Back at work

In one breath I can say, “Eight weeks isn’t enough time!” and “Oh my goodness I was so ready to come back.”

I returned to work exactly 56 days after giving birth to my newest joy and blessing and the little creature that ensures I get no more than three hours of sleep every day — Owen Michael. I loved my time home with Owen and older son Miles when he wasn’t at school.

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Those eight weeks were an amazing opportunity to bond with my new son and also to help Miles adjust to a different home dynamic. It was also a chance to see a whole lot more of my husband and to get our money’s worth from our Netflix account (I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many television series I consumed during those sleepless, long nights.)

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I had all these grand plans of the things I’d accomplish over maternity leave both in the way of tasks that had been put off and Pinterest-worthy activities we’d do as a family.
Wah-wah. (That’s the game show “you didn’t get it right” sound effect.)

Not much got accomplished beyond snuggling. I am nursing Owen so those first few weeks it felt like I didn’t really move much from the little nest I’d created for myself. I was grateful to have Michael there to refill my beverage and bring me snacks when I was tethered down by a baby who was hungry, needed comfort or had fallen asleep and looked too darn comfortable to move.

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Miles was always able to find his spot on my lap too so I would still be able to snuggle him while nursing Owen. Those quiet moments with both of my babies snuggled peacefully and closely to my chest were magical. That’s when I said — eight weeks isn’t enough time! I can’t go back to work. How can I leave this tiny baby and little boy who need their mama? How will I be able to focus on my work when all I can think of is Owen’s pursed little lips and shiny eyes? It’s not enough time!

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And in a lot of ways it wasn’t.

But, there were also days or moments when I was hunkered down in that little nursing nest when it didn’t feel like a cozy, comfortable retreat to snuggle and nourish my baby. Instead it felt like a prison. I wanted out of the house. I wanted to shower on a daily basis. I wanted to not have a baby attached to me 24/7. I wanted to be able to eat a meal while it was still hot. I wanted to be able to sleep more than the hour here or there between nursing, pumping and laundry. I missed my work and my co-workers.

Those are the moments when I would scream (in my own head of course), “I’m ready to go back!”

And of course when my maternity leave finally started to wind down I was feeling less and less ready. A lot of that stemmed from guilt — I was leaving my tiny, helpless baby in the care of someone other than me, really for the first time. Anxiety peaked the night before as I ran over the list of “how-tos” with my husband — who I know is more than capable. I’m lucky is able to be the caregiver.

An additional factor is that just days after I return I’ll be taking over as the features editor as my editor, Linda Negro, and fellow reporter Roger McBain are both retiring. While out on maternity leave I interviewed candidates to find a replacement for Roger and I thought about (and if I’m honest fretted a little) about how things would work. So in addition to some guilt with my return, I’m facing a little doubt and fears of inadequacy.

The day finally arrived; I came to work. I just cried a little in the parking lot. I have an amazing group of friends and co-workers who surprised me with treats and gifts to distract from the stress of the day and I kept busy and accomplished a lot. And while things were going well at the office, poor little Owen (and his daddy) were struggling at home. Owen refused to take a bottle. He’d taken about three up to that point so he was far from an expert but at least knew what he was doing. But he flat out refused. He was hungry. Hungry babies scream.

So much of that first day Michael had a screaming, starving baby and I worried from work. That night Owen nursed for about four hours.

Day 2 I got a desperate text message from Michael: “This is not working. The longer I try to more upset he gets and the more frustrated I get. It’s not doing anybody any good. You might need to come home and feed him. I can’t do anything for him.”

That message broke my heart for both Owen and Michael. I hated the notion that my husband felt helpless to soothe and comfort our son and I was devastated that my son was hungry and couldn’t stop crying.

My first instinct was to run home and nurse him. But I knew it wasn’t the solution. So we waited it out.

I called the pediatrician, the hospital’s lactation services, my mom and my friends. They all agreed that he would eat when he was hungry enough and that it was worse for us than him.

By 4 p.m. Michael texted a picture of a smiling, happy baby.

“I think we have a breakthrough — empty bottle, happy baby!”

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Happy and relieved mommy too!

So, is eight weeks enough? For this mom it might have been. I’m so happy to be back especially with the challenges and changes ahead. I’m not going to lie though, it certainly doesn’t come without sacrifice. But, I’m treasuring my time outside of home grateful that I’m able to support my family and my sanity.​

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Thinking healthy

Last week, I wrote a story about a very nice man, Larry “Ox” Townsend, from Henderson, who has recovered from a stroke he had earlier this year. It got me thinking about a few things, mostly that I need to start taking better care of myself.

I’m 35, staring down the barrel of 40, and some days I feel like I’m 80. Too much bad food, not enough exercise, poor sleep habits, too much stress – all those risk factors that I am sure affect a whole lot of us.

As Mr. Townsend told me his story, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The main thing is food. I like food. I really like meat, and salty things, and spicy things and cheesy things and fried things. And sugary drinks. Pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to stay away from.

Of course, as I type this blog, there’s a commercial on the radio for Subway’s new pastrami melt sandwich. See, I love pastrami. I am kind of obsessed with it, actually.

I haven’t even really started the “health kick” and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be an uphill battle.

It’s not like I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone on diets before, dropped 20 or 25 pounds and thought, “Hey this is not hard at all.”

But I’ve never really stuck with it. That’s the hard part. You start to think you have control, and hey, I lost all that weight. I can eat that whole pizza, just this one time. But then one time becomes twice, then three times, then before you know it you’re supporting the Tri-State pizza industry all by yourself and back to your old weight.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey this guy is talking about starting a diet with Thanksgiving coming up, good luck with all that.” And you’re probably right.

But I think if I start slow, cutting down on the soft drinks …

(Down south we call them “cokes” regardless of whether it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or whatever, but that’s another blog entry for another time)

… I think I can build up to a better overall plan. Cutting out a few things at a time, instead of just dropping everything at once and expecting a miracle.

With two little kids around, I need to do a better job this time. I’m not committing myself to a “full body transformation” or anything crazy. I won’t be doing P90’s or crossfit or any of that stuff right now. I just want to start eating a little better.

Now if they’ll just stop running that darn Subway commercial…

Requiem for a grouch

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I’d like to think I am a good dad.

But I can also be a real grouchy jerk, often without even knowing it.

I was reminded of that while having a “constructive dialog” (i.e., an argument) with Abbey the other day about how to handle disciplining Miles these days – he has been acting up quite a bit lately, especially since the new baby came along.

I don’t mean to be a crank, but I suppose frustration gets the best of me too often. I probably raise my voice a little too much. And Miles, being the stubborn, willful child that he is, isn’t particularly inclined to listen any better when the decibel level of my voice gets higher – he simply misbehaves even more in protest.

In addition to my usual triggers – noise, messes, mornings – it seems like all of us in this house let ourselves get wrapped up in it. If one person gets upset and starts raising their voice, it turns into a cycle of tension, frustration and raised voices for everyone. Even when you’re not mad at somebody, you still end up raising your voice, if for no other reason than just to make yourself heard.

One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to size up a complicated, emotional problem and come up with a solution. She intuited that if we raised our voices less, Miles would probably behave better.

So far, it is working. There are far fewer episodes of willful disobedience and he is a lot more cooperative with us the last few days.

When he does act up, he goes to his new “timeout chair.” This is a rocking chair in the corner of the living room. There aren’t any toys or distractions – his previous timeout spot was his bedroom, which only seems to exacerbate the situation which put him in timeout to start with. I won’t say the “timeout chair” is perfect, but he seems to respond to it much better. After all, a three-year-old bundle of energy can’t waste time sitting around in a boring chair in a boring corner, there are just too many other things to do.

This has been a good reminder for me how my bad mood can affect everybody else, even when I don’t mean to inflict it upon on my family – and I think Abbey would admit she can be the same way sometimes.

It’s also a reminder that we need to stay flexible in how we interact with our kids. What works for one kid may not work for another, and even with the same kid, what worked a year ago may not be the best approach for right now.

Nobody died and made anybody a parenting expert. We are learning just like everybody else and doing the best we can. Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll be able to look back and say we did a good job.

 

 

 

Welcome to the world, kid

Up until now, my dad responsibilities have centered around Miles, our three-year-old son. Miles is a brown-eyed, tousled-hair, sticky-handed tornado of energy and big personality. He teaches me a little more about myself every day, and sometimes I have a hard time remembering what my life was like before him (I mean that in a good way, of course).

However, as of Monday afternoon, our second son Owen is now Abbey calls an “outside baby,” and will obviously demand his share of attention:

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Owen Michael Doyle made his worldy debut Monday afternoon at 1:55 p.m. He was happy and healthy, just under 7 pounds and 19 1/12 inches long. He has big, dark eyes, a smattering of red hair, and bears a striking resemblance to his big brother when he was a newborn.

Owen on the left, Miles on the right.

Owen on the left, Miles on the right.

(I am told the red hair probably comes from my mother’s side of the family. Abbey does, in fact, have red hair, but that’s with the assistance of Clairol — or knowing Abbey, most likely whatever brand just happened to be on sale.)

The first couple of days have been fantastic and tiring. I can’t say enough about Abbey, who has been so tough through the whole experience. Several hours after having her abdomen sliced open, she was up and walking around the hospital room, and somehow managed to function on literally 15 minutes of sleep that first night. It’s amazing.

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Speaking of amazing –

So far, Owen is thriving! He’s nursing really well, poops a lot — which I’m told is a really good sign – and doesn’t cry too much. His interests, at the moment, seem to be twofold: starting wide-eyed at whatever happens to be within his six-to-eight-inch visual range; and chewing on his blanket.

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The eating thing is a huge relief. Miles struggled so much with that as a newborn that he lost a bunch of weight and had us worried for a while. But Owen has been, as his mom says, “a rock star.” I guess everybody’s got to learn to eat and poop sometime, but it’s nice that he seems to be well ahead of the curve.

Allow myself to introduce … myself

Regular readers of this blog know that its usual author will be out of circulation for a few weeks. But fear not, the show will go on! As Abbey mentioned in her last entry, I will be taking over Aparently Obvious while she is on maternity leave.

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For clarity’s sake, my name is Michael. I am Abbey’s husband, a regular contributor to the Courier & Press (and a couple of other very fine daily publications throughout Louisiana and Texas) and a stay-at-home dad.

Unlike my globe-trotting, career-achieving wife, my life story resides on the boring side of average. I’m a cheeseburger-and-fries, t-shirt-and-jeans, can’t-dance-at-all kind of guy. But that’s okay, we can’t all be Justin Timberlake.

I am from south/central Louisiana, where I spent the first 31 years of my life. Met a girl, got married, you know the story – next thing I know I’m in the land of Mellencamp and high school basketball. After a few years living in the northern half of Indiana, we moved down to Evansville about a year and a half ago.

I’ll always be a Louisiana boy. Louisiana is like something that just gets in your bones. You can never leave it behind.

But, I like Evansville a lot and have already come to think of it as home. I’m excited about the prospects of living and raising a family here in the long term.

So I will try to carry this blog forward with that as the overall focus, for you, the loyal readers. And I know you’re out there, because several times when I’ve been out covering a story I get the whole “You’re married to Abbey?!? I love her blog!!!” thing.

Mostly, it’s going to simply be a slice-of-life kind of thing, as we all get adjusted to life with a new member of the family. I feel like we’re off to a great start already.

Stay tuned!

Trading places

This is it.

At least for me, for a while.
As I type those words a couple things go through my mind — the first is the catchy 1979 Kenny Loggins’ tune (“This is It”) and the other is, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe that in just a few days I’ll be mom to two.”

Seriously, how did that happen? (Don’t answer that, I really know the answer but it doesn’t make it any less scary!)

Fireworks in Anderson in 2012.

After Michael Jackson’s “This is It” clears my brain (yes, both tunes are floating around in my head this morning), I am left only with my mushy baby-brain thoughts; I don’t really have anything too profound for my parting words.

But fear not, oh faithful readers. This blog isn’t known as “A ‘Mom’ly Obvious.” Its moniker is “A Parently Obvious,” so the other parent in this household will be taking over.

We are going to be kind of switching roles for the next eight weeks. Michael is super-stay-at-home dad who works from home part-time normally while I’m the full-time, works-too-many-late-nights mom. But now, Michael will be focused on working a lot more, and I will be taking on the primary parenting and household duties. I’m afraid of what may become of the house during this switch, but I’ll do my best.

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I’m looking forward to the change of pace. I’ve never been one to question what my stay-at-home husband does all day. I know raising kids and keeping up with a house, along with working as a freelance reporter, is a ton of hard work. I have no allusions that my time at home will be a welcome break from my pace at my job. What it will be though is a wonderful opportunity for me to bond with our new son and to shower a lot of attention on Miles.

But don’t get too attached to my hubby. I want the blog back when I return to work at the end of November. No matter how clever, insightful or just better he may be, I want it back!

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Until then, have a great couple months, and I’ll talk to you again in about eight weeks. Michael will keep you in the loop about all of our adventures as a new family of four in the meantime.

Some good too

So yesterday I focused on all the not-so-joyful elements of the “miracle of pregnancy” with this blog. And while I meant every single one of them and more that I didn’t even mention, there are some pretty amazing things about being pregnant.

Today I’ll focus on the things I’ve loved about being pregnant and will miss in just a few days.

Let’s start with the magic. It is kind of unbelievable to think about the fact that I am growing a human being right this very second! It’s a concept that is so hard to wrap my mind around. But there is a living, breathing (well kind of) little dude hanging out INSIDE ME. That’s kind of outrageous when you think about it. I think we all kind of just accept that this is who babies come into the world and don’t stop and think about how incredible and complicated of a process those 10 months of gestation really are. And I am lucky enough to get to do it — twice!

Another thing I love is watching and feeling Owen move around in there. And this kiddo does a ton of that. I don’t remember Miles being as active or at least as strong with his movements as Owen has been. Every time we get an ultrasound the tech even comments on how he’s always rolling, flipping or kicking something. I can sit back at my desk, in the car, in bed, really anywhere and if I sit still for more than a few minutes I see a little (and sometimes big) ripple or jump in my stomach or side. That’s pretty awesome (even the times that it is a kick to the bladder or a painful kidney or ribcage I’m pretty impressed with it.)

Ice cream, Jason’s Deli salad bar and other indulgences I may not always allow myself seem a little more acceptable while pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to eat a healthy, balanced diet and was very active until about 28 weeks (an hour of Zumba twice a week, a 5K, several mile bike rides, lots of walks on the greenway). But my nightly dose of ice cream and a heaping pile of olives aren’t something I can really pull off when I’m not pregnant. It’s pretty nice to be able to excuse a crazy eating habit with, “Eh, I’m pregnant. What do you expect?”

I haven’t had to move furniture or lift other heavy stuff these last few months. Both times I’ve been pregnant we’ve moved. I’m not sure how I worked this out, but it happened. The first time around I definitely did more heavy lifting than I should have because I’m pretty stubborn and didn’t listen much. This time I did my fair share of packing (AKA most of it) but did very little moving and only kind of directed my hubby and friends who helped with the not-so-fun task. And when I’ve got heavy things in my car I’m able to say (and should say mind you), “Hey, I’m kind of pregnant over here. Do you mind getting that for me?”

And I think the most special part of this whole difficult, messy, stressful and joyful experience of pregnancy is that for these nine or so months Owen is just mine. As soon as he’s an “outside baby” I have to share him with the rest of the world. But right now I have this special, magical connection with him, something no one else will ever get with him. I treasured that so much with Miles and, even with all of the challenges and struggles I’ve had with this pregnancy with Owen I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m the luckiest person out there to have been chosen to create and nurture this little guy keeping him safe deep inside me.

So on Monday when the rest of the world gets to meet Owen, and I get to hold him in my arms for the first time I’ll know what that feels like because I’ve been holding him in my heart this whole time. He will no longer be a physical part of me but will continue to have a spot in my heart, right there next to Miles’ spot. And when he gets passed from me to Michael to my mom to my sister … I’ll remember the time when he was just mine and treasure these very special (hot and uncomfortable) moments.

What were you favorite things about being pregnant?

One baby to another

I’ve talked about Project Reveal here a time or two. My recent absence from regular blogging can be attributed directly to this amazing nonprofit organization and my role in planning its first-ever event.

The amazing Stacey Godbold utilizing the photo booth and showing off the back of her dress!

The amazing Stacey Godbold utilizing the photo booth and showing off the back of her dress!

The organization’s creator, Stacey Godbold, and myself have been working on birthing the baby that was named Embrace Your Body. This baby was a fundraising event Friday night and an outreach event on Saturday. We certainly are not the only two involved; lots of other people played big and small roles in bringing this baby into the world. But I’m not sure if anyone else went through the “labor” that Stacey and I experienced with this amazing event.

I’m not going to lie though, it was pretty painful. Remember, I’m just three weeks shy of birthing another baby (this one actually is a human!) I was so tired and sore when I dragged myself home after 11 p.m. Friday night that I couldn’t even walk upstairs to bed; I slept on the couch.

Let me first say, baby Embrace Your Body came into this world at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at 56/58 Adams Avenue and was a healthy, happy and super inspiring gal. OK, enough with the metaphor … The event was fabulous. There were more than 200 people that came through the door; we raised a lot of money; we had a great time; and, most importantly, we touched and inspired a lot of people! That was the most important part of what we did.

One of the inspiring photos Erin took.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

One of the inspiring photos Erin took. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Two of the photos on display during the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Two of the photos on display during the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

The super-talented photographer Erin McCracken took hundreds of photos of women from the Evansville area of all ages, shapes, backgrounds and ethnicities back in June. And let me point out that these women were in their underwear! They were truly embracing their bodies and entrusting us. We narrowed the photos down to 24 and made huge prints (seriously huge — two feet by three feet.) Those photos were then displayed in a swanky feeling gallery space in Evansville’s Haynie’s Corner Art District. Add to that live music, a fun photo booth, delicious food, a bar, an amazing green lemonade and the inspirational words of Stacey and Erin and you have a perfect night.

We also made sure those that attended the event (and also supported us with their positive words, encouragement and donations) felt like they could be a part of Project Reveal. They participated in our interactive art piece that will forever be a part of Project Reveal and then also had the opportunity to either “embrace their body” or “reveal” something about themselves on luminary bags that meandered and glowed around the Haynie’s Corner fountain.

People walking to the luminary display at the fountain.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

People walking to the luminary display at the fountain. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries on display.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries on display. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

I’m not going to lie, when I walked outside and saw that at the end of the night my eyes got a little wet. It was beautiful. Not only was it just an impressive site seeing all the luminary bags glowing and the words written on them but it was validation for what we’d worked so hard to do.

Each of those bags represented someone that believed in something that I’d invested so much of myself into recently, something I’d made so many sacrifices for in recent months and something that I too really believed in.

Luminaries at the fountain. Picture courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries at the fountain. Picture courtesy of Project Reveal

It meant a lot that my mom, twin sis, family friend and boss all took their time (and money, this event wasn’t free folks, it was a fundraiser after all) to support me by showing up. There were other co-workers there supporting the organization as well. It really meant a lot.

I know my husband is so very, very tired of hearing me say, “I’ve got to work late tonight on Project Reveal,” “I won’t be home until 10 or 11 because of set up for the event,” “I’ve got to leave to do a radio spot for Project Reveal,” “We’ve got a Project Reveal event all afternoon, sorry I won’t be home.” But every time he said, “Go, have fun. It’s fine.”

Coworker Megan Erbacher posing with me and Erin McCracker during the event. Photo courtesy of Megan Erbacher

Coworker Megan Erbacher posing with me and Erin McCracker during the event. Photo courtesy of Megan Erbacher

Without him completely taking over all of the house maintaining and child care duties the last couple weeks I’m not sure what would have happened. I certainly couldn’t have done what I was able to do with and for the event.

I know I wasn’t the only one making these sacrifices. Stacey, mom of triplets who just turned 1 and a 4 year old, made even more sacrifices and put even more blood, sweat and tears into the planning. And Erin, who got married in the midst of all this event planning craziness, also was super dedicated and involved.

And the most important thing to stress here is that I WANTED to do it all. I’m the kind of person that likes to be involved in something. I want to channel my passion and energy into something I believe in. I hadn’t really had that in the last few years, especially since I’d had Miles. I’d get involved with specific events (I was on the planning committee for Relay for Life in Madison County, was on the Heart Walk team here, etc.) but had not really found a place where I really felt I belonged and could have an impact.

People enjoying the gallery.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

People enjoying the gallery. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

But I think Project Reveal is it. The mission of the organization is to create a forum where “women can help other women by sharing their stories, strength and hope about a defining time in their lives.”

So until I hear otherwise from Stacey, she and Project Reveal are stuck with me.

But I have to say, now that baby Embrace Your Body has made it’s debut it is time for me to focus on the other baby I’ve been working on for the last eight-plus months — baby Owen. His debut (if all goes as planned) is in 21 days. It’s been hard to focus on preparing for his arrival with all the event details and deadlines. So now my focus is on this baby and back on my amazing and supportive husband and kiddo Miles.

If you want to learn more about Project Reveal visit projectreveal.org.​

Throwback Thursday

Way back then the hubby and I did actual touristy things every once in a blue moon. This trip to Memphis was our version of a one-day vacation. Most of our vacation time back then was spent driving up to Indiana from Louisiana to spend time with my family.

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These days most of our vacation time is spent driving down to Louisiana to see his family.

During those trip five or so years ago we would try to make an overnight stop midway somewhere different so we could have a little mini-vacay.

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This trip to Memphis in 2009 was a fun one. Here’s some of the memories from it. We look so young. And I still wear that shirt ALL THE TIME!

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Not listening … my son, never!

Today when my husband picked Miles up from preschool he gets pulled aside by one of the school staff that helps with the drop-off/pick-up routine every day.

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“Miles had an especially difficult time listening today,” she said. I have no idea what the tone was as I wasn’t there and Michael doesn’t have a great brain for those kinds of details. But in my imagination it was pretty disappointing. Oh wait, no, it was ominous.

Dum, dum, DUM! *Insert suspenseful music here*

OK, let’s get real. The kid is three. Like just turned three. Actually, during the open house last week I learned from the teacher that this year is unusual as many of the kids are on the young side of three (although Miles is by far the youngest having only turned three nine days before the first day of school.) Most years the preschool class there is filled with kids who are either three and almost four or already four. So she admitted that things weren’t going as smoothly as normal.

I certainly want my little guy to listen. I want him to contribute to the classroom and not be a distraction. But I’m not really sure how you achieve that. We talk about the importance of listening. We try to practice it at home (trust me, we ask him to listen A LOT!) But what more can you do? What other strategies are there out there for “encouraging” listening.

We model listening giving him lots of opportunities to talk and to really be heard by my husband and me. And we certainly point out when he interrupts someone while talking and ask him to listen.

But again, he’s three. And a spirited, strong-willed, stubborn-at-times three at that. He is my child after all! My mom keeps apologizing to me for “cursing” Michael and me with a kid that apparently is just like me when I was a kid.

I don’t want to “squash” his spirit. But I do want him to be a productive and active part of the classroom, not a distraction. Advice for strategies to meet in the middle? What have you seen with your kids? What’s worked? What was a flop? Any teachers out there want to give me advice from your perspective?