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Ben’s adventure

April 21, 2014 at 9:47 pm

The previous post about loosening my protective urges was drafted before I left for vacation. But while on vacation we had a scare, a few minutes at most, but a scare nonetheless. It made me rethink when and how far I’ll let the kids wander. It also reinforced that I can let Ells (at 5) have more independence than Ben (at almost 2). Obviously.

I have been letting the kids out of direct eye sight more and more. At home, I’ll let them wander onto the porch while I am still putting my shoes on. I did the same while in a hotel room this past week. I let them go out into the hall while I was grabbing the key and bag. Before I made it out the door, Ells started hollering about Ben. Apparently she had pushed the button for the elevator, it came to our floor, the doors opened, Ben got on and the doors closed. I hollered for SA (fortunately we were both around) and sprinted down seven flights of stairs. When I got to the lobby, Ben was surrounded by people. I grabbed him, someone asked if I was okay (breathless!), and I got on the elevator to return to our floor. He was fine, didn’t seem bothered or even aware of his adventure. But when SA and Ells returned to our floor (they had taken the elevator to the lobby), they were both white as a ghost and Ells ran to me crying, “It’s all my fault!”

I’m going to guess that a kid probably rides an elevator accidentally like that at least once a day, somewhere. And 99% of those rides are frightening to those involved but have a quick reunion. Later that night, SA told me that she was particularly freaking out because she remembered the book “The Deep End of the Ocean” about a boy who vanishes from a hotel while with his sister. (I just googled it and the boy’s name was also Ben: freaky.) Other things to panic about: most floors that the elevator opened onto led through a sliding glass door into the parking garage. The (unattended) lobby level also led to an outside patio with a water feature ripe for toddlers to fall into. On the other hand, the reassurances: it was spring break in Florida and we were at a family-friendly resort. The odds were pretty good that there would be an adult around when the door opened. But in that moment of panic, the anxieties and irrational fears override the logic and reassurances.

The worst part, though, was the effect on Ells. That night when I checked on her in bed, she wasn’t asleep and said to me, “When I lay here, I start remembering. I remember when I lost Ben, I was so sad. I love him so much. It was my fault! I shouldn’t have pushed the button!” I told her that it wasn’t her fault. That she is never “in charge” of her brother, and that I will no longer put her in situations where she feels that way. That, in fact, it was my fault for letting them go alone into the hallway. I agreed that we could all hold hands when we left the room from then on. And, per her request, only adults pushed elevator buttons for the rest of our vacation.


Overprotective Parents

April 21, 2014 at 9:08 pm

This article, The Overprotected Kid, made the rounds in social media a few weeks ago and I heard the author speak on NPR. Parenting advice is a dime a dozen and likely I could find articles that I agreed with even if I changed my mind every day. In fact, though The New Yorker is not known as a satire publication I particularly enjoyed this piece about the saturation and overwhelm some of us might feel towards those articles.

But this idea about our overprotected kids really resonated with me. I want my children to be independent and free to roam. I spend a good amount of time wishing I didn’t live smack dab in a dense dirty urban area, because I think that urban-ness is what is requiring that I be overprotective. After reading this I decided to break some of those protective urges. And I realized that there were plenty of ways I could loosen up.

The day after I read the article Ells wanted to play outside while Ben napped. I sat on the porch and let her gather her own supplies and choose her own activities. She decided to wash the car. Fortunately the car was parked only a few doors down. She got a bucket and rag and filled the bucket herself. Because our porch wall is brick, most of the time she was out of my view though I could hear her puttering around. Other than letting her play out of my sight, I found the hardest thing was to not nag and remind her during play. I caught myself from saying “don’t forget the rag” and she had to come back to get it. I didn’t say “be careful” carrying the bucket of water and she figured out to hold it differently after she spilled it.

While roaming free in the woods isn’t an option for us, I think I can easily lighten up on my nagging and play directing, let the kids make messes and learn to clean them up, and let them figure out on their own what tools they need for which projects.

April Fool’s Day

April 1, 2014 at 10:27 pm

At five years old, Ells quickly got the hang of April Fool’s Day. Today at breakfast I told her it was a new month and after she excitedly changed the picture on her calendar I told her it was also a holiday of sorts. A day when we tell lots of jokes.

She must’ve discussed this with her peers and possibly teachers at preschool because she came home full of one-liners.

“Ba, did you know today is the last day of summer… April Fool’s!”

“Ba, tomorrow I’m going up to outer space and I’m going to stay for ever… April Fool’s!”

“Ba, I ate a pickle at school today. A whole big round one… April Fool’s!”

And on and on. I was only with her for a few hours for dinner and bath and I heard more than I can remember. She got me with the pickle one!

But I got her with this one, “Ells, our gas is out so you will have to take a cold bath tonight.” She looked at me, “Really again?” Me, “April Fool’s!” Ells, “I knew it the whole time!”

Fingernail Polish

February 27, 2014 at 9:27 pm

My son has an older sister. Whom he adores. If she throws a ball, he throws a ball. If she sits at the dinner table, he wants to sit at the dinner table. If she walks down the sidewalk without sitting in the stroller, he wants to walk down the sidewalk.

If she wants to paint her fingernails, he wants to paint his fingernails.

Fingernails We haven’t painted his fingernails before. Not because he’s a boy. But because he’s one. And he hasn’t been able to hold still long enough for them to dry. But today we gave it a try. Before I left for work Mama and I painted their nails. Ells chose her color because it is the one actual “grown up” variety we have in the house. We have a kid’s bottle, coincidentally blue, but Ben wanted the exact same bottle that his older sister used. And he sat patiently still long enough to have one hand painted.

And then he helped blow on his fingers to dry them. And then he happily modeled them long enough for me to take this one blurry photo.

When I came home from work, he was sitting at the dining room table (he prefers the chair to his high chair now) and he yelled “Baba Baba!” and held up his hands so I could see.  All day and he was still excited about it.

Mama took them out today and she says a girl about three years old asked, “Is he a girl? … Then why are his fingernails painted?”

Boy and Ergo
This might be a good time to point out that he also loves playing with dolls. Because his sister does. Though I think he might enjoy it more than she did at this age. Perhaps because he has a model for how to play with them. He has his own (anatomically-correct) doll. But he also frequently plays with his sister’s (anatomically neutral / bald) dolls. He picks them up, kisses them (“mwah”), carries them around, covers them with blankets. Here he carried around his baby while wearing the grown-up Ergo and my ball cap.


Fingernail polish. Dolls. Not just for girls.

Five Years Old

February 19, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Our oldest is five years old today.

Ells is 5


We’ve been celebrating for a while, as these things tend to do. Her party was this past weekend, and it took us a few days before that to clean and decorate and prepare. A special birthday breakfast today (puff), followed by a special birthday snack at preschool (pancakes with peanut butter and applesauce), followed by a trip to the aquarium store to get her very own pet.

She’s finally five. The last few weeks: “Ba watch me skip jump on one foot. I can do this because I’m almost five.” “Ba when I’m five I’m going to start doing chores like sweeping and dusting and maybe you can teach me to mop.” “Ba these clothes are getting too small for me because I’m almost five.”


January 14, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Ells and I were enjoying some hot chocolate this afternoon. And she noticed that I had more marshmallows than her.

Ells, “Why do you have more than me?”
Me, “Because I’m bigger.”
Ells, “Why does that mean a little girl can’t have as many marshmallows as a grown up?”
Me, Well it doesn’t. It’s a bad argument.”
Ells, “But my tummy is bigger than yours.”
Me, “I don’t think it is. Whose hand is bigger?”

Hands palm to palm.

Ells, “Yours.”
Me, “Whose foot is bigger?”

Feet side by side.

Ells, “Yours.”
Me, “Whose knee is bigger.”

Knees touching.

Ells, “Yours. But my tummy goes from side to side here in this space. And it’s as big as yours.”


Ells, “But still when I’m a grown-up, I’m gonna let my kids have as many marshmallows as I have.”


Ells Selfie



And then while I was putting the toddler down for nap she found my phone and took this selfie.


January 10, 2014 at 3:26 am

Having a pre-verbal child is a bit like playing charades, all the time. What is he trying to tell me with these gestures, signs and grunts?

This evening I asked Ells if she wanted a treat after dinner, she mentioned that Benny hadn’t finished his teddy graham crackers from snack and asked if she could have those. Benny ran to the cup and carefully carried it to her. He then went and got himself another cup and held it out to me. I assumed he wanted more teddy grahams so I gave him some. Which he promptly dumped out onto the kitchen floor. Then he walked to the refrigerator and gestured and made sounds. I opened the fridge. He pointed to the guacamole and said “chee”. I asked if he wanted guacamole, he shook his head and said “chee” again. I told him the cheese was in the bottom drawer so he reached for it. Ah, he wants cheese. I poured some shredded cheddar into his cup and he smiled and sat down to eat it.



Ten minutes later I heard him making sounds again, at the refrigerator with the little toy tea cup. This is a known charades game: he wants water from the dispenser on the door of the refrigerator. I meet it out to in small swallows because I’ve learned the hard way that if the cup is full most of the water will end up on the floor.

Boy drinks from cup


Hidden Toys

January 9, 2014 at 3:27 am

Ells, “I’m just looking under here to see if there are any new toys I haven’t played with.”
Me, “Do you see any?”
Ells, “Nope, just some old food… some cheese, a raisin.”

Refrigerator Ninja


November 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Originally posted on EllsandBaba, November 21st 2012, Ells aged three and three quarters

I sat down with Ells and talked to her about Thanksgiving and how it’s a time for family to come together and be thankful for the good things in our lives. And a time to eat a big meal together. I asked her what kind of things she was thankful for.


November 2012

“I’m thankful for you going trick-or-treating with me.

I’m thankful for treats.
I’m thankful for a lot of things.
I’m thankful for all the people who work hard as soldiers.
I’m thankful for all the family who are in my life.
I’m thankful for my school which is made of friends and I am a friend to my school.
I’m thankful for my Hello Kitty toy.
Thank you for inviting us over for dinner.
I’m thankful for going over to Aunt A and Uncle A’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and for the twins who are my favorite cousins ever.
I’m thankful for [grandma and step-grandpa] who are my best friends, I’m thankful for that, right?
Um, I’m thankful for you letting me get a white pumpkin to paint orange.
I’m glad you reminded me to say thanks for all these things there are.
Oh, and thank you, please and you’re welcome.”

It was clear she had some recent previous holidays on her mind, was sometimes looking around the house naming things she saw, and was also recalling some times when we talked about manners and used thank you phrases.

Not My Mom

November 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

Originally published at EllsandBaba on November 19, 2012, Ells aged three and three quarters

People who don’t know better often refer to me as Ells’ mom. They recognize me as her parent and assume that’s what she calls me or that “mom” defines our relationship. For example, someone might see Ells playing on the playground and ask, “Where’s your Mom?” And when she replies, “At work” they might be very confused. (I have seen this often, though I don’t know why they would be so confused, as she could be at the playground with any number of people who aren’t her mom, like babysitters, friends, or other family members.) It also might happen that someone sees Ells and sees me and asks Ells a question about me, like “Is that your Mom?” and then they’ll be confused when she says, “no.”

This confusion happens with some regularity.

Today, Ells snapped. When I went to get her at school, a classmate excitedly told her, “Your Mom is here!” and Ells ran to us and yelled, “My Mom is not here. This is my brother, not my Mom. This is my Ba, not my Mom! My Mom is not here, my Ba is here!”

People often mis-hear her name and then call her by another name. We have coached her through a polite response, “No, my name starts with an E, not an A” that I have heard her use already. We now need a polite response to the Ma/Ba confusion. And I think it needs to start with me. No more letting people continue to assume I’m her mom.