A Boy’s List of “50 Things I Do for Fun”

My middle son is obsessed with electronics, in particular, the computer. He can take or leave television (me, too, thanks to Hulu), dabble in X-Box and the DS, but according to our James, Minecraft or Spore on the computer make his life worth living…or so he thought.

My husband and I limit access to his ‘beloved’ to one hour a day if he plays that much music on the piano and his trumpet. Sometimes we just limit it entirely at our discretion depending on how mindful he is of the rules. We are probably stricter than most parents (certainly not close to the Tiger Mom!) mostly because we feel strongly that there are many other ways to spend one’s time than with electronics. We want the children to consider those ways when they discover free time in their very busy schedules. To us, it’s an important developmental milestone in the process of maturing to know how to manage time when no one is there to dictate.

During a discussion with my husband about what other activities he might do instead while dad was using the computer for a complicated recipe, 11-year-old James came up with a fantastic array of options. It was so wonderful to see this many childhood pastimes that I thought I would share it with other parents who may get the same argument that “there’s nothing else to do!”

“50 Things I Do for Fun”

1. Drawing cartoons
2. Designing the school newspaper
3. Playing computer (interestingly, not #1)
4. Basketball
5. Reading
6. Soccer
7. 4-square
8. Going to school with a fake moustache
9. Sketching logos
10. Taekwondo
11. Yo-yo-ing
12. Singing
13. Piano
14. Racing the dogs
15. Bicycling
16. Cooking
17. Clay sculpting
18. YO-MAMA smackdowns with friends (??)
19. Sword-fights with Nicky (younger brother)
20. Writing stories
21. Making forts
22. Bubble: a school game
23. Dancing
24. Practicing my lettering (bubble, 3-D, grunge)
25. Man-hunt
26. Playing “Predator”
27. X-Box
28. Talking with friends
29. Listening to music
30. Going to parties
31. Bouncing on my friend’s trampoline
32. Tackling Nick
33. Cracking jokes
34. Hiking the woods
35. Climbing sheer dirt cliffs like at KIma’s (grandma’s)
36. Searching the paths for quartz and stockpiling it
37. Building snow tunnels
38. Trick-or-treating
39. Snowball fights
40. Trying to walk across the huge snow pile without falling (snow plow’s pile)
41. LEGO’s
42. Petting the dogs and getting licked
43. Daddy-Fun
44. Playing jail with George, Olivia and Nick
45. Sampling cookies
46. Throwing rocks to see who can hit a target
47. Rock-jumping
48. Climbing trees
49. Swimming
50. Tasting VICTORY!

While is sure is great to be a kid, I see many activities I like to do, too. Perhaps this is a list I can refer to when I get off this computer!
Happy playing to all!

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How I Finally Got My Kids Potty Trained!

I know they say all kids progress at different rates, but I never thought my two kids would be so different with their potty training.  I’m not sure if it was first child vs. second child, girl vs. boy, my parenting style being different with them, or just their different personalities.  I’ve had friends whose kids were opposite mine; mine being the girl was easier and the boy more difficult.  The same goes for the first child vs. second child situation; opposite of mine.

My daughter is my first born.  I decided to try and potty train her about a month before my son was born.  She was two and a half.  She also had to transition to a “big girl bed” as well, so I could have the crib for my son.  I was worried about so many changes for her, but she made it through them all like a champ!  I was very prepared for potty training, as I read almost every book at Borders on the subject.  I planned out everything, and it worked liked clockwork.  Here is what I did:

1.  Got her ready for “Potty Weekend!”  We talked about it, read child-aged books about it, and had a countdown.

2.  When Potty Weekend arrived, we stayed home all weekend.  I started by giving her “Baby Alive.”  We showed her how the doll worked, and she understood when you drink something it will make you need to pee.

3.  Every hour we had her put her doll on the potty to pee, and then she would try and pee too!  When she was successful, she would then pick out  a sticker from the basket for her potty chart we had up in the bathroom.  Every 10 stickers she earned, she could pick out a small prize.  She was so excited about this, and she tried so hard!  Her favorite thing to earn was a new pair of big girl underwear (she wanted nothing to do with pull-ups).

4.  She had a few accidents, but she was pretty much trained in about two weeks (with pee that is).  She wore diapers to bed for a while at night, but otherwise she did quite well.  Pictures below of my daughter around age two and a half.

I thought potty training was pretty easy, and I wondered why some of my friends were having such problems with their kids. Now I know! My son was the complete opposite.  He didn’t care much about earning stickers, he didn’t care about accidents, and he just fought it every step of the way.  We talked to our pediatrician about it constantly, and she said he will do it when he’s ready.  It seemed the more we pushed, the worse it got.  We finally did back off completely, and now (knock on wood) he has finally decided to do it on his own!!!  He turned 4 in March, and we are so happy he finally wants to go on the potty.  He was “pee potty trained” for a long while, but now he is doing everything on the potty.  Thankfully…….he finally potty trained himself!

Potty training can be easy, and it can be difficult.  I guess each child does have their own way of going about things.  My only advice to you is to be patient, try things that make your child excited about potty training, and make it a positive experience for them the best you can (even if you are completely frustrated).  They will get there sometime!

*  How are your experiences with potty training kids?  Any advice to offer others?

Kristin Wheeler

How Raising Boys is Different From Girls

Sisters

Sisters

Sometimes I am surprised I have any feminine traits whatsoever. After spending my youth around two older male brothers and all male cousins, I could throw a decent spiral by the age of 8. Top that with a move to a rural farm area in Ohio at 12, and I was suddenly pioneering a large tractor and had some nice mulch growing under my fingernails. Thank God I had a sister to get sweaty with, but for the most part, I was a tomboy.

Fast forward a decade or two and my residence consists of two growing boys ages 8 and 6, a husband whose stomach never ceases to amaze me, a male Golden Retriever with an affinity for socks, and me, the lone female. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch football, don’t mind going a while without showering, and can wrestle my boys with the best of them; but sometimes it might be nice to have someone ask me to paint my toenails. And God forbid if I call my boys “handsome” instead of “cool!”

I actually feel very blessed to be able to raise these boys to be great men, and I am blessed to have a great example in their father while doing so. My sister asked me the other day if I thought I did anything differently in terms of raising boys than I thought I would with girls and it gave me some pause. I think there are differences between the sexes in regard to how you teach them lessons, but I think the lessons overall are the same.

In a culture where I think women are often disrespected, either by fault of their own or as a result of a society where so much less value is placed on integrity and moral codes; one of my main concerns is that the boys grow up being very respectful of women. They are constant witnesses to their dad thanking me for dinner (every night), complimenting me on my appearance from time to time and opening the door for me. Some women are offended by such acts from men, and I guess to each her own, but when I think about how I want my boys to treat their wives, this is it.

Most women are more emotional than men.  A generalization for sure, but men tend to be more pragmatic and “get over things” faster than we do. The other day, I was trying to explain this to the boys. I explained that sometimes women and girls cry more–and not just when they are hurt physically, but when their feelings are hurt. I told them that they should try to be sensitive to this as they grow. For example, it is never acceptable to drop a girl off in the middle of the street during a downpour after taking her for a fine culinary meal at Arby’s and then leaving her stranded without even a kleenex or a coat. Okay, obviously a bad college flashback on my part, but you catch my drift.

Go Sun Devils!

Go Sun Devils!

I also strive to teach the boys manners, but I think I would do this in the same fashion as I would girls. One big difference. Burps and farts are funny to boys, they just are–and if you have spent any time in a high school, frat house, or locker room lately, it doesn’t get much better with age. At the dinner table and around grown ups, not acceptable. But in their rooms or outside with their friends?? Well, I could waste my time chastising them, but as the old adage goes, boys will be boys. Please and thank you,  and looking adults in the eye and answering them, are a must. If they need to engage in a little armpit humor from time to time, well, I may not join them, but I may just laugh.

Another big difference is the way boys engage or fight with each other.  Have you ever listened to how a group of men talk to each other, interact, and will even arm wrestle into their 40s? Yeah, I may not get it, but if I get huffy every time the boys break out in a wrestling match or the tackle football looks particularly gnarly, I would be wasting my breath. Call me crazy, but girl drama is not that fun, and lasts waaaaay too long. Most men would rather duke it out, shake it off and have a beer, and that’s pretty admirable if you ask me. (Of course, the beer part still has to wait). Sometimes, the more I intervene in these things, the bigger the problem becomes. Have at it, and let it be done.

Last but not least, and this is a big hot button. I want my boys to become men. I don’t care if they play sports or instruments. I don’t care if they can recite Whitman or know the NASDAQ, but for the love of all that is holy and true, let’s not turn them into women. I see women, I love women, I engage with women, but I want to be married to a man. I want them to be able to listen, to be sensitive, to not be threatened by a powerful woman; but in the same breath, I want to feel protected (even though I am strong!), I want to show you love by making your food and washing your clothes (and be respected for my brain and my work too!), I want to take care of you (and feel worshipped and adored!). I want to know how to change a fuse or a tire (but have you offer anyway, while you praise me for my  knowledge!). Call it sexist, call it unfair, call it whatever you want; but when I picture my boys taking care of their wives, I want them to be like my husband.

Do you have boys, girls, or both?  Do you raise them differently?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

From Exhaustion to Efficiency: Or, How I Make it through My Week with Minimal Crying!

Whether you are a busy working mom trying to balance the scales without having anything fall off, or  a Stay at Home mommy in charge of all the littles and praying for an iota of conversation that does not involve high pitch inflection or anything Gerber related; we are all just doing the best we can, right? While I am a working mom, another important thing for me is that my family eats together, and that the meal is nourishing and healthy. As a result, I have to find extra time in my day to plan and prepare dinner, and as tempting as it is to order in Pei Wei (Spicy Korean, anyone?), I make sure we eat in 5-6 nights a week at least. Between kids’ homework, school schedules, my work and fitting in Grey’s Anatomy, that leaves little time for messing around.  People question my ability (and sanity, but that’s another post) to get it all done, but in reality, it isn’t that big of a deal. Eating healthy and together is important to me, and we tend to make time for the things that are important to us. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

grady family

My taste-testers

 

1. Prep early. There are several things I do as soon as I get home from the store that help me later. I wash and bag my lettuce in a ziplocks with a paper towel inside to soak up moisture and keep it fresh. If I have bought celery and carrots, broccoli or green onions, I wash and chop those to throw in salads or other meals. I don’t pre-chop onions, because who needs a fridge that smells of pico de gallo all week, but once I use part of one, I wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock and voila! No smelly fridge. I also buy berries in bulk from Costco and although my kids inhale this fresh fruit, I usually freeze a quarter of the amount and use them for after school smoothies. Berries also get the tupperware/paper towel treatment and make sure they are dry so they last longer.

2. Have a well-stocked pantry. In my dream world, this means smoked oysters, truffles, artichoke hearts and Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt,  but those may or may not be so family friendly. Instead, I make sure to always have the following: white beans and garbanzo beans that I use to make hummus or throw in a salad, black beans and pinto beans that are yummy and go with anything Mexican and in lots of casseroles, tomato products (diced, sauce, crushed, whole, paste) to use in virtually anything or as a base for sauces of all kinds, brown and white rice, whole grain pastas (penne and spaghetti or angel hair), Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup and Quinoa (which I pronounced /kwin o ah/ until it became popular and I figured it out), couscous, Lipton onion soup mix (as a marinating agent for pork or potatoes), canned tuna, canned corn and loads of chicken broth or stock. Even if you can’t make it to the store for a week straight because of consecutive bad hair days or temper tantrums, if you are stocked in this way you don’t have to! It is also important to have a few oils (Canola, olive, coconut) and some vinegars (balsamic, red, white and rice) and maybe some cooking wine (or some for drinking that you can toss in the cooking!)

3. A little planning goes a long way! For the most part, I know that we will have one to two chicken dishes, a pasta dish, some pork or beef, and some fish throughout the week. If I am in a hurry, I can grill one of those, add a veggie sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, and a starch and I am good to go. I like to get a bit more creative for the sake of my family, but if I have this stuff, it is very easy to create different combinations. I also use a few different food blogs for inspiration. If I have the  ingredients mentioned above and a well-stocked fridge, I can sometimes stop on my way home to grab the one or three things I may not have and then make a new meal that night. I also have a binder in my kitchen that is broken down by section: apps, salads, meat entrees, seafood entries, pasta’s, sides, desserts, cocktails (my favorite section), where I have printed out recipes or torn them out from magazines and organized them into a solid recipe book. I may or may not suffer from OCD, but whatevs! It gets me through, people. One thing I do is that the recipe doesn’t go in until I make it and it gets a score of 8/10 from me or the powers that be in my home. Otherwise your reliable book becomes not so reliable and filled to the gills!

4. Stick to a Schedule. I almost always start dinner the same time every night. I have left play dates early, picked the kids up from practice if it isn’t over on time or skipped things entirely if they get too much in the way of sticking to what works for me. This leaves me able to be spontaneous and either order in or have a GNO if I want to. However, if I didn’t make dinner and eating together a priority–well,  between exercise and work and the circus/shuffling that is our lives, I would just be another person in the take-out or drive through lines. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have a few trusty numbers memorized that can solve my problems in 20 minutes and I like to use them from time to time to feed our family, but for the most part, we are just used to saving that money so I can buy some Manolos. Kidding. Mostly. I do want some before I die, though.

5. Balance is Everything. Some nights I may not want my menu broadcast over the internet because it seems embarrassingly simple. Other nights I want to take a picture of the meal and frame it. Some nights my family of men swoon, and reward me with hand and foot massages and scented oils.  Okay, Oreo kisses and some satisfied belly pats. But still, I will take it. Some nights I fix stuff for my carb loving 6 year old blue eyed funny guy, some nights I cater it toward my freckled, good-natured 8 year old protein lover, and finally, sometimes it is for my 40 year old garbage disposal wonderful man that thanks me after every single meal I prepare. Sometimes I succeed and feel like a rock star, and sometimes I fail, but I always try, and it is always made with love. And that, ladies, is all that matters.

 

Heartbreak via Toddler

Grandma, Toddler & Mom

As some of you know, I am originally from Florida and now live in Rhode Island. This past week I was fortunate enough to have my Mom visit for six days. She has been a huge help to my husband and I since we are selling our townhouse. We’ve spent the past several days packing boxes, moving them to our storage unit and she has helped us out by taking over toddler-duty. I’ve enjoyed not changing as many diapers or waking up quite as early as normal, but I’m surprised by how quickly my young son has thrown me aside for another woman.

Until a few weeks ago, my son has always been a sweet pea, giving kisses and hugs on demand. Now he shakes his head and laughs when I ask for a kiss. For the first time in 16 months, I don’t feel as needed by him. I breastfed him for almost 13 months and during that time he definitely needed me, even if it was only once a day.  I was a source of nutrition and comfort for him.

He has always come to me for solace when he fell down or needed something. That is, until my Mom visited. I’ve been replaced by his Grandma. She has spent the past six days with my little boy attached to her hip. When he fell off the couch today, he went to her for comfort when I was just as close. I have to be honest, it stung! I’m not looking forward to the tears (from all of us probably) when I drop her off at the airport.

Moms of boys, I’m well aware this is just the beginning. I’m sure he will be too cool to give me a kiss when I drop him off at school. He is going to spend more time with his Dad shooting hoops than cuddling with me on the couch. Someday he’s going to fall in love with a girl in high school and I’ll be second place while he obsesses over her text messages and where they will be going on their date nights.

I knew this was going to happen but I was not prepared for it to be so soon!

Moms of toddlers, please tell me he will come back to me for a little bit…

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