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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daughter's Education in Action

Last Sunday Dear Daughter wowed her Sunday School teacher again with her vocabulary. They were apparently talking about sharks, and Daughter piped up with the information that sharks eat plankton and small fish. Her teacher thought it amusing that a just-turned-four-year old knows what plankton is and uses the word correctly to explain its function in the food chain. I was all proud, thinking that this was evidence of all the homeschooling I've done with her. I was recalling all the time we spent on underwater biology, and I knew we read about and discussed plankton.

Later in the evening I asked Daughter where she had learned about plankton. I intended to set her up to tell me all about the value of the education I have been providing her. I waited expectantly as she paused...and then she began with, "Well, on SpongeBob..."

It figures that I bust my rear to educate my daughter, and she attributes her education to SpongeBob. The other adult in this house is responsible for that particular part of out children's education.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where Do I Go to Resign?

This has been one of those weeks I would like to erase from history. Son has been under the weather and has only slept through one night the entire week.

We had a flat tire on the way to Grandma's house on Tuesday morning (Husband should take my opinions more seriously regarding things like flat tires, but that's another topic for another day).

I had my eyes checked Wednesday. First time in nearly 10 years. I thought it was time to investigate the cause behind my headaches. I was prescribed reading glasses. Again. Maybe I should start using them. It was stressful to find time shop for new frames for the new prescription. I get zero time to focus on my own needs because mothering a four-year-old and 22-month-old takes it all out of me, and whatever is left goes to my "career-by-a-thread."

Wednesday was also a day that I spent another two hours on the phone with the insurance company from hell. After spending 60 total hours on the phone with the claims department since last May, speaking to 25 customer service reps and three supervisors, re-submitting the same claims about eight times, providing (in writing) my credentials, my license number, my IQ score and my shoe size, they reported that their current excuse for not yet processing my claims is that they were "misrouted" and I needed to submit them a ninth time. I also learned on Wednesday that the phase of state health care restrictions that deeply impact my work as a mental health provider with this population are to be implemented. This will make working with this population even more punishing as the amount of work necessary in order to obtain the required pre-authorizations is huge. And every state health care program provider already knows that the reimbursement amounts are insulting. It may become necessary for me to focus on a new population.

On Thursday I called the doctor's office to discus that Son would not eat or drink for the past four days and the nurse said to bring him in. I had thirty minutes from the time I hung up until the appointment was to start. We live 30 minutes away. I had to bring Daughter with us as I had no other choice. This became a very stressful outing. Jacket weather has finally hit. I'm thankful for the cool down. On the other hand, wrestling two little ones in and out of jackets every time you go in and out of somewhere is a pain in the rear. My phone rang in the car, and I appreciated a few moments to process the state health care changes with a colleague. I knew this might be the only few moments I could steal out of the day to talk about this issue. When we got to the doctor's office, they wanted me to fill out new paperwork. This was a good reminder that we don't go to the doctor very often. I juggled the kids and their jackets and all the gear to a chair to work on the form provided to me on a clipboard. Son wanted to be held the entire time. I get two minutes into the form and the nurse calls us back. I stand up and find a way to juggle all the crap I have to carry, including one almost thirty pound toddler, two kid jackets, one adult jacket, the clipboard and pen, and a bag containing all the other assorted, but necessary kid gear required if you step more than twenty feet outside your home with children in tow.

Nurse does her job and the kids are entertained for a few moments with looking out the 5th story window at the city below. This gets old after a couple minutes and Son starts getting impatient. I manage to engage him a few more minutes with a game of name the color of the car driving by on the road below. Doctor enters and does his thing and leaves to process a throat culture to test for strep. Son was traumatized by the tongue depressor and the long cotton swab that made him gag. Son wants to leave. NOW. I manage to entertain him for several more minutes with the view outside the large windows. Daughter's nose is dripping now. Great. The only thing more fun than one sick kid is two sick kids. I find her a tissue for her nose. A couple minutes later I catch a whiff of some green air. I ask Son if he has stinky britches. He blinks at me innocently, and Daughter grins as she informs me that she is "tooting." I wave at the air hoping it will clear before the doctor comes back in. The air clears in time for Daughter to do her thing again followed by a concerned look on her face and the announcement that she needs to use the bathroom. My left eye begins twitching, and I am hopeful the doctor returns quickly as I don't want to abandon the exam room in search of a bathroom. A few minutes later the doctor returns, and the sight of him sends Son into a screaming fit. The doctor explains it is not strep, but I cannot hear another word between Son's screaming and Daughter's impatient nagging about getting to the bathroom.

We get to the bathroom, and I drop all the gear in the middle of the floor trying not to shudder at the unsanitary aspects of this. I had to move quickly in order to keep Son from grabbing the toilet plunger he spied in the corner. I struggled to contain Son while supporting Daughter on the toilet to keep her from falling in. Son then decides he's ready to leave and opens the door, which was possible since it was one of those button locks that automatically unlocks when you turn the handle. I try to keep Son in the room with one arm while continuing to do my best to prevent Daughter from falling in with the other arm. Daughter decides she doesn't have to go after all. We get her pants fastened and both kids' hands washed and Son bolts out the door and starts doing a happy dance in the hallway because he is so proud of himself. I gather up the gear that was dumped earlier in the middle of the floor. We make it to the checkout window, and I hand over the clipboard. I'm told to finish filling out the sections on the page that the previous person told me not to fill out. The kids make a beeline for the toys. I try to finish filling out the form as quickly as possible as my kids cover their hands with all the germs from other sick children who have handled the toys. I swiftly herd the kids out the door and drop all the gear once again in front of the elevators so that I can clean their hands with Purel before entering the elevator. Daughter suddenly exclaims with panic that she has left Taggie Book in the doctor's office somewhere. My right eye now begins twitching, and I resist the urge to scream and to refuse to go after Taggie Book.

I herd the kids back in and send a receptionist on a wild goose chase for Taggie Book. The kids make another beeline for the toys. Receptionist reemerges with Taggie Book and Daughter and I are both deeply relieved. I herd the kids back out to the elevators and drop everything again to sanitize their hands. I know I'm obsessed, but trips to the doctor's office are almost always followed with Daughter getting ill. The elevator opens and I enter with Daughter and my armful of crap. Son starts chanting, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" and refuses to get on the elevator. I stand, helpless, for a couple moments in the middle of the elevator before finally just dropping all the crap in the middle of the elevator again. I try to hold the door open with one foot while grabbing at Son to pull him on with us. He falls in front of the door and starts crying and I briefly wonder how many passersby are tsk tsking me for being such an insensitive mom. I scoop up Son and get Daughter to pick up the jackets until we get off the elevator.

There are reasons that this motherhood thing taxes my energy and patience. There are reasons that I am planned and deliberate about what activities I do and don't engage in alone with both the kids or which places I take them when I am on my own to manage them. Today was another reminder of these reasons. I don't know how people with three or four or more kids can go anywhere or do anything. If I had four or more kids, I am certain that I would just stay at home curled up in the corner in a fetal position mumbling unintelligibly.

Son was up all night last night again. I went to bed with a headache and the beginning of a sore throat. I woke up at three am to Son's screaming, feeling certain I had managed to catch the "crud" myself. The good news is that Son is eating and drinking again and that we don't get sick like this very often at our house. It is the second time this year that any of us have been sick, which is not bad considering the year is soon over. Other good news is that it was last week that the water heater went out and we had to special order a recall part and go for three days without hot water. If that had happened along with all the other drama this week, I would have resigned for sure. As it is, I am only in the consideration phase of giving my two-week notice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Boy Stuff

Dear Son absolutely LOVES tractors. He has this Little Tikes one that he has figured out he can wedge his butt in between the bar on the back of the seat and the smoke stack on the hood and then pull himself around the house on it with his feet. We think he needs a larger one to ride on, what do you think?

It's interesting for me to watch the gender differences Son displays from his sister at this age. Son is ALL ABOUT lawn mowers, heavy equipment, power tools, tractors, dump trucks, and bugs and frogs. Daughter never thought twice about any of these things at his age. She liked to wear hats and jewelry and carry matching purses everywhere she went. I'm not aware of encouraging either of them towards stereotypical roles and have tried to encourage them in whatever they are interested in. It's intriguing to consider how they develop these gender differences in their preferences.

Here's Son on the big ass lawn mower. I'm thinking we oughta let him take on the task next spring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Halloween Revisited

I had no idea the disdain I would in elicit response to my lack of enthusiasm for Halloween. I feel compelled to defend myself so that you all can stop planning the years of therapy you seem to think my daughter will need as a result of her parent's negligence for not ushering Halloween in with a party bigger than the one celebrated in honor of the birth of our Savior.

Am I redeemed by the fact that Daughter has had her Halloween costume for a month now? That I was probably the first person to buy one as soon as the hit the Stuff Mart shelf in response to Daughter's excitement? Am I redeemed by stating that our plan this year was to take Daughter to the mall for indoor trick or treating since we live in the country now and we would have to drive into town anyway and didn't want to run around after dark in the streets with our 4 year old and 22 months old. Am I redeemed in saying that this was our plan despite the expectation to have to take all of Daughter's candy away from her because she wouldn't be able to eat it? That if she really wanted to go trick or treating and this was the only way, we would do it? Am I redeemed in saying that our hesitation in how we expose her to this holiday is further rooted in the horrific experience we unintentionally exposed her to a couple years ago by taking her to a community Halloween party in which not a single bit of candy was offered that didn't have a peanut warning and in which we waited 40 minutes with her to have a turn to jump in the bounce house only for her to turn around just before it was her turn and see the kid behind her wearing a Scream mask that stirred a response from her of panic stricken fear and crying and screaming followed by weeks of nightmares?

Will I invite further judgment on my failure as a mother if I explain that this year, we decided that rather than following our original plan to take Daughter trick or treating at the mall, we will spend the holiday at a church party where she will get to wear her costume but where there probably will not be any costumes that scare her, and that she will get to play fun games and win candy (most of which we will still have to take away from her anyway), but at least she will enjoy the concept of it.

It's a sad day when a person is deemed a failure as a parent for not enthusiastically engaging their young children in a holiday that celebrates death, ghosts, and demons.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Tradition

Dear Daughter's favorite holiday, next to Christmas, is Halloween. I don't know why she has a fascination with this holiday. I, personally, hate it. I'm not excited about all the candy. It's not only unhealthy for your body and your teeth, but with Daughter's peanut allergy, it make it a serious health scare. Nearly EVERY chocolate candy has a peanut warning on it whether or not it is intended to contain peanuts or nuts of any sort, as equipment is shared between candy intended to contain nuts and candy intended not to. Daughter loves chocolate, and it is miserable to sort through her candy and tell her over and over again that she cannot have it.

I also hate the costumes. It creeps me out to see people, even kids, dressed up as ghouls and demons. Daughter has never gone trick or treating because the costumes creeped her out and scared her at a Halloween party we took her to one year. I figured it would only be worse running around outside in the dark. Dear Husband and I have our own Halloween traditions. Before the wee ones came along, we would go out on Halloween so that we didn't have to be home to hand out candy and further the cause of this stupid holiday. Since the kids have been born, we just turn out all the lights and hide inside. We've never had anyone ring the doorbell with the lights out.

Nonetheless, Daughter is entranced with this holiday. A couple weeks ago she found Halloween cake decorations while shopping with me at the Stuff Mart, and she talked and nagged about making Halloween cupcakes until we finally did it. Her expression in this picture is not even a "pose." She just looked this way the whole time we worked on this project!

One activity we do enjoy in October is going to a local pumpkin farm. We enjoy a hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins. Here is Dear Son scouting for one. Seems kind of funny that there is absolutely no pumpkins to be seen in the picture. There were pumpkins there, though.

Then we take the pumpkins back to one of the tents for Daughter to paint one.

Son got in on the painting fun this year, too. Check out that expression of pure concentration on his face.

Then we take in a magic show put on by one of the entertaining clowns. This year Daughter volunteered herself for one of the acts.

Later Daughter gets her face painted by the same clown.

And the kids also get balloon animals made by a clown.

Daughter's favorite part every year for the past three years has been the inflatable jumping house. She has to revisit it at least three or four times before we end our visit to the farm.

This year we were remarking that the whole experience has gotten rather expensive with the price of admission increasing generously each year we've gone and many of the activities costing additional money. And of course they always rip you off good with the cost of refreshments. We were thinking that we now have the space at our own small country acreage to plant a pumpkin patch, recruit a few clowns, and charge $7.50 a head to enter.

It was just shy of 90 degrees at this year's visit to the pumpkin farm. As wrong as this is, it's not unusual. I prefer my Fall activities to feel like Fall and not like Summer. Surely the fact that it's been this hot two out of the three past years we've visited the pumpkin patch doesn't suggest that Al Gore is right after all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Point of Reference

I've been curious lately about what life was like when Daughter was the age Son currently is. So I paged back in this blog to June '05 to see what I was writing about her when she was 22 months of age. Since she was my first child, I didn't fully realize just how precocious she was (and still is). My friends with their own children this age or nieces and nephews this age told me Daughter was a "genius." The workers in the church nursery told me she was the smartest baby they had ever seen. I didn't really know what they were talking about. The only baby I'd ever really known was my girl.

At 22 months, she was correctly labeling all the primary colors as well as orange, pink, brown, black, gold, etc. She could also consistently count to 5 correctly and some of the time count to 10 but tended to get 7 and 9 mixed up. She consistently knew that 11 and then 12 follow 10.

She knew all the major shapes (circle, square, star, triangle) as well as oval, rectangle, and even pentagon!

It was around this time that she began completing her entire wooden alphabet puzzle in a matter of minutes, though she didn't yet say all the letter names and instead referenced them by the phonetic object for which they stood (i.e. the letter "h" was called "hat").

She could sing, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" correctly from beginning to end and excerpts from "Lullaby and Goodnight." And before turning 23 months she was potty trained.

Son is no dummy, to be sure. However, he doesn't get the same intense one on one tutoring that daughter got simply because she was the one and only at that time. At not quite 22 months, he correctly identifies and verbalizes circle, square, star, triangle. He can do about 8 letters consistently correct with this alphabet puzzle. He's just begun to speak in sentences and "near sentences" that are more like two word phrases. He hasn't begun to sing words yet, but sings little melodies of nonsense syllables (thanks to a goofy habit I have when I'm just about the house). He correctly identifies the colors yellow and orange and sometimes gets blue, green, black. He wants nothing to do with the potty except to say, "potty!" when his sister goes and to squat on his stool and pretend to potty. He won't squat on his real potty, though. If I try to place his naked buns on his toddler-sized throne, he stands rigid and screams "Britches! Britches!" until I put his britches back on.

He does have a wicked overhand throw, which is something that Daughter didn't grasp until much later, and he is trying to jump, which looks more like a squat to a quick stand followed by the stomping of his foot. He's been doing this for months.

While he is still very much on track, I feel a bit guilty like I've been neglecting him in relation to the focus Daughter got on a constant one on one basis. She always wanted to learn and chose the activities that centered around cognitive development. I just followed her lead. Son has too many distractions. There are far more toys between the two of them than there were in the house when Daughter was his age. Now I have two to chase around, and my attention requires division. I haven't failed, I know that. Daughter is a prodigy of sorts, and it's not fair to compare--not that it would be fair if she wasn't a prodigy of sorts. And I understand that girls tend to be much more verbally advanced while boys tend to excel more in the motor development at this age. Nevertheless, I have to battle the little voice in my head that says I am not nurturing his cognitive development enough...especially after reviewing the reference point that started this whole guilt trip, though a guilt trip was not at all intended.


I got to hold Dear Son tonight until he fell asleep. I got to feel the weight of his body against my chest and feel his sleepy baby sighs. I got to feel his little toddler-sized muscles relaxing and twitching and hear his tiny breaths grow deeper. I got to smell his baby smell and feel his fuzzy hair against my cheek. His contentment to simply be held was warm and comforting for me. I couldn't help imagining a day when his tiny little body is no longer tiny, but tall and solid and larger than my own, and so I held him a little closer and a little longer tonight and focused on being thankful for such moments as these. His "little" body is now big enough that it is quite difficult to lift him, while sleeping, over the crib rail. His feet dangle low and bump against it. And he is heavy enough now that it is quite difficult to lay him gingerly against his mattress. Instead, it's a bit clumsy and awkward. Nonetheless, I cherish the moments that will soon evaporate into distant memories.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Shall We Go For Three?

You may remember the first trip to the Food Mart that I described about a month ago. You may remember the second trip to the Food Mart that I described shortly after that. Once again, I tried to outsmart the two members of my household who are under the age of five. I strategically packed one Snacktrap of Teddy Grahams and one SnackTrap of Goldfish for the weekly outing to the Food Mart. Oooooo, did I feel cunning. I quickly envisioned all the possibilities that would come to pass and how smooth and in control I would be in any case. When Son spied the Teddy Grahams placed on the shelf that is at perfect two-year-old line of sight at the Food Mart, I would whip out the SnackTrap already filled with the coveted treats. When we rounded the next corner and his eyes landed on a randomly placed shelf of Goldfish crackers on an end cap, I would save the day with the other pre-planned cup filled with the same. I had outsmarted them this time, I was sure.

We wandered the store, me in no big hurry and suffering no anxiety over which route to choose through the store to avoid any specific kiddie approved munchables. The only two my kids had indulged in for the past months were the two with which I had come prepared. At the moment, Son was happy with his "fishies." And that's when it all fell apart. I turned my back for a split second and that is when Son started squealing with delight. The first thought that zipped through my mind is what he could have possibly gotten his chubby fingers on, as he was still sitting in the cart. I turned to see Daughter proudly holding high in the air a box of animal crackers. She was doing a little happy dance not unlike the one Son does in the same circumstance. Son was squealing like a freshly stuck little piggy with his arms outstretched and his fingers wiggling with the itch to dive into the box.

Animal crackers. The kids have not been interested in animal crackers for about as long as I can remember. Of course, upon returning home, the box took its place on the shelf next to two stale boxes of Teddy Grahams. *sigh* They plot these things together; it's a conspiracy and I am sure of it. It's a game they have established just to see how many ways they can rattle me.

Son's Sentiments

Thanks to everyone who dropped me a validating comment or email or other communication in response to my previous post. I appreciate the support and disclosures of having "been there." Motherhood is a roller coaster. Some of the time you are chugging to get to the top of that hill all the while feeling that anxiety in the pit of your stomach that comes with knowing you are on the brink of plunging back down to the bottom. Then you are whipped around a bunch of curves at breakneck speed before you can see what's coming, only to find yourself chugging up the hill again. It's a wild ride full of thrills, you can't prepare for it, and it's never boring. It's anxiety provoking, stress instilling, and unpredictable. And once you start the ride, you can't get off until you either reach the end of the rail or plunge to your death in the midst of it. Some days it's a difficult decision: whether to ride it out or just jump.

Now, back to the monkey business.

He's talking. Really really talking. Sentences are beginning to spew from his little lips. About three weeks ago it began with an excited greeting at the end of a long day, "Mommy home!" followed by running into my arms and wrapping all his appendages around my body. It's a great way to end a long day at work. He also says, "Daddy home!" of course, but we already know he worships the ground Daddy walks on and Mommy is an okay second, so let me glory in my glories here.

Other sentences include "More choklit!" which is really not about chocolate at all, but about the dried and sweetened dates I recently bought that he calls chocolate. Of course this is generalizing to "More (you fill in the blank with endless options)." "Mommy, hold yas!" is another one, accompanied by arms held up in the expectant pose.

Vocabulary, in general, is bursting with communications such as "Happened?" which of course means, "What happened?" "Why?" which he has been asking about pretty much everything for weeks or maybe even months. Of course, this originated with his just-turned-four-year-old sister. "Aha!" is also a recent one that he got from his sister. It is used in the context of finding some neat random "treasure" lying around the house, as if he just found the single one thing that he's been searching his whole little life to find.

And Daughter? Well Daughter is 24 lessons into the Kindergarten math curriculum we just started roughly four weeks ago. She is complaining to me that this stuff is for younger kids as it is too easy for her. She is also starting to read. Am I bragging? Yeah, I guess. But only because she comes up with this stuff on her own. I don't push her, I let her lead, and I nurture her in the directions she goes. And she won't be allowed to start Kindergarten in the local public school until she's six because she misses the age cutoff deadline by three days. Not that I expect the public school system to challenge her much regardless.

So cut me some slack; it's been awhile since I bragged on my kids. If you're not doting family, you can roll your eyes and yawn.