Negotiating with a terrorist, and other parenting dilemmas.

See this little angel?

She is going to be the death of me.   She was my easiest baby by far.  (Except for nursing.  I’m hoping someday I can forgive her for the multiple cases of mastitis, plus the lack of weight loss that I had so joyfully experienced while nursing my boys.)  She is bright and sassy and social and fun, and has a vocabulary far beyond her four years.  And yet, most days I want to put her on Craig’s List by 10 a.m.   Although “undiagnosed,” I’m pretty sure she has some sensory issues.  Her clothes always “feel funny.”  Her socks and especially her shoes always “bother” her.  Meltdowns ensue.  They involve crying, wailing, shrieking, flopping around on the floor, throwing shoes, and on lucky days like yesterday, a little bit of kicking and pinching.   Not to mention screaming out completely irrational things like, ” I … HATE … MY … NOSE!”  Seriously.  ?!??!

Last summer, I complained about this a little bit and DeNae suggested that I get rid of all her clothes and just buy her some loose summer dresses.  It actually worked pretty well, at least for the summer, and we’ve managed to garner a collection of a few clothing items that she considers to be comfortable and suitable.  This works until they’re all dirty, and then she spends her morning screaming down the stairs at me that “all the clothes in my closet bother me!”.  The shoes and socks situation, however, seems unsolvable.  The meltdown usually “ends” when I just drag her kicking and screaming to the car barefoot with her shoes and socks in tow, ready to begin the battle again at the place of arrival.  At that point, usually the threat of her not being able to go inside (or the threat of being left in the car … a slightly empty threat, I admit) finally convince her to put them on.  This process is a painful 10-minute exercise in on-and-off, on-and-off, open and close the straps, do it again  . . . . whimper, whimper . . . you get the idea.

Shopping for shoes is a nightmare.  Shoes, sandals, flip flops alike are all met with complete disdain and a quick eject button. (I think I’m going to try crocs this summer, but I’m not hopeful.)  Sometimes I just buy the pair that seems the most comfortable to the touch, and then we battle it out for a few months.  The solution is elusive to me.  She has been up to 90 minutes late to preschool before because of it.  I have tried to set up award systems (“If you can be all the way ready and on time to school, then we will go get the stuff to make that necklace you saw in a magazine”),  punishment (“Fine. No gymnastics today because you can’t get ready to go.”), and embarrassment (“Okay, instead of preschool today,  you have to come with me to Clark’s school and sit in the corner of the room barefoot while I do my volunteer work.”).  I have followed through with all of those by the way, except the necklace which she did not earn.  Nothing so far seems to make a difference or even move her toward more success.  By the way, she likes preschool and gymnastics, so I don’t think this is some kind of avoidance feat.

So, wise blog readers, give me your ideas, solutions, sympathy.  I’ll take any of it.

And in addition to all that, I would love to hear your ideas on a related matter:  the balance between “loving instruction” and just forcing them to do what they’re supposed to do.  I give my kids choices all the time: “Do this and get this, or do that and get that.”  I think that’s not forcing them, but helping them understand the relationship between choices and consequences.  However, sometimes I just resort to “You can’t do anything else until this gets done.  Do it!,” and obviously, in Natalie’s case, I sometimes end up literally dragging her to where she needs to be and shoving her shoes on her feet myself.  I’m starting to have concerns about how to fix this now so that I don’t have to deal with the embarrassing mess it would be when my children are big strong teenagers and I’m trying to drag them somewhere or lock them in their rooms until they’re clean … know what I mean?  Real question:  How do you not resort to “forcing” them to do things, and get to the point where they choose it on their own?  I think I mostly get it, but I feel like something’s missing.

My apologies to those of you who come to this blog thinking I’m some kind of parenting expert.  Let’s face it.  I’ve still got a lot to learn.

While I’m not sleeping

This is a middle-of-the-night brain bleed of sorts.

I went to bed with a migraine and woke up with the remnants of a tension headache.  I’m guessing I must be a little stressed out, but I’m not really sure about what.

I have now deleted and restarted this point of my post at least a half a dozen times because I don’t want it to turn in to a list of my frustrations and challenges right now, especially because when I line them all up in my head, they pale in comparison to the “real” struggles I see other people going through.  Then I just feel wimpy, so that doesn’t help.  Plus, I don’t want my mom and others who know me well to read this and think, “Oh dear, Stephanie’s losing it,” because that would be embarrassing.  And it’s not true.  I think.  See?  I already want to delete this paragraph and start over again, but it’s 2:30 in the morning and I should really finish and get back to bed. (There’s definitely going to be a debate about whether or not to hit the publish button when I’m done with this one.)

So.

I’m going to be intentionally vague here.  Sometimes God tells you that you should do something that you’re not super comfortable with, but you do it anyway because you have faith that He will not lead you astray even if He will lead you away from what you think you want.  And if you’re naive (like me), you think that once you take that leap of faith, things will probably fall into place and God will bless you and it will all be just fine.  And it probably all will, still.  But in the meantime, it’s a lot harder than you thought it would be, and there are challenges you didn’t really expect at all, so you have to try hard to keep the same trust you had in the beginning when you closed your eyes and jumped.  And that’s not easy.  And maybe it makes you wake up in the night with a headache.

I’m totally going to change the subject now, because I think that will be helpful.

Last night, Clark taught our Family Home Evening lesson.  He’s six, by the way.  He used some leftover props/handouts from his last Primary class and did it all completely on his own.  It was about covenants.  At one point he said, “This is the third time I’m going to say this, but promises are really, really important.  You should really keep your promises, especially if they are with Heavenly Father.  You should never break them, but if you do break them, make sure you repent.”  My favorite part was when he said, “Heavenly Father never breaks a promise.   Sometimes people break promises, but that’s because they’re not perfect like Heavenly Father.”  I love that kid.

You know what?  I love my children a lot.  I have a fantastic husband.  We have a lot of really great blessings.  I wish I did a better job of showing love and gratitude where it’s due.  I just sat here and reread this post, and these are the thoughts that came to me:  humility and prayer, priesthood blessing, grace (I’m reading a book about this, and I’ll tell you more about it soon), and relax.  Go back to the trust.  And go back to bed.

Good night.

En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.

(photo credit)

Translation: In a shut mouth, flies cannot get in.
Interpretation: Sometimes silence is the best option.

Even though my mind has been really busy, none of it has seemed very blog-worthy, and no one wants to bore others on purpose.  So here’s a brief report of the happenings around here lately:

  • Matt is on his way home right now from finishing day two of the Bar exam.  It was hard.  He feels nervous.  I gave him a hard time about “You’d better pass or I’m getting a nanny and going to Hawaii for two weeks to recover,” (because I’ve been single-parenting for so long while he’s done law school and studied for the test, and because I’m so supportive like that), but I know he really did his best and we just have to wait for fate to play itself out.  I really am proud of him, regardless of the outcome.
  • When it’s a school holiday and you are trying to keep your children under control so your husband can study, might I suggest driving an hour and a half to an indoor swimming place and letting them swim for FIVE hours?  They will be so tired that they can’t even speak on the way home and then you simply have to tuck them into bed on arrival.  Plus you get to sit in a chair and read books while you “supervise” them.  (I fully admit that I have entered a new stage of life where my children are big enough to need minimal supervision.  This would have never been possible in the last 8 years.  I acknowledge the new-found blessing, and I embrace it.)
  • I have been using MyJobChart.com for a few weeks and it has worked so well with my kids.  I just want to mention how much it warmed my heart when Grant — the child I have been butting heads with lately– spent his very first hard-earned job points on “Mom time.”  I still can’t believe it.
  • Have you ever noticed that even though you complain a lot about something and even have small-scale tantrums about it, as soon as you make it a matter of prayer, progress is made, and then you feel like an idiot for complaining so much in the first place?  Cases in point:  1.  Boo hoo, poor me, I’m new and it’s hard to make friends. –> More people than I ever imagined signed up for my girls’ night out and made me feel like a rock star, plus some little doors cracked open and I’ve felt some positive opportunities for new friendships.  2.  I’m annoyed with the school situation here. I wish I could find some better options for my boys. –> I got a phone call saying that they had both (literally) won the lottery and were accepted into a well-reputed charter school.  3.  I feel a little “underwhelmed in the kingdom.”  I miss teaching. –>  I got an invitation to substitute for an Institute class at BYU and some random emails with loose invitations for possible speaking assignments.  Common ingredient in all three “solutions”: prayer.
  • I think I might have been marked in the pre-existence as “the one who will always have library fines.” I’m just faithful at fulfilling my destiny, that’s all.
  • I am so sick of filling out medical history forms.  Shouldn’t there be some big database out there for that?  Kind of like ancestry.com, except it’s more like diseasesofyourancestors.com.  I should really market that.
  • Clark just came into the room singing about how happy he is.  When I asked him why, he replied, “Grant said he’s going to run away because he hates me.”  I’m so proud of the loving family I’ve raised. *shaking head*

See?  Sometimes silence is the best option.

Post-holiday detox

Isn’t Christmastime lovely?  And doesn’t winter really stink once Christmas is over?

Here are a few myths that are planted in children’s minds during a holiday vacation that are very hard (yea, even painful) to extract once the holiday is over:

1.  Everytime you turn around you will have a new present.  (Before you judge my parenting, please know that while I am a contributor to this and the other myths, it’s not all my fault.  There are generous family and friends everywhere, and things just get out of control!)

2.  You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, and candy for breakfast is fine.

3. We will spend our days thinking of fun things to do together.

4.  All chores and routines are pretty much out the window.

5.  There are lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other loved ones available anytime you want to play a game or otherwise need assistance.

I’m sure there are other myths too (feel free to add your own to the list), but these are the ones that haunt me the most now that we’re back to real life.

My children are convinced that I am the Grinch, Scrooge, and the Snow Witch combined because I will not let their mythical expectations continue unchecked.  It’s like they’ve completely forgotten how to put clothes in the hamper, clear their dishes, put everything they need in their backpacks every day, do chores and homework, entertain themselves, OBEY, and speak to me without complaining about how unfair their life is.

Someone tell me this will get better soon because I’m thinking about canceling the holidays next year.  Do they make Christmas rehab?

 

Whoever said “Life is what you make it” didn’t have children.

Moms try so hard to create happy, magical family moments.  We run ourselves ragged trying to get all the little things done that will somehow set the stage for an enchanted family co-existence.  The problem is, children don’t make magic.  They make messes.  They make noise.  They make unusual smells.  They make conflict. And, honestly, some days they make me crazy.

For example, the last couple of weeks, I have dreamed up a cozy, lovely Family Home Evenings where we would go together as a family to these inspirational spots where we could look at an art exhibit about Jesus Christ or the lights on Temple Square, talk about what they mean, and of course all have our testimonies grow exponentially while we relished our time together.  (I admit I’m being a little dramatic for effect, but I really did think it would be great.)  On both occasions, Matt and I were considering putting up our children for adoption before we were even halfway to our destinations.  There was so much squawking and bickering and nonsensical noise that we were quite sure that, once again, Satan had crashed our FHE party.  Results:

Week one:  After breathing fire and other threats, we made it to the museum.  Late, of course.  They said they would still honor our tickets, but then all the children had to go to the bathroom.  Fifteen minutes later, and now really late, we made our way into the exhibit.  Repeat the following phrases 46 times and that will be represent the next 30 minutes:  “You can’t run.  Don’t touch the paintings! Stand back.  Use your quiet voices. You can’t just step in front of people.  Please stay by mom and dad.”  Even if you say them in your most calm clenched-teeth whisper, it gets old after a while and you wonder why you even came.

Week two:  The children were being SO loud in the car that we couldn’t stand it any more.  I turned on the Christmas radio station and cranked it up loud enough that it drowned out their noise.  They were only rallied by the competition and started screeching and hollering and making alien noises at the top of their lungs.  Matt turned up the volume even higher and then sang “O Holy Night” in the loudest, most bizarre soprano I’ve ever heard in my life.  I laughed so hard I cried, but when it was over, I think we all had a headache.  At Temple Square, everyone ran in different directions constantly.  I spent 75% of my time “herding sheep.” They fought about who got to throw a coin into the fountain and cried if the results weren’t “fair.” They have no sense of proper crowd navigation and walked right into the path of on-comers over and over again.  That makes me nuts, and I had to apologize on their behalf dozens of times.  Some sister missionaries tried to talk to us in the tabernacle, but half the time our children were running in and out of the benches.  Clark and Natalie kept opening and closing my umbrella.  I think I managed to get out one sentence at a time between barking out child-control commands.   Grant pulled M&Ms out of my purse and spilled them all over the bench.  We moved on.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Please tell me it does.  I know the logical response would be “Don’t go in public with your children.”  But any one who is a stay-at-home mom of young children knows that you simply HAVE to venture out occasionally in hopes that the change of scenery will improve your sanity.  I said “in hopes.”

Now.  You know the purpose of my blog is to seek for the divinity in motherhood, so as I write/purge/dump, I try to pay attention for the “meat” of my experiences, and you know what?  It’s almost always there.  I can see it when I look for it.

Week one:  At some of the paintings, the children sat quietly and stared.  They asked some questions and we got to retell many of the stories from Christ’s life.  They each had a favorite painting, and they will probably remember it.  At one point, I pulled Grant aside and showed him a sketch of Christ and the adulterous woman.  As I retold the story and quoted the Savior saying “Woman, where are these thine accusers? …. “Go thy way and sin no more,” I felt overcome with love from the Savior and tears came to my eyes.  I told Grant it was one of my favorite Bible stories.

Week two:  During the conversation with the sister missionaries, we were able to share some of our life stories and testimonies.  At the missionaries’ request for contacts, the children suggested that we send videos about Christmas to their grandparents.  One sister was from Uruguay and I got to have a conversation with her in Spanish.  She said my spanish was “perfect,” which I know wasn’t true, but it made me feel good anyway.  We walked over to the visitor’s center and climbed the ramp to the Christus statue.  The children all sat next to each other on the floor and stared up at Him.  Grant had his arm around Natalie and I saw him point out to her the nail-marks on the hands and feet.  Clark stood close and craned his neck up to gaze at Him for a brief, quiet pause.  The room was very crowded and not very quiet, so I suggested to Matt that we leave and come back another time.  We called the children and started to leave, but Grant was flustered and said he wasn’t done yet.  Matt told him go back and finish.  As we looked back, we saw him kneeling down in prayer about 10 feet in front of the statue.  His eyes were closed, his head was bowed, his arms folded.  As he got up and ran back to join us, I saw tears in his eyes.  Clark wanted to copy his brother and later sat quietly on a bench and prayed.  When he finished, he smiled and hugged me.  I asked if he could feel how much Heavenly Father loves him and he nodded yes.

I guess the magic happens after all.  It’s just totally different than what we imagine when we try to wave our wands.  And frankly, my life is hardly ever what I try to make it be.  Sometimes it’s better.

Sunrise, Sunset.

It’s a new day and I’m fine.

Thank you to all of you who left such nice comments on my pathetic post yesterday and didn’t say things you should have said, like “Buck up, you sissy. It’s life, you chose it, and you have no real problems, so deal with it.” It was a hard day, one of those days where you call a “family meeting” and cry a little bit. But it ended. President Monson always quotes this one scripture (which is really about death and grief and stuff, but for my own purposes, it means crappy days will pass and things will get better) —

“For [her] anger endureth but a moment; in [her] favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” ~Psalms 30:5

and I have a testimony of that one other scripture (I’m totally making this up):

“For behold, when a mother of small children doth begin to despise her flocks, therefore she is weary and it must come to pass that she sleepeth.  And yea, when she doth offer up prayers that she might not harm her flocks, and doth lie in her bed and sleep, behold, the Lord will have mercy upon her and she shall rise again.”  ~Book of Stephanie 4:7

Amen.

The post I’ll wish I didn’t write tomorrow

*This post is mostly for therapeutic purposes and does not claim to offer anything constructive, inspirational, or even useful.  In other words, read at your own risk.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Actually I woke up in the wrong bed this morning.  I had to sleep down in the basement because while I stayed up late working on some stuff for my calling, Clark got out of bed about 20 times.  Against all my fire-breath wishes, my husband let him get into our bed, which is where I found him at midnight.  He is the heaviest kid on the planet.  And he sleeps in a top bunk.  And I was way too tired to try to pull off the the hefting and heaving (and possible bad words under my breath) that would probably be required to relocate him.  I maybe could have woken up Matt to help except that, oh, that’s even harder than moving Clark.

My kids are sleeping horribly.  IS ANYONE ELSE HAVING THIS PROBLEM?  I don’t know if it’s the daylight savings, longer day issue or what, but even when I put them to bed on time, they are playing and tossing and turning and not falling asleep for a couple hours. And THEN, they’re getting up earlier and earlier.  I’m talking about times that kindle my wrath, like BEFORE 6 a.m.

Remember that video I linked to a little while back?  The one where the comedian (I mean WISE, WISE man) said, “Sleep deprivation in a mother leads to murder.”?  Well.  It’s not as hilarious as it was a week ago. Continue reading