Friday, December 10, 2004

late nights

So, I've been wanting to blog all week, and I even wrote down some themes, but I just haven't had the time, energy or focus. Excuses, excuses.

The boys didn't get to sleep until 10 tonight (or last night or the night before), so that's when I dragged myself out of bed to finally talk to my husband, who'd been at a school/work function all evening. We need to be up early tomorrow to go to our friends' for a work party, and I should probably have followed him back to bed an hour ago. But sometimes, late at night -- when the house is finally quiet and I've had time to just read e-mail for a while and veg out -- is the best time for new thoughts and ideas to emerge. Thus, the insistence of radical unschoolers that parent-enforced bedtimes for children are anathema to creativity and learning in freedom.

Monday night Scott and I went to hear and meet some unschooling gurus (experienced unschooling moms) speak. The time we spent was interesting, but I wished I could have stayed into the wee hours, when the non-unschoolers were done asking about the basics and we could really discuss the philosophy of living and learning with our children more freely.

The punk rock family on Wife Swap this week was a good example of that. They didn't call themselves unschoolers per se, but they lived in joy and freedom with each other, and the teen-aged children "homeschooled themselves." I don't think I've mentioned my obsession with Wife Swap. I haven't had a favorite TV show in years. And I know some people think Wife Swap is annoying. But I find it fascinating how differently people can live, and how they react when put in a totally new environment. I would love to do it just to see what kind of family they would send me to, but obviously the boys couldn't handle me leaving for that long this young, and I wouldn't want to subject them to the coercion of a stranger at any age.

But just for fun, I've thought about what my opposite would be like. My mom says it would be someone with a nanny and a housekeeper who gets weekly manicures and pedicures. My sister says it would be a family who is isolated from relatives and close friends. Whoever it was would certainly have to adjust to frequent knocks on the door from unplanned visitors!

For example -- and not an unusual one -- within a period of 15 minutes yesterday morning, we opened to the door to my neighbor and her kids, who promptly entered and tripled the volume of noise in the house, then my sister, who I think was looking for food, and then Carla (the only expected visitor of the three), who needed a ride to work. I took my secondborn with me, and left the rest of the kids and my neighbor friend to the chaos.

Maybe I'd get a family where the dad did all the cleaning, or maybe the dad would be a nit-picky perfectionist who only supervised -- since Scott neither cleans nor cares, for the most part.

I'd probably get a family where the parents micro-manage the children, expect obedience without question, enforce a strict schedule, and depend on outsiders to determine what their children should be learning. I wouldn't have to go far.

What do you think would be my opposite?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Life is good again.

It's Friday afternoon. Little Blue Eyes is resting them. His big brother is watching the Little Bear Movie, and I'm baking the last of eight dozen pumpkin spice cookies. I didn't intend to make quite so many. My sister Lindsay was visiting us yesterday afternoon while I made the dough, and I accidently put in the whole can of pumpkin instead of just one cup. So I had to triple the recipe, and try to fit it into my Kitchenaide bowl, which was a challenge. Fortunately, Scott thinks they're the best cookies I've ever made. I've eaten too many of them by now to agree.

So, I am feeling better. :) Thank you to those of you who wrote or called to check in with me this week. God is good. All the time. I think the boys and I finally caught up on our sleep last night. I put them to bed a little after 8, and accidentally fell asleep while Grant was nursing. Didn't wake up until 7 this morning. I actually had 45 minutes of quiet time! The boys slept till almost 8 a.m., and woke up in great moods. (I don't think I mentioned that Green Eyes was sick last week. Spent the night before his brother's birthday throwing up every hour, so none of us slept that night. When I wrote last, he still wasn't feeling himself.)

Monday night Scott came home and eased my stress level by offering to do the grocery shopping Tuesday evening. Just knowing I didn't HAVE to do it helped. I ended up going Tuesday morning anyway, so we could have the evening at home to watch the election news, and because the boys were in decent moods after we took Carla to work. We got in and out of the store so efficiently, I drove through Starbucks afterward for a treat.

Wednesday we were able to go to our homeschooling co-op for the first time in a month. I set the boys loose in the huge yard, and gabbed with my friends. It's so nice knowing that they can play freely and safely, and there are always other eyes keeping watch if they wander out of my sight.

Then yesterday Mark and his girls came over, and we enjoyed a sunny day in the garden. I planted a few more flats of pansies; still have several shrubs left to plant, but it looks pretty so far. I was planning to start a private childbirth prep series with friends of mine last night, but she came down with a cold, so we rescheduled. Thus, the 8 o'clock bedtime.

Today we had friends over for lunch who we haven't seen much of lately, so that was fun. Tomorrow we have another work party all day, and then we'll host the potluck dinner. It's been a full, but good week. The house isn't perfect, but when has it ever been? (Besides when Franklin was five months old, still sleeping a lot, and not making messes yet.)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Alone at last

For the first time in months, both my boys are down for an afternoon nap -- in bed, and at the same time -- and I'm actually alone.

This is a good thing, even though I've been feeling lonely and isolated from my closest friends lately. My friend and her son moved out two weeks ago, so we've been working our way back to our old routine again. We've committed to helping her with transportation to work until she gets a car, so my week is still influenced by her schedule.

Actually, if I'd looked at the correct schedule, I wouldn't be typing this at all. My sister and I took the boys to Barnes & Noble this morning, thinking I didn't have to be back until 12:30. Turns out I was supposed to watch her son at 11:30 and she was going to take my car, but we didn't get back until 11:45. So she woke up her ex, who works nights, instead. No, I still don't have a cell phone.

The mistake meant I could actually put my kids down for a nap when they were ready, which was earlier than usual because of the time change. My 3.5yo hasn't been napping except occasionally since before he turned three, but lately he's been sleeping less at night and been cranky all day. I know some people could get three toddlers to nap at the same time, but I haven't figured out how to do that non-coercively yet. It's been easier just to keep them busy outside or turn on a movie, and if one of them falls asleep in my lap or on the couch, great.

So, here I am, writing again. I have a really hard time finding creative energy when my life feels out of control. I lose my sense of humor. Even though it might be good for me to sit down and just get all my emotional crap out of my head and onto the screen, I can't do it. Especially when I know people will see it. I don't want to feel sorry for myself. And I'm tired of hearing, "That's really nice of you. She's lucky to have you for a friend." Yes, I'm glad to be able to help. I'd do it all again. That's not really the point. The problem is figuring out how to make it work better. How to deal with the stress that comes on when you have extra people living in your house, and you weren't the best household manager to begin with. How to maintain your relationship with your husband and children when time and opportunties for one-on-one attention are always short. How to still connect with your other friends when you're never alone long enough to feel like calling anyone, and don't have transportation half the time.

That last issue, however, is not just because my friend was living with us for 2.5 months. Five weeks ago she went to work full-time, and wasn't around that much anymore. No, it's more because I still haven't learned to be direct about my needs. I still depend on other people's listening and intuitive skills too much. So, when an neighbor who loves to talk, is away from adult contact all day, and whom I need to maintain a decent working friendship with drops by three or four times a day, I feel trapped. I don't want to say, "You're driving me crazy! I have stuff to do! Go home and stop leaving your kids alone!" Because sometimes I'm really glad to have someone to talk to, even if it's fairly surfacy. Sometimes my kids are thrilled to have their friends stop by, because they know I probably won't get everything in order to make the trip across the street myself. Because I'm too anal. I like to shower and dress before I leave the house. I don't want my kids crossing the street barefoot, but I can't find their socks. Because I know if it's too close to a mealtime, we'll get hungry and cranky before we're ready to come home, and it'll be a nightmare tearing them away again.

And then we come to the next problem. My firstborn child's and my matching melancholy temperament. We've been driving each other crazy lately. Our blood sugar drops at the same time, and we're equally inept at recognizing hunger and seeking food before it's too late. In fact, he often rejects food when he most needs it, as I used to do, too. We're both impatient perfectionists, and react dramatically to the smallest problem, and then sensitively to each other's noisy emotions.

So this week, I've found myself disliking my own child, and disliking myself even more for it. I'm seriously no more mature than my 3-year-old. I need God's help in a big way, but I've forgotten how to ask for it. I've been focusing all month just on gaining control over the house, as though somehow if I can get that in order, I'll feel in control of my life again. But it never lasts long. Someone always stops by at the messiest time of day. No one sees it when thinks are picked up. So what's the point?

I'm going to stop here and call my sister who lives out of state. I miss her.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Labor means work

September was crazy. Crazy in the where-the-heck-did-the-month-go sense. Crazy in the can't-stop-to-blog sense. Crazy in the Mommy's-gone-off-her-rocker sense.

Spent Labor Day weekend at Family Camp, and came home completely exhausted. Took part in a very healing family reunion when one of my dad's brothers came to visit for the first time in 15 years. Got to help one of my best friends through labor, and watched baby Eloise Elisabeth be born! Celebrated my grandmother's 75th birthday. Finished teaching my first childbirth series. I'm really proud of that. Wish I'd been able to enjoy the process more and hadn't been so stressed out about finding time to prepare.

Carla went back to work full time three weeks ago, so her schedule's been varied and she's less available to help around the house. The cleaning I'm used to, but my friends know cooking dinner is not my usual routine. Scott likes to cook, and last year he got home early enough most nights to make whatever I'd planned. Yes, I was very spoiled. This year he's tutoring privately two afternoons a week, and has an extra class period to teach, so he's getting home too late and too tired.

Then this week we had a brief pregnancy scare. Followed by extended-PMSing. And at the same time, I finally had a chance to worry about how our home improvement co-op was going to be able to landscape our backyard this weekend considering that I hadn't ordered any materials or called my landscaper brother-in-law to ask for help.

My poor husband. On Wednesday he left school to see a doctor because he was having symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor didn't think it was his heart. I could have told him what it was: he was panicking that he was going to have to go home soon and deal with his already-crazy and possibly-pregnant wife.

But somehow -- with God's grace and a lot of labor from my husband and our friends -- it all came together. This afternoon, as I looked out my back door at the new brick-lined pathway making its way from the porch to the patio and the lawn, I felt rejuvenated. The vision that's been in my head for the last four years, the one that didn't transfer easily to anyone else's head, has materialized. The eight-inch deep home-insurers nightmare of a trench has been filled in and leveled. The flower beds are ready for planting. And I have a reason to sit on my patio and enjoy the table and chairs my parents bought for my birthday six months ago, because it's not just surrounded by dusty dirt.

So, if I don't write again for awhile, it's because I'm busy planting and relaxing in my new garden.

Scott, on the other hand, will be heading back to the doctor for further tests on his heart, and to check out the now purple and painful big toe he thinks he broke last night when he dropped a brick on it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

You know you have sons when...

Lately it's been all about body humor. Today my curious firstborn decided to inquire more openly into why Mommy does not have a penis. Where does the pee come out if there's no penis? Where could it have gone? Did it fall off?

I try to answer their questions as matter-of-factly as I would in a childbirth class. I have to be comfortable discussing genitalia, of course. And, in fact, it's a great opportunity to share with them the miracles of creation.

But they're not so interested in the details of how many distinct organs Mommy has that Daddy doesn't. They'd rather just be funny.

My blue-eyed secondborn was quite pleased with the topic his brother chose for the evening. This was even better than jokes about Mommy nursing the cat!

"Mommy peh-nis fall floor!" he giggled as we headed toward the bedroom tonight for songs and prayers. "Peh-nis fall bed!" he laughed again as we crawled under the sheet. Ten minutes later, big brother sound asleep already, he was still giggling sleepily, "Mommy peh-nis fall..."

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Permanent party, sans slumber.

Yes, it's been two weeks, a very busy two weeks. Carla and son are still co-housing with us. Sunday we celebrated his second birthday with a little party. Invited the neighbors across the street who have fallen in love with him, and some friends from who hadn't seen them since they first left town four months ago. My friend Kate and her son were also here to visit and for the baby shower we hosted at my mom's the same afternoon as the birthday party! We had a full house that night, and it took an extra two hours to get the four boys to stop running around the living room and settle into bed. I suppose the cupcakes and fruit snacks and various candies had something to do with it.

We woke up the next morning (yesterday) and packed up for another party -- the annual Not Back to School swimming party we celebrate with our homeschooling group. First we had to go to Target for various accesories the three of us moms needed. A bathing suit for Carla, maternity wear for Kate, a new hat and earrings for me. The kids got popcorn and a preztel. And then we headed to the party for pancakes!

Last night was the third session of my childbirth class, and it was great. Every week gets a little easier. I've had plenty of prep to do, which has made for some late nights. That, plus the baby shower planning and party errand-running, has pretty much taken up every spare moment.

In the meantime, I've been checking my yahoo groups again. Maybe because when I'm this busy I need to zone out and read other people's stuff a little. Maybe because I need support to stay at my best under stress. Even when we do get to bed on time, we've had various maladies traveling the house and interfering with everyone's ability to rest. First it was a stomach bug, and then a head cold. The local heat and smog have made the latter even worse for Cute Boy #3 who also has asthma to run him down. Combine that with the diaper rash that generally follows increased nasal drip. Carla hasn't slept well in weeks.

Then again, it's all relative for the mother of a co-sleeping toddler. Most of the time we hardly notice the night nursings, the sweaty head nestled in our armpit, the drool drenching the sheet under our back. It's quite beautiful -- especially when they wake up quietly in the morning, go find a toy or a brother or a friend to play with, and let you sleep in.

The rest of the time -- when the 2-year-olds start the day with a yelling contest, and the 3-year-old insists I get him MILK to go with his whining -- we just brew the coffee a little stronger.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Are we in Utah?

I started to post last Friday with the good news, but computer time has been short -- our prayers were answered and my friend's husband was ordered by the court to return their son to her. God is good! So for now our house is home to three small boys, two mommies and one daddy, whose foremost concern is that somehow he's getting less sex now that he has two "wives" -- and that's not counting the third, who claims to live across the street but is always here when he gets home.

I think I've benefitted the most from the current arrangement, since Carla likes to cook and do laundry! The boys have also been quite happy to have another playmate around, although my secondborn has had some issues with joyful aggression the last two days. Not sure if it's the stress of having the whole house rearranged along with more people living here, or if it's just teething and getting ready to turn two. Trying to get him to understand that other people DO feel physical pain, and that it's NOT okay to cause it. Tough to do with a child whose personal pain tolerance is quite high.

We got the bedrooms repainted just in time to move both the big bed and my 3-year-old's twin into the old playroom. We still have a family bedroom, and they'll have to wait for their new bed. Our kitty, Emma, has shown signs of stress both from her bedroom being moved and the boys tormenting her more than usual. Now I have to go to PetsMart and get some cat stench remover for the carpet. UGH.

* * * * *

I finally started my first childbirth preparation class last night! I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night before getting all my stuff together and going over my outline, which I ended up mixing all up anyway. I woke up feeling ready and happily anticipating the evening. And then my stomach started cramping.

Spent most of the afternoon in the bathroom, and had to send Scott to Kinko's to make some last minute copies for me, and to the drugstore for anti-diarrheal medication, which I would never take normally. I SO did not want to have to cancel or reschedule at the last night.

My stomach was fine for the duration of the class, thank God. My brain on the other hand -- well, I think I hid its deficiencies moderately well. Though I spent all day today thinking of things I should have explained better and wishing I'd had more props. Thankfully the class is just two couples -- one of my best friends and her husband, who are having their second baby and invited me to be their doula, and my midwife's brother and his wife. So, I don't think I can screw them up too badly with my lack of teaching experience. But I do have a lot of work left to do for the rest of the classes.

This is the moment when I wish I were more choleric and less melancholy -- my perfectionism is keeping me from being able to commit to a finished outline. I'm even starting to wonder if I should have gotten my certification through a different organization. Birth Works looks really good, as does Birthing From Within. Renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin is on the board of the first I'm using her "Guide to Childbirth" in my course, as well as art and writing exercises from Pam England's "Birthing From Within." But I can't make up my mind...

Sunday, August 08, 2004

This crazy life

Just as I'm cleaning up the paint cans, brushes and roller on Friday, after completing the boys' new room, I get a phone call from a very good friend of mine. Her husband (whom she left a few months ago) has filed court papers against her and taken her son away from her that morning. The papers are full of lies that will not be able to be substantiated, but the hearing date is not for another four weeks. In the meantime, mother and nursing toddler are separated without visitation. I can only imagine how completely devastated I would be should my boys suddenly be taken from me -- it is my worst nightmare. Even to think of it is emotional trauma. Please pray for this situation.

While we wait for new information and signs of hope, somehow daily life must go on. Shock and anger threaten to take over -- but meals still have to be served, the dishes still have to be cleaned, laundry must not be allowed to pile too high. These things we still have control over. They are somehow comforting in our helplessness. I have commitments to fulfill for the homeschooling co-op; I have details to complete for the childbirth preparation class I begin teaching in one week; I have baby shower invitations to address and gifts to purchase.

And my boys need me. They need my undivided attention, my hugs, my smiles, my patience. Perhaps I need to give those things right now even more than they need to receive them.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Painted the bedroom closet tonight. Scott's installing a new closet organizing system tomorrow. Maybe when this house is back in order I'll have time to blog again...

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Yes, I use cloth diapers.

At yesterday's birthday party, the subject of cloth diapers came up -- and no, I was NOT responsible. Okay, my blue-eyed baby was wearing his "My mom may be crunchy, but my diaper's not" t-shirt, so it's possible this was some influence. Nonetheless, once the subject became the center of a conversation, I was happy to join in, explaining that, Yes, indeed, cloth diapers are alive and doing better than ever, and if the party's Token Pregnant Mama is interested in more information, I even know a local diaper maker!

A couple hours after the party, I was talking to a friend via telephone, and she brought up the subject again (yes, really, I had nothing to do with it!), saying she wanted to use cloth diapers with her next baby. I expounded on the wonders of wool soakers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones and unbleached Chinese prefolds, and she quickly realized she'd need the entire pregnancy to shop!

Then, (without even looking!) today I found yet another webring to join, this one for bloggers who use, what else? And I promptly added it to the list at right. So, I guess it's time for a cloth diaper post.

Here's my spiel (and don't ask Scott for his, he doesn't change enough or wash enough diapers for it to count). Do you use real plates or paper plates for dinner every night? Why? Whatever your answer, the same goes for diapers. (That said, I do have a close friend who uses paper kitchen goods frequently, but ALSO cloth diapers. I suppose it's her contribution to make up for the extra trees. ;)

We use real plates and real napkins for almost every meal. They're just nicer, plus it's better for the environment and our grocery budget. I'm not a cloth napkin Nazi -- we do have paper towels handy for when they're more practical, and we use paper plates and napkins for big social functions, just as we have disposables handy for long trips or stressful weeks. If I didn't have a dishwasher, I'd probably use paper more often, just as I'd probably use disposable diapers if I lived in an apartment without my own washer and dryer (we don't have a diaper service in my town).

Plenty of sites out there explain the actual or imagined environmental differences. The disposable diaper makers would have you believing that it would be BETTER for the planet if everyone stopped using their dish- and clothes-washers and started using disposable everything. This makes no sense to me. Get an energy-efficient washer and a clothesline, if you're that concerned, and don't use so much darned detergent! It's really not that complicated.

Besides, would you want to wear plastic-covered paper underwear for three years out of your life even if they did seem to keep you feeling dry? No one looks forward to having to wear Depends. When I'm old and incontinent, I hope my diaper-making friend will still be around to sew up some beautiful, soft waterproof panties that I can wash alongside my clothes in the retirement home laundrymat.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Highlights of the last few days

This weekend was a bit crazy. I had two baby showers to attend, almost didn't make either of them. I hadn't had enough time to catch up on laundry, so I was cranky while getting ready for the first one, and the phone kept ringing. Sensing my own anxiety, my firstborn did NOT want me to leave, despite knowing that he, his brother and his Daddy would be meeting friends at Chuck E Cheese's. Poor baby, I was not very good at comforting him, half-dressed and irritated as I was.

When I got home, he'd had a fun afternoon, but no nap, and I was afraid we were going to have another meltdown in my attempt to leave for the second shower, and not long before he'd be ready for bed. So, Scott and I devised a plan to increase my chance of escape without coercion. We loaded both boys in the car, and headed to the video store, hoping that having a new video to watch would be a good enough distraction to prevent freak-outs when I got dropped off.

A mile away from the shower location, Looney Tunes video successfully acquired, I was still doubting whether this was going to work -- and then I looked in the backseat. The boys were OUT. Heads flopped onto shoulders, eyes sealed shut. F was likely to stay asleep through the night, and would never know I'd left. G had just nursed, and would be fine even if he awoke upon arrival home. I finally breathed and relaxed. I even enjoyed the party.

* * * * *

Saturday night I stayed up late doing laundry so I'd have something to wear to church in the morning. Then I overslept by nearly two hours, and sent Scott and the boys to church without me, while I showered, did MORE laundry, and attempted to pick up the house. I often take the boys to church by myself when Scott has a shooting match out of town. That's been a lot this summer. Starting to suspect people at church wonder if we've separated. Of course, we're Episcopalian, so no one asks.

* * * * *

Despite sleeping for nearly 12 hours Saturday night, F wanted to nap after church. We were expected at Scott's aunt's house for his grandmother's 90th birthday party at 2 p.m. I got them down pretty quickly after lunch, but they were not ready to be woken up by the time we needed to leave. We got G in the car just fine, but his big brother wailed and flailed, and continued to protest being carted away from our comfortable bed as we drove off. A block away, Scott made an executive decision to turn around. We put both boys back in bed, and gave it another hour.

By the time we arrived at the party, everyone had finished their cake and ice cream, the kids were getting out of the pool, and we visited with Scott's mom and brother for less than 30 minutes before the guests, including his grandmother, began to leave. No matter. The boys still wanted to swim, and I helped myself to an extra serving of homemade ice cream with fudge. Scott got time to spend talking to his aunt and uncle with no competition. We might have worn them out by extending the party like that, but they didn't complain -- and the boys were in much better moods than if we hadn't let them sleep.

* * * * *

The last two days we've spent mostly at home. My neighbor stopped by no less than five times yesterday. Her 3-month-old has a head cold and isn't nursing well. Plus she's been helping me look for new charms online. I found the charm bracelet my mother-in-law gave me last Mother's Day while rearranging the playroom furniture. Online shopping is addictive, especially when there's something else you should be doing. Like finish writing out my plans for the childbirth preparation class I'll start teaching in two weeks. I spent a couple hours on that yesterday, but I have a lot left to do. I'm taking the boys out of town for the next three days, then we have a birthday party on Saturday, and Scott's teaching a shooting clinic all weekend. Chances are, I won't be blogging much for the next week. I'd rather write when I have an actual cohesive thought to share, anyhow. Take care in the meantime, and know I haven't forgotten you. :)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Bed. Now.

I am exhausted. I almost called it a night and didn't get up again after the boys were asleep. The playroom's back together, if you don't count the toys that have been rescattered through the house since this morning. But I've got a ton of laundry to catch up on tomorrow, and two baby showers to attend, plus Scott's grandmother's (89th?) birthday party on Sunday.

G napped early today, since he was awake by 6:30 with his brother this morning. F didn't nap at all, but wanted me to play Rescue Heroes with him all afternoon. We also got onto to check out their preschool games. My neighbor told us about it. He liked the one where you put each animal in their proper habitat. He knows where they're all supposed to go. The hard part was learning how to use the mouse. I helped a lot at first, but my back got tired leaning over him, and just as he started to get the concept, G wanted to nurse. Plus it was getting close to dinnertime and Scott wasn't home yet.

It's about this point when I wonder why I don't just enforce a schedule like all those smart moms out there who have guaranteed nap and bedtimes to keep them sane and their kids rested. Why did I have to go get mixed up with those crazy unschoolers and TCSers who insist that kids have different natural rhythms and learning shouldn't be limited by arbitrary schedules? Who say that external boundaries only inhibit one's ability to learn to regulate oneself?

(And then I remember that we had this "problem" even before I started reading Sandra Dodd or the rest. Because Scott and I wanted to be able to do things in the evening -- participate in our church book club, rent a movie at my parents' -- without having to hire a babysitter. So we never did buy into the "baby's bedtime is 7 p.m." thing, but slept in to make up for late nights. Occasionally F was ready to nurse to sleep before my teeth were brushed, and we ended up with cranky baby and cranky parents. But we could have found a solution if we'd tried harder.)

The truth is, he really is good about regulating his sleeping. If he's tired, he'll usually say so. And he doesn't argue if we suggest it's a good day for nap because we're going out after dinner. If he's tired and HUNGRY, on the other hand, he'll just be impossible to distract from the one thing he wants but I'm not willing to give him. And that has much more to do with age and genetics. If I ever get around to writing a parenting book, I really will have to title it "Hypoglycemic Parenting." Because that seems to be the style I have down pat.
BEFORE: My mom and I spent yesterday repainting the playroom. Here's a shot from the night before.
AFTER: The new color is called "Silver Drop." It's not quite lavender, but not really blue either.
Life is what happens when Mommy's blogging. (Shot taken Wednesday)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Where have I been?

I've been at home, mostly. Scott had to repair the car on Monday and the parts store got the wrong part in two times, spreading the job over two days and limiting our travel to walking (and in this heat, that doesn't take you far). I've been trying to catch up with housework and laundry in the meantime.

I was planning to take the boys out of town today through Friday, but I wasn't sure we were going to be ready. Then I found out my mom's free on Thursday and is willing to help me paint the playroom/soon-to-be-Mommy-and-Daddy's room! So, I put off our trip 'til next week. Now I'm scrambling to get the playroom straightened and prepped.

We've had a family bedroom for the last three years, but it's going to become the boys' bed- and playroom (it's bigger than the current playroom), and we're going to get a little privacy back. F has been in his own bed in the family bedroom since just before G was born, so I don't think the switch will be too hard for him. We're getting a bunkbed with a double mattress on the bottom from some friends, so the boys can sleep together. They already start the night out that way in the "big bed," and nap together when it works out.

I'm hoping G will learn to sleep through the night (or at least more of it) when he's no longer tempted by the aroma of Mommy's milk between each sleep cycle. He's been waking me up to nurse a good ten times a night for the last three nights. It's probably a combination of the weather (nights aren't cooling down right now) and a growth spurt.

In any case, after we turn the lemony yellow playroom walls into a pale grey-blue, I still have to give away the changing table and hardly-used crib, paint the dressers and bedside tables move clothes into their new homes, swap all the furniture between the rooms, and paint the boys' new room. I figure we'll all want to sleep in the new "master bedroom" while that paint is drying. But we probably won't be at that point for another two weeks.

I'll update you as changes are made. :)

* * * * *

So, if you believe that I've really been spending all my "spare" time cleaning house the last two days, you don't know me very well. Yes, I mopped and vacuumed and washed diapers, etc. But I have to admit I've also been trying to keep up with the Christ Centered Unschooling list I'm on since I posted a question Monday morning, and my cousin and I have been e-mailing about parenting books and spanking.

I just ordered How Would Jesus Raise a Child? by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst. It was recommended on Crystal Lutton's site and on this one. Maybe after I read it, I'll lend it to my neighbor. We had a great conversation today -- an answer to prayer, actually. Unfortunately I don't have time to go into it right now if I'm ever going to get this post published...

Sunday, July 18, 2004

How to beat the heat

I'm sitting at my mom's computer right now, with G on my lap nursing. It's past the boys' bedtime but our house is too hot to sleep in.  Our air-conditioning was working fine when we got home from church this morning, but by the time we got back from a 7-year-old friend's birthday party, it was 90 degrees in the house.

We ended up going out to dinner with my mom, just to be somewhere cool. F hadn't had a nap before the party, so he conked out on the way there, and slept with his head on Scott's lap in the restaurant.
After we ate, Scott took the boys home and my mom and I stopped to get a present for a baby shower we're going to on Saturday. The store was closing and we were standing in the check-out line with baby clothes when I thought to see what videos they had.  When I got back in line, Scott called on my mom's cell; F was crying, wanting me to be home, wouldn't eat the dinner Scott packed home with them. Scott put him on the phone, hoping I could cheer him up, but hearing my voice just made things worse. Of course I forgot to mention the video I was bringing home until we were back in the car, and called him back.

Scott relayed the news. "It's a Kipper the Dog video! ... It has a dinosaur in it! ... And a robot! ... And you get to keep it -- we don't have to take it back to the video store."
That cheered him, at least for a few minutes. "Isn't it funny how having kids throws all notions of anti-materialism out the window?" I said to my mom.  When we were first married we didn't even have a television. Didn't want one. We were given a used console tv, but we didn't buy an antenna and covered the monstrous thing with a tablecloth.  I always thought, we won't spoil our kids with too many things.  And really, we don't buy much.  But they're given a ton.  We don't complain.
When we got home I picked up the boys and took the video to my mom's house. Scott and his A/C expert friend climbed onto the roof.  Our house was a couple degrees hotter inside than the air outside at this point.  Within minutes, my previously red-eyed firstborn was giggling and hiding from the purple park monster along with Kipper the Dog and his friend Tiger.

Ah, Scott's back. The A/C's running again, so hopefully we'll be able to sleep tonight.  Praise God for material blessings, especially restaurants, kids' videos and air-conditioning.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

an emphasis on parenting

Scott mentioned to me after finally reading this blog last night that it seems to have an emphasis on parenting.  Well, um, yeah.  'Cause I spend all day parenting, and then I think about how the day went and what kind of job I did.
I'm wondering, what would I write about instead?  Would people like to know the state my house is in today? (Fairly messy, but not too dirty.)  Do they care how many loads of laundry I did today? (None.)  Should I pretend to be like everyone else on the Internet who cares about politics? (Nah.)  I expect I will bring up breastfeeding and learning theory at some point, but those aren't exactly far removed from parenting.  Even what we did today is related.
By the way, the reason I haven't done any laundry today is because we went to our friends' house to help get it ready for the homeschooling co-op we're starting in the fall. We're turning their unused and fairly large garage into a learning center, complete with music room, computer stations, library, toddler toy area, and lots of crafts and game tables.  We'll go every Wednesday to see our friends, do fun projects together, swim, garden, jump on the trampolines, have holiday parties, and anything else we can think of that the kids will enjoy.  So far it's been almost as fun just to get together and get things ready. Today we hosted a yard sale, hauled off junk, sanded and painted shelves, filled in sprinkler-line ditches, went swimming, played and ate lunch together.  The kids all get along great.  The adults do, too.
Oh, and yesterday I went shopping with my mom to buy clothes for myself.  There, that's not parenting related!  I'm also not likely to do it again for another six months.

Who's who

In my effort to maintain some privacy for my children, I'm finding that inventing new "names" for them in each post is getting to be a bit cumbersome.  Tried "Green-Eyes" and "Blue-Eyes" because it's fairly easy for those who know us to tell them apart that way.  But I haven't posted any clear photos showing their eye color. And it often seems irrelevent.
So, I'm going to simplify like the sign above my kitchen sink says to do.  My firstborn's name starts with an F. So I'm going to refer to him as F, as boring as that may be. And my secondborn's name starts with G.  If you get confused, remember that the letter F comes before the letter G, so they were named alphabetically by birth order.
F is 3 years old. G is 20 months. F has green eyes. G has blue eyes. F likes all animals, especially dinosaurs. G likes horses best at the moment. F likes doing puzzles and building castles out of megablocks. G likes throwing balls and tearing down F's castles. F is learning his numbers (he can count to 13 so far). G is learning his colors (red and yellow are his favorite so far).
That should do for now.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Snails, found and lost

Yay, snails!  Hoorah, Kate! You came to our rescue and provided not one, not two, but 10! slimy, pooping snails for my dear firstborn child.
Now my only concern is that they all turn up dead or disappeared tomorrow morning.
My boy spent all afternoon examining and caring for three of them.  Five of them were still hiding in the tall weeds between the garage and the water spigot where we left them just before lunchtime.  Don't know if they'll ever come out. Two of them were squished and left to the ants. I'm not sure how that happened, but when I told Snail Lover that they were injured and likely dead, he cried bitter, guilt-ridden tears.
The last three we put in a pot with some very wet mud late this afternoon, hoping it would not dry out too quickly.  We'll have to give them more water in the morning.  If they don't make it until them, I'm not sure what further damage will be incurred in my child's heart.
Maybe if I tell him they're in heaven with Boompa, it'll help. He misses Boompa, but he trusts that heaven is a nice place to be.  Only problem is, I'm pretty sure Boompa still gardens.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Check out the size of these banana squash (sitting behind the adorable 3-year-old for perspective)! Picked fresh this morning courtesy of Mark. I'll let you know how they turn out cooked.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Searching for snails

What is it about hunger and exhaustion that focuses a person's desire for something unattainable so pointedly that no possible alternative measures up to the original object desired? Take garden snails in 100-degree weather, for instance.

It must have been that eighth viewing of Lion King 1 1/2. You know the scene where Timon and Simba compete to see who can suck down the most slimy snail innards, until Timon is so sick he collapses beside the enormous stack of empty shells, only narrowly avoiding the regurgitation of his share of mollusk guts.

Yeah, that would definitely make want to go find some snails. *shuddering*

Okay, so if I'm going to take my firstborn seriously, I need to respect his interest in any creature, no matter how revolting. I know that, of course. But I didn't realize just how unlikely we were to find a garden snail in our yard at this time of year, or I would have tried to explain that better first thing this morning, before his blood sugar dropped and the effects of a late night and early waking took hold.

Instead, I accepted my mom's invitation to go to dagny's, our favorite coffee haunt, before she had to go to work, and told my son we could look for snails in the big flowerboxes out front. My emphasis was on look. His expectations were on find.

My mother and I spent a whole five minutes with our green tea and iced latte on the couch visiting before my pinky finger was pulled toward the glass-paned front door. I had to follow it, of course.

It took only a few seconds to realize that no snails had managed to crawl along the downtown sidewalks and make their way into the coffeehouse planters. I tried to distract my forlorn snail hunter with tidbits of horticultural knowledge, but he was apparently already familiar with gardenias and ivy. He wanted to know WHERE THE SNAILS WERE.

Fifteen minutes later, my mom was still waiting for us inside and getting tired of it. By the time we headed toward the Jeep, we had a full-on raging 3-year-old on our hands and I was actively ignoring my best parenting theories, distracted by screaming, the onlookers and the urgency of my mother's need to get to work on time.

(Why do I do this? WHY?? Why, when my mother is involved, do I lose my ability to think straight and solve problems adequately? *Sigh* No, Mom, I really don't blame you. I really try NOT to blame you for everything. :))

Back at home, the quest was not forgotten. We headed across the street to visit our neighbors, who were out on their porch. I hoped maybe THEY had snails in their bushes. But they didn't. And Snail Hunter was not about to give up. "I WANT a SNAIL!" he reminded me as the irritating mother-chatter continued oblivious of his urgent desires.

I explained that the reason we hadn't found any snails yet was because of our hot, dry climate. "The snails are on vacation, sweetheart. They don't like it here in the summertime. If the (Neighbors) don't have snails in their flower beds, we probably don't either."

This only fed his frustration and impatience with me. "Iwanna'nailNOW!" he sobbed, becoming mostly incoherant in his desperation. Poor baby. It was also awfully close to lunchtime, and the bagel at the coffeehouse hadn't done much for him.

So we headed home. Where there were still no snails, and the explaining and sobbing continued until his mouth was full of sippy cup and milk -- a lunch for a boy too tired and unhappy to eat solid food. Five minutes later, he was more comprehensible, but just as focused.

"If I knew where to buy you a snail, I'd call Daddy and tell him to pick one up, baby!" But I really did not know what to do. We have no French restaurants here. I don't think anyone serves escargot. Even if someone watered their garden enough to keep them happy here, snails are not exactly prized by gardeners. Most people smash them; they don't put them on the side of the road for sale.

He fell asleep quickly once I settled both boys down for a nap. And then I called my best friend, who lives on the coast where it's wet and cool year-round. She'd left me a message in the morning asking if she and her son could come for a short visit on Friday. I called to tell her, "Of course! And I have a favor to ask... do you have any snails at your house?"

My Green-Eyed snail hunter has only to wait a couple days for the longing in his heart to be satisfied. Hopefully it will not seem a lifetime to either of us.

Just the four of us (photo)

How about a little family photo from July fourth to break up the monotony of text? Sorry about the fuzziness, we shouldn't have been in the shade.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A sample of TCS

I thought I'd share a sample from a post I sent to the Taking Children Seriously list in reply to a question of how to balance parental wants with the wants of very small children. I don't consider myself fully TCS, but I find many of their ideas right on -- common preference finding, as opposed to resorting to win/lose answers to problems, is probably their best.

Here's the message excerpt:

"(A parent wrote:)
> Common 'wisdom' is that
> sometimes babies/toddlers cry because they can't
> have what they want but
> that is okay and part of learning, and that parents
> have the right to say
> "No" and sit down for a cup of tea :-).

I think the important thing is that parents find a way
to solve both problems -- the cp(common preference) issue. Obviously,
parents need a chance to rest just like anyone on a
regular job site. But it shouldn't be at the expense
of the child. Some common preference should be found
so the child will not be sacrificed to meet the
parent's desire, but the parent will also not be
sacrificing and building up resentment toward the
child. The smaller the child, the more difficult this
can be, and often the parent's expectations (wants) do
need to be adjusted. It may help to know that it
really WILL get easier with time and experience. That
teething pain and so on will subside, and the child
won't want to be held 24 hours a day for the rest of
his/her life. (Unless, of course, s/he doesn't get it
when s/he really wanted/needed it.)"

Monday, July 12, 2004

My toddler can beat up your six-year-old

So, we're at the library, and my 20-month-old is checking out a glassed-in display of origami insects.

A little girl comes up behind him and says something like, "Those aren't real bugs, they're only made of paper," in that irritating kind of I-know-something-you-don't-know voice.

Blue-Eyed Boy turns around and give her a look that clearly says, "And who asked you, anyway?" Then he puts up both arms to ensure she is no longer in his immediate body space. He barely touches her, but she flinches.

The girl, who is somewhere around 5 or 6 years old, turns around to her mother and says, "Mommy, he pushed me!" The mother, who saw the action herself, says, "Well, he's just a baby, he needs to learn not to push."

I said nothing. Maybe it was the two-year-old in me, but I just did not see any point in defending a six-year-old against a "baby."

My poor firstborn... I'm sure he was the victim of plenty of incidents where I disciplined mainly to appease the feelings of another parent. I really try to avoid that these days. Do you think I'm wrong? Should I be doing more to encourage kindness and tolerance in my secondborn?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Things seen in a bowling alley

A family -- parents, grandparents, two small boys -- sit around a corner table waiting for their fish and chips and chicken strips. Smaller Boy reaches for tall glass of ice water, one of his favorite things in life, sips water and dips his hands in it fishing for ice cubes. Father of boy, concerned with the potential for laps full of very cold water, says mother's name to get her attention, which was already on boy and glass. Mother, responding to her husband's tone of voice, reaches for the glass and promptly knocks it over. Water and ice pour into the lap of Slightly Older Boy, who happens to have a strong aversion to even the smallest amount of water on his clothing, and must be stripped down to his underwear before he can sit down again to eat calmly.

Grandmother of boys comments to Mother, "Well, now you have something to write in your blog tonight!"

Now the question is, should I stop there? Or continue with the rest of the evening, which provided plenty of fodder for discussion of parenting philosophies?

Oh, what the heck.

So, here's the deal. We try our best to treat our boys as the human beings they are, to let them be kids and keep expectations reasonable, to speak respectfully, neither bossing nor condescending. And they respond accordingly.

Thus, it's really painful to be in public and see other children being treated as though they have not an ounce of common sense and no right to move or speak without permission. To hear a big person barking orders at a small person under the assumption that not to do so would... what? Turn him into a criminal? Be "bad parenting"? Embarrass the adult who is suppose to be in CHARGE of the child?

My own boys respond very well to polite requests. Unless they have a specific reason for not being able or willing to meet the request, they are very obliging. At 20 months old, Son #2 has never been expected to obey on command like a dog, and he does not like rude behavior on the part of adults. He, like most adults, likes to be asked nicely and to be allowed to move his own body in compliance. If you grab something from his hands you don't think he should have, you'll get some rendition of what is called a "temper tantrum." It is mainly the result of language limitations. Most adults would be angry if treated the same way, but they would be able to express those feelings verbally.

When the boys have a dispute -- often over a toy or bite of food one has taken from the other, I try first to calm down the Injured Party. I explain to the Accused the feelings of his brother (since they're not yet skilled at doing that themselves). And I encourage the IP to politely request the item back, or to find an alternative to offer in exchange. To me, this encourages the IP not to become a powerless victim, not to depend on an outside authority to solve all disputes ("Give him that toy back, right now!"), and to remain loving in conflict. The focus is on the one offended, not the offender, who is quickly disarmed and given a chance to empathize. Isn't this what the Bible teaches?

And yet, as I did this at the dinner table this evening, I was accused of letting the Taker of Chicken Bite be "in control." He was smiling as he took it, after all, and we all know that smiling is the first sign of guilty pleasure. And yet, the boys' solution to the problem (for the offender to remove the chicken from his mouth and return it to the offended to eat), after receiving my help, ended in peace. Trying to console the offended with another piece of chicken did not work. Wrenching the chicken from the offender would have been impossible without further injury. Punishing the offender would have ended in misery for all in the room, and would not have solved the offended's problem.

So, tell me, what do you think? Was justice served? Was the right lesson learned? I think my accusers assumed that the same boy does the taking each time, when I see it go both ways at home. They both have opportunity for repentence, forgiveness and reconciliation. Doesn't the Cross apply to children as well? What, exactly, is the point of punishment?

Harvesttime -- er... (photo)

We picked summer squash, cucumbers and our first watermelon this morning. Unfortunately, we were too anxious for the watermelon, and it wasn't ripe enough to eat more than a few pink bites.

Friday, July 09, 2004

"Horsey" (photo)

This photo is for my Blue-Eyed Boy, who has insisted at least thrice a day for the last two weeks that I carry him on my shoulders to peer over the fence at the nieghbor's pool toy.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

"You don't need make-up, Mommy."

That's what my firstborn son said to me this evening as I searched the house for my missing foundation bottle.

Scott and I were getting ready to go out to dinner when I realized I hadn't put on any make-up this morning. I left it out on the bathroom counter, and of course it was carried off by a wee boy sometime during the day.

"Do you know where my make-up went?" I asked them both. Green-Eyes looked at me seriously, and repeated, "You don't need make-up, Mommy. You're fine."

I found the make-up bottle under the coffee table. When I came out of the bathroom again, I asked him, "Well, what do you think? Do you like Mommy better with make-up or without make-up?"

"Without make-up."

Can you think of any better reason to have a son?

Father and son (photo)

I left this sweet photo out of the last album I e-mailed. Forgot Kate sent it to me. Thanks, Kate! (She took it while we were at the Santa Barbara Zoo.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hypoglycemic parenting

My neighbor has been taking her kids to swim lessons the past two weeks, and invited us to tag along one morning to get a feel for the location and program, in case we want to do it next year. She stopped by this morning to say today would be the last day she could do it, and they were leaving in an hour.

Last night Green-Eyes woke us up talking in his sleep: "I want to play with my friends! I want to play with my friends!" We've been pretty housebound the last two weeks. Boys were sick, then I was. Our gardening buddies who come twice a week are out of town. Summer activities are practically nil because of the heat. We've been a little bored.

So, I threw some clothes on the boys, took a quick shower, and made it to the car just as Neighbor Mom was buckling her last kid in. I had their breakfast juice sippies, two half-eaten snack bars, two dinosaurs, and one diaper packed. It was a half-hour drive through farm country to get there. Drove past two corn fields ("Wow, that's even more corn than in our garden!"), a dairy farm, and an organic produce farm that I didn't know was out there.

We watched Neighbor's 6yob take his lesson, but by the end of the half hour it was getting hot, and the boys were tired of watching other kids swim. They wanted in the pool themselves, of course, which I knew was a potential issue. They were also getting hungry and the snack bars had lost their interest. So I talked the swim instructor briefly about the program, picked up an information sheet, said goodbye to our neighbors, and we headed toward the parking lot.

On our way out we passed a Gatorade vending machine. The juice sippies were warm by now, so the machine was very attractive, but I couldn't find any change in my purse. Tried to explain this to my thirsty Green-Eyed Boy, but by the time we got to the parking lot and were back under the hot sun, he'd run out of patience. What kind of a mother doesn't carry enough cash for a vending machine drink?

I have to remind myself, when I'm driving down a freeway with a 3-year-old screaming hysterically "I want to go to the swimming place!" and "Look in your purse AGAIN!" and "I want my Daddy!" in the backseat, that these situations have to do with bad planning and genetic blood-sugar defects -- NOT the fact that I don't spank my kids for talking back, NOT because I "give in" to their demands so often that when a demand cannot not met, the world comes to an end. Guilt, and spending time with people who do think that way, has a funny way of erasing common sense -- especially when my blood sugar starts to falter as well.

And it did, after we got home, and my sweet firstborn was still upset. But somehow we got through it. When I do start to lose it, and he sees that I'm going to start crying, too, his natural tendency toward empathy is triggered. Eventually, after a long hug and several "I love yous," after we settled in front of Barney (where little brother had been calmly occupying himself) with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk, the crying stopped. And then the three of us climbed into the family bed for a nap.

As soon as we laid down (about five minutes after the milk settled into his tummy), Green-Eyes had forgotten all about the pool and the Gatorade, and was cheerfully planning our next trip to the toy store ("We can get a Deinonychus to go with Triceratops, Mommy!"). The boys are still stretched out alongside T-Rex and Utahraptor.

Now I'm going to search the sofa cushions and laundry room for some spare change, so I'll be prepared next time we pass by a vending machine.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's almost 10:30 and I'm still messing with this...

Trying to think up a more interesting blog title than the above, I asked Scott (the dh) to come up with three words to describe me.

As always, he gave a brilliant answer: "Hot. Smart. Quirky."

I consider "quirky" a compliment, of course. If I believed in rewarding good behavior, he'd be getting more than a gold star tonight...

Why I’m starting this blog

1) Because I’m a writer with no regular outlet, and I can’t seem to commit to a paper journal (I have several which are always getting misplaced). Besides, I much prefer to write knowing that someone’s actually going to read it, and may even like to respond. Writing for the newspaper used to grant me that privilege, but that seems an eternity ago now.

2) Because I’ve spent too much time in the last several months reading and posting on parenting and unschooling lists to people I’ll never meet in real life (IRL), and too little time writing or calling my actual friends. Since so many of my dearest friends and family live quite far from me, I thought it might help us all keep in touch. Seasonal photo exchanges of our kids just are not enough to maintain close friendships! This way, if you’re thinking of me or Scott or the boys, but it’s not a good time to call, you can stop by the blog and see what we’ve been up to, what I’m thinking about, and post a quick note if you like. I’m hoping it will inspire more frequent contact.

3) Because if I’m going to continue to grow as a Christian, a mother, a wife or a person, I need a little accountability. Knowing I might have to ‘fess up to my friends and readers on this site could help. ;)
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