Middle School Mom Blog
Amy KL Borrell, Toddler Mom

This Scholastic.com Student Activities editor is also mom to a 2 year old. She and her daughter enjoy making bubbles, stacking blocks, and sharing books about dogs. Connect here with Amy's adventures as a working mom.

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Amy Borrell

Toddler Mom has Moved!

Toddler Mom is now a part of the Scholastic Parent Voices blog. Please update your bookmarks and click over to read Amy's latest posts.

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Our Menagerie Weekend

This past weekend we traveled to the alpaca farm in upstate NY that's owned and operated by a close family friend. It's a special place -- in fact, we held our wedding there. I remember H experiencing her first instance of sitting on grass there. She was 10 months old. Sometimes the differences of growing up in the city are thrown into sharp relief.

This past weekend H would have spent every waking second outside if she could have. She had great fun traveling between the alpaca barn and the pond briming with frogs. She made strides toward being more comfortable with dogs -- Cubby the Pomeranian is smaller than our cat, what's not to love? She also saw: deer, cows, horses, a snake, geese and baby geese (so fluffy), and a bunny.

I am a city kid. I grew up in NYC, attended public schools, and ride the subway every day. I appreciate not needing to own a car and being able to order in food from a dozen different countries any time of the day or night. And I adore Central Park and Prospect Park for the taste of nature they offer. But sometimes it doesn't seem like it's enough. I was struck when conducting video interviews with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City that several of the scientists found their passion by getting down in the dirt and observing and exploring nature as kids. Of course everything's a trade off. Country kids don't have the same access to diversity and culture that H has. How do you balance your life choices with what your kids miss out on? It's clear to me we need to go back to the alpaca farm soon.

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"A Yogurt Is a Mean Man"

...or so H informed me this morning, thereby confirming they've been reading and discussing fairy tales at daycare. Yogurt = Ogre. Pretty cute, I think. I've never been especially adept at picking up languages. Forget high school French, I can't imagine trying to learn English with the weight of being understood depending on it. No wonder she gets cranky sometimes. But you know what else she told me this morning? "I want to snuggle with you, Mommy." Gets me every time. Everyone said it would be so, but the honor and pleasure of being H's mommy is really the best thing that's ever happened to me.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. We're a lucky lot.

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Up, Up, and Away

We flew to California recently, and yes, now we are all home in one piece.

Before we left I felt ridiculously nervous. I imagined H freaking out on the plane. She'd wail pathetically and twist and turn in her seat. The people around us would tisk softly under their breath, shake their heads, and cast "bad parent" looks in our direction. We'd try toy after toy, book after book, and nothing would work. Then we'd have to circle SFO for three hours because of fog and, well, we'd vow never to leave the house again.

Guess what? She did great. She was awesome, tremendous, a real trooper. Whoever invented back-of-the-seat personal TVs has my sincere gratitude. We didn't even haul out the big backpack full of chotchkies. Two items we purchased for the trip really paid off: a bag designed to fit the car seat so we could confidently check it through, and the CARES harness for H to use on takeoff and landing – fabulous.

But it's never that simple, right? How could it be? This happy little story just has to have a twist, right? It took us a week to realize. I still cannot believe we did this. But we did. (Wait for it…) We left the car seat in the cab coming back from the airport. Yep. More than a week later, that cab is not coming back (damn them). If it weren't so ridiculous, so patently absurd, I'd feel worse. Happily the seat was a hand-me-down and our old model still works for another 5+ pounds. But truly! Who does that? Well, apparently we do!

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Date Night

There are so many different ways to parent. And it's so high stakes and personal that it's easy to have "right" and "wrong" take the place of different choices. Breastfeeding vs. formula, nanny vs. daycare, working mom vs. stay at home, oh the list does go on and it's surprisingly easy to feel judged by the choices you make. Also on this list is when parents feel comfortable leaving their baby with others. The range of experiences is as populated as the number of families out there.

For us, H started daycare at the tender age of 3 months. It was tremendously hard until (months later) I came to believe from experience that she was just fine in that environment. She's still at the same place (now on the "big kid side") and we've had nothing but positive experiences with it. On the other end of the spectrum, we've yet to employ a babysitter save my parents (who live close and are flexible and wonderful). And even with my parents nearby -- full disclosure here -- we've gone out alone together far fewer than 10 times in the two-and-a-half years we've been parents. That's not a lot. And, in several of those instances we scurried home quickly, set adrift by the separation. To me, it makes sense -- our work schedules keep us apart for so much of the week, we like to hang out together when we can. But grown-up alone time also makes sense, especially with the hope of maintaining a relationship that isn't purely based on being parents together (though goodness knows, she's still our main topic of conversation).

Last night we had a date night -- and it was fun. At first it seemed too complicated and crazy (I went from Manhattan to Brooklyn to pick her up and drop her at home with my parents, then back to Manhattan to meet up with David), but in the end we enjoyed dinner and a show and it felt, well, civilized. Maybe there's something to this whole date night thing. We're toying with the idea of making it monthly. That just seems decadent, but why not? Maybe it would be good for us and fun, too. I guess learning to be a good parent is just the same as learning to be a good and fulfilled person. It's a work in progress forever.

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Mouth Matters

Which came first, the molars or the big girl bed? Last night, round about 10pm, when our little dumpling still had not dropped off to sleep (as evidenced by her "hanging out" at the gate to her room) we started to wonder if something was up. She's drooling a lot, her head feels kind of hot, maybe she's getting some molars.

Well, one flashlight and several looks inside the mouth revealed not one, not two, but three, three big, chunky molars pushing and stretching their way through her tender baby gums. Poor little peach! Good grief! It's not bothering her too terribly much, but it can't be comfortable. How long does this last? Molars aren't baby teeth, too, are they? And when, oh when, will we all get the sleep we need? Zzzzzzzzzz.

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Baby baby baby

Just found out, via Facebook no less, that a good friend with a toddler younger than H is expecting her second. Super exciting. Also produces a pang of "I want that" if I'm to be completely honest. While I know, really know, that we're not ready to welcome another life into our family, I also really hope we will be ready (or, you know, as ready as we can be. You're never actually ready, of course. Never have enough money, a big enough place, enough extra energy, etc.) at some point. And I hope when that point comes, that I'll be ready and able physically. It certainly wouldn't be the worst thing if H was an only child, far from it, but... at that's not what I'm hoping for.

In other baby news, H has taken to balling up her "snuggle blanket" and tenderly holding the "little, tiny baby" that is within. It's just adorable. It's also the evolution of our popular "little, tiny baby" game wherein David or I pick up H, cradle her on her side (her feet extend way out. She is a tall girl.) and say something along the lines of "oh, little tiny baby. What a little tiny baby this is. She doesn't know how to do big girl things. She just sleeps and eats. She's so little and tiny." She loves it and requests it often. As our friend Philip remarked, "she's two and she's already nostalgic." I think it's also one of the few ways this active powerhouse of a toddler can take a rest, get a little cuddle, and feel secure and safe as she pauses for a moment. That's my theory anyway. What do you think?

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Time Flies.. and Soup Follows

My goodness... I certainly didn't intend to let so much time pass between blog posts. But here we are and hopefully that's what matters. Somehow time keeps moving and I keep running to catch up. Yesterday H marched around the apartment shouting, "President Obama, President Obama" -- very cute.

This morning David, my husband, and I were talking about how neither of us appreciates the term "terrible twos." It's so negative, so all encompassing.And H is so not terrible, in fact she's really wonderful and we keep sight of that as she violently throws nearly everything she can get her hands on. 

She clears tables, she empties bins full of Legos. The other day? She threw a bowl full of chicken noodle soup. Yeah. I think that bears repeating with bold for emphasis: She threw a bowl full of chicken noodle soup.

So, while we both cringe at the "terrible twos" moniker, it's not a totally alien concept where it came from. Our punishment system consists of "time outs" usually in the high chair. Throwing food is the major offender (though pulling poor our cat George's poor tail is also on the list). Am I crazy to think she has the self-possession to choose not to throw food? I really think she does. Of course, the time outs have become such a topic of conversation ("no time outs," "want a time out", etc.) that it's possible they've become an encourager rather than a deterrent. What do you think? How do you deal with this particular challenge? I would truly love to hear!

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Thanksgiving & Favorites

Hope everyone had an extraordinary Thanksgiving. Ours was lots of fun. Five little girls under five years joined 11 grown-ups in my parents living room. I especially enjoyed spending time holding the eight-week-old baby. H had a great time -- she talked a lot about turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce and how Nana was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but she was too excited and distracted to eat a whole lot.

One highlight of the long weekend for me was when H answered my questions about her "favorites." This is the first time she's answered that kind of question and it was fascinating to hear. Here's what she said:

Favorite color: (looks down at her shirt) Pink
Favorite animal: horsies! (It's true, she's been very into them on her petting farm video)
Favorite number: 7 (possibly because of the They Might Be Giants song)
Favorite food: cereal (she'd just finished breakfast)
Favorite song: Dinosaurs (I assume this is Laurie Berkner's song, "We Are the Dinosaurs")

I'm excited to ask again because I'm fully expecting different answers next time. I'd love to hear what other toddlers have to say about their favorites.

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Sometimes It Rains

We've entered the land of the tantrum and it is not pretty. H, age 2 years 3 months, has hit a milestone. Her level of understanding and ability to express herself in speech has soared -- and with that have come the tantrums. They are brief. They are loud. They involve the girl going boneless and sobbing on whatever floor is available be it our kitchen floor (not so bad), the sidewalk (kind of ick), or the subway floor (ew, ew, ew, ew, ew).

They seem to involve the commute to and from school, or at least that's when they are most difficult to experience. Last night on the way home, I got two. One in the Starbucks, where you just know the vibe the patrons are after has nothing to do with a screaming kid (and how many bad mom points do I earn from bribing my child to get in the stroller with vanilla milk? Sure, it's calcium rich, but it's laden with sugar) and one on the corner of the hill leading down to our apartment. She doesn't want to go down the hill. She does want to either cross the street in the wrong direction or go back to the bank because both of those sound really fun. Luckily, my husband happened by just as the empty stroller tipped over and spilled all the mittens, blanket, book, etc. onto the sidewalk.

I know this is just a part of growing up. I know this is part of testing limits and becoming her own person and getting comfortable with the fact that I'll take care of her even at her most rotten. And so far I don't even feel mortified. Sure, I don't meet peoples' eyes, but that's mostly because I'm trying to move us along without anyone getting hurt. It's just hard. It's another thing that's hard. And I signed up for the hard stuff. I absolutely want the total experience, but, yeah. Hard.

Oh, and our poor kitty cat had to have his toe amputated due to a cancerous growth. So he's hobbling around with a ridiculous-looking flashlight collar and various shaved spots and bandages.

And I had a wicked cold last week and have a bum lower back this week.

But, it is Friday. And Thanksgiving is somehow next week (how the heck did that happen?). And I'll just bet I get a huge hug and a major "MOMMY" when I pick H up in just a little while. We'll see how the rest of the trip home goes, but I know we'll get through it one way or another.

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