Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Parade and Presents

Fun story about a present Peter received. He thought it was very funny when he opened it, because we already had a copy of that book (Little Blue Truck). Then he noticed a companion book pictured on the back, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, and said he wished we had that one. Background information: since Memorial Day, he has been crazy about parades; he and Anne have at least one every day around the house, playing instruments. So, we went to Barnes & Noble, where he exchanged it. He was loving every minute of the new book, and THEN, we turned the page and there was a MARCHING BAND! Having a PARADE! He was through-the-roof excited about it.

She wears her drum on her head.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Should my mother be in the delivery room?

People tell a bride that her wedding is her big day. Do what you want! Make whatever choices you like best! But in reality, brides make choices not only based on personal preference but on the preferences of her guests. A bride is hosting a party; a gracious hostess cares about her guests' comfort.

When you give birth, though, it really is all about you. :-) No one else is carrying that baby for nine months or bringing him or her into the world. So, should your mother be there as you give birth? Only if YOU want her there. There are women who want to share their birth with their mother, husband, children, and maybe even other family or close friends. If that's you, go for it! The only note of caution I would add is to remember that this baby is yours and your husband's, not your mom's. Dads can sometimes feel pushed to the sidelines, so do be sure that he is involved and knows he is wanted.

Photo credit: David Beyerlein

If you're unsure, here are some reasons your mother should not witness you giving birth:
You want to patch a tense relationship. If you and your mom are not on great terms, the delivery room (or other birthing location) really isn't a good place to mend fences. Giving birth requires 100% of your concentration; you won't be able to spare the mental effort to keep up social niceties. Instead, consider having your mother be the first visitor, or have a special song for Grandma and her new grandchild, or some other way to make Grandma feel special and wanted (since she is!).
Your mother is a Negative Nelly. For a great birth experience, you want anyone in the room to be positive and confident. Your body was designed to give birth, but stress and fear cause you to tense your muscles, working against the natural flow of things. If you mom will be doomsaying, critiquing, or complaining, she's not going to improve your birth.
You'll feel uncomfortable having her there. There could be any number of rational or irrational reasons for you to feel that way, but if you have a nagging feeling that you'll wish she would leave, it's much easier to not invite her than to tell her to leave halfway through!
Your mother is a Chatty Cathy. Now, if you have a great relationship with your mom, you might want her talking to you through the early stages of labor to keep your mind occupied and then leave. Once you get to the transitional stage, though, odds are good that you won't want any distractions. Let me repeat: giving birth requires 100% of your concentration. If you want mom around only in the beginning, be sure both of you are clear about how you will ask her to leave and that she will respect your first request.

Now, none of those are true of me and my mom, but I still didn't want her in the delivery room. She didn't particularly want to be there, either, so thankfully it wasn't a touchy situation. I just didn't want another person in the room. This is the same reason the idea of a doula doesn't appeal to me. I don't want anyone talking to me or touching me during labor other than my husband. I asked my midwives (who were awesome) to direct everything through him when practical. I am introverted and fairly reserved by nature; being in labor really amplifies those traits in me.

Should your mother watch you give birth? Sure, if you want her there. And if not, that is perfectly OK, too. She will have many more opportunities to bond with your baby! :-)

Friday, July 25, 2014

7QT (Vol. 95): Wanting Revenge

Last night, Anne and Peter fell asleep at 8:30 and 9ish, respectively. For the first time in a very long time, Anne slept through the night. She woke at 6:30 to nurse, then went back to sleep until 10:15. Peter came into my room about 7:15, then fell asleep next to me until almost 10:00. Neither of them are sick, but they had no naps yesterday and are stressed about Daddy being out of town. Still, I took the 13 hours of sleep as a portent of a good day.

They had breakfast and got dressed in enough time to get to the 11:15 communion service, where they did fairly well, until the very end. Peter got mad at me and took off his sandal in protest. (It's just something he does. Maybe because at some point I'll put it back on?) I ignored him, then scooped up him and his sandal after the closing song, took Anne's hand and power-walked out of the sanctuary. He was thrashing all the way, then let go an ear-piercing squeal just as we got to the hallway. A woman (who has made pointed comments in the past about me bringing my children to church) gave me a dirty look and - to her credit - muttered, "God bless you," and stalked out.

The day didn't particularly improve. He was pushing every limit and encouraging Anne to do the same all afternoon. We made it through dinner fairly well, had a fun and happy bathtime, and then it was bed time. For over an hour. The initial trigger was my refusal to read a book after he threw it on the floor, then escalated when he kicked me and I left his room. He followed me into my room, screaming and pulling things off the bed.

I should have physically stopped him and helped him regain control, but I'd had it by that point. What I wanted to do was slap him, so what I did was barricade myself in our walk-in closet and pray. I prayed for grace to get through this and for the ability to let go of my anger. What I wanted was revenge, but that would teach him nothing. When God had helped me regain control and restored my relationship with Him, I tried to do the same with Peter.

When he reached another calm in his storm, I told him it was time to fix the bedroom. I gave him one instruction at a time and helped tuck in the sheets and straighten the comforter when he asked politely. Then we moved into his room where we repeated the process with the toys he had strewn during a tantrum earlier this week. As he put the environment back in order, he got himself more in control, too. Finally, we were ready to snuggle and talk.

Are you sorry you wrecked things?
Well, that was just me saying that even if you did still love me, I didn't love you.
Do you love me now?
Good. I love you, too.
Are you sorry you got angry at me?
Yes. I'm sorry for being angry at you. Will you forgive me?
[bedtime prayers and lullabies]
me: I love you. I'll always love you. (a prompt for what follows)
P: Even when I kick you?
Yes. I don't like what you're doing, but I still love you. I'll always love you.
P: Even when I'm angry at you?
Yes, I still love you. I'll always love you.
P: Even you're angry at me?
Yes, I still love you. I'll always love you. Do you still love me when I'm angry at you?
P: Yes, I still love you. I'll always love you. (ends that 'script') Do you know how much I love you?
How much?
P: Up to Heaven.
Oh good. Goodnight, sweet boy, I love you.
P: Mommy, will you love me until you and me both die?
Yes, always.
P: OK, goodnight.

I know he got off his sleep schedule, didn't eat much lunch, and desperately misses Daddy, especially at bedtime. I know I didn't respond well to the warning signs earlier in the day. I know I could have been a better parent. But tonight, I'm not feeling guilty or even particularly worn-out. I am grateful. I am grateful for God's grace and forgiveness. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach instead of punish. I am grateful for the love of my son, a love strong enough to survive even our bad days.

Forever my sweet boy

Read more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Road Race and Birthday Party

So many great things happened this past weekend, it completely threw me off my schedule. The 5k road race and Peter's birthday party were part of a mini family reunion, which included dinner catered by Sticky Lips BBQ. In related news, if you want some leftovers, my parents still have plenty. :-) Here is yesterday's post for your viewing pleasure!

My brother finished 2nd, 17:40. He also ran a 50 mile race the week before!

Jeremy finished in 31:something, less than a minute ahead of me.

I finished in 32:43... I think I was handicapped by having to carry the car key ;-)
My very loving brother also looped back around to help me finish the race.

Peter's 1st race, completing a quarter mile

And he got a medal!

Grandma's amazing birthday cake for my construction enthusiast

Matching tongue faces

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gentle Discipline, Limits, and Tantrums

The kids were extremely well-behaved at Mass today, which makes my whole day run more smoothly. I'm not frazzled from trying to keep them in line and am filled with grace from being able to focus on God. Turns out I was desperately in need of that grace by the end of the evening. Peter seems to have entered another phase of limit testing. My little scientist is conducting experiments to see if the results can be replicated each time.

I try very hard not to take it personally, not to get angry at him. He isn't doing it out of spite, just trying to learn where lines are and if he can trust me to be consistent. Sometimes being the grown-up isn't fun.

On a more positive note, I have discovered an important question to ask when he is tantruming. What first comes to mind is, "What is your problem?!" But that's not particularly helpful. A more caring question is, "Why are you upset?" But when he is having a tantrum, that question usually makes it worse. He is struggling to maintain control and doesn't have a lot of cognitive resources left to ponder his motivation. Here is my new go-to line: What do you want me to do right now?

It has worked wonders! He doesn't have to process past events or explain anything. The answer to this question is a present action, very simple. Most of the time, it is something I am willing to do; the tantrum resolves quickly, then we can talk about what caused it once he is calm. Occasionally, it is not something I am willing to do, but then at least I can address the issue at hand, rather than trying to guess what is happening. I hope it proves helpful for some other moms of little ones, too!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blowin' in the Wind

How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man?
That's silly, Mommy. A man doesn't have to walk down any roads to be a man. You're right.
How many seas must the white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist, before it is washed to the sea?
What would it be then, Mommy? Just mud? Yes.
How many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?
Why would he pretend that, Mommy? I don't know.
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky?
One time.
How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?
Two. Like me.
How many deaths will it take 'til he knows that too many people have died?
I think just one, right, Mommy?

The answer is found in you and me...

Happy 4th birthday, sweet boy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

This Monday, we decorated Indian corn cookies!
I told her to stick her candies to the frosting.
She said, "Tick!" every time she stuck one.

Peter didn't want to mix anything, so he just pushed his candies
together in the shape of an ear of corn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ask the Internet - Is Spontaneity Rude?

Dear Internet,

I am a planner. I love making lists, schedules, and lesson plans. I enjoy knowing what will happen when. All that being said, my husband and I make a lot of last-minute plans. This doesn't bother me. In my mind, it's not that we've changed plans, but created them.

Often when we do this, it is influenced by our children. If they're in a lousy mood, we might shoot for an early bedtime and then decide to watch a movie once they're asleep. If they are bouncing off the walls, we might go out somewhere to get out some of their energy. These aren't events to plan; they just happen.

Breakdance party!

When we do end up with plans, we often want to invite friends. We have a handful of friends in the area who are occasionally available, so we both get out our phones and start calling. We don't particularly expect anyone to be free at the last minute, but often someone is. Great!

Here's the thing. I stopped calling one friend because she seemed insulted that I would think she didn't have plans on a Friday evening. I meant no slight... clearly I didn't have plans! I have a couple other friends whom I am hesitant to call, too. I just can't tell if they also think it is rude to call at the last minute.

Is there a social protocol to this? Is this another example of ask culture and guess culture?

- Hesitant Hostess

Friday, July 11, 2014

7QT (Vol. 94): Cousins by the Dozens

When my children visit their grandparents, they are plied with all forms of entertainment. There are books, toys, puzzles, art supplies, and musical instruments. Outside they have access to a swimming pool, kiddie pool, sandbox, berry patch, basketball hoop, tricycles, apple trees, and more. All four grandparents are willing and able to get down and play with the kids on their level.

When I was growing up, we went to my Grandpa's house almost every Sunday evening. His basement was something of a small arcade (pool/ping-pong table, air hockey table, and "bowling" game), but as young kids we didn't spend much time down there. Usually we stayed long enough to roll billiard balls around until one of us pinched our fingers, then went back upstairs.

In the rest of the house, there was really not much entertainment. For a 3200 sq. ft. house with six bedrooms, it had surprisingly few toys. In fact, my memory is that there was exactly one box of toys. It was maybe two cubic feet and was half full: a windup music box, maybe 30 Legos (a few of which glowed in the dark!), two plastic elephants, some other odds and ends.

The yard was small with no usable playthings. (There was a basketball hoop, but it usually had a car under it.) Grandpa lived on a parkway, so there was a place to run and climb trees, but no playground equipment or fruit to eat. There were also railroad tracks at the end of the street... perhaps not the safest place to play, but we did anyway.

I never remember being bored, though, because what we had in abundance were cousins. I am the second youngest of 23 cousins in my mom's family. Many of them lived out of state, so we only saw each other at Christmas or maybe one other time, but a bunch of us were local. What we were lacking in toys we made up with imagination. We just played. And when the out-of-towners came, the play got louder and larger and longer into the night.

I can confidently say that most if not all of us still consider ourselves friends. A year or two or three might pass between getting together, but we are cousins. We are family. By making time every year, our parents taught us that we matter to each other. As crazy as some (most) of us are, we love each other and enjoy being together - and that includes spouses. I didn't realize until fairly recently how unusual that is. Thanks, cousins.

No, this isn't a stock photo. He's actually one of my cousins. :-)
Photo credit: (this cousin's more normal brother)

To be very clear, this isn't a passive-aggressive push at getting my family to procreate. I just think my parents and in-laws should each have had about ten kids so my kids could also have tons of cousins. :-)

More 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Making Holy Cards

We invited friends over today, colored holy cards, and prayed together. I am so blessed to be a part of Catholic Moms of Rochester!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Underrepresented Virtues

Guest post by Jeremy

We took the kids to the Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago, and decided they'd most enjoy the kid-friendly program being put on by the Hochstein School of Music. For the most part, they both had a great time, but the end was horrible for Peter, through (mostly) no fault of his own.

The second to last presentation we attended was one about making electronic music. Much of the program was done using an iPad, and at one point the instructor asked if any kids wanted to have a turn adding some things to the program. Peter raised his hand, as did several other kids. After a few took their turns, he said he wanted to wait and have the rest do it later, which was fine. Everyone got up and danced to the "song" they had just created by committee. He then went to create the next one. Peter walked up to him, but several other kids stepped in front of him, and the instructor literally pulled the iPad back right as he got to the front of the line. A similar thing happened during the third round, made slightly worse because he asked if everyone had had a turn and then apparently didn't see Peter reaching out (despite being 3 feet in front of him). If Peter's grandmother (who was out with him) hadn't intervened, he probably never would have had a turn. He seemed to handle this OK for a while, but then something relatively minor happened during the last activity and he had what might have been the biggest meltdown he's ever had in public. (I heard him from a different room and there was a children's drum circle in between.) I'm pretty sure this was primarily residual frustration from the iPad session.

Who needs an iPad anyway

When this first happened, I was just annoyed at the situation. As time passes, I'm not sure if I'm bothered more by what happened or that, all things considered, it actually works moderately well as a life lesson.

Beyond just the generic "life is unfair sometimes" that could be applied to virtually every negative experience, this does demonstrate an interpersonal mechanic I see all the time, both with children and adults: you're much more likely to get what you want if you're aggressive about it. Peter was, for him, unusually assertive; he was the first one to walk to the instructor for the second chance at making the music. But he wasn't aggressive about it, and therefore went unnoticed. The other kids weren't exactly doing anything wrong. They didn't push Peter out of the way, nor did they explicitly violate any instructions - they just failed to be considerate of the other kids, some of them taking multiple turns before Peter had had a chance to do it once.

"Good things come to those who wait" is one of those oft-repeated axioms that we as a society don't practice. Often, nothing comes to those who wait, and good things come to the impatient - or, if you prefer, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".

I decided not to take the opportunity to reinforce this little life lesson. When we talked about what happened later, I made it a point to compliment him on how patiently he waited and how he was kind to the other kids even though they weren't being kind back. The bottom line is that I don't think this particular aspect of our society is a positive one (though I'm sure many would disagree) and I don't want to be complicit in it. Ultimately, he did the right thing from a Christian perspective, and even though the immediate outcome was undesirable, I'm proud of him.

Perhaps that makes me an idiot of Dostoyevskian proportions, but perhaps if the world had more people like that, the considerate few wouldn't have to suffer for their kindness quite so often in this world.

Jeremy has essentially quit the Internet over the last couple of months due largely to the digital equivalent of this story (except coming from adults, so much less civil). If you enjoy his thoughts on topics, these guest posts are about your only outlet unless you want to discuss things with him in person.

Friday, July 4, 2014

7QT (Vol. 93): Why I am Glad to be an American

There are a lot of reasons I can (and do) criticize our country. I'm sure, reading through these, many will immediately think of how we're failing in the same areas. But today, I want to focus on the positive, some of the many great things we do in this country, even if we don't do it perfectly.

Our public schools promise to provide a free and appropriate education for every child, regardless of ability. We have vocational training, schools focusing on the arts, technical schools, and college preparatory schools, to name a few. We provide speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, sign language interpreters, ESL support and a variety of other services to children based on need, not ability to pay.

My mom was once working with an immigrant from eastern Europe who was grateful for the way police operate in the United States. Mom cautioned him that police brutality still happened. "Yes, but here it is illegal." Our police force is charged to protect the common good, not be the strong arm of a dictator.

My family can go to sleep each night confident that no bombs or soldiers will disrupt our sleep. We do not live in a war zone. I know I take our peace of mind for granted too often. When I read of villages destroyed, families torn apart, and refugees around the world, I am reminded how good we have it.

I have legal protection to practice my religion freely and a society that, by and large, approves of that right. We may differ on how far that right should extend, but Americans believe that each person is entitled to worship - or not - in whatever manner he chooses. We are not bound to a state religion or in danger of death for practicing our faith.

I like staying home with our kids while my husband works to provide money and health care. But I am very grateful to live where women are not required to be dependent on men. Our society recognizes women are capable of earning money, living independently, and making their own life choices.

I had some friends from out of the country who were very critical of how few Americans travel abroad - until I mentioned once how it takes a day or two to drive less than halfway across the US. Within our borders, we have a wealth of natural and cultural diversity. There is so much to learn about where and how people live, all without getting a passport!

7 Quick Takes is hosted by Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Downton Abbey

My husband and I are watching our way through Downton Abbey for the first time. Tonight, we watched the Christmas special from season 2, which had a very sweet and happy ending. (I'm pretending I don't know what happens at the end of season 3.) Anyway, it was a double length episode, so now it is super late. Goodnight!