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upstairs brain, downstairs brain

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I am reading a remarkable book called “The Whole Brain Child”¬†by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. It was recommended to me by a child therapist as a way to help Pia manage some of her intense feelings. The book is great for kids who had to deal with a lot in their very young lives (hmm… just like a lot of kiddos who were adopted), but who may not have the words or even concrete memories to process these events. I am finding it hard to put down, it has so many great tools. I think I will be reading it eight more times before I have to return it to the library.

One thing the book encourages parents to do is teach kids about the parts of their brain and how they work. So last night while Pia was in the tub playing I told her about her “upstairs brain” and her “downstairs brain” (the book even tells you just how to talk to kids about the brain so they will understand). To my surprise she totally got it and we had a great talk about how the upstairs brain can help our downstairs brain handle really big emotions (like fear or anger). Then this morning, as she began to flip out about something (as is the norm) I said “Wait! Does your upstairs brain have something to say to your downstairs brain?” and lo and behold, it was like a switch flipped.

I think I will be sending a valentine to Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson. ūüôā


This is what it sounds like to slowly go insane

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Pea never stops chattering. ¬†He chatters through meals, he chatters through stories, he chatters through everyone else’s conversations, he chatters well past tuck-in time at night. ¬†Poor Tea will be snoring, exhausted, and 2 feet away Pea will chatter on in his bed for an hour. ¬†It’s always a string of words and phrases¬†nonsensically¬†strung together. ¬†Who does he think he’s talking to, and what does he think he’s saying? ¬†He is perfectly able to have regular conversations, but if we’re not talking with him, he’s often chattering away to himself. ¬†Enthusiastically.

I really should record him because presumably he won’t do this when he’s, say, 12, and I might miss it, or even (this seems impossible) forget. ¬†In small doses, it is very endearing, but the¬†steady stream of nonsense starts to eat away at my brain after awhile. ¬†Today I just stopped to listen for two minutes and ¬†typed what he was saying. ¬†Just two minutes.

sugar plums dance in their heads.
in their heads.
in their hat.
in their hat.
a donkey.
hi ho the dairy-o.
no corny on the corner.
i found the corner!
in the mitten!  in the mitten.
there’s a corner.
mitten mouse mouse.
down down street.
back up the tunnel.
the tunnel up.
found a little corner there.
drop any off.
drop any off.
drop any off.
(speaking again)
a need a little holder.
a little one.
i need a little one.
whatever, you can’t touch it right now.
i am breaking the hole.
put it back.
let me help.
in the water.
dropped it.
uh, uh, up, up, up
stand down.
where is mine?
no down on the fence.
say hey, no no!
kay kay kay kay….
diddly dum. diddly dum.
dum dum dum dum dum.
grandma, haircut?
i got it from the haircut store.
kiddie car kiddie car kiddie car.
for real, man.
i know, i know.
it might be here.
Why, indeed, little guy?  Why!?

He wants to be like me

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Which is so sweet, but ironic, because I’d like to be more like him.

Obligatory First Day of Kindergarten Picture (a week late)

It is funny how you can be so ready for something to start and then when it does it makes you immediately long for what you had before. As summer came to a close I thought it was more than time for the school year to start. Our blissful three months of having no obligations, no classes, nowhere to be, no agenda had begun to morph from happy-follow-our-whims to lots-and-lots-of-whining. So on Wednesday, when Pia had her first day of kindergarten, I thought the transition would be smooth and welcome for both of us. I wasn’t prepared for the tears or how empty the house would feel. As most of you know, Pia and I spend 98% of our time glued at the hip. We are a package deal. So while we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves, I guess we weren’t quite prepared to go from ALL of our time together to 7 hours apart each day.

To make the separation even worse, on the second day of school I helped out in the classroom and decided to peek into the cafeteria while Pia had lunch. And I saw her sitting all by herself. A room full of chatting, giggling, squirming 5-year-olds and there was my daughter, off to the end of one table, all alone. It made no sense. A teacher in the cafeteria saw me and asked me a question which alerted Pia to my presence. When she turned to look at me she broke down into tears. I went over to sit by her and for the next 20 minutes I sat with her sobbing in my lap. In between sobs she would choke out things like “I just need mommy and Pia time” and “I want to go home and play dolls with you”. It broke my heart in two. My little girl, all alone and sad at school. I had to mentally glue my feet to the floor to prevent myself from picking her up, carrying her home and promising to home school her all the way through medical school.

Thanks to her “favorite boy”, Jackson* who escorted my teary daughter out to the playground after lunch, I was able to go home without a child on my hip. And when I picked her up at the end of the day she seemed happy, especially when I said we would go right home and play with goop (sand mixed with water in the playhouse). The next day on the walk to school she asked “why did you sign me up for school? I just want to stay home with you.” Heart. Breaking.

This weekend I have been trying to fill her up with mommy love… playing dolls, climbing trees, making goop, cutting paper dolls, whatever she wants. I’m hoping if I fill her to the brim with love and attention then she will be better equipped to handle these first few weeks of school. Though maybe I am just making things worse and actually need to ignore her so that she sees school as wicked awesome in comparison. I know she will come around to loving school very soon, just like she loved 4-year-old kindergarten, but it might just take a few buckets of tears to get there.

*Note to Tea: I am certain that when Pia says “favorite boy” she means “favorite boy at her school” and not “favorite boy in the whole world”. That title is, of course, held by you, her betrothed.

The red backpack

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Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the pink backpack¬†dilemma. ¬†Between here and Facebook, I got a lot of support for getting it and also some great alternate ideas. ¬†It almost made me wonder why I didn’t just get him the pink bag in the first place. ¬†If Tea’s favorite color was pink and he’d been yearning for a pink backpack all summer, I wouldn’t have hesitated. ¬†I was reluctant to let his off-the-cuff choice become something he’d physically wear on his back all year, and that could turn his identity into the “pink backpack boy” before he had a chance to make friends. ¬†Especially since he didn’t tell me, “Because it’s my favorite color” or “Because pink is so pretty” or, well, any reason at all other than “Because”.


We¬†don’t¬†steer Tea from “feminine” things to “masculine” ones – he’s done just fine determining his own interests and they run the¬†gamut.¬† ¬†He enjoys playing with his dolls, trains, kitchen, and fire station. ¬†He loves his dance class and has requested to start gymnastics (soccer was a bust). ¬†The majority of his friends are girls, and sometimes they all put on princess costumes together. ¬†He loves to snuggle. ¬†He adores hunting for worms and watching construction equipment at work. ¬†¬†But Tea is pretty sheltered from pop culture. ¬†He doesn’t watch TV. ¬†He hasn’t been indoctrinated with the “Pink is for girls” message most boys get by his age. ¬†It wouldn’t be fair not to let him know that picking pink might lead to some comments.


Despite my misgivings, the comments I got from friends encouraged me to nurture his confidence to march to his own drum. ¬†When Tea came home yesterday I told him I’d bought a red backpack but that I was going to return it to the store so that we could pick one out together. ¬†Pink, if he liked, or whatever color he wanted. ¬†Did that sound like a good plan?


He asked to see the red backpack. His eyes popped out of his head. ¬†I swear I had to pick two beautiful, slimy, sparkling eyeballs off the floor and stick them back in their sockets. ¬†I rinsed them off first, because I haven’t swept in a few days.


“Oh WOW! ¬†Mama! ¬†LOOK. AT. THIS!”


He snatched the backpack from me and started investigating zippers and pockets and hidden compartments and straps.


“Mama! ¬†See HERE!… ¬†Mama, look at the…look at the COOL RED! ¬†Mama…Mama…Mama…I LOVE IT! ¬†Mama! ¬†Mama! ¬†Oh my gosh! ¬†Oh my gosh! ¬†Oh my gosh! ¬†Mama!”


He was so excited he could barely finish his sentences. ¬†He rushed to try it on and began strutting around the room. ¬†I tried to get a word in edgewise: “I’m so glad you like it! ¬†Will you go to the store with me? ¬†We can look to see if you want to trade this one in for one you like even better?”


“NO Mama! ¬†I LOVE the RED one! ¬†This is SO COOL! ¬†PEA! ¬†Look at THIS! ¬†This is my BACKPACK, Pea. ¬†I’m going to wear it to SCHOOL! ¬†This is my COOL RED BACKPACK!”


So….much ado about nothing. ¬† I’m sure he’s going to roll his eyes at me about this when he’s old enough to read, but if nothing else, I’ve done a lot of thinking about supporting my kids in the choices they make. ¬†This was not the soul¬†searching¬†I’d planned on when digging out the school supply list yesterday. ¬†I had anticipated nothing heavier than the great “Crayola vs. generic crayons” debate (cheapskate notwithstanding, Crayola all the way!). ¬†Pre-kindergarten is apparently going to teach¬†me¬†a few things, too.

Tea demonstrating his alternate- wearing method

so proud

“I just want a pink one”

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This morning I asked Tea what color backpack he wanted (because school doesn’t start for 5 more days and I plan ahead like that). ¬†Without hesitation, he said “Pink!”

Um, pink?
He has never, ever shown any interest in anything pink. ¬†While I was trying to think of the best way to respond, I must have¬†looked concerned, because he asked, “What, Mama, is pink only for girls?”
“Well, Sweetie, pink can be for anyone, but *usually*, boys don’t have pink backpacks. ¬†If you have a pink one, I’m afraid some of the other kids might tease you or be mean about it.”
(Very matter-of-factly) “That’s ok. ¬†I want pink.”
“Are you sure? ¬†Why pink?”
“I just want a pink one.”
“Um…do you want to see pictures of different backpacks on the computer to help you decide?”
(click click click) I brought up a page with all different colors of backpacks.
“Ooh – Mama – that pink one there. ¬†That’s what I want.”
(inner sigh) ¬†“If you *really* want pink I can get it for you but I am afraid someone is going to hurt your feelings if you have a pink backpack.”
We talked in circles like this while I kept glancing at Kyle for input. ¬†He shrugged and suggested to Tea that maybe I “wouldn’t be able to find pink”. ¬†In that case, Tea said he wanted a red one.
So I had an out. ¬†But I felt terrible about the thought of lying to him. ¬†I wanted choosing his own backpack to be part of the excitement of getting ready to start school. ¬†I have no problem with him having a pink backpack, but I am stuck with two conflicting feelings. ¬†I want to protect him from the world. ¬†He’s only 4 and he’s my baby. ¬†Alternately, I hate making him think he made a bad choice or that there’s something wrong with him liking pink.
The subject was dropped with a “We’ll see what I can find at the store” and 10 minutes later Tea came up to me and said, “Mama, you can get me a red one. ¬†I don’t want you to be sad if I come home from school and tell you someone hurt my feelings.” ¬†Ouch. ¬†He was much more mature and grown up about the whole thing than I was – he clearly changed his mind for me, not himself.
So today was a Big Parenting Fail. ¬†I came home from the store with a red backpack. ¬†I wish I had been brave enough to get him the pink one he wanted. ¬†I haven’t cut the tags off yet. ¬†Maybe I’ll change my mind.
What would you do?

Secret weapon

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I recently mentioned that we have a Pouter.  Pea alternates between being a most laid back, cheerful child  and a champion bottom-lip-thruster.  Watching his moods shift is like watching the inner battle between his personality and his duty as a two-year-old.  Luckily, our friend Jenn introduced us to the Pout Catcher.  It works every time, and even Tea has perfected it.

The Pout

Tea moves in to catch the pout

Pea's armor cracks

A kiss from Daddy helps melt any residual pout away

Thanks, Jenn. ¬†Do you think this will work when he’s a teenager?