Saturday, June 30, 2012

Do's and Don'ts of married life

 I have been wanting to write this post for a while. Ever since my anniversary..which I suppose has not really been that long. But it was a long month!

My Wonderful husband and I just celebrated 8 years of being married, and this coming fall it will be 12 years of being together. That feels like a long time to me, even though I know in the grand scheme of things it really is not. But 12 years is getting close to half my life (Seeing as I just turned 30) so I am starting to count things differently. Once you start counting by the decade instead of the single year it changes things.

I have learned a lot in the past 12 years. I will count from the start since we have been working on being togetherness since then. True, some things change when you say "I do" but to be perfectly honest, I felt as if "I do" is just one of many steps in the process. An important step, but not too different then buying groceries together for the first time, or buying your first house together, or leaving the door open when you pee. It is all "being togetherness." It is all learning.

Marriage is tricky, not because it is hard really. But because it is so individual that no book or "expert" will ever really be able to fix it all or have every answer. My answer to a question/problem could be the absolute worst marriage advice I could ever give someone who is different then me and vise-versa. However, I have been wanting to write a "do's and don't" of sorts, as much to help those who are just starting their adult lives, as well as to make those who have been at it a lot longer then me laugh at my immaturity.

Isn't it fun that those two can both happen at exactly the same time?

My husband and I are very different people. We met when we were both 18. We were babies! I know that now of course, and I'm sure that statement bothers to no end any teenager/young adult reading this now. But it is true. We thought we were grown-up. We were not. Is that still true? I am 30 now, am I grown up yet? Or in another 15 years will I sigh and say "I thought I was an adult back then, I was so wrong!" I hope so. I hope when I am 80 I sigh and look back at 72 thinking "If only I knew then what I know now!" I suppose that just means I hope to always be learning.

I have a Pandora radio station I love to listen too - stay with me here. It is related, I promise. It is based on "Wicked" the musical so I get lots of - well, musicals. (I like those, weird I know.) And one of the shows that started coming on is "Little Women" the musical. I had no idea they had made a musical of that, but I suppose if they made one of Spiderman then anything is possible right? Now, I am pretty familiar with the story of Little Women and I have always liked it well enough. But one thing I always kinda hated was that in the end **Spoiler Alert!** Jo just off and marries some random professor that is heaps older then her. I am not against her not marrying Laurie. I am not convinced the two of them could have made it work. But since I have always identified with Jo, I felt she deserved someone with some personality - and I was not sure a stuffy professor could be that person. **end spoiler** Well, when the songs from "Little woman the Musical"  first started coming on, one particular one caught my attention right away and I started laughing. I want to see the show now, because they made it work!

I'll show you in a minute.

 You see, when my husband and I first started dating I used to worry. We really have nothing in common interest-wise aside from our love of being outside and camping maybe? But even that tends to be a once a year at most occurrence. What about day to day? We don't (didn't) like the same music, the same games, the same hobbies. We have some differing political views (he is a registered republican, I am a democrat). He says I am a hippie and laughs at me wanting to make sure things are natural. He could care less whether or not his food is organic or his kids are in cloth diapers. He doesn't like to read for fun, I don't like to build router tables for fun. I love theatre and performing, he...doesn't. He can fix anything, I am the biggest klutz that you have ever met and I am pretty sure that if I tried to fix the car it would randomly explode...just because I was touching it and that would mean that the 1 in 892375492385792385729357239 chance something could catch on fire, would  totally happen.

We like the same kind of movies. Some of the same kind of movies....That is about it as far as shared interests. But I always, and I mean ALWAYS fall asleep while watching movies. So even that is kind of futile as an attempt to share a hobby.

We both like sex. And we are both REALLY good at it. But we have kids, so it is not like we can say "Honey, do you have any plans on Saturday? Because I was thinking, if you were up for it we could spend the whole day in bed." Of course, he has a compulsive need to get things accomplished in a day - and I don't count. So he would be miserable spending all day in bed. Besides, if I were to call him "Honey" he  may never take me seriously again. And sex is not really a hobby - more of a "you need it to live" thing like air and chocolate. 

I have said before that I am not really a very nice person. I have had to work very hard in my life to learn how to be discrete, to be polite. My mother and sister used to say they lived in fear of "what Sarah would say next." I hope they don't still...I would like to believe I have developed at least a little bit of a filter. But I still have to censor A LOT. My husband on the other hand, is a wonderful person. Helping others is always first on his mind - almost to the point where it is a compulsion. If he sees a need, he HAS to help or he cannot rest. Whether it is a homeless guy that he buys a pizza for or a plastic ballerina ornament who is missing her arm that his babies tearfully hand him, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that "Daddy can fix it". 

So you can see why I laughed when I first heard this:

Professor Bhaer
Jo. We are not at all alike. We have our differences. May I be blunt?

Be blunt. By all means.

Professor Bhaer
I think perhaps it looks like rain

The sky gets bluer by the hour

Professor Bhaer
The water falls in little drops

That’s why it’s called a sun shower

Professor Bhaer
Ah, not it stops

You were about to be blunt?

Professor Bhaer
If I say rain, then you sun.
If I say yes, then you say no.
It seems before we start, we’re done.
We even argue at “hello”
If I say, share with me
This small umbrella

I say who cares if we get wet?

Professor Bhaer
We are as different as the
Morning and the night

No, we’re as different as the
Winter and the spring

Professor Bhaer
We always seem to fight

We disagree on everything

 Ok, we don't disagree on EVERYTHING. We have a lot in common too as far as beliefs and ambitions. Hopes and Dreams. We dream a lot together.

I have written before that I knew I wanted "I do" when I wanted to show him a rainbow. Well, I know he wants "I do" because he wants to show me everything. And I love it! Whether I understand it or not, whether I have any interest in the subject or not. I get so excited with him because he is so excited and it is infectious. I get to see for a moment into his creative-genius - a window of sorts. Whether it be a successful design for an algorithm to measure the airflow over imaginary rockets (I know I will get in trouble for that...) His idea for a new laser cutter ("it will fit in the garage, I swear!"), a new kit for an airplane (model or full size, doesn't matter), his excitement over putting together a hot wire cutter with an old battery he picked up at a yardsale 2 years ago ("See? I told you I would have a use for that someday!") an idea for the house or a piece of exquisite art he has created based on numbers and math I can never hope to understand. He is an artist 100%. He looks at a pile of scrap wood and sees a beautiful bookcase. He sees zero's and ones and can put them together to make something amazing. He sees a sunset and HAS to stop to look, will run back into the house for a camera just so he can show everyone. He sees the potential in the sorrowful story of a man who has been homeless for 3 months and just can't get back on his feet. He hears the joy in his 6 year old's voice as she gets excited about her Popsicle stick house and he pulls out a complex vacuum table (That he built because he wanted too, and "you never know when you will need a vacuum table!") And the two of them sit for hours, with their heads together making the house...well, almost making it. They are alike those two. the creating of the walls was the fun part. The gluing and the designing and the talking about it.  After that they both kinda forgot about it...  He can create amazing artistes of food just by walking into the kitchen and claiming dinner as his. I love it when he does that! The art is in the angles, in the numbers, 2+2=4 and somehow 12 and 14 as well. And it all makes sense in his head. But what I see is beauty. And it amazes me.

Professor Bhaer
And yet…
You make me smile,
You make me laugh,
You make me care.
How can I explain?
Inside my heart
I feel a pain
When you’re not there.
Though we’re not at all alike,
You make me feel alive.
If we had that in common,
That one small thing in common,
Love could be like a small umbrella,
In the rain.

I said this was to be a "Do's and Don'ts" list. I suppose it really hasn't turned out to be that. Not even a "what I have learned" thing. And maybe I am still getting to that...we will see.

Someone several years ago asked me in a moment of frustration how my marriage was going. She said all around her there was marital sorrow, and she was having trouble seeing the point. Why put yourself through that?

It made me think. Why? Why say "I do?" Biblical responsibilities aside - why? At the time, all I could really put into words was: "Because of the colors" Colors are brighter, like when they pull away the screen in the allergy commercials. But I think it goes further that that. I will say that things are sharper - colors included. But sorrow is also sharper, joy is sharper, music takes on tones you never knew were there. Art has angles that you couldn't see before. Pain is harder, laughter is brighter, good is...err...gooder?

I just lost it didn't I. And there I was being all poetic!

But you understand - evil is more evil too. Having kids does all this as well, but it starts when you say "I do." You need one another now. And yes, I believe marriage is the thing that truly changes all that. When life is sharp, it is much harder to do it alone, luckily you don't have to. But together you can laugh down the waterfall without fear - even pausing to admire the beauty of the water droplets, because you have one another. So no matter how steep the drop, you are going to be ok. 

When people discover passion,
They’ve come upon something rare.
This fervor they have in common,
Will shelter them anywhere.
Though the rest may be rough,
With such passion to share,
I think we have more than enough-
Enough to make a marriage,
If we dare.

You are proposing?

I used to worry, that the two of us couldn't just sit still with one another and have a conversation. This was before I learned he had to be moving (it is an adhd thing). If we are driving, we can talk for hours. If we go on a walk, even if we are sitting on a swinging bench.

I used to say - in my pridefully ignorant youth - that I could only marry someone who could beat me in an argument. How very shocked I was to discover that once I found him, I would want him to win? I am not always nice, I am not always easy to be married to I am sure! I speak my mind a lot - But I work very hard not to nag or be impolite to him ever. I don't hint or use guilt to get him to do something. I try very hard to be clear and not beat around the bush with hard subjects. I will never fall into the wife/mother role - he is not a child. I don't joke about having 4 kids, 3 small and one big. I personally find that to be disrespectful to my husband and it sets a standard that I believe limits growth. I don't complain about him to my girlfriends - just my own personal rule. If I have not already talked to him about it, or it belittles him in anyway I will not discuss it. And you can keep me accountable to this. I am not nearly as nice as he is, but he has taught me a lot.

I won’t be sweet, won’t be demure

Professor Bhaer
This I prefer, this I adore

I’ll speak my mind, you can be sure

Professor Bhaer
I’ll be enchanted to the core.

If I say, let me share your
Small umbrella.

Professor Bhaer
I’ll say, who cares if we get wet?

We’ll be as different as a
Husband and a wife

Professor Bhaer
No, we’ll be as different as a
Woman and a man

We’ll fight our way through life.

Professor Bhaer
We’ll disagree the best we can.

"Disagree the best we can" I like that. It takes practice to disagree as best you can. So I will throw in some advice here. DO NOT ever let yourself get caught up in the game of "who has it worse."  This is a game I see everywhere. In the housewife that says "He just comes home and just sits and watches TV. doesn't he realize I have been with these kids ALL DAY?!? Doesn't he know I am at my wits end?!?" To the professional that walks in the door and complains that he has been in the office all day and just needs 5 minutes to decompress before entering into the world of family and noise. If you have a list in your head about what you just wish you could say to your spouse, if he/she could only see it your way, doesn't he/she even notice EVERYTHING you are doing?!? And they are just sitting there? Then there needs to be a conversation. Consider it practicing disagreeing. Because you will. But DO NOT play the game. I beg of you. Does this make sense? Moms play the game too: "I had to put little Johny in time-out 12 times today!!" Well, I had to put Sally in time-out 12 times and Billy in time-out 16 times!" It is pointless people, instead - let's listen to one another. I have to work very hard at this, so I will be the first to admit it is something I struggle with. I grew up in a family with 7 people. If you didn't speak fast and loud, you weren't heard. So I interrupt too much. I am working hard to stop, you can let me know if I am talking to much. And perhaps work with me to try hard to stop. Let us listen.

My best advice - ask each other how your day was. And then listen to the answer - and then listen again. Because usually we say "Good," or "Fine" and then if there is silence, we keep going. But only if there is someone to listen - if they have not already gone off to whatever they were doing. The listening is sometimes the hardest part. But there is that break between the generic "fine" and the real answer. Listen, you will hear it.    

I don't worry anymore. Sure we still have very hard days, awkward conversations and frustrating exchanges. I would even say that with my medical issues lately, this is possibly some of the hardest times we have faced, just not feeling well and being overwhelmed. But I think we will be ok. We are still learning "I do"everyday. I hope we always are. I never want to stop becoming better at "I do." There is always room to be better.  

And yet…

Jo/Professor Bhaer
You make me smile,
You make me laugh,
You make me care.
How can I explain?
Inside my heart
I feel a pain
When you’re not there.
Though we’re not at all alike,
You make me feel alive.

Yes, we have that in common

Professor Bhaer
That one small thing in common

Jo/Professor Bhaer
Our love is like a small umbrella
In the rain

 Oh, and did I mention I hate umbrella's? He is always asking me where I keep the umbrella, and I say almost every time - "I don't know, I don't ever use one, I would rather get wet!"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Great Laundry Adventure

Ok, so maybe I am trying to make this sound more interesting then it actually is. But of all the household chores, my bane is the laundry. With 5 people in the house, not to mention all the towels and diapers...there is ALWAYS laundry that needs washing, sorting, folding and putting away. I can keep up *mostly* with the cleaning and sorting. But more often then not, my poor family has to live out of a laundry basket as the "folding and putting away" rarely gets completed. There is just so much of it! And folding is impossible to do with an almost one year old present, since she thinks that taking apart carefully piled/folded clothes is the most fun EVER. Yeah, not a happy mom here.

So while I still will have to battle the mountains that are my family's clothes, I can at least make the washing part something that interests me. And, as for many things in my life; the best way to make it better is to personalize it. That means make it my own...meaning literally, making my own! So I am trying my hand at my own Laundry Soap.

I have been doing research for a while - years actually, wanting to do this. But have not had luck finding Washing Soda at any local store. And it is tons more expensive online. So today, as we had to go to the dreaded Walmart for some items, I decided to look again (even though I had come up empty handed looking there before, but that was a few years ago.) And they had it! So piecing together my own recipe, using ideas from several different sites/blogs/friends, I hope I got a good mix...

So come with me, and you'll be, in a world of pure..errr...laundry?

Ok, I will stop trying to make this interesting. I know it is a lost cause!

I started with:

3.5 cups of Borax
2 cups of washing soda
1.5 cups of oxi-clean
1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap (also purchased at walmart)
And one glass cookie jar for storage.
 The first thing I did was grate my soap. I have heard you can use any soap you like. But this brand seems to be what most people start with, and I actually liked the very light citrus scent it had so, why not start here? I figured I was not making a huge amount - so if I need to do it different next time I can.

 I used a regular, run-of-the mill cheese grater. And it made such fun little soap curls! It looked freakishly like real cheese....see? Don't worry, no one ate any one accident. I kept careful watch!

While adding all the ingredients together - I discovered that while a whole-house fan is awesome when it is nice outside. Pouring things, like Borax from the box into my measuring bowl in front of an open door with the fan on may go under the category of "not so smart." And that is my polite way of saying it.

Needless to say, I turned the fan off and I don't *think* that I inhaled too many toxic fumes? If I start spouting nonsense words here then feel free to call 911. This time. Sometimes I spout nonsense words because it is fun, so don't make that a general rule. THIS TIME call 911 if I am acting crazy. Not next time. Unless of course I tell you that you should next time...though if I have gone truly crazy I doubt I would be telling you to call 911 so casually. So I will leave it to your judgement. Just know that if you are responsible for causing me to be institutionalized and/or sent to the hospital from laundry soap poisoning then you are responsible for my children.

To be clear, my kids were out of the house when there was air-born borax, oxi-clean and washing soda. So they should be safe. And my lungs should be very clean!

Err...on to making my laundry more fun.

So here was everything in the bowl - because you know you wanted to see that:

And I began mixing....and mixing...and mixing...and mixing...and mixing...and thinking there had to be a faster way of doing this:

And mixing...and mixing. Until:


Isn't it so pretty? I knew you would think so. I will use one TBS of my soap per load (2 if it is a very dirty load - so 2 for all the kids clothes...) and I have a HE front loader so it goes right into the drum before the clothes do.

Now, aren't you completely excited and motivated to go and put a load of dirty laundry into the washer? I know I was. I did! Just a little while ago. In fact, you should go and do that right now. Just to celebrate with me my new laundry soap. We could be laundry buddies! The very load I started washing is drying now and I just might fold and put it away the very moment it is out of the dryer because I am so inspired by my great laundry adventure. I also have to use cloth on the behind of my child all day so I have a load of diapers to wash with my new soap. I will admit, I almost re-washed the load I had waiting to go into the dryer, just so that I could use my new soap. But I decided that diapers are some of those things that always need to be washed pretty quickly again, so I needed to have patience, and use my soap on actual dirty clothes.

There you have it.  My adventure for the day. Admit it, you are inspired. Truly, does life get any sweeter then this?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Remember..... YOU'RE THE GROWN UP NOW!

I was not an easy child, not bad by any means...well, not bad by God's grace alone most likely! That and good parents that didn't let me get away with anything. I remember a lot about being a kid. I remember the kitchen counters being very tall. I remember red carpet, I remember my fifth birthday party. I was sitting in the living room, opening gifts from the two girls that were over to celebrate with us. I remember getting rabbit earrings, but my ears weren't pierced yet. I remember my 6th party, I remember my dad making a pinata, I wanted everything "CAT." My dad made the pinata ugly because he said that way kids wouldn't mind hitting it with a stick...I'm not sure if that was a joke or not, but I remember that it being ugly bothered me. I remember getting my feelings hurt, I remember hiding because I didn't want anyone to see me cry. I remember being angry at my sister for being bossy and my little brother because something wasn't fair. I remembering being right and no one would believe me, or they would tell me I was being a "know-it-all." But I was right! I don't remember getting spankings, but I know I did. I do remember being in time-out in a bedroom before a party of some sort. I remember being told to fix my attitude, and I remember the mental process of doing so. I remember my brother's 3rd birthday where he received a group of plastic dinosaurs that would change my childhood. I remember receiving a "My Child" doll that would shape my future play with my own kids. I remember my mother, in frustration telling us that "We knew what we were and were not allowed to have as a snack, we did not need to ask permission for each and every item." I remember getting my feelings hurt and trying to figure out why, I knew I was not in trouble. Why was I offended? Perhaps that was the beginning of my self-reflective personality. I remember life was not fair, I remember being very upset by this. I remember feeling left-out. I remember unkind children, I remember being unkind, once. And feeling so bad about it I worked hard not to be so  intentionally again. I remember asking my mom how many cookies I could have at a party and her saying "You are old enough to make that choice yourself, you choose." I remember seeing my parents' pain on losing a child and learning about grief. I remember hearing my parents argue in love and learning about talking things out respectfully. I remember my mom congratulating me on a job well done and asking me "isn't it wonderful to do something perfect?" (I do this for my kids now.) And I learned high self-esteem because I worked hard. I remember my mom apologizing to me, telling me she was wrong, she should not have yelled or she spoke to soon or to harshly. I learned forgiveness, and that no one is perfect and we are always learning, no matter how old we are. And that it is always ok to say we are sorry.  I remember being sent back to clean the bathroom over and over because the job was not done to her satisfaction, and I learned to be a hard worker. I remember my mom breathing prayers, both for something as simple as a good parking space as well as safety and protection when faced with danger. I remember these prayers being answered every single time.

I remember, as a pre-teen telling someone that I wanted to raise my kids exactly the same way my mom had raised me. The only exception being I would allow my kids to get their ears double pierced. I remember the person I told this to was shocked and amazed, and she told my mom about what I had said. I remember being surprised, why was this such a big deal? It wasn't until later I realized that not everyone had the amazing parents I had. And even through the hard teenage years - especially after I was allowed to get my ears double pierced, that idea never left my head. I knew my parents had done it right. I don't know how I knew, but I did. And I stand by it today. If I am half the mom that my mom was? My kids will be ok. My mom and dad have raised 5 kids to adulthood that are all truly fantastic, and I am not just saying that because I am one of them. It is true. And we are all very VERY different the 5 of us.

I have said before that my parenting strategy is based completely on choice, consequence and a whole lot of stubbornness. It really is very simple. I will state: "If you choose to disobey, this will be the consequence." My kids know, that if there is an uncomfortable consequence, it is because of a choice THEY made. I am strict, more so then my mom was. And lately I have been trying to be less-so. My kids are getting bigger, they need some more freedom to become who God wants them to be. I don't want little robots.  So I have been learning how to let go of some of my control. It has been hard, and that is why I have been wanting to look over this list again. I find I need to re-read it about once a month, sometimes less, sometimes more.

I will apologize now, this will be written quickly - be patient with my blunderings (and spelling mistakes). Know that I am working everyday on each and every one of these. Sometimes I feel that I do very well (With God's help of course) Somedays I feel as if I fail at every single one. The wonderful thing about parenting is that each day is new. And it is never to late to start changing our attitudes.

My mom wrote this list before I had kids, I feel like I have been handed such a gift, to be able to have such an amazing mom (and dad). And then be given a manual of sorts, for following in their footsteps. I wanted to share this list again, though I probably have before, possibly many times. But like I said, we need reminders. I will add my own thoughts to this list, I like self-reflection after all. And you, dear reader, get to come along on my journey this time, and if you are a parent (or wish to be one someday) reflect with me. There is so much in this world to learn...

Thoughts on Parenting

1. Begin each day with a big hug, words of love and a short prayer of blessing.

I have such a better day when I do this! I remember, when my oldest was a toddler, my mom said that she always would give her toddlers as many hugs as she could first thing in the morning, because she might not like them very much later in the day! It's true. So we give lots of morning hugs. We give lots of later-in-the-day hugs too. But the best ones are the morning ones.

2. Let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no. If you keep letting them talk you into things then you will lose your control and their respect.
I will admit it, I watch other parents. Especially young parents. I try hard not to give advice unless it is asked, but I watch - even if it is just to learn new parenting strategies and/or to see something I will choose not to do. Admit it, you do it too. And new parents, I will say this now. DO IT. If you said no, stick to it. If you said yes, then keep your promise.

I once heard a story that has stuck to me very close as I parent my children - a very respected friend of mine (an experienced mom) was visiting some loved ones many many years ago. The parents were new, they were learning how to be good parents and stay consistent. But this was hard for them and they tended to give in just a little too often. They admitted as much... Their small son attended a school, but didn't feel well one morning. He asked his mom and dad if please, he could stay home from school that day. He had a tummy ache and didn't feel well. "Of course baby!" mom said as comforting as she could. "You do not have to go to school today." A few moments later, he said again: "Mommy, please can I stay home today? My tummy does not feel well." He was begging. "I told you son," she answered reassuringly, "you can be home all day with mom until you feel better." A little while later, he begged again. "Please please please mom, can I stay home?" Confused, she tried to assure him as best she could. "I told you, you will be home with mom. No school." My friend watched all this as confused as the mom. Why did this small one not believe his mom? And then it occurred to her. Mom and dad had struggled, lots, with being consistent in disciplining their son. The result? Their boy did not trust them. This story hit me like a ton of bricks when I first heard it. If I am not consistent in the disciplining of my child, they will have no reason to respect me. But even worse? They wont trust me. And how sad, for my babies to not believe me when I tell them that they will be comforted and safe? But it goes both ways parents. You can't have one without the other. Think about that next time you are tempted to not follow through on a threat. I know I do, and I believe it has made me a better parent.  

3. Talk about consequences before the event. Make the consequences uncomfortable enough that they will stop and think before they act.
"Stop and think before they act." Is this not the real goal of parenting? If only we can get this one thing down, to teach our children to stop and think before they act, we have won a very large battle!" I think this is one where we need to give our kids a little more credit. "They are just kids" or something to that affect is used far to often I believe. Of course, I have already stated that I am strict. I am of the opinion that our children will rise to our expectations. Expect little, and you will get little. Expect much, and you will be surprised at what they are able to achieve. Let us set our standards high, don't our kids deserve that much respect from us? But remember, oh remember parents, your kids are watching YOU. If you do not stop and think before you act, they will not. Every. Time. Shaping our kids behavior starts from the moment that baby looks you in the face as you say "Don't put that in your mouth!" and does it.  And you KNOW they are doing it as fast as they can before you take it away from them!" It is at that moment that you need to make sure you are being the person you someday want your kids to become. Disciplining our kids starts with controlling ourselves - of course I could probably write a whole post on that idea alone!

4. Everyone helps to take care of the house. But give them a choice in what jobs they do. Some kids like to cook, some like to clean or work in the yard. As long as they are helping and learning to work (with a good attitude) let it be a job they don't hate. The exception at my house - everyone helps with the dishes.

I also use the exception of "everyone cleans their own room." Working hard with a good attitude is something I am still learning, and still learning how to teach. You see, I HATE cleaning. And somehow I have taught that hate to my children. I need to fix it, I am not sure how. I used to tell my kids "You don't have to like it, you just have to obey." And I have stopped saying that. Because having a good attitude about something we don't like doing is something that has to be learned. And I was not helping that learning process. I am still learning it myself. Something I do tell my kids: "We all help clean everyone's messes." I don't care who made the mess, we all help clean in this house. I clean daddy's messes sometimes, and he cleans Kaylee's messes. Taylor cleans mom's mess sometimes and Ayla cleans Taylor's. We all do the work. I am also learning how to better teach my kids how to clean. I tend to want it just done quickly since I hate doing it so much, I need to learn how to teach my kids, so that eventually they are doing it completely. But the teaching part takes a while and I don't want any cleaning to take a while. I want the dishes over and done with, I don't want to do them patiently with my 4year old, teaching about soap and scrubbing, I need to though. Otherwise I will be doing the dishes forever!

5. Study them to learn what they love and hate. Reward the good behavior and always let them face the consequences for disobeying. Don't feel so sorry for your kids. Trust God to work everything for their good. You will never be a perfect parent. They will never be perfect kids. We are all learning together to be God's children
"Learn their currency" I once heard someone say. For one kid, a stern look may be all it takes to teach. For another, you may have to take a much more serious approach. Learn their currency, what is important to them? What will cause them to stop and think before they act?

And I will say it again - give your kids a little more credit. These kids are tough. They can handle mom being mad. They are learning how to handle emotions, give them a good example. BE mad if you need to be, but do it controlled, show them the proper way of handling that emotion. Remember, they will have kids someday too and they need to see this emotion modeled. Remember THEY made the choice to disobey. THEY chose the path that lead to the uncomfortable consequence. THEY will learn from this, and it will (hopefully!) cause them to stop and think next time.

I tell my kids that one of the purposes of consequences, is for them to show me that I can trust them again. If they lie to me, they have broken my trust. If they are faithful in the consequence (sitting in time-out being one example - sitting still and not talking back, not moving the chair or sneaking a toy) Then they earn my trust back. The more I trust them, the more privileges they receive.  THEY make the choice whether or not they get these privileges, not me. Everything in life is based on the choices we make. So stop, think, make a choice and then proceed. And if the choice you make has negative affects on your life (for example, losing a privilege because of being dishonest) then I do not feel sorry for you. Not even a little bit! No matter how loud you wail, no matter how sad you may look. No pity. But the amazing thing about this, is it works both ways. Make the choice to tell the truth, make the choice to be kind, to help, to go above and beyond where you needed to go to make someone feel loved or to do hard work? And the consequence is that you get more freedom, you get more responsibility, you get more benefits! I try to bring that to their attention as often as I can.

"You made the choice to have such a good attitude while you were cleaning this morning. And you guys did it fast too! The consequence of your good attitude and getting your hard work done is we will get to go to the library! And I think that Taylor and Ayla should each get 3 books this time. You showed me how responsible you could be by cleaning your room so well, I think you are ready for the responsibility of 3 books each. What do you guys think?"

One hard thing to accept as a kid, is that sometimes, someone else's choices can affect us. This is a hard one, but it is a good lesson to learn. You see, our choices affect others as well. So when we are negatively affected by someone else's choice (for instance, in my house there is no show for both kids, if just one has a bad attitude) Then we remember that much more, to be careful of our own actions towards others. Because we know how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone else's bad choice. And it is not fun.

6. The first seven years are all about training. This is your house, you determine what is and what is not acceptable behavior at your house. 
This goes for adults too. You don't follow the rules of my house? I don't care how old you are. You will not be in it anymore. My House. My Rules.

You are the boss of your house, not the toddler. BE the boss. I can't tell you how often I hear kids demanding things from their parents. "I want milk now!" And the parent just gives them milk? Nope. Not in my house. You ask nicely, you use a respectful voice, you look me in the eye or you get no milk. I don't care how many hours it takes. I don't care how stubborn I need to me. I don't care if you get no milk at all, ever (Strong bones can take a day, week, month break from milk if that is what it takes to learn to obey). You speak respectfully to me, or you get diddly squat.

I tell people that we are working hard to learn lessons now, so we don't have to learn them 10 years from now. That is the purpose of winning those toddler tantrums. Because if you can teach them to stay in their own bed at 3, then you don't have to teach them how to stay in their own bed at 16. And trust me, you want to teach that at 3.

I was at the bank the other day with all three of my girls. The teller, just making polite conversation commented, as many people do - about me having three girls and "won't that be fun when they are all teenagers!" Now, this bothers me. I know teenage girls have something of a reputation. But you know what? I know lots of amazing teenage girls. So my response was (ignoring the sarcasm) "Yes. It will. I am going to enjoy my teenage girls." "Good luck with that!" was her answer. Now, I don't know her story. Perhaps she has had some hard times with her teenagers. Perhaps she had hard teenage years herself. But she obviously didn't believe it possible. "My mom had five kids" I answered. "3 of them girls, all grown now, all of us were good teenagers and all of us turned into wonderful adults. I can say that because I was one of them. It can be done. We are learning as many lessons now while my girls are young as we can. That way, we don't have to learn them as teenagers." She looked confused, but had no answer for me. And perhaps I am wrong. After all - I don't have teenagers yet. And I have no doubt it will be challenging at times. But I also know that I can pray about everything. So why should I dread it? I feel that if I believe I will have terrible teenagers, I will. If I trust that 'if I raise my kids in the way they should go, they wont depart from it,' even when they are teenagers? Then I think we will be ok.  

7. Get on the same page with your spouse. If you disagree on discipline, don't disagree in front of the kids. For big disagreements, find a third person to help you come to an agreement.

And never, NEVER undermine one another. Don't ever say "don't tell your mom/dad" (unless of course you are planning a surprise). There is no "good" parent or "mean" parent. There are just parents. You are all working together to be a team.  There is no parent vs. parent. There is no parents vs. kids. Everyone is on the same team, there are captains and there are rookies. But anything that causes defensiveness ("I worked ALL day, you can change just one poopy diaper!") or competitions. ("You think your day was bad, you should try being with these kids for 8 hours straight") is a recipe for disaster. And these kids are smart, they will work the system. Make the system UN-workable.

8. Say "NO" to busyness. Keep working to simplify your schedule and your house. Get rid of the unnecessary clutter in your house and schedule.

Uggg. I am bad at this.

9. Pray the hard prayers "Lord, let them get hurt just enough so they are not stupid." "Lord, if they do anything illegal or immoral let them get caught the first time." "Lord, help them learn their lessons in the little things and from watching others. If they can't learn the easy way, teach them any way you can."

I was a very rebellious teenager. I wanted to get in trouble so bad. But you know what, I didn't. Do you know why? Because I knew my mom was praying these prayers, and I had seen her prayers answered too many times to risk it! And the fact that my mom was more concerned about me learning the big life lessons, then for my safety? It marks you as a teenager! I couldn't ever bring myself to test it, I would have gotten caught the first time, I know it. So I didn't risk a first time. You can stay out of a lot of trouble as a teenager if you can avoid "first times." I also knew the reality of choice and consequences because I had learned it as a very young child. I could see the possible uncomfortable consequences too clearly. And I didn't want to have to deal with them. Of course, there was that time I snuck into Disneyland...but that is an entirely different story.

10. Find a way to take a date every week with your spouse. Trade babysitting with another couple,  ask an older friend, pay a teenager, find a way. The kids will look forward to it and so will you.
This has saved my marriage more then one time. And it is due to my amazing in-laws - who also were (are) amazing, amazing parents. How truly blessed my husband and I were/are!

11. Pray about everything. When you are struggling with a child (their attitude, bad habits, communication), ask for God's insight and understanding. He promises to never leave us alone in our struggles. He has always helped me.

Breathing prayer. That is how my days have been lately. Breathing prayer. Thank you God, He understands the details unspoken in "God, Help! I am not dealing with life very well today. Please help" And He does. I also ask my kids to pray for me, they love it. And their prayers (especially the prayers that involve God helping mom to have a better attitude) are always answered! And I pray for them, out-loud regularly - and just about life. Even if it is just for a good parking spot.

12. End each day with a big hug, words of love, and a short prayer of protection and blessing.
I do with my kids, but not always for myself. Something else to work harder on.

Remember..... YOU'RE THE GROWN UP NOW!

And you are always learning, always learning.

Linda K. Evans 2004

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Buzz Lightyear Effect

Is it me? I never used to have this problem, so I think it must be me... which is disconcerning in and of itself. And what is even more disconcerning is the fact that disconcerning is not even a word. The proper word is "disconcerting" and I somehow managed to get to 30 years old and I am only just now discovering I have been saying the word wrong for 30 years? Ok, to be fair I probably didn't talk much at just below one year old, didn't use words beyond one syllable anyhow. And it is even more disconcerting that saying a word incorrectly for 28 1/2 years, rather then 30 somehow makes me feel a little better....and yes I know what you were thinking. I was a very precocious 18 month old.

One answer I have discovered to my question:

"Just put this fish in your ear"

Now some of you are laughing because you already know exactly what I mean, and the other bit of you are probably fairly certain that I have truly gone over to the dark side. So I shall back up a bit - it is from a book...


'But I can't speak Vogon!'

'You don't need to. Just put this fish in your ear.'

Ford, with a lightning movement, clapped his hand to Arthur's ear, and he had the sudden sickening sensation of the fish slithering deep into his aural tract.  Gasping with horror he scrabbled at his ear for a second or so, but then slowly turned goggle-eyes with wonder.  He was experiencing the aural equivalent of looking a picture of two black silhouetted faces and suddenly seeing it as a picture of a white candlestick.  Or of looking at a lot of coloured dots on a piece of paper which suddenly resolve themselves into the figure six and mean that your optician is going to charge you a lot of money for a new pair of glasses.
He was still listening to the howling gargles, he knew that, only now it had somehow taken on the semblance of perfectly straighforward English."  - Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) 

To me it looks like the dots have come back, even though everyone around me is still seeing the 6.  Perhaps I need new glasses?

Babel fish aside, I used to be good at communicating. I used to be really good at it. Good enough in fact that I majored in it in college, and did very well. I liked being able to make things clear that had otherwise been foggy. I used to enjoy taking a problem and breaking it down into steps and completing those steps. I used to be able to follow directions; when I called insurance companies with questions I was able to ask them clearly and I understood the answers without having to have them repeated to me over and over and over again. I was a high-school teacher for a while, and the kids got what I was saying, according to them, even more so at times then from other teachers - were they lying to me?  Well, they may have been...but that is beside the point.

A few years ago I could have conversations with friends and they understood my point, I could have a discussion with my husband and he understood my side, I could even answer my kids questions on God and philosophy and feel like they grasped something of what I was trying to say.

A few years ago I appeared intelligent while discussing politics or religion. I made people think about sides of subjects they had not thought of before. I had ideas, I had merit, I had qualifications. People came to me with questions and problems, knowing I would be willing to offer advice or ideas.

So why does it feel now, that I don't have any of that anymore? I will have an idea in my head and it comes out wrong, it comes out like I think others' ideas are wrong when I really don't. People are getting defensive, which makes me get defensive, which makes me frustrated because I think that they think I started this when I really really didn't. I am just confused as to why people are suddenly angry with me. I feel like Anne, trying to put the cow back, only to realize it is the wrong cow and now the mess is so much bigger, when all she was trying to do was desperately make it right again. I feel like a little kid, confused as to why I am getting yelled at and not knowing what I did or how to fix it. And the more I try to explain, the more I try to make myself clear, the worse it gets.

People don't ask for my help anymore, I know that I am overwhelmed by children and so sometimes it seems they are just trying to lighten my load, which I appreciate. But it means that nothing I do feels like it matters anymore outside of my four walls. My brain lives in the constant domestic fog of the housewife's equivalent of "lather, rinse, repeat." over and over and over again. So perhaps I am just out of practice talking to adults? I am used to the more one-sided conversations of me informing children of obligation or half listening to stories of butterflies and goblins while also taking care to not step on the screaming baby at my feet and trying to get lunch made in time. I have always been bad at waiting my turn in conversation, I think that comes from growing up in a family of 7. There is always noise so waiting until it is quiet to talk is ludicrous. But it means I interrupt too much, partially out of excitement that I have something intelligent to say...or I think so until I say it and then I realize I should have thought that one through a bit more. No wonder people lose patience with me.

I was cleaning a poopy cloth diaper out in the toilet the other day, spraying it clean again and realized suddenly that this was the most satisfaction I had gotten from a task in a long time. I was doing something that was difficult, and I was doing it well. And it had been so long since that part of my mind had been used that it felt like an old itch was being scratched, one I had forgotten was even there. And all I was doing was spraying poop off of a diaper...a new low, to be sure.

But you see, all those helpful people are right.  I can't take on anything else right now to scratch that itch because I really am overwhelmed by kids and house and laundry...oh so much laundry. And I truly want to be everything I can be in that role. So I am stuck, between intellectual stagnation and being a good mom...which makes the mommy guilt come out because does that mean I am not doing enough intellectually stimulating activities with my kids? But no...that is not it. We do things, but it stimulates them, not me. And I realize that this time will go fast and it will not always be this way...but then I feel as if I am not living in the moment again.

I want to go home.     

I know I am being cryptic, and I don't mean to be...but you see, there is no subject line. And even if there was, I am afraid I would have gotten it wrong again. Things are coming out gibberish without the fish. Or maybe it just sounds that way...I am not sure if I am the only one who has a fish or if mine is the only one that has been taken away. Or maybe I make the fish not work properly in other people, or mine is just sick and needs a vacation.

I am Mrs. Nesbit...and all the tea is gone. And I am not even drinking tea right now...

God, please help me through this time! I find myself saying that about 1000 times a day. "This too will pass" I chant desperately, but this is the wrong time in my life to be living to make time go faster. My baby girl is walking now, and I don't even hardly remember how it happened. My house is a mess and I have to cook dinner and my head hurts.

I used to joke that I had the attention span of my youngest child. That is why movies feel like too much of a commitment to me. Simple things, like a spider in a web completely fascinate me and I can't keep up with when the library books are due. Now apparently, I have lost my communication skills along with my attention capabilities. Perhaps all of my correspondence from now on should be in writing. I am better while writing. I can stop mid-sentence if I need to and think about how best to describe something. Or I can take whole entire paragraphs away if I decide that their tone was wrong or there were too many words. 

I feel like I never really recovered from my last pregnancy. Emotionally I was all over the map this last time,and I know all my thyroid issues have played a part in this as well. But how long can I hide behind a possible medical reason especially since my last test was "withing the realm of normal." I still don't feel normal. Is this the new normal that I just need to stop fighting and learn to live with? 

Perhaps this will not pass. If so, then have I wasted the last few months? I know I need to fix my attitude but I am not sure what direction it needs to go. Do I need to become more determined to win this? Who am I fighting? Why? Do I need to learn to let go and just be the person who I appear to have become to the best of my abilities, even though I don't like this person and I know my husband doesn't either. Is there a third option? Can there be please?

Damn it, the baby is awake. My window is closed. I got almost a whole cup of coffee down. My house is still a mess - but perhaps it is a good illustration for life right now.