On the Move

I’m back to blogging after a break in which we moved from our city apartment to a roomy house in the suburbs, and I have some things to report.

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Moving is hard. Especially for almost five-year-olds. Luckily, Grover helps.

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Hello Everybodeee!

As does shoveling packing peanuts.

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I really, really have too many books. This isn’t even half. You guys, the movers DID NOT like me.

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Moving isn’t the hardest part. Getting settled into a new house is the hard part. Yesterday JC stated, “Mom, I do not like this new house. You know why? Because your bathroom is too big.” And then he burst into tears. Luckily, playing baseball in his new yard eases the pain of his parent’s oversized bathroom.

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You find weird things when you move. While I was going through a box of my father’s old things, I came across this sugar packet from Disney World. From my parents honeymoon. in 1981.

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Not throwing it away. Nope.

Tomorrow is the start of our first full week in our new home, and I’m excited to start finding our patterns in a new space. And writing. And re-reading all the books I made the movers haul around.

How long have you been in your home? Any tips of transitioning a young child into a new space?

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Imaginary Friends

Imaginary

You’d think I’d completely understand my son’s imaginary friends.

They say that children with imaginary friends are extremely intelligent. I take comfort in this knowledge, because my kid’s imaginary friend is quite the character.

Ansel is, without a doubt, a trouble maker. When something goes wrong in our house, Ansel is behind it.

Ansel does things that JC would never do. Like pull every container out of the cupboards and fill them with unpopped popcorn and my very fancy pink Himalayan salt. Ansel encourages very naughty behavior, like sneaking out of bed at 3 AM to swipe the iPad and watch train videos. He is the driving force behind all the bad words that come out of JC’s mouth, the reason he whines for oreos, and the mastermind behind the million selfies of JC sticking out his tongue on my phone.

These are the things we know about Ansel, via JC:

  • He’s usually a boy, around 11, an age which apparently boasts supreme wisdom. Occasionally he’s a little sister.
  • His favorite color is green.
  • Despite this color preference, he drives a pink Mitsubishi Lancer with the word “whatever” written on the side.
  • He has a Playstation 4 and an Xbox One, and no, he doesn’t consider than overkill.

In an interesting turn of events, JC informed me a few weeks ago that Ansel had been sent to jail due to his very bad manners. In his place, Christopher Casey–who hails from Hawaii, has more toys than JC, and excellent manners–would be arriving soon. He had, apparently, let JC know he was arriving via text message.

Sure enough, 36 hours later, Christopher Casey and all his imaginary luggage had joined our family. Christopher Casey has impeccable manners–even correcting me sometimes.

But being good all the time can get boring. Ansel, JC told me one morning, was “reformed” in jail and got to come home.

We are now a happy little family: myself, husband and son, and his two imaginary friends that serve as the devil and angel on his shoulders. They are constant companions–they even play with another little girl’s imaginary friends at playgroup– acting as guideposts and feelers for how the world should work. And even though Ansel still causes trouble that Christopher Casey cannot talk him out of–“Ansel TOLD me to squeeze all the toothpaste into the sink, mom!”–a little mischief does a 4-year-old good.

Just Try and Keep a Straight Face

Sometimes kids say crazy things, and it’s hard to keep a straight face.

I recently discovered this app called “Little Hoots”. It’s free (with some in-app purchases) and you can illustrate things your kid says and conversations you have. I love it, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

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This post was inspired by Mama Kat‘s writing workshop! Go check her out, she’s hilarious. 

Peer Pressure: Can it be Positive?

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about peer pressure.

JC is a really picky eater. As in, eats only three foods. Luckily for me, they are pretty healthy foods. While I don’t have to worry about his nutrition, I do have to pack up and carry around these three foods when we go anywhere, whether it be a play date, day trip, or vacation. When I brought it up to our pediatrician, she said to make sure he sees other people eating real food–especially other kids.

“They’ll make fun of him for eating like that,” she told me critically.

I have carried around her little nugget of opinion with me for awhile. JC has a little friend who is a really great eater, so the last the time we had lunch with her, I pointed out what she was eating and asked if he would like to try it.

“No,” he said firmly. “I like what I like, mom.” Fair enough, kid.

We have recently joined a preschool co-op, and one of the first things I thought about was that JC will get to see other kids eating their snacks, and maybe he would notice he was the odd kid out. Maybe it would encourage him to try something new.

Then when I thought about it, I wondered if I really wanted that to happen.

Of course, I want him to branch out on his eating. But do I want him to do it because other kids judge him and he feels different? Do I want him to change his ways because he feels left out? I don’t know about that.

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My son doesn’t have a lot of experience with big groups of kids. He doesn’t have any experience with peer pressure or the mob mentality. Is the first lesson I want to teach him that he should do what the rest of the group is doing, and that if kids make fun of him, he should change his habits to fit in? Sure, the outcome would be positive–he might try new foods. Peer pressure, I suppose, can be positive–it can challenge children to try harder and be a part of a team. But I want JC to continue thinking for himself. I want him to fit in, but not at the expense of making his own decisions. So will I continue to encourage him to try new foods? Absolutely? But will I compare him to the other kids? No way. As much as I want this change for him, I want it to be one he comes to himself.

How does your child handle peer pressure? Has the mob mentality had a positive or negative effect on them?

Screened In: Dealing with Screen Time and Preschoolers

I know a lot of screen-free families. I know a lot of families who have hard and fast rules about tablets, iPhones, and screen time.

We are not one of those families. That is not to say we don’t have rules. We do. But when it comes to screen time, we’re not very hardcore. JC mastered my iPhone when he was about a year and a half old. His very first game was called Zoo Train, an app that was worth far more to my sanity than the 99 cents I paid for it. It taught him spelling, matching, and fine motor skills. It also gave my husband and I a chance to eat a meal in a restaurant in peace.

Oh, I know what you’re going to say: children need to learn to sit and behave in restaurants without the help of an electronic. He can do that. In fact, he and I go on what he calls “Mommy & Boy dates” where electronics are banned for both of us. From day one, JC went nearly everywhere with me, and as a result of that, he’s very good in a lot of grown-up places. And because he has those skills, I don’t mind handing over a tablet to let him play games or watch videos.

Speaking of which: I think there is a difference between zoning out in front of a movie or TV show and playing an educational game on a screen. In fact, JC spends very little time “zoning out”. For the most part, he watches educational shows. In fact, last week he told me his favorite part of Curious George was in between the cartoons when they show real kids doing experiments related to the show. I have to pay close attention to those parts because he often wants to replicate them.

JC knows his way around my phone, iPad and computer. Does he have access to the internet? No. Of course not. I might not be hardcore about screen time, but I am about screen content. JC is very used to hearing, “that’s not age appropriate for you” and he is pretty good about policing himself. Big no-no’s in our house include videos with train crashes and Disney “big kid” shows (the last thing I need is a four-year old with a tween attitude). He loves watching videos of steam trains on YouTube–and there are a surprising amount of them available. YouTube launched their YouTube Kids app today on android platforms, and I can’t wait to try it out.

I think because screen time isn’t a fight in our house, we have an easier time: JC knows when to turn off the TV in the mornings and (for the most part) doesn’t put up a fight when game time is over.

My husband and I made these choices for our family knowing the experts recommend. JC plays outside, builds train tracks, reads books. Although we have relaxed screen rules, screen time is not the majority–or, I think, the highlight–of his day. A few days ago I read JC some eBooks on my iPad. He liked them, sat and listened, and when we were done said, “that was nice, but can we read some REAL books now?” It’s moments like those that let me know I’m striking the right balance in our world.

Sharing is caring: what are the screen rules in your house?

Today is Not That Day.

One day, I’ll pee alone.

One day I will be able to eat a sandwich and be seated the WHOLE TIME. One day I’ll be able to sit and write for more than 10 minutes at a time without rising to fetch a drink of milk, find a Lego piece or rescue a train that has been de-railed.

Today is not that day.

Today is the day that I appeal to the parenting gods: give me patience. Give me a kind voice when my child asks me for the THOUSANDTH time, “want to talk about steam trains?” Help me remember that nothing is more important than responding with enthusiasm when he says, “will you come hang out in my room with me?” even though I want to shut myself in a dark, silent closet and binge eat Tagalongs. Help me celebrate the day, not just try to survive it. Because one day, he won’t want to talk, he won’t ask, and he won’t follow me around.

But today is not that day.