Monday, June 29, 2009

Ask Ashley - Night Walker

Dear Ashley:

I am stumped -- maybe you have some advice for me about my 4.5 year old who wakes up at night and sneaks out of his room. He knows he is not supposed to come out of his room before 7, but he sometimes gets up in the middle of the night (he woke up at 2:11 on Tuesday). He comes into the office and plays on the computer or watches TV, sometimes he has a snack. He never wakes anyone up, so we don't know that he's up until we wake up in the morning. We have tried locking his door, but that creates potty problems. I have resorted to turning off the computer and hiding the remotes, but that doesn't seem like the real solution. Having him roam the house at night makes me nervous -- he could get hurt and I'd never even know. He needs to learn to stay in his room, but how?



Hmmm, that is a predicament. My first thought was "Lock that boy in his room!" but I can see how that would be a potty access situation. Maybe if you get a chain long enough to reach the potty and tether him to his bed? Kidding!

In all seriousness, I suppose it stands to reason that even kids get insomnia sometimes. I think instead of figuring out how to stop him you must first figure out why he's doing it.

Is there a reason he might not be sleeping well at night anymore, maybe he saw something scary and is having dreams? Does he still nap during the day? Maybe try cutting out drinks two hours before bedtime to prevent potty wakings? Could this be a cry for some sort of attention or do you think he really just wants to watch TV and play computer games?

Assuming you don't think the problem is one of the above and you don't suspect any sort of health issues...

Have you asked him why he gets up in the middle of the night? If you have, I'm going to assume he responds, "I want to play on the computer and watch TV." My first try would be to explain to him that he is not allowed to do that in the middle of the night. Explain that it's important to get enough sleep and the sun goes down to tell us it's time for sleep. I always use the "so you can be big and strong" health reasoning.

If he still gets up after you've told him he's not allowed, it's time for consequences. He is old enough to understand that his behavior is against the rules. This of course must be tailored to each kid because what one thinks is punishment another might consider reward. If it's the computer he wants, don't allow him to play with it following a middle of the night rendezvous. Or put his favorite toy in "time out" for the day.

Also, I think you need to catch him in the act. I'd suggest borrowing some baby monitors from friends and putting one in his room, one in your office and maybe even on in the kitchen. This way maybe you'll hear him and be able to get him back to bed sooner. And when you do hear him, shuttle him right back to bed with no pomp and circumstance. Perhaps if he realizes the middle of the night isn't all fun and games he won't bother himself with getting out of bed anymore.

Lastly, the next time you're at the pediatrician with one of your kids I would run it by him/her. They are a whole wealth of knowledge on quirky kid behavior and might have some helpful suggestions.

Good luck with your little "night owl!"

Gotta question? Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah, Michael, and My (Sister's) Cat Meemers

My father hates cats. As long as I can remember, his fervent hatred of them has been a major part of things I would use to describe him. Loves to fish, really knows everything about everything, has no qualms about eating expired foods, hates cats.

The summer I was 14 my sister decided to get a cat. Diana was in college but still living at home. I don't know how the circumstances came about, but one Sunday we ended up driving to a trailer park that I want to say was somewhere on Marco Island. I know it was a long drive... This lady was selling pure bread Persian kittens, but they didn't have papers so they were cheap.

We fell in love with this white one. I remember thinking this was a really, monumentally stupid idea to bring this cat home, but we paid the $50 and loaded her into my sister's white Chevy Cavalier.

I said to Diana on the way home, "Dad is going to be really mad, and when he is you better not say to me, 'Ash, maybe we should take her back.' " She was beautiful--perfectly white with stunning blue eyes. We named her Mindy. She hated the car.

We walked in the door with the kitten and past my mother sitting in the living room. She looked for a second like she couldn't believe her eyes, and then the freaking out began.

It was a lot of her saying "You can't have a cat!" and my dad saying, "I'm going to use it as fish bait." Tears and crying on our parts, natch.

And sure enough, my sister buckled under the pressure and said, "Ash, maybe we should take her back."

My sister called the lady we bought Mindy from the next day who told us she'd take her back but she couldn't return the money for a couple of days. If it weren't for the assumption that we'd get ripped off of our $50, Mindy probably would have been returned to her trailer park.

Instead, for reasons beyond my utter comprehension, my parents let us keep her. My sister was moving to Gainesville for college at the end of the summer, and she was to take "our" cat with her. That was profoundly sad for me, but at least we got to keep her.

Fast forward a lot of years, and my sister had a son. He was allergic to cats. By that time, we had Mike, our German Shepard, and Jack, our now deceased Jack Russell Terror, er I mean Terrior who was diabolical to say the least, so she couldn't live with me. So, she went from a house cat to lanai cat who loved it, and eventually became an outside cat. A declawed, pure white, outdoor Persian cat that milled about the streets.

And she loved it.

She was known as the neighborhood cat, and we called her the alley cat. She had an array of favorite bushes she would nap under, and was often caught drinking out of the gutters and swimming pools. It was so strange to see such a fancy looking cat roaming the streets. But she did, like she owned them.

Mindy was probably never ever actually called Mindy. We are a family of nicknamers, and she quickly went from Mindy to Mimi to Meemers. I actually have to think really hard if someone asks me her real name, cause Meemers pops right up in my head.

Meemers passed away today. My sister's father-in-law (a veterinarian) says it was likely a heart attack that claimed her. My best estimate of a foggy mind ages her at about 14 years.

She will forever have the distinction of going to heaven on the same day as Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. I can almost see her sitting with them now, getting yelled at for trying to drink out of God's swimming pool.

I don't imagine there are gutters in heaven. But in Meemers' heaven, there might be.

Things I Don't Understand...

Because there seems to be so many of them today...

  • Why I ate two of these stuffed cookies sandwiches I bought from Sam's last night, even though I knew it would make me sick to my stomach
  • Why people are so obsessed with this Twlight nonsense--perhaps I should read the book and find out
  • Why the Gossleins still have a TV show
  • Why since we got Windows Vista two years ago, I still have to reboot my computer each time I print something in order to get the next thing to print, despite the fact that I am constantly downloading new printer drivers
  • Why it is so hard to come up with dinner ideas
  • Why kids don't like to take naps--if someone told me to sleep I would gladly comply
  • Why I own such a small amount of clothes and yet do so much laundry
  • Why I never eat a real meal and yet do so many dishes
  • Why the guy our Homeowner's Association pays to manage our neighborhood is so very bad at his job
  • Why Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus
  • Why it has taken me so long to unsubscribe from all these promotional emails that stores I never shop at send me (it has been rather liberating!)
  • Why even though the teachers remind me ten times and I write it on my calendar, I can never remember when it's Water Day at camp
  • Why bad things happen to good people
  • Why Al Gore hasn't fixed global warming yet
  • Why Mason wakes me up at 6:30am and begs for breakfast, but then when I make it for him he plays space ship games with his food instead of eating it. Maddening!
  • Why I have two kids with blond hair and blue eyes and IF I should have them DNA tested to make sure they weren't switched a birth
  • Why people stop their cars right in front of Publix to wait for someone instead of parking in a parking space since it is after all a parking lot
  • Why people ask "Why?"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ask Ashley - Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Dear Ashley,

My baby is seven months old. Recently, I have noticed I am losing a lot of hair. A lot. I have heard of this hair loss phenomenon, but what can I do to stop it! At this rate I feel like I will be bald soon!



Dear Stephanie,

This is a situation we all go through postpartum. Yet another downside to being a woman!

Your hair loss, like most of the world's ailments--can be attributed to hormones. Hormones have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows!

Here's the deal--normal people lose about 100 hairs a day (this was confirmed through Dr. Oz, who is the Master of the Universe, I am convinced). Whether it's when you're washing it, combing it, running freely in the wind down the beach with your locks bouncing behind you... about 100 strands a day fall out. When you're pregnant, many women note how thick and lovely their hair has become--part of that whole pregnancy hormones induced beauty boost. It's not that anything has happened to your hair to make it better, per se, but you no longer lose as many hairs during pregnancy so it is a lot thicker.

Somewhere around 4-6 months post partum, your body gets the message that the hormones have abandoned ship and you start to shed like a dog. Ruff. And Rough.

Stop it? Well you can't. Like a bad rash, it's just something that has to run its course. Some people go through it quickly, but it sometimes lasts up to a year post partum.

Point in case--me. I am still losing a lot of hair and Lila is 13 months old. I am being patient about this predicament, mostly because I have bigger fish to fry at the moment. My friends and I like to stand around and compare bald spots, thin patches and short spikey pieces of regrowth. It's just another lovely change your body goes through during your metamorphosis into a mother.

Now, all post partum women have a period of hair loss, but if you get to the point where you're 12-15 months postpartum and still shedding worse than a Labrador in June, you might want to talk to your doctor. A simple blood test could tell you if there's a problem with your thyroid that is causing the hair loss. Thyroid problems are common, and in new moms they often go overlooked since the main symptoms are weight issues and feeling tired. Find me a new mom without those symptoms and there's a Dairy Queen Blizzard in it for ya.

And my last note of caution--if you have long hair (like me until about 6 weeks ago!) be careful of all of your shed strands of hair. Little ones are usually starting to crawl around this age and hairs can get tangled around their digits (sometimes fingers, but more likely toes) and cause real circulation issues. Especially if you wash everyone's laundry together, sometimes your hair can get in the feet of PJs. And take special caution with little boys! Penises are not immune to the hair wrap issues, so be wary of that as well. I am a very frequent vacuumer (critics might call it obsessive, but hey) and pretty much every day I'm having to free some strands of hair from Lila's toes.

Gotta question? Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'Til Death--or Reality TV--Do Us Part

There used to be a time where I really loved watching Jon and Kate Plus 8.

Back when they lived in the normal house with the fugly green carpet and Kate wore clothes that all normal stay-at-home moms wear, I remember hoping that this show would go on forever so I could see those kids grow up.

I can remember exactly the moment I realized its metamorphosis from cute show into money-making machine--when the episode aired of them moving into their McMansion.

That episode really pissed me off.

Sure, the episode after episode of free trip here after free trip there, those were clues pointing at Money-Making Machine status. I guess I was in denial...

On the season finale a couple of weeks after the McMansion Moving In episodes, as Jon proclaimed he didn't want to do the show any more and Kate dissented that she did, I thought for sure that would be the end of it. First, I feel like it's run its course as a relevant and enjoyable show and it's time for it to go. After all, the 'tups are going to Kindergarten here soon and what in the world are those camera crews going to tape? Second, what kind of wife keeps forcing her husband along a path that he's obviously uncomfortable with?

But, back it came. And inexplicably, I continued to watch.

As the news of their rocky marriage broke a few weeks back, the show obviously displayed their inability to breathe the same air, and it has literally become painful for me to watch.

I sit there, unable to take my eyes of this train wreck, and I have a pit in my stomach. I put myself in that position as a wife in a failing marriage. I put myself in that position as a mother whose kids are about to watch their parents split up. My sympathy for her literally makes me a little sick.

There is something about them each sitting alone in that interview chair. It's so... wrong. Their banter is gone, and even if it came along with Kate's "love taps" you could tell they were a happy couple, albeit stressed from raising small children. And not to mention how annoying it is to listen to two people tell the same story at different times.

Watching her spend her birthday alone hurt my heart. Her kids are 8 and 5--they know that Daddy should be around for Mommy's birthday. I couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking.

And now, unless you live under a rock, you know they are divorcing.

To see this extremely private matter handled on television is horrific to me. To see Kate, obviously raw with the pain of her failure, and to see Jon, obviously flippant about his, makes me feel like a voyeur. This is a part of someone's life that we should not be witnessing. I feel like watching a couple go through a divorce is akin to watching pornography--it just ain't right.

After seeing all the previews, I anticipated that last night's show would be announcing their separation. I also wrongly anticipated this would be the end of the show. I am shocked--absolutely shocked--that they are going to continue on.

Kids generally don't handle divorce very well. They have eight of them, so the odds are that they are going to be dealing with at least a couple of kids reeling from the split of his or her parents. As a mother, as a parent, I cannot imagine putting my kids in front of a camera during a life changing transition like this. Really.

(As a side note, Mady is going to grow up to hate her parents. Every time we see her on the show she is an outbursting display of immature tantrums, set next to calm, cool and collected Cara. I am predicting she will end up in therapy over this.)

I think we can all agree Kate's a bit of a bitch. I don't pass judgement on her for this because I have my moments. And if you try to tell me that you don't have moments, I will call you a liar. And if anyone, even Mother Teresa, was followed 24/7 by a camera crew, I'm sure there'd be enough moments to paste together a pretty unsavory picture. I can't imagine what kind of shrew I would be if I had eight kids that age.

As for Jon, he would never be leaving his wife if they weren't loaded rich. They simply wouldn't be able to afford it. How would he pay child support for his eight children without a reality TV paycheck or his half (since they're married) of his wife's lucrative book deals? I distinctly remember a show where they said they would never get divorced. I think the topic of affording it was brought up, and that they were in it together for life. I think the judge should dig up that tape and use it as grounds to refuse their divorce.

For some insane reason, I feel sad for these people like they are my friends. I guess it's because they opened their home up to the world, and honestly because of this I know more about them that I do know about some of my friends.

I wish they would get over themselves and shut off the cameras. Get real jobs, and focus on raising your beautiful children.

At least that's what I would tell them if they were my friends.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

Each year, thousand of happy parents plan vacations to take their thousands of happy children to The Happiest Place on Earth - Disney World.

And then we all become raging maniacs.

First off, did you know there were entire message boards with millions of threads related to how to plan a Disney vacation?

Second, did you know there were thousands of messages on this message board just to help you figure out how to make a flipping dinner reservation?

Bear with me, cause this is where it might get a little nutty.

Ninety days prior to your desired date for a meal, you must have the foresight to want to eat that meal and call Disney's Advanced Dining Reservation people, a.k.a. Those Who Hold the Keys to the Universe. You may call starting a 7am, although travel agents can call as early as 3am, so even if you call at 7am you might STILL be shit out, I mean shut out. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you are able to provide your hotel confirmation number and starting 90 days before your check-in date book Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) plus 10 days after your check-in date. There is a definite advantage to this game if you stay at a Disney resort. Normal, non-Disney staying folks who don't have shiny Mouse Ears tattooed on their behinds can still only book 90 days ahead of time. I like to call them "The Commoners" cause I guarantee they don't have good dinner reservations and there's not a chance in hades they're getting in to Cinderella's Royal Table (the most coveted reservation in all of WDW).

There are pages in Disney planning guide books devoted to how to synchronize your cell phone clock to the atomic clock (which is, by the way, three seconds faster than Disney time). It also instructs you to call a few days before and practice going through the prompts so on your "Big Day" 90 days out, you can get through to an ADR agent asap. Then, you are supposed to cut the person off as they announce their name and tell them you want "Cinderella's Royal Table for _____" be it breakfast or lunch (don't bother with dinner, Cindy's a no show in the evenings and you're only graced with the Fairy Godmother).

Amber and I are hell bent to get in to CRT. If nothing else, for poor Siennah who gets stuck partaking in so much boy stuff since Mason, Cole and Sebastian are forces to be reckoned with. We want to get her to see the princess.

Then last week, online reservations were launched, to further complicate this insanity. Now, you can book online beginning at 6am with the same 90+10 days rule if you're staying in a Disney hotel, you just have to provide your confirmation number and phone number.

Does all this makes sense?

It gets nuttier still...

So Amber and I, our husbands and our six children are taking an 8 day vacation (if it's legal to call it that) to this Magical Place in September. Today is the first day we can make ADRs. We were up at 5:30am in preparation for making said ADRs at 6:01am. Of course, Disney's lovely web site is allowing neither of us to sign in with our confirmation numbers, saying "Sorry, your reservation can't be retrieved at this time."

Have a Magical Day!! You'll never get in to have a meal with that bitch Cindy! And your kids will nag and whine and generally make your life miserable, and we here at Disney will love it! Because really, this is our diabolical plan. We masquerade as this wonderful place for children, but the reality is you're being Punk'd. We sit and watch you on close circuit television as your children melt down in line to meet Mickey. We laugh as you stand in the sweltering Florida heat in line to ride Dumbo, when your kids don't even know who the flip Dumbo is cause we put his movie in the vault. And unless you want to pay $59 for a scratched up used copy on eBay, they never will!!

I wanted to throw the computer out the window. After cussing and swearing and a 5:30am phone call between me and Amber that involved some more cussing and swearing, we relegate ourselves to calling in at 7am and hoping for the best.

We start at 6:59. I got a "Sorry we're closed message." I hit end and a split second later a text came from Amber saying "GO!" So I quickly hit "Send" twice to redial, went through the prompts (I had not practiced, FYI) and got the "You will be connected to the next available rep." No sooner had some jammin' Disney tunes started then I got a new message: "Due to heavy call volume, your wait time may be more than thirty minutes."

Thirty minutes!! THIRTY MINUTES?!!! I called at 07:00:01am. How many crazy people were able to get in one second ahead of me?!?!?

I am lamenting that we will never get to dine with Cindy. I am so annoyed with the ridiculosity that is Disney that I want to shred up a stuffed Mickey Mouse.

In the end, we were able to secure the ressie at the castle. So as low and my angry low got, my happy high is pretty high.

Until September, when we arrive, and that mouse starts screwing with me again!

I'm telling you, it's a conspiracy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask Ashley - Laying off the Sauce

Today's Question:

Dear Ashley,

As a mom, I need suggestions on how to stay sane, preferably without crazy pills or alcohol.



Your question is short, sweet and to the point. I like it!

Okay, well, first and foremost, I think it's important to remember that all moms have these moments. Even if your friends seemingly have it all together, whose children are well-behaved in public, who say "please" and "thank you", those who have the clean homes, and even those who cook gourmet meals seven night a week... Their appearances say that they're great, perfect mothers, deserving of some sort of Nobel price.

But what they really deserve is an Oscar. Cause I assure you, it's all an act.

Never let those moms fool you, cause underneath the Bree van De Kamp facade, they are just as unhinged as you.

None of us are perfect and we all struggle. Some of us are just a little more open about it. I think one of the greatest disservices mothers do to other mothers is to pretend that things are better than they are. We see these moms, we read their blogs about how wonderful their children are, we see pictures of them with a perfect face of makeup as they execute an intricate art project, we hear recounts of their apple pie with homemade crust. You can almost hear the theme song to "Leave it to Beaver" in the background. And it makes you want to grab some pearls so you can try to be like June, too.

But you're not. And you know what, neither is your perfect-looking friend. Deep down her kids are driving her bananas, she's dying for a nap, her skin is screaming for a break from the makeup, and she is getting fat from eating the apple pie.

So, my first piece of advice: cut yourself some slack. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you're feeling like you need to hit the bottle to cope, you are probably trying to fit in too much. Go back to basics. When we were kids, our parents didn't shuttle us to a zillion playdates, library storytimes, karate, dance, gymnastics, paint your own pottery, and underwater basket weaving lessons. Stay home more and just enjoy your kids instead of taking your kids places to enjoy other things. All they really want it you, anyway. You have to listen to their cues--when I see a kid having a meltdown in the store checkout line, I know that kid needs either a meal or a nap. And when I see a kid with a streak of bad behavior, more times than not he just wants attention from his parents, be it good or bad. I'd put money on it. Your kids will pester the crap out of you if they aren't getting the proper amount of attention. Sometimes just listening to them for a few minutes can abate the endless refrain of "Mommy? Mommy! Mommy... Mommy!!??!!?!?!" (And you might even get lucky and they'll say something funny. Like today when Mason pointed to the word "Play" on his shirt and said, "That's what makes the show turn on." : ) He has no idea what the word is, but he knows it's next to the triangle button that makes the TV show go. )

Second, and this goes a little bit against my last paragraph, it's important to carve out time for yourself. Yes, your kids need truckloads of attention, and you should give it to them. But also do one random act of kindness for yourself every day. Whether it's exercise, a healthy meal, a long bath, reading a good book, or even a fancy homemade cup of coffee. As important as it is to be involved with your kids, you have to take time out to remember that you are, after all, an adult! But when your son starts chucking train tracks at his little brother's head, it's time to put the coffee down and forget mommy time for the day. I speak from experience on this one.

The old me had my priorities all screwed up. I used to make sure everyone and everything else was taken care of before I did things for me like daily exercise, showering, taking a book break during naptime, etc. Now, after the kids are fed and dressed for the day we hit the gym. I leave the breakfast dishes in the sink and the beds unmade. (Trust me, it was a major feat for me to make this concession!) But it dawned on me that people rarely see the inside of my house, but they see me everyday. And the baby weight carrying, no makeup wearing, anxiety ridden me was an abomination that wasn't worth seeing. So now I put my children's basic needs first like keeping them fed, healthy and clean, and after that I workout, shower and put at least a minimal amount of makeup on so I can feel good about myself. Still, everything manages to get done somehow.... Do I make it to as many playdates as I used to? Nope. Am I able to hang out with friends as often? Nope. Am I a lot less crazy now that I pay attention to my kids and myself before the chores and everyone else? Absolutely.

Life has become more about doing things and less about getting things done.

And to conclude, I highly recommend yoga. In fact, I can't recommend yoga enough. There's a reason that BKS Iyengar is 90-something years old and still in better shape than most Americans, but I digress. Not only is it a great physical workout, it improves flexibility and balance (so when you're an old biddy you won't be as likely to fall and break a hip), and it also forces you to relax and focus on yourself.

I think of it as a natural version of crazy pills and alcohol.


Gotta questions? Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There's a Toddler In My House--I'm Not Sure How She Snuck In...

Once upon a time, a mama gave birth to a baby girl.

She was the sweetest little thing you ever had laid eyes on. Charming, genial, lovable, even-tempered, agreeable... she was everything a mother could ask for in a little baby girl.

The baby girl turned one and the mama thought how lucky she was--surely her daughter was the most precious daughter ever.

Then one day, there was a change in the winds. Suddenly the baby girl wasn't so charming--she was surly. Her genial, lovable personality was replaced by unfriendly and testy displays. She was downright cantankerous.

Her mother, ever the optimist, was certain this was just a phase.

Surely the ear-piercing screeching whilst banging on the high chair as a method of summoning her food of choice was just a phase.

Her defiantly dangerous scaling of the boys' Anywhere Chairs would come to an end tomorrow, her mother was confident.

When she made a habit out of swatting toys out of her baby friends' hands, her mother's diagnosis was fatigue, not brattiness.

Then one day, the sweet baby girl launched her sippy cup, and as it went whizzing by her mother's head it occurred to her--the baby girl was now a toddler girl.

The glory days are over.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ask Ashley - The Fiesty Fashionista

Today's question....

Dear Ashley,

My problem of the moment is that Ava (who is three years old) likes to change clothes, and changing an outfit once or twice a day is no big deal, but she’s changing on AVERAGE about 8 times a day. Her room is getting out of control because she throws everything out of her laundry bin every day to see what she has in there thereby creating a messy room (which I DO NOT like). I hang everything up which you’d think would make it out of reach, but she’s too clever for that--she either pulls the item down and breaks the hanger (which is also annoying) or she has figured out to wheel in the computer chair and stand on that to get her clothes down. Now this girl loves clothes so I don’t want to stiffen that, I actually think clothes are her toys, but at the same time I can’t be cleaning her room all the time or doing all of her laundry that she’s producing.

Tired of the messy room and endless laundry,


So Miss Ava loves fashion--I can relate! But girl, you need to put the smack down on that child!! And no, I don't mean actually smack her a la Kate Gosselin. I mean smack down as in a decisive defeat. There is enough laundry in the world without creating an unnecessary excess. After all, I am fairly certain that once laundry hits the hamper, it breeds.

There are several things I would try, starting with:

Reason. Tell her that she may not do this with her clothes because it makes a mess. Also explain to her that she must treat her clothes with respect. You pay money for them (a concept that might be beyond her, but still) and she needs to be nice to them. Clearly leaving them strewn about the room is not being nice to them.

Also, maybe let her choose two outfits (three if you're feeling generous) to change in and out of each day. This way she can "play" without having an endless supply of threads. You could also reward her with "credits" for good behavior that she can use to "buy" a new outfit from the closet.

Punishment. If she disobeys you, she must be punished. This is very unique for each child. What gets to her? What makes her madder than mad? For Mason, it's revoking TV priviliges. For Cole, the mere threat of time out puts him in line. You have to tailor punishment to your child. Maybe in Ava's case, making her wear a plain outfit of your choosing will make her think twice about being disrespectful to her clothes.

Restriction. If reason and punishment fail, get a door lock for the closet. Are they bi-fold doors? Try these. Are they standard doors? Try these if they're round knobs and these if they're lever style handles.

Divert. Maybe buy her coloring books with clothing or dress up themes. Ask her to draw and design her own outfits on a blank piece of paper. Turn her love of clothes into a fun, imaginative exercise that doesn't involve the actual clothing (or you cleaning them up!!). Maybe a toy like these Snap N Style dolls (which I think are so cute!) would be fun to her.

If she does make a mess despite any of the above tactics, make her clean it up! Every. Single. Piece. Of. Clothing. If it takes you an hour to sit there and supervise, if you have to put her in time out a zillion times to get cleaning cooperation, she is old enough to restore her clothes to the proper hanger, drawer, or laundry basket. Do this enough times and it might not seem so fun to throw them all over the place anymore!

I hope you are soon on your way to a neat and tidy room! Good luck!

Gotta question for me? (I really am becoming increasingly convinced that I do know everything. LOL) Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ask Ashley - Question #1

Well, I am happy to say the response for advice was great! I guess it's a true testament to the fact that we all have problems. ; ) I'm still tinkering with a name for my new advice feature (you are welcome to make a suggestion) but Rey insists that it cannot be called "Ask Ashley" due to some Nickelodeon sketch from his younger years that annoys him to this day. Apparently it starred Amanda Bynes...

Anyway, our first question is for Naples locals from a Naples local:


I have a question on your top recommended OB/GYN and pediatrician in Naples. Also, I know that you are a stay at home mom, lucky!, but do you have any recommendations on day care? I don't want anything full time, maybe three days a week for a few hours a day.

Take care!
- Nicole



You have hit upon one of my favorite topics--local doctors! Throughout my three pregnancies, I have been a patient of nine, count 'em NINE OB/GYNs. Four of them retired during or after the time I was a patient, two of those started practicing again but currently don't deliver babies, and two of the nine in particular I will never, ever, ever see again inasmuch as I'd deliver my baby alone in a rice patty before going to them for medical care.

On top of my personal experience with the doctors, I also make a point to solicit opinions from the Labor and Delivery nurses at the Birth Place. They work with these men and women and get to know them well, and you'll do well by seeing the doctors that a lot of them go to themselves.

My favorite of all nine that I've seen is, hands down, Dr. Blane Mitchell Crandall, not to be confused with Dr. Blane Milton Crandall who is his father. Unfortunately, for reasons that I understand but am still very saddened by, he has gone into concierge practice. (For those of you who live in the real world a.k.a. not Naples, concierge medicine is where patients pay a retainer, usually in the thousands of dollars, for the privilege of being a patient in the doctor's practice. Then, you are billed medical fees on top of that. Most do no accept insurance, but you are of course able to submit your fees to your insurance company who will probably pay you their out-of-network amount which probably doesn't amount to much.) Anyway, he is seriously, hands down, without a doubt unequivocally the best OB/GYN in town. In my not-so-humble opinion.

For me, my second choice would be his father who is still in regular practice. He is a good doctor, but also my personal reasoning for this is because he does VBACs, and I am very strongly adamant about supporting doctors who support women's choices in childbirth. FYI-He does not accept Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance.

Another stellar option is Dr. Foley. He is personable and very one-on-one with his patients (Read: he has no partners so you're not passed around from doctor to doctor like you're a number instead of a living, breathing human being.) I think it's important for your doctor to see you as a person first and a patient second. Again, bringing my personal opinions into this, I don't go to him solely because he doesn't do VBACs, and I can't in good conscience give my money to a doctor who doesn't. If that doesn't bother you (and I'm sure it doesn't bother most), Dr. Foley is a great choice. I have met him and really like him a lot.

Pediatricians: Dr. Wilson, hands down. First an foremost, he's a great doctor, which is obviously the most important factor. His office has a very small town feel, almost like you're getting concierge service but without the hefty price. His office staff is phenomenal, and it doesn't matter how good of a doctor you are, if your office staff sucks it will drag you down. Everytime I call with a sick child, I get an appointment within hours. The time Mason got bonked in the head with a toy and had a goose egg the size of Pluto (is Pluto still a planet? I think it got downgraded), they told me to come right in and he was seen within minutes. He has Saturday morning hours, from 9am to noon. This is fabulous because babies don't hold off to get sick during the week when it's more convenient. AND he does what no other pediatrician in town does--puts his cell phone number on his office voice mail (of course expecting responsible use of it!), takes emergency calls in the middle of the night, and tells you to never, ever go to the ER. His two nurses know me by name and remember everything about all three of my kids. I read on your blog that you had to wait an eternity for your current pediatrician--I have never ever, even when I was being squeezed in with a sick child, waited longer that 30 minutes. My wait time is usually around 5-10 minutes. He only accepts patients once a year or so, and only for a couple of weeks. It just so happens that I was there three weeks ago and he said he was taking new patients for a while, so if you're interested call ASAP. If you can't get in with him, he's recently hired a partner, Dr. Najm, and she is also pretty stellar. Most of my friends who don't take their kids to Dr. Wilson take them to Dr. Najm.

On to day care... I know your son is not quite one year old. It's hard to find part-time for kids under two years old. But the Village School at North Naples United Methodist has a great program for infants. They do have part time programs--either Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday. There might be a waiting list so call as soon as you can for a tour. After he turns two I would recommend Vanderbilt Presbyterian, of course. ; ) Second only to how much you like and feel comfortable with a child care center is location. Location, location, location! You do not want to spend your precious child free time driving to and fro. So stick close to home.

Another option would be to find a friend who stays home with her child. Don't be afraid to solicit people and offer to pay them for part-time care. A lot of people would love to make a little extra money by doing this. It could be a win-win for both of you. And for those of you out there considering taking on a charge for a little extra money, if you can find someone who's close in age to your child it's really not much more work. Helpful, in fact, since they start to entertain each other! Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

I hope that helps!


Keep the questions coming! Email steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com if you've got a question!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ask Ashley

Anybody want some advice?

I feel like I know a lot, and wouldn't it be terribly selfish of me to keep all my knowledge to myself? So I'm tinkering with the idea of having an advice feature around here. I am thinking up clever names, but in the meantime I need to solicit some questions.

Things I Know A Lot About:
  • Babies
  • Kids
  • Kids and Babies
  • Baby Products
  • Kid Products
  • Baby and Kid Products
  • Breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth, all the various methods!
  • Baking
  • The written word
  • Most things girly, i.e. hair, makeup, products galore
  • Local area doctors (I am very opinionated in this arena)

Things on which my knowledge is a work in progress:

  • Being Crafty
  • Sewing
  • Spinning, running, yoga and weight training
  • Photography
  • Cooking

Feel free to posture questions outside of the aforementioned arenas. If I don't know the answer, I promise I can figure it out!

SO C'MON! Hit me with your best shot and let's see what I can come up with. Email me at steppedonalego[at]gmail dot com.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Only Cole

Do you wonder how he managed to get himself into this predicament?

I would tell you, but I wasn't in the room to witness it. All I can say is that it was really, really difficult to get him out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Hope Jabba Doesn't Come After Me For This

My husband's dreams have come true--I have allowed the world of Star Wars to enter the lives of our children.

Mason had taken to playing Lego Star Wars on the Playstation at the gym. Which is fine, I'm not anti-video games (anything in moderation, right?) but he was turning into a complete and utter freak show about it. Begging to play, being completely irrational about it, screaming bloody murder when it was time to stop playing and leave the gym... Seriously, it was behavior akin to a crack addict--except he is four and his drug of choice was an electronic game system. I tried many other solutions before I revoked his gaming privileges, but it came to a point last week where I just couldn't take it anymore, and I cut him off. At the suggestion of my ever-helpful friend Carrie, I took him to the store and let him pick a Star Wars toy in an attempt to move him from the fantasy world of the video game to the reality of imaginative play.

Of course he chose a light sabre. Lord help me now. And I actually bought it for him. Yes, I even shocked myself.

Now those of you who know me are aware of my bleeding heart liberal, anti-weaponry ways. My friend Tonya had to educate me on the Rules of Proper Swordplay (inasmuch as swords can only touch other swords, not people). But I suppose I'm loosening up in my old ways, or the children are simply beating me down a bit more effectively.

Mason picked a red light sabre, which was no shocker since red is his fav, and he also decided that Cole and Daddy should each have one too (isn't it sweet how he thinks of others?). Blue for Cole, green for Daddy, and we were on our way.

As I pushed the cart through the store I had a nagging feeling that I was going to regret this. And when Mason proudly displayed our purchases to Rey, he gave me a look of shock and disbelief that I am condoning this. But, being the Sci-Fi crazy Trekkie loving Star Wars Yoda wanna be that he is, pleased with the light sabres he was.

We went over the rules, which were taken to heart and understood. Over the past week there has only been one time each that have the boys struck a blow on one another, at which point the light sabre went to time out. This is not bad considering their propensity for beating each other down.

I have, on several occasions, been drafted to play "The Force Game" when Daddy is at work and therefore unable. So I don the green light sabre, run around making "vroom.... vroom" noises, and pray that one of my eyes doesn't get poked out. I hate every minute of it. But it makes my boys happy, and that is my purpose.

May the Force be with you.

Darth Cole

Darth Mason

Poor Lila.... mixed in with the wrong crowd.
She is the cutest little Star Wars villain I have ever seen though!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Picture of the Day

Just a standard view of my living room on your typical afternoon....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh! Did I Mention That Lila Was Walking?

Cause she totally is. Falls a lot, but walks some too.
Rah! Rah! Sis boom bah! Gooooooooooo Lila!!
(I am cheering. It is definitely time for me to go to bed.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sweet Tooth

Cole was 14 months old when he got his first tooth. At every well visit, Dr. W. would ask his standard "Does she have a mouth full of teeth?" question, to which my response was always, "Nope, not a one." Although he assured me Cole would get teeth eventually, I was beginning to wonder what the cost of teeny tiny toddler sized dentures would be.

Lila was giving Cole's record a run for its money. She's been chugging along all this time with no teeth. I had a feeling it was going to be soon because three days ago I caught her biting down on the glass coffee table top.

And sure enough, LilaGirl got her first tooth on Saturday! We were at a baby birthday party and she was knawing on my hand something fierce. Just as I was commenting that she still had no teeth, I realized I felt a little something. And sure enough, the teensiest, tiniest bit of tooth has broken it's way through to the surface.

If you look closely (and you gotta look really closely) you can see her little pearly white.


And yes, she's cranky over the teething, but in this picture she's really more upset because she had no more milk left in her sippy cup. But the mouth agape crying allowed for the immortalization of her first tooth...

It is so funny, but the arrival of the first tooth hits me harder than the arrival of the first birthday. When it's their birthday, they are not changed as a person. She was the same baby on May 20th that she was on May 19th. But now that she's getting teeth, her appearance is going to change, graduating her from the gummy smile of a baby to the tooth grin of a toddler. THAT is a tougher pill for me to swallow!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Differences Between Moms and Dads

My fellow Southwest Floridians can attest to the fact that there's been a lot of thunderstorms here as of late.

This has resulted in the revelation that Mason is very afraid of thunder. He's four now, and naturally more aware of things. Every afternoon during what has become the daily thunderstorm, he comes running and tells me he's scared. I secretly kind of like it because he actually wants me to hold him, a rare occurrence anymore.

But as his mother, it's my duty to make him un-scared of the storms. So as he sits in my lap shaking like a leaf, I tell him not to be scared of thunder. It's just the angels up in heaven bowling, I tell him. Don't they make a lot of noise? They sound like they are having a ton of fun!

Today, Rey attempted to take the boys on his dad's boat to the beach on Keewaydin Island, but when they all got to the dock and checked the radar, the weather wasn't going to be good. The boys were really wanting to go to the beach, and couldn't understand why they were turning around and going home. Telling them "there will be thunder and lightening" wasn't sufficient. They demanded an explanation.

Here's Cole, recounting what he was told:

In case you can't understand Mr. Pizza Face... Translation: You'll get killed.

I am told Cole and Mason informed everyone on the dock that they better go inside so the thunder doesn't kill them. Cole even told a boater and his dog that, "You better go inside or the thunder will kill you. And it will kill your dog too."

Something tells me my angels bowling story isn't going to do much good anymore...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

But Not the Hippopotamus

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to take more video of the kids. Well, you know how resolutions go... they usually don't. Part of my problem is there sheer storage space required for my GBs of digital video. Between that and the fact that each file that comes off of my 12MP DSLR is around 5MB, I am getting dangerously close to crashing my hard drive. A solution is on the horizon, it's just that I have a rather lengthy to do list, as one might imagine!

But I digress. The point of this post is that I have actually produced a video to share.

Hippopotamuses seem to be a pretty frequent theme of Sandra Boynton's books. Maybe she has a weight problem and can relate to the portly creature. Maybe it's that "hippopotamus" is such a swell little name. Who knows. But of all her books, the ones that star Hippos are hands down favorites around here. Mason's favorite book (maybe even of all time) is a little diddy called "But Not the Hippopotamus."

Mason decided to put on a little show for us. He did require audience participation, but it was fun all the same.

Next up I'll try to record him reading "Hippos Go Berserk" which is another literary gem. : )

Thursday, June 4, 2009

If These Boobs Could Talk

Before Mason was born, I decided to breastfeed. I don't know why--the cost effective nature? The health benefits? My controlling personality? Who knows... I Googled books and decided that "So That's What They're For!" would be my boob bible. It was great--funny, informative, well-written. I had decided to commit, persist and be a nursing hero.

So as the story goes of course, preemie, NICU, me on meds not compatible with nursing, pumping and dumping round the clock for two weeks until....

The day came that he could nurse. And he actually did it.

Wonder of wonders, this should be recognized as a miracle. Anyone who knows anything about newborn babies knows that it's 1 kid in 1000 that will spend two weeks bottle feeding and switch to breastfeeding. Not to say it was easy--it wasn't--freaking hard would be a much better description. You will recall my commit, persist and nursing hero declaration from the beginning. But soon enough he got he hang of it, I got the hang of it and before you knew it he was 10 months old, still nursing, and I was pregnant again.

Due to Mason's preemie status, I was immediately pressured from all angles to wean him due to the new pregnancy. I held off for a month, and weaned him at 11 months. It was sad, a little, but I knew there was another nursling coming 'round the bend.

Cole was born the nursing champ. I swear, if there was a contest on nursing, he would win it, hands down. It was great! Until.... he got sick, calorie counting became an issue and he refused to take a bottle. Or a sippy cup. Which basically sentenced me to a life of a little man hanging from my boob.

Months and months I tried to get him to take a bottle or a cup. I bought every brand, every variation. Frustration doesn't even begin to describe it. Tried formula, pumped milk, cow's milk, water, juice, beer... only kidding about that last one. Just checking to see if you're paying attention.

Finally, right around his first birthday, I broke him. And you'll never guess how. I put Nesquick in his milk. Judge me if you will, but he finally drank it, and after a week or so on the chocolaty goodness he would drink anything from his prized sippy cup. And so he joined the ranks of the weaned. And boy, was I glad that struggle was over.

Which brings us to Miss Lila. She didn't eat for four days after she was born. Stubborn little thing. The lactation consultants at the hospital had all been laid off, save one part timer who never stopped by to see me. She didn't have enough time to see everyone, and I wasn't a new mom so I was low on the priority list apparently. I had no help, but I knew we'd be fine--my will was stronger than hers. If she had been my first baby, I would have definitely given up. Pressure came from all angles that shall remain nameless that I should give her a bottle. No, she'll eat when she realizes she's hungry, which was confirmed by the Good Dr. W. (who everybody who knows him know he knows everything). : )

Sure enough, Day 4 rolled around is seems she realized she was hungry because she started nursing. Like I said, my will was stronger.

I had learned my lesson (the hard, hard way) with Cole and offered her a bottle more often. Somehow in the haze of having three small kids with a husband who works out of town, I fit daily pumping into my schedule and built a little freezer stash. It was prized.

It didn't take long to realize how much LilaGirl loved her bottle. She's see one and bounce shake jump cry wretch to have it. So I hid them, and continued to nurse her. I would hear from time to time someone speak of how her baby "weaned himself." Baloney, I thought. I rank that up there with people claiming to not make enough milk, which is about 1% of the population of mothers. But that's another post. There came a point around seven months that I thought how quickly she would wean if I let her. But I didn't. I struggled with her, and it sucked. (Pun intended? I'm not sure.)

And once again we have come to what seems like the theme of all my stories--how each of my kids has been so different. The boy who nursed despite the odds. The boy who wouldn't give it up for gold. And the little girl who loved her baba.

But the point of this whole diatribe is that a couple of weeks ago, Lila was weaned. I swear she felt like she won a victory, but I'm probably reading into this a bit. But I'm almost certain I saw a little smirk of victory on her face as I handed her the baba that morning...

Pardon me, but I don't feel sad. Not happy, but not sad. Relieved, perhaps. I have spent nearly three years of my life lactating. Much longer and I might very well begin to moo. I know more about milk production, storage, health benefits, cost effectiveness, pumping, increasing supply, support, criticism, nursing strikes and growth spurts than I ever though possible. I am my own personal La Leche League. And truly, I believe it's extraordinarily important. BUT, I counted it up, and there's only been four months out of the past five and a half years that I haven't been pregnant or lactating, and boy do I deserve a break.