The Nice List

Dec 23 2009

In the spirit of Christmas goodness, I thought I ought to update you all on my two children who found their way to the Naughty List with only a week to spare before Christmas Day.

Well, I did receive quite a few comments, both in person and electronically about the last blog post.

First, I should clear the name of the kids’ music teacher at church.  In her defense, I think she took the only action that was reasonable under the circumstances, and I whole-heartedly support her decision to remove the kids from the Christmas program.  This was a GREAT learning experience for them.  And… dare I say it?… I doubt that this will ever happen again.

Second, I heard clearly from a number of you that I failed to appropriately leverage Santa and the Naughty List in the scenario with my kids.

Never one to shy away from constructive criticism (ha! that was a total lie, as I pretty much hate any kind of criticism… but let’s go with it…), I took your advice to heart.

I sat down with my two naughty list kids the day after the Incident, and I told them that I’d had a chat with Santa.

They know that I talk to Santa every Fall to work out how we’ll be handling gifts and stockings, including which part my husband and I will do and which part Santa’s responsible to handle.  This helps explain why Santa brings presents to other kids but only fills stockings at my house; I explain that we’ve agreed that we, the parents, can do presents, but we’d love Santa’s help with stockings in exchange for leaving milk, cookies, apples and carrots as “fuel” for Santa’s Christmas service.  Each parent works out their own family’s system with Santa, thus the apparent “Santa Inequities” are resolved.  My kids buy this, although I’m not sure why.

Despite my annual Fall call to Santa (using the secret phone number all parents are issued upon the birth – or, in our case, adoption – of their first child), calling Santa the week before Christmas, his very busiest time of the year, is unusual and significant.  I impressed this on my kids before I told them about the conversation.

Here’s how it went:

I had a chat with Santa about your behavior at Christmas program practice.

There’s good news, and there’s bad news.

The bad news is, Santa was very sad to have to place you on the Naughty List.  Since Christmas is next week, I’m sure you’re aware that this isn’t good timing for being on the Naughty List.

The good news is, Santa is willing to work with us on a Remedial Reinstatement to the Nice List Program. That means you have one more chance to get back on the Nice List.

The program will be pretty straight forward.

There are 7 days left until Christmas Eve.

You will have an opportunity each day for 7 days to display Nice List behavior.

If you are able to exhibit Nice List behavior for ALL 7 days, then Santa is willing to put you back on the Nice List just in time for Christmas to come.

I will need to make daily calls to Santa to report on your behavior.

Does that sound fair to you?

Sure enough, it did.  Both kids were fairly wide-eyed at this point, but they were eager to work on their Nice List behavior.

I’m happy to report that, throughout the last week, behavior modification has worked pretty well!  We’re able to make minor course corrections throughout the day with a gentle reminder.

Nice List?  Or Naughty List?  You choose.

And, pretty swiftly, behavior drifts back into the Nice currents.

It’s amazing what proper motivation coupled with a dash of Santa-threat can do!

If all goes well, you’ll be relieved to know that Santa will be stopping at my house tomorrow night.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.

The Naughty List

Dec 17 2009

Not one, but two of my children just got kicked out of the church Christmas program.

Cue Christmas music…

“A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…”

Oh, sweet irony.  We are SO not happy tonight.

My 10-year-old and my 7-year-old elected to use their non-listening and anti-obeying skills this evening.


I’m not sure how to measure this milestone against others like the time my son punched another kid in the nuts.  Let’s just say it’s up there on the list.

In response, I employed that oh-so-useful parenting technique called Lecturing, and then I combined it with its close companion, Over-Disciplining.

(Legal notice: This blog should be used for entertainment purposes only. Do not try this at home.  Parenting techniques herein described do not reflect experts’ opinions on how to best rear a child or children.  No child was harmed in the making of this blog. I hope.)

First things first.  In order to be an accomplished lecturer, you must set the stage accordingly.  A good lecture should follow some time alone for each child in his/her room.  When the children are brought out of Solitary, they should be required to sit quietly and make eye contact with the parent.  The lecture should be delivered quietly, yet passionately, as though to communicate that there are some very strong feelings bubbling just under Mom’s surface.  If said child breaks eye contact, which is likely, then a silent parent waiting for appropriate attention is typically enough to cause a refocus.  If it’s not, then you have not effectively established yourself as nearly mean enough.

I am very, very mean.

Lecturing Goes Like This:

  • Step #1, The Disappointed Phase: “I am SO disappointed in this behavior.  Not only is it disrespectful to your teachers, it’s frankly very embarrassing to me.”
  • Step #2, The Lying Phase: Despite current evidence that says otherwise… “Woolsey children do not behave this way.”
  • Step #3, The Rhetorical Phase: “Does this kind of behavior make you feel happy inside?”
  • Step #4, The Repetitive Phase: “So, how does mommy feel about this? Disappointed, sad, a little bit angry…” [this part is also part of the Lying Phase since I’m a lot angry]… “and embarrassed.  Woolsey children do not behave this way.  Does this behavior make you feel happy?”
  • Step #5, The Confusion Phase, Wherein the Parent Requires the Child to Answer the Rhetorical Question: “Well?  Does it?”

It’s worthwhile to take a short break here to let you in on a subset of the Lecture technique — Omission.  Sometimes as important as what you say is what you don’t say.  For example, I neglected to mention that we were, in all likelihood, going to miss the entire church Christmas program anyway due to a family obligation the same evening.  Why spoil a perfectly good chance to Lecture?

Over-Disciplining (while continuing a solid Lecture component) Goes Like This:

  • Step #1, Outline What’s About to Happen (in order to achieve maximum dread): “There will be several consequences for your behavior this evening.  Sit back and relax because this is going to take a while.”
  • Step #2, State the Obvious: “You have just lost the privilege of performing in this year’s Christmas program.”
  • Step #3, understanding that neither child cares one iota about whether or not they get to perform in the program, Drive Home Exactly What He and She Will Be Missing:   “You, Miss Aden, will not get to wear your pretty Christmas dress… ” [the one I haven’t bought her yet]… “in front of an admiring throng of people.  You, Mr. Man, will not get to have Nana and Papa attend the performance…” [the same Nana and Papa to whom I haven’t mentioned the performance] “…and tell you what a good job you did.  And neither of you will get to go to the party afterwards… ” [the 10 minute gathering after the program — “party” may have been pushing it a little] “…for Christmas cookies and playing with your friends.” [And, by playing, I mean the part where the kids run around the room on a sugar high and we tell them to stop running and play quietly.  We adults are delusional.]
  • Step #4, Require Extra Effort: “Each of you are going to write the music teacher a letter of apology.  It will be long.  It will be sincere.”  [Being realistic is clearly not my main goal.]
  • Step #5, Eliminate Imminent Privileges and Get Really Creative So You Can Pretend This Meets “Logical Consequences” Criteria: “Nana and Papa are coming over tomorrow night to babysit you while Mommy and Daddy go out.  You will come home, do your homework, eat your dinner, and then you will go to bed.  You will not get to play with friends.  You will not get to play the Wii or watch TV.  You will not get to help Abby and Nana make cookies…” [which they weren’t going to get to do anyway since we planned it to occur after their regular bedtime, but, hey, it was available, so I used it] “…because… um… because…. because you must be awfully tired to behave like this, so, um, you need a lot of extra sleep so, um, you can remember your manners and find your appropriate behavior.  Yeah.  That’s why.”
  • Step #6, Try to End Well So As to Not Come Off as an Unmitigated Trainwreck of a Mother: “The good news is, if you can show me in the next day that you can respond kindly and appropriately to your consequences, listening and obeying, doing your homework nicely and treating your siblings kindly, and if Nana and Papa report good things about your behavior, then you get to start earning back some privileges.  Maybe this weekend you can spend a little time with your friends.”  Alright.  Fine.  I also said, “and with your Wii.”

So, here Greg and I sit on this peaceful, pre-Christmas winter night.

The tree is lit.  The house is quiet.  The children are all a-bed.

Visions of mean Mommy dance in their heads.

Our stockings are hung by the staircase with care. (They clash with my terracota-colored fireplace.  Sue me.)

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.

I have one week to help two kids remove their names from the Naughty List.

Wish me luck.

My mom yells from a distance.

Dec 16 2009

“My mom yells from a distance.”

Abby is 11 and in 6th grade.

She has spelling words every week.

During the weekly test, students must use each word in a sentence.

Abby brings her spelling tests home so we can check her progress.

It appears that one of the words this week was “distance.”

That’s all I have to say about that.


Jelly Monster

Dec 4 2009

“Mom, you be the jelly monster, and I’ll be the kid.”

“Ummm… OK.  What’s a jelly monster?”

“Jelly monster goes like this: RRrrrrrraaaaaarrrrrrrr!”


I love being a mom.  Mostly because the kids are so great.  But partly for the power rush.

There’s Something About Cai

Dec 3 2009

Dear Readers,

Someday, my blog won’t be all about little boys and their little boy parts.

I promise.

Well, I hope, anyway.

For now, I have two three-year-old boys.  And, for three-year-old boys, their boy parts are pretty central to their concept of self.  What’s a mom to do?

Sincere apologies,



I was half way down the stairs, one three-year-old in hand, when the screaming from the other three-year-old started.

I immediately knew the cause.

Seconds earlier, Cai had unzipped his footed pajamas, and he was in the process of zipping them back up so he could come downstairs with me.

You can see where this is headed, right?

Here’s what I heard:

“Mama, mama, mama, mama.  Wait for me!  I coming!”


…and what should’ve ended in “…iiipp,” was cut short and ended in cries of pain.

I was already dashing back up the stairs when my eyes confirmed what my ears already knew.

Cai had zipped a bit of his penis into his PJ’s.

I don’t know why, exactly, but I really never expected to have a There’s Something About Mary moment with one of my sons.

So I did what any reasonable mother would do, and I unzipped him.

The injury wasn’t so bad.  Honest.  Just a little red sore.

But Cai was confused, bewildered and definitely offended on his penis’s behalf.

Some parents offer a cookie or a lollipop in similar situations.  It distracts the child, cuts short the crying, and it’s soothing.  Not wanting to pass along eating issues, though, we don’t use this approach.  Ever ever ever.

So I bundled Cai on my lap and sat right there on the top step to rock him, and he started to cry and to chant.

Sob.  Sob.  “My penis is NOT OK.” (Emphasis on NOT OK.)

Sob.  Sob.  “My penis is NOT OK.”

Sob.  Sob.  “My penis is NOT OK.”

Thus ensued bereft wailing and gnashing of teeth.  If we had had rags and ashes to hand, Cai would have donned them.

We spent the next several minutes with the ritual chant resounding throughout the house.  And eventually, Cai wound down to the sniffles.  Sniffle.  “My penis…”  shudder… “isnotOK.”  Sniffle.

I was able to slow the rocking a bit.  We finally moved downstairs to the couch.  Twin brother Cael got in a few hugs and awkwardly adorable pats to his brother’s head to express his sympathy.

And then, when Cai was able to speak again some 30 minutes later, he said,


“Yes, Cai?”

“Can you kiss it?”





And just when I thought the situation was improving.

How exactly do you explain to a three-year-old that Mommy’s magical healing kiss powers come with certain use clauses and limitations?

I went with the simplest approach.

“No, Cai Cai.  Mommy can’t.  Want a cookie?”