Wednesday, August 17, 2011

That's Life

I had one of those emotional moments today that brought my vapid little brain to a screeching halt then careening into the infinite possibilities that is life.
It snuck up on me. I simply walked to the front door and peered out at Lexi waiting for the bus.  The morning fog enveloped the whole yard and framed the scene like a dream sequence. Chalk it up to hormones or my imaginative nature but her lithe form patiently waiting at the end of our gravel drive created a picturesque metaphor for life. I had to turn away and started softly crying into my hands as I realized that I was responsible for guiding her down her path and helping her understand what lies beyond the fog.

Then I look over at the end of the sofa and see Emmi asleep in a tangle of blankets and down at my swollen belly and become conscious that I have 2 (soon 3) other little girls that I have to guide through life. I couldn’t bring myself to go peek in on Livi curled up in her bed.

How am I going to manage to nurture and guide these girls? I have to constantly remember to love them maternally and forgive them and myself for selfishness. All relationships are flawed with selfishness and a multitude of sins. I just pray that they forgive my mistakes (past, present & future) as I forgive them.

Paul and I are blessed with 3 beautiful girls and we have to remember though they are our children more notably they are God’s gifts. Though we want to say, “This is our daughter.” The truth is children are God’s gifts to give. I battle with thinking of our girls possessively and lately it’s been especially difficult. We have an independent 12 year old, 2 stubborn toddlers and an overdue pregnancy. Why does it seem I pose a challenge to God each time I make a plan? Thank God for my adaptiveness (He certainly shaped it with His own hands) and for His forgiveness as I struggle to put our children's welfare above my own.

That's life.
I tell ya, I can't deny it,
I thought of quitting baby,
But my heart just ain't gonna buy it.

And if I didn't think it was worth one single try,
I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Art of Distraction

I’m the mother of 3 soon to be 4 (give or take 2 weeks). The hormones surging through my swollen body have managed to affect my brain as well. I admit that I am not very articulate nor armed with the best vocabulary or grammar but trying to piece together complete thoughts is definitely more troublesome while pregnant. Another pregnancy symptom that I look forward to ditching is the insane, vivid dreams. My brand of nonsensical dreams would creep out the likes of Tim Burton… well maybe not but he would at the very least find intriguing material for his movies. 

For the most part, I’ve been too involved caring for the home front to whine about being pregnant. Lately though, my sporadic sleep patterns due to the aches and pains of pregnancy are starting to weigh on me. Though experienced in the whole birth experience, I still find myself somewhere on the edge of joy and dread in these final weeks. The art of distraction though has been a blessing and keeps me from obsessing whether TODAY is the day or not. 

Let’s face it.  None of us like to be forced into doing something or limited in some way. I for one would enjoy living life completely able bodied without having to accommodate extra weight and heft in the front, but the reality is I do and often get leg cramps or ligament pain because of it. Luckily, I have found that a relaxing, uninterrupted bath often soothes me enough that I can pretty much resume normal activity around the house. Also, I hate being limited physically but it just means I have to spend more time doing more sedentary activities like reading or writing. Though, I may fuss a bit at having to slow down, it does help knowing that my condition is temporary and I should be exceedingly grateful for what I do have. The trick is being happy with what you have. It’s easy to complain about what you don’t have (too easy for me) but I remind myself it's much easier in the long run to focus on your blessings instead. 

At times, I feel overwhelmed and even weepy when I start to wonder how in the h-e double toothpicks I’m going to manage one more little person but then I remember the art of distraction. I have to do it daily for myself and I realize that I often do the same for my children.  How often through the course of your own day do you look forward to your “to-do list”? I'm probably being generous when I say at least 50% of my day is loaded with things I really don’t want to do, but they have to get done anyway. The same rule applies to children. They also have their preferences for their day-to-day life (Going to bed on time isn’t one of them). 

You have to keep a mental list of ever-changing “likes and dislikes” and prepare a mental arsenal of distractions. The art of distraction is also known as the art of war… because raising children is a battle, baby. There isn’t much time to analyze and re-analyze when you're staring down the barrel of a gun. Shoot from your hip and if that distraction didn’t work then try another. You have to be quick on your feet literally and metaphorically and nip a potential mêlée in the bud asap or you'll end up at the point of no return in Tantrumsville. Be proactive to avoid bad tempers and pay attention, especially when you have more than one child (there are more variables to consider). Eventually, you can find a suitable activity for your child to do that is within your limits. Don’t ever offer a choice you aren't willing to back up. I’m super-tricky. Thing 1 and Thing 2 often like to be carried from the car to the house. Before they can say,”Mama, will you carry me?”  I say, “Would you like to walk by yourself or hold your sister’s hand?” Get it. Either choice, my pregnant hiney isn’t toting 2 kids. 

The point is… make life easier on yourself and your family. Sometimes, you have to get distracted on purpose to put some space between the problem and solution. No one ever said you have to find the perfect solution to every tiny problem that develops right here and right now. Distraction is a means until you can find a solution. I'm not suggesting you should act now and think later, but all thinking and no action is just as offensive. If you constantly think about a reocurring problem and play out the infinite possibilities in your head until you discover the end-all-be-all solution, then it creates confusion and often frustration. Parenting is frustrating enough. Just breathe and follow your intuition. Each child and each situation is unique to your own family. Paul and I live up to our ideal family standards. We know that we are doing our best and try to keep a realistic perspective. Family life is always going to have difficulties but  we try to revel in the joy that children bring. Life is so much more colorful with children. 

(deep sigh) If you made it to the end, thank you for reading. Writing about my ideas on parenting  helps reassure my beliefs and cleanse my addled brain of unnecessary anxiety.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Parental Advisory

Warning: Parental advice is for mature audiences only.

With # 4 on the way, we’re anticipating the arrival of this little girl to see how different she’ll be from her sisters. Each kid is special and we’re wondering how one more little girl is going to change our family.  So I’ve started thinking about how we fulfill our parental duties. As parents, we know that no one else can supply the basics, love them and provide a secure home like we can. We bear in mind that our kids absorb everything that we expose them to in life. We do our best to love and support our children and know that is our joy to relish in their successes and to guide them through their failures.

The most basic foundation from our perspective on parenting is attitude. Often we have to remind each other to have a positive attitude so our children will also have a positive attitude. When we have adult concerns about anything in life, we’re very careful how we voice our concerns in front of the children. Kids pick up on your attitudes and beliefs, adopt it as their own and take it to heart. Dealing with the normal stress of life, we have to remember that a child’s job is to be a child. We don’t unnecessarily involve our children in adult concerns.  Being a kid is tough enough. We don’t want them to worry or become too involved in adult problems then likely develop negative or apathetic attitudes. Bad attitudes can certainly contribute to discipline problems. With Paul’s insane schedule, it takes some effort to find the proper time to discuss things but we think it’s worth it.

Before we were married, Paul and I discussed and agreed upon fundamental discipline guidelines. Of course, Lexi was a large part of our parenting discussion. During our engagement, Lexi was doing her best to push her boundaries and we only had one unpleasant incident that Paul still jokingly refers to as, “The Great Cookie Incident of 2006.”

Late one night after readying herself for bed, Lexi asked me if she could have a chocolate chip cookie. I said no because it was bedtime and thought that was the end of it. Well, Lexi didn’t think so and skipped over to Paul to ask him for a chocolate chip cookie (I bet she even fluttered her eyelashes).  Paul was blindsided with his first parent vs. child battle.  He happened to be nibbling on aforementioned chocolate chip cookie and even worse he wasn’t fully prepared to handle Lexi’s arsenal of parental weapons. She hit him with her best shot – the guilt grenade.  Paul, of course, felt accountable for her wanting a cookie so his first thought was to give her a cookie.  He attempted to convince me in front of Lexi to let her have a cookie (Big mistake, buddy).  He thought it wasn’t a big deal and she could brush her teeth again before bed.  I listened quietly but inside I was heatedly piecing together my argument and rehashing our past parental conversations.  The silent fury underneath managed to make its presence known in my response, “I said no.”  That was that. When Lexi finally did go to bed, we discussed how we were going to have to support each other in order to not fall victim to wimpy parenting. We both made a parental vow to always put on a unified front even when we think the other is wronger than wrong. In a one parent vs. kid situation, we agreed to support each others' decisions (even if we disagree) then if needed discuss it away from little ears.  Later, we could regroup and come to a more agreeable decision. Support and encourage each other as parents because you cannot do it alone. Raising children is as hellish as war. Promise each other to never let your children see the tiniest chink in your armor, otherwise, you’re as good as dead.

The toughest part about being a parent is maintaining strength. Parenting isn't a popularity contest. Your kids will not like you sometimes. So what. Think of all the other people who also have to deal with your kid. This is a shout out to all the grandparents, extended family members, teachers, daycare workers, church workers, sports parents and carpool drivers. These people can only do so much. It is your job as parents to turn out a good kid!  Don’t expect society to fill in the gaps you missed. This would be a good time to apologize for being soap-boxy but I have more to say.  I’d like others to learn from my life experience. Perhaps it’s a bit preachy but I’m compelled to share just the same.

Overworked, overstressed or indecisive parents tend to be more concerned about their child’s feelings than behavior. Children’s feelings are obviously important but the rest of the world reasonably judges us by our behavior. Don’t give in to manipulative crying, don’t excessively praise your child or over explain EVERYTHING.  Parent up and be tough. Wimpy parents are terrified of their child being uncomfortable (I gathered this knowledge personally). I remember the time in my life when I first realized, “My sanity is at stake. I can’t be a wimpy parent!”  Lexi, was a precocious toddler and able to express herself and understand clearly at an early age. When she was 2 1/2, I went back to work and school full-time. Quickly, she picked up on the fact that I dreaded leaving her every morning. Not only had I said so in front of her but it was all over my face (Well, mascara was all over my face. I soon opted to ditch eye makeup altogether).  Soon, she started crying or throwing fits when I needed to go anywhere, including the bathroom. My anxious reactions to her tantrums fueled her controlling behavior. I had no one to blame but myself.  I’m the parent here. Am I so insecure in my parenting abilities that I’m letting a toddler manipulate me?   Eventually, I regained my confidence and despite the less than favorable circumstances, I quit feeling like I was at fault for working or like I was purposely hurting her by depriving her of the privilege of spending all day together. Our life was a bit chaotic for awhile but we both survived.  Today, I have a BBA in my back pocket, no longer hold down a mediocre job (thanks to Paul) and stay at home with all 3 of our girlies.  Lexi, on the other hand, is one independent, adventurous, well-adjusted kid.  By learning to conform to new situations, she actually grew into the awesome kid she is today.

Even if your time with your children is limited due to work and school, make sure your personal and/or marital needs don’t fall to the lowest daily priority. It will be tough and take some time. However, it’ll be worth all your effort because it’s far too exhausting and impractical to let your children rule your household with an unrealistic sense of importance (Stepping down from soap box). 

Three beautiful reasons I have so much parental advice to give.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Clean Fun

"To be an artist means to never avert one's eyes." -Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are into painting right now. I bought a cheap set of watercolors for their Easter baskets and now they ask to paint all the time. I’m tired of cleaning clothes, brushes, paint, table, chairs and kids, not to mention finding a good spot for the mountain of wet papers. So thanks to the never-ending knowledge of the internet, I found a recipe for DIY bathtub paint as follows: 1/3 c. clear liquid soap (They have sensitive skin so I opted for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash), 1 Tb. cornstarch and a few drops of food coloring.
Honestly, I haven’t tried the exact above recipe. After telling them about making bathtub paint, I discovered we were out of cornstarch so I substituted with baking powder. Is that good or bad? Well, it turned out to foam up a bit but after a few stirs we had a bathtub goop similar to Gak (remember that stinky weird substance that was only fun because of the disgusting noises it made). These little princesses weren’t about to touch the “gloopey gloop”. Thing 1 and Thing 2 won’t even lick their own chocolate covered fingers. Weird, I know. But with art brushes in hand, the tub walls were suddenly covered in blue slashes.
Thank you, Internet. Now I can sit for a minute and drink hot coffee from a ceramic mug (not lukewarm coffee in a travel mug).

You miss a lot of wonderful art if nudity is censored. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Little Slice of Happy Chaos

Last night after dinner, The Big Sister decided to practice saxophone for an upcoming Fine Arts Fair. She hasn’t played for about a year but decided that she’d perform a few solos in mid-May. That kid can do anything. Thing 1 couldn’t be left out so she grabbed her recorder and I gave a tambourine to Thing 2 for good measure. I was scrubbing surfaces and loading the dishes and found myself smiling despite the cacophony of noise. I turned around to find Big Sister focused on her music even though Thing 1 and Thing 2 were doing their best to convince her to let them play her “insta-ment”. I led them to play in the living room so she could practice. Thing 1 decided that if she couldn’t play Big Sister’s sax then she could at least have fun playing along. She pranced (in her just her panties… FYI, pottying is done in mere seconds at our house) and screeched along to Big Sister’s tune. She is 2 (almost 3) and it wasn’t that annoying, considering she was playing a recorder. Also stripped down to just a diaper (Monkey see, Monkey do), Thing 2 played the tambourine for all of 30 seconds and tossed it to the floor. Over all the noise, she stood mesmerized in front of the TV though she couldn’t hear it.
Laughing at Big Sister’s flexibility and determination to ignore her sisters, Thing 1’s dancing and musical abilities, Thing 2’s laid back attitude and Thing 1 & 2’s state of undress, I sat back, watched it all and delighted that I had a little slice of happy chaos for dessert. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dust in the Wind

The progressive rock band, Kansas, knew about dust in the wind. They wrote a whole song about it.
I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes with curiousity.

I particularly identify with this part of the song. For the last two weeks (when it's not raining), I've attempted to drag Thing 1 & Thing 2 outside to play in the yard. We moved to our homestead this January so we've not really enjoyed our yard yet. Fighting cold temperatures and flood-like conditions, we've spent far too much time indoors but the worst culprit of all is WIND.

Most everyone enjoys balmy breezes but the door-wrenching-hair-whipping-toy-blowing-hoodie-snatching-picnic-ruining wind can stir up a storm of irrational anger in me in a blink of an eye.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 also have a mutual dislike for the wind. First of all, they wake excited by the deceiving sunshine so they can enjoy spring activities like blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk and picking dandelions. But when I have to hang onto our storm door with a death grip and a gust of wind threatens to knock them down before they step onto the patio, they slowly back out of the doorway and start to take off their shoes and jackets. We've resorted to blowing bubbles in the kitchen, playing in sand on a plastic tablecloth (so not worth the effort) and playing ball in the house. I didn't enjoy bringing the outdoors in so I put the those things back outdoors. To spice up playime, I bought a bag of balloons. Surprisingly, a whole bag of balloons has lasted over a week without being noisy, messy or destructive. Still, balloons are no consolation for playing outside!

I know wind has a purpose but I still hate it because wind...
  • Ruins perfectly sunny days by chilling you to the bone.
  • Makes me paranoid in parking lots that my door will fly open and ding the car next to me.
  • Causes difficulties during track practice for Big Sister. It's hard enough without competing with the wind.
  • Knocks over trash bins. Empty or full it's still annoying.
  • Damages trees and possibly our roof (fingers crossed)
  • Fuels grass fires.
  • Dries out my eyes.
  • Blows dirt, leaves and debris everywhere.

Most all, I hate wind because it makes me feel small and inconsequential like dust in the wind.

FUN FACT: Kansas was my first concert at Tulsa, Oklahoma's MayFest. I went with my mom, my mom's friend and her daughter. I was 15 & screamed, "Kansas Rules!" at the most inapproriate, quiet moments just to be annoying. It was pretty boring after Dust in the Wind so I spent most of the time laughing at beer sloshing, weirdo concert goers. Good times.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Confession: I can be rude.

As a stay-at-homer, my adult conversations are limited. It’s awfully disappointing that most of my adult conversations are peppered with rudeness. It’s to the point that I feel like outfitting my kids in matching tees reading, “Please don’t ask my mom rude questions and/or make rude observations.”
It wouldn't be effective but at least the general public would be forewarned before I unleash the pent up rage I have in regards to impolite, pointless questions.
“Are you going to try for a boy?”
We have 4 girls. We obviously tried. Don’t you think? Furthermore, what’s wrong with girls?
“Don’t you know how you get babies?”
Obviously, we are competent in this area. Thanks for noticing.
“How are you going to manage 4 kids?”
A minivan, lots of coffee, naps and wine. I think I read that in a parenting book. No, wait I just made that up. Oh, well, sounds good to me.
“This one doesn’t look like you.”
Wow, I appreciate you taking the time to notice our genetic differences. Did you have a reason to point this out? Because I can assure you she’s mine.  See the whole birth process is pretty unpleasant so that you’ll remember which kid is yours.
“You look tired.”
I am so I guess it’s a good thing that I can convince others of my exhaustion. Maybe it’s necessary to look tired so that others will leave me alone so I can sleep.
Now that I’ve unloaded what I really want to say when I’m asked the same rude questions over and over again, perhaps I can continue to grin and bear it. I can’t guarantee that though.

Confession: I'm not so brainy.

 I have a tendency to think of myself as intuitive rather than cerebral. This last Sunday, I unintentionally proved this idea. 
Over spring break, Lexi spent the week with an Evansville friend and her family in Destin, FL. After church, Emmi, Livi & I trekked the 2 ½ hours to Evansville to pick her up. We chatted with our friends for a bit, had a restroom break, grabbed some snacks then headed back to Brownstown. Notably missing, I didn’t double check a map. My cop out answer could be “that’s Paul’s job” (since I humbly admit that I am a better passenger than navigator) but he wasn’t there to blame so I’ll just chalk it up to relying too heavily on my intuition.
Somehow by spiritedly talking to Lexi, pulling over for a carsick toddler and ordering Lexi to wipe noses, pass out drinks/snacks and hunt for lost toys (the poor thing has to take over my duties when I’m the lone driver), I managed to get a speeding ticket. I was speeding but I was being passed by another car at the time which irritated me more. After the hi po slapped a ticket in my hand, I inaudibly muttered curses at him until he zoomed away then we were off. Or so I thought. It took a while but I eventually realized that I missed my turn by 30 miles. In my defense, most Indiana highways look the same and I was headed in the right direction, north, but I forgot that I needed to go east as well.  All my surroundings were familiar so my intuitive side continually argued to my cerebral side that everything was A-OK. Plus, let’s face it. I was not in navigator form. I assumed that I would naturally slip into let’s-go-home mode but I was more focused on keeping everyone comfortable and happy (and they were). At least I did something right.
Anyway after my cerebral side talked some sense into my intuitive side, we made another stop for restrooms and map checking. I found the sanest solution was to back track to an eastward rural highway. Obviously already peeved about the ticket and getting lost, I gave up on being bothered and decided to treat the whole misadventure as if I wanted it to go that way. Not necessarily my exact feelings, but what are you going to do? To be honest, it was a far more picturesque drive and took the same amount of time once you factored out our lost hour. The girls and I discovered more of rural Indiana like Loogootee, IN, the home of Jack Butcher, Indiana’s Winningest High School Basketball Coach. To see that awkward phrase in its entirety on a water tower is unforgettable. We pointed out other interesting sights, shared more stories about our week apart and laughed about our misadventures. Aside from a few hiccups, it was a good road trip.
So maybe my intuition isn’t all that bad, but neither is taking the time to plan carefully. I learned two things from that experience: 1) Pay attention to speed limit signs, especially on boring Indiana highways 2) Despite your best (or not best) effort stuff happens and when stuff happens just roll with it.
Paul added 3) Bring your husband to drive so you can enjoy the trip.
I agree.