Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why TV is good for kids

In case you thought you misread the title of this post, yes, it truly does say that TV is good for kids. Seriously.

Before having children of my own, I used to be one of those people who made statements such as:

"why would anybody let their kids watch an IPAD at dinner? That would be an excellent time to really have a conversation!'


" My kids are definitely never going to watch TV everyday. I'll have lots of stimulating activities planned."

Then... I had kids of my own, and while we do try to limit the amount of TV each day, I do see benefits of television for kids, even young ones.

1) Safety- Sometimes, parents have to do things such as shower, get ready or cook. TV is a sure-fire way to keep kids safe during these times. Turning on an episode of "Paw Patrol" buys me about 25 of time and I know Andrew is sitting calmly. But, can't he just color or play quietly with puzzles? Sure he can, and we use those too, but those often require help or he wants somebody to sit with him.

2) Restaurants- When we visit "Kid-friendly" restaurants (McDonalds, Anthony's Beach Café) we don't bring the IPAD. However, if we plan to dine for longer than half-hour and the restaurant lacks a play area or sandbox, a good show can be a lifesaver. Granted, we rarely visit fancier places with the kids, when we do, its a nice back-up plan to have.

2) Education- While our kids do watch shows, we do monitor (closely) what they watch. So, usually Daniel Tiger, Peppa, Sid the Science Kid or Paw Patrol. Andrew has honestly learned loads from these shows. He's learned about community and jobs from Paw Patrol and Daniel, science vocabulary from Sid and some cook British lingo from Peppa.

Sure, we could teach him these things ourselves, but it sure wouldn't be as entertaining! Plus, he has carried ideas from the show to real life. We conduct some of the same experiments he sees on Sid and have visited fire trucks and recycle trucks and compare them to the ones on Paw Patrol.

Not to mention, TV is part of pop culture. Already Andrew and his buddies comment on shirts kids are wearing (Frozen, Mickey, Paw Patrol, etc) just as my co-workers and I dish about the newest TV series we are into.  I don't want to raise social outcasts, Kidding. Sort of.

3) Behavior-  TV is one of the only ways we can calm down our super-active kid. Today, we attended a 3-hour gymnastics camp and was still wired this evening when we came home. After watching a show, he was relaxed and reading for books and bed. I liken it to how most adults unwind with a favorite series before bed.

Not only is TV calming, but it also provides many lessons on appropriate behavior. Daniel Tiger featured an episode on how having a baby sister can make things different, but fun at the same time. This also included a catchy song and it stuck with him way more than me yelling, "Andrew, let Taylor play too!"

So, yes, I agree that kids shouldn't just sit around watching random TV all day, it does have its place. I know that Pediatricians recommend no TV before two, and I have actually abided to that, but not for lack of trying. Andrew lacked the attention span to watch a show until around that age and Taylor seems to be following in his footsteps.

For now, kids shows are all we have on here, but I look forward to the days when they are a bit older and we can also have "Family Movie night" and watch favorite shows together. I love that families I know bond over Star Wars, Harry Potter, and that these are ways they connect.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A toast to a great man...

Today I learned my co-worker and our friend passed away after a 12+ year battle with cancer. I have always thought that if you were prepared for somebody to go, it would be easier, especially if the person had already lived a long, full life. Not true.

While Carl lived to see his kids get married, take many amazing trips with his wife and meet all five of his grandchildren, it doesn't mean he won't be missed. For years, there were many health scares for Carl where he didn't think he would make it. I assumed this final time was the same. When his daughter told me things were not looking good, I figured I would get a call the next day informing me Carl had had improved and we could come and visit. Not this time, this time he was actually gone and I can't seem to shake the disbelief. 

I met Carl over 10 years ago, when he was the reason I was hired for my very first teaching job at Voyager Middle School. I was 23 and had only a one long-term teaching experience under my belt, no Masters degree and no extra certificates. Carl informed the committee he would like to team with me because I reminded him of both his past teaming partner (who moved) and his daughter (who is three days older than me). 

Until he retired last year, i had the privilege of teaching with him and getting to know both Carl and his family. My husband and I played on his softball team, went to his wine parties and he even read at our wedding. He was a special person in our family and we always looked forward to the times we spent with Carl. As a teacher, I've never met anybody who was so dedicated to his job. Even after he retired, when he was obviously run down, he continued to substitute in the building. Kids loved him, many asking to "TA" for him after they moved on to 7th and 8th grade. He was known for his sarcastic humor, passion for sports and myriad of ties- one for each day of the school year, plus some.

Carl has left a lasting impression in the minds and hearts of many co-workers, friends, students, and of course his family. He was so proud of of all his kids and grand-kids and talked about them often.  It will be incredibly difficult to return to work this fall and not hear his voice (literally, I could hear him teaching math lessons from down the hall) in the building. His absence will definitely be felt by all who knew him- and he was known by many.

So tonight, I'm drinking a nice glass of red wine in honor of Carl- because that is exactly what he would want everybody to be doing. Celebrating a life well lived. 

Friday, July 31, 2015


Even before Taylor was born, I knew that having two kids would be drastically different than having one child. Most of my friends already two (or more) so I had seen it first-hand. Throughout my pregnancy, I worried about how I would possibly pay attention to two at one time, how Andrew would deal with the change and how Adam and I would adjust.

In comparison to Andrew, Taylor is a relatively calm baby (so far...fingers crossed). She is content to sleep in the ergo or bouncer for hours, giving me two free hands to wrangle a busy toddler. Not to say that two is easy. Far from it. Yesterday, at the park, I had to pick a tantruming (because I wouldn't allow him to play in the street) Andrew off the pavement and fling him under one arm and walk up a steep grass hill. Meanwhile, poor Taylor had somebody screaming in her ear while she was bounced around and jostled. And it was about 80 degrees out. If you've ever "worn " a baby in the heat, you understand. Good times.

My mind floated back to when Andrew was an infant and I would sit on the couch, relaxing while he slept or we would take walks to the store. I could even shower while he was in the bouncy seat, make dinner or read some books. With one, you actually can sleep while they do, but with two? Good luck.

Looking back, I would say having one baby was a breeze, although it didn't feel that way at the time. Going from no kids to one means the loss of the life you once knew- there was now a person that came before my "wants" and "needs." No more spontaneous happy hours, long workouts at the gym or sleeping as late as we pleased on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Not to mention, Andrew was (is) quite a spirited baby.

I have come to the realization all stages in life are difficult because they are new, and not necessarily because any one stage in life is harder than the next.

Back in 1999, starting college seemed like the hardest thing I had ever done. I was on my own for the first time and had to balance school with work and a social life. Sure, I see now just how easy my life was back then, but it sure didn't feel that way at the time. Why? Because it was new. Same with when I graduated and started my first teaching position, renting my first apartment on my own and managing my own money. It felt hard at the time and I wished for my carefree college days.

Right now, two kids feels hard. However, I am sure when they are teenagers, I will think back to how easy it was having younger children. Right now, I deal with tantrums and crying, but at least it is over silly things- like having a favorite Mickey Mouse shirt in the wash. With teens, new hardships come into play- like driving, making good decisions and doing well in school. And... you cannot simply throw a tantruming teens under your arm and place them in their stroller!

Having to juggle attention between two will continue, but no longer will I have to decide who to go to first when they are crying, but instead whose game or activity to go to... .There will also come a day when neither wants our attention as often, and I know when this time comes, I will truly miss the stage we are in now.


Rather than complain about how difficult things seem at the moment , I will try to enjoy this time now because I know that one day I will miss it- well maybe not the lack of sleep. I will definitely not miss that.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

More of Everything

Since the time Andrew was born, I knew had loads of energy and was quite high needs. He once screamed for the entire (hour-long) car ride home when most babies would have eventually given up and fallen asleep. We have probably had to leave stores, restaurants and outings more in the last month than most people ever will. Andrew doesn't respond to "no" or distract easily to a new task as I have seen other kids his age do. He is also a mover- walked around 10 months and has been running ever since. He has a delightfully curious nature- he wants to touch everything all the time and see how it works.

Now, I have found there is actually a term for kids like him- "spirited" and I have begun delving into a book called "Raising your Spirited Child."

Basically, spirited children share the same characteristics of their peers- just more of each. They have huge extremes. Andrew go from being the happiest, sweetest little boy giving "kisses" on minute to flailing on the ground, screaming the next. Typical discipline techniques to not work on these spirited kids- which can be quite frustrating. It is both the best and the worst.

Mary Sheedy, the author of the book describes "spirited children" into five major categories. Andrew fit into every one.

1) Intensity- Their reactions are always powerful

-  This is the category Andrew actually had the least amount of points in, because he is not necessarily loud and screaming all the time.

 However, Andrew's tantrums are loud and his emotions seem to explode. Today, informed him we needed to get out of the car to bring groceries into the house. This was not on his agenda and he preferred to sit in the car for the moment. I could just feel the fit starting as I told him again- and sure enough. It came. His intensity is not always in the form of a tantrum though. He also shrieked with joy earlier as he propelled down a slide at the park.

One way to help the intensity is to use techniques like humor to stop them. So allowing Andrew to throw a fit for several moments, I started tickling him and laughing. He eventually settled down and we tried one of his other "settle down" favorites- washing his hands. Water, in general, helps to calm him down a lot...

2) Persistence- They don't give up or give in easily

Overall, this is an excellent trait for people to have. We all need to learn about not giving up and sticking with things when they are tough. This is not, however, always a great attribute when dealing with a toddler...and Andrew scored the highest here.

If he wants something and his mind is set, it is incredibly difficult to distract Andrew. He remembers things from weeks ago, doesn't take "no" for an answer and attempts to keep going until he gets what he wants. This is great when he attempts new skills- last week, we kept trying and trying to climb up a slide (as he saw some big boys doing) and didn't stop until he figured it out!

It can also be exasperating. I have heard other parents remark that when they give their kids a firm "no" or use time-out, etc. their kids eventually give up. Not Andrew. Yesterday, he wanted some Chapstick and I put a bit on his lips and then hid it in a drawer. This was apparently not good enough. He wanted to also hold it. I told him "no" and went to fold some laundry. When I turned around- he was standing on his tiptoes to reach another tube of chapstick Adam had left on the counter last week. The little bugger actually remembered this!

3) Sensitivity- Strong reactions to noise, crowds or even irritating clothes

This one was made obvious a few days ago when we ventured out to the Children's Museum. The other times we went were weekday mornings, when it was relatively quiet and Andrew had a fabulous time- particularly at the water station. I (stupidly) didn't even think that the environment might be a tad different on a Sunday afternoon.

Let's just say, I had anxiety and wanted to leave. Andrew was getting frustrated about the lack of personal space and began grabbing at other kids hair and faces. We left and had a much better time just walking around the city and stopping at Starbucks.

4) Perceptiveness- Noticing anything and everything

I really don't think this characteristic is a frustrating one...unless you are in a hurry to go somewhere! As they get older, these kids can appear distracted and to not be listening.

Since Andrew is a toddler, I am not sure how well any of them listen yet, but I have observed him noticing things I miss. Today, we walked by a lady and Andrew said "hi" and then started yelling "daddy." I was very confused, as this woman obviously looked nothing like Adam. He kept insisting and pointing at her shirt- a Seahawk emblem pictured on the front. Adam always wears a Seahawk hat. Smart little guy.

5) Adaptability-  transitions and changes are stressful for these guys

Andrew has a pretty set schedule and if things are not in the order he expects, he can become quite upset. A little girl he always sees at daycare was not there the other day and they informed me he cried for about 20 minutes. He likes his meals, naps and bedtime at the same time each day- and is not really what you would call "flexible."

So, while it may sound silly to decline a birthday invite or get together during naptime- with him, it is really not worth it or fun to go. We have learned this and just hope his new sister is a bit more flexible with her schedule!

I have just started getting into the parts of this book where it addresses how to handle your "spirited" child and so far, many of the strategies have helped. Spirited children are smart and it is nice to focus on the fact that he is wonderfully sweet and intelligent than to become exhausted when he is really showing off his "spirit."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Vacation" with a toddler

Last month, we flew with Andrew to California for Christmas to visit family. Even before having children, I had always imagined we would continue to travel once we had them. Vacations with kids must be fun, I had always thought. Wrong. Although the trip itself was fun, I would not call it so much a "vacation" as a "trip."

I had seen all of those adorable picture of people's babies looking out of airplane windows, and assumed it must be a piece of cake. Those babies always looked so happy, and their parents so relaxed.

Wrong. I now think those pictures are a (very) small glimpse as to the real goings on of the plane ride.

Looking at this picture, you would imagine Andrew was a perfect angel on the flight. Not quite...

What unfolded for us on the airplane was neither relaxing nor fun. However, I think we will now be better equipped and prepared to fly with Andrew (and his sister once she arrives) in the future.

So, here you are. Some of my tips for flying with small children- unless of course, yours are not as active as mine:

1) Buck up and buy the kid their own seat. Even if they are under two. Trust me, it will worth it to keep them contained. We instead bought two first class seats and assumed we would have enough room. While the space was okay in first class, Andrew knew he could move around. He constantly wanted out of the seat and to talk to others around the plane. Or he was kicking the seat of the people in front of us.

At least, had he been buckled in, he would have  been more content. He also might have actually fallen asleep.

Seriously. This first tip is probably the most important.
I should have known this active guy would NOT want to sit still for 2.5 hours.

2) Drink on the plane if you can. Or before. Or both. Unfortunately, I was unable to imbibe due to my condition, but I certainly was eyeing Adams cocktail with envy. If I had a couple glasses of wine in my system, I may have found the whole situation amusing, but instead I was annoyed and grouchy. And uncomfortable.

3) Make sure your electronics work prior to take off. Ours didn't. This meant plans of Andrew watching "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" were down the drain. Instead, I got to walk up and down the aisles with him and stand by the bathrooms for about half an hour.

4) If your toddler is a fan of whole milk, fill up prior to boarding. Most planes don't carry whole milk and only a small quantity of 2%. I used those containers of milk Starbucks leaves out by the condiments (because the line was about 50 people long).

5) Provide little treats for them to open during the flight. My mom packed Andrew a bag with little snacks and toys. He liked opening the packages. Just be careful- if you have a "thrower" like he is, you may end up with toys being chucked at unsuspecting passengers.

6) Bring a stroller on the plane. You can "gate check" them right before you board. Even if your toddler normally doesn't enjoy them. Its nice to race through the airport without having to carry them. Especially if it is busy, as it was when we were flying.

7) Be prepared for screaming on decent. I wish I had known about toting some suckers along for this...Andrew screamed the entire time we were landing because his ears hurt and he didn't know how to pop them. It was horrible and all I could do was hold him while he wailed away...

So, basically our flight was horrible. However, Andrew did enjoy the rest of his vacation. He loved the beach and going to Disneyland and being able to hang out outside in the SUN in December!

Next time we will be more prepared, so we start our travels off on the right foot. Although, I know that the trips we take will no longer be as relaxing as they once were, they still certainly make for great memories we will talk about for years to come!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The 2nd time around

Being pregnant the 2nd time around is certainly a different experience than the first. With the first, people treat you as though you are a delicate, magical being who needs help with things. You have a glow about you, strangers ask about your bump and how you are feeling and what the nursery will look like.

Maternity shoot with Andrew
I really didn't feel sick when I was pregnant with Andrew, so my pregnancy with him was actually kind of "fun."

Now, I  feel tired, huge and instead of a glow...I have dark circles under my eyes. We are not even sure where the new baby will sleep, so the nursery theme will be "a crib."

Yes, there are many differences with this pregnancy versus my first...

1) When I was pregnant with Andrew, I don't recall ever missing alcohol. In fact, it sounded disgusting. However, with #2, I am missing my wine. After a day with crazy middle schoolers, followed by an afternoon and evening with an active toddler (morning too-since he is up by 6am) I was getting used to relaxing at night with a nice class of red wine. Now I have switched to tea, but it is not the same.
Happy Toddler at the beach

2)The first time around, I was so focused on being pregnant, I didn't really put much thought into what life would actually be like once the actual baby arrived. I had been told newborns sleep a lot, so I had visions of Adam and I watching movies at night while the baby slept soundly in a swing. The baby would also come to all of our usual activities- wine tasting, dinner, the gym, etc.. and sleep in a car seat. I had seen other babies doing just that, so I figured ours would to. Wrong. Andrew, although adorable, was an incredibly "high needs" baby who never just "fell asleep" anywhere.

At least this time, don't have high expectations of how easy it will be. However, I am worried about how we will manage if the next one is as needy as Andrew was?

Sweet Andrew- active from an early age
 Maybe though, with subsequent children, parents are more relaxed and it will just seems easier? Let's hope so, because the combination of an incredibly energetic toddler and a fussy newborn might put us all over the edge.

3) When I found out I was pregnant with Andrew, I read every book, anxiously anticipated each doctors appointment and received weekly updates about my baby and what size of fruit Baby Andrew was. We obsessed over possible names and bought tons of baby items for him.

 Today, somebody asked me how many weeks I was, and I realized I had no idea. I actually had to look up the due date online to figure it out...

Sorry-I don't have any actual photos
of myself doing yoga...
4) At the end of the pregnancy with Andrew, Adam and I attended a birthing class, where all of us hugely pregnant women were made to sit in uncomfortable folding chairs while a lady basically told us if we didn't have a natural birth, we were bad parents right from the start. They tried to tell us that dancing around and sitting on a ball, along with yoga would help one to have this kind of birth.

 Guess what? I did yoga nearly everyday and STILL ended up with a C section. I really do admire women that can have a natural birth, but it wasn't in the cards for me. Since I am having a repeat C Section (no, I do not want a VBAC, so don't ask me about it) the only worries I have are what we are going to do with Andrew when I am in the hospital and recovering at home?

Meaghan and I at my wedding...2010
5) I took the rules very seriously with Andrew- no lunch meat, alcohol, raw cookie dough, lifting anything over 25 lbs, sleeping on my back or eating sketchy cheese. While I am still laying off the booze, I did sneak a bit of cookie dough this evening and have consumed lot of cheese. As for the lifting rule? Andrew weighs more than 25 lbs, so that rule is out the door.

The funny thing is that excited as I am about the new baby, I am mostly excited to have two because they will have one another. Even though my sister and I fought sometimes (particularly one incident in Italy where she was sure I stole her gelato money), having a sibling was my favorite part of growing up. Even better? Meaghan and her husband are expecting a baby girl in March, so Andrew and his new sibling will also have a cousin close in age.

Although, I am not sure if either of us are ready or know what life will be like with two kids, I know that we are excited to find out.
Hood Canal

Sunday, May 18, 2014

One year later...

At this time last year, I was anxiously awaiting Andrew's arrival. (Don't worry, this post is NOT a story of my labor and delivery).  I had no idea that life was about to change forever. Prior to having a child myself, I couldn't fathom giving up things I loved for a baby. As I stated in an earlier post, I thought it might be nice to have a flexible baby. You know, one that we could take wine tasting and out to nice dinners and such.

What I didn't realize was that you don't choose your baby- your baby chooses you and comes with a personality all their own.

Lately, I have been thinking about how people categorize babies as "good" or "bad/difficult" based on how little they interrupt their parent's lives. A baby is "good" if he or she naps easily, sits quietly at meals, doesn't fuss, etc. "Bad babies" are ones who cry, don't sleep well and don't want to be contained.

Why are these babies "bad/difficult?" It is simply that different babies have different dispositions, just as we adults do.

When I was not a parent, I used to hard-core judge parents and their kids in public and categorize them into the "good" and "bad" camp. The baby sleeping quietly on an airplane? Good. The little boy running up and down the aisles at the grocery store? Bad. The toddler sitting nicely in his highchair at a restaurant? Good. The baby who wouldn't sit in her stroller at Greenlake? Bad.

You get the picture. I figured the "bad" babies were that way due to the fault of the parents. My baby would certainly follow directions because I would know how to parent.

Then along came Andrew. He was fussy, and I mean really fussy as a newborn. He would only sleep if I walked with him for miles everyday. I always see pictures of other people's babies on Facebook with a caption reading " __________ just fell asleep while playing with her toys! How cute!"

Andrew has NEVER just fallen asleep while playing, even as a newborn. He was angry a lot, and I know now that he was mad because he wanted to move.

As he got older, he became a happy, charming little gentleman. He (luckily) was able to sit and crawl at a young age, which gave him the freedom he craved.

He started walking around ten months and gets loads of attention every where we go, because it does look funny that someone so small is out and running about. However, when he is confined against his will  (such as in a high chair, stroller or grocery car) he becomes a "bad" baby.

The other day, he threw a full on tantrum at the store because he wanted to hold the loaf of bread as we went around the store. Rather than trying to prove a point, I let him hold the damn bread. I had shopping to do, so leaving would actually punish me rather than him. I knew other parents were looking at me, judging me and my "difficult" child or questioning my parenting skills.

On most days, he will move continuously for 2-3 hours, refuses to let us read him books (we have actually memorized the books and "read" them in the car), refuses to stay in his bouncer for longer than five minutes,  and takes a two minute bath because he won't sit in the bath tub. We have realized that going out to eat is no longer fun unless there is a play area.

Today, we celebrated his birthday with some family at a local ice cream shop. There was another boy also celebrating his first bday. This little boy was sitting quietly on his dad's lap for the entire hour they were there! My little guy? He was running around the shop holding balloons and yelling. And also maybe taking the other little boy's ice cream spoon.

However, I don't think he is a "bad" baby at all. High energy? Yes. Opinioned and strong-willed? Undoubtedly. But, "bad or difficult?" No.

See, what I didn't realized until almost a year ago today is the unconditional love that I would feel for this special little boy. Sure he won't sit down and let me read to him anymore, but I love watching him chase Teddy around the house. And tonight, when we was shrieking and running in the sprinkler, I couldn't stop smiling. If he was a "good" baby, would my life be easier? Most likely, but it certainly wouldn't be as fulfilling or fun as it is now!

Happy Birthday, Andrew Walter. You are my rambunctious little guy and I love you very much. Don't every change, because that strong personality is what makes you incredibly unique (and adorable) and I wouldn't have it any other way!