Toddler

An Open Letter to the Age of Three

Dear Age of 3,
When Daniel was approaching his 3rd birthday, his father and I congratulated ourselves on making it out of the Terrible Twos relatively unscathed.  Oh, we’d certainly had a tantrum here or there, but all in all, his 2 wasn’t that bad.  We thought that we were in the clear.  After all, while the “Terrible Twos” have almost become a cliche, I had never heard of a “Threatening Three,” “Fearsome Four” or “Frightful Five” (I could go on and on making horrifying alliterative names for each year, but I’ll spare you).

Then, Daniel turned 3 and the candles from his birthday cake had barely cooled before he went through a behavior and personality shift that was so dramatic it had me consider the following explanations:

  • he had developed a multiple personality so intense it made Sibyl look like Pollyanna
  • he had suffered a frontal lobe brain injury I didn’t know about (probably while somersaulting off his bed)
  • or he was a changeling, meaning fairies live in the woods (along with the deer that eat my roses and some ginormous carpet beetle queen) behind my house.

As always when I have a burning issue or question, I turned to Twitter and posted about his new behavior.  And the replies startled me.  Moms of boys started telling me that it all sounded normal and that 3 was much worse than 2 for them, and it tended to be that way for boys.

Well damn.  That’s when I realized, Age of 3, that you were the Verbal Kint of developmental phases.  You had convinced us all that ages 2 or 11 or 13 were the Keyser Sozes of child development; they were the ages to fear and dread.  Meanwhile, you were able to creep up undetected and unprepared for.

Age of 3, I’d like to thank you for the delightful changes we have experienced in our child:

Perfect Pitch

You have perfect pitch, Age of 3.  I know, because as the amount of whining has increased exponentially, the tone in which the whining is done effortlessly assaults my ears and grates on my nerves, making me grit me teeth and choke back the urge to scream, “SHUT UP.”  Which I would never do of course because how can you not enjoy a 30-minute sing-song performance of “MommyMommyMommy” at 7am?

Mommy Love

I had always wanted to be the center of someone’s world, and that wish has been granted.  In spades.  Oh Age of 3, how you love your mommy!  Daniel follows me around everywhere.  If I’m in the bathroom, I have company.  If I close the door, he bangs on it.  He follows me into the closet too and enjoys moving my shoes around as well as using the hangers as an instrument. He wants me to pick him up and it must be while standing; sitting and holding him is to be tolerated only in extreme emergencies.  If he clung to my leg, I feel certain I could walk around the house, dragging him behind.

He makes his preference for me painfully clear by telling Jimmy, “Go away, Daddy” or “I not love you, Daddy.”  As you can imagine, Age of 3, those comments are well-received and do not hurt one tiny bit.  Not one tiny bit.  Happily, we’re ruthlessly exploiting Daniel’s empathy and desire for everyone to be happy by telling him that it makes Mommy and Daddy unhappy when he says those things.  The downside is that he now knows those comments bother Jimmy and you can see the impish look in his eye when he deliberately says something hurtful.

Advanced Speech

You speak in sentences, Age of 3!   That’s wonderful because it’s fun to hear sentences with subject-verb-object.  Fun to hear Daniel command, “Mommy, go buy some Nutella” when I tell him we don’t have any.  Enormously satisfying to hear him say imperiously, “Mommy, come here.”  I swear I can hear the implied finger snap (maybe that will come with Age of 4). I do admit to giggling when he says, “Mommy, I need to go poop.”

The only problem with the sentences, Age of 3, is that it lulls me into forgetting that Daniel’s comprehension doesn’t quite match his speech.  He can say something like “I want to eat that” in reference to the booger he just pulled out of his nose, and we fruitlessly try to argue with him, to reason with him about why he should not eat the booger on his finger.  We forget that reason and logic just aren’t quite there yet. So he eats the booger, and we throw up our hands, frustrated and disgusted.  Or when he misses the grapes I oh-so-carefully pointed out on our commute to and from day care and he tells me over and over, “I want to see the grapes” while I explain (over and over) that we missed them and we’ll see them again tomorrow, and I’m sure there’s a hysterical note in my voice and a vein throbbing in my forehead. Also, see “Perfect Pitch” above.

Oh, Age of 3.  We truly have experienced many delights in the 2 months Daniel has been 3.  Thank you, Age of 3.  Thank you.  I can’t wait to see what joys the next 10 months have in store for us.

Love,

Daniel’s Mommy

Kismet

Mother’s Day bouquet

Daniel has been in daycare full time for 2 weeks as of today.  We think it’s going well.  We still have teary drop-offs in the morning, and Daniel wants me to carry him to his room.  The teachers have been great about distracting him, though, and I’m sure that a minute or two after I leave, he’s fine.  He still keeps asking to see “Ama” in the morning, but I respond by talking to him about all the fun things he will do at “school.”   He’s learning the names of his classmates and his teachers tell me that he’s starting to be a little free with his hands and bumping into his classmates intentionally (too much Thomas and “bashing” perhaps!), all signs that reassure me that he is starting to feel comfortable there.  He even asked to go to school on Saturday! Here are a few other things I like about daycare so far:

  • Lunch.  Our daycare doesn’t provide lunch, so we have to send it.  At first I wasn’t sure if I liked that because did I really need another task in the evening?  I can barely make my own lunch every day.  However, I really like that we pack his lunch now.  I like having control over what he eats and y’all, he’s eating it too!  Veggie puffs!  Ham and cheese wraps!  Wheat crackers!  Yippee!
  • Naps.  Daniel is starting to nap again in the afternoons.  I don’t know if they blow ether in the room at nap time, but it’s working.  He may not nap every day or for the entire time, but more often than not, he’s napping.  It’s a great development because now we aren’t as rushed and stressed in the evenings, and he’s less prone to meltdowns.
  • Vocabulary.  It seems impossible, but I swear Daniel’s vocabulary and speech have improved over the last two weeks.  He is using more complex sentences, and his speech is clearer.
  • Less time in the car.  Our previous commute was 1.5 hours every day, and Daniel spent all of that in the car with me.  It takes me 15 minutes to get from our house to daycare in the morning and then 15 minutes from daycare to our house in the afternoons, so he spends an hour less in the car each day.  The drive to and from daycare is also scenic, so it must be nicer to see houses and yards instead of asphalt and cars.  Plus, there’s less opportunity for mommy to swear at the other drivers.
  • Me time in the car.  I now have almost an hour to myself in the car each day.  Before, I met my MIL in the parking lot at work for pick up and drop off and had to immediately segue way from mommy to employee or employee to mommy.  Now I have time to transition mentally.  While the time is nice in the morning, I really appreciate it in the afternoon when I desperately need to decompress before putting on my mommy hat.
  • Starbucks.  Really.  There previously wasn’t a Starbucks easily accessible to me on my way to work.  Most of the time, that was ok, but sometimes I really want a decent latte.  There just so happens to be a Starbucks 2 minutes away from daycare.  I can hit the drive thru and be on my way to work in minutes!

So, yeah, the first two weeks have gone well.

Now for something spooky…Until recently, every time I asked Daniel who he played with at daycare, he said the same name.  I thought it was a little bizarre because I didn’t see a cubby with that child’s name on it in his classroom, but he was so consistent that I doubted he was making it up.  Then one afternoon at pick-up, I heard one of the teachers call a child that name.  He does exist!  It turns out that the child used to be in Daniel’s class but moved up the same time Daniel started.  Apparently he is in Daniel’s class at drop-off and pick-up.  I didn’t think anything more about it other than being glad he wasn’t imaginary until last weekend.

We took Daniel to the bounce house yesterday, and all of a sudden, it clicked.  That child at daycare, the first child whose name Daniel learned, is the child in foster care we met on our last visit to the bounce house.  The child whose phone number I wish I had gotten.  I couldn’t believe it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was correct.

Wow.  What a small world.  Sometimes when you throw something out into the universe, the universe answers.

Gather ye daffodils while you may

First Day of Daycare

I am a very sentimental person.  That may surprise you.  Or it may not.  I think I tend to come across as reserved and chilly, so I suppose I feel like I must tell you I’m not.  The truth is, though, that underneath the reserve, I am a mess of emotion and feeling.  I cry at commercials.  I cry at books.  I cry when I think about animals in pet stores waiting to be adopted and how lonely they must feel. When I was a little girl, I cried on New Year’s Eve because I felt bad for the year that was ending and would never come again.  Jimmy and I celebrate the anniversary of the day we met in addition to our wedding anniversary.  I remember and honor certain dates for the tiniest of reasons if they are meaningful to me. The reserve acts as a stopper, a protective shell, from all those feelings because without it, I’d be a gooey puddle of KeAnne, unable to function.

Today was Daniel’s first full day of daycare, and I’ve sort of wanted to cry all day.  And I sort of feel silly for feeling that way because he’s almost 3 years old.  I didn’t cry the day I returned to work when he was 3 months old, so why do I feel so weepy now?   We did two trial runs last week in which I dropped him off for a couple of hours, planted myself outside at the Starbucks two minutes away, waited for a frantic call from the daycare to come get him and read actual books. And no frantic call came. In fact, he seemed to have a good time. Cue relief.

New lunchbox!

Today was different.  I packed his lunch and breakfast last night, agonizing over what to put in.  I was a little frantic this morning because suddenly our normal routine needed to become a more formal.  Since Daniel had been going to MIL’s during the day, I had gotten into the habit of packing his clothes and taking him to her in his pajamas, and she would give him breakfast.  Now he needed to be dressed.  I’m sure he picked up on the heightened stress.  As soon as I turned left out of our subdivision instead of right, it began.  “Ama,” he said.  “Want to see Ama.”  I grimaced and told him he wasn’t going to see her today and that he was going to school.  “No,” he replied firmly. But he didn’t cry.

At daycare, we walked down the hall to his classroom, and there was one other little boy sitting at the table.  I put Daniel’s bag on the hook in his cubby and handed his lunch box to his teacher. I put his breakfast on the table, and looked at him.  He had hung back, watching me, and I could tell he was processing what was going on: the new routine, the new route, no Ama.  I don’t think he quite understands it yet, but he has realized things are different.  He came to me and asked me to pick him up and clung tightly to my neck. But he didn’t cry.

Nutritious, carefully-packed lunch that he probably won't eat.

I rubbed his back, told him I loved him, that I would be back later and that he was going to have a good time.  The teacher picked him up and carried him to the big window so he could wave to me.  I walked out and blew him a kiss, and he blew me a kiss.  But he didn’t cry.

Daniel’s world is very small: me, Jimmy and his grandparents.  That’s part of the reason why we have put him in daycare, to expand his world, but I also think that is why it hurts so much.  In our little world, tiny changes feel huge. I worry he feels abandoned.  I worry that he’s hurting.  And I know my mother-in-law is hurting.

For almost 3 years she took care of him every day.  He knows her house as well as his own.  He was cuddled and kissed and loved, and knowing that he was in excellent hands gave me the ability and peace of mind to return to work.  Last week she made him a small pillow out of Thomas-themed fabric to take to daycare for nap time, and it has a small pocket in it to hold pictures of the family so they can bring him comfort.  He adores that pillow and takes out the pictures all the time to look at them.  Friday afternoon, she hugged him goodbye at our last routine drop-off, tearing up.  I watched her hugging him, and him hugging her, and knowing that Daniel doesn’t realize the significance of the day but we do, and I wanted to cry too.

Behold the Thomas pillow, taken with him everywhere

I love the daycare we picked.  It has very high standards and thorough procedures and processes.  Daniel’s classroom is bright and cheerful, and the teachers are loving.  The children appear happy too.  I have no qualms about the care he will receive, and I know he’ll adjust and likely come to love it.  Today is just…bittersweet.  In some ways I think it is more painful to transition a toddler to daycare than an infant.  Daniel knows things have changed even if he doesn’t quite understand what and why.

Today was marked on our calendar. I anticipated it with equal part fear and excitement. It signifies the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.  And there has been a lot of change already for my little family this year.

To my mother-in-law, thank you.  We are so grateful and appreciative of the care you gave Daniel.

And now I’m off to pick up my baby from his first day of daycare and smother him with hugs and kisses.

I Wish I Could Hit Rewind

Sometimes I wish life had a rewind button.

Sunday I was feeling somewhat human again, so I took Daniel to the bounce house down the road while Jimmy took more medicine and tamed the paperwork covering our dining room table.   There were several other families there also trying to burn off their children’s excess energy on the rainy day, but it wasn’t too crowded.  As I took a breather from the umpteenth trip with Daniel down the slide (I’m not sure who is more tired when we leave), I started chatting with the lady next to me.  We exchanged our sons’ ages and swapped stories about how energetic our boys are.  Her son was 3.5, and I started to think that maybe we should swap phone numbers for a play date.  And then she told me that the little boy was her foster son.  We talked a bit about his situation and how long he had been with her.  I told her that I thought she was a special person for being able to do what she was doing.  Daniel grabbed my hand and asked to go on the “purple slide” again, so our conversation ended.  She and her son left while Daniel and I were deep in the climbing structure.

I didn’t get her number, and it was a calculated decision.  I decided not to pursue a play date with them because I was worried about how long the little boy might be with his foster family and whether I wanted to pursue building a relationship with someone who might not be there much longer.

Later that night while we were giving Daniel a bath, I looked at his sweet, innocent face carefully putting bubbles all over his bath toys and then washing them off, and I thought of that other little boy, and I was so ashamed that I had dismissed him as a potential playmate.  The topic of bruises had come up while we were talking about the boys’ energy.  I told her that our pediatrician had said that she worried if she didn’t see bruises on a child, meaning they weren’t being active enough.  She agreed and then commented that due to her foster son’s history, bruises take on an entirely different meaning for him.  She hinted that he had been through entirely too much in his short life.

That little boy had had a wonderful time at the bounce house, his face all smiles.  And it was clear that he had a wonderful bond with his foster mom. I would never have known about the scars and bruises — real or psychic — he carried if she hadn’t told me.

Two boys. My little boy, prayed for, longed for, loved and adored, with bruises from jumping and running and climbing. That little boy, on his second foster placement at 3.5, with bruises inflicted by unloving hands.  Maybe they don’t need or want our friendship.  Maybe he has plenty of playmates.  All I know is that thinking of what that child has gone through at the hands of people who were supposed to put his health and welfare above their own infuriates me, and my impulse is to do anything that will keep him smiling, to help him feel like a normal little boy from a normal, loving home.

I wish I’d asked for her number.  If I see her again, it will be the first thing I ask for.

Cooking with Toddlers: Crepes

I had never eaten a crepe before I met Jimmy…I think.  Considering that I went to France after I graduated from high school, that seems improbable, but since I vividly remember eating my first escargot but have no memory of eating a crepe, it must be true.  Thanks to their heritage, his family celebrates Candlemas Day in the traditional French way by eating crepes.  Three and then four generations of family would gather in the kitchen at his mother’s or grandmother’s house, watching deft hands expertly flip the thin, golden pancakes.  Eventually, the “kids” (me, Jimmy, his brother, and his sister-in-law) would take a turn at flipping the crepe high into the air and catching it in the pan.  The first time I flipped a crepe, I was scared to death because I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the family, but I succeeded.  I also remember my sister-in-law snarkily correcting a grammar mistake I made at one of these events before she decided to pretend to like me (Think I can hold a mean grudge? That incident was 15 years ago!).

Once the crepes were ready, we descended on them like vultures, topping them with Nutella, powdered sugar, jam or nothing at all, rolling them up and gorging on them.   One crepe was carefully placed on the highest surface in the kitchen to stay there until next Candlemas Day for good luck.

Over the years as the “kids” moved away, we didn’t get together to celebrate Candlemas Day as often.  In 2001, Jimmy’s grandmother sent us the recipe for crepes, and I started making them a few times a year.  Because of Mum’s death this year, I thought crepes would be a meaningful, appropriate recipe for me and Daniel to make as we continue our culinary explorations.

Since liquor is used in the recipe, these crepes are dessert crepes.  If you want savory crepes, omit the liquor and prepare as indicated.  This recipe makes a lot of crepes, and they are easily stored in the freezer or refrigerator.   As usual, Daniel loved helping make the batter (he really loved the flour!); he would not eat one even when tempted with Nutella filling.  That was ok with Jimmy since he was able to eat them all 🙂

Oh! Look at the flour! It goes everywhere if I blow on it!

 

Stirring the batter

 

Taking his job very seriously!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp rum or grand marnier (I always use grand marnier because I like the citrus flavor)

Directions

  • Place ingredients in blender or bowl in the order in which they are listed
  • Blend for 2-3 minutes
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Oil an omelet pan or small saute pan and heat on medium-high
  • Place no more than 1/4 cup of batter in the pan and swirl it around so it spreads out
  • Once the edges begin to crisp and the batter is setting, gently flip it over.  It should be a light golden color
  • Place the finished crepe on a plate, pour in more batter and continue

 

Almost ready to flip

 

Since the hallmark of a crepe is its thinness, don’t be afraid to mess up when cooking them.  Even though I’ve made them for years, I still ruin the first 2 or 3 crepes (at least) before I get in the groove.  Experiment and figure out what works best for you.  This recipe is very versatile, and crepes make a great base for many other recipes.

 

Done! Ready to cool and eat!

 

Easter

All dressed up...

Our Easter 2012 was low-key, especially compared to how we treat other holidays (Christmas, Halloween).  One reason is because we are not an especially devout household, and it would a bit hypocritical for us (and I mean only my family) to appear religious only a few days of the year. On a side note, I read an interesting article in Slate on how Easter has resisted commercialization.  I believe the primary reason our Easter was low-key, though, is because of the missing person in our family: Jimmy’s grandmother.  As a devout Catholic, Easter was very important to her and though we went out for brunch with Jimmy’s family, it felt a little like we were going through the motions.

Dyeing eggs with Daddy

While I’m not very comfortable with the Christian meaning of the holiday, I’m perfectly at home with the pagan aspects of bunnies and eggs. Since we had a busy morning of baths and figuring out outfits (fun fact: toddlers don’t like to stop playing with trains to put on fussy outfits), we delayed the Easter Bunny’s arrival and egg hunting until after nap time.  Though it felt a little weird to do it at nearly 5pm, it turned out to be a great decision because after a chilly, slightly cloudy start to the day, late afternoon was warm with a vivid blue sky and lots of sun.

The Easter Bunny visited! In our closet!

With his Thomas the Train Easter basket looped over one arm, Daniel ran around the backyard to find the hidden eggs.  We often had to guide him to the eggs, but it was fun comparing the enthusiastic nearly 3-year-old Daniel to last year’s not quite 2-year-old Daniel who didn’t understand hunting for eggs and became overwhelmed and upset by it.  The years are going by so quickly, and every day, he becomes more a little boy and further away from the tiny baby we brought home. We played with his new sidewalk chalk on the driveway, drawing flowers and letters until we reluctantly realized we needed to get our little man fed and bathed before bedtime.  I’m really looking forward to more afternoons and evenings like yesterday as the days become longer and warmer.

Ready to find eggs!

It was a wonderfully calm, peaceful day.  I hope your weekend was as well.

Cooking with Toddlers: Yogurt Cake

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of my lingering takeaways from Bringing Up Bebe had been how French families bake with their children from a very early age and how capable even the youngest toddlers were of preparing a batter.  It’s not so much the baking that struck me per se but the idea that my son, not quite three, might be capable of more than I often give him credit for.  I think that I too often fall into the mode of thinking that my son is too young to be able to do XYZ and therefore delay pursuing it.

As a result of reading the book, I decided to start baking with my son as often as possible in order to attempt to instill patience, an understanding of cooking and an appreciation for food.  I really like to cook.  The first career I ever wanted was to be a singer (??? Ok, I was 5 years old), but my second career (at the advanced age of 8) was to be an artist (never mind the fact I have no artistic ability) AND a chef.  I’m not at all the caliber of a restaurant chef, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking and watched my mother cook amazing homemade meals. Since Jimmy and I have started making many of our meals and sauces from scratch, I’m really excited that I might be able to pass along an appreciation of cooking and food to Daniel at such an early age.

The first recipe we made was yogurt cake, inspired from Bringing Up Bebe.  I didn’t use the recipe that Druckerman included but thanks to the awesome power of Google, I used Chocolate & Zucchini’s recipe with a few minor variations.  Due to limitations such as Jimmy buying a ginormous container of yogurt, we couldn’t use the yogurt container as the measuring cup.  Details, schmetails!

Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt and was a bit liberal with it)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp rum
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line bottom of round pan with parchment paper and grease sides (I confess I did not do a good job with this part, so my cake looked a little misshapen)
  • Combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, rum, and lemon extract
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients until just combined
  • Pour batter into prepared pan
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes (we found 32-33 to be perfect)

Verdict

I loved making this recipe with Daniel.  He was able to participate throughout the entire process and had a good time.  The cake was amazing.  It was lighter than a pound cake but denser than the basic yellow cake, and I think the addition of lemon extract really helped.

Horrific picture of me; adorable sous chef

Mixing the batter

The cake cooked quickly. That first night, Daniel had a small bit and then refused to eat any more (grumble).  I had a few pieces over the next few days before declaring myself done.  I took the leftover cake to work, and my coworkers happily demolished it.

Parchment paper fail, but it got the job done.

Yogurt Cake and chocolate syrup FTW!

I would definitely make the cake again.  The yogurt cuts the sweetness but adds a depth to the cake that is rather unusual and very nice.  In my Googling, I saw several variations on the recipe that included more exotic ingredients such as fruit and nutella, so it looks like it is a very versatile recipe.

Enjoy!

It’s Not You, It’s Me

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who commented on the Beyond the PAIL post.  I’m still working through the comments, but it’s clear that many of us do identify as “other.”  More to come on that as I have volunteered to host one of the “Healing Salons” that Mel suggested for helping the ALI community heal and work through some of the questions that were raised.

We removed Daniel from his preschool at the end of February.  It wasn’t a difficult decision; it began to seem like the only thing we could do.  As you might recall, we had some issues with our preschool.

A week after I filled out the forms for Project Enlightenment to evaluate him, his teachers told me that Project Enlightenment couldn’t evaluate him because it is a county-based service, and we live in a neighboring county.  They quickly looked up our county and gave me the name of a similar service although when I went to the website, I discovered the service was located in Kansas and not in NC.  Oops.  More Googling, and I couldn’t find the service for my county.

In retrospect, I’m really glad that his teachers made that mistake because otherwise I might have agreed once again to have Daniel evaluated, and I think the roadblock helped me start to see the situation more clearly.  A few days after Jimmy’s grandmother died, Jimmy and I attended the mid-year parent-teacher conference.  We looked pretty rough: I was sporting third-day hair, little make up and whatever I had thrown on that was clean that day.  Jimmy had on a hat and several days of stubble.  We probably gave off a feral vibe to the teachers and frankly, weren’t in the greatest moods, especially since we had the super-fun task of going shopping for funeral clothes for us and Daniel afterwards.

The teachers didn’t have much to say to us, and it was an awkward meeting.  They kept pushing to have him evaluated, saying “there’s no harm.”  They told us nothing had really changed behavior-wise since December.  They handed us developmental milestones for two-year-olds and three-year-olds, and I pointed out that he was doing all the things on both lists.  I tried to tell them how well Daniel moves and how surprised I was that they thought he had poor motor skills.  We reiterated how the Daniel they see is very different from the Daniel we see every day. Finally, very frustrated, I asked them if there was anything positive they could say about my child because all I had heard for 2 months were his “problems.”

When we left the conference, I knew we were at a stalemate with his teachers.  It’s like they had checked a box labelled “Problem” next to Daniel’s name and moved on.

A few weeks later, I took Daniel to the pediatrician for his 2.5 year well-baby visit (2 months late).  I told the pediatrician everything and after she observed Daniel shyly interacting with her, she agreed that it sounded like his school wasn’t a good fit and we should find something else.   People, when your child will interact with the doctor who has given him shots that make him cry every visit but not with his teachers, you know there’s a problem with the school.

At that point, we were already thinking about taking him out of school at the end of February, and I had started researching other preschools.  I thought that a school a little more lesson-based might be better for my curious little boy.  We had just received the monthly calendar from his teachers and I noticed that there was a little note telling us that one of the little boys had left the class.  I knew this little boy’s mother had been having trouble with the teachers too, so I emailed her, and she confirmed that they had wanted her to get him evaluated as well and that every specialist she took him to agreed that there was no problem with her child except the school. She also told me she had observed one of the teachers restraining Daniel during recess so that he couldn’t leave the playground area (it’s fenced in, so he couldn’t leave the area, but he liked to run in the grass around the playground equipment).  She admitted that she didn’t know the back story and could be misinterpreting what she saw, and I know that a disgruntled parent isn’t the most reliable source, but still.  Her story pretty much sealed it for us, but due to previously-made appointments, we had to keep him there a few more weeks.

On his last day, at pick up, the teacher reported he had opened the door to his class and ran down the hall. She commented, “it was a challenging day” and shook her head.  I emailed the school that afternoon to tell them we were withdrawing him.  I had spent a lot of time since December scrutinizing Daniel and worrying, Googling behaviors incessantly, stressing every Tuesday and Thursday (preschool days), and hearing Daniel say, “Not go to school” and what I realized was this:

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my child.

His only “problem” was that he was miserable at preschool.  What I think happened is that his teachers convicted of him of being 2 and a half: not sitting still, having difficulty transitioning between activities, hitting, running, knocking stuff over.  I think that when he started to hit the other children, a very normal stage for toddlers according to my frantic Internet searches, his teachers overreacted and maybe they scared him and he shut down.  Whatever the cause, he was unhappy there.

His last school artwork is still on our refrigerator, and it makes me sad when I see it.  I hoped he would meet and make friends with other children with whom we could have play dates.  I looked forward to picture day and enjoyed helping at the parties.  Most importantly, I wanted him to have fun and he didn’t.  When we use the word “school” now, he says, “No” very firmly, and that makes me sad.  I loved school and I can’t believe that he has already had a bad experience with school before he is 3.

I’m saddest of all, though, that I didn’t realize his unhappiness sooner and that we left him in a situation for months that made him miserable.  It breaks my heart to think he may have felt disliked by his teachers or at least that it wasn’t a safe, nurturing place for him.

And I’m angry at the school and myself because I was so caught up in the evaluation drama and my worry that I allowed it to color – however briefly – how I saw Daniel.  I felt like I couldn’t take him out in public or out with friends because he would be judged; we would be judged. He would embarrass us. I am angry that I kept trying to put him in some box and diagnose him.  I’m angry at myself for not realizing that when he ran on the playground or out of his classroom, he was literally trying to run away from them. I wish I had just trusted my mommy instincts from the beginning and replied, “I don’t think so” when they brought up having him evaluated.

So maybe it wasn’t me; it was you.

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to discount or belittle the experience of anyone who is dealing with special needs.  If I thought Daniel needed to be evaluated, I would do so in a heartbeat.  These posts reflect my frustration with our former preschool and how they perceived and treated him.

Daniel, Daniel, Quite Contrary

Daniel's mad face

Daniel, Daniel, quite contrary

How does your day go?

Napless, whining, wanting your way

And lots of “No, No, No, No, No!”

Daniel is 32 months.  He was so easy-going and laid-back for the last several months that I thought we had perhaps escaped the Terrible Twos.

Au contraire.  In the last few weeks, it’s like someone flipped a switch, and he has started to demand his way.  And the whining when he doesn’t get his way is a-may-zing.  He’s also become very fond of saying the opposite of what he means, which is quite maddening:

Me: Daniel, do you want to go outside?

Daniel:  No, not go outside.

Me: Ok, we’ll stay inside.

Daniel: (on the verge of tears) Go outside! Go outside!

Thankfully, he’s still pretty cute 🙂

What Not to Buy Me for Valentine’s Day

Brownie

Lovingly-made brownie. I hear it tasted good.

I have a confession:  I don’t like chocolate.  There, I’ve said it.  Feel free to brand me with a scarlet “W” for Weird.

The Crazy Situation that Turned Me Off Chocolate

It wasn’t always this way.  When I was younger, I loved chocolate as much as the next person.  My favorite birthday cake was yellow with chocolate frosting.  I adored Whitman’s Samplers and chocolate chip cookies (especially fond memories of Hardees’ Big Cookies); I saw those giant heart-shaped boxes of candy in the store around Valentine’s Day (or the day after Christmas as it happens now), and I dreamed of having a boyfriend give me one.

It all changed when I was in the 9th grade.  My classmates had been giving rave reviews on the cafeteria’s chocolate chip cookies and one day, I gave in and decided to try one.  Later that night, I was sick.  I wasn’t majorly sick, but it was enough to make me dislike chocolate forever.  Was it the chocolate chip cookie?  Probably not, but it was the only thing outside of my routine that day, so my brain projected my nausea onto the poor cookie.  It probably did not help that my duties for the newspaper staff meant that I worked in a room in which those horrid chocolate bar sale kits were stored.

Presently

I’m 34.  I was 14 in 9th grade.  That means that for the last 20 years, I have not eaten chocolate.  I can’t stand it.  Any desire I had for it was killed.  The only other food I’ve had this reaction to was Doritos when I was 6 years old and licked too many (still can’t eat or smell them to this day).

I do cook with chocolate.  Jimmy loves chocolate, and I will bake cakes and cookies for him.  I made chocolate souflees for a dinner party a few years ago.  However, I violate the main rule of any decent cook: I don’t taste my food.  I can’t.  I can’t taste the chocolate and evaluate it impartially.

That means no Whitman’s Samplers for me for Valentine’s Day.

Poor Me

It’s very hard being a non-chocolate lover in a chocolate-lover’s world.  Consider the desserts on most restaurant menus.  If they have a non-chocolate option, it’s usually cheesecake or something with apples.  That’s nice, but cheesecake gets old after a while. Fun fact: if you’re dieting, not eating chocolate is a great way to avoid dessert.

Petite Chocoholic

Daniel likes chocolate.  He had his first take of chocolate ice cream on Ocracoke Island just after his first birthday in 2010.  He has since explored and enjoyed Oreos and Kit Kats (thank you, Halloween).  We occasionally buy him a piece of cake from our local bakery and give him tiny bits from it over the course of a week.  He devours all chocolate eagerly.

Or so I thought.

After having some disappointing reactions to some homemade non-chocolate sweets, I thought that I couldn’t go wrong with brownies.  We made brownies last weekend, and Daniel helped by adding the water and oil and trying to stir the thick batter.  I had high hopes for this treat.  After lunch, I served him a tiny bit of brownie and he…rejected it.  He acted like I had tried to get him to eat brussel sprouts.  He wouldn’t eat the brownie.

Heartbreak.  My little boy will freely and happily eat store-bought cake but not brownies made at home by his mommy?  Ouch.  Rejection.

He’s 2.5. I know that can be an exceptionally picky age, and we’ll keep trying.  I love baking, though, so I’m suddenly afraid he won’t want what I can make.

Asserting himself already.  I guess I’m sort of proud.