Preschool Mom Blog
Tia Kaul Disick, Preschool Mom

Tia Kaul Disick has been a mom for almost four years and an editor at Scholastic for nearly two. At work, she is editor of the Early Childhood Today website and at home, her two sons keep her busier than she ever thought possible. Here, she'll share her stories about Noah, who is three-and-a-half going on sixteen, and Sam, who is only an infant but already seems to be highly amused by his older brother.

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Tia Kaul Disick

An Attack In the Night

Well, now that I've got your undivided attention with that sensationalized blog title, let me clear up any misconceptions: no, our house wasn't broken into. But there was an attack in the middle of the night, a terrible one - an asthma attack. It was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. Noah woke up literally gasping for air. He was coughing so hard his face was turning purple. He couldn't even put together a full sentence. "Mommy! (wheeze) I don't (cough, cough) feel good, Mommy! (wheeze)." It was so sad. We've known he's asthmatic for about a year now, but until this point it's been relatively mild. He caught a cold over the weekend and by morning it had settled squarely in his chest, and worse than I've ever seen.

So, after a morning and an afternoon trip to the pediatrician, three follow-up phone calls to said pediatrician, four inhaled treatments and two oral steroid tablets, we seem to have the situation under control. Right now, he's sitting on the couch in his pajamas watching "The Lion King" and I even managed to get him to eat a half a bagel - no easy feat since all day he was coughing so hard he could barely breathe, let alone eat anything.

For about the hundredth time since I've become a parent, I thought to myself today how lucky I am that any illnesses he's had have been relatively mild and controllable. Watching him struggle for air today was about the most heartbreaking thing I've ever experienced. Honestly, if I could have pulled my own lungs out and inserted them into his heaving little chest, I would have. I said this after Noah had his ear tubes surgery and I'll say it again: any parent with a chronically ill child should be given a medal. Or a huge cash prize. Or a new car. Or something, anything, that would help alleviate the suffering they must go through every day. They are all heroes. Seriously.

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Brotherly Love

I am an only child (yes, I know, insert jokes about being spoiled and self-centered here - I've heard them all!) The sibling relationship has always fascinated me. Watching my husband with his brother, or my friends with their sisters - it's like everyone is part of a world I just can't understand. What is it like to have the same parents as someone else? What is it like to know that you can be so different, and fight, and argue, but have an unshakable, unbreakable bond, no matter what? When my father passed away five years ago, would having someone else who was feeling the same loss have made things any easier for me? It's just a relationship that I've never been able to comprehend, and have spent a lot of time pondering!

So now that I have two boys, who are becoming more and more interactive every day, my already-present fascination with siblings has just multiplied. The other day I took Noah and Sam to an open play-time at a local children's gym. It was crowded with three- and four-year olds, all of whom were on spring break from school and seemingly a little stir crazy. Noah ran around like a lunatic, while Sam and I sat together on the floor and I watched as he crawled from toy to toy. Sam was heading for a purple hula hoop when a wild-eyed, curly-haired approximately three year old spotted it and came barreling toward him at full speed. I started to hop up to avert the crisis when out of nowhere came Big Brother Noah, who planted himself in between the errant toddler and his baby brother, announcing, "DON'T HURT MY BABY SAM!" The chastised child slunk away, Sam happily chewed on the end of the purple hula hoop, and Noah resumed his racing around - leaving me to marvel at what I'd just witnessed. At four years old, Noah has already put himself in the role of protecting and looking out for his little brother. And Sam, clearly, will have greater access to the things he wants because Noah will help him to get them. What a gift! It's something I never had, and something I'm so grateful that my boys will.

So any of you who are lucky enough to have siblings - appreciate them! When you've walked a day in my shoes, having no one to make fun of my mom with; having no one to make me an aunt (by blood); having to live with the fear that my mom's aging process and whatever that entails will rest squarely on my shoulders - you'll be grateful to have a brother or sister.

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A Mommy Quiz

There’s yet another quiz going around on Facebook, but this time the twist is that instead of answering the questions yourself, you pose them to your child. So of course, I had to try it with Noah. As you can probably guess, the answers were a mix of hilarious, confusing, and just plain…well, just plain Noah. Here’s a sampling!

 

1. What is something mom always says to you?  Don’t do it!
2. What makes mom happy? When I’m a good boy and don’t hurt my brother.
3. What makes mom sad? Not being a good listener.
4. How does your mom make you laugh? With funny words.
5. What did your mom like to do when she was a child? Eat baby food.
6. How old is your mom? Ninety. (Boy, guess it’s time to break out that night-time wrinkle cream!)
7. How tall is your mom?
A lot of inches.
8. What is her favorite thing to watch on TV? Commercials. (Ok, we have DVR and I think the last time I watched a commercial was about three years ago!)
9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
She works. (Um, I’m currently unemployed. But it’s good wishful thinking!)
10. What is your mom really good at?
Projects!
11. What is your mom not very good at? Nothing. (Good answer - I swear I didn't coach him on that!)
12. What does your mom do for her job?
She makes books. (Uh, formerly the editor for an on-line magazine. But close enough!)
13. What is your mom's favorite food?
Cream of wheat. (Never eaten this in my life!)
14. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Mickey Mouse. (Seriously?!)
15. What do you and your mom do together?
We love each other. (Melting!)
16. How are you and your mom the same?
We have brown hair. (Yes, but mine is brown from the salon - he doesn't know that yet!)
17. How are you and your mom different?
I’m a boy and you’re a girl.
18. How do you know your mom loves you? Because I’m your cutie-pie!
19. What does your mom like most about your dad? That he’s cool. (I can hear all my girlfriends laughing right about now - they know the truth!)

It's worth trying out with your preschoolers - I guarantee it's good for at least a few laughs!


 

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Mom Ideas

Did you ever notice that moms have the best ideas? Not to take anything away from men, or inventors, or geniuses in general, but I just think it's a fact that moms are particularly brilliant and inventive, especially when it comes to those ever-present problems to solve with kids. There's a saying that goes something like, "necessity is the mother of invention," but I think it should be revised to be "mothers are the necessity to inventions." (Or something similar that actually makes sense!)

Take, for example, my friend Lauren. When her daughter was about a year old, she figured out how to unsnap her one-piece sleeper pajamas and open up the sticky tabs on her diaper. Which meant that when Lauren came in to get her in the morning, her daughter would be in her crib, naked, happily painting the walls of her room with the poop from her diaper. (I know, EW!) So after a few nights of this, Lauren came up with the (brilliant) idea of snapping her daughter into her pajamas backwards - buttons up the back - where the baby couldn't reach them. And voila! No more Poopy Picasso. So simple, yet absolutely genius!

And then there's my friend Tracey -- an amazing mom who had two children thirteen months apart (on purpose!) She's solved the problem that all of us face, time and time again - how the heck to remember every thing you need to pack in order to travel with your children? To non-parents, this may sound like no big deal, but every parent will know what I mean: every month, the things kids need on trips change - at certain ages they need bottles, at certain ages sippy cups. At certain ages they need liquid medications, at certain ages they need chewable medications. And something is invariably forgotten on every trip (and depending on where you are, the missing item is not always readily available!) So every time Tracey packed for a trip with Noah, her older son, she typed the list of everything she packed and saved it on her computer, using his age at the time as the file name.  So now, when she travels with both children, it's that much easier for her to pack for Asher, her younger son - she just looks up her list of what she packed for the big brother at that age and replicates it. So simple, and also, absolutely brilliant!

And I've got to give props to myself (since hey, it's my blog!) for a recent a-ha! moment while Noah and I were painting. He loves to paint with watercolors, but always saturates the brush with too much water and not enough paint. This causes the paper he is painting on get too wet and tear, which frustrates him to no end. So now I give him paper plates to paint on. They're much thicker than paper, and the ridges on the edge give him a natural "frame" for his artwork. He's so much happier (and so am I, because it makes much less of a mess!)

What are your best "mom ideas"? Send them to me, and I'll write about them in future posts. We know that us moms have the best ideas, so let's share our wisdom with the world!

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Has Anyone Seen My Brain? I'd Like It Back, Please.

Before I had kids, I used to be, as my husband's grandfather would say, "sharp as a tack." I never had to look up the phone number of a friend or family member. It was just in my head. I never forgot a birthday or anniversary - didn't even need to write them down. I never missed an appointment, was never late to a meeting, always had everything I needed with me.

Then, I became a mother.

Now, I can't ever find my cell phone. Remembering a birthday? Forget about it. Missing a meeting? It's become a regular occurrence.

And it's not surprising, really. When I think about all the things I am trying to keep in my head at any given moment, it's shocking that I even remember to put my shoes on when I walk out of the house. Last night was a perfect example. Sam woke up crying at 2 am, so I went in to check on him, and when I got back to bed, I couldn't fall asleep. So here's what was going through my head: Let's see, tomorrow's Thursday, that means Noah has basketball after school. I have to remember to have him wear his sneakers. Oh, shoot! His lace broke, I'll have to replace that in the morning. Oh, and it's sharing tomorrow, have to remember to send in his sharing item. I can't remember what letter it has to start with. Where did I put the paper where it said what the letter of the day was? I'll have to look in the morning. Sam's 9 months old tomorrow. Oh, damn! I forgot to schedule his nine month checkup at the pediatrician. Oh, and Noah's allergist appointment is tomorrow. I have to remember to bring his allergy testing results. And I can't forget to ask him to refill Noah's prescription. How am I going to remember that? I never will. Wait, tomorrow is Thursday? Shoot, it's that kid Ben's birthday, in Noah's class. I have to get a gift for his party this weekend. When can I get to the toy store? Maybe Friday morning. Oh, no, wait, I have to be home to wait for the cable guy Friday morning. Did I ever confirm that appointment? I can't remember. I need groceries, too. Maybe tomorrow after I drop Noah at school I can get groceries. We need eggs, bread, milk...oh, damn! Noah is all out of yogurts for his lunch. I was supposed to get more today. He's going to freak out if I tell him we're out. Maybe I can stop on the way to school if we leave a few minutes early. Wait, did I switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer? Oh, no, I don't think I did. Ugh, the clothes get so gross when they're in the wash overnight. I'll have to run them again in the morning. Oh, and I have to remember to finish updating my resume tomorrow and send it to that organization that was looking for freelancers. Oh, shoot! I forgot I have a nine o'clock appointment with that career counselor. I wonder if Grant can take Noah to school tomorrow. Should I wake him and ask him? Maybe I can call her from my cell phone on the way home....ugh, I wish I didn't even need a career counselor. I'm so pissed about losing my job. Damn economy. How am I ever going to find a job? I wish we never left New York. There are so many more jobs there. No, that's not true, I love it here. I wouldn't want to be back in New York. We'd all be so cramped. But at least I'd be working. Oh, wait, does Grant have that late meeting tomorrow night? He does. Shoot. That means I'm doing bathtime and bedtime alone. Darn.

I could go on, but I'll spare anyone reading this the agony. The bottom line is, this went on from 2 am to 4:30 am, when I finally was able to fall back to sleep, only to hear Sam chirping in his crib a mere hour-and-a-half later. It's no wonder I can't remember a damn thing any more. 

Bottom line? I think I'm going to ask my husband to get up with Sam in the middle of the night when he cries. Because once that brain of mine gets turned on, there's just no getting it back to sleep. Guess that's just another part of what motherhood is all about!

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Opinions Needed....ASAP!

Noah's birthday party was this past weekend, and as feared, he ended up with a TON of gifts. We're returning some, for sure (many thanks to all those parents who included gift receipts!) and we're also going to be donating some, as previously decided. But either way, I have what feels like a million thank-you notes to write. And here's where I need opinions.

Are thank you notes supposed to come "from" Noah? As in, "Dear So-and-so, thank you so much for coming to my party, I love the awesome remote-control race car you got me, etc.?" Or, since they are clearly not being actually written by Noah (he's smart, but not that smart!) is it ridiculous to pretend that they are? Should they be, "Dear So-and-so, thank you so much for coming to Noah's party, he loves the gift you got him, etc." and be signed by me?

I know, this hardly deserves the amount of thought that I'm giving it, but I'm slightly bewildered by this whole thing. Thoughts? Opinions? Anyone?

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Kids These Days!

Perhaps moving to South Florida has given me the mind-set of an eighty-year old. It really must have, because I can't think otherwise why I'd say what I'm about to say: It is so amazing how technologically savvy kids growing up today are. (I'm cringing even as I write this. I have officially turned into my mother, talking about how things "used to be!")

What precipitated this realization on my part? Well, Noah and I were driving to school the other morning and he wanted to speak to his dad on the phone. I knew that my husband was seeing patients all morning and couldn't talk, so I told Noah that. "Just call him, PLEASE, Mommy? PLEASE?" Rather than argue the point (which I've learned in the last two years never, ever works) I pretended to dial the office number on my cell phone and said, "Oh - sorry, Noah, I'm getting Daddy's voicemail. He must be busy." Undeterred, my persistent little backseat-dweller responded, "Well, then try his cell phone."  I enacted the same charade, saying "Nope - he's not answering that either. I really think he's busy with patients, Noah." Noah's response? "Well, then check his Web site!"

I got a good laugh out of that one, of course, but it also hammered home to me what a different world these kids are growing up in. (Ugh, see? I really do sound eighty!!) Obviously he hasn't quite grasped exactly what a Web site is for, but just the fact that he thought to mention it was pretty remarkable to me. I suppose every generation feels that way about the one that comes after it (I mean, I really never figured out what my parents were talking about when they kept referring to their 8-Track Player - what 8 tracks, exactly?) but it's just a very funny feeling to be on this end of it, feeling like a dinosaur because I didn't have my first email account until about mid-college.

I can only imagine what Noah and Sam's world will be like, technologically-speaking. How will I even be able to help them with their homework, since I'm still trying to figure out how to download songs onto my iPod? (Yes, I know, most people on the planet have gotten that figured out, but I have not yet.) Already, Noah can sit at the computer and navigate completely by himself around the PBSKids Web site. It's actually quite astounding to watch.

Ugh. I'm re-reading this post and realizing that I'm officially an eighty-year old trapped in the body of a thirty-three year old mom. Thank goodness my kids are learning all this stuff early. I'm going to need all the help I can get!

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"I Don't Know Why"

I should probably consider myself lucky that little Sam has gotten himself to nearly nine months of age without any major assaults from his big brother. But boy, has that all changed. My normally mild-mannered now four-year-old has apparently been posessed by something evil, and he's taking it entirely out on his baby brother.

The first incident happened the day after Noah's fourth birthday. We'd taken him to Chuck E. Cheese the night before (something I'd been trying to avoid for as long as possible, but it was the only place he wanted to go on his birthday, so we gave in!) and he'd gotten a little plastic goody bag filled with a few toys. The day after his birthday he was swinging it around and around his head, and I told him to stop before he hurt himself or his brother. I turned away to go and get Sam's bottle ready, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Noah swing the bag as hard as he could, directly AT Sam's forehead. The crack that echoed through the kitchen when the bag made contact with the baby's head was unlike any sound I've ever heard, and the golf-ball-sized purple bump that immediately rose up on his head was unlike anything I've ever seen. Sam was hysterical, of course, but not even half as hysterical as I was. It was totally unprovoked and totally un-Noah.

I was so angry with Noah that I wanted to shake him (I didn't, of course.) I was literally trembling with rage. I sent him upstairs for an immediate time-out and spent a few minutes calming myself down. By the time I got to him I was composed, but still in total disbelief. I don't know what I was expecting him to say, but he had no explanation that was able to satisfy me - all I could get of him was, "I don't know why."

I wanted the punishment to be harsh. I made him help me round up the three or four birthday presents he'd gotten the night before and put them into a big shopping bag, which we then locked into a big cabinet in the garage. I told him that he didn't get to have any big boy toys until he showed me he could act like a big boy. He screamed and cried over the loss of his presents, of course, but did it teach him anything? I'm not sure. Because a week later, we had a second incident. I was bathing Noah and had Sam in the bathroom with us. He'd pulled himsef up on the side of the tub and was laughing and enjoying watching his big brother in the bath. I thought we were all having a perfectly nice time together, until Noah leaned over, again totally unprovoked, and bit one of Sam's fingers. And we had a repeat of the whole situation: Sam screaming, me raging, Noah crying in time-out and offering up his "I don't know why" defense, and my husband and I in utter disbelief and feeling totally over our heads about how to handle this new insanity.

I instantly went online to Google "aggressive behavior" and "children biting" and got nowhere. So I did what any parent in the situation would probably do - started blaming myself. Was I spending too much time with Sam? Was I giving Noah enough attention? Had I been so stressed out about my recent job loss that it was affecting Noah? Deep down, I knew that it really wasn't any of those things, but I had no one else to blame. I still don't. And I still don't have an answer. All I know is, this is so unbelivably uncharacteristic for Noah, and I just don't know how or what to do about it.

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Happy Birthday, Noah!

Noah is FOUR years old today! He's so beside himself excited - I think this is the first birthday where he really "gets" that this day is all about him. Four years ago today I was shouting in pain in a hospital, begging for an epidural that the harried anaesthesia team was too busy to give me. Ah, memories!

Noah's birthday (and my recent job loss) have got me thinking a lot lately about material comforts. So far today, Noah's opened 4 gifts - one from his father and me, one from one set of grandparents, one from the other set of grandparents, and one from his great-grandmother. And it's only 8:30 am. This day, I'm sure, will be FILLED with gifts, not to mention what will take place after the party we're having for him on the weekend. When I sent out the invitations, I have to admit it crossed my mind to write "No gifts, please" on the invitation and asking people to spend their money making a donation to charity instead. I mean, Noah has a ridiculous amount of toys. It's to the point where people are asking me what they can get him for his birthday and I'm at a loss to even answer the question because he has SO. MANY. TOYS!

But I didn't write it. I thought it was mean to spoil the fun of a birthday party for a four-year old, who's probably not quite developmentally ready to understand the concept of going without in order to help someone less fortunate. And now I'm kicking myself for not doing it. Because let's face it: kids expect parties and presents because we condition them to. As I watch Sam crawling around the floor, oblivious to the whole concept of "birthday" and "presents" and all the rest of it, that becomes very clear to me. Surely I could have come up with a way to get Noah to understand that he has so many toys and that his birthday gift was that all his friends were giving toys from Noah to children that didn't have any. 

Anyway, I don't think it's too late. I think I've got a real opportunity here to make the right kind of impression. When the party's over and we've got all the gifts in the house, I'm going to ask him to pick a few that we can give away. And after school, he and I can drive together to a place that accepts donations. He's definitely old enough to understand that concept, especially if I try to make it very concrete. Because in the midst of this economic tumult, in the wake of my recent layoff, and with so very many families and children being forced to go without - what better birthday gift could I give Noah than the gift of teaching him to be caring and compassionate? It may not be as fun for him as the Spiderman action figure he got this morning, but I think in the long run, it'll be a gift that keeps on giving.

Happy birthday, Noah - I love you!

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Super Soccer Star (?)

It's almost Sunday, which means another morning soccer game for Noah. When we signed him up to play, I spun fantasies of sunny Sunday mornings with the whole family at the soccer field with our lawn chairs and coffee, Sam in the stroller happily watching his big brother run and play, Noah learning teamwork and footwork and getting better and better every week. The reality? Noah HATES soccer.

The first week he was totally overwhelmed, but I figured he was just not used to having to play on a team, not used to being around kids that are bigger and faster than him, and just plain not used to the game, in general. The second week he kept walking off the field and saying he was hungry. The third week he just stood in the middle of the field and watched as the other kids ran in a herd, chasing the ball to every corner of the field. He didn't even try to get near the ball. And now it's the fourth week, and he's saying he just does NOT want to go. He's not flat-out refusing...yet. But it's only Thursday. I have a feeling that come Saturday, there's going to be an all out battle.

My husband thinks we should just let him drop out. That he's too young, that it was a mistake to sign him up on a team with 4 and 5 year olds, that it's a waste of time for him and therefore, for us. But I'm not so sure. I mean, what message does it send if he doesn't like something and we just let him drop it? We paid money for him to be on the team, and his teammates are counting on him (well, in theory they are counting on him -- it's not like any of them are really staying in their positions anyway!) And letting him drop out just seems to send a bad message.

But truth be told, this whole thing is like history repeating itself. My parents signed me up for soccer when I was little, because my dad loved the game and was so good at it. And I wanted to do gymnastics instead. So my solution to the problem was to stand on the soccer field and turn cartwheels instead of playing in the soccer game. Guess this stuff must be inherited - Noah's not turning cartwheels, but he's definitely not playing in the soccer game, either!

So I can't really blame him for not wanting to play. And it's an important lesson for me, as a parent, too - that just because you want your children to take part in something doesn't mean they're going to like to, or want to. I guess this is Noah's first step toward becoming his own person - deciding on his likes and dislikes and on what he does and doesn't want to do or be. Which, of course, is a great thing - soccer or no soccer!

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