Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Familial Stress Relief: Silly Song Style

There are certain personality traits that are genetically passed 
down from parent to child, such as eye color, hair type and color,
nose shapes and sizes, and even quirky things like preferring to
sleep with your feet uncovered so they can "breathe," while other
interesting habits and behaviors are learned. Growing up, my
beloved mother would come up with the silliest, funniest songs,
seemingly off the cuff. Once I was into my teen years, I recognized
the melodies of my mom's silly songs while listening to our local
oldies radio station. Sometimes I thought my mom was being 
a bit too silly and crazy with the lyrics she'd come up with. Now,
being a mom, it all makes sense. 

What do I do when my toddler is throwing a fit and his lunch
across the room? Instead of pulling out my hair, which seems
to be shedding more and more every day, I make up crazy,
silly songs about carrots and toes or peanut butter on his nose.
Is my preschooler giving me that defiant scowl again? Don't 
scream into a pillow, just burst into lyrics from Oklahoma,
South Pacific, or better yet, The Sound of Music

Although there are times to respond sternly to misbehavior,
there are also times when crazy, silly songs are helpful to 
lighten moods of both parent and munchkin. My daughter has
already picked up this trick. When my toddler is upset about
something, she'll sing, "Animal crackers in my soup... ," which
usually calms him down. 

Yes, silly, made-up, crazy songs are a powerful tool in parenting,
but I must give a disclaimer. Once comfortable in this new method
of familial stress relief, one may go too far and find oneself 
using this technique in Target or the grocery store, sometimes
without even realizing it. This in and of itself isn't really harmful,
but one may find one's children attempting to disown them in 
public places. 

Do you have any quirky parenting tricks or funny personality
traits that you can see are multigenerational in your family?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Nap Time Dilemma

This last week has been interesting. My role as Mommy has been tested 
in multiple ways from multiple directions, and I sit now watching hurricane 
coverage (being a huge weather junkie), completely exhausted, wishing
work would call and cancel me for the 7 - 11 "princess shift" I'm scheduled
to work tonight. Why so spent? 

I'll begin at the logical place... the beginning. Last Saturday and Sunday 
were great. We had my daughter's first "friend" birthday party with three
other adorable munchkins. They had a blast. The two hours flew by 
in a similar fashion to how our giant schnauzer/boxer mix chases rabbits 
through the back yard. Did you see that black streak go by? Thankfully, the 
evidence of whirlwind-like childish energy was contained to my daughter's 
bedroom. She had such a great time that she's still talking about it. 

On Sunday we had all the in-town family over to celebrate. Again Avalon 
had a wonderful time. She loves her extended family and is in heaven when 
we are all together. After the party I raced to a writer's meeting. My second 
ever and my first specifically for children's book writers. The meeting was 
helpful, encouraging, and informative. I was also able to give out some advice 
as well, instead being only on the receiving end. Looking back over the 
last eight months, I can see my growth as a writer, and it's exciting. 

On Monday, my husband drove to a neighboring state for work and just 
came home on Thursday. I dislike being alone, especially going to sleep
alone. When Jason's gone, I find myself staying up way too late, which 
usually leads to crankiness the following day. Through to Wednesday,
I was pretty proud of myself, then Thursday came. 

Thursday morning I had it good. Both my kiddos were at mom's day out
(what we call "school"). I went to Target by myself, did the dishes, and 
watched Rachel Ray. Thursday afternoon, Avalon decided to assert 
a new found independence, having reached the grown-up age of four.
Avalon usually has a hard time going to sleep, so my solution has been 
to sit in her rocking chair, reminding her to "be still" and "stop moving." 
Now, I know you're probably thinking Just let her stay up. She's four now! 
I tried letting her go without a nap for an entire week last month. It was
a disaster, and I think I acquired a few more white hairs by the end of it.

Usually my strategy of getting her to be still works like a charm, causing
her to slip into REM cycles within minutes. However, this day that wasn't
happening. She refused to be still, and despite all my creative incentives
and negative consequences, nap time never happened. After an hour and
a half, I found myself in tears after she matter-of-factly stared me down 
while ignoring my directions to put her head on her pillow yet one more time.

Knowing that the tears sent the wrong message, I went downstairs to regroup
and called my husband. Although he'd be home in a few hours, I needed
help then and there. He calmly spoke to the defiant one while I cleaned her
room out from distractions (a.k.a. new toys from B-day) and noticed she had
put the phone down so she didn't have to listen to her father. Who is this?
A seventeen year old in my four year old's body? I handed her back the phone.
Once their conversation was done, I retreated downstairs, found some 
chocolate, and prayed. 

Thoughts raced through my head such as I'm a horrible mother and Why don't 
I know what to do? A conversation with my older sister was extremely helpful,
relating to me what she had to do with her youngest during a similar phase 
a couple years ago. She had him take a nap every other day. What a great idea!

In a nutshell, my little girl is growing up, and amidst psychological minds games,
stare-downs, and full-out tantrums, I have to remember that growing up isn't 
easy, for parent or child. I need to allow her room to grow while still protecting 
her health, emotions, and sweet spirit. What a delicate balance. I definitely need 
God's help to be able to do this right. Today, Avalon and I talked about the 
every other day nap idea. She laughed and squealed with delight. Today's nap 
time was very different. All of her toys and stuffed animals are still in the hall, 
but with the knowledge that she'll get to be nap-free tomorrow, Avalon laid still 
and drifted to sleep within minutes. So here I sit, watching hurricane coverage, 
exhausted from the week, but with new found hope that the nap time dilemma is 
at least temporarily solved. Did I mention that James (22 months) screamed our 
entire time in Target this morning (forgot diapers yesterday)? But that's an 
entirely different story all together. 

For all of you on the east coast, be careful the next few days, and I'm praying
for minimal damage and safety for all who will be affected.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scene: Disaster

Working the evening shift at a local hospital, I arrive home rather late.
Midnight on a good night, but in some cases I don't get home until
almost 1 a.m. like last night. Needing to "wind down" I had a snack
and watched a bit of TV, tucking myself into bed by 2 a.m. At 5 something
in the morning a thunderstorm rolled through the area with fierce 
thunderclaps that sent my almost 4 year old scurrying to our bed. 
Being quite the wiggle worm, I didn't really sleep until she told
my husband (who gets up for work super early) that she was going
back to her own bed. This was a first. I was mildly suspicious of 
her too-good-to-be true claim she that she was going back to sleep,
but in my sleepy stupor, I assured myself that all would be well.

Cut to 8:30 a.m. A little face appears in my blurred gaze. Her 
multicolored hands and arms hint to the disaster that awaits
me in the kitchen. "Mommy, I need help painting." Painting...
what? I snapped back into reality instantly and ran to the 
scene of the crime...  . Well painting really isn't a crime, okay
the scene of mayhem. A series of events unfolds in my head.
I see her erasable crayons and corresponding workbooks on
the kitchen table, but all the crayons have been stripped of their
paper wrapping and are broken into pieces from rolling off the 
table and striking the floor. Another coloring/painting book 
rests on the table with fresh paint staining the pages. The 
paint covers the table, and the kitchen towel is suspiciously

How did she get all this stuff out of the locked art cabinet? My
eyes dart the art cabinet. The door is wide open; the magnetic
"key" lies on the floor instead of it's usual post on the fridge.
Water is trickling from the kitchen faucet. Her step stool is 
positioned so that she could retrieve a medicine cup to fill
with water for rinsing her paint brush. Yes, there on the table
was a medicine cup filled with multicolored water. 

Amidst the colorful chaos, stood my daughter, her angelic face
and hopeful eyes seemed to wonder what my reaction would be.
I forced myself to look at the bright side. The creativity was 
contained in the kitchen. Thank you, Lord. I simply put all the 
art supplies up, wiped up all the paint, and instructed my daughter 
that she is not to paint without me again. She quickly responded, 
"I'm sorry mom." 

After retrieving my youngest from his crib and making breakfast 
for my two darlings, I called my husband to report on the morning. 
The thunderous laughs from the other end of the line didn't do 
much to comfort, but I had to agree it was funny. I grudgingly 
chuckled and admitted it was a great story. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daily Schedules vs Dandelion Wishes

Childhood is a magical time of dress-up, dandelion wishes, twirling in 
tutus, and fighting off pirates while in pajamas. Really the list is as infinite
as our children's imaginations. To children, the possibilities of what may be
are limitless. How much do we really foster and encourage our children's
imaginations? Even more than that, are we involved in our children's 
creativity? Our daily lives today seem so jam packed with things to do and 
places to go. Are we too busy to play, to spend the afternoon searching
the family room for imaginary creatures on an enchanted safari? 

Our lives seem to get busier and busier, overloaded with information and
activities unlike any other time in history. Are we missing the best part of life?
What do we want our kids to remember about their childhoods? I'd rather my
children's memories be of making a tent in the family room after dinner and 
telling stories in the dim light of the evening, than of rushing from this thing 
to that. In my experience, being personally involved in our children's creative 
play is a great way to strengthen family bonds. No, I don't have a psych degree,
but I am a mom. If you pay attention, parenthood can teach you a ton.

I'm not saying to avoid all extracurricular activities. Our children need those
as well. But there is a balance. Granted, it's not easy, but maintaining a healthy
family life includes family play time (in my humble opinion). So chase fireflies, 
dream big, duel with imaginary dragons, and paint rainbows together. Yes, in 
writing this post, my biggest target audience is myself! :) 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Be Careful What You Say

I'm sure anyone who is a parent remembers saying words or phrases
around their children they regret. Ridiculous is one I regret. When
frustrated I tend to say someone or something is ridiculous. Mature,
I know. My almost four year old now says it more often than I would like,
and even worse, sometimes she says that her daddy or mommy are 
ridiculous. We give her a stern look and remind her that isn't nice to say,
and yes, Mommy was wrong to say it in the first place. Sometimes though,
it's really hard not to laugh when your children repeat, in context, things 
you have said.

Yesterday, while in our "play room," James (21 months) pushed an entire
pile of completed puzzles off a shelf. Avalon looked at him with a serious,
exasperated look and said, "Really, James... really?" I bit my lip to keep 
from busting out in a huge laugh. How many times have I said that to my
kids after devastating mess occurs? 

Because Avalon is already emulating my parenting style, for the sake of my
distant, distant future grandchildren, I need to be sure I continue to be 
an example of unconditional love and mercy, yet firm on disciplinary issues,
such as not giving into tantrums. She is already informing us of who she will
marry, how many children she will have, and what she will be when she
grows up. The number of children increases continually. We're up to seven.
As for an occupation, she currently has decided on "mommy and baby doctor"
who also is a "hair cutter." 

I know "ridiculous" and sarcastic phrases like "really?" aren't bad per say, but
I do want to be sure everything I say is uplifting and honors God. 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is 
helpful for the building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit
those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV