Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Baby Is Four : Part Two

So, Dylan's birthday party was last Saturday.  Here it is, a week later, and I'm just getting around to writing the post about it.  I might get the thank you cards sent out, before this post gets written, so I'll make it short and sweet.

Since our dining room is still in a state of disarray (my goal is to have all the wallpaper off before Christmas), I decided to have the party at an indoor play area near us, SeaBase.  For all you locals, I would definitely recommend it.  Reasonable price, fun place for kids this age (ages 2-6 would probably work), friendly, helpful staff, good food, and the best part - very minimal work involved.  All we had to do was send out the invites, make party favor bags, and bring the cake.  Jim designed the cake, and oh boy, when my husband does something, he does it 100%!  There were 10 kids and 14 adults, and I managed to get the first party time (11:30), so it wasn't super crowded and chaotic.

                                                                    There was this...

And this...

And this...

And some of this...

And, of course, this...

And, after all that...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Baby Is Four : Part One

Dylan's actual birthday was last Friday. His birthday party was Saturday. This caused a great deal of confusion. On Friday, when I sang to him in the morning, he happily exclaimed, "We're going to SeaBase today for my party!"
"No, that's tomorrow", I explained.
"Tomorrow is my birthday?"
"Well, no, today is your birthday, but we are having the party tomorrow".
"But today is my birthday, not tomorrow!"
I tried to explain that we couldn't have the party Friday, because everyone would be working.
"Mommy and Daddy aren't working!"
"Well, Daddy took the day off, so he could spend your birthday with you".
"Well, everybody can do that and we'll have the party today!"

As much as his logic sometimes has us talking in circles, and me wanting to beat my head against something, I do love the simplicity in his thinking. It was his birthday, so people should celebrate. Who can argue with that logic?

So, I sent him to school with Eat N Park smiley cookies, he got to wear birthday sunglasses and be sung to, and his teachers gave him a gift. Then, Jim and I picked him up from school and we all went to Pittsburgh Mills mall to celebrate some more. We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets, a 60's style diner. Then, he rode the merry go round, played in Giggles & Smiles, and we went in the pet store. Then, we went home, had dinner, and he opened our gifts, along with some that came in the mail.

The majority of our gifts involved The Little Einsteins, which he is still obsessed with. Weeks ago, when we asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said, "I don't need any more toys. I have enough toys". After we picked our bottom lips up off the floor, we asked what he wanted then. There was only one thing, but it was apparently very important, because he told us and showed us over and over.

Not buying the kid the one thing he wanted when that one thing was a BOOK? Would have been criminal.

Oh! And, I found this Rocket, that moves according to the sequence you punch in, at a church sale for 75 cents!

Gotta love that. I also love his card, which plays Lionel Ritchie's "Oh What A Feeling". Why is that significant? Because ever since I stumbled across State Farm's Ready, Set, Dance, the three of us have been playing it almost every day. If you don't know what it is, trust me, click on over there, because if your kid is anything like mine (a dancing fool) they will LOVE it.

So, his birthday was great, and his party was really great. I'll talk about that in Part Two. But, let me just say that I am SO happy I decided not to have the party at our house, because Friday night (the night before the party) our refrigerator stopped working. We had all our food outside in a cooler when we left for the party!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Too Busy Celebrating

I still plan to do one or two more bullying posts. A lot has been going on this past week. Some good, some bad, but the most important thing? My baby is FOUR! (sob) Of course, a "Dear Dylan" letter will be coming soon, and a post about his birthday party, but I've just been too busy enjoying the sweetness that is Dylan at age four. So far, it's been awesome.

So, I'll leave you with this picture of him on his last day of being three...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bullying Post : Part Two

After reading "Nineteen Minutes", I read Jay McGraw's "Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies". Like he said in the book, we need to stop thinking of bullying as a "rite of passage", something all kids have to go through. We need to let our children know that it's not okay, and that they shouldn't put up with it.

Does your child know what to do if he/she is bullied or sees someone else being bullied? There are some good tips in Jay's book. I agree with him wholeheartedly that the biggest deterrent to being bullied is looking/being confident. Walking tall, looking people in the eye, knowing you are a good person who doesn't deserve to be bullied - these are all important. I also agree that the way you respond to bullies is key.

I remember in junior high, a girl turned to me in class and loudly asked me, "Why do you wear such baggy jeans? Don't you know the style is to wear tight jeans?" Then, her and her friends laughed. I calmly responded, "I'm comfortable. Are you?" That ended it.

Another time, in elementary school, my mom forced me to get a very short, boyish haircut, (believing it would be easier to care for in the summer). I knew it was bad, and there was a good chance I would be teased, so I planned my comeback. When a boy started making fun of me, I remarked, "My hair will grow back, but you'll always be ugly". There were no more remarks about my hair.

I recently asked my 97 year old grandfather about bullying when he was a kid. His answer? "Well, I was never bullied. Kids knew better than to mess with me". (It might help to know that his family moved in the middle of one year, which caused him to be held back. He was always a year older and bigger than everyone else. Also, he played sports and was friendly to everyone). He told me that he let the younger kids know that if anyone picked on them, he'd handle it. He would tell the bully, "I heard you're giving x a hard time. If it keeps up, you'll have me to deal with".

Unfortunately, threatening bodily harm is probably not a good way to deal with bullies these days. Now, a fight could involve a knife or a gun, and there is too much potential for your child to get seriously injured. So, what CAN they do?

Tips to avoid being bullied in the first place:
- Speak confidently and clearly and make eye contact.
- Be a part of a larger group of kids. That can mean being in sports, but it doesn't have to. Just belonging to a group is what matters. Just being in a group is a deterrent to bullies. They usually pick on kids who are isolated.

What they can do if they are bullied:
- Try to stay calm.
- Say nothing, but look directly at the bully with an emotionless expression. A quiet stare might show them you aren't interested in escalating the situation, but neither are you impressed by his or her antics.
- Tell them directly to stop. Say in a clear, loud voice, "STOP IT! I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN YOU... THAT'S RUDE!" (When my husband heard this idea, he thought it was ridiculous. Maybe it won't stop a bully, but it might get an adult's attention who will put an end to the situation).
- Think about comebacks that won't escalate the situation. (For example... If someone says, "You've got a big head", say "Thanks for noticing").
- Ask directly "Why are you doing that?" That just might catch them off guard.
- Walk away. They can't really pick on you if you aren't around.

Sometimes the first thing they try won't work, so they'll have to try something else. They need to stay positive about being able to end the bullying. Bullies live for a reaction. Getting mad, showing fear, crying - that is what they want. It is hard sometimes not to do those things, so help your kids practice at home. Have them role-play with you, or talk into a mirror. Let them know that you will help in any way you can. The main thing is to do SOMETHING. Bullying can have short term, and long term effects, and it should not be allowed to continue.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bullying Post : Part One

One of my earliest memories is a moment in kindergarten. It was a chubby little boy's birthday, and he was beyond excited. He proudly passed out the cupcakes his mom had sent in, grinning from ear to ear. Then, we started to sing to him, "Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you..." A few kids sang, "...You look like a pig, and you smell like one too". They started laughing, and the little boy's face crumpled and a tear made its way down his cheek. I remember feeling so bad for him. If I held onto that memory all these years, imagine how it affected him.

What got me thinking about the topic of bullying was finally reading Jodi Picoult's book, Nineteen Minutes. If you haven't read it, it is about Peter, who is horribly bullied throughout his entire time in school, who finally snaps and goes on a shooting spree, killing ten people and wounding many others.

The writing is amazing. She does an extraordinary job building the characters, and somehow manages to make you feel both sympathetic and outraged about Peter's actions. Since having my own child, every time I hear a story like this in the news, I think of the mother. How she must feel, the blame she must place on herself, the shock and humiliation she must go through. We like to think that someone who does something horrifying must have had a terrible childhood. Their parents must be to blame. The thought that loving, well meaning parents could create someone capable of murder is too frightening to think about, but this book forces you to do just that.

To be honest, even though I do feel Picoult is a talented writer, the subject matter put me in a state of depression. But, I am glad I read the book, because it forced me to think about the topic of bullies, and it made me want to start forming a plan for what to tell my soon to be four year old about the topic. Unfortunately, it is a subject that needs to be addressed at an early age. So, I am planning on writing several posts about this issue. For the next post, I am going to discuss ideas for what you can tell your child to do if they are bullied. For now, though, please leave me a comment about one of your childhood memories about being bullied. (Burgh Baby just posted one of hers recently here).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's The Sign For "A Great Idea"?

When Dylan was maybe four months old, I started playing sign language DVD's for him. From everything I had heard and read about teaching a child sign language, I thought it was a good idea. The problem was, he wasn't showing any interest in it, so I quit playing them. There were some friends and family members who were saying, "Won't that delay his speech?". But, my friend Julia, and Burgh Baby's Mom were doing it with their kids and having success. Burgh Baby's Mom encouraged me to try again in a few months.

When I tried again it clicked. Dylan started making signs for all sort of things. The look on his face when I understood what he wanted, and responded to the sign, was just priceless. What could be better, (at any age, really), than being understood? He didn't have to cry to signal his needs anymore, and I didn't have to try and decipher his cries. It eased a lot of frustration for both of us.

I think sign language also helps create an early bond - there's that "she gets me" feeling.

As far as speech goes, he started talking before a lot of his peers, and his vocabulary grew and grew. Now that he is almost four, and never STOPS talking, I sometimes think back to those silent, signing days with a bit of nostalgia!

Below is an article by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas (Communication Coordinators) about teaching children sign language. After reading the article, if you or someone you know taught your child sign language, please leave a comment letting us know about your experience.

Early Childhood Education – Acquiring Sign Language

One of the keys to surviving in a skewed economic system in which opportunities to achieve a decent standard of living will be limited is versatility – and the ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways with the widest possible audience. Including bilingual ability as well as the ability to communicate in non-verbal ways for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.

At the same time, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language has led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it's likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in a society where such a commodity is destined to be in short supply.

Signing Before They Can Speak

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to five – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This teaching can be done at home or can be found in different child care programs. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.

This is not as odd as you may think. In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. As you know, many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.

An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

" 6 to 7 months, babies can remember a sign. At eight months, children
can begin to imitate gestures and sign single words. By 24 months, children
can sign compound words and full sentences. They say sign language reduces
frustration in young children by giving them a means to express themselves
before they know how to talk." (Glarion, 2003)

Also cited, a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).

The Best Time To Start

Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Austin child care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of child care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Human Pin Cushion

Alternate title: I Must Be A Robot

Do you remember this post? My doctor wanted me to get a blood test, to check my thyroid, cholesterol, and a few other things that I can't even remember. I'm just a mess. Well, shortly after that appointment, I went back to the doctor's office on a day Jim had taken off, so he could watch Dylan. The lady tried twice to get a vein. Then, she actually sent me home. Yep. She told me my veins are so tiny that I would have to go to a lab, "where people do this all day, and know how to deal with people like you".

Since I had to fast, which meant having to go in pretty early, I didn't want to have to ask my parents to babysit. I waited until Jim was able to take another day off - today. I dropped Dylan off at school, and the plan was that if for some ridiculous reason I couldn't make it back in time, that Jim would pick him up.

I went to the hospital lab, where I figured people would know how to deal with "people like me". I was number 11. (Remember that). I explained my SITUATION to the first lady who would be so lucky as to attempt to take my blood. "Super tiny veins that roll...have to use a pediatric needle...go into shock and the blood just trickles out...have NEVER gotten it on the first try... always an ordeal...blah, blah, blah" I have told the story numerous times, and each time the people are still surprised. This time was no exception. As a matter of fact, this time was the WORST EVER.

The first lady tried twice in my left hand. Then she made a phone call, and I could hear her talking about me, using terms I couldn't understand, and I heard her say something about a "finger prick"?! WHAT?! She asked me how much water I had to drink before I came. "Well, they told me about this before, so I drank 3 bottles of water this morning. I almost didn't make it here without peeing my pants". "You're still dehydrated", she explained. ????

Then, lucky lady number 2 was called in to "give it a try". I was busy finding my "happy place", but she kept bringing me back to the present, asking "are you okay"? "YEP! FINE! SHUSH!!!" She tried once in my left hand, and then once in my left arm. I'm not sure what happened in my arm, but it hurt like a (not nice word I can't write on my blog). I have a pretty high pain thresh hold. I mean, I gave birth without drugs, and I gave the pain a rating of 4 (1 being no pain, 10 being kill me now), when minutes later, when checked, they were screaming, "Oh my gosh! There's the head!!" But, when lady number 2 tried pricking my arm I cried.

That was when lucky lady number 3 was called in. I had the pleasure of meeting all three nurses who were working today! The three of them stood around discussing me as if I wasn't even there. Didn't matter. I was happily sunbathing at the beach, sipping a Pina Colada. Lady number 3 stuck me in my hand, then apologized, and said I have the worst veins she has ever seen. YAY! I do so like to be different.

On try number 6, in my right arm, she finally got one. BUT, it was trickling out. They only got half of what they needed before she had to pull the needle out. She told me, "I don't think we got enough. We can quit, and you can come back another day. Or, I can try one more time. We aren't ALLOWED to stick you more than 7 times". I looked at her and said, "I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.COME.BACK.HERE". So, on the 7th try, she got another 1/2 of what she needed. I am praying it is all enough, because I might hurt someone if I have to go back in.

When I stumbled out of the room, feeling a bit light headed and extremely weak, I heard the lady call out the next number. "Twenty three?!" Yep. 23!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not A Treat

Saturday started with a trick.... or something.  My roots were growing it at a scary rate, so I was sporting a 3 toned hairdo (reddish, dark brown, and gray).  I didn't want to scare anyone on Halloween WITHOUT even wearing a costume, so I decided that morning to finally dye my hair.

I hadn't dyed my hair at home since I was a teenager.  I wanted to save money, but I was nervous.  What if it looked ridiculous?  I decided to throw caution to the wind.  Jim was playing with Dylan downstairs, and I told him what I was about to do.  Shortly after that, he heard me screaming.  "JIM!!!!!  HELP!!!!"  Jim and Dylan found me in the bathroom with gloves on, holding a bottle that had cracked open when I squeezed it, and red hair dye all over the bathroom.  Our WHITE bathroom.  Jim said he has been dyeing his hair for years and years, and he never had a bottle crack open like that.  Must be my brute strength.
(The good news is that my hair didn't turn out terrible.  It's darker than I expected, but good considering).

Trick or treating in these parts was 5-7pm, so we decided to let Dylan nap early (from 1-3).  We figured if he got a nap, he would be somewhat calm for trick or treating.  Um, not so much.  We met my parents at Eat N Park for an early dinner at 3:30, then rushed back to hurry Dylan into his costume at the last minute. One problem - you can't hurry Dylan.  Oh, and asking him to "stand still" is like asking the sun not to shine.  I didn't get a single good picture, because he just would not be still for even two seconds.  And, that was before he got any candy!  All the good pictures I got were taken the next day, when we forced him back into his costume.

After only 1/2 hour of trick or treating, he said he was tired and wanted to go home.  Bizarre, considering the fact that last year we had to drag him home after 2 solid hours.  It was NOT my favorite Halloween, I must say.  Jim and I were tired and frustrated.  But, then again, not getting much candy is probably a good thing all around.