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Link Roundup – September 14, 2017

After living in the Philippines for almost two years, we’re finally headed back to America for a visit this October! It’s amazing how quickly that time has flown by. We won’t be able to visit New York unfortunately because our trip is shorter than we initially planned, but we will be spending time with family in Southern California. We’re looking forward to camping, Harry Potter World, and maybe taking an Amtrak train up the California coast to San Luis Obispo!

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Pacific Surfliner Amtrak

Here are some interesting parenting links from around the web this week!

E D U C A T I O N

I Put My Son in Kindergarten Against His Teacher’s Recommendation via Mom.me

Who Benefits From the Expansion of A.P. Classes? via New York Times

Picture Books That Remind Children — and Grown-Ups — What Real-Life Friendship Looks Like via New York Times

Hippos, birdies, T. rexes, pigs: How Sandra Boynton built an empire and won your child’s heart via Washington Post

Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost. via New York Times

H E A L T H

Is It ADHD or Is Your Child Just Sleepy? via Mom.me

Game-Changing Device for Breastfeeding Moms Is All the Buzz via Mom.me

P A R E N T I N G

Stop Shaming Me for Trying to Make My Kid’s Childhood Magical via Mom.me

10 Insights of Remarkable Parents from a Family Therapist via The Gottman Institute

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It’s Back to Work I Go

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After 11 weeks at home with Baby P and his big brothers, I am going back to work full-time today. Our nanny needs full-time hours if we want to keep her (which we most definitely do), plus Big P and Little P started preschool and we’re all ready for our new normal. So it’s back to work I go … and while I am neither looking forward to or dreading it, I feel mostly ready.

This is the longest stretch I’ve been at home since well, um, a summer during middle school? I have been going to school and/or working in some capacity for so long that I really can’t remember the last time I had 11 weeks with nowhere to go most days. My other 2 maternity leaves were much shorter (8 & 6 weeks long) and, in the case of Little P, overlapped with a move to another state. Even this time around I worked remotely a few hours each week to help pay for our family’s health insurance, as my company only pays for 20 days of parental leave. But I didn’t go into the office, and my kids didn’t go to daycare or school. We all stayed home.

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Natural Backyard Playground

We started building a natural backyard for the kids this week! We have a fallen tree in one corner of the yard great for climbing. We also built a covered sandbox, which is necessary because we have a number of stray cats that hang around. Other elements I’d like to include are a playhouse, climbing logs, building/block area, mud kitchen, water table and a small garden. Here are some of my inspiration pictures!

The biggest project will be a playhouse, which the kids have wanted forever. Since it’s hot here I’d like it to be relatively open, but not too open because we get a lot of rain. The spot we’ve designated for the playhouse is a decent size, so I love the idea of adding a balcony!

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via Chrissy Powers

I like the big, open roof on this one for ventilation, as well as the sweet window flowerbox.

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via Cup of Jo

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Sensory Break-Through

Straight up, I’m exhausted from this past summer, but it was worth it to help our little guy make progress. My plan at the beginning of the summer was to immerse our little guy in tons of different activities, new experiences, and people to hopefully spur his language development. It worked. He finally had a language boom, however, the sensory issues that came up were extreme.

At the beginning of summer, the church where BeBe went to preschool offered a free camp for the week. I signed both kids up, and went along to help with the two-year-old group. The first day of camp, I took our little guy into the small building for arts and crafts. He sat down at the table, not paying attention, and got paint on his finger. You would have thought he dipped his finger into acid. He started screaming, and barreled his way out of the room. The rest of the week when we approached the craft building, he would scream, claw at the railings and me, to not go in. It was awful, but we persevered.

I literally dragged him into the craft building kicking and screaming every day. And by the end of the week he would tolerate sitting in the same room as the kids doing arts and crafts, but only on the other side of the building, in my lap with toys. While, I don’t necessarily want or need him to sit and do crafts, I do want him to tolerate being in a room with other kids doing crafts at school. Even worse, I can see that he wants to join in with the other kids, but the sensory issues override his ability to sit and play. He seemed so sad, and kept asking for the kids to play trucks with him and not paint.

With these strong sensory reactions, his OT determined he had maximum aversion to tactile issues, which we all knew at that point. We had worked through his sensory issues before with fear of movement and balance issues. He made great progress in those areas. He loves gymnastic class with friends now, whereas before he would run to the door to escape. To help him with this new tactile sensory issue, we began exposure therapy.

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When you don’t love where you live

I love the desert… sometimes. I always love the cacti, and the sunsets can’t be beat, but a lot of the time, I don’t love where we live. Other times, I hate it. And it is harder than I thought it would be.

Ace wandering through the desert citrus groves on a winter's morning.
Ace wandering through the desert citrus groves on a winter’s morning.

Before I moved here, the desert was my vacation go to spot. I loved spending time in the heat, enjoying the pools, the hikes, the slower pace of life. But now that I have lived here for nearly two years, I see all of the flaws. The terrible political climate, the oppressive and long summers, neighbors I have nothing in common with, the lack of green trees. Ace and I recently went back to where I grew up in the Bay Area, to visit family for two weeks. I could not believe how green it was, like a forest. I miss seeing trees, I miss fall colors, I miss weather that changes more than once a year.

I often wonder what it would be like to move away. Our family has strong ties to Phoenix right now. My husband’s entire family lives here, and we could never afford to live near my family in San Francisco! I go to school here, my husband has a job he enjoys, I help run the preschool co-op, and for 7 months out of the year, we do have lovely weather. I wish that was enough for me, but often times it isn’t. I just want to see changing leaves and feel a crisp fall breeze again. Or at least to be able to take my dogs for a walk between May and September without burning their paws.

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10 Dinners I Make and Serve In Ten Minutes or Less

Originally, I titled this post, “Dinners For When I Give Up,” because that’s often what it feels like. I have many inadequacies as a mother, but one thing that I do try really hard on is making sure the kids have home-cooked, healthy meals every day. Most of the time I succeed, in some part thanks to our Instant Pot and a more flexible work schedule, but there are definitely days where I’m in a rush or just don’t have the energy to whip something up in between the time I get home from work and when I leave to get the kids.

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Love these two and want them to eat healthy, even when I don’t have the time for elaborate meal prep.

When I feel like I’ve given up and am just throwing whatever we have in the fridge at them or things that I can prep in ten minutes or less (some of these literally take five minutes), I still want them to eat healthy and foods that are not processed (or minimally so).  Here are some of the foods that meet our needs:

Hummus – We always have leftover hummus in our fridge because the kids love to snack on it. Sometimes we purchase hummus from the grocery store and other times we make it ourselves (if you have canned garbanzo beans, it really does take less than ten minutes). I love that it is high in protein, especially as we’ve increasingly moved to a meat-free diet. It is pretty healthy, delicious and probably one of Lion’s favorite things to eat. I think the kids really enjoy the whole aspect of dipping things in. Serve it with baby carrots, broccoli and cucumber slices for a healthier option, or with pita bread.

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My Final Parent

It’s been 4 months since my mom died. It’s been a shock, because she was literally the healthiest person that I’ve ever known. Even though she was 73, she could do anything. She gardened with a machete, spoke 5 languages fluently and had just started driving a motorcycle! She was the strongest person I have ever known.

When my dad passed last year, I was beyond devastated and bereft. But when my mom died, I felt very different: I was completely lost. I remember 15 years ago, I had a dream where my mom died and I woke up sobbing for an hour. An hour! But when she actually died, I couldn’t even process it. I had to be strong for everyone and there were so many relatives to tell and so many logistics to organize, and so I put my feelings aside for the first week. But then when I was driving to her wake, I was completely overwhelmed and had to pull over on the side of the road. I started sobbing again – a surreal experience for me, as these are the only two times I have cried in the past 20 years. I was so scared to see her – if the idea of her passing could make me sob (twice!), what would actually seeing her do??

But when I finally got to my mom’s wake, I realized that the person in the coffin: that wasn’t my mom. It’s hard to explain, but my mom had such a presence and so much life. She was under 5 feet and weighed maybe 90 pounds soaking wet, but when you saw her… she was a million-feet tall. It wasn’t just me – probably 100 people have described her to me in the same way. We all just felt lucky to know such a larger-than-life character. I remember in second grade, she came to my class and taught everyone how to sumo wrestle. When I was in third grade, she took my twin brother and me to Bloomingdales to walk in a fashion show (?!). She was constantly introducing the impossible into my mundane life.

Throughout it all, she had such a profound faith in me and my abilities that I developed completely undeserved self-confidence. I was truly her creation; she willed me into existence. I remember reading that Julius Caesar quote about greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. I read it and thought: and some have greatness willed into them by their mom. I don’t know if I ever lived up to her hopes and dreams, but I did know even then that if I ever achieved something truly great, I would owe it all to her.

So when I saw my mom’s coffin at her wake, I knew that there was no way that such a huge personality could fit into a tiny wooden box. I didn’t know who was in that box, but it wasn’t my mom. That allowed me to survive the wake, and gather enough strength the next day to deliver her eulogy.

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