This is What I’ve Been Doing

So thanks to my friend Creeva, I realized I hadn’t posted in a WHILE. Sorry about that. (BTW I love Creeva’s new layout, it looks really slick.)

Anyway, yeah…what HAVE I been doing?

1. Working, which is still going really well.
2. Buying a whole new HVAC system (two new AC units, two new coils, two new furnaces). Was that expensive? YES.
3. Dealing with the vagaries of my daughter’s pre-school and summer school schedule. Real school starts in just a week! She’ll be in kindergarten (all day at the Montessori school though, not our public school’s weak-ass half-day thing).
4. Playing WoW occasionally (log in, do dailies, poke around a bit, maybe some crafting, reorganize bank, log out).
5. Playing Left 4 Dead 2 occasionally (log in, shoot a lot of zombies, get frustrated at lag on Steam servers, log out).
6. Catching up on various TV shows – this summer I’ve watched all of the currently available seasons of Parks & Recreation, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, and Game of Thrones, plus I’ve caught up to the latest on True Blood. I watch almost all of these shows on my iPad, which ROCKS.
7. Reading. Here are all the books that I’ve read so far this summer:
– All three of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins
– All five of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin
Dead Reckoning (the most recent Sookie Stackhouse novel) by Charlaine Harris
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (I understand this is part of a series too but can’t find the others on Kindle)
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
–  Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
Already Dead by Charlie Huston (just started this actually)
I also started Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris, but I just can’t get into it. The topic is interesting to me (American movie industry of the late 60s), but maybe it’s the prose? Anyway, it leaves me cold and I suspect I may not finish it.

I still have  a backlog of maybe 20 or so items in my Kindle that I want to read, so I’m not buying ANYTHING new until I’ve finished all of it. This will help me save some money too, which is a good thing (see that painfully expensive new HVAC system, noted above).

And that’s what I have been doing!

Exhaustion

A few weeks ago (honestly I can’t really remember how long ago it was) I was forced to endure a portion of Nickelodeon’s “Kids Choice Awards.” Oh. My. God. It was truly awful. It was without a doubt the most horrible thing I can remember watching on TV in…well, ever. In particular, it started with a performance by the Black-eyed Peas. WTF?! Why are these bozos still allowed on TV? Wasn’t the Superbowl half time thing enough proof that these morons should be illegal? All they do is take other people’s songs and make them worse. That Fergie reminds me of something a British friend of mine once said: “She has a face like a workman’s bench.” Make of that what you will. I love my daughter, but I will never suffer through BEP again, even for her.

Anyway, I had 53 hours at work last week, including hours on Saturday and Sunday, so that’s why I’m exhausted. I guess you could say I’m over it.

20110410-103402.jpg

She’s a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World…

Seriously, where does time go? It’s like yesterday it was only June 4 or so, and now tomorrow is July. I’m starting to develop a theory that part of the reason some people seem to do things frustratingly slow is in a subconscious attempt to make time itself slow down, thus ensuring they will live a little longer. If there’s a way to accomplish this, I am totally in.

The Bean had a birthday. Oh, Bean. I love you, but you frustrate me SO MUCH. Our Bean was kind of cranky and naughty on the day itself, and her party almost ended up canceled. But things worked out in the end:

IMGP0369

With her favorite cousin and her Barbie cake.

She’s so into girly stuff right now. She definitely had a little bit of a tomboy phase but now it’s all pink, all the time. She loves dressing up, Barbies, ballerinas, fairies, and princesses. I remain neutral on all of these issues. For example, I had Barbies when I was little, and honestly loved them. I loved dressing them in all kinds of outfits and acting out all kinds of little soap operas with them. But that was several decades ago, and I willingly admit that my interest in Barbie has waned. I haven’t gone out of my way to encourage Bean’s interest in Barbie, but since she has clearly shown that she has it, I haven’t discouraged it either.

So I bought her the Barbie cake that she specifically told me she wanted, every time we passed the bakery department at Target. I bought her a new Barbie doll (which she loved) and her father bought Barbie balloons and decorations for her party. As a feminist, I have some problems with Barbie now, but you have to admit she’s 100 times less offensive then those hideous Bratz dolls (thank God those things got discontinued).

I guess I could refuse to indulge her taste for Barbie, or for Hello Kitty or Disney princesses for that matter, but what would that get me? An unhappy kid? No, thanks. So she likes girly stuff, so what? She also loves to draw and paint, kick the ball around, ride her bike (and her new scooter), sing and dance, and tell secrets to her teddy bear. I think she is becoming a well-rounded, well-adjusted person, and I love her just the way she is.

IMGP0370

On her new scooter...

Discipline: We Gots It

Disturbing reports kept coming home from daycare about the Bean:

“She didn’t want to nap so she turned her cot over, hitting another child. She yelled and woke everyone up.”

“She threw her shoes at the teacher, then pushed her and pinched her.”

“She pulled all the books off the bookshelf and threw them at the other kids and the teacher.”

We were baffled. Stern discussions with the Bean herself always had the same result: she said she was sorry, and promised to be better. Her manners at home were good, and tantrums were very rare. We had a hard time reconciling this pleasant, helpful child with the violent demon that seemed to emerge at daycare every day. What was causing these tantrums and outbursts? Daycare was unclear – Bean “didn’t want to nap” or “didn’t want to wait in line” or “didn’t like it when Child X sat next to her.” I suspect it was more a result of bad influences – she certainly didn’t learn pinching at home, where nobody has ever pinched anybody else.

In any case, I solved this problem in three ways: two relatively cheap, and one very expensive.

First, we instituted a new “reward chart.” I had purchased this book of charts from Amazon some time ago, and we’d already used one to help with toilet training with good results. So I pulled out the “good behavior” chart and hung it on the wall where we can see it as soon as we get home from daycare. Then I got special Barbie stickers. Every day that Bean is good at school, meaning there are no reports of tantrums or acting out, we put a sticker in the box. When all the boxes are full, I have promised her we will start planning a trip to Disney World. (We were planning to go anyway, shhhh, don’t tell her!)

Second, I bought this book, “1-2-3 Magic,” based on the recommendation of other parents I consulted with in an online forum. So far, I like it. I’ve read the first half and hubby and I have started putting the “counting” method into practice. I really think it’s helping! It definitely helps cut off tantrums before they escalate at home. Most important to me, it’s keeping to a minimum the amount of yelling that goes on, on both the part of the child and the parents. I have to admit, it’s kind of darkly funny when my husband literally screams at our daughter to “be quiet!” but I also know it’s not effective at all. The techniques described in this book are MUCH more helpful.

Third, we decided that part of Bean’s problem is she’s bored. Take the napping issue: according to state regulations, apparently, all little kids up to Kindergarten have to have a “quiet period of rest” every day. At our daycare, that means everyone, even including the four- and five-year-olds, has to pull out a cot for “nap time” every afternoon. And nap time lasts for over an hour! Bean is so far past napping. She almost never takes a nap at home, unless she is REALLY tired out from some activity. We don’t try to force her to nap, because at this point she can play quietly on her own and she doesn’t need a nap (she goes to sleep every night at 8pm with no problems). In addition, I don’t think she’s being challenged anymore by the activities offered at daycare. Our daycare teachers are nice, but they’re not really teachers, and I think the Bean has out-smarted them at this point.

So we found a new solution that will not only challenge Bean intellectually and physically, but they also don’t force the children to take naps (just 1/2 hour of “quiet time” on mats on the floor). It’s a more structured environment, yet also more self-directed, and I think it will really help prepare her for Kindergarten. Our solution is Montessori pre-school. She’ll be starting in the Fall, and is already excited.

Of course this solution is the crazy expensive one. (I bet you thought the trip to Disney World was the expensive solution!) The tuition for our local Montessori is slightly more than twice what we currently pay for daycare. Think about that for a minute. That’s a whole lot of disposable income suddenly…disposed of! In addition, we have to buy her uniform pieces, and have to give her breakfast each morning and pack her a lunch every day (all currently provided by our daycare center). I’ll be honest – at first I thought it sounded like a big, expensive hassle. But gosh…when we toured that school, I fell in love. Rooms full of calm, happy children, actively engaged in self-directed learning activities. Beautiful, spacious classrooms. A gigantic, well-tended outdoor play area with new-looking equipment and a garden the children help with. Optional ballet, karate, and soccer classes. And unlike many of the other daycare centers near us, it’s not faith-based in any way, which is fairly important to us.

So yeah, we got discipline. We are now the MASTERS of toddler discipline. And starting this fall (well, this month really, when we have a gigantic deposit including a month’s tuition due to enroll her), we’ll hopefully have careful budgeting and cheaping out wherever possible mastered as well! But we justify it to ourselves by saying, “Well it’s only for a year, then she’ll go to public Kindergarten.” And that’s true. Only a year – possibly a slightly challenging year, but just a year. And I think she is SO worth the investment. It may sound corny, but when I filled out that application form, I really felt like I was making a decision that would completely change the Bean’s life, and give her a better start towards better opportunities.

I think I’m right. I think WE’RE right. I just wish being right wasn’t so expensive!