Sweatpants Mafia

I’m a member of the Sweatpants Mafia.

For the purposes of this blog and its title: Sweatpants: juicy velour, denim (jeggings or jeans), or yoga pants. Mafia: my group of friends/acquaintances/kiddie classmates, who have a mostly common set of values; who are unbelievably dedicated to their causes and families; and whose strength and faith can move mountains.

I started a blog many months ago. I tried to be positive and uplifting.  I tried to talk only about things I like.  Soon after, I started my own business and life got busy.  I just didn’t have the time or interest to play Pollyanna.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say.  Just the opposite. I had so many things to say that there wasn’t time in the day.

Look, I aspire to peace, love, and toys.  That is why I titled my blog the way I did.  Most moms do aspire to those things.  I want it so bad, I’ll go to great lengths to get it. The thing is, that’s not all I’m about.  It is something I distract myself with.  So, while I like peace and love and toys, and I want all those things – I want more for me, for my kids, for my family, and friends, and people I’ve never met.  That’s me.

I remember sitting on the floor in my favorite mommy-n-me class trading ideas and frustrations with the other moms. That day like so many others we listened to one another and helped offer solutions or support. We got angry for one another.  We sincerely tried to help alleviate one another’s burdens.  I clearly remember saying to the instructor of the class, “we are like the Sweatpants Mafia.”  We were a very tight knit group of people who stuck together through the mommy adversities of picky eaters, nap refusers, slow walkers, food allergies, speech therapy, behavior issues, and in-law nightmares. We demanded the best schools, toys, activities, food, books and cars for our kids.  We donated our time and money to worthy charities, we took our kids to countless activities and birthday parties, we talked to one another about problems and solutions, we could function on very little sleep.  But, that’s not all we did.  We worried about things like our national food supply, poverty, education, bullying, the arts, and a list of other things that weren’t so personal or trivial.  We are NOT the people you want to make angry. We WILL tattle. We know we tell our kids not to, but it may be our favorite pass time (we’re bad like that).

So peace, love, and toys? Yes please. But, stand in my way of those things and I’ve got a capo who’d like to speak with you.  This blog just took a very sharp turn toward Honesttown.  I’ll keep telling you about the things I love, but I will no longer hold back about the things I don’t.  I’m going to be all over the place, but then maybe you will really get to know me because that’s how I am in real life.  Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy write.

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No Paper Pushing For My Babies! (Reggio Emilia Method Part 1)

My husband and I are both attorneys (well at the time I was, but that’s another story).  We push paper both actual and virtual.  All day.  Every day.  So, when I showed up and a not-so-open open house at my boys’ now previous preschool and LG’s supposed future teacher showed me the “books the children will be working through” in pre-K 3, it took all I could do to not either run for the door or stage a mutiny. “Parents unite” and “free the children” I shouted in my head, but as I scanned the room none of the other parents looked like they were ready to overthrow the cute little teacher with a natural “Bumpits” and ponytail. My experience with the school up until that point had been great.  I guess age three is when the owner decided that children should begin preparing for college and it appears some parents are just fine with that.  Not me.

I was walking through the parking lot thinking no way was I sending my kids there next year when it hit me.  It was late.  Like February late.  Too late to go switching preschools.  Where could I get in? Panic!

Like so many other moms I know, I began the Great Preschool Hunt.  You know, the annoying search for the best preschool within an hour of your home.  It’s the time in your life when you quiz total strangers about where their kids go to school, whether they “like” it, and how much it costs, “if you don’t mind me asking.”

During the Great Preschool Hunt I heard about a school in the next town that was an “international preschool” whatever that was. I wanted to know more, I immediately went to the school’s website and was very impressed.  The website didn’t have a photo of a stack of workbooks and kids taped to chairs on the home page, so it looked better than what I had.  I called the next day and heard the dreaded words, “wait list.” Somehow, I talked my way into a tour.  It was on the tour that I first heard about the Reggio Emilia method of teaching.  I liked what I heard and began a campaign of annoyance until the owner let my kids in the school.  I’m glad I did.

Welcome to Preschool!

Since then, I’ve come to realize that my kids go to a really fine preschool.  It isn’t just the setting, which is cute enough, but it’s really the method that I’m in love with.  After noticing some significant differences with traditional preschools, I started researching Reggio Emilia in earnest.  Now, I’m going to try to share a little about it in a multi-part post.  Your kids don’t have to go to a Reggio Emilia school for you to get something out of the method.  If you are interested in Reggio Emilia, keep reading.  If not, read about something else.  That’s the Reggio way!

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Dear iPhone, I Love You.

My Connection to the Grown-Up World

Hi iPhone,

How are you? Are you having a good day? Sorry I dropped you like 5 times today.  Thanks for not cracking.  I appreciate that.  You must have been reading my texts and known that I just don’t have time to take you to the sketchy iPhone glass changer guy in the kiosk at the mall.  Thanks again.

My day has been ca-ray-zay, but you always help me get through!  So, I just thought I’d write to tell you I love you.

I was thinking about you today when LG just would.not.shut.up.  He was talking about dinosaurs for at least 20 straight minutes and I’m pretty sure he was making up most of it.  No four year-old knows 20 minutes worth of actual information about dinosaurs, so he was definitely making it up.  Or repeating himself.  Either way I was slipping in and out of consciousness.  Around minute 7 I started wondering what was happening in the news.  Like real world news.  Not the “news” from Disney Channel about how to make healthy snacks or some other fake not-news news from Nickelodeon or Sprout (hello I don’t care about birthdays if you aren’t going to put on my kid’s card on tv.  That thing took me all night to make!).  Real what’s happening in the world as told to me by someone in a suit, waders, or combat gear.  You know how I love that Associated Press app of yours.  Think LG noticed I was catching up on the debt ceiling issue during his 12th minute of somethingasaurus descriptions?

Later, when I was in the world’s longest check out line because it was the only one with a female cashier and it seems everyone in town is buying tampons (which, incidentally explains a lot), I was so bored! So, I caught up on what like 20 of my friends are doing today on Facebook.  Oh, remind me to go to that new indoor play place.  I know you won’t forget because I set the alarm for 1 hour “before event.”

After that, when I was eating lunch with the kids who were watching one of the only three episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates ever made and that we have seen one billion times, I entertained myself with a couple blogs people posted about on Twitter.  On another note, remind me to call and thank Disney for releasing that cartoon with only those three episodes.  Don’t they know pirates are like preschool boy crack and that, once addicted, the boys will watch the same episode indefinitely forsaking food, water, and play just for a glimpse of Captain Hook? Couldn’t they think of the moms here and give the show a friggin’ decent plot? Where do the doubloons come from anyway? Sorry, let’s get back to you.  I love you.  Thanks for saving me from “Yo Ho, Food to Go!” AGAIN!

Then, the boys’ Aunt Kiki called, but I couldn’t answer.  How could I when the boys are so jealous of you? You know they are just gonna poop to get my attention the second she starts with the really good gossip.  So, I texted her.  Thanks for always making life easier for me (and allowing me to selectively delete texts).

You really are so good to me.  You always do whatever I want.  Except type curse words.  Really, I don’t want to type “birch.”  And what’s with you being so touchy about your home button? Don’t stress, we’ll work it out.

Hubs says I’m addicted to you. I thought maybe he was right when I first thought about writing you this love letter while he was talking to me about being addicted, but naaaa.  We just understand each other.

You complete me.  Or you merely complete my connection to grown-ups outside my house.  Regardless, I need you.  Desperately.

Please don’t ever leave me.  If you did, how would I tell anyone?  I’m scared just thinking about it.

Love and dependence,

PLT

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Time For Some Help With Time

If I have to say “just because the sun is shining doesn’t mean it isn’t bedtime” one more time I’m gonna scream.

I love long summer days, don’t get me wrong.  But Super thinks that he doesn’t have to go to bed until it is pitch black outside.  “It’s not nighttime,” he proclaims over and over while we try to convince him to go to bed.  I’m sure in January I’ll be begging for sun, but right now a little darkness at bedtime sounds like heaven…a dark, quiet heaven where kids go to sleep at a normal hour and mommies get to watch the Bachelorette without being interrupted.

Oh, and Super likes to jump out of bed at the first sign of light.  I’ve tried to talk him into staying in bed and being quiet until a more appropriate hour, but he doesn’t get it.  He’s ready to play.  We aren’t getting a whole lot of sleep around here.  It is time for some help with time.

Happily, I just found TimeBuddy.  TimeBuddy is a surprisingly adorable 24-hour clock that you customize based on your child’s routine.  You design your own TimeBuddy with repositionable stickers to show your child that it is time to play, eat, take a bath, etc.  It even lets you record your voice so it can “talk” to your kids.

Our TimeBuddy

Before we got TimeBuddy, I tried talking to Super about the numbers on a digital clock, but he just didn’t get the concept.  And forget a traditional clock.  I can see why he’d be confused, the idea of time can be a fairly difficult thing to grasp.

TimeBuddy teaches kids to recognize that the hands on a clock show us what we should be doing.  It gives kids a sense of pride in knowing what to do all by themselves. It helps children to learn time management, too.  Now that is a valuable tool!

Honestly, Super loves his TimeBuddy.  He is very proud of himself when he tells me what “time” it is.  He checks his TimeBuddy constantly and has become the household cuckoo announcing the activity of the moment.   TimeBuddy also helps me get my boys ready for their activities and school.  Most importantly for me, now Super can see that it is bedtime even though the sun is up.

my favorite time

I don’t mean to stress you out, but school is starting soon.  Like real soon.  This means that if you took a break from routine this summer, you’ll soon be dealing with the fallout from that.  TimeBuddy could certainly help your kids get back in the swing of things.

Oh, and this cute little thing can be your new scapegoat.  I mean it isn’t your fault TV time is over, TimeBuddy said so.  Nice one.

TimeBuddy is a little hard to find right now, but if you can track one down you’ll be happy you did.  I’ve gotta run, TimeBuddy is telling me that school is almost over.

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And A Bowl Full Of Mush

Friday night was always drinks with friends and Saturday was usually a stop on a culinary tour of my town.  Sure, there were weekends when we had something else going on, but if there was nothing special to do on a Saturday, you could expect to find me discussing which restaurant to eat at that night.  I was obnoxious about it, too. “Oh we just ate there,” I’d say.  And, “the goat cheese on my salad wasn’t warm last time.” Seriously, I said that.  I even remember the restaurant that had the nerve to serve me cold “warm goat cheese salad.” Obnoxious.  Honestly, I want to slap myself.  I mean not my current self.  That would be simple … and bizarre.  I’m talking about my pre-child, bored with eating out self.

Or maybe I’m just jealous.

A girlfriend of mine just opened a restaurant.  A seafood restaurant.  A really, really good seafood restaurant with a locally famous chef and prix fixe menu that forces you to choose a dessert.  Yes forces! At least that’s how I see it.  So, I’ve been dragged (ha!) to dinner at this place twice recently.

On the night the restaurant opened, my girlfriend and I left our kids  (she has two of them like me) with our husbands, got dressed up, and sat down for a fine meal alone at her new place.   The waiter approached and we looked at him the way we used to look at cute boys in night clubs.  You know, kind of like the way Sylvester looks at Tweety.  He was probably afraid.  Immediately, we rattled off our orders from appetizers through dessert.  The frightened waiter explained he only wanted to know whether we wanted sparkling or still water.  Oh.  When he did come back for our dinner orders we quickly asked for our desserts again.  He explained that he would come back after the main course for that order.  Right.  We knew that.  Look, we don’t let ourselves eat dessert often.  We were excited, ok?

So the food arrived.  He sat hers down first.  Good move, she owns the place.  I pulled out my camera to take a picture of my friend’s mahi mahi.  Like I had never seen fish on top of a starch before.  Super cool of me.  And it had two sauces with different flavors and colors! You would have thought the fish was performing RENT I went on so much.  And not because my friend was there.  I don’t need to blow smoke with this girl.  We’re that kind of friends.  This was honest amazement.  It seemed like slow motion as the waiter rounded the table to bring me my snapper.  He sat it down in front of me and angels sang. I looked across the table to gush even more about my beautiful food when I noticed that my friend’s previously magazine-pretty mahi was now a bowl of mush.  Each of the 4 perfectly grilled spears of asparagus was cut into miniature bites and was mixed among fish flakes and potato mash.  There was no sign of the two sauces.  What’s worse is that about half was gone already and my friend was mumbling something to me, but I couldn’t understand her because her mouth was so full of the mush.  There she sat with her blown out hair, mascara, and impossibly tight mint green dress with mashed potatoes and fish mush hanging out of her mouth.  While talking to me.  And continuing to cut her food into even smaller bites.  I calmly looked at her and said, “What are you doing?”  She dropped the shovel, I mean fork, gulped the mush, and then we descending into a laughing fit.

Pre-mutilation Mahi - told you I took a picture

She didn’t have to share her food with anyone.  Odds are no one was going to choke if the asparagus bites were too big.  We weren’t going to have to leave because someone had an accident, spilled their drink, had a tantrum, was tired, forgot their favorite book/ball/car/doll at the last place we’d been.  She wasn’t going to have to escort me to the bathroom and risk her fish getting cold.  Nothing.  We could just eat.

So, I thought to myself that maybe kids were ruining dining for us.  Because we rush, cut up an entire plate of food at once, hurry our waiters, and probably talk to loud.  But now I think when we did slow down and appreciate that we were at dinner, two old friends in real clothes (did I mention she had on a dress?), with wine, and good food, I would put that dinner up against any dinner of my pre-baby days.  Not necessarily because the food was better (though it may have been), but because that pre-baby, jaded foodie never appreciated a piece of fish the way I appreciated that snapper and I never tried to listen to my friend so intently as I did that night, even when she didn’t have a mouth of fish flakes and microscopic asparagus.

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Tantrum-Free Top 3

The other night while I was out at dinner without the kids, my girlfriend wrote me in desperation asking for advice about tantrums.  See, this girlfriend of mine has never met my kids, so I’m guessing my blog made her think I’m an expert.  She has no clue that my kids, especially Super, can be master tantrum throwers! While her impression of my expertise is just an illusion, it got me thinking about what advice I could give about getting kids to behave and I came up with three things I think are the most helpful to me.  Funny enough, none of them are my own.  I learned each “trick” from a different mommy friend.  Thank goodness I have good pals!

1) Your word has to mean something.

First, “no” has to mean “no” every time you say it.  Children are too young to understand the difference between a “no” about ice cream before dinner and a “no” about running in a parking lot.  I’ve said “no” before and had my hubs tell me that maybe I should have said “yes,” but it was too late then.  I had to stick to my “no” because the confusion wasn’t worth it.  My boys are 19  months apart and if I wanted LG to stand beside me while I got Super out of the car seat, he had to know that I meant business when I spoke.  Otherwise, we were going to sit in the house or buy one of those backpack leashes for kids.  Neither was a real option.

Oh and I know kids can be persistent.  They’ll want something, you’ll say “no,” and if you are a parent that gives in they’ll whine and ask until they just flat wear you down.  Reward a tantrum, a whining episode, or a begging spree once and you’ll be fixing the issue for days.

And the tip applies to more than just a “no.”  If you say “sit in your chair” and immediately after you say it your child gets up and does laps around the table while you watch and roll your eyes, your kid knows that you don’t mean what you say.  While that sort of stinks, it will be really bad next time you seriously need your kid to listen.  Wonder what that kid thinks “don’t take candy from strangers” means.

2) If you aren’t looking your child in the eyes when you are speaking to him, you might as well be speaking a foreign language.

We teach kids that we hear with our ears, but not my kids.  If they aren’t looking at me when I speak to them then I’m just whistling Dixie.  The friend that shared this tip told me to simply get on their eye level and look them in the eyes when you tell them something.  It is a miracle how it works.  Truly.

I know this trick and yet sometimes I get lazy.  These are the times I have to repeat myself and still I get a bad result.  I need to remember to stop what I’m doing, look my kids in the eyes, and explain appropriate behavior to them.  It almost always works.  When I don’t practice this parenting technique, I get what I deserve.

Photos8.com Image

3) Hug it out.

OK, the hubs heard this trick, so I can’t take any credit whatsoever.  He heard that when your child is in a full tantrum, if you comfort them it calms them down.  Know what?  It works.

Now, this is the opposite of what I would think to do, but I’ve seen first hand that punishing a tantrum just makes it worse.  I’m not advocating giving in to whatever it was that started the tantrum (see tip #1), I’m just saying that maybe while your child is kicking and screaming on the ground isn’t the best time to teach him a lesson.  You don’t have to give your child what he wants to give him what he needs. You can still say “no” while helping your child to get through a melt down.   A spoon full of sugar and all that.

So those are the tantrum tricks in my bag.  There is no magic wand that I’m aware of, but these are the three things I can say have had the most effect on my kids’ behavior.  There are lots, and I mean lots, of Twitter users with parenting advice so maybe one of them has a magic bullet (I have a list of them under “parenting advice” on my account).

As for me, I’m sticking to my guns, looking my boys in the eyes, and hiding in the racks when Super throws a fit at Target.  Please just keep walking if you see a small blond-haired boy screaming in the aisle and pay no attention to the woman peeking out from behind the maxi dresses.

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Come Si Dice “foreign language DVD” in Italiano?

My husband’s family is Italian for the most part.  In fact, I remember a family dinner with my in-laws during which my brother-in-law announced that the family wasn’t so very Italian.  I remember it vividly because I thought my father-in-law was going to choke on his macaroni.  While my husband and his parents are certainly proud of their Italian heritage, my husband’s great grandparents were bound and determined to assimilate into American society.  That is why when they got to America, they insisted that everyone speak English all the time.  Their native tongue was soon lost.

Now, I want my boys to learn Italian.  The only problem is that there is no one to teach them.  So, I’ve spent a small fortune on DVDs, CDs, and books for us (yes, I’m trying to learn too).  I’ve been fairly disappointed for the most part.  I’d hate for you to make the same mistakes whether your trying to teach your kids Spanish, French, or Pig Latin.  So, let me break it down for you:

Muzzy

This is one of the first DVD sets I purchased.  I watched the commercials, considered that it was connected to the BBC, and thought certainly I had found the Rosetta Stone for kids.  Not so.  The set came with vocabulary DVDs and story DVDs.  The vocabulary words featured on the vocabulary DVDs are not particularly relevant to the story and the story is a bore.  The illustrations aren’t even good.  We spend about $100 on this set and my kids couldn’t care less.  Total bust.

Italian for Kids by Language Tree

Next I bought the Language Tree videos in part because they seemed so much more affordable (around $25).  The problem with these DVDs is that the actors speak so quickly and with very little explanation, that comprehending what they say is impossible even for me.  The videos are interactive, but my young kids can’t use the remote to play along.  Plus, I like to use DVDs in the car more than I do at home, so the interactive feature is useless.  Bust #2.

Professor Toto

Now we’re getting somewhere. I like the Professor Toto DVDs.  Professor Toto tries to teach kids simple concepts and speaks more slowly than Language Tree.  Still, it is a little fast, but because I can follow the story, unlike Muzzy, I can figure it out.  The Professor teaches kids first words in a foreign language just like they would learn in their native language, like colors.  This is a good purchase.

 Little Pim

Little Pim is my favorite of all the DVDs.  The videos mix a loveable panda with real life kids and focus on concepts young kids can understand, like playtime and eating.  The narrator speaks slow enough that I can actually understand the words and the shows are interesting enough to hold a child’s attention.  Best ones yet!

Teach Your Baby Italian CD

This CD has done more for our Italian than anything else.  The first few tracks teach vocabulary words a mom would find useful, for example bottle, milk, diaper, etc.  The best thing, though, is the last track that teaches you how to say phrases you often use with a kid, like “No touching!” or “Are you hungry?”  People think I’m fluent when I’m talking to my kids because I can ask “Are you finished?” and “What color is this?”  Oh, and the boys can answer.  Even better.  It didn’t take long for me to start speaking fluent baby-Italian.  This is the best bang for the buck!

Good luck teaching your little ones a foreign language.  If you have an aid that you like, please share.  Until then, ciao!

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