Moose’s Lodge

Raising a Moose

An addition to Moose’s Lodge January 26, 2011

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 12:50 am

As I hinted at in the last blog, Moose is now a big brother.  Nugget arrived a week before Christmas.  He was actually due on Christmas, but since neither I nor my doctor wanted to spend the holiday in a hospital room, we decided to induce a week early.

Nugget’s Birth Day

Since Moose was induced after his due date, we knew what to expect.  The nurse’s laughed at how laid back we were.  I delayed my epidural a little while longer this time because even after the oxytocin, the contractions weren’t bothering me.  Ben and I sat around the room, chatted, watched TV, napped.  My parents had come down the night before and were watching Moose.  They brought him in before lunch so we could have our last moments as a family of 3. 

Prior to Nugget’s birth day, I had been walking around 4 cm dilated and about 60% effaced for more than a week.  But for some reason, I was dilating veeerrryyyy slowly at the hospital.  Around 1 PM, the doctor pumped up the oxytocin to get things moving.  By 2 PM I was still only 5 cm, so I told Nugget he needed to get moving so he could beat his brother’s birth time (2:58 PM).  I took a little nap, watched some HGTV.  At 2:30, the nurse came in to check me again.  The look on her face was total shock – she said, “I’m not even going to have you push, I’m getting the doctor right now.  This baby is trying to get out on his own!”  Within minutes the room was transformed into a delivery room.  I started pushing at 2:50 PM.  Nugget had his little feet pressing against my ribs.  He really was trying to push himself out!  13 minutes later, at 3:03 PM, our little man made his appearance 🙂

You may recall earlier recounts of my breastfeeding fiasco with Moose.  Let me reassure any mother’s who shared my experience, it is infinitely easier with the second!  Nugget was nursing within minutes after birth and he hasn’t stopped since.  I haven’t had to supplement with formula, use an SNS, or pump after every feeding.  Nugget is gaining weight faster.  The only real issue he has is a little acid reflux, but we’ve managed it with smaller feedings and keeping him elevated most of the time. 

For now, life is good.  I can’t say I haven’t been stressed – on Nugget’s birth day, we had been in our new house for only 2 weeks.  And we had a house full of guests and the holidays around the corner.  My beautiful new house is an unorganized mess, given Ben’s work schedule and the fact that my hands are constantly on either the baby or Moose.  But most days, I see past the piles in the corner, the unopened boxes and just stare at my two little guys.


A Christmas Tree for Moose December 16, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 8:35 pm

This year for Christmas, thanks to a near-holiday arrival of Moose’s baby brother, Nugget, we are staying put in our own house.  No traveling down to South Carolina.  We were sad we wouldn’t be able to see the family, but the big plus was for the first time since 2003, and for Moose’s first time ever, we got to decorate our own tree.

Since this may be the only year we won’t be traveling home for Christmas, I wanted to take special note of it.  As much as I love a magazine-worthy pretty tree, ours is quite simple – no major color theme, no fancy ornaments.  When Ben and I first got together, we started collecting ornaments from various travels and events.  Moose had fun looking at all the little details, and we got to tell him stories about where different ornaments came from.  Being that he just turned 3, Moose’s attention span only lasted a few ornaments, but Ben and I had a great time looking at all of them.

 Moose jumping by the tree

 Our first purchased ornament – from Tulum, Mexico when we got engaged in 1998.

 Ode to our favorite city on earth – and where we got married in 1999.

 The bears from our honeymoon in St. Croix in 1999.

 Our trip to Hawaii in 2001.

 Universal Studios vacation 2002.

 Canadien Moose from a work trip we took together in 2004.

 Lobster from one of our many trips to the shore in Boston.

 From Moose’s first Clemson football game in 2008.

 Moose’s favorite ornament.

 Family ornament from my sister.


HungryHungry Hippo May 17, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 9:49 pm

Moose has added another category to his knowledge of the United States – he now knows all 50 state flags.  Raise your hand if you can identify all 50. . . don’t worry, I didn’t raise my hand either!

We saw our family over the weekend, and they asked, “Why state flags?!?”  It is really simple – he asked for it.  It started very innocently.  To keep Moose entertained in the car, we always play some version of “I Spy.”  Indiana is great for this game, because the roads are so long and straight.  A few months ago, Moose said, “I see blue rectangles.”  I looked around, sure enough, there were those little blue flags utility companies used to mark lines before digging.  I explained to him those were actually little blue flags.  A few minutes later, we passed by the big red, white and blue flag and I told him that was the United States of America flag.  That started it.  He would point out the American flag everywhere we went.  “That’s a big United States of America flag, that’s a little United States of America flag, how many United States of America flags are there?” 

One day we drove by Texas Roadhouse.  He said, “There is a United States of America flag, and. . and. . that is NOT a United States of America flag!”  I told him that was the Texas state flag.  At this point, he already knew all 50 states, so he started asking to see the flags at random times.  I was planning on teaching them to him at one point, but I wasn’t ready because I didn’t have any Bits made of US flags.  I took Moose to Barnes and Noble that very day and found this great little tidbit – The Nifty Fifty State Flags.  He literally ate these up.  He knew 10 flags within the first day, and knew all fifty states in less than a week.

Part of me didn’t want to buy this little kit, because I wanted to make pretty, state flag Bits, but then I remembered what so many other mothers from the Institutes told me – Bits don’t always have to be presented in the 11″x11″ format.  These 5″x7″ cards were the perfect size for him to see all the detail, and were big enough for me to easily handle.

One of my cousins asked how in the world he was able to learn and retain all this information.  I think of Moose’s brain like the game, Hungry Hungry Hippo.  The playing field is the world we see everyday, tons of different marbles of knowledge rolling by.  Sometimes, he will ask about something, so I will roll a particular marble his way and he will gobble it up.  Sometimes he sees or hears something himself and gobbles it up.  When I present information to him via the Doman method, its like taking that big world-sized playing field, shrinking it down to an 11″x11″ size (or 5″x7″ in the case of the flags!) and rolling sets of the same colored marbles toward my little hippo at one time.  With the smaller playing field, he is able to gobble up information faster and with more efficiency than if we just waited for information to roll by randomly.  It usually takes a few tries, but he eventually gets all the marbles I send his way 🙂


The Tao of Moose May 9, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 1:56 am

We recently took a little trip to St. John, the smallest of the USVI with some great friends of ours.  We are all pretty laid back, so there were no schedules to keep, no tours to take – heck, we didn’t even know what time it was 90% of the time!  Even with that, somehow we managed to have the kids bathed and asleep by 8 o’clock or so each night.  Again, we didn’t plan it, it just happened. 

Moose was his usual moosey, happy self.  As long as he spent a few hours in the water, pool or ocean, he was happy.  Even after he got a horrible sunburn, he was STILL happy.  Even after a 15 hour travel day, which involved 3 or 4 modes of transportation, he was good. 

I know you are thinking, okay, so he broke down after you settled back into the home routine?  Nope, not even then.  Not when he got sick Friday night, with a high fever and zero appetite.  Nor when he threw up all over me two mornings later.  Not even when Ben had to fly out Sunday night on a last minute work trip for 2 days.  Moose barely flinched.  He let me do his nighttime routine (which normally, he won’t let me do) and he was even in bed by 8 PM.

The one who finally broke down and was gloomy and sad was ME.  I never do well adjusting back to real life after vacation.  And having to readjust to real life and have Ben leave was just too depressing.  As much fun as I have with Moose, and as much as he makes me smile and laugh, I still have my moments, MY tantrums.  I have a long way to go to learn patience.  I am the one who tends to overreact to situations.  After he puked on me, it took all my will and power not to break down into tears.  That happened later on that night, after Moose was asleep and Ben was gone, when I found a swarm of ants on the puke puddle underneath the couch. 

I am often reminded that we should follow our children’s lead on many things, forgiveness and optimism being on the top of the list.  No matter how much of an asshole I am to Moose, he is always forgiving.  Even when he has his bad moments, within mere minutes, he lets it go and is back to being happy. 

I am doing my best to be more like my son.  For example, Friday Ben took an early day to come home and eat lunch with us.  He then went to play a quick round of golf, saying he would be home before he is normally home from work so we could start our family weekend together early.  When the game ran two hours later than expected, I followed Moose’s lead – I looked at that time as more special time for me and my baby boy, instead of missed family time.  And when Ben did eventually get home, he made it up to me with sushi, which I was able to enjoy since I decided not to indulge in being angry about something neither of us could control.  I was happy, Ben was happy, and of course, Moose was happy. 

I am prone to moodiness, so I am thankful I did not pass that trait on to my child!  I realize saying this about an almost 2 1/2 year old sounds crazy, especially since most of them are prone to tantrums, irrational behavior and the “terrible twos,” but my son is everything I strive to be:  loving, kind, forgiving, optimistic and constantly smiling.


The Moose is almost officially smarter than me. April 18, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 10:40 am

Moose loves the United States of America like some kids love Elmo.  He talks about the different states constantly, LOVES doing his puzzles (his “big USA” and “little USA“).  When he first learned his shapes (over a year ago), he used to point them out in everything.  Now, he points out States (for example, the rug in our dining room has a leaf shaped like Maine, the emblem on his shoes looks like Alaska, etc).  In the process of doing the big puzzle, he is learning capitals.  He asks for the capital for every state, and is picking them up at the rate of 2-3 per day.  He asks me what the capitals are everywhere – in the car, at the store.  Sadly, I don’t know the capitals beyond the states I’ve lived in and a few others.  I keep a placemat map in the car so I have something to refer to when we are out.  I’ve already told him a wrong one, but somehow he knew not to retain it (yes, I now know that Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma, NOT Tulsa – give me a break!)

I recently read in a parenting magazine that kids don’t retain anything they learn at a young age, therefore parents shouldn’t stress about trying to teach them to read or any other “hard facts.”  There is a sad assumption that in order to teach a child something, you either have to drill them or make it so structured they won’t want to learn anymore, or that it will be stressful for the parent and child (does Moose look stressed in the video above?)  If this is true, why bother teaching anyone anything?  I took French in high school and can’t recall a lick of it.  I learned South Carolina history in middle school, but I don’t live there anymore and I couldn’t tell you what year they seceded from the Union.

Moose knows his states better than anyone I know because he does his puzzles multiple times a day.  We all know toddlers love doing things over and over – every parent has a book that they have hidden to avoid the 50th reading in the same day!  And I never force him to do it, he asks to do it before he even eats breakfast.  He carries around the placemat when we go out so he can talk about the states. 

If you give a small child a little bit of real knowledge, they will find many ways to integrate it into their day.  All I do is show word cards, math, bits, and music 2-3 times a day.  It  takes less than a minute for each “session.”  When he is playing, I will hear him practicing saying artists names (my favorite is “Botticelli and “Albrecht Dürer”).  Sometimes, he pretends to teach his cars.  His favorite pupil is Frank (the combine from Cars).  He will say, “Look Frank, that’s a Roseate Spoonbill!  Good job, Frank!” 

I didn’t realize when I started “teaching” Moose, but a wonderful side effect is that I am learning these things at the same time.  I can now identify the name and artist of 20 different classic art pieces.  I know 10 of the most beautiful birds from around the world.  I know all of my states and most of the capitals.  My pitch identification is improving – I can now “hear” what C sounds like if I just think about it.  The only thing I can’t do that Moose can is identify those darn red dots by sight – he can pick out the difference between 15 and 13 dots (although Ben can also do this). 

Not that I am competing with my son – I WANT him to beat me.  By the time his finishes school, his base of knowledge will be  a thousand (maybe a million!) times bigger than mine.   And I will proudly tell anyone who will listen that the Moose is smarter than me 🙂


Dreams for the Moose April 17, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 12:34 pm
Tags: ,

Don’t worry, this isn’t another emotional post about my adventures teaching Moose!  It is pretty funny though, and I was warned by some parents I met at the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course that this would happen.  I have started dreaming about encyclopedic Bits and word cards.

If you know me well, you know that I have crazy, detailed dreams and I usually remember most of them.  Last night, I dreamt I had paved brick pathway with random POIs (Programs of Intelligence) engraved on them.  I had some bits I was trying to organize, and it was really hard to read the bricks because they were covered with mud and dirt.  Moose was following me around trying to help, then he wandered off into the plant beds.  When I looked up at him, I thought the beds were littered with trash.  When I looked closer, I saw they were giant word cards instead of labels for the plants.  I walked over and started teaching him the plants in our yard. 

Meanwhile my bits were laying in a pile on the paved walk, and it started raining.  I had to decide between saving the bits or teaching Moose the plants.  But then Moose walked over, picked the bits up and brought them inside. 

When I woke up, I looked for Moose, but he was so exhausted, he never made it to our bed last night.  I wanted to give him a big hug for saving the bits, then I realized it was all a dream. 

I always attempt to analyze my dreams, and here I think the message was, simplify the bit-making process and teach Moose about the plants in the yard!  I was going to make bits for the plants we just put in last week, but I think some laminated word cards will suffice for now.  He loves learning and saying big words, so my guess is he will learn “rhododendron” and  “meadowlark forsythia” fairly quickly.  Luckily, we just planted last weekend, so I still have all the tags to make sure I teach him the right thing!


TV or not TV? April 9, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:28 pm
Tags: ,

When I was pregnant with Moose, I was working as a buyer.  Being pregnant was a great conversation starter when dealing with new vendors.  One of my coworkers, who was also pregnant, was the queen of making small talk.  At every appointment, she would ask two things – Which are easier – boys or girls?  and  What are some words of wisdom you wish someone had shared with you?

The answers were almost always the same – boys are easier (typically no fuss, although they all admitted girls were more fun and funny with their clothes and dramatics) and the words of wisdom always broke down to two topics – never start the kids on junk food and don’t ever get them started on TV.

I will save the junk food topic for another day.  Today, I wanted to share some compiled statistics about TV and kids. 

  • Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 4,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73
  • Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

Let me do the quick math for you – the average child is watching 28 hours of TV per week, over 60 days of TV per year!!  It sounds ridiculous, but that is 4 hours a day.  That’s a movie plus a couple of their favorite shows, and maybe a DVD during car rides.  And I honestly don’t know if that counts gaming or other techie tools.

During my week at the Institutes, I asked some of the parents whose kids attended the on-campus school what their kids’ TV habits were like.  Most of the moms raved about Baby Einstein, which I found interesting given the recent rebates.  Another mom, who didn’t start doing the program until her kids were 3 1/2 and 5, said 2 years later they don’t watch near the amount of TV as they did before, and the programs they choose to watch are usually on Discovery Channel or History Channel –  given the amount of knowledge they have, “kids” shows just aren’t that interesting anymore.  She said they do reserve Friday nights as movie nights, where they take turns picking the movies.

Moose doesn’t really watch TV.  We have a general rule that we don’t watch TV while he is awake.  Sometimes, he watches Mater videos on the computer (but he is finished in 15 minutes).  Since he doesn’t nap, I sometimes pop in the Cars movie or some Mickey Mouse so I can take a break.  But I’ve noticed after several days of consistent TV watching, he gets whiny and aggressive.  That is when I cut the TV off completely and his attitude always improves within a day.

I realize I sound like some kind of a TV nazi (just like some people think I am a sugar nazi), but I am far from it.  Prior to Moose, I was a major TV junkie.  I still am – my DVR is jam-packed, and luckily, several of my shows are On Demand.  I don’t offer TV to Moose because I know how easy it is to get addicted to it!  And when he is watching, and his little eyes start to glaze over, it makes me sad to think I am wasting his precious time when he would rather be playing with me or learning something.

I am not judging any family who chooses TV as the primary entertainment for their kids.  I’m really putting this out there as a Thank You to the people who gave me their words of wisdom years ago.  So TV or not TV?  In this house, there is no question!!