Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Last Hoorah

It's always bittersweet; that day or week when you realize summer is officially over.  Especially when it comes to the bay.  I thought we had a few more boat rides, dips in the pool, and clam digging adventures to enjoy before the cold set in.  But I sadly realized this week that the show is over for fun in the sun this year.

Our last summer hoorah at the bay was back at the end of August and we didn't even know that it was happening.  But it was a good one.  One that wraps up the summer in that 'let's do everything fun that we possibly can to make it really worth it' kind of way.


Niall is like a little sponge down there, always soaking everything in and wanting to learn new things.  And he's learning from the pros...


While Brendan is learning how to keep me on my toes everywhere we go...

Sometimes it's better not to have to say goodbye.  Sometimes, it's better to enjoy today and not think about tomorrow.  That's a lesson that I am happily reminded of when looking at life through the eyes of a child.

I'm glad it ended that way.  And I'm glad we didn't have to use "the final trip" as a motivator to live it up.  They were doing that already; regardless of whether it was our first or last time down there-- from sun up to sun down (and usually long after that).

Don't get me wrong-- there will still be more trips down to the bay in 2012... probably one this weekend, actually.  But it's different when the pool is covered, the boat is out of the water and we are digging for snails with coats and boots on instead of bathing suits and bare feet.

It's a different kind of fun.  But still fun.  Now I can look forward to holding warm cups filled with spiced tea on the dock, watching the sun set together since it will be before their bedtime now, and swinging in the crisp fall air with bright, beautiful leaves dropping all around us.

Yes, I'm ready to welcome the fall.

...But not winter.  Please stay away as long as humanly possible, thanks :)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Not-so-sick day

Sometimes, when you're sick, you need to just lay on the couch and watch movies and relax until you feel better.  And other times, you need to pack up your things and get out of the house as fast as humanly possible.

Both Niall and Brendan got the little bug that has been going around last week-- I'm thinking it's probably just the change of weather.  But the thought of sitting cooped up in the house, wiping booger-covered faces for 12 hours on one of the last beautiful days of the summer just didn't sit right with me.

So where can you go when you can't be around other people?

Where the wild things are, of course.

Even on normal mornings, it's literally a breath of fresh air once we get out that front door.  Everyone is finally [somewhat] calm & content, and the fussing suddenly stops.  But on the tougher days, it's like sweet freedom going for that walk or that car ride.  And Niall was especially ready to be set free on this particular day...

For all those times I wished I could play tea-time or dolls or dress-up with a little girl, I have to say that exploring in the forest with my boys might even trump all of those things.  Helping a little boy add to his prized rock, stick & leaf collection is surprisingly pretty dang rewarding.

And the look on his face when he discovers one of these (with just a little help from mom)...

Yea, I have to admit, sometimes bugs rule-- dolls drool.  And let me tell you, there were a lot of bugs on the other side of this thing.  Now bugs of that scale and quantity, I don't think I'm equipped to handle.  That's all boy.  Good luck to you.

 But explore we did.  Trails and ponds and chopped logs, that I can handle.


Sometimes, when you're feeling crummy and you need that special pick-me-up... sometimes, the stars align just right and something really awesome happens.  Because you deserve it.

That deer had a face-off with Niall.  Even after the other 5 or 6 deer scattered, he didn't budge, and he wouldn't take his eyes off us.  Niall got to about 20 feet away from him, completely awe-struck, when I decided that this particular deer might be of the charging breed.  We'll take our 20 feet and call it a day.

 Blue skies, dry eyes and happy guys. No such thing as being sick in the wilderness.

 Off to our next adventure...

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Lost Art of Discipline

I have worked really hard over the last few years to teach Niall the difference between right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable and how to deal with anger.  It's been challenging-- probably the most challenging thing I've ever had to do-- but I really believe it's important, so I intend to keep at it. 
But sometimes it feels like everything I've taught him is only working against him.  Am I putting a bright red bulls eye on his back by telling him that he has to be nice and share and keep his hands to himself? 

I just watched a 2 year old girl push my almost 3 year old son off of the ledge of some playground equipment that was about 5 feet high.  The disturbing part was that Niall wasn't even looking at her, playing with her or bothering her in any way.  It was like she just knew that he would be an easy target.

The even better part was that when she did it the first time, Niall was able to grab onto the ladder and not fall off, so I yelled over "Hey, no pushing!"... at which point, she looked me dead in the eye, shot me an evil grin, and then gave him an even better, harder push that landed him face first in the mulch below.

I just thought to myself, "This little girl must run the show at her house." She knew that she could do whatever she wanted and nobody was going to do a thing about it.

Kids need to learn that there are consequences for their actions.

If Niall grabs a toy out of another kid's hand, he has to give it back-- even if it's his 8 month old brother who doesn't know the difference.
If he hits, he has to take a time-out and say sorry.
If he says "no" to me or Matt, he gets a warning and then something gets taken away from him--

Yes, that might be a little strict, but why should I be nervous or ashamed to tell someone that I have a rule like that?  Why are parents who demand respect suddenly made out to be monsters by today's standards?  I don't think that "discipline" should be such an ominous, evil word.

And since Niall is not allowed to hit or push or throw things at other kids, I'm not sure where that leaves him in terms of self-defense.  I want to teach him to stand up for himself, but he's not really old enough to do it verbally yet. 

So now I have to deal with Matt coming home every night, showing Niall how to punch and tackle and push someone off of him, completely putting me back to square one... but honestly, I can't blame him.  What I'm doing obviously isn't working.

It seems like discipline has been replaced with excuses these days and suddenly the "experts" are telling us that we need to just let our toddlers do what they're going to do; that it's part of their development.  Well, I'm afraid I disagree, and I think our kids deserve better than that.

I don't spank Niall and I don't plan to, but I think there's something to be said about the way our parents were raised.  Do you ever hear about people who grew up in the 50s and 60s who were driven to suicide because of bullying?  Did they disobey their parents?  Did they talk back to their teachers?  The philosophy was "Nip it in the bud." And it worked.

I'm aware that there are always exceptions; there always will be.  But I also think that we, as parents, have to realize that we can love them and lead them at the same time.  That's the beauty of discipline.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Get Out and Stay Out!

Have you had the pleasure?

This is Mr. O'Hare.

He has ruined my life.

Can I give you a piece of advice?  If you have a 2 or 3 or maybe even 4 year old, DON'T LET THEM SEE THE LORAX!!!

My friend and I took our little guys to see it in 3D when it came out in movie theaters back in the spring.  It was the second time I had taken Niall to a movie, but a definite first for the 3D experience.  Niall was excited to wear the glasses and he proudly held his little bag of popcorn and smiled as we walked into the theater.

He ooo'd and aaahh'd when the truffula trees popped out of the screen and laughed when the Lorax popped out of the tree stump... but then, Mr. O'Hare, with his scary black bowl cut, popped out from behind his desk and the show was over.  Hysterical crying.  We had to leave the theater and try to come back in 3 different times.  It was ugly-- the situation as well as Mr. O'Hare.

But when the movie came out On Demand, Niall recognized the orange "Lorax" movie title cover and insisted that he wanted to watch it.  At this point, it was about 6 months later, so I thought that maybe he would be able to handle it this time; maybe he had gotten over Mr. O'Hare and his mean bowl cut.

And he did.  At least that's what he let on.  Watched the whole movie, no problem.

But that night at bedtime, he insisted that Mr. O'Hare was under his bed.  And now, almost 2 months later, this stupid little stump of a man will not get out of my life.

I've researched and tried everything--

  • acknowledge the fear, but don't lead them to believe there is actually something to be afraid of
  • check the closets and under the bed, etc. to make him feel better (completely going against the first piece of advice)
  • stay with him a while and rub his back until he falls asleep (I could be in there for 5 hours doing that)
  • monster spray (a spray bottle with a "Monster Spray" label on it that he can use to keep the monsters away)
  • putting Niall's mattress at the foot of our bed for a few nights until he feels better (well, it turns out he would feel better if he slept there for the rest of his life)
  • talking about it and giving him ideas for happy things to think about at bed time
  • doing it "Super-nanny" style and just bringing him back to his room over and over again whenever he comes out
Well, last night, after taking Niall back to his bedroom about 15 times, he finally gave up.  "I WIN!!!," I thought to myself.  I couldn't believe it... until I went upstairs to go to bed and found Niall sleeping in mine.  I guess he figured, cut out the middle man and go straight to the source-- he didn't even need to come bother with me.  How clever.

So today, at nap time, I decided to end this thing once and for all.  I asked Niall, "So where is this guy?"

Niall: Under dere (pointing under his bed)

Me: "Ok, that's it-- come out here Mr. O'Hare!", pretending to pull him out, I took him by the hand and dragged him down the stairs and escorted him outside while having a pretend conversation...."No, you can't stay in our house, you have to leave."  As I shut the door, I locked it and yelled "Get out, and stay out!"

I turned around to a somewhat stunned and somewhat amused Niall.  He asked, "Did he cry, mom?"

"Yeah, he cried!  I told him he could never come back, EVER!"

He giggled as we turned around and walked back up the stairs.

I read him a story, laid him down in the very same "scary" bed with the so-called monsters under it, and he didn't make a peep.  Just went right to sleep.  

Sweet salvation.

It just goes to show that sometimes, you can read all the books and articles in the world, but the only thing that really works is your own gut instinct.

By the way, my future gut instinct is to not let my kid watch PG-rated movies that appear to be perfectly fine for toddlers.

So today is officially the day we say goodbye to Mr. O'Hare.  Forever.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall means apple pickin

When Matt opened the door to leave for work yesterday, I was hit with that morning chill that just doesn't exist until it's officially fall. So I knew it was official... and I was excited.

I love so many things about this time of year. The AC goes off and the windows are propped open with sticks (because our windows are 70 years old, but that makes it even more special).

And, we go apple picking.

Niall very carefully selects each one, plucking it off like he's found a golden egg... and then tosses it back into the woods after taking one bite like he's totally disgusted by it.

But as for the ones he doesn't take a bite out of-- "the showcases"-- they are proudly held up high for everyone to see and then stashed into his apple picker's bag for later... for someone else to eat, someone who will actually eat an apple.

I love that these trees are so low and he can reach the apples to pick them himself.  I can tell that it's so much fun for him.

Except for that occasional one that is just out of reach ;)

It was so interesting to look back on our same orchard trip from last year.  He definitely loved it just as much...

But this time, he was not interested in hanging with mom.

He was off exploring on his own.

And with his little buddies.

I've come to realize that this is by far the best way to get a picky eater to eat his fruits and veggies.

Or a not-picky-whatsoever-eater ;)
They like apple picking, too.

I can't wait for pumpkin picking and crisp days that are cool but not cold, spiced lattes and red leaves falling on the grass.

But for now, we enjoy the last few warm sunny days we have left this season.  We pick apples and run through the park and stare at the sunflowers.

And ride that tractor like nobody is watching.  Life is good.

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