Thursday, May 23, 2013

Preschool ... again

So.  Preschool.  Gah.  I had no idea, no freaking idea, when I wanted to have children that preschool would be such a big problem.  Did you know?  I mean, I vaguely remember going to preschool, and I don't remember it being a problem, but maybe I just don't remember that well?  My mother, on the other hand, claims to remember being taken to preschool (or maybe daycare?) when she was a toddler and tells me all about how she hated it and it scarred her for life and maybe I shouldn't be doing it to my own children.  Thanks, as usual, for your support, Mom.

So.  Here we are, 2.5 months in, and Turtle still does terribly at preschool drop-off.  Things have improved at pick-up.  He's thrilled to see me, and this week he started wanting me to stay and play with him instead of heading straight home.  He tells me about what he's done all day, and what he ate for lunch, and lists his friends and even says he likes preschool.  But within a few hours of being home, he starts asking what we're doing tomorrow, and if the answer is preschool, the protests start.  In the morning, he wants to know what we're doing that day.  Then he starts stalling.  He eats a huge breakfast because he thinks if he keeps eating, he won't have to leave.  He wants to play.  Or read books.  Or ANYthing.  He usually cries on the way to preschool because he didn't get enough good-bye kisses from Papi, or he forgot to bring a toy or a book or anything he can think of to try to get me to turn the car around.  And he wants me to pick him up when we get there, so I can't leave without him.  He clings to me when I try to hand him off to a teacher.  It's SO rough.

Right now they're at a Montessori school, although I don't really know how authentically Montessori it is.  They are also enrolled at a Waldorf school for the fall.  And I'm really struggling with what to do.  If the kids are adjusting where they are by the end of the summer, I don't want to mess with it.  I have a few misgivings about this school, but nothing TOO big.  I mean, nothing worth making a huge change at this point if things are going ok otherwise.  On the other hand, if things aren't going well, I would still consider the switch to Waldorf.  I like the school.  I like the calm, quiet, peaceful atmosphere, something terribly missing at the current school, where chaos tends to rule and the teachers can be really upbeat in a way that can be a bit overwhelming and over the top.  There are a LOT of kids, and they're all together in two big classrooms and sometimes the noise level is nuts.

So that's where I am.  I feel bad that I am holding two spots at one school where we won't be attending, which makes me want to make a decision, like, NOW.  But then what if things don't work out?  I am so indecisive!  I still sometimes wish we had just had better timing with the preschool I originally wanted, but who knows.  Maybe that wouldn't have worked out either.  For now, I'm just crossing my fingers ...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I am struggling right now.  Things are not going great, and I am feeling a bit depressed.  I have so much going on, and I'm procrastinating like crazy.  And meanwhile life goes on and things happen.  The windshield gets cracked, and needs to be replaced.  Mail keeps piling up.  My computer breaks (GAH!!!) and has been getting repaired for WAY too long, while I am stuck using our super-crappy little netbook which has none of my documents or personal stuff on it.  My goodness, do I miss my computer.

My mother is driving me nuts and being her usual awful self.  I've stepped up and decided to take charge of trying to sell her house, and it's just not going well.  It's going terribly slowly.  It's turning into a lot of work and a lot of me driving the 45-minutes-each-way to her house to meet with realtors and try to get things moving, although I think we are too late to catch the summer sales opportunities, especially since my mom wants a 60-day escrow.  And for good reason - her 6000 square foot house is PACKED with stuff, and her 4-car garage is even worse (including 2 non-operational classic cars that have been moldering for years and have piles and piles of stuff on top of them).  Her idea of getting rid of stuff is for one of her children to take it, no matter how old and junky it is.  She can't bear to part with anything unless it stays in the family.  If the house actually DOES sell, someone is going to have to pack her up and move her, and it most likely will be me, the daughter who has almost-three-year-old twins and a husband who is working crazy hours starting up a new software company.  It's insane.

And then ... I'm realizing my down mood is because I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that we probably will not try for another child.  I will never again hold a tiny baby that's mine, never try to nurse, never feel little hands and feet kicking inside my belly.  Never again dream of what that child could look like, what their personality would be like, wondering if it's a boy or a girl.  Never see first steps, or hear first words again.  I know that I'm incredibly lucky to have my two sweethearts.  They're so amazing and wonderful (most of the time), and I am so grateful for them.  But I'm still mourning nonetheless.  Their conception, and pregnancy, and birth, and early days and weeks did not go as planned at all, and I haven't yet accepted that I won't get another shot.  And when I think of all the good stuff, the things that were so amazingly awesome, I feel sad that I didn't appreciate it enough, that I couldn't, because there were two of them and one of me and I lived in a house that was being remodeled and had a husband who was in the middle of total craziness at work.  I can't seem to stop mourning what I'm giving up, more now than ever that I am getting older and the window for having another baby is closing.  I'm realizing that even though we haven't officially decided not to try again, our indecision is becoming a decision, and it's so so hard.

I also can't keep track of anything around here.  Paperwork, bills, shopping, cleaning, cooking, leftovers, laundry, forms for school, doctor's appointments, physical therapy.  It's out of control.  I need some sort of organizational system, something to keep the chaos a bit more at bay.

On the plus side - some things are going well.  My vegetable garden is great.  I'm trying to get in shape, with mixed results.  It's a bit depressing how bad things have gotten in the last few years from that point of view (even though I ran a half marathon in March, but now I'm scratching my head and wondering how the heck I did it).  I AM sort of getting some long-needed spring cleaning done, although I'm doing it so slowly that by the time I finish the third project on my list, the first one is in need of work again, forget the next 10 or 20!  I haven't had time for any crafts or sewing, but I'm ok with taking a break.

Well, that's my stream of consciousness.  Only about an hour before I have to go pick up the kids from preschool, so I need to make it count!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


We had a nice day today.  I got up early and went running, then we packed up a ton of stuff and the kids and went to my sister's house, where we cooked a nice barbecue lunch and had some bubbly and dessert.  It was nice.  My sister is supposed to babysit for us tonight so we can go out, which will be nice, too.

I got my mom some beautiful flowers, and the kids drew her some handmade cards.  She was catered to and didn't have to lift a finger to help out (although she usually doesn't help out much anyway, but still).

When I walked her out to her car, she looked at me and said "Happy Mother's Day!" and then she paused, and added, "But don't forget, if I wasn't a mother first, you would never have been a mother either."

Um ... thanks? Just about every day, I think about how I want to be different than my mother and have a different relationship with my kids.  I'm glad she keeps giving me the motivation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


To follow up on yesterday's post, which was mostly negative, I wanted to at least write about a few positive behaviors and strategies that seem to work for us, at least a lot of the time.  I guess nothing works 100% of the time, right?

The first strategy is: don't make a big deal of it!!!

Sorry, hubby, but as long as I am not already overly cranky, I tend to be much better at this than he is.  He believes that if he tells the kids to do something, they should do it, and if they don't they need consequences because they are being rude/disrespectful/etc.  On the other hand, I've found that forcing an issue tends to make it worse in the very short run, and even if you win the battle, you've quite possibly prolonged the war and made it a lot less enjoyable as well.  Here are a few examples we've had recently:

Eating - I was so proud about how not-picky my kids were, but now they are hitting the picky age and succumbing just like most other toddlers.  I suspect preschool is the source of some of it.  The randomly declare that they don't like something or that something is disgusting, regardless of whether they've ever tried it or if they just ate it yesterday.  Or if it used to be their favorite food.  So I just ignore their protests and leave the food on their plates.  I might occasionally try to offer them a bite, or say "no, it's actually really good!", but I don't force them to eat it.  I know sometimes they don't really want to eat whatever it is, and if I have offered enough times and they really don't want it, it's fine.  Usually if I just say "OK, you don't like it", or don't say anything at all, they'll often give it a try after watching me for a while.  I think much of the time they're just looking for a dramatic response from me, and lacking that, they actually ARE curious about the food.

Brushing teeth - this is becoming such a big struggle, with Turtle not wanting to even come into the bathroom.  So I tell him, "Fine, you can wait here outside the bathroom while we all go in together and brush our teeth" and usually about 15 seconds later he shows up and wants to get his teeth brushed.  Admittedly, it doesn't work every time, and you have to be ok with the kid going to bed without brushing his teeth.  If it got to the point that he was regularly skipping teeth-brushing, I'd probably have to change strategies, though.  I've tried forcing him to brush (i.e. holding his head and forcing the toothbrush into his mouth) - does NOT work, and it's such a bad idea in the long run!  I've only done it once or twice before realizing what a bad idea it was.

The second strategy is: make a big deal of it!!!!

To follow up on the teeth-brushing anecdote above, we also make a big deal about how the whole family is going to go brush teeth.  We'll say "Mamma is going to brush HER teeth, and Tadpole will brush HER teeth, and Papi will brush HIS teeth, but it's ok, you can wait outside while we all go together and brush our teeth!" in a really animated voice.  That helps a lot!

This helps in SO many ways.  We pretend we're going to race them to the kitchen and drink their milk before they get there, and they get so excited to run and "save" their bottle/sippy cup.  We build up a lot of excitement for just about anything - a trip to the store, going for a walk, new experiences, and it helps when they otherwise might resist.

And the last strategy is: use humor =)

A friend told me this, and it works.  The biggest problem I have is that when I am already frustrated by bad behavior, I find it hard to pull out the humor and put a big smile on my face.  Luckily, toddlers and preschoolers are very silly little creatures and react really well to humor, so it is a strategy that I find really works well.  Doing a funny walk to get someplace or pretending to chase the kids helps to get them moving when they're dragging their feet.  Funny sounds, funny chewing, and funny faces help to get them to eat when they're protesting.  Just being silly when they're getting ready to throw a tantrum is sometimes all it takes.

Other ideas that I need to work on more?  Turning chores into games, using things as learning experiences, experiencing the wonder in the everyday stuff.  Using books to get values across, or prevent fears.  Giving examples (i.e. setting a good example myself and pointing out others setting a good example around us).  Trying to avoid bribes, "punishments" that don't fit the crime, and unrelated consequences.  And the single thing that really helps and is hard to find on bad days?  Especially when you're sleep-deprived?  PATIENCE.  It's the golden key, I think.

So things aren't always bad around here.  Here's to a better day.  And a preschool post coming up soon.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I am exhausted. The husband is up on Mount Shasta for a couple days (and considering the bad weather, I hope he and his friends are doing ok ... I'll be relieved when I hear from him when he gets off the mountain tomorrow), and the kids are not in preschool, and I realize that since we left for Italy in December, we have REALLY dropped the ball. We lost most of our semblance of a daily schedule over the last few months of travel and 3-5-day-per-week preschool, with crazy weekends. We stopped enforcing a lot of rules, and completely gave up getting the kids to help us clean up (because in Italy it was more work than it was worth, and the kids had constant entertainment). In Italy, they started watching a lot of TV, partly because my husband's family watches a lot more TV than we do (my husband and I almost don't watch it at all). In the meantime, though, their behavior has been really good, so I let a lot of things slide.

Well, today was ROUGH. Home alone with the kids all day for the first time in a while, and they were beyond cranky. It was tantrum after tantrum, and a lot of it was about things that I know would not be a problem if I had stuck to my guns and enforced our house rules and just been consistent with expected behavior. Being in preschool full time and having crazy weekends on the only days they were home was no help either. So now things will have to change, and I think it's going to be a rough ride. But well worth it in the end. Turtle cried himself to sleep today at naptime and bedtime. I've been trying everything under the sun since whenever this bedtime aversion started (last Octoberish?), and I'm just done with it. I've tried singing, rubbing his back, sitting in the room with him, sitting outside the room, getting him a nightlight, sleeping with him (until he's asleep), NOTHING has worked. And he's going to bed SO late and getting up early, and more often than not waking up 1-3 times per night crying for me. If he would give me some explanation, ANYTHING, I would try to work with him, but the only thing he'll say is "I want Mamma". He needs more sleep, I need more sleep and less stress, and I'm just done. My new plan is to go in and check on him every 5-10 minutes, up to 3 times, and then I'm done for the evening.

The next thing we need to work on is consistent schedules and routines. Getting to bed at a reasonable time. Always washing hands before meals (we're SO bad about remember this), and brushing teeth before bed. Being consistent with our disciplinary approach (i.e. setting reasonable limits and making sure we enforce them - no offense to hubby, but I think I am better than he is at this one). Having a more consistent bedtime routine (I think this is a pipe dream as we go through so many changes right now with more to come, such as potty training, getting big kid beds, etc.). Getting baths when needed, nails cut, hair brushed, etc. We have been pretty lazy about personal cleanliness. And actually, I need to work on a lot of this myself, including getting to bed at a decent hour to get enough sleep, and getting a decent amount of exercise.

And another HUGE ball we dropped was getting the kids to clean up. Or really participate in chore-like tasks at all. Helping to set the table (they did this in Italy, actually). Clearing off their own plates. But mostly, picking up their toys!!!! It's becoming a huge issue, and they're not good about helping when we ask. I would love advice from anyone who has successfully managed to get their kids to consistently clean up! I mean, when do you do it? Have them clean up each toy as they're done with it? That doesn't seem to me like it would work well, for multiple reasons - i.e., they often play with toys in a mixed setting, such as cars with rocks, or dolls with the kitchen, etc. Also, it seems like it would require a lot of close supervision and involvement at a time when they otherwise entertain themselves, which both allows me to get something like food prep done (we have a great room, so I can still watch them) and also allows them more independent play, which I think is important. Also, I get outright refusals now, or they just ignore me, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle it. So far, it's not going well, but I'm going to keep trying, stay positive, and figure out what works.

I had a rough time with all the tantrums today, and I got really cranky and grumpy towards the kids, something I don't do much. I mean, I get cranky in general for sure, but I tend not to show it to them so much. Lately I know it's gotten worse, and today was a breaking point. I didn't scream at them, but I admonished them a lot, got frustrated, and did not react well to their behavior in general. My usual approach to tantrums varies based on both which kid is doing it and what the tantrum is about, but generally, I try to offer help, then comfort, then some personal space in that order until something reaches the kid, and at that point I can usually help to figure out what the problem is and how to solve it. I know that at the peak of the tantrum, there's not really much I can do, which can be really frustrating for me (for the kids, too, I'm sure!), so if assistance and/or comfort are refused, I've found it's best for all of us to take some space and time and then try again, which usually does the trick. Sometimes the same tantrum will recur multiple times (i.e. I told them we were going to a friend's house for dinner and Tadpole wanted to go RIGHT NOW - then she'd get over it, then a bit later would remember again, and want to go RIGHT NOW again, and we'd go through the whole cycle again). Recurring tantrums for the same problems are really, really, really frustrating, and require a major shift in how I do things (i.e. don't tell the kids ahead of time when something is going to happen if I suspect a reaction like that).

Anyway, it's 10pm, and I am ready to go fold some laundry and go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day, and a day for preschool. Which requires a whole other post that I will hopefully write ... tomorrow! Good night!