“I will build peace…each day.”

February 14th, 2013. Valentine’s Day.

It’s also the two-month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I want to do something special for the Valentine cards that my daughter can share with her friends and teachers at her preschool; something in tribute to the Love, the loss, and hopefully to the Peace we all desperately need. I haven’t been able to come up with anything that would be especially meaningful and respectful as I don’t want to be overt in my intentions. I also am taking into consideration her school is participating in the PeaceBuilders(c) Program . Here is their daily pledge:

"I am a PeaceBuilder.
I pledge to praise people;
to give up put-downs;
to seek wise people;
to notice and speak up about hurts that I have caused;
and to right wrongs.
I will build peace at home, at school,
and in my community, each day."

Would you like to help? If you have any ideas, please share.

When the Clomp Clomp Sounds Like an Angel’s Chorus

I’m realizing that socks are the devil’s own benign design when it comes children’s delicate and sensitive feet. They’ll happily wear a pair on their hands as long as it’s to play super hero or some mock-boxing, but to wear for the purpose has been a recent source morning trauma. We’ve even seen a full-on mental breakdown, which may have included falling to the floor in a limp, frog-like pose and scooting head-first on the carpet to the bedroom to hide, minutes before heading out the door to a school’s winter concert while wearing a freshly pressed dress and having a mom spend more time on daughter’s hair that morning than she ever would in a week combined!

Socks with their tiny, toe-slicing seams are hard to work around. Not too long ago I figured out that if I turn the sock inside out, it FEELS better, but Hello Kitty looks every-so-slightly demonic that way. It took longer than I expected for Aitch to develop a "thing" about socks, but once it hit, it hit us all hard. In a moment of desperation (and maybe a little bit of spite because I don’t like it when my husband tells me what I can or cannot do), I bought a pair of UGGs for Aitch. I had some store credit plus they were on clearance. I have no idea if that’s because they are an obnoxious color (periwinkle!) or if they were down to one pair in that size.

Anyway, when I got them home and showed them to her, she oohed and aahed over their gaudiness. I did have some guilt so for almost two weeks they went unworn, until I had had enough with the socks! I explained to her that with THESE boots, she wouldn’t have to wear socks. She slipped her feet into their warm fuzziness and we headed to school. I knew she felt self-conscious about them as I escorted her to the preschool room, but once the teacher did her own ooh and aah, Aitch was sold. She even proudly announced that she didn’t have socks and that her shoes didn’t need them.

She’s worn them everyday since. There’s no sock battle in the morning. The color goes with nothing, but yet goes with everything she wears because she’s always dressed in mismatched and heavily saturated colors (her coat is salmon pink which has an apple green inner jacket, for heaven’s sake!). At this point, I could almost believe that if I had paid full price, they would have been worth every penny. I’ll hold off that final call until she can no longer fit her feet in them. But no more whining about the phantom sock knives, tacks and stickers and no more cries, "My toes feel WONKY!"

So now I’m one of Those Moms who puts her kids into the ugly UGG. For me, they are as beautiful as if she had strapped two adoring angels to her feet and bound them with the braided manes of unicorns.

Getting Unstuck

After our last appointment with Dr. Rita, Doodicus’s pediatric psychologist, I realized that it had been almost three months since I had made the trip myself as Sparring Partner has handled the prior two appointments. It was a stressful drive with lots of rain on the way down and unbearable fog on the way home and almost all 200 miles of it driven in the dark.

One major concern I had to address was the topic brought up during the last appointment with Sparring Partner and Doodicus, and that was the possibility of there being an OCD diagnosis. Dr. Rita clarified that he does not believe Doodicus has OCD in addition to his ADHD, but instead he has a "rigid way of thinking". And my god, he hit the nail on the head with that one.

The booklet of exercises he sent home with SP (What do Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck) was to help Dood when he has those sticky thoughts. Remember how I said Dood can worry and whine and complain for an obscene amount of time about something so mundane as being denied a candy bar? Those are the thoughts he grabs onto and doesn’t know how to let go. How are we suppose to help him?

Take the example of the candy bar. Once we get past the million Nos in the store (for which I do not obligate a reason. I don’t have to answer his plaintive "WHY??!" with a justification). That annoying response your parents gave you, "Because I said so," is actually true, and I only say it once. I ignore the repeats, except I might say, "I gave you my answer. Do you have a question about it?" Of course, he’ll continue on until we get into the car at which point he crumples, physically and mentally, into a pool of tears. This is when I can calmly ask, "Dood, if you do not get the candy bar, what will happen?"

I’ll give you a moment to soak that in. In fact, it bears repeating:

"If XYZ does/does not happen, what will happen?"

He may actually answer with something on the line of "The world will stop spinning!" if he bothers answering with anything initially, but it’s only then that he can see how big of a deal it really isn’t. It will help unstick that stuck thought.

This process isn’t as easy as you would think unless you have the patience of a Buddhist monk. The whining and crying and acting out and the disrespectful tone of voice over $.99 is simply ridiculous TO ME. It’s a matter of him getting his way, no matter the issue. He will argue with his teacher about the answer to a math problem, even when she works it out for him. He will argue with Aitch over the lyrics of a lullaby (WHO argues with a four-year-old AT. ALL??!!).

We have to get him to practice reasoning, because as Dr. Rita warned, we are really at a very crucial point in Dood’s development during these years. He’s been making some rather dangerous choices recently, i.e. not checking into the after school program at the Y so he ends up unaccounted for if we happen to call, and we cannot afford to let him ride out this "stage". If he can’t get into good thinking habits now, he won’t later.

Speaking of dangerous choices, when I told Dr. Rita about the email from the daycare director who responded about the open interent access: "They also have a policy for the students in which they feel that teaching them responsibility with the internet rather then locking it and them spending time trying to hack in is a good practice," Dr. Rita thought it was one of the most stupid and irresponsible responses he’s heard from someone involved in an administrative position of children. Apparently, my gut reaction was right on.

Hopefully, you will have something to take away from this post, regardless of your child’s behavior when it comes to not getting their way. Help them get unstuck. Ask them, "If you don’t get you that Hot Wheels car, what will happen?" "If you don’t get to play a video game on the Wii, what will happen?" Help them switch gears and not get trapped into a rigid way of thinking.

Ice Marbles via Pinterest in a Moment of Insanity

queenvannacreations

If you’ve been on Pinterest for any longer than an hour, you’ve probably seen this image. I would like to first say, you have no idea how annoying it was to try to find the original post for this idea. Even now, I can’t even be 100% this is even it, but let it be known, I tried.

I discovered a stash of balloons the other day and I decided to give this a try. Without the help of the kids, because I just don’t have that kind of patience nor am I quite that insane.

The balloons I had were “standard” size but I discovered that this means smaller than expected marbles. Cheap balloons are meant to hold air, not necessarily dense, heavy water. I’m warning you now.

I filled up the first balloon with water at the kitchen sink at our drinking water tap faucet because I figured the higher pressure would make quick work of it. The balloon’s opening did not fit tightly over the spout, it filled the balloon but wasn’t enough to expand it. The water simply overflowed back out. Since the kitchen faucet had a sprayer head, it wouldn’t fit over that so I moved into the bathroom, which had the only spout in the house that the balloon’s end would fit snugly on.

So now I’m in the bathroom with my balloons and food coloring. I used the cheap liquid drops – the kind that comes in the bottles that look like garden gnomes. You know the kind I’m talking about.

I put a couple drops of the coloring in an empty balloon and then fit the end over the tap and gently turned the water on. It expanded as I had hoped, but I didn’t try to fill it very full for fear of it exploding. I didn’t want to reuse that balloon, either, so when I turned it over to empty it, the water violently erupted and red water went everywhere! It was a mess.

After I cleaned that up, I took a new balloon, added a couple drops of the coloring and tried again. It got about the size of a very large grapefruit when I carefully removed it from the faucet and tied off the end. It is crucial to NOT fumble-finger this part unless you are outside and you don’t care about the mess. I ended up with four filled balloons, which I gingerly placed in a bucket (again, because I kept imagining one would burst) and then set it outside overnight.

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Sparring Partner said that they would end up sticking together when the latex froze, however they did not, and really? It wouldn’t have mattered if they had. This morning, I cut the balloons away and I was left with my ice marbles.

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They are not perfectly round, so don’t expect them to be if you try this. The food coloring actually settles while the water is freezing, which resulted in a more ombre affect. Don’t put the final product anywhere you don’t want stained when it melts, like your deck rail or porch or steps. Of course, I don’t care, so I did sit mine on top of the deck.

OH! And I almost forgot: there’s no need to wait until the outside temps reach and maintain freezing. Since the balloons don’t get THAT big, you could just put them in a bowl or container and put that in the freezer, especially if you have a chest or storage freezer. I would recommend you put them inside something, just in case the balloon gives way.

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Internet Access at DayCare

For the last couple of weeks, Doodicus had been going to the daycare because school was out for winter break. He didn’t complain because his best friend was also going during break so he had him to play with, not to mention other kids he knew were also on break. We allowed him to bring his Nintendo DS because his friend, David, had one, too and they could play multi-player. However, after Christmas, Dood asked if he could bring his ipod instead as David had received one as a present.

From the time he got it a year ago, I have been quite clear with both Dood and his dad that he is not allowed to bring his ipod to daycare or school because it would be too much of a distraction. He’s snuck games for his DS he wasn’t suppose to and subsequently, has lost them, more than once. I should also remind you that he’s used his ipod to get on-line and watch videos he should not be watching. In short, he hasn’t earned our trust to be allowed to bring anything but his DS to daycare.

Dood mentioned to me this past Thursday that David had brought his ipod and somehow they had been able to access the wifi while playing in the nearby school’s gym (the church runs that elementary school and the daycare). I didn’t think much of it until a few hours later when it was time for bed and he asked me to sit with him for a while. He NEVER asks me to stay with him at night so I knew something was bothering him. He finally told me that when David had access to the internet, they looked up videos, including one that was about the paranormal character, Slender Man, and now he was afraid of the dark.

After about ten minutes of sitting on his bed, I got up to leave and he begged me to turn on his room lights (he already had on his bedside lamp). I was annoyed about with his anxiety, explaining that he had brought this onto himself and now he was going to have to suck it up. Yes, I am the meanest mom.

At first I was especially angry with David and was this close to calling his mom, who I am friends with on Facebook. Dood ended up out of his room several times begging me to let him stay up, which I denied, and I even was able to ignore the sobbing I heard from his room right before he finally dropped off to sleep. Instead of contacting David’s mom, I emailed the daycare Director, asking why the school did not have secure internet.

I received his response today and I can’t say I’m at all satisfied.

Thank you for communicating with me about your concern. First, I will address the school policy. The school has multiple groups and visitors that need access to wifi for presentations etc. Based on the difficulty with getting each group a password they have opted away from using a locked wifi system. They also have a policy for the students in which they feel that teaching them responsibility with the internet rather then locking it and them spending time trying to hack in is a good practice. They believe that the kids will have access as they grow and they need to get into good self discipline practices regarding the use. Kids at the school also only use school approved equipment with teachers monitoring use so that is why it works. As for us since kids in our care only use hand held devices it is impossible to fully monitor use. That is why this fall we put a rule in place not allowing any internet capable devices to be used. Over Christmas I relaxed on this a bit since most of the older kids had not been with us and it was something they enjoyed together. It was explained to them that wifi access was not allowed and only to use things they currently have. This was a mistake on my part. Helping Hands will stick to the policy of no internet capable devices being used from here on as this was my main fear. This is all very important as we try to teach children responsible and careful use of this great tool. Like I said I appreciate your communication as it brings to light for me why we instituted the rule in the first place. I apologize for [Dood] having anxiety over it. Please let him know that if he is ever uncomfortable in any way he can address that with me and I will make sure to handle it in such a way as to not embarrass him or make him feel as if he was telling on his friends.

I certainly agree that kids need to “get into good discipline practices” but that’s not something all kids are able to do using their common sense and their moral compass (hahahaha!). If that was true, then these kids wouldn’t need monitoring at all and I’d have to ask for a refund on the daycare’s fee I paid to have my son under their supervision for two weeks.

I have not yet addressed this with David’s mom, either, but I know I’m going to have to sooner or later. I want to talk it over with Dood first and I haven’t seen him since I got the response above from the Director. I think he needs to understand that what his friend was doing was indeed against the rules, and unfortunately it reinforces my stance that devices that he could use to access the internet are off-limits if he’s not under our direct supervision.

We can replace a broken screen and lost games (once he’s earned the necessary funds), but I can never replace the inappropriate information he’s already seen with less violent or less scary images. I can’t keep him under wraps forever, but I don’t have to push him into this often time callous and insensitive society, either.

A Moment of Zen

Everything has been easier when it comes to my daughter, Aitch. Not necessarily because Doodicus is difficult, but it’s because we pushed ourselves to be The Best (or what we perceived as such) when it came to Doodicus. In other words, we’ve allowed ourselves to not be the Perfect Parents with Aitch.

One of the reasons she has been easier for us is that she acts more emotionally mature than Dood did at that age. For example, she’ll want some candy as we’re standing in a check-out and I’ll firmly tell her no. She may even ask again with that horrible whiney "pleeeeease!!" that’s like a rusty pick to my eardrums, but when I tell her no a second time, she’ll express her disappointment with an "awww" and that’s it. She moves on. Doodicus was, and still is, inconsolable the entire ride home once denied something.

Aitch knows what it means to "shake it off" and "let it go". So many times I see her take a pretty good knock to her head or knee that leaves me wincing in empathy. I’ll see the pain register on her face, but once the initial shock of it is gone, she often chirps, "I’m OK!" and she’ll go back to whatever she was doing. Gas pains will send Doodicus to his bathroom where he’ll curl into a ball on the floor in front of the toilet and keen for 30 minutes until it passes. He really is that intense.

So yeah, they are different, but she’s by no means an angel, in spite of what you many read and see on Facebook. Some of you may remember the major victory we had with her when she decided suddenly to actually use the potty for pooping. We thought it was a final hurdle, and we were finally free of diapers and messes FOREVER. Nothing is ever at it seems. While, yes, she has been most definitely mess free, we are not free of pull-ups. Every night she sleeps in a pull-up and I can count on one hand how many times she’s woke up dry.

But guess what? I’m not writing this to either complain or get advise because it doesn’t faze me in the least. If the girl takes another three years to make it to the point of staying dry at night, we will still deserve kudos. Dood had so many issues with accidents for so long that if it takes her five or six years? Pffft and a dismissive wave of my gnarly, dry hand is all the energy I can bother expending over it.

Take heart, my friends, who are dealing with potty issues when other parents seem to be leaving you in the dust of Competitive Child Rearing. Having a child who not only struggled with enuresis and ADHD and now maybe even a compulsive disorder puts into perspective what issues are really long-term and deserve more attention than others. Then again, I could be just too lazy and tired to worry about it. Your child should not have to be perfect for any one else, because he or she is already perfect to you, right?

You Git Whatcha Git

UPDATED: photo of a little of the damage from the fire below.

It’s the start of another New Year and it’s time to take stock. Actually, I don’t really do that because as the quaint daycare saying goes, “you git whatcha git and you don’t throw a fit”. What I do know is that there will be some major changes coming up this year. Let’s start with my job.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I started working again after a three-year involuntary stint of unemployment, but it would seem that this is the year my boss will be retiring from his practice. Something the corporation has known for years and for which you would think they would have prepared better for by securing a replacement surgeon for this office, one so very desperately needed in the rural anal of Nebraska, but you would have thunk wrong. Actually, I should give some credit. They have been actively wooing a new surgeon for practically two years. And still no commitment. Call me a pessimist but it might have behooved someone to pursue another specialist about a year ago. If New Boss continues to be evasive, the office could close sometime late summer.

Last night I brought this possibility up to my husband and we’ll have to give serious thought to whether I should find another job or if I can just become a trophy wife and soccer mom. I promised him that if I become a SAHM, I will become a fitness freak and whittle myself back down to a size 4 and grow out my hair to my ass and instantly lose 20 years of age off my face. I’m not sure why he’s not buying it.

I bought my mom new bedding and delivered it Saturday (all but the damn sheets, which I forgot by the door!). She was not happy to come home from church and find me upstairs in her bedroom and insisted she didn’t need new sheets, she just lays on the blankets and that a new mattress pad wasn’t necessary as the old one was currently in the dryer, just waiting for her to put it back on. I told her in no uncertain terms that the mattress pad, which had been the one ON FIRE could not simply be washed and put back on the bed (because, DUH!). She scowled as I pulled the new blankets out of the packaging and folded up the old ones, including the one she had attempted to sew the hole the size of a dinner plate. By the way, that doesn’t work when you just try to sew up the edges of the void when it’s in smack-dab in the middle of a rectangular blanket. It was a bit disheartening to know that my mom didn’t even really try to patch the blankets by sacrificing one and cutting it up and using it on the other, which I know she is/was more than capable of doing.

I tried not to make a production out of the bedding because I was taking the old blankets with me as I knew she would try to reuse them. I figured if they were out of sight, they would most certainly be out of mind. Especially her mind. On the way home, the smell of burnt polyester and wiring wafted from the folds of the blankets, which made me sadder still to realize that she hadn’t even bothered to wash them before trying to put them back on her bed. The smell was nose-wrinkling awful.

My daughter was with me, chatting happily with grandma who never took her eyes off of me. I’m certain having Aitch there kept grandma from going off on me in a tirade, but then Aitch said, “Grandma, you forgot my concert!” My back was to them, but I knew my mom’s eyes were boring into my skull. “I’m sorry. Why didn’t anyone remind me?” she asked pointedly. I calmly replied, “I did, but that was the day you went up to see [your sister-in-law] in the nursing home with the other Red Hatters.” “Oh.” Later, she asked Aitch if she had a Christmas Concert and I was relieved when my too-busy-playing-with-grandma’s-bell-collection-daughter didn’t hear her as I’m sure she would have said, “Grandma! I already told you!” Subtle, she is not.

The point of that whole story was that sometime this year, it’s likely mom’s health may indicate she would be safer if she was in a nursing home instead of at home. Based on how quickly she’s deteriorated in the past year, I can’t imagine she’ll have much more time living independently. Worse, I know there will be dissension within the family when the call has to be made.

burnt blankets

And on a happier note, thank you to my readers who participated in the Card Exchange! I would show each card to my husband and exclaim, “And this is my friend from Scotland/Auckland/Portland!” He would just give me a blank stare and wordlessly un-pause the DVR and return to watching football. He didn’t say as much, but I know he was rather impressed because I caught him taking a picture with his phone the string of dozens of cards I hung across the dining room table heavily draped with cards. It’s the start of a New Year and I’ve hit the ground running.