Sanity Saver: The Purgatory Drawer

When Nolan was a baby, we did a pretty good job of preventing his stuff from taking over our house. We kept it mostly contained in a corner of the living room and hidden away in a built-in cabinet. Fast forward four years, a new house, another baby, and our house looks like a Target toy department after it has been picked over on Black Friday.

As he approaches five, Nolan’s memory has sharpened to a fine point, and I find removing stuff harder and harder. “Where is the purple paper I drew a pattern on last August? It was right here on the far corner of my dresser six months ago collecting dust.”

I'm worried he's going to end up like this kid!
I’m worried he’s going to end up like this kid!

I’ve recently created The Purgatory Drawer (a kitchen drawer he never opens full of pots). Right now it’s mostly used for school papers and projects I’m fairly sure he won’t miss. Some old toys go in there too, though, and after a week or so if he hasn’t asked about them, into the garbage they go.

What are your tips for tackling the STUFF?

 

A Year with Will

It all started when I thought I peed my pants. It turned out to be my water breaking and a few hours later, Will was here. I’ve written about his birth story and Design Mom was kind enough to share it on her site. Now, we’ve had a full year with him and it has been nothing short of joyful.

IMG_3906This kid. What can I say? He loves EVERYTHING. If I had to make a list of his favorite things (aside from his family members), I would probably narrow it down to:

  1. closing doors
  2. touching the toilet
  3. putting things in the garbage
  4. eating leaves
  5. playing with (tormenting) Baxter

IMG_3930After a cranky first month or two, he has been a total dream. I’ve done things I said I’d never do like co-sleep, take selfies with him, and neglect to document any of his milestones (#secondchildproblems), but all in all, it has been a great year.

IMG_3898 One of his most remarkable qualities is how well he entertains himself. This time around we invested in a baby jail. It is multi-colored plastic and pretty much takes over our entire living room, but it’s worth it. There are times he plays by himself for over an hour in there.

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Even though the month leading up to his birth was marked by moving, unpacking, finishing renovations, and starting Nolan in a new school, his birth and my time in the hospital was actually really peaceful.
IMG_4256It was totally wild weather with torrential, hurricane-like rain as we drove to the hospital, and then unseasonably freezing temperatures during my stay and release. It was in the 20s when we headed home!

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I was lucky that I didn’t share a room for most of my time in the hospital. I have vivid memories of being alone with Will in the early morning, looking out the window at the beautiful treetops of Huntington Bay.  I can’t say enough how lovely everyone at Huntington Hospital was.
IMG_4471The hospital food? Not lovely.  Matt kindly brought me lots of my local favorites and now every time I eat those foods, I fondly think of Will’s birth. Not to make my son’s birthday sound like a Yelp review, but get yourself a Sausalito sandwich from Sapsuckers, a cappuccino from Southdown Coffee, and a chocolate croissant from Fiorello Dolce. You won’t regret it. IMG_4518

So back to Will. Smiley doesn’t begin to describe how joyful he is. Snuggly, affectionate, giggly, and so loving. Everything Nolan does makes him laugh. If he’s cranky or crying, Nolan can make a silly face and all is forgotten. If that fails, we bring him over to Baxter and Will happily “pets” him while Baxter looks at me pleadingly. IMG_4594

Seriously, couldn’t you just cuddle that all day?? I know I could! Because I have! IMG_4608

So cheers to our little one. And to another year ahead filled with his laughs and smiles. Cue the onslaught of happy baby pictures (and one crying picture)!
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Do iPads belong in a library?

How much screen time kids get is among the top hot-button issues in the parenting and education worlds. I have thoughts about screen time (so many thoughts!) but I’ll save those for another post. Today, I’m really curious to know your thoughts about computers and iPads in libraries, specifically in the children’s section.

We are fortunate to live down the block from a wonderful library. The children’s section is large with two huge wooden trains that the kids can climb in and play on; there is a spacious area with blocks and other quiet toys, and obviously there are tons of books. There is also a large bank of computers, which recently was replaced mostly with iPads mounted to the table. The iPads are equipped with different children’s games and apps. When Nolan was younger and would ask to play on the computers or iPads, my standard response was, “That’s not what we come to the library for.” That seemed to satisfy him and he would happily play with something else and look for books. Now that’s he’s four and a half…it’s not enough.

My stock answer isn’t cutting it anymore because he doesn’t use one at home either. I know I’m fighting off the inevitable, but we have thus far kept iPads and computers out of the mix for him. It’s not that I think they’re evil, but I know what’s coming down the pike. Schools are being outfitted with iPads and Chromebooks, and many districts have one-to-one programs where the kids are in front a screen most of the day. I wish I were exaggerating.

Yesterday we visited the library and as I poked around in the Thanksgiving section, I could hear him a few aisles away talking to another child and chatting with a librarian. Then it was quiet for a minute or two and I headed over to find him. Where was he? Furiously tapping away on an iPad, trying to figure out a Cat in the Hat game. I let him play for a minute or two and then said, “Ok, let’s go now.” Fast forward a few minutes and several persistent directives later and he is now whining while angrily stomping behind me and has lost the privilege of going to the movie section to pick out a DVD. He would not pry himself away from that damn iPad.

So my question is this, why are there iPads and computers in the children’s section? In a culture where screens are EVERYWHERE, isn’t the library a place we can go to avoid them?  I would love to know your thoughts on this! Do you think libraries are just keeping up with the times and trying to bring kids in? Should libraries be screen free? Is playing a game on an iPad the same as playing with blocks? Please leave a comment below!

Image Credit

The “Logic” of Baby Sleep

Unless you’re one of the lucky elite whose children started sleeping for twelve uninterrupted hours practically at birth, you have probably felt the maniacal desperation of wanting your kids to please. just. sleep. (If you are one of those lucky elite, you should probably maintain your distance from me, for your own safety.)

In the confused early moments of the morning, I find myself trying to assign logical reasons for why the baby didn’t sleep well that night. When I put my theories down on paper (computer screen?) ,I see that they sound like the musings of a lunatic, but that aptly describes most parents of young children; therefore, I present, Reasons My Kid Didn’t Sleep:

  1. The room was warm.
  2. The room was cold.
  3. He had socks on.
  4. He had no socks on.
  5. He had one sock on.
  6. I fed him a big dinner.
  7. He barely ate dinner.
  8. The white noise machine was a little loud.
  9. The white noise machine was too quiet.
  10. The nightlight was too bright.
  11. The room was too dark.
  12. He had only one pacifier in the crib.
  13. He had half a dozen pacifiers in the crib.
  14. He had a blanket on.
  15. He didn’t have a blanket on.
  16. I put him to bed.
  17. My husband put him to bed.
  18. A grandparent put him to bed.
  19. A babysitter he has never met put him to bed.
  20. A hobo off the street put him to bed.

The sad truth is I HAVE HAD ALL THESE THOUGHTS (okay, not #20). On the flip side, after a great night of sleep, I also search for a reason. Now I present, Reasons My Kid Slept Well:

  1. See above list

Tell me I’m not alone here, and that there are crazy reasons you make up??

 

 

The Bad Habit of Good Job

When I started teaching English ten years ago (how did that happen??), I noticed that kids seemed different than when I was in high school. Considering that I was 23 when I started teaching, I had only been out of high school for five years. I was perplexed, What do you mean you didn’t do your homework again? What did you think was going to happen when you cut class? If you came to extra help even once a week, your grades would improve – just show up! After a while I realized, yes, kids were maybe a little different, but really I was being exposed to a different type of student. From a young age, I loved school and learning; I took mostly AP and Honors classes in high school and that skewed my picture of the average teenager. Even though there were probably tons of kids cutting class, not doing homework, or totally flaking, I didn’t see them.

Fast forward through those ten years of teaching, and I started to notice two habits among all ranges of kids, from the ones struggling to pass, to the AP students. First, a constant need to check in and seek approval. I often give kids time to write in class and nearly every student would ask at least once during the period, “Can you read this and tell me if it’s ok?” On the one hand, it’s commendable that the kids want to do well. They want to know that they’re on the right track and accomplishing the task at hand. On the other hand, hearing, “Is this good?” twenty or thirty times over the course of a period is enough to make your head spin. The reality is maybe it’s not good, but you need to keep going anyway and if it stinks, you’ll have to spend time revising and improving.

The other habit is an inability to progress to the next step, or sometimes to even get started. Everyone encounters writer’s block sometimes, but what I’m referring to is more systemic. “Ok, I did what you said. Now what do I do?” Often the answer is on the board, in their notes, or on a worksheet.  When it’s not, it’s because I want them to figure it out. For a long time, I chalked this up to laziness. And I hear this sentiment all the time, “Kids today are lazy; they don’t want to work.” Are some kids lazy? Sure, but so are plenty of adults. It’s less about laziness and more about an inability to think for themselves. Or in some cases, maybe it’s an impatience. Raised in an era of instant everything, they don’t have the patience to think.

What do I think is the culprit behind all this? It’s Mommy and Me art.

Ok so it’s actually something I observed at Mommy and Me art. A few months ago I signed Nolan up for an art class (I use that term loosely) at a local kids’ art studio. Nolan LOVES sports and spends a ton of time being active, and I thought this would be a nice change of pace.  Each class starts with some time for the kids to play, then the teacher reads a story and demonstrates the project they will work on. Then the kids go to their easels and get cracking. The first project involved sticking colored strips of tape to their papers and then painting.

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If you were a fly on the wall, here is what you would have heard:

Good job!

Let’s fix this tape.

Good job!

Why don’t you put the tape here?

Good job! 

Beautiful!

Put some yellow at the top.

Good job!

Put the tape like this.

Good job!

Paint the blue on the bottom.

Good job!

Fill in this spot here.

Amazing!

Aaaaaaaaand therein lies our problem. Fast forward ten years and put those kids in ninth grade and what do you get? Is this good? Can you check this? Now what do I do? What should I do next? I don’t know what to do.

I am confident that us moms were not trying to make museum-worthy masterpieces or get their kids into Parsons. Although I’m probably sounding ultra-judgmental at this point, I really don’t mean to be. I think as parents we sometimes can’t help ourselves. I don’t know if we’re bored, or uncomfortable with silence, or afraid our little ones are going to feel sad, but we can’t shut up. I catch myself doing it all the time and have to make a conscious effort to zip it sometimes.

There has been a lot of buzz in recent years over the “right” way to praise kids. Much of that buzz stems from Po Bronson’s 2007 New York Magazine article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” A few years later, the essay became the first chapter of the book NurtureShock (which is a really interesting and fast read!). The school of thought behind most of the writing about this is that instead of empty praise (Good job! Great!) or praising the end result (I’m so proud you got an A!), it’s more effective to praise the process or actual task (I’m so proud of how hard you studied! You shared so nicely!).  While I agree with them 100%, I think for a lot of parents and caregivers, it’s not just the words they’re using, it’s the frequency. I’m not exaggerating when I say I must have heard “Good job” 40 times during that one-hour art class.

So how about we stop talking so much? I’m not saying withhold all praise, but is getting your cereal out of the cabinet really worthy of a compliment? A year after being potty-trained, is every pee deserving of celebratory clapping? I want my kids to follow instructions not because I’m always going to praise them for it, but because it feels good to do the right thing or accomplish a task.  And most importantly, let your kids paint their own pictures.

Caught Red Handed

Preschoolers produce a lot of “art.” Nolan comes home with at least three or four projects a week, not to mention the doodling, drawing, and writing (I use that term loosely) he does at home.

We display items that are seasonal or especially cute up on the mantle, and put some away in a bin in his room. But a lot of it…goes away. I’ll leave it out on the dining room table for a few days or a week, and if he doesn’t seem to be especially attached to it, in the garbage it goes.

In my hasty cleaning up on Wednesday, I put a project in the garbage and thought to myself, hmmmm, I should probably hide that a little better in there, but then I forgot about it and went about my day.

Shortly after Nolan got home from school he went to the garbage to throw away his yogurt container, and I heard him gasp, “Oh no!!!”

PANIC. I immediately knew he saw his art in the garbage and my mind started racing, Oh my god he sees his art and now he knows I threw it away and he is going to be so sad I did that and who has the number for a good child psychologist who takes my insurance?

He looked up from the garbage and said, “My beautiful project fell in the garbage!”

Huge sigh of relief. Yes, sweet little one, it fell. It absolutely was not purposely put in there. What evil mother would do that? Not this one!

I plucked it out of the trash and answered, “Wow! How did that happen? Oh! There’s some tape on the back and it must have stuck to some garbage I was throwing away. Good thing you saw it!”

Lesson learned: bury the evidence!

Kite

The Double-Edged Sword of Advice

The internet is a melting pot of advice and opinions, especially when it comes to child-rearing. On any given morning you can read how offering your child choices will make him spoiled and controlling and then click to another site to learn about the importance of choices so your little one feels empowered.  (For the record, we haven’t had success giving choices or making choices for him so I need another idea!)

Being a parent for the second time has helped me feel a little more confident in my knowledge and abilities but sometimes I hear people’s advice and think, “Wow, this would really screw with a new parent’s head!”

Feed me!!!
Feed me!!!

The prime example of this is actually something I experienced in the hospital after giving birth to Will in November. First, let me say that I loved Huntington Hospital. I delivered Nolan at Winthrop and had a bad experience from start to finish (aside from getting to meet Nolan, duh). That’s one of the main reasons I switched practices and hospitals when we moved to Greenlawn. On the flip side, everyone at Huntington was kind and helpful and didn’t make me feel like I was a burden, which is exactly what I felt like at Winthrop.

Over the course of my two and a half days in the hospital, I encountered maternity nurses, maternity nursing assistants, nursery nurses, nursery nursing assistants, hospital pediatricians, and my own midwives. And this is what they had to say about feeding:

Newborn babies aren’t born that hungry. Don’t force it.

Even if he doesn’t seem hungry, wake him up and feed him if it has been more than two hours.

Feed the baby every three hours on both breasts.

Feed the baby every two hours, alternating breasts.

Nurse on demand when the baby seems hungry; don’t worry about the timing.

We don’t give out pacifiers anymore because giving one to a baby younger than one month old can cause nipple confusion and then he’ll have trouble nursing.

There’s no such thing as nipple confusion. Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS so you can start using one right away.

Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, so if it does, your baby probably isn’t latched on properly.

Of course breastfeeding hurts in the beginning while your body adjusts.

Now, I’m someone who likes instructions. I like steps to follow. I like schedules. Thankfully, since I’ve done this once before, I could smile and nod at all this conflicting information, but it made me feel terrible for the first time mom who would be so confused!

I can’t even decide for myself what I believe in. The two baby/parenting books I like the most are Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block, which basically preach entirely opposite outlooks on parenting. Yet when I read them, they both make TOTAL sense.

And the conflicting advice doesn’t stop at nursing. It applies to how your baby sleeps, poops, plays, eats, etc. New parents need advice (I think?) and yet when it’s given it sometimes causes even more anxiety. Did you receive any conflicting or confusing advice when you had kids (or got married? or bought a house? or started a new job?). How do you muddle through it without making yourself crazy? Any tips?