By Meika Rouda
I haven’t been writing much this year. A slow spell of overwhelm came over me and I found it hard to muster the energy to write. It felt selfish of me, a purely indulgent act when so many other things needed to get done. First off are the kids, they need, well, everything. Food made, butts wiped, shoe laces tied, booboo’s kissed, nightmares scared off, hugs and kisses and books read constantly. Then there is housework, the laundry, the bills the groceries and the dinner to be made for my husband not to mention the bonding dinner time conversation so we can continue having a loving relationship even though I just want to go to bed and read a book alone. The writing was for me and me just isn’t a priority right now. I don’t mean to sound like a martyr but I realize I am always in a rush, not just on a daily basis to get the kids to school or be at an appointment on time but in a rush to make things happen. I want to finish my book and move on with other projects. I want to see The Next Family Anthology come to fruition and be published. Everything feels like it needs to happen now or else. Or else what? Maybe rushing isn’t what it is about? Right now I need to think about my family, my son’s multiple doctor’s appointments to treat his self control issues, my daughter’s gymnastic classes, my husband’s demanding job and allow myself a stint on the sidelines. I haven’t exercised in ten months and the lines on my face are growing at an alarming rate but still I am grateful that I have this life. That these children who tirelessly need things are my children. I am grateful to have this time to be with my kids even if they drive me crazy sometimes. I know that my time will come, my time will come.
By Rosy Barren
By Melissa Doody
This parenting gig is incredible. As a stay-at-home dad, my life is filled with so many milestones and memories and happiness and joy. Each day our three boys amaze us with new words and deep thoughts and unconditional love. The experiences that my husband and I are sharing are at times so profound that they bring us closer and closer together as the fabulous years go by. We are getting close to hitting ten of those fabulous years.
With all that being said, it’s time to set the record straight. Parts of this job really suck. And I’m not talking about the obvious. Not the poop you find on your forearm after a diaper change. Not the sleep deprivation that comes with the newborn months. No, I’m talking about the less obvious ones. The ones that parents from past generations don’t speak about, but would chuckle knowingly when they are brought up in conversation by new parents. Here are four of these unspeakables, in no particular order.
The boys might be at the park with Papa, or sound asleep in their beds in the dead of the night, but no matter. It’s always the same. Right around the time that I have started letting the water run through my hair after the shampoo, the screams of pain start. The cries for help commence. The sounds of muffled suffocation sear through the air. I used to turn off the water and listen, but I have learned that it’s just a curse. My mind is playing tricks on me. I stick my head out of the shower and listen to the silence for a second of two before returning to my asylum that used to be so enjoyable and relaxing but now is nothing but a quick soaping and a rushed rinse.
Dining in restaurants
We might as well take the meal money and flush it down the toilet; it’s almost the same as trying to eat out. We’ve tried toys and crayons and iPads and iPhones, but inevitably an individual of short stature will scream bloody hell about the shape of his pancake or the inequality of fries on his plate compared to his brother. Forget about reading the Sunday paper or glancing at email. Others demand your full attention. Even eating your meal becomes a challenge and a balancing act, as without fail someone will want to sit on your lap just as your piping hot food arrives. I’ve gotten used to eating cold eggs.
These three hours used to be good times. Working out at the gym after work, catching up with friends at an impromptu meal, or even just sitting and watching some mindless Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight while digesting my pasta with my feet up on the coffee table. Now they have become a frantic three hours of homework, meal preparation for boys of starkly different tastes and meal requirements, baths, reading, and then finally pleading for everyone to stay in bed and go to sleep. We don’t even try to feed ourselves until at least 9:30pm, if we have still have the energy to raise a utensil to our mouth.
Three boys, two men, and a friend/surrogate who spends half her time at our house – we all make a lot of dirty laundry, I get it. And throw in washing sheets (some more frequently due to bedwetting), the throw rugs that surround our toilets (boys have bad aim), and the uniforms from twice-weekly swim lessons, twice-weekly basketball, twice-weekly gymnastics, and a weekly Crossfit class – and we’ve got an always-running washer/dryer. Each day as the laundry finishes drying it gets piled on my bed as high as the ceiling fan, and each night I have to stand there and fold it, sort it into piles by owner, and restock it in the appropriate location. If I don’t get to the restocking part due to time constraints or a boy or two waking up unexpectedly for water or a pee or a cry, then the sorted clothes have to wait. They quickly start to pile up on our dresser until they teeter-totter and finally collapse, necessitating a refold.
As bad as these things sound, it’s really a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise our sons and get them ready to go out in the world on their own. And before they start making their own families, I will be sure and let them in on these good times. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
By Brandy Black
From morning till night I’m taken by someone else. My iphone alarm goes off dictating my morning stumble to the shower, my quiet time, in which I prepare myself for the day ahead. The squeak of the hot water valve and the creek of the shower door cue the twins to begin their morning chatter. “Mama” Maaaaaammmmma”. My pace quickens as I dry, lotion and prepare milk for their morning routine. They jump up and down in their cribs when I enter the room. My son throws his pacifier on the ground with delight and reaches for his “ba ba.” Bella, collects her blankie, pacifier and bottle, holding on with all her might. The day has begun. Shortly after, my 5-year-old wakes up, sometimes happy and cheerful with good mornings to all and others with a shout and a slam of the door. I brace myself each day, not knowing which direction it will turn.
I struggle to get ready while also ensuring the twins are changed, Sophia is dressed, teeth and hair brushed and all is in order for “Breakfast time.” This is when I open the door of our hallway and we make our way to the kitchen, our au pair waits, usually half awake and prepares breakfast for the kids. I don’t know what I’d do without her on the other side of the door. She gives me an additional 15-minutes to make myself presentable for whatever meetings are coming my way.
I choke down my priobiotics at the table as the children all laugh at me knowing I really don’t like the sour tang in my little yogurt container. And off we go, bye bye to the twins. Sophia and I head to school. The day moves on, in and out of meetings, conference calls, checking on the twins when I have a spare moment, usually followed by angry tears when I escape again. I am grateful that I have the ability to work from home but we are at the stage where they always want to be with Mama and that can be hard on everyone.
5:00 comes and it’s time for me to put down my phone, computer and work and focus on the kids. This is witching hour, they are clingy, they both fight to be held and don’t want to sit, they want me standing and walking around the house with one of them on my hip. My oldest wants my attention too. I brace myself for this. I love having kids in my arms, I’m going to miss it when it goes away but I won’t miss the fight for attention that happens every afternoon when I walk in the room. I wonder if that will ever end? I feel like I’m letting everyone down and sometimes want to retreat under the covers and cry. I have learned to compartmentalize, I have to close each chapter, each moment in order to open a new one. I cannot linger or wallow, there is no time and my children simply won’t allow it. I imagine putting all the children to sleep and sitting in the back with my wife to detox and release the happenings of the day, but even that rarely happens. The time is ticking and we race to finish before exhaustion sets in. Dinner. Check. Books. Check. Pajamas. Check. Twins asleep. Check. Now homework with our oldest daughter. Lately this seems to be my job. I’m learning Japanese with her, she is in a dual immersion school and so we sit for 30 minutes a night and practice both English and Japanese. Once we’re both tired of flashcards and characters we move on to reading. I have always loved this time with my daughter, we’ve been doing it since she was three weeks old. Two to three books every night. But these days, I find myself thinking of other things while I read, calculating my night, what needs to get done before the day begins again tomorrow. Wait, stop, don’t drift, back to the book. Live in the present.
We are done, I kiss her good night, I grab her mom when she’s not working for the rest of the bedtime routine and suddenly the house is quiet. It is just me and sometimes Susan. Now we clean. We put away the day, books on shelves, blocks in boxes, dishes in cabinets, food in fridge. We make Sophia’s lunch and my time becomes my own. On some nights I work, catching up with my busy day, others I work for Sophia’s school, sending out emails, signing off on papers, ordering supplies, clothes for the kids, and on the fun nights I sit with Susan and talk or watch TV, once a week we even sneak out for a date. By 11, I’m tired, I need to sleep.
I get in bed and wonder, what would life be like…suddenly I’m asleep.
By: Susan Howard
This is my tater tot series part two, furthering the inquiry about how to keep your child at a healthy weight and give them habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on their plate.
Teach them to listen to their body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let them be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want?
When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies. (Unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but is a different story.)
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining that protein builds your muscles, milk helps your bones get strong, carbohydrates gives you energy and veggies help give you vitamins to see, and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex simple stuff like that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop. Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package, it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden, herbs is an easy one to start with, and let them help. My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler, she’s a regular Laura Engles. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. There is a fun recipe that is basically penne pasta, veggies and cheese in a muffin tin, super easy pasta muffins.
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule, if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved and try link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.
By: Shannon Ralph
Something happened this weekend—a lifetime first. (Well, actually, not a real first, but the first time this particular thing happened in 37 or 38 years.)
I pooped my pants.
Yep, you read that correctly. I realize this is probably entirely too much information, but I think it is life-altering enough to include it on my blog. In itself, the poopy pants were a completely explainable event—and I will explain it in a minute. I think the big picture, however, is symptomatic of a larger issue—the demise of my forty-year-old body.
So I took my daughter to Carter’s on Saturday afternoon. She needed some fall clothes because she outgrew every single article of clothing she owned this summer and, frankly, I can’t pass up a good sale. Carter’s has everything on sale right now. (Seriously, check out their website.) So we headed to the Carter’s store in Bloomington.
As soon as I got on Highway 494, I remembered that Ruanita had casually mentioned that they were doing construction on 494 this weekend. There were signs, but I saw no construction. As a matter of fact, there was very little traffic and we flew down the highway with ease.
While shopping at Carter’s, my stomach began to cramp. Then it cramped some more. Then it cramped rather painfully. Then it hurt like hell—a telltale sign of an impending bowel event of magnificent proportions. I tried to think of what I had eaten that would upset my stomach. For breakfast, I had eaten some cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi. Then my sister had brought me an iced white mocha from Starbucks. I had skipped lunch.
Nothing screamed of dietary stupidity. Though cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi wasn’t exactly a breakfast of champions, it was unlikely to cause the type of gastrointestinal issues I was experiencing.
I quickly paid for Sophie’s new clothes and shuffled her out the door.
(On a side note, this is why I typically do all of my shopping at Target and/or Kohl’s—the close proximity of bathroom facilities wherever you happen to be in the store. When you are forty years old, these are the kinds of things one must consider.)
We hurried out of Carter’s and I hopped (or rather, slid like a palsied Mermaid with my legs tightly pressed together) into the car. I should have stopped at the McDonalds that was right there. But that particular McDonalds is kind of, sort of difficult to get in and out of since it sits in the middle of a shopping center parking lot. So I decided to get out the rather congested Penn Avenue area and stop at a nearby restaurant with a restroom. Arby’s…Wendy’s…I wasn’t picky.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that I was in trouble. The onramp to Highway 494 was closed. As were all the onramps to 494 in the Bloomington corridor. I tried to take a different route, but apparently every single driver in Bloomington that day had the exact same plan. I ended up on a frontage road with about one hundred other cars.
Not moving at all.
The cramps intensified. I broke out in goosebumps all over my entire body. I prayed the Our Father. I prayed the Glory Be. I tried to remember the words to the Act of Contrition, but eventually said screw it. I even threw in a few Hail Marys for good measure. Mary was a forty year old woman once—she had to understand.
I repeatedly told Sophie, “Mommy’s got to go to the bathroom.” “Mommy’s going to die.” “Oh God…mommy’s in trouble.”
Sophie was—and this is why I love that little girl with every fiber of my being—entirely supportive. “You can do it mommy.” “It’ll be okay, mommy.” “We’re almost there, mommy.”
Then it happened. Just a little bit, but entirely enough.
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop it. I was ill.
Sophie responded with a simple “Gross.”
I eventually made it home, cleaned myself, finished my business, changed my clothes and made it to pick up Lucas from his choir rehearsal with three minutes to spare. My stomach was a mess the rest of the day, though I never figured out why.
To say that it was a disturbing turn of events would be a gross understatement. It is, however, not entirely shocking. It is endemic of a problem with which I am having difficulty coming to terms.
I am getting old.
Not granny old. Not rocking chair old. Not afghan and fuzzy socks old (though I am a big fan of both). But I am aging.
Since turning forty last October, I feel like I have fallen apart.
Suddenly, I pee on myself when I cough. Or laugh. Or do not run to the bathroom the instant the urge hits. I have plantar fasciitis and walk like a cripple. I have arthritis in my big toes. My knees creak. I fart when I bend over. Fried food does me in. I am on medication for high blood pressure. I sweat all the time. Adult diapers are rights around the corner.
I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I need to lose some weight. But I find it odd that it all began when I turned forty years old.
I am not forty years old like 1960s-era forty year old women. They’re children were grown. They could sit home and bake pies and have Tupperware parties and watch their “stories” on daytime television. They could spend the day in their “housecoats” if they wanted to.
I have a full-time job. I have a partner who occasionally wants to see me. I have little kids. I have 5th grade homework to deal with. And zoo trips. And visits to the park.
I can’t be old. I can’t drive around the metro area shitting my pants. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Something is going to have to change. It’s time to dust off the treadmill. Pull out the vegetables. Table the beer and wine. If my body is going to fall apart, it’s going to have to work a little harder to do so. I’m not going to make it so damn easy.
This is not going to be fun.
By Joe Newman
What do you say to a parent who asks, “How involved should I get in school?”
Before talking about this question I first want to talk about a more important underlying issue. Relations between parents and teachers are at an all-time low. Parents blame teachers for their child’s poor academic performance and teachers blame parents for raising badly behaved children. And while there are certainly parents and teachers who are not like this, it is the unfortunate trend.
So before a parent can know how involved they should get in their child’s school, or what kind of involvement will be optimal, they must first build a positive and productive relationship with their child’s teacher.
First, what to do.
Assume the teacher wants the very best for your child, even if you don’t see it. Remember the saying; first seek to understand, then to be understood. Find out what the teacher is doing, what they see happening with your child in the classroom, what their concerns are, what their struggles in the classroom are, and how you might be able to mitigate any of these.
Ask them directly, “What can I do to support your work with my child?” Then do your best to do it.
Stay informed about what your child is doing in class and what they have for homework. Make sure they’re doing their homework and confirm that they’re turning it in. Set up an effective homework routine -you can find help on Homework Tips.
If you offer suggestions, offer them in the form of questions like, “Is it possible for Rachael to use manipulatives when she does her Math work? This seemed really helpful for her last year.” Or, “Are there opportunities for Dylan to have chores in the classroom? He seems to get into less mischief when he’s given responsibilities.”
Catch them being good. We love to use this with our child but it’s an equally effective tool to build a relationship with our child’s teacher. Find something, or several things, that you like about what’s happening in your child’s classroom and let them know you see it and appreciate it.
Second, what not to do.
Don’t attempt to correct or criticize a teacher until you have established a positive relationship with them. Even well intentioned advice can fall on deaf ears if you don’t understand what’s happening in the classroom.
When parents attempt to correct or criticize a teacher’s approach or method with their child it almost always goes badly. A teacher may listen politely during the conference and say they will consider, or even try, the suggestion. But when the conference is over, the chance that the teacher will actually implement the suggested change is slim. And worse the parent/teacher relationship will be worse for the experience. Why? Because in most cases the teacher has either tried this suggestion before, knows it can’t be realistically implemented, or disagrees with the approach altogether. In other words, the parent didn’t understand before they sought to be understood.
Eight years ago, when I finished my Master’s degree, the agency I worked for immediately made me a supervisor. After twelve years being the child whisperer who could turn around the most difficult children, I now had the opportunity to oversee and train twenty behavior specialists and teachers and pass on all that I knew. To my great surprise very few of these people seemed interested. After six exhausting months with only a little progress I finally realized that I needed to build relationships first, then teach. I had to appreciate the efforts and the insights of the people I wanted to teach before they would hear anything I had to say. I needed to understand before trying to be understood.
Once I began focusing on recognizing, appreciating, and articulating the efforts and insights of those around me all my cases started to quickly improve. When what people think and feel when you walk into the room shifts from, “There’s the guy who always tells me what I’m doing wrong” to “There’s the guy who really understands how hard I’m trying” amazing things start to happen.
It didn’t matter that I knew the right thing to do to turn these kids around (I did), what mattered was actually getting it done. And to actually do it required appreciating and developing positive relationships with the people who would be doing most of the work.
Studies consistently show that children whose parents are involved with their schoolwork do much better than children whose parents aren’t. Just remember that how you get involved is just as important as how much. Assume your child’s teacher wants the best for your child. Make efforts to support them. Ask questions about what’s happening and how best to support. Recognize the efforts of teachers and appreciate them. Then, get involved in school as much as you are able and in the ways that are in unity with the needs of your child’s teachers.
Joe Newman is a Behavior Consultant and the author of Raising Lions. Follow us on Instagram for Parenting Tip Tuesday and share some of your own tips with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #parentingtiptuesday
By: Lisa Regula- Meyer
The school year is in full swing now in Kent, and we’re heartily enjoying life with a second grader. Specifically, we’re enjoying this second grader and his second grade class. This year, our school is trying out a mixed 1st and 2nd grade classroom. Two teachers, two student teachers, and two grades in an extra large room (really two rooms with a collapsible wall between them that’s not used very often now). Kenny’s been thrilled about it so far, and seems to be doing well with this new set-up, in part because the first grade teacher was his teacher last year, and he really enjoyed working with her. We’re glad that he has another year in a safe place where he enjoys learning, and his official teacher for this year has a similar pedagogy and manner to his first grade teacher. His daily pattern is familiar, he’s making progress on school work, and meeting new friends.
I may not work with young kids, but I do teach, and I take my profession seriously. So much in education is bad news- rising tuition, rising student loan amounts, another assessment added to the schedule, and test prep taking more and more time away from teaching. With all of that, it’s great seeing innovation and child-centered learning still making its way into some areas. Classrooms being treated like research, following evidenced-based practices and contributing to that evidence, trusting teachers to take leadership of their own classrooms, those are the things that I like to hear happening.
In my own classrooms, I’m trying some new things, as well, like virtual presentations and some new lab activities. It’s surprising how different things feel with just a little bit of a difference; those little changes make such a big deal in overall outlook. For me, seeing changes in my syllabus come together, and seeing how other people shape their classrooms for the students (with supportive administrators, even!)
By: Brandy Black
I find myself crying a lot lately. Mostly tears of oh-my-god-life-is-moving-too-quickly-and-I-can’t-keep-up combined with my-daughter-is-becoming-a-little-girl-before-my-eyes. Since she started kindergarten a month ago it is as if she’s hit a million milestones. A couple weeks into school she had two teeth pulled at the dentist. Without me. I set a dentist appointment for Sophia to get a check-up and prepped Susan before she took her that they may suggest pulling a tooth.
I never dreamt that Susan would have them pull it on the same day, with no mental preparation for me or Sophia when it was 97 degrees, with a broken AC at the dental office. I was hanging at home with the twins when I got this text from my wife
I freaked out, panicked, called a dozen times, Susan would confirm this. I drive her crazy. She drives me crazy. No answer. No answer? This was happening. Next came a video from a bloody mouthed, happy Sophia with a tooth necklace dangling from her neck. Two teeth, gone. Check. First visit from the tooth fairy. Check. It happened too fast. I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t there to hold her hand.
A couple weeks later, the homework began. Sophia called me from Susan’s car on the way home from school to tell me that she had homework, her voice was high and excited. She came running into my room/office a few minutes later, plopped on the bed and said “I’ll do homework while you work, isn’t this great?” Homework. Check.
Last Monday we started with Bob books, you know the scholastic books that are good starters for little readers. She’s never read a sentence in her life, she knows cow, and all of our family names but that’s about it. I haven’t pushed her, I’m more of a it-will-happen-organically kind of parent. Sophia’s never really shown interest. We sat down together and I struggled through 15-minutes of torture, wanting to help her while she SLOWLY sounded out each word. She finally made it through that damn book. The next night, she asked to read again, this time, something clicked, I saw it happen, in the same way she learned to swim this summer. Oh let’s check swimming off my list too. But in that moment,I knew that she would be reading. Sure enough, one week later, she’s reading all of her Bob books. I can hear a little voice in bed at night sounding the words out quietly. Reading. Check.
Every night we do homework in two languages. I’m watching this little girl grow up quickly before my eyes. I can’t believe I’m the mother of a kid that is doing flashcards and writing in Japanese. Our three kids sit on the playroom couch together flipping through books, they collect leaves in the backyard and then crunch them with their feet, they gather them again, fighting over the rake and then throw them in the air. It all happens so fast.