A pox on your house!

I use to wonder, when I heard old English sayings like “A pox on you and your house”, what it meant. Then I had kids…..

Photo cred. mricon

So, I’ve never had the chicken pox. At least not that me or my mom knows about. Maybe I had a mild case or maybe we all have some natural antibody. My brother hasn’t had it and my mom says she’s not had it either. She exposed us as much as she could but still, our bodies refused to get it. Whenever I’ve told anyone I hadn’t had the pox I always, to this day even, got that horrified look of wide-eyed concern, followed by the comment, “It’s really bad when you get it as an adult”.  I guess I thought I’d just wait till I was around 80 or so and let it turn into the shingles. Sounds like a party to me!

I moved to Hawaii for the second time in 1997 and two days before I left I went to someone’s house who had triplets (yep, some people have those) and after I sat and ate my nice dinner she tells me, “Oh man. It’s been rough here. The triplets have had chicken pox.” Then I got that wide-eyed, horrified and concerned look ‘cuz, you know, it’s bad when you get it as an adult and just before you board a plane to move to Hawaii. Needless to say the pox eluded me that day too.

Now I have three kids and none of them have had the pox…well, until recently. I think Sylvie has them. There are bumps on her tummy, she threw up last night (it had whole blueberries in it and stunk really bad), and she had a fever today. So, I’m crossing my fingers, praying to the good Lord above and hoping that we don’t have a pox on our entire house. If I get it as an adult and in the summer no less, you may find me hiding under a bridge, rocking back and forth and rubbing calamine lotion on exposed skin.

Here’s to raising kids that carry lots and lots of germs.

So, what IS your opinion on raising kids?

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This seems to be the age where EVERYONE has an opinion and they all want to blog about it. Wait! What am I doing? Well, everyone but me is highly opinionated and wants to blog about it. Now that I’ve outed myself, here is my opinion:

I have “liked” this group on FB called Free Range Learning and it’s dedicated to homeschooling and unschooling and, for the most part, she posts some good ideas or tips on things to do with your kids. But more often than not she posts these articles about the latest research that links, well, everything she doesn’t believe in to how awful children will turn out if a family uses these practices.

Today the article is how spanking is linked to obesity. Then there is a smattering of comments from women who apparently don’t spank. So here’s my issue: I find sites, groups or movements like crunchy ‘mamas’ (why are they always called mamas?) that are devoted to raising kids in a specific way to be very judgmental and graceless. The main comments on spanking and obesity were, “low income and uneducated families usually spank and will usually have obese kids anyway” (I’m reducing all of the comments into this one sentence, of course). And this is the kind of BS that drives me crazy!!!

Moms already feel like they are failing  and they wonder if they are totally screwing up their kids due to all of the research out there, so why do other moms feel like they need to create sites to make them feel better about how they are raising their kids and shame others for doing it poorly?

Also, this research gives people more proof that “If your kid is fat, it’s likely that you spanked. You really should have nursed more, slept with your kid, wore them on you all the time, never had taken them to McDonald’s, never used a stroller and never circumcised.”

The reason I even read these sites is to find moments where they are celebrating their children and finding ways to encourage other moms rather than post stupid research off THE INTERNET (It’s the internet, people!) Research that has no grounding other than it presents a good argument and articulates a well written debate. Also, posting this “research” presupposes that all of the rage in kids and poor behavior is always linked to parents doing something wrong. Damn! Has your child never acted out in public, done something aggressive or thrown a fit? I thought those moments were sort of normal and even healthy.

I really have nothing against attachment parenting, crunchy parenting or the like. That’s basically how we’ve raised our kids anyway. But I have an issue with parents banning together and forming groups that judge and alienate other parents for doing it wrong. Most moms feel isolated already; feel like we’re doing it on our own and still wonder, almost daily, if our kids are going to grow up to be the next Unabomber.

So, my advice? Well, thank you for asking…..Stay away from those articles. They are ubiquitous on FB and besides, that research is more likely founded by a college undergrad who doesn’t have children anyway so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m sure that 90% of parenting is intuitive. Find a book or see a counselor or take a class to get some tools to get you over a hump. But if you’re paying attention, and most of us are, the answers will come.

It’s not even the articles that bother me so much. It’s all of the self-righteous comments that people leave after the article that really irritate me. I read a crunchy mamas site that started the circumcision debate and one women’s chime-in was, “I saw a boy flipping out at the store the other day and I knew that all the rage was because his mom likely circumcised him”. Oh barf! Get over your totally awesome and perfect parenting-self, mama! Embrace your fellow moms, even those who spank and sit at the park together, under the trees, and watch your kids play. They need a break from you too.

Here’s to raising kids and embracing all of our imperfections while doing it….sometimes doing it poorly!

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When it rains, it pours….sometimes five gallons worth.

There is a level of chaos that was upped for us after having three children. Going from one to two was nuts because they were born pretty close together. I was chasing after a curious toddler while holding a newborn in a snugglie. But after a few years they began to play together and, even though it was still a bit crazy, they were entertained because they had one another to play with. Then came number three….

She is two and a half years old already and she gets into everything!!! She’s a climber so I often find her on top of the arm of the couch reaching for the top of the bookshelf, preparing to pull down something or other. She always finds my phone and hides under the table to push buttons. So far I’ve called AT&T three times in the last two weeks to cancel applications she somehow purchased. I don’t have an IPhone, let alone data,  and for some reason she is able to push buttons until she downloads something, costing us money every time. Even if I hide my phone she will somehow find it.

Chaos always comes in repetitive segments. Life is calm and there are no worries, just the usual busy-ness. Then chaos comes like a domino effect and it just keeps coming, usually when you’re in a hurry and the place you’re trying to get to is actually important. This morning I had a meeting at 9am. This is the exact time that school starts for my kids and I had forgotten about the meeting starting in twenty minutes so I rushed to get properly dressed and teeth brushed as well as the toddler looking presentable (brushed hair and no more stains on her shirt). Just as I was getting ready she pooped in her portable potty so I had to take care of that. Then, after I got her dressed, she pulled off her shoes, socks and pants so I had to get her dressed again. Then we get to the van and the doors were frozen shut and as I was trying to nudge them open with my toddler in hand, a school bus came blazing down our narrow street so I moved aside and saw the bad mood in the bus driver’s face. Dang! I moved so she could get by!!! What the??? Then I had to scrape the ice off the windshield and off we went.

I dropped the kids off and sped to my meeting. This was our morning. Rushed and filled with chaos that doesn’t normally come unless, of course, we are in a hurry. Maybe it’s just that we notice it more when we’re in a hurry. I don’t know.

Then there was this evening. We finished dinner and Matt was starting to help Olivier to figure out what he would do for his school science fair project. I was cleaning up after dinner and taking thing after thing away from Sylvie as she kept grabbing spoons, cups, pens, carrots….anything she could get her hands on, and running off as I tried to chase her down and get the item back from her. At some point I hear Matt say, “No, Sylvie. That’s going to break if you do that. NO!!!! (loud crash)….Trace!!!!” I go to the living room and see she knocked over our five gallon jug of water for our dispenser. Yes, the lid was on. She dropped it and cracked it open. Water was gushing, like a river, all over our living room. Thankfully we have hardwood floors but it was dribbling down the heater vent, soaking the area rug and sending its river flow over the entire living room.

We grabbed about eight beach towels and kept soaking up water, wringing it outside, soaking it up again and again. It was nuts! Two of our kids helped as much as they could. One of them kept bitching about how his feet were getting wet so he wasn’t helping whatsoever! It was total chaos for about twenty minutes or more. I’m calm now and it’s even sort of funny to think about. It was NOT FUNNY in the moment and I couldn’t quite believe how crazy it was. I seriously don’t know what I would have done if Matt wasn’t here to help me clean up. He often isn’t in the evenings. This is life with three kids. Sometimes the chaos blindsides me and it’s enough to make me want to sit down in a corner and suck my thumb while weeping. I think I’ve done that minus the thumb sucking. But here we are today, with three amazing kids who have brought so much craziness into our lives and I’m thankful. I’m thankful now because I’m not sopping up five gallons of water from our hard wood floor.

Here’s to raising little humans!

Christmas Days

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Today I held two sparkly, handmade tree ornaments in my hand thinking that one day, many years from now, I’ll be unwrapping them from a box to place back on the tree, like I do every year, and a teenage Oliver may be sitting on the couch reading a book, not wanting anything to do with decorating the tree.

Teenage Chloe might help me but she’ll be as tall as me and will gaze at her own handmade ornament and wonder when it was that she made this. I’ll remember. I’ll look back to little 6 year old Chloe, up to my waist with lovely bobbed hair, brimming smile and eager creativity wanting to decorate the tree. I’ll close my eyes after I stare at my grown girl and remember the smell of her hair, the smallness of her hands and her constantly wrinkled, wet thumb that she use to suck. I’ll tell her the date when she made the ornament and she’ll just shrug and say, “Oh. Cool.” then put it up on the tree. She won’t close her eyes and see or smell back into those memories and years. She won’t remember how sweet and small she was or see how anxious and giddy she use to get around Christmas time. She’ll just see the tree in front of her and some old ornament that I told her she made and she’ll hang it on the tree.

But I will watch her hang it and stare at her lovely, growing face, her carmel colored hair and I’ll watch her young lady hands put the ornament on the tree and I’ll wonder, “Where did all the days go?”.

When the kids get bored….throw them outside!

When my kids start to climb the walls inside the house, these days I have to tell them to get their shoes on and go outside before I tear my heart out. Obviously they have to get some wiggles out and they also really start to bug me when they jump on furniture and run around the house, clomping on our hardwood floors like a couple of Clydesdales.

They winge and moan being told to leave the house but I always know throwing them outside will produce something of beauty once they just engage with being out there. You have to make extra effort to get outside when you live in an urban setting, even in the lush beauty of the Pacific Northwest. So out they go….then this is usually the sort of thing that I find them making:

It's a pirate ship! Complete with oars and a flag

Apparently it's a Swiss Pirate Ship

Now

My friend, Leslie, posted this article and besides the fact that it’s incredibly moving and heartbreaking I was trying to figure out why her story seems sort of freeing to me. I don’t mean to say that I’d like to be in her situation. I don’t think any parent would want that.  I’m intrigued that her journey in having a terminally ill child has freed her from a heaviness that a LOT of parents struggle with; parenting for the future.

She mentions that her style of parenting isn’t typical because her son has no future so their family must focus on now; enjoying kisses, naps together, cuddles and kisses and little milestones that will be very short-lived. Over the past six or so years I have come across so many books, magazines and blogs that try to point a parent towards a better and brighter future for their child. In the end I have literally thrown books across the room because I’ve felt that I can’t possibly live up to the standard that’s set before me by “experts” or just mommy bloggers who seem to have it all figured out. “Homeschool your kids in order to ensure they will actually be smart and creative. Teach them to read at age four, so that they can live a productive life without the likes of Elmo and Power Rangers. Give them enrichment classes and enable them explore their inner creative genius. Spend every waking moment intentionally investing into your kids to ensure they have a better future, you know, the one you wish you had!”

Dramatic? Me?  I don’t believe any of these models are wrong, per se. But I have felt an enormous pressure to do it all properly, to have thought through any and all of the implications on how I parent. What lies behind all of this intentionality seems to be so future focused; so they don’t end up screwed up; so they change the world by how well I’ve trained them! It makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy today with them.

I recently read The Idle Parent and had a good laugh. For a few days I even felt so free to be ok with my own imperfections as a parent. It was glorious to not feel the daily pressure of parental failure. I’m certain most of the message comes from the Western-cultural view that we are to make our mark and leave the world different than we found it; become Steve Jobs! “He changed the world, what’s your excuse”….slacker!

This article moved me in a variety of ways. It must be unbelievable to lose a child. I have a few friends who have and the grief they carry is alien to me. Yet, her language suggested a freedom to live and enjoy her child now; to let the future take care of itself and to deal with it when it comes. Something else that is total alien to me. I am trying though. What’s your excuse?

Sometimes, you just have to wear poodle slippers! You know?

Blue finger

You know, it’s Halloween and all. My kids are always into doing new art projects and what have you. So this evening we made some stuff out of our lil’ batch of homemade play dough (can you even call it play dough if it’s homemade?). I rolled something that was starting to be the thigh of a full body but I thought, in the end, it looked more like a finger. So I made a finger and the kids had a love/hate relationship with it because, on one hand (no pun intended), they thought it was very realistic; on the other hand they were sort of grossed out by how real it looked.

 

So now we’re drying it out and using it as an ongoing Halloween decoration. Here’s to grossing your kids out on this Hallowed Holiday. Cheers!