Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Nutcracker

Finally, the day of the Nutracker has arrived. The moment that Cady woke up she put on the purple dress that her Aunt Sophie  sent to her. Seven hours later we found ourselves front row center (discount tickets) with a few of our friends to watch the performance. It was the same show that we went to last year but an entirely different experience. Last year, Cady watched and didn't say a whole lot. This year Cady had a lot to say and it was fun to watch her try to figure it all out. "How do they get their dress to stick straight up in the air like that? Boy, you have to be strong to do that (as the sugar plum fairy is being lifted through the air), That man must be very embarraseed to be wearing a pink shirt. Is that ballerina from Japanese? Is she from Babesia? (Asia but almost LOL'd at this one as it seemed like a line straight out of a Bill and Ted movie) Is he from Africa? Why are the girl and the nutrcracker just sitting there watching?" and my favorite was when she would try to explain the show to me. "The nutracker came to life and it's because the brown man is magic"  I was super proud of Cady for getting on stage this year. At the end of the show they invite all of the little girls (and boys but only like 2-3 in the whole audience) on stage for Q&A with the performers and then they teach them a dance routine. Last year I could tell that Cady wanted to so badly but she was too nervous to do it. This year she didn't hesitate and she shook her little tail-feathers up there. The problem with sitting in the first row is that all of the other camera-happy parents rushed down and crowded in front so I didn't even try to get a video but just enjoyed the moment instead. You'll have to take my word for it that she looked like a little fairy princess in her purple sparkly dress dancing up there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Second Time Around

Here's another lesson learned. The terrible twos are no easier the second time around. I can think of two reasons why. Reason #1 is because we are dealing with a completely different child. Reason #2, and probably the most important reason, is that we never mastered it the first time. We just got through it because as with any stage we realized if you wait long enough "this too shall pass".    
You probably wonder what are these terrible twos that we are just now speaking of seeing as how Coben has been two for 10 months now. It's all coming back to us now. It wasn't the twos that were so bad for us, it was the threes. We have all kinds of names for the threes but this is a family blog so we won't go there. So, Coben is now approaching those %$&! threes and he has been in rare form. Dinner time has become the battle of the wills. Nothing is right. Everything that was okay before is suddenly not okay. And he isn't afraid to speak, I mean whiiiiiiiine, his mind about it. We have a rule, if you don't eat then you don't get anything else. So, we eventually throw in the towel and resign to the fact that he is not going to eat and we hold firm on the no dessert rule but nevertheless we not only get to endure the dinner time meltdown but the post dinner time I demand to have something else meltdown. Our mantra is "hold firm, consistency pays off" but what is really running through our heads is, "Come ON! For the love of sanity, KNOCK. IT. OFF!" But we do hold firm so this too shall pass, right?

We have been very lucky to have inherited hand-me-downs from a friend. Not only do we get hand-me-downs but hand-me-downs times twos since they have twins. Coben has a drawer-full of blue jeans. Maybe 15 pairs. He won't wear blue jeans. He will only wear sweat pants these days of which he has only a couple pairs. It's very hard to even think about buying more when there are FIFTEEN pairs of jeans sitting in the second drawer of his dresser growing cobwebs. So, he has to have his sweatpants and typically only his "O-dabba-dabba" (Yo Gabba Gabba) unders and lately this Christmas shirt that he started wearing frequently before Thanksgiving (two days in a row at one point, unwashed, GASP!).
One day he refused to wear any shirt at all. When a toddler gets into a certain mindset there's a series of events that follow. Let me break it down. It usually starts with a very routine thing like in this situation putting on a shirt to go to school. But for some reason (usually when you are running late) the toddler is vehemently against this part of the routine on this particular day for no apparent reason. Barring sleep deprivation or hunger, there is almost always some underlying reason for the toddler meltdown that you are not privvy to and that he is in no shape to share. You only know something is wrong because you start to put on the shirt and he backarches, turns to jello, refuses to stand-up and starts screaming and flailing. And this all happens in the course of one half of a second. So you are standing there completely dumbfounded holding the shirt and wondering WTF (Why the Face, right?) happened!  So now you lodge into your parenting pattern that usually starts out strong and quickly weakens. So first it's the empathetic approach which includes validating those little feelings and playing guessing games "ohhhh, something is wrong. You don't like the shirt?" "You want a different shirt?" "Does the shirt bother you?" Almost always this is met by zero response and louder wails.  At this point even if you DO guess right they won't give you the satisfaction because they are already too far gone to come back.  Then come the negotations, "If you put the shirt on you can have a sticker for getting dressed" or "If you put your shirt on you won't have to have breakfast in the car" which are basically meaningless as there is still too much wailing, whining and body throwing going on so it evolves into empty threats, "If you don't put your shirt on you'll have to stay home by yourself because mom and dad have to go to work", or "if you don't put your shirt on you're going to freeze and catch a cold (I know, you don't catch a cold from the weather but you get desperate) and then if all else fails the wrestling match. And the wrestling match gets you NOWHERE because if you can manage to get the shirt around the neck and the arms in the sleeves they will pull it off immediately after you wrestle in on. So on this particular morning I'm walking out the door fifteen minutes late for work because of all the tag-teaming with Rob to try to get Coben dressed. Coben is standing at the door shirtless and crying and I tell Rob. "Just send him to school without a shirt!" And I meant it. I didn't care that it was cold and I didn't care if the school thought we sucked as parents. At that moment Rob and I were defeated. But finally there came a moment a little while after I left where the switch flipped, calm was restored and Coben was able to finally discuss the shirt issue (which turned out to be that he didn't like the shirt that Rob picked out  and wanted the Christmas shirt).

 And these patterns continue through bedtime. He wants footie jams. I try to talk him out of footie jams but there is no talking him out of footie jams. So we put on footie jams and I tuck him into bed. Then I go to sit down and try to relax and I'll hear "Moooooom!" the moment my butt hits the cushion.  I already know. I know that I am being called back in to take off the footie jams because they are too hot. But we will do this every.single.night. There is no reasoning with Coben. "Coben, you always get too hot in the footie jams why don't we try one of these other pairs." "Noooooo. I want the dino footie jams!!" And I know. I know that I could stand firm and refuse to let him wear the footie jams but I also know deep down that if it's not the footie jams it WILL be something else. So in my head I think of the footie jams as the potential lesser of all evils.
So right now the little guy is in bed. He is laying on the bare plastic mattress because his sheets are being washed and I didn't get them in the dryer before bed because of laundry back-up. No other sheets would do. I pulled 3 different sheets out of the closet and each suggestion just seemed to provoke a bigger emotinal response.  So I offered to put the "snuggie blanket"down on the mattress and  fold it over him. OUT OF THE QUESTION. So there he lays. On a cold plastic mattress. Once his sheets are dry I will sneak in after he is asleep and make some adjustments. And I'll look at him and wonder how that sweet little boy could possibly rage so big. And I'll decide that it's just not possible.  No matter how rough the day has been, watching a sleeping child is a lot like childbirth. You forget as soon as it is over.

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's coming!

It's heating up around the Keenan house. The Christmas frenzy has begun! Saturday morning cartoons are now plastered even more-so with toy commercials. "I want that!" "I want that!" I have a rule that they have to tell me what it is and what it does before they can put it on their list. It's hilarious to watch them (Cady) try to actually figure out in a hurry what it actually is and does before the commercial is over. Half the time she has no clue but she knows that she must have it. I can't help but smile to hear Coben ask Cady, "Cady . You buy me dat?" He doesn't get the concept of Santa yet but he does have two year old imaginary thinking that his sister's pockets are lined with gold and she's just waiting to spend it all on him.
So, what is Santa going to get this year? I really really wish that Santa was not going to bring Emma a new puppy. That's going to be a tough one for Cady. For a moment Santa entertained the idea of getting her the mouse she has wanted or some fish as a consolation but instead it looks like he is going to get the Costco special which is a giant wooden dollhouse. And for Coben it's a Black and Decker tool bench. Okay, maybe they're not the only ones already in the spirit since I just so happen to be blogging about it and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.
Speaking of. We are having Thanksgiving at the Shaw's again this year. I have no idea what we would do without them. Gretchen and I are going to cook together while the kids run wild and the honeys watch "the game". Sounds pretty near perfect to me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Awakening

It's 2 a.m. and I am awakened by the sound of a door slowly creaking open and then being forcefully shut. I hear loud footsteps coming down the hallway, stomp, stomp, stomp, Stomp. The bedroom door flies open and I open my eyes to see all of three foot something standing in my doorway with the hallway light creating a sillhouette of wild hair and an armful of lovies. I groan and roll over. But still he appears by my bedside. "Coben, it's not morning. Come cuddle when the sun comes up." His response is to start throwing objects up on the bed one by one. This time it's Buddy, Long Dog and Swiper and three blankets. Some of us don't function well at 2 a.m. so I'm in awe that he can manage to not only locate all of these objects in the dark but to make the long toddle down the hallway without losing a single friend. I'm now buried with blankets and lovies but I can hear him pulling out the under the bed rollaway storage containers to create a step stool and then hoisting himself up onto the foot of the King Sized mattress and start making his way to the top. He throws a few elbows and snuggles in between his Dad and I. I start to protest but he wraps his arms around my neck and whispers, "Hi mom. I missed you. I love you". And I surrended to the bittersweet realization that these moments don't last forever. Within moments we are all asleep again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween, just around the corner!

I went to Cady's parent-teacher conference tonight to find out that she's doing great socially and academically. She's starting to really settle in and adapts to changes easier than those first weeks. Her teacher informed me that our school district does not allow Halloween celebrations so the kids won't be able to dress up for school. I just don't get it.
Was it just me or wasn't the annual dressing up and parading around the school followed by a Halloween party one of the best school holiday celebrations? Why does our culture, a mixture of all cultures, find that celebrating other cultures are okay but then do away with long-standing American traditions which have become a part of our culture? Christmas parties have become holiday celebrations even though Santa Claus long ago broke out of the religious box. I loved Cady's last school that instead of not celebrating, used the time to introduce many different ideas of how different cultures celebrate which meant the kids not only got to have a Christmas party but all kinds of parties. What better way to learn than to celebrate?
Wow. I didn't expect to go here tonight. The only reason I signed on to blog tonight was to share that Cady jumped into my car after school and gleefully announced that she had "Jimmy cracked corns" today. I didn't laugh. But I wanted to. She was referring to Candy Corns.
Coben on the other hand gets the right words in there. He told me that he is going to try Jicama one day at school and that he had gouda cheese the other day. He retains the craziest things. Pronunciation is where the work comes in for Coben. Last night we had a request for Word-els. What? Wordels. You want what? WORDELS!! Oh, noodles? Is that what you want? Yes, wordels. Coben, try saying N-n-n-noodles. N-n-n-Wordels! At least he tried.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


As promised here are the Cady-isms that I have been saving up over the summer.

Presented in quiz format:
What is the real word or term behind the Cady-made word/term?

Pixie Pins or Moxie Pins.
Crunchy Lips
Crack the Light
House Air
Butt Cheek of Penis
Batter Spoon
Totaller Truck

And even Coben has one. But his is related to speech.


He has this Brick-like (reference The Middle) way of adding S's to the end of words since he leaves them off of the beginning of words. So, we'll hear him saying, "I did a somersault in the grass-s-s-s" essentially turning one syllable words into three syllable words.

Okay. So how many did you get right???

Pixie Pins. Also called Moxie Pins.   Bobby Pins
Jigglies   The bottom of your pants if they jiggle. So jeans have jigglies but leggings do not.
Woodjie  Wedgie
Pimples  Nipples
Crunchy Lips  Chapped Lips
Crack the Light   Turn the light down
Fur   Crayon Shavings
House Air   Room Temperature
Butt Cheek of Penis   Testicles (something we talk waaaay too much about IMO)
Kick   Ken doll
Batter Spoon Spatula
Totaller Truck  Tow Truck
Oopers Slippers

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And there went the summer

It's really hard to write a blog when you realize that so much time has passed. I thought about it all summer and yet I had nothing to give. It's not that the kids weren't there typical cute selves, it's just that the more time that passed the more pressure I felt. And the more pressure that I felt (self-imposed) the more it felt like work.
I've been keeping little Cady-isms on the fridge at home this whole time. I'll be sure to post those. Not today though. For now I felt like I needed to strike while the iron was lukewarm.
To pick up from May. Cady graduated from preschool. Coben was glad to be done with childcare. Even if it was only two days a week it was not his favorite place.
I was offered a position that I couldn't refuse but it involved going back to work full time. I would get to work on a teen parent initiative district-wide, or so that is what I was told by the Director of my department when he offered it to me. Fast forward two weeks after an HR approval for the position and I'm sitting down with a team member at Tony's Market Cafe (Do NOT eat there) and she starts talking about team members and all of these other initiatives and cross-training and I'm sitting there white-faced thinking, "this is NOT what I agreed to go back to work full time for" but life goes on right?  I always think of things in nine month blocks. Not only is this position very likely only a 9 month stint anyhow, but even if it wasn't I can try it on and choose something different next year.
The summer. It whizzed by. I was taking Cady to Occupational Therapy twice a week to work on sensory issues and that seemed to eat up way too much of our summer. There wasn't as much swimming or playing as I'd hoped, there was anxiety on my part about going back to work and having NOTHING in place from child care to Cady's school and the kids fought like crazy.  As you all know we managed to slip in a surprise trip to Disneyland. Lesson learned, do NOT try to surprise a child who is overtired and gravitates toward the  predictable. Nevertheless it was a magical trip. We were on the go pretty much from sun-up until well after sundown the entire trip. We visited the beach with the big waves. Cady was a huge fan and Coben not so much. I suppose when the waves are about four times your size it takes on a different feel.
I won't go into the school fiasco in it's entirety but sit back because even if I fast-forward to August it's long. School "choice" has no meaning when your choices have way more demand than the school can meet. We were wait-listed for pretty much everything. We had received our acceptance from Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy on the south side of Denver but we hadn't had a chance to meet teachers and tour the school so we didn't have much to base our decision on. Finally at the end of July we got a call from our neighborhood school Colfax (where Cady attended 3 yr old preschool) and they had a full-time spot for her with Ms. X(Ms. WHO? I had requested the other teacher who I know is phenomenal but was told they couldn't acommodate requests). So I did what any reasonable parent would do who is faced with having to make a quick decision without getting to meet the teacher. I pulled up her facebook profile, hehe. (I think they call that stalking). And I don't know, she didn't look like a Kindergarten teacher but what can you really tell by a picture. So I made an appointment with the principal and went in and spoke to her. I explained what Cady's needs were based on last year and her OT evaluation. When I pressed the principal on what Ms. McFadden was like her response was, "she did a nice job for us last year". NICE???? That's like the running joke between Rob and me when he said that our relationship was "fine" in our early stages, lol. How about, "she's great! you'll love her! she's very good at what she does." When pressed further she elaborated, "I think that things will be better for her this year. She had some rough kids last year and came on mid-year?" So I ask, "came on mid-year?" and I'm told that the other teacher resigned suddenly. Okay. STRIKE. I work in DPS. I know that the only teachers who have been around yet remain jobless in October are the ones that don't have a very good reputation. So, I ask about art. Art REALLY engages Cady. She gets absorbed in it and is able to tune everthing out around her. I was told they don't have an art teacher and haven't had one. BUT, last year they were able to get a volunteer for six weeks. Six whole weeks huh?  So I walked home feeling that it just wasn't a good fit. And I was having a hard time with it because I have always had a "rah rah neighborhood school" mentality. And I'm the first one to say that your neighborhood school is what you make of it. Get involved. Yadda yadda. That day I had a complete and total shift in my thinking. My thinking became, "if a school can't provide what you need. Think of them as a business. If you have a choice why give your business to anyone who offers less than what you are asking for?" And so we accepted at Kunsmiller. On  a side note, a friend of mine has her child in Kindergarten at Colfax and says, "That Ms. X scares me. She's the type that takes the fun out of learning. If my child had gotten her as a teacher I think he would probably need psychotherapy."  Score one for facebook!

So here we go. I go to register for Kunsmiller and instantly love Cady's teacher. She's young and energetic and has a great philosophy. She's a great communicator and has her bachelor's in music and her master's in early childhood. Great combo. Kunsmiller offers arts classes every day. Cady will have visual art, dance, theater and dance throughout the year in addition to the regular pull-outs like library, PE and technology. And it's a K-12 so she could potentiall stay there. So, day one was a huge success. Ms Shaeffer is a big hugger and had colored playdough and Cady bonded with her almost immediately. But that very same day we get a call from the school up the road that was our first choice. It has a fantastic educational philosophy and has been going strong for 30 years. It was an agonizing decision but we switched. And then regretted it. There's very little diversity at the new school which is fine if you are living in rural Montana but we're not. The teacher didn't seem very communicative and three days after Cady started threw her hands up and said, "I don't know what to do" in response to not being able to get Cady to go to the cafeteria for lunch or the playground afterwards. It just didn't *feel* right. Not to mention that Cady had been pining away for Ms. Schaeffer every single day. "Can I go back to Ms. Schaeffer's class now?" And so, Monday morning I took time off of work and begged our way back into Kunsmiller. Cady is a Kunsmiller Dragon and we stand by that choice. It was a long process but maybe just what we needed to do to feel good about her being in the right place.

Coben LOVES his child care center. He has a little boy crush on one of his teachers, Ms. Gina and gets a little giddy when he says her name. He has made lots of good friends and is happy to go everyday. He has not shed one single tear and now he finally tells us that he didn't like the place he went to last year (mommy gut was right). His happiness has made going back to work much much easier.
So, who are these kids?

Coben. Still addicted to my hair. He still strokes it and twirls it and nearly makes me bald when he is nervous. The other day I was putting him in the carseat after school and he even asked, "mommy, I need to touch your hair". He's got a wickedly dry sense of humor and loves to play. Rob and I are finally emerging from our five year cocoon and having more social time. When families come over to play,  Coben gets along with every single kid that comes over. He's just happy to play and have friends. Coben is Rob's child when it comes to rituals and organization. He is very particular about where things go and how things are done.

Cady. I'm not really seeing any remnants of our baby anymore. She is a little girl without a doubt. She still hates shopping with a passion but appreciates cute clothes and wonders outloud, "do you think the girls at my school will like this?" She's becoming a proficient reader and writer and is pure joy when she masters a letter that is hard. She just started Girl Scouts (Daisies!) and is still going strong at gymnastics. She is still best friends with Emma and loves pink, fairies and princesses as much as ever. She wants to me a mermaid for Halloween (as does Coben).  She's growing up so much.

Cady and Coben together. At their best they are so much fun. Their interactions are priceless and you can see the pure love. At their worst they are poking, yelling, hitting and tormenting each other in any way they see possible. It's not much different than what I went through with my siblings but let me tell you being on the non-parental side of it is MUCH easier to endure.

Rob survived another take-over and things are continuing to go well for him at work. He got in a fair amount of bike-riding this summer and coordinates a monthly dad's night out for the neighborhood dads. And right now we are just figuring out our balance since I've gone back to work full time. My job is going great. I was ready for a new challenge and being back full time has been great. The position, although not what I thought I was signing up for, still allows me lots of opportunities to work on the teen parent initiative along with all of the other initiatives that DPS has going on this year in the area of Mental Health and Assessment. I'm out and about running from school to school all day long. I don't miss the politics of working IN the school and I realize that I was really ready for this change (even if it does involve training large groups which I HATE).  I have the best co-workers and I'm doing something that I really feel strongly about. Who could ask for anything more? Well, not having to walk several blocks to park and then move my car every two hours might be something worth asking for but at least I can claim exercise.
Alicja is back in our lives. I can't always get to Kunsmiller in time to pick Cady up from school. So we decided to pay Alicja a flat amount each month to pick Cady up rather than pay that amount for her to sit in after school care when we only need an extra 15 minutes. The nicest perk is that on the months that Cady doesn't have school for planning days I take some pick-up days off of Alicja's plate and trade her to have Cady all day long so neither of us have to take the day off and she is also willing to pick Coben up early on his once a month early release days. I thought she would think I was crazy to propose a schedule where she essentially only works one hour a day but EVERY day but she accepted. And it's working very well. Whew.
I think we are finding our groove. We might even be, dare I say, FUNCTIONING!?
And with this out of the way I hope to return to some shorter and fluffier blog entries.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Me again, what????

You all endured part 1 so it's only fair to give you part 2. Remember that fabulous new hair cut? Well, it's really needing a trim right about now. In fact I have an appointment tomorrow. My last one ever with Tracy who is shifting her business to her friend. So sad for me. A hairdresser that you love is hard to find. But I digress because part 1 started with the hair. Part 2 has nothing to do with the hair.

So, let's see. You all know about the Teen Parent Programs being cut. I don't think that I mentioned that after the phone call telling me that my position was eliminated I sent off an email to my Director that I had a feeling was a bad idea yet I was unable to NOT fire it off either because sometimes you just have to speak your mind to put things to rest and move on. (okay, maybe you don't but I do). That particular email thanked him for being kind enough to make a personal call to break the bad news and that I understood that the decision was financially driven yet I also hoped that they would consider looking at a way of restructuring the program so that one person could service all of the schools with the school staff doing the day-to-day services and the teen parent social worker acting as a consultant to the staff and delivering direct services to the students with more intensive needs. It was one of those emails where you don't feel the anxiety until after you hit send.And then you kind of wished that you had felt the anxiety first to prevent you from sending it.

Fast-forward. I posted about DC-21. The school with a great vision and philosophy and somewhat undesirable schedule. Stefanie and I have emailed back and forth and I've been waiting for the position to be posted. I had a month to waver back and forth and this past week I knew with all certainty that it's where I'm supposed to be. I started to get excited about the possibilities attached to the position. As a formality though I had to go to this degrading speed-dating type event for social workers who are officially on part-time assignments to match up with principals who are looking for part-time social workers. I was on the list so I felt like I had to show up because my bosses were there even if I already felt secure in my potential to work at DC-21. Before the first principal was done laying our her grand expectations of the grunt work that she was expecting her new hire to engage in with only two days a week while she was "very involved with what they are doing so that I can be sure that they are priortizing correctly" I wanted to bolt out of the room.  And then, this is the part of the story that gets good, my former Director who is now Director of Special Education and Mental Health services motioned for me to come speak to him in the hallway. And on the spot he offered me a position operating the newly created position that would be providing district-wide services to teen parnts.  I've worried for the past three years since being in the teen parent program and working closely with him that I have been a little too outspoken at times. And maybe I have but the bottom line is that he picked ME! Except I was too dumbfounded at the moment to appreciate the offer. In fact, I couldn't see him in any other way than as an ex-boyfriend who had come back to me after I was already in a new relationship. "What? You want us to be together? But I'm in LOVE with DC-21. I just got over you!" The only question I asked was  how many days the position was  (full-time). And because I honestly didn't know how I felt at that moment I asked him to give me some time to think it over.
I went home and Rob listened to me ALL. NIGHT. LONG. ramble on about the pros and cons of each position. I had gotten myself really excited about DC-21 and was now comparing apples to oranges with both having equal amounts of pros and cons (I was trying very hard to not let the fact that it wasn't year round weigh too heavily). So I did what you do when you aren't sure about something. I slept on it. And I woke up and thought, opportunities like this don't come along every day. And I went to work and I shared the news with my co-workers who congratulated me and then had the audacity to snicker out loud when I said, "Hey! I haven't made my decision yet!" They knew. And suddenly I did too. I fired off a list of questions to the Director---Would I have use of a computer and phone? (not just because of working district-wide but I actually worked this entire year with a phone that had no ringer. These are real valid questions if you are working in education). Can I work traditional high school hours? Will I have opportunities for professional development? He responded within the hour. I accepted the position and submitted the necessary forms and today I received this in my inbox:

This email serves as confirmation that you have been recommended for hire for the following position:

Title: TEACHER ON SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT Mental Health and Assesment Regional Support Specialist

Location: Administration-Central Office

FTE: 1
Human Resources will contact you to begin the hiring process. Thank you.

And I can't think about it too hard or I start to get woozy. I'm back to work full-time. A month ago I would have thought that I was a good two years away from going back full-time. (Expect a blog in August about how I feel  like my heart is being ripped out being away from my kids for so long).  I'm taking on the biggest professional challenge of my life. I could succeed or I could bomb and the future of teen parenting programs will depend on how well or poorly I do (no pressure or anything, right?) The position is ONLY funded for one year with no promises beyond that. I'm taking the plunge.

So, I've realized that it's not so much about the haircut nor is it about the bucket of clothes that I found. I think that this is what being 40 feels like. And I like it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Night and Day

One of the things that I find amazing about being the mom of two kids is how uniquely wonderful each child is and in our case I don't think that we could have two that were any more opposite. Cady has always had an intensity and a joy for life that leaves her wondering what is around the next corner. Coben's joy is in the everyday things and he's willing to go wherever the tides take him. If Cady is fire, Coben is water.

For example, Cady came out of the womb screaming. The nurses at  the hospital offered no help whatsoever and we didn't even know that there was anything unusual about her screaming for hours at a time instead of sleeping until the nurse commented at check-out, "oh you were the ones in the room with the baby that cried the whole time." Oh? They aren't supposed to do that? The first few months were difficult so in preparation for Coben's arrival we asked Mimi to come stay for a week so that we would have some help this time around. The kid did nothing but sleep the entire time that Mimi was here and the real help ended up being the time that was spent allowing Cady to run and play and not be cooped up with a baby those first few days.

Cady loves to be outdoors and has unlimited energy. Indoor toys have never inspired her and without the ability to run and play she becomes bored rather quickly. She thrives and flourishes on family visits and loves to be around those who love her. Coben on the other hand can push a car around the house for hours going, "vroom vroom" or make tower blocks and crash them over and over. Family visits are okay. Yes, there are extra people around who love him  and that he gets a kick out of spending time with but it doesn't absolutely knock his socks off the way it does for Cady.

Cady functions best with rules. She likes to know what the rules are, she likes to make sure everyone knows the rules and she helps enforce the rules for those that aren't following them. When she gets in trouble it is typically for doing things impulsively that fall into the not a good idea spectrum but she has never really tested the limits of time-out and to this day if we count to three she has never allowed us to get to three to see what happens. Rules help her regulate because she is not as systematic as others and it's really lovely because we have been able to tell Cady, "that's just the rules" when she questions something and she is wholly satisfied. Coben on the other hand functions with his own set of rules and all those other ones are just optional. Things have to be a certain way and since I am not a person that is very careful about doing things to completion or in a certain order (Hellooo! Mother of Cady here) he often corrects me. The shopping cart must go back in the corral (I almost always do this but sometimes it's really far and  ice cream melting in the hot car is a bigger concern), not wiping off the cart handle because the store is out of clorox wipes can provoke a full-blown melt-down, his pillow has to be turned-over so the picture is facing up.  BUT if the rules are the big gnarly PARENT rules it's a whole new ball game. Pushing his sister's buttons (which I must say is NOT hard to do) far outweighs any consequence, time-outs are for escaping and laughing, and I have NO doubt that our parenting skills will be called out in the near future when we count to three, actually hit three, and aren't sure what to do about it.

Another interesting diference is the way that Cady loves to hoard things. Remember the hoarding corner?  That has long ago evolved into her entire room being the Hoarding Headquarters. I'm amazed at what she collects. Packets of sugar from a restaurant, the green twisty things from the produce section of the grocery store, the clips that close the bread and keep it from getting stale, rocks, shells, twigs, buttons, stickers, ticket stubs, and  anything that can fit in her pocket. In fact, we were at the grocery store earlier using the self check-out and I turn around to see that she has swiped several plastic grocery bags. I put my foot down on that one and had her return them since we have at least 100 of them stuffed under our sink already only to be confronted a short time later in the car by some tree flowers and a white rock that she had smuggled from the parking lot. When I questioned her about it in the car she told me with total and complete conviction that she worries about these random objects being lonely and not having a family to love them and take care of them. If you are a fan of The Middle, this may lead you to a flashback of the episode where Sue can't get rid of her electric curlers because they are a family and will be lonely without each other, right? It certainly did for me!  And forget about tossing stuff. I either have to do it when she is not around and even then she has been known to rescue said items from the trash because she has a nack for discovering even seemingly well-buried objects or we have a discussion which doesn't always work. She's got great logic (some would say inargueable) about why we can't throw the one-legged doll away. "Would you do that to a person?"  Her bed. Well, I can't even describe her bed except to say that it reminds me of a hamster nest. The covers are always in a ball and the bed is full of friends. And the bed pictured here has been compromised DOWN to this many "friends".

How does this differ from Coben? Coben has a couple of stuffed animals in his bed and those stuffed animals positively annoy him at bedtime. He gets into bed and immediately starts slinging animals out. "No Bonz! No Doh-no! No Long Dog!" His bed has to be clutter-free. He has to have three blankets, no more, no less and they can't be bunched up. His feet have to be covered up in order to sleep well. Order order order.

Finally, the last big difference is shopping. Cady absolutely abhors shopping. If I could plan the worst day ever it would be to spend the day at the mall, followed by grocery shopping and then a trip to Coscto. Even if the shopping trip is dedicated 100% to shopping for clothes for Cady she HATES it. Coben cannot get enough. When I tuck him in on a Thursday night and we talk about the day ahead he gets excited and squeals, "Store? Groceries?" This week, every day off that I had was dedicated to shopping. We had Easter shopping to do, Shopping for Cady's birthday, I had to return a paint set that we bought for Cady, we hit two grocery stores. And after every store, as I would put Coben in his car seat he would hold up one finger and flash a charming smile, "one more store? please mommy?" For Cady, being confined to a cart = torture. . For Coben it's time for him to act silly and get 100% attention from his mom.  He plots out our grocery store route. First soup samples, then a free cookie, "paytime" and a grand finale penny horsey ride. And when we are finished (you know, AFTER the cart has gone back to the corral), he is delighted to "help" unload groceries. I'm usually less than delighted by the "help" because grocery shopping almost always takes way longer than I think which runs into well past lunch time and my mission is to hurry and put stuff away so I can fix lunch and get him down for a nap so that he is then awake in time to pick Cady up from school. "Helping" with groceries means carrying a small bag and dramatically groaning "Ughhhhh....hebby hebby hebby!" while items fall out on the way to the door. Me standing AT the door with 6-8 bags of my own which really ARE heavy while blocking the door with my foot so Fibi doesn't run out all the while trying to maintain my "boy are you really helping" facade by chirping, "Great job Coben, keep walking. Okay don't set the bag down there we need to bring it in. Good job, you're almost here. Yes that's a spider web on the window. Yes, spiders made that. Nope, I don't see any spiders right now. Almost there Coben, c'mon!"

Speaking of spiders here's a total side note. We have been infested! It's like one mom and dad spider got busy a LOT and had a bazillion offspring that all look identical and freak the kids out. On a nightly basis Cady calls Rob in to exterminate at least one spider sometimes more. It's like she lays in bed looking for them.  She avoid areas of the house if she sees a spider there and we narrowly avoided a head injury the other day when she jumped out of the bath naked and sopping wet and tore down the hallway screaming, "Spider in the bath, spider in the bath!". I hate spiders too and so when Rob is not around I get to be the exterminator. It's rare that I am as humane as Rob with his catch and release method and for some reason nearly all of my attempts to exterminate have resulted in me swatting a spider who disappears in the process and then trying to keep my cool in front of Cady and act completely unafraid while inwardly having a near panic attack wondering if the spider has landed somewhere on me like in my hair or down my shirt while reassuring her in a fake composed voice, "yep, looks like I got him. He's right here on this shower curtain package and I'm just going to go throw him away." So Coben has picked up on Cady's fear and between the two of them anytime they see a spider they are both prone to squealing, "Spider Spider SHRIEEEEK!" or in Coben's case "Pider Pider, SQUEAAAL!" So really they are not all that different!

Those of us that know us well I pose this question. Do you see any similiraties between our children and us? It's eerie isn't it? I'm appalled when I see what new treasures are exhibited in Cady's room and then I reflect on Rob's horror everytime he has to retrieve something from my purse, "I don't even like going in there. What IS all that stuff? No wonder you can never find your keys." I hear myself saying to the kids, "You can't go into the playplace without socks. I don't care what others are doing, those are the rules!" or to Rob, "It says that only kids are allowed on the slides" as Rob throws caution to the wind and comes barrelling down on his stomach. And I remember being incredulous at my own brother's stubborness as a 7 year old and how he was more willing to stand in the bathroom for 5 minutes fully-dressed with the shower running pretending to shower rather than just take a shower.  And then there is Rob. The one who puts groceries away (ie, all of the items that I pulled from the pantry to make dinner) before I have had a chance to use them. Rob whose worst hoarding offense is not purging old overused T-shirts. Rob who would never fathom committing a grocery store faux pas like putting the salt that you no longer need in the aisle with the soup because it's closer. Rob who regulates his own actions but will roll his eyes if someone else tries to do it.

I find it rather fascinating that we could create two uniquely differerent kids with equally big personalities. And I find humor in the fact that I am living with two men who will keep me guessing where my clutter has gone because they have organized it away. And in turn they will be living with two women who will be calling upon them to help them find misplaced articles because they are too busy plotting for whatever is around  the next corner instead of noticing where they put their sunglasses. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

This one is for me

...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer  -Rainer Maria Rilke-.

I think it started with the hair cut. Several inches were cut off and I feel like a new person. And then Rob discovered some tubs of clothes that I didn't even remember having put away. Work clothes. Nice work clothes. Lots of work clothes. Pre-pregnancy work clothes that fit! It was like going on a huge shopping spree. My closet is full again, my clothes fit and I have a new hair cut!

 My hair wasn't the only thing that was cut recently. My teen parent program was cut as well. And as much as I love delivering teen parent services my sadness of losing the program left as soon as my hair did. Is it possible that new hair can give you a whole new outlook?

I had some leads for positions but everyone of them felt like I was settling. They were under the radar jobs where I could probably have good boundaries with my time and not overextend myself.  Instead of recognizing that I'm not an under the radar kind of person I'd convinced myself that my lack of enthusiasm was because I've lost my love for school social work. I half-heartedly sent my director my list of prefereces for next year 1-High School 2-Alternative Programming 3-Able to do some teen parent work 4-In the neighborhood and I hit send. And I thought, this doesn't exist. All of the good schools are taken. Our jobs are being outsourced and most of the central support services have been cut so what we are left with is a big surplus of social workers and psychologists vying for a few positions.

Tuesday I attended a community network meeting. These meetings are intended for those that are in the helping professions to get familiar with the resources in the community. The meeting starts with all 100 of us standing up and one by one introducing ourselves and sharing information about our agency. Then this woman stood up and talked about her alternative high school opening up in the fall. And she shared that it's an innovation school and a whole new way of educating students based on how we live our lives today and what's that? It's in the neighborhood? I looked at my intern sitting next to me and said, "I have to meet that woman." The next hour and a half I shot glances back several rows to look at the person that I had to meet. She looked unapproachable and at some moments she even looked kind of mean. I was sure that she had already posted the position and that someone had already pounced on it.  I almost talked myself out of meeting her. Then she walked out and I followed her. And then I waited in line while others talked with her and then I did it. I introduced myself and asked if she had filled her support staff positions yet. She said that she had not posted the position yet because she was trying to get approval to hire a full-time social worker. (GULP. full time? I hadn't played that scenario out in my head). She took my information and said that she really liked that I had worked in alternative education and that I was doing teen parent work because she anticipated that she would have teen parents at the school. Before leaving work that same day my Assistant Principal who I love said she knew a school that would be perfect for me and I'll give you one guess which school she mentioned (nah, that's too easy).

That evening I sent Stefanie my resume and pitched the idea that if she could not secure full-time funding that I would be willing to spread a four day position  into five day coverage (I'm thinking about it being a win-win since maybe it would shorten my day so I can pick Cady up from school  and not have to worry about after-school care). The next day she emailed me back and asked me to come in and meet with her even though the position hasn't been posted yet (a requirement of the district). So we talked today. She says that she wants to work with me. I love the mission of the school. I really connected well with her. I am freaked out by going back to work nearly full-time (four full days and a one hour staff meeting every Friday) and about the possibility that I might have to look at after-school care for Cady. I'm worried about how we'll get it all done (grocery shopping, cleaning, house repairs) while driving kids to and from school  and activities while also working most of the week. And I'm thinking, should I be accepting a position when I don't even know where Cady is going to school and where will Coben go?  I hate that she said that the position is going to be a year-round position which poses a new issue as in what do we do with the kids for the summer? And then there is a small part of me that is freaked out by going after something aggressively because what if I don't live up to my own hype? But because I have new hair I am 100% certain that I am ready to start living the questions.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Killer Lobster

I would like to thank whoever sent the lobster to Cady. I'd like to think that it was Mimi or Chris and Sophie. She received it probably about a year ago and it was one of those toys that you put into water and it grows. A year ago that caused no problem. Today is a whole different story.

Last night Cady found the lobster again in the bottom of her toy bin. The thing is maybe about 3 inches long. She told me about it and then put it in a cup of water and here's the problem. Her dad told her, "It's not that kind of lobster" and "It's not going to grow."

Fast forward to this morning. I'm in the shower and Cady is yelling at me, "Mom, you have to come quick!" Why when I'm showering is her favorite time to do this I'll never know but it certainly wasn't the first time she's said this. So I ask her to please tell me what is important enough that I have to jump out of the shower with shampoo in my hair to see. She starts to get upset (and indignant) but won't tell me. I refuse to get out and she returns just moments later with a cup. Inside the cup is THE LOBSTER. The lobster who has now doubled (maybe tripled?) in size. Cady tells me, "I can't handle this mom. This wasn't supposed to grow. I need it out of the house. I can't live with this thing." I'm chuckling, look inside the cup and tell her, "Oh my god it just moved!" and she screams. Not screams but SCREAMS. Screams and shakes. A high-pitched glass shattering very long scream.  And I feel like a rotten mom because I didn't know it was THAT big of a deal at this point since Cady tends to be on the dramatic side in general.  So I apologize and she persists that she can't be in the same house with this creature. Coben overhears this and grabs the cup. And just like his daddy does when the girls need spider removal, he takes the lobster outside and dumps it on the ground in front of the door. Since we were running late for school I picked it up and set it on the window ledge outside.

Fast forward again. Now we are rushing off to school. We walk out the door and SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Screaming AND shaking, again. "It moved mom. I KNOW that thing was on the ground. I just know it was. How did that happen. Something is wrong with that thing. That thing is bad. I can't handle this!!"

Thank you for the laugh bearer of the gift but the lobster is now in the TRASH. If we've learned anything from the crazy monkey in Toy Story 3 to the book There's a Nightmare in my Closet, it's that these things can cause us to have to share our bed for months. And since we are dealing with a little guy who now has a big boy bed we just so happen to already a blanket-toting toddler pushing his way in every 2 a.m. The lobster MUST die!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Big Sisters

Sometimes it can be really tough having a sister. There are days that she yells at me all day long because she thinks that I am a pesty brother that wants to get into all of her stuff. I only get into all of her stuff because she never lets me play with any of it. In fact, she doesn't even let me into her room. We have really bad days sometimes. Those are the days that my mom says we are oil and water.

But then there are good days, When my sister decides to be nice to me I am the happiest kid on the block. I live for those days. When she is nice to me she lets me touch her favorite stuff, she shares treats with me, she chases and tickles me and she hugs me and let's me hold her hand in the back of mom's car.

I do things for my sister that I don't do for anyone else. My sister is the first one who taught me to smile. My mom didn't even know this. I was only a few months old when she was trying to take my picture and Cady said, "he can smile if you ask him to" and my mom gave her a look like, "yeah, sure" and then she told me, "Smile Coben" and I put my finger to my eye and flashed my toothless gums. I have since grown teeth but to this day I still put my finger to my eye. My sister taught me how to do that girly scream that my parents refer to as the "outdoor voice". I love how my sister and I can do that scream together and my mom's whole body tenses up and she gives us THE LOOK. We just laugh because it's our thing. My sister taught me to jump off of the coffee table onto the couch and she sticks up for me ALWAYS when other kids aren't nice to me...even on the days that she thinks I am a pesty brother. And it's because of my sister that the dentist lady said I was the best almost two year old that she has ever worked on. I watched my big sister go first and after seeing how brave she was I knew that I could do it too.

My sister doesn't know yet how important she is to me. She doesn't know that this pesty brother is the only one who can see that she already has those fairy wings that she so badly wants. My sister is glitter, and fairy-wings and everything that is wonderful in the world.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Like father like son...and Smarty McSmarterson

School choices...waiting, waiting, waiting.

Top three choices:

1-JeffCo Open School. It's a five minute drive and a K-12 school. The school is not based on a traditional grading/credit system. The kids take more ownership for their learning and graduate when they show competency in all areas rather than when a certain period of time has passed. Grade levels are often mixed together for different subjects based on a student's needs and a lot of the learning takes place outside of the classroom. The school takes a holistic approach to the child and considers personal and social growth as important as intellectual growth. It's been around for 40 years and lots of families that I've talked to really like it.

2-Brown Elementary. A couple of minutes away. A traditional school with a lot of really fantastic and progressive things going on (an International Baccalaureate Program). Their approach to learning is to meet the student where they are and have them progress monitor themselves in the hopes that they are showing growth and competenecy rather than being compared to their peers. They have a scratch kitchen where the cook with a lot of local and organic products and a daily salad bar with vegetables that the students grow in their own garden. We know people with kids there which is a bonus and also know that the lottery applicants FAR exceed the number of spots. .

3-A very traditional school also about five minutes away. Cady loves the playground so this gets her top vote. Not as progressive as option 2 but also has a very large lottery where applicants far exceed the number of spots.

So,applications are all in and we should be hearing in the next couple of weeks.

Cady is part of the Denver Preschool Program which is a program that evaluates preschool programs and assists ALL Denver families with tuition. I didn't realize that as part of the program they would be administering the Woodcock Johnson III which is a test of cognitive ability. She was tested back in August and the results came in the mail today and it confirms what a sharp litttle cookie she is. For those that aren't familiar with testing, the percentile rank indicates the percentage of students in the group who tested at or below the child's score. So 48th percentile would mean that 52% of kids tested higher than your child. Cady's scores:

Vocabulary 129 Percentile rank 97
Developing reading skills 124 Percentile rank 95
Math 124 Percentile rank 95

So, those incredible (maddening if you are her parents) negotiation skills that she has....yeah.

Coben is following in his dads footsteps. He really enjoys order and cleanliness. Things have got to be a certain way and items must be put away after use. Yesterday I was putting groceries away and grocery bags were strewn all over the kitchen. Coben gathered them up and walked up to me and said, "mama. All done bags?" When I told him "yes" he then looked at me and said, while nodding his head, "trash, yes?" and proceeded to gather and toss. That is typical Coben. He's also as caring and cuddly as ever. He spent several days in my arms cuddling b/c of a fierce cold that he had and that he then passed on to me. One day as my nose and eyes were both running he walked up to me and said, "Tissue mama, yes?" while looking at me with the same look that his dad has when he is concerned. And then he ran off to get me some tissues.

The full Cady sick story. I picked her up from school on Friday. When I walked into the classroom she was laying down. Any of you that know Cady knows that she never voluntarily lays down. They said she didn't eat anything for lunch and had been laying down all afternoon. I got her out to the car and she refused her Friday ice cream. As I was driving home I heard her whimper in the back and I looked up in my rear view mirror long enough to catch THE LOOK. Any of you that know me well know that I cannot handle vomit. I can see vomit in a parking lot and involuntarily start retching. So I did the only thing I could think of doing. I grabbed the tote bag that I keep in the front seat that I use as a catch-all. The one that I haven't emptied in a month. And I thrust it back at her still full b/c I could tell it was coming and I couldn't find a spot to pull over. And she emptied lots and lots of her stomach into that bag. And then the smell hits me and I start retching, LOUDLY. So the three of us (Coben is unphased of course) are driving in the freezing cold snow with the windows down, me retching loudly, and Cady crying. And Rob gets husband of the year for cleaning out the bag and salvaging the things that needed to be salvaged.

Coben's child care is a success. He has not shed one tear. Rob took him the first day, he walked in and didn't look back. When i picked him up he was sitting at the table doing art with the other kids and he looked SO grown up and certainly in no hurry to leave. He took his very first nap on a matt on the floor and had no issues. Shannon said that he was amazing and did not require any help with the transition whatsoever.

The kids went to a pediatric dentist last week. Coben allowed them to floss, polish and examine his teeth. Even with a cold and a molar about to erupt the dentist said that he was hands-down the best almost two year old that they have ever had. Thanks goes to Cady who is also a great dental patient and modeled it for her little brother by going first. The good news, they are both in the "No Cavity Club" and the not so good news, Orthodontics are in both of their futures due to overcrowding.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parent Teacher Conference

Rob and I met with the Director of Cady's preschool program yesterday. What I thought was going to be a quick meeting turned into an hour long conference. We learned a lot but we weren't really told anything new. Cady is her own person, shocker! She gets along well with the other kids, is a great sharer, is well behaved but sometimes separates herself because she gets really overwhelmed with too much going on around her. She does the same thing with learning materials. If she doesn't get it right away she is quick to give up because she gets overwhelmed quickly. Mona says that is often true of intelligent people that learn easily. Knowledge comes easily but tasks that take practice that aren't able to be perfected on the first try can be terribly frustrating. Cady is also very rules-driven, loves structure and intensely dislikes transitions and new situations. If you've been around Cady for any length of time you know that one of her favorite phrases is, "What are we doing next or what are we doing tomorrow?" Mona said in all seriousness that the perfect classroom setting for Cady would be outdoors where she would move freely and not have to worry about filtering out the sounds around her. Homeschooling in Ripley anyone?

But really, how does one find a school that is structured with a strong emphasis on rules yet lets one learn at their own pace? Again, if you know Cady, you know that you can show her a concept and she will go into her own space and hammer it out until she gets it. Spend too much time "teaching" and she's done. I remember how last year at Colfax she went from loving school to resisting school all because of the structured time that they had to spend practicing writing their names. Montessori has the self-paced learning but the rules and structure aren't there as much as a traditional setting. A traditional setting has more structured time an will probably not be as overwhelming to Cady, yet the self-paced learning isn't really there. And because of the lottery system and living in a neighborhood where demand exceeds availability it's not like I really get to do more than just state my preference anyhow and hope our number gets picked. I worry most because I think the first few years are what make or break your love of school. I'm not as concerned with academics as I am about a good match to foster Cady's love of learning or rather avoiding an environment that doesn't recognize her learning style.
Why is this so important? Didn't we all just go to the school closest to our house and turn out fine? Is this another case of too much information causes us to overthink? What is the line between wanting the best for your kids and helicopter parenting? Really, I don't mind honest feedback on these questions because my head is spinning big time.
On a much lighter note. The moment in the meeting that brought tears to both of our eyes. Mona was flipping through Cady's portfolio and marveling at how she knows all of her letters both capital and small. She was able to identify all of the shapes including oval and hexagon. She showed us pictures that she drew and things that she has written but the proudest moment was when she came to a sheet of paper that looked very much like an incident report. In fact, I thought it was and I was bracing myself when Mona started to read.

"Harper and Chandler were playing together in the playhouse. Chandler told Harper, 'You cannot be in my club'. Cady was in another center engaged in another activity yet walked over and told Chandler, 'You won't let Harper into your club and that is not nice. You hurt her feelings and made her feel sad. Harper, you can be a part of my club."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seeing Stars

It escapes me how our parenting logic has gone out the window with child #2. What happened? One would think that the first child is an experiment and the second child is when you have it figured out. Why is that not the case?

Coben has been FIGHTING us on brushing his teeth. Every single night it has been a battle to get him to release the toothbrush from his tiny fists and to open up his mouth. We always win but it involves screaming and tears (Coben), sweat (US) and lots of begging (US again).

Last week Cady walks out of the bathroom and proudly tells us that she brushed Coben's teeth and he opened up and everything. Huh. Okay. I'm not sure why or how but I'm just glad. The next night I witness it for myself. Coben opens his mouth wide and Cady delves in an gives him a good oral scrubbing.

And then....

She produces a gold star. She found the same package of stars that we have had since she was a baby. The very same stars that we bought in order to reward tooth-brushing. The very same stars that went on her tooth-brushing sticker chart. The chart that Coben doesn't have. Huh. Thank you Cady for re-teaching us how to parent. We seem to have forgotten somewhere along the way.

And tooth-brushing I might add has been a breeze ever since.