On Monday, I will be fulfilling my civic duty and reporting downtown for jury duty. I am most distressed about this. I am still mostly exclusively nursing, since TJ doesn’t really eat any solids (although he does seem to like guacamole, pinto beans, and pancakes, so hopefully he won’t cry too much from hunger). I am really disappointed in this clear NO answer from God in my request to not go. I shouldn’t be surprised since every other avenue that I pursued (yes, I talked to my dr and this already a delay from last year’s summons) in getting out of this came up empty, but still I am. I’m also irritated at myself for being so selfish and ungrateful since jury duty is something that I should be proud to do, to serve in this simple way. My thoughtful husband tried to encourage me to recognize that I have something to learn from this all. I suppose he is right, again.

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are good for all sorts of things:
-making noise (LOTS of noise!)
-jumping on
-learning to share and take turns
-mastering cooperation & teamwork
-teaching survival skills (how to fight off the big, bad toy stealer)
-entertaining on boring car rides
-torturing on car rides
-blaming each other
-dressing up & pretending
-making messes (LOTS of messes!)

At least, that’s what they’re good for today in our house.


Getting Things Done

I’ve put a lot of things on hold since the end of my pregnancy, and am still recovering from the aftermath of that pregnancy (another kid!)
Having three kids is a lot harder than two and I’m pretty tired at the end of the day which is when I used to do all the things that needed to be done without my children’s “help”.
One of these days, I might get around to starting and maybe even finishing one or two things on my ever growing list.

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When I signed in at Jungle Java I signed a waiver as Eila’s parent/guardian and didn’t really think much of it. After lots of fun playing and a little eating, I took Josiah to use the toilet and while we were washing our hands one of the other little girls with us came to tell me that Eila needed me. So, we quickly returned to the table where our stuff was and I found Eila sobbing hysterically.
In the few minutes I was gone, she had been dancing and singing near some other girls who apparently didn’t like it and started pushing, punching and scratching her. Another mom saw it and stop it as they were getting ready to kick her. As I write these words I feel so angry and sad and helpless. I want so badly to protect my kids from any kind of harm or evil and I can’t really do that at all.
Eila calmed down (not terribly physically hurt) and the girls apologized; she forgave them and went back to playing. I am still at a loss for how to respond and help Eila respond in the future. But I am very certain that guardian is not the right term for me (today, at least).


Book Review: She’s Gonna Blow

My good friend, Andie, lent me a book (that I lent out to another friend) that really has changed the way I parent. I knew I had a problem and needed to get some practical help as well as deal with the root issues of my problem. Well, Julie Barnhill’s book came along at the right time and was exactly what I needed to hear and act on.

I love to read, and Julie Barnhill is a very funny gal whose books are quick, easy reads, but that was not the case for this book. This book had its funny parts and is a quick read, but she has stopping points throughout the book with questions to ponder and action points. I usually just read these types of questions and answer in my head since writing answers requires so much effort. However, I knew that I really needed to process these things and to have accountability to make changes, so I wrote down my answers to all of the questions. I was easily able to see where I struggled and what changes I needed to make.

The gist of it is that anger has its place and is a good response when things are not as they should be – injustice and evil – and as long as anger motivates us to act in love and bring about good changes then it is not a problem. For most people I know, myself included, that is not usually the case when I lose my temper. I am angry at my kids for not living up to my expectations or at myself for making poor choices and then am impatient and unkind toward those around me not out of love to make them better, but just because I’m immature and would rather throw a fit. In my angry outbursts with my kids, there are times that the anger is properly motivated, but my outburst is not loving or effective in bringing about the change that is desired. So, the way to change is through prayer and focusing on the truth and love of God, along with some very simple techniques like counting to ten or taking a deep breath before I speak, taking time outs myself when I feel my body heat rising and jaw clenching.

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More Things I Value

Respect and Knowledge.

I enjoy learning and researching all sorts of things. I like to read how others do things and why and I really feel that it is important to know and understand this world and the reasons we do things the way we do. This is also something that I really like about my husband, too. He knows all sorts of things and shares his knowledge with me – astronomy and space, photography and online role-playing games are just a few of the things that I have learned about from knowing him. I am also learning about trucks and cars because of Josiah’s great interest. When we go to the zoo, we always learn something new. Eila is frequently explaining to me the ins and outs of make-believe worlds. We have so much getting to know each other more and learning about everything around us. I could never run out of things to learn about or study.

One of the things that I hear myself say over and over is: “We treat others with love and respect.” I am constantly teaching Eila what it looks like to respect others, self, the world and the belongings of others, as well as what respect does not look like. It seems like almost every action relates back to respect in some way – the way we talk, share, play, react, help, and even eat and sleep. Other people might phrase things differently, but I see issues of respect in so much of how we act. For me, I desire to be respected and admired by others, which effects so much my motivations, fears, and in turn my behaviors and words.


Yelling Deal

So, I have a problem. I am a screamer. If you grew up with me, this would not come as any surprise.

I am not nearly as loud or obnoxious as I was in my teenage years, but that really isn’t saying much. Not too long ago, I started yelling at Eila (when she peed on the special Nativity book that we got this past Christmas – on purpose!) and she started yelling back at me! I realized then that we had a much bigger problem than I had originally thought – now involving my very impressionable youngsters.

In light of this, Eila and I made a deal. After cleaning up the mess and apologies, we agreed to stop and take a deep breath when we are really mad or frustrated with circumstances (and pray!) and then talk as calmly and kindly as possible. If we screw up, the other person will say “Please try again without yelling.”

Honestly, this has worked great for us (but not anywhere near perfectly), in the nearly two weeks since we shook on this deal.

Whining is still my nemesis and wears me out like there is nothing else. Fortunately, the whining is mostly when Eila is really tired and hungry, so fairly easily fixed.

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I am not currently involved with regular ESL teaching, but I do know of a couple of options. I used to teach full-time at a local university and really enjoyed the students and the teaching, but making a living in ESL is really hard, especially in my local area My training was a B.A. in Linguistics and French with some teaching part-time along the way. My real training came on the job as is usually the case with ESL. I think for volunteering, the only real training needed to a willingness to

Most university ESL programs and community classes need classroom volunteers, often for 1 hour 1 day a week to do small group activities, role plays, discussions with students as well as conversation partners to meet 1-on-1 with students at a time that works for both of you. This was a great experience all around for me (fun, getting to know the students, relaxed, no prep), the only con was the drive & the unfortunate fact that meeting with my kids didn’t work out (too crazy especially with their kids) and I couldn’t find regular childcare so I’m not volunteering right now, but probably will in the future.

I’ve also volunteered with the Arab-American Friendship Center, which is a local missions organization trying to build bridges to reach Arabs with God’s love. They offer free English and citizenship classes to women during the day and free classes in computers and business English in the evenings. The classes are M-Th for 2 hours and usually a teacher volunteers for one day per week. With the commute it was about a pretty big commitment, plus prep time. They do have childcare at the center for the women in the class and I used that a couple of times, but had a friend who watched my kids for free while I volunteered (as my kids didn’t do well at the center and they had tons of kids in the room there, so I didn’t want to add more kids for them.)

One thing that I liked about the AAFC was that my kids were able to see me helping others and share me with others, which was good in some ways. I want my children to develop a heart for helping and caring for others and giving to others, even sacrificially. In my opinion, volunteering is difficult, but worthwhile in the the long-term as well as short-term benefits. Right now, my volunteering is with a MOPS group, which I love, and my kids love MOPPETS, so the only sacrifice is the time I spend preparing and making it all work. One day, I’ll return to ESL, because I love that too!


Discipline in Action

Just in case, you haven’t had enough of my thoughts on discipline, I thought I’d describe a few very typical scenarios in our house.

In the mornings when we need to get somewhere in a timely matter, it can be a little bit of a struggle if the children and I are not working towards the same goal (namely for me: getting ready and leaving on time; and usually for them: have fun & possibly also eat). Pro-actively, I will attempt to make our getting ready as much fun as possible. We might play a game of who can get dressed fastest or make a silly face while getting dressed. We might also sing a song about cleaning up or putting on shoes. In deciding what to wear, warnings and choices are of utmost with Eila. I’ll usually tell her: “We need to get ready for preschool, so in two minutes we are going to go to the bathroom and then get dressed. Would you like to wear pants or a dress?” She almost always chooses dress, so then we head to the closet and I pick out two and say: “Would you like the dog dress or the circle dress?” or she will immediately tell me which one she prefers, and I rarely care. If I want her to wear pants; I will specify why and give her the pick of the drawer. She is much more likely to be agreeable and cooperate with my goal in this way. The GBD 5 Steps are a great tool for when choices aren’t working. Step 4 is to help her and so I do. I’ll get out her clothes and help her put them on so that we can leave when we need to – hopefully, not in a mean way, but because she isn’t able to do it herself, just like I help Josiah.

Another troublesome issue for many folks is eating. I really like the idea that I control when and where my child eats and s/he controls how much. I choose what s/he can eat and she chooses what (from what’s in front of her) s/he does eat. For Eila, this works great because she likes to eat and is almost always hungry. She enjoys a wide variety of foods and is willing to try one bite (which is sort of a rule) of anything and almost always wants more after that first bite, but if not that’s fine. Josiah, on the other hand, does not eat well. So for him, I offer the same wide variety that the rest of us eat with at least one food that I know he likes each day. I offer him foods whenever he asks and it’s reasonable (this is the same for Eila), which is usually every 2 hours. If he wants to eat, he must do so at the table, but since sitting for more than 30 seconds is beyond his ability at this time, he can come and go as often as he likes until I put the food away (usually when Eila is done eating.) As for attempting to break the eating protocol, it’s very simply taking food away. In most cases, the kids are done eating anyway and if not, they can try again by sitting at the table and behaving appropriately and get their food back without much ado. It works very well. I tend not to stress about messes while eating, but if they are goofing off, they are done because I don’t like to clean unnecessarily (or really at all.) We try to act in the way that we want the kids to act and they want to act like us, so it works out.

When the kids don’t listen and don’t obey, when they hit each other, climb on dressers, throw hard & pointy objects and put valuables in the dirty toilet, when they whine, cry, yell, or act disrespectfully and unlovingly (is this even a word – you know what I mean), what happens?
Often there are several phases in the process.

Recently, Josiah has been going through a bit of a challenging stage – testing limits over and over again. He is climbing up the dresser and standing on top, looking out the window or just admiring the new perspective. At first I took him down and clearly told him “NO! You may not climb on the dresser. You can climb on the couch or on the bed.” Then, when he did it again, we repeated this with several “NO”s and put him in his crib for a bit. When he did it again, we repeated the admonition and he stood in the corner for a brief time out. When he did it again (the third time in just 6 waking hours), he went in his crib for a full minute with a simple “No!”. He now says “No, No, No” after he climbs up, which shows me that he at least knows that this is not okay, but isn’t able to stop himself, so if he does it again, I’ll move the dresser. I hope I won’t have to.

Now, Eila is an exceptionally whiny child when she is tired. Most of the time, she is extremely well-spoken for a preschooler, but when tired, she barely manages 2-3 words together and uses either a baby voice or a whiny voice, neither of which I have much patience for. As she has gotten older and I’ve gotten a little bit wiser, things have changed… I used to get really annoyed and just lose it. Now, it takes a bit longer for me to lose it, and before I do, I usually will do a few things to help her cope. First, I offer food or sleep or potty. If she doesn’t choose, I might choose for her by saying: “Do you need to go potty? (wait for answer) Let’s have a little snack or would you like to go back to sleep. If you can’t decide or ask nicely, I’ll just tuck you back in bed.” In the event that she is still cranky after a bowl of cereal- her favorite snack, I offer a little cuddle with Mama (which is often what she really wants, but can’t voice it). When Eila is whining at a store or friend’s house, I’ll simply talk to her calmly (sometimes) with two choices: speak with a nice voice and clearly say what she wants or play/sit/walk quietly. If that doesn’t work, we wrap up and head home as soon as possible because she needs to sleep! When we get home, I’ll put her in her room and let her change into pajamas if she wants (and she always does), then say: “You can read books quietly in your bed or sleep in your bed – I’d like you to sleep, but whichever you do is fine. We all need to take a break for a bit.”

Finally, the sticky issue of other people’s kids… I like the policy of each person taking care of their own kid. When someone hurts my kid, though, it’s really hard not to want to “help” the other parent. I have to resist because I know that each mom knows her kid best and what works with him/her, and plus, I need to take care of my own hurt kid. If I’m watching someone else’s kids, they are have the same rules and respect that my kids do – with a little more grace. The golden rule “Treat others as you want to be treated” works with parenting too.

Basically, where there is love, grace abounds and so do limits that have to be enforced. The more I learn, the more I have to adjust my expectations and know that I have more to learn!


Practicalities of Discipline

I’m finally following up the rest of my thoughts on disciplining, and these are my findings so far, based on my flawed usage and my kids.

What works (in my order of preference and use):
GBD 5 Steps
Love & Logic, Conscious Discipline 1 and Conscious Discipline 2 (Choices with natural or logical consequences)
Giving Time to Adjust to Change

What doesn’t work:
Telling them what to do and then punishing (time outs, loss of priviledges)
Asking them to do something and telling the consequence of not complying – Eila will almost always choose the consequence no matter what it is!

I’ve found that having too many rules or too much info, doesn’t work, but Eila needs to know what to expect and what’s coming up. Josiah is starting to want that as well, as he gets to the point where he can understand that there are some things he can do and some things he cannot do.

Yee House Rules:
Treat others with love and respect. (We do not hit or push or kick other people at any time for any reason.)
Listen and obey.
When we’re done playing, we clean-up.
We go to our room when we can’t behave appropriately.
No climbing on moving things (like ride-on trucks) or big furniture (like dressers or tables).
No eating or wearing shoes (princess shoes included) while jumping. (This rule changes with the season – it was previously: Only throw soft balls.)
Only play on the computer with Mama or Papa.
Ask before you take (especially for food, but also applies to toys & taking turns).

There are always consequences for not following the rules. The most common one is no more jumping. Followed closely by “We can play with that after we clean up this.”

Finally, the most important rules (which are the silly rules):
No Smiling.
No Laughing.
No Having Fun.

As our kids get a little older, I’d like to implement “Our 24 Family Ways” from the Clarkson family, which I discovered in the back of Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood.

So, for some real life examples, you’ll have to await another day.

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