Thursday, March 23, 2017

Aaron is 4

Aaron turns 4 today
and in celebration of his new age, 
here are some random facts about Aaron: 

***

He is obsessed with wearing his storm trooper outfit from Halloween, 
usually with a superhero mask and cape. 
This poor outfit is falling apart 
(it was only $9 from Target) 
and I fear it will not last much longer. 

*** 

He spends 2 hours playing "quietly" in his room every day.  
(It's quiet only if he's reading books to himself. 
It's NOT quiet if he's playing pretend.)
He rarely ever naps, 
but once every few months I catch him snoozing, 
and must document with a picture every time. 


(Note the costume mentioned above). 

***

As you can see above, he still love to read. 
He'll sit in his Pottery Barn Anywhere Chair, just flipping through books. 

Now that Oliver goes to bed at 6:30pm, 
it gives Aaron and me a solid 30 minutes of reading time alone together. 
He brings a pile of books into our bed and we just lie there
 reading one after another after another. 

I already have visions of reading the new illustrated Harry Potter books to him. 
And am already squealing in delight. 

*** 

He will "adopt" himself into other families. 
At the library, he'll con another mom into reading a book while I chase after Oliver 
(and he'll inch up onto her lap and rest on her chest while she does!). 
At the trampoline park, he'll ask other parents to throw him into the foam. 
At the pool, he'll join in a family tossing around a ball. 
He has no concept that these parents have their own kids to watch, 
he just wants to be involved.

***




Truthfully, he just wants to be involved with anything 
(very common at this age.) 
If I'm cooking, he's right there with me, 
apron on, stepstool up, and ready to help. 
When the contractors are gutting our bathroom and hall, 
he's right there with them. 
Tool-belt, tools, and even fetching his snow mittens so he could wear "gloves" like the contractors were wearing gloves. 

*** 




He's a really, really, really good big brother. 
He has never ever once done anything malicious towards Oliver. 
Of course there are plenty of accidents 
and collateral damage that happens at playtime. 

For example, Aaron will play "golf" with any objects, 
and in this case was whacking a plastic egg with a broom, 
and accidentally whacked Oliver in the head. 
And when Oliver cries, Aaron immediately knows what he has done wrong. 

He's also surprisingly good at sharing even his most precious possession (FOOD), 
and I'm always waiting for this generosity to come to a screeching halt.

Sharing a lollipop at Wegmans

***

He does not like anyone to stay mad at him. 
(Further proving he is an "F" on the Myers-Briggs scale). 

After any tantrum 
or when he's done something bad
 (see above: whacking Oliver in the head), 
he comes to us with sad eyes and outstretched arms for a hug. 
He will sit in our laps as we wrap our arms around him, 
resting in the assurance that all is forgiven. 
And he'll stay there for quite some time until he is positive all the bad is gone. 

And even though he still can throw an epic temper tantrum, 
these moments after are just pure gold. 


*** 

His stories. 
OMG HIS STORIES. 
It's impossible to document these stories in writing; 
they must be heard. 
He loves to tell us stories about him and Monkey
And they are lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg stories. 
Like a solid 15 minute narrative. 
He doesn't even stop to take a breath, 
just plows through breathing with a "GASP" as he continues on. 

*** 

Speaking of Monkey, Aaron lives vicariously through Monkey
Anything Aaron has done, Monkey has done. 
Anything Aaron wants to do, Monkey gets to do. 
Any lesson he learns, Monkey learns it too.

Example: 

After Aaron shared his granola bar with Oliver 
and I had to fish it out of Oliver's mouth...
Me: 
"Aaron, please don't share food with Oliver unless you ask Mommy first."

Aaron: 
"Last week, Monkey gave Footprint [stuffed dog] a piece of cashew and he didn't ask me first and Footprint was allergic to cashews and Monkey and I had to take Footprint to the hospital because he got sick and I told Monkey he always has to ask me before giving Footprint any food and then yesterday Monkey asked me if he could give Footprint strawberries and I said YES." 
(all said in one breath

*** 

His brain just has this way of figuring out the world, 
and this has always been my favorite of children in this age. 
I love watching their brain figure out what's going on. 

For example: 
We're driving in the car and he frantically shouts, 
"Mommy, look!  I see the world!  The Florida world!" 

He thinks that one of the stars in the sky is the "Florida world" 
because we flew on an airplane through the sky to Florida. 
Thus Florida is another world in the sky. 

I love it so much and I never ever ever want this innocence to end! 
[insert sobbing emoji]


I love my Aaron Barry Cole. 
Can he stay like this forever please?




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

20 Questions

Stolen from Natasha
20 Random questions. 


1. Do you like blue cheese? 
YES!  The stinkier the better! 
I eat stinky cheese daily on my salads, 
enough that when Aaron is cooking with pretend food, 
he will often reference "the stinky cheese." 


2. What flavor Kool-Aid? 
As a kid I was intrigued by blue, 
but I expect I would mostly gravitate to the fruit punch red. 
Although truthfully I haven't had Kool-aid in, perhaps, 2 decades? 


3. Do you get nervous before a doctor's appointment? 
No. 
I'm in good health and usually the doctor congratulates me on my great health. 


4. What do you think about hot dogs? 
Love 'em. 
Don't tell me what's in them. 
I know it's gross, 
but I don't want to know. 


5. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? 
About 3 mornings a week, I have a Kevita Probiotic. 
Otherwise, just water. 


6. Can you do a push-up? 
No, although I try every time in yoga class. 


7. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? 
Well, I only own one: my wedding ring. 
I do not own any necklaces, bracelets, 
earrings (my ears aren't pierced), or any other rings. 


8. Do you have a hobby? 
Reading and running. 


9. Do you wear glasses? 
Only when pregnant. 
My eyes get super sensitive and bright white lights KILL ME. 
Like throbbing horrible headaches. 
With my first pregnancy, my company was still in our old building 
and I had my office where I could just turn off the lights and work in the dark. 
By the second pregnancy, we had moved to our state-of-the-art open office building 
(which I bitched at length about here), 
and in that same post touched on some of the bright light issues. 
In the end, my boss got the company to agree to pay for $300 "tinted" Kate Spade glasses that would reduce the glare. 
To give you reference, sunglasses are 80% tint. 
These were 20% tint. 
So it was like real glasses, except darker. 
It was a fantastic solution and I give my boss a lot of of props for working on it. 


10. Who was your childhood idol? 
Probably my dad. 
My dad could do no wrong. 
I still love my dad to death, 
but now he's not quite the All-Perfect-Being that I thought he was when I was a child. 


11. Name 3 Drinks you Drink Regularly. 
Water. 
Kevita Probiotic. 
Water. 

12. Favorite Place to Be? 
The Super Extrovert in me would say "any party." 
The mom in me would say "Target alone." 
The traveler in me would say "Italy." 
The OCD clean freak in me would say "Hong Kong." 


13. How did you bring in the New Year? 
Every NYE, we go as a family to Teresa's Next Door
a Belgium cafe with out-of-this-world french fries and aioli. 
It's not designed as a family place (no kid menu), 
but the food is outstanding 
(as in, I can list everything we've gotten the past few years). 
There's no TVs there, so it's not crazy on NYE. 
We go for an early dinner, 
put the kids to bed, 
and stay up playing board games and drinking champagne.  
It is seriously one of my favorite traditions ever. 





14. Where would you like to go? 
Abroad. 
I miss international travel so much (wrote about my travels here). 
So so so much. 
I want to go to Europe with Adam again 
and take the kids to Africa to visit Amanda again
I just need someone to invent a 15-hour [safe] tranquilizer for the kids for that African flight. 


15. Do you own slippers? 
Yes
LL Bean Wicked Good Moccasins. 
I prefer going barefoot (inside and out), 
but we like to keep our house at Arctic temperatures in the winter, 
and we have cold hardwood floors, 
so getting out of bed in the morning absolutely requires slippers 
otherwise I would just plain never get out of a bed. 


16. Can you whistle? 
No, not a bit. 


17. Last thing that made you laugh? 
Aaron was up on his "snow mountain" and tried to get down. 
He wiped out and slid down on his butt. 
He was fine, 
but I'm not sure he appreciated how much I laughed. 



18. What's your favorite animal? 
A miniature Yorkshire Terrier. 
My only pet ever, "Muffin" was our little 7 lbs mini Yorkie 
and she loved me more than anyone in the entire world. 
She died when I was in highschool, 
and even though I never ever want pets, 
I always swoon over mini Yorkies. 


19. Worst pain? 
Labor contractions, 
followed shortly by the shooting pains of the stomach bugs. 


20. Do you like to dance? 
No. 
I'm not good at it so it's not fun for me. 
I just feel stupid. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chores

Chores : 
When I think chores, I think of the "cleaning products" variety. 
Dusting. 
Vacuuming. 
Scrubbing the toilets. 
Etc. 

Oliver and the "cleaning supplies" 


Before I dive into my current ideas on chores, 
I need to give a background on my experience with chores as a kid. 

Background:

My mother had a philosophy that her job as a mother was to make us kids ready for the real world via self-sufficiency and knowledge. 
One of her ways to implement this responsibility was through a weekly chore chart, 
where the chores had to be done every day, no negotiations. 
And it wasn't just "take out the trash." 

A week of chores
- Sinks, counters, mirrors (3 bathrooms)
- Toilets 
- Shower & tub (2 bathrooms)
- Mop kitchen floor 
- Mop bathroom floors
- Vacuum upstairs (4 rooms + hall)
- Vacuum downstairs (3 rooms)
- Dust upstairs 
- Dust downstairs 
- Empty all trashcans (bedrooms, bathrooms, etc) 

(There were more I can't remember. 
Usually there was 2-3 items per day.)

Oh, and on top of the above, 
I was also responsible for the laundry for the entire family. 
(Laundry was - and still is - the only chore I liked.)


Since I am 7 and 12 years older than my sisters, 
there wasn't any chore-splitting. 
It was all me. 

Year later, by the time my youngest sister came around, 
my mom eased up the chore chart 
and started either helping out, 
or eliminating chores based on busy schedules. 
I never had that luxury. 
Sometimes it sucks to be the oldest. 

***

My current thoughts on ME doing chores

I have put in enough time doing these as a child and I'm DONE. 
DONE. 
DONE. 


I don't sterilize my bathrooms. 
I don't mop. 
I don't vacuum. 
I don't dust. 
NADA

Long ago, Adam and I hired a cleaning lady* 
and it was, hands down,
the best decision of our marriage

Originally she came once a month, 
but when Adam graduated law school and started at Big Law Firm World, 
she moved to every other week, 
which is perfect. 

To let you know how serious I am about never doing these chores again, 
I will discontinue all TV services (cable, Netflix, etc) before I get rid of our cleaning lady. 

Now, to be clear, I love an organized clean house. 
I love to tidy up my house
and will often use the term "cleaning" my house 
but trust me, there are ZERO cleaning products involved. 


*My cleaning lady prefers I refer to her as "The Domestic Goddess" 
and I sure as hell will refer to her by ANY NAME she wants because she is THE BEST EVER. 
She has cleaned for Adam's mother since he was in junior high, she's hilarious, and I LOVE HER SO MUCH. 


*** 

Generally Thoughts on Kids Doing Chores

ABSOLUTELY. 
Chores teach children responsibility. 
The difference between my mother and I is the quantity of chores. 
Right now, I'm thinking about 20 minutes a day max. 

I do want my boys to know how to clean a bathroom, 
and vacuum the floor. 
I do not want those idiot children in college who are all: 
"Nah, dude, I've never turned on a vacuum before." 
(forehead slap)

But I haven't figured out how that will work. 
Maybe I'll make the boys clean the bathroom on odd weeks when the cleaning lady isn't here 
(I'm sure they'll get it plenty gross in between; they are boys afterall). 
Who knows. 
Future Mom problem. 

*** 

Does Aaron Do Chores?

Well, uh, no. 
But he should! 
And I really need to get on that! 

I touched on this briefly in my "Kids and Money" post 
and referenced this Montessori chart here.
Kids should start doing chores EARLY. 

And according to this chart here
we are already 2 years behind. 
Whoops. 

I want to set up a little chore chart 
(oh no, oh no, I am already sounding like my mother...
where he gets a sticker for everything he does every day. 
And if he does all the things, 
he can have 10 minutes of iPad time at the end of the day 
(a specialty since iPads are only reserved for doctor's offices and airplanes)


Example daily chore chart: 
- Make bed 
- Throw dirty clothes in hamper 
- Take food dishes to the counter 
- pick up toys
- ???????????

What else? 


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Halo Top Rankings

After the seriousness of Tuesday's post, 
I thought I'd dive into the most shallow topic ever. 
ICE CREAM. 


I've never been an ice cream person. 
I like it and all, 
but I rarely craved it (except pregnant), 
hardly ever ate it, 
and never ever stocked it in my freezer. 

For one thing, most ice cream is too caloric. 
For another, the taste is "ok" but never blew me away. 
Even my favorite cookies n' cream is a hit or miss. 
So why waste calories on something I found to be "ok"? 


Then someone posted on snapchat about Halo Top 
(not sponsored; Halo Top people have no idea I exist). 
And I thought: "Eh, I'll give it a shot." 
I was skeptical but... 


WOW. 

MMmm GOOD. 


Now I buy a pint a week, 
eat 1/2 cup during the week at naptimes, 
and it's my daily fun treat. 


For shits and giggles, I put together a ranking of Halo Top categories. 


Better Than It's "Regular Counterpart" Top 3 Flavors

1. Sea Salt Caramel 

Pure perfection. 
Better than any ice cream I've ever had ANYWHERE. 
Perfect flavor. 
Smooth consistency. 
And softens easier than all other flavors 

(I prefer my ice cream near mush; 
I usually stick my bowl in the microwave for 5-10 seconds)



2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 

Normally the only good part of cookie dough ice cream is the actual dough, 
while the rest is sort of a "blah" flavor. 
This is totally different because the ice cream is loaded with flavor, 
and then the cookie dough just becomes a delightful bonus on top. 
Also, I don't like chocolate chips in ice cream, and this has none. 
I truly don't know how they call it "chocolate chip cookie dough" 
because I've never discovered a chocolate chip!


3. Strawberry. 

I love a strawberry milkshake, 
and this reminds me of all the perfection of a milkshake just in ice cream form. 


It's Good But I've Had Better

Peanut Butter Cup. 

It's good and all, but "regular" peanut butter cup ice cream is better. 
The flavor is decent, but I miss the giant chunks of peanut butter. 



Birthday Cake. 

A bit too sweet, although it grew on me over time. 
And I wasn't crazy about the confetti in it. 



Oatmeal Cookie. 

The actual flavor of the ice cream was outstanding, 
but I hated the chewy oatmeal cookie "pieces" 
that tasted like stale bread crumbs. 


BAD: DO NOT BUY 


Cookies N Cream 

This is not true cookies n cream ice cream. 
At all. 
It has no cookie chunks, 
and instead is just a speckled BROWN mess of tasteless blah. 
I threw out the rest. 



Haven't Tried

Vanilla - although I would have high hopes for this. 

Chocolate - same high hopes. 

Lemon - I don't like lemon. 

Mint Chip - I hate mint. 

Chocolate Mocha Chip - I hate coffee. 

S'mores - I hate marshmallow. 

Pistachio - I like the actual nut, but not the flavor. 

Chocolate Almond Crunch - I don't like almonds. 

Black Cherry and Red Velvet - both of these sound good, 
but I was warned the "pieces" are chewy like the oatmeal one 
so I decided to forgo the $5.99 to find out. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kids and Money



I was toying with starting an allowance for Aaron on his 4th birthday (this month - eek!) 
and a quick google search lead me to this book: 
"The Opposite of Spoiled" by Ron Lieber. 

It was a pretty fascinating book, 
which of course means I have to document all the highlights herein. 
I warn you, this post is loooong. 
Like my Marie Kondo post and my time study post (coming soon!)

***

TOP CONCEPT: 
It is important to actively TALK about money with kids! 
Not glaze over it,
 avoid it,
 or redirect the questions. 
Talk, talk, talk. 


Questions our children will inevitably ask us, 
and that we should NOT avoid answering
1. Are we poor? 
2. Are we rich? 
3. Why can't I have it if I'm going to pay for it myself? 
4. Why couldn't you be a [profession] so we could have/do [x]? 
5. How much money do you make? 

The book, of course, goes into depth discussing options of answers, 
with a few key points: 

1. Lies do not work. 
E.g. "we can't afford it" (when you actually can) 
Kids see through the lies and then they know you don't give a true story. 
Which means, in today's age, they will turn to friends or (worse) Google. 

I can raise my hand here and admit when Aaron asked: 
"Can we buy this?" at Target, 
I used to respond with: "No we don't have money." 
After reading this book, I now respond with: 
"No, because we only get toys for birthday or Christmas or Hanukkah." 


2. The correct answer for anything is: "why do you ask?" 
This also works for sex, drugs, etc. 
However, the key is to ask in an encouraging tone, 
never accusatory or disapproving. 
The hope is to identify whether the child is asking because of: 

a) Stories/exaggerations from peers 
Example:
Child: "How much money do you make?" 
Me: "Why do you ask?" 
Child: "Richard said his dad makes a million dollars."

b) Fears or anxiety about an issue 
Child: "How much money do we have in the bank?" 
Me: "Why do you ask?" 
Child: "If you lose your job, will we have to move?" 


The importance of talking about money early 
can be summed up in one major event:

In selecting a college and college loans, 
we are leaving the options of $100,000s of debt, 
which will affect their ability to save for a house, retirement, etc. 
to a 17-year-old who has probably never bought anything more expensive than a bicycle. 
Crazy? 

***

Spoiled children generally share these characteristics: 

1. Few chores or responsibilities
2. There aren't many rules over their behavior or schedules 
3. Parents lavish them with time and assistance 
4. They have a lot of material possessions. 

***

Materialism is often tougher on parents than kids. 
We want our kids to have everything their friends have 
because we think it shows "love" 
when in reality it just cripples them. 

This resonated with me. 
I'll be honest, I like brand names for my kids clothing. 
Just today, I was browsing sales for next year's winter clothing, 
and I found a really nice down REI jacket 
and my first thought was: "I'd prefer a Northface brand." 
Does Aaron care what kind of jacket he has? 
Nope, not a bit. 
I bought the REI jacket. 

***

Allowance teaches patience in a world where everything is instantaneous. 

When: Start by 1st grade at latest, earlier if they ask 
How much: $0.50-$1.00/week for kids less than 10 
Raise: every birthday 

Every allowance, 
have the child sort the money into three categories:

1. Spend - do whatever*!  Let them squander it and regret it!

2. Give - homeless, church, zoo, etc.

3. Save - short-term goals at first, maybe pay interest later? 


For tracking / "piggy bank", use three see-through plastic containers. 
I was thinking some sort of MoonJar quirky thing, 
but the author found basic Rubbermaid best since 
it's easy to see inside, 
easy to open, 
and the kids can decorate them themselves. 

*The one exception to Spend is that every parent should have a "banned" list
which the child cannot buy even with their spend money. 
Examples: pets, violent video games, tattoos, etc. 

***

Allowance should not be tied to chores!

The author is pretty adamant about this
Adam and I disagree here, 
and our disagreement is open to being resolved 
(probably a reason why we will not start allowance this month). 

I see the author's point. 
1. Chores are something you have to do as part of a member of the house. 
2. Kids, esp teens, may forgo money and not do the chores. 
I would most certainly have forgone money as a teenager and not done my chores. 
Which leaves the parent in the awkward spot of either demanding the child do it anyway, 
and if so, what's the point in paying? 

Adam, however, passionately disagrees. 
He was raised with "chores give you money" and saw it as an early "job." 

So we'll see. 

The author does encourage kids to think outside the box for new ways to make money. 
Such as washing grandparent's cars or shoveling neighbor's walkway. 

*** 

Best to keep "Save" money out of the bank until age 13, 
because otherwise it becomes too abstract. 

However, as teenagers, bank money is fine, 
and sometimes preferred. 

Apparently there are websites like Allowance Manager and Family Zoo 
that allow money to go completely virtual. 
Teens can spend it online or can receive it on a debit card. 

(My mind was sort of blown by this, though it shouldn't be)\\

***

Everyone should watch Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff"
It's 21 minutes and puts into perspective the amount of "crap" 
that we collect as materialistic people. 

I watched it and yes, this is an amazing movie. 
Many of this I already knew, but seeing it in a video is a little startling. 

*** 

Too many gifts? 
Try "coupons" for instead! 
Instead of a giant toy pile on birthday or Christmas, 
maybe try one big toy with some coupon gifts. 
"Drop everything and play a game with me" 
or 
"One trip to the donut shop." 

***

The more money parents spend on sports, 
the more pressure felt by the child, 
and often the less the child likes the sport. 

This is talking about the tons of money parents shell out for travel teams, 
and super-expensive classes/gear. 
I'm already very opposed to "overscheduling" children, 
but if my kid gets selected from some prestigious team (unlikely), 
it's good to keep in mind. 

***

Kids like to work so start chores early! 
Not necessarily for money, 
but for privileges 
(e.g. screen time, play dates, etc) 
The author mentions as early as age 3, 
and references the Montessori chart here

My thoughts on chores are pretty long 
(I was scarred by the chore regime my mom setup for us as kids), 
so I'll bottle this up for another post. 
But I do agree in concept. 

***

The rest of this is about 10 years beyond Aaron, 
but I'm documenting it in the unlikely event I decide to reference this post in 10 years... 

*** 

Teenagers should not have credit cards - DISAGREE

I vehemently disagree with the author on this. 
Once the kid goes to college, he/she will be bombarded with credit card offers. 
Better to teach the child how to spend and pay off a credit card, 
rather than fail later in life. 

I had a credit card as a teenager, 
and I laugh that my total bill was like $45 a month. 
But it taught me early on that you 
ABSOLUTELY PAY THE ENTIRE BALANCE EVERY MONTH NO EXCEPTION. 

*** 

Needs vs Want 

How do you determine what a teenager "needs" vs "wants"? 
Let's take socks. 
Apparently certain Nike socks are hot hot hot now, 
and apparently also $$$$$. 
(I have not researched this; purely hearsay from neighbor moms)

The author devised this scheme called the "Land's End Clothing Line." 
The price of the "need" is equal to what is available at Land's End. 
Anything above that price, is a want, 
and they can pay for it out of their Spend jars. 

So if the kid wants socks, 
the parent will buy the sock at the price of a Land's End's sock. 
But if the kid wanted expensive socks, like those Nike things, 
the kid pays the difference between the Nike price and the Land's End price. 

(Personally, I'd use Target... maybe GAP if I'm feeling generous.) 


In highschool, figure out your kids "need" budget, 
and give them that money all at once. 
If they blow their whole need budget on a pair of jeans, 
well that sucks! 
Won't lie, the control freak in me is going to struggle big time.  
What if my kid blows it all at once and wears flip flops all winter???

*** 

Start the car conversation at age 13. 
Consider matching the money they set aside. 
They won't want to spend a penny of any birthday money! 

My hesitation with this... 
Do I want to pre-commit to a car at 13? 
Ehhh. 

*****

So that's my takeaways from this book. 
It was very interesting and I'll probably nag Adam into eventually reading it. 
As of this point, I don't foresee us starting allowance at this birthday. 
I think age 5 will be a good birthday to start.