Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy "I Love You" Day

I woke up at 7:40 this morning cuddled up with my 2 littlest boys. We all surprisingly fell asleep after our original 6:00 wake up.  This was the perfect start to "I Love You" Day, except that we needed to be out the door in about 30 minutes and I still had to pack lunch, wrap Valentine's gifts for Nicholas' teachers and find clean clothes for everyone.  I said Happy Valentine's Day to Nicholas and tried to explain it was a special day to say "I Love You."  I got no response and decided we could talk about this later.  I threw on some sweats and cursed my new short do because I couldn't stick it in a quick ponytail...oh well.  Then I put Tyler in the co-sleeper on the side of the bed and flipped on the TV for Nicholas while I went to the laundry room to find some red clothes for the boys.

When I came back up, I saw Nicholas wedged in the co-sleeper beside his brother.  He had his arm across Tyler and they were staring at each other with what can only be described as pure love.  When Nicholas caught me watching them, he asked, "This okay, Mommy?"  Normally it wasn't.  We tried to keep the 30 pound three-year old out of there, not sure if the tiny crib would buckle under his weight.  But I couldn't tell him to stop loving his brother, especially on Valentine's Day, so I said,"Yes," and raced back downstairs for the camera.  As I came back into the room, I heard Nicholas whispering, "Do you love me Tyler?"  I absolutely melted and then tried to capture the moment.  This is what Valentine's Day was all about, right?  A special day to show others you love them.

We finished getting ready and were out the door only ten minutes late, but we still had to stop at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  As I pulled up to the window, I was greeted with a friendly, "Happy Valentine's Day," from the worker inside.  This time it clicked with Nicholas and he quickly repeated it again and again and again.  On the way to school, I again tried to explain the idea of it being a special day to show people you love them.  I explained that we were bringing special presents for his teachers because we loved them.  To which Nicholas responded, "Where's my present?"  Oh no, I thought, he had the gimmies (remember The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmes?) and an hour ago he didn't even know what Valentine's was.  I told him that he would get his special "I Love You" present after-school (after I went to the store to buy it).

When we got inside school, I asked Nicholas if he wanted to deliver the gifts.  He responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" and raced toward his classroom without stopping to put his jacket or tiger hat in his locker.  He struggled to open the door with the gifts in his hands, but Mr. Independent finally succeeded and burst into the room with hugs for both teachers.  I stayed back and let him have his moment.  His gimme attitude was gone and he seemed truly happy to be making others happy.

Then I was off to find the perfect little gifts for my littlest Valentines...nothing like waiting til the last minute.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Batteries Not Included

When we arrived at the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie, Nicholas ran for the large train.  He took his place in the engine and directed me to sit in the back car with Tyler.   He enthusiastically pushed the lever back and forth proclaiming we were on the Polar Express with choo-choo sound effects.  I was so excited to see him making connections.  Then he got off the train and ran to the front with a puzzled look on his face.  He looked at the ground, then back at the train, then back at the ground.

"Mommy, it's not working."

"Nicholas, we need to use our imagination. This train doesn't really move."

"Mommy.  No batteries. Not working."

Nicholas returned to his spot in the engine with slumped shoulders.  I again tried to convince him that we needed to use our imaginations to make it move, but he was done.  I was shocked and started cursing all of the battery-operated toys that had robbed Nicholas of his imagination.  Weren't almost three-year olds supposed to be happy driving huge pretend trains that didn't actually move?

With his train driving hopes dashed, he ran into the next room.  He bounced back and forth between the bakery and fire truck, depending on where the other kids were not.  On this day, he preferred to be more independent and wasn't interested in riding shotgun.  Instead, he happily offered me pretend cupcakes and even showed me how to eat after I didn't chew mine enough.  He watched the fire truck intently, especially when the sirens came on.

Then he saw a little girl in the firefighter outfit and decided he wanted to wear one, too.  I helped him into the jacket and boots, while he perched the bright red hat atop his head.  Lucky for Nicholas, at this point, the truck was empty and he climbed aboard.  He was happy to be the one driving AND pressing the buttons.  A man's voice came over the loud speaker saying there was a cat stuck in a tree.  Nicholas continued to drive.

Suddenly he sprang out of the truck and ran to the center of the museum.  I couldn't figure out what he was doing and was worried that he might get in trouble for wearing the costume outside of the exhibit (silly, I know).  Then he explained that he was looking for the cat in the tree.  I should have known.  That's what the dispatcher had told him to do.  Once I heard that, I didn't care who saw him wandering around the museum in the firefighter outfit.  I would proudly proclaim that he was looking for the cat in the tree.  He was using his imagination.  Hooray!!!!

Then he suprised me again.  He ran into the construction area, grabbed a pipe and ran back into the center.  Apparently he had found the cat and this was a hose because he began making the sshhhhhh sound that pretend water makes when it is coming out of a hose.  This hose wasn't big enough though and he had to go back twice to make it just right (and almost too heavy).  I chose to ignore the fact that spraying water out of a big hose was not the most humane way to get a cat out of a tree and I embraced the fact that Firefighter Nicholas saved the day (with a fully-functioning imagination). 

Moms worry about a lot of things.  Today I worried Nicholas was losing his imagination and even tried to take personal responsibility for this tragedy.  And in less than 30 minutes, he proved me wrong.  And 2 minutes after that, a little bully pushed him down and being a firefighting hero didn't matter any more.  He just needed his mommy and I was there.  You never know what each day will bring, but you certainly know that each one will be an adventure.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wouldn't the world be nicer if we were all friends?

Well in Nicholas' Montessori world, they are all friends.  The teachers never seem to say things like, "hey, you guys," like I occasionally did to my fourth graders.  They invite the "friends" to the carpet for circle and remind the "friends" to choose their own lessons.  The intentional use of the word "friend" was contagious and I quickly found myself using the word to refer to the children in his class, at the gym or at a playdate.  Nicholas now uses "my friend" as a title, like we might use Mr. or Mrs. 

The assumption that we are all friends creates a positive vibe and I'll do my best to keep Nicholas thinking that everyone is friends. 

(And I'm hoping, it is still Monday somewhere, since I fell asleep before I could post last night.) 

Monday, January 17, 2011


My first Montessori Monday tip...

De-clutter.  In the new year, it is traditional to draft resolutions to make this year the best year it can be.  For me, this always means a renewed commitment to organization.  Clearly I have not been successful with this yet.  However, since becoming a Montessori mom, I have made a concerted effort to at least create order for Nicholas.

One of the first things I learned (probably on my tour) was to avoid toy boxes because of the chaos inside that can overwhelm a child. This was a little disappointing as I had recently repurposed our man-cave into a playroom with darling little toy boxes and shelves.  In the classrooms at Hudson, I was directed to the shelves at child height filled with "lessons"--each one in a special tray or basket, so children could see all of them and easily transfer to a table. 

I strive to create this type of order at home as well (at least in the toy areas, which exist on every level in our 3-story townhouse).  I convinced myself that our toy boxes were really more like cubbies because they were divided into small spaces and used these to sort different types of blocks and cars.  I also pulled out the storage boxes and put away things that were too young for Nicholas and ones that didn't fit neatly on the shelves.  I tried to keep out what I considered to be his favorites.  I intended to recycle the toys, so there would always be something new and fun to explore.  However, it has been hard to get other toys/lessons out of the closest, but I am happy to say that more has gone away as we have gotten more items from Christmas and other occasions. 

Think about putting some toys away, so your child can focus on and engage with the ones that are out.  Arrange them in such a way, so your child can see them and get them out easily.  Amazingly, this actually helps the toys get back where they belong.  And if you have a great strategy for getting the closet toys back into the rotation, please let me know.  I need some help in that department. 

Let Mission Organization 2011 begin!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Montessori Mondays

I started blogging as a way to document my family's crazy life while giving myself practice writing (I still figure this is a great way for a stay-at-home mom to earn extra cash.)  But 2 months into it, I have only published 5 posts and believe me it's not because I don't have anything to write about.  Life just gets busy and all of a sudden a day has gone by and then a week and so on.  So I'm going to try giving myself a little structure to see if I can create some weekly features...starting with Montessori Mondays.

I had the privilege to stay home with Nicholas until he was 6 months and then worked only 3 days a week the following school year with my mother-in-law as our sole childcare provider.  When I made the decision to go back to work full-time for the 2009-2010 school year, I felt strongly that Nicholas needed to attend school at least part of the time.  I felt 5 days a week was too much for my mother-in-law and I worried about him being spoiled, but I also wanted to make sure he was able to socialize.  I was overwhelmed by the choices and recommendations, so early in the process I chose to focus on Montessori schools.  My sisters had attended a Montessori program one summer, so the word had been kicking around in my head and I had visited a Montessori magnet school in Albany for an alternative education course in college.  Other than that I didn't know much about it, but I knew it was supposed to be good.  I wasn't even sure how young Montessori programs started, so my Googling began.

Focusing on Montessori schools certainly cut down on our list, so we were now left with whether we should look at schools close to our home or close to our work or somewhere on the way, while trying to find an early enough drop-off for us to make it the Bronx by 8.  I decided to look everywhere in our quest.  I was working part-time the spring we were looking, so I was responsible for visiting the schools with my then 14-month old.  I quickly learned that Montessori means different things to different people and the schools varied greatly in their interpretations as well as the age-groups served, the drop-off times and tuition.  I wholeheartedly agreed with the mission of developing an independent person, but I still had trouble finding the right feel with the right times.  Then somehow in one of my many Google searches, I stumbled on Hudson Country Montessori in Danbury.  Danbury is about 15 minutes away, so it was a little out of the way for us, but I figured it would at least be good as a comparison to the other places I had seen.  From the moment I called to schedule a tour, I was impressed and even had my husband take a day off of work (not that I had to twist his arm) to come see it with us. 

We decided (almost on the spot) that this was the right "school" for Nicholas.  After falling in love, we had to deal with the fact that the school is nearly 40 minutes away and has tuition comparable to a state college.  We are known for making rash decisions, but in this case, I think we made the right one, though we continue to question ourselves, especially now that I am staying home.    

Over the past 18 months, Nicholas has grown tremendously as a tiny person and we have learned a lot as parents.  One of our biggest lessons has been that the Montessori philosophy applies to the home as well as school.  So in the spirit of sharing,  I will (try very hard to) post a tip each Monday that has helped us Montessori-ize our lives.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is your Facebook profile more complete than your baby book?

A few months after meeting my future husband, we made the journey "upstate", so I could meet his parents.  I got a tour of his family's home and a peek into his childhood.  His mother had taken out the baby book and photo albums, despite my husband's protests.  As I looked at each page, I kept saying how cute he was, but I was really thinking I can't believe what a great mom she was to keep such a detailed record of his life.  Everything was documented in the most perfect penmanship.  My baby book on the other hand was started with good intentions but was nowhere near complete and my little sisters' books were practically nonexistent.  I felt jealous of the attention my future mother-in-law had paid and I made a silent vow to keep a better baby book than my mother had.  I couldn't, however, share this with Bill as we hadn't even considered marriage and talking about children at this point was a definite no-no.

Well, a year later we were engaged, then married and two years after that we were expecting our first child.  Nicholas' godmother gave us a beautiful baby book at my shower and again I vowed to complete this baby book because I was going to be an organized, super mom.  My baby deserved only the best.  Like my mom, I guess I got distracted.  I didn't even have a good excuse.  I was lucky enough to be home with Nicholas for the first 6 months and worked only part-time the following year.  As Nicholas weighed in each month and then started hitting milestones, I told myself I would remember and sometimes I did.  When I would finally sit down to fill it in, I realized I missed stuff, too.  Did you know you are supposed to pay attention to the order teeth appear?  I got frustrated as the blank spaces became more evident and eventually gave up. 

While I was disappointed in my ability to live up to my mother-in-law's standard, I took some comfort knowing that I had kept a detailed photo diary on Nicholas' very own Shutterfly site.  I decided it was important to have some physical documentation as well, so I focused my attention on creating photo books.  I told myself this was a more meaningful way to document Nicholas' life and got to work.  I focused my energy on an alphabet book showcasing Nicholas' first year and even had copies made for his grandparents, godparents and aunts and uncles for favors at his first birthday party.  The book with its rhyming verses was a huge success and I figured this would be my new media. 

In the next year, I made an occasional book when Shutterfly had a good sale or special occasion and I stopped ordering countless prints.  I had overflowing shoe boxes of pictures that were out of order and I was pretty sure I was missing some months all together. Somewhere along the line,  Facebook became increasingly popular and even my mom got an account.   With most of my friends and family members on Facebook, it became easier to post pictures of Nicholas there and I found myself sharing little details about our life in my status.  When Tyler was born, I waited a day, but I proudly posted his stats and pics from my Blackberry as the well wishes poured in.  I love receiving the comments on the brotherly love, adorable outfits and faces and now as a stay-at-home mom, I have become addicted to this new way of communicating.  Now Tyler is almost 4 months and I don't have an official baby book or even a photo book in the works.  However, if you scroll down my Facebook profile, you will get a good idea of our life together...maybe even more complete than a baby book filled with dates and numbers.  Now if only I could turn all those darling pics, status updates and comments into a photo book.  Then I would have something to show their future loves...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas in October??

This fall I wanted to get the most out of Nicholas' Halloween costume (handmade by my mom), so I made plans to attend multiple parties and trick-or-treating events.  We had a great time and I loved how everyone ooohed and aaahed over the unique costume. I was shocked when we walked into the mall though and saw the gigantic red ribbons and balls hung from the ceiling on Halloween.  I balked at what big business Christmas had become and was disappointed that Halloween was being overshadowed.

Then I forgot about the whole thing until a few weeks later.  Right between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we made an emergency stop at the mall because Nicholas swore his shoes hurt his toes.  In hindsight,  I think he may have just had a sore toe and worked the system because despite the half-size difference, the new shoes look exactly the same size.  The salesman at Clark's was happy to indulge Nicholas' claims and now he can say he has shoes like Owen.  Anyways, as I trudged through the ridiculously crowded parking lot with stroller and toddler in hand (an adventure I try to avoid), I saw those humongous decorations again and automatically groaned. I'm not sure whether it was the impending madness of the holiday season or a protest about the commercialized nature.  As we got closer, Nicholas noticed the decorations, too.     He pointed and said, "Mommy. Christmas."   He had a huge smile on his face as he admired the glowing lights.  Two things crossed my mind...

1) How did he already know so much about Christmas? A question to be explored later...
2) Maybe I was just being a Grinch.  It's okay to embrace the holidays early.

"Ta dah! I decorated the tree all by myself."
Once inside, we looked down on Santa in his (strange spaceship) village in awe.  I accepted the decorations and started looking forward to the season...the next day I even bought Nicholas his very own 3-foot tree.  Why not spread some holiday cheer in his bedroom, I thought.  It took me 3 weeks to get things organized enough to get it out of the box and we still need to get the actual decorations out of the attic, but it's a start.

So what if the decorations go up in October?  It's up to each of us to keep thinking about the true spirit of the season and pass that to our children along with the magic.