Coming Back to Life

Our house has been struck by illness. Since Jan. 1, (happy new year) someone has been sick, mainly me. But as a good mom I forge ahead as best I can when I'm sick. We still do the activities. I still make the dinners. The laundry is kind of done. The house is marginally picked up. The kids are played with and read to.

But when illness strikes one of the monkeys, all hell breaks loose. There is a reason I was never a nurse. I am terrible with sick people. I get annoyed with the whining and the tears. I know it's because they are sick, but I still can't do the "nurse" routine for more than about 48 hours.

Last week Alex came home from school complaining of a tummyache. By that evening, it turned into a high fever. That was Thursday. Today, in case anyone is counting is Wednesday and that makes six days of high fever, whining, coughing, germs and general overall grossness in this house. Not to mention my impatience. But I think, if I might say it without it undoing the past six days, we're coming back to life in this house.

The kids are fighting again. My head is cleared from congestion and my cabin fever is waning a bit.

Please, God, let Anna stay healthy now.


What Can You Do in the Dark?

So after I was up again for a third night in a row with sick kid or newly potty trained one, I realized how much I have learned to do in the dark during the past four years. I have new admiration for my blind grandmother.

But I now know why I insist that things should go back in their places (even though I often don't do it). Because in the middle of the night, no matter what the situation is with your kids, rule #1 is DON'T TURN ON THE LIGHT! Why? Because you risk fully waking them up and having them up for a longer period than expected. You must be able to find things in the dark.

Last night when my daughter cried out in her sleep that she peed in bed, I was able to strip the bed, change her completely (panties on the right way and all) and make the bed back up in the dark. I remember back when the kids were little and they dirtied their diapers at night, I could completely change a stinky diaper and outfit totally, in the dark. I even learned to change bedsheets around a half-sleepy child, in the dark. I have been known to find extra blankets, socks, lovies, bottles, etc. in the dark as well.

This is why I am the one who gets up with the kids at night. My husband, God bless him, has been known to turn on lights to change diapers and look for lovies. Come to find out, he's not alone. Seems most of the husbands tend to do this. We women must be wired for night vision as well.

Journey to Preschool Admission: School B--Part 3

This week I made three phone calls and one school visit. I went to check out "School B." School B has been intriguing to me since we moved here in 2006. It's a private Montessori school. I know two people who currently have children in the school. One is very happy with it, the other is not. I thought I should go check it out.

School B exceeded all my expectations at first glance. Everything was new and pristine--not to mention crazy organized. I wish my house was that organized. They staff was so agreeable. In fact, almost a bit too much. I felt a little like I was in Stepford. Nothing can be THAT perfect. I took the tour with my youngest beside me who seemed to fit right in with their culture. I observed a few classrooms, however, the first seemed a bit chaotic. I have seen Montessori schools before so I knew what to expect. This class seemed out of control. Kids were everywhere and the teachers seemed to be nonexistent in the setting. I loved what the kids were working on though and the academics of it pleased me.

After talking to my friend about it later--the one who is not happy with it--I found out a few major things regarding both the teachers and the administration that didn't not please me. In addition, the price tag attached to it, was well beyond our budget.

I believe we'll pass on School B.


Indoor Play has Arrived

A friend posted about a new indoor play + cafe establishment opening near my house called At Play Cafe. When I went upstairs to tell my husband, I was actually so giddy my children were excited about it too. As you know, I have been waiting for something like this and to have it so close by is a bonus


The Journey to Preschool Admission: Schools--Part 2

To fully understand the preschool admission journey you must know the players in this game. Here is a list of the schools we have considered (none are mentioned by name as I'm not willing to be on their hit lists):

School C: Current school where both my kids are attending. Generally pleased with the school, but want to make sure Pre-K curriculum is appropriate for Alex. Anna loves to be just about everywhere so she's just along for the ride.

School B: Private, Montessori school. High tuition, mixed reputation.

School F: A school Alex attended last year.

School L: A school where both my kids have been on the waitlist for two years now. Like the school OK. Think their attitude about admission is a bit over the top.

School M: Private, Catholic School. Open house in a week.

School T: Private, church school with a good reputation. Tour of school next week.

School U: Private, church preschool with a good reputation. May decide to attend open house. We'll see.


Cleaning Up Table Manners

This was cross posted to DC Metro Moms

My husband always says our kids (who are almost 4 and 2 ½) are animals at the table. He’s probably right. But when I look at them eating with other children, they are about middle of the road—not the worst and not the best. So slowly we have been trying to clean up their table manners because well, it's just good to have good table manners.

I know it can be done. I remember the first time I saw it in action at my son’s dagis (aka preschool) in Sweden. I walked in each day to pick him up, but one day I caught the end of lunch. Every child was sitting down to a hot meal (soup, salad and entrĂ©e) with a real plate, fork, spoon and knife and a plastic cup. They all sat nicely and were chatting by candlelight! This was when I knew that we Americans are really animals when it comes to eating. Eating on the run, eating standing up, eating while reading a book.

I have declared dinnertime the time of day to be civil—as best as we can. Now, I will be honest, my husband doesn’t make it home in time for dinner most nights. I make dinner, the three of us sit down and eat and he eats later. So it's hard to make this the time to sit as a family. But I feel it’s my role as “mom” to set the general tone of dinnertime where we all stop, turn off the DVDs, put away the toys and books and eat like human beings.

My son started very early knowing this was when we asked “how was your day?” After finally getting Alex and Anna to learn to use utensils at 2 and 1, respectively, we could at least pretend to be human. Alex would ask everyone “how is your day?” We’d respond appropriately and move on to other topics.

The latest issue was waiting until everyone was seated before we all chowed down. This was solved by my in laws visit last summer. Alex decided he loved the ‘saying grace’ aspect of the meal. While I have never been a ‘pray before meal’ kind of girl, I welcomed the opportunity to thank God for the food on our plate if it meant we’d all at least start the meal together. So Alex’s grace goes like this: “Thank you God for the food and thank mom for making it. Let us enjoy this food. Amen.” Hey, I can’t argue with that. The grace changes from time to time, but that is the general idea.

Ok, I can now check 'starting together' off our list. The next issue is the matter of scarfing down food at the speed of light. A girlfriend of mine mentioned setting a timer for 10 minutes. During that time she requires her two kids to sit at the table, eat and engage in some sort of conversation. Once the timer goes off, they are free to exit. I tried this. I was pleasantly surprised that my kids can actually spend more than 10 minutes at the table. Indeed, when the timer went off, my kids were still actually eating. Yay! Cross that off the list.

The next issue is getting up a million times during a meal. I have told them time and time again to sit down and eat. Don’t get up and play with a toy. Don’t get up and do this and that. Don’t get up and stand on your chair. The new rule in our house is if you get up from the table, then you’re done. No coming back for food on your plate later (unless it’s a potty break).

And of course, the most difficult table dispute is the “no thank you” bite. I absolutely insist that everything on the plate must be tried before anyone gets down from the table. While I would love for them to finish it all, if they at least try it, I'm OK with letting it go for now.

So our dinner ritual last night went something like this:

We sat down to eat--minus my husband who works late most nights. Alex initiated grace which was, as usual, “Thank you God for this food it looks very yummy. Thank you mommy for making it. Enjoy the food. Thank you God.”

We ate and enjoyed some conversation about the day. Everyone ate most of their food, including the salmon I made. It was more a “no thank you bite” for Alex, but Anna actually ate the whole thing. Who knew? They both finished up and carried their plates to the kitchen. Mommy sat enjoying her glass of wine with a smile. I wish daddy had been here to see this!


The Journey to Preschool Admission: Part 1

I thought I should share this ridiculous journey on selecting preschools for my two children (almost 4 and 2 1/2) so you can really understand how crazy this all is.

SET SCENE: Both kids are currently enrolled in preschool. It is a well-known school and pretty well-regarded as far as private preschools go. (We'll call it School C.) However, there have been a few things about the school that didn't thrill us to pieces. While I understand we can't have it all, my husband did want me to investigate other options. So here it is.

SITUATION: Enrollment for most schools is imminent. Yes, that's right deadlines for September enrollment are in February. Don't even get my started on that one. With School C, I have another 2 weeks to get in my application and fees. My chances of getting in are pretty good since my kids are given priority as returning students. There is even a good chance they will get in on the same days. That is a bonus right there.

However, I'm trying to look at my kids' learning styles and match it with the right school. More to come on the schools I visit . . .Stay tuned for the list of schools.


Such a Princess

When did my daughter get to be so 'independent' and so.....princess like? Did I do this to her? Please let this be a phase.

Last night before bed while I sang her the routine "Moon, Moon, Moon," she told me,"You not sing the song right. Sing it like this." Who knew that a mother's voice wasn't good enough for her little one before bed. And at in the middle of the night, when I got up to put the covers back on, she told me the same thing. Sorry if my voice is a bit hoarse at 4:30 a.m.!

This morning, she insisted on wearing the outfit in this picture. I managed to at least talk her into the tights since it is 25 degrees here.

I won't mention the fight we had about the cereal this morning because it wasn't "big enough" or about the sandwich at lunch that WAS exactly as she asked for it.

There was some yelling and tears from both of us today. But before her nap she said, "Mommy, don't yell at me anymore. Can you kiss me?" Apparently that's all it took. Little girls.....what do I have in store for me in 10 more years?


My Fellow Mom Blogger

Tomorrow my fellow DC Metro Mom blogger Susan (aka WhyMommy) will undergo surgery for a double mastectomy for her Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She has bravely written about her past six months of chemo all while doing the normal day-to-day mom stuff for her two small children who are almost the same age as my kids. I don't know how she does it.

While I have been tracking her progress through chemo (as it mirrored my mom's own chemo schedule) on her blog, I knew I had to meet this woman. I met WhyMommy briefly at a DC Metro Mom event earlier this month and she simply exudes patience, courage and fun.

I just want to say you're in my thoughts and prayers for your surgery, and I hope you've kick that cancer's butt.

No Coffee If You're Pregnant?

I saw this story linking caffeine with miscarriage in the news today. I'm not really sure what to make of it.

During both my pregnancies I avoided coffee altogether during the first trimester because, quite honestly, it made me want to hurl. With my first pregnancy, I stuck with decaf only like a good soon-to-be-first-time mommy. With my second pregnancy, I had a one-year old on hand so the occasional caffeinated beverage did cross my lips. Ha, I probably had more wine during that pregnancy than I did coffee. But I did start drinking Diet Cokes through my whole pregnancy with my second. (Which could account for her personality.) According the article, all caffeinated beverages should be avoided.

So now we're down to no alcohol, no blue cheese, no brie, no deli meats (I lived off Subway for my first pregnancy), no coffee, no cokes, limited chocolate. I don't remember pregnancy being so boring. No wonder moms can't wait for it to be over.

The good news is that for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy you really don't want to face food in any way. And after that with most moms heartburn is such an issue (which caffenine can aggrevate) that you may not want it. And by the end, you really don't care anymore so all kinds of the "forbidden foods" start passing your lips. What's a glass of wine at this point? What's a cup of coffee now and then?


Enjoying the Snow

My kids are not strangers to the snow. In fact, if you ask Alex about his favorite time of year, he will say, most definitely, wintertime. Secretly I think it's because he likes to eat snow.

Wednesday morning we had almost 3 inches of snow fall near our house. While some kids shy away from the snow (I won't ever understand that), my kids jump face first into it. We spent most of Wednesday and almost all day Thursday in the last remaining bits of white. My kids were sledding down the hill behind our house until the sleds stuck on the peeking grass spots. Alex frustrated by this suggested a new hill. They sled down that one until the bottom was filled with water from the melting snow.

A friend commented yesterday saying, 'What a nice mom you are to let them be outside all day.' My response is, 'What's being nice? It's a way for everyone to be entertained by the natural weather.' How much more earthy can you be!

This morning my children woke up, peeked outside and declared it yet another snow day. Most of what's left is dirty slush and ice, but it might be worth the snowsuits this morning for one last bit of entertainment. The weather forecast is snow for today so perhaps I won't have to wait too long for another stretch of fun!

As a side note: With boots, snow suits, mittens, hats, towels, etc. all over my house....I can't believe we did this everyday for three months in Sweden.


She Can Spot a Good Thing

Today I had the morning to share with my daughter. We did the usual mundane things like go the gym, stop off at the grocery store, etc. But this morning, we added in a trip to Reston Town Center to help kill the hour before picking up Alex. So we shopped. Yikes.

We dropped in at my favorite baby shop Cradle and Crayon. One of the places that I love to browse, but can't afford to buy. But I love the feeling I get in there. It makes me want to have more babies. Ok, maybe not.

Then we dropped in at Gap hoping for some awesome winter sale items. Anna was very specific in what she wanted. She said no to many shirts and pants that I offered which were good prices. While I'm looking through a rack of clothes I hear, "Ooooooo, mommy, I must have dis!" I turn around and there is she, beaming from ear to ear, holding a animal printed, double breasted pea coat. I gasp. Indeed it was cute. So cute that I wished it had come in my size. I took one look at the $45 tag (on sale!) and decided that was not in our New Year's budget for a children's coat. She carried the coat through the store and even offered to pay for it at the check out. (I wish) Of course, now that I look online, I see it's only $24.99. Hmmmmm...I may have to go back and get it now.

I love little girls.

My Secret Love

This was cross posted on DC Metro Moms.

I have a secret love. Many people don’t know about him, except my kids and my husband.

He sleeps with me in bed. Sometimes when I’m sad or sick I need him for comfort. Sometimes he needs to be washed and sometimes he hides from me behind the pillow. Yes, you guessed it. My secret love is my teddy bear. My very own lovey.

This is my first public admittance to my own dependency on a lovey.

He is a white bear with red feet given to me by my mother for Valentine’s Day when I was 10-years old. When I sleep, he is the perfect size for that nook between my chest and my arm (since I am a side sleeper). He has accompanied me many places, including college and overseas. I did manage to keep him out of two delivery rooms and most hotel and guest rooms, but I’ve come to realize that he’s now more than a perfect pillow, but a “comfort” lovey like my two and three-year old obsess over.

When my kids cry out for their lovies, I can understand. When they long for them at the end of the day, I understand. On days when I’ve been sick, my kids will bring “mommy’s bear.” On days when I’ve been

sad, my kids will make the extra trip upstairs to get him. He is worn, faded and pilled. I hide him behind my pillow many days so that guests can’t see him. What would the other moms think of a 32-year old mother who still sleeps with a teddy bear? A mommy lovey?

Sometimes I think adults need some kind of comfort blanket. I watch my son slip into a momentary trance when he takes hold of his froggy blanket and jams his thumb in his mouth. It’s as if peace has suddenly come over his body and all is right with the world. I wish I could say my lovey had this same effect, but it at least helps me drift off to sleep at night with a little less tossing and turning. I am lucky my husband moved over a bit to make room.


Where Has the Time Gone?

Since we're at the tail end of our potty training adventure, I decided to try an outing today with our newest member of the diaperfree population. I learned with my first that outings need to include an easily accessible and clean bathroom. So we opted for the Barnes and Noble train table today.

My kids have never really been a fan of this outing, but in recent weeks they actually enjoy the plethora of books, the possibility of a chocolate milk at the attached Starbucks, and some low-key socializing at the train table. Funny how a few years can change a mom's perception of the train table.

I used to loathe this activity more than any other outing. My kids would run through the children's section ripping books off the shelves and scream. They would fight with others over trains and the trip never meant sitting and reading books. When Anna was young, this was my way to nurse and entertain Alex. Only most of the time I was running after him, with one boob hanging out and Anna crying becuase I had interrupted her feeding. If storytime was part of it all, they would usually climb the steps and annoy the reader or make a bunch of noise and we'd have to leave. It only took me a few trips to figure out that my kids didn't do well at Barnes and Noble.

Today, I noticed my kids were some of the oldest. I watched the other children pull books off the shelves and fight over trains. My kids tried to mediate a disagreement over a train. I actually sat on the bench, drank my coffee and took a breather. I can't believe how fast they grow up.....


Potty Training Boot Camp Complete

She did it! We started on Thursday with the goal of sending Anna to school on Monday diaperless. Mission accomplished with not one accident. She even exceeded my expectations.

Tips you ask? I have none, except to say it isn't easy. Here was our schedule:

Tuesday: Found Anna changing her own diaper. Decided it was time to get serious.

Wednesday evening: Brought potty out into the living room where Anna could be with us still. Made her sit and sit and sit. She cried and fussed and finally relented. First EVER pee pee in the potty. We had two successes.

Thursday: Went to school and talked about it with her teacher. Thursday afternoon continued with making her go every hour. Many tears were shed by both Anna and me. Alex was a big help in this by encouraging her. And ultimately, it was he who got her excited about it.

Friday: Husband returns from overseas trip and is super jet lagged. Use this as excuse to stay home and potty training. Success continues. We don't leave the house with her. Two accidents.

Saturday: Spend all day in the house with Anna. Many tears from her. We can tell she's frustrated. So am I. Success many times. Attend evening gathering with neighbors and Anna goes in first foreign potty. One accident.

Sunday: No accidents at all. Goes all day. Tells us when. Learns to pull up pants.

Monday: Attends school with big girl panties. No accidents.

We haven't even addressed nighttime potty training yet, but I do remember this being a big deal with Alex. It took us a full week to get him trained at night and it was about two months after he was trained for daytime. This will require moving her into a big girl bed. Ugh. Not sure I'm ready for that so we might wait a while before we go on to nighttime training.

Whew....glad the bulk of it is over.


What I forgot about potty training

Anna has been doing awesome on the potty training. We just jumped in and she took off. But you'd think since I just did this 16 months ago, it would be fresh in my mind. Well, let me tell you, it's not.

This is what I forgot from the first round with my son:

-How potty training is an all day, everyday activity until it's done, really done.

-How you can't leave the house unless you bring 4 changes of clothes, the potty, diapers, wipes and a towel with you.

-How during potty training bribing doesn't even make you think twice--you can read that book; eat that cookies; do that puzzle; have a piece of chocolate; play with that toy AFTER you use the potty.

-How setbacks and accidents can make you want to throw in the towel and just put a diaper back on.

-That as proud as you are at your kid for going potty no one else in the world really cares.


Name calling

When I was a kid, we called people by their last names. My neighbors were Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Carter. Seriously. Somewhere along the way people switched to calling adults Ms. Jane or Ms. Sarah. So, when my kids were little we used the first name, preceded by the necessary Ms. or Mr. to make it polite.

Now that my kids are getting older and their teachers are called by their last names, do we enter into that agreement with friends' moms and dads as well? Do we go back to Mrs. Fox or Mrs. Smith after they were previously something else? Are there certain people that need to be identified by their last name instead of their first?

I noticed this when my friend came over this week, and she called me Mrs. Kerr. I looked around and thought, 'who is that?' Even my son looked a bit taken aback by that. That was when I realized, perhaps she preferred to be Mrs. Smith.

What is the proper way for preschool-aged children to identify adults these days?


Potty success!!!

I must amend my post from yesterday. I changed the potty strategy a bit after my husband asked again repeatedly from the opposite side of the world if Anna was potty trained. (Is this really necessary? To have pressure from abroad?)

Yesterday, I moved the potty into the living room so she could be part of the activities. She didn't cry and didn't protest. But sat for an extended period of time. Nothing. But the mood was better. This evening, we gave it another go keeping the potty in the middle of everything and we had two successes. Not only was she super surprised at the reaction and praise from me, but she received a 'high five,' good job and hug from her big brother. Oh please let this be the beginning of the end of diapers. This morning we had yet another success after Alex convinced her to come in and go with him. Perhaps the key is having your almost-four-year-old potty train the little one.


Potty woes

I feel I must start a discussion on this. My daughter is now 2 and a half. She is so ready to be pottying on the potty. Today I walked upstairs and found her changing her own diaper because she had peed in it. What does that tell us?

You would think after doing this once before I'd be better prepared, but Anna is a different child. With Alex, I bribed him and three days later we were done. Almost completely potty trained. What can I say except he loves his M&Ms? Anna on the other hand will not be bribed for anything. She doesn't care about the reward. She will sit on the potty and cry and scream until my ears burn with pain. If you know my daughter, you know I'm not joking. She will hold it in as long as she can just to prove that she doesn't need the potty.

I find it endearing that even Alex has tried to get her trained. He will tell her she needs to do it, get her books and even sit with and read with her. He, too, walks out of the bathroom frustrated.

I'm looking for any suggestions beyond stickers and bribes since that route obviously isn't working. I could go cold turkey, which is probably what I need to do, but I still haven't seen her pee in the potty at all so until I do that I'm not sure that will work either. Any thoughts from readers out there?

Graco's latest swing may soothe your baby but not your wallet

Sometimes I'm sad when I see new baby gear out there that I missed with my kids. I was a total "gear girl" and love, love, loved colorful crap to fill my living room. Today, however, my focus is on getting it out of my living.

But last night at a DC Metro Mom's event I had an chance to see Graco's latest piece of gear for new moms. Hot off the assembly line, Graco's new Sweetpeace Soothing Center is the latest and greatest. If I was a first-time mom, this would be on a registry as a "nice to have" because there is NO WAY I would pay the $169 for this. If I was a second-time mom, I might pay it so that it would keep my baby busy while I managed a toddler. If I was about to be a third-time mom, I would probably let this gadget slide because it's big and with three kids, you already have enough junk.

Graco's taken Dr. Harvey Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block and made a piece of gear to do a new kind of swinging you. (You know part Dr. Karp's Five S's of Swaddle, Swing, Side, Shushing, Sucking.) For all those babies who don't like the baby swing, this machine will turn it into swaying. The Soothing Center actually mimicks the mother's side-to-side rocking/swaying a of a baby. And with the Soothing Center it has a few different directions you can turn it to suit how your baby likes to be rocked--whether it's the traditional baby rock side-to-side, one facing front or one facing you.

When I first checked it out, I rolled my eyes. Do we moms need something else to hold our kids? I can hear my mother in law cheering me on for saying this. We have swings, bouncy seats, car seats, strollers, Baby Bjorns, slings. All of these do the work of Karp's "swing" to soothe the baby. Plus, the Soothing Center takes up a lot of room. But new moms often have trouble transitioning into mommyhood during the first few months and something like this would give some relief. I got sleepy just watching it rock back and forth. Do they make them from grown ups too? I also think that when I had my second baby (my son was only 16 months old) I would have paid money for this. My daughter wanted to be held all the time and rocked as much as possible. She would have lived in this thing.

The one thing to note is that babies don't sit in swings for more than a few months so while this investment might be good, by five months I think you'll find many babies will be ready to graduate on to the other giant structure in the living room--the Megasaucer (which you can find from friends for free). Someone is always willing to clear the Megasaucer from their living room.

My opinion on this: Big, expensive and a bit silly. But if you have a fussy baby you will do anything to sleep or get him/her to sleep. Ask your rich aunt to buy it and then pass it along to your best friend who's next in line for all the cool gear.

Spring fever. . . in January

We in the DC area have been hit with wonderful spring-like temperatures this week and as a result my new years has turned around. It's as if the weather hit my reset button and we're ready to give the new year a new try.

With temperatures close to 70 degrees, which is very unusual for this part of the country when January and February seem to be our snowy months, the neighborhood has come alive. So much alive that I don't mind the fact that my husband is on a different continent right now. In two days, we've hit 3 playgrounds, played soccer, baseball, basketball, raked and jumped in the leaf piles. My kids dragged out their sandals and short-sleeved shirts. The bikes, scooters and wagons were cleaned off and set to rolling again.

Even I had sparks of energy for cleaning and organizing. False sense of spring cleaning, perhaps. I wish every year we were promised a break in the cold for a bit of warm temperatures and sunny days. It helps air out the kids from being cooped up inside and it helps me readjust my attitude to get in gear for 2008! Thank you mother nature for this beautiful day.


Want to invest? How about an indoor playground

Northern Virginia needs an indoor playground. If you are looking to invest in a project, this would be it. Today, we made our second trip out to the All Star Legacy Gym in Sterling. It was OK. I would say $10 a kid for the two-hour open session twice a week is fine for us once in a while. We certainly can't swing that once a week, but every now and then on a rainy/snowy/hot/cold day we would make the journey and pay the dough for some indoor fun. Today it was cold and my kids are tired of being inside with my sinus infection. (Which I am now fully medicated for.) But this gym is lacking in many reasons. While it's fine for the cheerleading groups that use it most of the time, it provides no place for moms to sit down; it isn't really a safe set up for kids (this doesn't matter to me really); and it's needing some spirit to it.

What I am looking for us a full-time indoor playground. Not open gyms from 12-1 or Gymboree limited open gym on Sunday morning. I need full-time. Ok, maybe limited hours during the nicer weather since most people want to be outside. In Richmond there are a few open gyms including The Playroom. I love this place. You pay $6 a kid, go in and check your email (Wifi included in the price WITH laptops), let your kids run around for as long as they like AND you can bring in your own food. It's not just moonbounces, but a dress up area, train table, play kitchen and baby area, too. They even have babysitting on certain days.

Also, if someone is looking to invest only a little--a coffee place with a play area would be nice too. There is also one of these in Richmond called Chat & Play Cafe. Someone is really missing out on a huge market here. Moms in Northern Virginia WILL pay for stuff like this. I just dropped $20 today to let my kids run around in an open gym with a few moonbounces. Friends from the West Coast find it hard to believe there are not more places here for kids to play indoors. What's a mom have to do to get a cup of coffee around here? My kids aren't going to sit while I drink coffee and chat with friends. And until Barnes and Noble gates in their train table, I'm not including this as an option. I will never include Chuck E. Cheese's in this group. NEVER.

If there is anyone out there with a wad of cash looking for a good investment, here is a tip--indoor playgrounds, family-friendly coffee shops or fun things for the kids to do indoors.


Preschool mania begins

The stress from the holiday season is supposed to subside come Jan. 1. Everyone takes a rest and puts up her feet, or my case, gets running on the treadmill to burn off the holiday calories. But there's nothing like letting the stress of the holiday season roll right into preschool registration mania. How is it that we're here again so soon? I feel like I just got the kids settled into school, and now it's time to start the process of looking, second-guessing, registering, bribing, hoping, praying, losing sleep for two months.

I thought it would be easy since my kids are both in a preschool now--just sign the paper, give your deposit and be given priority as a returning student.

But with a potential move this summer to a different area of Northern Virginia, this process could be more stressful than the last. It means attending open houses in a different location, deciding whether we're going to go the Montessori route for my son and then what to do with my daughter. Keep her where she is, send her to a different school from her brother, look for someplace new or just throw my hands in the air and let the cards fall where they may.

Talk of lotteries, waiting lists, deadlines, deposits and so forth just makes my stomach turn. I know it's not as bad as it could be. My girlfriend actually knows people who have slept in their cars the night before application day or seen local law enforcement called to help facilitate preschool registration. What ever happened to just good ole' fashion bribery?

My husband asks me about once a week if I've researched or called schools. Fortunately my answer for the past month has been, "Preschools? I'm getting ready for Christmas." But Christmas is over and I will either need to think up another excuse or actually start the research and calling.

You think it's not a big deal. Hey, my son is only soon-to-be four, what is preschool but learning to be social and "keep his hands to himself." Apparently that's what we're working on this year in school. But there is still pressure to make sure I've scoped out all the options, visited several schools, talk to enough teachers and stressed about it all before I make the final decision. Then it's left up to the preschool lottery gods.


Happy New Year!

Our household is struggling this week and it's only the second day of the new year. So far we've had my husband leave for China for 10 days, my glass cassarole dish explode all over my kitchen (took me a full hour to clean up the glass), decided that my head cold turned into sinus infection (ah, but now at least I have the drugs), oh, and I was pulled over by a cop for not completely stopping at a stop sign. Yes, I did! The upside to this is my kids FINALLY understand and comforted me while I cried my way out of the ticket. Oh, have I no shame? They let me crash on the couch and "be sick" for once. Alex even told Anna to leave me alone because I was sick.

Tomorrow has to be better, right?