Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to share

Obviously, at 2 years old, the Nugget does not grasp the concept of sharing. I don't expect it to be a lesson learned or understood quickly, but I do hope he'll learn a tiny bit more impulse control with each passing month. One thing that has helped is the concept of "taking turns". He loves to give Daddy, me, and his stuffed friends turns. He even offers turns to his peers, which makes my heart swell with pride, even though when he expects their turn to last .25 seconds.

Here's my latest conundrum though...when teaching your toddler to share, what do you do when the other kids won't take turns and their parents aren't present? It's too much to expect the Nugget to be generous when another kid is hogging the swing/train/book. I usually tell the Nugget that we'll share and take turns and that the other kid is taking his or her turn now. Often, the child will give the Nugget a chance when they're done, or the kid's parent will step in and help negotiate the sharing. When that fails, I do nicely ask the kid to please let the Nugget take a quick turn. Sometimes they do, sometimes they point blank refuse. I am not bold enough to physically remove someone else's child from a plaything (and basically that would be teaching the Nugget to grab toys anyway), so in these circumstances, the Nugget must be carried away, crying indignant tears, and I feel helpless for letting him down. I have nothing to say but, "Sometime life's not fair. I'm so sorry that you're sad, I know you wanted to play with X. We'll do something else fun and try to come back to it later."

One kid at a playground was playing catch with the Nugget's blue ball, then ran off with it instead of kicking it back. He even taunted the Nugget with it several times, while we politely asked him to return it and told him, "We need to share the ball. This ball belongs to Nugget," time and time again. I'm not mad that another child would do this, he is surely learning too - but where was his mother? What should I have done? Perhaps I should have cornered the kid and brought out the teacher voice. It's so hard to know how to deal with unknown children, when your role is not that of authority figure but that of parent to another tot.

I was the mild child on the playground, always willing to acquiesce to others. I don't want the Nugget to be that mild, he is not built to be that mild, but how can I teach him when to stand up and when to back down, given that my life experience was a constant series of turning the other cheek?

Why bother learning this sharing business if other kids won't play fair? Will being the underdog teach him compassion or inspire vengeance? What happens when I can't be there to police? We want to teach our kids that might doesn't make right, but sometimes it does, doesn't it? I hope these slights that feel so big today will fade away into just single stitches in the tapestry of his childhood. I hope the big picture remains beautiful and joyful.

Composer

Inspired by his Thanksgiving trip to Grammy and Grandpa's, where he received his very own keyboard and got to play their piano, the Nugget woke up this morning and composed a song, to be sung by his plush Allosaurus. Without further ado, here are the (understandable) lyrics:

"Uncle T, Uncle T, Uncle T.
Cross, church, cross, church, church.
Shamrock Doggie.
Grapes, grapes. Cookies."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Family Matters


We're basically a bicoastal family. Hubby grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and his whole immediate family still lives in the area. I grew up in the Buckeye State; my parents and one brother are there. I have a brother in the SW and a sister in the Big Apple. The Nugget's birthfamily is in the NW for now, but his Tummy Mummy is bound for the SW in December. We think Lil Sib's birthfamily will be in the NW too, but we don't truly know.

Once upon a time, I went to college, primarily to get a great education and have an incredible learning and living experience. But I would be lying if I said I didn't also hope to meet my future spouse there. And I'd definitely be lying if I said I didn't have a list of requirements in mind about said-future spouse. The number one requirement being, "from the Midwest". Well, life happens, I realized just how dumb my know-it-all-17-year-old self was for making that list in the first place, and thank God, I met my other half and fell in love despite his rainy birthplace.

After 7 years in the NW, we moved back to the Midwest for a myriad of reasons that I won't delve into too deeply, but that I can say was truly the right move for our family of 3 at the present time. Was it the right move for our entire extended family? I'm not sure.

Truth be told, I'm not sure there is a perfect place for us to live. If we decided to be truly fair in terms of mileage, maybe we'd set up camp in Kansas or Oklahoma, but then we'd be super far from everyone, and hello, Tornado Alley! I guess ideally, we'd convince both sides of our family to move to the same state, but even if we were both only children (we're not), that would be pretty unlikely.

One thing I love about open adoption is that it has made our family bigger. When people ask what our relationship is like with the Nugget's birthfamily, the best comparison I can give is acquiring more in-laws. Two families merging together over the shared love of an individual. It's a young relationship, one that will grow over time. But it's no less valid, no less true, and no less loving than the other branches of our family tree.

So my question is what happens when a Buckeye girl and a NW boy get married and adopt a son, acquire an even larger family, and are waiting for their family tree to grow even more branches, possibly in places unknown? I'm not sure. I know our future is riddled with frequent flier miles, hotel rewards, pack-n-plays, rental cars, toys rolling down the airplane aisle, scheduled Skype chats, and yards of packing tape purchased for care packages. I can guess that there will be tears shed from relatives who feel left out during one holiday or the next. I can definitely say I will have panic attacks about not being able to please everyone at once and then have personal growth from accepting that I can never please everyone at once. I fear a time will come when budget constraints and rising costs might affect our ability to purchase 4 plane tickets twice a year. I worry about what happens when our parents need more care than we can give them from afar. I wish all the Nugget could frolic with all his cousins on a random weekend (ok, so in reality it might be more like fighting over a single Tonka truck but this is a dream sequence in which all the cousins wear white outfits, and catch fireflies barefoot while miraculously avoiding grass stains while Life in a Northern Town plays in the background). I wish there were a clearer roadmap for navigating this life. And sometimes I am envious of those LDS families who all seem to live together in a commune in Utah (although not so envious of the underwear).

But what I refuse to wish away is our life together. Hubby, we may have given ourselves more challenges than necessary by choosing each other. But I'd never trade you for the world (or a fellow Buckeye boy). Nugget, I am so thankful everyday that your birthfamily chose us and that instead of being strangers, they've become our family. Family, always know that we want to be with each and every one of you, for every holiday, birthday, and lazy weekend, even when we can't manage our time or travel the way we want, when we want. And finally, dear scientists - please get a move on - we could really use that beaming technology. Really. Any day now.

Are any of you readers blessed with a bicoastal family? How do you make it work?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Robe




The Nugget has recently decided that he would like to spend most evenings lounging about in his robe.  "I wear robe please."  It is a very cute new habit.  Here is he, from birth to today, in an assortment of bathrobes.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Date Night

Hubby and I spent about 5 years seriously contemplating parenthood before our Nugget arrived.  We're planners by nature, but then adoption forced us to spend more time planning than we ever thought possible!  The thing we read and heard over and over again was the importance of setting and sticking to a weekly date night.  Experts say it's an investment in your marriage, and as cheesy as it sounds, I think it's true.   The way I see it, our marriage is the core of our family, and someday when the Nugget and Lil Sib go off to make their own way in the world, I want to know I'm married to my Hubby, not to a stranger.

Can you have a successful marriage without a weekly date?  Of course you can!  Millions of couples have done it, my parents included.  And truly, sometimes circumstances, like spouses who work opposite shifts, preclude it from the realm of possibility.  

But I wanted to share our tips with you so that the 95% of you couples who CAN and want to swing a weekly date can start getting yours!  Don't let money worries stop you - yes, it can be expensive if you hire a sitter and hit a 5-star restaurant each week, but it can also be FREE!  Read on...

Simple Steps to Date Night:

1.  Hire a regular sitter if you need one.  It needs to be someone your kids enjoy and someone you trust.  You won't enjoy date nights if you're stressed about the sitter in any way.  Having the same person come week after week is easier for your kids, it means you won't have to spend the first 15 minutes of your date showing the new sitter where everything is, and it means that you are "on the books" and won't have to call around each week.  If you are lucky enough to have family willing to sit for you, you're living the dream!  If you can't afford a sitter, consider swapping sitting duties with another family.

2.  Pick a time.  Weekday evenings are best for us, but for you, it could be a Sunday afternoon or a breakfast after you've dropped the kids at daycare.  Be flexible, because illness, business trips, and holidays happen.  But after a lapse, get back on the horse.  Remember, it's not a luxury, it's an investment!

3.  Eat on the cheap!  For me, date night is my one night off from cooking dinner and washing dishes, so eating out is a big factor for me!  We try to save money by using coupons (the Entertainment Book is so worth the money if you like to try new places), or meal deals. Tuesday is $2 burger night at Bar Louie.  Chili's (app, 2 entrees, dessert) and Applebee's (app and 2 entrees) both boast 2 for $20 deals.  Now that the holidays are coming up, many restaurants are going to have promos attached to their gift cards.  Buy a certain dollar amount in gift cards and get some bonus bucks at no additional cost.  Part of the reason we chose a weekday night is that the restaurants are less crowded and coupons are always valid!  You could go to Taco Bell and dine on 49-cent tacos, the point isn't fine dining, it's quality time.

4.  Mix it up.  Browse a bookstore without having to entertain munchkins with puppets.  Cuddle together on a couch at a coffeehouse.  Go for a hand-in-hand walk.  Hit the second-run movie theater.  Sit at a bar and flirt outrageously.  Check out a museum, art gallery, go clubbing, do whatever you want to do but can't with the kidlets.  Sometimes we even sneak an errand into our date night, but if you're stealing kisses and sharing stories over 1.5 inch nails at the hardware store, it can still be romantic!

5.  Make your own rules.  Some sources say not to discuss the kids at all during your date.  We tried this a couple times, but it stressed us out, so we dropped that rule.  Some say you absolutely must get dolled up for each other - we do that about 50% of the time.  It's fun to make the effort, but other times, Hubby is running late, the Nugget's been a pill all day, and I certainly haven't had a second to curl my hair.  Create your own rules, but drop them if they start making date night a stressful exercise.  It's all about having fun and enjoying your spouse.
No excuses, just date!

Do you have any date night tips to share?  Please add the to the comments!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Re-enactor

The Nugget came racing around the corner, a slightly disgruntled look on his face.  He kept saying (what we thought was), "A bok, a bok".  First we thought he was asking for a book but that prompted an angry, "NO!"  Then we asked him if he was thinking about chickens.  Frustrated, he reared back and head-butted the couch repeatedly, yelling, "A bok, a bonk, I bonk, I bonk!"  Translation:  He had bonked his head in the other room and needed a kiss.  End curtain on the Nugget's first re-enactment.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Choices


We give the Nugget simple choices (red shirt or blue shirt) throughout the day.  We find that empowering him with these little options makes him feel capable and more cooperative.  Of course, being a strong-willed toddler, he occasionally makes a 3rd unoffered selection or just delays too long, in which case we make the choice for him, saying, "Ok, Mommy/Daddy picks this one".

This evening, we noticed the Nugget offering Doggie a choice of 2 squeakies.  He lined up a squeaky cow and a squeaky lion in front of Doggie and asked, "This one or this one?" repeatedly.  Since she didn't choose, he picked for her, He said, "Ok, I pick this one," and tossed her cow across the room for her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bacon-meat-cracker

The Nugget has just recently discovered his shadow.  At first, he tried to high-five it, unsuccessfully.  Today, upon waking from his nap and discovering it on his wall, he "ate" it.  He grabbed a handful of shadow, brought it to his mouth, made munching sounds, then said, "Mmm, good.  Tasty."  Today, when I asked him what it tasted like, he said "chicken".

The Nugget has recently been saying daily, "Hug Papa.  Eat yummy cookie."  At first, we thought they were disjointed thoughts, but then noticed that they were continually stated together.  So we assumed he meant that he wanted to hug Papa and eat a cookie with him.  Today, while thinking some more about our last trip to the West Coast, I realized that indeed, the last time the Nugget saw his Papa, he did indeed give him a hug and shared a cookie with him.  If he is recalling this specific event, I am amazed, because it happened 3 months ago.

On the same line of thought, I've been trying to ignore the barrage of Christmas merchandise and decorations already in the stores.  While it makes Hubby absolutely crazy-mad to see Christmas trees in October, I accept it calmly as the retail ploy it is...HOWEVER, at the campus bookstore yesterday, the super-friendly cashier was wiring festive ribbon to a faux evergreen wreath.  The Nugget asked what she was doing, and I said vaguely, "Making some decorations.  That's called a wreath.  Isn't it pretty?"  But the cashier, ignoring my throat-clearing and violent head movements, cheerily added, "It's a Christmas wreath!  Do you LIKE Christmas?  Santa is coming to bring you PRESENTS.  It will be so fun!"  If you have raised toddlers, you know exactly where I'm going with this.  He has already asked me about the presents and going to church for Christmas about 546,721 times.  Loved ones, you may start discussing Christmas with the Nugget on Dec 24, mmm-kay?!

I've been working harder to schedule at least one "down day" during each week, where I can just give the Nugget my full attention and let him choose the activities, within reason.  Today he chose to ride his bike, then abandoned it in the backyard, but wanted to keep his helmet on.  Then he helped me sweep the driveway, still with helmet on.  Then he decided to take a walk down the block WITH the push broom, still donning his bike helmet.  While all of this is totally fine with me, I had to wonder what the neighbors thought.

The Nugget now recognizes the aroma of bacon.  While heating it in the microwave, he caught scent of it and came running in from the other room asking for "Yummy bacon-meat-cracker, please!"  

The Nugget has been putting his toys to sleep for awhile now.  Lately, he's added a gentle back rub and "ssshhhh" to the routine, just like we do for him at nap/bed time.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From the mouth of babes...


Some tidbits of funny-ness.

1.  The Nugget says "bear" with a Boston accent.  "Beyah."  It's wicked funny.

2.  The Nugget used to call butterflies "buh-flies", then just "flies", and now he calls them "babyflies".

3.  When eating anything tasty, the Nugget says, "Mmmm, good."  He's like the Campbell's soup commercial.

4.  The Nugget just started saying "cool", which I think proves how behind the times his parents are, that this is our positive comment of choice.  It's just one step above "groovy".  What is the appropriate word now?  Tight?  Off the hook?  Not that I would ever be able to say either without dissolving into fits of laughter and immediately thinking of Eugene Levy in American Pie 2.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bribes


I have a confession - I started bribing the Nugget this week.  One of my pre-parent parenting philosophies is children shouldn't be paid for good behavior, it should be the status quo.  "Haha!" God said, "Another slice of humble pie coming up!"

While I don't want to make bribes a lifetime habit, for 2 year old Nugget, they are working wonders and helping get him to use gentle hands much more consistently.  I'm following the Love and Logic approach, so it's not really a true bribe per se (although it feels like it to me).

Before we go somewhere where there will be other children, I tell him where we're going and what we'll be doing.  I lay down the ground rules - quiet voice, walking feet, gentle hands, etc.  Then since the pushing has been a major issue, I make the statement, "I give treats to boys who use their gentle hands."  The treat part is pretty non-specific, so it could be a trip to the playground, a cookie, a soft pretzel, stickers, a ride on the merry-go-round at the mall, a free balloon from a restaurant, a new book, borrowing a video from the library.  The way I feel less guilty about it is that I only choose small rewards that I was planning to give him anyway; he just has to "earn" them with good behavior.  I also don't use anything he NEEDS as a bribe (he doesn't lose outdoor exercise time or his special bedtime giraffe), and of course, sometimes I give him nice fun things that he doesn't have to earn.  When he earns his treat, I make a bigger deal over his good choices than the treat itself.  When he doesn't earn his treat, I empathize that it I know he tried, I love him, and that he'll get to try again soon.

I love that it's working, and that he engages in monologues about the system, which makes me feel that there's something in his little psyche that requires positive reinforcement.  The time outs were a band-aid on the situation, but he wasn't learning or understanding.

"Gentle hands, special treats.  Push - no, sad.  No pushing.  I hug friends.  I pat friends.  Friends happy!  Treats!"

And now after he gets a time out, I don't tell him what he did wrong, he tells ME, "Time out because I push friends - sad."

It's totally working.  I also realize that this is the same positive reinforcement I used very effectively with the dog and lots of zoo animals.  But still, I hate that I'm bribing him.  

Are you doing anything with your kids that you swore you wouldn't do?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Please pray for our nephew

Our nephew, Alex, shown here holding newborn Nugget, is going to have a major surgery in early December.  Alex was born with Prune Belly syndrome, and we are praying that the surgery gives him a healthier, longer, happier life.  Alex, we are so proud of you, and we love you very much.

To learn more, visit Alex's website.  We appreciate any donations and prayers you can offer for our family.

Operation Christmas Child




Today, we went to Target and filled 2 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan's Purse.  We included a note in each, made a small donation for shipping, and I will be dropping the packed boxes off at a local church.  Samaritan's Purse will ship and distribute the boxes to children around the world, including refugees and flood victims.  The video on their website is both gut-wrenching and inspiring.  Most of us don't have the means to save any of these children from their circumstances, but we can make their lives a little brighter.  (And yes, if the "Christmas" and "Samaritan" didn't clue you in, it IS a Christian organization, and each child WILL be receiving a booklet of bible stories with each box, so if you'd prefer a secular charity, this ain't it.)

The Nugget helped us by deciding which particular book/pair of socks/etc. to buy, then put our items in the cart, and pushed the cart to the checkout.  Although he is pretty young to understand poverty, we explained that today we were picking out some toys for friends who didn't have any.

If you wanted to get in on the action, The Dollar Spot had the perfect filler items!  Here's what we included:

In both boxes:
Book
Notebook
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Wet Ones
Slinky
Wood clapper toy (like a castanet)

Boy age 2-4 (fewer items but they were larger!):
Tin with stickers
Wood fire truck
Lacing beads
Alphabet blocks
Candy canes
Puzzle

Girl age 5-9:
Crayons
Color and activity book
Socks
2 pens
Stuffed bear
Lollypop
Folding hairbrush
Self-inking stamp
Soap
Bouncy ball
Magic towel (washcloth that comes in a pill form but expands in water)
Lip balm
Bookmark
Hairbows
********************************************************
I debated whether it was "holier-than-thou" of me to make this post (and the Baking GALS one), but then I decided that since I have struggled with finding doable, affordable service projects as a SAHM with a toddler, that there were likely others in the same boat, so that's why I'm choosing to share the service projects we do :)  Thanks to my friend AP for finding and sharing this project!

Does anyone else know of other inexpensive, simple ways to serve that are inclusive of small children?  I can't, for example, dole out hot soup at a shelter, tutor grade schoolers, or volunteer at a NARHA stable with a toddler in tow.  And we'd prefer projects that would cost $25 or less.  Please comment with your ideas!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2.25


Dear Nugget,

You are 2 and 1/4 years old.  You are simultaneously bright sunbeam and stormy raincloud, gentle lamb and aggressive lion.  Although you test my patience daily, you are also teaching me to accept our common humanity, to seek not perfection but unconditional love.  I love you fully, not despite the challenges you present but through those challenges.

Top 10 Things I love about 2.25:

10.  You narrate each day, each action.  "I going down steps now!"  "Red car coming fast!"  "I ride bike to church!"  You end each sentence in proud exclamation.

9.  You spontaneously count to 10, usually omitting the 5, then declare, "I counting, Mommy!"

8.  Your favorite place to read a story is nestled my lap.  I can't get more than a page without nuzzling your soft curls or planting a kiss on your cheek.

7.  I can often find you paging through books on your own, you whispering several words on each page.

6.  Your clarion call, "I DO IT!"  Yes, you can do it, from opening doors, to zipping coats, to choosing a spoon, pouring your milk, strapping on your shoes, and washing your hands.  Your list of abilities and accomplishments grows daily.  

5.  You are always ready with a hug.  You have just started to use your arms, whereas before you just leaned in with your head tilted sweetly.

4.  You can seriously play fetch with Shamrock now, with little to no assistance.  What a great way to tire you both out...errm, I mean, what fantastic exercise for you both!

3.  You have a sense of humor.  You especially love to play peekaboo when I pretend to look for you in silly places, like in a drawer or under my coffee mug.

2.  Your imagination is taking flight.  You pretend to be brachiosaurus chomping trees (broccoli) and you puff and chug your train belt all the way around your belt loop "tunnels".

1.  You can recount an event accurately from memory.  I love to hear your summary of the farm, trick-or-treating, or a recent outing to the park.  It's also fantastic that you can re-cap your weekdays for Daddy or your latest great adventure for the grandparents over the phone.

Top 10 Challenges of 2.25:

10.  "I DO IT!"  Yes, that was on the other list too.  While I adore your constant battles for independence, there are times when I really wish I could step in, or I do and am met with hysterics.   For instance, I am standing outside in the bitter cold and wind while you insist on buckling yourself into the car seat.  While I applaud your effort, your fingers actually aren't strong enough to do it yet without at least a finger from mom.  Last night, you locked yourself in the entryway, because you wouldn't let Daddy help you open the inner door.  Yet you were crying from exhaustion and frustration while you yelled, "NO Daddy, I DO IT!"

9.  You now understand ownership is 9/10 of the law, and by gum, you are going to protect your possessions with whatever force necessary.  And by "your", I am also including toys that don't technically belong to you, but that you claimed by picking them up first.  Or thinking about them first.  Dibs!

8.  Shrill screams, less often than this summer, thankfully.  But now you let them loose at very strategic times, such as the consecration at Mass, or during storytime at the library.

7.  You have figured out "gentle hands" for the Doggie, but you are finding ways around that, such as boxing her out like a pro basketball player, gently touching her in the eyeball, or trying to crawl under her belly.

5.  Kicking crawling babies.  Ok, I get you haven't gotten to experience many crawlers since you've become bipedal.  I get that you don't know exactly what to make of them and that you aren't being malicious, just experimental.  But oh my heavens, this particular experiment is most unpleasant.  Perhaps Lil Sib is waiting to come to us until you are past this special phase in your life :)

4.  Pushing your friends.  I swear, we don't let you watch violent TV shows.

3.  Pushing your friends.  I swear, we don't push you or each other.

2.  Pushing your friends.  Is this just a boy thing?

1.  Pushing your friends.  Am very glad that for the moment, they don't seem to hold grudges.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!



I feel these two photos are a fair representation of our Halloween.  

Picture #1:  The Nugget heads out in his wagon, reciting these instructions, "Pwess button.  Ding dong.  Klect (collect) treats in pumpkin!"  He did indeed have a fabulous time and made it to a respectable 15 houses.

Picture #2:  Upon returning home, the Nugget learns that he will not be allowed to eat all 15 treats in one sitting.  Commence drama.