Saturday, June 06, 2009

6/6/09 Picnic Day

Ugh, what a nightmare, literally. I was woken up countless times last night by intense cramps in my abdomen and stomach pain, capping off two days of general gastrointestinal distress and discomfort. I'd stayed up late to finish off all the food preparation for today that I knew I'd never do in the morning, which includes cutting things, wrapping them and making them transportable. I was so tired it rivalled my #1 Most Tired Night ever, the night we moved back home (almost 4 months ago!). I'll never forget how completely wrung out I was that night, dying to collapse and blow everything off, but still had to make lunches and find breakfast cereal. Last night wasn't quite like that, but I was reminded of it.

I was bitterly disappointed that a packed day I was looking forward to today risked being ruined by this tummy trouble (not stomach flu but something seriously irritating my entire GI tract). It already made me miss some work this week, broke my streak of daily exercise and disrupted my grand ideas last night of taking the boys to a Movie Night at school last night.

So this morning, Dave took Katrina to gymnastics, something I've come to really enjoy doing. Today was the last class, but I signed her up for the next session. As resistant as she is in class, she talks about it all the time and then does things from the class outside the class, like walking on lines as though they're a balance beam. She's getting a little more cooperative in class, in bits and pieces, and I really enjoy the time alone with her. Which this morning I spent in bed.

This was a first -- she went to gymnastics in underpants. She's been in underpants all week, but she's far cry from potty-trained, so this was a big experiment. She agreed to go pee in the little potty at home before getting in the car, but went into a complete rage about being compelled to sit on a real toilet at the gymnastics facility at class. It was worth trying, because Tonya has gotten her to use a real toilet at her house, all day without accidents on Friday! A big step! But at home, or for us, nuthin' doin'.

After Dave and Katrina returned from gymastics, I went to Tonya's baby shower without any kids, glad to get out of the house and forget about how bad I felt. It was fun; I like baby showers and all things baby when I'm so secure in the knowledge that I'm not going to have any more!

Then I called Dave and he brought the kids to the park for an annual Las Madres picnic for the 2006 group, which was conveniently about a minute away. Of all things today, I didn't want to miss this. The kids all love this park, I don't do enough park time with them, and I really like the low-key Las Madres 2006 group. Besides, I knew I'd spend the rest of the day in bed, so it'd be nice to have some of the day outside and appearing normal.

Thankfully, Dave ended up staying and minding Katrina on the big-kid playground. Not to mention helping me being prepared to face the inevitable problem of what to do if Katrina had to go pee. A park is a good place to test this; lots of places for her to go outdoors, if she will.

But, a bucket of water intervened; her clothes got wet and I'm sure having her hands in the water added to some unfair inspiration and distraction. So the big showdown didn't happen here, it happened in her pants and that was fine. I carry lots and lots of extra clothes now!

Meantime, the boys suckered Gina, Andrew and Dylan's Dad into pushing them on the swings. Honestly. They're 7 and 5, they can pump themselves just fine! Clearly Gina and Andrew have had a lot more practice and are much better at it. I hate standing and pushing kids at swings, which is why the boys asked someone else, who kindly obliged. It's embarrassing! I was annoyed later when Julian admitted he hadn't thanked the generous Dad, despite several reminders to which he responded with annoyance, "I KNOOOOWW."

I didn't even get many pictures, though I did ask Sonia to take a few of us that she'll pass along in a few days.

And indeed, I spent the afternoon napping and channel-surfing in bed, until boredom drove me out. I actually found the energy to make dinner and to write tonight, but after Publish Post, I'm done for the day.


Friday, June 05, 2009

6/5/09 Movie Night

Today (ok, yesterday, this is a retro-post), Gabriel's school's PTA hosted a Movie Night: Kung Fu Panda, which Julian has been really into lately (the book, that is).

It started at 8pm, creating numerous logistical problems. Starting with one for me (because, it's always about ME!), I had a goal of exercising every day this week, and had a 4-day streak going, and wanted to swim from 7:15pm-8pm. Not to mention a busy day tomorrow -- Tonya's baby shower and a Las Madres picnic, both of which I wanted to bake for, plus kid-sandwiches for the picnic, plus a present to wrap. Could I sit through a movie that night? I didn't think I could leave them there alone.

Well, my tummy solved all the logistical dilemmas -- no swimming, no going out. I felt horrible all day yesterday, despite a long nap in the morning. I just couldn't shake it. The smell of pool chemicals during swim lesson didn't help at all.

But even though I hadn't psyched the boys up for the movie, I still felt bad about it. I wish it had been on a different night, and then I would have taken them to the move and stayed with them. So I made it up to them (really, myself), by digging out some of our kid-movies, still packed in a box. The boys picked a "SpongeBob Christmas" video, and for the first time since we've moved home, they watched TV.

They were awfully peaceful during the movie. But, I didn't like hearing it while it was on. I also didn't like the time constraint it imposed, how we had to wait until it was over to do anything else (like bedtime for Katrina). Worse, the boys were whiny and complainy afterward about being bored. I'd actually interrupted Gabriel working on a new circuit, Julian reading and Katrina playing outside for them to watch SpongeBob (which they did really enjoy watching).

Maybe the collateral damage of TV-watching would subside if they watched TV on a more regular basis, or if we all watched movies together that we'd all like (SpongeBob isn't bad but it's not my thing). As I discovered when Gabriel was a todder, for the most part in our current lives, there's more to be lost than gained. The reasons are different, but the balance remains. This is mostly a practical, not philosophical perspective, one of those living day-by-day parenting decisions, one that can't even be elevated to be called "principle." It just works for now.

As it turns out, whatever was bothering my tummy developed into full-scale intestinal war during the night, and I spent much of the next day watching TV. I didn't say I don't watch!


Thursday, June 04, 2009

6/4/09 Where things don't belong

What's wrong with this picture?

10 minutes before I took this photo, Julian came to tell me that he'd kicked his shoe off by flicking his foot. "DON'T DO THAT," I instructed, keenly conscious that Positive Parenting principles say not to say "don't," but what to do instead. I just couldn't come up with a positive alternative. "Don't kick your shoe."

Minutes later, I heard a sickening sound of impact, followed quickly by the boys calling frantically, "Mom! Mom! Come here!!" The truly alarming thing is the big dish-shaped piece of glass off-kilter.

Well, I imposed a "natural consequence:" Julian can't wear shoes in the house for a few days.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

6/3/09 Positive Discipline

Tonight I attended what for me is a "refresher course," a talk on Positive Discipline. As many of my Mom friends know, I often felt like the Positive Discipline methods failed me, made me feel guilty and inadequate and like a failure. As I learned later, the real problem was that my child didn't read the book.

It shouldn't be called "Positive Discipline," because it's not about discipline at all. It's about positive parenting and general practice -- good stuff. I think being creative and humorous and adjusting environments and speaking in positive terms (what a kid can do, not just what they can't), is important and the way we all should be as a first line of defense. There's no harm in it, and much to be gained. It's a far cry from the "children should be seen and not heard" methods of decades ago, and this thinking has gone a long way toward improving my mentality and relationships with my kids when things are good, and certainly reduced conflicts especially with Julian when he was younger.

But Positive Discipline falls short for when, well, discipline is needed, for when kids don't simply back down when a natural consequence is presented, or is given a gentle but firm instruction to "use your inside voice" (instead of "no yelling") and completely ignores you. There seems to be an assumption that you explain something to the child and that's that, the incident is over. And some do -- I can see that moms of Katrinas, who crumbles and cries when scolded -- would think this stuff is easy. But moms of Gabriels, who only escalated into lengthy, futile struggles, are left feeling helpless and inadequate.

I was frustrated again that Positive Discipline speakers routinely suggest you don't pick a battle when someone asks how to handle a battle they've already picked. There's much to be said for avoiding battles, I do it as much as possible, but there's no way around it: sometimes, you choose a battle. And we're allowed and shouldn't feel guilty about that. In some cases, there is no battle to pick if a child isn't following a family rule -- you can't offer choices or redirect or eliminate a problem item from the environment. Sometimes you just have to enforce. Positive Discipline talks don't talk a lot about enforcing rules (unless they have to do with safety, in which case they're "limits" and those are OK).

As an example, one mom asked about a nightly battle with her 3-year-old daughter, who throws a huge fit when it comes time to turn off the TV and sit down to dinner. She's really mad! (the daughter). The speaker advised to really validate the child's feelings -- acknowledge as forcefully as the child that you understand how mad she is ("I know, this REALLY makes you mad!!"). OK, fine, good stuff. My "validation" of my kids' feelings is evident when Gabriel furiously venomously hurls at me, "I AM **FURIOUS** WITH YOU RIGHT NOW MOM!!" Yes indeed, he's developing a rich emotional vocabulary.

But then, the speaker advised to offer the TV-watching 3-year-old a natural consequence: dinner stays out for 15 minutes, and then goes away, and if you're hungry later, too bad. Presumably, the memory of her hunger will cause her to reconsider the next night. So the child -- a three-year-old -- can decide to watch TV or eat dinner.

I was appalled. This is the same thing as just giving in to a 3-year-old's tantrum to watch TV. The child learns the next night to have dinner? I don't know, in my book, most children learn from this "Hey, I don't have to do what Mom says -- all I have to do is throw a huge fit to watch TV and miss dinner, cool!"

The speaker then talked about children's nutritional needs, and how missing dinner causes Moms angst, but it really won't harm the child. OK, but a hungry 3-year-old who just got their way can certainly harm Mom for the rest of the night. No mention of the effect it might have on other children observing the situation.

I personally am pretty proud that we've converged on a far, far better way to deal with food battles and dinnertime behavior (thanks to extraordinarily persistent Gabriel): separate them. We have rules about dinnertime, but no rules about eating. The kids must go to the bathroom and wash their hands before dinner, they must sit down to dinner, they must ask to be excused, and must put their plates away. Actually eating? That's up to them. Dessert or bread is out of the question without finishing vegetables, but everyone has a night when they don't feel like eating, and I can't second-guess someone else's stomach. I hope they eat, and encourage it, and sometimes distract them from leaving by telling a story, but ultimately, if someone decides not to eat a bite, so be it.

I wish the Positive Discipline speaker would offer this sort of strategy to frustrated parents, instead letting a tantrumy 3-year-old watch TV and sort out the natural consequences of being hungry. Parents shouldn't feel guilty about taking on that battle to establish rules. And you know what -- even Katrina is in the habit of putting her plate away after dinner. She needs help, and sometimes she refuses, but then I pick her up and "make" her do it anyway.

I guess a lot of this would work better if I didn't have time constraints when I get home, if I never had an exceptionally strong conflict-seeker, or three children. Or rules.

However, I found that talking about the upcoming Positive Discipline talk was very, very effective tonight! Julian was mortified when I told him tonight that I was going to go ask a lady tonight about what to do when little boys don't listen. "No you're not!" he retorted. "Julian, you can say whatever you want, but I'm going." "I'll listen!" he said, deeply concerned. I told him, "Well, sometimes I have to tell you again and again and again not to fight in the car or make siren sounds in the house, and when I do tell you, you ignore me or keep doing it." "Then send me to my room!" he answered frantically. "Well, when I do that, you complain and ignore me or throw yourself on the floor pretending you hurt yourself and kick stuff along the way and open drawers and slam doors or you just don't go." "I will, I promise!!" I was amazed how effective it was "telling" Katrina that I was going to ask the lady what to do about putziness in setting the table, when Julian ignored my 2nd reminder. Then he spurred into action!

His distress was genuine and heartfelt that I was going to tell this nebulous distant power about his bad behavior. So I kneeled and hugged him and told him I was also going to tell the lady how I have a wonderful little boy who's almost in kindergarten, who loves Cam Jansen books, how I love it when he's my sous-chef, how proud I am of him. I kissed him and tickled him and told him how much I loved him and that I couldn't possibly live without my Julian and that I would tell the lady allll about how much I love him. I didn't have to dig deep, it's all completely true and very present, bubbling to come out. I could go on for hours about how I love him. He beamed and smiled and relaxed, then gave me one of his exquisite kisses.

See, I actually have learned something from positive parenting.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

6/2/09 Car swap

Once again, we had to drop my car off at the dealer to investigate a strange whistle-y noise under acceleration. Exactly the sort of thing people call Click-n-Clack about (you know, CarTalk on NPR), but Dave thought a local mechanic should look at it. Can't argue with that, but it involves trucking the whole family up to Redwood City after dinner and bath, and takes up much of the evening. (There is a closer Subaru dealer, but the one we go to is a lot better.) Someday, someday....someday Dave and I will be able to run such errands at night without bringing everyone. Or better yet, Honda will come out with a station wagon with decent gas mileage.

Getting into the car, we ran into our very friendly and nice next-door neighbors, who, inexplicably, adore our children. They told us they always hear Katrina singing in the backyard, as she often plays very close to the fence which is right on their kitchen window. Katrina wasn't thrilled about Bo-Yuan picking her up, but she didn't object either. Bo-Yuan told us she always hears Katrina singing while playing in the little playhouse that's right by their kitchen window.

Another new turn in potty-training: Katrina has figured out this is a great excuse to get out of bed. "I have to go to the potty!" I have to respond to this of course, but most of the time she just sits and giggles, happy to have found a way to capture my attention. I make the most of it and try to find ways to get her to sit on the real toilet -- lid down of course -- with very limited success so far.

Sigh...I guess I shouldn't be too anxious for that new Honda.


Monday, June 01, 2009

6/1/09 Who loves you, baby?

On the way into TLC to get Julian, Katrina objected:

K: "I don't WANT to get Julian!"
Me: "But you love Julian!"
K: "No, I don't love Julian. I love GABRIEL!"

Tonight, little love for either boy. WHAT is so funny about various colors of diarrhea?

Still zerosville with potty-training. Except tonight I found one thing worse than finding a poop in underpants: not finding it. And having to look for it. Bleh!

(And I wonder where my foul-mouthed sons get it?)

6/1/09 (It's JUNE! 2 more weeks of school! Better yet, 24 more days until preschool graduation!!)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

5/31/09 Grumpy boy

My goodness, is being an obnoxious 5-year-old just a "phase" ? Gabriel and Katrina handle sleepover just fine now, but Julian didn't waste a second turning on brat mode when they got home this morning. Fortunately, he announced he was tired and went to his room and took a long nap.

I resolved to take Julian somewhere alone today, just to give him some one-on-one time. I coupled that with an errand to Home Depot (with reluctance; I hate running home-improvement errands these days), then took him to the library. He had a great time picking a huge stack of books and playing outside the library. Later, Dave took him along grocery-shopping alone too.

It's remarkable what a pain he can be around his siblings, and how delightful he is to be with alone.