Friday, May 31, 2013

Numbering My Days

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain hearts of wisdom."  

Since becoming the mother of two children, I have noticed something occurring that I would never have dreamed would happen.  I have lost track of the days.  

I have worked night shift in a hospital, and days, nights, and evenings in a nursing home.  I thought I knew the meaning of losing track of the days.  Every day was the same, for the most part.  I came in, got report, took vitals, gave out medications, dealt with crisis, gave out more medications, dealt with more crisis, gave even more medications, gave report, and went home.  Then the next day I did the same.  There was no such thing as weekends, or holidays; nothing changed except the Coumadin dose. 

Then I became a full-time stay-at-home mom.  I did the same thing every day, but I still knew when one day stopped and the next began.  There was a rhythm, a routine, and most of the time I could tell you the day of the week and month.  I could tell you exactly how old Ladybug was and give you the gestational age of Turkey, as well as tell you exactly how much longer I had till my scheduled c-section date.  

And then Turkey came along.  And bless her little heart, she has rocked my world.  

Now, I'll pour myself a glass of milk, drink a sip, think "this tastes like it has Sprite in it," and then realize it's sour because it expired four days ago.  I realize at 2330 at night that it's Ladybug's "x" month birthday.  I'll think to myself that the library books are due in two days when in reality they were due yesterday.  I'll tell myself to remember to pay a certain bill and then get an overdue notice because I think it's April when it's actually May.  Someone will ask me how old my children are and I'll say 18 months and 7 months, and then correct myself and say wait, actually... she's 20 months and she's almost 9 months.  Which means she has a doctor's appointment coming up, at an office three hours away from here.  Might ought to find out when that is...

Any hour of the day, you might see lights on in my house.  I may be up at 0500.  I may be up at 2000.  Then again, I might be asleep at either of those hours.  Or I might be asleep at 1600 because I was up at 0200.  I sleep in my clothes.  I do housework in my pajamas.  I forget when the last time I had a shower was, other than Sundays and Wednesdays.   I'll be walking out of the bathroom and pick up the toothpaste and think "why didn't he put this back in the cabinet" and then realize, that must mean I haven't brushed my teeth since he left.  Yuck.  

I don't know if this is just what happens to a stay at home mom after a year, or if this is caused by having two children, or if it's caused by having children less than a year apart.  Perhaps it's caused by moving.  Perhaps it's caused by being an unorganized hodgepodge of a woman.  Maybe it's made worse by not having a husband coming home every day at a certain time; after all, if no one sees you besides your toddler and baby why bother dressing decently?  

When the preacher told us to number our days, and told us of a man who filled a jar with marbles and took one out every day to remind himself of the passing of time, I understood why better than I would have at any previous time of my life.  I feel like I blinked and flew from laying in the hospital bed writhing in pain and saying "he'd better hurry up and get here but ooooooohhhhh holy cow don't wait on him!" to having a baby about to crawl.  I look over at her stretched out sleeping and think, what happened to that little curled up bony baby I used to have?   I picked up Ladybug to put her in bed last night and wondered, when did she go from my baby to my toddler?  When Ladybug was the same age as Turkey is now, I was in my last trimester, waddling and barely able to roll over.  

No wonder we young mothers are told to cherish the moments.  It's so easy to let them fly by and think we are never going to get out of this stage of life.  Yet we blink, and our newborns are running towards the street.  At least that's how it seems.

Enough of that... my poor toddler just woke up and it sounds like she's coughing up a lung.  I hate allergies. =/

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"____" Parenting


Parenting is the most time-consuming job I currently have.  With the Mechanic being away most of the time, I do nearly 100% of the training, discipline, and teaching.  Even when we are back in a more traditional living situation, if I am able to continue being a full-time stay-at-home mom, the bulk of the child-rearing responsibility will continue to rest on my shoulders.  I’m not saying that this is either bad or good, it simply is.  


So lately, a recurring theme in the back of my mind has been the performance of my children.  Are they hitting their milestones on time?  Are they smart?  Are they going to be ready for kindergarten?  


I’m not sure if what I’m observing has been the case for years, or if this is a more recent development.  I’ve written a little about it before, but I wanted to go a bit more in depth into this subject.  I’m not even sure what to call this “topic.”  Competitive parenting?  Comparison parenting?  Anxious parenting? 


It seems to me that we are putting more and more pressure on our children at younger and younger ages.  And, in doing so, we are putting more and more pressure on ourselves as parents.  Here are just a few things I’ve been thinking of recently:  


Kindergarten entrance exams.  I never knew there were such things two years ago.  I’m told it’s less about getting into kindergarten and more about knowing where a child is in his learning progress so they know where to start teaching him.  However, I’ve also heard from another part of the state that there exists a list of things a child must know before they can begin kindergarten.  From what that mom has said, it sounds like things I assumed kindergarten was there to teach, things like identifying letters, colors, and numbers.  I assumed that if you could teach your children these things earlier, they would have a head start in kindergarten, but if they didn’t know them they would learn them that year.  Not sure what the complete truth is, or if it varies from school to school.  


Pre-school curriculum.  More specifically, online preschool curriculum.  I am getting ads on Facebook about abcmouse.com.  This is some sort of “full online curriculum” targeted at ages 2-6.  TWO!  My child will be two in four months, and they have a curriculum for her.  Not a manipulatives based, hands-on, fingers getting dirty “curriculum.”  No, a sit in front of the computer, in a chair, moving a mouse curriculum.   


Home schooling.  I have heard quite a few moms say they are “home schooling.”  Or describe themselves as “home school moms.”  Yet, all their children are under the age of five.  I’ve heard more than one mom whose oldest is three say they are home schooling, not talking about the future but a present action.  What used to simply be “being a mom” now qualifies as schooling.  


I used to be a relatively active member of an online forum on babycenter.com.  It was fun being able to give advice concerning the symptoms and complications of pregnancy, seeing pictures of others' cute kids, ranting as only pregnant or new moms can do.  After our babies were born, since the forums are divided according to due dates, the natural thing for everyone to do was talk about what their babies were doing.  Rolling over, sitting up, first words, were all published for everyone to see and say “good for you!”  This of course led to other posts from people saying “my child isn’t doing this yet, anyone else’s kid behind too?”  


I finally stopped visiting the site.  It was simply too big of a temptation to compare my Ladybug with other children.  She wasn’t hitting her milestones on time, she was receiving early intervention services, and it frustrated me to constantly read that someone else’s kid was climbing on the couch when my child was struggling to roll over, that someone else’s kid was stringing three words together when my child was struggling to string together two meaningful syllables.  So I just stopped going there.  


Unfortunately, you’d have to lock yourself in a closet to not be exposed to folks comparing their children to others.  I’ve had someone brag and brag and brag to me recently about all the things their children are able to do.  How great their physical abilities are.  How great their language skills are.  How smart they are.  My only comfort has been that all those greats are negated in my book because they are poorly behaved.  


I find myself stressing over the fact my child cannot say a single color, let alone point it out.  I worry that she can’t identify any body parts, although she does know where shoes are supposed to go.  I get concerned when I think about the fact that the only phrase she can say only comes when she repeats it after me.  I wonder if she’ll be ready for kindergarten.  I worry that I’m going to forget to teach her something.


What happened to being able to allow pre-schoolers to learn by playing?  What happened to laid back days of finger painting and play dough,  crayons and glue sticks, construction paper and toddler scissors and self-cut hair?   What happened to enjoying children just as they are without worrying about whether they are learning fast enough?  


Not sure what the answer is, other than to just say no to comparison, no to worry, no to trying to fit my children into a grid on a chart.  And to say yes to reading that fourth book when I had planned on washing dishes.  Yes to continuing to sit with her in my lap so she can “read” the book back to me in her own language.  Yes to smiling while watching her sit surrounded by books, carefully turning each page and intently looking at the words and pictures. 

  



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wesley Rule #7

 Give them nothing that they cry for, and only that when asked for politely.

This one is especially difficult at the stage we're in right now with Ladybug, the toddler stage.  Or perhaps I only say this because I haven't been through any other stage other than babyhood yet!

There is nothing wrong with being a toddler.  It's a stage.  A necessary part of life that all must go through.  But it can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved, the parents, the child, the siblings, the pets, the nursery workers, the fellow shoppers who are listening to your child scream, the lady in Walmart who had to go down a different aisle so she didn't run over my toddler who had decided to plop down in the middle of the floor.  

This article makes scientific sense to me and really helped me understand what might be going on in my child's life right now. The Science Behind Toddler Tantrums

So with that information in mind, how does this rule apply?  Because, let's be honest, toddlers cry for everything.  She cries when she's hurt.  She cries when she wants milk.  She cries when I give her juice instead of milk.  She cries because she's hungry.  She cries because she's still in the high chair and isn't hungry.  She cries because I leave the room.  She cries because I'm in her way.  You name it, she'll cry about it.  And this one I love: She cries about "x."  So she plops down in the floor, and then cries because she plopped too hard.  It really is precious.  Unless you're in Walmart and didn't grab a cart because you thought she'd prefer to walk. 

I am by no means an expert since we have just entered the toddler phase.  But, my attempt is this.  Follow the first part of this rule to the letter.  Just a few weekends ago, Ladybug was in her high chair eating lunch with the Mechanic.  She finished and began crying to get down.  Since the Mechanic is out of town so much, I have to keep him updated on the latest abilities and rules, so I told him that she had to say or sign "all done."  Just screaming and squirming were not acceptable.  We both told her to tell us "all done."  And she proved herself to be our child.  The Mechanic once said the only person more stubborn than him was me.  So he asked me how long we should let her sit there.  I assured him that she would say or sign "all done" shortly.  Sure enough, just a couple minutes later, we heard a sweet little "aa duu."

This can make days incredibly long.  When she's crying and whining and I know she wants milk, it would be so much easier for me to just give her the milk.  But ultimately, I know that is not good for her.  I know I need to work with her communication skills as much as possible because that is a struggle area.  But more importantly, I know that in order for her to be a sweet and gentle woman, she has to learn that she doesn't get what she wants just by whining or crying about it.  I still struggle with that concept. =)  

Now, the latter part of the rule.  I'm not all that strict on this area yet, mainly because she doesn't yell commands at me.  This is where the understanding of what is going on in her brain helps me.  I'm working on teaching her "please" both in speech and sign.  But, I also understand that she may not remember how to say please, or she may get frustrated and not be able to communicate.  So I get her to calm down, which thankfully isn't hard with her, and then tell her to ask me nicely.  And I'll take her hand and do the signs for her.  I think it helps her to learn them, re-enforces that screaming and crying do not get rewarded, and allows her needs to be met relatively quickly.  

The question I still haven't resolved in my own mind is at what age to start this.  I don't apply this rule to Turkey yet.  She cries for a bottle, she gets a bottle.  I guess it's less about an age and more about having the ability to do something besides cry.  For a baby, crying is communication.  It's the only method they have.  But, I am introducing her to signs and of course talking to her so that she can learn, just as Ladybug has, that there are more effective ways of communicating than crying.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Security

Security systems are dumb.

I've never owned a vehicle with a security system before.  The Pilot that we replaced my Camry with is a 2004, though, so it came equipped with a security system.  Even the radio has an anti-theft system.  Okay, don't really care, but the price was good and it ran great so we bought it.

Fast-forward a couple months.  The Pilot has these nifty interior lights that are great when retrieving pacifiers and sippy cups when you're unloading in the dark. The setting that makes them come on when you open the doors doesn't keep them on long enough for me to unload both girls and carry them into the house separately, so I flipped the switch for them to stay on.

Oops.

That was on Wednesday night.  I went to the Pilot Friday to run an errand and the automatic locks didn't work.  Realized the battery was dead.  Dead dead dead.

Thankfully, the errand wasn't urgent and the Mechanic was on his way home anyway, so I just waited for him to give me a jump start.

Only when we jump started it, the horn started blaring.  We'd set the stupid security system off, just because of a dead battery!  We couldn't figure out how to turn it off either since I don't have a key with buttons.  We set it off again when we disconnected it and by that time I'd found instructions to turn the car off and lock and unlock the driver's door.  Thankfully, that was the last time the horn alarm went off.

Unfortunately, while out running my errand, I wanted to listen to some music.  Turned on the CD player.  Nothing happened.  But a little word appeared on the display. "Code."  So I tried your usual 123456.  Then 12345.  Then I started hitting buttons left and right and succeeded in locking the entire system up.

Turns out, there's a little five-digit code to unlock the radio after the alarm system gets set off.  It's supposed to be on a little card that comes with your owner's manual.  But, since we are the 4th owner of this vehicle that little card is long gone.  In order to obtain the code, you have to get the serial number of the radio.  Thankfully, you push a certain combination of buttons and the serial number scrolls across the display.  So I put that number in my phone.  But, the only time I would remember to get online to get the code was when I would get in the car to go somewhere and want music.

So today, thanks to a reminder email from the Mechanic, I got online to get the code.  Took me several websites to find the place where I could do this, but eventually I got there.  Only I didn't just need the radio's serial number.  I needed the VIN number, the zip code, email address, and phone number given when we bought it, plus the serial number.  Thankfully, I found the VIN number without having to go outside to the mosquito land.  But, I guess since we bought the Pilot used, our information doesn't match their database.

Of course, they have a number to call when your information doesn't match.  But it's a Monday through Friday, business hours on the Pacific coast kind of number.  And then I noticed: even the website has operating hours!

I can't even set my clock in my vehicle!

I love my new ride, but some days, I really miss my old '89 Camry.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wesley Rule #6

I wanted to record my thoughts on a few of Susanna Wesley's rules for her children.  I have admired Mrs. Wesley for years, and even named one of my dolls "Susanna" because of her.  I hope to find a few good biographies written for adults about her; at this stage in my life she is definitely someone I can learn from!

Require all to be still during family worship.

Now I'm not sure if she was referring to a daily time her husband led the family in worship in their own home, or if she was referring to a church service.  But, I'm going to use this rule as a launching pad to explain my family's behavior.

We have recently moved and because of this are attending the church in which the Mechanic grew up.  It is a lot different from the churches we have traditionally attended as a married couple.  I'm currently a Baptichariterian.  He's a Baptiterian.  We attended a very conservative Presbyterian church prior to our move, and the culture of that church is vastly different from the culture of the Baptist church we now attend.  Some of this I believe is based on personal preference; birds of a feather flock together.  But, I also believe that it is significantly influenced by doctrine.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear that I am not condemning any family in our current church, our previous church, or any other church.  I believe this is a personal decision that every family has to make, and I don't think someone who does things differently than I do is wrong for doing so.  But, I do want to explain why we do things a little differently.

I bring my 19 month old into the worship service with me.

This is not normal in our current church.  It's not normal in I would guess the majority of churches in this area.  I was asked on a recent Sunday if Ladybug was starting to adjust to the new nursery.  I guessed that this person thought that was the reason I was bringing her into the main service.  It was at that point I realized I didn't have a well-thought out answer to what I was doing.  I told her that the church we previously attended believed in teaching the children to sit through the service at a very early age, that our child had been one of the oldest ones in the nursery, and we didn't want to backtrack on the ground we had gained.

That was an acceptable answer, I guess.  I managed to not offend her, I think.  But that's not the whole answer.

The reason we bring her into the service with us is that we believe God works primarily through families.  This is in direct opposition to what a guest speaker said a few weeks ago.  But we believe God uses believing parents in the lives of their children to bring them to Him.  We believe, as Christian parents, that it is our responsibility to teach our children from the day they are born about Christ.  As part of that, we are to teach them to follow the commands of God.  One of those commands is to worship God.  This is why we were created.  The catechism that summarizes what we believe the Bible teaches says this: "What is the chief end of man?  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."  Part of glorifying Him is worshiping Him.  We are commanded to gather with other believers to worship and learn from God.  There is no age limit on this. 

Children can understand far more than we give them credit for.  I read to my girls as infants.  Why?  They couldn't understand the words, and as newborns they probably couldn't see the pictures.  But I read to them anyway because I wanted to introduce to them a love of reading.  I wanted this to be habit.  I wanted them to never know a time they didn't enjoy books.  The same thing applies to worship.  It doesn't matter, in my opinion, that they don't understand what's going on.  I want to introduce them to the idea of worship.  I want them to hear songs about God.  I want them to have a habit of going to church.  Now, I want them to have far more than just a habit when they get older.  I want them to want to worship and learn of God.  But a formerly common parenting saying is "change the behavior and eventually the attitude will follow."  And it has a lot of truth to it.

I am not anti-nursery.  I love the nursery.  I love working in it.  I love using it.  The church nursery is a ministry!  I'll admit there have been some times I've packed up both kids and taken them to church just so I could have an hour to myself.  Currently, Turkey (8 months) is in the nursery all the time.  Ladybug is in the nursery for Sunday School and the preaching part of the service.  That is my time to learn.  At this point, I don't want her to hate worship, and I don't want to dread Sunday mornings, so I don't push it.  The first time I brought her to the service, we didn't even make it to the offering, and that was early in that church.  Now, she can sit relatively quietly until just before the preaching starts.  Eventually, she'll be able to sit through the preaching.  But I'm okay if she doesn't do that for another few years.  If she can, great.  If she's more of a distraction, then we'll back off and send her to the nursery.  But I don't reward her for misbehaving by letting her go play.  I take her out and make her sit still for a few minutes before taking her to the nursery.

Sometimes using the nursery is just a practical necessity.  There's only one me.  There are two girls.  And there's no way I could have both a baby and a toddler in the service at the same time by myself.  So when I was alone because the Mechanic was at work, I had no choice but to leave one in the nursery.  Also, a baby is a huge distraction who simply can not understand what it means to be quiet.  They are going to test their vocal cords, they'll bang on things, so as soon as they learn to babble off they go to the nursery.  Most workers won't object too loudly to you taking a toddler from them, but they tend to be quite reluctant to let those cuddly babies go.  So it tends to be a blessing to the workers to give them a cute baby to hold and love on.  

So that's my reasoning...