Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MWF Seeks SM aged 2.5 to 3 for Friendship/Playdates

Not for myself. That would be creepy. It's for my son. He needs a friend. I don't know how it is, but somehow I don't know anyone with boys his age. Everyone I meet (even when I randomly make friends at the post office) seems to have four-year-old girls. This is great for my daughter, but is rotten for my son. The poor little guy doesn't have any friends of his own. Much of the time, he's perfectly happy to just play with his sister and her friends. But, a couple of times he's watched her playing with a friend and said, "I want a best fwend too, mommy." It breaks my motherly heart.

As I hang out at the community center's toddler time or play with him at Little Gym, I find myself checking out the boys who look his age, wondering if they could be a potential pal for my little guy. I'm always tempted to ask them to point their Mommy out to me, and to ask them if she's a fun, cool gal (Let's be honest, no toddler friendship can survive if the moms don't get along. No point in fostering a friendship that's doomed because of a mom-off). Sometimes, I'll try to engage these kids and encourage my son to play with them. However, most of the time when he goes up to them and asks them their name, he receives only a blank stare in return. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that I don't fully understand how toddler boys befriend one another.

Last week at Little Gym, he made a friend. They chased each other all over that gym and had a blast. It warmed my heart. Unfortunately, that little boy was just there for a make-up class and who knows if we'll ever see him again. I suppose I should have just asked his mom for her email address but I'm from Seattle and we're somewhat notorious for taking our friendships slowly and not wanting to appear too pushy. She's from South America and probably wouldn't have thought a thing about my "forward" nature. However, the Scandinavian Seattleite in me just couldn't do it. Instead, I just sat there thinking, please be my son's friend, please come back to our class. Now, I'm just back to hoping.

My mom reassures me that I have nothing to worry about, that he's a happy little guy and that he'll make friends eventually. He'll start pre-school next fall and I know we can scrounge him up a friend or two then, but that seems like such a loong time to wait. Has anyone else had this happen? What did you do about it?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: MILF Video

Okay, because I'm feeling a bit lazy today (after hosting a birthday party this weekend and completing 99% of my Christmas shopping to boot - I'll take my award now, thanks) and because this video is pretty, darn funny, I'm declaring today to be YouTube Tuesday.

I came across it over at The Stir - and warning, as you might guess, it drops the F-Bomb a few times. Like Sasha, at the Stir, I'm a bit mixed on the whole MILF term - yes, it's degrading, but it's also better than the alternative, right?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: A Toy I Love

It seems like the more I spend on a toy, the more likely it is that my kids will just play with the box that it came in and cast the toy itself aside. Some genius found the perfect solution to this problem... just give them the box!

Well, it's obviously not quite that simple. This cardboard playhouse made by Easy Playhouse is more than just a box. It's a cute, preschooler-sized playhouse and a blank canvas for creativity!

My mother-in-law sent this as a birthday gift for my 23-month-old, who turns 2 in a couple weeks. We went ahead and opened it when it arrived, because it was too big to really hide the box and the kids saw it arrive anyway and went bananas.

I set it up in about 5 minutes, barely glancing at the instructions. It's extremely easy to assemble. I got lots of hugs and kisses while I put it together, because my kids were so excited! Once it was all set up, I gave them a box of crayons and told them to go nuts.

We've had it a week now, and they are still having a great time playing in it and drawing on it. They call it their "tree house," even though it lives in my 4-year-old's bedroom.

I love this kind of toy because it allows for endless imagination and creativity. There are no batteries to die, no annoying sounds and lights. My kids never use electronic toys for what they're meant for. They always do something with them other than what they're intended for, or worse, play with them for five minutes and forget about them. This toy they can keep going back to and we can even flip it inside out and start decorating it all over again when they're done coloring on the outside! I don't have to worry about screen time or any other limits... they can play with it all they want.

It's remarkably sturdy, too, for being made of cardboard. They knock it over and I find them playing in it sideways daily, and so far it's holding up very well to their abuse.

Disclaimer: I haven't been paid anything to write this. Nobody asked me to write it. I found something I really love and wanted to tell you about it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For the Love of Kids' Birthday Parties

Before I had kids, the thought of spending countless Saturday mornings at kids' birthday parties horrified me. It sounded like pure torture, weekend mornings should be spent having brunch in lovely restaurants, not spent with roomfuls of screaming, sugar-laden children, singing the "Happy Birthday" song.

However, now that I'm a mom I LOVE kids' birthday parties. Many of the parties we go to, are for kids I've known since they were born. It's always both amazing and nostalgic to recount and honor how much they've grown, so I actually enjoy celebrating their special day with them. Plus, since I still mainly control their social circles, their friends are the children of my friends, which means that kids' parties offer me a great opportunity to catch up with my own gal pals.

While in the past I thought I'd be giving up the freedom of my weekends for the confining schedule of toddler parties, the reality is that these parties provide some much-welcomed entertainment for both me and my kiddos. Two free hours at the Little Gym, followed by both lunch and dessert? RSVP, yes! Oh, we can come to your house and my kids can mess up your living room for a couple of hours instead of mine? We'll be there. Parties are especially welcome in the winter months, when entertainment options for little kids are limited. I've found myself hating it if we're conflicted out of a cake-infused gathering or if we wind up sick and can't make it. En route to fiestas, I often lead my kids in the chant, "Party! Party! Party! We're gonna go to a party!"

My daughter has inherited my love of birthday parties. While she enjoys attending any good party, what she really loves is hosting her own. Even prepping for her second birthday, the still one-year-old, would happily run any errand related to her special day. This weekend, we'll be celebrating her fourth birthday. For the first time, it won't be at our house -- it'll be at a bouncy house space. A princesses and pirates bouncy house party... I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me is liberated by the lack of planning and preparation needed when hosting it at an alternate venue. But, another part of me is sad not to have developed a master-theme for the event and to be fully delving into all of the little details that a home party entails. But, overall I'm happy, because I've got two solid hours of active entertainment scheduled for my kids on a day that promises to have terrible weather.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Forget Black Friday, I'm ready for Cyber Monday!

I hate Black Friday. I haven't gone near a mall on Black Friday in at least a decade and now make a point of staying home on that day. There is no deal on Earth that's attractive enough to me to make me go out into a crush of shoppers so hell-bent on getting a good deal on the trendy toy of the year or the must-have gift of the year that they're willing to show up at a store at 3:00 AM or trample their fellow shoppers in order to get it.

It seems like the word "Door Buster" starts to appear in the newspaper ads and commercials earlier and earlier every year, and I cringe a little whenever I hear it, knowing that it means all the shopping centers are now going to start getting progressively more crowded, traffic progressively worse and I'm going to get progressively less willing to deal with the whole thing.

Since having kids, I have devised a sort of currency to determine whether I'm going to go to a brick-and-mortar store to get something, or whether I'm just going to order it online. That currency is Pain in the Ass. How much of a pain in my ass is it to go drive to a store to get a particular thing? I estimate that buckling one kid, buckling the other kid, driving to the destination, unbuckling one kid, unbuckling the other kid and then either putting them in the stroller or carrying them into the store is worth at least $6 of shipping, particularly when you figure in the cost of gas. If I can find free shipping for something, there's absolutely no way I'm going out to get that item.

So I'm skipping Black Friday entirely once again this year and stocking up on necessities so I don't even have to go out that day. I'm going to ignore the whole thing and wait for Cyber Monday, so I can happily sit in the comfort of my home in my sparkly pink star pajamas and get great deals on all my favorite stuff, completely avoiding any unnecessary pain in the ass.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The No Judgment Challenge

Sometimes, it seems like motherhood is more of a competition than anything else. A panel of highly-trained, self-righteous judges (i.e., other moms) watching our every move, giving our every decision (and children's every action) a score -- lack of consistent discipline. 3.2, children displaying a nice use of table manners, 9.8, and so on.

I don't know why it is, but we mothers tend to judge each other (and ourselves) so harshly. Do you prepare nothing but organic, healthy, snacks for your children or do you let the processed, bagged crackers find their way into your kids' hot little hands? How many activities (and which ones) are your kids enrolled in? Do you vaccinate? Do you believe in circumcision? How well-behaved are your children? How clean is your house? What were their Halloween costumes? Were they homemade? If so, did you make them, or did you pawn the job off on some granny? How much time and effort did you put into planning their birthday parties? And on, and on, and on the list goes. Read the comments on most any parenting article and you'll see...

Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post about why moms judge. It was a fascinating read and I thought the author had a lot of good points -- mainly, that we judge primarily due to our own insecurities. We all question whether or not we're doing things right and sometimes, to validate our choices, we judge. The author's New Year resolution was to stop judging other moms. Hooray!

I've found that the longer I've been in this mothering game, the less judgmental I've become. Before I had kids, I was probably a bit smug and thought I had all of the answers. My house will never look like a toy store (full of cheap, plastic toys from Oriental Trading Company) exploded all over it, because I will insist that my kids put away one toy before getting the next one out (besides, we'll only have wonderful, educational toys -- probably made in Sweden, in our house, guaranteed to stimulate brain development and imagination). Today, my house routinely looks as though it's been ransacked by the most destructive of thieves. My kids will be well-behaved because I will have clear expectations and consistent discipline methods. Today, I try my best, but the reality is, sometimes I'm tired and let things slide, sometimes, despite my best efforts, they still act up or go through difficult phases. My kids won't be picky eaters, because I will expose them to a variety of foods early on. In reality -- There's jarred baby food with tastes and flavors from around the world. When I gave this to my daughter, who was just a little over a year old at the time, she spit it out and made the most disgusted face ever. My kids have a traditional, toddler tendency towards chicken nuggets and mac & cheese.

The more time I spend on the frontlines, the more I recognize that we all enter this game with a different set of circumstances. Our kids' personalities being a big one. The amount of help we have around the house and with the kids, being another. In the article, the author talks about what a difficult time we have putting ourselves in others' shoes. This is so true -- outside of motherhood, we all have different stresses, obligations and concerns, all of which impact not just our parenting, but our judgments of others. We never know what really goes on behind closed doors.

So, while I feel like I'm less judgmental than I used to be, I'm by no means perfect. I often find myself thinking thoughts like "Well, of course she can do ___, she has it so easy." Or, "I can't believe she did X, that's ridiculous." However, I want to take the challenge and make a conscious effort to stop (or at least severely reduce) the amount of judging I do this month. The truth is, most of us judge ourselves so harshly, we don't need anyone else to do it for us. When I feel those judgy moments coming on, I'm going to do my best to stop them. It's time that I try to be the change I want to see in the world. Anyone else with me?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ho! Ho! Ho! It's Christmas Shopping I Go! (in October)

I did it! I started my Christmas shopping last week. The looks I got from other Costco shoppers as I pushed my unwieldy cart (obviously laden with Christmas presents) was one part disgust and one part "Holy crap, I should be doing that, too!"

Anyone who has a two-year-old boy though, knows you have to buy the "Thomas-compatible" train set now, because if you wait until a more appropriate time, you're SOL... So, one train set, one fire truck, one toddler Ariel doll later, and I'm nearly done shopping for the kiddos.

An aside - an unscientific study, conducted by me alone, based on one trip to Costco, concludes that men with cell phones are the nicest guys on the planet. As I was struggling to load that huge train set box into my cart (which kept rolling away anytime I got within two feet of it), some nice guy walking by and chatting on his cell phone, just stepped in and loaded it for me. Later, as I was loading everything into my car, another mom hero on a cell, stopped and told me he'd take my cart back for me. I thanked him but told him I still had a number of things to put in the car. No worries he said, he wasn't in a hurry. Sure enough, he waited for me for several minutes, then happily pushed my cart back to the store for me. Sometimes it amazes me how kind and considerate people can be. This is not the first time I've found myself trying to load some huge, unwieldy thing into my car at Costco and had a random, kind guy help me out.

Back to the Christmas shopping - ever since I graduated from college and started buying presents of my own accord, I've started early. Every August, I used to draw up my gift recipient list and set my budget. Then, I'd divide my purchases between Sept., Oct., and Nov., so that I could afford everything. By Thanksgiving, everything was already bought and paid for. The weekend after Thanksgiving was spent decorating, wrapping and working on Christmas cards. Aah, I used to be such an efficient girl...

I've slipped a bit in recent years but am determined to get back on track this year. You see, I LOVE Christmas and want to enjoy it. I love seeing my house decked out in all of its holiday glitz and like to get it up as soon as possible. My daughter was born Thanksgiving weekend. That year, I knew I wouldn't be able to decorate after she was born, so I did it the weekend before Thanksgiving. Aah, the model of efficiency and planning.

My daughter's Thanksgiving-adjacent birthday has made it difficult to buy ahead of time. For her, I mainly need to wait to see what she gets for her birthday first and then see what should be purchased for Christmas. Also, now that I have kids, other holidays get in the way of my planning and strategizing. October is now spent contemplating and coordinating Halloween costumes and activities and November is spent planning and hosting my daughter's birthday party.

But, once again, I'm hoping to at least be mainly done with my shopping by Turkey Day, so I can spend the holidays baking and singing carols wildly off-tune, without the nagging pressure of un-purchased presents on my mind. Excuse me, I have a dollhouse to buy on Amazon now.

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