Friday, November 1, 2013

You'd think I would have learned this by now...

Learning to adapt to the different personalities of my children is often a struggle for me. I'm just me, and it's natural, when certain situations arise (like when shit isn't getting done that needs to get done!) to react the same way with each child. In my case, I fire off orders like a drill sergeant and expect them to be followed. Surprisingly (sarcasm) this strategy doesn't always go over so well. It may have worked on one child, but it can backfire on another.

On Tuesday night, Jake had a chorus concert. He performed a duet with a friend to the song "Remembering Sunday" by All Time Low. I wish I could describe how it felt to watch him up there. He walked to the front of the auditorium stage with his friend, stood there and belted out this song. Jake's done performances before, he sings sometimes at church, and has performed the Star Spangled Banner with friends before high school events. I've seen the boy sing, and have always enjoyed it. He sings in the shower, and as he does the dishes. The kid has a nice voice. But on Tuesday he was clear, focused, and natural as he sang. He sounded so great, but what struck me was how poised he was up there. No longer the awkward, self-conscious boy, he's truly growing into a young man.

It gave me one of those mom heart attacks. The "I'm so proud, but damnit, why does he have to grow up so fast?" moments.

As I watched this nearly six foot tall kid singing on the stage, I kept having flashbacks to the time he sang "You're a Grand Old Flag" at his preschool graduation. The whole class sang it, but at home he would practice it over and over again in an off-key angelic voice. My little blonde guy singing "You're a grand old flag, you're a high-flying flag and forever in peace may you wave." brought a lump to my throat. Seeing the sixteen-year-old version of him up on stage made me swell with pride (although I had very little to do with his musical success) and that throat lump was there again too.

One of Brie's friends was at the concert and he texted her to tell her that he thought Jake sounded great. She screen-grabbed the text and sent it to her brother, showing him what was being said of his performance. His friends and classmates gave him compliments. I could tell he felt proud of his performance, proud of the practice time and work that went into it.

Tonight I had to pull the mean-mom costume out and tell him he couldn't go hang out with a friend after school because he needs to work on a few classes to get his grades up. The act of telling him he couldn't go wasn't where I messed up. It was my delivery. I rattled off all of the things that need to be worked on and my frustration was obvious. We keep going over these things, but I'm not seeing the improvement he's capable of.

It took some time, and a frustrated exchange between us for me to realize that firing demands at him is not the way to encourage him. It was having the opposite effect, and he was shutting down in front of me, crumpling like a paper in an invisible fist.

I didn't notice this until I could see the desperation in his face, so I stopped hammering him and asked him what was wrong. The thoughts came pouring out of him. It turns out that he feels incredibly stressed out after this week. His success at the concert Tuesday night was a double-edged sword. Nice for the positive feedback, but a stressful event nonetheless. This blew me away, because he looked so completely composed and relaxed up there - it didn't occur to me that it would have stressed him out. In the school play, he is understudy to the lead who has been having some throat issues, and he's having to step up to play that lead role at rehearsals (as well as continue to perfect his own role). He's got a fairly tough academic schedule, and to top it all off, he's in driver's ed this month, where they meet for up to three hours a few nights a week.

My attempts to get him to understand what needed to be done did not go over well. He does not handle multiple concurrent deadlines and activities well, he never has. But what's a mom to do to help him see that he will need to learn this skill in college, his future job, his life in general? I'm not sure.

After explaining to me how stressful this week has been, he laced up his shoes and went for a 30 minute run on the treadmill. I asked what he was doing and he said he had to 'get rid of this stress.' So he's learning his own coping strategies. I personally prefer eating half a package of oreos, but hey - different strokes.

I need to develop a different way of getting his attention when I want him to focus on some tasks at hand. I am not a helicoptery parent and I don't track each and every assignment. 1.) I don't have the time for that, and 2.) It won't help him if I'm coordinating everything for him. But he needs a boost - some reminders to focus on that Financial Literacy class that he hates (now that's my kid!) without feeling threatened or piled upon. I've got some ideas to try, but it's new territory for me.

His run is over and he's now singing songs from the musical in the shower. I have a feeling he's going to be just fine in this life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Weekend of Celebration, alternate title: My Cup Overflows

You know that Sunday night depression that sets in when you realize that your weekend is over and it's time to think about the work week ahead?

Yeah, that. Normally, I feel a little like Swiper the Fox when Sunday night hits, and I do an internal "Oh, man!" groan to myself and before I know it the week is half gone. But last night I did not want the weekend to end. I dreaded it, and groaned, and groaned again. I stayed up later than normal, flipping through magazines, painting my fingernails. I enjoy my job, and don't hate Mondays. But after such a lovely weekend, I just didn't want it to end.

I'm going to mostly make this a photo journal of the weekend. I think the pictures speak for themselves, but because Nati turns two tomorrow (I know!!!) we had a party on Saturday at our house, followed by a trip to the apple orchard. On Sunday we had a nice gathering at my mother-in-law's house. The weather was beautiful, and on several occasions I stopped and looked around me, thinking about how fortunate we are to have such a close-knit extended family to share in these celebrations.

Brie took the time out of her busy schedule to come home for her baby sister's party, and I'm not sure if she knows how much that means to me, to all of us. Seeing Nati smile and hug her "big, big Sis" is definitely something special. It was great to have her home, even for a short time.

Saturday:

I spent the morning finishing up the food and decorations. We had a "Crayon" theme because Nati loves to color. The kid tries to make everything "pretty!" by coloring it. Thank goodness for Magic Erasers, which get crayon off of the wall and furniture. Still no magic cure for sharpie on a microfiber couch, but that's a story for another day.

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I made these cupcakes, which look awesome, but even though nobody would admit to it, the frosting tasted like crayons. So - if you ever do this in the future, put the crayons on right before serving, not the night before.

Also, I made some crafts out of crayons, like the silverware holders, and the crayon wreath, and then a little garland. I might have a problem with cutesie decorations. But honestly - I didn't go overboard this time! (I ran out of time, or likely I would have.)

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The party at our house was as fun as it always is, with kids running everywhere, and my brothers' off-beat senses of humor. Nati tried to blow out her candles by blowing zurburts at them, and ended up with a puddle of drool on her chin before Brie stepped in to help:

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Here are some fun shots of the rest of the party:

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We are a loud and large crew!

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After the party, we headed to the apple orchard:

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Where we did things like sit on tractors, play in corn, and do all sorts of other country, hick things. (It was awesome.)

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That adorable girl in the photo above with the awesome hair is Vali's BFF who lives next door. We were so glad she could join us.

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My sis-in-law, Molly, with the newest baby of the family, Baby Brannon:

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Dusty taking a nap:

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Messy ice cream cone:

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Frozen apple cider:

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A fun little Alice in Wonderland area:

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And the whole, crazy gang:

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My camera battery was toast by Sunday, but I did take some fun pictures of the kids at their Grandma Judy's house:

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Last night, the great weekend ended with a hearty laugh and a nice walk with my next-door neighbor. I couldn't have ordered up a better one.

I'll leave you with a photo of our favorite little Packers princess:


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

How I enteretained my spazzy almost two-year-old on a plane for hours and hours.

I took a business trip to San Francisco this week. I had meetings scheduled all day on Tuesday. Since my brother and sister-in-law live in the bay area, I decided to take advantage of the fact that Nati can fly free for another month (kids can fly free until they are two as long as they sit on a ticketed traveler's lap) and have her go with me so she could get to know her aunt, uncle, and cousins a bit better.

Natalie is terribly awful at sitting still for more than five seconds. She is so much of a terror at church that I'm afraid our priest might ask to do an exorcism on her one of these Sundays. While shopping at Target, she and I have power standoffs as she's about to fling herself head first out of the cart. I don't think she's all that different from most kids her age, but she wears me out. So prior to this trip, I thought for a long time about how to entertain her so that fellow passengers wouldn't hate me.

It turned out that my ideas worked. She really was amazing on all four flights of the trip. At the end of each flight, my airplane neighbors, who I'm sure groaned internally when they saw us approach their area of the plane, complimented her. "She's an excellent traveler!" "So well behaved!" and, my favorite: "Wow - did you drug her?"

I did not, in fact, give her drugs. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider it, though.

Here's what I did, and I'm compiling this list and throwing this out on Pinterest hoping that someone might find it useful someday.

I purchased a few things for the trip.

1. I bought her a backpack.

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This one was $12 at Target. I chose it because she could play with the zipper and snaps. She turned out not to be interested in that, go figure, but when she was able to run free in the airport between flights, she was tickled to be able to wear her backpack. "Nati's backpack!" she kept squealing. At one point, we were walking around and she was going uncharacteristically slowly. Normally the kid bounces, skips, runs, etc. But she was kind of plodding along. I had the thought to check the backpack and realized that it was super heavy! I'd put her sippy cup full of water and another second bottle of water in there. Oops! Once I lightened it, the spring was back in her step.

2. I got her this cute neck pillow. Also from Target, but I don't know how much this was.

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This probably wouldn't have been critical, but she did enjoy it and kept saying that the kitty was giving her a hug.

3. I got her a book full of stickers.

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Stickers, you guys, saved my life on this trip. She has never really played much with them and she LOVED them. She spent so much time peeling them off (oh, the fine motor skill development!) and putting them on other pages in the book. She put them on the squares of paper I brought and put them on her arms and her belly. I also let her stick them to the window - these didn't have much residue on them and they peeled right off when our flight was over. Stickers were a HIT.

4. I bought some candy. Suckers and smarties, and some strawberry twizzlers, which aren't pictured.

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She had one sucker on the flight out to SF, but didn't have any more, she was so interested in her crafty stuff that she generally ignored the candy. (Seriously! Ignored it!) But the smarties were a good choice because she liked playing with them before popping them into her mouth.

The rest of the items I brought along were things I grabbed from home.

5. Headphones and an ipod (or something you can watch a video on) are a no-brainer. (These were loaned to Nati from Vali.)

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6. Crayons

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Nati loves to color, and this was something we could do together. Usually, I'd color the page with her and she'd grab the color I was using, hand me some boring color like white or brown, and then color over what I had done. We spent a lot of time coloring. I did have to be firm on the rule that only one color was allowed out at a time. She seemed ok with that, surprisingly.

7. My ziplog bag of tricks contained the following items that I found around the house. I wanted things that were small enough to shove in a ziplock bag, and things that we wouldn't miss if they were lost or we threw them away.

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  • pipe cleaners - we made bracelets and funny shapes with them.
  • strips of meshy fabric - she liked to toss these and watch them float down.
  • cupcake papers - I grabbed some regular sized and mini cups. She liked putting the smarties into these cups. I cut holes in the bottom of the mini cups so we could use them with the next item:
  • a piece of yarn - we made necklaces by stringing the cupcake cups.
  • A box that contained squares of cut up paper in many colors. Nati loves identifying colors, so we spent a lot of time with these papers. I'd ask her to get a green paper and she'd find one, put a sticker on it, and then place it in the lid of the box.

Here she is using some of these items - these were taken with my phone, so the quality isn't great. Using the neck pillow:

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Watching a video: (On this particular flight, we had the whole row to ourselves. Woot!)

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Playing with the cupcake papers - here she's putting smarties in the bottom of the cups - then she'd eat them and start all over.

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Here she is on the plane, playing with the stickers (and holding a stick of cheese).

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Some other tips that worked for us:

1. We got a window seat for each flight so that she could look outside. She LOVED this, not only when we were in flight, but during that time when you're stopped at the gate, but trapped on the plane, I could show her the people working around the planes and it kept her from freaking out, wanting to get off when everyone else was standing up.

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2. I didn't mess with a stroller because she can wriggle out of one these days, so I just carried her around in my Boba carrier, which she still enjoys. A stroller would definitely have been easier if she were the type of kid who didn't fight hers.

3. I let her wear herself out in between flights. At the Dallas airport, there was a spinny structure that she loved:

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She looks scared, doesn't she? She kept saying "One more time!" after I'd stop, so she definitely wasn't scared. How she didn't barf is beyond me, but allowing her to run around and get rid of some of that pent up energy seemed to work.

So that's what I did. I was glad that I spent the time to plan out what to bring because it made the trip much less stressful. I might even say that it was 'fun' traveling with her! She really was that good on the flights.

Here's proof:

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