Monday, January 31, 2011

Mirroring -Day 5 & 6

First off, thanks to my friends for all their lovely comments and book suggestions.  They are much appreciated (although I do wonder how you guys find the time to do all this reading!).

I was honestly too exhausted to write yesterday.  It was a long, overwhelming and challenging day where every member of my family was over tired.  I was not in a state to write about my amazing patience and positivity as I wasn't really exhibiting a whole lot of it.  I have to say that parents taking care of themselves definitely plays into their ability to be there for their kids.  And my late nights didn't help me feel up to the task of parenting.  The weekends always test my parenting skills, and when I'm wiped out fighting a never ending cold, I really should be more responsible and go to bed early.  Alas...

I did however, discover an interesting theme yesterday.  I had just been reading in my class text book about how children mirror the body language and emotion they see in adults, and if we as parents start acting all wiggy and stressed out, it's likely our kids will follow our lead and start acting the same way.  I can see the logic in that. 

In a TV induced moment of calm, I managed to sit down with last weeks' Economist for a few minutes. I came across an article discussing whether or not smoking in movies promotes smoking.  And guess what they were talking about?  Yep, you got it: mirroring body language.  As this concept popped up twice in a 12 hour period, I've decided it's worth paying some attention to.

As I continue working on all this better parenting stuff, I am going to try to pay more attention to my tone of voice, my body language, and my facial expressions.  I am not good at hiding things from people, so when I'm annoyed, it's pretty obvious.  Keeping in mind that I may get my own behavior thrown back in my face, I will try and keep an internal check on how I am sending messages to my kids.

Perhaps I should also take up poker playing....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

TV-Day 4

Were you wondering how I did today?

Well, as it's so late, I will keep it brief.

I did pretty well, with a few hiccups here and there.

But the thing that struck me as blog worthy was the moment when I realized I was reading about limiting television time in my new  parenting text book while sitting next to my daughter who was watching television.

I'll admit it, it's easy to let kids watch too much TV.  At the same time, I'm not convinced that some thoughtful television choices will have a negative impact on my kids.

I do not think my kids watch too much TV.  I do think that academics who suggest television is the devil, are obviously not presently parents of young children.

There is a time and a place for TV and it's usually when it's time to calm down and mellow out a bit (like while I'm cleaning up from the kids dinner, or making some meal or other).  Sometimes it's better to have them engaged in TV than fighting with each other (or me) or destroying our house because they are over stimulated.

While many may suggest that kids aren't learning from all this children's programming, I'd like to disagree.

The kids learn about being a good person (morals and values) from the Berenstain Bears: about art, music and geography from the Little Einsteins: spelling from Super Why, various goodies from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Spanish from Dora and Diego, and general goodness (and Spanish) from Handy Manny (who I have a secret crush on).

In an ideal world, we probably wouldn't have our little kids sitting in front of a television, but in the real world, it's just not fair to ask us to shelter them from small doses of thoughtful television programing.  Sometimes we just need a break, because we as parents aren't perfect either. 

I know a lot of people who grew up watching much less educational "children's programming," and we turned out OK.  So for now, I am going to embrace the patience and positivity that 24 minutes of television can bring my kids and I.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My "Fake Positivity"-Day 3

In case you're wondering, I managed to keep relatively positive for the rest of our snowed in day yesterday.  In fact, we managed to get outside after nap time and create this lovely snowman.  The babe and I had a ball, while the little guy whined pretty much the whole time, except when I pulled him around the yard in a sled.

What I wanted to write about today is "fake positivity."  I have discovered that when I am on the verge of losing it, I have been going into "fake positive" mode where my voice goes up a notch, my blood starts to boil and I try to communicate my message in as few words as possible.  To me (and my husband) it's obvious that I'm losing my patience and ability to remain positive, and I'm sure the babe can see through it as well.  But for now, as I adjust to this new way of thinking, I am going to have to let it slide because it's gotta be better than yelling at my kids, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, the babe and I have a new thing to fight about: clothes.  And the clothes thing has brought out a lot of "fake positivity" in me.  I'm grateful she can dress herself now, but a part of me is really missing the days I could grab her clothes, put them on her, and be done with it.

Today I asked the babe if she needed help choosing her outfit for school (thank goodness it wasn't cancelled today!).  She was preoccupied with getting a band aid for a minor wound which did not need a band aid, so she replied that yes, she'd like help.  But I was to chose "only pink things and skirts."  My heart sunk.  Where does my little girl get this from? 

The text book for my new class mentions that little girls are exploring what it means to be girls, and sometimes that comes out in the choice of pink things with lots of accessories.  So, after explaining that there was indeed some pink in the shirt I chose for her, the babe ended up in pink socks, pink leggings, a purple skirt (as she doesn't own a pink skirt), a shirt with lots of pink (and other colour) flowers, a purple headband, and a plastic necklace.

I have to go with it.  I have to let her explore this side of her personality (and ask my Mom if I ever went through such a silly phase).  I just wonder how much comes from the girls at school, because it is not coming from me.  Sadly, the days of buying gender neutral clothes both my kids can wear are gone forever.

Another issue we're facing is changing our clothes all the time.  I feel like we are experiencing a serious surge in laundry.  As much as I protest, she doesn't seem to care how much extra work it is for me when she decides to throw on a new outfit every few hours (did I mention she manages to get them all dirty?).  This brings out my "fake positivity" when I ask if it's really necessary to be changing our outfit again.  Is this something I fight over?  Do I just suck it up?  Because I really don't think positivity and patience are going to solve this problem.

And if you think I should start having her do her own laundry, well maybe you're right.  But I honestly don't have the patience right now.  I have to save my patience for the things that really matter (like sleeping, eating and bathing).  The babe wants to do everything on her own now, but I'm frankly not ready to let her get her little hands on my new front loading washing machine! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Challenges of Positive Parenting in a Blackout-Day 2

Nothing makes parenting more challenging than losing your electricity for 12 hours. 

I got to put my positivity and patience project to work today, and not to ring my own bell or anything, I did pretty darn well (granted it is only 2:15 pm).  Unfortunately my husband didn't get to witness much of this patience before he left for the office, but I swear I was on my game from about 8:15 am onward.

The babe and I didn't have any battles.  Oh, except for when she walked down the stairs towards the little guy and I in her tights (it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the house) and tried to punch me.  I had just been struggling to get her to put layers of warm clothes on, and after much back and forth, had given up.  Clothing is our new war zone and I am trying to not make it a HUGE issue every day, but today I was pretty set on her dressing warmly, seeing as there was no heat in the house and it's the middle of winter.

As I mentioned, I had given up and told her I wasn't going to fight with her and if she didn't want my help getting dressed, I was going downstairs with the little guy.  This set her off into a big tizzy of yelling and throwing things around her room.  I was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she appeared, in a long sleeve T-Shirt and tights and proceeded to walk down the stairs.  I asked if she thought she was coming downstairs dressed like that, and she replied, "No, I'm coming down the stairs to hit you."  At least she's honest.  She struck out at me and missed (obviously she blew the element of surprise) and I proceeded to walk to the kitchen with the little guy to get him some Cheerios.  I didn't yell, I didn't follow her begging for compliance, I just walked away.

Within minutes she was downstairs giving me a hug and saying sorry.  I asked her if she wanted my help, and we went back up and sorted the clothing issue out.  I managed to get her into 3 layers which was close to the 4 layers the little guy and I had on.

Anyway, despite this one hiccup, I feel like a champ.  The kids and I read a gazillion books, we snuggled under blankets, we played together, and we managed to survive until the power came back on sometime after 11 am.  I remained positive, calm and collected.  I knew eventually we were going to be OK (as in not shivering). I was just glad that eventually ended up being before the kids bed time tonight.  Not sure they would have been fans of being stuck in a dark house with no heat, again.  Hopefully I will still be able to feel proud by the end of the day.  And hopefully we won't lose power again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Patience and Positivity-Day 1

You all know I have been struggling with my ability to be patient.  I regularly struggle with keeping my cool when things aren't going as I had planned.  I don't know if I was always this way, or if parenthood has brought it out in me.  All I know is that I need to let go a bit.  To not take it all so seriously.  And to try and see things through my kids eyes. 

Last week I was struggling with both my patience as well as my positivity.  Parenthood was feeling too heavy for me and I wasn't exactly appreciating the bright side of it all.

To help me get to this land of patience and positivity, I enrolled myself in an 8 week parenting course.  It is 2 hours a week and they have childcare down the hall from the classroom.  We had our first session yesterday, and I was quite pleased with how it went.

Not only did the little guy have so much fun playing with all his new friends, I got to sit in a room full of Mamas and talk about our common struggles and hopes.  As I am pretty candid with my Mama blogging, I wasn't holding things back when I spoke, and it felt good.  In fact, one of my class mates thanked me for being so honest when I introduced myself and told my "story."  A few women were nodding as I spoke and commented that I had just summarized thier lives and that they didn't think anyone else felt the same way they did.

We sit on couches and drink crappy instant coffee with powder creamer and talk about how challenging our kids are (it is a class designed for parents of preschoolers age 2.5 to 5) and ways we can make things better.

The only problem with this course is that we are embarking on a movement towards "positive discipline."  This term means many things, but the biggest challenge for me will be to stop using "punishments" or the threat of punishments when the babe misbehaves.  There's a whole bunch of positive stuff I can do instead, which I'm not going to get in to here, but it appears as though I'm going to have to make some changes if I want to get to the place my instructor thinks I can get to.

Today was Day 1 of being patient and positive with my kids.  Not that I was never those things before, but I am making a SERIOUS effort to not give in to all the opportunities where the babe and I could get into a verbal throw down with each other.  I am walking away from opportunities to battle with her by using compassion, humour, and understanding.  I am trying to get to her level, look her in the eyes, listen to her, give her more hugs, and not yell.  WHOA.  As my husband said 45 minutes into the day, "Wow, I guess being positive and patient takes a whole lot of energy."  And indeed, it does, but it feels so much better than giving into the easiness of yelling at the babe and threatening her with our roster of punishments (no desert, no bath (just a shower) and no story time at bed).  

By bath time tonight I was toast.  I wasn't doing so great with the patience (I'll admit I was on my own with bath and bed time for both of them), but I managed to bring it back by cuddling up with my 2 yummy clean little kiddies and reading a story and singing some songs before bed time.  It felt good.

For the next 8 weeks prepare to read about my serious mission to learn, grow, and be a better, more patient, and positive Mama (and wife, for that matter).  I have 5 chapters of "homework" to read in the next 6 days!  Can't get more serious than that!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love It

I am happy to report that our new sports class is awesome.  The little guy loves it.  I love it.  It's all good.

The coach is great with kids and I can tell my son is slowly going to learn how to listen a bit better in a group environment.  It's true he was running laps around the gym while other kids were sitting relatively quietly and learning how to throw a football, but he was having fun and participating (in his own way).

Another cool thing is that I am not the only Mom in the class.  In fact, there's a huge group of Moms.  There's so many Moms that I'm not going to get the chance to speak with them all over the course of the class.

So maybe I just had to whine a bit for the good things to come our way.  Or maybe I just had to drop out of art and join the game.  Either way, Mondays are looking up (even though there are reports that today is the most depressing day of the year).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where Did All The Mamas Go?

I have been feeling kind of stranded lately. It may be just a January thing.  But if I had to put my finger on it, at this very minute, I am annoyed by the lack of Mamas out there.  Everywhere I go, every class I take, I am surrounded by a sea of Nannies.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Nannies, it's just that I am not one.  I am a Mama.  And I feel like all the other Mamas went back to work, or something.

It's strange to feel excluded.  Like I'm not part of the club. And the fact that I don't speak Spanish certainly doesn't help.

It can be lonely being a Stay-at-Home-Mama (SAHM).  And as much as I try to set times up to see my real life SAHM friends, we are all very caught up in our children, their schedules, our errands, and our family lives in general. 

I debated about whether or not to share this next little story, and have decided it's too much of a story not to share.  Recently a neighbor/fellow SAHM, tried to set me up with another woman from down the street as our kids are about the same age.  We had an email exchange and got close to booking a play date.  Except the play date was to be with myself and this woman's Nanny.  I am not a snob, but I was slightly offended that this woman thought it would even be OK to suggest that.  I politely replied that I would be happy to plan something when the Mother's schedule freed up a bit.  I have not heard back.

I know I told you I made a decision about my SAHM status, but some days, some weeks, and some months are harder than others.  I know in my heart I am doing the right thing.  But perhaps there is more of a balance I can find for next year.  So if anyone knows of any local half day co-op preschools, feel free to share.  I think the little guy would benefit from some structured program, and I would benefit from a few hours off child care duty a few times a week.  It may, in fact, be a good step for the kids and I to take together.  

Asking For Help

You may recall I was having A LOT of trouble trying to get the babe to her classroom door every morning.  You may also recall that I just couldn't handle controlling the little guy in the crowded halls of the babe's preschool.  And you may recall I almost had a major meltdown, at the school, in front of people, while trying to help the babe with all her winter gear last Thursday.

Well you know what I did last Friday?  I asked for help.

I confided in the school's front desk staff member, whom I love, that I was having trouble and didn't know how I was going to continue to be able to bring the babe to her classroom every morning.  And guess what?  She offered to watch the little guy on the first floor while I bring the babe to her class on the second floor.  I don't have to take my son out of the stroller at all (which is priceless), and he seems to think hanging out with Ms. A is dreamy.  Luckily she thinks he's really cute (at least for now), so it seems to be win win for all involved.


We have been taking advantage of this kind and generous offer ever since.  And it makes morning drop off a whole different experience.  It's almost sort of pleasant at times.  All the kids and the noise and the chaos don't get to me as much when I am only chaperoning my 4 year old.  She is a big girl and likes to show off what she can do, and now I'm actually able to appreciate it and let her know how well she's doing.

All I had to do was ask for help.

Perhaps I should try it more often.

Not An Artist

I was trying to have a balanced approach to parenting when I enrolled the little guy in an arts and crafts class.  I figured he would benefit from exploring his more creative side.  I was wrong.

Sadly we had quite a miserable time at our first art class this morning.

It's not that he was the youngest kid at the table.  He wasn't.  It's not that there weren't interesting things to do.  There were.  It's that he wanted to leave the table and run around the room exploring.  He also wanted to throw a few crying fits, step on other people's art work drying on the floor, stare out the window at the clouds, and pretty much anything that didn't have something to do with the class we had registered for.

I knew within a few minutes I had made a mistake.  I had an internal dialogue on whether I should switch to a more active class or just get my money back.  I was also debating whether I was giving him enough of a chance.  Perhaps he just needs to try it a few times, I thought to myself.

Well by the end of it I had decided I was not going to torture myself for the next eight Friday mornings.  I asked the teacher if she knew about the withdrawal policy and while she didn't have any useful information for me, she certainly seemed relieved that my non artistic son and I would not be coming back and interrupting her little class.

I was relieved when the front desk guy reassured me that it would be OK and passed along the contact info of the Director of kids programing.  I gave her a call as soon as we got home and we switched the little guy into a sports class as of next week.  No hassle whatsoever.

I don't feel like a failure.  But I did learn a lesson.  The little guy is not the type of kid who wants to sit at a table quietly painting.  This guy wants to move.  And I'm going to let him.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Sorry, Coco"

As you may recall, the little guy apologized to me for the first time the other day.  He really seemed to get that throwing his toy across the room is just not cool.

Guess what his new favorite word is?

Yep, you got it.  Sorry.  He seems to have realized there is a lot to say sorry for.

Now we hear "Sorry, Mama," and "Sorry, Papa," and "Sorry, Coco," all day long.

Coco?  Who the hell is that? 

Coco is apparently the babe.  Over the last few days, exhausted by the effort of trying to master his sister's name, the little guy has started calling the babe Coco.  We do not understand where it came from.

This morning he was in bed with us watching cartoons when we heard the babe yell some random thing from her room down the hall.  He yelled back "Coco" at the top of his lungs.

And it has carried on all day.

We all think it's funny.  Both the "sorry" thing, which is cute, and the "Coco" thing, which is strange and overall humorous.  Not sure how long we'll think these things are cute and humorous, but for now we take it as progress.  The process of learning to speak involves many twists and turns....and we are just trying to enjoy the ride.   

Be. More. Patient.

If they sold patience, I would buy it in bulk.  I would give up all my treats to afford it.  I would do pretty much anything to have more patience.

The kids.....who I love so very to such a degree I sometimes think my head will explode.  Being a Mom means I have to keep a lot inside.  There is a lot of inappropriate language going on in my head, and although I try to keep my game face on, I do not always keep it under control.  I do not curse in front of my kids, but I do blow my lid every once in a while.

Our morning wasn't overly smooth today.  But the highlight was dropping the babe off at school (we were actually on time).  I am having BIG problems getting the babe into her class in the morning.  There are so many steps to get out the door in the winter.  And the school hallway where jackets and boots are stored is so crowded with little people I feel like I am going to lose it. 

As I am not allowed to take the stroller up to the second floor, I have to take the little guy upstairs with no way of controlling his movements.  I'm also supposed to be helping the babe with her jacket, mitts, hat, snow pants, boots, lunch bag, etc.  Add about 15 other similar kids into the mix, plus a 2 year old boy who will not stay still and doesn't listen when you are yelling at him to "GET BACK HERE," it really is enough to break me. 

I know it's only a 20 minute experience, but it is the worst 20 minutes.  I guess I'm just jealous of all the parents who breeze in with one kid and are out the door in less than 5 minutes.  I know I always look like a mess, and I mumble to myself, and I don't look like someone you'd want to be friends with, but I suppose if I just get through it, the winter will pass and we will get to a point when jackets and all that jazz are no longer needed.

Perhaps I need to get more in tune with my Canadian self.  Be nicer, calmer, more patient and able to handle the chaos of children in the winter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Canadians Skate

As I've mentioned, we recently returned from a long trip to Canada.

Last Saturday I decided we needed to make more of an effort to expose our kids to "Canadian" things, and while Canada doesn't own ice skating, there sure is a lot of it going on up there.

So we packed up the kids after nap time and drove out to the rink.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it was really, really hard to take a 4 year old and 2 year old to a busy public skating rink.  There's the part where you have to stand in line and buy your ticket, the part where you stand in line and rent skates, the part where you squeeze onto a crowded bench and wrestle with children getting them into the skates, the part where you try and walk them to the rink and get on the actual ice without killing anyone, and the part where you try and skate around hunched over holding onto the full weight of a 30/34 pound child while trying not to collide into the boards or other skaters.

Guess how many times the little guy and I made it around?  3.  Guess how many times the babe and her Dad made it around?  2.  Guess who could barely move the next morning?  My Husband and I.  But guess who really dug skating? Both of my dual citizen children.  Check them out watching the Zamboni drive by.  Fascinating stuff, eh?

So will we do it again?  Yes.  Will it be soon?  Let me get back to you after my back and arms have healed.

The Art Show

December was a crazy busy month. As such, I am going to have to back track a bit.

On December 15th, the babe's class had their annual "art show."  The school displays the work the kids have been focusing on since September.  We get all dressed up and eat a pot luck dinner together.  It it quite the event.

I am posting a picture of the babe and her art piece, inspired by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.  I don't normally put pics of the babe up, but she looks so proud standing next to her art, and I can't resist sharing it with you.

As you can see (despite the fact that I cut off the top of it), the babe's painting is quite something.  While many of her female classmates speak of unicorns, princesses, and castles in the evening's program, my daughter apparently took her inspiration from a friend.

The piece is called "Eleanor Is Writing Her Numbers"
Acrylic on Canvas

"This painting is of Eleanor because she once had pink eye and needed to go to the doctor.  The brown ladder is for her to fix her roof and the blue ladder is for her tears to travel.  The table is for dinner and the blue circle is her computer.  The red lines make her a wolf.  Eleanor is in school and is looking at her new boot her mom bought her.  This painting can be sad and this painting can be happy.  My favorite part of being down in the art studio was doing the (collaborative) painting with my friends."

Now if you can deconstruct that for me, and let me know what it means exactly, I owe you.

I am proud of my little artist and while her style may have shifted from last year's piece, I can't wait to hang the babe's new work up on our new walls.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New Photo

I have a new photo up.  It's called "The Big Hug."  It was taken a few weeks ago behind my folks place by a very dear family friend, Linda. 

I want to thank Linda for the shot and for encouraging me to get back to my writing.  Sometimes hearing some positive words makes a huge difference, and I may not have plotted my return if I hadn't been given a loving shove.

It is good to catch up, isn't it?

Decisions, Part 2

I left you hanging there, didn't I?

You want to know what my decision was?

I decided to stay home with the little guy next year.

You want to know how I decided?

I added it up.  I sat down, and crunched the numbers.  And it just doesn't make sense to send both kids to preschool in September.  I would be spending what I made to cover the cost of it. 

You want to know how else I decided?

I thought about how hard it would be to leave them from 8am to 6pm every day.  And I just can't do it.

I am by no means judging those who do, and am so grateful I have a choice, but I am not at a place right now where I can imagine leaving the kiddies for that many hours a day.

I am usually a great Mom and quite enjoy it when I have only 1 kid around (if I do say so myself).  In all honesty, I am not as effective or relaxed when I've got both with me, but I still think it is better for them and for me if we stick it out together for a while longer.

In September 2012, the babe will start kindergarten (public and free!), and at that point I think we'll all be better prepared and possibly ready to handle the challenges of living as part of a family with 2 working parents.

And who knows, perhaps I will get really good at this Mommy thing and won't be so torn anymore. Only time will tell.  But for now, I am breathing a huge sigh of relief that the little guy and I have more time together and that I will be able to continue seeing the babe's excited face as she runs towards me at pick up time every day after preschool. 

Cheers to the good life and to all our many blessings.

Belated Wishes

On December 23rd, my beloved husband turned 40.  I'm not going to go on about it, but I am eternally grateful to this man for giving me love, understanding, friendship, companionship, and 2 amazing little children.  I love you and wish you many, many more happy days.

Happy Birthday, dear husband.

On December 24th, my sweet little baby boy turned 2 years old.  I am quickly having to come to terms with the fact that he isn't a baby anymore.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to hang out with him every day and watch him learn and grow.  I think you savour things a little more when you know it's your last child.  I am trying to slow down and enjoy the little things more with him.  Every development, every new word and every new day with him seems like such a gift. I can not imagine tiring of kissing his little feet and fat cheeks. 

Happy birthday, little guy.  Your Mama, Papa and big sister all adore you.

And to all the other December birthdays out there, hope you had a great one!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Sweetest Sorry

"Sorry, Mama."

That's what the little guy said to me today right before his nap.  He had just thrown a toy across the room as I was getting him in his pajamas.  I responded to his energetic display of carelessness with a curt "No throwing." 

He looked at me, hugged me close and said "Sorry, Mama."

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is the first time my son has ever apologized to me.  He appears to have picked up the word "sorry" this week.  We told him to say sorry to his sister last night after he had been pushing her around.  He walked over to her, hugged her, and said "Sorry."

Perhaps it's that we have just returned from 16 days in Canada and Canadians say "sorry" more than Americans.  Perhaps it's that we have been encouraging apologies between the 2 siblings for some time now and the little guy has gotten used to his big sister frequently hugging him and saying sorry.

Whatever the explanation, I was extremely touched by this simple apology.  So touched I had to get myself in front of the computer and document it. 

Perhaps this was all I needed to come back to you, 24-7

Happy New Year.  I'm looking forward to continuing my Motherhood journey with you.