Put a Bib on It


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Ready or Not—It’s Time for Kindergarten!

Ready-or-notNothing makes you feel like your baby is no longer a baby than getting kindergarten registration paperwork in the mail. Seriously, I felt a panic attack coming on and immediately pushed the packet under a stack of junk mail and sent my husband a text with a sad face emoji.

Let’s back track a bit. My husband and I have been talking about kindergarten for a year. Should we send Ev to kindergarten in the fall or wait a year? I had worries like the size of the school and the amount of children. Older children. Who would be on the playground with my baby? Does Ev need to learn how to carry a lunch tray with plates of food balanced on top? Will I be able to walk Ev to his classroom or will I have to drop him off at the door?

All of this has been running through my head and it just felt like we weren’t ready. We struggled when thinking about Ev’s development. Cognitively he seems ready but socially and emotionally, not so much. We started asking ourselves questions like what’s more important—to stimulate his cognitive development or support his social emotional development? Other parents have told us that they wished they would have waited to send their child to kindergarten, but we have never heard someone say they wished they would have sent their child a year earlier.

On the surface this seems like an easy answer. Just wait a year. But it’s not that easy. We live in the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) district and we really want Ev to attend one of the magnet schools. Up until this year, that required camping out for two weeks because their registration for magnet schools was on a first come/first serve basis. But this year CPS changed the process. Since our minds weren’t made up yet we thought (like many parents I’m sure) what the heck? So we filled out the application and went on with our lives. CPS announced that they received a record breaking amount of applications and they were working on plans to have more seats in magnet schools but we counted ourselves out and just figured we would wait to send Ev to kindergarten another year.

He got in. He got a spot at our first choice. Since we don’t want to lose our spot at the school we decided to enroll him. The magnet school we chose is a Montessori-based program and the kindergarten also includes preschool-aged children. That reassures us that the teachers will be able to support Ev’s social and emotional needs while also providing the academic standards that we are looking for. And after that year if we feel like he isn’t ready for first grade, we won’t send him; whether that means keeping him in the same room another year or sending him to a private school for a year.

I feel confident in this decision. But when that registration paperwork came in the mail, it just made it real. My baby is going to kindergarten in six months. He is ready. But that doesn’t mean I am.


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The Kindness of Friends—and Strangers!

Bryce-hospitalLast week, Bryce, our 2-year-old, woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible cough. He had been dealing with a little cough for the last few days, but this was different. Years in the child care field told me it was undeniably the croup cough. Beyond my diagnosis, I wasn’t sure what our next step was.  Do we call the doctor, do we let him settle down a little and put him back to bed, or do we head to the ER?

We ended up calling a friend who is in the medical field for advice (It’s always best to trust your instincts; if you think your child probably needs to go to the doctor, take him!). As we told her what was going on, she could hear him coughing in the background. She told us we really needed to take him to the ER for a breathing treatment and probably some steroids. As she said it, my husband and I looked at each other, undoubtedly thinking the same thing: who will go and who will stay home with the other children?  Luckily, our friend went on to say she was getting dressed and would be out the door so we could take him to the hospital together.

She and her husband have four children of their own (ranging from ages 2 to 16), so to ask her to drive 30 minutes in the middle of the night to our house seemed ridiculous. We tried to persuade her to stay home and told her we could divide and conquer this challenge. She was persistent, though. She said, “We have been there—it is so much easier with both parents.”

She arrived a short time later and we left for Children’s. There were many times throughout our five-hour visit at the hospital that I was thankful my husband I were both there: parking, bathroom breaks, rotating short cat naps for sleepy mom and dad, and giving the medicine (Seriously—have you ever tried to give medicine to a child who didn’t want it? They somehow suddenly become a tiny hulk, angry and strong, just without the green skin!).  I’m sure all this could have been done with just one of us, but I was so thankful that we were both able to be there.

That’s why today I am thankful for kindness and selflessness. I’m thankful to have people in my life that are willing to go above and beyond, even when it might be an inconvenience for them. I am also thankful for perfect strangers willing to help a hand—like the man who helped me unload an overflowing cart at Kroger while I dealt with my 2-year-old throwing a fit and my newborn who was wrapped on me with an overflowing poopy diaper. Yes, even my shirt was covered in baby poop. And I promise to be that person too. Even if it is just a reassuring word to a struggling mom at the playground or holding a door for a stranger, you too can help make the world a little brighter and easier for someone!


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Mommy Again!

mommy & DrewOur newest bundle of joy has arrived. 8 pounds, 20.5 inches and affectionately called Baby Drew.

After a routine c-section and a three-day hospital stay, I landed in my living room responsible for two small children while my husband worked (we own a one man show small business) and my 11-year-old went off to school. I was outnumbered (2 to 1), slow to move (due to the large incision across my abdominal region), super tired (from waking up through the night to feed), and it only took my 2-year-old about 10 minutes to figure that out.

Infant care has presented new complications that I didn’t have to worry about when Bryce was little. Having a hungry baby attached to you while your 2-year-old “plays” can get interesting—balls flying through the air, sensory table beans all over the floor, crying breakdowns because the block house falls over (this is really interesting because usually this is so funny to him), instant dire hunger pains that cannot wait, diapers removed from the clean and orderly diaper basket and spread all over the bedroom, and my personal favorite (sarcasm)—climbing and then jumping off EVERYTHING he can get on top of! On a good note, though, I never cried at the thought of latching Drew—though tears may have been shed a time or two out of frustration for lack of control. I learned rather quickly that I had to have a plan in place for toddler care that can work in harmony with baby care for our newest addition.

Food: As mentioned, dire hunger always sets in as soon as I start to feed Baby Drew “mommy milk” (as it is affectionately referred to in our house). Having Bryce eat while I feed Drew provides a more peaceful environment for everyone. The biggest sacrifice of doing it this way is my comfort. Instead of being able to breastfeed in the comfortable recliner, I end up sitting in a hard kitchen chair—worth it for peaceful eating!

Helping: This one is especially useful when diapering Baby Drew. Getting the diaper and wipes or even picking out a new sleeper can make Bryce feel like he is important. I really enjoy encouraging him to talk to Drew as he gets his diaper changed too. I feel like I can already see their brotherly bond forming as he talks to him.

Individual and focused attention: When Baby Drew is sleeping or even playing calmly on the floor, I am always certain to provide Bryce with individual attention—playing with him and talking about things he is doing. When possible, I include Baby Drew in the play.

Multi-task feeding: Often times I end up feeding Drew while playing with or reading to Bryce (and Drew inadvertently as he listens to the words). Keeping Bryce in close proximity makes it easier to get through an entire feeding without having to unlatch and address his behavior. A basket of small toys and books next to where I normally nurse provides a convenient selection of things to do when needed.

When friends have asked me, “Is it easier the second time around?” The best answer I can give them is, “It’s different.” Many things that were challenges the first time are no longer challenging (at least not as challenging anyway), but a new crop of challenges have sprung up.

Being a mommy again is different—not bad different—just different.


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Teaching Diversity

friendsSometimes experiences that are innocent and even humorous feel much heavier and serious if I don’t handle properly. One of those experiences happened to Ev and I recently and I wish I was more prepared to know what to say or do. We were shopping at a clothing store and a woman was walking toward us in full Islamic dress, including the piece of clothing that covers the face, only leaving space for the eyes. Ev pointed directly at her and said, “Look! A ninja!” The woman checking us out at the register and another shopper chuckled. But I did not think it was funny; I was stunned—and mortified. The woman absolutely saw him pointing and heard what he said, as well as her family members. When I finally processed what was happening, my instinct kicked in, and I knocked Ev’s finger down and told him it was very rude to point. I then said, “We do not know if that woman is a ninja; some people choose to dress that way, just like you chose to wear what you are wearing.” I followed that by telling him, “Some people take much meaning from the clothes they choose to wear.”

I was literally dumbfounded. I wondered if I should find the woman and apologize. I wondered if I should let him ask her about her attire to learn more about that culture. But I worried that would extend the awkward tension further. In the end, I didn’t do either for worry the situation would somehow get worse. I paid for our shirt and walked out of the store praying Ev hadn’t offended the woman or hurt her or her families’ feelings.

This feels so heavy to me because teaching Ev about diversity, culture—and most of all tolerance of people who are different (for any reason)—is very important to my husband and I. Not only that but kindness. It’s important to us that Ev does what is right and kind always. A very relevant Parent Source e-newsletter was recently about diversity. A key passage for me said, “Children are born with open minds and their experiences help determine how they will navigate through their world. It’s important that parents recognize that although cultural messaging comes from various sources such as family members, the community and the media, family has the biggest impact.” I want to do everything I can to keep Ev’s mind open.

The Parent Source article also listed tips to talk to children about diversity. Many of which I know and do, such as seeking out opportunities to experience diversity as a family and acknowledging stereotypes when we encounter them—mostly about gender roles these days. But when Ev called out this woman, I was not prepared to handle it in the moment.

In hindsight, there is not much we could have done to prevent what happened from happening. His context came from an iPad game he plays called Clumsy Ninja. So I know it was nothing but innocent. Although, pointing and talking about someone is always rude so we need to work on that. But he wasn’t trying to be offensive or unkind. He honestly thought the woman was a ninja. Since then, I’ve shared pictures with Ev showing the garments the woman was wearing and we have talked about it. My hope is that in the future when Ev sees something out of place that he doesn’t understand, that he will talk to me or my husband about it at an appropriate time so that we can discuss and answer questions together.


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At a Loss for Words

preschooler makes dinnerI never realized how many times I would literally be at a loss for what to do as a parent. So often, Ev does something and I don’t know what to do or even say. For example, the other morning I was sitting at the table working on the grocery list for the week. Ev approached me and asked if he could make “soup” next to me. I didn’t see anything wrong with that so I said, “Sure.”

He proceeded to get a bowl and spoon out of the cupboard in the kitchen. Then he asked if he could get his “ingredients” for which I again, obliged. He started with salad dressings from the fridge: balsamic vinaigrette and thousand island. He continually brought more ingredients out, occasionally asking me for help to take off a lid or squeeze a bottle. He included caramel syrup and honey, two raw eggs and mustard to name a few. He remembered out loud that “grown-ups like salad” and went outside to pick some leaves to add to the “dinner” as he was now calling it. All this time, I was amused and even impressed with Ev’s concoction, not to mention I was able to work on my grocery list and other chores while he was busy. I did assume I was going to have to try it, which I was willing to do (and bracing for).

When Ev was finished, he asked to put the “dinner” in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. Again, I allowed for it and told him the oven would have to pre-heat and it would take a long time and we should probably just be done. That’s when I realized the activity had snowballed into a territory I wasn’t prepared for. When I mentioned being done, he immediately looked disappointed. He said it was dinner and he wanted us all to eat it. He asked if I could put it in the microwave so it would cook faster. I said yes, put it in for three minutes, took it out and set it on the stove to cool, all the while wondering how I was going help Ev find closure on this without hurting his feelings.

The “dinner” sat out on the stove all day. He worked very hard on it and I could tell he was proud of himself. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was uneatable. I did not know what to do. In the end, I did what any self respecting mom would do—and let his dad handle it. My husband explained to Ev at bedtime that we couldn’t eat the “dinner” and it would probably be disposed of by the morning. And Ev seemingly handled it fine.

There is just no way to be fully prepared when you are a parent. In fact, sometimes I feel more out of control than in control. And there is always something causing me to wonder what the best parenting move is to make. I feel pretty confident that my husband and I are both decent parents, but it would be nice if Ev didn’t “keep us on our toes” all the time.


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A Toddler Ate My Baby.

elliponyI wrote recently about how I don’t miss my baby being little. That’s still true, but in the meantime, my baby has been turned into a full-fledged toddler. My husband joked the other night that it seems a toddler came and ate our baby, and that feels more and more true every day.

This toddler stage is… interesting. Just when we got the hang of parenting a baby, our world was turned upside down and we now need a whole new set of skills. Not to mention a lifetime supply of patience.

My daughter wants to talk. So badly. She babbles constantly and recently started using the same inflection and cadence that an adult uses, and it’s adorable. She points to what she wants and this new communication makes life easier in many ways. When she wants to eat, she wants to her high chair, reaches up and says, “num num!” When she wants water instead of milk, she shakes her head “no” at the milk cup and says, “wa wa!” She’s figuring out new ways to let us know what she wants and picking up new words every day.

But my daughter also doesn’t know words that she badly wants to say. Her pointing is pretty vague, so when she points to the fridge, it’s hard to figure out if she wants milk, blueberries, a cold teething ring or if she just likes how it looks. She shakes her head “no” when you put rice on her plate, then proceeds to eat it by the handful. She is desperate to have a spoon or fork when she’s eating, only to set it down and use her fingers instead (but don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s done with that spoon or fork. Because she is NOT!).

She is literally learning something new during every waking moment, and it’s amazing to watch. Sometimes, especially when she’s sleeping, she still looks so much like a baby. Other times, the way she looks like a little girl literally takes my breath away.

Thankfully (I think?) this toddler stage will last for awhile, so we have some time to practice our newfound toddler parenting skills. Which is good since our toddler is doing her very best to make sure that we have to use them all!


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Ready or Not

baby on the wayThe time is almost here! September 29—the baby is coming. It isn’t my first; I feel like I should be ready. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Yes, I have all the material things I need, but am I ready?!

To the women who love being pregnant—I envy you. I want to love it. I really do. I love the idea of it. I love the magic of it (That we can grow little humans from microscopically small eggs and sperm is amazing). In fact, before I got pregnant again I even missed being pregnant and told my husband I was ready to do it all again. Apparently I had motherhood amnesia (where you temporarily forget all the “bad” things about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and newborns, just long enough to want to have another little one). Well, it’s all clear to me again now.

Pregnancy is rough on my body. It was with my first and this time has been even tougher. I spent over five months sick as dog, vomiting in “ideal” places like parking lots and out car windows, three weeks with a very rare infection in my neck believed to be caused by the relentless vomiting that lead to four emergency room visits and three days in the hospital. And let’s not forget, I have a 2-year-old at home. Add all of this to the growing abdominal region (I am one of those women that everyone asks if it is twins—if you know what I mean), a painfully uncomfortable pulled stomach muscle, working full time, and a bladder the size of a quarter and you have the joys of my pregnancy.

You would think with all of that I would be chomping at the bit to get this baby out of me, but I’m not. I don’t know if I am ready. Actually, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. I have all those insistent questions bubbling in my head all day long: what kind of personality will he have, how will the family dynamic change, will I ever sleep again, will our marital relationship suffer as we deal the stresses of three children (including a newborn), what if there are problems during the delivery, what if there are other unforeseen issues with the babies health, what if the baby cries all day, what if the other children don’t feel the love they deserve, what if I don’t have enough love for ALL of my children and husband… Ahhhh. I could make (read: am making) myself crazy.

I suppose, there is no choice. The day is coming. Within the month he will be here and I will be living the answers to all of my questions. I suppose, all I can say is, ready or not…here he comes!