From the Mommy Files…

Archive for June 2010

I started this post to read, “What do you get when you cross a 6-1/2 year-old boy, a 3-1/2 year-old girl, a 15 month-old girl and a 49 year-old man?”

Well, I need to amend that.

Make that, “What do you get when you cross a 3-1/2 year-old girl and a 15 month-old girl, with a 49 year-old man, a 6-1/2 year-old boy, a 10 year-old girl and 2 – 8 year-old girls?”

Let’s hide any dangerous objects in my house before we answer that question.

Just kidding.

You won’t believe this!

My brother had hernia surgery the other day, and he and my nephew are staying with us. So add to a busy house with two kids, a very active boy and a patient.

Hey, I volunteered for this gig. I’m not complaining. My brother needs help. He selected a hospital nearby my house, so I could help him out. He should really be in the hospital, but that’s a whole other story.

So let’s see now…we have Big Brother, Big G (my nephew is already 4’5” tall!), BooBoo and Bebs. Oh, did I mention that my parents came over?

The girls absolutely LOVE having their cousin here. They think their uncle is on vacation, since he’s here too. Some vacation when you’re in pain and can’t do much.

In the morning, we learned all about racing – Big G and his dad are really into racing. I learned more than I ever cared to know. I played so many games, I’m all played out. Between games, trips to the hospital, then a race home to get everyone fed, well, I just wanted to plop on the couch.

Thank goodness Big Brother hasn’t lost his sense of humor. His comic relief is really keeping things on a lighter note.

The phone rings. It’s Big Brother. He’s downstairs.

“Hello? Can you come down here and take care of my bar bill? I don’t have any cash on me,” he said. Uh-huh. He’s not much of a drinker and he can’t have any alcohol right now. I asked him if he was calling to place an order. Everyone laughed. He said no, but maybe later.

Later, another phone call. “Can you come down here and help me get up?” So we go. Hey, at least he didn’t ring a bell. Well, I guess he did.

That was Monday.

At 4 am on Tuesday, the phone rang I jumped up, thinking something was wrong somewhere. Why else would someone call in the middle of the night? It was my brother calling from downstairs. “We need to go to the hospital now!” I asked what was wrong. Big G had all the symptoms of croup. He’d had it before, and spent a few days in the hospital with it. So to the ER we go.

A couple of hours, a chest x-ray, a breathing treatment and some meds and it was time to go home. Wait a minute! The sun is up! What’s wrong with this picture?

We arrived back home and Bebs was awake.  Bless his heart, my husband got up with her so I could try to get some sleep. No luck. Nothing he did would satisfy her. She screamed for Mommy over and over.

So I was up for the duration.

Wouldn’t you know, Bebs screamed for most of the next hour. I thought I’d lose it.

Mommy, why are you so mad?” BooBoo asked. Oh boy. “Can I make you not mad?” she added. What a sweetie!

Bebs went for a nap, and then it was time to check on my patients. My brother was settling in for a nap, too. Big G was having no part of the nap. In fact, he got upset every time I suggested he rest. So we played school. That lasted about 45 minutes.

Then I received an email. Shoot me now.

I’d forgotten – I agreed to watch our friend’s 3 girls. They would be over at noon. Fortunately, it would only be 2 hours. I kept telling myself, it is what it is. Hey, I’m the boss! He he he… It will be fine.

The noon hour came, and we had a full house – 6 kids, my brother and me. I thought, “this ought to be interesting.”

We actually had a fun time. The kids played outside, we went for a walk and got some ice cream. The time went very quickly. Soon the girls were gone and it was back to the original group.

No rest time for me! It was almost time to make dinner.

Surprisingly, I survived the day. I thought I might pass out. What was I still doing up? After the kids went to bed, I even got some laundry and finished an article I’ve been working on.

Woo hoo. I survived, but let’s not make this a habit!

Whoever said “woman’s work is never done,” well, I proved it yesterday, and even with sanity intact.

Let me count the ways:

No sleep, a trip to the ER, 3 meals, a couple of snacks, 2 walks, 6 kids, a couple loads of laundry, a run for medicine, playtime outside, clean up, send some emails, work…Phew! Let’s stop here. It’s making me more tired!

Wait – I don’t think I gave you the punch line. Um, I could say one tired woman, but it needs more oomph. I’ll get back to you on that.

I am WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!

(add hoots and fist pumps here)

Wait – did I roar or was that a yawn?

And how was your day?

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It’s been one week since my uncle passed away, and we’re still trying to come to grips with the fact that he’s gone. BooBoo, on the other hand, has lots of questions about what happens when you die. I’m glad – make that relieved – that her comments are not morbid.  She hasn’t asked about seeing him – she seems to accept that he’s gone to live in Heaven.

Of course, we haven’t used the word “die.” She knows that Uncle went to Heaven to live with God, just like her yia yia (grandmother). She had quite a few questions. Luckily, they didn’t require any extensive explanations. Again, I kept it simple and didn’t dwell on anything. I didn’t lie. I believe you go to Heaven, so that’s what I’m telling her. She can learn the rest later when she can grasp the concept.  I don’t want to get into a religious and philosophical conversation now and overwhelm her.


Boo: When you go to Heaven, you aren’t sick anymore, right?

Mommy: Right, Sweetie.

Boo: How do you get to heaven?

Mommy: The angels come and take you there.

Boo: Do you fly?

Mommy: Angels have wings and they fly.

Boo: Cool!

Boo: Will Uncle get wings when he becomes an angel?

Mommy: Yes.

Boo: How long does it take to get your wings?

Mommy: I don’t know.

Boo: Cause you’ve never been to Heaven?

Mommy: Right.

She’s quick.


Boo: Will the angels come to get you someday?

Mommy: Someday when I’m old.

Boo: I hope you won’t be sick.

Mommy: Me too.

Boo: Someday, the angels will come and take me on a trip. Then we’ll fly to Heaven and I’ll get my wings. I’ll get them fast. But not for a long time.

Mommy: No, not for a very long time.

Boo: Do you have to be old and sick or can you just be old?

I paused for a moment…her logic fascinates me. I wanted to tell her that when God decides it’s time, you go, but I didn’t want to complicate things.


Mommy: You’re not always sick, Honey.

Boo: So when I am old, I can get ready for the angels to get me so I can be a happy angel too?

Mommy: When you’re old.

Boo: I didn’t think Uncle was old, but I guess he was pretty old then. He was silly!  He is a silly old man! Ha ha! That’s funny!

Did she inherit Uncle’s sense of humor? I love it!

I wanted to keep it simple.


Mommy: He was older, Honey.

Boo: If he was younger he would have gotten better. When you’re young, you always get better. Maybe he should have been sick when he was younger. OK. Let’s say our prayers.

Love how they rationalize things. If it were only that simple. So we said our prayers and she added something to her final statement.

“…And please watch over Uncle and Yia Yia in Heaven. Amen.”

Amen.

It was a subject I hoped to not have to cover for a while – the death of a family member.

My mother-in-law passed away a year before we got married, so unfortunately, the girls never got to know her. I tell my daughters that their Yia Yia (Grandma) Mary lives in Heaven with God, and that she watches over us. When we say our prayers at night, BooBoo ends her prayers with, “..and please watch over Yia Yia Mary in Heaven.” We show her pictures of her grandmother and talk about her. She knows Yia Yia Mary is Daddy’s mommy, and that’s about all her 3 year-old brain can handle.

My uncle had been ill for some time, and passed away last week. BooBoo knew that Uncle was sick, and I’d tell her we had to call Auntie to see how Uncle was doing. She began to ask how he was, if he was still sick. Sometimes she’d prompt me to call and see how he was. She liked to say hi on the phone.

A few weeks ago, Uncle went into the hospital again. Every day I called my cousin to check on him, and then I’d call other family members to provide an update. It became part of our routine. Boo would ask if it was time to call Uncle and then we had to call Yia Yia (my mother) to tell her how he was.

We went to see him about 2 weeks ago, and the girls drew pictures for him. Boo was very excited to present her picture to Uncle. “I’m giving it to you so you can get better fast,” she said. Oh, a child’s optimism!

Last week, my uncle decided to suspend treatments. We all flocked to the hospital for what would be a last goodbye. I left the girls in the waiting room with my dad. The first thing Uncle asked was, “how are the girls?” He drifted in and out of sleep, told a few jokes – he’s known for his wit – which seemed to put us all at ease. Though his body was failing, his personality was alive and well.

When it was time to leave, BooBoo wanted to give my aunt some pictures she’d drawn. Kids weren’t allowed in his room, but she said to bring them in. She picked up Boo and brought her close to Uncle. He was really happy to see the girls – you could see his face light up. “Get better,” Boo said, as we left. It was the last time we’d see him. He died two days later.

For the first few days, I tried really hard to not cry around the girls. I didn’t tell them what happened. Boo continued to ask, “is Uncle still in the hospital?” and “When is Uncle going to get better?”

As we approached the day of the wake, I decided I had to tell her something, as she and her sister would stay with a babysitter and we’d be gone several hours to attend the wake. She’d ask where we were going.

When we say our prayers at night, we start with the Lord’s Prayer, then mention people we want God to watch over. We usually end the prayer with special prayers for people that are sick, and we’d always name Uncle. We hadn’t mentioned Uncle in the last 2 nights.

“Mommy, what about Uncle?” she asked, as we finished our prayers. It was time for the talk.

I knew I had to keep this in the simplest of terms.

“Uncle has gone to Heaven to live with God, Sweetie, just like Yia Yia Mary.” She looked pensive, like she was trying to process the information. “But he is sick, Mommy,” she replied. “When you go to live in Heaven, you aren’t sick anymore,” I continued. “Will he be an angel?” She remembered something I told her a long time ago about going to Heaven. “Yes, Honey. He will now be an angel,” she cut me off. “And watch over us!” she said. Exactly. She didn’t ask any more questions, so I left it at that.

So I started asking God to watch over people, like we do when we say our prayers. She added, “…and please watch over Uncle in Heaven, and make him a happy angel.” It was so sweet; I could barely hold back the tears.

I didn’t encounter death until I was 12, when my 13 year-old cousin died. She had a blood disease and was ill her entire life. A 12 year-old’s questions are a lot different than a 3 year-old’s; I asked my mom if I would die when I turned 13. I’ll never forget the look on her face. All she could say was “No!” and walk away. She was truly stunned.

BabyCenter featured a really good article on speaking to preschoolers about death. They suggest: keep explanations simple, don’t dodge their questions, and expect the subject to come up repeatedly – be consistent in your responses. They also suggest not to use the words “at peace” or “is sleeping,” to describe a death. In the Orthodox religion, we say that people “fell asleep in the Lord.” I don’t think she can grasp that concept yet. They say you should memorialize the deceased, express your emotions and prepare for different reactions from them. They also have some tips on dealing with their reactions to seeing everyone so sad.

Uncle is now an angel, indeed. We’ll miss him, but I’m thankful he won’t suffer any longer.

May his memory be eternal.

BooBoo was chatting this morning while Bebs was taking a nap. I was on the phone. When I got off the phone and asked who she was speaking to, it sounded like she said, “Mr. Murphy.” So I asked if she was talking about our neighbor. She said no. It was Murphy her friend. Then it sounded like she said “Joe Murphy.” Little did I know, Boo has an imaginary friend. Or two. Possibly three.

Mommy: Who is Joe Murphy?

Boo: Not Joe Murphy, Mommy. Just Murphy.

Mommy: Who’s Murphy?

Boo: He’s my friend from my other school.

Mommy: Uh-huh. Where does he live?

Boo: In a little house outside, next to mine.

She was referring to a playhouse she has in the backyard.


Mommy: Where is Murphy now?

Boo: He left, but he’ll be back later.

Later we went out for a walk, and I asked her again about her new friend.

Mommy: Where’s Murphy?

Boo: He had to go home for a while. She did too.

Mommy: Who?

Boo: The other Murphy.

There’s another Murphy? OK. This is getting complicated.


Mommy: Is there anyone else?

Boo: Their mommy.

Mommy: How old is Murphy?

Boo: 3, like me.

Mommy: How about the other Murphy?

Boo: She’s 4.

Mommy: And then there’s Mrs. Murphy?

Boo: Exactly.

Oh good. I’ve got it straight now.


Mommy: Will you tell me when Murphy comes back so I can say hi?

Boo: OK

So after a while, we decided to bake a pie.

Boo: Mommy! Murphy’s here. He likes to bake pie too!

Mommy: Where is he?

Boo: I’ll bring him there.

So she walked, like she was walking alongside someone and holding their hand.

Boo: Mommy, this is Murphy.

Mommy: Hi Murphy, nice to meet you. Do you like pie?

Boo: He likes pie Mommy.

Mommy: How long will Murphy be staying?

Boo: A couple of years.

Mommy: Won’t his mommy miss him?

Boo: I guess. We’ll send him home if his mommy starts to miss him.

Interesting logic.


Mommy: OK, let’s start making the crust. Does Murphy want to help?

Boo: I think she wants to watch cartoons.

Mommy: Hey, I thought Murphy was a boy.

Boo: No, that’s the other Murphy.

I’m confused. We made the pie crust and then she said she wanted to watch a cartoon.


Boo: Murphy’s going to take a nap now.

Mommy: OK.

A few minutes later, Murphy was gone.

Mommy: Where’s Murphy?

Boo: She went home. Her mommy missed her.

Mommy: OK. Will she be back to visit?

Boo: For sure. I’ll check my little house tomorrow and see if she’s out there.

I decided not to press it any further, and didn’t ask about Murphy for the rest of the day. Funny, she  after that, she didn’t mention any of the Murphys either.

So we have some imaginary friends. Hmmm….Is this her vivid imagination, or is she making up playmates because she’s not with her friends every day? The kids in the neighborhood are still in school, and we’ve only gotten a few play dates in since her school let out. So she’s lonely?

I had an imaginary friend when I was younger. I think I was 4 or 5 when “College” and I became friends. She was afraid of my older sister, so I had to go in another room or under the table to speak to her. She wasn’t around long. It makes sense to me now – my older sister and I had a rocky relationship growing up and she never wanted to play with me. I created my own friend to pass the time when I was at home and needed a companion.

An article on iVillage indicates that studies have shown that children with imaginary friends are “bright” and that “Imaginary friends are an extension of pretend play, which is a normal, healthy, important part of a young child’s development.”

Psychology Today ran a piece and quoted Marjorie Taylor, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and author of Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them. She found that 65 percent of all children have make-believe friends at some point in their young lives. She indicates that for some kids, the arrival of an imaginary friend is their coping mechanism in dealing with a life change or learning a new skill. For other kids, it’s just plain fun. “Whatever purpose they serve and whatever form they take, fantasy friends indicate a fertile imagination that is as likely to belong to a child with as to one without siblings.”

Now, the amateur psychologist in me says this has to do with her sadness at the end of school, the change in routine and not seeing her friends every day. Who knows. In the meantime, I better make room for the 3 year-old Murphy, the 4 year-old Murphy, and Mrs. Murphy too. Who knows how long they’ll be visiting.

Never a dull moment.

I promise. I am not running away from home. I’m not leaving you forever. I will be back shortly. Really, I will. I could never leave that precious face for good!

Moms, you’ve already guessed what I’m talking about – separation anxiety.

Bebs, now 15 months old, seems to have recently discovered separation anxiety, and it’s not pleasant. BooBoo had it much earlier, and getting a sitter for a few hours, one day a week, did the trick for her. It took about a month, but she learned it was OK to be away from Mom for a little while and I haven’t have any problems since. Bebs, well, she’s her own person.

I have always been her primary caregiver (I work part-time from home too, so I haven’t had to leave home on a regular basis), therefore, I started having a babysitter come last fall – using the same approach I used with Boo – and Bebs had some difficulty in the beginning, but did fine. The babysitter didn’t come for a couple of months, and when we have occasionally gone out in the evening, we usually went after she’d gone to bed. Perhaps stopping the sitter was a mistake, and I caused the step backwards. Who knows.

A few times, Bebs didn’t even want Daddy. One day I had to go to work-related event and she screamed for me the entire time. Come on, little one! You’re with your dad! Other times, she’s grabbed onto my leg, holding on for dear life. Hey! I can’t move when you do that! (I know that was the idea.) A trip to another part of the house is sometimes impossible.

A few weeks ago, we went to the health club, and I left Bebs in the kid room. I was gone just under an hour and she did great. Awesome! I thought. The following week we went again, and she did OK for ½ hour, and then wailed for the last 15 minutes that I was gone. What?! Was that first time a fluke?

Last week, we had the babysitter come again. Bebs did OK. The next day we tried the health club again, and this time with Boo. I thought she’d be OK with her big sister there. Well, nope. I was gone 45 minutes and she screamed the entire time. The caregiver thought maybe there were too many other kids (there were 3) and she didn’t know them and too much was going on. She kept calling for Mommy. As soon as she saw me she was fine.

It’s getting a little frustrating. A lot frustrating! I thought by now she’d be over this. She is getting better being left with Daddy, though some days it seems like I can’t even go to the bathroom alone. I find myself announcing to her that I am going to the potty and tell she can come with if she wants. Crazy! Who wants/needs to know when I’m going potty? Sometimes she follows, and either pulls on me or wants me to hold her while I’m taking care of my business. I feel like a circus performer!

You’ve been there too. You might still be there. It’s one of those things you know will pass, but while it’s happening, you can just about lose your mind. We’ll get there. We have to keep telling ourselves that.

According to an article on BabyCenter.com, “Babies can show signs of separation anxiety as early as 6 or 7 months, but the crisis age for most babies is between 12 to 18 months.” So I guess we are smack dab in the middle of the crisis stage. Great! I can’t just wait for her to grow out of it, as some recommend, and I can’t take her with me everywhere. Somehow, she’s got to learn that it’s OK to be away from Mommy sometimes.

We’ve signed her up for a music and dance camp with her big sister, in the mornings for 3 weeks in July. I have my fingers crossed on this – Boo will be there, and Bebs knows the people running the camp, since it will take place at Boo’s dance school. Bebs and I hang out for an hour every week, while Boo is in class. I was hesitant to sign her up, but she has to learn that it’s OK to not be with Mommy every waking moment. There will be other kids there and lots of fun things to do. I love her dearly. I miss her, too, when I do leave her for short periods of time. Nonetheless, I want her to learn to be secure in herself and her abilities.

People tell me to just sneak out when she’s distracted, but it doesn’t feel right. Experts agree that you should say goodbye, but not linger, and not to cry either. I don’t cry and I always say goodbye.

Kidshealth.com has a good piece on separation anxiety as well, and they say some kids get it at about 2-1/2 years old. Yikes! If kids are older than that and have it, they caution that it’s a sign that something else is not right – they may begetting  bullied, it may be a poor match with a caregiver. They do tell you not to cancel your plans if your child freaks out, because they could purposely do this all the time to keep you around. They list some good tips, such as planning your exit after a nap and/or meal, so your child is not tired or hungry. They also say to be calm and consistent, and get the caregiver to continue to try to distract the child, until he or she finds something they are really interested in and then they forget that you’ve left. But always come back when you say you will. Start with short increments and slowly increase the time span.

And take a deep breath.

Remember, someday they will be teenagers and not want anything to do with us.

And take it as a compliment. You’re so wonderful, so lovable, and so good to your little one, that she prefers you over everyone else!

This too shall pass.

Huh?

Yes, you read correctly. You can always count on BooBoo for some serious comic relief. I about fell over laughing when I heard the words come out of her mouth. I tried hard not to laugh at her, so she didn’t feel bad. I hesitated to share this story, but I thought you’d get a great laugh. Here’s how this went down.

BOO: Hey Mommy, my boobies are growing!

(Pause trying to keep from laughing)

MOM: They are?

BOO: Oh yeah. They’re growing, and they’re going to grow more until I look like a mommy.

Uh-huh. I wasn’t sure where this was going.

MOM: When did this start happening?

BOO: A while ago. They get a little bigger every day. Don’t you know?

MOM: Umm, yes, Sweetie.

I thought I should ask some questions to see what she was thinking.

MOM: Where are your boobies?

BOO: Over here, Mom!

She pointed to the correct place, and looked at me like I was nuts.

MOM: How do you know about boobies?

BOO: Some girls talked about them at school. I asked you before about them and you called them boobies too.

I’d forgotten that conversation. OK, this could be worse. Should I have called them breasts? Some other word? Oh well, no time for this now.

MOM: Do they hurt?

BOO: Oh no.

MOM: Do they feel weird?

BOO: No.

MOM: Does this make you upset?

BOO: No Mommy, but someday I’m gonna need one of those things you wear to hold them up!

I thought I would bust a gut holding in the laughter.

MOM: Do you mean a bra?

BOO: A what?! That’s silly mommy! It’s a thing to hold them up, like yours over there!

And she pointed to mine.

Was I really having this conversation with a 3 year-old?

Honestly, they don’t look any bigger to me, but I went along with it.

MOM: OK, Sweetie. When you’re ready, we’ll get you a bra, but probably not for a few years. They have to get a little bigger yet.

BOO: How long will that take?

MOM: A few years.

BOO: A lot of years?

MOM: Yes.

BOO: So I’m OK for now?

MOM: Of course.

BOO: That’s good. Now can you read me a story?

Out of the mouths of babes, right? I wonder when the booby conversation will come up again, and what it will be that time. I know I don’t want her to feel ashamed about her body or the changes she will someday experience. Hopefully the “true” conversation – with lots of questions – won’t happen for a while. An article at teengrowth.com says some girls begin to develop at 7 or 8, while most don’t start until their 13. So I have some time before we’ll really see some changes. Whew.

One thing’s for sure. She does keep me in stitches!

Last week brought the last day of preschool. Are there supposed to be tears? Well, there were some. And they were mine.

I know some moms may “cry” thinking the kids will be home all the time for the next few months, but my tears were of another sort.

When BooBoo began preschool a few months ago, I was a bit taken aback at how involved I’d have to be, how much time I would have to devote. I said to myself, “I thought I was going to gain some time to get things done; how will I juggle it?” Well, I figured it out quickly, and I have to say, it was fun. The moms were all great, the teachers and principal phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about them. I made some new friends, too.

The kids were awesome. There were about 40 in the program, and I got to know them and liked being there with them. I began to look forward to these times at school – helping with this or that, making hot lunch every Friday. So did Bebs, who made a few toddler friends along the way, and got upset if I didn’t take her with me to school. Preschool turned out to be a great experience for all of us.

As we watched the program on that last day of school – the kids sang songs, the 3 year-olds recited poems and the 4 year-olds and kindergarteners sang and danced – I started to cry. I was so proud of the kids. They really did a fantastic job. They learned a lot of songs for that one hour program. I thought, I kinda know now how teachers feel.

The the kindergarteners were “graduated.” Wearing caps and gowns, they all went to the microphone, introduced themselves and told us what they wanted to be when they grew up. Again the tears. More than likely, I won’t see them again, and I’ll miss them.

BooBoo began arranging play dates before school ended – starting first with those kids who had a younger sibling for Bebs to play with. Hopefully we’ll keep our play dates. Boo is having a little trouble adjusting to the change in routine, but we’ll get there. I understand that’s fairly common. I guess I am too. I miss the kids and my new friends already.

Are moms supposed to be sad when school ends?


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