Tag Archives: Kids

The Joy of “Yes”

A while back I noticed something.

I was telling my kids “no” a lot.

“Will you make pancakes for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Can we go to see a movie today?”

“No.”

“Can I invite friends over?”

“No.”

Source: thecircleproject.com

One day I paused, and contemplated what it must be like for them hearing “no” all the time. Not having the ability to control decisions about their day, or their life. Being on the receiving end of parents’ and teachers’ permission all the time.

And I decided I would try to say “yes” more often.

Because when it came down to it, sometimes I said “no” for my own convenience. If I wasn’t up to cleaning up a mess, I said “no” to a project. If I didn’t have the energy to handle a bunch of kids, I said “no” to the sleepover. They heard me saying “no” a lot.

So I had a little talk with myself about saying “yes.” And I adopted a new mantra. “I’ll say ‘yes’ when I can.” Practical realities sometimes intervened, making “yes” impossible. But as I started saying it more often, I liked the feeling I got from being agreeable. “Yes” usually meant something fun. “Yes” usually meant making memories. “Yes” brought joy back into our day.

I started to like “yes.”

And then the strange thing happened. They started saying “yes” back.

“Please pick up your room.”

“OK.”

“It’s time for bed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

And the one that causes more arguments in our house than any other, “Turn the game off.”

“I will.”

This morning on the way to school, The Caboose was feeling a little run down. He was listening to music on his iPod, getting ready for another day of sixth grade as we approached campus. Now this kid does not respond well when asked to terminate something in mid-stream. The typical response is “after this song,” or “I need to save my game.” But this morning as we pulled up to school, I told him to turn off his iPod and stow it in the seat pouch, and he said “yes.”

God, I love “yes.”

Saying Goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large

I used to have three little kids.  One was Small, one was Medium, one was Large.  Their clothing, their shoes, the servings on their plates all reflected their birth order appropriately.  We had no trouble determining whose clothes belonged to whom, which bicycle was the right size for which kid. They were spaced out by enough years that there  were clear markers of birth order by the size of everything.

You may not know this yet, we’re smaller than the average family.  Dad’s a towering 5’6”, and mom a proud 5’2”, so our offspring are destined to be of short stature.  By other people’s standards, we’re all small.  But within our home we’ve always had a distinct – albeit relative – range of sizes.

As any mom of small kids will tell you, we watch growth carefully.  We celebrate when we make it to the 5th percentile on pediatric growth charts, and then have “the talk” when we fall back off the charts.  Growth ebbs and flows in pre-pubescent boys, and small boys often go through puberty later than their taller friends, exacerbating the physical differences for a while.  But we are what we are, and in this house, we’re okay with that.

Slick was two years old when we first began monitoring his slow growth.  My pediatrician did that little formula that pediatricians do with a child’s two-year-old stats and calculated his estimated adult height.  His came out 1” taller than his older brother’s.  The doctor laughed, being a younger brother himself, and told me to expect Slick to pass The Trailblazer up in height at age 16.

Lo and behold, in the last six months, they got to be the same height.  When The Trailblazer comes home from college for visits, we have the mandatory height check to compare stature.  And it happened.  He passed his brother up.  Only by a half-inch or so, but that was enough to make it official.  The older brother is now the smaller brother.  And both are taller than mom and dad.

It’s strange.  And wonderful.  Because it means they have become men.  And they are comfortable with who they are.  (Except for The Trailblazer.  He’s a bit miffed about the taller little bro.)

Then, last week, another strange thing happened.  The Caboose needed a green t-shirt to wear to school for a Spirit Week event.  I pulled a green T out of the dryer (y’all know I hate folding laundry), and realized it was The Trailblazer’s.  But it looked about the same size as The Caboose’s.  Puzzled, I held it up to the child and, although it was a little big, he could pull it off.  So Small wore Large’s shirt to school

Small, Medium, and Large are gone.  I now have one Medium and two Larges.

Family photos will look different from now on.  When standing in order there will no longer be the familiar downward trend.  It’s strange, and wonderful.

Watching my little boys grow up into smart, compassionate young men has been the greatest reward of motherhood.  When juxtaposed against learning to ride a bike and read a book, the accomplishments big kids are far more fulfilling.  And there’s the added bonus of not having to wipe their butts or cut their food anymore.

So saying goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large isn’t bad at all.  Because Large, Large, and Medium have made me so proud.

Lovin’

Here are a few of the things I’m Lovin’ these days:

{ Source: Pinterest.com }

  • Slick getting his own car.
  • Fresh memories of The Trailblazer being home.
  • The forecast for a mild winter.
  • Pinterest.
  • Trying new recipes.
  • Cooking big, so I can send food to The Trailblazer and his roommates.
  • Helping Slick make plans for his future.
  • Listening The Caboose rehearse for an upcoming concert.
  • The freedom that comes with having older kids.
  • Finally loading music on my iPad.
  • My new laptop.
  • King Cake

Share your list!  Post it in the comments below, or drop in your link!  Can’t wait to see what you’re Lovin’!

Quiet Time — or How I Watched a Movie in my Own Living Room

I’m not sure if he thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or if Mr. Wonderful made some unshared New Year’s Resolution to pay greater attention to my ‘needs,’ but for the last few days, some freaky stuff has been happening.

Take Sunday, New Year’s Day, for example.  I found myself home alone for a little while.  Mr. Wonderful and the boys left the house for about an hour, leaving me and the dog all by ourselves.

Now, I get my fair share of alone time – after I’ve dropped a kid off at school or at a friend’s house, when I’m headed to my MIL’s to pick her up for a doctor’s appointment, and even in the grocery store.  But you may see a pattern here.  If I’m by myself, I’m usually away from home, and usually doing something for someone else.

I hardly ever put myself first.  I rarely ask others to do what I could just get up and do myself.  And I very, very seldom watch TV.

So with this gift of an hour, I cozied up in the big chair with a glass of wine and the remote.  At first it felt a little odd, scanning the channel guide, passing up all the football games, zombie shows, and Spongebob reruns.  I scroll to the channels that never get watched, and see a lovely chick-flick beginning.  Figuring I can watch the first hour or so, I settle in.

Sipping my wine in the clean, quiet house, a sense of calm sweeps over me.  I resist the urge to watch the clock, not wanting the precious time to end.

{ Source: Touchstone-Disney 1990 }

Just about the time Julia Roberts is picking out some new clothes on Rodeo drive, the guys return home.

That’s when the freaky part happened.

The boys instinctively entered the living room, intent on usurping control from me, and Mr. Wonderful stopped them.

“Your mom’s watching a movie.  Y’all go upstairs.”

Curious, I looked to see where these words came from.  And there was Mr. Wonderful looking my way.

“Really?” I replied.  “I’ll turn it off.”  It seemed almost foreign for me to be sitting down watching a movie — a chick-flick even — when they were home.

But I went with it.

I just sat there.

Watching Julia and Richard get to know one another for the one-thousandth time.

I heard the little kitchen TV turn on and the sound of NFL announcers wafting my way.  Was he testing me?

I was in the living room, with the big tv and the remote, watching Pretty Woman while he sat isolated at the kitchen table watching football.

This was uncharted territory.  I wasn’t even sure how to respond.

Was this some passive-aggressive attempt to get me to put the game on?  Did he have some dreadful news to deliver, and wanted me in a good frame of mind to do so?  Or was he simply … letting me watch tv?

I didn’t really know what to think.  So I pushed the complicated thoughts out of my head.

And watched a movie.

Christmas in Holland

There are a lot of people who find Christmas difficult.  This year I find myself becoming one of them, and I want to stop.

The Christmas Crunch is bearing down hard, and I’m trying hard not to let it steal my joy.  The events of the last few weeks could easily have done so without some pretty strong defenses.  (Luckily, my 25 years as an Army wife have taught me a few of those.)  But it’s hard.

This morning, Mr. Wonderful and I were discussing the many ‘adjustments’ to our holiday celebration we’re making this year.  I tried not to get disappointed about not having time to bake gingerbread cookies.  I put aside the fact that I didn’t send out cards this year for only the second time in twenty-six years.  I let go the fact that half of my decorations are still in their boxes, where they’ll sit for another year.  We agreed not to fry our turkeys this year, but to go with a plan that’s less labor-intensive.  We’ve trimmed Christmas to the bone, because we’re spread too thin to pull off our usual routine.

Then the phone rang.

And we were reminded that none of that’s important.

Instead of spending the day trying to catch up on all that’s behind schedule, we decided on a paradigm shift.  We decided to let ourselves off the hook, and have a different celebration than we usually do.  We did it the year after Katrina, where we scaled back out of necessity, and we did it the year Mr. Wonderful was in Iraq.  And we’ll do it again this year.

I won’t worry that my chandeliers aren’t decorated, and that my linens may not be pressed.  I won’t worry that I’m serving steamed carrots instead of my mother’s cornbread dressing.

Instead I’ll give thanks that we’re gathered together.

I’ll be happy that even though Christmas won’t go the way I envisioned it a month ago, it’ll be special.  And I’ll remind myself that if I can put my disappointment aside over things that didn’t happen I’ll be able to enjoy the things that will.  I might even find unexpected joy.

My little family has faced some unexpected challenges this year.  2011 certainly isn’t ending the way I expected it to three hundred sixty-or-so days ago.  But it’s ending well.

The last few days have reminded me of an essay circulated among parents of special needs children.  I’ve read it dozens of times as it related to my son’s academic challenges.

I’ve never really thought about it as a metaphor for Life.

But it is.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by
Emily Perl Kingsley
(c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved)

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

Memos from your Child

For those of you wondering where The Lucky Mom gained her vast wisdom, I want to reveal one of my best sources, and share with you some of his best advice.

Dr. Don Fontenelle is a family therapist in my home town.  His book, How To Live With Your Children is my parenting Bible.  Below you will find a much-shared bit of his wisdom.  I hope you learn as much from it as I have.  If you share this, please credit Dr. Fontenelle.  

MEMOS FROM YOUR CHILD

  • Don’t spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not to have all I ask for. I’m only testing you.
  • Don’t be afraid to be firm with me. I prefer it; it makes me feel more secure.
  • Don’t let me form bad habits. I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.
  • Don’t correct me in front of other people if you can help it. I’ll take more notice if you talk quietly with me in private.
  • Don’t make me feel that my mistakes are sins. I have to learn to make mistakes without feeling that I am no good.
  • Don’t protect me from consequences. I need to learn from experience.
  • Don’t be too upset when I say “I hate you.” I don’t mean it, but I want you to feel sorry for what you have done to me.
  • Don’t take too much notice of my small ailments. I may learn to enjoy poor health if it gets me much attention.
  • Don’t nag. If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing deaf.
  • Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I should like. This is why I’m not always very accurate.
  • Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep. Remember that I feel badly let down when promises are broken and this will discourage my trust in you.
  • Don’t tax my honesty too much. I am easily frightened into telling lies.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. That completely confuses me, makes me not listen, and teaches me to manipulate you.
  • Don’t tell me my fears are silly. They are terribly real and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand and accept my feelings.
  • Don’t use force with me. It teaches me to be aggressive, hostile, and that power is all that counts.
  • Don’t fall for my provocations when I say and do things just to upset you. Then I’ll try for more such victories.
  • Don’t do things for me that I can do for myself. It makes me dependent, feel like a baby, and I may continue to put you in my service.
  • Don’t let my bad habits get me a lot of attention. It only encourages me to continue them.
  • Don’t try to discuss my behavior in the heat of conflict. For some reason my hearing is not very good at this time and my cooperation is even worse. It is all right to take the action required, but let’s not talk about it until later.
  • Don’t answer silly or meaningless questions. I just want to keep you busy with me.
  • Don’t let my fears arouse your anxiety. Then I will become more afraid. Show me courage.
  • Don’t pay more attention to my mistakes, failures, and misbehaviors than to my successes, accomplishments, and good behaviors. I need lots of understanding, encouragement, and positive attention. I cannot pat myself on the back and rely heavily upon you to do so.

Source: HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR CHILDREN: A Guide For Parents Using A Positive Approach To Child Behavior.

By Don H. Fontenelle, Ph.D.

For information on this and other books by Dr. Fontenelle (Changing Student Behaviors, The Parent’s Guide to Solving School Problems, Are you Listening?/Attention Deficit Disorders, Purrfect Parenting, and How to be a Good Parent), contact him at 504-834-6411, 517 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, LA 70001.

My Happy Place

There is a stillness and calm in my house right now that I don’t get to enjoy very often.

Slick and Mr. Wonderful have already departed for school and work, and The Caboose is still snoozing on the couch.  He’s off this week for Thanksgiving break, so last night he enjoyed one of his favorite indulgences: sleeping on the couch downstairs with the dog.  I sit here in my chair watching him sleep, with his best friend Perro snuggled beside him.  The tapping sound of the keyboard is the only thing breaking the silence.

In a home with three boys and a dog, stillness is an elusive condition.  Our normal state is kinetic, even frenetic.  We never stop.

To get away from our usual hustle, we often vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, in a cabin tucked high in the mountains.  I’m the lone early bird in the group, and I make it my daily habit to awaken before everyone else to take advantage of the stillness and quiet.  It charges my batteries.  It fuels my soul.  It gives me a place to retreat to (if only in my mind) when the chaos of life overwhelms.

I keep a photo of this Happy Place in my kitchen.  And even though my view right now is of a treehouse instead of these magnificent mountains, my batteries are charging in this stillness of my home.

The Lucky Mom's Happy Place. - Highland Lake, NC

Advice from the rear-view mirror

Every day I hear young moms beating themselves up because they have a hard time living up to expectations – both their own and those of others.  I want so badly to hug every one of them, and assure them that it’s going to be alright, that they’re going through the hardest part of motherhood, and that this, too, will pass.

I refrain from offering too much advice in person (usually out of fear of being hit with a sippy cup), but since that part of my life is behind me and I now have the clarity of hindsight, I want to share some hard-earned wisdom with all of you “younger versions” of me.

1.  Cut yourself some slack.  We all yell.  Our houses aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be.  We occasionally send our kids to bed without a bath . The list goes on.  You don’t have to be a perfect mom to raise good kids.  Last week I posted a photo on Facebook about positive parenting, and I was surprised at some of the reactions.  A few readers interpreted it to mean we have to do awesome things every minute of the day.  But that’s not the reality of parenting – every day is not a good day, full of rainbows and glitter.  Try to find moments of joy amid the chaos, but don’t expect to be able to maintain storybook standards all the time.  Work hard for your kids, but don’t expect Utopia.  It doesn’t exist.

2.  Your kids aren’t perfect.  They don’t always clean their rooms when you ask.  They tell lies to get out of trouble.  They hit each other.  Expect them to test their boundaries, because that’s part of growing up.  It isn’t a failure on your part.  It means they’re normal.

3.  Teach them right from wrong.  In our culture of acceptance and political correctness, we’ve gotten away from using terms like right and wrong. But we need to bring them back.  Children need to know that everything is not OK.

4.  Explain why.  I’m not a big fan of the phrase “because I said so.”  While its use is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be a standard response.  Take the time to explain the “why.”  You have to teach them the reason behind decisions, because someday they’ll be making them on their own.

5.  Let them fail.  We knew a family from school whose son was “over-praised.”  His baseball skills were fussed over like he was A-Rod, and if he made a bad grade, his mother would march in and demand that the teacher let him re-take the test.  The Trailblazer once said about his friend, “One day he’s going to realize that he’s not the best at everything. And he’s going to freak out.”  The best character-building lessons in life are learned through failure.

6.  Look forward, not back.  When mistakes are made (by you and them), don’t dwell on it.  Extract the lesson, throw out the pain, and move forward.  Nothing is gained by rehashing the sins of the past once the lesson has been learned.  This becomes more important in the teenage years than you can ever imagine.

7. Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Eat right.   Exercise.  As we all know from airplane safety drills, our own oxygen masks must be fastened securely before we can help them.   But be realistic about it.  (See item #1.)  It’s easy for that to become another place where feel inadequate.

One day, you’ll wake up and your baby will be 11 years old.  You’ll be able to actually enjoy quiet, instead of fearing it.  You’ll be able to go to the grocery store alone.  You’ll know that all the very hard work you put in while they were little is paying off.

When that day comes, go find a young mommy and give her a hug, and tell her everything’s gonna be alright.

Keepsake Handprints

I’ve had several people ask about the handprints on my blog and Facebook page.  These are among my most prized possessions, and I’m happy to share with you the “instructions” to make your own!

  • Find a plastic lid a little larger than your child’s hand.  I wanted three different sizes, one unique size for each of my kids.
  • Place plastic wrap over the cupped inside of the lid.
  • Press air-dry clay into each lid, using the lip of the lid as the mold for the circle.

I used Crayola Air-Dry Clay, but there are other brands available.

  • To make the impression, you’ll need to press the child’s fingers and palm firmly with your hand to get them to sink in deep enough to make a visible impression.  Press each finger evenly, so you don’t get a deeper impression on one than the others.  If you aren’t happy with the impression, knead the clay and start over until you get a nice, even impression.
  • Pinch or press the edges to give it a hand-made look.  Be careful not to wrap the clay around the edge of the lid, or you won’t be able to lift it out.
  • When it’s just right, carve the child’s initials or name and date into the clay.
  • Carefully remove the clay from the lid.  If it gets out of shape, lay it flat and gently press it using something smooth. (If you use your fingers you’ll leave prints in the clay.)
  • Let the clay dry according to the package instructions.
  • For a dimensional, distressed look, paint a base coat in a dark, flat color.  (I used navy blue and hunter green.  Black would look great, too.)  When the paint is dry, use Rub n Buff for the metallic finish.  Rub n Buff is a metallic wax product that gives a beautiful, hand rubbed finish that you can’t get from paint.  It’s available in about a dozen different shades. Protect your work surface, as Rub n Buff is tough to get off.  I usually wear disposable gloves  for easy cleanup.

Rub n Buff comes in many different metallic shades. I blended different shades of gold to get a patina finish.

  • Let the Rub n Buff dry for a couple of days before handling the piece.
  • Display on an easel or hang on the wall with a plate hanger.  Cherish them forever, for their handprints will never be that size again!

Blazing a New Trail… or How I got philosophical over my son quitting the lacrosse team

Slick dropped a bombshell on me the other day: he doesn’t want to play lacrosse this year.

Waiting for the shot.

He had a list of very good reasons for his decision; all driven by his desire to make good grades and have choices when he has to pick a college next year.  And while I was really proud of him for having such clarity and perspective at 16-years old, I was very disappointed.  For me.

Lacrosse has been our family’s social hub for a long time now. The Trailblazer started playing at age 10, then Slick joined in middle school, and we’ve had at least one kid playing every season for the last 9 years.  These families have become some of our closest friends.  We travel with them, cheer during games with them, and collectively hold our breath when our boys take a knee for an injured teammate.

How can I NOT be a part of it?

How could he ask me to break up with MY friends.

And what would I do with myself every weekend from January to April???

I paused for a moment, and then (of course) gave him the supportive answer he was looking for.  I told him I was very proud of him for having the courage to realize he was ready for a change, and to chart a new course for himself.  I told him redirecting one’s future is a skill many adults don’t have, because they fear change more than they fear continuing down the wrong path.  I hugged him and sent him off.

Then I went in the back yard and tried not to cry.

He's so adorable. Don't tell him I said that.

Because when you leave a circle of friends, they move on without you.  I know I’ll still see them, but when they start sharing the funny story about what happened at the tournament in Mississippi, I won’t be a part of it.  And because my feelings are so damn sensitive, I’ll pull away to avoid feeling left out.  And I’ll miss my friends.

I’m so proud of Slick.  He amazes me with his maturity and vision.  I had neither at 16.  (Or 26 for that matter.)  And I know that he is on a path that will lead him to great places, so if studying harder is the ticket there, then I’m on board with that.

I wonder if the Mathletes have a parents’ club?