Again

Apr 5 2010

Three year old twin boys.

Guess which part of the following sentence bothered me the most?

Cael, yelling from the bathroom:  “Mommm!  Cai peed on my butt again!”

Yep, it was the word “again.”

Ew.

Rules for Shopping

Mar 18 2010

We recently took all 5 of our kids shopping at Target.

Having learned a few things after parenting for more than a decade, I asked the kids to review the rules in the car on the way to the store.

Here’s what they said.

Family Rules for Shopping

  1. Be nice.
  2. Don’t jump on people.  Or climb on them, either.
  3. Use quiet voices.
  4. Don’t steal other people’s food.

Sometimes kids have better ideas than we do.  I wouldn’t have thought to tell them not to jump on people or not to steal other people’s food, but, sure enough, those are some of my expectations.

To think I would’ve just expected that behavior without saying it aloud.

Crisis averted.

St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 17 2010

My cousin Jen visited with her fabulous family over the weekend.  On Sunday, the grown-ups participated in the 5K Shamrock Run.

The run actually has nothing to do with the rest of this blog entry, but I figured it was fair game since it has the word “shamrock” in it.  I pretty much just wanted to mention that I RAN in a RACE!  And, by ran, I mean that I ran the whole time.

Yeah, so I was the slowest person in my whole group.  So what?  I might possibly pass out from pride just about now.

Give me a sec.

OK.  I’m good.

So about St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s mean.  It’s green.  It’s a leprechaun machine.

Here’s the difference between new parents of young children and jaded parents of older children:

New parents: “I wonder what wonderful traditions I can create around each and every holiday to give my children sweet memories of their childhood.”

My cousin Jen (parent to an 8 and 6 year old): “Why, oh why, did I start stupid St. Patrick’s Day traditions that I have to maintain every single freaking year?”

I love Jen.  We have so much in common.

Jen and Kevin, her husband, started a fun St. Patty’s Day tradition when their kids were tiny.  Every year, the leprechauns visit and play crazy tricks in their house.  They (the leprechauns, that is — certainly not Jen and Kevin!) have dyed the toilet water green, dyed the milk green, left behind boxes of Lucky Charms, etc.  Now, eight years in, the leprechauns are forced to up the game every year… and it’ll only get worse.

Imagine a room full of parents after the kids are in bed, helping the dang leprechauns brainstorm what they can do this year.  The green milk is out; the kids wouldn’t drink it (after all, the green dye could come from leprechaun pee, so we must be reasonable).  We came up with some good ideas, but we’ll see what the little creatures actually did this year in a household full of excited kids and tired parents.

I was sharing this story with my co-worker today.  She’s a parent of kids aged 10 through 19.  Definitely parent of older kids category because her response was, “Yep! My 10 year old son woke up this morning and cried, ‘Where’s the candy?!’ At which point I remembered that leprechauns usually scatter gold coins overnight.  Shoot!”  This is the same parent who was doing late-night shopping for the same child who had promised his teacher he’d wear green tights to school.  Sadly, there were no green tights at the store, so her son (who may thank her when he’s older) had to wear green-striped basketball shorts and a green shirt.

Why do I tell you all this?  As a warning to new parents.  Be careful of your traditions!  Like it or not, your children will insist you maintain them.  The more children you have, the more likely they will remember Every. Single. One.

There will be no forgetting the traditional making of the bunny cake on Easter.  No way they’ll miss out on reading Santa’s reply to our annual Christmas thank you letter.  And there’s no chance they’ll let you stop giving them Valentine’s candy when they’re in their 30’s with kids of their own (thanks, Mom!).

On second thought, scratch the caution message and carry on with adding traditions with reckless abandon.

So what if we’re up at all hours of the night shopping for green tights?

Who cares if we have to bring other parents, uh, I mean leprechauns, in to the conversation to think up new pranks?

And if the kids have to search their rooms high and low for the coins the Tooth Fairy left (“Oh, I’m sure the Tooth Fairy didn’t forget to bring you money, Aden…” – commence crazy, behind-the-back signals to other parent to rush upstairs to remedy coin shortage – “… did you look under your bed? Sometimes that Tooth Fairy gets a little sloppy.”), they’re none the wiser and overjoyed… so we’re good.  Right?

Nope.

We’re great.

Because there are silly, sloppy smiles on our kids’ faces, and somehow that makes it all worthwhile.

Our personal family tradition today is about as low-key as you can get.  We just have an annual recurring appointment on our calendar.

“St Patrick’s Day – WEAR GREEN!”  (Although that might as well read, “You will be the suckiest of parents today if you let your kids get pinched – do not blow this one.”)

Hey – it’s not much, but we do it every year.  Reminding the older kids, laying out clothes for the littlest ones.

And, so far, we have a clean pinch record.  That’s us; 11 years pinch-free.

It’s not the size of the tradition.  It’s the sentiment behind them.  The little things that tell your kids (even if you roll your eyes a LOT behind the scenes) that you care enough to remember, too.

Carry on, little green men.  Today’s your day.

Sex Ed, Take Two: The Birthing Theories

Mar 12 2010

Sometimes, we have conversations with our kids, and they just don’t seem to listen.

I know… weird, right?

Several months ago, we tried to have the conversation with Ian, age 10, about his birthing-babies theory.  We were concerned that kids at school might start to make fun of him if he started referencing a mom pooping out her babies.

Knowledge is power and all that.

Unfortunately, knowledge isn’t power unless the kid actually hears you and acquires the knowledge.

I discovered our lapses in educating Ian during a recent car drive.  I was taking Ian, Aden (8), Cai (3) and Cael (3) home, and the following argument ensued:

Ian: “…poops it out her butt.”

Aden: “Frows it up out her mouth.”

Ian: “Poops it out her BUTT.”

Aden: “Frows it up out her MOUTH.”

Ian: “POOPS. OUT. BUTT!”

Aden: “FROWS. OUT. MOUTH!”

Ian: “BUUUUhTTT-UH!”

Aden: “MOOUU-THUH!”

I can always tell when an argument has deteriorated beyond control.  When kids start adding an extra syllable — an “uh” that’s more of a grunt than part of the word, not unlike the noise a tennis player uses to punctuate a particularly hard hit — to the end of everything they say, it’s pretty much all over.  So when “butt” became “butt-UH” and “mouth” became “mouth-UH,” I knew it was time to intervene.

My friend Bev drives Aden home from school every day.  Bev’s started to contemplate writing a book titled “Ten Minutes with Aden” because their time together can be so enlightening.  It was from Bev that we first heard this theory that the mommy throws the babies up.

Aden showed Bev her imaginary kittens, and then proceeded to stuff the kittens in her mouth to keep them safe while the car crossed a river.  Bev asked Aden what would happen to the kittens if she accidentally swallowed them, but Aden wasn’t concerned.  “Then they’d be back in my tummy,” she replied, adding, “so I can frow them up when I want to play with them.”  Makes sense.

Now, I have to give credit to my kids.  In the absence (despite our best efforts) of reliable information regarding birthing, they each formed logical theories for how babies must be birthed.  Not only do they have their theories, but, by golly, they’re going to stick by them come hell or high water!  That’s conviction, folks!

However, as I mentioned, the uh-grunts were forcing my hand in the response department.

Me: “OK, Ian and Aden, that’s enough.  Those are good ideas about how babies come out.  But they’re not quite right.  Do you want me to tell you how babies are really born?”

Both, though Ian with a slight hesitation, which shows some wisdom on his part: “Yes.”

So I told them.  Yep, used the word vagina and everything.  Right there in the car.

Poor Ian.

My Child Of The Overly Sensitive Gag Reflex (read: prolific puker) began involuntarily to try to get those imaginary kittens out of his tummy.  Bless his heart, he rolled his window right down and stuck his head out of the car so as to not get puke all over.  Chivalry is not dead, ladies!

Aden, on the other hand, was quite taken with the whole idea and clearly felt very empowered as a woman by this information.  Her resounding, “YES! The babies come out a VAGINA!” could probably have been heard for miles.

At this point, my three-year-old boys, who had been wide-eyed with rapt attention for the entire previous conversation, felt it was time to chime in.

Cai, shaking his head back and forth and back and forth, as though he just learned that monsters are real: “No, Mommy. No, no, no.  That’s GROSS.”

And Cael, my ever-logical, scientifically-minded child: “Except my babies, Mommy.  Them come out my penis.”

All in all, my favorite car ride of all time.

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.

Awesome.

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.

I said, THAT’S ALL I HAVE TO SAY.