Sunday, August 31, 2008

Curious behavior....

I love to watch my children play – especially when they don’t know I’m watching. I love the dialogues, the interaction, the creativity without restraint. The times when they play peacefully together definitely seem few and far between; inevitably an argument or disagreement eventually erupts – but during those times when they do, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be their mother.

I’m amused by their behavior (well, when they’re being good, that is… there are certainly many times when their behavior is anything but amusing as well). I’m amazed by how many things they seem to inherently just “know” – without ever being taught or formally shown. Granted, a large part of it is based on mimicking what they’ve seen in others, but other elements come from somewhere deep inside – an inborn part of their personality.

My mother-in-law once asked if Emma, age 2, is becoming a tom boy because of her two other brothers, and the fact that they always want to play the stereotypical “boy” things…. No - She is such a girl! She’ll play cars & trucks, dinosaurs, and the like right along with them, but still, she is such a girl – interested in purses and dolls and pretty dresses, getting into my make-up and nail polish more times than I can count. Each of my children have teddy bears, but with my boys, their teddy is their “buddy;” whereas with Emma, it’s her “baby.” Every time her baby sister needs to be fed or burped, so does Emma’s teddy, White.
(Emma gets her superior stuffed animal naming abilities from me, by the way… When I was little I had a stuffed animal parrot named “Brown Beak.”) We’ve gone through countless wipes when White’s imaginary diaper needs to be changed. (Despite our best efforts, she is not convinced that imaginary wipes or a burp cloth will do a fine job for a teddy bear that never has bowel movements). I’ve frequently gone to set Lyndi (the baby) in the bouncy chair or swing, only to find the seat already occupied by White…. Clearly, she is mimicking what she has seen me do.

So imagine my surprise when I went to pull something out of the freezer for dinner, and I saw this:
I can assure you that I have never put one of my children in the freezer, so I’m not sure where her thought processes were with this one, but it is amusing to me all the same. I’m just glad I made this discovery before bedtime, when the search for the beloved bedmates always begins…. because the freezer is the last place I would have thought to look!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Energy to Discipline....

I have three wonderful children, and am six months pregnant with my fourth. I truly love being a mother, and am SO very blessed to be able to stay home with them, but when the oldest is only five (which means they’re all still young enough that I have to take care of the majority of their needs for them), I have to admit that I am completely worn out at day’s end.

Maybe it’s the pregnancy that is contributing most to my utter state of exhaustion (I don't have the easiest of pregnancies, and never feel very well when pregnant)...

Maybe it’s that my husband currently has a schedule where he works nights (and often works 9-10 hours at a time, and 6 days a week). Even when he is home, he has to sleep (in fact, my boys find great amusement in telling their friends that their dad is nocturnal), and although it’s not from a lack of appreciation for what he’s doing, I very often feel like I’m completely on my own these days with all parenting and household tasks and issues….

Maybe it’s a combination of the two, along with countless other hassles and pressures that we all deal with on a daily basis. Whatever the reason, I find myself at times wondering – do I have the energy to discipline?

My youngest is two, and is very much a two-year-old in every aspect of the term. She can be the sweetest thing in the world – doling out hugs and kisses unexpectedly at any given moment – or she can be, well, let’s just say it’s something from the other end of the spectrum. She is currently quite enthralled with testing my boundaries, and seems to do so at least a million times a day.

I do my best to give her options ("Do you want to wear this outfit, or this one? Do you want pig tails or a headband for your hair today? Do you want the red cup or the blue one?") and let her help with things that would be exponentially faster without her “help” – all in the name of letting her feel as though she has some control over her life, and that not every little thing is simply dictated to her. That being said, however, there are some things that are just not up for discussion (Biting her brothers is never okay. Whether or not she can ride in the car without being buckled up in her car seat is not negotiable.) Blatantly disobeying (while looking straight at me and watching for my reaction the whole time) must bring about consequences – and I know consistency is the key – but this is where I struggle. Why must discipline require so much energy – energy that I just do not seem to have these days?

Putting her back in Time Out again (after she has been sent there and has come out at least two dozen different times) seems to be ineffective, to say the least…. but I’ll continue with my efforts nonetheless – all the while trying my best to keep a firm, but calm and loving tone. Some days I keep a pretty good grip on that resolve, and other days I’m not as successful. But I’m doing my best, and that’s all I can do. Thankfully my children are forgiving of those times when my patience has been worn just a little too thin…. how much I could learn from them… if only I had the energy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My most treasured works of art....

Years ago, before I had children, I would sometimes dream of what my future house might look like. I would look through Pottery Barn magazines, or Better Homes and Gardens, making note of features or decorations I especially liked, and would envision my “perfect” home. Each room would have its own distinct features, yet would blend effortlessly with the flow of the rest of the house. Impeccable taste would be demonstrated with just the right accents, decorations… and works of art would create an unmatched but sophisticated and organized sense of style.

Well, its fun to dream…but the reality is that my dream house would require endless sources of money, and a 24-hour on call housekeeping service to keep it looking the way I envisioned it – neither of which are accessible to me.

Three children (and another on the way) later, I look around my house now….at any given time, scattered about the floor are no less than a dozen different shoes, papers, books, toys, crayons, etc. The refrigerator and walls of my children’s rooms are plastered with drawings, art projects, birthday party mementos, $0.39 souvenirs, stickers… the list goes on. There are no valuable paintings or pricey decorations, and any accents that exist (pillows for the couch, cornices for the window, table runners, curtains, and wreaths for the front door) were all hand-made by me. It’s certainly not comparable to my Pottery Barn or Sundance catalog, but it’s our home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And today, two more priceless treasures were added to our collection: painted figurines that my boys picked out and painted at “The Artful Potter” as a birthday surprise for me. My oldest, age 5, came up with the idea completely on his own, but graciously allowed his 3 year old brother to tag along on their outing with my husband a few days ago. I knew where they went, and that they had painted something, but beyond that they didn’t reveal a thing. A few days later, after the figurines had been glazed, we received a phone call that they were ready to pick up - and the boys were thrilled!

I’ll never forget the look on their faces this afternoon as they each handed me a wad of scrunched-up newspaper with the instructions to unwrap them carefully.

I don’t think I’ve ever loved a gift more. Could anything be more valuable?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Some Days...Some Months...It's All About Survival

As a mother of 4 children 8 years and younger…some days, I simply feel like I am in survival mode. That is, I feel like “going through the motions” is simply the best I can do. I consider it a great feat if we all manage to get dressed and out the door without screaming, yelling or someone getting hurt. My plan to spend quality time with each child often gets lost in the day-to-day near-Herculean effort it takes just to get by.

Each morning, I wake up with the best of intentions: no yelling, regardless of whether or not Cannon teases his sisters to the point of high-pitched shrieking. I will keep my cool whether or not Brynnley refuses to put on “real clothes” (that is, not shorts or skimpy little ballet dresses. It
is, after all, January in Cleveland and our inside temperature only tops 64 degrees!). I will simply sigh a deep breath and clean up the mess not if, but when, Kenzie throws her soggy Bran Flakes all over the kitchen floor.

“I will try to stay calm and happy.”
“I will try to maintain my composure.”
“I will try not to lose my temper.”
“I will try to let it go.”
“I will try...I will try…I will try.”

Despite my heroic intentions…most of these attempts are out the window by 9:30am. And that is on a good day.

I think we’re fairly normal in our attempts to survive “normal” life.

These last few months, however, have truly tested my limits as far as patience, sanity, and overall emotional perseverance are concerned.

You’ll notice, we haven’t posted a blog on our website for months. That’s because, we’ve been in all-out-I-can’t-handle-one-more-thing-survival-mode.

Sparing the details, let me just say that some rather unexpected events could have derailed us from the path we hope to follow on this journey we call life. We’ve been in survival mode – since August.

As is so often the case – as we are forced to look at and re-evaluate our lives and our direction, I can see that we aren’t meant to stay in survival mode forever. Life, as defined in the dictionary, means, “the state of an organism characterized by certain processes or abilities that include…growth, reproduction and response.”

“Survival Mode,” or the act of “going through the motions,” is merely a stepping stone - -meant to give us a little break – a rest along the way if we need it – but it’s not a stopping point. Just because I clean up soggy Bran Flakes and spilled milk every day doesn’t mean I quit allowing 20 month-old Kenzie to feed herself. She needs the growth this experience provides and I need to learn to master my response to her growth.

And just because Brynnley and I don’t agree on the effects of wearing ballet dresses in January in Cleveland, (she thinks she’s beautiful; I think she’ll get sick.), that doesn’t mean we quit trying to reach a compromise. Again, she needs the growth that learning to make decisions provides her. And I need to learn to master my response to her growth.

Some days we battle the same issues…over and over and over again.
And we survive.
Other days (and months) we battle new issues…many of which we hope to never repeat again.

And we hope to survive.
I hope to survive.

Someday, as a parent and as an individual, I’ll be able to look back at my times in “survival mode” and realize that I’ve somehow crossed the threshold into "survivor mode".

We can all become survivors…that is…we can all become, “one who will not accept defeat.”

Let this be our year.