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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
In New York City, kids almost always share a room. And not because everyone in New York believes in co-sleeping. It’s just that space is at a premium. In our building in Brooklyn, there was a family down the hall with a boy and a girl. They shared a room until they went to college. I’ll admit I was a bit aghast at teenagers of the opposite sex sharing a room. But that’s how life is for a lot of people. Whether it’s villages in Africa where entire families sleep in one room, or places like NYC. Space, money and necessity dictate that reality.
I grew up in the country, outside the small town of State College, Pennsylvania. We had a big farmhouse with 4 bedrooms. There were 4 kids. My two brothers shared a room, as did my sister and I. We had a guest room. When I was 12 though, my sister moved into the spare. I remember how elated I was to have my own space.
We are now living in LA and renting a house with three bedrooms all on the same floor. Fia and Emmett each have their own rooms. Thank god, because it’s been a challenge keeping them from waking each other up in the night. Only in the past couple months has Fia started to sleep through his cries. Which is obviously a point many people will make: kids adapt.
We just recently found a house to buy. It’s beautiful and big at 3100 square feet. However the layout is such that there are two bedrooms on one floor (a master and a second one), then on the bottom floor is a guest bedroom and bath. I really don’t want either kid separated from us at night. I like being on the same floor. Plus, the way I feel about having company, we have to have a guest room at all times. Especially one on a separate level. At least that way we have our own space. We are taking a contractor over today to see if there is a way to create two bedrooms out of one or perhaps turning the laundry room into a small bedroom. But I don’t want to get into a lot of construction. Nor do I really want my laundry room in the garage.
I got to thinking: at this age, as long as Emmett continues to progress on the sleeping front (as in not waking up multiple times), is there a reason for them NOT to share a room? I suspect we’d be in this house about 5 years, so we would be far away from the tween or teen years. Then the plan is to move back to New York, where we’d all probably share a room. With the cat. (Kidding.)
Part of me thinks it seems strange to have a big house and yet have the kids share a room. But then I think, maybe not. Maybe it’s a good thing. I guess I want the option to put them in their own rooms if they end up keeping each other–and us–up at night. What do you guys think?
Now if only I was a co-sleeper, and believed in family bed, this problem would be solved. But something tells me that my strong stance on teaching kids to sleep by themselves– and my feeling that parents need their own bedroom– won’t be swayed.
I await your insight.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: buying a house, CIO, cosleeping, family bed, Ferber, sharing a bedroom, sleep training, teenagers, Weisenbluth
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, offers a homemade gift alternative to store bought toys while making a point about excessive consumerism.
Jill’s recent blog about Toy Overload really struck a chord with me. How many toys are too many? How do you measure? Whom do you measure against? Who’s to say?
In 2008 on a trip to Rwanda, my husband and I came across a bunch of kids who had made a bicycle out of wood. Wood. I mean every part of the bicycle was made of wood. Okay, maybe there was a nail or two holding the wheel (also wood) on but everything else was wood. The most striking thing about the bike was that it didn’t belong to any one kid. It belonged to all of the kids in the village. Collectively. They took turns riding it, without fighting or crying. Can you imagine?
In another village we found kids playing with a soccer ball they had made from discarded plastic bags. This was all the more impressive because plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, which makes them hard to come by. What will they play with when their makeshift soccer ball is nothing but tattered shreds? I’m pretty sure they’ll come up with something ingenious.
Not long after returning from Rwanda my husband and I moved to Hawaii. Oh man, to be a kid in Hawaii. Year-round fun in the sun. In the military community where we lived there were kids galore. It wasn’t hard to figure out who in the neighborhood had kids (which, apparently, was everybody but us) because their yards looked like a cross between a gigantic yard sale and a trash dump. Full of every toy imaginable.
But here’s the thing. You almost never saw kids playing with any of that junk. Like kids around the world, they ran around in packs doing what kids do.
The toy disparity between the Rwandan kids and the kids in Hawaii was hard to swallow. My husband and I made a pact that if we had kids the rule in our household would be: get a toy, give a toy. That is, for every toy received, our kids would have to choose one toy to give away.
Four years later, we now have a little girl. Our house (and yard) has not been inundated with toys. Since our daughter was a newborn I’ve been going through her toys about every other month and pulling out the things she has outgrown or now shows no interest in. Some I pass on to friends, some I save for later, some I donate.
Many of her toys are hand-me-downs anyway, from her twin cousins who are 9 months older. We get the toys they’ve outgrown and send them back when we’re done with them. My sister then passes them on to others.
I’ll admit I haven’t actually implemented the get a toy, give a toy rule. In my defense, our daughter is only 2½—old enough to realize that in our house, toys sometimes disappear.
After Christmas my daughter caught me squirreling away some of her toys and wanted to know what I was doing with them. I explained how fortunate she is to have so many toys and how it’s good to give some of her toys to kids who don’t have any. Surprisingly, she seemed okay with it. When she’s a little older I’ll have her choose the toys she wants to give away and together we’ll go to donate them.
That’s all well and good but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem of having too many toys to begin with. Jill mentioned that she felt they received too many toys at Christmas. She wouldn’t have that problem if she was related to me.
My sister has no qualms about asking people not to buy toys for her boys because they have so much. You don’t have to tell me twice. I still want to do nice things for my nephews of course, but instead of sending toys, I send supplies for a simple craft. I send everything—supplies, instructions and a picture of my daughter with the finished craft—and my sister gets to make it with her boys. Our Easter craft is a perfect example. My daughter is on the left; my nephews are the other two.
Okay, so our mangy bunnies would make Martha Stewart cringe but I truly believe we all got something out of this. It helps that my sister is the least creative person on the planet, but still.
And the best part—no more junk! We can throw it away when we’re done. It’s just an idea to throw out there for those of us who think toy overload is something to overhaul. Especially when you know that kids have the creative capacity to come up with far more than we give them credit for. For some, just having a plastic bag or a piece of wood is enough. That’s by necessity, but we can still learn from their examples.
Categories: Cynthia's Guest Blog, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: Africa, American, baby gifts, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, consumerism, craft, creative gifts, excess toys, homemade gifts, junk, poor, poverty, Rwanda, toddler gifts, toddler toys
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
When I walk in the door after having a sitter, my mere presence sets Emmett off. He is like a cat that can sense me a mile away. He starts howling. This has happened with the previous nanny, with every sitter…. basically everyone but Phil. Phil is excluded because the same thing happens when he walks in. Emmett wails.
He could be perfectly happy playing or eating, but wham, we walk in and he is suddenly aware that he hasn’t been with mom or dad and starts to cry. Often real tears stream down his little face. I usually walk over to him, pick him up and hug him. “Emmett,” I say, “it’s okay. Mama’s here.” His crying immediately ceases. He burrows himself into me, his arms down at his sides in a little cocoon. We call it “pod-ing” like he’s a pea going into his pod. I kiss his head. And every sitter says the same thing, “He was fine until he heard/saw you.”
I know this is part of an infant-toddler’s development. But it gets me every time. I have this heart pull. It’s not even conscious. It’s a visceral reaction. I know my kids are in excellent hands when they aren’t with me. Three days a week Fia is in preschool and absolutely loves it. She is really blooming there too.
I know Emmett has loads of fun with our sitters. I honestly don’t believe in the extreme version of attachment parenting–where you’re supposed to be with your kid 24/7 until they’re 3. Or 13. I’m not judging those who do it, but for me, I know exposing my kids to different people, different races, different environments is good for them. So why is it so hard to NOT feel guilty? I wish I knew…
I’ve said before that I think moms with full time jobs in some ways have it better. They have a purpose, whether it’s career aspirations, or providing for their family, etc. I’m in a murky place because I’m freelance and I don’t have a set job. Each time I plan my week I do it in a way that I get enough play time with Em, enough with Fia and enough with both. Then I fill in the gaps with a sitter. But why do I even have to make sure I clock in with my kids?
In November I stopped having a nanny. Now I have about 15 hours a week of help. But the fact that I want to say in the next sentence “but I try and book my sitter while they are napping” is just whacked. It’s like I have to continually justify to myself that I’m not abandoning my kids. I have to make sure people know that “Hey, I’m a good mom. And I’m around.” It’s ridiculous on so many levels.
My sitter Michele is amazing. She was our night nurse for, oh, 7 months. I didn’t feel guilty about that at all, because with Fia, my lack of sleep led to an insanity that wasn’t pretty. I am terrible without sleep. I never pulled an all-nighter in college. So justifying my night nurse for Emmett was easy. I have no regrets. I was a better mom to everyone. I don’t feel like I “missed out” on anything.
When we didn’t need Michele anymore she offered to babysit during the day. And get this: she has 5 kids. Yes 5. Her oldest is 19. Her youngest are twins Fia’s age: Maci and Cruz (pictured below).
As a veteran mom, Michele is always telling me to stop feeling guilty. She pounds into me that we all need our own time. I know she is right. But in going to my yoga class this morning, leaving to the cries of Emmett, I felt that usual pull on my heart. It sinks deep into my stomach. Not for long, but it is always there. Should I be doing this? In downward dog I noticed how bad my toes look. Damn, I need a pedicure. I guess I could do one while they nap tomorrow, since I have Michele again, I thought.
I am seriously pissed at myself for thinking this way. I would have slapped myself silly in my pre-kids day if I ever thought I would be like a walking blanket of guilt.
I often ask Michele to bring her twins. They go to daycare most days, but if Fia isn’t in preschool, the three of them have a near perfect chemistry. Plus, instead of saying to Fia, “Michele is coming today!” and her replying, “No mama, I only want you”, (cue the guilt) I can say, “Guess what? Maci and Cruz are coming!” She jumps up and down. “Yay! Yay! No Way! [pause] Ballet” (her new thing with rhyming words). I am reassured she won’t miss me. That I am ok.
It’s like the rational side of my brain can’t reconcile with the primal side of my being. Logically, I know I need a break. I know it’s okay to go to the store by myself. I know it’s okay to do yoga, get a pedicure, write a blog, and have time to myself. I also know it’s good for my kids on so many levels. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t even consider it. So this is all on me.
So how to get rid of the guilt? Maybe I need to go back to my hypnotist. Or maybe this is just the way it is when you’re a parent… battling conflicting emotions that put your heart and head in the middle.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read | Tags: attachment parenting, babysitter, daycare, full time job, guilt, hypnotist, mom guilt, nanny, sahm, stay at home mom, toddler development, working mom
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
I had two graduations in my life. One in high school, one in college. So what is with the “preschool graduation,” “kindergarten graduation,” “second grade graduation,” “fifth grade graduation,” and “junior high graduation?” I am not there yet, since Fia is just now in preschool, but I can tell you one thing: it’s going to annoy the sh-it out of me when it’s our turn.
I think the last two decades have been an exercise in indulging our children. From our consumerism when it comes to the holidays (read my rant) to the idea that when playing sports, no one loses anymore. “Oh hooray for us!! We are all winners!!!” In my Participation Awards blog post, I brought this up because sometimes it’s hard to resist all the indulgence. But really, when trophies and medals are given out to both teams so that no kid “feels bad,” I say suck it up and toughen up. You think teaching your kids never to lose is smart and useful preparation for life? I don’t know what candy-coated life you live in, but it ain’t mine, nor most of ours.
Speaking of candy…I read another mom’s blog called Rage Against the Minivan. Kristen Howerton’s hilarious rant about all the “new” holidays that set your kids’ expectations for more gifts–like candy–got me thinking about all these “graduation” issues, sports issues, and of course my own annoyance at the holiday toy overload. They all stem from the same line of thinking: spoil and shield your kid from what’s real. Since I’m already having a crappy week, I figured I’d just continue to rant about it all.
Her take on St. Patrick’s Day is spot on. Her kids came home from school with the expectation of receiving chocolate coins from an elf. Seriously? I mean, will it ever end?
This year at Fia’s preschool I didn’t even know it was Valentine’s Day. And luckily we were out of town so I didn’t have to deal with anything. But when we came back, there was a huge basket of cards for her from her “friends.” Written of course, from the parents of the kids she plays with. Okay, that’s sweet. But just like in Kirsten’s piece, I found some parents had put together gift bags of candy. I’m sorry, but that’s just not cool. It raises the bar for anyone who cares (I don’t, so knock yourself out. You’ll get a handmade doily from Fia every year that I don’t whisk her off to Hawaii during holiday weeks. That’s it.), but it also sets a precedent. One that is embedded in an already monstrous problem facing our society: obesity. Okay, okay, I get it. You think I’ve gone too far to equate a Valentine candy bag with obesity. But the snack epidemic is already out of control in this country and gift bags of candy don’t help.
Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in Parents Magazine by Sally Kuzemchak:
Obesity experts now believe that the frequency of eating, not just bigger portion sizes, is also to blame for the uptick in calorie intake for kids and grown-ups alike. “Our children are being offered food at every turn,” says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. And adding just one extra snack each day can make a big impact. In fact, it’s possible that obesity is driven by as little as 165 extra calories a day for kids ages 2 to 7, say researchers at both Harvard and Columbia universities. That’s roughly the amount in a handful of potato chips.
…Or a bag of Valentine’s Day candy. Or chocolate coins left by leprechauns.
I don’t know what the solution is because it would truly take a village–where everyone is in agreement–to stop this madness; to stop creating indulgent children who have no perspective when they grow up and face the real world. I’ve seen the results in my extended family. It’s not pretty. But the village mentality won’t work. The addiction to consumerism and more, more, more is just too great. I guess the only way is to try and shield my kids from all the excess. Ironic, since so many parents are doing the opposite: they are shielding their kids from real life. I wonder, who will grow up with the better coping skills?
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read | Tags: consumerism, excess toys, holiday gifts, holidays, marketing, not losing, participation awards, skype, sports, toy overload, toys, trophies, winning
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, wonders if you can miss the boat on potty training. If you have suggestions, please share!
My mom always told me I talked early and was fully potty trained at a very young age. Like, by a year-and-a-half or something ridiculous. Apparently the potty part happened in all of one day and didn’t involve training of any kind. The day I realized that unleashing my bowels equaled immediate discomfort I dumped my diaper and never looked back.
Like me, my daughter also talked at a very young age. Naturally, I assumed that potty training would follow early too.
At 15-months-old she said “poop” or “poopy” every time I changed her dirty diaper. After bragging incessantly to the other moms at the playground, I ran out and bought her the cutest little froggy potty you’ve ever seen. She was enamored with it for sure, but graced it only with hugs and kisses, never her bottom. Elmo, on the other hand, spent quite a lot of time on it.
Over the months we tried various methods and enticements. We set her up with a pile of her favorite books. That held promise for, like, a day. We rewarded her with M&Ms. But, being the suckers that we are (and by we, I mean my husband), she polished off a few bags before we realized the only success we were going to have was weight gain.
We then got the brilliant idea to let her watch her favorite video—Mickey Mouse Clubhouse—while sitting on the potty. We thought if she sat there long enough, eventually she’d go. Fat chance. She once sat watching happily for two hours with nary a tinkle.
At some point we traded in the froggy for an Elmo seat on the big potty. Didn’t help. The bottom line is she has zero interest in using the potty.
Not long ago a friend suggested I forgo diapers and try putting her in cotton training pants. The theory, of course, is that soggy underpants are so uncomfortable they’re bound to produce instant potty training success.
Given that this is how I was trained it sounded perfectly plausible to me. I ran out and bought a mega-pack of training pants and wasted no time getting started.
My daughter peed within 10 minutes of wearing her new underpants. She didn’t tell us she had peed—the puddle on the kitchen floor tipped us off—and it sure didn’t seem to bother her. We stripped off pair Number 1, cleaned her up and put on pair Number 2.
Just about the time we finished cleaning up the kitchen floor she peed again. And pooped. But again, she didn’t bother to tell us. She just sat there doodling at the kitchen table until we sniffed her out.
I’m sorry but…what? How long are you supposed to let your kid wallow in dripping wet, poop-filled underpants to get the full benefit of this method? Clearly I hadn’t thought this through. My kid had poop-stained pee running down her leg. Am I supposed to let her walk around the house like that? Because we don’t live in a barn. I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning up the kitchen floor but our rugs? Furniture? There’s no way.
This method is not for me. And unfortunately, the time I’m willing to let her stew in filth does not create sufficient discomfort for my kid to feel the need to run to the potty.
So here we are. She’s two-and-a-half years old (32 months actually) and I feel like I’ve missed the boat on potty training. What’s worse is that I have no clue what to do.
She used to tell us when she had to poop. Now she denies that she’s done it. Me: “Honey did you go poopy?” Her: “No, I didn’t!”
Sometimes she preemptively denies it. She’ll look up at me out of the blue and shout “I’m not going poopy!” when, clearly, she is mid-poop.
Now when I change her diaper she cries “Don’t change my diaper! I want that poopy diaper! I WANT TO WEAR THAT STINKY DIAPER!”
My daughter cannot be motivated, pressured or persuaded by anything or anyone. The more I want something the more she resists. She’s incredibly strong willed.
We are getting nowhere so I’m laying off for a while. I’m hoping one day she’ll just decide she’s ready and it will be over and done with. I just can’t help wanting to speed up the process.
Did I miss the boat? What do I do? I’ll take any suggestions you have. Please, I’m begging!
Categories: Cynthia's Guest Blog, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: baby, child, diaper, dooty, pee, pee pee, poop, poopy, potty, potty training, toddler, train, training, underpants, underwear, young