Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2 Tired 4 Words

I am wiped out again. I am not quite done with conferences, but I am getting close. I see an end in sight. :) I did get done earlier tonight, so I got to eat dinner at home with everyone else. We ordered pizza for a "picnic" in the living room while we watched "Curious George". It was nice to be all together. I just have to remind myself, "It is only two times a year."

On top of being tired from conferences, my allergies have flared up (which is typical for this time of year). The youngest is right there with me. Sniffly and sneezy. My eyeballs itch. Yes, they really itch!

Just a few thoughts (nothing deep or major here) then I must go to bed.

As I have mentioned, we had Parent/Teacher conferences this week. I was a teacher for most of them...but for three, I got to be the parent. Mark came (he is always good to come) and we got to be parents for a while, sitting on the other side of the table. (That afternoon, I got to be the teacher with Child 3's teacher; her son is in my class, then later we got to "turn the table"...the teacher table that is and do it later with me as the mom and her as the teacher :)

I won't go into boring details, but I am so pleased with all of their progress. I am thankful for the teachers they have who love them and guide them every day in their learning. We are so blessed. We have obviously had conferences for the older two a few times, but this was Child 3's first conference. We were very pleased with her progress and relieved to find out that she is performing as is expected for this time of year. I am amazed at how much she has learned. She went from knowing some letters to reading several sight words. I look forward to watching her bloom this year!

A Child 4 funny (or two)...if you show him a robot picture, he will move his body in a jerky motion and say very robotically, "I am a robot" though his "robot" doesn't come out so clear). He also brought a "CD" (as in toy) up to me and told me it was an "A, B, C, D". Okay, the last funny (which I know are always much funnier to moms and dads than others) is that we were watching Curious George tonight for our movie. It was Child 2's idea. She thought Child 4 would like the monkey, since he just got a stuffed monkey. And he did. He called George "JoJo" (his monkey's name) all night long. And if something seemed to happen to George, Joshua would get very frantic looking and say, "Where's JoJo?" It was sweet but humorous at the same time. We joke alot about the "terrible twos" and there are some doozy days (mainly with tantrums/meltdowns) but much of the time he is very funny. I guess that is how we survive the days he isn't as funny. :)

A few prayer requests:

Please pray for Hannah Grace. She and her family have had a really rough time recently with some additional health news. Please pray for her healing and for the family's peace of mind right now.

Also, please continue to pray for Bonnie. She is such an incredible woman with so much faith and love. Yet she is still facing the draining process of grief. Each day she faces many "firsts" without her husband (and on little sleep I might add since baby Thomas is still learning his sleep or lack thereof habits). It is easy for our lives to continue in the same, normal fashion. But I want to remember her and the challenges she faces daily.

Also, please continue praying for Jeremy, the husband of my teacher friend. He has made it to the halfway point for his treatments. Next week there will be a test to check on his progress. Please pray for his healing and good test results!

And if you have time, I wouldn't mind a few little prayers for me. I just have some symptoms that I cannot decide if I should go to the doctor for or just wait them out. I was so stressed at the beginning of the year, and some of the symptoms started about that time. I have just assumed it was stress. But now that life has settled down (as much as it ever does), I am still dealing with some of those little issues. I am just not one to rush to the doctor which is kind of ironic since I self-diagnose myself all of the time. :)

Okay, I must get up and around. I started this last night and fell asleep partway through. So I must get moving for the day.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

In the Trenches

This week is a LONG week. It is conference week. We teach all day then have conferences until 7 or so for a couple days, hopefully finishing up the conferences in the afternoon the remainder of the week. We do have an "inservice" day on Friday which means a day of meetings. So you might say a prayer...for me and my energy level but also for my husband and mom who will fill in the gaps. I enjoy meeting with parents and sharing student success stories. But I do miss my kiddos for those hours I am away. I just have to remind myself, it is only twice a year. I hope and pray that for two weeks out of the year, they aren't terribly scarred by my absence. The other downside is that it exhausts me. I don't know why. I am sitting for much of it. But the talking and thinking that goes on...well, it is tiring. Or more tiring, I should say. :)

I have been thinking alot about teachers and schools. I just read Obama's plan/idea to have shorter summers and possibly longer school days. It seems weekly I am reading (whether in the paper or on the Internet) the evils of the public school or the many ways we are failing kids. And of course, with No Child Left Behind, our test scores determine our "success" as a school and whether we deserve to continue teaching our kids.

You know, I realize there are some poor performing schools. I also realize there are some poor teachers out in the world. I have met them too. I probably had a few (I know I did) in school, though I really have to say more were NOT that way. What bothers me is the current trend to make sweeping statements about schools/teachers based on a few bad apples. After all, I read stories of some really poor parenting, yet I rarely hear that all parents are doing a poor job raising their kids. I have seen articles about unethical doctors, but I don't generalize that all doctors are bad...I am quite thankful for the doctors we have around here. As I have pondered these thoughts, especially in light of yet more changes the government hopes to make, I cannot help but reflect on some of the things I have witnessed while "in the trenches". Some of these things are based on my own experiences (both as a teacher and as a parent), some are based on what I have observed among other teachers...
  • A teacher crying after receiving a hateful note from a parent (more often than not over a misunderstanding)...always a lovely way to start the day. But even after she cries and gets a hug from a co-worker, she will go in and love and teach that child anyway.
  • Teachers slipping food and clothing into the backpacks of students who are living in high poverty homes
  • A teacher giving up part of her lunch or snack stash to a student who didn't get the lunch choice he/she made that day and wouldn't eat otherwise
  • More than one teacher slipping money into the lunch account of a student who will otherwise only get a cheese sandwich even though five notices have gone home informing parents of the need for lunch money
  • Teachers making home visits on their planning time (which is precious time to quickly prepare for future lessons, gather student papers, have meetings, etc) to try to get signatures so that a child can get future additional help at school because the parents haven't attended any of the meetings requested
  • Several teachers quietly and without fanfare gathering "angels" from our Angel Tree to make sure our students get a Christmas
  • Teachers visiting sick children in the hospital
  • A teacher crying when he/she realizes that a student has moved again...sometimes for the fifth time in that school year, and that same teacher who will float on air with happiness if/when the child returns "home" to her classroom
  • Teachers using their own money to buy books and other materials to make sure students have books in their home
  • Teachers supplying school supplies (again, with no fanfare) to students who otherwise would have none
  • Teachers comforting a child who has lost a grandparent, a pet, or sometimes even a parent
  • Teachers who attend baseball games, birthday parties, etc. for their students (that one has gotten tougher for me as we have added to our own family)
  • Teachers who buy things from fundraisers they don't really need but cannot say no to those little faces
  • Teachers who pray for students and families...we cannot pray at school WITH the kids, but we can do it on our own time FOR the kids
  • Teachers who love and accept all of their students for who they are, who don't see race or color or citizenship status, who just see a child to teach
  • Teachers who go into the schools two weeks before their contracts/paychecks even start just to get the room ready for the children
  • Teachers who attend meetings after school, on the weekends, during the summer, all to become a better teacher to help their students become better learners
  • Teachers who run clubs, like the Chess Club, after school...all volunteer work to allow students opportunities to learn and grow
  • Teachers who are bound by the requirements of laws (No Child Left Behind), the policies of administration, the expectations of parents who go into the classroom each and every day to teach
  • Teachers who jump for joy in the hallway when a student finally achieves a learning goal
  • Teachers who cry when they receive a note of thanks, too few unfortunately, from a child or parent for a job well done
  • Teachers who call with concerns about a child's behavior (not our favorite chore) only to get cussed out over the phone in return
  • Teachers who go pick up children for school (with permission of course) because their parents just cannot wake up to send them themselves
  • Teachers who save their children's toys and books that just might be useful in the classroom...or at the home of one of their students
  • Teachers who order extra books (with their own money) to get more bonus points which means more books for the classroom
  • Teachers who beg their husbands to build a loft for the classroom (yes, that is mine, but there are others) because they know the students will benefit from the extra room
  • Teachers who fill out pages of grants in hopes of bettering their learning environment
  • Teachers who use their own money for snacks and field trips when some children/families just don't have the money to pay for it themselves
  • Teachers who call and visit parents to obtain a much needed signature for a field trip after the fourth note has gone home and never returned
  • Teachers who will visit parents, stay later, and rearrange their own schedules to ensure 100 percent participation at parent/teacher conferences
  • Teachers who fuss over a sick child while the office tries to call three numbers on the child's card that no longer work
  • Teachers who share the news that a child's vision might not be perfect
  • Teachers who take one look at a child walking into the classroom and know that a child is sick and should not be at school
  • Teachers who miss the field trips and parties of their own children to be at school with their students
  • Teachers who in spite of the unkind words of the public still love their job and can imagine no other place to be each day

I could go on, but this teacher needs to get to bed so I am ready for a day of learning and then a night of conferences. I guess I just wanted to say that what you read in the media is only one part of the story. Yes, test scores hold us accountable. We want our kids to be learning, otherwise our job is in vain. And sometimes we don't do as well as we hope we will. However, what you read about is only one small part of our job description. Much of what we do "in the trenches" goes unseen and unspoken. We do it because we care. We do it because that is what we are called to do.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Typical Day

I am here, provided I can stay awake which has not been my strong point the past few days. Last night around 10, I just rolled over and dozed until Mark came home (helping out our church for B, B, and B). I got up briefly to brush my teeth, then just crawled back into bed to go to sleep again. Every day I think, "I need to post on the blog before I start doing other things" but then I get caught up in parent letters, Facebook, etc. And here it is, 11:23, and I am fighting to keep my eyes open.

So I have all kinds of things I could post, but sometimes I just like being spontaneous. So I thought I would post a typical day at our house (as typical as they get anyway; it is always an adventure around here :).

6:10 My first alarm (across the room so I have to get up) goes off. I turn if off and crawl back in bed for one last snooze. If Mark is exercising, I stretch out across the whole bed, praying and sleeping for a few more minutes.
6:20 The second alarm goes off. Now I have to get up. I usually check e-mail, pray a little more, or get up to take a shower if I didn't cross that off my list the night before. During this time, Mark starts getting breakfast ready for the kiddos; of course, they all want different things. Meanwhile the kids are getting dressed. Hopefully no drama! (Actually the drama has lessened TREMENDOUSLY as certain children have matured :)
6:40 We sit down for breakfast (all except Mark...he doesn't like breakfast that early). A typical breakfast for me is a bowl of cereal or a granola bar (none of them extremely healthy), a handful of pistachios, and a glass of Cran-Grape juice. The girls would have Pop Tarts every day except we only let them have two a week so they have to "broaden" their horizons. :) The youngest loves him some Cheerios and thinks it cannot be breakfast without a banana. And the oldest is an oatmeal guy; he could probably have it every day and not complain.
7:00 Breakfast is over whether you are done or not. The rat race begins. The girls brush hair and teeth, put on shoes, make their beds. Child 1 does much of the same but with the Razorback fight song playing loudly in his bedroom. And Child 4 takes the time to play. Sometimes he play "guitar" for me (a toy one), sometimes he goes through my jewelry (costume necklaces), sometimes he hangs out in the closet. He is just busy. Thankfully, much of the time, if Big Sister gets ready in time, she is right there to entertain which helps us so much.
7:27 We (Me and the three) head for the car, grabbing lunches, backpacks, etc in the process. Meanwhile, Mark is getting Child 4 dressed and heading out himself. For whatever reason, that child has decided he would rather not get dressed so there is usually a game of catch going on in our house. :)
7:35 Arrive at school. Quick funny. One day I sent Child 3 to the cafeteria (which is where most kids go) after some disagreeable behavior. Usually my kids hang out in my room until the bell rings. They think of it as a privilege. Well, Little Miss wasn't happy to go that day but ever since then, she has asked to go there every morning! They dance a lot in the cafeteria with the principals; apparently she has a lot of fun in there.
7:45 The bell rings. My kids hightail it out. They both want to be first to their classrooms. I don't know why. They aren't afforded any special privileges for doing it, but they are raring to go. Meanwhile my kids/students start trickling in for the next fifteen minutes. I try to stand at the door to greet them, catch up on announcements with my co-workers, etc.
8:00 The official bell rings, meaning school has started.
10:45 After dropping my students off in the lunchroom (provided it is not one of my duty days), I will usually eat. However, today I did a quick trip to the grocery store because the thought of taking my little darlings after school did NOT appeal to me. I would rather give up some eat time than do that!

Note: I am not going into school detail since I usually share that schedule around teacher appreciation week...though I only seem to make it to lunch even though we truly have more school after lunch. :)

3:00 School is dismissed. The kids hang out in my room. Usually the first few minutes I am trying to get the room ready for tomorrow while I have children (my own) buzzing around telling me tidbits about their day, asking to play with friends, etc.
3:20 We head out the door. I have tried to never stay too late, especially with kids. And last year I worked really hard to leave by 4. It really isn't ideal to head out so fast; I have to fit in my work somehow. But for now, it is good for Child 4 after being in daycare. He needs to know we are still here. So for now, I am making it work. I get my work done, just on a different time schedule.
3:30 I have three or four kids in tow, depending on the day. Unless it was a day like today when Child 1 somehow missed his swim team van. So now we have an unexpected trip in our afternoon schedule.
3:40 We are home! Child 4 thinks as soon as we get home, it is time for snacks. It doesn't matter that he JUST had one at daycare. He just thinks that is what he does. So he does as well as any other child. Meanwhile, I try to straighten up the kitchen, start laundry, or take care of school papers for the big kids.
4:00 If it is nice, we typically head outside. On a rare occasion, I need to get some things done inside, so that means we all stay in. :)

One thing I have noticed coming home a little earlier is that I have a little more time to work on home stuff, like laundry. It doesn't mean I always keep up with it like I should, but it does help.

5:00 I assign "chores" for the bigger kids. Today one had the dishwasher. It was so cute; Child 4 really wanted to "help". So she patiently let him hand her any of the plastic dishes, utensils, etc. Meanwhile, I worked on dinner. Sometimes I am "homework" checker during this time period. It is never dull!
5:30 Sometimes if I need a little peace while I work on dinner, we will watch Sesame Street or Thomas. I don't like to use t.v. often but sometimes it is just a necessity! Now tonight was gymnastics night for Child 2. So Mark came home, I took the gymnast to her class, and shortly afterwards, Mark left with the other two to go pick up our little/big swimmer. Then they came home and helped finish up supper preparation.
6:30 Dinnertime. Child 4 thinks he is starving by this point, no matter how big his snack was. He becomes a bit unreasonable. We have made the rule he cannot be in the kitchen while we are getting plates just isn't safe with hot dishes and a child underfoot. Some nights he will follow that rule, some days he is too despondent since he is convinced he is starving. Then he takes a little break in his crib, which believe it or not, he enjoys being in. When dishes are ready, we gather round to eat.
7:00 Dinner clean up. Meanwhile we start the showering process, with Child 3 almost always going first so she can get to bed first. Thankfully she can now shower on her own...we are doing a happy dance over that! During that time, we usually gather in the living room. Some nights we watch a little t.v. (like a cooking show, our newest "thing"), sometimes we play a game, sometimes it is just a wrestle and play time for the youngest.
7:45 Child 3 is ready for a book while Child 4 is ready for a bath. Mark offers to bathe himalmost every day which is a huge help to me. We usually alternate the rest of the bedtime routine with him. Whoever is not "on" with him is reading to the rest of the crew. As close to 8 as possible, Child 3 is in bed with Child 4 not far behind her. The big kids have a "new bedtime" of 8:30 which they enjoy. (Like getting to play a rousing game of Hogopoly the other night). Sometimes I miss that half hour of extra freedom but it isn't too bad. :)
8:30 Finally the last child is in bed. Sometimes we chat for a bit, then usually we take a little time for ourselves. I sometimes exercise, check e-mail, work on projects, etc. It just depends on the day and my energy level. This is also my time to Facebook, "farm" on FB, and read others' blogs.
12:00 usually the time I actually head to bed...

Except tonight when I am really late.

Night night!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Blows In...

Last night when we went to bed, there were fierce winds blowing, loud rumbles of thunder, bright flashes of light. When we awoke, the air was cooler and it was a lovely dark gray all day. It looked like, smelled like and felt like fall...happy first day of autumn!

What else did it blow in?

Maybe an ornery child or two.

But we got through the day, though I am fading fast.

There were times today I thought I was going to pull my hair out.

But then we finally had a little down time once the little people were in bed...and enjoyed...

a rousing game of...


And then all was right with the world...

PS I have exercised two days in a row, and I am feeling every bit after my exercise hiatus. I have also cooked dinner two days in a row. I keep waiting for my gold star to fall from the sky. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

More Toddler Tips

Again, I am not speaking as an expert other than I have a toddler in my house who some days is in full toddler mode. I shared a few "tips" the other day and today thought of a few more. Since I am wiped out today, I am going to fall back on what I know (somewhat). :)

A few more tips:

  • Silliness. When our toddler begins to be ridiculous (or irrational I should say), sometimes (though not all of the times), silliness can win him over. Like pretending he hurts my hand when he gives me "five" or Mark turning a diaper sack into a puppet that starts to tickle him. Silliness doesn't always work. Sometimes he isn't in the mood (nor are we). But it is usually worth a try, especially if it heads off a tantrum (either him or us :).

  • Outdoors. As much as I can, I try to get toddler boy (really ALL of the kids) outdoors at least for a while. i don't think sunshine can hurt too much in small doses. And I know having the opportunity to burn off some energy running around the yard does a body (and a house) good. :) Today we had a very overcast afternoon. We could hear rumblings of thunder in the background. Yet we saw no lightning nor any rain, so we stayed out as long as we could. I am thankful for outside times.

  • Attention. I am finding more and more that if I can give my undivided attention for just a few minutes, I am much more likely to get some understanding when I cannot give my attention. That means stopping everything, getting on the ground, and playing trains or just pushing for a while on the swing. I have noticed if I will push for a while, I can usually say, "I am almost done pushing...I need to rest." And in a few minutes I do stop with little harassment.

  • That brings me to my next point...transitions. Transition times are our most difficult times. For a toddler, it is just another example that they are not in control of themselves. Someone else is always deciding their schedules. We try to give warnings whenever possible before switching from one activity to another. I am not saying it always heads off a protest, but it does seem to help to say, "Last one" on the snack or "We are almost done..."

  • Letting him win. We joke that toddler boy is a bit OCD. And he is...typical for toddlers. The same child who somehow gets spaghetti from head to toe and all over his high chair gets very teary over a little spilled milk. Then he insists upon a "wipee" which is really code word for a paper towel. I know it is ridiculous. And there are some things that we just ignore. But once in a while, it is okay for him to win. Truly, if having a paper towel helps settle him, I don't mind. We win many battles, that one little battle will not hurt us (we hope :).

  • Kisses fix everything. Right now, if he falls or gets hurts in any way, he immediately is sticking the body part out and asking for "tisses". For him, "tisses" fix everything. I wish that would last for life!

Sorry so short, but I must get up and about!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Survivor: Toddlerhood

The other day after I posted "Toddler Truths", I immediately thought of more I could add. But I won't for now. Today, I am all about solutions, not just venting about problems. How can I fix this?

I did think I would share a few things I have learned about surviving toddlerhood. Not that I am an expert in any way...even after four kids, each day is a new surprise. And some days can be heavenly. Others...well, a bit trying. :) Afterwards, feel free to share your own "survival" tips. I always welcome seasoned advice and tried true tips...

  1. Humor. We have to laugh. Even when there are times I have to hide my smile, I have to laugh. Like when someone is unhappy at the restaurant and suddenly a hush puppy goes flying across the just have to smile (secretly). Otherwise, the tears may come. :)
  2. Choices. Toddlers love to have choices. I have figured out that so many of the "tantrums" (which I use loosely...that can be a cry of disapproval or a throwdown, kicking fit) are related to the feeling of helplessness. When I give choices, I am MUCH more likely to get compliance. Right now our todr is really big on wanting to walk...everywhere! So when he is being a bit of a turkey, my question is usually, "Walk or be carried?" More often than not, he goes for the "walk" and gets up to do it, forgetting whatever he was protesting in the first place. The key is to have few choices. Toddlers also get overwhelmed with too many choices.
  3. Routine, routine, routine. We have a fairly structured bedtime routine (among many others). That routine may sound rigid (though it is always subject to change) but it gives him a little power. He "knows" what is coming next. There is some comfort in that.
  4. Pick your battles carefully. If you choose every battle, you will live in a warzone. It is hard not to battle each and every thing. After all, we want long term character building. It is hard not to think, "He shouldn't get away with that..." However, character building is a block at a time. So some things we just have to deal with now, some later.
  5. Have a "support group". I am so fortunate to have a mom, a sister, and co-workers and friends to turn to when I am not sure how to handle things. Or to encourage me when I feel like a failure (hence yesterday's post...though that happens with all the kids, not just the toddler). They are also the ones I go to with the joys and funny adventures.
  6. Remember the good times. Really, the good is MUCH more than the bad. (Right now for us the bad is any change in routine, like having clothes changed or stopping for a bath) Our toddler is the sunshine of our house. He literally lights up our lives with his infectious giggle, his silliness, his quick wit. Why do I let a two minute tantrum cloud the whole day?
  7. Make them feel powerful. I think I mentioned this in Toddler Truths. Toddlers feel like they are losing all of the time. They are never old enough, never big enough, never going to "win". So sometimes I have to give him chances to "win" whether it is by carrying toilet paper from the store or letting him have just "one more" horsie ride.

I want to say a little more but must get some sleep. However, this is a good start. Please feel free to add to the list!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Knot Me...

First of all, I want to wish my mom (a.k.a. Grams) a very happy birthday. To celebrate, she and my dad came to the school and had lunch not once, not twice, but three different times with each of older kids. Okay, it wasn't necessarily to celebrate, it happened to be Grandparent's Lunch at our school this week. But it worked out nicely. :) If you count eating in a cafeteria full of children a celebration and all...

Second of all, today (I think) was Guatemala Independence Day. Apparently my little Guatemalans knew it. They were VERY independent minded. As in "I will do what I want to do today, Mom." Hopefully THEY won't be celebrating that tomorrow. :) I really should be going to bed. But once again, I am sitting here with my stomach in knots. I am just overly stressed right now. And I don't know how to fix it. (Yes, I know prayer will help and will do that. I just wish I had a magic pill I could take in the meantime)

I have struggled my whole life with perfectionism. I am not sure who in my family I got that from (mmm,mmm...clearing of the throat). I have always wanted to be perfect or as near to it as I can be. When I was in school, if I made a 97, I was disappointed it wasn't a 100. (And was also convinced that my teachers didn't like either) The funny thing is I know how far from perfect I am. I cannot sing. Cannot draw. Cannot play any sport of any kind with any kind of ability. I am not a leader (other than with a class full of kindergarteners). I am not a planner like my dear daughter is; I have procrastinated my whole life (part of it because I dread finding out I may not do something perfectly). I have not ever been in the popular crowd.

However, nothing in life though has shown me how very imperfect I am more than parenting (with marriage being a close second :).

As a parent, I feel like a failure each and every day. Sometimes it is what my kids do (he said what to her? or she did what at school?) that makes me question who I am and if I have a clue about what I am doing. Other times it is what I do (or don't do) she getting enough attention? Did I take the pacifier away too early? Did I miss an opportunity to talk with him? Did I handle that situation right? My mom told me not long ago that she thinks I think more about this stuff than most people.

The question do I stop?

I have blogged before that I know that all I can do is do my best. That my children will get guidance from me (and hopefully God if they allow) but ultimately it is up to them who they become. That some things, like potty training or talking or riding a bike or reading, are dependent on the child God created them to be not my man made timetables. And even more that I cannot take credit OR blame for their successes and failures; ultimately they are in charge of the choices they make.

So easy to say those words. REALLY hard for me to truly believe them.

I am not saying I should just let my children live their lives without any input from me. I still believe that it is my job to set limits whether it is limits about behavior, limits on "screen time" (much to the big kids' chagrin), or limits on their activities. They need me to stop and say, "Hey, that wasn't the right way to handle need to try again". Or "I know you are disappointed you cannot watch that show, but we do think it is not the right show for you..."

I just wish I could find the balance. I wish I could just let go more often, to not take it personally when one of my children disobeys or when the two year old decides to have a tantrum in the middle of the store (okay that doesn't really happen...he usually just screams out really loud because it sounds cool :). I wish I could focus more on the happy times, the remember the times that our youngest has his hands wrapped around me in a bear hug, when Child 3 is pumping her hands through the air and saying, "Awesome!", when Child 2 is making sweet pictures for the other teachers just because she thinks it would be nice, when Child 1 tells me the ins and outs of fifth grade as we hang out over dinner. Those times really are more abundant. Instead, it is the frustrations, the trials, the many failures on my part that loom in front of my eyes.

I don't have any answers. I wish I did. I worry about the damage I am doing to my body with the worry and stress I feel. (It seems to be worse right now than normal...praying that is short lived; the funny thing is the kids aren't really doing anything is all me right now) I worry even more that I am failing even MORE as a mom by worrying about each and everything...that I am missing those golden opportunities to shine as a mom. (So yes, I am worrying about worrying :)

I really didn't write this as a plea for assurance or comments like "You're a great mom". Those are always nice to hear but like I said, these just happen to be my personal demons. It helps if I write about them, ponder them, pray over them.

I have failed yet again. I have been wrong to seek perfection. It is unattainable. As one teacher put it, it is like a slap in the face of God...He is the ONLY one who can be perfect. And of course that makes me feel know I have failed Him again and again.

Now...if He will just release me from the expectations I have for myself and my would be so much easier.

Until then, I breathe in, I breathe out.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Toddler Truths

The Terrible Twos. How many times have I heard that phrase? I have been thinking alot about toddlerhood since we are living with one. Some days we are a LOT more toddler than other days. :) Tonight I was talking to someone I know, also a mom. Her kids are older now (in school). She asked me how our toddler was doing. I told her he keeps us busy since he is so busy, that I had forgotten what toddlerhood was like. She immediately responded, "You forget. It is a lot like childbirth. If you really remembered, you wouldn't want to go through it again."

And there is a little truth to that, though it depends on the moment in time... Here are a few toddler truths I have been reminded of in the last six months:

  • "It's all about's not about you..." Mark and I joke around and sing this song when our kids (or ourselves) are being a bit self-centered. That song might be the toddler's mantra. They can only see where they are in the world. Even when interacting with others, it is all about how it affects them. That brings me to my next toddler truth...
  • Possessive. What is mine is mine, what is yours is mine. Oh my, our toddler boy actually throws himself around our legs if another child looks at us and calls out, "My mommy!" "My daddy!" As if any other child is begging to join our family. :) I also have to stop a lot of "Mine" remarks when another child picks up a toy that hasn't been touched in three days; if he has touched it in this lifetime, it is his. Or so he thinks. We are growing in that area....
  • Help me, help me not. Toddlerhood is full of "I do me!" "I take my socks me!" "I put my shoes me!"
  • Independence Day. Right now, our toddler wants to walk everywhere which can be frustrating (like at the store when I am saying, "Nope, not this time) but can also help me out. "Are you going to walk or will I carry you?" Since he is learning quickly I mean that, he usually chooses to rise and walk. :)
  • Helpful hands. Toddlers LOVE to help. Anytime I bring out the laundry basket, he is right there, ready to throw the clothes in the washing machine. Yesterday I was going to do a quick fold of some kitchen towels, bibs, washcloths, etc. Well, I thought I was. Suddenly I had helpful little hands sitting on my lap "folding" with me. I am not complaining...I just wish I could hold onto that helpful spirit when they are older!
  • Rinse, lather, repeat. Repetition. Repetition. Shall I repeat it? I heard the same stories over and over. For a long time, it was the monkey story. Oh, and it is MY job to repeat what I hear, even if I have said it numerous times that day already. Right now, it is the story of Mark on a roller coaster at SDC this past weekend. "Dadddy go up, up, up." "Yes, Daddy went up, up, up." "Daddy screamed, 'argggg'!" (complete with open mouth) Every day we have to talk about whether the sun is up, whether it is dark, will the cup fit in that hole, etc.
  • Routine. Along with repetition, toddlers THRIVE on routine. We try really hard to stick to a routine when possible. There is some comfort for little ones to know what is coming next. They have little power in their gives them a little "power" to know what comes next. Dinner, play, bath, bed. However, toddlers can be a slave to routine. Trust me, if we don't present the stuffed animals in the right order, we are reminded.
  • The right brain rules. I have been reading a toddler book (like about toddlers) that talks about how much the right brain rules a toddler. Right brain is that impulsive, instant, right here and now side. Left brain is the side of logic. Left brain is developing but not nearly as quickly as the right. When toddlers are tired or hungry (the very worst situations to be in), their left brain shuts down. Meltdown. You can try to talk "sense" to them but you are talking to a brick wall since the language center is not hearing a word you say. Of course, we are trying and trying to not let those situations arise but when they do, we just have to step back and let the crying begin. Then we are there to hug when it is done!
  • Now, now, now. Everything must be done RIGHT now. In the life of a toddler, even one minute is like torture. (to all of us :) I have been playing pick up sticks with J-man. We don't really follow any rules other than, "My turn, your turn" in hopes that slowly we will understand that sometimes (most of the time) in life you have to wait. And wait. And wait. So when it is my turn, I will take a few minutes to choose my stick.
  • Spiritual. Okay, so maybe not a deep spiritual. But praying and reading the Bible are parts of the day routine. And oftentimes, he reminds us we need to pray at dinner. I love to listen to our prayers repeated in toddlerese. I know they don't mean much right now, but I can only hope and pray that with time, that prayer will become a key communication in his life.
  • Surprise, surprise, surprise. (Said with a Gomer accent) I just never know which child I am leaving the house with. Some days he is the shy kid, head buried on my shoulder anytime someone says hello. Other times he is the greeter, giving a howdy ho to everyone he meets. It is like that at home. Is he going to be the giggly boy falling on the floor in laughter or will he be the wailing, flailing child collapsed in a heap on the floor because life isn't quite right? It is a surprise from day to day...heck, from minute to minute!
  • Connections. Toddlers love to connect. They want to draw lines from dot to dot. Not literally but figuratively. Child 4 can see a "Shake's" sign (no picture) and immediately connects it with the times we have had ice cream. When his book binding broke the other day, he immediately asked for batteries to fix it (isn't that what we usually use to fix things?). The brain growth that happens in toddlerhood just blows my mind!
  • Hugs and Kisses. We get LOTS of hugs and kisses, all day long. Toddlers just love you, in spite of who you are.
  • Loyal. I have to give it to toddlers, they are loyal. They choose certain parents to be in charge of certain tasks and that is (in their minds) who will do it! "Mommy do it!" "Daddy do it!" I have to give it to him, he is consistent!
  • Bound. As in boundaries. Even though they may protest, toddlers need boundaries, even want them (without knowing that) It would be easy to give in to the protesting yell but it is much more comforting to know the rules stay the same. Doesn't make parenting any easier though. :) On the same token, if our house is quiet for more than a minute (which is very rare because they aren't quiet...not a one at my house!), I start searching for a cause. Toddlers don't have that left brain logic to think, "Dumping every book out isn't a smart idea..." So I have to be the conscience. That can be tiring. You only hope eventually they will start to take in those boundaries and claim them as their own!
  • Spider Webs and Airflanes (toddlerese) looks different at two. I love to watch that mind work (when I can understand it). I think we need to hurry and get somewhere very quick. However, there is my toddler, balancing on the curb (which in his mind is a balance beam), looking with wide eyes at a spider web I never even noticed. I look up and see a cloudy day...he looks up and sees the adventures of an airplane. His eyes see life in a different way!

I could probably go on and on, but MY batteries are running down.

As I jotted down this list, I couldn't help but think, "Hmmm, sounds a lot like God's children..." It is often "all about us". When I don't get my way, I am on my belly kicking my feet (well, figuratively), screaming, "No, no". I like routine, boundaries, even if I don't always follow them. And most of all, much like most toddlers, I know that no matter how scary the world is, the safest place to be is in the arms of my Father. (Anytime we go out and J-man gets nervous about the situation, the first thing he does is hold out his arms and say, "hold you") It makes me thankful for a God who loves me, again, in spite of who I am, a God who sees past this stage of my life and believes in me that I will grow and learn eventually. Thankful for a God who walks with me through the trials and joys of toddlerhood.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Up and Around

I really should have taken pictures, but I was just ready to start the evening.

Today after faculty meeting I walked back to my room to get my things before leaving. There was a note on my desk from my dear husband. He had stopped by to pick up the kids (thanks to Grams for watching them while I was in my meeting...when I finally picked them up, only Joshua seemed happy to see me :).

The note said (generally speaking) to look up and around for my back to school surprise. Typically at the beginning of the year, Mark does something for a "back to school" surprise like flowers or something. However, our beginning of the year started a little rough dealing with outside stresses, and I honestly hadn't thought much about it. Even the other day, Mark joked about having something for me, but I have just been too preoccupied. And if you know me, I do like gifts (nothing fancy necessarily), so that is highly unusual.

Anyway, the note said to look up and around (4) my back to school surprise. So I immediately looked up. I just didn't know what I was looking for. The custodian vacuuming my room probably wondered too. :) I glanced all over the no. Balloons? no. Hmmm...

Then something caught my eye. I have little clips that hang from my ceiling so I can hang artwork. Only we haven't hung any artwork yet. I thought, "What is that?" It was a gift card to Barnes and Noble. I then found two to P.F. Changs and one to Old Navy. I looked around and didn't see any more so I walked out of the room.

As I walked down the hall though, I started thinking, "Was there significance to him using the number 4 rather than the word 'for'?" I tried to call him to ask. No answer. I decided to go back one more time and check. I walked in and saw one itunes card.

Isn't he sweet?

I love that my life is full of surprises with him. Yes, me, the non-surprise person who reads the last chapter of a book first. It makes life makes me smile.

Thank you, honey!