Saturday, May 21, 2011

No more babies

I've thought about this quite a bit, about how quickly the girls are growing up, how much farther and farther they move away from being babies every single day. For so long (or at least, at the time it felt long) I wished for the easier days I knew were to come. The days when I would sleep again, would be done diapering, done nursing, done with the "annoying" parts of having small children. "Some day she won't need to be rocked to sleep anymore," I would think night after endless night.

Picture from low tide in the Puget Sound.

If I ever have another chance to give parents of new babies a piece of advice, I will say "enjoy the nights of rocking a screaming baby. Some day you really will look back and miss it."

The "easier days" are here, and of course, they are easier in all the ways they can be without the hassle of diaper bags and scheduling around naps. But of course, anyone with bigger kids knows, the days just sort of fill up with other things. New stressors. Busier lives.

Look at how big this girl is!

Today Iris pointed out the new shopping carts at Target with the two extra seats for little kids to get buckled in to. I said, "those are for babies, too bad I don't have babies anymore."

Both of my kids are too big for so many things. Too big to ride in shopping carts (at least, in the seat part). Too big for high chairs (despite Eloise's dismay). Too big for baby swings (again, to Eloise's dismay).

I think quite a bit about my role as a stay-at-home mom. I have never had a career. I have had many jobs, though. I didn't love, or even particularly like, any of them. I have a degree, but I have never done anything with it, at least professionally. I have been a stay-at-home mom longer than I have done any job in my life.

This coming school year I will have a second grader and a kindergartner. At this stage, most people would have both kids in full time school, though we will have one homeschooler. But maybe, probably, not forever. I am stay-at-home mom, so how does that work when your kids aren't at home all day? What does that role, that job, that career, look like then? None of us want me to go back to working, at least not a full-time job. My husband wants me to do whatever would make me happy.

You know what would make me happy? To have my girls still be home. To have them still be little. It's hard to watch them grow up in to these bigger, little people.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Parenting class night seven: limits and consequences

How apropos that last week's class was on limits and consequences. Oh, how we struggle with those in our house. One of my "favorite" things is when people tell me I don't set strong enough limits for the girls. Seriously, I feel like that is all I do some days! Maybe not in the right ways, though, I don't know.

One of the extremely frustrating things happening in our house right now is getting the girls to clean their playroom at night. Now, both girls can do it. They can do it working together and I have seen them both successfully clean the playroom entirely by themselves. They are formally given half an hour (they have to start working on it at 6:30, but they can start earlier if they wish). If the playroom doesn't get clean, and we all know what the definition of "clean" is in that case, so no ambiguity, then it is closed the ENTIRE NEXT DAY. And they still have to go in and finish the cleaning. I implemented this rule about two months ago or so and since then the playroom has been closed about five or six times. This past week, though? THREE DAYS. Three days my girls have gotten the playroom closed. Two of those were full days off of school, too. And you know what? They don't seem to really care. They used to cry and throw a fit, but now they yell for about two minutes and then, oh well.

So as far as consequences go, I don't even know what I am supposed to do with that. In my mind that is a pretty extreme consequence. When I started it I thought "oh my, what did I do!" but overall it's worked. We still have to get the girls to clean without monster hissy fits, but that's a whole other post.

In addition to talking about consequences, and only giving ones you are prepared to follow through with, we talked about reducing the number of commands, over all. I struggle with this. My children don't listen, I am the textbook Mom repeating "get your shoes on!" five times every morning. Need to work on this one.

We also discussed that it is okay for children to be disappointed and we can even "create opportunities for disappointment". I suppose this is for parents who give in to everything, but that so isn't me. This goes along with two other ideas which are to be aware of short-term pain/long-term gain and "dropping the rope". STP/LTG is about setting difficult limits with our children now so that they will start paying off some time in the future. Dropping the rope means to not engage in a verbal back-and-forth with our kids. Not allowing your child to continue to argue or discuss something that you have already given the final word on. Iris is notorious for this, she loves to continue to challenge something. Now I can say "I have let you know what I need you to do and I am now done talking about it."

In class we were also reminded to come back to the basics, which is playing with our children one-on-one every day and "praising" them every day. It was a good reminder for me, because I have definitely been slacking on this one.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oh, gosh

On Friday morning I wrote a blog post that was even more whine, whine, whine and woe is me. I was going to tell you about how hopeless and frustrated I am feeling about Iris being able to change, or grow, or whatever a kid needs to do in order to not be so incredibly difficult. I was going to tell you about one of Iris's classmates giving me an unsolicited report on Iris's behavior that almost made me cry. I was also going to tell you about how I googled "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" based on Jen's comment from my pity party post. Then I was going to tell you how the definition fits Iris almost 100%. Let's see. I was also going to tell you how MY therapist said it sounds like Iris needs medication, so I emailed Iris's therapist and asked the big question.

I HATE medication. I hate the idea of it. I hate taking my own. I hate everything about it. But I am willing to try if Iris's therapist thinks it would help.

So, anyways, I was going to tell you about all of that (aren't you glad I didn't?! Ha.) but I decided not to. And then as I spent the entire day on Friday feeling like the biggest grump in the world because the girls' behavior was so ridiculously awful I thought maybe I should write another blog rant.

But I didn't.

Today we weren't even out of bed before Iris started in her issues. I braced myself for another one of those days, but luckily, at least so far, things have gone really well. Matt helped me get the girls ready and on to the bus so I could take them downtown to a kids' symphony performance. After that we went down to Pike's Place Market to buy giant cookies and then to eat lunch and then took the bus back home. The girls were so much fun. And they listened. And didn't fight. And Iris wasn't in one of her moods. And it was so great.

It reminded me that those moments are what we are working for, what we are working towards. That there is a kid in Iris underneath all of her difficulties that is so amazing and wonderful and a true joy to be around. I wish there was a way I could remember that when she is on her tenth screaming fit of the day after hitting her sister for the eighth time before telling me how much she hates me for the thousandth time. I get so wrapped up in my frustration and anger that I sometimes forget what a cool kid we have when she either wants to be or can be. Sometimes I can't decide if she is acting out on purpose or because she truly can't help it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yummy recipe for you

Okay, kind of a 180 from my last post, but this is where my mind is at today (I'll get back to that all again soon). I'm all Suzie Homemaker up in here and decided to do a little fun cooking on this rainy afternoon.

Today I made Artichoke, Spinach and White Bean Dip from Cooking Light and it was really good.

Here is the recipe as it stands from Cooking Light:

1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can organic white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can baby artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 (9-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place Romano cheese, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, salt, black pepper, red pepper, minced garlic, and white beans in a food processor, and process until smooth. Spoon into a medium bowl. Stir in the artichokes and spinach. Spoon the mixture into a 1-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

I made a few changes (of course!). I used fat-free nayonaise (yes I spelled that right, it's a vegan mayo alternative that I love, tastes faintly mustardy) instead of the mayo and garbanzos instead of the white beans. I switched the beans because I didn't have white beans. I was a little annoyed with myself for not using some of my copious amounts of fresh baby spinach instead of the frozen, but whatever.

It was really yummy. The only problem with dips like this is that even if they are relatively low-calorie you still have to have something to dip in to them with. I chose rice cakes and pretzels, though pita crisps or something would have been waaaay yummier! Ha ha.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pity party, table for one

My head hurts. And I'm tired. And I'm cranky.

Tonight I am angry with Iris. I hate to say this, but sometimes, I just want her to go away. I don't wish anything bad to happen, of course, but I just sort of wish that the she had a fairy godparent to come and whisk her away for a few days and then I could just . . . . relax.

Tonight I am angry at the stupid effing sticker charts that we started for the girls. The sticker charts which, I am starting to see quite clearly, really haven't changed their behavior at all. And yet, we stuck to it, and rewarded them with stupid Barbie houses which I half want to throw in the garbage. Because we bought them based on sticker charts that didn't change anything. They were rewards for our girls basically not changing at all.

Tonight I am angry, but not in a way that makes me scary ugly screaming crazy mom, but in a way that makes me want to shake my fists at the universe. I am angry that I have a child who is so. freaking. hard. I know, it's a pity party, I know it could be so much worse, right? But still. How can we work THIS hard and STILL have a child who is so hurtful, physically and emotionally, to the people in her life.

Tonight I am angry that I got an email response from Iris's teacher and I come to find out they are doing everything in the classroom I could ever hope for them to be doing, and still, nothing is changing.

Tonight I am angry that I am reading several books right now about how to parent my difficult child and I just want to scream at the pages and tell the authors to just come to my house and fix my child right this second because most days I don't feel like I have anything left in me to do the job myself, pleaseandthankyou.

It feels like the recurring theme right now is: work your ass off, but nothing will change.

It sort of feels like maybe I should stop working on it, because, you know, the result will be no different. I am feeling like this about Iris, as well as about myself. I think the only thing I have worked just as hard on as I have with this stuff with Iris is trying to lose weight and get in to shape. And guess what, despite intense amounts of daily effort, nothing has changed.

Tonight I am angry that I ever thought that effort equalled results. Because it soooooo doesn't.

P.S. this is my 1000th post. Yay for me!

How does your garden grow?

It has been so much fun to watch the seeds in the garden beds sprout this year.

The spinach is getting ready!

The mesculin is looking delicious.

One of my gnomes is hidden behind the hostas. These plants are so funny. Having never been the care taker of hostas, I didn't realize that they only appeared to completely die in the fall. When little stick-like shoots came out of the ground this spring, I didn't think much of it. Then I somehow was out of the yard long enough for the plants to get all big and leafy on me without my notice! So fun.

I *think* this is a ranunculus. It was also hiding in the garden bed, a hold over from last summer.

This is the bouquet of flowers Eloise picked out for me for Mother's Day with a few sprigs of lilac from the bush in our yard. I looooooove the smell of lilac.
So, yes, as you may have noticed, I am working harder on including pictures in my posts. Often the subject matter doesn't exactly lend itself to pictures, per se, but I'll try! A picture-free blog is a boring blog.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Musings on Mother's Day and Bribery

It's Mother's Day. Hooray! I love Mother's Day. It was a guilt-free excuse for me to say I was leaving for half the day to go do something for myself while Matt and the girls stayed home.

So what did I do, you ask? I went clothes shopping, mostly for shorts, and to see a movie. All by myselfs. In case you were wondering why I had to go shopping for shorts, well, there's a sad answer for that. Despite working my ass off since January, I haven't really lost any weight at all. Well, I've lost a little off my bust and hips, but zero off my waist, therefor, all of the shorts I have are too small for my jiggly bits. It was really sad, trying on clothes that accentuated the muffin top that was no longer supposed to be there (you promised, Jillian Michaels!!!!!) but alas, it is what it is. So I have new shorts, and I promised myself they would not be worn again next summer.


I went to see the movie Water for Elephants, which, like most books made in to movies, was a decent enough movie but left out so much of the beauty of the book. Of course, it added in the beauty of Robert Pattinson's goofy grin, so I guess that was a pretty good trade off for storyline.

And then, the piece de resistance, I came home to a clean house! Awwwwww yeah! Best Mother's Day ever!

Switching gears here, another fairly exciting thing happened today, which is that the girls reached their "medium prize" in the sticker chart process. OHMYGOD it was a horrible, no good, rotten weekend for the girls, though. We haven't had one this difficult in a long time, though, so I am trying to keep that in mind. I wanted to chuck their "medium prize" right out the damn window, but they did eventually earn it tonight after many hours of decidedly not earning it.

Here the girls are showing off their 200 hundred stickers and their prizes. PS, they both chose these prizes themselves.

It took them two weeks to earn these with being able to earn one sticker for every half hour of time they spend together. Starting tomorrow we are moving up to one sticker for every one hour of time.

To be perfectly honest, I have NO idea if, overall, the sticker charts are working. It was crystal clear this weekend that the promise of a BARBIE GLAM VACATION HOUSE was NOT going to make our daughters not smash each other to bits. I mean, if that isn't going to make them buck up and fly right, I don't know what will. Certainly not, oh, you know, an innate desire to not smash each other's face off.

We're going to keep working on them, though. I have some questions in to our parenting class teacher about some details that just don't seem to be working, I am interested in what she has to say.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Still searching for the right fit

I'm feeling a bit bummed today. In the past week I've checked out two local home school programs that I thought would be great matches for our family, or more specifically, for Iris. My goal was to find a one day per week program that ran throughout the school year so that Iris would have a chance to build relationships with kids that would last for a while (both of these programs fit that bill). Before touring, I imagined myself feeling really torn between the two, not sure which to choose, because in my mind, they both seemed so perfect. Unfortunately, reality is rarely perfect. Now I wonder if either is even going to be "good enough".

The first program we checked out is an (outdoor) wilderness program. The space it was held was incredible, the teachers were fantastic, it was all really amazing. The only problem that I see now, and one that I anticipated, was that we have a child who, well, kind of hates being outside if the weather is anything less than stellar. And we live in Seattle, so hello. I think "our weather is less than stellar" should be the city's new motto. Iris did say she liked what we learned about at the open house, but she didn't want to do class outside all day. Fair enough. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't, either. We are not an "outdoorsy" family. I liked that Iris would get exposure to things we really wouldn't otherwise do with her. The one other majorly redeeming factor about this particular program is that it is extremely close to home. It's just a five minute drive or a very hearty walk straight up hill for about two miles.

The second program we went to check out was entirely different. It is a small group that focuses on language arts. The classes are held in a space that doesn't belong to the teacher, so it is simply borrowed on class days, which means there is nothing the kids work on that is that big, or messy, or a permanent part of their environment. They do daily field trips and explore the neighborhood and parks in a very beautiful area of the city. In my mind I envisioned the program more of being a spot for huge, messy explosions of creativity, but it's more like little explosions of creativity. This particular program is run in a neighborhood that can take about 30-40 minutes to get to if traffic is bad, which it would be every morning. While the teacher seemed very smart and full of great ideas and information, it didn't feel to me that there was that much going on, education wise, that I couldn't do with Iris at home. The main goal, for me, of that program would be the social element.

Both programs pretty much ask for a commitment for the whole program year right up front.

So, yeah, I'm bummed. I am feeling like I might need to throw out my desire for a pre-made, structured program and dig a little deeper to figure out what I can put together that will be the right thing for Iris's social, emotional and educational growth. I mean, that should be pretty easy, right?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Yes, there is a real person under this parenting stuff

I was realizing I have been posting SO much about my journey through my parenting classes and joys and struggles (I need to work more on the joy part of that!) that I have sort of lost my own self on my blog. Despite what I am writing about, I do, actually, have a few slivers of time for myself and my own interests and pursuits.

My newest fun thing I wanted to share is that I have decided I want to become a morning person. Yeah, I know, sort of weird, but in my quest to discover where my own personal time would come from every day, I decided it would be the early morning hours. My two days per week that the girls are in school are getting to be almost completely eaten up by appointments and errands. My night time hours are taken up mostly by Iris's new schedule of staying up later and getting family admin stuff taken care of. So what's a mama to do? Why, dig in to her slumbering hours, of course! Ha ha, no, it's not that bad. I am trying to go to bed earlier and having the sun already up at 6:00 am helps quite a bit. No way could I get up while it was still dark out.

BUT! The main reason I am getting up earlier is that I am going to an early morning yoga class two days per week. I am home from the class before my family is even awake. I have to say, it's awesome. My yoga class is awesome. My yoga teacher is awesome. The whole thing is A+.

My other new fun thing is that I pay someone every week to sit and listen empathetic ally while I talk about myself (aka I go to therapy). I haven't been to therapy in a few years and MAN, I forgot how awesome it is. I'm on this whole new program of working from a few different angles of getting my anxiety issues in order, so hopefully it works. I am enjoying the appointments, but sometimes it's like ONE MORE THING I have to do every week. Sometimes, even when something is fun and helpful, it can still feel a little bit like work.

If you've been reading here for a year or more you may remember how last year at this time I was chin-deep in co-chairing my girls' school's annual auction. I have stepped aside from the task of running it this year but was missing having a hand in the organizing. I just got a few projects to work on. Nothing complicated, in fact, it's a few pieces of the stuff I did last year. I didn't realize that I might actually feel good about taking on a little work.

We are getting extremely close to beginning our homeschooling journey, just under three weeks until Iris's last day of school! It probably doesn't sound like a "me time" thing, but I am really enjoying digging deeper in to information about everything. I recently joined the homeschoolers group for all of Seattle and it's truly invigorating to know so many families are on the same journey. There are more activities going on then one could ever come close to participating in. Last week we went to an open house for an (outdoor) wilderness program that runs one day a week. It happens very close to our house in a beautiful spot of wilderness that makes you feel miles outside the city. We are also going to another open house this week for a different one day per week program. I am giddy with excitement! Maybe it's just ME who wants to be a homeschooler?

Along those lines, I read a bunch of different homeschooling blogs that I like for various reasons. One of them is the Pioneer Woman's homeschooling blog. This morning I read a guest post by someone who only homeschooled one of her children while the others were in a traditional school. Since this is the route we are going, I am keenly aware that this is a true rarity. I was so tickled to read a post about it!

Although technically we start homeschooling in June, I haven't purchased any curriculum yet. The summer will be spent "unschooling" and exploring Iris's interests and getting in to a rhythm of our day.

The other big exciting thing I am starting to put more energy in to is our upcoming Maui vacation! Have I ever said I have never been on a real vacation before? As a child we spent our summers sailing on Lake Michigan (which, don't get me wrong, was truly amazing). Once I left home any "vacation" money I had went towards travelling to see my family in WI and MI. Finally, finally!, I am going to the beach. To somewhere warm and wonderful. Of course, these vacations don't just happen on their own! There is much preparation and planning to be done. Thankfully, I enjoy that sort of thing!

Monday, May 02, 2011

So frustrated

As you have read here, Matt and I are working pretty hard on helping the girls, especially Iris, improve their behavior. Also as I have written, we've had pretty good success with everything we are doing. Annoyingly (or rather, not surprisingly) the improvements in behavior are directly related to how much Matt and I are working on it. Which is to say, not working on it = sliding back to the same ol' same ol'. But still, over all, we're on a fantastic upward trend.

Of course, there is always a catch. Ever since we have started the parenting class and the therapy with Iris we haven't received any positive feedback from Iris's teachers. In fact, the only feedback we receive is negative in nature. This part is frustrating for two reasons, the first of which being that OHMYGOD WE ARE WORKING SO HARD! and the second of which being that we know her behavior isn't 100% bad at school, but that is all we are hearing about.

Today a teacher approached me about a situation and wanted my feedback on ways to deal with it. Of course, I very much appreciated being asked, but unfortunately my response was: I have no idea what to do.

All of the work we have been doing at home, for some reason or another, doesn't sound like it is translating to what Iris is doing at school. Or maybe it is, but I'm not hearing about it. Who knows. I don't really know what to do about it. At home we talk about situations that might come up with her friends, we brainstorm how to offer compliments and how to deal with difficult situations (for example), but brainstorming isn't really "the real deal". Once she is at school she is out of my direct influence. I'm basically all but banned from being in the classroom, which is extremely frustrating in itself, so I can't go in and observe or shadow Iris or help work on her behaviors from that angle.

The other thing that is difficult is that Iris has basically no playdates. I used to work hard at setting these up for her, with little success in getting something worked out and, when I did, pretty much zero reciprocation, so the process got old and, well frustrating for me. But that is really MY issue, and one I will have to work on once again when we start homeschooling. What this means, however, is that I have extremely limited opportunities to work with Iris and her peers. I am seriously considering signing her up for a group that is strictly for kids with social issues so they can be guided through "playdates" by trained professionals and all work on their social skills together. The one I am looking at is crazy expensive (only $56 an hour!) but if it helped, it would be worth it.

I believe I have written about it here in the past, but my biggest concern with Iris homeschooling used to be that she wouldn't have that daily interaction with the same kids to work on some of these things. I have zero concern for her ability to get the proper education outside of a traditional school setting, but a heavy concern for getting the right kinds of opportunities to work on social skills. I have to say, though, that as this year has moved on, I think that the best thing for Iris is to have a great deal of direct supervision on some of this stuff. There is no classroom in the world that will give her that kind of attention, so hopefully homeschool will be the answer to that. I guess we'll see, right?