Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fun and Games Until.....

We have been cooped up at home for 2 days. Between MLK Jr. Day and a Snow Day, we are prisoners in our own home. We've played games, watched a movie, done crafts, performed a puppet show and read books. And fight. The kids start out playing nicely until someone does something and someone gets hurt. Then the crying, blaming and defending begin. I separate them and attempt to discover who is the victim and who is the culprit. There is never one clear answer. So, after the 3rd injury in 1 day, I built a Chinese Wall. They cannot play together or be near each other for the rest of the day. I calmly explained to them that it clearly isn't safe for them to play together. Someone keeps getting hurt. No matter where or what they play. I can ignore squabbling and fighting over toys, turns, snack size, etc. But when injuries occur repeatedly, I have to draw the line. Right down the middle of my house. Anyone have a brilliant solution to keeping an 8 year old girl and 4 year old boy safe from each other in their own home - that doesn't involve a jello pit and a cover charge?

Can Do Attitude

Do we do too much for our kids? Isn't is easier, faster and neater to do it ourselves? Especially when we are trying to rush out the door, upstairs for bedtime, etc? I am extremely guilty of this. I am a self-confessed control-freak with a raging case of OCD. I like order. I detest chaos. I get into a routine of putting on their clothes, shoes, socks, coats, etc. And the kids are perfectly content to be waited on hand and foot. I got wise one day when I picked up Sara, age 3, from preschool early. The teacher told her to put on her coat and boots. She raced over to the coat room and got dressed with a speed that most fireman would envy. I just stared. The teacher laughed and explained that most kids "forget" these life skills when they are with their parents. Two years ago, I realized that most girls her age could shower themselves, including washing and conditioning their hair. I'm not running a day spa here. We had a couple rinse and repeats but she got the hang of it and seemed to enjoy her independence. I resigned myself to mopping up the bathroom floor after Shamu's water show. It was easier than showering her myself. Then I realized I could toss some towels on the floor and let her play Cinderella and clean up her own waterworks. Two jobs off my list and on hers now. A couple years ago, a friend and her son visited, I watched in amazement as her 7 year old cleared the whole table without being asked. Another job Sara should be doing. She had been setting the table for a while but it never occurred to me to trust my fragile dishes to a 7 year old who twirls everywhere. She liked being given more adult jobs. As she turns 9 next month, we keep giving her bigger jobs and responsibilities. I credit her school for encouraging this. Her school does an amazing job of teaching responsibility, accountability and time management. I no longer tell her what to do to get ready to go somewhere. I ask her what she thinks she needs to bring. Her backpack, homework and lunch are her responsibility. As her responsibility and accountability improve, we add jobs that she enjoys. She is getting to help more with cooking. She has even asked to help put her little brother to bed. He loves it and she enjoys spending time with him without fighting. Christian proved to be a little more stubborn. He whined and moaned about putting on his own socks and shoes. He whined about putting on his coat. I remained steadfast. I learned to start the leaving process early. I let Sara sit in the car listening to the radio while he waged a losing battle of the wills. I am older and way more stubborn, my barefoot little friend. Over the last few months, I started testing the waters with Christian. I started asking him to do more little jobs. He sets and clears the table. He gets his breakfast and lunch things ready for me to assemble. He clears the table. He cleans up the toy room with no direction from me. I remind him that he is a big kid now and big kids have big jobs. Luckily, he has not asked about his big paycheck. He can mostly shower himself. He can pick out his clothes, dress himself and brush his teeth. He moves slower than molasses while doing these Herculean feats but I like to think I am laying the foundation so my future daughter-in-law does not return him for a full refund because he is defective. I do not want to be waiting on my children hand and foot when they should be waiting on me hand and foot in my old age.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lothario or Stalker

My 4 year old son is in love. With many ladies. He likes the cougars. According to him, he is engaged to a 12 year old named Maggie. For their nuptials, she has to make him a Spiderman wedding cake. She is allowed to share his bed but there will NOT be any kissing or sharing of his teddy bear. Or dancing. Ever. He will wear a tie to the wedding - maybe. But, he is also planning on running away to college with her older sister and camping out on her futon. So, his affections are torn between two sisters. The fact that Katie has a serious boyfriend does not slow him down in the slightest. He just gives him the stink eye or pretends he does not exist. He is very secure in Katie's love for him. "Mommy, she can like Joe but she LOVES me." He has branded a girl closer to his own age as "My Hannah". They had one failed date at McDonald's. Not his finest moment. He ditched her in the playland for a male classmate who has light-up sneakers. And he he tried to steal her fries and toy. I'm hoping she gives him another chance. And I have to mention the little girl in his class. He likes her "because she has curly hair and brings good snacks". A strong foundation for a long term relationship. Then there is the other object of his affection- my husband's co-worker. The fact that she is already married does not sway him in the least. He doesn't even acknowledge his "competition". He invents reasons to go visit her. At the office Christmas party, he staged a failed, short-lived hunger strike until she sat with him. Alas, the temptation of cookies proved too much for him and he caved eventually. And does he know how to play on her affections? He writes her notes, draws her pictures, and makes her crafts. Basically, he has marked her cubicle as his territory. I'm waiting for him to paint a creepy self-portrait like the creepy brother from "Wedding Crashers". When he busted his lip open (twice), he wanted to show her how brave he was. He proudly showed off all the stickers he conned out of the nursing staff. Now, at bedtime he insists on made up stories. He picks the topic and we have to invent an engaging tale. Shakespeare had time to come up with his tales AND got paid. This is improv bedtime storytelling. His latest story involved "Miss. Corky" as a damsel in distress who needed rescuing. Not happy to be a mere knight, Christian declared himself Hero Christian. The rescue plot was complicated with many twists and turns and obstacles he had to overcome. I wish he showed as much perseverance and advanced problem-solving skills when it comes to putting his shoes and socks on in the morning. I'd love to see what he would do when faced with a suit of armor. I have a feeling that his princess would have to be very self-reliant and come to him while he waited for mommy to oil up his metal suit and stuff him into it. He does have some sweet, sure-fire pick-up lines for the ladies, depending on the situation. "I has daddy tie" is appropriate for formal events. "I have 2 blue eyes" is an all-purpose winner. Occasionally, he will resort to fancy tricks to snag the ladies. His dance moves are legendary. Or, only out of sheer desperation, he will resort to shooting the ladies with his "Spiderman webs". Watch out, ladies.

Knitting Lessons

Sara is teaching me how to knit. Yes, my 8 year old is teaching me. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Slowly. I've always wanted to learn to knit. I think it's a crafty skill I have a slim chance of "mastering". I love the idea of being able to actually make something. And I really like the idea that I can do it anywhere- sitting on the couch, on long car trips, in the doctor's office, during Sara's swim lesson, etc. If I can convince Paul to let me knit during faculty dinners, I might actually behave. Or at least sit quietly and not bitch before, during and after the event. Sara likes teaching me something. It's been a good experience for our relationship. She is very proud of her new found skill. I love how proud she is of the pieces she has made. She is so excited to make things for her friends and family. All her stuffed animals have hats, scarves, eye masks and blankets. I like having something we can do together. We sit together, knit and chat. She isn't begging to play on the Wii, my phone or the IPad. She is great company. We talk about school, her friends, new knitting tricks she has learned. Her knitting is coming along MUCH better than mine. My knitting pieces look like lopsided Swiss cheese. I think it's important for Sara to see me embrace new challenges. I like that she sees me struggle and fail. She sees me get frustrated and keep trying. She also sees that is is ok to ask for help. I want her to know that sometimes it is hard to learn new things. She gets so excited when we pick out new yarn and talk about what we are going to make. So far, I have not "made" anything except large pieces with gaping holes. But, she is discovering that not everything in life comes easily to everyone. I am showing her that it is ok to struggle, make mistakes and start over. I want her to keep trying new things, not be intimidated. I'm learning how to knit. But I am teaching my daughter so much more.

Putting the "Christ" in Christian

For grins and giggles (and embarrassment), we like to take Christian, age 4, to church. When he was an infant, he was an absolute angel. He sat in his car seat and slept peacefully. Then he got older. And more mobile and vocal. So, we took a break from purgatory. When he was 3, he attended his cousin's baptism. About 15 minutes into the service, he yelled "I'm bored. Can we go?". He was sitting next to a NUN. During Communion, he yelled "Yay! Snacks!". It was the longest hour of my life. He was not filled with the Holy Spirit. I was filled with mortification and dread. Now we attend church (pretty much) weekly. He attends the "Children's Liturgy of the Word". There, very nice ladies break down the Mass so the little ones can understand it. I have helped with this endeavor. The teacher does a Scripture reading and asks the kids questions about it. My son raises his hand to provide an answer. Once he has a captive audience, his imagination is off and running. The teachers assure me that he is very informative and entertaining. I just say thank you, make the sign of the Cross and ask the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to either turn a blind eye or forgive. Whichever is easier. When he makes the sign of the Cross, he says "The Father, Hen and Holy Spirit". If he behaves during Mass, we go out for donuts. Hey, don't judge. Pavlov was a genius. Reward the good behavior. And, let's be honest. My kids will do just about anything legal for a donut. When they call the children up to receive a blessing before marching out, he runs up to the priest and stares at him, clueless about what to do and where to go. Picture Forest Gump in just about any situation. The priest politely hugs him and turns him around and sends him marching out with his cohorts. When they return 15-20 minutes later, he has completely forgotten where we sat and what we look like. He looks around for us or some other nice family to sit with until Mass is over. We usually have to go collect him. Sometimes, they let the kids bring up an offering. My little sainted angel runs up the aisle, waving a dollar bill like he is in Vegas. Last week, as Fr. Bill was coming down the aisle, Christian tried to leap into the aisle and block his way using his all-purpose Spiderman pose. Fr. Bill swiftly dodged him. I used the mom-patented 2-finger vulcan death
grip. Then Christian did the 2 finger "I'm watching you" thing to him. It was the celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ. Christian did not appreciate his unexpected "shower". "Hey, why are they throwing water on me? I don't need a bath. I have my clothes on!" All these were said in less than a whisper. I wasn't sure if people were laughing at him or pitying me. As we walked out, he asked if he gets a donut because "I was pretty good, right?". Define "good".