Thursday, October 29, 2009

But You WILL Like My Jacket!

This morning Claire had her Halloween party at preschool, so I supplied Halloween games (not the easiest things to find) and took the twins to the Halloween costume parade this morning. The photos are grainy and horrible, but here's a look at her costume this year - no princess gear for us this time! I love the choice: a doctor. Yes, I provided some slight encouragement for this costume choice, but Claire made the final decision. I can only dream that she might wear a real doctor's white coat some day. Too bad there was a little boy in her class who chose the same costume!

The twins love going to the preschool and running in the "gym" (which is the church's sanctuary area), so I took some photos of them enjoying the fun along with BFF Lauren's little brother Pete. Molly called Pete "Beep", and Lily called him "Pee Pee". Ha ha ha. And yes, if you'll look closely, Kyle somehow put Molly's shoes on backwards. Men. I fixed her shoes after I took these photos.

The disturbing part of today was learning from the teacher that yesterday and today Claire kicked some classmates out of frustration. What?! Kicked?! I am furious with Claire, and am trying to understand what happened. The story I got from Claire was that Nolan didn't like her jacket so she kicked him. I told her that a "well, I like my jacket" was a much better response than kicking. But upon recent probing, I've determined that her story is just that - it's not the real reason she resorted to kicking, but she can't seem to remember the real reason. I may contact the teacher again to understand what spurred the kicking sessions just so I can offer Claire a smarter alternative than physical aggression.

But I'm shocked at her behavior. Shocked, appalled, and disgusted. I've never gotten feedback like this before, so it has me reeling a little. Why would she have resorted to kicking? Why so aggressive? What can I do to teach her better ways of handling her anger? I don't ever remember hearing stories about me beating up on other kids in school but I should ask my parents if my memory is correct. And I usually steer clear of gender stereotypes, but it does seem the boys are generally the ones coming home with these reports - not the girls! Sheesh. We have some thinking to do around this house.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Normal Is Good

The daily "to do" list was the usual run of household tasks and a work-from-home day, but also included ice skating lessons tonight. As usual, I took all three kids to the 30-minute lesson (the twins think the ice rink building is great for exploring) and still had dinner on the table before 6:30pm. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, diapers, refereeing sibling fights - it's numbing sometimes. And other days, the kids are so darned cute I can overlook the perpetual tasks. Today they were cute. I barely raised my voice at any of them all day.

I know I can worry obsessively about my childrens' development. I zero in on this or that deficiency, read about it, and worry about what it means for their long-term success. And then they do something that surprises me, and forces me to see that all in all, they're likely rather normal kids. Normal, that is. Not brilliant, not truly deficient, but on par with their peers and not needing any closer examination.

We've got these alphabet or letter tiles that are great for spelling words. There's at least a hundred of the little tiles, likely more. The last two nights, all three kids and I have played with them before bedtime. The twins love the feel of the tiles in their hands, the clinking sound they make, and they love to copy what they think Claire and I are doing. I got three surprises out of this play time. First, Lily agreed to "play nice" with them (not throw them) and instead lined them up nicely and neatly; second, Molly freakishly (and with no encouragement) picked out all the lower-case letter "o's" and grouped them together (she knowingly rejected the upper-case "O's", which she called "Big O" versus "Small o"), and then tonight she did a pile of "o's" and also lowercase "e's"; and third, Claire can spell some small words. Now, I do give her a jumpstart - I give her all the letters to the word "bug", for example, but she has to place them in the right order. A good portion of the time she's successful! I didn't think she was capable of this yet, so I am feeling very happy for her. She has more of the basic pre-reading skills in place than I thought she did. The best part is that it's fun for everyone, Claire feels no pressure, and I know this is improving her recognition of the lower-case letters which she (like her preschool peers) is struggling with. Her preschool teacher told me that "p" "b" "d" "q" and "g" are all stumping the kids right now. Our new favorite game should help fix this!

Tonight Claire and I also picked up the painted cupcakes from the pottery place! We looked at all the girls' cupcakes which was too much fun (I did pick a pottery item that was a bit challenging to paint for this age group). I took a photo of Claire's cupcake with my phone, so it's not the best quality, but here it is ... I think she did a great job painting ...

... and we also wrote Claire's birthday thank-you notes to distribute with the cupcakes, which Claire signed for me (I find it amazing to think that in two years she might be writing them herself). And tonight, I'm feeling thankful for some reminders that my kids are good kids, healthy, and seemingly, mostly normal. Normal is good.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Fall Walk

The girls and I took another "Fall scavenger hunt" walk today after lunch, and with weather in the low 60s, we were able to fully enjoy the outdoors. The leaves were gorgeous, and other than Lily's temper tantrum over "the leash" (see previous post), we had a fantastic time gathering more leaves and acorns. I took some great photos of the kids today ...

... and with a crockpot dinner already cooking, the good news is we can get back outside when the twins wake up and enjoy more of this gorgeous Fall afternoon.

Lily's "Leash"

I'm clearly desperate. I bought a kid leash. I am determined to teach Lily that she must walk with us, no matter how distracted or obstinate she's feeling. The kid leash is a little backpack (and Lily adores backpacks with their reassuring weight on her back), but it has this convenient clip-on leash that allows me to pull her along when she starts the 'walk behind us' game.

I tried it out today on another Fall scavenger hunt walk, and what I underestimated was my own embarrassment at using the leash. I was afraid the court of public opinion would view me harshly ("look at that mom with her kid on a leash!"), so I usually resorted to holding a different part of the backpack to keep Lily walking on pace with the rest of us. Lily, for her part, decided that screaming, crying, and going limp was the best way to fight back, so there was a stretch of our walk that was ruined and I'm doubtful the public opinion court much enjoyed watching my kid get dragged along during her limp stages.

But we'll get there. I'm convinced that with a little "walk training" Lily will learn that she'd rather choose to stay with me and her sisters rather than be forced to stay with us. And even if this takes a year, the end result is that I can freely take all three kids anywhere, without strollers or leashes or any other kind of restraint, and we'll all enjoy the outings a lot more.

So here's a photo of the backpack (errr, leash system) - Claire wanted to show it off for the camera ...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Here We Go Again

I spent two hours at the after-hours clinic tonight (unfortunately, in two separate trips) to confirm my diagnosis: Lily has her first ear infection of the season. Urgh. Here we go again. She never even had a head cold - this infection is purely from drainage that is rattling in the back of her throat, and I've been predicting it for almost two weeks. I've done somewhat of a 180 from last winter and am now thinking that we should proceed with tubes at least for Lily. If minimal drainage issues can land her in earache territory, then the seven head colds to come this winter will be brutal. We don't need perpetual antibiotics again.

In the middle of these two clinic visits (one with all three kids, and one with only Lily), I took Claire and the twins to Claire's first ice skating lesson. It was much too short due to all the administrative items tonight, but she enjoyed it. What I didn't like is they took the kids to this miniature skating rink at the back of the building and parents were not allowed to stay and watch. Call me over protective, but I like monitoring if my kid falls and hits her head. That way, I have some idea how hard she hit. I felt very blind to the process back there which made me a little nervous.

So, if you mix the clinic trips, ice skating lessons, three loads of laundry, dinner cooked (had to do a crockpot meal to ensure dinner was on the table at 6:30pm), preschool pick up, and the WFH day, you'll find one very exhausted parent at the end of it. It doesn't help that the twins had us up for over an hour in the middle of the night last night either. *Yawn*

I hope everyone sleeps through the night tonight and tomorrow provides a low-key office day! Fingers crossed that all my clinic trips did not expose us to the flu either ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Fifth Birthday

And on the third day, they celebrated the "real" birthday.

Our birthday binge is finally coming to an end. We had Papa's birthday visit Saturday, the friend party yesterday, and today I took the afternoon off (which coincided with our best October weather yet with temperatures in the low 70s!) for Claire's birthday shopping spree. Claire and I had a fantastic time this afternoon. We had a nice lunch at Nordstrom Cafe (ok, admittedly, that was for me, but she's none the wiser), and then we shopped at Toys R Us where she picked out the "Elefun" game and rollerskates (!), and then we moved to Target where we picked up a shiny trinket box, a travel size etch-a-sketch, and a change purse I've been asked for at least 5 times.

And after the twins went to bed, we finally did the 'real' candles and cake event with the cake my mother made for Claire (it's a beauty, isn't it?), which means Claire has eaten birthday cake three times now in addition to some chocolate fudge (via Papa) and a chocolate chip cookie (via Nordstrom Cafe). Glug.

I've posted our birthday images from today. And now, I need to carve out a few still moments to reflect upon the 5-year milestone in the motherhood journey. Maybe I'm an unusual mother, but I don't overly lament the lost baby stages - I love the idea of having older children and am very excited about seeing what age five is all about!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Birthday Party Day

Claire had a big day today - we celebrated her birthday (which is officially tomorrow) with her friends at the pottery painting store. The pottery painting idea was a bit of a gamble - with pre-K, kindergarten, and first graders in attendance, I wasn't sure who would actually enjoy the painting event. With one exception, I think the kids had a good time painting, and I was happy to keep the party noise and mess in a venue other than my own home!

I am now also sold on Sam's Club buttercream cup cakes. I did not eat one at the party, but I just snacked on half of one a few minutes ago, and they were shockingly good! Way to go Sam's Club. I'm impressed - especially for under $10.

Claire's big birthday dreams have already been fulfilled (she got a globe and a Barbie fishing rod, along with all sorts of other great gifts), so Kyle and I are at a loss for gift ideas. This is the first year we've struggled like crazy to come up with a gift, so tomorrow I'm taking her shopping and she can pick out (with some mom guidance) the gift she wants from us. The way Claire sees this, she got to celebrate today, and then preschool throws her a party tomorrow, and then we'll do "real" cake at home tomorrow night on her real birthday, so she said she's getting three birthday parties out of this deal! Not bad for turning five.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Visit From Papa

We had a nice afternoon visit with Papa. We took the girls on another "Fall walk" to gather leaves and acorns at an office park area near the house. Papa saw this photo opportunity instantly so here it is ....

... which makes me think of that family with the identical quadruplet girls. I cannot imagine four Claires.

Tomorrow is Claire's birthday party, so we should have a big day ahead of us! She bruised her cheek tonight being clumsy, so the birthday photos tomorrow will look battered.

"Solo" Shopping

For another first this morning, I took the girls shopping at a grown-up clothing store. I needed a new set of "mom clothes" for after work and on lazy weekends ... we're talking a yoga pants style outfit, or what I call 'kid clothes' ... so I allowed the girls to shop with me, sans stroller, and with strict directions to 'stay with mom' (which weren't followed well at all). All four of us crowded into the (handicap) dressing room while I tried on a pair of pants. The twins did not like the fitting room - they were terrified once the door closed, and Lily went into full crying meltdown. I finally calmed both of them and made a mad dash for the cash register, but not before Molly broke a necklace (ooops, sorry store). Ah well. It wasn't a perfect shopping trip, but it did provide some confidence that I can do a little more of this, which is a very freeing notion, given Kyle's usual weekend working schedule.

I do take the girls to kids' clothing stores (we even kid clothes shopped this morning before lunch), and also grocery stores and Target without a stroller or grocery cart now, but it's certainly a challenge. I'm doing my best to "train" them to stay together so that we'll be allowed more of this freedom going forward. All in all, they do pretty well, and I even had several people compliment me on the girls' behavior at the stores this morning. Even while Molly was yanking on that shiny little necklace.

Lily is the biggest challenge during non-stroller walks or outings. I can't tell if she's just super distracted or being 2-year-old style passive aggressive, but she makes sure to fall 20 feet behind us by walking far too slowly compared to the rest of us. Given she's the fastest twin, I know it's not a factor of walking abilities. There's more to this story, and now that Lily and I are battling over this frustrating 'game', I can only guess she'll continue to make our outings challenging. I'm disappointed by this, as the idea of being able to solo shop with all three kids (that is, without other adult assistance), without having to coach them incessantly on "staying together", is very exciting and life altering. I guess I'm still a good ways away from that level of freedom ...

I'll post a photo here of the super cute outfits the girls are wearing today. Auntie gave the twins these dresses and tights for their birthday ...

... aren't they adorable? In the photo, Molly is having a "discussion" with Lily about the broken pumpkin stem that Lily is holding. Molly is convinced that daddy can fix the broken stem - in fact, all my kids are convinced that daddy can fix anything. Too bad that isn't true!

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Full Friday

A park visit, clothing store trip, Waffle House lunch, Fall scavenger hunt walk, and Pizza Shoppe dinner provided us with a full, fun Friday (despite the continuing cold weather). Claire and I also confirmed her birthday party with the pottery shop, put together her party favor gift bags, and got laundry done over the twins' nap time. I was lucky to receive fewer than 10 work emails today (a super slow work day) which allowed all this extra fun. We really had a great time all around today.

Here's a photo of Molly freezing at the park this morning (I didn't dress them warmly enough, so we only had about a 15-minute park visit due to the Molly discomfort/drama) ...

... and then here's some photos from our "Fall scavenger hunt" walk early this evening where I dressed the girls more appropriately. Molly was much happier outdoors with her coat on so we all had a fantastic time checking out the red, yellow, and orange leaves, along with the big oversized acorns we found.

TGIF! I'm so happy it's the weekend again!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Harried Life ...

If you don't mind a few statistics (I love 'em), here's a bit of research from the Pew Research Center on "The Harried Life of the Working Mother":

I always love a little validation, especially when it's scientific research.

Another Productive Day

Early evening walks just aren't the same when they require a heavy coat, but I was determined to make the most of my 'free' hour between 5-6pm to get the kids outdoors (and acclimated to our weather change). I cooked white chili (chicken chili) while the twins napped, and then threw it in a crockpot to keep it warm until dinner time, so I had one of those blissful pre-dinner hours where I could hang out with the kids and enjoy them (versus shooing them away from the kitchen while I try to cook). During our outdoors time, we hunted for red and yellow leaves, neighborhood dogs, and played with our own pumpkins.

I had one of those amazingly productive days due to work being a little slower than normal ... meaning, I got a lot of things done around the house. In addition to the early dinner prep, I got laundry washed and hung, my cookbook area organized, dishwasher emptied, and the house tidied this afternoon. This morning while Claire was at preschool the twins and I checked out cakes at Sam's Club and went to the ice skating rink to sign up Claire for 9 weeks of lessons. I took all the girls to Mr. Goodcents for lunch, and we made a quick grocery run for a box of graham cookies and then we had our usual fun at the pet store next to Mr. Goodcents. It was a good day!

The only negativity hanging over my head today is the news that my work group is getting cut by roughly 25% at the end of this month. This applies to the larger group under my VP, which has close to 400 people. It's a big cut, but all in all I'm taking it in stride like the last time we went through this. Worrying won't change my fate, so why waste the energy on worrying?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Calm In The Household

For a house with three young kids, we've stayed pretty calm the last few days. The good moods from this weekend have continued and the kids have been easily entertained. I'm hoping this new trend will continue (other than during the sick weeks to come this winter, when I fully expect horrid behavior). Today, for example, the most difficult stretch of the day (the late afternoon push to dinner time) was, for the most part, a breeze to manage. The girls all played nicely together (well, Lily required some coaching on not crying over every slight, but once she settled down, all was good). While I cooked dinner during this typically stressful time, the girls played "kitchen" in the basement and then moved themselves up to Claire's bedroom to look at books. I checked on them intermittently, but they did just fine without me. I can see why people say that having more than one child can be easier than just having one. When they play together nicely, the pressure on me is reduced significantly. I just wish I could minimize the sibling rivalry.

But let's talk about this dinner I slaved over while the kids played nicely. I made sweet potato casserole (complete with the brown sugar topping, which the kids should like), pork chops in a light white wine and cream sauce (ok, that's a little adult centered, I know), and corn. The kids all rejected it, other than eating a few bites of the corn. *Sigh*. The food battle continues to rage in my household, with the biggest battle being in my head: do I give up cooking "adult" food I enjoy and work toward cooking "kid style foods", or do I cook what I want to eat and either short-order cook (which I swore I wouldn't do) for the kids or let them starve each night? Cooking used to be one of my favorite hobbies. Hobby! Ha - I laugh at the thought now. It's my daily drudgery, dealing with picky eaters and a spouse with a limited range himself. On a weekly basis, I do the meal planning, grocery shopping, and the cooking. My "break" is a once or twice a week take-out dinner or Kyle grilling on a Sunday night. But roughly five nights a week, week after week after week, I am at the kitchen helm, debating what food I'd find reasonably appealing that maybe the kids would eat too. Most nights feel like a failure to me. And for a perfectionist, daily failure is incredibly unpleasant.

So for a while now, I've debated doing the "truly transparent", real life, what-we-had-for-dinner-and-was-it-successful report. We all want to know how other people live, how other families handle the daily dinner routine, so I might do a post to summarize our dinners for a week in the household, or find a way to post it on the side of the blog. Let me think through the concept, and you might just see something soon on this subject. Then you'll know the answers - do I rely on pre-prepared foods? Do I cook from scratch? Do I do more take-out than I own up to? If I were to summarize the week-by-week plan around here, I know that I usually do a great job of meal planning for one week (and shopping for the week in advance), and then the next week, I can't pull it off again. So I have one well-executed week, then a bad week, then a well-executed week, and so on. It's a balance I've come to accept.

I just can't seem to accept eating kid food for the next 10-15 years until my kids' tastes mature.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

I knew we'd pay for our mild summer. Winter has visited early, and I'm not liking it. Nor are the kids. Temperatures hovered in the 40s all weekend, so we got out to stores and restaurants on a limited basis, but certainly I attempted nothing outdoors with the kids. I am not meant to live in the Heartland - I should live elsewhere where I can enjoy the outdoors more months of the year than Kansas makes possible. I had a mild case of cabin fever already on my first cooped up winter-like weekend. Blah. It didn't help that Kyle worked 1 1/2 days this weekend (all Saturday, half of Sunday), which meant my "allowable" activities were a bit stunted by his absence. Instead of errands and fun while the twins napped, I cleaned house, did laundry, and organized a few areas - not exactly my idea of a banner weekend.

But still, I eked out a reasonable weekend nevertheless. The kids were in great moods (despite the lingering head cold/cough sickness everyone got last week) and the twins particularly are beginning to fall in line with our regular patterns and rules and seem comfortable in our daily routine. The only rough patches we have are at the "changing of the guard" moments when Kyle returns home and I leave or vice versa - the change in parenting styles is always a shock to all three kids.

Tonight I watched the twins play together while Kyle and Claire ran to Home Depot, and it was an absolute joy to watch them interact. Molly (the dominant twin) "directed" the play style, but Lily followed the directions (mostly) and the girls laughed and screeched and didn't pay one bit of attention to me. I had a contented moment, one brief thought that maybe there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. And then I remembered that someday I'll have three teen aged girls and I laughed at my naivete. Ah well, at least I am seeing some benefit to twins at the moment - I know I never stated that the last two years.

The girls all wore their "hot chocolate" shirts today, which I thought was fitting given the weather outside ...

... but I hope that we have a few days soon where outside play becomes possible again!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pumpkins and BFFs

Claire's preschool had the annual pumpkin patch field trip this morning. The weather did not cooperate. It was in the mid 40s, cloudy, and very blustery, so we adults suffered through the weather while the kids seemed (mostly) oblivious to the bone-chilling cold. The field was also a mud pit because of our all-day rain yesterday. I intended to take the twins, but once I walked outside this morning, I knew it would be an awful idea to drag them along. Molly would have cried the entire time, making it an absolutely miserable morning. So at the last minute, after some, uh, "negotiation", Kyle agreed to stay home with the twins.

Claire and BFF Lauren stayed joined at the hip through all the different play areas of the pumpkin patch. Here are my favorite photos from the morning ...

... and now, I'm happy to be back in the warmth of my home. Brrrrrrr. I guess I need to toughen up with winter nearly here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Time To Explore

11-hour day alone with the kids (Kyle home late tonight): check
complete my "real" (paid) work: check
wash and hang all the family's laundry: check
do preschool pick up: check
get the kids outdoors to enjoy the nice weather: check
finish swapping kids' closets from summer to winter clothes: check
cook and clean up dinner: check
make a quick Kohl's and Walmart trip after kids in bed: check
blog: check

I should feel a great sense of accomplishment, but I'm struggling to feel that ... one, because I'm getting Claire's head cold and my energy level is low (despite my output today which would indicate otherwise); and two, because getting that much done [see list above] usually means the kids stay a little bored all day which makes me feel like a failure. At least we got 45 minutes outside today, where I snapped a few photos of the girls. Molly was walking around with the binoculars "exploring" hence the funny photos. For my part, I'd like to explore ways to ditch the mom guilt when I don't feel like I've entertained my kids well all day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Whole Lot of Nothing

This weekend was one of those that felt disjointed, blah, bland ... nothing quite worked out the way it was supposed to. I do not feel I got any great kid time, yet I didn't get any "me" time or good adult time either.

Claire came down with a head cold as of today, and the twins had both Kyle and me up from 2ish to 4:30am last night, so we're all suffering today (I assume the twins will get their head colds tomorrow). We got to see Papa for lunch today, and Claire and I attended the Louisburg Cider Mill Festival yesterday afternoon and had some fun errand time today. But it never coalesced into a really fun weekend, and my energy level is incredibly low.

I could barely bring myself to take any good photos this weekend, so here's all I could muster. Here's Claire at the Cider Mill festival yesterday ...

... and Claire trying her hand for the first time at putting golf balls (at the sporting goods store during errands today) ...

... and Claire having a decadent snack of malt balls and hot chocolate this afternoon (note the super fake cheesy smile she gave me) ...

... and with that, the weekend has come to a close. I hope everyone sleeps through the night tonight, and I hope this week provides a little more satisfaction than last week.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I was overjoyed by the arrival of Friday today. It's been a busy, long week - partially because of work, partially because my social calendar had me staying out a bit too late one night this week. Additionally, since the Tuesday doctor's appointment, Molly has stayed pretty cranky all week (and feels a little warm) so I don't know if that flu mist caused a strong immune system response or if the two-year molars are causing the issue, but she has worn me down.

Today I took it easy because I knew my work schedule would accommodate me slacking off a little. The kids and I had lunch together and we went shopping at the Dollar Store for fun. Molly never napped but Lily took a long one, so I finally woke up Lily and took all three kids to Michael's for birthday party favors and the "Halloween game" I'm responsible for at Claire's preschool party (what the heck is a Halloween game?). The kids thought the crafts store was fantastic and I think we spent a full hour hanging out there. After Michael's, we had pizza for dinner (Kyle joined up with us at that point), bought supplies at Sam's Club, and got back home just in time for the twins' bed time. Claire fell asleep in the hallway tonight, and worried me by mentioning a sore throat. Hmmmm, is it time for our first round of sickness? Or is it just the weather change? We're now in the low 60s during the day already.

The best moment of the week was when Molly and I were sharing a quiet moment on the bed together, and she turned to me and said, "Momma, me happy". Awwwww. All around, I love everything about that statement - from the 2-year-old language skills to the idea that she can verbalize her feelings. I was also pleased to see that Lily worked really hard this week to talk, and at times refused to let her two dominant sisters overpower her verbally. Go Lily!

It's been a bad week for two year olds in the KC area. One was killed in a car accident earlier this week (he was not in a carseat), one had his legs run over by an SUV in a parking lot, and one girl (who my colleague knows) is fighting for her life at Children's Mercy after a fence fell on her and cracked her skull in a bunch of places causing brain bleeds. Two year olds are known for their fearlessness, their cluelessness about everyday dangers, and I know they are vulnerable. I'm a safety nut, but even so something could happen to one of my girls too. With all the tragedies I saw on the news this week, I felt the need to hug the twins just a little tighter. My heart goes out to the families of the other two year olds hurt this week.