Monthly Archives: March 2013

How to Console a Child (While Possibly Scarring Another for Life)

The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone.  Growing up in a family of five girls, I was the oldest and she was the second oldest.  Now we are both married and mommies, she with three kids and me with five.  Most of our conversations are filled with parenting stories, and occasionally, stories reminiscent of our own childhoods together.  Now while this post may not be traditional in the sense that I am talking about my children, it definitely is noteworthy in the sense that it is about parenting and, quite possibly, how she and I were shaped into the parents we are today (wonderful, of course).

Yesterday we were recalling a special, warm night long ago.  I was 6 or 7 and she would have been 4 or 5.  Now at this particular time in our lives, we lived in a nice, two story house in a nice neighborhood.  We were adventurous and imaginative.  We collected all sorts of skeletal remains and created our own museums and tried to charge admission (no one came, sadly).  We created our own amazing restaurant and put together the menu ourselves.  We even made the items and tried to get our mom to sample our culinary skills (she wouldn’t).

The house we lived in was not without its own stories, about which we loved to create wild fantasies.  For example, in the basement, there was a huge closet.  The first part of the closet could be closed off from the rest of the closet (thank God!!), and that was where our mom did the laundry.  The rest of the closet was filled with… mannequins.  Now why the previous owners had a bunch of mannequins down in their basement and left them so generously to us was beyond my understanding.  All I know was it was C-R-E-E-P-Y!

There was also a laundry shoot that opened up at the top of the second floor, on the first floor and went all the way into the basement.  The idea was that you could put your clothes down the shoot instead of carrying them down three or two flights of stairs.  However, the shoot was sealed at the basement end and not at the top.  Why?  Who knows.  What was stacked up in there at the bottom besides some of our unfortunate toys?  Who knows.  My sister and I liked to play a game where one of us dropped a toy from the second floor and the other caught it from the shoot on the first floor.  Sometimes we missed…

But perhaps the creepiest thing about the house, simply by the nature of its location, was our bedroom and its “closet.”  It was actually an attic (hello!  who puts attics next to bedrooms?!?) that was made into a huge playroom that had no windows, high ceilings and a 10 foot stuffed kangaroo in it.  Again, another creepy gift left behind by the previous owners.

Here is a crude diagram of our room and our bed placement in it:

our bedroom

One night after tucking us both in, saying prayers and kissing us goodnight, my sister started crying.  In came my mom and asked her what the matter was.

“There are monsters in the closet!”  she cried.

“No, there are no monsters in your closet.  Go back to sleep,” my mother gently said.

“Yes there are!!!!”  she cried even more.  My mom sighed and tried to comfort her, to no avail.  Finally, she offered the following:

“Listen, even if there were monsters in the closet, they would see Laura’s bed first when they opened the door and eat her instead.”

That comforted my sister and she went to sleep.  As for me… I’m not sure I slept so well.

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When Toys Get Sick

For my daughter’s fifth birthday, she received about a dozen small, plastic squeaky animal toys that came with their own little barns and houses.  They really are quite cute.

This morning I was on the phone with one of my sisters who lives in a far away land.  Getting our timing right so that we can talk is tricky, so when we do catch each other, it’s a treat.  Needless to say, while on the phone with her catching up on all the latest, I was preoccupied.

I came into the downstairs bathroom to turn off a light, still on the phone, only to find my daughter standing on the bathroom counter, head almost to the ceiling, drying something off with a towel.

“What are you doing up there?!”  I asked, putting my sister on hold.

“I have to dry off my dog,” she said, referring to one of the aforementioned plastic toys.

“Why is your dog wet and why do you have to stand up on the counter to dry it?  Get down!”  I pulled her off the counter and set her on the floor.

“He fell in the toilet.”

“Okay… how was it that your dog fell into the toilet?”

“He was throwing up,” she replied, still as matter-of-factly as ever.

“WHAT?!”

“He drank too much tea and got sick and was throwing up and then he fell into the toilet.  So… I’m drying him off.”   She then skipped out of the bathroom.

Here is the rest of the story, as I pieced it together:

I made them all some tea this morning.  Apparently, my daughter didn’t like her’s too much, so she let her dog “drink” it.  Squeezy toys can suck up water by squeezing them in the liquid and then releasing.  It was full of tea, also didn’t like it, and went to the toilet to “throw up.”

The adventures are always here, but finding out the story in bits and pieces is the real fun!


Complex Minds

In case you have ever wondered whether children ponder the great mysteries of life, I am here to assure you that they do. Take my 8-year old son, for example. This morning we were on our way to church, driving along with little to no conversation. Suddenly, from the back of the car he asks, “Mommy, how big is Daddy’s head?”

Now while I could not stop laughing, I also was quite curious as to just how long he was wondering this, WHY he was wondering this, and what the whole thought process was behind such a question.


Excuses

Breakfast in our house takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R.  On mornings where we don’t have to be out the door by a certain time (4 out of 7 days a week), it seems we are in the kitchen for hours.  It is something that drives me nuts!

This morning was one of those forever mornings.  Half of the kids were at the table still eating, the other half were jumping around.  With bowls and messes everywhere, jumping up and down and playing, it’s hard to tell who is finished and who is not.  The 3-year old was on his second course.  The 11-year old was on his tea course, and the 5-year old was jumping around with the 11-year old while I tried to sweep up under them.  Baby and the 8-year old were making noises from another room.

“Stop messing around in the kitchen and finish your food!”  I finally yelled to the 11 and 5-year old.  They had danced through my pile for the last time!  They ignored me.  “Hurry up and drink your tea and then get dressed,” I said to the 11-year old.  He ignored me.  “Finish your food!”  I yelled at the 5-year old.

Finally a response:  “I already did!”  She said, still playing around with her brother.

“Then why didn’t you take over your bowl?”  I asked.

She only thought for a second before responding:  “Because I’m holding a Blankie and she doesn’t like it when I put her down.”


Road Trips

I am the oldest of five girls.  I remember taking many road trips with the family when we were younger.  Actually, any place we went, be it the grocery store or a scenic drive could be categorized into the memory bank of “road trips.”  One thing was guaranteed about all trips we took: we would scream and fight the whole way.  My mom would bring Wee-Sing cassettes to play (those God-awful tunes are STILL in my head to this day), and my dad would pull out his hair trying to get us to stop fighting and screaming at each other.  I never could figure out why our poor parents wanted to drive anywhere with us!

There was one vacation in particular that really stands out in my mind.  I believe there were all five of us kids at that point, and I was no older than 10 or 11.  We had this huge van that was as ugly as it was big.  It could haul a dozen families and still have room for junk to get tossed around in.  It was also old.  At the time we decided to take this family getaway from Houston, Texas to somewhere freezing and snowy in Colorado, the van needed to be jumped almost every time it was turned on.

Now the great state of Texas is very large.  A non-stop drive to Colorado would take someone a day.  How long did it take us?  Three days.  Three days of bliss on the highway.  Three days needing a jump when we turned off the car.  At least one night of no vacant hotels and camping miserably inside the van.  And of course, three days of sibling screaming and bickering.

My mom had just bought scrapbooks for me and my sister closest in age to me.  I could not wait to fill it up with Colorado road trip paraphernalia!  But my third sister got car sick and barfed all over the cover.  I was irate, devastated and ready to pull all her beautiful curls out.  But my dad told me about his Crosby Stills Nash and Young record he had when he was in college.  Beautiful, new, perfect.  But along came his cat and pooped right on the center of the album cover.   He promised me that I would always remember that trip and that scrapbook (and for him, that cat!) because of it’s unintended first entry.  I still have the scrapbook to this day, and yes, you can still see the spot where I cleaned off my beloved sister’s vomit.  Ahh, memories!

Now I am a parent of five children and I cart them around all over town, and sometimes from city to city.  I used to brag about how well they traveled, but I guess pride really does cometh before the fall.  They antagonize each other.  Grab blankies, throw toys, scream, whine, complain that everything takes so long, think that every fast food place we pass means they must eat NOW.  The 3-year old picks his nose and eats it.  The 8-year old asks me endless questions about who plays who in the movies from the way back seat where I could not hear him even if he screamed.  The baby makes shrill noises now just so he doesn’t get forgotten.  And well, every trip in the car has now become a road trip.

When we make the trek out to my parents’ ranch house 5.5 hours away, it takes us between 7 and 9 hours.  We stop at least a dozen times.  You know the drill: 4 will have to pee, but the one refuses…. until we have passed all signs of life.  Then it is an emergency that he/she go RIGHT NOW.  The constant hunger even though they just ate, and ate before that, and ate and snacked and ate some more.  Ahh, yes… we are making memories.  I am screaming and throwing my hand behind me to get them to stop fighting, to no avail.  We try to play little games in the car like “I spy a cow,” but that never lasts long… When the questions and fighting and noise gets a little too much, I add in my own noise – my CD’s.  And no, I don’t play Wee-Sing.  That stuff never EVER leaves your brain.

But eventually we make it to our destination and I am literally kissing the ground when we get out.

Of course, I know this will not last.  Already, my almost 12 year old has precious little to say.  Too soon will my car be quiet… so for all the noise and frustration and hair loss I may experience, it is worth the poop and vomit that make those memories oh so precious!


Money May not Grow on Trees… but It Grows at the Bank!

I really have tried to explain the concept of money to my children.  Perhaps not thoroughly enough, or with enough dedication, but I have tried.  It is a subject that comes up all the time.  I have tried to do allowance with the older three, working out with them tithe money, savings money and “their” money to keep.  We made separate envelopes and kept it up, sporadically, for awhile.  But then I fell out of the habit, or didn’t have the cash on hand, or forgot, and so allowance has been far and few between lately.  Still, my kids know that when we go to the bank, that means Mommy has a check from Daddy and is putting it into her account.  They know that when they do get allowance, the cash comes from the bank.

They ask for money a lot.  The 8-year old wants Legos.  The 5-year old sees a princess coloring book she wants to add to her collection of at least 100.  The 3-year old wants gum and whatever else he can get his sticky fingers on in the store.  The 11-year old, thankfully, is content to not have it.

I am not a give-in-and-buy-to-shut-them-up kind of mom.  So I say “no” to their “I wants” and “can  you buy mes.”  If it isn’t their birthday in two days, I don’t want to hear what they want.  They think this must be because I don’t have money, and so they always ask if that’s the reason.   Lots of times it is.  But even if I did have money falling out of my purse, I’m not raising gimme brats.

Sometimes this is a little embarrassing.  Like being in the grocery store and they ask for a particular food…

“Can we buy Lucky Charms?”

“No.”

“Why, because Daddy didn’t give you any money?”

“No… because they are bad for you.”

Sometimes, like I said, money is the case.

“Mommy, can we go to Chick-fil-A?”

“No… I don’t have money for that (and it’s bad for you and blah blah blah).”

Many times they ask if we can just drive up to the bank and get some money.  I tell them it doesn’t work that way.  Daddy has to make the money, we have a budget, Mommy gets some, Daddy gets some.  But the money in the bank is our money.  If we don’t have it in our account, the bank won’t just give it to us.  I think this concept either has not, or refuses to sink into their heads.  They always ask.

Today, my husband’s checkbook was sitting on the counter.  They see me write checks for myself and Daddy sign them all the time.  My 8-year old was thumbing through it thoughtfully, probably fantasizing about the giant Lego sets he has yet to own.

“Mom,” he said casually, “can I write a check?”

“No.”

“But you write checks and get money.  So can I write a check and get some money?”

“Nope.  Doesn’t work like that.”

“Well, you can sign it after I write it.”

Sigh… we will have to work on this much more than I thought!


Good Days

The rain and bad days fall on everyone. Sometimes, however, it can seem like these days pile up on each other and a good day is far behind and too far ahead. The daily struggles of raising children – fighting, arguing, yelling, tattling, 5 weeks of stomach viruses , the battle to do schoolwork, and then the inability to fit it all in when the days throw a curve ball – can be discouraging for even the strongest mom!

I find myself collapsing into bed many nights feeling like a crappy mom… or sitting at the table across from them all and wondering if I’m getting anything right.

But then there are the good days… the GREAT days! The days that really come more than the bad but get forgotten when I feel overwhelmed by the moment.

The other day I had ordered our second volume of Story of the World (our history curriculum). It came in the mail this weekend and my 11-year old got it and opened it. He began flipping through the chapters and reading a little here and there. “Look what we get to learn!” and “I can’t wait to read this… look!” followed by “I’m so excited we get to start this book soon!”

Great moment.

I was printing up some addition pages for my 5-year old. She watched me eagerly. When I had finished printing six worksheets front and back, I handed her one and she skipped off to the table. She came back, I kid you not, in about one minute. “Done!” she said. “Can I do more?”

Almost jokingly, I handed her the rest of the five pages (front and back, remember) and said, “Here, go knock yourself out!” She ran with them to the table. Every minute she brought me back a completed one.

Great moment.

Then I sat here to blog about these highlights. The 5-year old had finished the six math worksheets and was upstairs. Then the screaming began and the oldest came down to inform me that the 3-year old had punched the 5-year old in the face.

Nice.