Kindergarten. Oy.

So, it’s January 2015. Which for some reason that I really struggle to come to terms with, means parents have to make decisions on school for their kids 8 months from now. I have to make a decision for my 4 1/2 year old that will go into effect when he’s 5 and 3 months. That’s insane to me. Since I found out I was pregnant in September 2009, our first baby’s June due date gave me a bit of anxiety. People I barely knew would bring red-shirting up with me. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has an opinion on when a summer birthday kid should start Kindergarten. There is study after study showing that older kids do better in school and have more confidence. And there is study after study refuting those exact claims. So how the heck does a parent decide? I have friends with kids on both ends of the spectrum, and they all swear by the choice they made for their child. And I think that’s what it comes down to, you have to make a choice for each kid individually.


I remember when Thomas was brand new, our neighbors who had a boy 6 months before Thomas came down with dinner and a baby gift one evening. And as we were sitting in our living room politely chatting, it donned on me that this 6 month old would be in the same class as my infant. This sitting, almost mobile kid and my baby who couldn’t even hold his own head up, would someday be expected to walk to Kindergarten together. And I remember thinking, “Well, that’s that. Thomas will be the oldest in his class. No one can tell me that those 6 months don’t make a difference, even at age 5.” And then T started talking and walking and being a kid. And we kind of forgot about those 6 months. I say this simply to state facts, but T is a bright kid – he’s got a hell of a memory and an incredibly thoughtful persona. He knew all 50 states at the age of 2, he’s been reading since he was 3.5 and he asks questions that I don’t expect to hear from a 4 year old – he’s just an old soul. So, we knew that the school portion of Kindergarten would be easy regardless of when he started. But when T went off to preschool at 3, there was a pretty obvious difference between Thomas and his classmates. Size-wise for sure – he was the shortest in his class. But he’s also just a cautious kid. He’s an observer. A perfectionist. He’s a pretty typical oldest child, and in his class these past two years, he’s the only oldest – everyone else has older siblings, which makes a difference in how kids play.
And so, after much hemming and hawing, we’ve made a decision. Thomas is enrolled for five day a week, half-day Kindergarten at his current preschool – which has an excellent and accredited Kindergarten program. The intention is that he will do Kindergarten twice – so we’ll call this Kindergarten 1 and the following year he’ll do Kindergarten again at our local elementary school. The beauty of this arrangement is that because the class is accredited, if T’s teacher next year thinks two years of Kindergarten would be a disservice to him, then we will reconsider our plans and he can go straight into first grade. So really, we’re calling this a “buying time” year, but in a Kindergarten program that is incredible. And Nell will start preschool at T’s school next September, as well going two days a week. Thomas is so excited to have Nell at school with him, and Nell is so excited to go to school because she wants to pick out a pink backpack, a pink folder and a pink water bottle. Whatever it takes, right? And we’ll be in the same boat two years from now figuring out what’s best for Nell – and by then our experience with T will have shaped our own opinions, so I’m sure it will be an entirely different ball game. But right now,  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Peter has a March birthday and there’s zero gray area with that.

Babies 101: Just Ask Children’s

Babies. So sweet and snuggly. But there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to a new baby. And honestly? Three kids into this parenting gig, and I can tell you with confidence that each baby comes with their own unique learning curve for the parents. There were so many things that I couldn’t have prepared myself for, but somehow, through the magic of motherhood, you figure it out, and it doesn’t take long.

I remember shortly after Thomas was born, once we’d figured out breastfeeding (no small feat), I took him to the grocery store with me. And as I pushed the cart back to the car I realized that I would never again be able to load my groceries into the car and run the cart back to the cart return and then hop in the car and drive away. Now I had a baby who I couldn’t let out of my sight. Now I had to figure out this balancing act of loading the groceries, while keeping my hand on the car seat, then one handed carry the car seat while pushing the cart to the cart return, then lug that heavy car seat back to the car, lock it into its base…you get the idea. It seems silly, but it’s a good example of the learning curve of a new mom. {Side note: I will park as far out in a parking lot as I have to to park directly next to a cart return now. And when I can’t find a spot near the cart return, I just return the cart to a safe spot next to my car, and vow that when I don’t have my children with me, I will always return the cart}.

[Read more...]

Happy, Healthy Holidays with Kids

With buckets of Halloween candy sitting on top of our refrigerator that I dole out at snail’s pace and the countdown to Thanksgiving on, I’m well aware that the last month and a half of 2014 is going to fly by and that, as it flies, we’ll be presented with lots of opportunities to make choices for healthy holidays.

One of the things that I’m very cognizant of when it comes to holidays with our kids is making meaningful memories and traditions. One of my goals with the holidays is to create memories with our children that are not just centered around food. When I think back to my own childhood, I remember decorating Christmas cookies every single year with my brother, sister and mom, and I loved that and it’s a tradition we will keep alive. But I also remember the family beach trips over Christmas, playing cards with my aunt and grandma by the pool, and walking the beach every morning. In the years past, we’ve enjoyed several activity traditions with our kids, and I’m looking forward to those again this year! We love to take the bigger kids ice skating and tour the Denver Zoo Lights exhibit with my entire family. Every year we decorate our tree together on St. Nick’s Feast Day, and bundled up family strolls around the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights (and blow up Christmas decorations) are a weekly occurrence from Thanksgiving through Christmas. We love to go Christmas Caroling with our friends and all of our kids, and we have a family sleepover in the family room once every Christmas season.

Whatever your traditions may be, the holidays are about being thankful, spending time with family & making lasting memories and traditions. Children’s Hospital Colorado has a “Just Ask Children’s” resource that allows parents to ask medical experts questions on the Just Ask Children’s site. Children’s is the leader in pediatric expertise and provides relevant information about keeping kids healthy, safe, and well. Whether you’re traveling over the holidays and looking for suggestions on safe travel tips with kids, or just looking for some solutions to help keep your kids diets a little bit healthy over the holidays, Just Ask Children’s is a great resource for all parents. Be sure to check out their live Q&A session next Tuesday, November 25th, from 9 am – 4 pm MST, where their experts will be answering your and other parents’ questions about how to keep the family happy and healthy during the Holidays.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Children’s Hospital Colorado. The opinions and text are all mine.

Toys for 2 Year Old Girls

It’s that time of year – my big kids had birthdays a couple months ago, so I can tell you what they’re loving now that we’re a few months into their new ages. Let’s start with Nell because finding things for Thomas was tough this year! No affiliate links, just sharing what we love, so click away!


2 year old toys

Nell is a baby doll girl. And when it comes to baby dolls, you have to go Corolle. Ok, you don’t have to, but they’re my favorite. They’ve been around forever – my two favorite babies were Corolle babies, and Nell plays with mine. My aunt bought Nell her first Corolle baby, and for her birthday, we got Nell a Corolle doll that is water safe. The body is soft, not hard like you’d expect, and my water loving girl loves giving her baby a bath. But, this is also Nell’s go-to baby right now for just general play. I’m telling you, Corolle dolls are the best.


Doll stroller. Most doll strollers don’t have front swivel wheels, which makes them a pain to take anywhere, and especially to push around the house. We bought a Graco one for Nell this winter and it just didn’t cut it for our circle floor plan – so for her birthday, I found this only slightly pink stroller on sale on Amazon (I think I paid $20 for it) and it’s been a hit. Note: The Amazon reviews aren’t great because someone thought this was a Maclaren stroller. It is made to look like a Maclaren, and we’ve loved it. Sometimes reviews are helpful, sometimes – like this time – they’re not.

Play kitchen. Santa brought this play kitchen to Nell in December. Santa specifically picked this one because it’s gender neutral since Nell had a big brother (at the time just one, but I was hugely pregnant with Peter and didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl – good choice Santa since we’re now a male dominated household). Honestly, Thomas loves playing here just as much as Nell.  Santa did leave B and I a note letting us know that it was a bear to put together, so keep that in mind should you be thinking of asking Santa for one for your little one this year…give Santa lots of extra time.

Play kitchen food. This is what I tell eveyrone to get Nell when they ask for ideas – play kitchen food and accessories. My favorite food is by Learning Resources – these healthy baskets are great because the baskets store the food, but the kids also like playing grocery store. My aunt got Nell this Farmers Market set from Learning Resources for her birthday, and it’s a hit. The kids play market and grocery store – and love it.

And I didn’t even move the water table off the picture from last year’s round-up, because it continues to be a favorite (Nell’s 1st birthday gift). I cannot tell you how many cups of morning coffee I’ve finished before 10am because of the water table. We use it outside Spring – Fall. I store it in the garage, but bring it inside every few weeks in the winter for the kids to play with like a sensory table. I bought ours at Costco for Nell’s 1st birthday – and they tend to carry a new one every year, but buy early, because they sell out by June!

So, that’s what Nell’s loving these days. What about your kids? I’ll get Thomas’s post together soon…if I can figure out what to put on it!

Here are my past toy posts:

Toys for 1 Year Old Girls

Toys for 12 – 18 month Old Girls

Toys for 2 Year Old Boys

Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Our Favorite Games


Tongue Ties, Milk Supply, and Frenectomies…Oh My.

Remember when I promised you guys a kitchen update, but also mentioned I’d had some sudden milk supply issues? Well, kitchen update is on hold because I threw out the need to finish up the cabinets to focus on feeding Peter and figuring out why he wasn’t gaining as much weight as he needed to. And it was a stressful week, but one I learned a lot from. Then we went on a family vacation to the Oregon coast, and so now I’m back…with an update on the breastfeeding sitch, a couple posts in the hopper, and hopefully cabinet hardware arriving this week so I can finish up this kitchen project and show you pictures.

Okay, let’s back up. Since birth Peter’s spit up a good amount and was fussy and colicky, but he was growing beautifully, so I wasn’t too concerned about the reflux and figured that I would attempt to eliminate the triggers of his colic and reflux before medicating him. I went off every food that could possibly have irritated him, without much improvement. A few days before his 2 month appointment, my mom was over and I was at my breaking point: Peter had been screaming for days on end, it seemed. So I called our pediatrician and asked what our options were. They prescribed baby Zantac, and he was, I thought, a happier baby. He still spit up a ton, but he wasn’t arching as much while eating.  His colic was improving with age and the use of a daily probiotic drop, so the fussiness was less – but I knew reflux was still at play. Somewhere around 3 1/2 months, I felt like he was spitting up more and more. Everyone always says that it looks like more than it is, but I felt like he was spitting up significant portions of each feeding. He was also a fussy eater again – he ate quickly and then screamed, and then spit-up. Classic reflux baby, but we were treating it. Anyway, I expected his weight gain to have slowed, but since he was packing it on in his first two months of life, it didn’t cross my mind he’d be dropping growth channels.

So, at his 4 month appointment three weeks ago, I was expecting him to be around 13.5 pounds when his previous chunking would have indicated he’d be about 14 pounds – and he clocked in at 12lb 3 oz. I was horrified. I immediately blamed myself and my milk supply – it was my fault because I’d been working out and eating clean. Our pediatrician was out of town, so we were seeing our practice’s very thorough PA. Before I continue, let me say I totally understand where our PA was coming from in this story – she’s a medical professional and she wants to see babies growing. I tend to be pretty calm about medical stuff – I rarely take my kids to the doctor when they’re sick because I know that a virus is a virus. I don’t call for every fever, we use a lot of natural home remedies for comfort and let fevers and viruses run their course. But, I usually choose appointments with this PA when we’re trying to diagnose something outside of a well check – Nell’s GI issues, for example, because I know she won’t say, “Let’s wait and see what happens in a week.” When I get to the point  with an illness or dilemma where I decide we need a doctor’s visit, I want to know we’re going to examine every option. But for well-checks, I tend to prefer to see our pediatrician since she’s a little more on my level in terms of  remaining calm. But anyway, we saw the PA, and she was very concerned about Peter’s very slow weight gain (he did gain, just slowly). And I was a hot mess. Now, having seen our PA with all three of my kids, I think I can say at this point that she’s not the most pro-breastfeeding – the practice itself is, but this particular individual wants hard numbers, which breastfeeding doesn’t readily supply. At every single appointment during the year I nurse my babies, her first question is “How many ounces are you pumping?” – even when my one month old is growing beautifully and gaining growth channels. When I tell her I’m not pumping, she asks me to start pumping once a day so she has a number to go off of. I always say, “I pump when I need a bottle”. Her recommendation was to exclusively pump for every feeding so that I knew exactly how much milk he was getting and to supplement him with formula to fatten him up.

Now, I firmly believe that asking a mom to exclusively pump to see if she’s providing enough milk to her child is a sure fire way to get the mom to stop breastfeeding. I know that one of the ways moms – especially first time moms – are told to help bring their milk in is by pumping. I was told the exact same thing with Thomas, and I spent the first month of his life obsessing over how many drops of milk drip-drop-drip-drop-drip-dropped into those damn Medela vials.  Because breast pumps suck. And pumping is stressful. And I know for a fact that if I had to exclusively pump, I’d struggle to provide my children with breastmilk for the first year of their life. I’d try, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go well. When I was working when Thomas was a baby, I had to pump three times during the day and twice after he went to bed in order to make enough milk for his bottles at daycare the next day – if I’d had to pump for all his feedings, I would have been pumping all day. I have many friends who have determined their milk supply by how much they pump, and quit before their babies are a month old because they aren’t producing enough milk. I also know there are circumstances where moms don’t produce enough milk, but generally speaking, I think that the United States is a little broken in how they approach breastfeeding and babies and weight gain.


Obviously there was a weight gain issue for Peter – his reflux was part of it, he was spitting up a good portion of feedings, and luckily, he performed his spit-up routine in the office so the PA could see just how much he does spit-up. We switched his reflux medication from Zantac to Prevacid which made a difference in his spitting up and demeanor. But, we did pre- and post- feeding weights at that appointment, and he was only taking about an ounce during each feeding. Which brought milk supply issues to the forefront. So I panicked. I posted here and you guys were awesome. I posted on instagram and you guys were awesome. And then, when my friend who’s working towards her IBCLC certification got back from her family vacation, I called her and she came running over to my house.  Where she told me everything I needed to hear:  That this is not my fault. That eating a healthy diet and exercising do not affect milk supply – that my body would starve itself before it stopped producing milk and to not stop taking care of myself as a result of this. Then she told me that I have successfully breastfed two babies, plus Peter for 4 months, and I can get my milk supply back up. It will take work, but I can do it. She watched Peter eat, she witnessed his fussiness and agreed he wasn’t taking a full feeding, checked his latch (which looked fine) and told me to go to a breastfeeding group lead by a lactation consultant she really respects for pre- and post- feeding weights, and more ideas, because she wanted me armed with numbers information when we went back to Peter’s weight check the next week.


So, the breastfeeding group was great, and the lactation consultant was amazing – encouraging and logical, which not all are. She spent a lot of time with Peter and me – at this point I’d been pumping after every feeding for a week, so my milk supply was much better than it was a week before, but Peter was still not taking a full feeding, and still screaming afterwards. She watched him eat and thought his latch looked fine, but because of his screaming and the fact that he wasn’t taking a full feeding, she checked him for a tongue tie: and he was indeed tongue tied. I was shocked. Peter was my best nurser from birth, and I couldn’t believe it would take 4 months for the signs to show up. She explained lots of possible scenarios to me, but the long story short was: get the tongue tie clipped, get my milk supply back up, and feed the hungry baby. She sent me off with a plan for continuing to improve my milk supply by pumping 2 – 3 times a day – such a relief after pumping after every feeding – and a baby weight gain plan which included supplementing Peter with 2-4 ounces of the pumped milk (or formula if necessary) 2-3 times a day until his tongue tie was clipped so he could nurse more efficiently. The next day, thanks to my milk supply rebounding due to all the pumping, and the bottle supplementation of the pumped milk, Peter was up 8 ounces, up a growth channel, and we had an appointment for his frenectomy the following day.


The frenectomy was simple and done with a laser in a pediatric dentist’s office. It took a couple of days for him to start using his tongue, and we were on our way off to Oregon for vacation, but a few days into vacation I noticed that he was eating much longer and I could actually see his tongue when he was eating.   This whole ordeal also took place during a huge developmental period for most babies, and his fussiness has been better over the last few days since that  developmental period has past, as well. And that’s where we’re at: Feeding Pete’s still a priority, but he’s continuing to catch up on weight gain – gaining just under an ounce a day (Pediatrician wants to see 1/2 an ounce a day so he’s currently over achieving), and is generally happier. And I’ve got a few gray hairs, now.




  • We had a great Easter (a week and a half ago now)…busy, but good. Starting with the kids coming down Easter morning to their Easter baskets. Side note: Our stairs have this diagonal in them for the bottom four steps. I’ve never loved it, but it wasn’t a deal breaker…I’d just prefer a more traditional staircase. But, Easter morning, I realized it’s perfect for three Easter baskets. It would fit four…but B says our stairs accommodating an extra Easter basket are not a compelling reason to keep having more kids. So there, one holiday transformed the way I feel about that crazy staircase layout. IMG_9203 The Saturday before Easter, we dyed Easter eggs using Kool Aid. It was perfect, and I’ll never dye eggs with one of those kits again!


Easter morning, we woke up for Easter baskets, then booked it to church to get there at least 30 minutes before Mass was slated to start. The great Catholic dilemma arose as we arrived in time to hear the Homily and watch the 7 am Mass receive Communion – if we’re there in time for the Homily and Communion, do we call it attending and leave with the early birds? Or wait for our normal 8:30 Mass.  We waited for 8:30…but the debate absolutely took place. We love the church we’ve found and the community we’ve established going to church there for the last three years, but they could use some work on their time management. After Mass, we rushed home and before hosting B’s parents for brunch, we grabbed a quick family photo: our first, I’m ashamed to say, of all five of us (bonus that Casco posed!) since Peter was born.


  • So that was Easter…Next up. Peter. We are loving life as a family of five, but it’s been loud :) . Peter is colicky and has reflux, but we’re doing whatever we can to get to the bottom of it to make our little guy more comfortable. I’m back off dairy (as I was with Nell, but for different reasons) and eliminating other foods from my diet, and we’re gonna get to the bottom of it.
  • I’m working out daily and eating clean to get back in shape (well, the clean eating was dictated by Peter, but the getting back in shape is a bonus) after Peter’s birth. My go-to workout after every pregnancy is the 30 day shred…and I’m so sick of it. But I’ll see it through the 30 days and post results here similar to what I did 3 years ago when I’m done. I am so passionate about not dwelling on body image – we have a daughter, and sons, who we want to raise to be healthy and confident young people, so I’m focusing more on being healthy than being back at my exact pre-pregnancy weight.
  • I loved Sarah’s thoughts on technology and kids from Monday. I’ve shared before that we really try to limit screen time and technology with our kids, like, the TV is rarely on unless there is a hometown sporting event in the background, and even then we turn it off if we notice Thomas paying too much attention to it. We started letting T watch an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or similar, about once a week a few months ago so that he’d know what his preschool classmates were talking about, but otherwise we keep screen time to a minimum. I don’t say this to declare our way the only way…or even the right way. It’s just what works for us and what feels important to us.  But anyway, coming from a technology minimalist mindset for kids, I really enjoyed Sarah’s thoughts on technology for me to process as our kids get older, so thought I’d share if anyone else was interested.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Peter’s room is ready for me to take pictures of, so hopefully I’ll get to that in the next few days!

The Games We Play: Preschool Edition

B and I love games. We play Gin Rummy together frequently. Bananagrams. Scrabble when we have hours. We adore playing games with friends, too. So when it came to playing games with our kids, we were all about it. But, because B and I are game people – we wanted to like the games we play with our kids, too. From my babysitting days, there are plenty of games that kids love (and that I loved) that are a bit tedious for adults. Candy Land comes to mind…

So anyway, here are our current favorite games to play with Thomas, who is 3 and a half. Nell, at one and a half, “plays” some of these too.

favorite-games-for-preschoolers From top to bottom (no affiliate links, just linking for your convenience):

Uno Moo: This is just fun. Thomas loves this game and is obsessed with skunks suddenly as a result of it. Nell also loves the game – she plays with us and on her own, but one of us helps her by giving directions like, “Nell, play your yellow chicken now to knock out Thomas’s blue chicken”.

Spot It, Jr: Santa put this in Thomas’s stocking and it’s been a favorite since Christmas. There are a couple different games you can play with it, and it goes quickly. B and I have played a couple nights after the kids are in bed, too. This is also our go-to gift for Thomas’s preschool classmates.

Zingo: I bought this based on Sarah at Clover Lane’s suggestion at Thanksgiving to play with Thomas and my nieces, and it’s a definite family hit. I couldn’t figure out what was so great about it from the description online – sounded like a fancied up bingo (it is). But way more fun than Bingo, plus it’s quick and just competitive enough for little kids without overwhelming them or making you “go easy” on them.  And I feel like my kids are now going to have a leg up on their nursing home buddies in their old age. Preparing them for life right here. Preparing them for life.

Alphabet Memory: I’ve mentioned before that we play a shortened version of this game. And honestly, Memory is not my favorite. But it’s so good for kids – it teaches focus. We pull out the letters of Thomas’s name when we play most of the time, and every now and then will do the whole alphabet, but that’s still a bit complicated for him.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel: Since I mentioned this over a year ago, I doubt it needs much explaining, but it’s a really fun game, and goes relatively quickly, too. Thomas received this for Christmas when he was 2.5, but Nell can play this one by herself with very little direction from us, too, so it’s nice to have a game that the four of us can play together since so many of the games are a little beyond Nell right now.

Sequence for Kids: This is our newest game acquisition, and it’s Thomas’s current favorite. He loves “blocking” us from winning, and it teaches strategy – which is beyond Thomas right now, but something we talk about and work on. We play this at least once a day right now.

So those are our current favorites, what about you? Any great games you’ve played lately (kid or grown-up, I’m always up for suggestions in either category!)?

Britax Advocate 70-G3 Giveaway and Review

I’m so excited to get to share with you a review of the Britax Advocate 70-G3 car seat, and also giveaway a car seat to one of my readers this week! Read on for more about this great car seat, and your chance to win.
Britax giveaway
[Read more...]

Traveling With Kids: Beach Vacation

We just got back from five days on Siesta Key, Florida. It’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever been too, and the fact that Mr. B’s sweet grandparents live nearby makes it pretty much our number 1 vacation destination at this point in our lives.  We try to go down to Florida once a year to visit B’s grandparents and get some beach time – it doesn’t always work out to be exactly on the calendar year – it was a year and a half between our first visit with Thomas and when we took both T and Nell last Fall, but less than a year between our November visit last year and this one – but in five years of marriage, we’ve made five trips to Siesta Key, so I’d say we’re doing well with our goal.

We love traveling with our kids. I know it’s not for every family, but B and I find so much joy in watching our children discover the world. Whether it’s Nell’s first real encounter with sand – she was meh about it – or Thomas discovering that he loves the ocean and body surfing waves after a summer of refusing to be anywhere near water without pitching a relatively large fit (which broke his swim instructor mama’s heart), it’s almost like we rediscover the world through our children’s eyes. I think the biggest key in enjoying a vacation with your young kids is to manage your expectations. The plane ride (or car ride) will have its tough moments. You won’t stay out late drinking and eating like you used to. What used to be my idea of quality beach time – at least half a day every day in the sand and the surf – has evolved to mean that two 90 minute beach sessions a day = success. Rather than walking the entire beach hand in hand with Mr. B talking about our goals for the next 5 years, we’re now running the same 20 yards of beach over and over again after two kids and talking about how to survive bedtime with four people in one tiny bedroom in our hotel. Our late night extravagant dinners have changed to early dinners, and drinking wine on the beach at sunset has become eating ice cream on the beach at sunset. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Siesta Sunset Ice Cream

On the first night we were at the beach, we walked up to Siesta Village from our hotel and grabbed ice cream to eat on the beach and watch the sunset. And for the first time in my life, I saw the green flash. Well, I’m calling it a partial see, because I had my camera up to my eye to take the picture above of the sun setting into the ocean and definitely saw the flash, but had to wait for confirmation from those around us that they saw it too before I felt comfortable saying I’d seen it and it wasn’t just some camera effect. Thomas’s mind was blown seeing the sun set into the ocean. “The sun goes Night Nights in the water?!? Can I sleep underwater? Pllllllease.” These are the moments that make playing musical Nell for 3 hours on an airplane so worth the trip.

Beach with Thomas

Thomas adored the ocean. I was nervous, as I mentioned earlier, because this summer he gave his mama a lot of trouble refusing to swim. In typical Emily fashion, I said since before I had children that I would never use any kind of floatation device for my kids and never, under any circumstances, would I put them in water wings. When my friends asked me for advice, I said, “If you HAVE to have something, please pick a life vest so that they learn their torsos are how they float, not their arms.” I mean, honestly, I’ve probably deterred 5 friends from putting their kids in water wings. And last Tuesday when T was at school and I was running last minute trip errands? I threw the freaking clearance Target water wings in my cart, because our summer had been such a mess and I was willing to do anything to at least have T enjoy the water again. I didn’t break them out until he’d already been out in the ocean with me, jumping waves and having a blast, and then I gave him the water wings and he had an absolute blast. He loved floating with the waves. We held hands in the ocean and kicked our feet up together towards the sky. And I looked at B and said, “I don’t care how lame they are or the fact that I think water wings look dorky. I don’t care that I think they’re the worst invention ever for teaching your child to swim. He’s loving the water. I’m sold.” Sorry, friends who I’ve told to avoid water wings. Do whatever you need to do for your kid. Oh, Emily.

Thomas on the Beach

Nell on the Beach

Little Miss Sis was hit or miss about the beach and the water. Some moments she loved it, some moments she wanted nothing to do with it, marched herself over to the umbrella stroller, climbed in by herself and sat with her arms crossed staring at us playing. She’s hilariously herself and we love every spicy little part of her personality.

Tom and Nell going to the Beach

This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. The second morning we were going to the beach, B and I were still packing the beach bag and finishing sunscreen and T and Nell were ready to go. Thomas took Nell’s hand and said, “Come on sister! Let’s go to the ocean! Mommy and daddy will catch up wif us.” Ha. 5 minutes later he fell on the walk to the beach and his skinned knee was apparently impossible to recover from, so it diverted our entire beach trip – we ended up driving to Longboat Key to see it and hope the kids fell asleep in the car.

It was a fabulous vacation, and one that we look forward to every year. So that’s where we’ve been the last little while, now I’m ready for Fall.

On Sharing

Can I come clean? I have struggled so much in the past two years – since Thomas hit an age where he would have “play dates” with other kids with the whole sharing thing. Like, my skin crawls when I hear a mom say, “Share”. Because I feel like so many times, kids are instructed to just share. And I don’t always want Thomas – or Nell – to grow up thinking they always have to share. In the sense that I feel sharing has come to mean, “Give whatever you’re enjoying and playing with to the kid who wants it because that’s nice and that’s sharing”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know sharing is important. And my kids have plenty of opportunities all day long to share – with each other, with friends we have over to play, etc. But I feel like there are certain circumstances where as a parent we’re ingrained to say, “Share”, or maybe we truly believe that the easiest solution would be for the kids to just share. And is sharing always necessary? Really? Just in the last week I’ve had several encounters – with my own children doing the taking and with other children doing the taking – that have brought this hot topic of mine back to the surface.

We were at a splash pad/ fountain in a cool re-developed area of Denver with a friend and her daughter who is two months older than Nell for lunch this week. Nell and her buddy were happily just sitting on the ground kicking their feet in the inch or two of water, and a little girl who was about Thomas’s age was playing with a bucket and a watering can nearby. I had brought the pool bag but left it a ways away thinking that the fountain and things to climb on would be plenty of fun for Thomas. And it was, until he saw the little girl’s bucket. And he promptly marched up to her and tried to take it out of her hand. I didn’t stop Thomas before he approached the girl, because I wanted to let him make a choice and see what he was going to do. Because eventually the goal – and he’s not there yet – is that Thomas could say to this girl, “That’s a cool bucket. Can I play with you?”.  And if I hadn’t given him the opportunity to interact with that girl, then I wouldn’t have known what he’d have chosen. But when he chose the behavior that was not okay, I stepped in.  I gently told Thomas that the little girl was playing with her bucket, and that we don’t take things out of other people’s hands. But, hey! Look at all the fun things we brought, and let’s just go get the pool bag and see what we can create with our own bucket and a paintbrush. I chose the teaching moment because, um, I don’t want my kid to be a bully who steals buckets at the splash pad.  And I feel like gently teaching in situations like this is pretty much my job as a parent. But should I have instead taught him to ask to share it? Maybe, but in that scenario, he was trying to take something, it wasn’t his, he didn’t know the kid, and let’s be honest. How often do you walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, great purse. Can I have it when you’re done with it?” You don’t.


Fast forward to Saturday when B had a morning golf game and I decided to take the kids to the pool. We brought our pool bag and set up shop in the corner by the baby pool, because that’s where my kids prefer to be most of the time right now. There was a mom sitting across from us with her son who was probably 2. The mom had her feet out of the water and was facing the sun – obviously using pool time with her toddler as sun bathing time. The boy was just running around the pool playing with toys, being a toddler. Nell and I were playing with the dive sticks and Thomas was practicing his kicks with his kick board when this little boy comes up to Thomas and yanks the kick board out of Thomas’s hands. The boy’s mom is looking in the general direction of this, but not doing a damn thing while I’m remembering my conversation with Thomas not two days before at the splash pad about how we don’t do that.  And I thought, yeah, it would be great if T could share his kick board, but he just had it taken out of his arms. And that’s not okay – just like it’s not okay for him to take something out of someone else’s arms. And isn’t sharing about taking turns, not just giving up what you have whenever someone else wants it?

Thomas goes back to the boy, and as I watch him attempt to rip it back, I say, from about 3 feet away, but loudly enough for Thomas, the boy and this boy’s mother to hear, “Tom, why don’t you try telling him that you’re not done playing with that and you’d like it back please”. And Thomas says, “May I pease have my kick board back, I’m not done paying wif it.” And the little boy ignored T. Not uncommon for the age. But his mom did nothing, either. So Tom said again, “Peaseeeee may I have my kick board back?”. At which point the other mom says, “Cayden*, share”.

To which I wanted to say: “Well listen Cayden’s mom: It’s not Cayden’s kick board to share. So, your suggestion that Cayden share makes me realize that you expect me to tell Thomas to share his kick board, which he doesn’t have to do. Especially since your son just ripped it out of my son’s arms while you did nothing. And I’m a firm believer in giving suggestions and then letting the kids make choices, but every single bone in my body right now wants to rip the kick board out of your sweet Cayden’s arms and throw it at your Starbucks sipping head that can barely be bothered to watch your kid in the pool.” But instead, I just said, “Maybe give something else a try, T”. At which point Thomas took the kick board right out of Cayden’s arms and I couldn’t help but think, “Atta boy”.

And then, Cayden took a few other toys of ours that were floating around the baby pool, and Thomas – who wasn’t playing with them at that moment- tried to go get them and I stopped him and said, “T, are you wanting to play with those right now?” “No, but they’re mine”. “Yeah, but maybe since you’re not playing with them, this little boy can play with them for a few minutes and when you want to play with them again, you can ask him for them back”. Which I feel is the appropriate time for a kid to share – when they’ve been ignoring something completely. But I take issue with the idea that a kid who is happily playing by them self has to “share” whenever they are asked.

And I thought about it all weekend. Should I have instead of teaching T to ask for his kick board back, asked him to take turns with his kick board? Should I have taught him to say, “I’m playing with it right now, but you can have a turn in a minute?” Maybe. But do they have to share everything? Really? Because I’d corrected this exact same behavior in Thomas two days earlier because I don’t want my kid to think it’s okay to just take something that’s not his – and I don’t want him to think that just because he thinks something looks fun means the other kid has to share with him. And I don’t think my kid should always have to share, either. And I certainly don’t want my kid to grow up thinking that the moment something is demanded of him by a peer, he should have to do it. Or give up easily when something is taken from him. It is nice to share, but isn’t it also okay to say no? What do you do when you’re in these situations – when your child is both the taker and the one taken from?

*Names changed