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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Teal is the new Orange

In a couple of weeks on October 31st, I’ll be putting a “Super Hero Lion” costume on a 4 1/2 year old little boy and a Thomas the Train costume on a 3 year old.  Their younger brother will be dressed as a puppy or maybe Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.  Our youngest, being only 4 months old, won’t be getting a costume, but will be rocking a fun onesie.

Like a good mom, I’ll dress them up, likely putting warm clothes under their costumes, depending on the weather. I’ll take their picture on the front porch steps.

Like a good dad, Jeff will walk the oldest 3 around the neighborhood, going door-to-door, knocking on houses and saying Trick-or-Treat.  If all goes well, neighbors will drop goodies into their bags and my boys will say “Thank You!” and race onto the next house.  Still being so young, they won’t go for very long – especially if it’s cold.

Like a good mom, I’ll share in their excitement when they get home and how proud they’ll be proud of their stash.  They’re still a little young, so they don’t really know what all the different candies are, but they certainly know their favorites.

Like a good mom, I won’t let them eat hardly any of it.  I’ll put 3 exhausted little boys to bed, hopefully to dream good dreams of the fun that was had.  In the morning, they’ll wake up, remember what happened the night before and ask to see their Halloween buckets.  But they won’t find candy there.

Like a good mom, I’ll have taken away most of their candy, sent it to work with Jeff, and replaced it with money or little toys.  I’ll hope that their disappointment isn’t too great.

This is the first year that I’ll have to do this.  It might be the last.  Or it could be the first of many.  See this year, we’re on a new diet to determine if at least 2 of our boys are sensitive to some food additives or even some foods.

As probably everyone knows, an effort called “The Teal Pumpkin Project” is a campaign for people to give out non-food items on Halloween.  It’s just raising awareness, not trying to force anyone.

pumpkin-project

I read a post about it and some of the comments were really mean like:

  • It isn’t my job to parent your kids!
  • Oh, Boo Hoo, poor little Johnny can’t have sugar.  Shouldn’t be my problem!
  • If it’s really important to you [the parent], then you follow around your kid and prevent them from eating anything.
  • If its that big of a deal, then your kid should just stay home and eat a carrot.

I get it.  There is a cause for EVERYTHING these days.  But the Teal Pumpkin project isn’t about forcing people to give out bouncy balls instead of Reeses.  And no one is requiring you to hand out stickers instead of Snickers.  And believe me, parents are trying to parent and be on top of what their children eat.  No one is asking people to parent someone else’s kids.  And this isn’t an “Every kid deserves a trophy” cause.  (Or at least it shouldn’t be.)

And yes, my kids could just stay home and eat a carrot.  Ultimately, that’s the decision a parent faces:

  • Choice #1: Should I let my kids have the experience of Trick-or-Treating, knowing that I’ll have to switch out the candy?
  • Choice #2: Should I just prevent the disappointment and skip Trick-or-Treating?

For my family, I’ve opted for Choice #1.  At least with the age that they are now.  If we discover food allergies that make Trick-or-Treating problematic even they are teens, it might be a different decision.

The fact is: this isn’t a big deal.  For you or for me.  

For you, this is either something you learn about and get excited about or you don’t.  Just like fireworks for veterans with PTSD, organ donation, feeding hungry school children, or breast cancer awareness.  There are just some things that we get passionate about more than other things. It’s for people who say “Oh, I never thought of that!  What a good idea!” If this cause resonates with you, Yay!  If this doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay too.  Just don’t be a jerk about it.

For me, the bigger deal is figuring out their diet.  It’s being their mom during meal times and snacks.  It’s figuring out the best education options.  The best potty training methods.  The best discipline practices.  Just about everything else I do in life is bigger than a once a year trick-or-treating event.  It’s just nice when people put themselves in your shoes.

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To the mom of *THAT* child

Note: I write this not as a ‘poor me’ article.  But as a reminder to Future Jayme of the battles she’ll have waged.  And as encouragement when Today Jayme doesn’t want to wage the battle.

Dear Mom of *THAT* child,

I see you.  I see your struggles.  Well, some of them anyway.  No one can possibly see them all.  Including yourself.

I see how you’ve read all kinds of parenting books and applied the stuff that resonates with you.  And yet, you still feel ignorant beyond belief.  You wonder why parenting was so much simpler just a couple of generations ago.

I see how you’re hesitant to take your children out in public, in fear of what people will think.  How they’ll look at you.  What they’ll say to you.  What your kid will say to you.  It’s an act of courage to go to Story Time at the library, the Shopping mall or the park.  The zoo is almost worthy of a Peace Prize and hasn’t ever been attempted with all your children.  You shudder at the thought.

I see how you stopped going to church for the last year as it became just one more place to do battle.  One more place where your child doesn’t want to go into the classroom.  One more place to hear how your child needed more instruction than others.  One more place to hear that he “needs another change of clothes”.  You don’t want ‘one more place’.  You need fewer places.

I see how you are sad that birthday parties, sports teams and play dates aren’t a part of your world.  I see how you’re also glad about that. It’s just more ‘fewer places’.

I see how you’re excited to enroll your child in pre-school in excitement for the structure and opportunities it provides.  I see how you’re nervous to enroll your child in pre-school for fear of what the teacher may notice that you don’t.

I see how you’re worried about how your child will do in elementary school.  Will he have friends?  What will other kids say about him to their parents at their family dinner table?  Will he be invited to birthday parties?

You’re starting to suspect homeschooling might be best for him, but that makes you nervous too.  What would that mean for him?  For you?  For the others in your family?  You’d always been intrigued by homeschooling, but under different circumstances.

You remind yourself that everyone is on their own journey and face all kinds of hurtles that you don’t see, but it’s also easy to fall into a pity party when things seem to come so easily to so many others.  “What do they know that you don’t?”, you wonder.

You’re worried that the diet changes will help turn the tide in the struggles you have. You’re also worried that the diet changes won’t help.  The implications either way keep you up at night.

I see how you wonder which battles are worth fighting and which are not.  Which situations are best left alone and which are worth seeking out.  I see how you pull back at times in order to rest and regroup.  I also see how you dig in and continue to fight the good fight.

You cling to Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

You believe in your kid.  You believe in your family.  You know you might not be the best mom.  You know that you might not even be the best mom for your kid.  But you know that he’s yours and worth fighting for.  Even if it means battling him at times.  You don’t always know that you’ll succeed, but if you’re gonna go down, you’ll go fighting.

Sincerely,

*THAT* kid’s mom too

 

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I love my children and so far, I’m loving the pace of life that comes with staying at home.  One of my major goals for starting to stay at home was getting the time to train my children.  Here’s an update on how that’s going.

It’s going…okay.  Not spectacular as in “Mom’s presence magically made everything better” kind of way.  But also not in “Things are as chaotic as before” kind of way either.  We’ve seen some definite improvements, but we’re not there yet.  Not very close to there.  My 2-year-old (almost 3 in a couple of weeks) is doing very well…the ‘Terrible Twos’ are passing away nicely (except for maybe Potty Training).

It’s my 4 1/2 year old that needs more instruction and that I was hoping for more progress with.  I’m starting to suspect that his diet is not helping the situation.  Not causing it completely, of course.  But not helping him.

There are many positive things in our diet.  We eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit.  Mostly chicken.  Not a whole lot of eating out these days.  The boys never have liquids other than milk (almond milk these days) or water.  No juice.  No soda.  We don’t require them to clean their plate, but we do ask them to try a bite of everything (you never know if you’ll like it til you try it).

There are negative things in our diet though too.  Too many crackers and pretzels, I suspect.  Fake maple syrup instead of real maple syrup.  Cookies a couple times a week.  A popsicle here and there.  Lots of M&Ms –  especially during potty training.  Probably the worst though, is the sugary cereals that we have most mornings.  It’s not that I can’t make good breakfasts; it’s that I often don’t.

Well, times – they are a changin’.  Time to start being intentional about what my boys eat.  Specifically, we’re going to start on the Feingold Diet to see if that helps things.  It’s supposed to help children with ADHD, which is not our case here.  But there are some similar symptoms, so hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to a new diet we go!  It’s going to be hard, but I hope worth it!

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SAHM: Oh the pace of life!

So now that I’m about 3.5 months into this new phase of life as a stay-at-home mom, I have some random thoughts.  What I don’t have, however, is the mental energy to document them all in lovely paragraphs with pretty words and cute pinterest-friendly graphics.

But I still want to share my thoughts. Mostly for myself.  Because it’s good to reflect on life and ask yourself how it’s going.

The thing that I’m loving about life right now is the pace.  It is WAYYYY less stressful being a stay-at-home mom. (For me.  Right now.  You might be a different story, but this is my story at this time).

Our daily schedule is pretty uncommitted.  3 afternoons a week, one of the boys has pre-school. Once a week, I have a morning Bible Study, but that’s optional.  Two other times a month, I attend (or will attend) MOPS.  That’s also optional.  It’s heavenly.

There’s no rush to get the boys up and ready in the morning.

There’s no rush to fit in 40 hours of work during the typical 9-to-5 workweek.

There’s no rush to get to the daycare to pick up the 3 boys.

There’s no rush to get the needed information from their daycare teachers on how their days went.

There’s no rush to get home and get dinner on the table before HANGRY hits the family.

There’s no rush to get them into bed ASAP because 6:00 a.m. comes early.

The boys still go to bed by 7:00 p.m. (except the baby – he’s a little more loose with his bedtime).  But they wake up when they want to.  They get dressed as our schedule dictates.  If someone needs extra time to sleep, they can have it.  If someone needs an extra or an early nap, they can have it.  If someone needs some dedicated potty training time, they can have it.  If I want to cook a meal that takes just 4 hours in the crockpot, no problem.

The pace of life is just so nice.

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Man, for a stay-at-home mom, I sure do get out a lot.  Okay, not really a lot.  But more than I thought I would.  When I was picturing this stay-at-home mom thing of 4 kids, I thought I’d, you know, STAY at home all day.  That the hassle of getting 4 kids out the door would be enough for me to just stay put.

But that isn’t really panning out that way.  After all, you can go kind of stir crazy if you don’t get out.

And it’s hard to train kids how to act in public if YOU NEVER TAKE THEM OUT INTO PUBLIC.  So we’ve been going to the library 2-3 times a week.  The grocery store once or twice a week.  (But always short trips – no need to tempt fate!).  We’ve met Grammy and Papa for lunch at Chic-Fil-A a few times.  I’ve taken all 4 to the pediatrician’s office twice.

And now that fall is here, new opportunities to go out are presenting themselves.  I’ve started attending a Bible study on Tuesday mornings at my church.  And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be attending a MOPS group twice a month at my church.  And this week, Finn starts pre-school three afternoons/week.

That gives us plenty of chances to be up and about.  I’m definitely getting more comfortable with it.  My kids thrive on routine and knowing what to expect (I think most kids do), so these ventures out were very rocky at first, but have gotten much better.  There’s still definite room for improvement, but we’re doing well!

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Training them kiddos

One of the major things that made me realize that I needed to become a stay-at-home mom is the behavior of my oldest 2.  (They’re 2.5 and 4.)  It just hit me one day that they had traits and behaviors that I wanted addressed and I was the best one to do it.

Kids of all ages need their moms – I’m not discounting the mother/child connection at all.  But I think that in the beginning of a child’s life, mom is mostly there to keep the child alive and thriving.  Meet their emotional needs?  Yes, of course.  For sure.

But as the child gets older, it’s less about meeting physical needs and more about training them.  Shaping their behavior.  Socializing them.  Helping to root out negative tendencies like selfishness, temper tantrums, and outbursts.

I was facing an uphill battle when it came to that.  I haven’t been diligent in the small stuff when they were younger and it grew into bigger things as they got bigger. It’s just snowballed into something really difficult to correct.

I realized that the daycare was in charge of that molding for far more hours in a week than I was.  I knew of most of their daycare teachers, but not all of them.  And I didn’t know them very well. Each teacher had their own way of doing things and sometimes my ways were different than theirs (not necessarily good or bad, but different brings confusion).  Each day, I got a few seconds with their teachers and a written report. Essentially, I was left with 1-2 hours a day during the work week and then the weekends to influence my kids.

It wasn’t enough.  Not based upon the behavior that I was seeing.  Each kid is different.  Each kid needs different things.  Each kids thrives under different circumstances.  And mine weren’t thriving under the situation we were in.

So now that I’m at home, I’m trying to be intentional about training them.

  • Helping them manage emotions (“It’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to throw things.”).
  • Being very clear on expectations.  Around all kinds of things, even dinner (We don’t talk when daddy is praying.  We sit on our bottoms, not spin around on our head.  We don’t take food off others’ plates without asking.  We ask to be excused when we’re done.  We don’t smash banana in our hair (ok–that’s the 15 month old who does that!).)
  • Practicing skills.  Skills like walking near me when we’re in public. Learning to button our own shirts.  Using the bathroom (Stephen is potty training).  Brushing our own teeth.  Things that used to be easier for me to just do for them, given the time constraints that I had.

It definitely has some rough moments that turn into rough hours and rough days, but it’s been eye-opening and rewarding.  And I think maybe we’re starting to see progress.  Little by little – it’s going to take time!

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One of my facebook friends recently posted this:

“I love my kids but anyone that says they don’t like the “empty nest” didn’t marry their best friend.”

Her youngest child just went off to school for a year and her oldest three are married (and thus out of the home). I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been married, but I’m guessing it’s at least 25+ years.  It’s just always fun to see people happy about great marriages – especially when they’ve been married for more than 2.6 seconds.

I read her status and wondered “How do I get that!?” Not how do I get a great marriage? Not how do I marry my best friend? My question is mostly: “What can I do so that in 25 years from now, when my kid(s) are grown and gone, I’ll still feel like I’ve married my best friend?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. I was reading a book by John Rosemond (called New Parent Power!) that spoke to this briefly:

In the years since World World II, we have become increasingly and neurotically obsessed with the raising of children. Something that used to be a fairly commonsense responsibility has taken on the trappings of science. … Within the child-centered family, the implicit understanding is that the children are its most important members and the parent-child relationship is the most important relationship. …

Well, if you want raising children to be difficult, you need only to put them first. By putting your children first in your family, you guarantee they will become manipulative, demanding, and unappreciative of anything and everything you do for them. …

Again, its a question of priorities. In a two-parent family, the marriage must come first. After all, the marriage created the family, and the marriage sustains it. The marriage preceded the children and is meant to succeed them. If you don’t put your marriage first and keep it there, it’s likely to become a mirage instead.

It’s a concept that’s foundational to most of his advice: the marriage must come first and children should not be the center of the family. It’s what makes parents happier and it’s what makes children happier.

I want that! I want 25+ years to go by and for Jeff & I to send our last one off to college . When we do, I want to say “Love ya kids, but get out! Daddy and I gotta cuddle!”. I don’t want it to be “No kids!  Come back!  Don’t leave me alone with this stranger called Hubby!”

I’m beginning to realize how hard it is to keep your marriage front and center while raising children. Children will take all the attention that you are willing to give them. They don’t start out independent in any way, shape or form. And it is easy to want to give them all your time and energy.  They’re fun – the questions they ask, the smiles that they give, the new milestones that they reach. They’re unique – each child doesn’t something a little bit different and has their own personality. Eventually, their needs can dominate the family schedule with school, church, sports and other events.

Kids are cute, fun, unique and needy. Particularly, the first several months of your first kid’s life are i-n-t-e-n-s-e. At least, for me, it was. You’re learning so many new things. You’re making decisions you’ve never made before. It can take alot of focus. In fact, it can take ALL of your focus if you let it.

How you prevent a kid-center marriage probably doesn’t have a magic formula. There’s no “do these 5 things together and you’ll be fine”. I’d guess there are some generalities though: keep talking, keep having fun, spend time together. How and when you talk is up to you. How and when you have fun is up to you. How and when you spend time together is up to you.

Kids will take all the energy and focus that you let them. Seems to me it is important to give them lots of energy and focus, but not ALL of your energy and focus.  Now that I’m staying at home, I am hopeful that I have more time to focus on my marriage.  That doesn’t mean giving the boys sticks and knives to play with and to ignore them, but to make sure I have time for Jeff too.  Our marriage will sustain our family!

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