toddler

Daniel, the Preschool Pariah

Sweet?

It has taken more time than I intended to post about last week’s conference w/ Daniel’s preschool teachers due to work insanity and (constant) family crises.  After this morning, I’m glad I waited to post so that I could add impressions from my morning at his preschool.

Last Monday we nervously met Daniel’s two preschool teachers in his classroom around lunch time.  I was nervous.  I don’t know if J was, but I was.  The four of us setted ourselves down into those tiny preschool chairs.  I felt ridiculous because I am almost 5’10”, and my knees came up to my chest.  One of his teachers is tall, too, so I wondered if she felt silly or if she were used to it after years of teaching 2-year-olds.

I felt numb once they started talking, but the gist of it was that I didn’t recognize the child they described.  Preschool Daniel is very reserved.  He’ll interact with the adults but won’t do a lot of the physical movements in music class like jump up and down.  When they ask him questions, sometimes he won’t respond and has a blank face.  During free play, he will sometimes stand in the window and stare out (the window overlooks the playground, so I can understand that).  Most alarming, Preschool Daniel is a hitter and kicker.  He’ll go up to the kids and hit them for no reason.  Towards the end of his class, he is out of control and won’t follow directions, preferring to knock toys off shelves and throw things.  However, academically he is great.  He loves puzzles, knows the alphabet, numbers and colors very well.

His teachers suggested we have him evaluated by someone from Project Enlightenment, an early childhood education and intervention program.  They weren’t really clear for what they thought he should be evaluated.  I first thought they meant speech but as they continued Daniel’s issues, I began to fear the big A, the diagnosis every parent fears.

But then I remembered that Daniel is not like Preschool Daniel at home.  I’m not saying he isn’t mischievous or doesn’t misbehave, but the Daniel we see is a chatterbox.  He plays with his trains, trucks and blocks happily and quietly. He jumps up and down and climbs the furniture.   Totally different child.

J and I left the meeting determined to help Daniel build his social skills.  I think the main issue is that he is with only adults all the time.  We did participate in classes at The Little Gym for a year and he didn’t interact with the other children, but none of them really interacted.  J and I have noticed how reserved he is in general, and I think some one-on-one play dates would be very beneficial.  When I ask him about his classmates, he names them all.

And then came today.  Today was the holiday party and last day of preschool for a year.  I walked Daniel inside and watched as he sat down in the area where his class meets.  Another student in his class came in, and Daniel walked over and smacked him on the head.  Immediately.  No provocation whatsoever.  We’ve been working on not hitting and gentle touches, so I addressed the hitting immediately.  Another classmate, a little girl, walked in and he did the same thing.  One of his teachers walked over and suggested that I have him sit against the other wall because that’s what they do to keep him out of reach of the other students.

Finally, all of his class were inside, and they walked to their classroom.  I watched them, and my heart broke.  My sweet boy is such a menace that he has to sit away from his class in order to protect his classmates.  My sweet little boy who cuddles his stuffed animals which such tenderness.  Who gives us the best hugs and kisses.  Who tells us he loves us.  Who cries when I cry or when he thinks he has accidentally hurt one of our cats.  Who cries when one of the trains has an accident in one of his Thomas movies.

J and I were there the rest of the day, and it was shocking.  I witnessed him hit several of the girls.  The looks on their faces were awful and he kicked the 14-month-old sibling of one of his classmates.  I was so embarrassed.  After they came in from playing outside, we could tell he was done and he certainly showed it.  Instead of sitting with his classmates, he started pulling down toys from the shelves.  His teachers both made a point of telling me throughout the morning that this was the behavior they had told us about.  I wanted to crawl into a hole. 

After class ended, we sort of slunk out.  I had bought gifts for the teachers, and I kind of threw them on the table with the others.  I just wanted to get out of there, and Daniel decided to make it even more difficult by having jelly legs and not wanting to walk.  After we buckled him into his car seat, I started to cry in the parking lot.  He said, “Mommy, happy face,” his way of asking me to smile and be happy.  I kept saying, “no, Mommy has sad face.” 

I’ve got a lot of thoughts jumbling around in my head.  First of all, I keep reminding mysef, and J does too, that Daniel is 2.5.  He’s still so little.  I know the hitting is not at all abnormal for his age, and we’ll keep working with him.  He’s been testing our reaction to his hitting his leg or the bed or table, so I think he’s trying to work all of this out.    He’s also reserved in unfamiliar situations, and it takes him a while to warm up.  That’s not so unusual, is it? 

I’m so concerned, though.  Why after 3 months of preschool is he now hitting his classmates?  Why does he come home talking about them like they are friends?  Am I overreacting?  Am I underreacting?  We did notice that none of the boys in the class seemed very responsive in music class (Daniel did pretty well) and that he definitely was the most active and exuberant child.  Is he simply spirited?  Is this the beginning of a long fight against an ADHD diagnosis or worse? Maybe it’s not the best preschool environment for him?

My mind always spirals towards the worst-case scenario, so I’m not sure what to think.  We went to the mall after preschool and got home fairly late for his lunch.  I made it for him and watched him sitting calmly in his chair at the kitchen table, eating his food and watching a movie, his face so alive and expressive.  He would glance over at me and smile sweetly, my sweet boy again.

The Sting Comes When You Least Expect It

After 2.5 years, it finally happened:  we were judged about our parenting because we – I – work outside the home.

It’s been a stressful time for our family with J’s grandmother being in the hospital recently and doctor appointments to make as well as family dynamics to referee.  We’re all a little torqued.  On top of the health issues, Daniel has suddenly been behaving naughtily at preschool by hitting other children.  His teachers tried time outs and redirection but yesterday, they had to call MIL to come and pick him up early.

They also want to have a meeting with me and J to discuss Daniel’s behavior.  Intellectually and after feverishly Googling of “toddler misbehavior at preschool,” I know that hitting is very normal behavior for a 2.5 year old, especially one who hasn’t been around other children much at all.  After all, that’s why he is in preschool. Despite knowing all of this, my anxiety and worry creep up until I have a pit in my stomach.

So yeah, I get it.  We’re all stressed, so I can understand how a phone call can get out of hand and next thing we know, J and I are being told that we don’t see Daniel as much and therefore don’t know his daily routines and behaviors as well since we work.  I know it was a thoughtless comment. I hope it was a thoughtless comment

But after the anger settled to a simmer, the hurt remained. Despite working outside the home, J and I both feel strongly that we know Daniel – his moods, his feelings, his likes and dislikes and his routine.  I don’t think that our working -my working – means that our relationship with him suffers.  He knows who mommy and daddy are.   He comes first with us.

Why does it always have to come back to quality vs. quantity for time spent together?

I love Daniel with all my heart and then some.  We went through hell and back to get him and live for his hugs and smiles.  Isn’t that enough?

The Feasting Continues

The Angus Barn is kid-friendly with a toy chest they can rummage in

As if it weren’t gluttony enough to have a bunch of yummy leftovers from Thanksgiving in the refrigerator, my mother’s birthday was yesterday, and she decided she wanted to celebrate by going to the Angus Barn since she hadn’t been there in a while.  If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant, it’s an upscale steak house.  The head chef is well known for winning an Iron Chef battle against Cat Cora.  Honestly, J and I weren’t exactly in the mood for it since we’d had several days of rich food, but hey, she was paying, so who were we to look a gift horse in the mouth?

Self-made ice cream sundae. Yum!

We took Daniel with us.  It wasn’t his first time – we celebrated my very first Mother’s Day there with brunch when he was 11 months old–but the Angus Barn isn’t somewhere we’d typically take him even though it has rustic decor and is fairly family friendly.  We compensated by getting a reservation for 5pm and not having a pre-dinner drink in the Wild Turkey Lounge.

J and I were a bit anxious, especially since Daniel had a very late nap, but he did beautifully.  Of course we packed about 14 books, a zillion trains and a variety of snacks to bribe – I mean to keep him entertained. Daniel may not eat vegetables, but he is a steak connoisseur, enjoying more of J’s prime rib than he did.  I was pleased that he also tried a few spoonfuls of sweet potato bisque (which was disappointingly not nearly as good as it has been in the past).  Being very full, we skipped dessert in favor of cappuccino, but Daniel had ice cream.  It was cool because our server took us back to the kitchen for him to customize his ice cream with sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry.  Very cool!

The Angus Barn was decorated for Christmas, and they go all out.  There was lots for Daniel to look at, and I think that helped keep him entertained.  On the way out, he grabbed a couple of apples and chowed down on one on the way home.

Best of all, we now have steak leftovers to go with our turkey.  Will my waistline ever recover?

What is your favorite restaurant in which to celebrate special occasions?

Posing in front of the huge tree in the lobby

Chatterbox

Daniel is becoming a little person.  Ok, yeah, that sounds ridiculous.  Of course he’s a person, right?  He’s not a robot (who else remembers Small Wonder from the 80s?). It’s just that children are categorized typically as developmental stages: newborns then infants then toddlers, and you can sometimes forget that your child isn’t [pick developmental stage of choice] but a little person with likes and dislikes, opinions and a personality.

I was concerned about Daniel’s speech for several months.  I knew he understood everything, but he didn’t verbalize very much. I talked to the pediatrician (who wasn’t worried).  I Googled obsessively.  I reminded myself that he is a boy, and boys sometimes speak later than girls.  It’s not that he didn’t speak; it’s just that he was stubborn about it.  And then one day a few months ago, he started speaking and now he’s chattering like crazy.  Just like everyone said he would.

His speech has begun to alter story time.  A few days ago, he demanded, “Doodle read” the next book.  After J and I melted into a puddle of goo at the cuteness, we read it, and he filled in the words perfectly.  We were stunned.  He knows the titles of the books and says them when he wants them read.   He mimics our intonation.  Sometimes I can almost believe he is actually reading and not just remembering what we’ve read over and over and over.

One of our favorite books to read him is Good Night Little Pookie by the fabulous Sandra Boynton.  If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a simple, sweet story about a mother pig getting her little boy piglet ready for bed, and it’s a two-person story because Pookie has lines too.   This week, I discovered we can read our respective parts.  I can be Momma Pig, and Daniel can be Pookie.  And he nails it perfectly.

Is this remarkable?  Probably Not.  It’s just a sign that my little boy is growing and developing.  He’s not simply a toddler.  He’s Daniel.  He’s a little boy who is observing the world around him and participating in it.

Tomorrow, as we prepare our meal and eat it, I will be giving thanks for him.  Maybe next year he’ll be saying what he is thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leaves

It’s not a secret that having a child changes your life. After all, there is a small person (not a dwarf) in your house and he or she is kind of hard to miss. And it’s kind of hard to miss the toys underfoot; the cartoons interspersed with episodes of The F Word, Doctor Who, and Top Gear on the DVR; the prehistoric-quality art on the refrigerator; and the massive quantities of whole milk in the refrigerator (I can’t remember the last time I had a glass of milk, let alone whole milk!).

Sometimes the signs of change are obvious (like the constant smell of poo that somehow permeates the house no matter how much you clean). Other times they are subtle.

In the last few weeks, the trees outside of my office building have begun to turn gorgeously red. I love those trees and have contemplated digging up one of them and taking it to my house. Because no one would notice that!

The leaves are starting to fall from those vibrant trees, and they line the walkway to the building. I study them each morning as I walk in, absorbing and marveling at their perfection. This Fall, however, my study of the leaves has changed. My little boy loves nature & loves leaves. Every time we take him outside, he grabs a flower or picks up a leaf. Eventually he will declare that he is “happy.”.

Happy. He doesn’t say “Daniel is happy” or “I am happy.”. He utters that one word: “happy.” But we know exactly what he means.

So now, as I admire the leaves, I find myself thinking, “Daniel would love that leaf.”

Always thinking of him.

Halloween Redux

Yesterday’s post on Halloween was just a teensy weensy taste.  I couldn’t possibly let that post stand as the only glimpse into our Halloween!

I mentioned yesterday that our Halloween was full of more tricks than treats. First of all, if you were in the Raleigh area, you know how wet and cold Halloween was.  J and I were so disappointed because we had planned to take Daniel trick-or-treating and wondered if we should do so in the rain.  We took Daniel ToTing when he was 6 months old just for fun but skipped it last year, so we had considered this year to be his first genuine trick-or-treating experience.

After a few trick-or-treaters came by at 6:30, we decided to brave the rain and take him to a few houses.  I carried him, and J held the umbrella over us and we  had a good time.  He couldn’t quite say “Trick or Treat” but he did whisper, “Happy Halloween.”

It was a good night overall.  We had about 25-30 trick-or-treaters, which was decent considering the rain.  I eagerly anticipate Halloween all year and then by about 8:30 pm, I am so ready for it to be over. It is rush, rush, rush all evening.

Happy Halloween to you, my little caterpillar!  I hope it was as fun for you as it was for us!

Halloween, very hungry caterpillar

On our porch after trick-or-treating.

ooohhh, is that candy?

First Kit Kat

 

Holding on to a bar of dark chocolate

Tired bebe ready to crash

Capture the Everyday: Halloween Closeup

Halloween seemed to have more tricks than treats yesterday, but we still had a good time!  And most importantly, Daniel had fun despite the rain and enjoyed his very first Kit Kat.  I think I have a chocolate fiend on my hands!

Without further ado, I present my Very Hungry Caterpillar!

very hungry caterpillar, halloween

A little blurry but cute

I love how his antennae(?) dominate the picture when he bends down.

Very Hungry Caterpillar, Halloween

Top heavy!

 

Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo

Seasonal Reads: Fall and Halloween Books

I’ve mentioned several times how much I love Halloween and how much J and I love Fall, and I hope to instill that love in Daniel as well.  This year I went a little crazy and bought him several books to introduce him to the season – hey, no child was ever spoiled by having too many books, right?  Here are a few thoughts on them:

Apples and Pumpkins (Anne Rockwell) is about a family’s visit to a farm, and the little girl’s experience picking apples and choosing the perfect pumpkin for Halloween.  It’s a very simple book with a sentence on each page, and the illustrations are beautiful. Daniel loves this book and grabs it out of my hands to turn the pages himself when we read it.  It is an older book that has been re-issued, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. The only downside to this book is that it’s not a board book, so the pages can be difficult for toddler fingers to manage.

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin (Mary Serfozo) is about a young tiger named Peter’s search for the most perfect pumpkin to carve (with the assistance of his father) into a jack-o-lantern. The book is darling, the story sweet and the illustrations excellent, but I don’t like it as much as the others.  I wanted to like it a lot since we are cat people (not this  kind of cat people), but I don’t because of the writing.   It rhymes, awkwardly, and it makes the story difficult to read.  I can’t get the words to flow when I read it as if I were stumbling.  Daniel likes the book, though.

Ghosts in the House! (Kazuno Kohara) is about a little girl and her cat (notice a trend?) who discover that their new house is haunted.   The story is very simple and easy to read, but it’s the illustrations that make the book stand out.  The pages are a bold dark orange, while the little girl and her cat are black and the ghosts white.  The characters leap from the page and while the book has a modern feel, its message is simple and old-fashioned.  It is definitely not your typical Halloween book. This is another book that Daniel grabs from my hands and tries to turn the pages himself.

Mouse’s First Fall (Lauren Thompson) is about a little mouse and her sister’s enjoyment of a beautiful fall day.  They study leaves, noting their color and shape, pile them up, jump in them and play hide and seek.  This book is completely about the season with no mention of Halloween.  It’s illustrated in bright, beautiful fall colors and while the story is very simple, it’s a great book to use to point out the different shapes of leaves and work on colors.

Corduroy’s Halloween (Don Freeman). Who doesn’t love Corduroy?  This Lift-A-Flap book takes Corduroy and his assorted friends through typical fall activities such as raking leaves and visiting a pumpkin patch to getting ready for Halloween.  Daniel loves this book because of the interactivity with the flaps, and it was a great book to use to introduce him to Halloween without any worries of it scaring him.  I also like that it’s a book with which he can interact on his own and doesn’t require me to read it to him for him to enjoy it.

For older readers looking for a novel Halloween treat, I suggest my friend Katie’s spooky three-part series “Buyer’s Remorse“: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

What are your favorite fall or Halloween reads?

(Not) In Stitches

We are racking up parenting milestones fast and furiously lately, and we can now add Daniel’s first stitches to the list (eek!).

Yesterday afternoon, he was walking up the front steps at Ama’s (what he calls his grandmother) house, tripped and cut his chin.  She decided to take him to Rex Express Care to have the cut checked out.  J met her there because he had Daniel’s insurance card.  The doctor decided the cut needed to be closed and used DermaBond.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time from work to be there for the procedure, but J told me that Daniel was a trooper.  They had to swaddle him so he wouldn’t move, and Daniel was scared, but J started telling him a story, and he locked eyes with J for the entire time and shed only one tear.  For some reason, thinking about that one tear rolling down his cheek kills me.  My sweet, brave boy.

I think Jimmy, Ama and I were more of a mess than Daniel was.  I felt bad about not getting there in time, but it may have been good that J was there instead of me.  Daniel has been very mama-oriented lately and even though J understands, I know it hurts him when Daniel rejects him reading bedtime stories and carrying him to his room for tuck-in.  It is good for Daniel to know that Daddy can take care of him too and will always be there for him.

After observing Daniel for a while, the doctor commented that he has a feeling this won’t be Daniel’s only time for stitches (he had bonked his head in the waiting room).

Let’s hope not.

Building with Daddy

Week in My Life: The Weekend

This is my final entry in Adventuroo‘s Week in My Life project.  It’s been a lot of fun!

Our weekends have become fairly unstructured.  On Saturday mornings, Daniel and I used to go to The Little Gym for a 9:45 class, but our gym closed down before the Fall semester started 😦

Saturday

I woke up at 6, and Daniel woke up at 7.  I tried to let J sleep in a bit since we haven’t been sleeping well while we’ve been sick and, well, I do better in the mornings than he does.  He couldn’t sleep and got up at 8:30.

While I made Daniel’s breakfast, he proceeded to destroy the kitchen.

Amazing how quickly the kitchen can be destroyed by a determined 2-year-old!

After breakfast, Daniel requested his crayons.  He doesn’t like to color by himself, so I draw things and have him color them.   Yes, this is me pre-makeup, unbrushed hair and glasses.

Art project and me in all my glory

We were going to run a few errands that morning, so while I was getting ready, J and Daniel played on his easel.  Daniel can count to 10, so J was working on spelling the numbers with him.

Daddy and Daniel playing with the letters

J helping Daniel on with his jacket, and then we’re off.

Snuggles with Daddy

 

Getting ready to run errands

Our first stop was at Target.  I used to dislike Target and the whole “Tarjay” phenomenon because it seemed to pretentious.  I preferred the honesty of WalMart (in theory anyway) and how it didn’t try to dress up what it was.  And then they built a Super WalMart in my area, and I quickly ate my words.  WalMart is icky.

Is that Halloween candy behind me?

We also stopped at Kohl’s where I bought new bedroom slippers and a gold turtleneck.  The final stop of the morning was Lowe’s so I could buy flowers.  I thought it would be fun for Daniel because he LOVES flowers and plants but that’s why it may have been a mistake: he kept trying to pick every flower he saw.

Smelling flowers

Daniel wasn’t in to lunch, but he did agree to eat…wait for it…yogurt!  And then he decided to share with Lucy.

Sharing yogurt with Lucy

After his nap, Daniel saw my laptop and wanted to play with it.  In addition to cats and flowers, he is fascinated by gadgets.

Time for a little work post-nap

I’m always amazed at how quickly the day passes after nap time.  Next thing I know, it was time to make dinner.  Another healthy dinner rejected by Daniel, though he did find a creative use for one of the shunned carrots!

Carrots are more fun to play with than eat

Out of desperation, we made him spaghetti with our homemade sauce.  He hadn’t been into pasta lately, but we discovered tonight that his noodle preferences have changed.  He now prefers spaghetti to penne. Good to know!

Spaghetti!

 

Sunday

Daniel and I woke up at 7 and I again let J sleep in since we both had a lot of congestion the night before.  Daniel surprised me by eating a pumpkin muffin (he calls them “cake”) for breakfast.  Yay!

Pumpkin muffin for breakfast

We had originally planned to head to Hill Ridge Farms Sunday morning, but after Erin responded to my tweet, telling me that her family’s day there on Saturday had been fun but exhausting, we decided to go another weekend when our coughs will hopefully, finally be gone and we would be better able to chase Daniel.

So we headed outside instead.

Uh oh - scarecrow casualty!

Like I said above, Daniel LOVES flowers and wants to pick everything.  Poor petunia.  She had served her purpose well.  Guess it’s time to plant some pansies anyway.

This used to be a petunia

That’s our weekend in a nutshell!

I really had a good time with this project.  It’s priceless to capture all those little moments during the week, but it has also been so helpful to read everyone else’s posts and see that we all struggle with the same sorts of things and that no one has it all figured out.

Being a working and fairly new mom, I worry a lot about whether we are doing enough around the house, for Daniel, etc.  Why aren’t we more organized?  Are we being lazy?  Does everyone else have super structured lives?  Reading these glimpses into your lives have helped put those fears to bed.

Thank you.