Monday, June 11, 2012

Angel kisses

Recently, Peyton has been fascinated with his freckles, or 'frackles' as he calls them.  Then of course, Maddy is interested, too.  While at the pool over the weekend, I noticed they had gotten a few more on their faces from being out in the sun.  Peyton had told me he doesn't want them and I tried to explain that they are just there and can't come off.  I then told them that they should consider them very special because they are actually kisses from our little angel.  I told them that before I had Maddy I had had a baby in tummy, but that baby wasn't strong enough to live and the baby died.  The baby is an angel now and doesn't want us to ever forget about her so their freckles are actually kisses from the baby. 

After they went back to playing, I thought about what a sweet sentiment that actually is.  We had bought a lemon tree back in Arizona to remember the baby but we couldn't bring it with us when we moved.  In a way, losing the baby happened all over again when I couldn't bring that tree with me.  Now that I have created this story behind their freckles, the baby will always be with us, no matter where we are!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

But I didn't study for the test!

I am in the middle of one of the biggest tests I have had in a while. 

The subject - raising a boy.
The test administrator - Peyton, one 5 year old boy. 
Progress - I will get back to you on that.

My adorable son, the love of my life, the boy who will become a man that no woman will be good enough for - is testing me.  He is trying to discover his boundaries, my limits, what consequences I will dole out, and just how far his charming personality and curls will get him.  The timing couldn't be worse.  With daddy overseas, I am reaching my limit a lot faster than if I had back up.  We're talking potty mouth, hitting, disobedience, mini-tantrums, and out right devilishness.  My blood is boiling just thinking about that stinker.  And I have tried it all in dealing with it - discipline, positive reinforcement, redirection, modeling, consequences.  Sometimes with success and other times with great failure.  The thing that is getting me through it right now is thinking that it is a phase.

So if there is anyone who wants to arrange a marriage now - you have my ear.  Your daughter can have him!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What scares you the most?

When I look back over my life and think about my fears, it is interesting how they have changed and yet how some of them are the same and are simply, or not so simply, modified to fit the here and now.  As a child, I remember being afraid of death, like most kids are.  I felt that if I even thought about it then someone close to me would die.  I would not sleep on my back with my arms over my stomach because that is how I remember seeing loved ones lying in a coffin.  I also remember fearing that I would get lost or separated from my mom.  I would so desperately want to be independent and walk to the toy section on my own, but was afraid that I would not be able to find her.

These are two fears that I still have, but they are slightly altered.  I am so afraid that something will happen to me, Matt will not be around, and the kids will find me and not know what to do or who to call.  I have practiced with them how to make a phone call on my cell and who to call.  I have made sure that they know our neighbors and would feel comfortable going to them for help.  I worry, too about what if there is an emergency and someone else has to pick them up from school?  If they had to stay with someone until Matt or my parents could get to them?  Then what if something happened to one of them?  But I have to stop here, even now because I just get stuck in my head thinking about what if's.  It could go on forever, but I cannot worry about that which I cannot control.

Then I turn to Matt and the fear of loosing him.  He is in Afghanistan now and I try not to even dwell or think about what that might mean.  I know that the chances of him being hurt are slim, but there is always a chance.  He is practically in a war zone.  Would I even have the strength to go on?  How do military wives, and husbands, do this?  They do not get nearly enough credit that they deserve.  But again, I cannot worry about that which I cannot control.

There are, of course, fears about loosing any loved one or friend, but I feel that the fear I have of loosing Matt and the kids is so much that I cannot possible have the burden.  I have to put it all into perspective and know that I am a woman of character, a mother who is emotionally present in her childrens' life, and a wife who is constantly learning how to give of herself to the man who has taken her heart.  If I do not live in the present and let my fears consume me, then I have done a great disservice to my family and to myself.

Sometimes it is just so healthy to get these feelings out and share them.

Then there is my fear of birds.  Seriously, ask me about it sometime . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I am going to mommy hell

We all do it.  We tell our kids little white lies to bribe, cover our butts, provide an excuse, or to reason with.  With Matt gone, I find myself using these white lies a little bit more to help me cope.  I imagine mommy hell a place where no one picks up anything, there is a continuous mountain of laundry, the dishwasher always needs to be emptied, I have to clean the toilet almost every day because of 'bad aim', the floors always need to be cleaned, there is a butt or nose to wipe every hour, when one meal is done it is time to start the next, . . ., oh shoot.  Just realized I AM ALREADY THERE!

Here are some of the top reasons I am in and/or will be going to mommy hell.

I 'called' the Easter Bunny in front of my children and told him that I didn't think he should bring them Easter baskets.

I throw away toys/papers/drawings you name it, and tell the kids I don't know where they are.  Maybe we should do a better job of picking things up around the house.

Maddy was in to a "I don't want to die phase" so I told her that she needed to eat more vegetables, and that would help her 'not die'.

I let Peyton, who does not like breakfast food, have grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and other fun foods for breakfast.  Heck, some of them are better for them than cereal!

I talked to your teacher today . . . (fill in the blank).

And who can forget old favorites like:

Your head will fall off if you keep picking your nose.

Your teeth will fall out if you eat too much junk and you don't brush your teeth.




I KNOW there are more, I just can't think of them right now.  I guess I am blocking them out of my memory for fear of submerging even farther into mommy hell!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Single Mom Time

We shipped Daddy to Afghanistan yesterday.  We are lucky though because he is only there for 6 weeks and could come home any time if he needed.  The last time Matt went there as a contractor, we were still living in Arizona.  Maddy was 4, Peyton was 2, I had a full time job, and we had a whole village to help me and the kids.  This time, Maddy is 7, Peyton is 5, they are both in school, I am a stay at home mom, and we have a core group of friends I can call on.  It is very different this time in so many ways, but anyway you look at it, we are proud of Matt for wanting to help his country in this capacity.  It is a small price to pay for the freedoms we have and the wonderful life we have been given.

We can survive this separation, no problem.  The hardest part is not having your partner in crime to tag team when you need a break from the kids.  Oh wait, the hardest part is not having your husband next to your side every night to kiss and say good night to.  Nope, that's not it.  The hardest part is the kids not having their Daddy to play with and share time with.  Umm. . . . I guess it is all hard.  But he will be home soon and we will be a family again.  Until then, I will take a big breath, wish for patience every day, and be the best Mommy I can be.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The power of a teacher

Starting with kindergarten, I can name all of my elementary teachers and most of my middle school and high school teachers.  Each one made a difference in my life.  I always loved school (the best birthday present I ever got was in 2nd grade from Aunt Carol - all Snoopy school supplies) so it's no wonder I loved teaching and being an administrator.  School feels like home to me and maybe that is why I am in 21st grade.  Mrs. Gollen, Mrs. Hydinger, Mr. Urbanski, Mr. Brennan, Mr. Spiesman, Mrs. Gresham, . . . Oh and Mrs. Phinney, Mrs. Hyslop, Mr. Kader. . .

Since Peyton began preschool, I have relieved that power of a teacher and have been a little melancholic for my own contributions as a teacher.  The connection you make with a teacher or that a teacher makes with a student provides the foundation for your life.  Peyton sings now instead of covering his ears or my mouth, he is recognizing words and reading, he reads math sentences, he knows what it is to be responsible and have a leadership role, he has begun to understand the meaning of friends, and this is all because of Mrs. Newland and Mrs. Atkins. I will never let him forget their names.

Mrs. Parker, Mr. Kujala, Mrs. Beatty, Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Thayer, Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Krall.  .  .

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ritalin Rebound

Some teachers are more successful in using proven learning strategies for students with ADHD.  Unfortunately, Maddy's teacher this year isn't one of them or if she is using them (which I haven't seen evidence of) then they aren't working for Maddy.  Maddy struggles in the afternoon to stay focused which makes complete sense because by then her medication has worn off.  Maddy is not a child who complains and she is not a discipline issue at all which is why I think her teacher isn't sure how to relate to her.  Her teacher isn't sure what to do with her and poor Maddy - all she wants to do is to please her teacher.  In order to make Maddy feel more in control and successful, we talked to her pediatrician about trying extended release ritalin.

It has been a week and we have had two major meltdowns as she has had a ritalin rebound (coming off the medication) and one night where she was filled with so much agitation that her blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals ended up on the floor and I thought for sure her mattress would, too.  It is heartbreaking to see your child go through this knowing this is not who they are and how they behave.  And then to argue with yourself if you are making the right decision with medication, medicating at all let alone the dose.  Then I curse this damn illness and everything about it and then tell myself we could have a child battling something much worse.  The conversation in my head always continues with what a remarkable child we have and it is our job to teach her coping skills and to help her identify that it is ADHD and the medicine so that she knows what to do.  I always think about our journey to this point and how she has touched our lives and so many others and I end my conversation with myself with tomorrow is a new day.

The most recent meltdown pushed me to my limits - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry and I didn't know whether to scold her for being disrespectful or hold her and tell her it was going to be ok.  It seemed like an eternity until she calmed down enough for her to even hear me.  I have been reading a book called Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by Dr. John Gottman and I used some of his Emotion Coaching techniques.  After 20 minutes or so, she was good.  She had worked through it.  I left it alone until she went to bed and at that time just talked to her about it a little bit more. She was in a different frame of mind to look back at what had happened.  I also wanted her to know that the reaction she had was not her, it was the medicine.  She needed to know that, to recognize that.

The next day was a great day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I think I might just have to admit that . . .

There is part of me (okay, a big part of me) that has to admit that I am enjoying being a SAHM (or stay at home mom for those of you, like me, who have no clue what that stood for).  My struggle is allowing myself to say it and really believe it.  I think part of it is the fear that I will lose my identity as a career woman who will be lost forever in 'mommy' world; stuck in parent pick up lines, at PTA meetings, volunteering, play dates, grocery shopping, cooking, sitting home wondering what happened to my own dreams.  But is there really anything wrong with that?  For some no, for some yes, and for me, well . . . for right now the answer is no.  It's all in the timing.

Today I say no because:
1. I am fortunate enough that we can afford for me to stay home
2. This is the best time in the kids lives for me to be staying home
3. I am able to continue my graduate studies while I am staying home so that I can be prepared for a career in the not to distant future
4. I have found joy in some new hobbies

Tomorrow I may say yes because:
1. Retail therapy is expensive.
2. This is the best time in the kids lives for me to NOT stay home.
3. I will be done with my degree.
4. I will have no more room to plant another damn thing or another page to scrapbook.


It really isn't as trivial as I may make it sound and I am sure that doesn't help the SAHM stereotype, but if you can't laugh at it then you are taking it way too serious.  I have enjoyed helping our family adjust to moving from Arizona to Virginia and taking time to create a home.  It is wonderful to be the one to see Maddy off to school in the morning and to be there when she gets off the bus in the afternoon.  And now, I get to take Peyton to preschool and be there (in the parent pick up line) to pick up that boy and his huge smile!  It makes my heart light.  My day is not filled with disciplining other peoples children, dealing with rude parents, surprise visits from the Department of Education, preparing for staff meetings, recess duty, and putting out fires.  There is something to be said for that.  At the same time, I miss those things - assessing situations, killing with kindness, diffusing anger, and being a leader.  It has been almost 2 years since I left my position as Site Administrator and I still find myself unable to sit still - always checking emails and messages to see if someone needs me.  And sadly, fewer people need me.  But my kids need me and that is what matters most and lucky them - I am here for them.

Now that Peyton is in school, even though it is only 4 days a week for 2 1/2 hours a day, I feel like I am beginning to reclaim some of myself back.  It is as if I am getting to know myself all over again.  I suppose if I find myself carrying on a conversation with myself then I will be in big trouble.  I will complete my degree in October and be able to go back to work.  That will be here before I know it, but in the mean time (and before summer break) I will enjoy my job as a SAHM and also enjoy reflecting on my life up until now.  There are still a few pages to scrapbook, a children's book to finish writing, a time management book to write, and a few other projects waiting in the wings . . .




Thursday, March 8, 2012

9 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child

http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/07/12/dont.say.to.child.p/index.html

I found another great article to share.  There are things on this list that I haven't said and I don't think I would, there are things I want to say, and then there are things that I have said.  I always try to remember that you cannot take back words.  Once the words are out, that is it.  You can make the situation better at the time by saying I am sorry (which it is important for your children to hear you say) and giving a hug or kiss.  However, you will always remember that moment because it made you feel so bad and your children will remember it, too.  They may be a parent one day and promise never to say hurtful words to their children because 'my parents said it to me and it hurt'.  But in the heat of the moment, that is not an easy thing to remember.

As parents, we know that children listen to us.  They often repeat words they shouldn't because they overhear us.  Who is to say they aren't saying those same words to kids in school or using the language in play?  At the same time, we would go crazy if we monitored everything we said, all of the time.  There is no room for 'editor' on my mom to do list.  But, I do have room for role model and teacher.   If I say something I shouldn't, no matter the intensity, then I need to say I am sorry and admit to making a bad choice.  Then I can use it as a teaching moment (after I give myself a timeout).




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

There's a new kid in town


http://askdrsears.com/topics/child-rearing-and-development/8-ways-help-shy-child


Maddy has been in the limelight for a while now but Peyton has been emerging from her shadows.  Up until recently, I struggled with trying to figure out what 'wrong' with Peyton.  He was very shy around adults, clung to me, was quiet, wasn't ready for school, and a bit of a homebody.  I began to have an internal moral dilemma asking "where did I go wrong?" and "what am I doing wrong?".  Of course I turned to the internet to begin my search and I first began searching for information on shy children.  I found this article that allowed me to view the situation, and Peyton, in a new and healthier light:

http://askdrsears.com/topics/child-rearing-and-development/8-ways-help-shy-child

I recognized the 'inner peace' in Peyton and began thinking of him in terms of being a deep thinker and being cautious. We had moved three time in his 5 years, no wonder.  He wasn't wanting to invest in relationships because we just might move again.  I also realized that him being 'shy' is not a bad thing.  I like to think of it as reserved.  Maddy has done so much of the talking and activity in our lives for so long and Peyton doesn't seem to want to compete with that.

I began to heed some of the advice in the article and began to notice little changes in Peyton and less frustration in myself.  I finally enrolled him in preschool.  I always knew I did not want him to have 2 years of preschool (because he is a December birthday).  We hadn't enrolled him in any preschool because of moving, finding the right school, and fitting the tuition into our budget.  We visited St. Matthew's Lutheran Day School, which had openings in their afternoon program, and I immediately knew this was the best match for him.  He has been going there for three weeks now and he is a different child.  I don't allow myself to say "I wish we would have done this sooner" because I don't think it would have been the same.  The timing wasn't right, until now.  He knew the academics of preschool (I was a teacher), it was the social aspect and also learning to build a relationship with another adult so that he could see there are other adults in the world who want him to succeed and who can show him compassion.  He has begun to open his circle of trust.  The trick now is not to push him, but to keep him on a path for continued school and life success.

My children have taught me so much in their 7 and 5 years on this earth and I still have a lot to learn, about them and about myself.  What a gift they are!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 10 Myths About ADHD - Parenting on Shine

Top 10 Myths About ADHD - Parenting on Shine

Another good article with some great points on ADHD. Never hurts to have reminders about ADHD and that it is real.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A New York Reunion











Over the July 4th Holiday, we were able to have a reunion of sorts at my parents house in Westfield, NY with my brother Scott and his family from Arizona. It had been over a year since we had seen them. We actually had spent our last night in Arizona at their house before we moved to Virginia. While we were together, the grandkids had a lemonade stand, played, swam, picniced, and just spent great time together.




My dad was happy because I unloaded a good 4 large boxes from their attic of my Barbie toys that I had when I was a kid. They are now Maddy's. I have to admit, I did cry when she started playing with them. Just thinking about how much fun I had with them and now she would get to play with them, too.




New Discoveries and New Beginnings

I have come to realize in the last two weeks that when we left Arizona and I left my career that what I went through was truly a loss and what I have experienced in the last 14 months has been a process similar to the grieving process or at least that is what it should have been. So now that I have come to that realization, I need to reflect on the last 14 months and the emotions that I have experienced in order to reconcile, cope, and move on.

I began graduate studies in psychology last October and this has also helped me make these connections and provided me with a wealth of knowledge and resources to pull from in order to go through this "process". I am anxious to get started and a little scared to make these self discoveries, but I am also excited and hope to come up with some interesting and useful processes that will be helpful to other moms who may go through a similar experience or for others that I may encounter in my work as an Organizational Consultant.

My goal is to use this blog as a forum to answer and reflect on some of the information and ressearch that I have discovered so that I can truly move on from the loss that I experienced. I am intrigued by the work of Daniel Goleman and his Emotional Intelligence so that is one of the first places I will begin along with a website I discovered called Emotional Competency. I have never been one for spiritual journeys, touchy-feely emotional work, but I believe that I have come to a point in my life where there needs to be just a little bit of give and take in this area in order to bring my personal growth and self-awareness to a new level.

The Effects of Moving on Kids

This is an article that I wish I had read before moving to Arizona or to Maryland and an article I wish I had to share with family, friends, and others we encountered who seemed to question how Maddy and Peyton were behaving or at least how I was being overly sensitive during the entire time period. I know there is a lot that we felt Maddy and Peyton would not "get" or "understand" about moving so we didn't address it at all or in the right context. I know there are times when we underestimated just how much their little brains and hearts were processing about the whole thing. It really hit home when after we told Maddy we were moving to Maryland she asked "Where will we move to after that?". Of course at the time, we didn't think there would be a move anywhere for a while. Little did we know it would be sooner than we thought . . . (see www.azleonards.blogspot.com).

Effect of Moving on Young Children
How a Move Can Affect Children Under Six

Read more at Suite101: Effect of Moving on Young Children: How a Move Can Affect Children Under Six Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/effect-of-moving-on-young-children-a179760#ixzz1VcbLIi1u

Lisl Fair (December 14, 2009)

Moving can have an adverse effect on children, but not all children experience moving as a negative event. Parents can help children cope by using certain strategies.
One out of every five families moves at least once a year. Most moves take place within the same city, but in recent years the number of moves between cities, states and countries have increased.

In an interview with Suite101, Anna-Barbara du Plessis, an educational psychologist in Centurion, South Africa, says that because children often find their security in familiar surroundings moving, can be an especially difficult time for them.

Temporary Behavioral Problems are Common During Moving

Parents are also usually more stressed during a move, and children may reflect these negative emotions in their behavior. Du Plessis says that it is quite common for children to have some behavioral problems (like temper tantrums or excessive clinginess) or regress to a previous developmental stage (for example a child who has been potty trained getting frequent accidents). Children need time to adjust to the new environment before these problems will normalize again.

A Move is Not Always Negative for Children
Moving to a new environment does not always have negative effects on a child’s development, however. Some children experience it as a wonderful adventure that the family undergoes together. Moving can also provide new opportunities for stimulation, learning to adjust and socialization.

Children Show Unique Reactions to Moving
Du Plessis says that reactions from children will vary depending on their personality and developmental stage. A child’s personality type influences the time a child may take to adjust to the move. Children who are naturally outgoing will be able to make friends soon while some other children may take months. Children who move may also have roller coaster emotions – one day she may be excited, and sad and quiet the next day.

Coping Strategies for Young Children During Moving
Apart from providing support relative to the child’s age group, try the following:

•Explain what is happening. Don’t take for granted that the child understands what moving means.
•Be understanding. Acknowledge both positive and negative feelings and help the child to express it.
•Provide continuity. Try to keep routines and other daily living habits as normal as possible.
•Be a good model. It will help children to see the adults in their lives express feelings and work through problems. Saying something like: “I miss my friends today, let’s go to the library and see if we can meet new friends,” may help a child understand her own feelings.
•Use children's books and movies. Story characters who model successful coping strategies can help a child to cope better in her own situation.

Most families move at least once during their life time. Moving can have an adverse effect on young children. Behavioral problems and emotional outburst are not uncommon reactions in young children when families move. Parents can make it easier for children, by communicating about what is happening and providing an anchor-relationship in an uncertain time.

Glad I Didn't Change a Thing





I suppose there has been a reason I have been on hiatus these last few months in writing anything on either of my blogs. Here is the short version (if there is such a thing):

Matt left his job in Virginia (the one we came out here in the first place for) and got a position with a company in Maryland. We found a townhome in Joppa, MD and moved there after July 4th. We absolutely LOVE Maryland and the people and all that there is to do. It is a different vibe than Virginia. We also moved into a townhome community and were immediately welcomed with open arms and the kids had about 10 instant friends.



In the meantime, Matt had been interviewing with a company that is one of the toughest in the country to interview for. Over the course of two months he had two phone interviews and two on site interviews, 1 in California and 1 in Virginia. Of course he was offered a position and it is in Virginia. He began last week but we are living in Maryland - big problem. Right now he is commuting/telecommuting/living in company housing until we can get out of our lease and find a place in Virgina and move back. I guess one of the good things in all of this is that the moves have been paid for, but it still does not alleviate the stress of actually looking for a new place and moving.



So, we did not go from the Arizona Leonard's to the Virginia Leonard's to the Maryland Leonard's. Looks like we will stay the Virginia Leonard's (just a different part of Virginia).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Her Last Day

First Day of Preschool

First Day of Kindergarten Kindergarten Spring Pictures


First of all - I apologize for the length of time in between posts. I was trying to be good about it, but updated posts just didn't happen. So two months go by and all of a sudden today is Maddy's last day of kindergarten. Where did the time go? Not only the last year, but the last 6? I look back with a little sadness, remembering the time when I could just hold her and rock her to sleep and we just got lost in each others gaze. But then I think about the tremendous growth she has made this year and my heart fills with excitement and great anticipation for the day when she is ready to take on the world - on her own. Until that day comes, I will cherish each moment.



Congratulations Maddy!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Information at your fingertips

When Maddy had her first speech evaluation, I found myself searching through baby books, medical files, and even pictures trying to remember when she met her milestones so I could answer all of the questions on the mounds of paperwork I had to complete. Then when she had an evaluation with Gilbert Public Schools, it was the same thing but at least I had the majority of the information on the speech evaluation paperwork. It was at that time I decided I needed to have a binder for her that had all of these evaluations along with sections for her IEP (individualized education plan), school information, health information, emergency contacts, Matt's work address (I never remember that), and anything else I could think of. I knew putting in a little up front time would save me so much in the end and that it would be a valuable tool to take to all IEP meetings, doctor appointments, parent teacher conferences, and anything Maddy. Naturally, I did one for Peyton, too although his doesn't have quite the amount of information, but it is all relevant. I also carry their immunization cards in these binders but not their social security information or birth certificate. I would highly recommend creating one for each child or something similar. It is a great tool to have and it is nice to have everything in one place.