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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Extreme happiness v. exceedingly pleasant

It's been 3 months since my last post. My dad has complained. I have something I want to say and the inclination to say it here. So, welcome back.

When was the last time you were so happy, you shouted aloud? -- Not a direct quote, but something to that effect. I heard this today on RadioLab. The speaker was Aleksander Gamme, a "professional adventurer." One of his recent adventures was a solo trek across Antarctica. Along the way, he buried caches of food - to lighten his load & provide sustenance later when he really needed it. Like on Day 86, at which point he'd lost 55 pounds. When he finds his last cache, he doesn't even remember what's in it. When he finds Cheese Doodles, he lets out a shout of pure joy, that goes on & on, and which is revived as he finds more bags of goodies.

I can't remember when I last shouted aloud? I mean for pure happiness. Can you?

I had an exceedingly pleasant day.

Yesterday was a HUGE day. My daughter's 3rd birthday party. We went fairly low-key. Just some friends & neighbors, what little family we have locally. But I did want her to feel super special and have a blast. Mission accomplished.


Today, we kept intentionally uneventful for her.

I, on the other hand, got to have a mini-reunion with a couple friends from days of yore - my mid-20s in DC, a lifetime ago! A bit of beach lounging, followed by delicious brunch that has yet to digest. Plain lovely.

On my way home, I heard the RadioLab episode - well, half of it. I have every intention of downloading the podcast - you know, sometime.

When I got back, naptime had just ended, followed by a leftover cupcake. The overwhelming aspect of all her new loot has worn off, and she's ready to play at a somewhat less frenetic pace - you know, one at a time. We colored an Ariel mural, did a floor puzzle of the 50 Nifty United States, then hit the swing set again. Afterward, the 3 of us played a few rounds of CandyLand before dinner.
When I read the rules of CandyLand, I thought it was silly how simple it was. Yeah. Now I understand. Rules? Turns? Schmules & Splurns. CandyLand may exist exclusively to teach children the concept of a boardgame. As well as to reinforce patience in their parents.

After dinner, we had some grapes on the patio, then she went down the slide a few more times. As I was sitting watching her & enjoying a lovely breeze, it occurred to me - exceedingly pleasant.
I'll take it.
Perhaps you don't need to starve yourself and ski 10 hours daily for 86 days in frigid conditions to achieve extreme happiness.
Perhaps I should shout aloud that I have as many exceedingly pleasant days in my life as I do.

On that note - Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Sticky Face is a Small Price

A few weeks ago, we went through a bout of really bad drop-offs at school (daycare, that is).
Like, clinging to mommy or daddy's leg before even entering the building. Like waterworks & sincere drama when you try to go. Whichever lucky parent dropped that day might try to smooth things over, which usually made it worse.
Finally, we hit upon the oh-so-emotionally fulfilling solution -- Kiss & Run. No matter what - Kiss. And RUN.
Yes, there were tears. But they usually stopped before we even hit the main entrance.
I don't believe it was an intentional manipulation thing. Or at least, I believe it wasn't a maliciously intentional manipulation thing.

After a week or so of Kiss & Run, things have been a little easier the past 2 weeks. Who knows for sure why. We just hope it will last!

Our working theory is - letting her have breakfast at home instead of packing it to have when she gets to school.
Daddy thinks she was hungry & therefore more cranky. I think maybe it's just that little smidge of control that  little folks need. She asked to eat at the table. We let her. Presto! -- She has control of her world.

Yes, sometimes (almost always) she dilly dallies. When it's my turn, I always squeak into work in the bare nick of time.
But it's worth it.

Yesterday, she had syrup on her face when I got her to school.
Who. Cares.
She didn't. She dove into dress-up with her little friends.
The teacher didn't. She said she'd take care of it.
I didn't. A sticky face is a small price to pay for a happy kid.

... and what a face! ... and what a kid ...

That's not syrup! No. It's chocolate frosting, from "welcome back, Oma" donuts last week.
I didn't take the time to photograph sticky face yesterday. I got while the getting was good!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fun, Food & the Pendulum

If you read my posts regularly, you know that much of the time my family gets homemade meals - not fancy, over the top stuff - simple, balanced, healthy, and often even yummy.

But sometimes? Sometimes toddlers are needy. And sometimes jobs are demanding. And sometimes the last thing you can fathom at the end of the day is even spending 15 minutes cooking. And sometimes this starts to look like the new normal.

And you know what? I'm okay with it. I'll take it.

When time in the evening feels extra short, I will take chips & salsa for dinner. Or hummus & crackers. Or - wait for it - a frozen family entree.

Do you know what I did while that Stauffer's Mac'n'Cheese cooked for 18 minutes in the microwave? I sat on the floor with my beautiful daughter (2 years & 8 months old) and worked on her princess puzzle. It was pure bliss.

As was the Mac'n'Cheese. Judge away, judgers.

By the way - she's getting really good at the puzzle. (Not this one, but you get the idea. Clearly, she's a genius.)
Disney Princess Wood Picture Frame 12 Piece Puzzle
I'll tell you what allows me to still sleep at night. Aside from the aforementioned mommy&me bliss.

  • Fresh or frozen veggie before or with the meal.
  • Fruit or low-fat yogurt for dessert.
  • It's still better than fast food ... right? ;P

So, 3 out of 5 nights this week, I went the above route.
Wednesday I made fish, green beans & sweet potato oven fries. It took all of 15-20 active minutes, but there was enough leg clinging to make it feel double that. (There was also sincere lip-smacking from the Tot, so there's that.)
Tonight we went to a family Christmas reception with my husband's company. Kiddo was pretty impressed with the huge tree's "light dance" to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra medley. She ate next to nothing due to over excitement. When we got home, we all snuggled in front of our very own, regular size tree - plus, grahamy grams & hot chocolate (milk for kiddo&hubben; apparently I'm the only one with sense!) ... and don't forget the lite rock station's Christmas songs! Again, bliss.


Trust me. I know all about the easy homemade meals I can make. Again, see some of my previous posts. They're just not working for me right now. I know I'll get back to them. I also know ... that I'll then proceed to go overboard. I'll start making more elaborate meals that take too long away the Munchkin. Then one day, I'll go - "this is silly! I want to spend more time with my family!" Then I'll go stock my freezer with Stauffer's Family Entrees. (This will probably coincide with a sale on them for $3.99. And the inner conflict between - "that's so cheap!" and "why is that so cheap?" -- well, that's a whole other post.)

Or maybe one day, the pendulum will stop swinging. And I'll just stay balanced perfectly at that sweet spot between healthy & home-cooked v. uncomplicated & FAST. Maybe this will be that time.

After all, a pendulum has to come to rest eventually, right? Simple physics.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Picture Perfect (no pictures included)

Written Saturday during a down moment. Forgot or couldn't post till now. That's living. :)

I had a picture perfect Thanksgiving. So, obviously, I took no
pictures. Well, almost none. Just one of my daughter making a turkey craft.
Neither the picture nor the turkey turned out well. But we had fun.

The rest of the day, I kind of forgot to take pictures. Much as I love
pictures, I tend to think that is the sign of really great day. (No
offense, shutterbugs!)

My husband, daughter & I got to spend some quality time, just the
three of us, before company arrived. We took the dog to the
playground. There we met TWO other dogs, so the dog was happy. Kiddo
adored one of the other dog’s little human. And mommy got on well with
her mommy. Numbers were exchanged. We’ll see what happens.

Regardless, what a great morning! An hour & a half in the sunshine
before an early nap.
EARLY NAP – still patting myself on the back for that one. Company
arrived just an hour before usual naptime. Can you imagine the
cooperation we’d have gotten if we’d waited? I can, but I’d rather
not.

Dog-show watching with in-laws while kiddo napped. Occasional
allowance of football. SNACKS – as in little smokies & spinach dip –
thank YOU, Pinterest!

A delightful little girl woke up, spent some QT with the
longer-distance grandparents. Then my parents & a good friend from the
olden days arrived.

Football was watched. Food was consumed.

Kiddo behaved like (nearly) an angel --- at least until I gave her a
little surprise for said good behavior. That’s apparently a good time
to get a little evil.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was how little the little one liked
her pie. She’d been requesting pie for the previous 20 hours or so,
and it was the first thing she asked for in the morning, the thing she
begged for before nap & before dinner.
I’d question our relation over her dislike of pumpkin pie, but she did
love the whipped topping!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Next Generation

There are things we enjoy passing on to our children. And there are things we wish we could avoid but just can't.

What I'd like to avoid is tantrums. And acting out for mom & dad, while being an angel at school and for grandparents. And yep - that's something I passed on. Apparently, I used to change behavior in a heartbeat upon my mom's return. Turnabout; fair play; all that jazz. But you know what, I don't feel like talking about tantrums. And it's my blog.

Let's talk about Enjoyment!

I hope to pass on to my daughter - some geeky loves. I have scored some small successes.
Earlier today, we had a tea party with Data among the attendees. (Yes, I have an action figure. It was a gag gift. One I never parted with, but a gag gift nonetheless.)
We're not quite ready to sit down to an episode of TNG, but a girl can dream.


A little less geeky but a more resounding success - Puff the Magic Dragon. Sure, it's a pretty standard children's story / folk song. Yet, I would trace my love of SciFi/Fantasy to those TV adaptations in the late 70s.
I always felt terrible for Puff. How could Jackie Paper leave him behind. Perhaps that's why I never completely left him behind myself.
But we do, as we grow older, lose a little of our imagination. The ability to truly be in Honalee.
If we allow it, having children can allow us to take back a little.
Which is why I literally snatched this book up when I saw it at the library.


The illustrations are beautiful. 
I have never simply read it to her. We sing it. Obviously.
She actually requests it. And she'll ask for it again when we get to the end. And I'm no singer. It's got to be the pictures. And perhaps the story.
The power of her imagination validated, in page and in song.
She has taken to naming the occasional imaginary guest Honalee and Jackie Paper.

And then there's Junie Paper.
Junie?
It's the name we gave her, and she's the best part of this book.


See the guy in the back? That's Jackie Paper. Her daddy. He told her about Puff. She went to Honalee and brought him out of his cave.
See his smile? That's the joy of allowing your child's imagination to run wild. While you get to sit back & watch. And remember.


Monday, October 22, 2012

From the Trenches: Tantrum Survival (so far)

First - YIKES! I knew it had been awhile. But my last post was September 22nd! A whole month! Nothing in particular to explain it. Just - you know - stuff.
Anyway, enough about that. 
I have a few posts I've been thinking about in that time & hope to get to them soon. But right now? I just need to talk a little about tantrums.
Perhaps I can help someone survive their own. I know writing about it will help me.
So. Here goes!

We've survived 3 fairly big tantrums in the past 24 hours. And can I just say? -- wow. I deserve this Halloween candy 9 days early.



Does it ever seem like tantrums are a direct result of doing something extra fun?
Like going to the pumpkin patch with a couple other little families. Then dinner back at our place. Then when the last other child leaves, yours is so let down that SHE JUST CAN'T SEEM TO FIND HER LISTENING EARS!!!?!! WHERE DID THEY GO? NOT TO MENTION HER NORMAL VOICE INSTEAD OF THAT INCESSANT WHINE!??!!
Or like letting her wear her Halloween costume early. Then expecting her to willingly take it off to eat lunch. And heaven help you if the darned rescue pack isn't on tightly enough. And PS - pretending to talk to Diego on your phone about how he doesn't wear his rescue pack to nap - is NOT going to help. She knows he's not on the phone. Obviously. Because he's right there in her hand! Can't you see him?!!

Okay. My extremely brief summation of the incidents has led me to an irrefutable conclusion about the costume incidents. My fault. i.e. preventable. Of course, she wouldn't want to take it off. And just because she asked about it, didn't mean I had to give it to her. Probably saying "wait till after lunch" would have incited a small tantrum, but oh - what I got was not small.



So -- survival step 1 -
Avoid obvious set-ups to tantrums.
I'm not saying hide your family away in the house & never do anything fun. She had a great time at the pumpkin patch & playing with my friends son. We had a nice time socializing with adults, even if it was doing a "family friendly activity." In the case of last night, we just had to grit our teeth & get through it.

Bringing me to -- survival step 2 -
Grit your teeth & get through it.
You're the adult. If you snap & yell back, you only reinforce the behavior. You show that that is exactly how people handle frustration. It can't last forever, right? (Right? RIGHT?!!?!)
I am proud (& a little surprised) to report that I did not snap during the first 2 tantrums. But yep, I sure did (not badly, but I did) during the 3rd.

So, now to -- survival step 3 -
Take a time-out if you need it.

After my little snap during the last tantrum, I apologized to my daughter and told her I was taking a time out to try to calm down. I literally went and stood in the corner until I felt a little better. In the corner, I realized that what she was asking for (or had briefly been asking for before she started screaming & bawling incessantly) was to have her "Rescue Pack" on tighter.

And thus -- survival step 4 -
Don't not cave just for the sake of not caving.
That's what I was doing in the naptime scenario. Pretty much just as stubborn as a toddler, right? If at all possible, I try to get her to ask again in her "normal voice" for whatever it is. That way it's not (technically) like she got what she wanted because she threw the tantrum. Then I try to talk calmly about how we could have avoided the tantrum if she had just talked in her normal voice. That the tantrum hurt us both & blahblahblah.

But also -- survival step 5 -
Don't cave just for the sake of stopping the tantrum.
Last night's tantrum resulted because kids don't like consequences. (And really? Who does?) Just before our friends & their son left, the 2 kiddos were playing drums & piano. My daughter decided that she should have all instruments, and the other child none. We asked her to please share before he left. And that we could then go and watch a little Diego. Nope. After they left, I asked her to please sit on the potty before we put on jammies & watched a little Diego. Nope. So -- into her bedroom we went. UTTER DEVASTATION. She assured us she wanted to be good & behave. We explained how that was wonderful but didn't change the consequences of previous behavior. Just under 30 minutes of intense toddler tantrum later, she decided to ask (in a normal voice) for something else - a different pair of jammies. Random. But doable. So I went and got them, and my husband started books. She didn't even get so far as to get the new jammies on. I read like 1 more book and she was out. (Tantrums are exhausting. See also step 1.)

My husband might roll his eyes (or laugh), but I honestly felt good about last night's tantrum -- afterward. I feel like she learned that there are boundaries, expectations & consequences. That sometimes they're hard, but that she's capable of living within them. I know she noticed that we sat there calmly through the tantrum, spoke kindly to her & each other, and that afterward we had big hugs and kisses all around.

You can't win 'em all. But with a little effort, you can learn from 'em all.

Oh, but PS. Did you notice how all 3 tantrums are somehow related to Diego? It's all his fault. ;P


Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Convenient Inconvenience

For the past few months, I've been (sporadically) working hard on a presentation for my state-level professional organization.
I've been attending its conference annually for the past few years, helped organize the last two, but this was my first as a presenter.
I was excited. I was honored.
But somehow, I kept forgetting the date.

Like when my parents checked & rechecked that I'd be able to take them to the airport if they left for Nebraska on September 22nd. Of course. Yeah, sure - whatever.

Except September 21st was the big presentation. In Fort Lauderdale. Five hours away.

Now, the thing is? We all like learning things and comparing notes on professional matters. But it's also a solid social tradition. Times are had. And Friday night is the main event.

When I first pieced together that I couldn't stay Friday night, I may have literally smacked my forehead. Then I sorta let it go. I figured it would just keep me out of trouble, so to speak. Then as departure grew nearer, I got happier & happier about it. And when I left Thursday morning for work, I  was downright ecstatic to be able to tell my daughter: "I'll see you tomorrow night." (Sure, I had to drive the length of Florida twice in between, but I digress.)

That hug on Friday night with the accompanying "Mommy!" and insanely huge hug? - no place I'd rather be.

Then today. When I would have been nursing a hangover of whatever magnitude, while sitting in a conference room. (Well, first we got up at the crack of dawn to take my parents to the airport. But then ..) we went to Cracker Barrel for a darned delightful breakfast.

Even the hash brown casserole couldn't compare to the General Store though. My little girl apparently is ready to be a big sister or something.
So sweet to watch. But really, after 15 solid minutes, we did have to pick her up & carry her out (with just a little kicking & screaming). Because hey - we had to get to ...

to the ZOO!!!!

Kiddo had 2 speeds: Flat-out-Run and Mommy-will-you-carry-Me? Because really, how can you pace yourself when there are leopard cubs? And giraffes to feed? And ELEPHANTS?
It was Elephant Appreciation Day, and they were selling paintings -- BY THE ELEPHANTS. So of course, we bought one. Because - it benefits Elephant Rescue, and what could be cooler in a little girl's room, for pete's sake!?


Also, as it turns out, the Zoo parking lot is a good place to have your battery be totally dead. Thanks Jacksonville Zoo security - that was one prompt & friendly jump.

And all this before I would even have left Fort Lauderdale. All in all, this little inconvenience worked out pretty conveniently for my little family.

Best part - we still have all day tomorrow! :)