Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Frustrated Nursemaid and the Thanksgiving Feast, A.K.A.: The Battle of the Braids

This morning, with mounting agitation, I attempted to get my girls dressed in new, hand-me-down clothing and to put braids in their hair to make them look like little Indians for their Thanksgiving Feast at preschool. They never keep any braids or ponytails in their hair for long…(I think the record is 15 minutes) so I don’t know why I was surprised and subsequently disappointed when my one daughter went in the other room and almost immediately took her braids out while I was doing the other one’s hair. It could be because I don’t do their hair very often or the fact that their hair was the ONLY thing that helped them to look remotely like little Indian girls, or the fact that they were up early again at 6 a.m. or that I’m pregnant and starting to get uncomfortable, but I was stressing and got frustrated with them.

The girl that hadn't taken her braids out emphasized that SHE had kept hers in, while looking pointedly at her sister. I tried to take a picture of the braided one and the other girl, who had taken hers out jumped in next to her sister to be in it too. They both felt pretty in their “new” clothes. As I looked through the camera screen trying to center the shot, I complimented the one who had KEPT her hair in and told her she looked pretty, the face of the other one FELL and I could tell immediately that I had injured her sensitive spirit by not including her in the compliment. I tried to tell her she looked pretty too, but the damage was done.

Downstairs, I realized, as their dad was hurriedly and masterfully trying to make cute Indian headbands for his adorable girls that the braided twin wanted to take her braids out too because they “hurt”. I sighed and helped unravel the fruit of my labor. When they were happily at preschool, I sat alone on the couch, stewing in my frustration about why I was so upset this morning.  With a sudden epiphany, I realized that my girls were not at the point where they would sacrifice their comfort for “beauty” and that I should be rejoicing in that thought. Silly Mommy! Rejoice in the integrity of their identities and the relative innocence of their hearts! Precious, precious girls!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Developing Inner-Beauty

Has your child ever caught you off-guard by asking you an embarrassing question, out-of-the-blue? Yeah. The kind of question that you have to pause to answer because you need to carefully craft an answer that is void of emotion yet fraught with plausible know the kind that I mean.

I was climbing out of the shower and my 3.5 year-old was on the toilet reading a book. As I was wrapping myself in a towel, she innocently and calmly asked me, "Mommy, why do your boobies look like that?"

Me: ... "Well, when you breastfeed your babies and go through pregnancy your body changes." I felt the need to sheepishly add, "You know, they didn't ALWAYS look like this." Like I was talking to an adult or something and had to offer an excuse.

Kids notice things about our bodies all the time. They play with the things that squish, jiggle and wobble that make them giggle. Part of me is glad to bring my children some small measure of joy, but a larger part of my heart feels a little defeated. Their innocent remarks are a pointed reminder that I am getting older and decaying day by day. Gravity and age are taking over and the bloom is off my rose. It is a reminder that I must carefully cultivate the spiritual beauty that is found within, because that is ultimately what will glorify God, the ambassador that others will see.

Today at JAM, the speaker was a pastor who was talking about the biblical version of beauty. He spoke about how our self-talk and the things that we meditate on eventually reveal themselves on the outside. Our meditations become a part of our beauty, apart from our physical assets, either adding to or detracting from our witness. He challenged us to develop our inner beauty and to avoid consulting the mirrors of this world that command their own standard of beauty. We should meditate on the fruits of the spirit, the things that make a person truly beautiful, so that our hearts shine through to the world, revealing the image of God, ultimately bringing honor to him. Our secondary consideration is the message we are sending to our husbands. That of, "You are worthy of honor!"

So we try to keep in shape, do our hair and look presentable. These physical pursuits are the outward appearance, while we cultivate our spiritual soil through prayer, bible study and godly pursuits. Through the passage of time our inner beauty will fade, but the outer-beauty will remain and either attract people or repel them. The meditations of our heart, the self-talk we promote and our physical efforts to keep up this temple will send a message to the world. We get to choose it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Role Playing

A and S have started role playing of late. They take turns being the mommy and the "sweetheart" a.k.a. the child. While they are doing this, I am called "the giant". Driving in the car, "Where is the giant taking us?" At home, "Let's get the giant!" or "Giant! I'm done. Come wipe me!"

I recently overheard A (the sweetheart) and S (the mommy) role playing in their playroom and it was revealing. Sometimes it's a good scenario and everything is rosey and harmonious. My mommy persona comes off looking good. There is sharing, taking turns, kind words and even "please" and "thank you". Other times, it's more stormy, as when "the sweetheart" is intentionally disobeying, and "the mommy" ends up threatening to give away all the sweetheart's toys to the local thrift store.

S told A that she would "take away your toys and give them to Care and Share if you don't obey!" A told her "No!". S made a long, growling noise that varied in pitch and volume (very Godzilla-like) and then, A, motivated by said display,  agreed in so many words that she would comply, and said she was sorry and then things were once again right in the universe. S forgave her and all was well. Problem solved. Ahhhhhh...if only disciplining were THAT easy. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is Your "Hut" On Fire?

I think somebody sent this to me in an email once....

"The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him.

Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost.

He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He cried out, "God! How could you do this to me?"

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him!

"How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers.

"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

The Moral of This Story: It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Perspective Lost

The following is something I never published. I just thought about it and wrote it as a draft, mostly to get things out in front of me where I could read them and see them with my eyes. It's a post from when the girls were between 2 and 3 years of age. That time is hazy for me now. I should have written more down, but I got busy and well, there it is. I'm sharing this now as a reminder that we all lose perspective from time to time and we need to be reminded that we are children of the living God. He sees us. He loves us, and he doesn't want us to feel sorry for ourselves. He wants us to bring him glory. But we all lose perspective from time to time. We are all fallible.

The funny thing is...I found this draft AFTER writing my Mom's Night Out post. As moms, we all lose aspects of our old selves from time to time. Sometimes we even go to a the one below.

"It's dangerous to try and psychoanalyze yourself when you are overtired, under a considerable amount of stress and PMS-ing. Without the details, I am wrestling with feeling like an afterthought, the last pick for kickball, the person nobody cares about listening to and I just want to SCREAM. On days like this, I need to remember that I am important to my kids. There are so many situations in my life right now that are screaming to me that I DO NOT MATTER IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY. This is not a shameless plea for praise, encouragement and sympathy. This is a guttural cry of angst. A shout of defiance to the universe.

I am no longer the center of my own universe. I have been usurped by my children, as is natural and I find myself at the bottom of the pecking order. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs might point out that I am having a crisis of esteem and belonging. Invisibility is my newest character trait. Lack of fulfillment looms before me. Feeling like I don't contribute in a meaningful way is really bugging me. I don't sew. I'm not crafty like my SIL's. Never got a high score on the SAT's. I have my M.Ed. but no teaching job. I had a hard time getting pregnant. And to top it all off, I'm overweight and I hate how I look in my out dated clothing and no make-up. I look the same as I did in high-school, except heavier. Sigh...

I've been treading water for so long, I just want to feel terra firma under my feet again."

RECLAIM  your terra firma ladies. Get a sitter, go out and laugh with your girlfriends. If you can, go on a ladies retreat or even out for dinner. Listen to God's voice and remember who you are. A woman, dearly loved by the creator of the universe.

Moms' Night Out

Going to see Moms' Night Out with a fellow mamma was a good choice. I thoroughly enjoyed it, laughing out loud, multiple times. The movie also provoked tears, the happy kind, the ones that flow when I am reminded that God loves me, that he gave me my precious kids and that with his grace, I can be their mom.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear so many overt reminders of God's love for us, spoken from the mouths of the movie's characters. This is a movie I would want to own on DVD because it's wholesome, thought-provoking and because it captures so many aspects of what it's like living the mommy-dream. It can be funny, again and again.

This movie has a lot of comedy, and a lot of heart. It's about a frazzled, young mom trying to find a bit of perspective, living her mommy dream. She goes out for a rare night-on-the-town with her best friend, and the pastor's wife. Their men are watching the kids for a few hours. What could go wrong?

Through a series of unfortunate events, things DO go awry, but in a perspective-giving-sort-of-way.

You are reminded of so many important things. The take-aways:

1. Finding perspective-giving time away from your kids with your girlfriends is important.

2. Having a loving and supportive spouse is golden.

3. God has blessed you with this mommy-life. He loves you and gives you the grace to be a momma. You are living a "beautiful mess", and the years are fleeting.

P.S. Trace Adkins is SUPER huge and I would not want to get on his bad side...ever.

Thanks babe, for watching our twinnies so that I could go out on the town with a friend.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Potty Training the Twinnies

I begin with this disclaimer...

We stopped and started potty training on several different, very stressful days (I'll call them mini-lessons) since the girls turned two. There were tears. Some of them mine. There were accidents. And I gave up. I decided to wait until the girls were ready.

Now, in the dead of winter, I've had enough of diapers and diaper pails and I decided to go for it. Hardcore. Not buying anymore diapers or brand name pull-ups (an expensive alternative to diapers), (just overnight diapers and the occasional generic pull-ups for longer trips away from home in case there is an accident). I started on a Tuesday and now it's Saturday and we're doing GREAT! No accidents today, and the girls went to the toilet BY THEMSELVES, with no prompting from me, to do their BM's.

I read some articles, asked friends who've been there and done that, and read blogs about potty training. I surfed on Amazon for potty training books, reading comments etc. I'll share some things that I've experienced and that have worked for me and mine.

My process. In the beginning, I'd give out a couple small treats for just trying (a couple of M and Ms candies), then more candies (three or four) for successful attempts, taking opportunities to teach them how to wipe as they gradually took over that responsibility. I still wet wipe BMs when they are done to avoid the dreaded, itchy anus and jay jay contamination. Let's keep it real.

I kept them in big girl panties until nap time, then changed to pull-up and then back to big girl panties until bed time. During my initial attempts at potty training, back when I found out they weren't ready, I had them naked from the waist down. Quickly, I found panties kept things, um, dryer for the furniture, and less messy. Big girl panties all the way, unless you like the smell of butt. And there is quite a bit of explaining and reminding to do.

I discovered that it's important to remind them to go more often when you are pushing fluids on them (every 20 minutes or so). I decided not to do that after there were several accidents and both kids were peeing seconds apart. I just stuck to our normal juice/water/milk routine and let things happen gradually. In the beginning days you have to remind them to go every half hour or hour (especially when they are watching TV, they get caught up in the show and then there are accidents. I found this was an excellent opportunity to show them we can pause the show we are watching and return to it, or take a commercial break ;). I explained that big girl panties don't absorb pee pee. I've caught them pooping in their panties, and we've rushed to the toilet. I've also waited until one was done pooping in her panties (because I caught her and she freaked out) and then took her to the toilet explaining their was less mess if she could do it ON the potty. I showed her the messed panties and calmly explained how much less effort it was to do it on the potty. No shaming or punishing required. Potty training is a process, and mistakes are to be expected. You and they are LEARNING.

We, ourselves are still in the process of learning together. The girls are still wearing overnight diapers. The next phase will be graduating to getting up in the night if they have to use the potty. I'll have to post updates as we explore THAT phase of the process. I encourage YOU to keep moving forward, and to not feel defeated when you have to take steps back. And so I share these highlights with you that we have learned along our potty training journey.

Wait to potty train until your kid(s) are ready and wanting to do so. Look for signs of readiness. These signs are physical as well as cognitive! Just because your girlfriend had her kid trained at 18 months or under two years of age, doesn't mean you and yours will be ready or able to keep up with the Jones'. You and your kid(s) don't need the stress that comes with forcing the issue. Most kids train successfully between 2 1/2 and 3 years old.

Have a plan. Be consistent. Have your potty training supplies on hand. Don't try and wing it without the necessities or without mentally preparing yourself for the challenge. Expect accidents, messes and even some resistance. For me, preparedness was a basket of big girl panties in the bathroom (the kids can help pick these out to get them excited about it), along with a thing of wet wipes and a bunch of pull-ups for longer trips out of the house. Have a couple of little potties on hand (one for each bathroom they'd use). I also had potty seats to sit on top of the big potty so they'd have a choice. I eventually got them to use the big potty with the mini-seat on top and used the small potty as a step stool.

Buying off-brand pull ups will save you money. My kids treated pull-ups like diapers until they were ready to keep them clean for real. First time parents get suckered into brand name everything first time around. Diapers and potty training paraphernalia is no different, I'm sorry to say. Now I buy White Cloud brand and they do the trick just as nicely as the other brand that costs more.

Your own enthusiasm is contagious! You can help get them interested in the process. Talk about how you've seen their interest/readiness. PRAISE is the number one reward and motivator. If you're excited, they are more likely to get excited and stay excited too. Excitement on your part, smiles, high fives is the BEST.

Rewards can work and they don't always have to be food! In addition to candy, my girls also enjoyed stickers they got to put on a piece of construction paper. They got to choose the color and where it was hung up. It read "(insert toddler name here) is a BIG GIRL now!!!" I started rewarding for trips to the potty with M and M's but I had to move to mini-marshmallows and dum-dums (for poops) because I was eating all the M and M's at night when the kids were in bed, and when they weren't looking. Handfuls. Cramming them. Into. My. Mouth. (hanging head in shame). I'd like to point out that I chose the reward sometimes (around mealtimes, it wasn't a food reward), other times, I let them pick marshmallows OR a sticker. NOTE: Make sure they understand what OR means if you are offering two food choices. ;)

Teach proper wiping and hand washing. Demonstrate. Invite them into the bathroom when you are using the toilet. Model proper wiping and hand washing techniques. Show them how much toilet paper to use and remind them to let you help. Guide them on when to go back for more toilet tissue, and model front to back wiping. I remind them to let me wipe them and to dab the front AND the back to catch the inevitable dribbles. Wet wipe finish for number 2's. Guard the toilet paper. Until they learn self-control, they may think the TP is a toy to pass the time as they sit on the potty. I had to put mine out of reach until the twinnies learned some restraint. Finally, try and get them to wash with soap and make bubbles for 20 to 30 seconds before rinsing. Sing the ABCs! Sing Happy Birthday twice! Front and back of hands and in between the fingers!

Keep a stiff upper lip. The majority of kids won't go to college in diapers. Get a support group of veteran potty trainers to praise your potty training status posts on FB and be encouraged.

You're story will be different than mine but parts may be the same.  This is what worked for me and mine. Some parts of our stories will diverge or overlap. One thing is for certain, it's a journey parents of young children can relate to, unless you pay somebody to potty train your children for you, and then I'm jealous.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Keep Moving Forward

It's the first day of 2014. Firsts are about beginnings, fresh starts, and today was not that great. We failed to make it great. EVERYBODY woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it Just. Got. Worse. until the day ended. We're in the middle of a very sleepless week. The girls have colds and one of them is on steroids for croup, which in turn make her even more hyper than usual. Nobody has a whole lot of patience to share. Everyone needs a break and nobody is getting one. It's just one of those times in life when you have to keep your head down and keep moving forward.

Wade through the mucous, the midnight wake-ups where they cough and choke on it, and the pacing of the floor carrying a 31 pound toddler. Find the shower nozzle in the dark and make a steamy room to ease her congestion. Sit on the toilet and wrap her in a warm blanket as you cradle her gently, trying to find a comfortable position, and stay awake until she can breathe more comfortably and stop her coughing fit. Change it up and hold her in front of an open window and feel the cold air on your faces. Put her back to sleep, only to finally get yourself settled, and she is awake again. Try not to be jealous of your sleeping husband who doesn't do middle of the night wake-ups because he works.

Thankfully, after a day and a half on the steroid, she is starting to feel better and the barking cough is going away. I just want to feel like I can get some quality sleep again and not have to camp out in my kids' room until they sleep.