Monthly Archives: February 2011

Trying To Push My Kid Without Being A (Too) Pushy Parent

How do you know the difference between giving your kids a healthy push to get over their fears or whether you’re pushing them over the edge and into Paranoiatown? My hubby and I found that line can be fine when we had a recent hiccup at swimming lessons.

Logan at 10 months. He's always loved swimming.

My 3-year-old Logan has been in swimming lessons at the park district on and off since he was six months. They are so much fun, you get in the water with your babe where through games they learn how to kick, stroke and use flotation devices.

Hubby recently enrolled him in swim classes at our gym, it was closer and cheaper, plus the class sizes were smaller. Sounds like a win, win, win, right? Well it wasn’t.

Hubby got in the water around 10 a.m. with Logan and our gym’s pool is apparently freezing, but the boys splashed on. After about 15 minutes no one else was there and Hubby began to suspect something was off. Just before 10:30 a.m. little tykes in swim gear started to show up with their parents, but these parents were fully clothed.

Turns out these kids were pros. They didn’t get in the water with mom or dad because they were miniature Michael Phelps. Poor Hubby, as he stood there all pasty and wet, the parents looked at him like who’s this half-naked fool?

The kids were given towers to stand on since the pool is so deep, but Logan refused to be in the water without his dad. Hubby just stood near Logan while the instructor worked with him on different techniques.

After the class they came home and though Logan said he had fun, he didn’t want to go back into the water by himself the following Saturday. Hubby and I began to wonder, how hard do we push him to do this? We both liked the idea of getting him out of his comfort zone to stretch as a person, but as the days went on, Logan turned more and more against swimming alone.

He said he was afraid to get in the water without his dad because he didn’t want to fall. Rather than give him a complex, we decided to enroll him in another class where parents were allowed in the water. The day of the new swim class, Logan refused to even go swimming.

That’s where Hubby and I drew the line, we didn’t feel he had to swim solo, but he did have to swim. Hubby tried to convince him to go to class and all he got was a spectacular tantrum. About an hour later, I gave it a go. I dug deep in my mommy bag of tricks and pulled out all that I had. I prodded him, guilted him, pressured him and was about to bust out the brass knuckles when I got the idea to appeal to his altruistic side. I told him how his favorite boat wanted to go to swim class, but needed Logan to take him. My guy fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Hubby, Logan and the boat all got in the water that day and returned home excited for the next class. I’m glad we didn’t force him to take the plunge solo, but am happy we pushed him to take another dip. I hope that the next time he needs a little push, we hit the right buttons.

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My Mother-In-Law, Myself

Here’s a multiple choice question for you. My mother-in-law is A) meddling B) critical C) not understanding D) none of the above. If you answered D, you are correct.

Logan, Me and my MIL

My mother-in-law lives in Norway, but we’re quite close. She’s very nice, yet also very strong-willed and opinionated. I’m also strong-willed and not shy on sharing my opinion, but what makes our relationship work so well is that we have a healthy dose of respect for each other.

Relationships with mother-in-laws can be tricky. It’s like a tale of two queens in one kingdom. They’re the mother, they’ve watched your partner grow up, guiding them along the way. When you come into the picture it’s like there’s a new queen in the castle, new rules and now your partner is listening to someone else’s guidance: yours. (Well, at least we hope our partners are listening to us…)

I remember the first defining moment between me and my MIL. It was shortly after Hubby and I married and she and I were hanging out in her kitchen. She turned to me in her sweet accent and eagerly asked if we were going to start having kids. I told her no, we were going to wait a bit.

She frowned and asked if I was sure, because it would be nice to start a family. I paused to ponder how to phrase my answer. One of the great things about Norwegians is their brutal honesty, so I told the truth. We wanted to have kids, but I wanted to spend time working on my career first, so babies had to wait. She frowned again and then said: “Well that makes sense. I tell (my daughter) to wait to have kids, so why shouldn’t it be the same for you?”

And just like that we moved on to something else. She never asked me about having grandchildren again. That’s how we work, we have starkly honest conversations and we can agree to disagree with no hard feelings. It all comes down to respect and over the years it’s created a very close bond.

When she stayed with us for three weeks for Ethan’s birth, it was great to have such unconditional support. When Hubby was in Florida on business a week after the birth, my MIL and I had an efficient rhythm in running the household together. And each evening we’d empty a bottle of red wine over a girlie movie that took twice as long to watch because we’d pause it and talk about all kinds of random things.

I’ll always be  thankful for those days we spent as just us, together. Her unconditional love. Her compliments on how I handled my cantankerous 3-year-old. Even listening objectively to my gripes about my husband, her firstborn son. I’ll be eternally grateful for our relationship and I wish that kind of blessing for others. I know most folks don’t have this type of relationship with their MIL, which makes me all the more appreciative of mine.

Falling For A Hallmark-Free Valentine’s Day

I’ve never been gaga over Valentine’s Day. Not because I’m bitter and spent many alone, but because it feels like a Hallmark holiday. And many of the staple gifts aren’t appealing. I’m not a big chocolate fan. (Yes, I know, gasp, clutch your pearls, fall over in shock _ I’m used to that reaction.)

I love going out to dinner, but when you hit up a restaurant on V-Day, it blows. The wait is forever, the kitchen has a hard time keeping up with the increased demand and it’s just more crowded and noisy than a normal night. (I sound like an old grump.) If I’m going to get wined and dined, I prefer a non-holiday.

This year I had the bright idea of not buying each other anything. We’ve got enough stuff, in fact I’ve been purging our stuff over the past six months, so I’m in no rush to get more stuff. I asked Hubby to simply write me a letter.

We are busy. Everyone is. And we don’t hit pause to say how much we mean to each other. It’s just the usual “I love you, “Thanks,” “You’re the best,” etc. Not so romantic, right?

When I first brought up the letter-writing idea, Hubby wasn’t too enthused and said “As if I already don’t have enough to do.” But he liked the price point: Free. After dinner, and while Logan was orbiting the livingroom from a sugar high, Hubby and I opened our letters.

Mine to him was handwritten since he thinks that handwritten letters are a lost treasure. I poured my heart out and it was really cathartic. His letter to me was spectacular, a page and a half typed and outlined all the reasons why he thought I was so great.

He said when I first asked him to write a letter, he wasn’t too thrilled, but was glad he did it because it was nice to take a step back and really look at our relationship. Turns out we both feel lucky to have one another.

After 13 years of being together, that night we fell a little bit more in love with each other. And Hallmark had nothing to do with it.

My Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Hustle for the Kiddos

Why is it late on Sunday night and I’m watching the Grammys while getting together what my kid is going to bring to school for Valentine’s Day tomorrow? What a sham.

Every year at the last minute I jet to the drugstore (because by the time I remember to do this, the grocery stores in the suburbs are closed!) I end up buying what others have passed over for Valentine’s Day gifts. Then I’m scrawling out names of Logan’s classmates on these cheap-o gifts. After that, I’d usually swing by the grocery store in the morning and pick up an astounding amount of cupcakes to somehow make up for my shortcomings. (Why do I think that they’re judging me as a mom based on my Valentine’s Day contributions? It’s all in my head, but still I do it. I suppose it’s like penance.)

This year, I was so proud of myself because I bought little candied gifts (Dum-dum lollipops with cards and “shiny” stickers) three weeks before the blessed event. There was no need to overspend on cupcakes or other sugary treats, for once I was ahead of the game.

But this year was different. This V-Day I’m a mom of two. The obstacles are higher.

Each day, I’ve been taking Logan to daycare and I’ve also got 5-week-old Ethan in the car, which means I would take the little guy out amid sub-zero temps to walk his big brother inside the school. The daycare director then told me that she could come out to the parking lot and get Logan, which is great. It mends the gap between the non-choice of leaving Ethan in the car alone or toting him into the school.

With this new solution of the director picking up Logan in the parking lot, I miss all of the posters/notifications about what’s going on in my guy’s class. So I’m in the dark this V-Day. I forgot to ask the director if anything was needed for the party, or even if they plan a party. (Again, I always try to contribute to parties or classroom supplies because I feel it somehow makes up for me picking Logan up late or not being able to attend school events because of work constraints.) Nevertheless I’m now on maternity leave and here I am with Dum-Dum lollipops for Logan’s classmates, still in a last-minute effort to scrawl out their names on these 3-week-old candied treats.  Ah well, I suppose I’ll just say it’s a pre-Valentine’s Day family tradition and look forward to next year’s last minute scramble.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Birthday Cha-Cha-Cha

Well I’m now a whopping 34 years old. How on Earth did that happen? Yesterday was my birthday and I didn’t do anything spectacular, no fancy dinners, obnoxious balloon bouquets or singing telegrams. Just a nice, quiet day at home.

Remember when we were kids and your birthday was such a big deal? Now that’s not so much the case, and I’m OK with that. I feel like I’m getting older because I sound like my dad when he’d say his birthday was “just another day.” And a few years ago people would treat your birthday as just another day.

But not any more. Thanks to Facebook the world can know it’s your special day and tell you all about it. I got well over a hundred birthday wishes on FB and so my phone was pinging all day notifying me each time someone made a comment. Nothing makes you feel loved quite like dozens upon dozens of friends recognizing your day. It was kinda cool.

The boys treated me good too. Ethan and I went out for breakfast and did a Babies R Us run, his gift to me was staying asleep the whole time so I could enjoy myself. I spent the day at home catching up on some old DVRed shows, snuggling with Ethan and fielding a few birthday calls.

Then Hubby came home early and we had my presents, a tasty spaghetti dinner and cake from my favorite bakery. And I mustn’t forget the Happy Birthday serenade. Before belting out the song, Logan warned me that it was going to be the cha-cha-cha version. He was right, there were some good cha-cha-chas in there.

All in all, a chill kind of day. It wasn’t something where I spent the day looking back on years past or thinking about the years to come, it was just a day where I soaked up the day for what it was: My day.

A Day In The Life Of A Snowtastrophe

The descriptions of this blizzard are endless. Snowmaggedon. Snowpocalaypse. Snowtastrophe. Snowlacaust. Or my favorite: winter.

A sledding path to the street.

OK so that’s a bit harsh, it *is* the worst storm in decades and it dumped a good 20 inches. And last night’s “thundersnow” was pretty cool, I’d never before seen lightning during a snowstorm. We’ve got about 4 feet of alps formed just outside our garage. So I’ll admit it, this was a spectacular storm.

I’m just glad we’re all home.

Logan went to day care yesterday and Ethan and I tried to pick him up before the blizzard hit, but it turns out everyone else headed home early, clogging the roads. What usually is a 40 minute round trip, took me two hours. On the way home, I could only see about a quarter a mile in front of me and at times both boys were crying simultaneously. It was fun, let me tell you.

Then Hubby tried to leave work early and the trains were crazy packed. He waited for about an hour on the platforms to get on one and even then had to sharpen his elbows to fight for a place to stand. He said his usually cordial commuters were quite brutal.

But he made it out to the burbs and even swung by the store and got butter pecan ice cream and a bottle of Shiraz. (Other people were stocking up on bottled water and peanut butter, not us!)

Last night, my only request was that we didn’t lose power, and though the lights flickered a bit, the power stayed on. We could hear the skies thundering and saw them brighten with lightning. It was like a good summer thunderstorm except it was, well, winter.

In front of our subdivision.

This morning we went to check out the damage. The porch was covered in several inches and a foot and a half was piled against our front door. When we opened the garage, that’s when we saw the drifts in our driveway. Hubby dug out a little path to the street and Logan “helped.” After a narrow pathway was cleared, the two went sledding in the street, shrieking and giggling the entire way. This is what snow days are supposed to be about.

Out With The Old, In With The New-ish

My 9-year-old Jeep Liberty was on the fritz again and we were trying to figure out whether to get a new car or pump more money into Black Thunder. To help us with our decision, we needed to know more about our options. It was time to go car shopping.

Black Thunder and the Silver Tank

We started at the Jeep dealer, thinking we could get a good deal on the trade-in. We had a price point in mind and browsed the used cars.

As a girl I hate dealing with car dealerships. When I go to the service department they often talk to me like I’m a frail, dense little lady or the salesmen dismiss my opinion and I find it insultingly annoying. I’ve taken different approaches in dealing with car folks and when I’m with Hubby, I let him take the lead and pipe up whenever I want.

The guy at the Jeep dealer who approached us a few inches inside the door was about as wide as he was tall and seemed affable. He talked mostly to Hubby, until it was clear we were looking for a used car and not a new one. Then he seemed bored, disinterested. I suppose we weren’t considered a high-dollar sale.

We got the Liberty appraised and decided to check out Carmax. There we got Black Thunder appraised again and they gave us a quote $1,000 higher than the dealership. And the salesman was enthusiastic, but kind of like a loving odd uncle. When he found out I just gave birth to a boy, he told us how he tried having sex with cowboy boots on so he could get his wife pregnant with a boy. See? Odd.

Nevertheless, we started culling through all of the cars in stock and at first, Hubby and I were feeling pretty bleak, the choices weren’t really anything that fit us and our budget. Then we checked out the Jeep Commander, a car I’ve always liked and it was roomier than the Liberty.

We test drove it, Mr. Cowboy Boots didn’t pressure us, but let us think about it for a day and after much talk, Hubby and I bit the bullet and got the silver Commander. I call her the Silver Tank.