Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's summer tiiiiiiiiiime, and the livin's easy......

(yes. we gave Elias a real marshmallow, which is definitely NOT on his diet. But it was only one, and it was the first nice weekend of the year and the first fire pit so....we do the best we can, but sometimes we break the rules. I think if we NEVER did, we'd give the poor child a complex....and there are no refined-sugar-free marshmallows out there. I checked)

Ahhhhh. Nice weather has returned to Lakeville. As always, I have grand blog ambitions and poor blog execution. I've been meaning to post more frequently, but I have to admit, the really late spring this year really made it a bit of a slog as the winter seemed to go on. and on. and onnnnnn. Add to that the fact that Andy's been traveling more than usual, and I've been single-working-momming it, the blog falls, as usual to the bottom of the pile.

Anyway, I had sort of a long week - Andy was out of town, we had a couple extra guests a good deal of the time - my next door neighbor (who is an actual single mom, so I shouldn't be so flip about my husband going on a business trip) had some personal obligations and was stuck for before and afterschool childcare last week. So I had the four caballeros - not that they're any trouble, they're definitely not. They're lovely kids and four peas in a pod -

but by the time the weekend rolled around I was exhausted. Luckily, the kids were able to go visit Andy's parents and I got a chance to regroup, clean, and just generally relax a little. Luckily it coincided with the weather being just perfect. I got this year's flowers in the flower boxes:

as an aside, I cannot for the world take a representative photo of those flower boxes. I think it's the angle, since they're higher off the ground than I am tall and because I need to stand so far back to get it all in the shot. But they look really nice this year. I ditched the impatiens I leaned on heavily last year, because I read an article that went a long way toward explaining the ingominious end of my flowerboxes last year. This year I used begonias, double begonias, geraniums, vinca and a bellflower. Yellow, white and red. I'm excited to see it in 3-4 weeks when the plants have spread and are crowding the boxes!

The town is starting to perk up. The weekenders are back, the classic cars are out, the views are amazing. This time of year *almost* makes up for the blear November-March. Almost. The lake opens in a few weeks and the kids are chomping at the bit.

One interesting thing that happened today is that we got an alert that the house we wanted to buy 2 years ago when we first moved here has come back on the market. It's in North Egremont, and when we were looking for houses it was the only house that we've ever looked at to date that I just swooned over. We both fell in love and as we were getting in the car we told the realtor "make an offer. this is THE HOUSE." It's kind of funny, because she was drawing up the offer paper work and we were working with our mortgage guy, but our offer was going to have to be under asking because we didn't feel comfortable to stretch to their asking price. Anyway, our realtor told us before we submitted the offer that there was another offer "at or near asking" and we backed off. We weren't going to get into a bidding war when we didn't feel comfortable stretching. We kept looking and found this house. Anyway, we heard later that the strange coda to the story was that the house never got sold - the owners decided not to sell it at all and the deal never went through. At the time we told ourselves, see? good thing we DIDN'T go all in on that house - the deal would have fallen through and we would have been house-less.'s back on the market. Cheaper this time. It's listed $25K lower than it was last time. Argh. I want it. Honestly, I feel like THAT is my forever house.....but......of course, is the forever house, by definition, the forever house if it's located in North Egremont MA? I guess that's the question. But I would happily retire in that house, I love it. I feel like we should sell this house (which I never liked), buy that one, and just rent when we move on, and keep that. when the kids are grown, Andy and I will retire there and we'll love it. But of course, that's probably not going to happen. But a girl can dream.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I just bought this little dinosaur yoke boy's sweater pattern and I'm in love:

Seriously how adorable is that? I have several little boys in my life that need one of these. This one was the test run - I don't LOVE the fit above the yoke, but I did go pretty rogue with the pattern. I reversed it and knit this bottom up instead of top down. I'm about to cast on a second one in different colors and think I'll try it top down and see if that helps with my fit issues. This hasn't been blocked yet, either, and I think that will go a long way toward helping too.

I'm gonna make a million of these. I just know it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

When life gives you Berkshires, make your children appreciate nature.

Yesterday all of us wanted to get. out. of. the. house. It was a little muddy and a still pretty snowy, but it was almost 50 degrees and we are ready for spring! The winter here can be long and if you don't ski (we don't, but maybe the kids will be interested in a few years) make you feel a little stir crazy. We are lucky - the Appalachian Trail crosses a scant mile from our house, so we headed out for a little late winter/early spring hiking.

Andy was so relieved to find out that over the winter, Elias made the jump from must-be-carried-most-of-of-the-ascent to needs-occasional-assist. He achieved his first summit under his own steam! One "benefit" of a bad back is that I've been historically exempt from hauling small children up mountains, so needless to say this was as much a banner day for Andy as it was for Elias.

I also finished a little navy pinafore dress I've been working on for ages yesterday: I made the pattern in size 18 months and it fits my friend's 4 1/2 year old perfectly, so, clearly the pattern ran big. I am relieved to see the backside of this project. You can't really see in the photo but I made the mistake of using tiny needles for this one - although the finished product is cute it was boring as heck. I have some much more interesting projects I'm looking forward to starting.

All in all we had the nicest kind of Sunday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Changing Behavior with Diet

I've been sort of reluctant to post about this, because I feel like it's the type of thing that gets you a lot of eye rolling and not so well-concealed disdain from other parents. But, I am going to post about it not only because it's been a big focus of our time and energy around here lately, but also because it's really working for us. And so I'm willing to brave a little eye rolling because I think other people might want to know, especially if they were dealing with the kind of behavior issues we were.

I'll start at the beginning, and in the beginning there was Elias. Elias has so many positive qualities - he is funny, (VERY funny!) he is smart. He is empathetic and he is a love bug. But he has struggled with managing his temper and emotions and behavior since he was about 18 months. He had lots of meltdowns - lots, and lots of meltdowns. He had some serious sensory stuff going on. He didn't transition well. He became very easily dysregulated and couldn't calm down. He didn't sleep well. He was REALLY oppositional. Most of all, he always seemed so...grumpy. Angry. Frustrated. It seemed like it was really, really hard to be Elias.

So what? you say. He's three. That's what two and three year olds are like.

Well, yes. Except, As he got older and closer to three Andy and I started to worry that this was not just normal terrible twos and threes. We're not parenting experts, but this isn't our first rodeo, either. Owen had his moments and still does, but this was really different. I continued to tell myself that there's a range of normal and Elias was on it, until preschool started insinuating he had a behavior problem. And then not just insinuating, but suggesting we take him to be screened for a behavior IEP. At 3. This, clearly, is not what a parent wants to hear. His preschool made it clear that no one was concerned about Elias' cognitive ability, his ability to think and learn, etc. But they were worried about his social and emotional skills. And so were we. And so I did what any modern parent does. I googled.

(And we also initiated the suggested evaluation. But mostly, I googled. And worried. And googled some more.)

Anyway, I read all sorts of stuff about preschool behavior, what was normal, what wasn't. What worked for parents with kids like mine, what didn't. And one thing I kept coming across again and again was changing kids' diet. It's all anecdotal evidence, found on family blogs just like this one. I didn't find a ton of peer-reviewed double blind studies. But I found a whole bunch of people who put their challenging kids on special diets with really good effect, so I decided to try it. The diet itself is a bit of a hybrid of the Feingold diet (used for kids with ADHD) and the specific carbohydrate diet (sometimes used for kids with autism) The things that you remove from your kids diet are (in seeming order of importance) food dyes, synthetic additives - specifically synthetic flavors and the preservatives BHA, BHT, TBHQ), refined sugar, and gluten.

I know. That's where you start to lose people. That eliminates a lot of foods, and avoiding gluten is very "trendy". However, I actually have already been eating a gluten free diet, trendy or not, it makes me feel a lot better, so that's no big deal in this house. So we just had to eliminate the food dyes, synthetic flavors and preservatives and the refined sugar.

It has not been easy. But the results have been amazing, and so well worth it. Elias is a totally different kid. We weren't eating tons of packaged and processed foods before, but cutting out the refined sugar and the food dyes was HARD. Food dyes are in SO MANY THINGS. They are in pickles and toothpaste and nutrigrain bars for pete's sake (why does a nutrigrain bar need food dyes?)! Anything that said "artificial flavor" or had a food dye is out. Basically, it means that processed foods are almost completely out. So, lunches look a little like this:

(that's hummus, snap peas, raisins, a cheese stick, and some gluten free bagel chips)

Mostly fruits and vegetables, protiens (hummus, eggs, cheese, meats, nuts), some gluten free products that have no refined sugars (there are some, but most you have to make yourself). I've gotten very used to using raw honey, molasses, stevia agave and maple syrup as sweeteners. I've done a lot of experimenting with nut flours and other non-wheat flour blends. And the kids have gotten used to having a lunch that is mostly fruits and vegetables. I've tried to replicate what the kids see their peers have - so instead of having fruit flavored yogurt (which has food dyes and refined sugar) I'll make them plain yogurt with frozen blueberries and agave syrup mixed in. It's a lot more work than buying containers of yoplait, but it it has really been worth the effort.

His preschool teachers, who were completely skeptical at first - and who were kind of justifiably resistant to this whole plan, because they thought it would make their lives really difficult - are now completely on board. I understand why they didn't want to try it - when everyone else is having animal crackers for snack, they have to deal with Eli getting his separate snack. And he's three. He wants the animal crackers! it's even worse when they have a 'celebration' of something, which they seem to have once a week, complete with cupcake or cookie. I know that it makes their life more difficult when they're giving all the other kids one thing and my kid another thing, but when I picked him up at school today they couldn't stop telling me what a big change in his behavior there has been. It's true. We see it too, at home. He's calmer. He has so many fewer tantrums, and when he does have them, they're "normal" tantrums - not epic, relentless emotional meltdowns. I don't know if he just miraculously turned a behavior corner in the last 6 weeks and this would have happened anyways, but I can't discount the fact that the change happened at the same time we changed his diet. It really is amazing how much HAPPIER he seems, and that's really the most important thing for me. In fact, the screening they referred us to is still ongoing, but I'm not sure (and his teachers aren't either) that he would need services anymore, or if he will even qualify for them. The results of this experiment have been really, really positive.

The problem, of course, is that it's not all sunshine and roses when the kids' friends have all sorts of things that they want. Gogurt. Cheez its. Oreos. Goldfish. Everything. (oh. yes, both of them are on the diet, even though it was mainly for Elias. It seems terrible to do for one and not for the other). There hasn't been a real appreciable difference in Owen's behavior, which was pretty good to begin with. I don't really know how to deal with that, to be honest. It's a work in progress. (any suggestions are welcome).

I'm thinking of starting a second blog, linked to this blog, about the food they're eating. I know not everyone is interested in that (and I've probably alienated half of you anyway, by now), but like I said. If someone else finds it helpful, then I'm putting our experience out there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hey, howareya, where've ya been?

Well, I guess it's been awhile. This might be the longest break I've taken in blogging since I started the blog back in 2008. Sometimes I slack off in the blogging because I don't have much to say. Sometimes I slack off because so much is going on, I don't have time to say anything. Seems like the last 4ish months have been a mix of the two - some weeks one, some weeks the other, but either way, I'm trying to get back in the habit of blogging. After all, we all know I've confessed to not keeping a record of my children's milestones any other way, so I might as well keep it up. At least I'll get partial credit on the mothering report card.

We're all still here. We've had some really fun times lately:

And some not so fun times:

We had a little Christmas:

and we've made a lot of changes to the ways we're eating (more on that later, maybe, if I remember)

I've been doing a lot of really fun knitting:

and the boys have been learning very important things at school:

So there you have it, the drive by update. Hopefully, I'll get in the habit of regular posting again. Consider it a slightly belated new year's resolution.

EDIT - that last is supposed to be a video of the boys doing a funny dance, but it didn't come out right. I'll try and upload it to youtube and fix.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween, Hockey, Hiking, Hillarity

So, Halloween happened. It was awesome. As far as I'm concerned, this town does Halloween right. Because the population where we are is so small relative to the geographical area, trick or treating in most of this town and the surrounding towns is infeasible and frankly, probably dangerous. Most homes are set far back from the road on large (5+ acre) lots, there are no streetlights, and most of the roads are twisty country roads that locals fly on. There are only a few pockets of town where houses are clustered in a "neighborhood", and luckily for us, one of them is ours. Our neighborhood is made of up four streets in the shape of an "E" and is located directly across the street from the K-8 elementary school. The police close off access to the neighborhood and then all residents of Salisbury, Amesville, Lime Rock and Lakeville (which are the four towns that feed into the elementary school) to trick or treat in our neighborhood only. It's a huge party. The police station takes collections of candy (so that we in the neighborhood don't have to personally purchase enough candy for 200-300 kids) and dropped it off at every house in the neighborhood Halloween morning. All we had to do was decorate the house, and enjoy the festivities. The kids went out trick or treating with Andy and our next door neighbor's kids, and I stayed home to pass out candy. Next year we need to step up our house-decorating. Years of being "the Halloween neighborhood" - our realtor referred to it as such a couple times during our house hunting, and we had no idea what she meant - have led the neighbors to an impressive collection of exterior Halloween decorations. Andy's mom made the kids absolutely adorable costumes - Woody from Toy Story and a dinosaur, and Andy and I went as "undecided voters" - he wore a leprechaun costume and I wore a unicorn costume:

People either really got Andy's and my costumes, and thought they were hilarious, or really, really didn't. Either way, we got a huge kick out of them and the boys had a blast. We also hosted a Halloween party on Sunday night for all the boys' preschool friends and their families, which was great fun and judging from the thank you notes I received, everyone had a blast. Halloween was a huge success all around.

Hockey has started up again, too. The team I play on started practicing in October, and as a gift to myself I treated myself to new equipment and am saving up for a new stick. I've also taken on a bigger role on the team and am the scheduler this year, which has been fun. I'm even considering going to ref school! I went to a hockey clinic this summer and a couple women in attendance ref at the mite and pee wee level - I was intrigued. There is apparently a big shortage of refs in our area. I need to look into the time commitment on that. The hockey season started up for Owen this weekend, too. I was unsure how Owen would do - last year, he was happy to go with public skate with me, but spent every single hockey practice (why yes, we did spend $250 for the privilege....) sitting on the bench in his equipment, watching but refusing to step on the ice or participate. He insisted he wanted to sign up again, however, and against our better judgment we again paid the fee and signed him up. I was expecting a repeat of last year but.....nope. He stepped out on the ice and did his best. Here he is, working with "coach Seth":

we were SO proud and excited for him. Last year it was so very clear that he wanted to participate, he really wanted to join in - but I just don't think emotionally he was there yet. Every single Saturday and Sunday, he would say "I want to go to hockey! Really! I do! I promise I will get on the ice!" And got it. We sat on the side and watched. I said it in my vacation post, but I'll say it again - what a difference a year makes. While there might not be that much difference physically in how he would have done from last year to this, emotionally it was a whole different ballgame. He had a blast, and was SO excited to go back again today. The hockey program here is very generous and a great deal. It meets every Saturday AND Sunday morning - one hour Saturdays, one hour and 15 minutes Sundays, for 16 weeks and at $250 I consider that a steal - and this morning he practically LEAPED on the ice. Somehow, I got talked into volunteering for the learn to skate program too, starting next week - so we'll both be on the ice from now on. You know what? Fine with me. I like being a hockey mom.

This weekend our friends Colleen and Bill came to visit, and in addition to enjoying their awesome company, which was a true highlight of the fall so far, seeing this area through their eyes a bit made me realize how despite all my complaining, it's actually really pretty nice out here. We have a lot going for us. This morning I met up with the group of three other women I've been running with in the mornings since last April, and I mentioned how much I've been undervaluing how nice it is here. My friend Jocelyn said "Yeah! We live across the street from an excellent public school. We live in a ridiculously beautiful place. Because we all work or live at boarding schools, our kids have access to things that most kids don't. We are really, really lucky." Yes, we are. I miss Boston, but I need to remember that. We ARE really, really lucky.

Speaking of ridiculously beautiful places, the boys and I decided to take advantage of it this afternoon. Last weekend I went with the same friend Jocelyn mentioned above to run the Kent Pumpkin Run, which is a 5 mile race through some of the most gorgeous scenery the northwest corner has to offer. On our way there, we passed a spectacular waterfall. I said "wow, what's that!" she said, "You've never taken your kids to the big falls? You have to!" So this afternoon, we did. It was a great, an easy, but beautiful 1 mile round trip hike up the waterfall and down the other side on a chilly, but lovely November afternoon.

Maybe it was because the kids were being particularly well behaved, brotherly and cooperative. Maybe it was because Jocelyn had just reminded me to be grateful this morning. Or maybe it was just because two little boys in the woods would put anyone in a good mood, but we had a great time. Happy Fall!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tae Kwon Do. Why not?

I don't know who put karate into Owen's head, but it's been lodged there for about 6 months and so I finally agreed to go find Owen a class. The nearest one to us is in Great Barrington, which I initially groaned about but after having done the drive a few times now, I'm over - it's really not THAT bad. Around here we exaggerate how far GB is away from us for effect, but it's really only 25 minutes. In the city, you would spend that trying to get your kid to an activity in Newton, especially if you needed to get there around 5pm.

I was initially quite resistant to getting Owen into martial arts. I'm not sure what my objections were, exactly...they still seem kind of vague and more or less boiled down to "don't you want to do soccer like all the other kids?" I didn't feel like teaching my kids to be aggressive and/or effective fighters was really a good idea. I tried hard to steer him toward a tumbling and movement class in Canaan - but he reeeeally wanted karate. I actually couldn't find a karate studio anywhere near us, but Owen accepted Tae Kwon Do as a fair substitute after observing a class. Unfortunately, he continues to insist on calling it Karate, much to the owner of the studio's chagrin. Apparently, Tae Kwon Do and Karate are NOT the same thing. Don't mess it up. Owen has learned to (begrudgingly) call it "kowndo" in the presence of Master Brown, but at home, he's quite clear that he's learning Karate. Whatever.

Anyway, now that we're a few weeks in, my ambivalence about tae kwon do has largely evaporated. First of all, there's the cute factor:

The cuteness! It kills me. but I suspect you could dress up my kids in just about any outfit/sporting costume and I'd think they're adorable. What I really like about it, and what has surprised me, is the high expectations they have of a kid Owen's size, without being draconian or punitive or otherwise age-inappropriate. What's interesting about this studio is that - unlike what I had imagined - he does NOT take class with a bunch of other similarly adorable 4 year olds. At this studio (and I'm not sure if this is because of the philosophy of tae kwon do and they do this everywhere, or the rural area we live in - there probably aren't enough people here to have classes separated by age) everyone takes class together. EVERYONE. Here was the class yesterday:

yep. That's 5 black belts, (you can't see two of them) and advanced red belt (she's not wearing her belt for some reason) a purple belt, two yellow belts (there's one behind one of the kids in front you can't see - actually, it's the son of the yellow belt adult you CAN see, sitting next to Owen. It's a dad and his 12ish year old son doing it together and I think they're awesome. They're clearly using this as a way to "bond" - and it's working) and Owen. So you, like I, might think that they are amused by Owen, think he's cute, and largely ignore him while the rest of them actually learn martial arts and work on their skills. You'd be wrong. Every last one of the advanced belts and the instructor (Mr. Brown) take Owen as seriously as a member of the class as the black belts that are flipping and chopping and doing their tricks. If Owen is fooling around and not paying attention, everyone stands stock still while they wait for him to get it together. They expect him to participate, follow along, do what he can do, wait patiently while they're not specifically teaching him something or doing something he can do, and just generally treat him like every other member of the class. I have to say, I'm impressed. I thought after the first class he would find it boring, and be unable to live up to the expectations, but I was wrong. He's doing really well, and asks to go every day. The older kids who have achieved higher belts are remarkably polite, self posessed, and extremely patient, thoughtful and helpful in instructing the lower belts. Everything in the class is based on the level you've achieved, not age, so there might be a 13 year old green belt helping an adult orange belt, or a 19 year old black belt spending an entire class teaching a 4 year old white belt a single kick. Observing this, I was thinking to myself - is that 16 year old advanced belt going to be angry when they realize the class is over and they've spent the entire thing showing someone who has just started the same thing over and over? Don't they want to be practicing their advanced tricks? Then I started reading through the studio materials and realized that in fact, the point of being an advanced belt is participating in the leadership program and helping the less advanced belts learn. That was enough for me to buy into it, especially if Owen really wants to do it. We just need to work on him yelling "Ki-ya!" instead of "Hi-ya!" Apparently, "Hi-ya" is Karate. And Tae Kwon do and Karate are NOT the same thing.