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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Identity is Important - Part I, A Twin's Journey

My twins are growing up rapidly, their minds grasping concepts that sometimes even elude me.  Yesterday my husband was explaining to one of them that she couldn't jump and dance in the bathtub because she could get really hurt.  The babies replied: "Then one baby."

They understood that should one of them get really hurt or die, there would only be one left. The magnitude of this thought for a two year old makes my mind spin.

Another concept that they are coming around to is that of their separate identities. They identify this by using their names.

My twins have very different personalities. Dulce is the sweetheart - accident prone, happy, eager to please. She has HULK SMASH RAGE when you piss her off, but barring those extreme circumstances, she's quite docile. 

Natalina is the schemer. Smart as a whip, she always wants to try things she's not supposed to be doing. She's an explorer, a rebel. Being in her parents' good graces means little to her. Or so I thought.

Over the past few days, Natalina has started saying, "I'm Dulce!" At first, I thought it was just Natalina being Natalina, trying to upset Dulce just for the fun of getting a rise out of her. I would correct her. "No, you're Lilly. Now stop upsetting Dulce."

But this morning, Natalina was adamant about this. She was Dulce. The argument was coming to blows by the time I got over there to step in. I began with my normal spiel to Natalina about how she is NOT Dulce and could she please stop being mean, when a lightbulb went off in my head.

"Oh, my goodness!" I said. "If you're Dulce, then where is Natalina? I miss Natalina so much. Oh, I love her so much and I want to see her. I need my Natalina. I need Lilly. Where is she? Oh, mommy is so sad. Lilly is gone and mommy is so sad. She misses Lilly so much."

Dulce tried to point out to me that Lilly was, in fact, sitting right there. When she couldn't get through to me, she grabbed my face and kissed it, trying to make me happy again. Finally, Dulce caught on a little bit and told me to ask Bean where Lilly was. I did. When Bean told me that Lilly was sitting right there (You see, it couldn't have been Dulce, because part of the underlying problem is Natalina feels like Dulce is dictacting her life.) I turned and saw my Natalina. Beaming at me. Ready for a hug.

She needed to hear that she was important. She needed to hear that she was loved and would be missed. Her personality is such that she receives discipline a tad more than Dulce, and I was naive to think she didn't notice. She noticed and right now can't grasp exactly why. Her mind had maybe jumped to the most egotistical (and thus easiest) explanation. Mommy doesn't like her as much as mommy likes Dulce. The only way to fix this problem, then, is to be Dulce.

"I'm Dulce," she said. And, I, at first, still not getting it, solidified her theory as Natalina still got reprimanded, even as Dulce.

I'm so thankful I accidentally searched deeper. It's something I must always remember. Surface problems, especially if they begin to recur, are not surface problems. What I thought was an annoying attempt to upset her sister, was really a serious plea to help her face an identity issue.

Of every important lesson toddlers learn at this age, loving, accepting and securing their identities must be one of the most important. We, as adults, who already have our relationships with our identities cemented for better or for worse, must remember that identities don't come automatically with birth. They must be learned, cherished and loved.


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Monday, May 30, 2011

Speech Delays...or Not

"Whadda doodin', Dulce?"

"I'm go-din' home. Whadda you doodin'?

"You's go-din' home? I go-din home, too!"

"Hello, feet. Nie to mee choo."

I'm not concerned with my babies' speech.  Maybe I should be. It seems everyone else with kids younger than mine who speak more is getting their children tested for delays and worrying over every pronounciation and stutter. 

Dulce will sometimes spend a minute or so saying "I-I-I-I-I" before her brain figures out exactly where she was going with that thought, and she spits the rest out.  Both of them will insert a "d" into any word with two syllables to help split the word up. "Doodin', go-din." They don't usually pronounce "l", or "t". "Fahh down," "sip" instead of slip, "sop" instead of "stop." They will sometimes add sounds to words. "Cwamwha" (camera), or "small" for mall.

They're speaking in complete sentences for the most part. They understand pronouns, subjects, objects, conjunctions and prepositions. The words don't always make it unscathed past their toddler tongues, but I'm just not worried about it.

I'm not saying I'm right. I'm just too busy being proud to be worried. I mean, yes, many people can't understand the babies. I, myself, have to use context clues a lot of the time. They're certainly not clear. And they are almost three. They probably should be further along. They didn't even say much of anything until they turned two. Most kids (at least the ones you hear about on the internet) have a vocabulary of 50 words or something at 18-20 months. Wow. Good for them, eh?

So, I spend a lot of my internet time commenting to parents who think their kids might have a speech delay. I tell them that my kids didn't speak at all until two, and now they speak all the time.  I'm careful not to tell them that they shouldn't be concerned. I don't know if they should or not. But I think sometimes it helps parents to hear about other kids who are just as slow or slower than theirs. Still, maybe I'm wrong. Because it's not like my kids are dictating flawlessly pronounced dissertations or anything.  Conversations go more like this:

"Pwaygwound. Please. Park. Pwaygwound, mama. Sides, sings. My pwaygwound."

"We'll go to the playground after breakfast. Yes, on the slides and swings, too."

"No! No bwekfast. No hungy. No danks."

"Yes. Breakfast now."

"No. No! No bwekfast, mama. No, no, no, no, NO NO NO NONONONONONO."

Well, at least they pronouce no, correctly.

Please consider voting for me here! They restarted and I lost my ranking. And if you really love me...Babble is the most important ranking to me, and I'd love you forever.  xxoo

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moment of the Week - 42: Babies figure out the camera

Playing with my camera. PICKSURE YOU! SAY CHEESE!

Come on, Mom! Let me use it! I know how now!

And when they finally figured it's their best picture!

Please consider voting for me here! They restarted and I lost my ranking. And if you really love me...Babble is the most important ranking to me, and I'd love you forever.  xxoo

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 42: Make Mommy Fashion Work for You

Usually I do ways to trick your baby and ways your baby tricks you...I thought I'd change it up this week and give a few tips on dressing with the "floop" as one of my friends so graciously refers to the tummy area after pregnancy.

Problem: After pregnancy, a lot of my shirts were unwearable. I previously was no stranger to showing off my belly region. All those short shirts, though, almost found their way into retirement as I stared ruefully at the saggy stretch-marked skin that replaced my formerly smooth navel.

Solution: The cheap shelf tank top has saved me. While the days of showing gratuitous skin may be over, I can still wear my shirts of yesteryear.


Problem: Well, Darlena, I hear you say, I don't wear shirts that were popular in 2003, so what can I do to feel good in my clothes without looking like I stepped out of an old fashion wanna-be magazine?

Solution: I beg your pardon! I would say. Still, I realize not everyone can rock the mismatched patterns and flip-flops look like I can. So, for you, slightly more fashionable folks, here's my trick. Dig out your maternity shirts.  Seriously. The tight top, flowing bottom is indicative of the tunic style that's still popular today, in 2011.  Paired with leggings and flats (or heels if you're feeling sassy) and no one will ever know.

Maternity shirt worn correctly.
Maternity shirt as tunic.
The great thing about this style is that it works with almost every body type. If you don't like leggings, it's just as easy to wear jeans or a skirt underneath!

Please consider voting for me here! They restarted and I lost my ranking. And if you really love me...Babble is the most important ranking to me, and I'd love you forever.  xxoo

Tales of an Unlikely Mother is on We're number 14, just scroll down and click on the thumbs up!

Friday, May 27, 2011

You Deserve to Be Happy

I'm guest blogging over at today! Go check it out!  It's about MAH LIFE. How to make the most out of the time you spend at home, even if it's not really your strongest suit.

You Deserve to Be Happy

Here's an excerpt:

Look around you. What do you see? I see a fairly clean living room, a cluttered shelf, a bare dining room table with the cloth off (it’s in the wash), and two toddlers rolling around on the ground, pretending they are at the park, which is where we were this morning. I see an empty steam-cleaner that I haven’t yet put away. A Leap Frog table with a toy guitar balanced precariously on top of it and two book shelves, filled with literary fiction I’ll probably never get the chance to read.

Read More:

Monika is an amazing blogger who's already making waves! Be sure to check her out while you are over there!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Redefining Roles - Guest Blog

Jessica Wallace is a working mother and blogger extraordinaire who finds herself home for a short time, and trying to make the best of it. She's over at Geekmama! Go take a peek!


I've held a paid job for as long as I've been legally allowed to. In high school and during college breaks I worked in fast food, from drive-though cashier to trainer to shift manager. Before that, I had a daily paper route. While at college I worked part-time in the evenings, and when my then-husband and I completed grad school it was my job offer, not his, that determined where we would relocate. For more than 20 years, my job has been an integral part of my self-identity.

Even when my son was born almost two years ago, I returned to work full-time after my maternity leave ended. My plan was to keep working until he and any future kids started their school years. But life throws curveballs sometimes. In April I chose to leave the company to which I'd given almost 12 years of my life. Since I wasn't ready to retire just yet, my husband and I opted to keep our son in daycare for another month so I could focus on my job search.

So for the past few weeks, I've gotten to experience the other side of the coin - what it's like for someone whose weekday doesn't revolve around a nine-to-five (sometimes nine-to-eight or nine-to-midnight) job outside the home. It's not a true stay-at-home mom experience, since there's no kiddo to manage on top of everything else, but it's something I haven't dealt with since I was in high school.

I had all these grand plans at the beginning of my at-home time. I could relax, I could get caught up on housekeeping, I could work on those projects that have been teasing me forever! I was positive I'd get so much done this month. Silly me. Things haven't gone exactly as I expected.

My first reality check was when my son woke me up at his usual time that first Monday morning. Apparently he'd missed the memo that Mom was supposed to get to sleep late when not working. Since then, our mornings have consisted of me getting up with him and getting him dressed, fed, and ready for daycare--pretty much the same as when I was working. The only difference is that I wait to get myself ready for the day until after the guys have left, unless I have a job interview or appointment that morning.

The next big surprise was all that housework that I thought I'd "catch up" on. Guess what? There's always more housework. There's always another room to clean, or more laundry to do. I'm sure that if I'd been at home full-time for the past couple years I'd have a comfortable routine by now, and the chores wouldn't expand to fill all my free time. But for now, I have to limit myself. Finish the kitchen, put in a load of laundry, and work on just one other task at a time. Most importantly, don't beat myself up for not having it all completed those first couple days. The clutter and unfinished projects have had years to accumulate; they aren't going to be dealt with instantaneously.

On the upside, I've found that I'm enjoying cooking more than I expected. When my husband and I are both working, and getting the family home only a short time before our son's bedtime, we tend to do quick-prep meals or pick up takeout. This past month I've been able to plan meals that are more time-intensive or require the kind of prep that isn't easily done with a little boy hanging on to your knees.

The biggest eye-opener was less of a new discovery and more of a confirmation. A couple days into my second week at home, I watched my guys drive away and realized that I really did miss it. I'd been worried that I would find myself unmotivated to return to work after a couple weeks without it. It wouldn't have been a bad thing, but it would have meant significant changes for our family. But I've realized that the stay-at-home gig isn't quite the right fit for me right now, and I'm happy about that. I'm enjoying the break, but I don't plan to make it permanent.

When I do return to full-time outside work, I hope I'll take with me what I've learned, and that I'll be less stressed about not being able to keep up with housework, projects, and everything else. After all, there's always more to do, whatever role you play.

Jessica writes at Geekamama about the fun and challenges of raising a family while working full-time in the software industry.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Like My Kid Shows with a Large Side of Guilt

As I've mentioned before, I'm kind of religiously confused right now. Of course, I'm dealing with it in the mature way of ignoring it until I can't any longer. Very healthy.

As such, I wouldn't normally introduce Veggie Tales into my home. But, Natalina fell in love with the cucumber on the cover at the library, and we brought it home with us. Since then, we've watched it a few times. To be honest, it's pretty great!  The real-world lesson is 'don't be selfish,' something we're working hard on here, with limited success. The songs are catchy as all get out and based loosely on classical numbers. They address grammar and style. The animation isn't particularly annoying. I even kind of like the characters.

In fact, here's a quick preview of the show.

Suffice to say, I really like it, much to my surprise.

I was totally crushed, then, when at the end of the episode a little weird dude comes out and tells my kids that the cucumber's actions made God angry.



I think even if I were religious and that was a lesson I wanted to teach to my children (which, even if I were religious, I doubt I'd want to teach my kids that they could anger God by being bad and that they had to ask Him for forgiveness, but to each their own) I just don't think I'd want it coming from a cucumber.

Those are personal lessons that I'd like to share with my children on my own time, in my own words. I don't want a dancing vegetable to do it for me. I don't want my television (which makes me feel guilty enough) telling my kids what they should feel bad about and what they should be afraid of.

So, right now, we're in a compromise. We'll watch the episode, and I'll click it off before the last five minutes arrives.  It's working for us.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why What?

It will never cease to amuse me when adults answer a question from my children with a thoughtful, long, detailed response and are then baffled by the toddlers’ illogical response.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the adult speaking to my children as if they, too, were adults. I like that. It shows respect and understanding of human development to a certain degree, and it will help the babies learn the correct usage of the language more quickly. So for that, I am thankful. I would take an adult response in paragraph form any day over the baby-voiced cutsie-wootsie babble that many adults will use to talk to my kids…as if they were adorable little animals, not to be taken seriously.

Still, when giving an adult response, you have to be aware of the fact that the babies probably aren’t going to follow your train of thought, so that when they repeat themselves (like they do a million times a day) right after you’ve explained it, don’t be alarmed. It’s not that they weren’t listening (it’s only me they ignore), it’s that they don’t quite understand, and they only have a rudimentary way of letting you know.

Yesterday, I got a brief visit from an older woman who has remained childless. The babies, of course, accosted her in the front lobby, since every visitor is always coming to see and play with them. But she was only staying for a moment. She had her mother in the car, and they were about to run some errands. As she turned to leave, the babies asked her, "Why go outside?"

She crouched down and explained to them in full-sentence detail that she had her own mom in the car and that they were going to drive around town now to do some errands. Satisfied with herself, she rose and turned to leave, only to hear my babies ask her as she turned the knob, "why go outside?"

She paused and turned back to look at me, a bit helplessly, as if to say, I just told them why. What more detail could they want in my explanation.

I ran interference, and repeated what she'd already told them, then had them wave at the mother in the car to give them a concrete image of what was outside that the woman would be leaving us for. It helped a little, though after she left, they did turn to me and asked, "why go outside?"

I laughed.

Relaying the story to my husband last night, he beamed. "Well, when we don't understand something, we ask again. Adults do that all the time. They just find different words for the repetition."

And he's right. The kids might ask you the same question a million and one times, but it's not because they're not paying attention. It's that they can't picture what you are saying, or you used a word they don't yet understand, or they're really asking a different question, and the answer to the question they asked isn't appropriate to the question they meant to ask.

In this case, when they asked, "why go outside?" they meant, "wouldn't you rather stay here and play with us?" Since her answer didn't include any apology or reference to playing with them, they were left confused, even though that's not what they actually asked.

But the whole post shows that the woman was right to address them like full human beings, since their reaction was not so different from an adult's after all. It was just framed in a more immature way.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Hang On, Bean!

Bean, Dulce's blanket, has had a rough life. Since she adopted her around 13 months, Bean has never left her side. I can't wash Bean without tantrums at bedtime for days afterward. Once we thought we'd lost her, and I saw my mommy life flash before my eyes. I gave her a replacement Bean as the original began to deteriorate. No dice. That Bean then became purple Bean, with original "pink" Bean still holding center stage.

Let's take a look at the evolution of Bean:

Bean, the first time she tore. Last August.

Bean helping with crucial potty needs. September.

Bean before bed. November.
Bean after nap. February.
Bean after her second major tear, secondary Bean featured. March.
Bean this morning. o.O
As you can see, Bean has been well loved. She's been worn down to a dirty little scrap of knots and nothing. She's had it. It's curtains for Bean. But how to break the news to Dulce?

I can't. I won't. I tremble in trepidation at the thought.

My only hope is for Bean to hold out until June when we see my mother with her snazzy new sewing machine. My idea is to sew old Bean (or a piece of her) onto new Bean. I know this will go over like a lead balloon. I know I'm still in for weeks of anguish. But it's something, right? I consider it quite the compromise. I mean, I can't keep letting her hang on to this old thing. Bean is so worn she's literally disappearing by the day. And we don't even take her outside. Consider me flabbergasted.

But I can't just strip her of her Bean, especially when Natalina's Bear is still going strong (after some minor repairs, of course.)

I love my babies, and they love their loveys. What's a mother to do?

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moment of the Week - 41: Who Wore It Best?

The babies found my old fedora the other day, begging the question: Who wore it best?



What do you think? I can't decide!

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Toddler Tricks 41 - When You Leave Someone Behind

Ways to Trick Your Baby:

Problem: Sometimes you take the kids somewhere, leaving someone else still in the house. The babies usually want everyone to go together everywhere and have trouble understanding that the person being left behind wants to stay or needs to stay. This can lead to tantrums and crying, even if you're all going some place fun. Oftentimes, the babies and I will leave my husband at home to go grocery shopping, for instance, or we'll go to the park before he leaves for work. They will start getting teary-eyed when they realize he's not coming along.

Solution: Have them say a big goodbye and explain to the person where they are going and that they'll be back. This puts them in control of the situation. They become the "adults" telling the person being left about their plans for the day, instead of being babies that are being dragged along for whatever ride their mommy is going on.

Ways your Baby Tricks You:

Problem: That doesn't work.

Solution: Have them tell the person not to cry. This works for us at least 90 percent of the time. It is magical, truly. This allows the young child to feel empathy (though it be false) for the person being left behind. They remember how they feel when someone leaves them behind, and instead of being upset at the present situation, they feel for the person and concentrate on making them feel safe and loved. "Don't cry, daddy! We'll be right back!" And as they say the words aloud, they hear them as if those words are meant for them. They'll know, since it came from their own voices, that we will be right back and that no one has to cry.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Your Blog Hop Hub

Here are my top choices for hops this week, if you're interested!

A Mommy's Sweet Blog Design Friday Blog Hop


Crazy About My Baybah

As far as what's fabulous this week?

- I got an awesome play keyboard for my kids for $2
- If the world does end tomorrow (um, no) I realized I'd be content with what I've done in life. That's pretty big.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

I've noticed recently that my internet is angry. Really angry. Over the past few weeks, I have been linked again and again to things said by a certain person trying (and possibly succeeding) to be famous on the internet. Heather Clouse.

Heather blogs here and on tumblr. She runs so many Facebook fan pages and groups that I've lost count. In at least one, she lists herself as a public figure. Her two main niche groups, though, are military wives and teen moms.

So, why is my internet angry? I'm not a military wife, and I wasn't a mother during my teenage years. But I know many people in both groups, and they're pissed.

You see, when you are on the internet a lot and you say a lot of stuff, some of that stuff is inevitably going to be stupid. Trust me, I've been there. So apparently, Heather has said some insulting things, and now she is on the receiving end of quite a lot of ehate.  Is it right? Absolutely not. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

So here are the bare bones from an outsider: Heather Clouse runs many pages of support for military wives and many fan pages for teen moms (particular to the MTV show). She says military wives hate her because she's not married to her National Guard member, police officer boyfriend. Military wives say they hate her because she says things like, buck up and stop whining, you knew what you signed up for (I was going to link this, but the post has been deleted), and oh, hey, I hope your man comes home in a box. (NOTE: I have no evidence of this comment. It was given to me by a source close to her who prefers to remain anonymous.) These hate pages grow. So, Heather goes to...the police? I don't know. You would think so, since her boyfriend is a cop. I do know that she went to the news.  And the news told her, sorry, people have a right to their words.

And they do. Her haters have the right to their opinions, even if they express them somewhat violently. Just as she has the right to hers (and whether or not to delete them). Just as I have the right to come along all Johnny-come-lately with it being no business of mine and blog about it as if I knew something.

A perfect example of this very thing is here on one of her blogs. "Think you're ready to become a teen parent?"

In it, she generalizes an entire subset of people, trying to scare them. I'm not sure which is worse, that she generalized an entire subset of people, trying to scare them, or that she did so on purpose. She lists off a bunch of random prices for things that aren't accurate. She doesn't take into account living costs in certain areas, independence and maturity levels of certain teens, love, affection and support of certain families...the list goes on. My least favorite part is that she assures the teen mom that other people will find her pregnant belly disgusting.  None of these things are inherently true. All of them, though, hold some intrinsic value, and her intentions, as ill-applied as they were, are good. As are mine.

Actually, I lied. This is my least favorite part: "Why would you have a baby with someone, who won’t marry you first? That doesn’t make much sense, does it?"

Um, hey. Yes, it does. First of all, who said he wouldn't marry the girl first?  And if he doesn't...and they're teens...perhaps remaining unmarried will give the woman and her baby insurance coverage through her parents that she would be unable to get if married.

But, it's posts like this and the deleted one that show me why people might perhaps be a bit upset with Heather Clouse. She writes for the Examiner and published an article entitled "Young Marriage in the Military: How Young is Too Young?"

In this article, you can find many such gems as: "While many young couples choose the military as an escape from their community or their situation like a teen pregnancy, or simply being in love and not wanting to have to deal with the hardships that a long distance relationship can bring. Is marriage the right  chouse? Lets take a look."

Okay, so avoiding the grammar snark, which is very hard to do (but it would take me an extra thousand words just to get through the first sentence, let alone the paragraph), lets get to the meat of the matter (okay, couldn't resist one small one).  Not only does the paragraph make no sense, it completely minimalizes the stress and emotion a teenager is going through at the time this situation might occur. She has no facts or statistics to back up her oddly chosen reasons of marriage for a young military couple, and she again generalizes a huge number of people, insulting many. One of whom proudly and rightly states: YOU DON'T KNOW ME. It's true. She doesn't.

But she can say these things and say them badly.

I'm not saying I even necessarily disagree with her intent or purpose, though I do think she bumbles it quite awfully, and I do disagree with a lot of what she actually types out. If I thought the way she apparently does, I'd probably chalk it up to her age, but that's a generalization I don't quite feel comfortable with.

There's nothing illegal about saying what you want or what you feel on the internet, barring actual, physical, specific threats on a person. She's free to spout off any advice she wants. She reminds me of Bill O'Reilly, in fact. She spins a hard "truth" that's not really all that accurate, in layman's terms, edgy in her apparent sincerity. She's playing the internet base like he plays Fox News' fan base. But you know who has a lot of haters? Bill O'Reilly. It's part of the game, Heather. So, I guess I would say, "lol, suck it up, you knew what you were signing up for." And then I could delete it, but I probably won't.

Anyone who is trying to be a public figure on the internet is going to get hate. Especially if they don't couch their words and expect people to "get their point," and ignore the details for the greater message. Because sometimes it's the details that are the most hurtful. Sometimes it's the details that are someone else's life.  Words mean things. People can and will use them as carelessly as you, and I, and your haters do, but that doesn't detract from their meaning.

Right now, you can do just about anything on the internet.

The biggest thing for Heather, and the people she's offended and myself to remember is that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tripping with Kids: Getting There - Guest Blog

For me, going to the library down the street is a lot of effort. Visiting my mom a three-hour plane ride away is pandemonium. But XLMIC is a worldly traveler, and she goes with her kids! Here's how she does it.


If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say, "We'd love to travel abroad, but we have kids...", I could pay the roundtrip airfare for at least one member of my family to fly to Europe.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. But isn't that really what most people say? And if they aren't saying it, they are thinking it, right?

People talk about international travel as something that needs to happen before they have kids, or after the kids are grown up and out of the house, or at least old enough to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a week or two. Well, I am here to let you in on a secret...

This is not the case.

The first thing you do is change the wording... You are not going on a vacation. You are changing location. Travel with kids does not allow for much vacating :)

Taking a trip with your children is not going to be heavy on the romance. If you get any nookie, you get a gold star.  You can, however, experience the world with your children AND have a great time doing it! All it takes is some tweaking of the agenda, thought and planning, patience and flexibility, a stiff upper lip, the ability to roll with possibly major sleep deprivation, and the willingness to ignore mean people on the airplane.

What follows are just a few tips I can share that may help you embark upon a successful family trip abroad. This is by no means a complete list, nor will all points work for every family. I am simply sharing with you what has worked for US in OUR experience traveling with anywhere from one to eight kids ranging in age from 5 weeks to 22 years.

Get an apartment. You are going to be there for a while. Do not jump 6-9 time zones with kids for less than 7 days... two weeks is the minimum I will do at this point. You don't want to be living out of a suitcase. You don't want to try to find family-friendly restaurants that are open at 3 a.m. ('cuz that's when you will be awake for the first few days!). With kids, you want a kitchen and some separation of space. The first 5 days will be hell if you are going from the West Coast of the U.S. to Europe. On Day 4 you will wonder why you are on this #@&* trip. On Day 5, you and your spouse may start talking about divorce and swear you will never, ever do this ever again. And the next day... it will all make sense :)

On our trip to Sicily, the kids had their own room with a neat loft bed.

Having your own kitchen means some kids can draw while others eat...

and eating breakfast while still in jammies is not a fashion faux pas!

It is nice to try and schedule your flight for a time when you know your child(ren) will sleep. Unfortunately, some kids sleep on planes and others don't (I have both). If you don't know which you have, go for the cheapest flight with the fewest number of shorter layovers. You don't want to be hanging out at the Dulles Int'l Airport for 8 hours and then Heathrow for 6 hours with your kids en route to Paris. Trust me.

I like nonstops. Get me up there, let me spread out and don't make me move for 10-14 hours. The more relaxed you are, the easier it is on your kids. If your kids are unruly, you only make one set of enemies. And remember... you will probably NEVER see those people again in your whole life... so it doesn't matter.

My non-sleepers.

Some flights, everyone wants to be with on mom.

Packing for the flight
I don't pack light; I pack effectively. Traveling with kids under the age of 4 requires a lot of stuff for me to feel adequately prepared. They have accidents... pee, poop, food and beverage spills, vomiting not in a receptacle... so I bring full sets of clothes, for them and for me, in a carry-on. I also tend to max out on the number of carry-ons we are allowed... even it if means I have to carry 5 of them. I have gotten weird looks and even had flight attendants start giving me grief... until I point out how many seats we have paid for and how many bags that means we may carry on ... with a big smile on my face :) I do not want to run out of diapers or food or entertainment items in the event that there are delays, which there often are.

Make it fun :)

With one child under the age of 3 in the mix, I prefer to use both an Ergo carrier (or sling) AND a stroller through the airport. I have the child in the carrier, and I put the car seat and as many carry-ons as I can pile up in the stroller. Then once at my destination, I have both at my disposal. One of my children is very curious, so I bring the port-a-crib not only for him to perhaps sleep in, but also as a means of containment once we are settled. And to ensure the right sort of car seat at the destination, I have learned to always bring our own.

This picture shows most of the carry-on (and gate check) items we had on our last trip to Europe.
This picture was taken right before my 11-year old vomited while going through security...
fun times.

So far, I've just covered the 'getting there' part. It sounds like a lot. It sounds hard. Putting this work in ahead of arrival allows you to enjoy more of why you're doing it!

XLMIC blogs over at Taking It On. She is a mom of 4 and stepmom of 6 who has traveled internationally several times with various members of her blended family. Not traveling in her early years fueled her desire to have her own children see the world. Her 11-year old son filled his first passport before he turned 5 years old. She and her husband recently returned from a trip to France with their 4 youngest children.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let's Pretend to Go to the Grocery Store

As the world slowly opens up to toddlers, their imaginations start to take hold. All of the knowledge and experiences they process everyday come out during lulls in their real adventures. It's magical to see.

Still, my husband and I have noticed that the twins don't like to let their imaginations run too far just yet. While they'll sometimes play witch, and they love playing lion and jungle, they'll often throw in everyday elements, so that the game doesn't get too foreign for them.

For instance, even though they know Superman can fly, they make him drive everywhere in a toy car.  Everywhere, of course, includes, the park, the beach, the grocery store, the icecream parlor, the pool, and home.  Superman leads a very exotic life. He likes chocolate milk and orange juice. He often has to strap Supergirl into her carseat. Sometimes he throws tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants. After any given adventure, Superman gets tired and has to take a nap.

They use their imaginations these days to tie into their memories, reliving their favorite events over and over again. This is something they'll bring with them to adulthood, as so often we don't realize that our own daydreams are products of experiences we've already had.  Making things up out of the blue is fun, but the experience intensifies when we are able to see ourselves in the situation. That's what the babies are doing. No, they're not yet finding the charming prince love of their lives or knocking executives dead at a big meeting in their minds. They're where they can see themselves. They're at the pool.

They'll hone their imaginary skills and expand their repetoire soon, I'm guessing, but for now, I relish in our nightly trips to the grocery store where we list all the food items we would possibly gather should we actually find ourselves grocery shopping.

I am hoping they'll soon allow Superman to fly, though. It's so much more convenient than driving.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pet Child Comparison

Why do people compare having kids to having pets? I'm not talking about the people that call their pets their fur babies. Although I don't understand that either, I'm not about to tell someone about their own level of affection. I figure, they're either people who haven't had kids who feel their love would be the same, or they're people who have had kids and, in their opinion, their feelings are the same, or, rather, certain aspects of their feelings are the same. Not my business.

What I really take issue with is the saying "having a dog / cat is like having a permanent three year old." Now we're not talking about affection, love or emotional attachment. Now we're talking about pure experience. I've heard this saying from many people. Strangers on the street, childless friends, and even my own mother, who must have forgotten what having a three year old is really like.

Now there are some similarities. Pets can get into things and make a mess. Pets can pee on the carpet. You have to keep an eye on pets so they don't run into danger. We can't fully understand them and they can't fully understand us, so a fractured language is used. But day to day, I feel the responsibility much greater for a kid.

How often does your pet cry? They do cry, in their way, especially puppies, especially when night training, if you aren't allowing them to sleep in your bed. But how long does that painful period last? A few weeks at the very most. And when your pet is unhappy about other things, you can usually get them what they want or distract them easily. If your pet is thirsty or hungry or wants to play, you can fetch them a drink, some food, or play with them for a few sparing minutes and they move on. Rare is the occasion where a furry friend will completely meltdown because the food you gave them is an unsatisfactory color or because you won't let them play with the butter.

Which brings up my next point. Pets, after a brief training period, listen to you. They listen to the word no. Even if they don't, it's easy for you to take away whatever they are doing, or put them in another area without garnering resentment or temper tantrums. Pets forget. They move on. When you tell them they can't run away, they might still try, but at least they don't make the time they're not pursuing that desire miserable for you.

While you can talk to a pet and they can understand basic commands and they have a certain empathy, sometimes knowing when you are having a rough day, you can't really talk to a pet. Nor do you have to. There is a running ridiculous dialogue in this house every minute of the day. "Yes, you're a butterfly. Quick give daddy butterfly kisses. No the sprinklers are not for butterflies. No, it doesn't matter if you're a lion now. Sprinklers aren't for lions either. Why don't you play with your blocks? No, don't throw your blocks. Pick up your blocks. If you want to bring your blocks outside, we have to wear shoes. No, my shoes are too big. You need your own shoes." And that's giving them a lot of credit, assuming they stick to the same train of thought for more than 30 seconds.

From my experience a conversation with a pet goes like this: "Hi, you! You're a good boy! I love you! Aww, pet pet pet. Okay, go lay down."  Shorter and sweeter, no? Pets listen to you and don't require a reason for every decision you hand down to them.

While having a pet ties you down more than not having a pet would, you can leave a pet for hours on end and not have to worry about him. You can say goodbye to him in the morning, go to work, come home eight or ten hours later, and everything is fine.  As a parent, you can't even run downstairs to throw a load of laundry in the wash without worrying about what your kids are up to. Any absence longer or farther than that and you need childcare.

Most importantly, you have to worry about your kids' future in a way that's not really applicable to pets. As parents, we have the responsibility not only to get through everyday with everyone alive, but we have to shape those days to make different tomorrows. We have to teach children how to become responsible adults. So that the very thing that makes the statement "having a pet is like having a perpetual three year old" correct (the fact that you never have to worry about them growing up to be productive members of society, so that they're stuck in a blissful toddlerhood, is the very thing that proves it false. The very fact that three year olds are not perpetually three years old changes the dynamic of having one because you have to take into consideration not only the irrational cute little beings they are now, but also the rational beautiful big things they will become.

So, yes, there are a few similarities, but only on the surface. In my experience, having a child is simply not comparable to having a pet. But your mileage may vary.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Moment of the Week - 40: Phone at the Park

The babies discovered the sound traveling phones at the park. They didn't quite understand them, and though one stood on one end and the other stood at the other, when the first spoke into the tube, the other thought it was the toy talking to her. They had a feisty argument with it over whether or not I was its mommy.

Eventually they decided it would be easier if they ganged up on one phone at a time to show each who was boss.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 40: Saying Goodbye

Ways to trick your baby:

Problem: Someone is leaving. Whether it's someone they love dearly, like their father, or someone who's been playing with them, or someone who has been visiting me, this is almost always a cataclysmic event. Young children seem not to understand that time is passing during the day day and that people have other obligations to attend to. Their world revolves around them, and they have trouble accepting that other people's cannot. If not handled correctly, someone's goodbye can turn into an ugly scene of tears, yelling, pleading and toddler pools of flop on the ground. You don't want that to be the final scene someone remembers as they leave your home, so what can you do?

Solution: Involve them in the goodbye preparations. Get them in on the ground floor. As the last 15 minutes of the visit or time left in the house approaches, explain to them that so-and-so will be going soon, but they'll be back soon. Brace yourself. This won't go over well. Quickly recover by saying, "oh, but not yet! First we're going to do this really fun thing with them." This way, the babies are distracted by said activity, but in the backs of their minds they'll have the seed of the leaving thought ruminating. As the time draws nearer, make leaving itself a game. "It's time to get ready! Can you find my friend's shoes / your father's briefcase?" They'll want to resist, but the call to find something for you will be great...possibly too great to overcome. Then have them give the person a big hug as they leave, first in the house, then at the door. Make it seem as if they are missing out on this important last step if they cry and toss about. "Hurry, give such-and-such a hug! They're leaving! You'll miss your chance! Quick, come here! Big hugs!" Usually they'll come running over to hug the person, figuring they can tantrum in a minute, but they can't miss the hug. After that ceremony, I've found they usually don't tantrum, but simply go on with their day. But even if they do, at least it's just in front of you, and not in front of your guests.

Ways your Baby Can Trick You:

Problem: You are leaving a place where you've been having a good time. Be it just outside, petting the neighbor's dog, or the pool with friends, or a restaurant, they know they're going home, and they just don't want to.

Solution: If you are interacting with anyone at the time, have them leave (or at least pretend to leave) with you. This way it seems to the babies as if we all are leaving, and sure, we could stay behind, but then we'd miss all the fun things the others are doing after we go. It gives a united front to the leaving possibility. If it's the dog in the backyard, we tend to do a variation of the ritual above, where the owner takes the dog inside, but before the dog goes, they give him big hugs. If they have to leave the dog, nothing doing. If the dog has to leave them first, they seem to understand better. If we're leaving a fun place and have no one to aid us, we try to lead them out with promises of the next fun thing we're doing, or appeal to their sense of routine. You cannot make something up because your kid will be heartbroken if you tell him you're going to the circus and you end up back in your driveway, but if you promise him a few bites of ice cream at home, he may take the bait, and there's no harm done.  A combination of these tricks usually works about 70 percent of the time. The other 30? God help us.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Fabulous Friday

Oh, hey, Blogger! Nice to see you!  It's Fabulous Friday over at Between the Lines, and I thought I'd link up and tell you all what is fabulous about today.

What's fabulous?

- I have more and more freelance work coming in and the energy to do it.
- I've gotten most of my writing done today so the babies and I can go swimming this afternoon.
- We impressed several local moms yesterday with how much they talk and the fact that they're potty trained (That's what you get when you hang with two year olds at the ripe old age of 2.5...they develop so quickly at this age.)
- My kids wake up singing me songs.
- It's a beautiful hot Florida day.

What's fabulous in your life right now?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Five Petty Things to Hate about Parenting

There are a lot of things to hate (and to love) about parenting. I could go on all day about giving up my independence, losing my freedom, hanging onto my identity with the skin of my teeth, but the important thing to remember is that these things are all passing. They are as fleeting, in fact, as the five things I'm about to list here...the five petty things I hate about parenting at this very moment.

5) I hate the neverending monologue, the only purpose of which is to build up to a tantrum. You know the one. Where they want you to repeat what they said back to them, and then do it, even if it's impossible. And if you don't respond, or respond in an undesirable way, the chant continues on and on and on. They're like Energizer bunnies. Until, finally, they, too, have have enough. Then they melt down. There is hardly ever a happy ending to this particular type of babble.

4) I hate begging them to eat. I know, I know, I'm supposed to put the food out and let them eat it if they want. But I just can't do that. I mean, I can, but it's almost as hard as begging them to eat. They're so skinny anyway, you see, and now that they talk well, they're always telling me, "I'm hungry, I'm hungry." I don't know what that could mean other than...I'm hungry, but apparently it means something else. Anyway, I hate the games we play, the stories we have to tell, the pleading to get them to take one more bite or just stay in their seats until their father and I are done eating.  Enough. Just eat, okay?

3) I hate the theme songs that constantly run through my head. When I get a moment alone, the last thing I want to find myself doing is humming along to "Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer." My mind even makes up words to fill in the gaps. Like, I guarantee you the nexts line is not "Boots has super shoes so sayonara," but I put that in, every time. I want to sip my coffee in peace, thank you. At the very least, give me the latest Ke$ha bullcrap or something. But, no. It's always, "this is the song, la la la la, Elmo's World!" Argh! And how do I even know "Whoooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?" My kids don't even watch SpongeBob. Enough, brain, enough.

2) I hate never being able to consume anything at its intended temperature. I happen to like my coffee hot and my ice cream cold. I also enjoy sitting down to eat at a leisurely pace. I do not particularly care for standing in the corner of the kitchen in the dark, scarfing down a handful of sugary cereal so that the babies won't see me and complain about their cheerios. I also am not a fan of eating my dinner cold and alone after everyone else is finished because I had to stop a million times to redirect a child and remind her to put food in her mouth...oh, and then swallow that food.

And the number one thing I hate about parenting at this very moment:

1) The proximity of my face to poop at any given time. One of my daughters is having a bowel movement problem. Unlike baby poop, which I never thought smelled that bad, or even toddler diaper poop, in which my hands were doing the dirty work, but my face was still a good two feet away, a potty seems to exacerbate excrement smell by about 20 times. Seriously, how much stench can come out of one little thing? And it wasn't so bad when they were doing their business, and I was called in at the last minute for cleaning and disposing. But now, my poor daughter needs comfort on the potty. She needs to be hugged through it. She needs to put her little arms around my head and force it down toward her stomach so that my eyeballs and nostrils are mere inches (if that) away from the seat itself. I get a front row seat to the sounds, the smells and the movement of a long, hard pooping extravaganza.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

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How to be the Sexiest Piece of Ass at your Local Tot Gym - Guest Blog

Monika Whitney, over at, was a lot like me as a single person...only with more grace and style, trust me. She agreed to teach me how to be the hottest mom at the Tot Gym and maybe even be a little friendlier, too. Go check her out! She's worth it.
Long ago, back in the days before I was anyone's mom, I was the center of my own Universe.  Every morning I would wake up at 5am and go to the gym where I would do 1 hour on the elliptical trainer.  If it was a Monday/Wednesday/Friday I'd do a weight circuit as well.  After the gym I'd take a quick but thorough shower, never forgetting to exfoliate. I'd dry my hair, put it in an updo,  paint on some makeup, slip into a dress, step into a pair of heels and head off to my job. There I'd spend the whole day working my ass off in my not-for-profit job so I could 'make the world a better place' and get myself ahead at the same time.  When I wasn't working, I had every available opportunity to improve myself. And hell, why not? My only responsibility in the whole world was looking after myself!

When I found out I was pregnant, I was 100% certain of one thing: I was going to do all this stuff again the second my baby was born.  A few days after my baby was born, I was going to be back on that elliptical.  Surely I'd be one of those moms that was magnificently put together, even with a newborn.  Especially with a toddler; after all, it's so much easier once they are older, right?  Of course.  All the women around me would stare in awe at how together I was and they'd be knocking down my door for advice.  The life of a parent would be oh so glamorous for me.

After Aias was born, reality set in.  The night we brought him home and he didn't go to sleep on command at 7pm, we knew things were going to be different than we had planned.  Our priorities shifted, both naturally and forcefully, to the needs of our child.  Weeks passed and while we were blissfully happy, we were also exhausted.  3 months after Aias was born, I was still wearing my maternity pants (and loving it, I might add).  My roots were showing, my eyebrows were growing, I hadn't the slightest idea where any of my makeup even was, and I'd been blessed to be one those people that doesn't lose any weight while breast feeding.  What probably surprised me the most was that it didn't really matter to me.  I picked my clothes based on how easy it would be to nurse in them, and nursing tops are expensive, so I basically rotated between 3-4 nursing tops, wearing whatever happened to be clean.  But ultimately, what did it matter? Who was looking at me anyhow? Everywhere I went I had an adorably dressed young infant with me.  I was basically a prop in place to keep the cute baby alive so people could coo at him.  Why bother trying to look like anything else? I considered it an amazing achievement that I had successfully taken a shower every day since Aias was born, surely that was enough.

When Aias was about 6 months old, I decided it was time to start caring at least a little bit.  I would pack away half of my maternity pants.  I would get a haircut.  I would moisturize.  I would also get out of the house.  Up the road from where we live is a community centre, and every morning from 10am to 12:15pm they fill the gym with toys suitable for kids 6 months to 3 years old.  They call this the Tot Gym.  Moms from all over the city show up with their kids and everyone has a grand old time.  I was certain that all the moms there would have lived my experience and they, too, would be wearing their maternity pants, ponytails, and overgrown eyebrows.  Solidarity and commiseration would surround this sacred gathering place.  So one morning I put on my hoodie and my favorite jeans; they happened to be, you know maternity jeans but who was keeping track right? I loaded up the stroller and confidently headed up the road to the Tot Gym.

When I got there, I was floored.  I was, without a doubt, the biggest slob at the Tot Gym.  All the women there looked like they were just representing different stages of amazing; on the lower end of the amazing scale were tight bodied women in their black lululemon pants, perfectly tanned skin and silky hair.  On the higher end of the amazing scale were women in the expensive jeans, decked out in full makeup and jewelry.  I looked like I was there to ask for change.  I sat on a mat and played with Aias for about 30 minutes, and during that time, about 100 of the women talked to me.  It was like adding insult to injury. If they were going to show up there looking all beautiful and I was clearly looking like riff raff, the very least they could do is ignore me. But no.  They all had something to say to me.  I explained how to pronounce Aias's name and shared his age about 1 million times before it became too much. I could tell everyone was looking at my eyebrows and staring into my pores. No way was I ever going back.

It took me about 4 months to build up the confidence to go back, and when I did, it was effectively out of necessity.  Aias had started walking and he was getting sick of hanging around the apartment or at the park.  He needed to see the other kids and he needed a change of scenery.   This time, I had my game on a little more.  I wore pants with no elastic band, for example.  I had some powder on my face, and I even dried my hair before putting it up in the usual ponytail. Instead of looking like a pauper, I looked average. That would be enough for me; I wasn't dressing up for this.  When I got there, the sexy moms were there looking sexier than ever.  This time, I wasn't the only one noticing it, apparently.  Aias decided he was going to scope out the most well-dressed moms in the room and hang around their feet.  So he did.  Unfortunately, the most well-dressed moms in the room also happened to be the most insufferable.  For the next hour I did all I could to encourage Aias to play somewhere ELSE in the Tot Gym, ANYWHERE ELSE... but for some reason he was magnetized to these two incredibly well dressed, beautiful blonde women.  The blonde women had a lot to say, of course, not to me.  They were upset about their tenants, upset about their husbands, upset about the wait lists they had their kids on for preschool, etc.  You would think they would have said hi to me or something, but they didn't.  They probably thought I was waiting for them to take their eyes off their purses so I could steal their iphones. After an hour of it I'd had enough, so off we went.

I was feeling pretty butthurt, frumpy, ugly, uninteresting.  I'd made it all about me.  It was like I was telling myself that all good looking, well dressed women were obviously bitches or snobs, and allowing my own insecurities to ignore the fact just that people are different and not everyone has something in common with everyone else.  After some self loathing and brooding, I came to to conclude that this wasn't anything anyone had done to me, it was what I had done to myself.  I could just have easily had said hi to those women, but I chose not to.  I felt badly about what I perceived as my own shortcomings as both a mother and woman, and because of it, I'd demonstrated unfriendliness and right in front of my son, to boot. I'd walked into that Tot Gym planning on judging people, and with the mindset that people would be judging me.  The reality was, no one was a bigger judge of me than myself.  Not exactly A+ parenting.

So this time I did not let the experience scare me away. Instead, I tried to let the lesson I had learned empower me, and I remembered the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who said both "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" and "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."   Aias and I have gone back to that Tot Gym a few days a week ever since. Some days we go dressed nicely, some days we go in lounge pants.  One thing is for sure, we've learned a thing or two from the Tot Gym.
Here are a few of those things:

1.  If you are in a room full of intimidating looking fancy people, but you yourself aren't intimidating or fancy looking, you'll have a lot of great conversations and meet a lot of really nice people.

2.  We were all different people before we had kids, and having kids didn't change that.  You won't just get along with people instantly because you both happen to have kids the same age.

3.  People have different priorities with regard to their looks and how they present themselves; it shouldn't have any bearing on how welcome you feel somewhere or how much you enjoy an experience with your child.

And finally

4. If you want to be a super sexy MILF, a daily trip to the gym, a visit to the salon, a pair of Hunter boots and black lululemon pants never hurt. But it doesn't really matter that much in the long run anyway ;)
If you had told former not-for-profit consultant and self professed work-a-holic Monika Whitney that she would someday be a stay-at-home mom, she would have said you must be dreaming. But sometimes life throws you a curveball, and in Monika’s case, it was the form of a sweet little blonde boy named Aias. Through the life altering experience of becoming a parent, Monika traded a fast paced life of professional development, event planning and self exploration for a life of breast feeding, cloth diapering, attachment parenting and a love of family; and she wouldn’t change it for the world. Monika and her partner Morgan started Aias Dot Ca as a private blog to share milestones and pictures of their son Aias with family members and close friends all around the globe. Over time it slowly evolved into a space to discuss various topics pertinent to Crunchy Western Canadian parents.

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