Friday, July 31, 2009

Sometimes You Miss Home . . . And Then Sometimes Not

My stepmom just emailed this to me.

You know you are in Texas when...

The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
The trees are whistling for the dogs.
The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
Hot water now comes out of both taps.
You can make sun tea instantly.
You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
The temperature drops below 95 degrees and you feel a little chilly.
You discover that it only takes two fingers to steer your car.
You discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.
You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.
At 1 a.m., the heat index has dropped to 94 degrees.
Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
The cows are giving evaporated milk.

I remember some of those summer days in Texas. There are so many times I miss being in Texas, but these are not some of the things I miss!

It's been "hot" (at least by New Hampshire standards) here this week, but this puts our summer heat in a whole new perspective. It's cool at night (not still near 100). I don't have to rull down the windows and turn up the ac full blast to be able to breath when I get in the car. And even though it's hot, it's still pretty pleasant to be outside. .... Those have to be on the list of some of the things I love about New England!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Experiment Results? Some Good, Some Bad, and A Few Lessons Learned

So here I am a week after my battle picking experiment with Ashley. I think I'd probably give myself a B- on my efforts -- I did pick fewer battles, although sometimes I was headed toward a battle before I stopped and thought about whether it was really important (old habits die hard).

And, of course, once I found myself unintentionally headed for a battle, there's the question of how to gracefully disengage without suggesting to Ashley that a tantrum is somehow effective.

I picked the week that we were on vacation. Not sure if that helped (as in, at least we don't know these people if she's acting goofy) or hurt (as in, she's already hyped up, I better make sure she doesn't get any more hyper or we'll be in trouble.) I suspect it was probably a mix of both.

But I did manage to give her a bit more leeway. She was able to climb and swing on the bars while we waited in line for rides at the amusement park (provided she wasn't too hyper and didn't encroach upon the space of people around us.)

I let her run and jump inside a little more than I usually do. I ignored her extra loud singing in the car (at least until I could no longer concentrate on driving). I let her walk without holding my hand as long as the crowds weren't too big and she stayed reasonably close.

And, in general, I tried to say "no" and "stop" less often.

I'm not sure it changed her behavior significantly. But I think it did decrease the number of battles we engaged in. And, sometimes, that helped decrease my stress level. (Other times -- like when she was singing at the top of her lungs in the car, I was simply gritting my teeth. I'm not sure whether tolerating it was less stressful than battling about it, or not.)

What did I learn?

That sometimes letting Ashley expend her exhaustive supply of energy without my need to reign it in is good for both of us.

That letting Ashley be a little hyper does not always lead to out of control behavior. (Sometimes it does, and I need to get better at reading the cues that let me know which is which, so that I control her energy when it is headed into an out-of-control spiral, and tolerate it when it is not.)

That my stress about Ashley's spirited intensity is often more about me and my responses than it is about her and her energy. (Something I probably always knew deep down.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Experiment in Picking Battles

Sometimes when I listen to myself talk to Ashley, I cringe.

It seems I'm often telling her not to do something or telling her that if she does that one more time, she will (take your pick -- lose TV time, have a time out, go to bed early, go to her room, etc., etc.).
I know why it happens. Ashley is my intense child.

There are good parts about that. She absoultely loves almost any activity, and she throws herself into activities completely. She is fearless. She has an absolute sense of confidence and determination. This is the child whose favorite job at preschool is line leader -- because, as she explains, "I like to lead." And sometimes I think she could run a small country.

But there are also frustrating parts. She is stubborn. When Ashley draws her line in the sand, she is determined that the line is not moving, no matter what. When she's mad or frustrated, she's loud and oppositional and can still throw tantrums that rival those of any two-year-old. And her energy level is always super high -- which is often exhausting for me.

I'm probably more tempermentally suited to my son, who is more reserved, somewhat cautious, and, even at two, mostly a play-by-the-rules kind of guy.

But I don't want to be the kind of mom who is so often nagging, or even worse, yelling. It's frustrating for me, and I often wonder if Ashley goes through life thinking she's always in trouble. (And as exhausting as her intensity often is, I don't want to discourage all the positives that come with it.)

So, I'm trying an experiment this week.

I'm backing off. Aside from issues of safety, protection of property, and basic respect, I'm going to give her a little more leeway and try very hard (it will be an effort) to restrain myself from nagging, yelling or saying "don't." I'm thinking of it as the ultimate "picking your battles" exercise.

Not sure whether I'll feel totally out of control by the end of the week, or whether I'll feel more relaxed. Stay tuned for the results.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Letting Maturity Blossom

I’m often amazed at how my children’s growing maturity sneaks up on me.

Sometimes it’s about developmental milestones – like realizing that Luke is getting really good at stringing together words and sentences to communicate what he wants, something that seems to have blossomed just in the last few weeks.

Other times, it’s an indication that they are just a little more grown up, a little more capable than I’m giving them credit for.

A couple of weeks ago, Ashley was sent upstairs with instructions to clean her room. She’d never done it unsupervised (or without significant help from me), so I wasn’t expecting a great job. (In fact, if I’m really honest, I was just hoping that she wouldn’t somehow make it worse before I made my way upstairs to help.)

So I was quite surprised when after about 15 minutes, she called downstairs to tell me I should come look at what she had done.

I was even more surprised to discover that she had done quite a good job (and in only 15 minutes – quite a feat for my often highly distractible child!)

Of course I told her what a great job she had done.

And then I caught myself.

While I was saying to her, “Wow, you did a really terrific job picking everything up off the floor and putting it in its place!”, what I was thinking was it’s a pretty good job except…..except for the books that were all in the bookshelf, just not as neatly as I could have done it … except for the stuffed animals that were on their shelves, but not quite as orderly as I would have done it….except for the toys that were put up, but in a different place than I usually put them.

Where did all that come from?

She’s still a few months away from being 5 – she did an awesome job. And, it is, after all, her room.

Then I thought about times when I have “helped” her with a project, sometimes doing a little too much of it (despite her protests) because I wanted to make sure it was done “right.” And I know better – not only do I take away her sense of accomplishment, but I also take away the chance for her to learn.

I walked out of her room that day and resisted the urge to straighten the books, rearrange the stuffed animals, or move toys to a different location. Instead I gave her a hug, and told her how proud I was of her.

My reward? A few days later, she was sent to her room after one too many sassy remarks. After a few minutes of screaming about needing to come downstairs, she settled down – and cleaned her room.

Yes, sometimes their growing maturity sneaks up on me – especially if I give it room to blossom.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Watching My Baby Grow Up

My "baby" turned 2 today.

Hard to believe.

It seems that just yesterday, we were meeting each other for the first time. And now, he’s gone from tiny baby

and cute little bundle of smiles

to a snuggly little guy

with his own personality,
sense of comedic timing,

and talent.
He was the “surprise” baby – the one we weren’t expecting, hoping for, waiting to hold even before he was conceived. And yet, he worked his way into our lives so quickly, and so completely.

The first time I held him, I fell in love instantly. It was a quiet and comfortable love – not the intense, yearning love I felt for Ashley. (Interesting how my initial responses to both my children echo their own personalities – Luke calm and restrained, Ashley intense and passionate about every aspect of life.)

And now, two years later, I’m often surprised at how powerful that quiet, calm kind of love can be. He can tug at my heart as intensely as Ashley ever has. I can think of few things I love more than the times he nestles up against me and says “’Nuggle, Mommy, ’nuggle.”

Today as we celebrate his birthday, I find myself torn between enjoying the little person he is becoming and wishing that time would slow down just a little – for a few more cuddles and snuggles and little more time before my baby gets too much bigger.


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