Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kids do the Darndest Things

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Switch laundry from washer to dryer. Even such a small and meaningless task will require all of my physical effort.
Grievance - I want something sweet. I have not had anything sweet except a banana in over a week.
Celebration - Even while on my period, I am still maintaining my weight.

Yesterday Boy, Baby and I met some friends at the zoo. We were not the only people who had the grand idea of going to the zoo yesterday. It was not only packed, but there was a big special event for firemen and their families, so the place was crawling with humanity. Boy's favourite part of the park is the water fountains in the Children's Zoo. It is one of those fountains that little spurts of water randomly shoot up from the ground. Lots of children are frolicking from geyser to geyser, shrieking uncontrollably and flailing their wee limbs in excitement. There is, however, a very small boy standing next to his mother not ten feet from me. He is a little pudgy asian child, perhaps 11 months old. He is looking at the other children playing and smiling at what he sees, but he is obviously intimidated by all the big kids and running.

Boy, who has been playing with the other children, notices this little boy on one of his many juice stops and does something amazing. He walks up to the him, introduces himself, and just stands there with him, watching the other kids. While they watch, Boy Love tells the little boy what is happening ("Fountain! Water fall down! Running running!") and points out his new friends. Then, the zoo train chugs along by, and Boy helps the little guy wave hello to the train passengers, who wave back. After standing there for a while, Boy heads back out to the water, looking behind him ever couple steps, and waving the little boy to come with him. "Come on! Come on play-friend!" The child is grinning and laughing at Boy Love. He fumbles his way down the steps to the water, and Boy holds his hand into the middle of the fun.

It is things like this that warm my heart. My son is so caring and loving. He was able to seek out a child alone, befriend him, and take him from wallflower to the dance floor. He is far more of a friend than I ever have been, and someday I hope to be like him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mean Kids

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal: There are my to-do list.
Grievance: Must shower yet again after sweaty room-cleaning endeavour.
Celebration: Boy Love is rock star re: potty training.

Boy had a free ice cream from Chick-fil-A, so a couple days ago we go as a treat for his amazing ability to pee in the toilet. The thing that Boy loves most about Chick-fil-A is the indoor play place. It is perfectly sized for his smallishness, yet provides enough challenge for him to find it amusing. Not to mention, Chick-fil-A is usually crawling with wee little friends. This trip was no different.

After ice cream was eaten (as I sat looking at it lustfully, not to cheat on my new diet) we marched onward to the play place. For a while, it was just Boy making his way through the plastic maze, calling lovingly to Phinny and me through every available dirty plastic window. Then four new boys, ages ranging between 4 and 7, came in to do the same. Their mothers, obviously friends, came in, removed their shoes, told them to behave, then retreated to their table where they had a Mom Date. As soon as they left the room, their children turned into little terrors. Boy, who was more than thrilled to have some tiny comrades, was trying to make conversation and join in their games. Ever the socialite, he follows them, goes down the slide after them, and congratulates them when they do something considered amazing. These boys were NOT amused. In return for my son's friendliness, they called him "stupid" and a "baby", refused to let him into whatever bubbly platic orb they had inhabited, pushed him down the stairs with their feet, and one boy kicked him in the head. I was SO appalled. I pulled Boy out of the tubes, told him that he didn't deserve to be treated mean by these boys. As soon as his shoes were on, we left.

Before I ask what I should have done, let me tell you what I wanted to do. I wanted to sit those boys down, get in their faces, and let them know that how they have treated my son is completely unacceptable behaviour. I wanted to stop at the Mom Date table and let them know that their children are being terrible. However, I do not believe that it is ANYONE'S place to parent other kids, or tell a parent how to discipline their children. That was not my place to do so. I DO believe that at the age of almost 3, my child is not old enough to protect himself. That is my job. Until he is old enough to make wise decisions, I am his protector. It is my job to keep him from situations that will cause him harm or teach him behaviours that are unacceptable. So that is what I did.

Any thoughts? If you were me, what would you have done? If you were the parent of the other children, would you have wanted me to say something to you?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nursery Time

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Have Boy Love get through all of church with dry underpants.
Grievance - I did not follow my diet yesterday due to my inexplicable need to vomit.
Celebration - My inexplicable need to vomit made me lose some serious poundage. Awesome.

Our dear children's minister at church is truly a woman of genius. She has devised a cunning plan to get people involved in the nursery during church without even knowing it. Recently, I received a letter in the mail that informed me that I am manning the nursery during services on Aug. 16th. Now, being a woman who is not prone to volunteer for things that I am not good at, I knew right away that this was the work of a higher power. Higher power being our children's minister? Probably. Higher power being the Lord? Most definitely.

As stated, I am not a volunteer-er. Well, when it comes to opportunities that make me uncomfortable/stressed/painfully outside my area of expertise, I choose not to involve myself. Until now, I have been blissfully happy working for causes that I feel I can do the most good. I have been on worship teams abundant, in performance groups, directed many a project for church functions, and been a key component in many events that combine theatre and church. The nursery is not on that list. The nursery (I was hoping) would never make that list. It is not that I don't like children, and it is not that I don't appreciate what the nursery does for my children and me during church. I am, however, cursed with terrible impatience and a short fuse. I have learned to curb this somewhat after having chidren of my own, but I have not wanted to see if that will translate to a room full of children that I have no emotional connection with.

I spent a bit of last year babysitting to try and make a little bit of money and watch my own child at the same time. The experience was a scarring one. The family of children I was "blessed" to watch were tiny terrors. I could not control the atmosphere in any capacity, and I was barely able to control my then-pregnant lady emotions. It was all I could do to hold in the tears until I got out to my car. When I think of anything that has to do with watching children in any capacity, I remember those days.

I am convinced that I am not the best person for this position. I am convinced that there are some people that are really blessed with the ability to deal with children. I am also convinced that I would not have been volunteered for such a position if it were not a necessity. There are obviously not an abundance of people in church who have the talent to work with children, so here I am to help. This is the Lord telling me to get out of my pretty little box and expand my horizons. I can only hope that I keep it together. Maybe this will be an excellent experience, and I will not dread having to do it again.

If you are someone who works well with children, my hat is off to you. I truly wish I had your talents, and you are a better person than I. I wish to learn many things from you and your experience. Any chance you want to work in the nursery with me today?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Personal Training

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Go to Y for new simple workout. With boy in underpants (attainable?).
Grievance - Starting today, say goodbye to delicious food
Celebration - Starting today, Big Love and I are on the road to becoming healthy

This week will go down in history as a week of change. Goodbye to diapers, goodbye to jiggling tummies, goodbye to the old us! Welcome, new and improved us! Can we do it? YES! WE! CAN! (copyright Barack Obama. And Bob the Builder.)

Tired are we of buying training diapers. Tired are we of having to clean tiny sheets of urine and feces. Tired are we! It is time for change. So this week began potty training boot camp. Plan of attack? Every waking hour boy will be wearing big boy underpants. Every 20 minutes a timer will sound, indicating "potty time!". Every 5 minutes is a wet underpants check. Every victory rewarded, every accident forgiven, always encouraging improvement with a smile. Can we do it? Yes! We! (probably) Can!

After being completely appalled at our appearances in the pictures taken over our recent vacation, Big Love and I have decided to change our ways...together. We will be each others accountability buddies. We will go to the Y together twice a week (however his schedule allows) and change our terrible eating habits. To get a positive and effective start on this, we had a consultation with a personal trainer at the Y yesterday. We told him our weight goals, our schedule constrictions, and he gave us a diet plan and new workout tactic. Plan of attack? Eat the diet plan he gave us, no matter how gross it is. Example meal: 6 oz chicken (no salt or seasoning except perhaps a squirt of lemon) and 2 cups of green vegetables. That is all. No carbs after 5 pm, protein shake in the morning. This all sounds grotesque, but we are trying to be healthy. Before we went to the Y for this meeting, Big Love and I had decided to reward ourselves for our good deed with a delicious looking ice cream cake that we saw in an ad for Publix. However, after the verbal smackdown that we ended up getting, our guilt got the better of us and we went home without stopping for any treats. Nowhere on our diet does it allow for things like cake. Or brownies. Or popcorn. Or cheese. Sigh...being healthy will be hard. This will take a lot of prayer and encouragement from each other. But can we do it? Yes! We! Can!

First on the list? Purchase a scale. The trainer said that the scale will be our report card. We must stand on it every morning. If the number goes down, we are doing everything right. If the number goes up, we are doing something wrong. We will take 3 weeks at a time and set small goals. This three weeks we will lose 5 pounds. This three weeks we will lose 6 pounds. This three weeks we will lose 4 pounds. All of a sudden (or 9 weeks later), we will have lost 15 pounds! We are on our way!

This week is about training ourselves to be better people. We can only do this with the help of the Lord. We want to be better versions of ourselves! Hooray!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Listening Ears

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal: Boy Love will be in big boy underpants from the moment he gets up from his nap until the moment he goes to bed tonight.
Grievance - School may be hard for Boy Love.
Celebration - I got three lovely hours to spend with my Baby Love alone. I just let my house sit in shambles while I played.

As I was picking Boy Love up from school today, I was fortunate enough to have his own teacher putting him in the car seat at carpool time. Going in to this year, I have had my concerns about school for him, mostly because he is significantly younger than the other kids in his class. He is at that cut-off age where he will either be 6 months younger or 6 months older than any other kid. We opted to put him in the class of older kids, hoping he would keep up with the Big Dawgs like he does in other social situations.

When his teacher was buckling him in, I looked back at her and asked the all-dreaded question, "How did he do in class?" She hesitated, followed by a forced chuckle and said, "He is younger than the other kids." I told her that I knew this, and the concern was mutual. She followed up with "He was okay if I could get his attention and keep him listening." I know what this means. I have taught enough young kids to know that by this statement, she was saying that he was being very difficult. She also informed me that all the other kids in the class were trying to help him listen and get his attention when the teacher was talking. I am now imagining a table full of perfectly groomed little children in flowered dresses and polo shirts sitting at their assigned seats, hands clasped and saying "Yes Ma'am" in chorus. All except the one kid, my kid, running in full circles around the room shouting "ALL ABOARD!" and choo-chooing at every imaginary train station. Then he jumps up on the table, weeny little arm muscles flexed in triumph screaming, "I'm a GIANT!!" And who knows. Maybe all of this happened today.

As we were about to pull out of the carpool line, she looked at Boy and over-enthusiastically cheered, "Let's remember to bring our listening ears tomorrow!" Ugh. How many times have I used THAT line. Not on my own but on the child under my supervision that I struggle with the most. The child that fights me tooth and nail at every turn. The child that would rather do anything but what I asked. The child that makes me go home and reconsider watching kids. Well, guess what? My child is that child now.

So I spend the whole trip home talking to Boy about listening ears. I have always had a problem with him listening to me or my husband, so I decide to get online and look up some good strategies for developing listening skills. These are the tips I have come across:

Make sure YOU are listening to your child when they are speaking - check

Read stories aloud together - check

Encourage your child to guess the end of a story or sentence - check

Ask open ended questions like "What did you do at school today?" - check

Touch them when you speak to them - check

Get down at their level while speaking to them - check

Listen to music - check

When watching a TV show, watch it together and encourage them to interact - check

Learn new songs - check

"Grandma's Rule", if you do X then we will get to go play at the park - check

Give simple instructions for basic requests - check

Use a calm, but serious vocal tone - check

The list continues on.

I do all of these things when interacting with Boy. However, my struggles with him listening do not only fall under the realm of "selective hearing". He also sometimes struggles to hear the things he would want to hear, like, "Do you want to go to the zoo?". Of course, like most toddlers, he can hear that somewhat better than "Lets go tidy your room!", but he will really only listen to me if a) I call his name 5 different times in 5 different ways, b) I physically move his head/chin/shoulders to face me directly, or c) I already have his attention for something else. So then I naturally ask myself, what else should I be doing? Of course I will continue to do what I have been doing, but what do I need to change to make any of these tactics effective? Do I need to take him to a hearing specialist? Is that just me wanting to believe that him not listening is not his fault or mine?

I need suggestions. Please...if anyone out there has/had a toddler undergoing similar issues, please enlighten me! I don't want him to be a burden on his teacher, his classmates, or me. Help!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Annoyance List

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Go to the dumpster before varmints eat our trash in the middle of the night
Grievance - Had to leave church early due to restless baby
Celebration - Boy Love is re-inventing his potty training, not wanting to get "dismissed" from preschool.

Here is my current list of annoyances:

- The grating sound of fingernails scraping against dry flesh in an attempt to scratch an itch or irritation.

- People who spend 5 minutes doing an 11-point maneuver trying to back into a parking space for the sole purpose of making it faster to get out of. Because in their mind it will take longer than 5 minutes to back out of that same parking spot. Or take more points than 11.

- When people honk during peak traffic hours just because the traffic isn't moving. What is that possibly helping? Who is going to move just because you honked?

- Alton Brown. If I hear one more food pun, I shall grate my fingernails against my own skin just to drown out the sound of lame humour.

- When people use every possible avenue to express their political distaste EXCEPT for their own voices.

- Sports Center sob stories that replay over and over again.

- Baby clothes with an unnecessary number of teeny tiny snaps.

Any others that I did not think of?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

So THAT is why they call it a Red Eye...

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Physically get out of the house and walk my kids to the mailbox and back
Grievance - I have not been outside yet today. Eek.
Celebration - I just cooked fish with relative success. It was moist and flaky and flavorful.

A few months ago I wrote a blog asking advice about flying by myself with a toddler and an infant. I would like to thank those who responded. I was well prepared and the trip to Oregon was a success. However, no amount of preparation (short of something blatantly illegal) could have prepared me for the horror that was the trip home.

I had us scheduled on a red eye flight to get from Oregon back Alabama. Originally, we were supposed to embark from PDX at 12:30 a.m. (yes folks...middle of the night), layover in Houston for 4 hours, then arrive in Birmingham in the early afternoon. Long and awful, right? I was expecting it to be very tiring for me, but I was also counting on the fact that the kids would be so tuckered out that they would sleep on the two planes. After the 2nd leg of our flight got changed to an earlier time and our layover was cut to a little over 1 hour, I was a much happier camper. I would not have to find something to do in Houston forever. Not to mention, we would have been home early in the morning and Big Love could pick us up before he went to work. I was so excited!

Game Plan: Boys take an extremely long nap on afternoon prior to flights. I keep boys up as late as humanly possible, therefore instigating a dead drop into an instant REM cycle the moment we get buckled into the plane. I checked in all of the bags except the diaper bag, not forseeing the need for the dvd player or storybooks, and creating more ease in transport from city to terminal to terminal to city. I was confident in my plan. Until my plan unraveled before I even got to the check-in line.

As those of us with toddlers know, it can often be a virtual impossiblity to entertain a cranky 2 year old. If you are to add the late night hour, the shuffling through a winding line of strangers with suitcases, and knowing Gramma/Poppa are about to leave, you have a very VERY sad little Boy Love. As we were waiting in the line to check our bags, it took the combined effort of Gramma and myself to keep him from breaking free from his kid-on-a-leash and run screaming for his life out the giant airport revolving door. No matter what we tried, h was not to be satiated. He would pull on his leash as hard as he could, then fall desperately to the floor, kicking his feet and thrashing his head and screeching "NO! RUN RUN!" at the top of his wee (yet impressively strong) lungs. From the other people in line, we got a combination of oh-bless-their-heart looks and I-better-not-be-sitting-next-to-this-terror-on-the-plane looks. I did not intend to apologize for any of our actions, for I knew that any other parent would sympathize, and any other person who was not a parent yet will be blessed with this type of situation soon enough.

As we approached the lady at the desk, she informed us (with FAR too much cheer) that our plane was delayed 50 minutes. This made my 1 hour layover into 10 minutes. Not nearly enough time to get from the the back of my little plane, through four airplane terminals toting two children, and onto the next plane. My night was going to be just splendid.

After a nearly flawless security experience, I went to the restroom to change both boys and tried to get settled at our gate for the next hour and a half while we wait for our flight. Boy would have none of it. He preferred to try and escape from his stroller by Fred Flinstone-ing his feet as fast as they could grab the floor. After he had run the wheels into at least 4 sleeping strangers I scolded him for trying to escape. The only thing to satisfy him was to ride the moving sidewalk back and forth. So that is what we did. We rode the moving sidewalk non-stop for an hour. As soon as we were allowed to board, he was still not sleeping (1:15 am) and once again screeching. But now Baby Love, attached to my front by way of Baby Bjorn, was also crying as I tried to get us scrunched and setttled into our seats. The first hour of the flight consisted to crying children. Not only mine, but all the other parents who thought kids + red eye was a good idea. We were all kicking ourselves at that point.

Boy and I slept for 2 hours on that flight. 2 of the 4 hours. The rest of the time consisted of screaming, and attempting to stop Boy from kicking the seat in front of him which was holding an irritated old lady who was trying to sleep. Needless to say, she did not sleep much. Unlike Baby Love, who slept through everything. We missed our connecting flight, which not only meant that we had to spend three hours in the Houston Airport, but we would not be back to Alabama by the time Big Love had to go to work. He arranged a ride for us, but we were both terribly upset that we could not see each other until later in the night. I spent the three hours trying to push a very awake and very active 2 year old in the stroller, hold a floppy and sleepy baby on my front, have a 15 lb diaper bag slung over one shoulder, and get us all appropriately changed, fed, and coffee'd. I wanted to give up. I was sitting in the group of identical tables in the middle of the airport food area, and just stared into the distance. It was 8 am local time, we had two hours of sleep, and I had spent all of my expendable energy trying to keep Boy from escaping/screaming/hurting himself or others. And I still had 2.5 hours until my next plane was scheduled to leave.

We begrudgingly made our slow little way to the gate, where I sat next to a mother traveling with her children. Her kids, also both boys, seemed to be no trouble at all. One was sitting delightfully next to her, colouring in a book. The other was sleeping on the floor at her feet. She was reading a romance novel. Neither of her children were on leashes, in strollers, or strapped to her with any sort of straight-jacket style apparatus. They were perfect. They may as well have been wearing little searsucker suits with bow ties combing their perfectly parted hair, singing out of a hymnal. I wanted to throw something at her. I wanted to have my baby throw up on her sleeping child so he would wake up and cause a ruckus. Instead, I asked, "How do your kids do that? How do they behave?" She responded simply. "It gets easier as they get older."

For some reason, this really encouraged me. My children are 2 years and 4 months. No one can expect children of that age to do anything as planned. They are on their own schedule, and they bring everyone else along for the ride. I should have had this in my mind as I embarked, and been thinking less about my plan and more about theirs. Or just not thinking at all. I should have planned for anything, then I would have been far more successful.

The second leg of the trip was pretty much the same. It was 10:30 Houston time when we left, Boy had still not slept and was again screaming. However, I was sitting in front of the Perfect Lady and her Perfect Children, and Boy found a friend in the Sleeping Perfect Child. They spoke back and forth for some of the time, which made the rest of the crying times much more bearable. And the most important thing, I stopped myself from jumping off the brink of a complete emotional breakdown.

I have walked away with a few lessons from this experience. Never again will I fly with the kids without Big Love with me. Never again will I attempt the red eye flight, no matter how many adults are there to supervise. But most importantly, my kids are young. They do whatever they feel they need to do with zero regard to my "plan". I need to accept that, learn that people around me will either accept that or not, and move on.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Law and Order: Not-So-Criminal Intent

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal - Do all the errands I did not get accomplished yesterday.
Grievance - Baby Love is teething terribly
Celebration - Boy Love begins school on Monday!

I recently embarked on a daunting journey to Oregon for two and a half weeks. One of the nice things about both Big Love and I being from the same place is that we never argue about where to take our vacation time. Oregon is a perfect, beautiful place full of people that we love. So from the middle of July to the beginning of August, I was living in a virtual paradise. Who would have guessed that paradise would be a recipe for frantic/helter-skelter-ness and general exhaustion? Actually, a lot of people could guess that. That is the stuff that legendary novels and horror flicks are made on.

One of the most beautiful things about this trip was that I got to see Cheetah. Cheetah is an army medic and my best friend. She is currently serving her sentence overseas, and she was home on leave for the two weeks before I was scheduled to get there. Fortunately for me, I had to appear in court, so the insurance company shipped the boys and I out here three days prior to our original trip plan and covered all airline fares. This meant that I could overlap with Cheetah for two whole days. It was awesome. Except for having to be in court all day.

I was a bit misleading before when I said I had to "appear in court". This would imply that I was merely there as a casual witness, to return to my ordinary life after my 15 minutes on the stand. This is not the case. I was actually the defendant. I was sued a little over a year ago for a car accident I caused. It was one of those deals where the accident itself was pretty ridiculously minimal, but I hit a person that was waiting to be hit. I was sued for over a quarter million dollars from each of the people in the car, and what do you know? It went all the way to trial.

I was assigned a lawyer from my insurance company. An interesting fellow to say the least. He is not what I expected from a lawyer. I was, of course, expecting Sam Waterston to come out of that office building on Broadway. Instead, there was a 30-something slight asian man in a sharp pinstripe suit. Donned in tiny square glasses and a faux-hawk, he met me with a, "Hey wazzup?" This guy was obviously way cooler than I was ever meant to be, and I was somewhat intimidated by that at first. As the days went on, however, I found him to be a much more relatable. He had children about the same age as mine, and was really big on family. He had nervous habits that made me chuckle to myself, like the constant need to poke holes in things with his pen, or obsessively pull off bits of the rubber rims around the tables in the court room. His laugh was more like a single, explosive "MHAH!" that caused the small office supplies around him to vibrate with sound.

In the courtroom he had a kind of boyish, play-it-dumb kind of tactic with the witnesses. You know the movie Philadelphia, and how Denzel always prefaced his questions with "Okay, now explain this to me like I am a 3-year-old"? This was somewhat his mantra for the trial, but in a completely non-aggressive way. He would play like he had no idea what was going on ("I apologize for not being able to read this very well...could you read this passage please? Is this what this is saying? Okay thanks for clarifying.") Then when he had weasled out of the witness what he wanted to get, he would make a surprisingly aggressive point/accusation. He never raised his voice, but you could tell that he was wrapping the witnesses around his little finger. I was proud.

The other guy's attourney took a more southern style approach to his...uh...lawyering? I am quite sure that "lawyering" is not a word. He spoke slowly and respecfully, drawing out his sentences to the point of excruciating boredom for the poor jury. He sat in his chair while questioning witnesses, and was completely relaxed the entire time. Watching my attourney and the prosecuting attourney was very interesting. On Law and Order, all the attourneys take similar approaches in the courtroom, and everyone knows that all court proceedings are exactly like Law and Order. This was more like a Fire vs. Ice kind of experience.

After I had sat behind the defendant's table for an entire day plus the next morning, I was finished with the process. The jury settled my case for 12k, which is much more in my favor than it was in his favor. This made me happy, and I could spend almost the whole of the next day with Cheetah. I thank the Lord for the court experience, and now I know that I do not care to take the time to get sued ever again. Duly noted to self.

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