Monday, May 9, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Are you a bragface? If not, surely you know someone who is. Please share your facebragging experiences in the comments. I'm dying to hear. Now it's back to basking in the glow of the perfectness that is my life. (sigh)
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Right now I'm about two seconds away from swaddling Teddy up in a Miracle Blanket and tucking the whole package into his big boy bed sheets. This transition to big-boydom has not been what one would call "smooth."
Teddy started climbing out of his crib a few weeks ago. For a week or so, we weren't sure what to do. He didn't always climb out during every nap or bed time, so we left the crib up and crossed our fingers every time we put him down. I considered getting a crib tent, but when I went to Babies 'r Us, it turned out they didn't sell crib tents anymore. I could've ordered one online, but then I would've had to wait several days for it to arrive and it seemed like after that many days of freedom, it would be cruel zipping Teddy up into a crib tent every night. Plus it just seemed a little wrong to use a crib tent for a 2.25-year old. If this had happened six months ago, I totally would've gone for the crib tent. But two and up seems like big boy bed territory.
Last week, Teddy started climbing out of his crib constantly, so I just decided to take it down. Now he's sleeping on a mattress on the floor while he awaits the twin bed we ordered for him. Incidentally we ordered matching twin beds for Charlie and Teddy (they share a room) on Overstock.com for half what they would've cost most places. Plus, the shipping was free. Plus, they can be turned into bunk beds should we ever trust Teddy to be alone in a room with a ladder.
Hang on, I have to go put Teddy back in his bed. He's "napping."
So, now Teddy has total freedom to roam around his room. He is using this freedom to pull books off the shelf and not nap. He is really living it up. It has only been about four days since we got rid of the crib, and none of those days has been alike in terms of sleep. Most days he hasn't napped, but he has gotten a lot of reading done. Yesterday he napped and then was up bugging Charlie until almost eleven o'clock at night. I really don't think he's ready to give up his nap yet because before all this big boy bed nonsense, he was a champion napper and equally awesome at going to bed. Right now, it seems as though he's not successful at going to sleep in his big boy bed unless he is absolutely delirious from lack of sleep. If he's not super exhausted, then the books on the shelf call his name.
Does anyone have a formula for how long it will take to get him back to being the fabulous napper I know he is deep down inside? How long until the allure of getting out of bed wears off? With my other two, I still was able to use the crib for naps until they basically didn't need a nap anymore, so this is kind of new territory for me.
Any other big kid bed training tips you can share? In a way, this feels kind of like potty training in that we are going to have to go through a few weeks of torture before he gets it. Is that true?
I thought of Teddy and his big boy bed when I heard this story on NPR yesterday. It's about how important it is to teach children self-control. Interesting stuff. Basically, a child's self-control is a big predictor of success later in life. It's much simpler to teach a preschooler self-control than it is a teenager or an adult. Maybe this big boy bed drama is an opportunity to teach Teddy a thing or two about self-control.
Last night Charlie came downstairs at around ten o'clock and told us that he had figured out why Teddy kept getting out of bed. "It's because his bed doesn't have walls on it anymore," Charlie said standing there in his snowman p.j.s. Charlie, ever the logician, was right. We need to teach Teddy to act as though there are walls even though the walls are gone. This would seem completely impossible, except that our other two children miraculously sleep in their big kid beds even though no one has chained them to their fitted sheets. There is hope for Teddy. I think.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
This year, I decided to get back on the homemade valentine horse. I checked my inner Martha Stewart at the door, and decided not to have any kind of agenda for the valentines. Now, even the two-year old is making valentines on his own without me micromanaging things. As usual he benefits from me screwing everything up the first time with the other two kids. Below are some pictures of what we did. Don't feel like this is what you need to do for your valentines. Hopefully these pictures will inspire you to make your valentine masterpieces, and soon you too will be finding glitter in your children's nether regions.
red and pink cards and matching envelopes
labels or table of friends' names
Charlie's school sent home these labels for him to cut and paste his friends' names. Brilliant! You could also write the names on heart stickers or labels and have your child stick them on.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
We were stopped at a red light on the way to gymnastics when Emma asked me apropos of nothing, "Mommy, what's a tiger mother?"
I laughed and tried my best to explain what a tiger mother was without totally freaking her out. I told her I was born in the year of the rabbit and was therefore not a tiger mother.
For those of you who don't know about the book by Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it's a memoir of sorts about one mother's experience with raising kids the "Chinese way." Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal piece by Chua detailing what Chinese children are not allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
The gym where Emma takes gymnastics is like a three-ring circus. There's Emma's "level 2" class, which is learning how to do cartwheels, how to walk backwards on the balance beam. Meanwhile the girls on the gymnastics team are practicing their floor routines, flipping their bodies powerfully across the big blue square in the middle of the gym. Another class practices the vault, another the uneven bars. You can see the evolution of how a donkey kick leads to a handstand, which leads to a handspring, which leads to a standing front flip. It's rare to see such a vivid example of how hard work and practice (and a touch of talent) can pay off.
Watching the class, I'm reminded of what the Tiger Mother said in her article: "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up."
In the car on the way to gymnastics Emma told me she doesn't want to continue to level 3 gymnastics. She thinks it's too hard and she's not "good" at it. She has said similar things about soccer and ballet and we didn't continue with those activities. Since Chua's article was fresh in my mind, I reacted more like a tiger and less like a rabbit. I told her that she was going to stick with gymnastics, that she hadn't given it enough time to be good at it. That things that are worth having sometimes take hard work and practice. "Things are always hardest at the beginning," I said, channeling Chua.
Chua has gotten lots of flack for her book and Wall Street Journal piece. I completely agree with her critics who find her parenting "strategies" borderline abusive. She calls her girls "garbage" and "lazy" if they disrespect her or do not get straight A-pluses in school. She threatens to give away her little girl's dollhouse piece by piece if she doesn't perfect her piano piece. She's extremely hardcore.
It's a shame, though, that these sensational details get most of the press when a lot of what Chua is saying about the "Western" parenting style is valid. We do quit too easily. We place so much stock in our children's self-esteem that we treat them like these privileged, fragile little deities. We worship their accomplishments to such a degree that they are growing up with nothing to shoot for, nothing to work for. If they aren't enjoying themselves, then we scurry to make things more entertaining, more palatable for them. I know not all "Western" parents are guilty of this, but a lot of us are, me most certainly included.
Is there a happy medium? Some sweet spot somewhere between calling your child garbage if she brings home an A- and praising the crap out of her all the time? I'm still working this out in my head. I'm starting by not letting Emma give up on gymnastics so quickly. I'm also starting to work with my kids on their math skills more at home. We've always focused on reading together because I am a reader and it's just something I enjoy doing with them. I have never placed much emphasis on math, though, and I'm trying to change this. I am not calling them lazy or garbage while we work on our addition and subtraction, rest assured. We are making it fun, and they are actually enjoying themselves, although that is not the point. The point is getting better at math. If it happens to be fun, then that's just a bonus. I am incrementally trying to raise the bar a little bit, to give my kids something higher to shoot for.
Try as I might to be a tiger mom, I will always be a rabbit. I am a softy, too sensitive for my own good. It's my nature to swaddle my kids with kind, encouraging words, protect them from anything uncomfortable or difficult. I want their lives to be easy and fun. But I now see that there is an unintentional consequence to this kind of mothering. If they are never forced to work for their achievements, how will they ever develop self-discipline, stamina or a work ethic? If life is presented to them as easy and fun-centered, how disappointed and ill-equipped will they be when they find out that life is not like this at all?
When I told Emma she was not quitting gymnastics so easily, she didn't question me. She almost seemed relieved to have this particular issue off the table. It must be exhausting being a "Western" kid sometimes--so much depends upon your happiness. It must be a relief to discover you're not the center of the universe, unless of course you discover it too late.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I am really schizophrenic when it comes to getting rid of things. I hold onto things that are really not worth holding onto. For a while, I save everything: every preschool art project, every card anyone ever sends me, every Chick-fil-a toy. Eventually I get completely fed up with the clutter, and then I am ruthless about getting rid of things. At this particular moment, I'm going through a purging phase. I've been going through old toys and tossing them in bags and posting the contents of those bags on freecycle. Someone from freecycle wants them and is supposed to come take them away tonight. Yay! I love that our beloved toys will have a life beyond our house. I hate the idea of them not getting played with. Maybe I've watched too much Toy Story.
We dismantled our guestroom bed that only gets used two times a year, figuring that real estate in our small house could be put to better use. We're keeping the mattress in the basement in case we ever have another guestroom in a future house, but we decided to get rid of the box spring and the lopsided metal frame it rested on. Incidentally, to make the metal frame un-lopsided, Brandon and I stuck a really cheesy paperback book underneath one of the legs to prop it up. Classy, I know. This book basically has a hole in it because it had been holding an entire bed up for many years. When it came time to toss the book in the recycling bin, I almost couldn't bear to do it because this was the book Brandon and I had read side-by-side on the plane to our honeymoon destination in Tangolunda Bay, Mexico. We read that whole book tandem-style, each one waiting patiently for the other one to finish so we could turn the page. It was a courtroom thriller. I can't remember much about the story other than that. It's in our recycling bin right now. That book has served us well, but it's time had come. See, I'm totally ruthless. But what am I going to do with a cheesy courtroom thriller with a hole in it now that it is no longer propping up a bed?
So, I need to somehow dispose of a box spring mattress. People on freecycle are giving away cheese that's past its sell-by date, so maybe someone will want my box spring and broken frame. Did I mention I have our living room furniture on craigslist? Brandon is a little concerned about that one. I guess I can't blame him. We have a lot of furniture crammed into our tiny living room. We tried moving two of the chairs into different rooms, but they won't fit through the narrow doors or up our tiny, treacherous staircase. Have I mentioned before how this house was built for exceptionally small people? Well, I'm no anthropologist, but the tiny doorways, low bathroom counters and shorty ceilings indicate that the people who lived here and raised six kids here were very short. I am always bumping my head on things and I am 5'5".
I mentioned freecycle earlier like everyone knows what it is. Have you tried this freecycle? As with most things, I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it's pretty amazing. You post things that you want to get rid of (for free) and then if someone wants your stuff, they email you and come and take it away. I like getting the freecycle emails. Here are the items being given away in my neighborhood freecycle group at this very moment:
- 3 old fashioned keys
- wooden box with salmon on it
- Pewter porringer (um, what?)
- Pentax film camera
- messenger bag
- Bra w/prothesis
- Gold snake choker
- Electric laminator
- Sewing machine with broken needle
- Standing Japanese shoji screen
Well, speaking of writing, I have a rare block of time where a kid doesn't need something. Teddy is sleeping, Charlie is at a friend's house and Emma's at school. I am hoping to get a little fiction writing accomplished with this lovely hour or so. Feel free to steal my freecycle story starter idea if you're blocked and need a little writing exercise to free you up. If you have other great writing exercises, I'd love to hear them.
Also, I've been thinking about the books I've read this past year and trying to pick my favorite. So far, the front-runner is Room by Emma Donahue. Has anyone else read Room? I'd love to hear your favorite book of 2010. If you leave a comment you'll automatically be entered to win a free box spring mattress!