Monday, November 26, 2012

Calm, Cool, and Collected

Breath Four:
I remember when Jane was a baby and Lee was two.  We were in the thick of it at a play date.  I mean, no time to chat and talk with other moms.  I was redirecting and negotiating a very busy Lee while nursing Jane, when a mother who was watching me said, “You are always so calm!”  I think I laughed, I did not feel calm.  I felt as though I could flip out at any moment.  Apparently, I come off as calm to others as well.  I do actually try to remain calm when dealing with my children.
Here are some of the strategies I have used:
1. I take deep breaths,
2. Fake it ‘till I make it,  
3. Remind myself that this is a learning opportunity,
4. Turn up the music… loud.
5. Go somewhere. Get out of the house- you are less likely to blow a gasket in public.
Keeping calm helps my kids talk about their feelings, solve their problems faster and get back to their normal exuberance for life. When I remain calm my children feel secure and safe; I am creating the optimal environment for their learning and growing. 
 Unfortunately, I do not always employ these techniques.  I should since I have extensive training and education in understanding child development.  I have also had the ultimate model of calm, my own mother whom to this day I can’t remember yelling at me.  But I am only human, doing the best I can.  It’s just sometimes, “doing the best you can,” isn’t enough.  I have defiantly blockaded myself in the bathroom for a few moments.  I have yelled at the top of my lungs, and thrown a grown-up rambling fit.  Not my finest moments, and not at all calm.  I find solace in the fact that I always apologize to my children; even grown-ups make mistakes.  At least there’s a lesson in the aftermath of my tantrum. Thankfully, I have never sworn at my children yet.  I have a couple of phrases that I use so that  I do not swear.  They are pretty simple- “I am so mad!” and “I am so tired of this!”  Did you notice the use of, I-statements?  Well ultimately, the yelling never works.  It scares them for a moment (not Frederick though, he just grins much to my chagrin.) I would like to say there’s something to be said for a healthy fear of your parents. You’d better behave or your mom is going to flip.  But really, it’s not how children learn. I guess I’ll resolve myself to being an adult, remaining calm and utilize deep breathing techniques. 
So, when someone compliments me on how together I seem or my parenting, I always feel that I am pulling off a great charade.  I thank them and smile, knowing that underneath I am disheveled, flustered, and anything but calm.  My house is always mess; maybe not the living room, but all the other rooms are.  I have ten loads of laundry at all times, and dishes in the sink, I rarely dust, and there might be a hostile take-over by children in my house at any moment.  Regardless, I love motherhood, and I will always try harder to remain calm, positive, and attempt to pull-off the ultimate deception of a calm, cool, and collected mother to my children. 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful For Little Things

Breath Three:

I truly am blessed and thankful for the gifts God has given me.  I have a fabulous family, fantastic friends, a comfortable home, and food to eat. However, I’m also thankful for little things, like laughter, so here’s to a good laugh, or at least a small smirk.
Little things I am thankful for in no particular order:
1.) Candles- With the lights out, glowing candlelight almost makes the house look clean.
2.) Coffee- A simple necessity for me to function.
3.) Chocolate- Enough said.
4.) Gum- Refer to previous post.
5.) Wireless internet- We had dial-up until they discontinued WisDial in 2011. We were very high-tech.
6.) When children fall asleep in the van on the way home. Ahhh, who doesn’t love that peace and quiet?
7.) Toilet paper in the bathroom- Children don’t always replace it.
8.) Music- It can change the atmosphere from whiny to cheery. Also, if it’s up loud enough chatter can be tuned out.  You know you do this sometimes!
9.) Morning cartoons- They allow us a few vital minutes of sleep in the morning.
10.) Laundry chutes- Ours conceals mountains of dirty clothes at all times.
11.) Nights when we have no visitors in our bed. The bliss of uninterupted sleep!
13.) Time alone- A rarity in our home.
14.) A basement- Sometimes space is a beautiful thing in a marriage.
15.) Make-up- Tricks people into thinking I’m more awake and together than I really am, maybe.
16.) Curly hair-No one notices if you don’t have time to brush all the way through it. 
17.) Facebook-Where my acquaintances are now my “friends” and I can pretend I’m popular.
18.) Showering without a conflict or an interruption. I think we need a lock on the door!
19.) A fenced in backyard- “Go play outside for a little while, Mommy needs to make dinner.”  Yes, I do shoo them outside. 
20.) Target- The one stop shopping event, where I can get an emergency coffee too.

Remember it’s the little things!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Icky Sticky Bubble Gum

Breath two:
“Icky Sticky Bubble Gum,” a well-known children’s song, sung by my children as a rite of passage through the preschool years, came to life today in the wee hours of the morning.  Really, it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened to Jane prior to this.  Jane tiptoed in our room and whispered in my ear, “Mom, there is gum on my blanket and pajamas!”  I mumble something about going back to bed and dealing with it in the morning.  But when one is up, the others get up.  So, there they were each of my children awake in their beds whispering and watching the minutes pass until 6:00am.  We long ago deemed six o’clock a reasonable time to awaken.  I desperately tried to sneak in a few more minutes of shut-eye.  Six o’clock rolled around way too quickly; we got up and thankfully, we did not have to get gum out of Jane’s curly locks.  Her blanket and pj’s had to wait until we after the children were off at school. 
My children love gum.  They ask to chew it constantly.  Frederick started chewing gum when he was two years old.  He has swallowed his fair share of gum.  He is now interested in refreshing his gum frequently.  I NEVER would have given Lee or Jane gum at the age of two, they had to wait.  I guess with the third child everything goes out the window!  I’ll just call it, parents’ survival instinct.  My mother used to say, “Let the food fill your mouth” at the table when my sister and I were fussing. I suspect she was also looking for a few moments of silence.  We talked a lot!  I now relate to this feeling.  I hope for the same effect with gum chewing.  
While I don’t chew gum that often, I did as a child.  I remember sitting in the living room and learning how to blow bubbles. I like gum.  You can buy sugarless gum in any kind of flavor; it’s a nice alternative to the candies and sweets that children crave.  I also like it because my children tend to be rather oral. Additionally, gum has been shown to help children focus and concentrate.  For three years I have advocated for Lee’s teachers to let him chew gum.  Gum chewing would increase his focus and simply be a way he could move his busy body in classroom congested with children.  Now in his third grade year he finally gets to chew gum.  Lee is ecstatic and keeps a pack of gum in his backpack.    I know he is not the only mover and shaker in his classroom, and it is great that his teacher encourages children to chew gum if they need it.    
People have terrible gum habits.  They smack, pop loud bubbles, crack their gum, chomp like a cow, and even throw gum on the ground.  I have occasionally found gum on the floor at home and definitely found wrappers that missed the trash can.  Whenever this occurs we take breaks from gum chewing.  It is called natural consequences. My children are gum-savers; they put it on the sides of their plates and save it for after dinner.  Do you recall the little girl from the movie, Miracle on 34th Street?  She chewed her gum and saved it for the next day.  Gross.  Lee has been known to forget to throw away his gum, and chew it in his sleep.  I have actually seen him “sleep chew,” an amazing dedication to gum chewing.  But, I still say the benefits outweigh the negatives.  Gum assists in promoting household peace; it helps hold our focus, and keeps our breaths fresh.   
Next time you are in an uncomfortable conversation, a rude confrontation, or about to say something terribly mean, pop in a piece of gum, blow a quick bubble and walk away enjoying the fresh breath. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gasping For Breath

Breath One:
It is 7:15pm and the house is now quiet from the earlier chaos of three kids and a dog.  There is a quote that I am reminded of as my children sleep. 
“There never was such a lovely child, but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 
I feel deeply connected to this mother.  I love my children.  I cry over their sweetness when sharing a story with my husband, Jason, I blubber over the pictures of yesterday and I weep with frustration at how they or I acted.  I love them with everything I am, but I am always glad to see them sleep.  Finally, I get a little space, a little breathing room.  So, I’ve decided to write a blog.  This will be my breathing room.  It will be my space to reflect, process, take an honest look at the day or my life.  Truth is important to me, it can be uncomfortable, it can hurt, it may not be pretty, but it is the best.  
So, I start with an agenda of honesty.   
Were you shocked to learn my children are in bed asleep by 7:15?  Well, we have early risers and I will refer you to the previous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  We also have a very standard routine.  We find it necessary to have a routine with three children.  Along with the understanding, that children love routine and predictability.   They want to know what will happen next, it gives them a sense of control.  Often children have very little control.  Our routine is as follows:
1. Eat dinner together.  While I love the idea of homemade meals, I do not make them every night and I am not that great of a cook. I go in phases, meal planning for a week, and then scrounge in the cupboards for something to throw together.  I am a last- minute girl, and not so organized.
2.  Every other night is bath night at our house, unless we get really dirty or skip it out of laziness. Come on, they are just kids.  Although, my kids love baths, and it does keep one of them contained for awhile!  The kids take their baths and clean up their rooms or just clean their rooms and put on their pajamas.  This happens only when I am home. 
3. After baths and jammies we started giving them a bedtime snack.  We haven’t always done this, but Lee is hungry ALL of the time. 
4. Then the children brush their teeth, one at a time because spitting is involved and we have a minute bathroom.
5. We always read books together.  Jason and I share the responsibility.  We divide and conquer.  He is currently reading the second Harry Potter book to Lee.  Lee, generally reads it independently first and Jason rereads it to him.  I read with Jane and Frederick.  They currently share a bedroom.  They also read a few books on their bed independently.  For Jane, this means books that are from her school or books that she knows she can read.  For Frederick, this means reading pictures or talking about the books.  Then I read aloud the two books that each of them chose.   
6. Then it is time for lights out!  Only to turn on all night lights and the hallway light for each child.  Then each room has a noise machine which we purchased to try and keep our children in bed as long as possible.  The noise machines are set on babbling brook; this is a vast improvement from the former settings of squawking birds and thumping heartbeat that we have been subjected to in the past. 
7.  Then it is time for prayers, sometimes we say them with interjections from each of the kids and sometimes they pray aloud.  Sometimes they ramble on and tell God about their day, and sometimes they ask for specific things such as help and protection from storms, healing from snotty noses.  What an honor it is to hear our children pray and talk to God. 
8. After prayers we sing to our children and rub their backs.  Jason has specific songs that he chose to sing to each of the children.  Depending on who he is putting to bed he sings their respective songs.  For Lee he sings, “Amarillo by Morning” and “Margaritaville” I know not a kid songs or topics, I tried to tell him this. Oh well, nine years later. He also sings, “Rainbow Connection,” and “Love Without End, Amen”.  To Jane and Frederick he sometimes sings Badger songs at Frederick’s request.  He also sings, “Operator” and “I’ve Got a Name.”  I usually sing the same songs to all of our children.  I sing “ ‘Tis a Gift,” a song my mother sang to me as a little girl. I also sing, “Amazing Grace,” and “Jesus Loves Me,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and “You are So Beautiful,” and more.  Then backs are rubbed, Frederick holds my hair, because that is his thing.  I kiss them goodnight and tell them, “Sweet dreams, I love you and goodnight.”
 9. Finally it is sleepy time.  Hallelujah Amen! We pray they stay in their beds until morning. 

We shoot for lights out between 7:00pm and 7:30pm.  This process can be lengthened or shortened depending on the time.  Songs can be cut out or added and books can be shortened or bookmarks used. If the evening is getting crazy, then extra long reading time and songs it is!  We like to be flexible with everything except the time.  We don’t want anyone turning into a pumpkin and having a fit! 
To be perfectly honest this is the ideal.  Usually this routine works and really does happen…but fits happen too, quick songs and prayers happen, “oops I forgot to brush my teeth” happens, “Go to bed, NOW!” happens.  All these things happen as we gasp for breath.