Sunday, April 27, 2014

One Year Later

Here are some numbers...

Sixteen: Number of months since we started Parenting on Track.

Twelve: Number of months since I last posted here.

Four: number of months we did the homeschool routine last spring. Do not recommend.

Three: number of heavenly months the kids and I lived at the ShoreClub last first and last summer not working spending all summer with them. Definitely recommend.

Eight: number of months each kid has been in school so far this year - and each one loving his or her wonderful placement

Six: number of months I have been at my new job, and loving it. Number of months my husband and I have reversed roles since my new job, with him ending his work day at 3:00 to be with the kids after school, schlep to sports and make dinner. Definitely recommend.

One Hundred and Fourteen: number of months until my youngest child graduates from high school. Number of months I have left to train my children to leave the house and contribute to society. Cannot wait.

This post is about the Six.


The past six months have been nothing short of amazing. I attribute the harmony and ease in our house to the shift in attitudes and behaviors that have occurred in us as a result of a new awareness and attending to the importance of training our young and the importance of caring for ourselves.

Morning Routine Before School/Work: 

    • Husband: leaves super early to get started on work.
    • Me:
      • Yesteryear
        • Waking kids up, making breakfast, cleaning, hollering, walking around the house very very quickly, complaining, hollering, rushing, printing things for others, going through backpacks, making lunches, finding children's shoes, finding children's socks, putting socks and shoes on children, finding children's coats, 
      • Now
        • Exercising, Showering, Dressing, Drinking Coffee, Eating Breakfast, Putting on Makeup, Doing my Hair. 
        • Please notice that the items in my list of Today's Morning Routine did not appear in the routine of yesteryear. Yes, it is true: I did not do any of these things before going to work in the past. I swear. I did what I could in the car on the way there and I showered at night. 
    • Them
      • Yesteryear
        • moving slow, not moving 
      • Now
        • wake up to alarms, get dressed, get cereal, clear table, make lunch, pack snack, shoes and socks, BRUSH HAIR (even Piper!!), brush teeth, play with the cat, get out the door in time for the bus. 

Get this: Several times per week I actually leave the house before they do. They look at the clock and make it to the bus stop every time. 

One episode last fall helped us along in this department. I said I would be driving them to school (which I was doing regularly at the time) at the normal time, but that I would be leaving at 8:00 whether or not they were in the car and that if they weren't in the car they would need to walk to school. I said it one time and one time only. Sure enough at 8:00 they weren't in the car and I actually left. I actually left. I drove out of the neighborhood and hovered nearby for 20 minutes. Then, I drove to the entrance of school (1/2 mile from our house) and from my vantage point I could see them entering the building. They were FINE.  

Are things perfect around here? Certainly not. Do we have a long way to go still? Absolutely. Is Piper's hair actually brushed? Not even close. (She still has a daily rat nest in the back that accumulates in density between hair-washes which can sometimes extend past 7 days. I still have to pray for the strength to not care what other mothers think.)

Take nagging & reminding for example. We still do it occasionally. Especially "clear you plate." Our new cat will drink the milk dregs from abandoned cereal bowls and then later vomit on the carpet. I have threatened that whomever leaves out a cereal bowl will be responsible for cleaning the vomit. But that means I would have to leave the vomit there all day until the child came home from school and I am just not willing to do that, not yet. I wonder how many vomits I will clean before I am willing? 

I also make lunches occasionally in rescue-mode when a child ran out of time. 

I make breakfast occasionally (and always on weekends) in children-must-have-protein-mode because they will always choose the path of least resistance (ie pour a bowl of cereal). The prospect of preparing eggs and bacon is just out of the question for them. Besides I like eggs and bacon so why not make five times as much and feed everyone?

Sometimes I dictate that a shower must be taken or nails must be cut. I forgot the "as soon as" trick and go into authoritarian mode. Authoritarian mode is much more effective when used sparingly. Since I rarely lapse, when I do laspe, it is amazing how quickly they respond! .... tempting ....   but not sustainable.

Sometimes before pulling out of the garage, when I know someone has forgotten something important, I will look at that someone in the eye and ask if he or she has everything he or she needs. For this they are usually eternally grateful and love me, love me, love me. I love to see the entitlement replaced with gratitude. 

But I never, ever carry their backpack.

They are slowly, very slowly, getting acclimated to more work and less lying around. They are more willing to clean up a big mess together, as a team, and have fun while doing it. (Hint: teach them how to blast their favorite song while they work.) A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!

And me? I am very much enjoying life and enjoying my children. I am much better at slowing down my busy-ness and listening to them when they want to talk or show my their drawing. I feel better physically since I have more time to take care of myself. And, believe you me, I look much better in the morning with make up on and my hair done!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Keep on Keepin On

Since we started the Parenting on Track program, a lot has happened in our family. Not because of this parenting program necessarily but because of a long build up of reasons that finally culminated in me making a decision to quit my job and stay home with the kids.

And if that wasn't dramatic enough for you. I also pulled all three kids out of school.

That's right. Homeschool. I could write posts on homeschooling, but I wont. All I will say is I haven't lost my mind, I promise. I think.

And also homeschooling isn't necessarily a permanent deal. Right now, it is just through the end of this school year.

Being so focused on this transition, I've stopped being focused on my Parenting on Track goals. I've found myself emptying the dishwasher in the morning and thinking, "Oh, let them sleep, I just want to have a good day." I've found myself packing lunches for the gang and thinking, "Its okay, we're working on other stuff right now." I'm making their beds. I'm reminding.

I'm worried about what the parents will think when we arrive at the soccer game late (especially since I am the team parent.) Because I'm worried, I will gather up Finn's soccer gear for him to help him along. I will do a check and double check in the car before we leave.

I'm nagging and reminding. I make beds and pick up clothes. I do more dishes than I should. I notice lights left on and then go tell the child that he or she left her light on (you'd think I'd learn by now that doesn't work).

I'm not sitting a the table enjoying my coffee while I write, but up and about making breakfast. I'm not writing, I'm doing for children what they can do for themselves. Ugh!

I guess you have to have done something for many years in order for it to operate in your life without being totally focused on it. And when trying to change parenting styles and change behavior in children, one must be totally focused on it for a loooonng time in order for it to stick. Especially if you want it to stick while you take your mind off it to deal with another thing that needs your focus.

So let's just say that I was away doing a little research. What I discovered is that I am a newbie. I have not been practicing for long enough. My old, undesirable ways are firmly ingrained in my thoughts and emotions and my behavior will default to the old ways unless I am actively working on bringing the new ways to bear.

I commit to renewing my focus on changing behavior. This is my commitment to you, dear husband.

BUT I haven't totally fallen back to the way I was before.

I am not putting their laundry away. I haul it downstairs, sort it, wash it, dry it and sort it into three bins. It's their job to haul the bins up to their room and put clothes away. You can laugh if you want, but hey, its progress!

I'm inviting kids to participate in dinner prep and chores and they willingly participate. I'll say, "Who wants to help unload the dishwasher?" and at least one will come running, eager to help.

Positives in the grooming department: 

Piper is sitting still for the no-longer-dreaded hair brushing experience and actually getting in the bath when asked. Zoe, get this, got in the shower to wash her hair without being asked. I kid you not. Here is how it went: "Mom, I'm going to wash my hair now."

I kid you not.

Positives in the need-help department:

Zoe: "Should I use a large white ceramic bowl or a small clear glass bowl?"
Me: "What do you think?"
Zoe: [smiles]

Zoe: "What should I bring today?"
Me: "What do you think?"
Zoe: [smiles]

Zoe: "What should I do?"
Me: "What do you think?"
Zoe: [smiles]

Next Steps

I say a lot of "Yes as soon as." I say it way too much.

"Yes, as soon as your laundry is put away."
"Yes, as soon as your coat is on the hook."
"Yes, as soon as your playdough is cleaned up."
"Yes, as soon as the table is wiped."
"Yes, as soon as you've brushed your teeth."
"Yes, as soon as you've gotten dressed."
And on and on.

I need to figure out what I expect them to do and what are the consequences of not doing it. I need to set the expectations for what and how much and when and how. I need some house rules.

I need to go revisit Flockmother's blog posts about how her kids had to refrain from unwanted behavior for a period of time and any infraction required the clock to start over.

I need to sit at the table and write while I drink my coffee.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bedtime Perspectives

Bedtimes aren't really that bad. Bedtimes in our family haven't been a source of battle, fighting, curtain-calling, screaming, crying or yelling. They're quite peaceful actually. The kids don't mind. They go willingly into bed.

But at what cost? Is there another way?

Child's Bedtime Point of View

I love bedtime because I get so much attention. After dinner is usually fun because Mom and Dad like to lay on the couch. They do this thing called the "after dinner long reach" where they walk over to the pantry and reach one arm way into the back of the pantry to get something. Their arm goes all the way in to the pantry so their head is pushed up against the cereal boxes. They act all nonchalant as if we kids have no idea but they're doing it in plain sight so its like "No Duh you are getting chocolate." We don't even bother asking for some anymore because they never, ever give us any when it is close to bedtime. Something about chocolate and kids at bedtime is just not allowed. We see it every time after dinner right before they collapse in a heap on the couch and watch as us kids do all the clean up. Its really not fair that we kids have to clean up while they relax on the couch, but I digress. This is about bedtime, not dinner, right?

After dinner is when we kids get to jump on the ottoman, jump on Mom and Dad while they lay there on the couch, play Minecraft, and pretty much do whatever we want. Our parents just lay there on the couch and act all tired like all of a sudden their tushes turned to weights and their brains turned to mush and they melt into the couch while we kids have a free for all. Its pretty fun most of the time as long as we siblings are getting along, and especially when we take the free for all over to the ottomans and couches and bombard the parents with our knees, elbows, feet or any other parts of our bodies that happen to fly around when we have fun.

The fact that I want all of my parents attention all the time doesn't really matter to me during this time of day because I'm having so much fun doing whatever I want. I know that my parents attention will make it less fun, so I'm okay with just leaving them there stuck to the couch as long as they aren't telling me what to do.

Then at 8pm, when I hear the bedtime music come on, that's when I know the end is near. The parents usually stay stuck on the couches, as if the process of ungluing themselves takes 15 minutes of preparation by thinking about it first. You never know exactly when the actual ungluing itself is going to happen because it depends on how strong the couch glue is that particular day.

At some point after the music comes on, the parent voices will eventually burst out with The Chant. The Chant sounds like this: "Ho Hay... LayLeeWone....Lime Lore Me--enn!" Its some kind of parent chant that the parents have to do to unglue themselves from the couch. They think about ungluing themselves but then cannot actualize it until they start chanting. Wierd.

Since we never know when The Chant is coming, and since we never know how strong the couch glue is that day, it takes us about five or ten rounds of chant bouncing around the walls of our house before it actually hits our ears and we realize that they are chanting. And when it does hit our ears, it just adds to the fun because now there is another thing bouncing off the walls besides our own knees, elbows and feet.

At some point after The Chant, the parents free themselves from the couch glue and up they stand. Their bodies are all slow moving and bent over. The chanting stops and they start moving toward us. Sometimes they are smiling, other times they are grumpy. Ya never know.

They start herding us into the hallway. Sometimes Mom turns off all the lights on one end of the house to make it dark. Like THAT will keep us from going over there. What are we, Mosquitos?They funnel us into the lit hallway where the bathroom is and then try to make us all fit in the bathroom at the same time. Sometimes its one parent, other times its both, ya never know.

Inside the bathroom, we keep bouncing off the walls. Its like taking 3 speeding electrons circling widely around the proton and squeezing them into the nucleus along with the proton. But we electrons are still moving at the same speed so its really hard to do something like get the right amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. If both parents are there, that makes five people in the tiny bathroom. This makes for all kinds of opportunities for fun.

Sometimes its fun to refuse to brush my teeth because then I can make one of them brush my teeth for me, usually Mom. I've never gotten Dad to do it, but Mom is always game. She will pull me up close and sit me on her knee and do it for me, just like when I was two. I like this, because as I said I can never get enough attention from my parents. If I feel like I need extra attention, all I have to do is close my mouth a little while she is brushing and make it really hard for her to see my teeth. Or when she is flossing my teeth I bend my head j - u - s - t soooo to make it impossible for her to reach or see, but all the while still pretending to comply. Its amazing what she can do with her body which was previously all slow moving and bent over. She can get in to all kinds of wacky acrobatic positions just to get a better view. I'm the puppeteer and she is the puppet and the dental floss is the string. Its a great game. Mom is so much fun to play with. She really loves to brush and floss.

Then after my teeth are brushed, it gets even better. If I get my head on my pillow a parent will come lay down with me on my bed. They snuggle with me and read me lots of books and talk to me about my day. I get the parent all to myself for as long as I want. Its the best part of my day. Sometimes they try to get up but all I have to do is cry or complain that they always lay with the other kids longer and they never lay with me. That usually works even though I know it isn't true. Its amazing that they believe it every time! And if I'm really good at either convincing them that I'm basically an orphan, or just being super cute and funny, the parent will stay for a long time and maybe even stay until I fall asleep, which is just heaven.

Parent's Bedtime Point of View

Bedtime is the final hump, the last grueling hill climb of the day before I get to finally climb into my peaceful sanctuary of bed. Bedtime occurs after I have worked all day, gathered up all the children from their various activities, stopped by the grocery store, unloaded the car, helped with homework while making dinner, set the table and listened to my highly verbal child detail every complaint about her entire day, I sit across the table from my husband and inhale my food.

Thanks to this Parenting on Track program, I have unloaded the chore of cleaning up after dinner on to the children. We have them mostly trained now, and most importantly they do it without much complaint.

For years, we mindlessly allowed the children to wander off from the dinner table and go play or relax while we mindlessly got on our hands and knees and picked up the pieces of rice or pasta squished on the floor. We wiped and swept and cleared and loaded and washed and rinsed and dried and put away. I am not too hard on myself about this because when they were infants they couldn't possibly have helped with the dinner clean-up chore. Not when they were 6 months, or 10 months. But as they grew slowly out of infant hood and through toddler hood and now tween, I was just so damn tired by the end of dinner that the prospect of inviting them to participate just seemed like more energy.

But now they are older. They can ride bikes with no training wheels. They can multiply fractions and build robots. They can read Harry Potter and hide Halloween candy and score soccer goals and climb on the tippy top turrets of the roofs of playground structures. So why did it take me so long to figure out that they can clean up after dinner? I really don't know. But I digress, this isn't about dinner, its about bedtime.

The best part of after dinner is chocolate. I keep a stash of dark chocolate almonds in the pantry, in the way back of the top shelf where the kids would never think to look. I will never ever share chocolate in the second half of the day purely because of the mere threat that a minor amount of caffeine in it might pose to the duration of bedtime.

But I still sneak it so I don't have to listen to begging: on my way to the couch I walk past the pantry, reach in for a handful and pop them in my mouth as I walk behind the wall that separates the kitchen and the living room. They are none the wiser!

I go straight to the couch and lay down. I think inhaling my food causes me to overeat so I feel uncomfortably full and laying on the couch is just the only option after all I have done so far in the day. (Inhaling is the only way to get the eating over with quickly and escape the cacophony of three kids tipping chairs, wiggling around and playing with food). Morgan joins me. This is the part where we look at each other and smile in our contentment. We enjoy the couch. We look at our phones. We are so tired.

Something about the carbs in the meal that makes us go down makes them go up. The kids start bouncing off the walls after dinner. They're giddy and playful and fun to watch. They jump on us a lot, which we tolerate because it is easier to tolerate than it is to get up off the couch and go to another room.

I set bedtime music to come on the Sonos in the living room at 8pm as a cue to everyone. At first I thought this was a silver bullet. I thought I was so smart. I thought the music would magically cause the kids to spin on their heels, turn toward the bathroom, go brush their teeth and head into bed. I don't know why but this didn't happen. It mainly turned out to be a cue for us to get our tired and broken bodies off the damn couch and start herding them into bed.

Once the bedtime music comes on, the reality of getting up off my comfortable couch is quite difficult. It takes about 15 minutes of thinking about it before I muster the energy to announce "Hey Everyone, Time For Bed."  Of course, the music didn't do the job, and so neither do my words. So I repeat the words until I feel like an idiot whose children ignore her. I wonder if they understand what "Hey Everyone, Time For Bed" means? They understand everything else. Eventually, the prospect of having one's authority completely voided is enough for me to get my tired body up off the couch.

When we can't lay there any longer, we get up and start herding. I turn off the lights on the fun side of house so they might seek out light in the hallway. We herd them into the bathroom, still bouncing off the walls, and stand there while they take turns at the sink. This just doesn't work very well but for some reason we keep doing it, night after night.

Then there is the toothpaste. I love the days Virginia comes because I get to see the shiny whiteness of the bathroom sink basin. It only lasts until the first evening when the kids hit it with their toothbrushing adventures. After that I have to look at a matte sink basin covered in a blue haze and littered with sticky globs that stick to my shirt waist when I lean in to get a close look at my skin or examine if an eyebrow needs plucking.

Inevitably, one child refuses to brush. This is maddening. They don't like the toothpaste or they can't find their toothbrush or they insist that the toothbrush in their hand doesn't belong to them.  They can't open the toothpaste or they can't get toothpaste out of the dispenser. They can't reach the sink and they can't find the stool. They can't get in because they are waiting for a sibling to finish who has been there all day and isn't moving. They get distracted with a bath toy or a book that someone left lying by the toilet. Or maybe they have successfully reached the point where toothpaste is on the brush, but the putting of the brush to the teeth is an impossible task because there is a loose tooth in there and it might hurt.

In these cases, I end up brushing for the child and I figure its okay because they need a once over from an adult at least once a week right? I validate this theory every time it happens because I see the layers of carpet that have built up since I was last in their mouths. This is proof (in addition to the $$fillings$$ in their mouths) that they are horrible brushers and the ritual of having them brush their teeth every night is really a waste of time but I can not can not can not brush their teeth for them every single night. I just don't know what to do about this. Must put that on my list of things for the Timeline for Training exercise that Morgan and I are now officially 6 weeks behind on.

The thing I hate most about brushing the teeth of a child is that the child wont stay still or hold their mouth open wide enough for me to get in. No amount of commanding, yelling, getting pissed off or bribing has solved this problem for me, so I just chalk it up working off the "after dinner long reach" and subsequent couch melting exercise. I should document the positions I have gotten in to keep up with the head of a five year old child as I try to insert a piece of floss between a tight crack inside a dark hole the size of my thumb. I could brand it as a new type of calisthenic or maybe bubble gum flavored yoga. 

Then whomever's head is on the pillow is who's bed I head for, like a sinkhole or a tar pit. These things were everywhere in Land of the Lost. Dangers lurked underfoot for Bobby, Will and Holly as they explored the ancient jungle and hid from Sleestacks. I have three of these sand traps in my house and I knowingly, willingly enter them every night.

First, you get in as the only way to keep the child in the vicinity of the bed. Then you grab a book and start reading as they only way to draw them in. To keep them down and to as close to the pillow as possible, you have to lay next to them, the cold wall of the house pressed up against your back. You dare not get up for a blanket or sit in a chair instead as you might disrupt the quietness that you hope is falling upon your child. You read out loud and each word causes your eyelids to become heavier. Heavier and heavier until you ... . j u s  t      .....   can't ... .  read....  another .... w o   r..........

And then your child reaches up with a grubby and very likely unwashed hand containing all the molluscum contagiousum or other disfiguring virus that collect like lint on their hands and your child palms your cheek and honks your nose or tries to lift your eye lids with their fingers.

Then you imaging the courage of Bobby, Will and Holly as the escaped the cave of the Sleestack and mustered the courage to plan your escape. You extract yourself from the bed.

Rinse and repeat for each child.

By the time I get into my sanctuary of a clean room and a nicely made bed with a freshly washed face and a glass of water, I am ready to read a book or watch a show on the iPad. By now it is 9:30. This gives us exactly one hour to ourselves before 10:30 which is when I must go to sleep in order to get 8 hours of sleep before it all starts again at 6:30 the next morning.

I really could use two or even three hours to myself. Think of the reconnecting Morgan and I could do, the news we could read or the novels in which I could indulge. Think of the wrinkles I would avert and the cortisone levels that might come down and enable my belly fat to shrink. Think of the benefits I could reap from getting these kids to bed earlier and with less effort.

But I just don't know how.

Keep on keepin on. Must get back on the wagon and start actively practicing the Parenting on Track program. Doing the homework and examining my habits and exploring new ways to do things.

I ask myself, "What will it take to get the kids to be earlier and with less effort?"