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Monday, February 28, 2011

Serve Families First

This is going to sound privileged and whiny, but hear me out. Parents with children should be served first.  I know it looks like I'm out for special treatment and think the world owes me because I chose to drag my brood into the restaurant, post office, wherever, but it's not just for my sake.  It's for your sake.  It's for the sake of the other patrons.

Please, don't read me wrong. I don't wish that you ignore your other customers. And if you choose to see to them first, I would never complain, as that's really the way things should be.  But, I'm telling you from experience, if you bend the rules just slightly, your shift will run a lot more smoothly. Three minutes of waiting to the couple to our right is a much shorter time than three minutes to the toddlers I have with me. And that couple will most likely enjoy their meal much more if they don't have toddlers accidentally spilling their milk across the room, or wailing loudly, or singing silly songs at the top of their lungs.  All of these things happen when toddlers are forced to sit in one spot and bored.

So, when we've just been seated, and you're done rolling your eyes at having to serve the family table, (it's okay, I'd roll my eyes, too, but we'll leave you a good tip) and we put our drinks in, really, go and get our drinks.  It will help us distract the babies while you tend to your other, less offensive, patrons. When you come back with those drinks, if you ask to take our order, it will take you mere seconds and save precious and annoying minutes off the other end.

If we're not yet ready to order (and, trust me, we will try very hard to be ready as soon as possible), and you say you'll be back in a minute, try to be back in a minute. Normally, when diners aren't yet ready to order, it gives the waitstaff a reprieve to check on other tables, take a break, find out what's going on in the kitchen, etc. Now, you have every right to do that, should we need another minute, but, again, if you come back quickly, it may save everyone around us a huge headache. There are only so many times we can point out letters on the sugar packets before one of those packets gets torn open, know what I mean?

Now, parents should be able to control their kids, it's true, and you have no responsibility toward them if they can't or don't. We do absolutely suck sometimes. (Sometimes, we're awesome, the kids behave, they're cute, they don't ruin anything or make a mess, and we leave a big tip for your hassle. This is what every parent strives for, I assume.)

The most important time to be quick, though, for everyone, is after the meal is over.  Usually there is a nice, slow, three-step process here, in which a server drops off the check and leaves, the patron puts the money or the card in and waits, the server after taking care of hungry customers on whose tip he or she is still depending, comes back and takes the money.

A slight adjustment here would help parents, servers, and other customers.  When the check is delivered, wait for two seconds longer than normal.  The parent will most likely pull out a card right away because at this point we are dying to leave the restaurant.  There is nothing left with which to distract the kids, no promise of forthcoming goods or fun, and nothing new to show them.  We need to leave, and we need to leaev now. When the parent whips out the card in a flash and gives it to a server, the server would do well to run it right away and give it back.  The sooner the family gets out of the restaurant, the better, for all involved.

I'm not saying parents deserve special treatment. We certainly do not.  However, should you choose to give it to us of your own voilition, things might be better for everyone.  Don't do it for us; we're the jerks who showed up and  ruined your shift.  Do it for you.  You have the power to salvage that shift, yet.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 28

Ways to Trick your Baby:

Problem: You're out to eat and your children do not want to sit still. They're wriggling and whining and attempting to escape. Surely there are more interesting things in the restaurant that the silverware they can't touch and the sugar packets they got spoken to about ripping open.

Solution: Use booster seats.  With the added fitting walls around them, they'll feel more at ease in their lot.  If the boosters aren't enough (because there's no way to anchor a seat to the chair, and the willful toddler can topple one over in moments), seat them in the restaurant high chairs.  Those have straps and are quite stable.


Ways Your Baby Tricks You:

Problem: You've allowed your children to sit on the big chairs in a restaurant without a booster or a high chair.  They know it can be done.  From this, there is probably no coming back, and no made-for-the-child solution.

Solution: Sit only in booths.  Seat the children on the inside and yourselves on the outside of the booth.  With a built-in mommy or daddy barrier, we've found the temptation to scramble out of the seats to mass disapproval is much less.  Plus, the high backs and structure of booths discourage climbing around to get a beter view.  If the children really need to look around, when they stand up, there's less likelihood they'll fall because there's nothing to topple over.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Love is a Battlefield

Waking up each morning, I know that my day is going to go exactly how two little creatures decide it will go.  The tone is set the moment I walk into the room.  Each day it's a new game of logistical prowess.  Can I get them dressed and ready with no breakdowns?  Can I outwit their cranky tendencies and keep them interested in things that are fun?  Or will I be dragged down by petty fights, whining, crying and frivolous attack?  It's a toss up.

Getting dressed determines the day. I have learned the hard way that what might seem an innocuous request for a different jacket or pair of socks is really a trap.  I no longer give them options.  They cannot handle options.  And since we have very few exactly matching outfits, I will almost never win the "choose which shirt you want to wear" game.

Having twins, I feel like the daily battles I fight must surely differ from that of parents of singletons or children spaced apart.  They may have different, equally antagonizing behavior, but having twins must present its own unique set of fights and problems.

Without further ado, I give you my morning:

"Good morning, babies!"

Whargaarble.  Oh, great, one of those days.

Natalina pipes up.  "Ojoon jacket."  Seems reasonable, except that we only have one orange jacket, and Dulce always wears it.

"Yeah," Dulce agrees.  "Ojoon jacket."

"Okay," I say, making a rookie mistake.  "Dulce will get the orange jacket and you can wear the pink jacket you always wear when Dulce wears the orange jacket."

Tears and tantrums.  No, I think.  We are not doing this today.  Not to mention, I'd already picked out the polka dotted outfits.



I think they finally broke my camera. Sorry for the low quality.

I tell them there will be no orange jacket today.  Perhaps tomorrow.  Today we are wearing the dots.  I attempt to dress Dulce first.  She usually wears the white.  Natalina, however, decides that today she wants the white.  Tears and tantrums.

Thankfully, Dulce is still caught up in the orange jacket desire.  I sate her with an orange shirt, and for some heavenly reason, she decides not to fight for the white polka dots.  I quickly switch the outfits with a sleight-of-hand skill I picked up when they turned about a year.  Everything goes swimmingly for about two minutes while I dress Natalina.

Then she realizes that Dulce is getting the guitar underwear.  This is my mistake.  Natalina usually gets the guitar underwear, but, remember, I'd switched the outfits.  I have to be strong and sternly tell her that she cannot have the guitar underwear today, even though I feel bad since it's my error.  If I attempted to make it right, I would have opened a can of worms from which there was no going back.  This one would want those pants, the other would want something from the closet, and it would all end in an inferno of wailing and screaming over no good reason.

Luckily, Natalina grudgingly accepted her guitarless fate, but started fights over Dulce's lovey.  Then Dulce stole Natalina's strawberry.  Then one of them got hit by the other one.  A group hug on the couch before Natalina breaks away and hides in her room, shutting the door on Dulce, causing pandemonium.  Dulce steals Natalina's fruit fork and puts it in the trash.

"Mama, my fork! Mine. Mine!  Mama!"

They have been awake for two hours, and, really, this morning could have gone much worse.  I feel quite talented for having avoided even more tantrums, even more extreme reactions.  Still, if I hear "mine" one more time today, I may not make it.

Good morning, babies!

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Toddlers and Tiaras? No, Thanks.

Last night, my husband and I caught about three minutes of the show "Toddlers and Tiaras."  There was a pretty little girl in a lot of make up, smiling and standing before a crowd, her mother proudly looking on with tears in her eyes.

"When I'm in my make up," the little girl said, "I feel pretty."

And she looked pretty.  I certainly wasn't scandalized.  It looked like any other mother / daughter activity to me.

The next shot was a teaser for the next segment, in which a young girl, probably three or four, was walking down the corridor, getting ready to go on stage.

"Don't take your dress off right now," the mom said calmly.  The girl stopped in her tracks, put her head down, whined, and flopped face-down on the floor in slow motion.

My husband and I dissolved into laughter.  That would have been Natalina's exact reaction.  Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the pressure on these families and the effort they must exert to go through this particular activity.  They can have it.  We're not interested over here.  Let me tell you why.

1) I happen to think my two girls are the most beautiful human beings ever to toddle the earth.


See?

Oh, you don't? That's okay.  I am acutely aware that as the mother of these two girls, I will find them more beautiful than anything.  I assume that every other mother of every other child thinks the same about their children.  Therefore, my opinion of their beauty is useless in determining whether they should be on a toddler runway.  I prefer to have my viewpoint, separate from the judges and audiences that would not be so kind.

2) As a parent, I don't have the energy to truck them around to this and that agent or show producer.  The casting calls, the constant primping, the frills, the organization.  I mean, it's all I can do to get them to the library two miles away.  And putting make up on a two-year-old kid?  I can't even put make up on myself.  I'm not cut out for show business.

3) I highly doubt they're cut out for show business, either.  The scene with the little girl flopping on the floor seconds before her big moment reduced me to giggles because I'm absolutely sure that would be us should we ever attempt the spotlight.

4) I don't know if I would be strong enough to put all this pressure on them and emphasis on their looks and at the same time instill in them that looks mean (or should mean) nothing in the real world.  I am not a complicated enough creature to be able to resolve those mixed messages.  I'm sure some parents can do it, but I have no idea how.

5) It takes them out of a loving home environment and puts them under harsh lighting and critical eyes at such a young age.  They are just learning about themselves and their place in the world around them.  I just don't think adult stranger criticism is going to help their development.

Thankfully, so far in their two-year life-span, the girls have never expressed to me an interest in showing off their looks to millions of strangers on television.  While some toddlers may have a burning desire to do this, mine are content to play princess and superman.

I'd like to keep it that way.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learn Through Play

"I'm a frog, mama, I'm a frog...riddit, riddit...I need flies!"

Cue two babies hopping around on all fours. Soon one of the frogs finds a toy dog on the floor.

"Uh oh!" she says. "Bad dog, bad dog, bite frog!"

"Oh no!" her sister yells. "No dog, no! Go away dog! No biting!"

In an instant, one has gone from a frog to a dog and wreaks havoc upon her slimy friend.

"Mama, help me! Save me, save me!"

The frog clambers up onto my lap, no longer a frog, but a simple victim of a dog attack.

"We're safe now," I say. "Dog is gone."

Upon hearing my words, the dog wanders away, to plan its next assault. The victim does what she would normally do when she feels safe and comforted.  She sleeps.

"Shornk shoo.  Shornk shoo." She pretends to snore.  "Oh no! Mama! Dog coming!" The dog comes back with renewed strength and vigor.

"No, dog, no!" I say. "Baby, get Superman! Only he can save us."

The little one runs to the toy box, expertly avoiding the dog.  "Whoosh, whoosh! Superman!" She comes back triumphant, with the superhero in hand. The dog, understanding it's been beaten, retreats behind the wall.

Over the past few months, this house has gone through a revolution of the imagination. Games like these can evolve and sustain themselves throughout the day. My children have gone from wanting a sponge to be a hat and tantruming over it, to knowing a sponge is not a hat, and pretending it is anyway.

I'm not trained in any cognitive sciences, but I've been more proud of their blossoming imaginations than any other developments thus far. Yes, they can tell me their letters and numbers, but I've never seen them as fully engaged as when they are submerged in play.  Their games expose the inner workings of their minds and environment. Through them, I am able to see the world as they are learning to see it. And with each day that goes by, the games get more sophisticated, more complicated.  I'm a proud mom, but I didn't know why.

How validated I felt when I read this article.  It suggests that children hone their mental skills through play and imaginative games, and that this education is more valuable than anything learned by rote as if by duty.

The question becomes, why do we stop encouraging this in our children's daily lives as they get older?  It's as if, suddenly, when they hit seven or eight, we adults decide that they are ready to move on from imagination entirely, and we force memorization, logistics and critical thinking in a very structured way.  If a child, probably surprised and confused by the change, doesn't catch on, or acts out in rebellion, we punish.  Tests enforced by the federal government must be passed.  Everything is structured.  Everyone must learn in exactly the same way and know exactly the same things.  The minds we were helping to grow just a few years ago are now beaten back by the system, forced into channels they may not normally go.  The emphasis changes from loving to learn to learning to repeat. The brain is told to stop reaching for ideas not already given to us by those in charge. Children begin to learn how to give 'the right' answer, but in doing so, they have little time left to formulate their own conclusions.

More importantly, many of them stop enjoying education.

"Play is steadily losing out to what play proponents refer to as the "drill and kill" method. We drill more because they can't pay attention, but they can't pay attention because they don't have these underlying play skills, so we drill more,"  author Deborah J. Leong says. "It's pathetic."

Educators, too, are forced to work within this tiny 'acceptable' framework in order to achieve test scores that may or may not actually indicate the level of learning taking place in the classroom.  If every child were to receive 100 percent on these tests, all we would prove, in my opinion, is that we were able to completely squash individuality and creativity in favor of memorization. A learning without the learning, in fact, because all the memorization in the world will not help a child understand the building blocks of the theories behind the execution.

For now, my little princesses are safe from all this. 


When they do get to school, don't get me wrong, I hope they pass those tests with flying colors.  I also hope they never lose this originality they are starting to exhibit on a daily basis, in favor of adult approval.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potty and Beyond

Diapers are becoming a thing of the past.  I still use them for naps and when we go out somewhere, but I've no need.  The babies will tell me when they have to use the potty, and if there is an available structure, we'll use it.  If not, they'll hold it because try as I might, I can't convince them to empty their bladder in an unorthodoxed setting.

They're not dry at night, though - far from it.  So that when they turned to me as we were about to put them to bed last night and asked to use the potty, I was more than happy to accommodate them.  And they used them, almost immediately.

Yes, it was a hassle, undressing them from their nighties and stripping them of their diapers, but it was worth it.  Until the games kicked in.

As I bundled them back up and tucked them into bed, I saw the light go off in their heads.  Hey, they thought, you know what stopped this from happening just a few minutes ago?

"Shee shee, again!" Dulce proclaimed, trying to get out of bed, insisting she need the potty again, just 10 seconds after getting off.

I didn't fall for it. We gave them their goodnight kisses and left the room to chants of "shee shee gain, shee shee gain."

Fifteen minutes later, when I went to resettle them, the chant was at full force and had changed to "Go pee pee. Go pee pee."

Still, I resisted. My husband suggested moving their potties into their room overnights, and I was overcome with the image of spilled waste and wet babies in the morning.

Eventually they settled down and went to sleep, and we woke up to the typical wet diapers this morning.  So, when are children ready for night training?  Should I have ignored their playful pleas?

I don't know, but I do know this...the war I was sure I had just won was really just one of the battles along the way.  Perhaps potty training will never end.  It certainly seems that way.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Day In The Life - February

Last week, I proposed a day in the life meme, and many people participated!  I have at least two more coming at the end of today, so be sure to check back!  Without further ado, here's mine.

February 14, Darlena, Florida

Wake up time!  I'm not sure about this day, Mom, so you'd better make it worth my while!












We know you want coffee, but first you have to clean up the dishes.  Okay, good.  Now you can have a cup.















Going potty is serious business.  We need a snack and some music.






Boy, are we glad that's over.  Now we can play, and, most importantly, we don't have to wear pants!







Oatmeal for breakfast again, Mom?  Elmo is tired of oatmeal.




At least we're finally getting out of the house.  I guess the oatmeal was worth it.





















First stop, Bed Bath and Beyond.  Then TJ Maxx's.  And what's this? A fruit bar filled with preservatives? Delicious.





Thank goodness it's finally naptime.  We love Green Eggs and Ham!
Oh, the sweet sweet sweetness of sleep.


You don't want to leave us in here too long, though.  We'll find a way to make a mess.

After lunch, we noticed you were busy cleaning the kitchen.  We decided to clean up a bit, too.  Elmo was very dirty.  Don't worry, he's clean now.



At long last, Daddy comes home!  And he brought us chocolate covered strawberries!  We must be the best Valentines ever!

Time for just a few more games before bedtime.


I told you I wasn't ready for bed.  Dulce may be hiding from you, but I'll look you right in the eye and tell you what I think of this "bed situation."


I used up all my allotted pictures on the babies, so no more after their bed time.  Suffice to say we watched a bit of TV, did a bit of cleaning, and checked the computers before bed.  Scintillating, I know.

Now, if you'd like to see some way more interesting days, click on these links!

Irene in MA posted her day over at The Crafting Hobbit!

Lea at Becoming Supermommy also did her day on Valentine's Day!

Carla in Houston showed us her day at The Jansen Family Adventures!

Chrissy aka Starwishful had some fun Nana action to document!

Beth used Intersect to post her full-of-fun day!

Meanwhile, Chelsea created a new page to document her adventures!

Joella shows us Delilah's day over at Dear Delilah, Fine and Fair!

Yassie in London posted her pictures on Flickr.  She's not a mom, so get ready to see a different view in many ways.

Another childless day from acheuleanhandax, in PA!

Fellow twin mom Janel in GA, aka polychrome_baby posted her normal day, too!

The Mahan Clan just added their day, too!

I know I've a few more coming, and if I've missed your link, get it to me and I'll add it ASAP!  Thanks for contributing!  I had a lot of fun.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Moment of the Week - 27

video
Natalina would like to warn you about securing your homes before you watch this video.  Otherwise, they could blow down.


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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 27

Ways to Trick your Baby:

Problem: Your baby wants something, and the answer is no.  Anyone who has ever lived with toddlers knows that this is the problem to end all problems.

Solution: Never just say no, as much as you really want to.  No is an insuffient answer.  If you want to avoid the almost inevitable tantrum that will ensue, say no in three gentle stages.  First, explain to them why their request is being turned down.  "We can't do that right now because first you have to eat breakfast."  "We need shoes to go outside, but we can't put our shoes on until we go potty." This shows them a clear gameplan as to what they need to do to get where they want to be.  It takes you as the one who makes the rules out of the equation and makes the bad guy the various situations which they can easily overcome.  Second, tell them when, if ever, their request will be filled.  "Yes, we will get a balloon tomorrow, when we go shopping," or "Yes, we will be seeing Nana in March."  You can even ask them after you've said it, to repeat it, so they feel they have some control over the situation.  "When are we seeing Nana?"  "In March!"  Third, after you've explain the situation best you can, then you can try to distract them with something else.  I've found that trying to redirect right off the bat will only get you resentment and tantrums.  Things that would normally interest them will hold no weight until they are able to put their request to the back of their minds and make peace with its outcome.

Ways your Baby Tricks You:

Problem: You want your baby to do something and the answer is no.

Solution: Use classic reverse psychology.  I never think to do this.  I always assume the babies will laugh in my face at the age-old tactic, making me look the fool.  My husband, though, does not overestimate them in this way, and time after time a simple, "Oh, well it's good you don't want that juice anyway because it's mine and I'm going to drink it all." Every time this forces the babies' hand, and they'll drink the juice.  I'm amazed it works, but it does, at least in our house.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

edited

It was rightfully mentioned to me that I should be careful about what I am deciding to share here.  Here are the pictures from today's post, instead!


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Separation Anxiety

I had to go to the doctor this morning.  A regular check up. It only took an hour.

As I drove up through the parking garage, I realized that this was the first time I had been out without the kids or my husband since Christmas shopping.  It was the first time I had been out without the kids or my husband not doing something for the kids or my husband since I got my hair cut in October.

Inadvertantly, I've become one of those mothers whose children are attached at the hip.

It was nice to drive in a quiet car, listening to whatever station I wanted to with no protest from the back.  It was refreshing to get out of the car and...well that's it.  I could just get out of the car, and I was ready to go.  No strapping, or pulling, or hand-holding, or watching fingers as the door closed.  No redirecting from my original route, no worrying about how many buttons were pushed on the elevator, no snacks to fish out of my purse.  I could just get out of the car and walk to my appointment.  Oh, the freedom!

I thrilled at doing this little adult thing all by myself, and laughed at myself, since three years ago I was going to these appointments twice a week, before work, and never would have thought twice to appreciate being able to walk from point a to point b in a straight line.

I missed them, though, even for that hour.  We've got a very set morning routine, and I wasn't there for it.  As I got back into my car -- again, got back in, and drove away; no strapping, struggling, unstrapping, yelling, giving of snack or juice, or pleading -- I missed their little curly heads.  I wanted to get home quickly and give them hugs.

And they'd missed me, too.  Apparently Dulce had cried for much of the time I was gone, simply aghast that I would dare to step out the door ever.  I was the one that was supposed to feed her the milk, yogurt and oatmeal in the morning.  I was the one that took care of morning potty rounds.  Daddy was simply an unacceptable substitute.

This doesn't bode well as I strike out searching for a job, but I know we're all resilient.  We'll make new routines, and grow to love those just as well.  I'll probably always miss their curly heads after more than an hour, though.

Life is always changing.  Your child may put up a fuss or a fight about something, but it's not because they hate it.  It's more likely because it's different and they aren't used to it.  Babies are just as scared of change as adults, but they get used to it much more quickly.  No matter what you have to do in your life, as long as you keep your babies' well-being first in mind, they'll be okay.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding Evan's Heart

Have you ever seen a miracle?



Now you have.  Meet Evan Davis.  He and his brother Finn were born 16 weeks early, on August 1st, 2009.  Evan essentially has only half a working heart.  He was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

No baby has ever made it in the world born before 36 weeks gestation with HLHS.

He is a miracle.



He's spends his days in hospitals, his nights being watched over by medical professionals, his parents, and as his mother would say, by God.  He is waiting, ever patiently, for a heart.  Every day he lives is another day he makes history.  He is waiting for a heart, but the one he has spends every beat loving those around him, and being loved in return.

HLHS is a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

In babies with HLHS, the aorta and left ventricle are very small, and the aortic and mitral valves are either too small to allow sufficient blood flow or are atretic (closed) altogether. As blood returns from the lungs to the left atrium, it must pass through an atrial septal defect to the right side of the heart.

From the time he was born, Evan's family was told he would not survive.  He's gone through more trials and traumas in his short life than most of us could ever fathom.  Yet, each time the doctors told his mother that it would be the last time, little Evan came up fighting.  Little Evan survived.  I could go on and on about him, but, really, his mother does it best in her own words.



"Rock bottom for me was the second day of life for the boys. I remember telling my mom - actually I think I dropped into her arms and sobbed, telling her I couldn't do this - I couldn't let Evan die. ... I promised to pray every day and to be thankful every day. To always remember what is at stake ... Soon days turned to months and although everyone still told us Evan was going to die we pushed along and that bond that we formed that feeling that everything was going to be alright grew stronger."



"As I stand and hold Evan's hand, I feel helpless. There is nothing i can do but love him and be there for him ... did you know that I was told to pay attention to Finn because he was the baby whose diaper I would be changing, and did you know that they told me he wouldn't make it through labor?

"Having a baby with a deadly heart condition having any sick kid (means you) have a different respect for things. You may want your kid to be a doctor or to play sports...I just want my kid happy. Every smile to me is him playing sports and graduating from Harvard." 


"As I have said before and told everyone that has kid - enjoy every minute every second because that is how I live my days. I know no matter what no matter how hard whatever the outcome...he will be loved and taken care of. We are so blessed and so lucky to have him right now. I would be happy to take care of him in a wheelchair - I will take care of him whatever way he needs...but if he is suppose to be with God, then that is okay. He is very lucky to be loved by so many people. Thank you God for yet another miracle. We are so blessed."

Take a moment, readers, and think of your own kids. Kiss them and love them and hold them dear.  For whether they are well or struggling for survival, each of our kids is a miracle.

February is National Heart Month.  Evan is waiting for his.  Let's help him find it, together.

For more information on Evan or ways you can help, please visit his CaringBridge site, and his Facebook Page.

Click here for more informaion on HLHS.


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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleepless Nights

We put the babies to bed around 9:30 p.m. as per usual.

At 12:30 a.m. Natalina started crying. I went down to check on her. I straightened her blankets. She was still asleep. I went back upstairs and told my husband hopefully, although I already knew I was wrong, "maybe that will be it." But it was a cry I knew.  A cry that meant a long night ahead.

At 2 a.m. Natalina cried out for me.  "Mama. Mama! Mommy!"  I went downstairs to see her. She was still in bed, but awake.  Her pillow had fallen to the floor.  I picked it up and settled her back in bed comfortably.

At 2:40 a.m. I startled awake to see a little face peering at me in the dark.  Natalina had crept upstairs.  I gathered her in my arms and pulled her into bed with me for a few moments while I collected myself.  My husband, misunderstanding my intent said, "Well, no one is going to sleep if she's in here."  I held her for a few minutes, then hoisted her up and walked her back downstairs.  "Would you like me to shut the door?" I asked.  "No shut door.  Open door."  "Okay," I replied, "but if I leave the door open, you have to stay in bed, okay?"  "Okay."

At 3 a.m. I had left the room with the door cracked open, but, knowing my daughter, I stood outside the crack, out of view.  At 3:02 a.m. she left her bed and attempted to go upstairs again.  I intercepted her.  "Stay in bed, or I'll shut the door." I settled her back in bed.

At some point during the night, my husband actually got up and saw to her.  I don't remember when, or what the issue was that time.  I know I couldn't drag myself out of bed that time (something that has almost never happened before) so I'm happy he was able to do it.

At 4 a.m. I was awakened by the stomp of little feet up the stairs.  I met Natalina halfway up and carried her back down to bed.  "Mama, lay back," she said.  I laid on the floor of their room for about 15 minutes, then got up, pressed a kiss to her forehead and told her to go to sleep.  I left the door open a crack.

At 4:17 a.m. I was standing outside the cracked door out of view.

At 4:19 a.m. I was putting her back in bed again.  I shut the door.  "No!  No!  Open door!  Open door!  Mama! Mama!  Open door!  No closed door!"  I opened the door, resettled her and told her that if she wanted the door open, she had to stay in bed.

At 5:15 a.m. I was startled awake by a baby crying.  It was Dulce.  I settled her down and went back upstairs.

At 6:15 a.m. Natalina was headed back up the stairs. I brought her back down, and her noise awakened Dulce, who was wet through.  I changed Dulce, and the sheets on her bed.  I changed Natalina, whose diaper was also wet.  I told them sternly I would be closing the door, and they had better go to sleep.  I left to mild protests.

At 6:50 a.m. I heard the sounds of babies talking.  I ignored it for about a half hour, until Dulce raised her voice to a wail, I assume when she realized the door was shut.

At 7:20 a.m. I went downstairs and got the babies ready for the day.

I'm exhausted.  They're fresh as daisies.  How does this happen?

And now I'm expected to function.  It's a good thing I love them so much, I'll tell you what.


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Right On, Kermie!



As a former television news producer, this clip of Kermit the Frog, reporter, never fails to crack me up. In it, he is at the scene of breaking news - an ongoing, live accident scene. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall.

The kids love it because it's a nursery rhyme they know mixed in with with intense imagery, so that they are both familar with and surprised by the content.

I love it because it is so subtley hilarious it is impossible not to love. Here are a few highlights that pertain to real-life news:

:15 - "To recapitulate that story..." Haha! During liveshots reporters often have to fill time as their brains process the incoming information and how to best deliver it to their audience. There can be no dead air on the news, and in order to keep from stuttering as they cast about for something to say, they will often insert huge meaningless words into their introduction, buying them precious seconds.

:29 - "Pardon me, cow? It's just supposed to be the King's horses here...go on, get out, get out, GET OUT!" This is typical of reporters. They go to a story with a set ideal of what is going to unfold, often writing their scripts before they've even left the car to get interviews. Sometimes, it's hard for them to accept the scene as it is, rather that the scene that it was in their heads. Kermie could have gotten another interesting side of the story with the cow. Instead, he chose to insert himself and his idea of the story, closing his mind to a potential angle.

34: "All the King's horses and all the King's men are indeed trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again." Empty monologue here. Telling the viewer what what he just told them, in an attempt to link the introduction to the live events happening right now. "Are indeed" is probably the funniest part of this entire clip to me. No kidding, Kermit.

49: "Well, Dumpty's a tough egg." "Tough egg, yeah, yeah." Not exactly what you would call hard boiled." "Hard boiled, right, right." "But he had a pretty bad fall." "Bad fall, you say." Hah! This is the reporter being unable to be quiet for even a moment to allow the interviewee to complete an answer. Reporters can sometimes interrupt an interview to interject meaningless reactions, in an attempt to show the interviewee that the two of them are simply having an everyday conversation. This is very annoying to a producer. We're going to have to cut that interview up for sound bites later, and if we can't get a clean cut - that is, a bite without the reporter's voice piping up - the sound is amateurish. Kermit, just smile and nod. Smile and nod.

1:29 - "This is a very exciting and dramatic moment." This kills me every time. When Kermit says this, the photographer is on a close up...of Kermit! He wouldn't have to describe the moment he is missing as exciting and dramatic if the camera were on the climax of the live shot, where it should be. So often, reporter / photographer teams talk over the reason they are there and miss the shot. Thanks, though, Kermit, for at least telling me it was exciting and dramatic.

1:47 - "Oh, Sesame Street. How do I look?" Typical interviewee response that nothing can be done about in a live shot. People can get so excited about being on television that they detract from the actual story to say hi to their mom.

2:09 - "It's very nice to have you back...CRASH." New journalism at its finest. Kermit interjects himself into the story and creates his own news. Fraggle Rock News will now be able to report on the Sesame St. News reporter who accidentally shoved Humpty off the wall, and the story will live for another few days at least.


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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Moment of the Week - 26

At the park, we have a soccer star, and a pretty darn good pusher.

video

video


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 26

Ways to Trick your Baby:

Problem:  Your child loves you.  She loves you so much.  She needs to show you her love at all times in all ways.  But sometimes, you're busy.  You can't pick her up in the middle of your task, but she will have it no other way.  If you give in, you'll end up carrying her in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, everywhere.  If you do not give in, you'll end up with a tantruming child you'll eventually have to pick up anyway.

Solution: Designate a specific place for hugs.  Our hug spot is the green couch.  When your little one comes around looking for love, tell her you must go to your hug spot for affection.  Then, at least for the first few days, interrupt what you're doing to go there and hug her immediately.  Soon she'll get the idea that the hug spot is where the best affection occurs and the balance of desire will switch from the affection itself to the place of affection.


Problem: You can't always leave what you are doing unattended, and babies can be too impatient to wait.  In my house, the request goes from "Green couch?" to "Green cooooouuuuucccchhh" in a matter of seconds.  But if the stove is on, or you need to go to the bathroom, your kids will have to wait.

Solution: Address their request immediately in some manner so they don't feel you are just ignoring them.  Tell them you'll be at the hug spot at a time in the near future, but that you have to finish whatever task you are currently doing first.  This will result in a tantrum or two at first, but if you stick to your word and go to the hug spot after you're done stacking the dishwasher or whatever you've been doing, the babies will come to trust you.  In this manner, you will be able to postpone affection-giving to a time and place that is convenient and, more importantly, not dangerous.  Your children will have inadvertantly learned patience.  When this works, it really helps save a parent's sanity.  Clinginess has gone way down in this house since I first started the hug spot.


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Friday, February 11, 2011

Day in the Life

Do you DITL?  Maybe you should!  DITL, or Day in the Life, is a project that documents a small slice of life in a big way.  On a given day, you take pictures - lots of pictures - of your day.  You photograph everything you think of that would be indicative of that day.  Then you post the pictures, along with a bunch of other people, and everyone gets a peek into the world of others.  Everyone knows how different or similar life was for other people in, say, mid-February, 2011.

Now that I've explained it a bit, I'd love for you to DITL with me!  It's easy and fun to do, and so many times people make lifelong friends out of it.

Here's how you do it:

1) Any time from now until February 21st, pick a day and take pictures of it.

2) Post 5 to 15 of those pictures online in order of your daily events anywhere you'd like.  You could post them to your own blog, to your Facebook, to your Photobucket or Flickr in a separate folder.  You could post them to your Livejournal or to your Circle of Moms page.  You can post it anywhere you want more traffic - just make sure the link is public.

3) Send me the link to your post.  It would be most convenient if you left it in a comment here, but if you've got other means to reach me, you can use those venues, too.

4) On February 21st, I will post a DITL, and I will post all the links I've received.  This way, people stopping by can hop from day to day to day to day, and really get a sense of life everywhere this next week, as lived by regular people.

5) Please include at least a first name and a state (or country or province if you aren't in the U.S.), so people have at least a slight idea of what they're looking at.

6) You do not have to be a parent.  I would love to see lives from every corner represented here.  I'm looking to make this as big and diverse as possible.

7) Please pass this around everywhere and anywhere you think people would be interested!  I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun, and I'm super excited!  So, tell your facebook, or your journal, or your blog readers.  Maybe someone you know or someone they know have been dying to try this,
 and you never knew it!


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where Were You?

Today is my babies' half-birthday!  I made the mistake of telling them this yesterday, and immediately was met with demands of cake, candles and birthday hats.  They may not know what half means, but they certainly understand birthday.












So, have a seat and a piece of cake!

So often, as our babies grow, we mark the milestones and celebrate their development.  We tend to completely forget that as our babies sprout into children, we are also growing.

Our growth doesn't take the form of height or motor skills.  It's more subtle, but it's there.  So, as your babies age, and you celebrate the lives you created as they round each new stage, remember yourself.  We, as parents, are also important as people.

Let me explain.

When my babies were six months old, I was a full-time news producer in Boston.  The commute was long (90 minutes each way), and the hours were longer.  I coordinated and stacked shows that started with the unrest in Lebanon and ended with harvesting lichen in Maine.  I sat in a control booth, barking out orders to directors and reporters, taking phone calls from the assignment desk, and advancing the lower thirds.  Leaving this job marks a huge shift in priorities for me.  This was a rising-star job.  But I had to leave.  I was gone 15 hours a day.  I missed my babies.

When my babies were 18 months old, I was the senior producer for a weekly magazine show in Waterbury.  I worked under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, specifically, the Diocese of Hartford.  I'm not particularly religious, and this was hard for me.  We produced daily Masses, and Crossroads Magazine.  I was also in charge of public relations, obviously not an easy task.  I would put together intricate appeal videos that helped to bring in tens of millions of dollars to the church, while couching the hard news stories about it in sugary spin.  I was closer to home, but I still missed my babies.  My family was getting nervous as the economy worsened and my husband continued to look for work.


Now that the babies are 2.5 years, I'm staying at home with them.  My days are no longer filled with breaking news, cutting soundbites, and coordinating live shots.  My days are no longer filled with writing six-minute features, organizing promotional videos, or managing a staff.  My days are now filled with teaching language, reading, potty skills, and independence to a set of wily twins.  It's probably the hardest job I've ever done.

Happy half-birthday, babies.  Who knows where you'll be in your lives next year?  And who knows where mommy will be in hers?  Probably still behind the camera.  Hopefully still in front of an empty plate of cake.



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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Potty Training - A Success Story

Potty training.  As you can see, it's serious business.  And this week, I think, I can proudly claim success.  Of course, success is relative, and I've been trying for months to get to this point, using various methods and techniques and tricks, mostly to no avail.  The twins simply were not ready for my previous attempts.

I've had my share of pee-pee pick-up duty.  I've scrubbed down furniture and carpets to get rid of undesirable waste.  I've dealt with tantrums over wearing or not wearing a diaper.  I've rushed babies to the potty only to sit there for hours as they refused to pee or to move.  I've completely missed dinner at a restaurant, spending the entire time in the restroom with petulant twins.  I've gone through hundreds of stickers.  I've begged, cajoled, threatened and broken down into tears.

Potty training.  It is serious business.

It got so bad at one point, I simply gave up, deciding that my quitting did not equal a failure on my part or on my kids' parts.

After that last attempt, as the twins approached their 2.5 mark, I decided, once more, to try the potty.

Here are a few things that worked for me:

1) Forget the pull ups.  My children liked pull ups, they really did.  They liked them because they were pink and blue and pretty.  They had no interest in pulling them either up or down.  They know what a diaper looks like, even when it's colorful, and they know what a diaper does.  It's easier to pee pee in a diaper than in a potty, so if they were wearing a diaper, even one with snazzy velcro, they would pee in the diaper.

2) It doesn't matter what you reward them with, as long as you reward them.  My kids only got distracted with promises of stickers and candy.  The bribes didn't really work to get the pee pee in the potty.  They could not connect the two concepts.  In the end, the best incentive for them was letting them flush the toilet afterward.  This worked on several levels.  They got to do something they considered fun to prove that they were good girls, and they saw the completion of a task.  They gratifyingly saw their pee pee go away.  We have a little ritual that include waving goodbye to it and shouting, "Bye Shee Shee!"

3)  You do not have to clean up urine dozens of times a day.  Repeat that to yourself.  I do not have to clean up urine dozens of times a day.  If you find yourself on your hands and knees scrubbing away every hour for more than a few days (they do need time to get used to it), if your hands have a lingering salty smell no matter how much you wash them, your kids are not ready for potty training.  This is where I was when we gave up.  I simply could not bear to find another "present" behind the coffee table three hours after the fact.

4)  Take it in steps.  We started by going completely pantless.  A few accidents later, and the babies understood that when they had to go, they had to run to the potty.  It was magical.  Then I moved to keeping them in pants and underwear.  We had a few more accidents because up until that point whenever the babies had felt material on their legs they were able to urinate without consequence.  After a few pants soakings though, they now rush to me and I help them down with their pants, and they go, gloriously, as heavenly music filters down from the sky.

5)  Buy the right underwear.  While everyone pays lip service to having their babies trained at 18 months (I'm skeptical, I admit), the smallest underwear you can easily find is a 4T.  Don't do it.  If your child is a 2T or a 3T, hold out.  Wearing underwear needs to be a comfortable experience.  Ballooning, wrinkled, too-big underroos are anything but comfortable.  Be careful, too, of the cut.
On the left we have a "wrong" pair of underwear.  It's made by Joe Boxer.  First, it's huge.  It simply will not fit my babies for about another year.  Secondly, and almost more importantly, look at how small the front portion is.  It's not wide enough.  It doesn't cover, and the blue outline is too rough for the skin it's up against.  They are poorly made.  On the right, we have a "right" pair of underwear, although I don't remember their brand.  They're 2/3T.  The waist is smaller, the leg holes are smaller, the front portion is bigger and sits correctly.  It's enough for me to forgive the "Cute" across the front (really, underwear-makers?).

6)  If you are at the beginning of this potty training process, remember what not to buy, and that quitting is not failing.

Good luck and Godspeed.  Children are all different and can handle different developments at different times.  Two and a half just happened to be the right age for us.

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