On Soccer Camp.

I am constantly learning new things as a mother. For example, last week I learned that getting a 3-year-old to listen to a soccer coach for three hours in 90+ degree heat is impossible. We tried. I had high expectations, but it went just about as smoothly as Mom and Baby Yoga. The good news is we didn’t end each class lying on our sides, breastfeeding our kids. The thought of doing that in direct sunlight in 95 degree heat makes me want to puke.

He’s not ready to pay attention for that long. I was silly to think otherwise. Motherhood has been one learning experience after another. For example, I’ve learned that the more you spend on an activity, the less your kid’s gonna get out of it. And the more excited you are by said activity, the less excited they’re gonna be. So, should we ever have a second child, that kid’s gonna be ignored until age five or so, particularly where extracurricular activities are concerned. Sorry, kid. It’s nothing but flour and water for you. Maybe some paint. And we might take you to the playground.

(Wait, I’m a second child. This explains a lot.)

But all was not entirely lost. We had two great days. He followed instructions, had fun and we stayed the entire time. I won’t talk about the other three days; the days I had to take him home kicking, screaming and spitting. (Picture Linda Blair from “The Exorcist” only without the company of The Devil. Because, seriously, had The Devil been there I’d have asked him or her for help.)

I won’t mention those days. I won’t start talking about how age 3 is ten bloody times worse than age 2. If I start talking about all the timeouts we’ve had lately, or the fact that it took him 1 hour, 40 minutes to eat pancakes this morning all the while he sat screaming at the table, I’ll never stop talking. Plus, I’ll develop a stutter and start drinking. And I haven’t had a drink in a very long time.

I will say this: the closer we get to three, the rougher our days become. I’ll leave it at that for now. But soon I’m gonna need some companionship, a gentle shoulder to cry on. Because this has been hard, really hard. It’s kind of like breaking in a wild horse, not that I’ve ever done that. But if I ever apply for a job as cowboy, I’m putting this on my resume.

I’m convinced this is why siblings aren’t often 4 years apart. Who in their right mind looks at their husband after a day spent with a three-year-old and says, “Hi, honey! Let’s have unprotective sex so we can have ANOTHER ONE!”?

Anyway… SOCCER CAMP! The last class went off without a hitch. And I managed to get this short video of my boy following instructions, giving high fives and receiving his final award.

So, we won’t be back next week. But we will be back next year. Because the gentlemen from United Soccer Academy who were in charge of these 3-year-olds were amazing. I’ve never met two Brits more deserving of an award for patience. In fact, everyone pooled together a hefty tip at the end of the week to show how sorry we felt for them. A pity tip! A pitippy!

We’ll be back next year—you know, after three is over.

(Three does end, right?)

Give Me A Bappy!! I Want A Bappy!

Today is Tuesdays With Murray, which means I’m supposed be writing about Murray. And I have a story to share. But Internet? It’s been a really rough four days and my brain is out of batteries.

You see, Toby and I decided (out of nowhere) that we were going to take away the bappy. Y’all are like, What the hell is a “bappy?” That’s what my son calls his pacifier. He loves his bappy especially when it’s time for night-night or he needs to calm down.

Well, we decided it was time. Just like that. We figured we’d see how it goes for a day. And then when the world didn’t end, we kept going. This is day four and it’s been OK. I won’t try and make things sound too terrible. He has slept relatively well. Things are OK at night. We’ve gotten several desperate pleas for a pacifier, but we usually distract him until he forgets. And those pleas (not to jinx it) are becoming fewer and fewer in number.

But, what’s a nap?

There hasn’t been much napping and when he does nap, it’s a fall asleep where you’re sitting type of thing and it usually takes place the hours right before the bedtime safety zone. The other night he fell asleep eating at 5 PM. I knew that was going to mean later we’d face a great deal of trouble getting him to sleep, but at that point? I so needed a few minutes to myself that I just let him sleep for a while.

The part that’s been REALLY difficult are the tantrums. They don’t happen all the time—most of the time he’s wonderfully funny and sweet and I mean that. But when the tantrums do happen? There’s absolutely NO calming him down. I swear there are dozens of Brooklyn residents that think we beat our child. But that’s a story for another day. I’m not sure if it’s that we took the pacifier away, or if we’re just knee-deep in the terrible twos, but lately the tantrums have been brutal.

So, my days have been tiring and rough lately. And I need a break. I haven’t said that in a long time, but I do. I need a break. And now that winter is upon us and he isn’t in school at all (I will explain whole not moving situation soon) and we don’t have the ability to hit the playground, the days are killing us both. I need to get lost in a movie or something, with a pacifier.

Quite frankly, I have no idea how the anti-TV parents do it. Because the only (and I mean ONLY) downtime I get is when he watches Sesame Street or Night At the Museum for the 100th time. (Incidentally, whomever gave that movie an abysmal 2.5 stars was not a child nor did they speak to children. Stupid, adult movie reviewers.)

Some of you are probably wondering how I’m writing this post—like, what’s he doing right now. He’s building a choo-choo track in his room and begging for me to join him. So, I gotta go lay down some railroad, my friends. But I’ll try my damnedest to have a halfway literate Murray post up later today.

Because this one? Not so much.

First Haircut!

Emory had his first haircut yesterday. I love his curls, and I’m all for longer hair on boys, but the back of it looked like an albino Brillo pad. Trying to comb it had become impossible. Whenever I did try, he would scream, “OW! OW! OW, MAMA!” And most of the time I hadn’t even touched him yet. Needless to say, I was concerned for the safety of our hair stylist. But I was pleasantly surprised.

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I’m not sure if it was the race car they had him sit in, the new toys all around him, or the fact that a new and intriguing, heavily tattooed man was the one doing the cutting, but he was a perfect angel for the duration of the haircut.

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It wasn’t until we were leaving and he realized he wasn’t going to be able to take the cool new stuff with him did he begin to put up a fight. This is what I get for scheduling his haircut at a local children’s toy store. And I realize that I probably rewarded bad behavior, but I had to get out of there with a little bit of dignity. That’s how Billy Bee came to live with us.

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I personally think he looks a lot more like his father now.

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He’s losing his blond hair, which I knew was going to happen, but it still makes me a little sad. It appears he’s going to end up with the nice White Trash brown his mother and father grew up with.

NaBloPoMo: Toddler Politics

Emory is going through a strange phase. At least I hope it’s a phase. He’s never been a really outgoing kid, but he’s always been unabashedly joyful. (Remember this post?) But recently, he’s become a great deal more introverted and shy. He’s also easily spooked and/or scared away from a situation. And I think that some of the other kids pick up on this.

Now, I’m going to try really hard to complete this post as unbiasedly as possible. I would hate for it to come off as my suggesting that my son is perfect (he’s not) and sweet and all the other kids are beating up on him. That’s not the case at all. I know firsthand that life throws at us strange relationships and confrontations; it’s natural for folks to not always get along. So I’m going to try and finish this post as neutral as a mother possibly can; I’ll present the facts and hope that someone out there has some answers.

Lately, Emory has been reacting to other more outgoing and vivacious kids’ by cowering. It happens while playing with kids he knows and doesn’t know. For example, he’ll be on top of the slide waiting to come down and another kid will come over and say MINE! (Perfectly normal, even Emory does it!) and instead of waiting or stepping aside, he’ll cower—sometimes he runs away. And more recently he’s begun to burst into tears. If he’s near me, he hides behind my legs. It’s really quite hard on my heart, but I want to teach him to face his fears and embrace confrontation in a healthy manner.

Lately, we’ve been telling him after the fact that when kids are mean to him it’s OK to say, “Please be nice to me.” He’s starting to understand more, so we want him to confront the situation instead of running to me or running away period. And bursting into tears solves nothing. Plus, it breaks my heart.

Just last night when Toby Joe asked him how his day went and he answered by telling him that a kid was mean to him.

A few weeks ago, all three of us were on the playground and one of his friends pushed him away and said, “Emory no! GO away!” And he ran away sobbing, like the kind where no sound comes out and no air gets in. As he walked toward Toby Joe and me he said, “I’m so sad, I’m crying.” It was heartbreaking. I wanted to scoop him up and protect him forever, but life doesn’t allow for that a great deal of the time, so we’re trying to introduce him to a happy medium. Does that make sense?

Naturally, I can’t help but blame myself for taking him out of school. But that can’t be it, can it? He sees and plays with other children, it’s just not always the same group of kids. Plus, he’s just two. I didn’t go to school until I was five. Certainly this can’t be that, right? It’s not like he’s not socialized.

I do hope that this phase goes away. My once joyful kid now reacts to others with wariness. And I don’t know how to help him without changing the world and I’m too busy to take that on. ;]

Has anyone else had a kid go through this? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Maybe he’s just going to be a more apprehensive kid. I’m ok with that. But I’m not ok with this manifesting itself in other ways and he thinking twice before doing something creative and carefree.

NYC Mom Takes Her Anti-Sweets Too Far.

It’s possible to take it too far. Just ask MeMe Roth resident of the Upper West Side.

When offered any food at school other than the school lunch, Ms. Roth’s children — who shall go nameless since it seems they have enough on, or off, their plates — are instructed to deposit the item into a piece of Tupperware their mother calls a “junk food collector.”

I am all for regulating what my child consumes, but the occasional cupcake, ice pop, or brownie certainly isn’t going to hurt him, nor is going to make him fat. Telling him it’s absolutely forbidden? That’s where I think problems arise. Have we learned nothing from Catholic school girls?

All jokes aside, NPR recently interviewed Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey. The segment was called “Let Them Eat Sugar: A New Guide For Feeding Kids.”

I agree more with what Amster-Burton said regarding the sweet stuff:

“If you’re brave enough to let it be, it’s kind of self-regulating. Efforts to restrict sugar in kids tend to backfire and tend to make kids look for sugar anytime the parents aren’t looking.”

Do parents like Ms. Roth exist everywhere? Or are they based solely out of New York City. I know the answer to this question, but I am a little surprised at just how many parents there are like Ms. Roth in the area. (Granted, there are also a great number who suffer from the opposite problem: they ignore their children to the point of neglect and still others are just simply abusive.)

When it comes to sweets, I let my son indulge fairly regularly. He also loves broccoli, peanuts, every fruit grown on planet earth, and eggs. I think the only food we haven’t given him yet is fast food and highly processed packaged food, although, should he one day discover a Twinkie, I certainly won’t take it away.

Her extreme methods have earned her attention before: The police were called to a YMCA in 2007 when she absconded with the sprinkles and syrups on a table where members were being served ice cream. That was Ms. Roth who called Santa Claus fat on television that Christmas, and she has a continuing campaign against the humble Girl Scout cookies, on the premise that no community activity should promote unhealthy eating.

One must wonder if there’s something else eating (or not eating!) at Ms. Roth.

Toddler Potty Training. Reader's Email.

10-0607-01fEmory isn’t yet potty trained. Of course, he’s not really supposed to be, at 21 months. We do have one of those Bjorn toddler toilets and have for almost a year but we’re not militant about putting it to use. I store it in our bathroom across from the regular toilet.

There have been a few times right before having a bath where he’ll sit down on it and pee. Which always results in cheers, songs, hugs and kisses. And I can only imagine what type of lasting neuroses we’re inflicting upon him.

Granted, I met one mother who used Jelly Beans as a reward. So, when her son as a grown man suddenly and inexplicably craves Jelly Belly’s every time he poops, we’ll all know why.

But I digress. For those of you without children, this may come as a surprise to you, but it’s true what they say about having kids and then never getting to use the bathroom alone. At first I brought him into the bathroom with me because I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone for 30 seconds. But now it’s become a ritual. He waddles in behind me and sits down on his potty while I use the big person potty. And then we have the following conversation:

“Mama goes potty?” (Pronounced “pah-ee?”)

“Yes, mama goes potty.”

“Dadda goes potty?”

“Yes, Dadda goes potty.”

“Emmy goes potty?”

“Yes, Emmy goes potty, too!”

“Murrrrl goes potty?”

“Yup, Murray goes potty.”

You get it. He asks about every cat and then starts over again. This is a common discussion. He enjoys it. As do I. And having said discussion warms him up to the idea. He now knows that people use a toilet. He just hasn’t yet figured out how to plan for it. He’s not yet saying, “Mama, I have to go potty.”

There have been a few times where he’ll be trying to go poop and I’ll scoop him up and sit him on the potty. Usually Toby Joe or I will sit down with him and read a book to relax him. Unfortunately, this is usually when he’s really constipated and therefore experiencing some pain. So it’s not always a pleasurable experience. We read to him to try and relax him so he doesn’t hit an emotional roadblock when it comes to pooping on the potty.

All in all, he’s probably used the potty a dozen times. I call that progress!

This is still a learning experience for all of us. We’re taking it day-by-day. I haven’t yet read a thing about how to actually successfully potty train a toddler. I am not sure what we’re waiting for, really. A sign he’s really ready? Maybe we’re lazy? I don’t know. I can honestly say, however, I’m not even sure at what age you’re supposed to begin such a feat, that’s how little research I have done on the subject.

So, all that said, I’m not sure how much I have to offer a mother who emailed me over the weekend regarding potty training. Here is her email:

Hi I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and your son is a little older than mine.  So, I find your advice and information helpful as what you’ll are learning doing we aren’t too far behind.  My son is 17 months old.  Anyways, I’ve been trying to read up on potty training and thought I’d ask you if you have any insight into the subject.  I found a Peter Potty urinal online at walmart and thought it looked pretty cool for baby boy then I’ve read it can be confusing to try to learn to use two separate potties (one for #1 & another for #2) but I also read little boys sometimes much prefer this method and train easier (don’t you just love all the conflicting info out there).  Anyways, my question is have you started the process yet and if so have you learned any tips or tricks to make it easier?

Can you help her? Do you have pointers for this momma? And perhaps I can rubberneck and learn a thing or two as well? heh.

Thanks, friends!

Bye Bye, School! We'll See You Next Time!

The other day a friend of mine called me sobbing. At first I thought something terrible had happened to someone in her family. My mind raced with possibilities before she was able to get the words out.

“I need you to tell me it’s going to be OK!” She cried into the phone. “I need to know that dropping them off gets easier!” 

She had just dropped her 2-year-old daughter off at her first day of daycare. 

I knew precisely what she was going through. In January, Emory started going to school for a few hours three days a week. It wasn’t a full time thing, it wasn’t ever meant to be, but I felt it was just enough time for everyone involved.

But it wasn’t easy. I thought about how I felt when Em first started school and how many of you made me feel better. It was time to pay it forward.

I began by letting her know what I have come to realize over the past five months: sending Em to school was one of the more rewarding decisions we’ve made. Emory has thrived because of it. (His mama has as well!) I told my friend that I cried too and I know exactly how difficult it is but that one day in the very immediate future she’s going realize she made a good decision, if not a great one. 

Naturally, I assured her that it gets much, much easier. And then I joked that I’ve been crying all over again—not because he’s going school, but because we only have three weeks left!

By the end of the conversation we were both laughing.

It’s true. Em is finished with school in three weeks. The truth of the matter is, Emory has absolutely flourished at school. He has come such a long way in the time he’s been there. I know this is normal; kids are supposed to learn a great deal as they near age two, but this seems different to me. Emory regularly comes home and does something weird yet adorable and Toby Joe and I look at each other suggesting that the other must be responsible only to realize he learned it at school.

Take Laurie Berkner’s “We are the Dinosaurs” song. (See it on YouTube here.) Without school, my family never would have marched together like dinosaurs, a pastime we’ve come to revere as a family, like sitting down to dinner together or sharing an ice cream cone. 

And I have school to thank for “The Goodbye Song” which we sing at least a dozen times each day. No joke.

(This next part is falls into that “MY KID IS SO SMART!” territory and I promised myself I would not become that parent, but if this were a court case, it would be admitted as evidence in defense of preschool.)

Emory knows the entire alphabet and has for months. Yes, we take a little credit for that, both Toby and I have been going over the alphabet with him since he was 6 months old. We also count with him a great deal, which is why he counts everything from fingers and toes, to the number of blueberries on his plate. (Numbers are his thing, which means he’s definitely his father’s son.) School had a great deal to do with his education as well.

Probably the most important aspect to his development is the social one. Emory is a little on the self-conscious side and can come off a little shy. I’ve written about this before. But school has allowed him to really shine. It helps he’s with the same eight kids every day (same three teachers, too). He has come to know them and love them. There have been several times we’re on the playground and one of his classmates shows up and they go completely crazy the moment they see one another.

I swear to you, I haven’t ever been so heart-warmed in all of my life. 

And I’ve changed too! I met one of my closest friends because of Emory’s school. As a matter of fact, my life is going quite well right now. I have found a wonderful group of friends whom I absolutely adore, one of which I hang out almost every day and our kids play awesome together. 

My life is going really, really well and because of that, I think Em is happier too.

So, yes, I have been crying just a little bit because we will have to say goodbye to a really great experience. He’ll no longer play with the same kids every week. He now runs to his teachers every morning and we’ll be saying goodbye to them as well. And all those strange things he does at home where we’re asking one another, “Where did he pick that up!?” won’t happen as much. At least not for a while.

While on the phone with my friend reassuring her that everything was going to be better than OK, I realized something about my situation: I think that the last day of school is going to be equally as emotional for me as the day I dropped him off.

Behold! The Kettler Navigator.

It’s been a while since I last wrote about this, but we finally pulled the trigger on a Kettler bike for Em. It was money well spent. He loves it. My only complaint is I can no longer keep him stationary whenever we’re out and we stop moving for one second. He’s up and running in no time. But other than that, the bike is awesome. (I think I heard you can buy a seatbelt for them. I may do that.)

We ended up with the the Kettler Navigator. It’s a little pricey, but I like the fact that I can steer. The bike is quite durable as well. I wasn’t expecting it to be as nicely made. If we do decide to have another kid, it will definitely last.

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We also picked up an easel for him a couple of months back. We ended up with the Melissa and Doug Standing Easel. Again, money well spent. He loves it.

(P.S. This week’s Mom It Down will be up later this evening. You won’t be let down! One word: Chocolate.)

Not Yet Two and Already Defiant.

Toby Joe and I love soccer. We’re huge fans of the English Premier League. Today’s UEFA final between Barça and Manchester United is a match I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. I’m giddy with excitement, watching the clock and preparing snacks. I really think this one is going to be awesome. Emory and I will probably watch it together once he gets home from school.

Every time Emory sees a soccer match on TV he yells, “OCCAH! OCCAH!!!” And I beam with delight.

I was so excited about this I signed him for a toddler soccer league this summer. How that’s going to be possible—like, how these people plan on getting a bunch of 2-year-olds to play something remotely resembling soccer—that’s not for me to figure out. Thankfully, that’s not my job. Laughing about it? Definitely my job. Organizing it? Not so much.

Toby Joe and I also watch a lot of college football. Pretty much every Saturday in fall we’ll have a football game on the TV. We really look forward to Penn State.

But, I still wouldn’t call us as a very “sporty family”. We don’t watch basketball, hockey makes me nervous, and baseball tends to bore us both. Don’t get me wrong, I love attending live baseball games—partly because I love overpriced, domestic beer—but I don’t particularly enjoy watching it on TV.

But this weekend a Mets game made its way onto our TV somehow. They were playing Boston. So we left it on, because while baseball isn’t particularly entertaining for us, Boston fans usually are.

Naturally, because we wanted Emory to love soccer, he became obsessed with baseball. Just like that. He’s so into it, I had to warn his teachers just this morning about his desire to swing everything in sight. I told them that it’s in their best interest they keep all long, hard objects out of his reach. For long, hard objects are no longer just broomsticks, lint-rollers or hairbrushes; they’re baseball bats. And baseball bats are meant to be swung! And swinging hurts people. Believe me.

“Why baseball?” I have scoffed “Where did I go wrong?” I have cried. “Is this because I pushed too hard for soccer? Why, Emory? Why?” I have begged. To no avail.

“BEEBALL MAMA! BEEBALL!!”

I’m coming to terms with his desire for baseball over soccer. I suppose I can deal with baseball. And I’ll put him on a t-ball team the moment he’s old enough. I want my kid to do whatever it is he pleases. If baseball becomes his passion, I will give him my blessing.

But if he becomes a Red Sox fan, we’re putting him up for adoption.

Please Don't Blush.

When Emory hit the 15-month mark, he started to notice the world around him and that he was sharing it with other people. He went from a dancing, falling down toddler to realizing that people were paying attention. Instead of embracing them and pulling them in, he stopped dancing.

I told everyone around us not to laugh at him, not that anyone really had been. I just wanted to send him the message that it’s OK to carry on and that he shouldn’t care what anybody else thinks or that they’re paying attention at all.

It didn’t work. He just wouldn’t dance anymore. He became shy, and made strange yet adorable facial expressions letting everyone around him know that he knew they were paying attention.

And then one day one of his teachers informed me that some kids are just self-conscious. It came up because we were talking about music class and dancing and I said, “OH! Does he dance for you?” 

She answered, “No. He marches, but he won’t dance.”

And while hearing that shouldn’t necessarily break a mother’s heart, it sent a splinter right through mine.

I don’t want my kid to be self-conscious. I want him to dance whenever the mood strikes. I want him to throw his hands up whenever he’s excited to see someone. Most of all, I want him to laugh at himself. 

Like with most things having to do with how one goes about parenting, this probably has a lot to do with me. I was once the girl who didn’t care what other people thought. And I was happier for it. But at some point I turned into a self-conscious bore. My concern about what other people thought about me made me fearful. I became just another coward in the crowd, someone to skip over.

I became a girl just like any other girl. 

I have since grown to know, accept and work with the new girl, but I do often mourn the old one. And I could sit here and blame everyone else for her departure—society does have a way of normalizing everyone—but I’m the one that let her go.

Recently, a couple of Em’s classmates have decided that he’s pretty great. They let him know as much by screeching his name whenever they see him.

“EMMMMMMMEEEEEE!!! EMMMMMMMOOOOORRREEEE!!!”

And the sound of his name fires off motion in a moment of pause.

Emory stomps his feet, throws his arms in the air, takes his pointer fingers and bores two little imaginary holes into each of their bellies, and they become the greatest gifts he’s ever seen.

And they scream and he screams and everyone is screaming and I start screaming on the inside because she’s in there somewhere boring two holes into my belly because I’m the greatest gift she’s ever seen.

And then the whole world stops spinning and everyone is dancing and stomping his or her feet and listening to the lack of gravity of the situation.

Jubilance. Joy. A total disregard for everything that turns us into cowards, buffoons, and judgmental idiots—a total disregard for all that keeps us grounded and proper and therefore absurd.

So, the next time we see each other—you and me—no matter how much time has gone by—an hour, a day, three days, five years—my vocal chords are going give you the biggest standing ovation you’ve ever felt. They’re gonna stomp on the minutes that dictate your day like a steel-toed boot, and hopefully reduce you to a pile of laughter and a fit of screams.

Because that’s what we should do—you and me. That’s what we need to do.

My only hope is that you don’t blush.