Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday Blog


“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents ... and only one for birthday presents, you know. “ Author Unknown
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Well, I am officially another year older (and wiser?). As usual, my family, friends, and coworkers helped me celebrate the entire week leading up to the big day. My twin sister commented that we don’t just have a birthday, but an entire week of celebrations. As adults, we rarely have just one large birthday party with all of our friends and family. Rather, each day we celebrate with a different group- family A, family B, in-laws, friends, co-workers, etc.  I enjoy this method of celebration, as I get to spend quality time with each group of family and friends, as well as prolong the joy of gift receiving. At this point my week of celebration has ended and now it is time for reflection.

Old Soul

Since the onset of adolescence, I have been considered an “old soul”. I have always been mature for my age and more cautious and reserved than most of my peers. While they had sleepovers in middle school, broke curfew in high school, and had crazy, party experiences in college (and high school), I was uncomfortable with sleepovers, too afraid to break curfew, and worked too hard in college to party excessively. Although I enjoy letting loose and having fun, my friends used to consider me the “mom” of the group. Again, I am such a chronic rule follower that it sometimes gets in the way of having fun.

Age in the Workplace

It seems that young women are caught in a paradox in the work place. Many companies want the creativity, youthful energy, and relatively uncomplicated lives characteristic of young employees. However, as a young-ish professional, I have constantly found myself having to work against the stereotypes projected on me due to age. In order to “prove myself”, I have to work harder, dress more professionally, and conduct myself in a much more conservative manner. I selectively share elements of my personal life and become a much more serious, straight-laced, type-A personality when I am in a professional setting. Although I work with a wonderful group of people, I am positive that I have had to work harder to gain their respect than some of my older contemporaries due to my age.

Birthdays with Children

Celebrating your birthday with very young children is much different than celebrations sans tots. Before Macie I was able to go out, have as many drinks as I wanted, and not worry about being home at a certain time. My birthday was all about ME and I didn’t have to think about anyone else- except for maybe my twin sister. My past two birthdays with Macie have been mostly about her. Even though my husband and I went out this year to celebrate on our own (thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law for watching sassy Ms. Macie), the majority of the day was spent in our usual routine of childcare and entertainment. Basically, except for the late afternoon and evening, our routine was unchanged. I still had to cater to a bossy, demanding toddler, who screams “maaaam, maaam, maaam” anytime she needs anything. Want to know what the most annoying sound in the world is to me? I’m sure you can guess. Overall, my birthday has become less significant of an event now that I have a child. And that’s okay- my life is not all about me anymore. I am not the center of my universe- Macie is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Although many people dread aging another year, I am thankful for my birthday because it means I am another year wiser. Each year I become a better person- less self-involved, more self-aware, more confident, and much more knowledgeable. Along with my increased cognitive capacity and maturity, I find myself appreciating life and the people in it much more. As I have progressed through my twenties, I have gradually become happier and more fulfilled. Contrary to popular culture, I welcome the aging process and all the benefits it brings.

Cheers to another year of self-improvement! I hope I am as optimistic when I reach 30. J

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa, Baby


Christmas is right around the corner and my family is celebrating Macie’s second holiday season. The gifts are bought and partially wrapped, the tree and holiday d├ęcor has been out since right before Thanksgiving, and we have been listening to lots of Christmas music. Having your child’s photo taken with “Santa Claus” is a popular family tradition during the holiday season. Last year it didn’t even occur to me to have Macie’s photo taken with Santa, as I did not want to endure a trip to the mall this time of year with an infant. When one of our favorite photographers, Jill Shadden, advertised her upcoming “pictures with Santa” mini session I jumped on the opportunity (In the Moment Photography- inthemomentstl.com). This meant that Macie would finally get to meet Santa and we could avoid the frenzied mall. It was a win-win situation.  

This past weekend we had a designated time slot in which to meet jolly old Saint Nick and we were in and out within thirty minutes. While we waited for our turn with Santa, Jill and her welcoming parents had toys out to keep the kiddos busy. Jill’s husband was dressed as Santa (I don’t know how she talked him into that) and they were both very patient with Macie’s lack of cooperation. Although Macie didn’t seem scared of Santa, she certainly wasn’t interested in him either.  After introducing Macie to Santa, we attempted to place her on his lap. The result was a short-lived tantrum as Macie wriggled her way to the floor. We tried distracting Macie with a reindeer stuffed animal and a Christmas book with limited success. Finally, we took a few photos of Macie sitting on my lap next to Santa and some of her sitting alone on the chair next to Santa. I hope Jill captured a few shots of Macie smiling, or at least looking directly at the camera, but I am looking forward to seeing a photo of Macie’s meltdown on Santa’s lap.

This holiday photo session was much more relaxing and pleasant than I expected. I am very thankful to Jill and her family for taking the stress out of this holiday tradition. When it was all said and done, Jill mentioned that Macie was not the only toddler having difficulty with Santa. Apparently, most of her toddler aged clients are less than enthusiastic about being forced to pose for pictures with an overdressed stranger. While this made me feel slightly better about Macie’s lack of cooperation, it also made me wonder why children are so scared of Santa. He is a round, jolly, old man waiting to grant your Christmas wish, not a slobbish, unwashed, drunken man waiting to steal your wallet when you turn around. Sure, Santa technically breaks into your house on Christmas Eve, but he leaves toys, eats cookies, and drinks milk. He’s not dangerous- he doesn’t trash your house and steal your TV.  Santa spends his night selflessly delivering toys to girls and boys. The least we could do is leave him a snack of milk and cookies…although I would prefer a margarita and chips and salsa (just saying). He is the ultimate humanitarian. And yet, so many young children are reluctant to interact with this saintly guy. I suppose this wariness is a good thing. Do we really want our children to be comfortable sitting on a strange man’s lap- no matter how jolly and rosy he appears to be? No way- that’s how children get abducted. Until Macie is old enough to buy into the “Santa” story and appreciate the experience for what it represents, I’m fine with Macie being guarded and uncooperative around Kris Kringel. The next few years of Santa photos won’t be full of glee and childish delight- more likely we will see vacant and/or confused expressions. Right now the photos are more for me that for her anyway….does that make me a selfish mom?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Domestically Challenged


To put it simply, I hate cleaning. Sophie Kinsella’s phrase “Undomestic Goddess”, the title of one of her novels, is a flattering way to describe my domestic abilities. It’s not that I can’t physically do these things….it’s more that I’m not inclined to spend hours maintaining a “perfect” home. Yes, I care that the floors are clean and things are put away (sometimes). But I don’t overly concern myself if the windows aren’t spotless, if the space beneath my couch is a graveyard for stray toys and dog hair, and if my stove is splattered with red sauce. I don’t dust everyday and baskets of clothes are not always folded as soon as they leave the dryer. I like my house to be orderly and picked up, but after putting Macie to bed at 7:00 p.m., I’d rather write, edit photos, read, or watch crappy T.V. than spend an hour cleaning.

Even though I stay at home half the week, I don’t consider myself to be one of those rock star housewives. Some of my acquaintances are the embodiment of domestic goddess. By 8 a.m. they have baked a cake, worked out, dropped the kiddos at school, and are perfectly coifed. Not me. Sure, I’m usually awake by 5 or 6 a.m. each day, but most of my time is spent meeting Macie’s many, and increasingly intelligible, demands. Most days I am in yoga pants and a tank top, with disheveled, pony-tailed hair, and no makeup. I often fit in a work out, but it is usually cut short by Macie demanding to be held. Cooking is on an as needed and limited basis. On motivated days I try to pick up after Macie, but I find myself cleaning the same mess over and over again. Most of the time I don’t waste the energy.

Challenges to keeping a clean house:

1.     Macie is like a search and destroy missile. Her mission is to extract every article from the recycle bin, her toy chest, the kitchen cabinets, her bookshelf, shoe basket, and DVD collection. Basically, she undoes my work in a matter of seconds.
2.     Gunner’s dog hair covers my floor. In order to keep the floors clean I have to Swifter multiple times a day.
3.     Josh is a slob. He leaves things all over the house without thinking twice. For example, he leaves shoes in the bathroom, dirty clothes on the floor in front of the hamper, dirty glasses all over the house, and his snack items and breadcrumbs all over the kitchen counter right after I clean.

Unfortunately, now that we are in the process of putting our house on the market, I have spent much of my free time doing the thing I loathe- cleaning. When we actually list the house I am going to have to spend hours each week washing, scrubbing, polishing, and vacuuming in order to maintain an immaculate home. Although my house is small, scrubbing the main floor is exhausting enough. How am I going to find the energy and motivation to keep the basement and sun porch pristine? I will be spending a lot more time engaged in these tedious domestic tasks, which does NOT make me happy. I guess I need to create a good soundtrack for inspiration. Any suggestions for cleaning music? Better yet, any of you domestic goddesses want to volunteer to help maintain my soon to be immaculate home?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

English Language Learner



Sixteen months is an active and social age. It is wonderfully amusing to watch Macie grow and develop, becoming such a little individual. Observing Macie play and interact with her world, I am amazed at how much she understands. In addition to comprehending and responding to language, Macie’s speech and language development has increased exponentially. Her constant babble is slowly becoming intelligible, as her word count grows. When Macie can’t articulate the proper word, her facial expressions and physical movements frequently communicate her meaning. Macie’s recently expanded communication skills have made her even more entertaining. Below I have shared a list of English words that Macie is now using, as well as short anecdotes and commentary about her use of the English language.

List of English Words

Ball
Dog
Duck
Moo
Mom/mommy/mama
Dad/daddy/dada
Mine
My
Milk
Baby
More
Done
No
Yes
Bye by
Vroom
Hi
Book
Gunner
That (as in, “I want that”)
Peanut butter- almost
Blueberries- almost

Dog Obsession

Macie is absolutely obsessed with dogs. One of her first words was “dog”, she has at least six dog stuffed animals, and her “lovie” is a raggedy stuffed dog that has been washed so many times that he is starting to come apart. Currently this “lovie” is stained with blueberries and peanut butter- Macie’s two favorite foods- and is in need of another washing. Every time Macie sees Gunner (our border collie/Australian shepherd mix), a dog outside, in a book, or on TV she immediately gets excited, waves, and says “doawg”. If she hears a dog barking she calls out for them and starts looking around with wide, alert eyes. Needless to say, dog is one of her most frequently used words.

Possessive Language

The most surprising of Macie’s new words is her use of possessive language. A few weeks ago she started saying “mine” in response to having something taken away from her. In these circumstances Macie shrieks “mine” and eagerly reaches out her arms, impatiently requesting the item back. Macie makes it seem as if her human rights have been violated when you take a possession away from her. Such a drama queen. Macie has also been using “my” lately to demonstrate ownership and relationship. Most often she says “my daddy”, but I have also heard her say “my dog” and “my book”. Clearly Macie is confident that all three belong to her.

Mimicking Language

Even though Macie can’t completely communicate in English, she certainly understands the flow and sequence of sentences. For a few months now she has even been mimicking our sentences, not that we can understand her exact words. The best example is from a few months ago. Our dog, Gunner was barking ferociously and Josh yelled, “Gunner, shut up!”. A moment later Macie yelled, “dada, shu uh!”. Although it wasn’t verbatim what Josh said, it was close enough in both the word structure and fluctuation. We cracked up, amused at the idea that Macie may have just told her father to “shut up”. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we hear that out of her mouth…though hopefully not for a few years.

Repetitions in songs

When listening to music, Macie often mimics the sound of a repetitive chorus. For example, in the Nicki Minaj song “Super Bass” the chorus includes repetition of the word “boom”. As soon as Macie hears the song, she immediately starts to shake her head and repeat “ba, bo” sounds. By this point you should not be surprised that my daughter listens to modern pop music as opposed to “toddler radio”. I promise, I tried to play toddler music, but I seriously wanted to drown myself in Nyquil after about an hour of “the wheels on the bus”.

Uh Oh

Macie says “uh oh” all day long. She says it when she or someone else drops an object, when she can’t find something, when we correct Gunner, when we correct her, and often for no apparent reason. When Macie says this phrase it is with wide eyes, raised eyebrows, and a very serious expression on her face. She intentionally makes eye contact with you so that you understand the magnitude of the situation. Imagine McCauley Caulkin’s facial expression on the “Home Alone” movie cover…but much more adorable.

Ah, Ah, Ah

Per our PAT educator’s recommendation, we try to avoid saying “no, no” to Macie. She suggested that rather than correct Macie, we should redirect her attention. This is all good and great in theory, but in practice it can be challenging sometimes. When Macie is determinedly digging in the trash and ignoring my attempts at distraction I automatically revert to the “ah, ah, ah” phrase. Technically, I’m not breaking Tina’s rule- I’m modifying it…right? (Why am I such a chronic rule follower?) Macie has gotten so used to hearing this phrase that she parrots it right back to me with a big, precocious grin on her face. You can tell that she takes me seriously, right?

Momma!

Basically, any time Macie needs something she yells for me. Seriously. She even yells for me when I am in another room and Josh is playing with and taking care of her. Most of the time she yells for me when she is hungry or to tattle on daddy for not giving her exactly what she wants. When this happens Macie indignantly calls for me, wanting nothing to do with her “uncooperative” father. Funny how quickly I have become the fixer and helper.

My Daddy

As mentioned in previous blogs, my husband works odd hours that change on a monthly basis. Additionally, he often has three or four consecutive days off work. Macie gets used to him being home on these days and can never quite adjust to his rotating schedule. On days that Josh works, Macie often looks at me and says, “mahy daddy?” with her hands and arms in the “what” gesture (arms bent, palms facing upward), as if to question where he is and when he will be home. When Josh does pull into the driveway, Macie excitedly runs to the window, giggles, and waves- eager to give her daddy a hug.

My Daughter the Southerner

As Macie’s word count steadily increases, I have noticed that some of her words are spoken with a Southern accent. She has always pronounced “dog” slowly, so it sounds like “daowg”. Then I noticed that Macie’s pronunciation of the word “my” sounds like “mahy”.  Even still, I didn’t notice Macie’s Southern accent until she put her first three-word sentence together. Last week Macie found her Christmas stash and immediately started playing with her walking, barking toy puppy. When she put the toy dog down I tried to place it out of her line of vision. As soon as I took the puppy, Macie yelled, “Mahm, mahy daowg!” (Mom, my dog!) and held out her hands for me to return the puppy. It was one of the cutest things I have ever seen. I’ve always been partial to a Southern accent, but hearing my baby speak that way is incredibly endearing. I’m guessing that this is just a phase in Macie’s language development and that she will eventually learn to speak like a Midwesterner. In the meantime, her Southern accent will be endlessly amusing while it lasts.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Macie


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day full of family and feasting- two of my favorite things. Each Thanksgiving I reflect on the past year and remind myself of how lucky I am to have such an amazing life. My family is supportive and loving, I have a wonderful husband, I enjoy my job and the people I work with, and I have the opportunity to further my education. I am healthy, happy, live a comfortable life, and have minimal complaints. There are so many blessings in my life, but I am most thankful for Macie. After reflecting on why I am so thankful for Macie, I compiled a list of things I love about her.

1. Macie keeps me laughing. She is a constant source of entertainment.

2. Macie is my antidepressant. Spending time with her makes me happy and relaxed.

3. Macie is energetic. She is always on the move and can destroy a room in minutes, but she is also learning and engaging in her surroundings. 

4. Macie dances like no one is watching. She does multiple squats, side-to-side movement, and quick feet- with a huge grin on her face.

5. Macie can play with anything. We don’t need fancy toys (even though we have some) because she is happy to play with the contents of the recycling bin.

6. Macie is very social and charismatic. She talks a mile a minute, in both long and short sentences- like she is having a conversation with you. When we did her 16-month evaluation with Parents as Teachers, Macie was advanced in the social/conversational category. Last weekend Macie gave her Grandma Ann a tour of the house, complete with unintelligible descriptions and stories about each item in the house. She doesn’t let the language barrier keep her from talking.

7. Macie is nurturing. She loves her stuffed animals and baby dolls. In order to demonstrate her affection, she cuddles them and pats them on the back. She also puts them in her baby stroller and walks them around the house, tries to put saline in their noses, and attempts to lotion them after a “bath”.

8. Macie “plays nice”. She is not aggressive and does not usually take things away from other children except in retaliation. The only time she gets upset is when they hit her or try to take something away.

9. Macie is fairly easygoing. Although she can be difficult if she doesn’t get her way, Macie is typically a pretty easy baby. She is content to play around the house, keeps a decent daily schedule, and is very easy to put to sleep.  

10. Macie is tough. She has been fighting croup and an ear infection this week, as well as teething. Despite this trifecta of discomfort, Macie has been such a trooper. Yes, she has been tired and clingy, but she has not cried in frustration after a coughing fit…as I have been known to do in the past. When she falls down or bumps her head her typical reaction is “uh oh”, rather than tears.

11. Macie is creative. When faced with a problem or task she attempts multiple methods of accomplishing her goal. For example, when trying to remove a Cheerio from a vial (part of our P.A.T. assessment), she shook the vial, turned it upside down, and tried to remove it with her tongue. When one method doesn’t work she just moves on to the next.

12. Macie is fun to shop for. I enjoy picking out outfits for Macie and getting her dressed each day. She lets me fidget with her clothes and hair with minimal to no fussing.

13. Macie is a happy baby. Most of her days are spent enjoying life, with a smile on her face.

14. Macie is smart, curious, and adventurous. She likes to play outside, dig in the dirt, and is constantly searching for something new. Macie loves books, understands much of what she hears, says 12+ words, and learns something new each day.

15. Macie has a mind of her own. She knows what she wants and definitely communicates her needs. While this can lead to occasional meltdowns when she doesn’t get what she wants, at least Macie is asserting herself and communicating her preferences. I hope she always speaks up and makes her needs known…just in a more constructive manner.

16. Macie loves her mommy. Even though she often ignores me at home, I know that she loves me back because she clings to me at the gym, stays near me at playgroup, and remains close at family functions. She is independent at home and in familiar settings, but outside of that she is mommy’s girl.

17. Macie makes me a better person. I strive to set a good example for Macie in everything I do. This means I eat healthier, avoid confrontations in front of her, demonstrate kindness and affection, and share my love of learning.   

Our Parents as Teachers Educator noted on one of her visits that I am the center of Macie’s world. Very appropriate, considering Macie is easily the center of mine. 






Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stella


My muse for this blog is a 2 ½ year old girl named Stella. In our weekly playgroup Stella is a constant source for chuckles and entertainment. With her bobbed hair, quirky walk, and sassy attitude, Stella makes it clear to everyone that she knows what she wants and intends to get it. She usually arrives a bit late and always makes an entrance with her head held high. When Stella’s bestie walks into the room the girls immediately get to work playing “big girl” games away from the younger toddlers. She speaks very animatedly and with personal conviction. When we sing “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, Stella enthusiastically shakes her finger and puts her face into an exaggerated frown when we sing the final line (“no more monkeys jumping on the bed”).  Basically, this girl has personality for days and makes no apologies.

This past week Stella came to playgroup and was immediately the center of attention (more so than usual). Her panties were hanging out of her dress, which was in a red/orange/brown striped pattern, and she was wearing lilac high tops (Converse). Nothing about her outfit worked, but her confidence made it clear to everyone that it didn’t matter. Shortly after they arrived her mother told us why Stella was such a mess. Earlier that morning Stella, wearing an outfit picked by her mother, was playing downstairs while her mother was putting away clothes upstairs. When Stella’s mother came downstairs she was surprised to find her daughter face first on the floor, laying in a pool of syrup, and licking it off the floor. Despite the childproof locks to the pantry, Stella broke her way in, climbed to the top, confiscated the syrup, and decided that the most convenient way to eat it was off the floor. I was rolling with laughter, as I imagined the scene in my head. I pictured Stella looking up nonchalantly (with a raised eyebrow) when her mother caught her, as if to say, “What are you looking at?”. Clearly, Stella had ruined her first outfit for the day, so her mother directed her to find something else to wear while she cleaned up the sugary mess. And, thus, we had the story for Stella’s unconventional outfit.

That anecdote solidified my appreciation for Stella.  I wish that we could all be a little like Stella. This girl has endless confidence, a little recklessness, and a lot of gumption. She knows exactly what she wants and makes it known. Stella is an enthusiastic, loyal friend to her playgroup bestie and always finds a way to entertain herself. I hope that she never looses this sassy personality and continues to enjoy life as much as she does now. Stella is exactly the kind of person I always wanted to be….minus the exposed panties.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Portrait of a Professional Mommy

A few weeks ago I wrote a Middle School Language Arts lesson plan for my Secondary English Methods graduate course. The purpose of this lesson plan was to teach students about voice and word choice. In this lesson, students are asked to write a bio poem describing themselves, focusing on using descriptive language and communicating their voice. The other part of the assignment is for students to draw a self-portrait incorporating the four adjectives used in line two of the poem. This week for class we were asked to complete the writing assignment developed in the lesson plan. Below is my bio poem and self-portrait, which I'm sure many of you mommies can relate to. Please do not judge my poor artistry, as I have never been particularly gifted in that area. If anyone is interested in the lesson plan please let me know.

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Maegan
Compassionate, Professional, Optimistic, Stalwart
Who is married to Joshua Bowersox
Who is the mother of Macie Kate Bowersox
Who works as a part-time professional and a full-time mommy
Who hates changing dirty diapers, laborious recipes, and cleaning the toilet
Who feels overwhelming love for my family and pressure to be “perfect”
Who enjoys studying the times of yore, loosing myself in a book, and exercising to exhaustion
Who likes cuddling on the couch on gloomy days, basking in the spring sunshine, and spending time with my supportive family
Who takes excessive photographs of my delightfully entertaining daughter and unnecessarily long showers
Who desires twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep, a childfree day at the spa, and limitless shopping
Who dreams of completing my M.A. and finding a teaching job
Bowersox


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Shopping with a Squirrel

During the first 9 months of motherhood, having a child did not significantly hinder the shopping experience. When Macie was a newborn she would sleep in her stroller and was often unfazed by the process. When Macie was old enough to sit upright in the cart, her fascination with our surroundings kept her occupied long enough for me to get what I needed and check out. Although shopping with a baby was not the easygoing, unburdened experience that it used to be, it was at least manageable. This summer Macie’s patience for prolonged confinement in her stroller and/or shopping cart began steadily declining. I could still keep her in the stroller or cart, but I had a significantly reduced time threshold in which to complete my shopping. Once Macie started walking (right after her 1st birthday), shopping became all but impossible. Other than the weekly trip to the grocery store and an occasional trip to Target, I typically avoid shopping with Macie.

In case you have never been shopping with a toddler, believe me when I say that it’s like someone let a squirrel loose in the store. In a previous blog, Hurricane Macie, I compared Macie’s destructive tendencies to a hurricane. She just can’t wait to get her hands on clean, organized spaces and transform them into piles of rubble. Macie’s method for destroying stores is similar to how she wreaks havoc in her room. However, it is much worse in public because there are many more things to touch. Macie immediately goes into squirrel mode and gets to work. She runs from section to section pulling bits and pieces off the shelves as she goes. Sometimes Macie stops to inspect the item in her hand before carelessly tossing it to the ground, other time she doesn’t even care about the item- she just wants it off the rack and on the floor. In her quest to touch everything, Macie darts quickly through the maze of displays. You must keep your eyes glued to her at all times; otherwise you will easily loose her. When I do take Macie shopping I usually end up making hassled, thoughtless purchases, which results in another trip to the store to return half the items. I spend more time worried about keeping Macie occupied and preventing her from destroying the store than actually shopping. I can never fully focus on what I need. This means that the shopping experience is no longer fulfilling or productive…L.  Now the process is so stressful and tiresome that I would rather avoid the situation all together than take Macie.
 
Three recent shopping excursions perfectly illustrate the process of shopping with a toddler. The first time I noticed how difficult it is to shop with a toddler was on my little sister’s birthday. As usual, my mother, sisters, and I planned lunch and shopping to celebrate. My husband works strange hours and was, unfortunately, unable to stay home with Macie. With optimistic (delusional) resolution I convinced myself that it would all work out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a fairly successful lunch I was hopeful that Macie would make it through a little shopping. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how long shopping takes with four women. We hadn’t even made it out of our first store before Macie was bored with her stroller and ready to explore. By the time we got to Victoria’s Secret she was in full squirrel mode. Despite my best efforts to block her little fingers, Macie kept pulling panties out of the drawers. Exhausted, I decided to put Macie back in her stroller and try to distract her with a cell phone. This unsuccessful attempt, resulting in tears, was the final straw- I had had enough. We weren’t in the mall for more than an hour before we left. I have never been happier to leave the mall in my life.

A few months ago my mom, little sister, and nephew came to the city to shop. As usual, we headed to the West County Mall to hit up a few of our favorite stores. Again, Josh was working so I had no choice but to bring Macie. After the last shopping incident I was wary, but still optimistic. Maybe this time would be different. It wasn’t. In the parking lot Macie flat out refused to be strapped into her stroller so we decided to carry her...such a practical idea, right? After breaking my back carrying Macie for ten minutes, then wrestling with her as she attempted to wriggle out of my arms, I ended up chasing her around the store while my mother shopped. After an hour I was exhausted, frazzled, and just wanted to go home. Luckily my little sister is a mommy genius and rented one of those shopping cart/kiddie cars at one of the mall kiosks. Macie agreed to sit in the cart, but only if you plied her with graham crackers. In the final store, The Children’s Place, Macie decided that she was ready to join in the fun. Once we let her down she ran from rack to rack of clothing, carefully inspecting each item. Although Macie’s behavior was entertaining, I was concerned that Macie was annoying the sales associates so I hurriedly picked out clothing for Macie and left. At this point I was saddened to realize that I no longer enjoyed shopping- at least not with my daughter (gasp L).

This weekend my mom, twin sister, and I planned yet another shopping trip to buy coordinating outfits for our upcoming family photos. When we made the plans I had every intention of hiring a babysitter to watch Macie. Unfortunately, my babysitters were unavailable. My mom and sister responded positively to the news, but having been through the Macie shopping experience before I knew that this changed the whole focus of the day. At this point I knew that we only had about two hours of distracted shopping and I was fairly certain that we wouldn’t end up accomplishing our objective. My goal for the first store was to purchase larger clothes for Macie, as her latest growth spurt left her shirts and pants about half an inch too short. That was the ONLY thing we needed from this store, yet somehow we ended up meandering amongst the departments- shoes, home goods, lingerie, and finally to the children’s section. As we proceeded through each section Macie had a wonderful time running through the aisles, pulling panties and brassieres off the racks, and trying her best to lose us. Again, it was like shopping with a rabid squirrel. If you let her loose she wreaks havoc on the store. When you try to contain her she screams, foams at the mouth, and tries to bite you (slight exaggeration). By the time we made it out of the first store Macie was at her threshold of shopping tolerance. The charm of running around, pulling items onto the floor, and leaving devastation in her wake had faded and Macie was ready for lunch and a nap. Luckily, Josh was able to pick up Macie at our next store and left us to our mission. Even without the distraction of Macie we still spent HOURS searching for coordinating outfits…which could have something to do with the fact that we are very distracted shoppers to begin with. 




Saturday, November 5, 2011

Big Wheels & Belly Buttons



Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is one of Macie’s favorite places. Macie’s love of the park is evidenced by her giggles and shouts as soon as the playground comes into sight. If I try to pass by the play area without stopping Macie reads me the riot act and basically has a seizure in her stroller seat. Since the park is only two blocks from our house, we visit at least 4-5 times a week. Lately we have been taking Macie to the playground every day the weather is fairly decent, trying to take advantage of the last few warmish weeks of fall. The following anecdote of toddler socialization took place at Blackburn Park earlier this week.
When playing on the playground Macie follows a fairly predictable pattern. First she runs to the big kid jungle gym and tries to climb the steps to get to the slide. After a few stressful attempts, we usually guide Macie over to the toddler-sized jungle gym and watch her go up the steps and down the slide until she gets bored. After a few minutes of this Macie usually runs over to the swings, checks out the springy duck and seesaw, then spends the rest of her time playing in the rocks. The rock table is where Macie was playing the day she met the coolest toddler ever.

We heard him before we saw him. The sound of big wheel tires racing over the cobblestone path leading to the playground entrance warned us that trouble was coming- and fast. Then we saw him. This little boy, around 3, with longish wavy hair and a roguish laugh peeled into the play area. After taking a second to assess the situation, he recklessly zoomed around the playground, enjoying the feel of wind through his hair. This little guy had the need for speed and his legs peddled enthusiastically to power his rapid pace.

This mischievous little boy immediately caught Macie’s attention, as she stopped playing in the rocks to stare at him in awe. She seemed impressed by his speed, spunk, and devil-may-care attitude. He was like the toddler version of James Dean on a motorcycle. When he sped to our part of the playground Macie caught his eye and he skid to an abrupt halt. They stared each other down for a minute, Macie with her mouth wide open. Then, with a sudden burst of inspiration, Macie lifted her dress to show her belly. After a few more awkward moments James Dean Junior grew bored and zipped off again to do laps around the playground. Macie’s attempt at impressing this toddler idol was unsuccessful. Luckily, she didn’t seem phased. Better luck next time.

After witnessing this amusing interaction, I began to ponder why Macie always shows her belly to other children. When faced with another child, she reflexively lifts her shirt. What is she trying to communicate? Is it the same message as when a dog lays on its back and displays its belly around other dogs? Is she showing her belly as a sign of friendliness and non-aggression? Whatever her reason, it makes for some entertaining and slightly embarrassing social exchanges. Right now it’s fairly adorable, but if Macie is still flashing children in a few years I am going to be concerned. J




Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

Photo taken by Jill Shadden

Halloween is an ancient holiday with a rich historical background. Originating in the Celtic culture, this celebration was meant to ward off ghosts that roamed on All Saints’ Day, October 31. Throughout the years Halloween has evolved into a secular, community celebration with kid-friendly activities. People still dress up in costumes, but for fun rather than to hide their personal identity from roaming ghosts.

Halloween is meant to be a frightful and fun holiday. It is a time when people embrace all things scary. Many people indulge in horror movies meant to give you nightmares for weeks and visit “haunted” houses for the thrill and adrenaline rush that accompanies fearing for your life. When I think of Halloween the imagery that comes to mind includes ghosts, black cats, grimacing jack-o-lanterns, werewolves, vampires, witches, goblins, demons, homicidal maniacs, and zombies. Basically, nothing that gets me excited. I don’t like to be scared- I hate scary movies, have never been to a haunted house, and don’t enjoy having nightmares for days.

When I was a child Halloween was my second favorite holiday of the year (next to Christmas). It was an opportunity to dress up with my friends and accumulate enough candy to live on for weeks. Another perk was the Halloween party at school, which took away from class time (the best part). The whole party/dressing up/getting candy scenario was enough to keep Halloween high on my list of favorite holidays when I was a child- until I got to middle school. Once I hit the age where it was no longer “cool” to go trick-or-treating all the fun was gone and I despised the holiday. As punishment once in high school my mother forced me to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters….it was the most annoying night ever. As an adult I have never (not once) handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. I have a problem with anyone coming to my door unannounced. It makes me very uncomfortable (probably more than it should). Plus, there’s the whole issue of having to watch for trick-or-treaters all night and force a fake smile and make nice comments all night about costumes. Sure, there are some adorable kids out there trick-or-treating and they are mostly sweet children enjoying the holiday like I used to. I know I am weird, but I just can’t get into the thrills of Halloween. Until I had a child it had sunk to the bottom of my favorite holiday list.

Now that I have Macie I am starting to mildly enjoy Halloween again- this year more than last. Last year Macie was only three months old and had no idea what was going on. Plus, there are a very limited number of cute Halloween costumes for children under one. After searching for the “perfect” costume, I settled with a pink ballerina. Macie looked adorable, but we really didn’t do anything to commemorate the holiday. This year has been much more fun- mostly because we are celebrating with Macie. I really enjoyed picking out her Minnie Mouse costume and putting it all together. Macie looks so sweet in her costume and really enjoys twirling around in her dress. This year we got more involved in Halloween festivities. A few weeks ago we got pumpkins to decorate the house. Last week we decorated a paper pumpkin. We even took Macie to one of our favorite photographers (Jill Shadden- In The Moment Photography) and did a mini-Halloween session to visually commemorate the holiday. Over the weekend we went to a toddler friendly Halloween party and had a lot of fun watching Macie play with, or watch, the other children. Today, Halloween, Macie wore her costume to Stay and Play (a weekly playgroup for Webster Groves infants and toddlers) and had another opportunity to play with children her age all dressed up.

Although I am personally not a huge fan of Halloween, I am beginning to appreciate it as a parent. I want Macie to enjoy Halloween as much as I did as a child. Therefore, I have to provide her with opportunities for celebrating this holiday. In the process of engaging in Halloween activities and observing Macie’s entertainment, I enjoyed the holiday slightly more this year than in the past. No, I am not passing out candy this year (I have a graduate class tonight, how convenient)…or next year. But in the future I am not opposed to passing out candy at Macie’s request. Basically, I will continue to embrace Halloween not for myself, but for my daughter. Hopefully in the process I will regain my original enthusiasm for Halloween.

So, Happy Halloween! Hopefully next year I will actually mean it. Bah Humbug J

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Festivities: Pumpkin Patch (minus the Pumpkins)



Well, it’s officially Fall (although you wouldn’t know it with the temperature in the 80s until the middle of October). The leaves are turning beautiful shades of brown, red, green, yellow, and orange and have started falling from the trees- some in heaping piles, others scattered here and there. The weather has finally started cooling and people are wearing coats, jackets, and boots (yay!). The air is crisp, the wind has a slight chill, and daylight hours are steadily decreasing. Personally, I find autumn to be a refreshing reprieve from the hot, humid summers that we endure in Missouri. I LOVE sweaters, jackets, leggings, and boots and the fact that I can spend time outside comfortably (without sweating or shivering too much).


With the onset of Fall comes a slew of seasonal events and festivities that many families cherish each year. As a young adult I always enjoyed bonfires and autumnal gatherings with friends- Oktoberfest, Halloween, and house parties. When you have children the activities change from drunken celebrations with friends to family friendly, child oriented fun. My single, childless friends probably consider these events lame, but those late night drink-fests no longer appeal to me. I still have to get up and take care of a busy, demanding toddler at 6:00 a.m. regardless of how late I stay out and how much I drink the night before. Then there’s the enormous hurdle of finding (and paying) a babysitter. Nowadays I have the occasional wild night out (like once or twice a year), but most of my time is spent engaged in Macie friendly activities.
 
One of the most traditional autumn family events is a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. This is one of those middle-class, Norman Rockwell-esque events that you look forward to as part of the “American experience”- at least in the Mid-West. Friends and family always talk about how much fun kids have at the pumpkin patch. Some of my favorite pictures of my twin and me as babies are from the pumpkin patch. As a parent, I felt obligated to provide my daughter with this experience. Yes, I jumped on that bandwagon. We tried to take Macie to the pumpkin patch last year unsuccessfully. I had a Groupon for the Eckerts in Milstadt, IL and was looking forward to a fun-filled day. Unfortunately, this area of Illinois is seriously lacking road signs and we got terribly lost. After a tense hour in the car we just decided to call it a day and went home without making it to Eckerts.
 
After our failed attempt at pumpkin picking last year, we were a bit apprehensive about this year’s trip. Obviously we did not try to go back to Eckerts in Milstadt- NEVER again. Instead, we went to a place in Eureka (another Groupon purchase) claiming to have livestock, a corn maize, and a pumpkin patch. Although the weather was hotter than I would have liked (in the 80s), Macie and her cousin Logan had much more fun than we expected. The first thing we did when we arrived was take Macie and Logan on a horseback ride- Macie’s first. I grew up riding horses with my grandfather, so many of my fondest memories are on horseback. Although Macie has been around horses and enjoys petting them, she has never actually ridden one. I was excited to see her reaction and hoped that she would enjoy the experience as much as I do. Macie didn’t let me down- she had a blast. As we went around the ring Macie was on the saddle, and I was walking beside the horse holding onto her. She was grinning from ear to ear (with her endearing gapped teeth) and clapping her hands in delight. Logan had a great time as well- he looked so proud of himself up there on the big horse.

After the horseback ride Macie and Logan wandered around the livestock area, going back and forth from the adorable black and white spotted calf, mini horse, black goat, and huge grey horse. With parental encouragement they would occasionally pet the animals, but were mostly content to stand there watching them and soaking up the atmosphere. After parading Macie and Logan through the livestock area I decided to take Macie on a barrel ride. Basically, this was a four-wheeler pulling a line of white plastic barrels with space cut out for passengers. The barrels were painted with black spots to look like cows to make the ride even more irresistible to children- who doesn’t want to ride a cow (ME!). Although Macie was thrilled with the ride as I held her in my lap, I was trying to hold on for dear life as the teenager driving the four-wheeler decided to drive off-road and faster than I would consider safe for a kiddie ride. After this uncomfortable experience Macie and Logan were about at the end of their threshold so we snapped a few hay bale pics and took off.

The only downside to this delightful day is that we didn’t actually see a “patch” of pumpkins at the farm. So our trip to the pumpkin patch was actually more like a trip to Grant’s Farm. Macie obviously didn’t notice, having no conceived notion of pumpkin picking, so I consider this trip a success. We still ended up with pumpkins to decorate the outside of the house, but we got them from the local Methodist Church not the “pumpkin patch”. Overall, this was a great way to enjoy all the best things about autumn with Macie. We spent time outside getting dirty and petting animals- three of Macie’s favorite things. Next year we will probably go to a more traditional pumpkin patch and let Macie pick out her pumpkin from the actual field (not the Methodist Church). Any suggestions for a good pumpkin patch that also includes other fall activities?






Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Floor Fits and other Foolery



Talking on the "phone"
First, let me say that fourteen months is a rollercoaster. Most of the time Macie is a delightfully entertaining child (no bias, right?). She constantly charms me with her earnest grin, sparkling blue eyes, and tremendous energy and enthusiasm. I swear she understands everything I say and responds appropriately. When I grab my purse and say, “let’s go” she walks to the door. When I ask if she wants to go to sleep she walks to her room. When I ask if she wants something she says, “ya, ya” and nods her head. In addition to her improved receptive skills, her verbal language skills have improved as well. Most of her communication is a constant stream of baby talk, but her English words have increased to “momma”, “dada”, “daddy”, “dog” (her favorite), “duck”, “ya”, “moo”, “ooh ooh, aah aah” (monkey sounds), etc. Even though I can’t understand most of what she says, we still have very interesting conversations. Macie nods her head, fluctuates her voice and language flow, widens her eyes, and moves her hands in emphasis. Talking on the “phone” is one of her favorite things to do. Although a cell phone is preferred, she will use anything (paper, the remote, her hand, etc.) as a phone. It is hilarious to hear her have imaginary conversations on the “phone”, especially when she starts yelling and shrieking at people. Her physical development has greatly progressed as well. Macie has quickly learned how to run (mostly away from me) and dances up a storm. She keeps us entertained with her antics, increased affection and responsiveness, and energy. In short, Macie is an incredibly enjoyable little person- most of the time J.

Raiding the Refrigerator
Despite all the good times, there is one new development that I am not happy with- the floor fit. Most people don’t expect to see their child throw themselves on the floor in a tantrum until age two. Dr. Maxine Bauermeister, a professor of Early Childhood education at Webster University, told me that fourteen months is fairly early for floor tantrums and that Macie is ahead of the curve. This means that Macie is going through an independent stage and asserting herself both verbally and physically. Every parent wants their child to be intelligent and developmentally on track (maybe even advanced), but no one wants their child to be advanced when it comes to displaying attitude and challenging behavior. I have no idea where her sass comes from….

Floor Fits in Action

We have witnessed a lot of floor fits in this house lately. Today, for example, Macie has thrown herself to the ground at least six times. They start with Macie shrieking in anger/annoyance when you take something away or do something she doesn’t like. Then she looks at you with raised eyebrows and wide eyes as if to say, “are you going to make me throw a fit?”. The most minor offenses result in a verbal challenge. Lately it is in response to me barring her entry to the food cabinets. If you ignore Macie’s warning/challenge and continue with the offensive behavior (i.e. don’t give into her) then Macie throws herself to the ground in anguish, howling like a banshee, and convulsing like a fish out of water.

These fits of rage usually last between 30 seconds to 3 minutes. When Macie is finished expressing her exasperation she gets up and carries on with her day like nothing ever happened. The first time Macie threw herself on the floor I laughed and gawked at her behavior in amusement. Now I just ignore the tantrums and/or walk away. I’m not quite sure what Macie hopes to accomplish with these sudden outbursts of fury, but she certainly doesn’t get a reaction from me. Hopefully Macie will realize that this is an ineffective method of getting her way (not to mention a total waste of energy) and these foolish floor fits will cease. Wishful thinking, perhaps?


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Molar Misery

Teething Tantrum

Not to sound like a broken record, but teething is torture. In a previous blog I described teething as the devil’s punishment for procreating. Back then Macie was cutting her first four front teeth, which is typified by a low grade fever, drooling, and more frequent stage-two or three meltdowns. For the past few weeks Macie has been cutting her first four molars, which is a completely different experience. First, the molars are larger than the front teeth…which makes me think that they may hurt worse than the first four. Second, they are all coming in at the same time.  Third, Macie’s fuse seems to be much shorter this time around, which results in more frequent tantrums.

Macie’s teething symptoms 
(they usually start a few days before the teeth start to show)

- Chews on everything- the couch, books, shoes, hands, etc.
- Sleepier- she rubs her eyes a lot and takes longer naps.
- Puts her fingers in her mouth to touch the sore area(s).
- Tries to bite things when she is upset or told “no”- door handles, cabinet knobs, hands, you, the couch, books, etc.
- Drinks a lot of fluids and drools more.
- Shorter fuse- much more irritable and increased frequency and severity of tantrums.

Living with a teething toddler is like living with a bipolar tyrant prone to tantrums (imagine Napoleon Bonaparte). The slightest raised eyebrow, “no”, denial of request, or lack of proper response to an unintelligible command results in a stage three meltdown. At this point Macie has perfected the art of the tantrum. First comes the crunched up, pouty face followed immediately by an indignant/enraged high-pitched scream. Then, Macie sinks to the floor in anguish and continues to wail tragically. If you try to pick her up she summersaults backwards - you have to be careful not to get head butted or drop her (it’s like holding onto a bucking bronco). Dr. Suess’s book about the joys of teeth fails to mention how painful it is to actually get them. The writing and illustrations make teeth out to be the best thing in the world. Sometimes I want to say to hell with the teeth- we were doing just fine without them.

Macie has teething tantrums when….

- I take something away from her.
- She doesn’t get more food or water fast enough.
- I don’t respond appropriately to her baby talk commands.
- I raise my eyebrow at her or say “no”.
- Daddy says anything in a low or serious voice.
- I leave the house without her- even just to go to the car.
- I close her in the living room and leave the room for a second.
- I put her toys away.
- Gunner (our dog) licks her.
- I try to put her in the stroller at the mall.
- We pass by the playground and don’t stop to play.
- I try to change her diaper while she is in the middle of playing.

And the list goes on and on. There are too many to list, but the actions above are demonstrative that EVERYTHING sets Macie off when she is teething.

Have I mentioned that teething has a physical affect on me as well? 
When Macie goes through the teething process I actually seem to physically age from the stress, including: 

- Increased headaches.
- Forehead wrinkles from furrowing my brow in concern, annoyance, and empathy.
- Every time Macie teethes another piece of my hair turns gray. (FYI- When I was pregnant I only had one gray hair. Since I have been a mom I have added at least three more- no joke. )
- Blood shot eyes and dark under-eye circles.

Maybe Macie’s reaction to cutting these molars is not any worse than her previous teething stage. I have a horrible short-term memory, so it is possible that I may have blocked out the severity of previous teething tantrums. Even so, teething at any stage is like soothing someone who has a fork (or something sharper) pressing down on their gums all day long. Ultimately, I know that the headaches, forehead wrinkles, gray hair, and blood shot eyes resulting from Macie’s teething troubles are a necessary evil to endure. The end result is an adorable set of teeth, which further proves that Macie is progressing from the baby stage to the toddler stage. They grow up way too fast L.


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