Tag Archives: play

She Says… Weekending

This weekend was like a breath of fresh air.

It was pure, summer fun.

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Generally our weekends are booked up with playdates and playground trips and sometimes errands that need to be run. We have an activity for most morning and afternoon blocks, and spend the rest of our time hanging out in our pj’s, going for walks/scooter rides or swinging on the swingset at home as a family. But miraculously, when a college friend of mine asked if we could come down to his parents’ house in Newport, RI for a visit last Friday, we had a completely open day to do so.

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When Owen was a baby, the thought of driving anywhere over 30 minutes made my stomach clench up — he was not very flexible with his schedule and car rides almost always ended in puking. But, thankfully, Emmett tends to go with the flow quite easily and doesn’t mind riding in the car at all (and even sleeps!) and Owen has grown to be much more tolerant of car rides and adventures, so we were able to easily drive down during Emmett’s morning nap.

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We arrived to a beautiful home right on the cliff walk, a positively elegant spread of mimosas and quiche, and a small group of friends with no agenda other than enjoying the weather and the view. Aside from my friend and his husband (who have a 4 month old), no one had kids. Which meant we were automatically “those people” with the rowdy kids. No matter, though. Everyone seemed entertained by to tolerate Owen’s antics and a great time was had by all.

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Owen relaxed just like a little big person, lounging in the hot tub and strolling the cliff walk.

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NOT! He splashed and “swam” in the hot tub and hitched a ride on my friend’s shoulders and whined the rest of the way on the walk. But it was cute anyway.

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When we got home, the long weekend continued just the way Memorial Day should. Warm sun, a cool breeze and lots of time playing. Just playing. Full of hours of “water slide” with Owen’s new best friend, the 8 year old boy who lives across the street.

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I didn’t open up my computer once over the weekend. It was glorious.

(Which, consequently, is exactly the opposite of what has happened since I went back to work on Tuesday morning. I’ve been buried in work on my computer 24/7 except when spending mornings/evenings with the kids. It’s brutal. Hence the quiet blogspace.)

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Is there any better mark of an awesome day than dirty baby feet?

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I think not.

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She Says… A Sore Loser

First things first, thank you so much to all who commented, tweeted and emailed me happy thoughts for my surgery yesterday. It went very smoothly. The doctors and nurses were all wonderful. Prior to the surgery I was joking with the anesthesiologist about putting me under before I even went in the operating room so I could just get this over with. Apparently she did, because once we got in there (so I thought), I felt people touching my legs and I said, “I can still feel that” (you know, trying to be helpful) and they smiled at me and said, “That’s good! We’re done!”. So the actual procedure was easy. I felt exhausted and crampy all day yesterday, and today my whole body feels achy like I have the flu, but I’m expecting to feel much better very soon.

Onto happier topics. Like my kid being THE WORST at losing. Losing anything, really, but as we’ve recently entered the wide world of board games, we’re learning the “how to lose” lesson over and over and over again. Apparently he needs a LOT of practice with this life skill.

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Let’s back up. For Owen’s 3rd birthday he got a game called Zingo. If you have a 3-4 year old and haven’t played this, you are missing out. It is SO FUN and occupies Owen for 30+ minutes. Maybe it’s the fact that Owen is a little police officer for rules, and he likes knowing what is and isn’t allowed in the game. Or maybe it’s the fact that he gets 30+ minutes of undivided attention since we’re so engaged when we play it. Or maybe it’s just that it’s new and he got it for his birthday. Whatever it is, it’s kind of magic. I can even play it while nursing Emmett.

The first time Owen and I played, I won. To be honest I didn’t even think about letting Owen win, because I know what an important skill it is to be a good loser. That said, I was not prepared for his melodramatic response.

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First, he screamed at the top of his lungs. A piercing, high-pitched squeal. Then he stood up and threw his Zingo board and all of the little pieces all over the living room. Then he shouted, “I’m NEVER playing this game again. NEVERRRRR!”. His fists were clenched and tears streamed down his cheeks. He sobbed body-heaving sobs.

I did my best to stifle the laughter I felt bubbling up. This was clearly very serious to him and I was trying to honor his emotions, but, seriously? I’d never seen an outburst like this before. How did he even really know what “winning” meant? Once he had let off some steam we had a discussion about what to do when someone wins (say, “Congratulations!”) and how he might win the next one. We also made a new house rule that the winner has to clean up the game.

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That was weeks ago, and since then he has gotten much better. But still, Benjamin and I cringe when one of us wins, waiting to see what Owen’s reaction will be. Sometimes it’s incredibly mature and calm (“Congratulations! Let’s play again.”) and other times it’s flat out Charlie Sheen-esque. Benjamin is much more apt to let Owen win to avoid the drama, but I am a mean mom and force him to practice, practice, practice his losing skillz.

We’re working on it.

Since Owen took to this board game like a Kardashian to fake eyelashes, we decided to pick up another one a few days ago. And this one eliminated the need for battening down the hatches when someone other than Owen won. Count Your Chickens is a cooperative game, so everyone works together and wins or loses as a team. A little hokey? Yes. Avoiding teaching how to win/lost nicely? Absolutely. But does it give us an equal amount of focused playing time without the tantrum at the end? Hell yeah. So it’s a new family fave.

Unfortunately all of this “winning” and “losing” talk has extended beyond the board games. Now at the dinner table Owen will ask me, “Mommy, why are you eating so quickly? I want to win!”, despite my insistence that the point of dinner is not to “win”. Sigh. Perhaps that’s a lesson for another day. On the upside, we have a new tactic for getting him upstairs for teeth brushing in the evening. All Benjamin has to do is dash out of the room and say, “I’m going to beat you up the stairs! I’m gonna win!”.

Win or lose, I’m excited to have moved into the next phase of toys and playtime with Owen, that of rules and games.

She Says… My Secret Weapon

Enough tooting my own horn yesterday. You wanna know a secret? I have a trick up my sleeve.

I finally found the one activity that will keep Owen occupied completely, 100% independently.

He adores puzzles, and he’s excellent at them, but he still likes someone to sit next to him and chat about each piece and pretend that he doesn’t know where they go even when he does. He loves playdoh, but again, he can’t seem to do it without someone else to play with it with him (and, since there’s gluten in it, it requires extensive clean-up that an adult needs to help with). He’s never been one to look at books by himself. He has a hilariously creative mind when playing with Legos/blocks, but he still prefers to bounce ideas off of, ahem, someone else. As I’ve said before, he’s an extravert to the extreme, and it seems he has trouble doing anything without talking about it. Out loud. Which can get… exhausting.

A few months ago Owen’s teacher at school mentioned that he is excellent at circle time and when they listen to “tape stories”. You remember those cassette tapes that you probably listened to as a kid where someone reads a story aloud and you turn the pages? Apparently they do these a lot at school and Owen will sit perfectly still, criss cross applesauce, and listen to a whole story. And then he’ll request another. And another.

I had never seen him do anything so quietly, so I immediately went searching on Amazon for the modern day equivalent (CD stories… obvi).

When Owen met Emmett for the first time, “Emmett” gave him a present. It was a HUGE Curious George book with 7 different stories in it, and a set of 5 CD’s where they are read aloud with page-turning sounds. The stories each take 10 minutes or so to listen to. Owen will sit, mesmerized, next to me on the couch when I nurse and listen to 2 back-to-back, which gets us almost the entire way through a nursing session (without relying on tv). He turns the pages himself when he hears the sound. All I have to do is start him off on the right page.

It’s brilliant, really. Curious George stories are a little dated (we’ve had lots of discussions about what a pipe is and why people are smoking them on every page even if they are bad for their bodies…), but timeless. The audio CD’s have musical sound effects and background music and are really well done. Owen sings the songs and repeats the phrases and knows almost every story by heart now. He talks about them afterwards and asks really detailed questions about why the characters did what they did.

And I get to nurse in peace. Right there next to him. Thank you, Curious George!

What’s your secret weapon to keep your child occupied while you do what you need to do?

She Says… Skydiving By 5

Owen has always been a wild child when it comes to climbing and rough-and-tumbling and fearlessness. The past week or so, this has culminated in a new obsession with jumping off of tall things.

Like, things that are nearly as tall as I am.

It started with jumping off of the couch. Then he graduated to jumping off of a stair or two. And recently, with the addition of his big boy bed, jumping off of his bed to see how far he can get (dangerously close to a little bookshelf on the opposite side of the room, we have found). These days, no matter who is nearby or where we are, I hear his little voice shouting, “Hey! Watch this, guys!” and turn around to see him teetering on the edge of some precipice about to jump off.

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Yesterday at the playground it was the top of this little climber. One second he was on the ground next to me, and the next second he was literally on top of it, ready to stand without any hands there to steady him. At least he called my name because he wanted an audience!

Benjamin nearly killed me when I allowed him to jump.

But here’s what I’ve realized. He’s going to do it anyway. As with most things that us parents attempt to control, I guess. But especially on the playground. If I want him to “go play”, I can’t stand hovering and telling him what he can and can’t do. And, frankly, I’m a huge proponent of letting him get a few skinned knees (hopefully not very many broken bones) to let him learn his own lessons about what he’s capable of. I am constantly surprised by what he really CAN do if I let him try. So my answer when he looks at me with that expectant, “you’re so not going to let me do this” look is almost always, “Ok, show me!”.

Granted, the first time he tries a new stunt I’m usually there with a hand out or spotting him so he doesn’t go kersplat on the ground right in front of my face. But especially recognizing that come July I may not always be there to catch him when he falls, he’d better learn what he can do safely on his own and what is actually too high.

I’ll probably eat these words when I’m rushing him to the ER someday in the not-too-distant-future.

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But for now, we’ve been working on some sweet new tricks on our swingset at home (monkey bar trapeze! Transferring from ramp to slide mid-climb! Sliding down the slide head first!). Benjamin does not approve. Which is ironic, really, because I can guarantee you (and I’m sure his parents can attest) that Owen got this “watch this!” gene from his father. He definitely didn’t get it from me.

If he continues at this rate, the kid will be skydiving by the time he’s 5.

Or maybe not. Is there an age where all of a sudden better judgement kicks in and the fearless kid gets not-so-fearless? Did/do you have a wild child when it comes to stunts/climbing/jumping? Do you try to stop them from doing the really dangerous stuff? How?

She Says… Sexism Starts Young

The scene: Owen and I were at his favorite playground on Monday. He was playing more on his own than ever before — racing back and forth on the climber, down the slides, up the climbing wall. I was standing off to the side, watching, smiling at the way his little body climbs so effortlessly and appreciating the joy he exudes just running around. (In short, it was one of those perfect playground days that my hilarious blog-friend Meg wrote about NOT having on the very same day).

He ran down the hill to another play area where two girls (maybe 5 years old?) were running around together. He started running right alongside them, without saying a word, just beaming at them and including himself in their game. It was sweet. I chatted with their parents and we laughed at how social he was. He kept asking me to come play and I encouraged him to play with the other kids while I stayed on the sidelines.

Owen: Mommy! Come run with me!
Me: You go ahead and run with those girls. They are having so much fun.

Little girl (to her friend): Hey! Let’s play hide and seek!
Owen (his face lighting up at the mention of his favorite game): Yeah! Let’s play hide and seek!
The little girls ignore him.
Little girl (to her friend): Ok, I’ll count and you hide over there behind that tree. (Side note: Don’t you love how little kids play hide and seek? Telling you where to hide?)

The girls run away and Owen runs behind them, trying to hide with the one who was hiding. They stop the game and stare at him.

Owen (to me): I want to play!
Me: You can, buddy! Just say, “Can I play with you?”.
Owen (to the girls): Can I play with you? (In the sweetest little singsong voice).
Little girl: No. It’s a girl’s game ONLY.
Owen (still smiling, completely unaware of the message): It’s a what game?
Little girl: GIRL’S GAME. Like, you can’t play. Because you’re a boy.

I watched a confused look come over Owen’s face while the girls ran away, giggling. My heart broke for him. Thankfully he didn’t seem to care all that much, and I quickly took his hand and offered to run with him or push him on the swings. We chatted quickly about how it’s not nice to exclude others in your game, and the girls should have let him play.

Kids are kids. Kids are mean sometimes (intentionally or not). It’s the first of many, many instances of feeling left out, I’m sure. But I just thought we had a few more years of innocent, happy playground time.

Apparently not.

He asked me several more times that night why the girls didn’t let him play. I know he was trying to process what happened and I didn’t have a great answer for him except that sometimes friends just want to play with certain people. Thankfully he bounced back quickly and soon attached himself to an 8 year old boy who was doing all sorts of dangerous jumps off of the climber (so, clearly Owen-the-daredevil’s new personal hero). He jumped right in with “What’s your name” and clapped and laughed at every stunt. On our way out of the playground the 8 year old high-fived Owen and said, “You’re pretty cool. I never would have guessed you’re only 2.”.

So, all in all, those girls didn’t ruin Owen’s day. But they kind of ruined mine.

She Says… A Little Ham

We’ve known for a long time that Owen is a ham. He will perform for anyone and loves to be the center of attention. Often this is very cute, sometimes it is downright embarrassing (like the time he ran over and blew out his friend’s birthday candles). As a fellow attention hog, I get it. I totally do.

One of his favorite things in the world is to watch videos of himself. I know, I know, I’m feeding his natural toddler narcissism. I’m hoping Baby #2 helps Owen realize he’s not always the center of the universe at all times. On the flip side, he’s gained quite a bit of confidence and a huge personality being the star for so long. He glows in the spotlight, my friends.

Over the weekend we had an empty cardboard box sitting around and we came up with lots and lots of hilarious games to play with it. Owen’s favorite game quickly became “pretend you’re going shopping to buy a box and then – surprise! – there’s a little boy in it!”. He played the game so many times that Benjamin and I thought it would be funny to videotape it. Unfortunately the minute we turned the camera on, he decided to sing really loudly instead of playing it the same way. So what you see here is an incredibly abbreviated version of the game, but it’s still funny.

Not pictured: Usually after he popped out of the box, we would say, “Oh! There’s a little boy in here! What is your name, little boy?” and he would shout out names like, “Bob!” and then laugh hysterically at his own joke.

My favorite part is how he pops up out of the box to finish our sentences (a la this post). Once you play it one way, you apparently have to play it the very same way, every single time. So much for improv.

She Says… Say Cheese!

Since our train ride that was made possible by letting Owen play games on my iPhone, Owen has gotten incredibly good at the finger swipes necessary to navigate iAnything. He knows how to drag and drop (though that skill is still developing), select, swipe to open the phone, click the circle button to talk to Siri, etc. I lock my phone and he hasn’t yet figured out the code (oh it’s only a matter of time, I’m sure), but he knows how to swipe and hit cancel to “see picture of Owen” that is my wallpaper.

I can’t blame him. I’d stare at this picture all day every day if I could too.

From the home screen, he’ll often hit the button for text messages and say, “Dis button calls Elmo!” because Benjamin has a cute app on his phone where your kid can video chat with Elmo.

It is both entertaining and terrifying how little time he needed to figure this out and how astonishingly addictive it is. He begs and pleads to “watch Owen in da miwwor on phone?” since I let him watch it the other day as a desperate distraction technique. I have successfully convinced him that the games on it only work when we are traveling and that it only plays one video at a time and then it stops playing videos (otherwise he would be happy to watch videos of himself all day!).

But now we have a new “game”. It’s called taking self portraits. Exhibit A:

There were about a million more of his knee from this series as well, which I deleted. But I just can’t bring myself to delete that adorable baby foot.

I pretty much blew his mind when I showed him how to reverse the camera so he could take pictures of his face.

Love this game, despite the fact that it adds a little extra screen time to our day!

She Says… Burn it Off

Gone are the days of spending my days running errands or getting “my” stuff done while simultaneously hanging out with Owen. Sure, sometimes I still have to make a quick Target run or hit up the grocery store, but in general, Owen and I are BOTH much, much happier if the day can be structured around Owen’s favorite activities. I imagine once he gets older his portability will increase again, but I think right now we’re in the midst of the “we have an active toddler so YES we go to the playground every day and NO I can’t do things that require him to sit quietly in a chair.” It’s just not fair to him. The kid’s body needs activity and his neurons are firing a mile a minute. I want to encourage him to learn and grow and sharpen those motor skills and learn how to climb and jump and explore without fear. So to the playground we go.

We have a relatively small backyard and we are lucky to live very close to some awesome playgrounds, so generally every afternoon is spent at the playground. Our favorite one (intended for kids aged 8-12, of course, my little daredevil child only likes the “big kid” playplaces with huge slides and dangerous open spaces) is about 1 mile away, so at least once a day, unless it’s pouring, we walk the dog over there and he waits under a tree while Owen climbs and swings and chatters away to new friends and explores the trees and rolls down the hill and climbs and swings some more.

It’s a great way to spend the day. Fresh air, exercise, the whole nine yards.

But sometimes I would LOVE to be able to just skip the walking a mile. Or skip the whole “getting ready for the playground, make sure we have enough time before dinner, plan it all out” rigamaroll. I would love to be able to just open up our back door and play for 15 minutes. Or, even better, when Owen gets a little older, tell him to “go play outside” and not have to accompany him.

Right now we have a smattering of toys in the backyard. Trucks, a chalkboard easel, a tiny baby slide, a little tricycle I found on the side of the road with a “Free” sign on it. Between those things and a few dog toys, we’re usually good to go. But I can sense Owen getting a little bored with that selection, and I can’t blame him. Our playtimes out there don’t last for more than 10 minutes, usually. The kid needs to MOVE HIS BODY, and the baby slide isn’t cutting it.

So we’re getting him a BIIIIIIIG present for his upcoming 2nd birthday. A swingset.

Yes, I see plenty of skinned knees and boo boos in our future. But hey, we get them anyway; at least now we can be closer to home sometimes when they happen. I figure the earlier we buy this piece of equipment, the longer we can get use out of it. So, now seems like as good a time as ever!

After frequenting so many different playgrounds, I feel like I know exactly what he would like in one of his very own. But I also need to think about how this investment will grow with our family. And, you know, we have to be able to afford it.

I started Googling last night and found myself overwhelmed by:
– prices
– options
– installation/construction

So I need your help.

Does anyone have experience with buying swingsets? Where did you start? What did you get? Did you put it together yourself or have someone do it for you? Was it the company or a third party builder?

What parts of your swingset did/do your kids love? Which ones could they do without?

 

She Says… A Dog is a Boy’s Best Friend

A dog may be a boy’s best friend, but OUR dog may not be Owen’s best friend for very much longer if he keeps treating him the way he has for the last few days.

Talk about playing rough. He’s practically mauling the poor dog.

We’ve been working really hard on gentle hands with Owen ever since his teacher told me he “loves his friends a little too hard” at school. (Read: he tends to hug other kids to the ground). Owen is one of the toughest little cookies I’ve ever seen. He is like a rubber ball and bounces right back when he falls down or hurts himself. This comes in very handy since he is also incredibly rambunctious and fearless and is constantly cracking his head on coffee tables (he currently has a black eye from doing this over the weekend) and walking into walls and tumbling off of things he’s climbed on. It’s less helpful when he’s being handsy with his friends on the playground and doesn’t realize he’s hurting them.

It’s not that he’s a mean kid or a bully. No, I’ve only very rarely seen Owen push or be forceful in a mean or aggressive way. He just loves so darn much that it knocks people over. Mr. Social wants to be all up in his friends’ business. All the time. He likes to sit on laps and hug and lean and cuddle and climb all over people. Over the last few days this rough play has come to a climax at home with Schnitzel.

I thought by now we had mastered the art of gently patting the dog (Owen will touch him so gently and say, “Niiiiiiice”). But lately those sweet, gentle pats have turned into smacks and then Owen will grab a handful of fur and climb right up on the dog like a mountain. I’ve even seen him try to stand on his back.

He giggles so uncontrollably and contagiously that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to scold him.

And, usually the dog doesn’t even put up a fight (though he’s starting to get up and walk away, which is great, except then Owen rides him halfway across the room and then falls off, which is pretty dangerous since Schnitzel is the size of a small horse).

Oh, and the other thing? The other thing they’ve been doing together is making out. Owen will open his mouth and stick out his tongue and THE DOG LICKS IT. I remember my parents saying we did the same thing with our dog, and we turned out ok, but eww. Yuck. Trying my best to nip that one in the bud right away (but how many times a day can you say, “No tongue, Owen! Do not let the doggie lick your tongue! Hands ONLY.”).

Soon Owen will be mounting and licking his friends at daycare now too. Oy.

Any suggestions for how to curb this behavior? Or at least encourage being gentle? Of course I want him to have fun with the dog and I know he’s just exploring what his body can do, but someone is going to get hurt (him… or the dog… or the unsuspecting daycare friend who Owen decides to ride and lick…). Yesterday I started a sort of “time out” where he is separated from the dog when he starts playing rough, but so far he thinks that is the beginning to a hilarious game of hide-and-seek/tag as soon as the (very short and unsuccessful) time out ends. Not so effective.

*SIDE NOTE: Please excuse Owen’s strange outfit in these pictures. He came home from school and peed through his pants, so we opted for pajama pants instead of another pair of jeans. Someday he’ll kill me for posting these… and the naked bath pics…

She Says… Fun

When Owen was little, I used to think it was “fun” to “play” with him. I put both of those things in quotes because anyone with a young baby knows that tummy time is not usually very fun, even if your kid likes tummy time. And playing with Owen used to be making him giggle while he sat in his Bumbo chair, or dangling toys in front of him so he would grab them. It was a lot of me doing things to Owen and calling it fun.

But these days, playing with Owen is actually fun. The boy is hilarious. He is silly. He knows how to get a laugh, and he LOVES performing for a crowd. Or for Mama. Whoever will watch him, really. (Gee, I have NO IDEA where he gets that…). He makes up little games and wants to play them over and over again. He hides in a corner or a small space and giggles incontrollably when he pops out and “surprises” me. He will start to hand me a toy and then take it back at the last second and laugh and laugh because he “fooled” me. He will repeat a noise/action combo about a million times as long as it’s making someone laugh. Usually me. He likes to put on his bike helmet and asks to ride his bike (which is really me pushing him while he holds his feet up in the air, since he can’t reach the pedals yet).

He is beginning to pretend, too, which I find incredibly adorable. He pushes water bottles and travel mugs into my face so that I pretend to sip on them and then he exclaims, “NUMMY! CACKEE!” Yummy. Coffee. He still carries the swiffer around the kitchen (like he used to) and pretends to clean. Recently he’s been demanding “UP!” whenever I’m cooking so he can watch what I’m doing. On our Christmas list to encourage and nurture this kind of dramatic play: a play kitchen and a baby doll.

Although it’s hard to capture these games on camera (this is not the most scintillating video!), you can see a little bit of his goofy personality here.