Child proof

Does my coffee table look a little cluttered  Do you notice anything on the coffee table that’s a little out of place?  Maybe that big piece of pink chalk right in the middle?  I noticed that this morning…  Yah, it’s been there for probably 2 weeks.  It is a complete wonder that a pink chalk line isn’t circling the living room–pink scribbles on the brand new sofa or pink on the rug.  It has literally just sat there for 2 weeks.  Shew.  I guess, I do have pretty amazing kids… Or else, they haven’t noticed it.

My eldest really surprised me this week.  Our house is pretty well kid friendly but my no means “child proof.”  We don’t have any cabinet locks or foam pads taped to corners or gates on the stairs.  We’re “always” watching them; so, I think it’s important to teach what’s okay to get into and what’s not…  Most chemicals and things are out of reach.

Except for the dishwashing liquid.  I’ve got to watch out.  If I leave the dishwasher door open, Abby will get out the dishwashing liquid and pretend to pour it in!  So cute.

This week, though, while I was NOT watching Sophia, she got into something that gave me a BIG scare.  She was standing at the kitchen counter playing with a tea cup, a tea bag and a packet of sugar.

I left the room for just a minute to take Abby to Daddy.  I heard Sophia yell, “I think I just hurt myself with a knife!”

She had pulled out a huge utility knife from the knife block and sliced her palm with it.  It bled like crazy.  I freaked out.  Thankfully, it was nothing that a little Neosporin and a princess band-aid couldn’t fix.  It was really eye-opening, though.  I keep forgetting that she’s just a little girl, not even 3-years old.  We had a good talk about.  She definitely understands now that a knife is not a toy, not for little girls, and the shiny part will cut you.  Thank goodness a lesson was learned without a trip to the emergency room.

Back to the craziness that is life lately…

Sick

Well, we’ve all got it.  Some nasty chest cold.  Complete with fever, body aches, coughing, and general malaise.  I had the worst night filled with fever dreams and tossing and turning. It’s like somebody snatched my plush, memory foam mattress and exchanged it for my Papa’s plywood board he used to sleep on.

It doesn’t help that it’s barely gotten above freezing around here.  It snowed a little, yesterday, and a little today, too.  I’ve never in my life longed for Spring like I have this year.  Thank you, Colorado.  Changing my life.  So, I’m cold and achey, breaking the house socks and pullovers back out.  Heaters are blasting.  Kleenex is rolling.  We’re a sight.

The girls sure are pitiful.  They’re getting better, but you can tell that they just don’t feel well.  And, the coughs! They’re enough to send a mama into nurture overdrive.  I tell ya, there’s nothing that’ll make you feel more like an adult than taking care of babies when you yourself feel like $#*!.

We’ve watched a few movies together as a family, though, and that’s been really nice.  Yesterday, we watched Ponyo–adorable movie.  Weird in a Japanese kind of way, but enjoyable, beautiful, and very cute story.  Today, we watched Toy Story (1).  None of us had ever seen it.  It was fun.  Abby was glued to the screen.   It’s been so fun to get to watch movies with Sophia.  She has so many questions.  She gets so excited (and scared).  She loves to cuddle in the scary moments.  I love to watch the wonder and excitement that she exudes. It’s so childlike, so innocent, so wonderful.  Though, we’ve all felt like poo-poo, getting to watch movies together has been really fun.  And, restful.

We’ve all got to get up at 5 a.m. and take Will to the Denver airport in the morning.  He leaves for Salt Lake City.  Jealous.  Sort of.  Business trip.  And, he doesn’t feel well either.  What am I going to do for the 2 1/2 days he’s going to be gone?  Cry.  Curl up in the fetal position? …  Buck up and Mommy the fire out them kids.  Nah.  Lean on the Lord.  I sure pray He makes us well.  I know He’ll keep me strong.

Precious time alone, a cherished treat

I’m sitting outside under our back porch, reclining.  I’m thinking about how I have this rare time to myself today. No agenda. No plans. Nothing pressing to get done… (expect for some cooking and cleaning and all that business that can definitely wait.)  I’m thinking about how my body needs some “me” time.  I need to spend an hour or so doing nothing but what is restorative.

My life is good.  I think I have no stress.  I was laying awake a few mornings ago about 4 a.m. listening to Abby fussing and chewing on her blanket.  She’s getting 3 molars at once, and it’s taking a toll on her in the middle of the night.  Our “noise maker” oscillating fan is out of commission, so I had to listen to her.  😦  In the moment, I’m sure I felt some stress.  8 hours of sleep is a rare commodity that I am learning to live without.  Here’s the thing, though.  I was laying awake listening to her fussing thinking about this: what yummy conglomeration of leftovers and pantry items I would put together for lunch.  I hardly ever lay awake at night thinking about anything.  If my stress is “what-I’m-gonna-make-for lunch-without-going-to-the-grocery-store” stress, then I think my life must be pretty darn good.  (By the way, we had grilled chicken and black bean quesadillas with yummy peppers and jalapenos and sour cream and cilantro for lunch.  I’m thankful for that middle of the night epiphany.)

So, today I have this nice opportunity to relax.  The girls are both sacked out, and it’s beautiful outside.

I’ve been doing a lot of recuperative things lately. I’ve been doing yard work, riding my bike on the beautiful trails throughout town, doing kundalini yoga, reading from the word… I also like to read novels and watch T.V., though I’m unintentionally taking a break from those things lately…

I’ve found that one of the most truly recuperative things that I can do is to reflect.  Often that is stemmed from a short reading from the message, but sometimes it is stemmed from simply being quiet.  During this nap time today, I wanted to do something fun.  I thought read or catch up on my Brothers and Sisters.  Both of those options gave me stress.  “Brothers and Sisters” is high-drama.  It’s a soap opera, really.  Sometimes I love to veg out into a made-up high-drama scenario, but today I thought it didn’t feel right.  I think I love to veg out in someone else’s drama when my own drama is too stressful to sit in.  And, that’s okay sometimes. I’m just not there right now.

What I’m thinking about today is what it was like to be out by myself, yesterday.  I took a few solitary shopping trips, yesterday.  Luxury, I know, right?!  More than ONE trip!  I went out to buy birthday presents for Will and Sophia, and I went to shop a little for myself, too.  It was weird.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE shopping for other people.  I LOVE buying presents for my husband, and I LOVE buying things for my girls, too.  I love to think about them, and the joy that these surprises will bring them.

Well, so last night I planned a trip to T.J. Maxx.  I’ve lost a LOT of weight since last summer, and the spring/summer wardrobe is  hurting.  No one wants to see Mama 60 pounds down still wearing her maternity t-shirts… (I really should toss those…)  I walked into T.J. Maxx, and I caught myself heading toward the pretty pink girls’ section.  WOAH, MAMA!  HAULT.  I literally said out loud, “This shopping trip is for YOU.”  I turned a 180, and stared at the women’s department.  I kept getting pulled toward the girly child stuff, but I kept away.  

Why was it so hard to keep the focus on myself?

Anyway, I tried to let myself go nuts.  I pulled every shirt that I sort of liked, and I tried them all on. It felt so good to be able to do that without constantly pacifying and entertaining and reassuring that I’m almost done, never getting to really think: “Do I feel good in this?”  Ah, the luxury of a precious moment alone!  Thankfully, only a few of them (with low price tags) did I love… I felt so old and out of touch looking through these clothes.  I didn’t recognize many of the styles–baggy, oversized shirts, weird 80s looking prints, military style jackets, lots of awkward embellishments… I felt like I was definitely suffering from mommy-stays-at-home-with-the-kids disorder.

I have so much to be thankful for in my life.  I love to remember what they are and to gush about them.  What I’m thankful for right now, is how precious my time is.  Now, as a mother, time is more precious than ever.  Time with my children is a gift! My girls are gems that I love to cherish.  Time alone is also precious–it’s not lonely, it’s not boring; it’s not even rushed.  It’s a gift.  A gift that there will be more of–if not this afternoon, then tonight or tomorrow.  When my time alone is interrupted, it’s interrupted by a loved one who wants to be seen, loved, and enjoyed.  And when God gives me a moment to be alone, to be silent, to maybe reflect and see Him, I am restored and ready to be back with my family.

What a beautiful day to pause, listen to the chirping birds and noisy squirrels, bask in the gorgeous, warm sun, cherish the cool, gentle breeze,  and listen to the dazed frisbee golfers across the fence of our backyard… no seriously… 😉

A call to play.

Playing.  What does that word stir up in you?  Delight.  Smiles.  Warm fuzzies.  Or, what does it make you think of?  Games, running around, joking.  What about pretend play?  Childish. Frivolous. Any anxiety there?

My eldest daughter’s pretend play has recently been turned up a notch.  She now likes to act out stories.  I’m so-and-so, and she’s somebody-else.  She calls out scenes and lines…  Tells us where to go and what to do.  Yesterday morning, I was feeling a little more gracious, and I thought I ought to “play” with the girls:

8:00 a.m. The morning began with a dance party, as it usually does.  I had intended to “start” the dance party, i.e. turn on the music, get them dressed up in princess outfits, and then proceed to do the necessary morning housework while they danced.  Only, this day was different.  Since the girls were both in their princess outfits and Sophia’s getting into story-telling, out of nowhere she tells me, “I’m the fairy godmother.  You are Cinderella.  You must go to the ball!  Where is your carriage?  The prince is waiting for you!  You have to find the prince.  He wants to dance with you!”

This was some invitation to play princesses with her!  It was on!

I was in a particularly well-rested and pleasant mood, so I went with it.  I abandoned my dish-washing plan and dove into pretend play with her.

Only, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I had trouble adding to the story with her.  I had trouble “diving” in and becoming Cinderella.  (If you know me, you know that I probably didn’t play “princesses” when I was a kid…)

Anyway, I did my best, and the three of us played our little princess hearts out.

Why was it so hard, though?  When did I lose the ability to lose myself in the story?  When did I lose the ability to pretend play with abandon?  

I think one thing that feels so hard is that I am always in the role of “facilitating” play–setting it up for them and/or demonstrating how to play, like you do with a infant or a toddler.  The reason that I’m doing that is usually because it’s my plan to set them up doing something so that I can then do something else.  Basically, get the teaching of “how” to play this particular thing out of the way and then moving on to my to-do list.

You know, I’ll “play” with them outside by giving them gardening tools while I rake and do yard-work.  I’ll “play” with them at the kitchen table by doing bills while they color.  Or, set them up doing play-dough while I make pizza dough… I’ll read to them, I’ll show them how to properly use scissors, or make an “o” or draw a person…

But, when was the last time that I painted with Sophia when she was painting, rather than just watch or glance back at her occasionally?  When was the last time that I actually had a tea-party with Sophia?  When was the last time I got down in the sand with them and got d.i.r.t.y.?

I first noticed my “play” deficit when I was being paid to play at various times in my life, whether babysitting or as a paraeducator in a preschool classroom.  I found that “facilitating” came natural to me; I was good at it.  The kids loved me.  It wasn’t necessary (or even proper) to lose myself in the play, though, because I was getting paid $6/hour for this…

Now, though, it’s different.  I’m a parent and it’s my job to teach my kids. But since it’s the primary way that they learn it’s also my job to “play” with them, right?  Why is it so hard?  Is it just because I can’t get the to-do list out of my mind–can’t stop thinking about what else I could (should) be doing?

Yesterday, I decided to abandon the list.  I just played.  I played and I played and I played.  By noon-time, we all went out for lunch, after 4 playful hours had passed.  At the end of the day, I had forgotten the list, dinner seemed to have gotten fixed and the kitchen seemed to have gotten clean.  No one was any worse off… It was a good day.  The girls were happy.  I think they were seen.  It was pretty dang lovely.  Why then, is it so hard?

Let me leave this post with an homage to play via a cazillion pictures of us playing.  Hope you enjoy.  And, I hope you decide to play a little extra with your kiddos this weekend.  (Imagine some awesome dancing music in the background while you look at these pics.)

A Perfect Saturday

“Family Dates.”  That’s what we call them.  Last Saturday we had the most perfect day.  We biked downtown and pulled our precious babies in a trailer.  They loved it.  Abby got a little nap in, and we enjoyed lunch on an outdoor patio, ice cream (gelato with coupons!), and a stroll through a few shops.  We biked back home and the kids took another nap.  Could we get more perfect than that day?!  Here’s a few pictures.

Responding in grace

Something happened today.  Something that got me thinking.  I was sitting in the floor of my bedroom, trying to put my socks on.  We were getting ready to head out to story time.  Sophia and Abby are playing, of course, while I’m trying to get us all ready.  Sophia put a beaded necklace around my neck, and then started pulling on it and saying that I was her pet frog.  She pulled harder and harder.  I told her not to pull on the necklace.  She pulled harder and harder.  I braced myself so that she wouldn’t pull me over.  The necklace popped. Beads flooded the floor.  She was shocked.

Before I could say anything.  She said, “I’m sorry, Mommy…” She smiled, “I’m so sorry.”

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was ready on my heels to bark, “See!  I said stop.  YOU broke it.  Why do you not listen to me?  I told you it would break…”

Instead, I paused.  I looked at her.  I said, “Thank you for saying you’re sorry.  That was an accident, huh?”

Did I let her off easy?  That’s the first time she has ever said, “I’m sorry” without being asked.  It was growth for her.  It was big girl.  It was growth for me, too…. because I wanted to yell at her.  I wanted to be mad that she, not only interrupted my efforts to get dressed, but also broke something in the process because she wasn’t listening. I wanted to be mad at her and show her what happens when she doesn’t listen to me.

But, she will learn that necklaces will break when you pull on them too hard… and she will learn that when they’re broken you can’t play with them anymore.   She will learn that without me yelling at her.  She will learn it for herself.  She will learn it, rather than me forcing her to learn it.  What is she really learning when I yell at her and lecture her?  Careful around Mommy.  One mistake and she’ll snap.

I hate when I get so angry around my kids.  I hate that nothing can set off my temper worse than they can.  I see that it’s my thorn.  It is my every day struggle.  Many days have gone by lately that I haven’t really gotten angry.  I’ve responded with grace to the most outright disobedience with a calm punishment of time-out.  I’ve even calmly given 2, 3 minute time-outs in 7 minutes.  Some days I’m just on.  And, some days I want to lock my kids in their rooms and yell a 5 minute lecture.  I’ve personally decided that I will not spank anymore because I am not able to spank with a clear conscience.  I am angry, and I spank out of anger.

The thing is that my girls are wonderful. They’re loving and sweet, and they want to be sweet so badly.  I have seen my eldest growing up more and more everyday.  She’s starting to take her big sister role more seriously.  She helps me keep Abby away from the oven, and grabs her around the waist when she’s trying to go out the door at a store.  She is listening better, even pointing out when Abby doesn’t listen.  She wants to hold my hand in the parking lots and stores.  She’s learning to control her impulses, too, like the one that says, “Abby has my toy and I want it now.”  I see her look with desire, start to grab, and control herself.

I also see her testing the limits with the most incredible sophistication.  Just this morning, for example: I told her that I would take away what she was playing with if she didn’t play with it the  way she was supposed to.  She backed away from me with the toy, heading downstairs, and said, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy.  Just don’t worry about me.” She’s beginning to understand that I can’t see everything. She’s experimenting with all forms of deception, even lying.  She’s not even 3, yet.  You can imagine that this could spark a short-tempered mommy to react undesirably…

Responding with grace is SO difficult.  It’s a practice.  It’s a choice that has to be practiced, again and again.  I can respond in grace, though.  I can apply consequences with a gracious heart.  I can teach obedience without demanding it. It’s more effective.  My daughter responds better.  We can move on without the guilt and shame of a yelling match.

I’m so glad that my God loves me better than I love my kids.  I’m so glad that he continually responds to me with grace.  This morning when Sophia said, “I’m sorry,” it was if God spoke to me.  It was as if he whispered, “Listen to the little child.  Respond to her as I respond to you.”

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.