Following through

…sucks.

I had this great afternoon planned.  After Sophia took a nap (She didn’t have one, yesterday), I planned for us to do painting projects together.  I had some wooden letters to paint for Abby’s room and a canvas to get started on, and I had a wooden birdhouse for Sophia.  She was so excited. She had her “princess pink” picked out and everything.  I told her, “After you wake up from your nap, we can paint your birdhouse.” She’d been talking about it all day.

Five minutes into her nap, “I can’t sleep.  I don’t need to paint my birdhouse.”

We’ve gone through this before: television as a reward for naptime.  She figured out that if she tells me that she doesn’t want to watch T.V., then she can get up.  Miss Princess has figured out how to exert control and get what she wants… sort of… I always follow through, no big deal, just no T.V.

Well, today I had plans.  Fun, exciting, painting plans.  I didn’t mean for the birdhouse to become a reward for her to nap, it just sort of happened that way, and now we’re both punished.  It didn’t keep me from painting, but it kept me from getting to share the experience with her.  I wanted us to be able to do this activity together. While I painted, I facilitated her potty trips and taking her back to bed… and back to bed.  I was essentially watching her make a choice that would hurt both her and me, and it was so painful.

I just wanna take it all back and say, “Screw naptime.  Let’s paint!”

But, I know that I must follow through.  An hour later with a second poop trip, she’s in the bathtub, and my head hurts.  I’ve got to step back and think again.  The rewards aren’t working.  We removed all the books from her room a few days ago because we thought that the stimulation of the books was keeping her up… apparently not. The removal of toys and stimulation isn’t working.  I can’t lock her in her room because she always has to poop at naptime if she’s not asleep–sometimes multiple times.  I’ve thought about instilling “quiet time.”  So far, that’s really what it has been most every day with an occasional nap when she’s freaking exhausted.  She does a good job of being quiet, she knows that waking up Abby would send Mommy into a HOLY TERROR! She sleeps fine at night…

Oh, the battles of the will have begun.

This overtiredness is, no doubt, contributing to a new phase that we’ve entered: Tantrums on a whole new level–a more sophisticated and verbal level.  A verbal tantrum at an embarrassingly loud volume.  I can see the manipulation in her eyes.  They’re no tears in her cries.  She screams “No, I don’t want to!” and the like.  We’ve started having time-outs in the corner with no Cowboy.  I give her opportunities to leave time-out.  I tell her, “When you are done crying, we will talk.”  Yesterday, this lasted nearly a half-hour.  I kept asking her, “Are you ready to talk? When you stop crying, I’d love to talk to you.”  She’d scream at me, “NO! I’M NOT READY!”  This whole time-out in the corner sends Abby into HOLY CONFUSION!  OH, it’s not pretty.  Finally yesterday, during said time-out event, after 30 minutes of an exhausting tantrum in the corner she stops crying, falls into my arms, hugs me so tight and says, “I can’t believe myself.”  That’s either some strange self-awareness… or she heard that somewhere.

I’m so freaking exhausted at the end of the day.  It’s no wonder.

So, all of this is to say: Let’s hold our glasses up to the moms who follow through.  Cause it SUCKS.

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The most trouble I’ve ever been in

Here’s my first attempt to begin the challenge of posting once a week for 2011.  This is the first prompt: What’s the most trouble I’ve ever been in?

It was 5th grade.  I was a saucy little brat, and my mom had me signed up for piano lessons with a fellow teacher-friend of hers.  I remember this day like I remember my wedding day.  It was fall, sunny, beautiful and breezy.  My piano teacher Stephanie was nice enough.  I’d been to a lesson or two of hers.  It had gone o-kay. I definitely had no “raw talent.” And, frankly, I had started piano lessons a little late in my childhood.  Let’s just say that my left hand was not on speaking terms with my right.  I didn’t like failing, though.  I DID NOT like NOT being a natural at something.  Well, 5th grade year, what I was a natural at was socializing and chasing boys.  So, that Thursday afternoon after school during said piano lesson, I socialized.  I played hooky, and I chased boys.

What a beautiful day it was.  I remember feeling so free. and independent. and POWERFUL.  Whew.  Until I saw my mom: marching across the blacktop of the playground, hair blowing in the wind, temper blazing with the sun.  She was as mad as I’ve ever seen her. It was my most blatant act of disobedience thus far in life, and honestly, hence forth.  It may not sound like much to you, and at the time I was actually surprised at how mad she was, but I was grounded, completely grounded for 1 whole month.  And, my piano career was burned up with my social status.  My left and right hands are still not speaking.  Thanks, Mom.  Oh, and sorry about that… blatant disobedience thing…

Thinking about this was fun. I dread my girls going through those 5th grade pre-teen years. I suspect that my feisty little daughters won’t be the goody-two-shoes that I was; so, I pray this is the worst of their offenses.

I’m posting every week in 2011

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog (at least) once a week for all of 2011.  I want to be motivated to think, write, and blog.  I want to fine tune my storytelling.  I’ve decided to sign up for “postaweek2011,” which means that I may have some interesting prompts…

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Thanks,

Angela Spicer

To shelter or expose: A rant on children’s literature.

I’ve been thinking a lot about kids’ books lately.  What makes a good kids book?  The story? The characters? Does it need a moral?  Does it have to teach a lesson?  When I say I’m thinking about kids’ books, I really mean toddler books, or early pre-school age… books appropriate for a 3-year old.  Books appropriate for a child that has outgrown board books and picture books with few words.  She wants  a story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because Sophia LOVES books.  Some days it’s literally ALL she does is to sit and look at books.  These are her favorite topics: Disney Princess books, Max and Ruby books, OLIVIA books, Blue’s Clues books… Can you see a few questionable ones, there? Let me tell you a story.

If you follow my blog, then you might remember this story and picture. (It’s the painting the face blue with “make-up”episode…)  Well, what I found out the next day was a copy of a library book that I hadn’t yet looked at entitled Ruby’s Beauty Shop by Rosemary Wells.  This is a pretty adorable story (if you like Max and Ruby) about Ruby playing pretend make-up and beauty shop with Max.  Max eventually breaks off on his own and paints himself with hair dye.  YES!  You heard me right.  He PAINTS himself with hair-dye!  Exactly like Sophia did with my acrylic paints!  She was acting out the story!  Now, granted, this is also a story that is on a Max and Ruby episode by Nickelodeon… and, she has probably seen it… But no doubt, we had this particular book from the library at the time of the offense…

This isn’t the first time that she has acted out scenes from books.  She loves to play babies just like Olivia in OLIVIA and the Babies. She loves to play Little Red Rubyhood from Bunny Fairy Tales. She has an insane memory for lines from the stories and loves to recite them.  This is also not the first time she’s gotten in trouble from reenacting something from a book.  I decided after the initial embarrassment of finding Ruby’s Beauty Shop, that it’s normal for her to reenact, healthy even, and this is a good way for her to learn appropriate behavior.

WAIT, though!  She never would have even thought to paint her face blue with my paint if she hadn’t seen/read this story!  So, there’s the question:  Do we shelter our children for the sake of reducing possible misbehavior, or do we expose them and thus encourage teaching opportunities?  It’s the same age-old question that parents face when they consider homeschooling… (One of the questions they consider, I realize.)  Maybe, she’s too young for these books. They specify “reading level” for these books, but that’s not the same as age-appropriate content, is it?  Here’s the thing, though:  She’s excited about looking at books.  I don’t want to discourage that.  My hope is that excitement about looking at books will turn into excitement about reading books, and isn’t that one of my goals as a mother–to encourage learning and success in school?

Hmm.  So, back to what I think about these books, these kids’ books.  Max and Ruby books are silly.  Max is always getting into trouble, and it’s never clear that what he’s doing is wrong.  He’s never punished, and his parents are nowhere to be found.  But, Sophia LOVES them.  They make her laugh, and she loves retelling the stories.  Olivia.  Well, Olivia is honest.  The story line is honest and it’s great story-telling.  She’s just a kid being a kid.  Her parents are doing the best they can, and they are not always perfect.  For example, in OLIVIA, a CALDECOTT HONOR BOOK, Olivia has this conversation with her mother:

“Only five books tonight, Mommy,” she says.

“No, Olivia, just one.”

“How about four?”

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Oh, all right, three.  But that’s it!”

If this was intended to be a story of a mother showing exemplary parenting, then it failed miserably.  (We have a strict 2-books-at-bedtime policy here at the Spicer house.  We waiver only on VERY special occasions.) This is an example of a child manipulating. And a parent getting manipulated. Like I said, the story is honest.  I get that this happens.  I’ll admit that it happens at our house, too.  But, is it appropriate story material for my 2 1/2 year old?  There’s much more questionable behavior in there that I would loathe for Sophia to copy: Olivia replicates a painting from the museum and throws paint all over the wall. (She gets a time-out.) She doesn’t nap when she’s supposed to. (No punishment.)  She scares her little brother with a mask in order to get him to leave her alone. (No parental acknowledgement.)

Do I want my children’s books to be neutered in order that I can spoon-feed behavior-training?  Teach by example (Johnny is a good little boy.  See how he goes to take a nap when he’s supposed to.) or teach by story?  Isn’t the latter more like real-life, what it looks like to live in the world?  And, isn’t that what we’re raising our kids to do.  I want to raise children to become adults to be successful in the world.

I have very few “Christian” kids books, that is to say that they were put out by a Christian publishing company.  I’m not talking about Bible storybooks.  I’m talking about cheesy books like God Loves Your Nose.  We’ve been gifted a few like these.  And, may I say, I really don’t care for these books.  They’re boring.  They’re poorly written–lines seem to be put in just to finish a rhyme, making little to no sense, with little to no story line.  It’s fine that they furnish an opportunity to talk about God or a particular truth.  I’m cool with that.  But, don’t all books furnish an opportunity to talk about God or a particular truth?  If I’m in conversation with my daughter?

Woah.  This blog is really turning into a rant.  I haven’t even talked about princess books.  I don’t even know where to start there, but my sweet, precious daughter is absolutely in love with pink and princesses.  And, at the very least it provides an opportunity for us to talk about exemplary behavior.  And, COOKIES!  What is it about so many preschool books having cookies in them?  Cookies for morning snack?  Is this just a line to make kids happy and come back to the book.  Think, authors.  Think about my children and how reading about cookies makes them want to eat cookies… ALL THE TIME!

Okay.  I’m done.

If I could do it over…

While the kids were playing in the bath this morning, I read a pretty interesting article in The Ladies Home Journal entitled “Still the One” from the Mar 11 issue.  I don’t usually read magazine articles.  I don’t usually have the time, and I hate paying for them. (Thanks Mom, for the surprise subscription.)  As life is getting a little bit less hectic and the girls are learning to play together better, I decided to indulge.

Anyway, back to the article.  It is entitled “Still the One.”  It’s an article by a woman who’s been married 23 years–what she thinks about marriage now and a little bit of what she’s gone through in the past few years getting through and rehabilitating an injured husband.  Though her point of view is definitely not Christian, she gives a down-to-earth perspective on what marriage is like 23 years after all the glitter has settled down, and how it is definitely worth it.  I love hearing the perspective of those who have weathered so many years of marriage, the stories they have to tell and the victories they have to celebrate.  Anyway, this post isn’t about marriage, at least I don’t think it’s going to be.  Here’s the quote that prompted me to start thinking.

I often revisit a conversation I had a couple of years ago with an old family friend.  At 72 she was dying of ovarian cancer and her acknowledgment of this fact allowed me to be totally candid.  I asked what advice she would give me about marriage, standing as I was, hopefully, in the middle of a long run.

“If I could do it over,” she said, “I would leave more dishes in the sink.  I would worry less about the to-do lists and having my kitchen perfect for the next day.  I’d spend more time sitting on my husband’s lap.”

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the ‘to-do lists.’ It’s hard not to constantly worry that things are straightened, the kitchen is spotless, the dinner is gourmet and on time.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in how seamlessly other moms seem to keep order.  It’s hard not to compare my chaotic house to others’ magazine page life.  When I pause and contemplate how I’d like to run my house, though, I don’t see myself as this super-organized mom with a plan every day…. I do often imagine that life would be better if I had a spotless house.  If I could just get a cleaning schedule going, or if I could just get a schedule down that worked for our lifestyle, I would be better at this housewifery: I would worry less and be happier.  Actually, it turns me into MONSTER MOMMY.  I’m on edge.  I yell at the girls for the tiniest mistakes, for interrupting my desire to control, for not measuring up… Keeping order is exhausting!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what grace I’m able to receive each day.  The little things that keep me centered and allow me to step away from the exhausting role of always being ON.  Here’s a few of them:

1) I try to always carve out a chunk of the day that is FOR ME. I try to get the girls’ naps to overlap to some degree so that I can have some time to recharge, so that I have something to give at 5:00 when there is nothing left.  Sometimes I spend this time reading, watching a show, writing a blog post… whatever the BLEEP I want to!  Sometimes I feel guilty about this time.  I worry that there might be something more productive for me to be doing.  I look at the state of disarray in our house, and I feel pressure to right it.  Have we not learned that this is never-ending?  That striving for perfection is a goal with no end. So, I sit back down to recharge.

2) I have begun to understand that I am in control of my day, not my children.  This is one example of how it translates:  I’ve started bathing myself while my girls are AWAKE.  Yup.  Baths I find to be a necessary evil.  We must get clean, and we must spend 30 minutes getting clean and fixing up.  You may worry that this is an example of neglect and you’re going to call and report me, but it’s really not.  I’ve been experimenting this last week taking my every-3rd-day bath while the kids are awake.  Abby just stands at the side of the tub tossing toys in and out, and Sophia runs around playing.  I have just learned after 2 1/2 years of parenting, if there is something I want to do, then I can quit worrying about who may think it’s wrong and just tell the kids that this is how it is.  Mommy’s going to take a bath now.

3) I dance. I bump my favorite pandora radio station (Sufjan Stevens) at a super loud volume, and I dance it out.  It’s amazing how much more whining and leg pulling I can tolerate when my body is filled with the rhythm and music happiness of my choosing.

4) A middle of the afternoon Americano made with a pot of stove-top espresso and hot water. Ah. Add sugar, half-n-half, and maybe whipped cream and you couldn’t make me yell at you.

So, where was I? Ah, yes.  If I could do it all over… I don’t think about this a lot, but I do think about this:  What do I want for my girls? What do I want them to remember about our house?  I know that I don’t want them to remember that I was always worried about keeping it clean.  I don’t want them to remember that I was always on edge–one moment from blowing up.  I do not want to raise perfectionists.  I want my girls to feel free to create, play, dance, and live.  I want love and life to be their story.

So, if I could do it all over… I would forgo the dishes in the sink and I would sit in the lap of my husband, gazing into his eyes.

If I could do it all over… I would stop what I’m doing, no matter what it is, and play with my girls.

If I could do it all over… I’d say “yes” more often to Will’s offering to take us out for dinner.

I can do it all over.  Right now.