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  • Adapting to life with my two boys

    Alex is four, so you’d think I’d be used to living with my kids by now. But I find that life with my boys changes so frequently that I’m constantly having to adapt.

    To wit: They have become true consumers.

    I don’t mean they buy lots of stuff when we go shopping. I mean they use up a lot of stuff around the house!

    They eat a lot more now, so a meal cooked for four really does serve only four. Six months ago, I could cook a half pound of pasta, feed the four of us for dinner, and still have leftovers for lunch for Marc and me. No longer. I discovered last week that I need to cook the whole one-pound package if I want leftovers for lunch.

    The boys also use up a lot of handsoap in the bathroom. (I’ll share my trick for cutting down on that later this week.) We go through toilet paper and tissue more quickly than before, too. (Not that I’m complaining about them being potty trained in the least. We can’t be done with diapers soon enough!)

    The thing is, I’m sure that as they get older, these types of changes will become more and more frequent. I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for the day when I have two ravenous adolescents threatening to devour everything in the kitchen.

    In the meantime, I realize that I simply need to learn to accept these types of changes as a given, and not be surprised when I notice them. (Any tips on specific things to be prepared for?) I want to stay on top of these shifts in behavior and consumption so that I can keep us well stocked. I wouldn’t want to run out of toilet paper or soap and have to pay full price on them!

    How Toddlers’ Brains Work

    I have no background in early education, but still, I think the topic of brain development is fascinating. And this article on how toddlers’ brains work actually has some potentially practical applications. I don’t know how practicable they are in daily life, but it’s interesting to know that my kids don’t think ahead yet.

    The study found that while 8-year-olds can anticipate the future, 3-year-olds “call up the past as they need it.” The example given was telling your 3-year-old to get her jacket because it’s cold outside. But the child just stores that information and it doesn’t register until she gets outside and feels cold – at which point she’ll think, It’s cold outside, Mom said I should get my jacket.

    The suggestion for handling this situation was to tell the child, “I know you don’t want to take your coat now, but when you’re standing in the yard shivering later, remember that you can get your coat from your bedroom.” Of course, I’m not crazy about the idea of letting the child outside without a jacket to begin with, which is why I question whether this new research can result in ways of communicating that can or will actually be implemented.

    But, I think this helps with my biggest frustration – the not listening. Now it (kind of) makes sense that when I told Alex to stop dragging the toe of his shoe on the ground because it was ruining the shoe, he acted as if he hadn’t heard and kept doing it. I suppose it would have registered at some future time, when he noticed that there was a hole in his shoe: Oh, that’s why Mom told me not to drag my shoe. It’s not excusable, of course, but my new understanding of what’s going on (or not going on) in his brain will hopefully give me more patience.

    Now I just have to figure out how to phrase things so he’ll actually process the information on the spot. Is it even possible?

    No need to give up on the "American Dream"

    I read an article today discussing whether or not the “American Dream” is dead. I think not.

    The article doesn’t actually define the “American Dream,” acknowledging that there isn’t one set definition. But it asserts that a key component is the idea that your children will have a better life than you do.

    And I think that’s where a lot of us went wrong.

    Our parents worked hard, and if yours were like mine, they gave you a pretty comfortable life.

    I have to admit that when I graduated from college and had to take care of myself for the first time, I had a hard time downgrading my lifestyle. No one had actually told me it would happen, so it didn’t seem obvious at first that I could no longer have what I wanted, when I wanted it. It’s not that I thought I should be able to afford a fancy apartment or car right off the bat, but I did want money to go out with my friends all the time.

    It wasn’t until after I’d graduated from law school that I learned that my situation was normal: Our standard of living is supposed to go down when we leave home.

    Fortunately, I’d been taught fairly well. Except for student loans and a car loan, I didn’t have any debt. Specifically, I didn’t have any credit card debt. I was level-headed enough not to borrow money to go on vacation with my friends and to not spend crazy amounts of money at night clubs. And my car loan was manageable.

    Looking back, I wish I’d known then what I know now. I could have graduated with just two-thirds of my student loan debt if I’d actually lived frugally instead of just barely within my means.

    But because I didn’t have credit card debt and because I had a good job after law school, it didn’t take me that long to build up to a comfortable lifestyle – with Marc, of course, since we’ve been partners since then.

    Part of the current economic crisis is the result of people my age, give or take ten years, who felt they were entitled to a certain lifestyle regardless of their income. They didn’t realize, or weren’t willing to accept, that their standard of living ought to be commensurate with the amount of money they brought in.

    It’s hard to lay blame on any one group, but it’s easy to start with parents. It’s our job to make sure our children understand responsibility of all kinds. And it’s never too early to start teaching financial responsibility.

    Mommy needs a thicker skin in order to feed her children properly

    One wonderful things about young kids is that they’re so honest.

    One terrible, horrible thing about young kids is that they’re so honest. They’re also picky.

    I made our favorite bolognese sauce the other night, with alphabet-shaped pasta from Trader Joe’s. I was excited to serve it to the kids because I knew they’d love it.

    I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    Both decided without even trying it that they didn’t like it. I could reason with/threaten almost-four-year-old Alex to at least take a bite, although of course that didn’t change his mind (it so rarely does – but occasionally, it works). Tyler wouldn’t even take a bite.

    I was crushed. I always am when I prepare a meal that I think is going to be well-received, only to have it rejected.

    This is why the kids’ meals end up being a rotation of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pizza, and grilled cheese, and why Marc and I don’t eat much better than that.

    Because I can’t take the rejection.

    After a couple of weeks of nothing but the previously mentioned food groups, I start to feel guilty so I make more of an effort to vary everyone’s meals.

    But then everything gets rejected, so I get hurt and revert back to the trusty kid fare.

    The problem is, it’s not healthy. And I’m a foodie, so it’s important for me to raise kids who know good food and want to eat it, even if it’s something they’ve never had before.

    Every expert says that picky eaters need to be constantly offered new foods, and that rejected foods need to be offered over and over again. But it’s hard to handle that rejection. I obviously need a thicker skin. Am I the only one who feels this way?

    Parenting an only child

    There is a lovely guest post at Rocks in my Dryer about parenting an only child. I’m an only child myself, and I can’t help but wonder if my mom had these feelings. (Mom?)

    From my own perspective, as an only child who always wanted a sibling, I am very happy to have two kids of my own. (Although I must admit that I had a very privileged childhood because I was the only child.) But I am glad that my children will have someone who understands how horrible Mom and Dad are (I am so not looking forward to the teen years). And I’m especially grateful that they’ll always have each other – my greatest fear during my teens until I got married was that if something happened to my parents, I would be alone in the world.

    Still, as an only child, and as a woman who suffered two miscarriages before Alex was born, I’ve never had a negative feeling toward parents with only one child. My first inclination is to think that perhaps they couldn’t have a second child. And I have friends who’ve decided that one child completes their family, and it’s the right decision for them.

    What are your thoughts on “onlys”?

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