catch the moment: week forty-three

It’s been a very fun and festive week full of Halloween activities. This post is very fall-y.  Unfortunately by this time next week, most of the leaves will probably be down and my world will be a lot less colorful!  And thanks to Daylight Savings Time, my world will be a lot darker too.  Boo.

Linking up with Mindi, Sarah, and Stephanie for this installment of Catch the Moment 365. With only 9 weeks left, what do you think?  Should I plan on doing this again in 2015?

295/365 – Wednesday, October 22nd: Just something pretty I saw on my drive home from work. This represents rural Indiana in the fall – farmhouse across from a cornfield with beautiful leaves drifting slowly from the trees. 10-22-14

296/365 – Thursday, October 23rd: A quick play date at the park after work with our sweet little friend.10-23-14

297/365 – Friday, October 24th. Community Halloween party with another little pal. A pretty wild bunch!10-24-14a

298/365 – Saturday, October 25th: Another Halloween party at our friends’ house and Theo LOVED this Medusa decoration. He kept going back to it.10-25-14

299/365 – Sunday, October 26th: Little buddy was proud of the pumpkin that he designed and helped me carve for him. I couldn’t get Dexter to cooperate for taking a picture with his pumpkin. Sometimes I see a photo of one of these boys and imagine myself looking at it when I’m older, thinking “I remember that day. He looks so little.”  This is one of those.10-26-14

300/365 – Monday, October 27th: I was backing out of the driveway when the beauty of this shot struck me.  We have a lot of work to do on this house, but we’re lucky to live here.  Seeing the trees getting more and more bare makes me sad. Soon there will be no color left in this scene other than the red brick on our house. 10-27-14

301/365 – Tuesday, October 28th: Overexposed but I don’t care – I love his little face to much not to share this one. We’ve recently started bathing them separately more than together and while it’s a sad sign that they are getting bigger, it’s so much nicer. Honestly. No fighting, no splashing. 10-28-14So what picture(s) do you like best from this week?  I like them all. So there.



Dexter at 3 1/2

As I mentioned in my previous post about Theo, we had parent/teacher conferences at the boys’ pre-school just before vacation.  I was most worried about Dexter’s conference because of his potty-training regression since beginning school in August.  This summer he was diaper-free, wearing underwear even at night. He had been doing great and I had no doubt in my mind that he was “ready” for pre-school.

Developmentally, he is right on target and has expressed interest in several areas. He is especially drawn to the water tasks, such as squeezing water from a sponge into a bowl, re-absorbing it, and repeating. His teachers said if there is a water “job” out, that is what Dexter chooses.  The Montessori classroom is organized into areas and right now Dexter spends most of his time in the Practical Life area, which is typical for his age. His teachers said that some days he is not interested in doing any work, but will instead watch his peers for long periods of time.  He isn’t particularly drawn to any of his peers, but gets along well with everyone and prefers to sit by his teacher during circle time. He is working with early math and language concepts.

My biggest concern was his potty-training.  After 8 weeks in school, he had only gone 1 week (and he only goes 3 days a week) with no accidents and most weeks he was having multiple accidents. Usually just pee, but not always.  Gross. I felt terrible that they were having to deal with this over and over and over.  It made me sad for Dexter, because to me, that meant either that he was nervous, anxious, or not feeling comfortable asking a teacher for help. It made me feel terrible for the teachers that they were having to clean up his messes.  How could a teacher not resent a kid that was crapping his pants once or twice a week? How could a teacher not resent the parents of a kid who swore he was potty-trained and “ready” for pre-school, who apparently was not.  I was spending way too much time worrying about it while at work and feeling apprehensive every time I pulled up to the school to pick them up, cringing from the inside out every time I saw a bag (or two. or three.) of wet / soiled clothing in his cubby.

I apologized profusely in emails to his teacher, to which she replied that it was not a problem and that they were still working on learning his cues. I still couldn’t help feeling sick about it because I truly feared that any day they would kindly pull me aside and tell me that Dexter just wasn’t able to return until he was potty-trained. So what would that mean? Putting him back in diapers? No, but if he had to go back to the sitter 5 days a week for having too many accidents at school, wouldn’t the sitter WANT him in a pull-up or diaper?  It was just starting to look like we were going down a path I didn’t want to travel.  After asking many questions about Dexter’s classroom behavior and discussing his progression, I brought up the potty training issue.


His sweet teacher so calmly expressed that Dexter is doing FINE.  That I didn’t need to worry about it. That for every 1-2 bags of wet clothes I see, he is going to the bathroom and making it there on his own at least 4 or 5 times.  They don’t prompt the kids to go to the bathroom unless they notice them squirming. Sometimes they miss his cues.  They said that him having accidents and having to change his clothes provides a great learning moment in independence for him.  If he pees on his clothes, he is responsible for changing and he is capable of doing that all on his own.  Sometimes it takes him 20 minutes but that’s okay.

She really put it into perspective for me by saying that he is only 3.  Three. It’s only been a little over 3 years since he was inside my belly, completely incapable of doing anything independently. What was I doing three years ago (besides caring for a tiny baby)? Pretty much all the same things I am doing today.  Dexter, on the other hand, has learned to walk, talk, feed himself, dress himself, go to the bathroom, and so much more.  He has learned more in three years than an adult could hope to learn in the next 20.  He will continue to learn at a very fast rate for the next few years. It’s hard to do so many new things all day every day. So with that in mind, Dexter is doing FINE.

True.  It’s all about perspective.  He only had a handful of accidents on vacation. Even less the week after we returned.  I am not going to let myself worry about it anymore because my little boy is doing everything he is supposed to be doing.  He will figure it all out.  He’s just having a little adjustment period.

More post-vacation insight has come to me since we’ve been home, this time about Dexter.  During vacation, Dexter became very attached to his tennis shoes and a blue satin cape that he calls his Batman cape. He wears it at home a lot but it has never caused any problems. The tennis shoes we bought a couple of months ago are black with royal blue and yellow trim and he also refers to them as his “bat” shoes.  He didn’t want to take his shoes off in the car. He didn’t want to take them off for bed. He didn’t want to take off the cape to go into stores or to go to bed. Or the pool. Or the beach.  He threw some hairy tantrums over those items; it was as if we told him his puppy just died.  It was bad!!  He also got mad if we didn’t have a Batman shirt for him to wear – thank goodness we were able to do laundry there. He finally accepted that he could wear the cape in the car and condo but nowhere else and that he had to leave his shoes under the bed at night.  It was the first thing he thought about when he woke up – the cape and shoes went right back on.  Ryan and I started looking at each other with concern, thinking WHY is he so rigid about these things all of the sudden?  We optimistically and tentatively decided it’s just a phase.

As soon as we got home, the preoccupation with his shoes and cape was all but forgotten. OK, that might be a stretch – he hasn’t forgotten but it’s gone back to the way it was before vacation.  He doesn’t cry when it’s time to take them off. He doesn’t have to have them close at bedtime.  He doesn’t try to wear the cape out of the house.  Upon noticing this a few days after we got home, I recalled another time when Dexter became extremely attached to another item.

When Theo started Pre-school last year, it was the first time that the boys had ever been apart for any length of time.  Along with this change, they had started at a new babysitter just a month earlier. Dexter started asking to take one of Theo’s old stuffed animals (that Theo never played with a ton) to the babysitter. We let him. After a couple of weeks, the babysitter asked that he stop bringing it because it was causing problems. We agreed but there were some really, really terrible drop offs in the morning for the next week or two, with Dexter desperately begging for the puppy, bawling as I walked away, and me crying all the way to work. It was hard.

We had been home from vacation for a week before I realized the similarities.  Although he was with us, we were away from home. For a long time. He’s only 3; a week might as well be a month.  It just never crossed my mind during vacation that he was trying to adjust or find comfort in this new situation.  There’s something sweet and fascinating and well, comforting, to me about the whole thing – him self-soothing when feeling out of sorts, me figuring things out as we go, and knowing that we’ve got a long way to go on this journey, but that we’ll continue learning together.

Dexter. My bubbly, never-too-serious, blonde, blue-eyed, funny boy.  Sensitive and sweet. Learning by leaps and bounds and little by little, all at the same time.  He likes to pretend. One minute he’s Batman and I’m Wonder Woman. Then next minute he’s Baby and I’m Sissy. He’s got a vivid imagination and a love for Legos to rival his big brother’s.  He’s kind and forgiving. Passionate yet silly.  What would I do without him? He keeps us on our toes and makes our lives so interesting.



Theo at 4 1/2

We had parent/teacher conferences with the boys’ pre-school teachers before vacation. They are in Montessori pre-school, which is very much strengths-based – meaning they are so, so, so very nice about telling you where your child is developmentally and what they need to work on.

Theo’s teachers explained that he is obsessed with writing and is rarely seen without a pencil in his hand. Even when distracted by conversation, his hand continues to move in a writing motion. He is writing, drawing, and tracing everything. His teachers are excitedly watching him and waiting for a “language explosion,” where he begins showing signs of readiness for learning to read. He is asking how words are spelled and what things say and mean. We were not surprised by any of this as we have seen it at home as well.  He really has learned so much lately and it’s a pleasure to watch him grow in this way.


Next, his teacher so kindly said that Theo is very bright and perceptive. That he really picks up on others’ strengths AND weaknesses. Theo has recognized the power of his words. That doesn’t sound bad, right? Not necessarily. She said that there have been a few instances of him slyly mumbling things under his breath to other students. For instance, “that looks terrible” to someone working on a project. Or “you’re a cry baby” to someone who is upset. I can’t say we were shocked, as he taunts “Baby Dexter!” when Dexter is upset, but I was a little surprised to hear that he does this to his classmates. They have talked with him about it but wanted us to know that it’s something he is working on.

I hadn’t given this “Theo realizing the power of his words” thing much thought until vacation. I’ve been bragging on him recently about how much he has matured in the last few months. He has been pleasant in general and more willing to do things I asked him to do without arguing or refusing. Being sweet and helpful more often than not. It was as though the terrible twos and threenager years were behind us for good, for the most part. Theo has always been intense and sensitive but we started thinking that being able to reason with him had made a difference. He’s not a baby anymore and we were really heading into a good/different place in parenthood.

Well. Theo’s behavior on vacation was a mixed bag of tricks and treats. Yeah, he’s more mature and he’s smarter than he was a year ago, but this brings a new set of challenges along with the benefits. The majority of our vacation, he was great. But every day, without fail, there was some kind of epic meltdown (or threat of one) about something. It always revolved around the end of some activity or his worry over whether or not he was going to “get” something. When we finished doing something, it was “well, what are we going to do now that’s special?” Or “what am I going to get now that’s special?” Or “that wasn’t even that special so I hope we get to do something I REALLY like.” “You better get me something or you’ll ruin my vacation.” “Do you want to ruin my vacation?” “Do you want to break my heart?” “If you don’t _______, then I’ll ________.” Totally ungrateful. Sometimes we caved and did something else, or bought something small to avoid the blow-up, knowing this isn’t the right response. When our answer was, “that WAS the special thing and now it’s over” or “no, we are not buying you anything right now,” he had extreme outbursts, complete with “I hate you,” “you’re the worst mom/dad ever,” “I wish I never had a family,” and so on. These meltdowns ended with everyone being upset and for that moment in time, vacation being “ruined.”

So, it hit us. Theo has realized the power of his words. He has learned to manipulate to gain power. If he doesn’t control the situation by getting what he wants, he controls the situation by making everyone feel as unhappy as he does. He always, without fail, calms down and apologizes on his own. I’m not sure if he genuinely feels bad about his words/actions, doesn’t want us to be upset with him, or wants to butter us up so we’ll cave into his demands later. I don’t think he thinks about it and says to himself menacingly, “if they aren’t going to get me that _______ {fill in the piece of junk toy he impulsively asked for}, I’m going to ruin their lives.” But it’s still manipulation. On vacation, these things happened late at night so I do consider that being tired factored into the behavior. However, he is almost 5 years old and we can’t blame his behavior on being tired forever. His behavior is never this extreme at school or with anyone but us, so I know he can control these reactions to an extent.

Now that we’ve gotten ourselves into this situation, how do we get out? Have we created a manipulative, ungrateful person? We’ve talked to him about being grateful. About having and doing “enough,” saying “thank you” and moving on, and not always needing to do more or get more. He understands when he is calm, but he cannot recall any of this in the heat of the moment. We tell him that OF course we love him, want him to be happy, have fun, and do lots of special things, but that he needs to accept it when we say “it’s over,” “no,” “it’s bedtime,” or whatever it is that he’s not wanting to hear. He plays on our feelings because he knows we love him and want him to be happy, forgetting the part about accepting no for an answer.

Since the beginning of vacation, he has shown that sense of entitlement. Friday night we went to a community Halloween party. I told him he could go in the bounce house one more time, not realizing it was already 8 o’clock and the party was essentially over. The attendant said the last group was in the bounce house and no more would be going in. That was the trigger – within moments, Theo hated us and we were the worst parents ever. Saturday morning he was begging for forgiveness and asking “Mommy, what can I do to help you?” We talked to him about it again. This is our biggest struggle with Theo at the moment. Hopefully it doesn’t last long. He’s so big, but still little. He’s smart, but still has so much to learn. It’s kind of how I feel about myself as a parent. I’m doing my best but still have a lot to figure out. I owe it to my kids to teach them humility, compassion, and kindness. My headstrong, smart, sweet, spirited boy deserves the best. He’s something else!