Lessons Learned: Never Make Your Office Door Out of Glass

When we moved into our four-bedroom house, with no kids, we had our pick of the place for our office. It's moved several times in the last ten years. When Sabrina was born, Michelle decided to move it from the back hallway bedroom to the front hallway bedroom. When Luke was born, we needed that fourth bedroom, so we moved the office to the extra living area off the family room. We closed the space off with double glass doors.

That was a ridiculously bad idea. 

Now while we're on the phone with clients or trying to concentrate on a writing project, we have three kids looking into the fishbowl. Or banging on the glass. Or screaming so loud you can hear every word.

We're seriously debating about building a back-house, just so we have a place to work in peace and quiet without having to drive to an office. 

Lessons Learned Recap: Use the most remote room in the house for your office if you have young children. Ideally with a vault door, extra thick insulation and an escape hatch. 


Lessons Learned: Never Use a Light Pole as Home Base

We were having the best morning at the Texas Capital today. We enjoyed a picnic with breakfast tacos and pastries, in absolutely gorgeous spring weather. We found a bird's nest above us and listened as the momma bird fed her tweeting babies (the eggs from our breakfast tacos). We chased the squirrels. Sydney and I laid side by side and soaked in the sun. We read a WWII memorial dedicated to the Texans who served and those who lost their lives fighting for freedom. We looked up at the mini Statue of Liberty and explained to the kids how we were going to New York City soon, where there was the same statue, but as tall as the Capital building. Chris explained to the girls how it greeted millions of immigrants and embodied freedom and hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life in America. We taught Luke how to play Duck, Duck, Goose and laughed hysterically that he didn't get it, and kept walking around the circle patting everyone's head saying either Duck or Goose, but not understanding he needed to run if he said Goose.

It was one of the best mornings of my life.

And then it wasn't.

Did you notice the "were" in the first sentence? Well, that's because it all went terribly wrong in a matter of seconds. We were playing tag, with a light pole as home base. I was IT. We were all running and laughing. Sydney and Luke were trying to hold me so that Daddy could get to the pole safely. Then Luke tripped (on the grass, on his shoe?) and dove head first, hitting the base of the light pole with his chin. 

Chaos ensued. Blood came pouring out of Luke's mouth (he'd bitten his tongue) and from a large wound on his chin. His t-shirt, applicably labeled "Dirt Expert," was soaked dark red.

Sydney was screaming and crying, worried about her little brother. Daddy was screaming for everyone to collect their things so we could take Luke to the emergency room. Luke was screaming from the pain. I was rocking Luke back and forth trying to calm him down. And Sabrina was still hiding from the game we'd been playing.

luke photo.JPG

Here's Luke after three shots (don't get me started on why he needed three!) and three stitches. He screamed and fought every single stitch. But otherwise, he was a trooper like usual.

This was not exactly how I envisioned my perfect Mother's Day Weekend going.

Lessons Learned Recap: Never use a light pole or any other hard object as home base for a game of tag. Or, never play tag with a two-year-old? Or, never let your children out of the house? But if your young one does need stitches, especially on the face, take them to a children's ER where they give them a nose spray that makes them loopy and not care that they're getting stitched up!

5 Inevitables for Moms with Toddlers, Take I

Here are five "inevitables" for moms with toddlers:

  1. After a very long, exhausting day/week/month, just when you finally get a moment of peace and quiet, enjoy a bath and get completely comfortable in bed, and think - AHHH, I'M FINALLY GETTING TO BED EARLY - your child will wake up crying, throw up all over you, and require an emergency room visit. You will manage to get about two hours of sleep before morning. Or similarly, the child who never wakes up in the night will startle you out of dreamland at 12:59am screaming and crying...on Mother's Day.
  2. Any sick day, snow day, or other random reason that day care or preschool is cancelled last minute will be the absolute worst day possible. Same goes when your nanny calls in sick. Your significant other will be out of town and your calendar will be filled with scheduled meetings or appointments or any other activity that can't be changed. A two-year-old Sydney literally sat on my belly once while I was lying in a chair having my teeth cleaned.
  3. You should never, ever, ever wear a pair of white pants or shorts when you have a baby or toddler and expect them to stay clean for more than five minutes. Be prepared for a giant strawberry handprint, spit up, apple juice spilled all over the front so it looks like you've peed your pants... or worse - chocolate sauce finger marks all over your butt.
  4. If you enroll your toddler in a class/camp she's been begging for, she will happily attend the first class/day and then whine and complain about going to that class/camp for the rest of the semester. You'll be scratching your head wondering why you put yourself through the hassle while also wasting your money.
  5. If you must buy a gift in advance, expect that by the time that holiday rolls around, they'll be into something totally new. I just ordered a custom Frozen Elsa costume on Etsy for Sydney's birthday party at the end of May. There's little chance she'll still want to be Elsa by May 30th, but there was also no way to make sure I had the outfit she wanted without taking the risk. Motherhood: So often you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Don't Forget to Look Up

Michelle and I were at dinner the other night. Sitting at a table next to us was a ~10-year-old girl and her father, waiting for their food. They were not talking and laughing, and clearly not taking advantage of this moment together. What was crazy to me was that it wasn't the young girl playing a computer game on her iTouch or Nintendo. It was her father, playing a game on his phone. 

I know I'm guilty of this getting distracted sometimes too, when there's a call I have to take or an email I have to respond to when I'm out with my family. But this struck a chord. Here's a chance for a father and daughter to have a "date night" and spend quality time together. And they didn't say one word to each other. The girl looked around and actually sighed. The father finally put away his phone when the food came, but the conversation didn't start then either.

Someone on my Facebook page shared the Look Up video yesterday, about the perils of technology to our everyday communication and connection (there's that social media stuff again!), which spurred me to write this post. I don’t personally agree with his rant on social media, but I do agree we’re all looking down at our tech gadgets too often these days, adults and kids alike. There are great things about technology. Like swimming laps and jamming to music with the new waterproof iPod Shuffle the kids got me for my birthday last month. And then there are not so great things about technology. I hope to help my kids understand how to use it properly... 

And most of all, I hope to take advantage of every precious moment with my kids. 

Lessons Learned: Swim Class

When Sydney was about to turn two, everyone we talked to about swim lessons said the experience with Austin's well-known “Swim Whisperer” was really tough to stomach, but that it was worth it. It was supposed to be worth it because, at the end of the 5-day class, Sydney would know how to swim and we wouldn’t need to worry about her drowning in a pool. Well, it was every bit of the nightmare people had warned me about.  And it was not worth it in our case.

The fist day, Sydney screamed for Mommy and cried and gulped down gallons of water and scrambled to get out of the pool 15 minutes later when the first lesson was over. Meanwhile, I had barely been able to breathe while trying to encourage her. She was almost comatose by the time she dragged herself out of the water and I just held her in my arms and whispered that I loved her and how proud I was of her effort.

The second day she was even more upset than the first, since she knew what to expect.  From the minute she woke up that morning, she started saying, “No pool Mommy.” And because I felt like it was still the right thing to do, I said she had to go, but not to worry about it – that it was much later in the day and that I’d be right there. I’d been planning for Chris to deal with this, since I’m pregnant and already emotional enough, but he was in London the week a spot opened up, so Grandma Kit and I got to bear the burden. She started crying more than an hour before her lesson, even though we did our absolute best to distract her. She screamed even louder getting into the pool, cried most of the time she was in the pool, and threw up pool water when she got out. 

Days three and four didn’t go much better. More crying and screaming. Not a whole lot more progress.

On day five, we got to join her in the pool – Daddy was finally back – and she seemed a little bit happier that she got to swim to us. But she still wasn’t really “getting it” in terms of kicking her legs. She would glide at a snail’s pace under the water and I’d will her to kick so she wouldn’t breathe in pool water and choke. But I did feel that if she fell into the pool, there was a good chance she wouldn’t panic and would be able to get herself to the side and climb out. The only positive out of the experience.

We were supposed to take her to the pool that weekend and practice what we learned, but while I was balling my eyes out Friday night getting the entire week’s tension out, I told Chris there was no way I was going to make her go under the water. If he wanted to, that was his choice.

Saturday morning when Chris mentioned going to the pool, Sydney started crying immediately. We told her she didn’t have to go to the pool if she didn’t want to, and then spent a long time trying to help her understand that going to the pool was different than swim lessons, and that the swim lessons were over. Late that afternoon, we went to the park down the street and when we peeked in on the kids swimming, Sydney decided she wanted to get in. She was so determined to swim that she started taking her clothes off! Chris ran home to get Sydney's swimsuit and we spent an hour playing in the pool with her. Phew – at least she wasn’t scared of the water or permanently traumatized. We’ve been going to the pool every weekend since, and sometimes she’ll say, “Sydney wants to go under,” while crying and she’ll even try it once and then remember what it’s like and not want to do it again.

In the end, maybe Sydney was just a little too young?  If I had it to do over again, I would try several other alternatives first.

A year later, we enrolled Sydney in swim classes at Emler’s Swim School.  We were careful to call it “swim class” instead of swim lessons after our previous swim disaster. This time around, we went slow and she enjoyed it. It took a LONG time for Sydney to get comfortable going under water. It seemed like she was never going to do it on her own. Every class, she'd tell the teacher, "I don't want to go under the water!" They were very patient with her. We didn't push. We found an instructor we loved and had her work with Sydney one-on-one. And then one day, out of the blue, Sydney decided she "wanted to go under water the whole class." And that's just what she did. 

Lessons Learned Recap: If you have a strong-willed, sensitive child like we do, it's probably not worth potentially scarring them for life to force them to swim under water before they are ready. Take it slow and patient and they'll take the plunge eventually!

Lessons Learned: Cheerios Explosion

Sydney loved Cheerios as a toddler. And when mommy headed to the kitchen to grab her water, Sydney decided it would be really fun to dump the entire bag onto the floor. I heard giggling from the other room and came back to discover a gleeful Sydney using Cheerios as confetti. 

Lessons Learned Recap – Never leave an unclipped bag with your toddler unless you want to experience a food explosion.

Parent Tips: Falling Asleep in Your Toddler's Bed

At one and a half, we moved Sydney to a big girls’ bed because she’d started climbing out of her crib. The first time she did it, we hoped it was a fluke. The next time, we heard a THUMP and a WAIL, and we decided it was time to make the change. We started off with a mattress on the floor so if she rolled out, she wouldn’t have far to fall. She rolled out often for the first six months or so, but then settled in enough that we were comfortable putting the bed frame back in her room.

The issue with the new bed was that she wouldn’t stay in it unless one of us fell asleep with her. We tried many ways to get her to fall asleep on her own, but nothing worked (especially since we were really big wimps with our first!). And Sydney is a very strong-willed child. So, sometimes I’d bring my book in and enjoy some quiet reading time while she drifted off. But other times, I grumbled about taking an hour to lay in bed with her when I had so many other things to do. 

The worst part was that if she woke up in the night, she couldn’t get herself back to sleep without one of us sleeping next to her either. 

With Sabrina on the way, it was even more critical to get Sydney out of the habit. A friend suggested I try the “moving the chair" routine. I was very, very skeptical. Here are the steps:

Step 1 - Instead of lying in their bed, you start out by sitting in a chair next to their bed.   When Sydney asked about the chair, I told her that I knew she could fall asleep on her own and that I was going to prove it to her.

Step 2 – After 2-3 nights, you move the chair a little closer to the door and away from the bed. 

Step 3 – Keep moving the chair a little bit farther away until you’re literally in the doorway.

Step 4 – Move the chair outside the door into the hall.  This was Day 8 of our experiment, and Sydney was not happy about the fact she couldn’t see me anymore.  She called out for me and I popped my head back in and said, “I’m right outside the door in the chair, reading my book.” 

Step 5 – Remove the chair entirely. I reminded her that she could officially fall asleep all by herself. She knew it was true and didn’t fight it at all!  We implemented the “I’ll come back to check on you” language.  Eventually, I put the chair back into her room and for a couple more days, I hung out in the kitchen where she could hear me making noises putting the dishes away, etc.  I’d poke my head back in every 10 minutes or so. 

That was it.  I really couldn’t believe it worked. I’d been lying in bed with her to get her to sleep for nearly a year and it only took 10 days to break the habit. The best part was she could get back to sleep on her own in the night as well. Out of habit, I went to lie down on her bed one night after she woke up and she said, "Mommy, I don't need you here. Go back to your bed!"

Sometimes, daughters really do know best!

Parent Tips: Family Rules

When Luke was born, it seemed like we couldn’t leave the room for one minute without a fight breaking out between Sydney (four at the time) and Sabrina (two at the time). Usually it was just yelling. Sometimes it got physical. When Sydney through a stapler at Sabrina's head when I'd left the room to answer the phone, we knew it was time for some more drastic measures.

One of them was to initiate our Family Rules. 

The first thing I did was purchase a canvas (I picked one from Red Envelope) with our family name at the top and the rules we aspire to live by.  This canvas print is now hanging in our kitchen.

Any time our kids break one of the rules, we remind them, “What do our family rules say about xxx?” Then a logical consequence follows. No anger or yelling. Just a reminder of the rules we live by in this household and that every member of our family needs to follow them. 

Even Mom and Dad!


However, I got a kick out of this dysfunctional version too: