Sunday, September 28, 2008


My husband and I are having a heck of a time coming up with a girl's name for "Turtle." It seems we really shot our wad with Aviva and there ain't no going back. The boy's name came to us rather quickly but the girl's name, well, it just isn't coming at all. I am starting to fear that "Turtle" may be it, after all.

I am very particular about names. I want something that is easy to spell and easy to pronounce. It has to be clearly feminine or masculine and it has to work with my husband's last name. (That's the name we have chosen to give to our children although I have maintained my own.) I don't want anything trendy or common but I also don't want it to be weird. No Trig, Track, or Bristol for us. It would also be nice if the name had some sort of meaning to us. Oh yeah, and my husband has to like it which is proving to be the most difficult task of all.

When I was pregnant the first time, we didn't find out the sex of our baby. We went in with four boy names and four girl names and we thought we'd name the baby once we got a look at it. Well, after the whole birth was over, it didn't even occur to me that we then had to choose a name. Finally, our midwife asked what the baby's name was and my husband just said Aviva. It was on our list and I was happy with the choice. (Although, at that point, I often joke that I would have agreed to Hortence or Wilbur.)

Those names that we had for Vivi just don't feel right for this pregnancy. I've even asked Vivi what names we should give Turtle when s/he comes out. She gave me this look that said, "Duh, mom. We already named it Turtle." Upon further encouragement, she offered a few more. They are: Agua, Nancy, Vivi, or Mommy. Hmmm...

Since Vivi is little help, I ask you fair readers to throw out your girl name suggestions.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Arm....The Sequel...

I've learned that there is nothing worse than seeing your kid crying in pain. I'm not talking about the "I wanted that cookie and you said no" type of crying. I mean the "I pulled your arm too hard and dislocated it from the elbow" hysterics. The guilt of knowing that I caused Vivi's pain has officially topped my list of life events that royally suck.

Yesterday morning, we piled into the car and headed to Vivi's pediatrician. The office was great when I called and they got us in right away. The receptionist assured me that Dr. Ray has a "great technique" for setting a dislocated forearm which was good because I was starting to feel like he was our last hope. After three tries in the emergency room, it didn't seem as easy as everyone professed it to be.

When we walked in, Vivi told Dr. Ray that she loved him and that he was gonna make her "boo boo arm all better." It was really amazing to watch him work. Vivi sat on my lap, Dr. Ray gently held her hand, and in one beautifully choreographed movement, he popped everything back into place. It was the polar opposite of the grab, yank, and lift action she endured in the ER. Even though she still wasn't using it when we left, I was confident that it had worked.

Vivi spent the rest of the morning favoring her other arm but by dinnertime she was willing to touch her nose with the injured one. By this morning, she was as good as new doing "boingas" on our bed and carrying her teddy around, sans sling.

Now, that she is healthy I can work on dealing with the trauma I have from the whole experience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worst Mother of the Year

I have officially awarded myself the craptastic title of Worst Mother of the Year. Is it because I let Vivi fill up on candy and cake at my sister's wedding? Nope. Is it because I've let her sleep in our bed for the last three nights? Nope. It is because I dislocated her elbow yesterday. That's right people- full on bodily harm.

It all started on our walk home from the bakery yesterday morning. Vivi will periodically drop to her knees while we are headed somewhere and I periodically swing her up by her arm. Well, when I did it yesterday, she let out a scream and her arm went limp. Then she started crying...hysterically. I wasn't totally sure what had happened but I knew it was my fault. I picked her up, carried her home, and we got in the car to go to my husband's office. (Yes, the first official medical opinion that I got was from my psychiatrist/homeopath husband.)

When I burst through the door of his office, I was panicked and sobbing. I said, "I think I dislocated Vivi's arm." He looked at her shoulders which seemed symmetrical but her long sleeves prevented a good look at the rest. She was in a lot of pain so he told me to take her to the emergency room and he would meet me there.

I pulled myself together and got to Hasbro Children's Hospital. I hadn't been there since Vivi was 6 weeks old and needed a CT scan of her head because my husband ACCIDENTALLY dropped her. I had all these terrible flashbacks. When I got to the desk, I just lost it. I couldn't spit out her name or her birthdate. I was just holding her and crying hysterically.

When I finally was able to calm down somewhat and tell the nurse that I was pretty sure I dislocated her arm, she calmly said, "Oh, that happens a lot. Don't worry. We should be able to just pop it back into place." I was starting to feel a little relieved that I wasn't going to have DCYF knocking on my door.

We got into a room fairly quickly and Vivi was very cooperative. I told her that a doctor was going to come and fix her boo-boo and that she was doing such a great job being brave. (By this time, she was much calmer than mommy, that's for sure.) When my husband showed up half an hour later, she said to him "Daddy, you a doctor. You fix my arm."

Well, our 3+ hours at the ER included a nurse giving her a dose of ibuprofen, two tries by the nurse practitioner to reset it, one try by the pediatrician, Vivi's refusal to move the arm on her own, a red Popsicle, and the eventual discharge of Vivi with her arm in a sling (which she promptly removed to use instead as a way to carry her bear around.)

Is it fixed? In the words of many an esteemed Vermonter, nope. The arm is still hanging down by her side. She refuses to use it and was up every 1-2 hours last night crying in pain. We are taking her to the pediatrician this morning to get his opinion. The saga continues...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Please Meet My Granddaughter

Ever since Vivi learned that there was a baby in mommy's tummy, we've been helping her understand the different relationships in our families. She knows, and proudly announces, that she is going to be a big sister but the fact that she may have a sister or a brother is a little harder to grasp. (That's why this baby will probably forever be known as "Turtle.")

Vivi is aware of who her grandparents are and who goes by aunt or uncle but the fact that Katie is my sister thus making her Vivi's aunt, well... I think it'll be awhile before she has a handle on that. She seems to be processing it though.

We recently discovered that Vivi has renamed many of her stuffed animals. A teddy bear that used to be known as "Big Ted" is now "my big sister" and her little stuffed frog is a "little cousin." It's not stopping there though.

As we were putting Vivi to bed a few nights ago, she told us to be quiet because someone was sleeping in her big girl bed. I looked and there was no one alive (or even stuffed) there-- just her blanket and pillow. When I asked Vivi who was sleeping in her bed, she said "Shhh... my granddaughter sleeping dare." Apparently even the imaginary friends are now related to us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Manners, please....

OK, the truth is out. My husband and I have no official parenting philosophy. We try to be thoughtful and respect Vivi as an individual being but we also try to be firm and consistent with rules and structure. I wouldn't say that we fall entirely under the attachment parenting umbrella but we certainly don't ascribe to the old maxim "spare the rod, spoil the child". We are just trying to find our way like everyone else.

There is one thing in our household, however, that is absolutely non-negotiable: manners. Although the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated is tough to instill in a toddler, the words "please" and "thank you" should not be.

I'd like to say that we've worked hard to get Vivi to be a polite child but the truth is it was pretty darn easy. If she wanted something and didn't say please, she wouldn't get it. If she didn't say thank you, she would be reminded. It comes up a 100 times a day so we have lots of opportunity to practice. Plus, it has made me more conscious of how frequently I say those magic words. And now, I say them much more! There are few things more thrilling for a parent than to hear an unsolicited "please" or "thank you" from one's child. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when Vivi does it.

I figured we'd done a pretty decent job teaching manners thus far when I climbed into bed with Vivi Monday morning. It was 5:05 and she had woken up yelling for me. She's had a cold and I knew she didn't feel well so I snuggled in next to her. Vivi quickly fell back asleep and then let out the loudest, rip, roaring fart I'd heard from her little body. Although it didn't fully awaken her, I certainly noticed. In her sleepy state, she murmured, "Excuse me. I did toot."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two's Company and My Politcal Problems

I've been a little depressed about the state of the world to write much in the last week. This upcoming election has me all worked up and I've been spending too much time dwelling on why I can stand John McCain and Sarah Palin. Rather than turn this blog into a forum for my political rantings, I've just been lying low and planning an international move with my husband and daughter should the unthinkable happen in November.

I did have a chance this week to forget about the election when I took a brief foray into the world of parenting more than one child. I happily volunteered to take my friend's 8 month-old little boy for a few hours while she was classroom mom at her 3 year-old's nursery school. I had no doubt that I could handle this task. Vivi LOVES babies and this child is the sweetest, calmest baby to come our way. Plus, with five younger siblings, I was sure that I had been in this situation before.

Then the baby's dad left, he started to cry, and I had some serious reservations about whether I was truly game for this endeavor. It turned out that the baby had at least three teeth coming in and was just miserable. I tried a cold washcloth but that didn't work. I tried giving him some warm cereal but that was a bad idea. After an hour and a half of crying, Vivi said, "Mama, I think it time for dat baby to go home."

I discovered that the only thing that would keep the baby calm was to carry him and keep moving. So that's what I did. I grabbed the sling, maneuvered it and the baby around my pregnant belly, and we all strolled around the neighborhood. Vivi was an absolute delight- kissing him and showing him all sorts of neat things she discovered on the walk. At home, she tried to make him laugh, laid out a blanket for him, and was a regular mama's helper.

At one point, the baby was rooting around my breast. Vivi quickly noticed this and said, "Mama. You need to give dat baby some of your milk." I said, "Honey, I don't have any milk. My milk won't come until Turtle comes out of my belly." Vivi had a great solution. "Mama, I give him milk from my boobies. I feed my babies."

This experience made me realize that Vivi is going to be a great big sister although I'm sure there will be times that she'll want to send Turtle back. It also helped me feel more confident about being able to handle two kids. It wasn't an easy three hours but knowing the cues of one's own child is a lot easier than trying to figure out what will help ease the discomfort of someone else's.

My feeling of success after the baby and his mother departed was diminished when I logged onto one of my favorite political websites and saw this photo:

Korean war veteran Andy Lacasse posted his homemade sign in the front yard of his Barefoot Bay, Florida home. "I got nothing good to say about Obama," Lacasse told his local news station. "If I see anybody touching that sign, I got a club sitting right over there."

Apparently, Andy is not concerned with being perceived as a racist who can't spell and doesn't have his facts right. With people like this voting, is it any wonder why our country is in the shape it is in?!

Ok, I promise, that's the last of my political rantings for now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No Batteries Required

In my quest to keep Vivi occupied without turning on the television, I have discovered two wonderful books. The first, Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner, is a collection of 700+ activities for kids aged 1-10. The games can easily be constructed from materials you already have lying around your house. I checked the book out of the library and it has so many great ideas that I plan on buying my own copy.

The second book is The Mister Rogers' Parenting Resource Book by Fred Rogers. I received this as a gift while pregnant with Vivi and I've found it to be very useful. Not only does it have several easy activities for kids but it also has reassuring parenting advice.

As promised, I also wanted to share some of the games and activities that have kept Vivi occupied for fifteen or more minutes. I hope for those of you with toddlers, these games will be useful for you.

Whole Body Drawing
Vivi loves to have me trace her outline on a large sheet of paper. (I tend to save the paper that comes as packaging in large boxes. It is usually off-white and very large. You can also use butcher paper or a flattened paper bag.) Once I've traced her, she likes to color in all her features and clothes. I find that it is a little more exciting than handing her a piece of paper and telling her to go to it. You can extend the time by giving your child other things to trace-- like a stuffed animal, empty tupperware, you name it.

Poker Chip Fun
I've discovered that there are many fun uses for poker chips. One evening, I dumped them all into a metal bucket and gave Vivi some measuring cups and she spent the duration of my dinner prep, scooping and dumping them. With a muffin tin, she can fill up the different cups. Or, with a couple minutes of advanced prep, you can cut chip-sized slits into the tops of large yogurt containers and now the chips become money for "depositing in the bank." (Vivi also uses them as money in her purse for "shopping.") If you have three containers, your child can deposit by color.

Special Dress Up
This game seems to top Vivi's list of fun things to do. I've written in the past about how she loves to get dressed up in our clothes and I came up with this idea after she learned how to open my dresser drawers. Take an empty laundry basket and fill it with various items of your clothing. Usually, I take a pair of high heels, a bra (the hooks take up some time), a shirt (which Vivi calls a dress because it's so big), and one of my husband's ties. It's amazing to see the outfits she comes up with and she often will spend a good 10 minutes figuring out how to turn the tie into a belt that manages to stay around her waist.

Find the Colors
This game works pretty well when I need to get something else done but Vivi isn't prepared to play completely on her own. I drew a different colored square on each of ten index cards. So, for example, one card has a green square, one has a red, etc... I give her a card and a bucket and I tell her to find a few things that are the same color as what is on the card. It took a while for her to get the hang of this but now she comes up with some pretty funny things.

Beat the Beeps
Lastly, this is our end of the day, clean-up our mess game. I set the oven timer for one minute and Vivi has to race the clock to pick up her toys. There's no prize involved but she gets a giggle out of it and I don't have to spend the rest of my evening cleaning up and/or tripping over her toys. (It might take a few rounds of you racing around first before your child gets the idea.)

I've also listed below a few other quick things I let Vivi do which she seems to enjoy. (They don't buy me any time but I suppose a more creative soul could make a game out of them.) They are:

-opening mail. She loves to rip the envelopes so she gets all the junk mail.

-vacuum. Vivi loves to turn the vacuum on and use the hose.

-check e-mail. She likes to push the buttons on a big calculator. She calls it checking her e-mail. Since numbers actually come up on the screen it seems to be fairly gratifying to her.

Is there something you loved doing as a kid? Or does your child have a game that s/he can't get enough of? Please let me know. I'm always trying to find new ways to amuse us!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Television and Play

I admit that I spent a huge amount of time in front of the TV as a kid. A cringe-inducing amount of time, really.

As a young child, I loved Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and possessed a great fear of The Incredible Hulk. Saturday morning cartoons weren't often worth the battle since my brother staked out the TV well in advance of my rising from bed. Cable television hadn't found it's way to rural Vermont yet so the few channels we got were very often of little interest to me.

Around middle school, it all changed. We got more channels and I had a television in my room. I would come home from school, grab a snack, and turn on the television. I probably spent more time watching such quality programming as Melrose Place than I did doing homework. And there was the little matter of my crush (obsession?!) with Fred Savage that caused me never to miss a single episode of The Wonder Years. I'm sure by the time I graduated high school, I was watching 3-4 hours of television a day. I feel gross just thinking about it.

College and Peace Corps pretty much cured me of my habitual TV viewing and I am grateful for that. I think television has it's place and I certainly appreciate it for the half hour of mindlessness it provides me after particularly rough days. And, to be honest, I don't think I was adversely affected by it. BUT (and isn't there always a but?) I don't like that it has become the de facto entertainment source/non-stop ad machine. When I was a kid, there were no Mr. Roger's figurines or special Wonder Years Happy Meals.

Now that Vivi is over two, I don't worry so much about the neurological and cognitive implications of TV time. What scares me is the advertising: the sexy images that are aimed at young girls, the message that to consume is to live a fuller life, and the inevitable complications that will arise on a trip to Target when my daughter spots a toy or character that looked so appealing on TV. That is what I am afraid she will get from TV.

As my pregnancy progresses, I've been thinking about what role television might play in Vivi's life. Every parent with more than one child has told me that I'll relax my TV stance out of necessity. Maybe that's the case but I hope that I'll be able to reach a thoughtful compromise- choosing a pre-screened video that I am comfortable with as a special treat versus plopping her down in front of Sponge Bob because I can't take it anymore.

In the next couple of days or so, I'll share the activities and resources I have discovered that keep Vivi occupied for 15+ minutes. So far, they have served as good alternatives to TV. I'd love to hear other ideas from my fair readers as well!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Girl Bed

We greeted the month of September with an exciting change in our household. Vivi's room now contains a big girl bed-- and she is happily sleeping in it!

We ordered the bed a couple of weeks ago and when we looked at it in the showroom, it didn't look very big. It's a twin bed but because it doesn't require a box spring, it is quite a bit lower to the ground than a typical bed. When we got it set up in Vivi's room, however, it looked huge and when she climbed into it, she looked so much like a baby that I actually reconsidered whether I was ready for this transition.

Still, she was so excited and napped without incident in it that first afternoon. Her first night, I offered her the choice of sleeping in her crib or her bed. She looked at the bed and said, "Mama, dat bed is a lot of space for me but I sleep dare." She did well until about 2 a.m. when we heard a loud thump followed by some crying. She had pushed so hard up against the railing that they both fell to the floor. My husband got her settled and asked her if she wanted to move to her crib. She did not and went back to sleep in her big girl bed. About an hour later, we heard another thump followed by silence. She'd again pushed the railing and fallen but she slept through the whole thing. My husband discovered that we didn't have the railing in properly (bad, bad parents) so he fixed it and put her back to bed. The rest of the night and every subsequent rest period since have gone off without incident, although my husband is still jumping out of bed at every noise he hears!

The irony of the whole big girl bed is that when she wakes up in the morning or from her afternoon naps, she still yells for us to come get her. She doesn't climb out at all even though we moved her to the bed because she was climbing out of the crib. I'm thinking we are on borrowed time with that though.

The best part of all this is that she is really proud to have that bed and seems to appreciate it as a gift from mommy and daddy. She wants to show it to everyone who comes to our house and I love that we get to lie together and snuggle before sleep. She said to me this morning, "Mama. I think Turtle gonna like my big girl bed too."

Indeed... I think so too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Voting for Women

Well, in case it wasn't glaringly obvious, my husband and I are supporting Obama this election. Perhaps it was the Prius in our driveway that gave it away?!?

At the start of this whole election process a year and a half ago, my pick was John Edwards. He was not the most dynamic candidate but I felt that he best represented my progressive values. While I loved the idea of having a woman or minority as our president, I strongly feel that the Democratic process only works if people vote for the person who most closely represents what they are looking for in a leader and in our society. I felt that Hillary Clinton tended to vote for things that she thought would be politically popular. (The war? She is a bright woman-- how could she have thought that was a good idea?!) With Obama, I loved his charisma and life story but I didn't think he was as progressive as the others.

By the time Rhode Island's primary rolled around, Edwards was out and I was struggling with whom to vote for. I was pretty sure that I preferred Obama but I was starting to feel very angry about some of the sexist comments I was reading and hearing about Clinton. (After all, I don't recall anyone calling the other candidates a "bitch" or "ugly" or saying that they were "having a meltdown" when they got angry.)

As the parent of a young daughter, I have thought a lot about what this election means for the world my children will grow up in. The day of the primary, I walked into the booth, looked at my ballot, and checked off Clinton's name. I reasoned that we needed to take a long look at ourselves and what it means to be a woman, particularly a "liberal" woman, in our society. Given all things being relatively equal with Clinton's and Obama's policy leanings, my vote was a vote against sexism. I'd like to think that with enough liberal women in government, my daughter might have the opportunity to seek public office without being asked by Katie Couric if she needs to take vitamins to make it through the long campaign season.

Now that Clinton is officially out, I find myself angry at McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.* Not all women are created equal in the realm of politics, and I find his choice to be insulting and manipulative. Just because I voted for Clinton because I was angry at how she was treated as a woman doesn't mean that I will vote for someone because she is a woman. John McCain, I'm not that stupid. (As an aside, I will be interested to see if Palin is subjected to all the sexist venom conservative pundits unleashed on Clinton or if they'll reign it in for the sake of their agenda.)

As many of you have read, Palin is an unapologetic right-to-lifer who is currently under investigation for ethics violations in Alaska. She believes in drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thinks "creationism" should be taught in schools, and counts her stint as mayor of a small Alaskan town and her year and a half as governor to be enough experience to put her next in line for the presidency. Sorry folks but this ain't the woman for me.

I'd like to think that in the next four years, I will live in a country that hasn't stripped me of my right to get an abortion. A country that will reinstate a health insurance program for middle-class American children like Vivi. Or one that won't indoctrinate our public school children with religious theories. Or, at the very least, will finally do it's job and lead the world in environmental protection by cutting our disgustingly voracious appetite for oil.

It's hopeful but right now, that's all I've got. So this November, this mama is for Obama.


*I did not, by the way, think that Obama necessarily should have chosen Clinton as his running mate. His nomination makes it his choice.