Crazy Mommy Lady

A blog from a mom living on the edge of joy and insanity all at the same time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Daughter Loves Friends

My sweet girl loves friends - all shapes, ages, genders, sizes, and colors. There are many times that my daughter gives me a glimpse into how we all should live our lives, but none so powerful as when she makes "friends."

Granted, some might say that she isn't selective enough, but I say that we're all just way, way too picky. She can make friends with an 80 year old woman in line at the grocery store, or a tiny baby in a clothing store, or her dancing buddies at ballet class, or a ladybug, or the grocery bagger who's really way too cool to pay any attention but just can't help it, or a stray dog, or her babysitter, or the eight year olds on the playground who pretend to ignore her, etc, etc...

But yesterday my mother told me a story about her natural affinity for friendship that made me pause, and made me proud. My mother is a school nurse in a school district that serves literally hundreds of special needs children from pre-school through adolescence. She is also our primary caregiver, and often takes my daughter to her school in the afternoons, since my daughter thinks that it is amazing that Grandma has a park at her work (all I have is a copy machine).

Yesterday my mother took my sweetie to a classroom with some of her lowest functioning kids (they are operating developmentally at the level of one year olds or so even though their bodies look like those of much older school-age children). They were playing with musical instruments: maracas, tambourines, drums and the like. My daughter shook the maracas to the delight of one of the children. Every time she got "crazy" and shook the maraca the other little girl squealed with delight. My daughter loves nothing more in life than to make people laugh (a career as a professional clown perhaps?), so she kept taking it up another notch. Pretty soon she was a one-kid show - dancing and singing all while shaking that maraca. She didn't think these kids were strange, or too big, or scary - she was having so much fun with her friends.

Let's all try to make friends.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Learning to Read - The Ordinary Way

My mom and dad were both incredibly busy kids (kids is the right word), in school, working, and with a toddler. In spite of all of that, they managed to find creative ways to spend lots of quality time with me in the most ordinary of ways.

I was born when my mother was 19 years old. She was in her first year of college and my father had been drafted during the Vietnam War. By the time I was old enough to start learning about letters, my dad was out of the army and started school himself on the GI Bill.

Money was tight. My mother used to enjoy nights out by visiting my dad when he was working at Straw Hat Pizza (my dad still boasts that he once served Clint eastwood a beer while working there), where they showed movies for free on one of those old projection televisions. They really couldn't afford to see the theater variety. And I learned all about letters from the paper placemats on the tables.

No, really - I could read before I went to pre-school and I never saw a flash card - just those paper menus at Straw Hat Pizza. Oh - and the greeting cards at the Hallmark Store in the mall. My mother used to take me in the midst of the aisles and aisles of cards, and I would pick one out with a favorite character, or a nice picture of an animal, and she would tell me what it said. Snoopy was my favorite in the day, and so revealing one of his one liners in a greeting card was quite a reward. It was like a llibrary full of knock-knock jokes. Later, when I was a pretty good reader, my uncle used to take me on the same outing to try to pick up girls (more on him in another post).

My parents both finished college, and went on to have five more children (that's right - we're six)! Now that I have my own little pre-reader, I try to be inspired by my own parents way of finding way to learn in ordinary ways. We all want our children to be smart and excel academically. It is my sincere belief, however, that love of learning and self-esteem are the keys to every other kind of learning. Take the pressure off and keep it fun and REAL. The rest will follow.

Gotta go check out some Happy Meal boxes!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Time for a Big girl Bed

My daughter recently turned 3, an occasion that gave her the official title of "big girl" and made it time for a big girl bed. She had always slept well in her crib, and we were very nervous about making this transition smoothly.

The first tool we used was propaganda. We pitched the wonders of life as a big girl for weeks (maybe even months) before the big day. The big girl bed would be the greatest birthday gift any big girl could ever want. We even looked at catalogs and stopped to ooh and aah at sheets and comforters that she might be able to pick.

The next trick of the trade we used was "buy-in." When the time finally came, there was much fanfare as we went to the store to shop for the bed. She picked the bed (after a short amount of time) and the bedding (after a long, long time). I let her hold each of the pillows, touch each comforter, and decide on her own what she would like her room to look like. Her final decision was based on a matching purple and blue rickrack trimmed pillow, and that was fine.

Third, we established expectations from the beginning. We made a huge, momentous occasion out of the completed bed, and had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and babysitters reinforcing the excitement. We said over and over, as did our accomplices, how she would have to be a big girl and stay in her bed all night, as long as it was dark. We also emphasized how much fun it would be to "surprise" Mommy in the morning, as long as the sun was up. (Perhaps a bit of a mistake, as my morning blood pressure has risen about 50 points.) It also helped that we didn't disassemble the crib right away (leverage).

Lastly, we continually praise her success. I make a point of telling her every morning how proud I am of her in her big girl bed. We also still marvel together at its vastness and how big she is to have such a gigantic bed. She still takes great pride in showing any new visitors her new bed. That doesn't mean that we don't have an occasional jail-break. I have checked on her at 10:30 at night, only to find her having a late night tea party under her covers. But, we move on and focus on the positive.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Mother (not in-law)

So, this time I would like to keep it positive. Let's talk about my mom, Grandma S.

My mother and I have usually (not always) enjoyed a very close relationship (things got a little cloudy there between years 15 and 19). She is a free-thinking, free-spirited person, full of adventure and love. I was fortunate to have her as a mother, and my daughter is even more fortunate to have her as a grandmother.

When my daugher was born, our relationship blossomed into something even more fantastic than it already was. I am like many women who find new appreciation for their mothers when they have children of their own. She was as excited as a grandmother to be could be. After all, I was 30, and it was about time. I am the oldest of 6 children, and there hadn't been a baby around since my youngest brother was born (he was 12 when my girl was born). More on him in another post. She went shopping with me, calmed my irrational-hormone driven fears, and generally made me feel wonderful.

When my daughter was born, my mother was in the delivery room with her calming, easy style. She also happens to be a registered nurse and served as my technical advisor, qualified both by education and experience (6 kids, remember).

When we came home, my mother made a habit of stopping by ever so briefly to bring us home cooked meals, relieve me for a much needed hour or two of sleep, or even just to do the dishes. When I went back to work (albeit part-time), my mother became our primary caregiver. I don't really know what we would have done withour her.

Since my daughter has grown older, they have become such great friends. The larger part of Grandma S's living room has become a dedicated play space, full of fun things to explore, especially with arts and crafts. She gets to do all the messy studd I would dread at home when she's there! I think she would love it even more if her living room were teeming with dozens of grandkids.

If I am the crazy mommy lady, she is the even crazier grandma lady. Yesterday, my daughter was especially wired, running around like a wind-up toy gone haywire. I finally asked her in an exasperated tone, "Who made you so crazy?" She replied, "Grandma S did." It's true, she makes us all crazy, but remember that crazy is a compliment in my world. My daughter manages to have so much fun at her house that my husband can hardly pry her fingers from the door when it is time to take her home. Sometimes she thinks that I might worry about her keeping things too wild, but what a great gift for my daughter to have someone in her life who bends the rules just exactly the right amount.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Getting Ready for My Mother in Law

So, did I mention my mother in law is coming to visit two weeks from today? Oh, and did I mention that we live in a rented two bedroom townhouse with no guest room? Funny story, my mother in law...

Two years before he met me, my husband moved from Florida to California to go to his dream graduate school and then get his dream job (which happened after he met me). The job turned out to be less than perfect (more on that in another post), but California stuck, and so did we. We got married, had a great kid, and are generally very happy with each other. But my mother in law is not.

It turns out that she had been holding out hope that my hubby would move back to Florida after he got the masters degree thing out of his system. Enter me. Since he didn't move back, and he DID marry me, I am solely resposible for my husband being so foolish as to settle down HERE! In fact, my husband works in the entertainment industry, and there is only one place you can really work. But, I digress...

I have been a dilligent daughter in law, mailing pictures every month (at least) and even learning how to be a webmaster. I created an entire website with her in mind so that I could post videos (which I also spent time learning how to edit on our computer). I send her greeting cards printed from Shutterfly with pictures of her cutie, photo gifts for holidays, and I make sure she get her favorite fresh flowers on Mothers' Day. I have compassion for her struggle, and I would miss my son, too. But it turns out there is a reason for his geographical choices.

Imagine when my daughter was born how delighted she was, becuase now she could feel soooooo sorry for herself that her only grandchild in the whole world lived on the other side of the country. You thought I was going to say "Because she was finally going to have the grand-daughter she always dreamed of..." She had two sons and no daughters, so that's what I thought, too. I felt her pain, and I sympathized with her even more than my husband did at first...

She came to visit for the first time since the wedding when my daughter was 8 weeks old. I was a new, first time mom, working hard at breast-feeding, with a new 8 week old that I was attempting to protect from the entire world (we didn't even take her outside for 6 weeks). And now - hooray - my mother in law was coming, and we needed the help. I imagined she would be so excited, and eager to spend time with her new grand-daughter, even watch her so my husband and I could sneak away for a couple of hours...

Turns out she actually was more interested in her California vacation. We dragged that poor little baby all over the three county area sight-seeing. not only did she not "help" in any way, I cooked and cleaned (for the first time since giving birth) for HER, all while trying to manage new parenthood, etc, etc. I even had the pleasure of whipping out my breasts for the first time in public on one of her outings (later it became old hat, but I was still learning how to do it at all, let alone in public!) She was completely put out when I let the little darling sleep or nurse on a schedule instead of going out for a marathon day trip (which I was WAY too tired for anyway), claiming that she fed her babies when she ate, and let them sleep at night and if they were tired they could sleep wherever they were (my daughter started sleeping through the night at 12 weeks thanks to this effort, by the way). She also loved to complain about what a horrible child my husband was, constantly (hmmm, maybe he was tired and hungry). I can't believe I didn't go insane or that my mouth didn't explode with all sorts of post-partum fire and brimstone. My philosophy is my philosophy - and although she was well rested, I was exasperated. But we still stepped up and took care of her and our new baby.

The next time she came to visit was after her first Christmas (she was about 8 months old). We tried to again be ever-accomodating with field trips galore, to each of which she found a reason to be miserable. My husband spoke to her about our disappointment with the first trip, and she made a concerted effort to be helpful, sort of. She wanted to babysit for one night, since that was an example my husband cited of how she could help us out when she visits. She explained that she "bent over backwards" for her mother, and expected us to do the same for her. My husband, bless his heart, actually TOLD HER that the only person in this world he would ever bend over backwards for was his daughter. I love him.

Of course, or inability to accomodate her or entertain her to the degree she felt that she deserved resulted in a weekly stream of complaints to my huband about me and how we do not make her feel welcome enough for her to visit. So, she hasn't been here to see us since (2 1/2 years). But she does so enjoy telling all of my husband's family and anyone who will listen how horrible it is that her only grandchild in the whole world, blah, blah, blah. We have, however, flown to Florida (and paid for three airline tickets each time) four times since then, and I've posted videos glorifying each one of these trips. By the way, I have cooked for her, done the grocery shopping, and run errands while we were at her house. It does seem that one person travelling across the country (who doesn't work in the summer at all) rather than three people (including a toddler) making the 5 hour flight, would a little easier. But if she visited more often, she wouldn't get to complain, and we might.

She is coming to visit us next week for the first time in nearly three years (deep breath). So I have to try to break her determination to be unhappy. Remember that little townhouse we live in also, dear reader. I have redecorated the bathroom, purchased a top of the line air mattress, am willing to forgoe one-on-one time with my husband for the week she is here, purchased new spa towels, hired a housekeeper to fill in for my deficiencies, replaced all of our rugs, and planned lots of 3-year old friendly Southern California sightseeing activities. I even managed to land my daughter's first dance recital square in the middle of her holiday.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

So I'm the Crazy Mommy Lady - a name given to me by my crazy husband and crazy 3-year old daughter. In our household crazy is a compliment, as it was in the household I grew up in.

We live in Southern California and are constantly frustrated with the fact that no one (including us) can afford to buy a home for the first time around here. We have watched friend after friend emigrate and leave us behind. We would love to have a big back yard where all of our dozens of children and large dogs could play and romp free. But, alas we have one child and a hampster and live in a rented townhome. We've set a goal - get into a house before said child turns 5 and has to go to kindergarten.

Our daughter was born on May 10th, 2003 and we are now considering starting all over again with #2. Actually, to be more precise, we have thrown caution to the wind and are no longer insisting upon NOT having another baby. We really prefer not to use the phrase "trying to have a baby" as it has brought to mind way too many visuals from friends of ours. So, no house, no dog, but we are going to go for it. Our first child will be something approaching four years old by the time this happens, and I will be nearly 35.

So, the race is on between the new addition and home ownership in Southern California
On your mark
Get set