Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breaking the Parental Rulebook

When it comes to parenting, everyone has a different opinion on how it should be done. In fact, most people have very strong, differing opinions. The more kids I have, the more I know parenting is the one job out there whose job description keeps changing, and is never the same for two different children. Books have been written, claiming to have the ultimate parenting formula, and other books have been written claiming that the formula is wrong and they have the right one. So we parents have to take bits and pieces out of all the books and apply them in a way that works for our specific child and our lifestyle.

Having said that, some parenting rules are universal, like the law of gravity, or the laws of physics. One of those rules is: Never promise a consequence that you are not prepared to deliver on. Sure. Makes sense, because if you don't do what you have threatened to do, they will never take you seriously and you can forget about any kind of submission or compliance on their part. But some rules are meant to be broken. Just like humans have been determined to break the law of gravity since the beginning of time, and fly like birds, we parents sometimes like to throw away the rulebook. Have you ever gleefully made a really juicy threat just to light a fire under your children's rear ends? I have. Oh yes. Here's one I have used often: "Whatever toys are left on the floor will be sucked up into the vacuum, because I am vacuuming in exactly three minutes. The timer is going, and when it beeps, LOOK OUT!!!" This is followed by a delightful display of panic wherein the boys fling toys of every shape, size and colour into their bins and pull off the fastest cleanup job in the history of cleanup jobs. I'm not gonna lie to you. It's pretty satisfying. Even better, turn on the vacuum and push it slowly toward the heap of toys, shouting, "UH-OH!!!" as they scramble to rescue them from certain doom. This works particularly well with Lego. 

Sadly, the older your kids get, the smarter they get, and they learn that their Hotwheels cars are indeed too big for the vacuum, just like almost all their other toys. They might even start to notice that you never actually do vacuum anything up. (Okay, I did once, but it was an accident. Plus it was a Lego piece, and really, who would ever miss one tiny piece of Lego?) Sigh. Yes, I miss the old vacuum threat. 

But the other day, my Dynamic Duo did something really, really bad. They stole a very, very important letter that I have to send in for my work. Then, they tore the stamp off and ripped the envelope open and took the letter out. When I discovered this crime, I was livid. And a little panicked too. This is not the place to get into detail, but let me just say there is an awful lot riding on this letter. So I freaked out a little and demanded they bring me the letter from their lair. Yes, they have a lair. It is beyond words. Sorry. I got my letter back, but it was smeared with Cheez Whiz. Seriously. This has my signature on it. I guess now it has theirs too. I put them both in time out. There was yelling. My throat was sore for a while afterwards. 

Then, I pulled a mom-threat of great magnitude. With my most serious and angry face, I told them what they did was against the law. That's right, they broke the law. I said it slowly, and emphatically. I asked them whether I should call the police. Micah's eyes were very wide. Jamie's...not so much. I could see the gears turning in his little mind. He was weighing the threat, deciding whether to believe me or not. It was not a good threat. Let's face it, nobody calls the police when their kids are acting up. But I have a tiny advantage here. My sister is a cop. So I decided to go with it. I told them in no uncertain terms that if this ever happened again, I was calling their Auntie, and she IS the police. I told them to repeat after me: "I will never, ever do it again." They both said it, Micah still wide-eyed and Jamie clearly still trying to figure out a way he could do it again without getting caught. I pointed at Micah and said, "I believe you." I pointed at Jamie and said, "I do NOT believe you." I reiterated my threat and they finished their time-outs. So far, they have not opened any other mail. 

So there it is. My confession. I issued a threat I have no intention of following through, purely for the benefit of the moment. I don't even regret it. Frankly, it felt really good. I would even do it again, if the situation warranted. See how I did that? Warrant is a cop word. 

And now, I must face the remainder of my day. Saturday. A day of four children, all day, and in this case, no husband to share the load. He is gone for the whole day, probably until my bed time. And though I hate to end on this note, I must also update that Bandit (see the last two posts) was found on Monday night and he was not alive. I have been extremely devastated about this development, and I will not be posting the details. Suffice it to say, I feel indescribably horrible, sick even, about what happened. But I thank God that at least we found him and know what happened. Not knowing would have been worse. Maybe. It's hard to say. Anyway, thanks for praying, for those of you who did. He was a beautiful, healthy young dog and he will be missed. Here are a few more photos of Bandit, from puppy-hood to last week, two years old. Rest in peace, Bandit. I'm so sorry.






Monday, April 22, 2013

Dear Adventures, I'd rather be bored.

Life is an adventure. That's what "they" say, and it certainly sounds appealing. When I think of adventures, I picture grand landscapes with cascading waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and other beautiful scenes with striking natural wonders. In reality, I would never be caught climbing a mountain, or anything remotely close to it, so I'm not sure why adventure conjures up these types of images in my mind. Perhaps it is because something really stirs my soul when I see the mountains towering high above me, or when I hear the thundering of a massive waterfall and feel the cool spray on my face. It reminds me of how small we are compared to this vast Earth. It puts things in perspective. Or, maybe it's just because I never go anywhere, so my definition of adventure is simply seeing something out of the ordinary.

Raising children is out of the ordinary. Don't ever let anyone tell you that being a stay-at-home-mom is boring. Sure, it has its moments. When you only have one child and that child is still a baby or a toddler that is not talking yet, and meaningful conversation has taken a leave of absence from your life. Meaningful adult conversation, that is. Sometimes it feels like the brain is not challenged enough. The alternative is having kids that are crazy and keep you constantly wracking your brain for solutions to their actions.

Let me give you an example. On Saturday evening we put the kids to bed like usual. When we were tucking them in, I caught Jamie with a marble in his mouth. It's from the game Hungry, Hungry, Hippos. Jamie is my five-year-old, by the way, so you'd think he'd have more sense than that. I got after him and told him in no uncertain terms that he was never, ever to put toys in his mouth. So we settled them in bed and I left, taking the offending marble with me. Soon after, Micah emerged from the room crying. He told us that a marble went down his hole. With a bit of work, we were able to confirm that he meant he swallowed it. First reaction? Honestly, there was a little bit of laughter, albeit the nervous kind, and a little bit of panic too. What does one do when one's child swallows a foreign object? Do I call Health Links? (That's a phone service where you can talk to a registered nurse and get a little advice on medical issues. In my experience, they usually tell you to call an ambulance.) Micah's throat was somewhat sore from swallowing something so hard and unforgiving, but apparently the marble made it down without incident.

I called the hospital and found out our best course of action was to wait and watch. Okay. If you have a two-year-old, it's easy enough to monitor diapers for passing foreign objects. A potty-trained child is another matter. I'm not going to get into the details, but the last 36 hours have entailed waiting for poops and then a process involving the toilet and a spatula. Today, thankfully, Micah pooped the marble out safe and sound. He was quite proud of it, and the marble was easily visible. I don't think I should share the rest. I just don't. Suffice it to say, it was gross, and I am still rather disturbed by the whole incident, though admittedly a little amused too. I hope it never happens again. Adventure number one. Or maybe that one was adventure number two. Certainly more applicable.

Our other adventure involves Bandit, whom I mentioned in my last post. Bandit ran away last night and we have not seen him since. Twice, I have driven around, blowing a whistle and scanning the countryside. I have seen no sign of him. This is extremely distressing to me. Bandit is my sister's dog. He does not know this area. I have no idea where he went. I spent my day calling vet clinics, animal rescues and animal control personnel, and sending his picture out to local people and businesses. Now, I am praying he will return safely to us. Each hour that passes, I feel less and less hope that we are going to see him again, and I feel terrible. I imagine what may have happened to him, or where he might end up. Is he alive? Is he hurt? Did somebody take him? Will somebody spot him and call me? I can only hope and pray we will find him soon. He is bound to be hungry, though I wouldn't put it past him to hunt a rabbit to hold him over.

Having said all that, my day has been very exciting, but I would trade this kind of excitement for a dose of good old-fashioned boredom. I hope to have a positive conclusion to this particular adventure very soon. In the meantime, if you are willing, please say a prayer that Bandit will return safely to us as soon as possible.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Looks Aren't Everything.


I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of Facebook. In recent times, I have been on there quite a bit. Why? I crave human connection. That is, with humans older than seven. Obviously, there isn’t a ton of real deep connecting happening on the newsfeed on Facebook. In fact, a lot of the posts I could do without. But the other day I saw something that I just couldn’t skip over and it got me thinking. It had to do with beauty, though I have been pondering this subject for the last few days.

What started my thought process in the first place was my sister’s dog. He is currently a houseguest with us while they are away in Hawaii. Actually, he is not allowed in our house, so he is more of a yard guest. Here’s the thing about Bandit. If you saw him, you would most likely be struck immediately with how beautiful he is. Bandit came from a German Shepherd rescue as a puppy, and his mom was most definitely a Shepherd. I’m not sure what the story was on his dad, but it is clear from looking at Bandit that he is most definitely a Husky. Not purebred, but there is either Husky in him, or wolf. As I said, he is striking. He almost makes me drool. I love Huskies, and Malamutes too. They are my dream dogs…in the looks department. When I look at Bandit I have an intense desire to own a dog as gorgeous as he is. (Sorry Radar! I think you’re beautiful too!) Here are a few shots of Bandit, so you know what I'm talking about. 





But here’s the catch. If you knew Bandit’s personality, the first thing you may think is that he’s a bit of a turd. Sometimes a big turd. Yes, he is young, and he could certainly benefit from some more training, but that is not the point. The point is, I had to admit to Mike, and more importantly, to myself, that beauty is not everything. Would I really want the most beautiful dog in the world if his personality stunk? Bandit is endearing in some ways, but he sometimes bites and he refuses to obey any female. He is not trustworthy around our kids or our cats. He also runs away. Those are a few deal-breakers for me.

Perhaps with more training and a little maturing, Bandit could be the ideal dog. But that is irrelevant. His presence here has got me wondering why we are so obsessed with beauty. To behold something truly physically beautiful triggers certain emotions in us. We feel pleasure, and at times we are touched deep in our souls. I believe that’s because all of God’s creation is beauty, so when we experience it, we connect with Him.

As with everything else good, our hunger for beauty has been warped. Men are obsessed with women who look a certain way. In North America, that way is defined by the media, and particularly Hollywood. Women are even more obsessed by that standard than men are, and we women are not easy on ourselves when it comes to living up to that definition of beauty. This is an issue that has plagued me my entire life, as someone who has never been “skinny”. From very early childhood, it was made clear to me that I did not look good enough, and that message came at me from every angle. Kids at school, relatives and even perfect strangers of all ages felt free to express their disdain at my imperfection. Is it any wonder I have felt ugly my whole life?

I used to feel alone in this, but as I have grown older, I have seen that this issue plagues most, if not all, women and girls of all ages. This is why I was so touched by the video I saw on Facebook. It was done by Dove, and pertains to their new campaign for true beauty. While I am one hundred per cent a Mary Kay girl, I applaud Dove for trying to address this tricky issue. The video shows a series of women expressing genuine dissatisfaction with various facial traits of theirs. Then an experiment is done where each woman has to describe her face to a forensic sketch artist who has never seen them, but can hear them. (A curtain separates him from them.) He draws each of them according to their own descriptions. Then a stranger who had been instructed to spend time with each woman, getting to know her a little, was asked to describe her for the same artist. The artist, in the end, reveals the difference in a stranger’s (or acquaintance’s) perception of each woman versus her own. The video can be viewed at http://realbeautysketches.dove.ca.

In all honesty, the video made me cry. I do find it very sad that women have been devalued to such a degree that they are more focused on their flaws and insecurities than on their God-given beauty and worth. But more disturbing yet has been the reaction to this video. It seems the majority of people either find it to be a joke, or they are offended at the implication that women have low self-esteem. I had to respond to this. I apologize if this post seems a little out of place on this blog, but this issue is real and it breaks my heart to think that one day, my precious and beautiful little Lauren may view herself as ugly, or worthless because she doesn’t fit into some Barbie or Hollywood actress mold. Somebody I know posted on Facebook that the video was merely “cute”, but not really valid because the strangers were deliberately kind in their description of the women. To that, I responded that even if that were the case, why can’t we, as women, extend that same kindness to ourselves? If we have a mole on our face, why is that the only thing we think of when we picture our face? If the strangers focused on the good traits but were inwardly disgusted by all the flaws instead, then I say this world has no hope. Are there people out there like that? I have no doubt. But I have to believe that for the most part, we are harder on ourselves than other people are on us. Please, God, let that be the truth.

At the very least, the people who love us see us very differently and with a less critical eye than our own. Why? Because our beauty is more than physical. People who love us, see all of us, not just our physical appearance. They see us spirit-to-spirit. In other words, they see us with their physical eyes, but also with their spiritual eyes. We are so much more than just our bodies. I dream of a world where everyone truly believes this, and sees the value in each other and themselves because as humans we are intrinsically valuable. If God values us in all our flaws and while we are still under the ugliness of sin, enough to sacrifice His only Son to redeem us, we are valuable indeed.

Whether you believe in God as I do or not, I hope you can see beyond the surface and know that your flaws, real or perceived, do not define you. That is all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Life as Usual

Has it been over two weeks since my last post? Oops! Have I been terribly busy? Not any more than usual. I have been somewhat sick, though, and dealing with typical mom stuff.

My last post I sent Jamie off for his first full day of Junior Kindergarten, feeling tentative, but acting anyway. That afternoon, he arrived home crying hysterically, screaming in pain with a headache. Three times he almost threw up, though thankfully he never did. I gave him Tylenol and sent him to bed. A few hours later he was normal again. I suspect he had a migraine, of all things. That incident led me to back off the school thing once again and Jamie was then back to only half days, every second day.

That setback was discouraging, and it also made my life considerably more difficult. I had an appointment the next morning to see my ophthalmologist for my ongoing eye issues, and I had to take three out of four of my kids. The Dynamic Duo accompanied me, as did Lauren. The morning was a complete disaster. I forgot Lauren's soother, which was mistake number one. But despite that error, Lauren was the best behaved child I had at that office. It was so disastrous, I don't even want to describe it, as it had me in tears and I'd rather not relive the experience.

This week, I decided that it was time to attempt full days again for Jamie, and so far it is going all right. He is exhausted when he gets home, but let's face it, he is exhausted by that time every day anyway. I must say, as selfish as this is, it's really nice for me to have a full day off of the Dynamic Duo every second day. Lauren has her own level of neediness, but it's all innocent and cute, so somehow it is easier to deal with. And Micah without Jamie is also much tamer, even if he is three and a half!

And now, I have a child bawling in the background because his bath wasn't long enough. I think he might be done for the day. Looks like I have to go.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A New Mommy Milestone For Me

Today I put Jamie on the school bus at 7:35 a.m. with his big brother Cody for the first time ever. Yes, Jamie has been going to school since September, and taking the school but home. But being only in Junior Kindergarten, he was only attending half days every second afternoon. After spring break, the juniors always have the option of attending full days, and today was his first one.

Like a typical mother, I worried. This means I have to send a lunch for him. He only eats peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. (Either with jam or honey.) But there is a child in his class with a peanut allergy. Jamie is a picky eater. He really doesn't eat anything else for lunch. I stressed. Would I give him just jam and bread? Would that hold him over for a whole day? In the end, it turns out they are allowed peanut butter sandwiches, but they have to eat at a designated table for that. Okay. Crisis number one averted.

I also worried about his capacity to handle full days. Jamie is one who needs a lot of sleep, and I find him to be overtired almost every day. Sharing a room with both of his brothers is not helping either. And beyond being tired, Jamie is also shy, and still seems so vulnerable when I drop him off at lunch time. I wondered whether he would even want to go full days.

But Jamie surprised me this morning and was very excited for his first full day. I was so proud of him as he charged onto the bus ahead of Cody. I know he will be tired this afternoon when he gets home, but hopefully his body will adjust to the long days. He is technically old enough for senior Kindergarten, so he should be able to handle it. But I worry, because I'm a mom. Or maybe because I'm the type of mom who worries. (Do any of you moms not worry?)

Now technically, I should be having a very quiet day here at home with only a three and a half year old and an eight month old. (Yes, she turned 8 months old on Sunday! How the time is flying!) But Lauren is super fussy today, and so far I have accomplished nothing. Well, I have done some laundry, but that's all. Lauren skipped her morning nap, by her choice, not mine. Now she is standing in front of my chair (she can pull up on furniture now!) crying and saying "Mom mom mom". She is skilled. Just the right combination of cute and pathetic to make me drop everything to pick her up. And so I must sign off.