Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Spend $60 Without Even Trying

Two kids, Four ears, Three ear infections.

$20 copay for E
$20 copay for A
$10 prescription for E
$10 prescription for A (and let's say a little thank goodness we have good insurance and thank goodness 30 million other Americans will soon have insurance, too)

Then, let's see, add in another $20 for the trip to Wendy's. Our pediatrician sees same day sick kids at noon. So they stuck us in the far back exam room, one I've never ever seen, much less been in. And we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Wednesday night counts as one of the top 5 worst nights ever in terms of non sleeping. Elizabeth crying and whimpering and in PAIN from 11 pm - past 2 am. Andrew feverish, awake, unhappy roughly the same time period.

Sticking a sleep deprived mom in a small, empty, cold waiting room for over an hour with her two sleep deprived, grumpy, hungry, in-pain, sick kids is really, really not a fun experience. We were desperate for food and a treat after finally getting out of there, and a drive through was required, so Wendy's it was.

I've been trying this month to rein in spending, and for Lent I gave up chocolate.

But you better believe there were Frosty's all around.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

kitchen helper

Some catching up. We had pancakes, of course, for dinner on Shrove Tuesday, and guess who wanted to help?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

checking up

The little guy went in for his 15 month check up (yes, just a week shy of 16 months, but who's counting). He's hit 50/50 - right at the mid point for height (30.75 inches) and weight (24 lb, 13 oz), but the head is right at 95%.

The question that throws me with this guy is always the is he doing this word-type questions. Can he point to at least 2 body parts? He was so pleased to learn nose that he's not moved much past that, though he understands other body parts, he just refuses to acknowledge them. And next, it was: does he have 3-5 words? Um, well, sort of.

He can say football: bup-ba!

And then there's apple: bup-pa

And bye bye: ba-ba

He does say hi, so that's a different sound.

And he says juice: sssssssss

And cheers: sssssssss

And sh!: SSSSSS

Context, people. It's all in the context and accompanying eye, mouth, and hand gestures. Sign language? He's all over that, but it's more full-body language. Drink is not just holding a drink to his mouth, that's followed by sticking out his tongue repeatedly while leaning forward and looking earnestly at the drink in your hand.

I'm forgetting he can say, this is delicious!: MMMMMMMM

Rich and Gee both swear he's working on Elizabeth, but I'm skeptical. OK, maybe, it sort of sounds like this: bup-ba-ba

It kind of stinks to be the younger brother of a hyper-verbal girl. The pediatrician assured me he was on track. They don't expect more than 3-5 words at this age. Maybe 10-15 by 18 months, and by 2 years, 50 words. Given that Elizabeth hit 50 words before 15 months, my judgment is a little skewed. He knows a lot of sign language and picks it right up - more, done, bath, please, eat (followed by lip smacking), drink, apple, ball, hat. I love it when you ask him a question, he seriously considers it, then carefully shakes his head either yes or no. He's a thoughtful guy.

The other day we were playing outside and Elizabeth picked up a leaf and put in on her head, then walked around showing it off. Andrew watched her, got up from what he was doing, walked over to the same plant, picked a similar leaf, put it on his head, and walked around laughing, too.

This is one happy, charming little guy. Oh! I'm thinking of other words he can say.

Kitty: KKKKK

Dog: Bup-ba

He's working on it.

*eta: Well, it was late last night and I was searching for a clever wrap up, but was reminded this morning that dog is actually different - more like a cross between bowowow and ruffruff. Sort of like wawawawa, but with the w almost, but not quite, an r sound. And shoes: ssssssu

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marshmallow Parenting FAIL

Do you know the marshmallow test? In the 60s, in a study of delayed gratification, a famous researcher put a preschooler in a room, with a marshmallow on the table in front of them. The researcher says, I'm going to leave the room for a bit, and if you wait, when I get back, you can have 2 marshmallows instead of just one now. And the researcher leaves, and the hidden camera records all sorts of craziness - some kids can wait, but it's tortuous for them, other kids pop that marshmallow right in their mouth, still others try every method possible to distract themselves away from the marshmallow, other kids lick, or pet, or otherwise obsess over the marshmallow. Someone redid the study and the video is all over the web.

Two Saturdays ago (the date becomes important later), my friend Helen was talking about the marshmallow test, and said the original researcher had followed up with the kids in the original study, and found those who could wait were universally successful in life, while those who showed no ability to delay gratification were, well, not quite as successful. Fascinating - the New Yorker did a story last year that comprehensively covered the research into self-control, delayed gratification, and how that shapes your personality and choices in other areas. Kids who didn't eat the marshmallow had a 200 point advantage on the SAT, on average, over kids who showed no self control. If you have the self control to not eat the marshmallow, you have the self control to study instead of watch TV, to avoid credit card debt, to save for retirement insted of spend frivolously now. A simple, elegant experiment (and I have always been a sucker for elegant experiments) that can tell you much about a personality. Perhaps most fascinating, it's the kids who distract themselves that do the best, and those are skills that can be taught - kids can learn self control and how to delay gratification on a small scale, and there is research ongoing on how simple skills can be reinforced to lead to greater success later in life.

So, that was two Saturdays ago. The next day, Sunday, we went to Ikea to pick up a couple of things, including a bookcase for Elizabeth's room. We don't go all that often - maybe two or three times a year. Somehow, I think related to the relative infrequency of the trip, the length of time we spend there, and the inexpensive toys, we always get Elizabeth (and now Andrew) a small little stuffed animal when we go. The stuffed animals are halfway through the store, so it buys us some time and interest (those Ikea people are pretty smart, putting the kids stuff at the halfway point). I did a return, and met Rich and the kids in the children's section, where Rich and Elizabeth were engaged in a debate about toys. Andrew was happily clutching a $2.99 cat, but Elizabeth wanted a stuffed dog, and the dogs were all 9.99 or more, so Rich was showing her the options under $5, and she wasn't pleased, but was settling, none too happily, for a small stuffed mouse.

In a flash of what I thought was brilliance at the time, I said, OK, I've got a deal for you - you can have the mouse now, OR, the next time we come to Ikea, you can have a dog. And this simple idea, which I thought was brilliant, turned out to be torture for Elizabeth. She was at first puzzled, so we explained it again and again, as we moved through the store, her still clutching the mouse. She was so flumoxed by this possibility she had to sit in the cart to think hard and deeply about it. But it was so upsetting I caught her whispering, 'you're not my best mommy' to herself as she agonized over the choice. Seriously, I am not exaggerating when I say presenting her with this choice is quite possibly one of the most stressful things I have ever imposed on her. She was withdrawn and troubled. She couldn't or wouldn't look up at us as she thought about it. She would liven up as she thought of possible ways out of the deal: 'I know! We can get both!' but we stayed firm in the choice she had to make, and she would quickly revert to being utterly stressed out.

We made it to the checkout with the situation unresolved, her deeply upset, clutching the mouse, us saying what a good deal it was, how it was entirely her choice, but didn't she want a dog the next time we came. We were putting items on the checkout belt when she said, 'after this day? after this day we'll come get a dog?' and we said yes, we'd come back and get a stuffed dog. So she gave up the mouse, we praised her lavishly for making such a smart choice, told her how proud we were of her, and off we went home, her still not entirely pleased.

Cut to the next morning. You know what's coming, right? 'After this day', to her, means tomorrow. She gets up Monday morning and says, when are we going to Ikea to get my dog? We say she has to go to school, and she says we're going to Ikea after school? No, no we're not. But when can I get my dog? And somehow soon is not quite the right answer.

By Saturday, after she wakes up she says am I going to school today? And when we say no, it's Saturday, she says yay! we can go to Ikea and get my dog!

It's over two weeks later, and while it's not quite twice a day or every day, nearly every day she asks when we are going to Ikea. I hadn't read the full New Yorker piece until today. Initially I thought this had been a flash of brilliance on my part. Her torture - and prolonged torture of saying no to Ikea day after day after day - made me think it had been a terrible idea, a colossal parenting fail. After reading the whole piece and thinking about the importance of learning self control, I'm back to thinking it was a good thing, but we really need to get back to Ikea. Like this coming weekend.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I know that

Elizabeth is a pretty opinionated girl, and she's definitely learning to express her independence. Right now, we're in the I know that phase. For example:

M: Elizabeth, be careful with the cup, please don't spill.
E: I know that!


M: You have to put on your uniform today, remember it's a school day.
E: I know that!

In sum, at 4 years old, there's nothing out there that she doesn't know already and Mommy and Daddy are a bit of a pain constantly reminding her of things she already knows. Seriously, I thought I'd get a few more years before that kicked in.

But the kicker has to be her new habit. For as long as I can remember, I've watched the ABC evening news at 6:30 pm and switched to the NBC nightly news at 7 pm. I'm a news junkie, I like to know what's going on, it kinda matters in my work, and since I can, I like seeing the two different mainstream media perspectives. In our media age, I'm probably causing irreparable harm to my kids who pick up far more secondary TV than is probably smart, but whatever.

If you don't change to NBC after ABC, though, Wheel of Fortune comes on. Which I have always disliked. My mother is a freaking whiz at WOF - she can get the phrase sometimes when there are no letters on there whatsoever. My brain, however, just does not do well with that type of puzzle. It has to be pretty darn obvious for me to get it. So I don't watch.

About two weeks ago, I hadn't switched and we were in the living room and Elizabeth noticed the lights, the letters, I don't even know what caught her eye. I went to change channels and she said no, please don't. So we watched. I guess that wheel is sort of mesmerizing. It started slowly - the player would ask for a letter and she would repeat it. Then when the puzzle was solved, she would repeat the phrase herself, with an increasingly triumphant, satisfied tone. Then she added buying a vowel to her vocabulary, or even picking letters herself. So over the past two weeks, we've started watching, on and off, together (we'll watch, and play, or read a book - it's not a constant thing, we dip in and out of it). Turns out Rich is way better at WOF than I am, so sometimes we compete to guess the phrase. I am really, really bad at WOF. It is actually a little embarrassing.

One night last week, Rich worked late, so Elizabeth and I were watching together (and what is Andrew doing, you ask? He is doing what every busy little boy does - I can't exactly say, but he is quite busy doing whatever he does, walking around, playing with toys, trying to climb stairs, chairs, etc).

It was four words: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So I tried puzzling it out. One t, no s, no r, a few more random letters, buy an e....once the C was guessed, I was able to talk it through.

M: Chocolate - the first word is chocolate!

Chocolate, repeated Elizabeth.

M: Cho-co-late.....

Cho-co-late.....repeated Elizabeth

M: Chocolate chip.....

Chocolate chip...echoed Elizabeth

M: Chocolate chip cookie dough!

E: Chocolate chip cookie dough! I said it first Mommy! I said it in my head first. You said it second!

So now, that's the new thing. One of us guesses, she shadows us saying the phrase, then insists she actually said it first. Watch out Grandma, you might have some competition!