car.  We read a story before nap and things went pretty smooth.  It is going to take some time to get them into a routine and to lay out the boundaries.  Like, teaching them to stay close to me when we go out, stay at the table during lunch, stay in their beds during story time.  All of this will come with time I hope.
I've been really pleased with how LittleMan is responding.  He communicates with me so much better than before already.  This one-on-one attention is what he needed to release his vocabulary and imagination.  It is so great to not feel rushed through the day.  On the weekends I always felt like I had to fit in 'quality time' with cool activities on top of chores and errands.  On both Monday and Wednesday I was able to slow down and focus on the kids, explaining things and coaching them.  It really felt like 'quality time.'  We did craft activities together, went exploring in the yard, cooked food, went shopping for groceries, listed to music at the town center, and moved our bodies all around.
Reading back over this, it sounds like we just played and that makes me feel a little guilty; I'm not supposed to play when I should be working...  But all the activities were educational.
I was also able to get my work for the week done.  Sometimes I called into meetings and answered emails while they were playing or sleeping.  I woke up very early on the days that I went into the office and worked a long day.  So I think this is going to work out.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

What is with those people who don't want to let kids touch anything?

When my fun loving wildly sweet little boy, takes to the world, people we meet or pass are usually amused and joyed by his innocently mischievous behavior.  I rarely prevent him from interacting with others, or apologize for his actions.  I have seen mothers that keep their kids arms length from others at all times, and will snatch their kid up if he comes over to examine what you are doing or playing with or dares to ask a question or ask to touch something.  I am of the mindset that he is a kid and that means he is going to ask questions and want to play with things, observe and discover.  Most of he time people are delighted by his cute phrases and endless energy.  
But then there are some people... "don't touch that" "you can't climb on that"  "those are not for playing"  "no no no."  I think those people have big sticks up their butts.
Like today, we went to Trader Joe's after I got off work to grab some groceries.  Both LittleMan and GirlFriend were sitting in the cart as we shopped.  I gave them each a banana to eat as we wheeled though the store.  When we got to the check out counter the kids helped hand the groceries to the cashier to ring up.  LM was too close to the giant captain's bell that the cashiers ring when they are short staffed - that was my bad - I was grabbing groceries out of the cart and did not notice that he could not resist the temptation and rang the bell!  Ding - dong - ding - dong, "I'm ringing the bell mommy."  That made his day but made the cashier cross.  "No you can't do that" he said with a very angry face.  I took LM out of the cart and started to explain to him what the bell was for as I paid for the groceries.  As I was using the electronic pen pad to pay with a credit card, LM asked, "Can I?  Can I"  and reached for the pen.  After I finished paying, I let LM take the pen to pretend to pay too - but the cashier snatched it out of his hand, "No." I don't think that it would have done any harm, the pen pad was frozen until someone swipes a card.   He gave a very ticked off face on top of the contemptuous glare that he gave when I asked to throw away the spent banana peels.    
But maybe I'm missing something dangerous.  Maybe I'm way too lenient with my kids and I should keep them on tighter leashes.  I just don't take life seriously enough for that.  Not that I never enforce rules, just that I try to only make rules when there danger of harm or hurting someone.  I don't like to let social norms get in the way of exploration.  And I like that out-of-the ordinary behavior makes old people talk to you - breeds  precious human interaction from strangers, and creates a break from the mostly mundane routine that lots of people with 9-5's face.  Those rotten party poopers can just deal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Bugs

LittleMan loves bugs.  Oh he is enthralled, fascinated, and practically entranced by them.  I have to admit that life seems somewhat simpler and clearer when staring a patch of grass that is really a earthen city filled with creatures going about their workday commute.  Once you start to look at what is moving down there, bugs come out of the grass-work, crawling and scurrying.  These creatures that seem so menacing and gross when you find them in your kitchen, are so very harmless, just going about their business in the earth.
So I am taking just as much interest in the bugs as LM.  We followed an inch worm about yesterday and saved the little guy from certain death.  We are all about saving the bugs.  When we find one in the house, LM says, "Mom, get the paper, get the paper."  If I'm not quick enough he'll do it himself.  He has picked up the technique: hold out the paper, the bug will crawl on the paper and then take him outdoors.
I've also taught him how to deal with the flying bugs.  About a month ago, I caught a flying moth in the kids' room by putting a clear plastic bowl over him.  The kids could watch the moth flying around in the globe.  Then we set the little guy free outside.  GirlFriend displayed elaborate emotion with that experience.  She started babbling in a pouting tone.  It was so cute.  Sounded like she was implying that she didn't want the moth to go and was hurt or even offended that he left.  Sounded like she was talking to him asking him to come back.  The next morning I asked her about the 'butterfly' and she started making the same pouting babbles, recalling the event and signing through the motions of a butterfly flying away with her hands.
So LM even tries to catch the flying bugs in that manor and set them free.  I'm thinking that he is learning mutual respect for insect-kind and this will add to his good karma and bring him closer to early enlightenment.
That is.  Until I heard about the side track lessons that he's been receiving on the side.  By my own mother!
So she's divorced and LM is the most important man in her life.  He's got a really special place in her heart and she spoils him to no end.  Now she's actually training him to pick up some of those manly duties, like, official bug killer.  She has taught him how to step on bugs in the house, kill them, pick them up with paper, carry them over to the toilet and flush them down!  She even taught him how to use a fly swatter to get the flying ones!
Of course he gets a big kick out of the sport of this, and also digs feeling really useful.  So now he's a living dichotomy: upstairs put the bug outside and make mommy happy, downstairs kill the bug and make grandma happy.  Sometimes when we're outside he follows the ants around the sidewalk and then starts smacking his foot down on them, "I smash you!"  oh it's horrible.  I try to tell him that it hurts them, but good luck getting it out of his system as long as gramma is rewarding him every time he smashes one for her.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Finding time to be the mom I want to be

A couple week nights ago we had a breakthrough.  Mari said, "why don't you just quit your job and stay at home with the kids, seriously."
After years of lobbying, maybe complaining, I finally found the button to push: I suggested that I may have more time for sex if I didn't work so much.  Yes, that was the magic ticket.  It came as he accused me of never wanting it.  Which was pretty insulting because we make love more than any kidded couple I know.  Twice a week is better than any of his poker buddies and better than even some of my friends w/o kids.
"I'm just tired," I said.  I woke up at 6am because the baby came in to the room asking for milk.  Then I fixed the kids breakfast, and made and packed their lunches.  I didn't sit down all evening, I planted veggies in the garden, made dinner, gave the kids a bath, played with them, put them to bed, prepared their lunch for the next day with homemade fresh almond milk and gluten free cookies, updated my blog, tidied up a bit, and headed to bed around 11.  Maybe life wouldn't run so late into the evening if I didn't have that 9.5 hour work day in the middle of it.
When I got to bed I was tired, and Mari brought up the evils of communist politics, which literally put me to sleep.
It seems like I don't have time to be the type of mom that I want to be.
So with Mari's adamant endorsement of SAHM, I felt pretty empowered.  He had historically been against the idea - stemming from his own experiences with his mom being a SAHM:
1.  Money: his family had it tough on only one income
2.  Over involvement: Having his mom in his business all day everyday made him take her for granted
I come from the other side of the spectrum with two full time work-a-holic parents.  And I honestly did not even contemplate staying at home with my baby.  I just didn't think that educated women did that.  How dumb and ignorant I was.
So now I spoke to my boss, and I'm actually getting a couple days at home with the kids, even though I still have to make 40 hours a week by calling into meetings from home and working at night.  It will be tough, but she wanted me to at least try keeping full time at first and see if I could manage before committing to part time.
I am getting so excited thinking about the things to do with them on our days together: a daily Portuguese lesson, a weekly trip to the elderly community, arts and craft projects... It is going to be wild, and ummmm... challenging as GirlFriend is not quite the complacent little angel she was a month ago, and LittleMan is always... a sweet wild boy.  But I think more quality outdoors time will bring better mutual understanding between all of us on boundaries.  So I will better gauge the appropriate way to corral them from one activity to the next, and they will better understand my cues.  Here's to hoping.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Puzzle Mania

LittleMan has grown fond of puzzles.  Especially anything with a boy theme, like a train or a car.  In an attempt to foster this interest, I've been buying puzzles for him every couple weeks.  Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any good ones that are his level on yet.  So I've just been purchasing fresh ones.
So, yeah, he loves floor puzzles.  The first one we got was a Melissa and Doug bug floor puzzle, then we got a fish floor puzzle, then a dinosaur floor puzzle, and the latest one is a Thomas and Friends floor puzzle.  If he sees one of the boxes around, he is compelled to take the pieces out and put it together.    Each new one is slightly more challenging.  It takes him a while the first time; each subsequent time he is faster.  It is so neat and incredible to watch.  And it has actually turned out to be a great way to teach him vocabulary.  He loves naming all the different types of bugs in the bug puzzle, and the dinosaur names: brontosaurus!  And he is picking up some positive reenforcement phrases.  Like today when my mom came home and brought in the mail he said, "I'm so proud of you!"  
When I was making dinner, "you can do it mom!"
It is pretty cute.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Learning about Colors

Yesterday when the whole family was gardening and playing outside, LittleMan yelled across the yard, "Papa, you are brown!"
I was bouncing up and down on a blue yoga ball and tossing a little red soccer ball at LM to teach him to catch.  "What color is LittleMan?"
"I'm white."
"What color is mamae?"
"You're white."  he said matter-a-factually
"What color is the baby?"
"Brown!" he was excited about this.
I think the afternoon sun brought out the melanin and darkness in their skin tone.
It's funny because Mari always jokes that LM is his little twin in the white chocolate flavor, and the GirlFriend is my little twin in the dark chocolate flavor.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Focusing on the Family

I did it, I asked my boss if I could cut two days off my work schedule to be at home with my kids!  The conversation had been cycling through my head for months, I practiced every word that I would say, every point I would make, and every concession I would give.
The exchange did not go as planned.
Half way through the first sentence my lips began to tremble and I fought back tears, "I wanted to ask you if I could reduce the days I am working so I can spend more time with my kids."
I completely choked up, "They are growing up so fast and I...."  
I couldn't even finish because I was just crying!  I felt out of control, "I practiced this so many times in my head, I can't believe I'm crying."  
It was kind of embarrassing to be so vulnerable in front of her like that.  I'm not a crier, so this was a huge surprise to me.
But, like a fairy godmother, she responded with warmth, "Yes you can, and even if you wanted to be a full time mom I would understand.  Family comes first.  We will do whatever works for you."
and wisdom, "My mom worked full time and I always resented her for not being there like my friends; moms were.  If I ever had kids I would have wanted to stay home with them."
It went so well, despite my scene.
She even started to tear up at a point when talking about her mom, and her ex-husband, and her miscarriages.    
We were such a bunch of emotional women.
So I touched on pretty much all the points I lined up in my planned speech, although every time I opened my mouth I lost it!
She even suggested that I start sooner than I expected, and thinks that I should try continuing full time and working long days on the days that I am in the office.  If that turns out to be too much, then convert to part time and less hours a week.  I think that sounds like a good idea.  I heard from another mom that working 3 - 12 hour days is better than 5 - 8 hour days because you don't notice the extra hours and the free days are time to play.  As it is I work 9 hours most days.
This marks a huge milestone for me in finding myself as a mother.  Both my parents worked full time and I think that somehow blinded me from seeing part-time mom or SAHM as an option.
What a relief to have that over with!  I am already day dreaming of the day-off activities :).


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