Creatures of habit

I always thought my kids traveled well. Alex's first plane trip was at 4 months and it was across a sea and a ocean. Before his second birthday he had made four trips across the Atlantic and slept in every kind of crib, bed and hotel that I could imagine for a young kid. Anna also had her share of traveling and camping out in various places. But our last trip to Texas, proved that my kids might be more creatures of habit than I thought.

While my kids do pretty well on airplanes (Alex even knows when to throw his bag on the security conveyor belt and when to take off his shoes), their adjustment to new places to stay needs some work. I'm not sure if I expect too much or if my kids just 'want what they want,' as Alex would say.

For four days, my son moaned about missing everything from his Clifford dog (a stuffed toy) to his Legos. Is it possible for an almost-four-year old to be homesick. To make the whining of missing home even worse, the kids decided sleep was not a top priority. Either the room was too light or too cold or too hot or too noisy, whatever the reason they would wake up early or not take a good naps. This can begin to spiral after a few days.

When we walked in the door from our vacation, the kids were overjoyed to be with all their toys. Both slept late the next morning and went right back to their routine.

I'm not sure who enjoys the routines more--them or me.


Santa Claus sighting

Secretly, I've always believed there might really be a Santa Claus . . . and I think we saw him yesterday in the Dallas airport. En route to Austin my two Christmas children (donned completely in red) skipped through the airport Christmas morning at 8 a.m. They both stopped to look at an older man coming through security dressed in interesting Santa gear.

He was wearing a burgundy robe down to the floor with intricate designs in various colors and his hair and beard were white. It was his real hair as far as I could tell and the real McCoy on the beard as well. He stood waiting for a handicapped cart to pick him up. (I'm guessing because he was tired from delivering gifts.) My children just stood watching. The man from the cart, jumped off and said, "Can I get your bag Santa?" Santa nodded quietly. Santa climbed onto the cart, bag clutched in his arms waving to my kids. As he pulled away, I noticed that his suitcase had the initials "SC" in script.

Alex asked me, "Where is Santa going?" I replied wholeheartedly, "I think he might be taking that cart to his sleigh. Christmas is over and his last stop must have been Dallas. He's heading home to sleep." Somewhere in my heart, I think even I believed it, and for a brief moment I thought, if anyone could have been Santa it was this man.

I was curious if they had to open his luggage and take off his boots at the security check.


Christmas blessings

Every year, I like reflecting on all I have been blessed with during the year and this year I have many Christmas blessings and things to be thankful for:

1. How lucky to be able to spend Christmas with both my parents and my inlaws. It's fun for the kids to see both sets of grandparents.

2. I feel blessed that my mother is doing better this month and hopefully something miraculous will come about in the new year. She has one more chemo treatment and then will be granted a three-month reprieve.

3. I am blessed that my children have finally come around to liking each other and will often play on their own.

4. My husband has taken some time off during the days leading up to Christmas and all next week so we will all be able to spend time as a family.

5. Lastly, a book agent has found our book idea interesting, and we plan to sign a contract with her this next week. And, hopefully, in two months or so, we will have a book deal. How cool is that??

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Ice skating champ!

The big draw to Reston Town Center this season, besides the Christmas lights, has been the ice skating rink. The last time we went to watch the skaters I mentioned that Alex was probably old enough to give it a try.

Yesterday we decided to give it a go! I went in with very low expectations, which I think was very important. I knew he might decide five minutes into skating that this wasn't for him, perhaps even before we got to the ice. After a rough start and some quick reassurance, he seemed to figure it out. I could see the wheels turning in his head at how to make this whole experience easier for him. He didn't want to hold onto the railing. He wanted me to hold only one of his hands. He fell quite a bit in the beginning, but decided laughing it off was his best bet.

The rink provides pickle buckets for the kids to push while they skate. I showed him how and he then pushed me away. I was afraid our skating time had come an end. After some playing around with the bucket, he decided he would push the bucket ahead of him and then glide, skate, walk, jump or some combination of that to the bucket. With a goal in sight, he seemed better able to get the hang of it all. And he did. After 30 minutes he was practically skating without any help from me. Ok, I really do use the term "skating" loosely.

The only downside to this adventure was the price. At $7 a kid and $4 for rental it's not something we can afford to do often since he will only last about 30 minutes. And we didn't even give it a try with Anna. Next year. I'm not sure what these people are thinking. An 'under age 5 option' might be offered at $5 (including skates). Who is going to own skates for kids who outgrown their shoes every 6-12 months? At $5 a kid, I would go more than once a year and then they'd get more money from me in the anyway because I would take BOTH my kids at that price. It looks like Reston's Skate Quest does offer open skating for a little less. But somehow for moms and for the Christmas season, it wouldn't be the same effect of skating outside in the cold under the lights with Christmas music playing.

Next year, we'll give it another go with both the kids.


1-2-3: It really is Magic!

My kids are wild! I feel like I have seen it all from them, and my oldest is not even four. We’ve dealt with the hitting, pushing, biting, screaming like every other toddler/preschool mom. My kids aren’t any worse than other kids, but they are intense sometimes, even relentless.

When my son was two and a half, I was about to lose my mind. We had just moved back to the States, he wasn’t in preschool yet and the pushing and hitting was completely out of control. I would get so worked up I could hear the blood pulsing in my ears. Sometimes I was sure my head would explode! A neighbor recommended the book 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas Phelan. I bought it and read it within an evening since I was desperate for some change and peace in our house. Within two days, it had worked it’s magic! Not just on him but on me.

I will recommend if you want to do this, you really should get your hands on the actual book. He has some very sound advice and recommendations for following through. He even gives you various scenarios to use it, including just plain whining from a child. But here is the gist of it. You explain to your child first that he will have, basically, two chances to stop doing what he’s doing. By the time you get to number 3, there will be a consequence. You have to be pretty ready to follow through on your threat immediately. I used to give Alex ample room in the beginning like:

Mom: Leave that toy in the car.
Alex: No
Mom: Leave that toy in the car or we’re not going to [fill in blank].
Alex: No
Mom: That’s 1
Alex: No
Mom: That’s 2
Alex: Ok, fine.

So really, he’s had more than two chances once I explained it to him what was going to happen. But as we progressed with this method, I would barely get to 1 before he would figure out it was just not worth fighting it. Sometimes, getting to ‘3’ meant a time out. Sometimes it meant the toy disappeared. Sometimes it meant no TV, music or something related. Sometimes it meant we had to go home or do something else.

Beyond the counting method, is Dr. Phelan’s discussion of lecturing to children as part of the discipline process. I used to go on and on with my son telling him why he shouldn’t do this and that. The author’s point is for a two-year old, beyond the first few words is completely lost. They are kids! And to them hear “don’t do this . . . blah, blah, blah, blah.” So why waste our energy and breath on a lecturing a two or three-year old.

Using this method was never perfect. But 99 percent of the time it worked. One of the fundamental things to doing this is mom has to keep her cool. This is extremely hard for me because I am a very impatient person. But it actually helps me separate myself from the situation. If I’m calm, they are calm. And if in the end he throws a fit anyway, I don’t care as much since I didn’t invest the energy in getting worked up.

Ss a side note, this does not work its magic quite as well with my daughter. I have no idea why. But it just doesn’t. My ROI with her is about 80 percent. Still pretty good odds, just not as effective. Perhaps I need to go back and reread the book with her in mind.

But if you’re looking for a new discipline routine—besides timeouts, screaming, or lecturing—this will leave you less stressed at the end, you might give this book a read (or even a scan). You can get the bulk of it from a quick read.


Sometimes I just need a little Christmas

I looked around the room at my daughter’s preschool last week and savored all the simply-made Christmas decorations by two-year olds. The room was fully donned in green and red. As we were preparing for her Christmas party, we danced to the tunes playing on the CD player. Thanks to one mom, we planned a great party around the kids complete with cookie decorating, card and ornament making, gift bow halos and shaving cream finger painting. One mom even tried her cake decorating skill with a very lavish cake looking like a present. It was one of the best school Christmas parties I’ve been too. Maybe it was because Anna doesn’t eat the cookies with such greed as Alex does. Maybe it was because I only had one child to look after. Or maybe it was because it was 100% Christmas.

We commented on how nice it was to have a Christmas party for a change. Granted, she does go to a Christian preschool so that lends itself to embracing the reason for the season.

With all the Happy Holidays these days, sometimes I just need a little Merry Christmas.


Think you can't find Christmas trees in the Middle East? Think again

I had a debate with a friend yesterday on the merits of buying a real tree over an artificial one. We laughed and said it's the eternal debate right up there with breastfeeding vs. bottle; going to work vs. staying home; stuffing the turkey or not.

She explained her trip to Home Depot for a real tree was a disappointing one so they went to Target and bought a fake tree instead. She asked if I had the choice between a crappy Home Depot tree and a beautiful fake one, what would I pick? First of all, I wouldn't go to Home Depot for a tree. There are so many wonderful places to get a tree. But if I did have to pick, I would have gotten the real one.

Our family is dedicated to the live Christmas tree. So dedicated we went out of our way even in the desert to get a real tree. No, they don't grow them there in Qatar. But they do ship them in. Several years ago, my husband wrote up our adventure of getting the tree. I wanted to include it because every Christmas this becomes part of "remember that year when" stories.

To keep from becoming complacent, I remembered the adventure of buying a Christmas tree in Doha, Qatar in 2003:

[Megamart=one of three local grocery stores in Landmark Mall; it’s ~3.6 riyals to the dollar]

Tuesday. I go to MegaMart, where I’ve heard one can buy a tree. I locate the Indian florist.
Andrew: Do you sell Christmas trees?
Florist: Oh, yes sir.
Andrew: How much are they?
Florist: Sir, we have . . . hold on, I must check . . . (he looks through a notebook) Sir, we have 2.5 meters tree. (sic)
Andrew: And how much does it cost?
Florist: 450 riyals. [this is about $135—ouch!]
Andrew: Do you have any other sizes of trees?
Florist: Oh yes sir, we have 1.5 meters tree (sic)
Andrew: And how much does it cost?
Florist: Hold on, let me call (florist calls Megamart’s nursery). Sir, the 1.5 meters tree is 460 riyal.
Andrew (smiling): Hold on, you have to be kidding. The 1.5 meter tree is 460 riyal, and the 2.5 meter tree is 450 riyal?
Florist: Oh yes sir
Andrew: Ah. . .
Florist: (starting to notice this is highly unusual) One minute sir
Andrew: Sure
Florist: (Florist now calls nursery and has an agitated conversation) Oh sir, the prices have changed!
Andrew: ok
Florist: Our 1.5 meters tree is 400, our 2.5 meters tree is 450.
Andrew: Okay, I’m going to think about it and get back to you.

I return to Megamart to see what the price is, and possibly order a tree. The issue is whether or not we can obtain a Christmas tree stand in which to put the tree.

Andrew: How much is the Christmas tree?
Florist: Sir, the Christmas tree is 450 riyals for a 2.5 meters tree
Andrew: (thinks to self—amazing—the price has remained the same!) OK, do you sell Christmas tree stands?
Florist obviously has no idea what I’m talking about
Andrew: Do you sell Christmas tree pots?
Florist: The Christmas tree is coming!
Andrew: Yes, I know the tree is coming, but what about a pot?
Florist: Only the tree is coming sir (begins to look at me with a slightly sad look—he’s beginning to feel sorry for such an obviously unintelligent person)
Andrew: Right, I understand the tree is coming, but can I get a pot with it, or do you sell pots?
Florist: (Motions to a wide range of pots which would be utterly useless as Christmas tree stands) Yes, yes, we have pots
Andrew: Right, but how will I hold the Christmas tree upright?
Florist: The Christmas tree is coming!
Andrew: OK, I understand, I will get back to you later

I join Linda in the frozen food section and attempt some normal shopping.

Before returning to Megamart, I talk with an Australian lady who bought a large tree from Megamart for QR 450, plus QR 20 for a pot with some bricks in it to hold the tree upright. Thus fortified, I bravely rejoin the battle.

Yet again, I’m at Megamart.

Andrew: Hello my friend, I would like to buy a tree.
Florist: The Christmas tree is coming?
Andrew: Yes, please. I’d like to order a tree.
Florist: I think we are all sold out of the big ones.
Andrew: OK, how much does a little one cost?
Florist: We have only 2 meters tree—350 riyals sir!
Andrew: (gives Linda a very serious look to preclude her from loudly observing that his is, in fact, cheaper than a 1.5 meters tree—which, itself, springs from a long story involving the purchase of a bottle of Tanqueray 10 gin) Excellent, we’ll take one!
Florist: yes sir, let me have your name and address
Andrew: (fills out name and address) And can you include a pot?
(A European store employee whom I have never seen before appears—we’ll call him the Dane)
Dane: I think we’re all sold out of the big trees
Andrew: That’s too bad, but I think I can get a 2 meter tree
Dane: Oh yes, we have some of those
Andrew: And I’d like a pot, with some bricks to hold the tree up
Dane: Oh yes
Florist: The pot is coming!
Andrew: How much is the pot?
Florist: 30 riyals, sir
Andrew: No, I just talked to a lady who bought the pot for 20 riyals
Florist: (looks around for a minute) ok, the pot is 20 riyals.
Andrew: Great
Florist: The pot is coming with the tree sir.
Andrew: Wonderful.
Florist: Shall the tree come at 8:30 or 9:00 tonight sir?
Andrew: 8:30 will be lovely.

There was some more conversation about this and that, but basically the tree, pot, and bricks were to arrive at 8:30 and I was to pay the driver. Linda and I, typically, had no idea what, and at what price, or at what time, if at all, would arrive.

At 7:00, the driver from the nursery shows up.

Driver: I have the tree sir
Andrew: Great, how much is it?
Driver: 375 riyal.
Andrew: And is there a pot?
Driver: The pot is not coming
Andrew: No. This is wrong. The tree should be 350, and there should be a 20 riyal pot with it.
Driver: (looking panicked, calls HQS) laksjflksjdflkasjfl;ksajf;lksadjfk—(then hands phone to Andrew)
Andrew: Hello.
HQS: Sir, the tree is 375 riyals.
Andrew: No, the tree should be 350, and it should have come with a pot for 20 riyals. I was just at Megamart, and that was the price they told me.
HQS: Sir. Hold on, I must call Megamart.
(A few minutes of Andrew and the driver making awkward, limited conversation about the virtues of trees shipped from Europe ensue). . .HQS calls back, the driver hands the phone to Andrew.
Andrew: Hello?
HQS: lkjslkfjsdlkfjal;sfjlaskdjf
Andrew: Hello?
HQS: Hello sir (explaining in a very condescending way) Sir, the tree is 350 riyals, and the pot is 20.
Andrew: (keeping immaculately cool) yes, yes, I know.
HQS: Sir, the pot will come in one hour
Andrew: great.

And so our tree sits downstairs in our mop bucket, as the poor delivery boy has returned to the nursery for the 20 riyal pot. The big mystery is: will the pot be big enough? And will he bring bricks which can stabilize the tree? Only time will tell. . .

Eight o’clock comes. . .and goes
Nine o’clock.
10 o’clock

We head for bead, when all of a sudden, the cell phone rings.

Driver: I am coming sir. I will be there in 15 minutes
Andrew: Great, I’ll be here

10:15 comes and goes. At 10:40, security calls—they’re here. It’s Driver, Mr. X, and. . .The Florist!

Driver: Sir, we have only this pot for you (he motions to a big orange pot filled with bricks.
Andrew: (Seeing a more aesthetically pleasing green pot with gravel, but resignedly) ok, I’ll take it.

I take the huge orange pot with bricks into the house and look more closely at it under the lights. I notice the bottom is filled with holes, thoughtfully drilled to prevent root rot in houseplants.

Andrew: Hey, I’m afraid this pot won’t quite do.
Driver: (now in the house with me): Why not?
Andrew: (I stick my fingers in the holes in the bottom the pot) The tree must be kept in water, and the water will run out of the bottom.

Driver: oh. . . (driver runs outside and swaps out the orange pot for the green pot—the poor sap who was to get the green pot has now been screwed) here, sir, you may have this pot!
Andrew: (now suspicious, I check the bottom of the green pot—it too is lousy with holes) Oh dear, this pot won’t do either—it is filled with holes

Driver heads outside for a conference with his colleagues.

Florist: Sir—you must keep the tree in water. Tree is drinking!
Andrew: Yes, indeed. That’s why the pots won’t work.

Florist to Driver: asdlkfjas;lkjflaksdjflkashfklajsjflaskjdfklja

Florist: Sorry sir. We will come back tomorrow with a different pot sir.
Andrew: Great.

And. . .the story has a happy ending. Driver, Mr. X and Mr. Y returned with a pot which worked. Our Christmas tree had been flown in from the Netherlands and didn’t last more than two weeks, but we still managed to have a Christmas tree in the heart of the Persian Gulf!

The following year we had figured out the system and it was so much easier this time. Plus we had the pot.


The worst mom in the world

When I picked up my son today at school, the teacher is standing holding a foiled-covered item. I ask, "What is that?" She answers, "His gingerbread house." As we walk to the car, Alex looks up at me and says, "Mommy, why weren't you here with all the other mommies to help me make my gingerbread man house?" Were we supposed to be here? My mind immediately starts racing. How could I not know about this? Did I forget it? Was he wrong? I started asking questions like whose mommy was there? Was Sierra's mommy there? Was this a party I missed? Who helped you with the gingerbread house?

Feeling terrible, I realized I should not assume anything until I get home and reread the message from the teacher. Sure enough, right there in front of me was a message yesterday inviting parents to come make gingerbread houses with the kids. Don't ask me how I missed it with all the emailing and computering I do. But I did. So I think back to the party at Thanksgiving when one child was left alone and how sad she was. Immediately feel like the worst parent ever. This wasn't the Christmas party (that's next week) just an added extra event where all the moms showed up, except for me. And where was I? Christmas shopping with my daughter. We had actually arrived at school 45 minutes early and just hung outside on the playground. So I could have come in and decorated with him.

When I asked Alex if he was sad about it, he said, "Not really, I just wanted to know where you were and why you weren't there with the other moms."

Still, I have some serious mommy guilt.


Our little gingerbread house

Alex announced he wanted to make a “gingerbread man house." I remembered last year’s attempt at this and breathed a heavy sigh. Do we really have to go that route again?

I can hear the lyrics to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in my head and remember the second line: “Let your heart be light.” I’m not sure what 'light' that means. But either way, I knew it meant, give it up and let the kid make the gingerbread man house.

So we walk into Michaels and Alex sprints right to the giant stack of gingerbread house kits, takes it and skips to the register. I guess he was done. On the way home, I decided to try to streamline this process a bit after last year's gingerbread house fiasco.

Here was how it went last year: We’re going to make a gingerbread house, I say to the kid. They are ecstatic and can hardly sit still. I open the box. Crap! It’s in pieces, I need to mix the icing, the candy is in individual bags and everyone is going crazy. Why didn’t I open this ahead of time and plan. I start mixing the icing and before I know it the kids have pried open all the bags of candy—one bag which had teeny tiny pieces too small for my then 16-month old. Yikes. The icing starts to harden immediately and I’m trying to get the house together quick enough before the kids lose interest. Pretty quickly, I realize it's just not going to work out. We finish it, the kids are over the gingerbread house and I'm just frustrated by the whole thing.

This year, I was prepared. I told them it would be a 2-phase process. We would build one day and decorate the next. So, I skipped the icing on Part 1 and went straight to the glue gun. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before. We glued it and it dried within 10 minutes. I could have gone on, but I decided the anticipation for decorating tomorrow would lend itself to another activity. While the house "dried" we decided to sketch out what our house would look like. No, my kids didn't really, but they did draw some houses with their version of gingerbread men.

Phase 2 of project gingerbread house went as expected. They ate more candy than they put on the house. I did, however, manage to get the icing done before they lost interest and cover all the glue. Overall, a much more positive experience for all this year. The house still looks pretty sad, but the memory will be a happier one.

Buying books online just got better with Lookybook

This weekend I took my kids to the bookstore for lack of something more creative to do. I love books, and we buy a lot of books. I love bookstores, but I love Amazon more. I love getting books at a significantly lower cost. What can I say, I'm a bargain hunter. So, I admit it, we go, browse at the bookstore, take notes and then go home and order online.

It was an unusually dreary day and my kids were being unusually well behaved at the bookstore. They sat down in the aisle and just read for close to 30 minutes. Why they can’t do this at the library, I will never know. So I sat on the floor next to them and read children’s book. I make it a general rule to not buy books for myself or as a gift unless I’ve read it myself. This makes buying online difficult. Have you seen the crap out there these days that kids are reading?

As I was sitting there, I watched the kids come down the aisle and the moms, grandma and aunts looking for books for children. Here I was sitting in front of great children literature such as Curious George, Olivia, Where the Wild Things Are, Little Red Riding Hood, Goodnight Moon, Eloise, Caps for Sale, but not one, not two, but every person who came down that aisle was looking for something like Shrek, My Little Pony, Dora, Buzz Lightyear, Disney Princesses, etc. Why on Earth when there are so many fabulous books out there are our children reading books about movies or characters?

Which brings me to my point, a fellow blogger from BabyCenter pointed me to a site where you can actually read the books before you buy. It’s called Lookybook. It’s still in beta so I’m sure there are some kinks to work out, but in general you can look at the entire book and read it before you decide to buy. What a fabulous idea for those of us who want to make sure our money is going for good books. Looks like I may be able to save myself a trip to the bookstore and just go from Lookybook directly to Amazon.


The greatest thrill for a blogger

For a blogger the great thrill is to have someone link their post to yours. (Thrill, as in, the call from the boy you met last weekend or in my case, that my kids were nice to me all day since my husband is out of town again.) This week I had two links! One from Parenting magazine and one from Dr. Sears (aka guru of-all-things-parenting). They are from posts on DC Metro Moms, but nevertheless, I feel some kind of pride from this. Maybe this will help me get this book published.


The Vaccine Book: Review

Check out my latest review of Dr. Sears' The Vaccine Book over at DC Metro Moms today. There is an open book discussion so please feel free to jump in or leave a comment here if you like.

Summary: I thought the book was full of good, objective information. Sears provides a wealth of information on each vaccine and everything from details on the disease, how serious, treatable and prevalent each one is. He gives thorough detail on what is actually in each injection, discusses side effects, and gives his opinion on that vaccine. This a great book for a new mom's library, and I hope pediatricians will read it as well. Definitely recommended for those with questions regarding their children's vaccinations.


Breastfeeding in a Perfect World

Today is Breastfeeding Topic Day at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, New York City Moms Blog, Chicago Moms Blog and DC Metro Moms (where I write). Check out the differing views on breastfeeding.

Before children, breastfeeding always seemed like the most peaceful moment shared between mother and child—mom cuddling baby, baby eating so nicely, never any mess to clean up. But those of us who have gone this route know there are some less-than-perfect things about breastfeeding. We can hope that in a perfect world things could be as they are in our imaginations—before we were all inducted into the breastfeeding mom’s club—but most of us know that as modern women of American fast-paced society, breastfeeding is what it is.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding would be easy to do. For those of us who struggled with one child or another breastfeeding can be a daily or sometimes hourly struggle. One kid can take to the breast like a duck to water and with others it's like mixing oil and water--it can break a mom’s heart. In a perfect world, a baby would pop out, latch on and eat for 10 minutes and be done.

In a perfect world . . . Moms wouldn’t feel nervous or ashamed about breastfeeding their babies in public. We’ve all been there in the situation where you think I have to do it now, right here. Baby is screaming, people are watching and waiting for you to quiet him down. You know that all he wants is the boob. Do you rip your shirt off in the airplane and give it to him or let him cry? Do you risk nipple viewing in a family restaurant? The reality is that most people would probably you rather quiet your baby in a restaurant or plane, and if a breast is what does it then I say go for it. New moms sometimes have anxieties about nursing in public. I remember my friends taking the time to show me in a Starbucks how to drape the blanket over my shoulder and baby’s head. By my second child, I didn’t even care about the modesty.

In a perfect world . . . Moms would get six months or maybe even a year of maternity leave. Part of the reason Americans don’t breastfeed as long as Europeans is that we give our news moms only six weeks maternity leave. We’re not even sleeping through the night by that point and no established milk/feeding pattern has really taken shape. It wasn’t until three months into the new mom gig with my second child that I finally had the breastfeeding thing under control. Which leads me to my next point . . .

In a perfect world . . . Moms shouldn’t have to pump at work in a bathroom. For those that used hospital grade pumps, you know this can be one of the most awkward positions. Here you are tired, hunched over and hooked up to a machine like a dairy cow. Nothing says professional like the wump, wump sound of a breast pump in the ladies room. In a perfect world, if moms had a little more give on maternity leave, perhaps this would simply be a non-issue.

In a perfect world . . . People wouldn’t make you feel bad if you chose not to breastfeed or struggled with it. There is a lot of pressure for moms to breastfeed these days, and while I admit wholeheartedly that breast is best, it may not be for everyone. When I sat up at nights nursing my son hour after hour, I would crying thinking I was the only one feeling this way. My heart was in it 100 percent, but I just couldn’t make it work for me, and I felt like I had failed my baby. Every magazine I read made me feel like switching to a bottle meant neglecting my son.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding wouldn’t be about watching the clock. With all the books I had read prior to breastfeeding, I thought babies ate 20 minutes on one breast and 20 minutes on the next, and then you have two hours to put up your feet. But those of us with older kids know that feeding the baby is not a time to sit, relax and watch TV. It can be a time when you’re entertaining another or thinking of all the things that we could be doing instead of sitting. In a perfect world, we’d just sit down and let the baby go to town until he/she was done.

In a perfect world . . . Babies wouldn’t spit up the milk you just produced. There is nothing worse than completing a wonderful feeding session with your sweet infant only to have him spit up all the milk you just produced. It’s not like you can just mix up another batch. And for those of us who didn’t produce much anyway, it was hard lesson to learn that we were no longer in control.

In a perfect world . . . No one would look at you while you were breastfeeding. I could never tell if the looks I got from passersby were looks of horror, pity or empathy. I just assumed that people knew what I was doing and were looking my way to smile or check out my newborn baby. (Isn't she cute?) I try to do the same. In a perfect world, you could to offer a new mom some compassion via eye contact without having the look/smile misconstrued.

In a perfect world . . . Nursing shirts and bras would be cute and stylish. I’m sure there are some cute outfits out there for nursing and I know they put lace on the bras, but it just seems like in a perfect world someone would recognize the demand for cute, affordable post pregnancy nursing clothes.

In a perfect world . . . People wouldn’t make you feel bad if you decided to breastfeed into toddlerhood. I was not one of these moms, but I think those women who breastfeed into toddlerhood are true heroes. Making moms justify nursing a two year old is highly inappropriate. In a perfect world, people would just mind their own business.

In a perfect world . . . Breastfeeding should be about just that--bonding with and feeding your baby. Many times it can be, but unfortunately unless it’s a late night feeding or the wee hours of the morning, pastoral it is not. We’re probably making a snack for someone, dodging an older child’s toy, trying to cover up our other nipple, making mental lists, talking on the phone, bargaining with someone or counting the minutes until the feed is over so we can get in the shower.

This is not a perfect world, but breastfeeding is like everything we do as moms. You take the good with the bad. For me, breastfeeding my children was a bit of challenge on many levels. I don’t regret doing it. I even loved it at times. And I would totally do it again.


AMENDMENT: Today is a snow day

Our little snow turned into beautiful Christmas snow. (Perhaps a justified snow day from school after all.) I wiped off my sour face and took a look around. What's not to like? It's snow in December, which is rare in Northern Virginia. We don't usually see it until January or February. We're setting out for an afternoon of play in the snow. No errands, no chores, just fun. My kids have been asking for snow since September so here it is. Let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Today is NOT a snow day

This morning I woke up ready to face the day. My son goes to school today, but my daughter is home with me. Even with one child around in the morning, it still allows me the flexibility to run my Christmastime errands.

As I walked down the steps, I was greeted by my daughter's enthusiasm, "Mommy, it snow'ng outside." Yay, but all I could think of was how I had my morning planned to get ready for an upcoming Christmas get together, run some errands and pick up the house. None would be accomplished with both kids home if school was cancelled because of snow.

I look out and assess. Looks OK. Not too much on the ground.

In my sleepiness state, I staggered down the steps to the basement and check the public school announcments. No announcement meant school was open today. As I perk up, I sit down to enjoy my cup of coffee.

As I'm cajoling my kids to brush their teeth later in the morning, the phone rings at 8:45 (we're supposed to leave in about five minutes) and it's Alex teacher telling me school is closed because of the snow. "You're kidding me, right?" I ask, looking outside and seeing only a light dusting of snow, almost none of it is on the road.

So, once again, foiled by mother nature and home with two wonderful children who are always on the wrong side of the door--10 minutes of bundling up to play in the snow, after five minutes outside they are done. Ten minutes inside of toys and begging to go out again. Repeat.

I really have to get my head in the right place and try to start the day over with a smile. Snow day means built in fun for everyone. They did discover you can clean snow off the car with hair brushes. How very inventive!


Puzzle crazy

My son is addicted to puzzles. I’m not taking the wood ones where you plop in the shapes already cut for you, I’m talking real 48-piece plus jigsaw puzzles. (He's partial to the Melissa and Doug floor puzzles. He has at least seven he can do on his own in 15 minutes--each that is.) Before he was two, he could sit down, with a little help…LITTLE help…and do a whole puzzle. We were amazed at his method. Simply trial and error with each piece. Today, I watched him do the same puzzle (48 small pieces) three times. He’s fast and very methodical when he works. He doesn’t want distractions and he’s proud when he’s done. He’s also a math guy who can add and subtract basic numbers.

It makes me wonder what a kid like this will be able to do down the road in ten years. He’s three and a half. He can’t draw or construct anything out of blocks that we can identify, but puzzles and numbers are his thing. I just can’t help wonder . . . .

The season of chocolate

My son, especially, has a terrible sweet tooth. I attribute it to the one-a-day chocolate muffins I ate when I was pregnant with him. Probably why my blood sugar was borderline gestational diabetes and I had to cut out all sugar. Apparently, we can mess up our kids before they pop out. Alex will eat an ungodly amount of chocolate and sugar without so much as taking a breath. He will wake up in the morning, with his eyes not even opened, and start bargaining for whatever sweets we might have in the house—hidden or not. He always know where they are.

My solution since I have absolutely no self-control (my friends will admit to this) when it comes to sweets, wine or chips is to not have this stuff around. OK, except for the wine. Everyone needs their vice, right? You don’t find cookies, brownies, chocolate, candy or anything even resembling that at my house unless I’m baking for an event.

The Halloween candy was gone long before we started running into Christmas holidays because of this. Halloween was on Wednesday this year and the candy was either thrown out or sent to work with my husband by the following Monday. I had put on five pounds from all the yummies that didn’t get taken by kids. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.

Somehow close to Thanksgiving, our house started filling up with chocolate and by Thanksgiving day we had pounds, quite literally, of chocolate in our house. Not to mention the giant pecan pie and cake from dinner.

Now into December, the chocolate has multiplied threefold, and we have the chocolate Advent calendars. Very traditional for our family, but so annoying for the chocoholics in my house. Again, before Alex even gets down the stairs he’s talking about opening door # (insert day of December). How did he know this morning it was December 2. After eating it he was already asking about #3. Then he asked about the cookies in the freezer. What about the candy Uncle Dave bought? He remembers seeing some chocolate turkeys somewhere, what about those? And, hey, what happened to the candy cane Santa gave him yesterday?

So I groaned back at him: For the goodness sakes, go to the bathroom, wake up, eat your breakfast THEN we’ll start negotiating on sweets. Mommy cannot do negotiating without coffee in the morning.

So you see what has happened to our house. The chocolate has turned my son into a little greedy sugar monster and me into a fat one. Anna is apparently the only one with self control. She only eats a nibble of it. Please, please stop sending us chocolate.


Christmas trees: It's just our place

Seems every year, people speak of their place for getting a Christmas tree. This morning we were trying to figure out the best place to journey for our tree shopping experience. Every year we go to the same place, but this year I thought we needed more—Santa visit, music, hot cider—you know festivities for the kids. I looked in the paper and online and finally when the question came up: where are we going? My response was simple: We’ll go back to Krop’s Crops.

On the way there, we passed by several Christmas tree shops, and my kids are crying out “Mom, stop, there are Christmas trees.” But we keep driving. My parents, who were visiting, wanted to know the reason behind my loyalty to Krop’s Crops. The answer is simple. It’s local, it’s small and it’s tradition. Krop’s Crops in Great Falls, Virginia, is very small shop nursery. There are no frills to this outfit though—it’s pretty plain and simple with a few extras for the kids. They have a cast-iron stove inside to warm up, refreshments to purchase, chickens and goats to feed and dried corn for the kids to play in.

And every year, despite the fact that neighboring and competing farms offer more, we still go here to get our tree and every year it looks more perfect. While the trees aren’t cheap, the service is amazing and I love the idea of support small local establishments. Today, Santa was helping load trees on the cars—after taking Christmas present requests and handing out candy canes. That was really the highlight for my kids. Nothing beats having Santa talk about his elves while strapping the tree onto your car.

Every year the tree selection is beautiful and fresh. In fact, we’ve had trees last well into mid-January and still be alive and well six weeks after we bought them. In addition to the cut Christmas trees, they have a “cut-your-own” option as well. Also available, of course, are beautiful wreaths and spectacular poinsettias.

I'm curious about your favorite place for Christmas trees and what makes it special for you.