Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tantruming Two's And Lower Expectations

My little two-year-old is such a giant shining star in my life. He is so much fun and makes me laugh multiple times a day. I was talking to one of my mom's friends the other day and she said, "We all love our kids of course, but don't you find that some are just (pause), juicer than others?" Well said, and very true. With that being said, my shining star has entered the 'terrible two's' and it is exhausting! I'm re-naming this phase the 'tantruming two's' because that is the biggest issue. He knows what he wants but doesn't really want to try to tell me exactly what that is, nor does he like to be told no, later, just a minute or anything that doesn't satisfy him immediately. He starts jumping up and down and whining and crying and screaming - it's totally awesome.

"Blessed are they who expect little for they shall not be disappointed."
Expectations reduce joy. Most of the time we get frustrated because our expectations are not being met. My kid shouldn't be messing around, my kids shouldn't be trying to pour his own bowl of Wheat Thins (see above picture), my kid shouldn't be screaming at the grocery store, my kid should be making his bed, my kid should try to communicate rather than tantrum, my husband shouldn't nit pick, my husband should think the way I do - about everything. Whoops, I derailed a little there - I don't really think that about my husband. Okay - I do! But when we don't see eye to eye I just tell myself that he deserves to be forgiven just like the one or two times I deserved forgiveness (I know sarcasm is difficult to decipher through type so just a head's up that I'm laying it on pretty thick).
It does help to remind myself that if I set my expectations low, there will be less disappointment.  can pretty much expect that buster will tantrum multiple times a day and rarely will I guess correctly what he wants. However, in terms of expectations, I do think that in this day and age having a standard to hold kids accountable to is absolutely necessary. And here's the thing - it has to be based on that kiddo's abilities, not comparatively to anyone else. I'd like to have the standard in my home that A's and B's are all that goes. My oldest can totally live up to that standard so we do enforce that with him. My little Preston though is struggling just to get his work done each day and not bring home a book-length missing assignments list. I would be setting him up for failure if I consequenced for all his grades that are less than a B. However, he is aware that we work hard for good grades. Just because he struggles, I don't let him make it a crutch either. Such a fine line to walk isn't it? We all have the potential to improve and anything good requires hard work. It's not about perfect, it's about effort. I love hearing Jillian Michaels rant in her workout videos: "Perfect is boring! Perfect sucks! It's about effort!" So true.
Aside from lowering my expectations, I'm going to be more diligent about my daytime routine as well. My night routine has proven to be very successful for me and the family. The kids are enjoying the menu board, I've lowered my monthly grocery bill and my stress levels during the evening hours are way down. I sat down the beginning of February and planned out my menu for the month. I keep some quick go-to meals for the nights that something unexpected happens or we decide to go out but then I jump right back in. We're finished with dinner earlier which has also helped the family to have some more together time with each other and my husband and I are getting into bed earlier (which is huge for him since he gets up early). For starters with a switch-up in my day time routine, I'm making the goal to get up at 6am, do my workout, shower and be ready by the time the kids get up for school. That way, I can do breakfast, clean-up, play with Buster and then go out for errands before nap time (the toddler's; I wish it was for me). Home by 11:30am for lunch, nap time (which is then my work time), then ready for kids to come home from school and help with homework and prep for dinner. It's amazing how fast the day goes isn't it? Having a set routine does help the day go smoother and help me to keep myself in check. So here's to routine and lowering expectations for a happier me and apparently more content kiddos. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

For Parents

Parents. What would you say is the roughest, toughest, dirtiest job you've ever had? Do you watch the show "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Roe? Would it be one of those? A job in the military and being deployed? Being a CEO of a major company? Working on Wall Street? An ER Doc? A heart surgeon? A teacher? What would you say is the most important job you've ever had?

Well, I can say, without equivocation that being a parent is both the toughest, dirtiest  and most important job I've had. I've had some stressful and demanding jobs but raising my kids is putting me through the wringer more than anything else I've done. I'm not quite sure why I have ever been or would ever be compelled to answer the question of what I do for a living with the, 'I'm JUST a stay-at-home Mom,' nor can I wrap my head around the fact that some people sneer at that answer or look down with disdain. Isn't it pretty much the most critical and essential career in the world?  We'er literally shaping lives and teaching them what they need to survive in the world.

As I try to write this, I can't even find the words that do justice to what we really are doing in our homes to raise these kids to be ready for and take-on the world with character and integrity, compassion and empathy; to be selfless, to be honest, to work for what they want, to be responsible for and accountable to themselves and to know that success requires effort. And through the process it seems like a such a nightmarish, thankless job and one that I'm not sure I can handle on some days. Well, alot of days. And oh the nights when you are actually sleeping and little feet approach your bed and you hear the wonderful, magical words, "Mommy, I just threw up." And you practically ooze your way across the floor in a state of half-sleep to their room where your worst fears are confirmed and there is yakkity yak all in the sheets, over the pillow and comforter and of course your lovely carpet. Off the sheets go, out comes the Resolve, on goes the washing machine, Lysol everything down and run the kid back into the bathroom before it happens all over again. Then there is my sister-in-law, bless her heart, who apparently woke up to a lovely little face in hers and not a moment later had the yakkity yak in her bed, on her pillow and comforter and best of all, her face and hair. Oi Vay!

There are the times you finally feel like Super Mom for getting all the kids ready to go out of the house to do something fun like go to the zoo and mid-way through the Safari Adventure, someones bowels start rumbling and they just don't quite make it to the bathroom in time. And you no longer pack an extra change of clothes in your bag. (Oh that was so bad. I really can't describe what happened once he did make it to the bathroom - it's too horrific. I shudder to recall). There are the calls from the principal, a drop-in from the bus driver (yes, he actually parked the bus out front when he came to chat with us about our kiddo) calls from the neighbors, and for the lucky few, a call or visit from your local police officer. There are groundings, lectures, messes to clean-up, lies to wonder about, bulls*#& to sift through, tantrums at the grocery store, biting siblings, hitting siblings, cleaning the boys' toilet, sass-mouthing you, and even name-calling to you, trips to the Instacare. And we endure it all EVERY DAY in hopes that some of the good of what we do rubs off on them and they actually figure things out for themselves and maybe even embody some of the traits that we taught and trained and prayed for them to embrace every day of our lives.

Here's the kicker - they may or may not turn out 'right' or follow the path you had hoped they would. They might not figure 'it' out and they could even turn out to be totally rotten. But, if we as parents strive to be involved, listen when they will talk, teach and train with love, and truly realize that parenting really is about US as the end result, we can feel confident in the job we did. There will always be things we could have done better and things that we actually got right; moments that we totally bombed on and of course things that we really could have done worse on and thank heavens we didn't. Find the positives and embrace them! It really is about us and how we react, how we teach, how we love, what we do while they are watching (and especially when we think they aren't watching). What are they teaching us? Patience (lots and lots and lots of it), unconditional love, compassion, faith, determination, empathy. We can't force our kids to turn out a certain way.

I read somewhere recently to write down a list of traits that make for the best boss and traits that make for the worst boss. Then consider yourself the boss of your home - are you the boss you would want to have? That really made me think and inspired me to make a few simple changes. How you behave and react to life and what your kids throw at you is everything. Parenting is about us and looking inward and making changes in ourselves first. Now it's time to go teach my 13-year-old how to make a foil dinner for his scouting excursion tonight, the baby is crying, my husband is working tonight and Preston is on me like a fly on fly paper. Let's hope the dog just lays on the bean bag and is content doing so. I'm all in!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day

Ah Valentine's. I read yesterday that St. Valentine was actually a Roman Priest who was beheaded. Nice. I'll have to do a little more research into why exactly Valentine's day became a lovey holiday based on this person. At any rate, I still enjoy it. In years past I've coerced my man to take me out to dinner and started thinking this year that it might be a fun day to celebrate as a family instead. And it turns out quite a few of my friends already do that! So I jumped on the bandwagon and declared the whole week a week of love.

I tied all of my nightly meals to the theme:
Monday - HEART-burn chili and LOVEly cinnamon rolls
Tuesday - Lady and the Tramp Spaghetti Carbonara
Wednesday - Red Chicken (well, orange chicken - it's one of the kids favorite dinners)
Thursday - Double Chocolate Sweetheart Waffles with sweetened whip cream and fruit topping with strawberry smoothie and my perfect scrambled eggs
Friday - Date night (this one is for me and my man)

We had our waffles and and then there was knock at the door and there were three little bags for each of the boys (I wonder where in the world they came from). They had notes and a little present specific for them and an assortment of treats - all B Mama approved. In fact, have you heard of or seen the UNREAL candy line? They make a knock-off of M&M's, Snickers and Three Musketeers - all without the junk and colors. And they aren't crazy expensive; I'm pretty happy about that. I was actually able to get some good stuff in their bags without the worry of Preston going all Chernobyl on us. Love that. And after spending an hour in Preston's class yesterday for the Valentine's day party, we could use more 'happy candy' without the naughty stuff. I left with a headache and wanted to ooze into bed. I have a whole new appreciation for our teachers; I honestly don't know how they do it all day - the kids were NUTS! And the atmosphere was laced with Red #40 and Blue Lake whatever everywhere I looked. I have to laugh to myself because I sound like such a fanatic. Maybe I am. Oh well.

So, back to OUR Valentine's day. After they looked through their goody bags, we made some of my famous popcorn (see Recipe page) and watched Skyfall. Love it. My big plan for next year will be to get a Raclette machine and do a traditional Raclette dinner with the pickles, pearl onions and meat and potatoes. It is SO stinky good and fun! That became my favorite meal while traveling in Europe - I LOVE cheese. What fun Valentine's Day traditions do you have?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Parenting - What is the Ultimate Goal?

Oh the joys of parenting. Or not. Honestly, it's okay to once in awhile say, "this job sucks!" in regards to parenting right? We're back on the Preston Whirl-Around roller coaster ride and I'm never sure from one day to the next what is going to happen. I guess it's like that damn box of chocolates that Forest Gump emblazoned into our brains - I never know what I'm going to get. I try and try to be patient but like the 'Sound-O-Meter' they put on the jumbo-tron at basketball games, that's what my patience level looks like in a week, or a day, or an hour. Try as I may, it isn't always possible to have my game face on or kept the wrath of mom bagged. The point is that I try and I don't beat myself up anymore when I'm not June Cleaver. I do take note when those moments happen and with a shake of my head recognize that I didn't handle that the right way and review what would have been a better way to go about that issue. I think that's healthy - if we can recognize it, make note of it and then try to do better the next time around, that's progress. It's totally become all about progress for me. And I'm posting below a fabulous little read that was recently going around facebook. It is a MUST READ.

Moving along, so yes, Preston has been difficult. I had to put my war paint back on and yesterday decided to pick him up from school and stop-by our favorite cookie joint, Kneader's. He told me all about the book that he is loving (the child who never reads read for 200 minutes last night - tracking it on the most fabulous invention ever, a bookmark-timer) and I asked him how school was and what was going to be happening for Valentine's. It was delightful. We looked at some of their little boutique items and I asked him if he would be my Valentine. It was good to have that 30 minutes of one-on-one time and he had a great night. He went to bed happy, I went to bed happy. Yay! A moment of awesomeness.

As far as my continued New Year's resolutions efforts, parenting was the other big piece of the puzzle for me. This is the biggest nugget of wisdom I have in regard to parenting: In every instance, ask yourself what the ultimate goal is. If the goal is to get the dishwasher loaded, it doesn't matter how it is done - praise for the effort and be happy it got loaded. If the goal is to stop a fight, time the kids out to their rooms to stop the fighting; go back to life when they emerge (hopefully calmer). If the goal is to get out the door on time, it doesn't matter if his room should be reported to the local HAZMAT team, get out the door and praise him for his effort. If the goal is to get the dinner table set, it doesn't matter if the toddler got the adult plate and Sparky the dog got a plate too - praise for the effort (and you can make the quick 5-second fix). If the goal is to get the kids dressed and out the door, it doesn't matter if Timmy threw on his cowboy boots with his church clothes; praise him for getting ready on his own.

Here's my thing - kids learn from example and from modeling. I love what Jim Fay of Love and Logic says, "Decide how you want your kids to be and model it. If I want my kid to grow up behaving a certain way they had better see it in action." They will learn from consistency, routine, praise and seeing it in action. I can attest to the fact that the biggest lessons I learned I still recall from what my parents DID and from what they DIDN'T say. I do remember some lectures, but not many. If they would have done differently than they said, I would have remembered that too. I also know that when we get angry and lecture, the kid is focused on us whereas when we let consequences do the talking for us, the focus has to be on them.

Good luck parents. May the force be with you.

And here is the link to the MUST READ, Drops-of-Awesome: