Friday, March 29, 2013

The Domestic Arts

Normally when I think about educating the children, I focus on the academic: science, math, writing, history.  Sure, M1 is on the swim team and has his banjo, and sure, M2 plays violin and takes swimming lessons also, but those are still, in large part, academic pursuits, albeit of the elective kind.

There are, however, other pursuits that are still equally worthy of their (and my!) time that sometimes get overlooked.  I readily admit that sometimes I forget to look at the forest because I'm too busy focusing on the trees.

M1 has his K'Nex and science projects to keep him busy, and he occasionally wanders in the kitchen to cook; M2, while she does enjoy the odd cooking project, is primarily my little hobbyist/crafter.  She adores going into the school room and working on some elaborate project for a few hours.  She constantly wants to learn new skills, too.  She's begged me to find someone to teach her to sew (she doesn't want to take a class, despite my urging; she wants one-on-one instruction from a close friend or family member).  She found a book on patchwork at the library and wants to learn to quilt.  She has even asked if she can use food as a craft item, which I'm okay with as long as the food stays in the kitchen/dining area and doesn't migrate upstairs.

There's a fair amount of precedence for her myriad hobby interests.  My sister is a wizard with a sewing machine and even made her own wedding dress.  My mother has sewed since before I was born and once took a knitting class.  Oz's grandmother knitted professionally for many years and can knit a sweater to fit the person in mind without taking a single measurement.  Oz's mother learned to knit and sew and does quite well at that, too.  Me?  Well, I cross-stitch and went through phases when I was younger where I made beaded jewelry and tried calligraphy; a couple years ago Oz bought me a pysanky kit that unfortunately hasn't seen the amount of use I'd like.  So obviously the women in our family tend to stay busy with something or other.

One of the gifts that M2 got for her birthday was a small knitting loom.  She tried weaving at a recent homeschool event and enjoyed it, but Oz thought that perhaps knitting would be better suited to our wee girl's interests.

He was right.

The loom is small, but it's the perfect size for her.  The instructions were easy enough to follow that I could help her get it set up and going without any problems, and she took over from there.  She made just a little piece to begin with, but she already wants to make her brother a scarf for his birthday this fall.  It's cute to watch her discuss yarn color choices and create a 'knitting box' where she can store all her paraphernalia.

 She's planning, working, and happy.  The domestic arts may not be formal education, per se, but they certainly still have their uses, and I can't wait to see the results!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Birthdays and Easter and Classes - Oh, My!

We're still on Spring Break here in our little corner of the world.  All the public schools are back in session this week, so we do have to get out of our comfort zone and go to swimming and violin lessons as usual, but we're still not up in the school room much unless you count M2, who can't go 24 hours without doing a project or craft of some sort.

Last week was largely spent preparing for and executing plans for M2's 8th birthday.  She had a slumber party with a few of her friends, and it went beautifully.  M1 had a difficult time understanding why he wasn't allowed to participate in (read: take over) the girls' plans, but Oz and I distracted him with a flight simulator and time on his Kindle Fire, so I don't think he missed too much.  This week my grandmother turns 89, and we're going to go up and visit her.  She wants to have a birthday party at her retirement home, complete with cookies and root beer floats.  I sincerely hope that when I turn 89, I'm able to have cookies and root beer floats!  How fun is that?

Easter is on Sunday.  Usually I have candy bought and stashed by now.  This year I've bought candy, but for reasons that have to remain secret because Oz is still in the dark (some of you know what we did with the candy and have seen photos, but SHHH!), the kids know the candy exists and they know that I'm probably going to use it to stuff eggs.  It seems rather to defeat the purpose if they already know what will be IN the eggs, so I may have to have Oz pick each of them up a chocolate rabbit just so they have a little surprise.  We'll see.  Last year the Easter Bunny stopped by.  I suspect a repeat performance may be in the cards this year.

I started the beginner digital photography class last night.  It's the first class I've taken in years, and it's lovely.  I'm very glad Oz pushed me into signing up.  Apparently the classes are usually quite full  - 18-20 people - but our class only had nine people enroll, of which only seven showed up last night.  The instructor seems knowledgeable and kind, and he's been doing this long enough that he knows more or less what to expect.  It's a four-week course, and we're covering the basics - metering, aperture control, shutter speed, ISO settings, and white balance.  It's just what I had been hoping it would be, and I'm already starting to think about the 'final,' which is a photographic scavenger hunt.

Finally, I finished a 9-week exercise program yesterday.  I used EA Sports Active 2 for the Wii, and it wasn't easy.  The program asks you to work out four times a week for those nine weeks, and I can see a difference in my body shape.  I have more of a waist now than I think I've had since before M1 was born.  I weigh about the same as I did then as well.  It's a massive accomplishment, something I've been wanting since M2 came along, and I'm finally there.  I'm not done, though.  I have Jillian Michaels' No More Trouble Zones workout DVD, and I'm going to use that through April, then go back to the Sports Active 2 program and see what the 'hard' setting is like.  It'll probably kill me.  If it doesn't... well, you know the saying.

Hope things are starting to warm up where you are; I'm so very ready for spring!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Eight

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX


SEVEN

EIGHT

Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Curse of Snow

I love snow.  I hate winter, and I hate cold, but I really do enjoy a good snow, largely because it gives me an excuse to hole up in the house and it makes everything look pretty while it lasts.  Last year we didn't really see snow, and we haven't seen much of it this year, either (those of you in Canada who, at this point, may never unearth yourselves, have my sympathy, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't love snow nearly as much if I had to deal with it as much as you have/do).

M2's birthday is coming up, and I have long promised her a sleepover for her 8th birthday, since M1 had a couple friends camp out in the back yard with him when he turned 8.  She's been excited and planning for months - more specifically, since right after she turned 7, though she's only become really manic about it since January.

Now, there's something you should know about M2's birthday parties.  They're memorable.

Three years ago, when she turned 5, we held a birthday party.  It snowed.

Two years ago, when she turned 6, we held a birthday party.  It snowed.

Last year, I told her no party.  No snow.

This year, given the lack of wintry precipitation we've had, I suspected we'd be safe.  So I scheduled the party for this weekend.

Guess what the forecast says?

Now, we're not expected to have any accumulation, but still.  It's March twenty-freaking-third already!  I would really, really like to host one birthday party for her where we can send the kids outside and let them run riot rather than keeping them indoors.

C'mon, Spring!  Act like it!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gorgeously glorious

My children like big words.  Big, descriptive words.  They may not always pronounce them correctly (I'm looking at you, M1, though I'm almost sad that 'ambulance' is no longer 'lambuance') or be able to spell them correctly (ahem, this would be you, M2 [she's my little Anne Shirley who insists on using all the big words, all the time]), but they love using them.

A couple of weeks ago, M1 brought me something he'd written.  I don't even remember what assignment it was at this point.  Anyway, halfway through the paper, there was a capital S.  Now, I ask M1 to write in cursive.  His cursive is far, far easier to read than his print, and he likes it, so there's no argument.  Anyway, his capital S was perfect...ly backward.  It caught me off guard, and I started giggling.  He asked me what I was laughing at, and as I returned his paper to him, I said, "Your 'S.'  I love it.  It's gloriously backward."

He looked confused.  "Gloriously?"

"Well, it's perfect," I explained, "but it's backward."  He remedied the 'S,' though I hadn't really asked him to, and we moved on.

Since then, though, I've discovered that the kids were so entranced by my slightly ironic use of the word 'gloriously' that they've seen fit to throw it and some of its synonyms into similar use.

Today, for example, M2 was cleaning her part of the bathroom (nobody had flushed the toilet last night - AGAIN - thus causing the upstairs to smell like pee - AGAIN - thus causing Mommy to lose her shit - AGAIN - and state - AGAIN - that nobody got to play outside today till the bathroom was clean), and I asked her what was taking her so long.

"I'm almost done, Mom," the reply sailed down the stairs, "but my vanity was gorgeously dirty."

"Gorgeously?"

"Yes.  It was beautifully covered in stuff I needed to wipe up."

"Well, all right then."

Or M1, looking up a synonym for an exercise on word connotation that I was having them do (they had to write a descriptive sentence about something they liked, then try to change the tone of the sentence just by using synonyms... thus, we have a connotation exercise.  They enjoyed it, actually, except that M1 didn't want to have to use a thesaurus and had been sitting at his desk for 15 minutes staring into space trying to come up with a synonym for one of his words when, HELLO, the thesaurus is 8 feet away, and it's okay to use resources).  "Mom, I'm spectacularly frustrated."

These are the little nuggets I have to write down for posterity, after all, because they won't believe me in six months when I remind them that they did this.

Magnificently, marvelously memorable munchkins. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Field Trips and Experiments

Friday was a field trip day at our house.  The kids gripe that we never have/do field trips, which amuses me because apparently any time we go to a museum or the zoo or the aquarium, that doesn't count as a field trip unless it's on a school day, during school hours, AND I introduce some sort of weird educational component to the experience.

*shrug*

Whatever.  Friday was field trip day.

We went to an engineering fair first.  Geared to kids grades 4-12, teams can enter a variety of competitions, some of which take preparation and some of which are on-site... and some of which are open to all visitors, not just registered groups.  There were also demonstrations set up, from a 3-D printer to Lego robots to a Van de Graaff generator.

M2 wanted to try the generator:




She giggled at the feeling of her hair floating above her head.  She didn't so much care for the boys behind her who kept touching her just to feel the shock.


There was also a table discussing the geosciences featuring all sorts of fossils.  M1 got into a discussion with the woman there.

We watched rubber-band-powered cars roll down tracks, checked out the foil boat competition (open to the public; they give you a 12x12" piece of foil and you shape it into a boat, then fill it with as many pennies as you can before it sinks), and M1 watched folks using a virtual welding machine.  Overall, they had a good time, and - TAKE NOTE, LOCAL PEOPLE - M1 wants me to spearhead a team next year.  If you think your kiddo(s) of the right age would be interested, let me know.  I think it would be a lot of fun!

After we left the engineering fair, we grabbed some lunch and headed to the homeschool group that we've found.  We seem to mesh really well with this group, and today they had something special for us:  We got to 'test' a planned exhibit for a children's museum that's slated to open in late May.


The woman from the museum explained the concept to the kids.  Basically, they want to have an area in the museum where kids can come and build things.  They'll change the building materials and plans regularly, but they were thinking of starting with musical instruments.  This woman had everything but the kitchen sink with her today, and the kids went to town.


Rubber bands, giant straws, random piece of metal, bottles, jars, jar lids, jugs, paper clips, aluminum pie pans, rubber tubing, Styrofoam cups, hot glue guns (yes, they do intend to have hot glue guns and other materials available for older kids and parents, set up where the younger ones won't have access), etc.  Seriously.  Everything but the kitchen sink.


M1 made a snare drum as one of his instruments.  He made all sorts of stuff.


The woman wandered around and talked to all the kids about what they were building.  She wanted to hear the sounds everything made and took pictures of quite a few of their creations.


M1 didn't sit still.  He made probably half a dozen different 'instruments,' some of which worked better than others.


His horn was one of the 'failures.'  Not that it stopped him from hauling it around for 15 minutes trying to modify it to work.


M2, on the other hand, sat down and worked on one instrument for the entire time.  It was some sort of shaker/rattle thing.  She was very frustrated and very proud of it at the same time.  I was amused that it had to be color-coordinated.  Hence the blue marker.

By the time we left the group event, the kids were worn out.  Both of them had headaches from the constant noise they'd been exposed to all day, and both of them were tired and ready to come home and crash.

Still, they enjoyed themselves, and it was a great day to get out and DO things.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Things I Ponder

My brain has been working overtime lately, but not in a good way.  It's thinking.

My brain should not be allowed to think, particularly if the time of day has "a.m." in it anywhere.

Have I mentioned I'm not particularly coherent until the coffee kicks in about 10:30 or so?

I like coffee.

Squirrel.





Let me overshare with you now some of the things my brain has been coming up with:

1.  Facebook likes cookies.  In fact, when I say 'Happy birthday' to anyone on Facebook, it often suggests that I send them a cookie.  A $5 cookie.  A $5 COOKIE???  And why would I send someone a cookie that's probably going to be stale by the time it reaches them?  I can just picture a random friend opening her front door sometime next week and opening a box containing a single cookie.  "What's this?" she'd want to know.  "Is it poisoned?  Where did this come from?  And why is it a week old?"  And that's assuming the cookie is still intact and hasn't crumbled in transit, in which case she'll open the box and find a bunch of crumbs and white powder.  Then she'll freak out and call the cops, who will notify state authorities, who will probably notify federal authorities, and then I'll get arrested for sending threatening cookies through the mail.  Facebook shouldn't offer cookies.

2.  Oz is trying to talk me into taking a photography class sometime this spring.  I even did some research and found a beginning digital photography class that's available on a night that I could actually go, but then I looked at the details of the class and saw that nobody else had registered.  And then I couldn't do it.  I'm a lemming.  Someone else has to jump first.  Maybe I'll do yoga instead.  Except then everyone else will already know what they're doing and I won't know.  I won't jump last, either.  Maybe I'll just sit at home and huddle up under a blanket and rock back and forth, back and forth, back and forth....  That sounds cozy.

3.  We've renamed a cat formerly known as Dorian Gray.  His name is now Oscar Wilde.  It suits him better, for many reasons.  The biggest problem with renaming him is that now we can't call him Dowy Gwai.  Oskee doesn't have the same ring to it.

4.  We run through far too much chili pepper and cumin in this house.  I'm not entirely sure why, but I think in the last three months we've used two entire containers of each.  I can't even tell you what we used it all in, because I've only made chili twice and burritos once.

5.  I'm thinking about vacuuming the dog to see if it'll help the shedding problem.  I suspect I will only succeed in A) scaring the dog and B) clogging the vacuum.  Still, it would be at least a useful experiment, as probably 80% of all fur picked up by the vacuum currently has come off of the dog.  Don't get a Corgi if you aren't a big fan of fur tumbleweeds.  If I never vacuumed or brushed the dog, I suspect my house would look something like this:

Tribbles + fur + tumbleweeds

6.  Dust is sparkly when it floats in the sunshine.  If only it stayed sparkly after it landed.  Then my house would look like Edward Cullen lived in it, and I could advertise for Twilight fans to come take home samples of their favorite vampire.  I'd never have to clean again.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Orthodontist

I remember having braces.  Did you have braces?  Because I did.  For nearly three years, I wore giant metal railroad tracks on my teeth and avoided Snickers bars and popcorn like the plague.  After that, I had the retainer.  I had the case for it, too... you remember, the one you had to take to school to stash your phlegmy plastic mold while you chowed down lunch, and then you had to remember not to throw it in the trash can.  And then you had to do the tooth check in the bathroom mirror before you crammed the retainer back on your teeth, because otherwise you'd wind up with pepperoni pizza displayed proudly on your top left front tooth for everyone to stare at all afternoon.

Not that this ever happened to me.

A couple years ago, the dentist started hinting that perhaps, one day, I should take M1 in to see an orthodontist.  At the time, he was barely 8, and there was no way I was hauling my kid to see an orthodontist until he'd lost a few more teeth.

Since then, he's lost precisely one more tooth, for a grand total of 8 teeth lost.

That's right.  My 10-year-old has lost 8 teeth.  Five on the bottom and three on the top.  Still, the 'hints' from the dentist have become less like hints and more like suggestions/recommendations lately, and Oz and I figured it was time to go ahead and get the one free visit to the orthodontist that we'll ever get out of the way.

M1 had his appointment today.  The guy was nice but clearly busy, and he seemed rather surprised that I came prepared with educated questions, which rankled me a bit.  Still, he did answer everything and said that since he's lost so few teeth, there's nothing we can really do yet, anyway.  Come back in 8 months.

M1's teeth aren't all that bad, really.  He's missing one tooth congenitally - one of the four that I'm missing (I'm missing both top lateral incisors as well as my top two wisdom teeth) - and that's what's causing all the commotion.  The dentist and orthodontist seem to think that they should let the other one, which isn't even fully developed and is called a peg lateral, come in, make space using braces, and then insert a fake tooth where the other lateral should be.  Me?  I'm all for yanking the peg lateral and shoving everything together.  The orthodontist also wants to close gap between M1's front teeth and, if necessary, trim the muscle that pushes those teeth apart.  Me?  If you can't flip your tongue sideways and shove it in between your teeth like I used to be able to do (OK, so the tongue flipping is another hereditary thing, but M1 didn't get that... M2 did, though), the gap isn't big enough to worry about.  *I* think it's rather cute, thankyouverymuch.  No overbite.  No underbite.  Plenty of space.  I fail to see what the fuss is about, if I'm honest.

We will go back in eight months.  The consults and any follow-ups after that are complimentary, and there is the possibility that the canine could make the peg lateral come in sideways or other spacing/crowding issues could develop, so I'm not going to say it's a bad idea to keep an eye on things. Still, after what Oz and I went through to get very minor adjustments in the end... well... maybe orthodontics just isn't my cuppa tea.

Any braces experiences that you'd like to share?  Were they worth it for you/your kids/your siblings?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Forgive the Serial Posting

You'll have to forgive the serial posting that I've been doing over the past week.  Apparently I had much to get out.  I think after this I'll be back to a more normal schedule.  At least, I hope so.  Still, I have some things I need to say, and then I'm done.

I think.

I've been griping that my son (in particular, though my daughter is not immune) has been acting toddler-esque lately.  And he has.  But he's 10, and there are definitely some perks that come with having older kids.  Without further ado...

Things I am grateful my kids have outgrown:

1.  Diapers.  There's nothing more to say about that.

2.  Car seats.  I don't have to worry if they're installed right.  I don't have to worry about the food underneath them.  I don't have to lift them out.
     2a.  They can buckle themselves in.  And open and close the doors.
     2b.  They can haul their own crap in and out of the house and help me empty grocery carts.
     3c.  They can clean the vehicle if they spill something.

3.  Sippy cups.  Those lids are impossible to keep clean without having them develop leaks.  And they leave them EVERYWHERE.  At least with upright cups, even ones with lids and straws, they are normally found on a flat surface where they're visible to others.

4.  Me cutting up their food.  It's very nice to be able to sit down, fill plates, and eat without watching mine go cold while I mince up someone else's dinner.
     4a.  Me fixing breakfast.
     4b.  Me fixing lunch.
     4c.  Me fixing snacks.  Do we see a theme here?  I fix enough breakfasts on weekends (or sometimes overnight in the crockpot) for them to find their own meals each morning, and they enjoy scrounging for leftovers or making sandwiches for lunch.  I make one meal a day.  I love to cook *meals,* but the other feedings I can take or leave.  And I generally prefer 'leave.'  My mother I am not.

5.  The "helping" phase.  Don't get me wrong.  M2 loves to help.  But almost-8-year-old help is far more useful than 2-year-old 'help.'  Standing around watching a toddler splash water around in a toilet is far more cringeworthy than handing your elementary-age child a brush, some paper towels, and a bottle of homemade cleaner and telling her to go clean the bathroom.

6.  Getting up in the middle of the night.  Scratch that.  M1 still does it.  And if I catch him, I do, too.

7.  Mall play areas.  They always looked like giant germ playgrounds.  I took my kids once in a while, don't get me wrong.  But it wasn't my favorite way to spend a morning.

8.  Nursery rhymes.  Again, it's cute for a while.  And they're fun to reminisce about.  And yes, they have a purpose.  But I find them inherently nauseating, and I'm grateful my kids no longer beg for 'Farmer in the Dell' and 'Little Bunny FooFoo.'  I love that they ask for The Rolling Stones or Johnny Cash or Tchaikovsky.  Or Green Day.  *cough*
     8a.  Preschool TV shows.  M1 adored Teletubbies.  That is all.

9.  Bathtime.  OK, this one I'm almost sentimental about.  There's something adorable about wrapping a tiny child up in a towel and cuddling them dry.  Still, my knees are grateful I'm not bending over a bathtub every night any more.

10.  Teaching them to read.  This sounds insane, but as much as I adore reading and I'm so grateful my kids adore reading, too, I hated teaching them to read.  I am just not patient like that, and I hated watching them struggle.  Also, one can only watch the Leapfrog videos so many times before CVC words and 'blends' become anathema.  See 8a.

There are probably more, and of course there are a million things I miss about the kids when they were tiny (like the way I used to be able to snuggle them both on my lap comfortably for ages and ages [M1 tried to sit on my lap today while we talked about the March on Washington led by MLK Jr. and my legs almost instantly went numb]), but it's good to remember why I like the kids the age they are now, too.  And I'm not nostalgic, anyway... I much prefer the here and now.

What do you miss or NOT miss most about your kids when they were young(er)?

Back to Basics

So.  If you're a fairly regular follower of this blog (or if you go back and read the last few posts), you'll see that M1, Oz and I are in the midst of (yet another) rough patch.  These happen periodically, but as he gets older, the battles seem to be raging more heavily and the trenches are getting dug in rather deeply.  Those of you whose children are teens already can sympathize, I'm sure.

The problem boils down to precisely this:  M1 wants to be treated like an adult.  He is 10 and feels that he is old enough for certain 'rights.'  However, he won't accept the responsibilities that come along with the rights, and he acts like a spoiled toddler when asked to toe the line.  He hasn't yet worked out that to get the 'rights' that he wants, he also has to behave in a way that makes us - Oz and I - think that he's able to handle them responsibly.

Some of this revolves around the fact that he is a 10-year-old boy.  Some of it also revolves around the fact that his psychological issues that cause him to firmly believe that he is a pearl and the world is the oyster.  I'm doing my darnedest to snap him out of that way of thinking, but I read a book about a year ago that strongly suggests that there is no easy way to accomplish that goal because I could dig out of Alcatraz with a spoon more quickly than I'll be able to reach the depths of M1's brain.  And flogging him with a wet noodle only makes him giggle. 

Still, things couldn't continue the way they did last week... or even over the weekend for that matter.  (On Sunday morning M1 woke me up at 2:14 a.m. trying to steal remotes out of my bedroom [again] and shortly before several of my girlfriends came over at 2 p.m., he and his sister were playing at the top of the stairs [which we've asked/told them repeatedly NOT to do] and she came tumbling down the stairs with a beanbag.  Because he pushed her.  Thankfully, she's fine.  Beanbags are good like that.  But it did mean that instead of having an outing with Oz like they normally get to do when I have friends over, they were sent to their rooms instead.) So we're going back to basics.  Obviously there are many therapy methods out there.  We visited a therapist and tried cognitive behavior therapy when M1 was small, and the results were laughable.  His hyperactivity and impulsivity are such that there's no way he can think before doing anything, let alone plan actions before doing them.  Plus, that's more or less what I've been attempting to get him to use for the last... ohhhhh, year or so... and clearly we've gotten nowhere.

Time to try a new tactic.

I have decided that since M1 is so bound and determined to act like a toddler every time we ask him to take responsibility for his actions, he needs to be treated like one.  What motivates toddlers?  Sticker charts and incentives.  I'm calling it applied behavioral analysis, but really it's a sticker chart with incentives.

First I had M1 make a list of his top 12 privileges.  This included everything from swim team to summer camp to electronics.  I had him prioritize them.  Then Oz printed off a chart that I hung on the wall.  There are columns for each day of the week as well as a "Total" column and a space at the beginning where I've written all 12 of M1's desired privileges, one per week.  Each day has space for three small stickers that M1 can earn - up to 21 a week, though for this first week we're shooting for 14 and the maximum I'm expecting is 19.  Nobody's perfect, and I don't expect him to be.

To earn his three daily stickers, he has to do three things - one for each sticker:
1.  Stay in his room at night.  Obviously he's allowed to get up and use the toilet if he needs to - I'm not unreasonable - but there's no need for him to be downstairs (he has small paper cups in his vanity if he wants a drink) or in the game room in the middle of the night.  Nothing good can come of that.
2.  Respect other people.  He's had real issues lately respecting other people's space lately, particularly his sister.  This one also applies to lying.  If he doesn't want me to lie to him, he shouldn't lie to me, right??  This one largely revolves around remembering the Golden Rule.
3.  Respect property.  Don't break things.  Don't dismantle things.  Don't walk along all the walls deliberately trying to break the doorstops with your foot.  Things like that.

That's it.  I may need to get more specific, but we'll see.  I'm starting broad.  I can always modify and specify as we go.  Each week, if he reaches his goal, he'll get one of his privileges back.  If he doesn't reach it, we stay at the current level and try again the next week.  At best, this program will take 12 weeks to implement, which I'm hopeful will be long enough to make some of these things into habit.  I do hate that this means we'll be skipping swim for at least two weeks (his #1-priority privilege was going to our homeschool group; #2 and #3 were swim team practice and stroke development class, respectively), but if that's what it takes...

Wish me luck.  It's been a while since we've done this sort of intensive work around here, but I think it's long overdue.  Fingers crossed that it works, because if it doesn't, I'm all out of ideas!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Drill Sergeant Mama

I hate being tough.  I am naturally a very Type A person and enjoy things being done 'just so,' but I've learned to let some things go.

Still, sometimes I hit my wall.  They're kids.  They push.  It's what they're supposed to do, and I get that.  But still, you can only shove me so far before I hit my limit, and I've absolutely been forced to the wall this week.

And when my back's to the wall and my fight or flight instinct kicks in, I fight.  (Ask Oz and M1 both.  Scare me, and I will deck you first and check to see who it is later.)

Yesterday, obviously, was a struggle.  M1 finally got his schoolwork done sometime around 5... or I thought he had.  We had dinner, and then I asked to see the last piece of work.  No dice.  So back upstairs he went.  He's had all week to work on this particular project, so it should have been nearly completed, but it wasn't.  It still took him half an hour to finish the part that needed to be done so he could complete the work in a timely manner today.

When tucking him in last night, I noticed that there were a couple of things sticking out from under his closet doors.  Drawers in his chest of drawers and dresser were hanging open.  I saw a couple of items peeking out from under his bed.  As I walked to the closet, I told him that he needed to take care of those things that I could immediately see.

Then I opened the closet door.

I should not have done that.

Ignorance was bliss.

I'm okay with a slightly untidy closet.  But this was Fat Man unleashed.  Everything was piled on the floor about a foot deep.  It reminded me of a closet a friend of mine once actually went diving into; we had to hang onto her legs so we could pull her out when she'd unearthed what she was looking for.

I was good.  I closed the door and simply informed him that he had to clean his closet tomorrow (today).  He had known he needed to do it, so he didn't argue.  I put him to bed and hoped the next day would be better.

I should have guessed.  This morning, the poo really hit the fan.

It started with laundry.  Fridays are one of my two weekly laundry days.  I ask the kids to bring down their hampers, I sort the clothes, and I start the first load before we go upstairs for school.  For their part, other than bringing down the hampers, the kids have to make sure all the clothes are right side out, so I can check for stains, and have empty pockets.  M2 has no problem with this.  Once in a while I'll find something, but for the most part she takes care of things when she puts them in the hamper.  M1, however, panics every. single. time.  He has to dump everything out, turn them all right side out and check the pockets (because nothing ever goes into the hamper in the condition it should be when it comes out), and then he takes the entire load, knots it together inside a few hoodies or pairs of jeans, and shoves it back into the hamper.  When I try to pull one item out of his hamper, it takes brute strength and both hands and feet to accomplish that.  Or I have to dump it all on the floor and then separate it, which takes me three times as long as just pulling things out.  Either way, I hate it.  I have asked him repeatedly to stop.  Today I told him I wasn't fighting his laundry.  He could do it himself.  He's capable of it; he's done it before.  Still, he wasn't happy.  Much squawking commenced.

Then... both kids know that I try to start school at 8:30.  If we start around that time, we can usually get done by lunch or shortly thereafter and have the afternoon to go to swim, run errands, or just play.  I've told them that they need to figure out what time they should get up so they can be ready by 8:30.  Give or take 10 minutes, we're usually on time.  Lately, though - and I know this is partly due to M1's growth spurt, but still - he's been coming down later and later each morning, and school time has been getting pushed back little by little.  I've warned him this has to stop, because an 8:45-8:50 start time translates to an hour later on the other end somehow, but today, I hit my limit.  At 8:21, he had just sat down at the table with a giant bowl of cereal.  The cats had been fed and he was dressed (whether his pajamas were put away or not was debatable...), but he still had a couple of chores to accomplish before he was ready for school.  On a good day, these two chores take him 10 minutes because he can't walk in a straight line, let alone do a chore in an orderly manner.  So at 8:24, I told him he was done.  "QUAWWWWW??!??"  (No, really, that's his response to things when he doesn't like them.)  He threw a giant toddler tantrum when I asked him to put his breakfast things away and get his chores done so we could get school started in a timely manner, complete with stomping upstairs (which I made him walk back down and climb again calmly) and hooting incessantly (that one I can't stop and am fine with as long as he's not calling people names).  At 8:39, we made it to to the school room.  Not great, but better than our average lately. 

Then... I find him drawing all over his math page.  Not a big deal except that he draws all over his math page and finding the chicken-scratched answers in the midst of sketches is nearly impossible, so I've asked him to stop.  I always make sure he has scratch paper available and have asked him, if he must draw, to draw on that.  Still, he ignores me.  And he knows he's ignoring me.  And *I* know he knows he's ignoring me because he was hiding the drawing behind his hand so I wouldn't see it.  So he's having to redo his entire math paper so I can read it.  Cue another tantrum.

In the midst of all this, I discover that M2's been eating straight out of the sugar bowl again.  Literally taking a spoon and eating straight sugar.  She only does this when her moods are completely out of whack and she's craving carbs like there's no tomorrow.  I strongly suspect that sometime in the next few days, I will wind up with a raging girl-child again.  Thankfully I've been working on my arm strength.  I have a feeling I'm going to need it.

I hate all the nitpicking.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable with anything I've - repeatedly - asked the kids to do.  Mostly, I'm really, really sick of repeating myself ad nauseum.  Drill Sergeant Mama is here for a while.  And when she ain't happy... well... you know the drill.