Monday, October 11, 2010

Laughter the Best Medicine

They say that laughter is the best medicine. That laughter actually makes a person healthier. I haven't really had a good laugh in a long time. Don't get me wrong, I laugh, I find things funny, particularly, hubby and some of the things the kids do. But a good, strong, tears rolling down my face laugh, not so much.

Hubby says that I am too serious. My siblings like to say I am too. Which, probably means I am. I just don't take responsibility lightly. When I was teaching, I wish I could say I was the funny teacher...cause who doesn't like a teacher who is funny? My classes were fun, the kids generally liked me (I think), and learning happened all the time. However, I was always professional and a little cynical. Seasoned teachers told me I acted like a veteran. The things I said, the way I held myself screamed old timer. Yep, a nice way of saying I was serious, that I didn't have that new teacher glow. It was not meant as an insult, as seasoned teachers kinda felt threatened by the newer, younger teachers. New teachers have energy, they have pizazz, and many have that young/good looking thing that even if they are terrible at the job, the kids still love them. One student once told me that I hung out with the "popular teachers." I think she meant the younger ones in their twenties opposed to those in their 40s-60s (cause at the school I taught we didn't have many in between...most were within 10 years of retirement). But, I could hang with the older crowd and fit right in. The other new teacher had problems being able to relate to their mentors.

As a stay at home mom, I take my job very seriously. What I do is important, I have to convince myself of this daily or I would just get depressed. But I am not the "cool" Mom. I never will be. My parents were the cool parents. My Mom used to pile all the kids in the neighborhood in their station wagon and just drive around turning right or left when the kids told her to. My dad would bring home the company truck, pile the kids in the back and take everyone out to ice cream. These things would never happen in my home. First, hubby isn't too keen on kids other than our own. Second, all that gas wasted, and I would not feel comfortable driving all the kids around in the neighborhood. The responsibility scares me. Yep, I am too serious.

Last night Cookie asked me to come play in her room with her. So I obliged, since really how long is she really going to want to play with me anyway? One day she's going to be slamming that bedroom door asking me to please leave her alone. She told me she wanted to give me a show and to get in the closet (lucky girl has a walk in). And then she sang and danced and intermittently between the singing and dancing she started burping and farting. I was laughing so hard tears started streaming down my face. My sides hurt. And Cookie kept laughing because I was laughing. Then she' ask me to stop so the show could go on...but she'd start to giggle, then she'd burp and then I'd start laughing again. It felt really really good. I love my Cookie and I was reminded that sometimes I just need to let go, stop worrying about the laundry or the kitchen that has yet to be cleaned and enjoy my kids. Because they are really really funny.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Be the Ball...or something like it

Ever have that Ah Ha moment? That moment where there is perfect clarity. I had it the other day. I have been struggling with keeping my cool in regards to Cookie and her 3 year old behavior. That little girl sure can push. Not to mention she already is sounding like a teenager. Her tone when responding to us can really use an adjustment. And the other day her Daddy was the recipient of a "Fuck You, I hate you" face. In fact if she had those words I think she would have used them.

Back to my moment of Zen. I was reading one of those Parent magazines with the name "Parent" in it's title and there was an article about how to stop yelling at your kids. I am not sure what spoke to me, and made me actually take their advice, but for once, maybe the author knew what she was talking about. She wasn't some clinical child psychologist or doctor telling me how to raise my kid. She was a mom who also found herself yelling at the top of her lungs, "You will listen to me! Why are you driving me crazy? Why are you doing that?" While her kids either looked at her like she was crazy or continued to misbehave.

Here's the thing. Some of the suggestions were things I learned to do as a teacher....and employed them successfully on a daily basis. After my first year teaching, in which I call the "screaming year." Where as a first year teacher all you do is scream louder than the kids. I learned that yelling did nothing, so I whispered or spoke softly. This method always worked. Well why wouldn't it work with my three year old? Cause newsflash, it does.

Secondly, as a teacher I found I had to be explicit in what I wanted and why. I also had to explain in detail why I was upset and what the students were doing incorrectly. If I had just said, "Jimmy, you are driving me crazy." He would be clueless as to what behavior was really driving me nuts. Since, he may have walked in the door, sat down at his desk, got out his notebook, all correct behaviors, but was chewing gum and blowing bubble (incorrect) in a one minute span. I would have needed to say, "Jimmy your gum chewing and blowing bubbles is driving me crazy." Immediate understanding should follow. This descriptive talk is something I have failed to do as a parent. I am not sure why, as it is one of the first lessons I learned preparing to teach.

Yesterday I employed tactic number two, while speaking in a soft firm voice. It worked. I found that when my blood started to boil in annoyance at some behavior Cookie was displaying, telling her in detail why it was wrong actually calmed me. I found other parents at the park giving me marveling and impressed stares as I told the girls, who were fighting over a water bottle that, "taking turns is how both of them get what they want, so Cookie gets to take a drink first while Jelly waits and then it is Jelly's turn to take a drink while Cookie waits. Grabbing the water bottle out of each other's hands just makes the person whose turn it is upset and no one is happy." I didn't shout my usual, "SHARE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!" or "STOP HITTING YOUR SISTER!" Amazingly the fighting stopped and both girls waited their turns. All day things like this happened. It was only while I was cooking dinner that I lost my patience with Jelly as she can not quite understand why she is not allowed in the kitchen while Mommy is making dinner.

The last tactic discussed was reminding yourself that your child is acting their age, so speak it out loud, "you are acting so three!" This is supposed to help you remember that your three year old has only been around for 36 months to learn everything. This tactic makes me think of "CaddyShack" and Chevy Chase saying "Be the Ball." Cookie is just being "3" that's it. I need some reminders of that.

Parenting is harder than I ever imagined and I need a lot more patience than I was ever given. Hopefully by employing these tactics I can learn to parent smarter not harder.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Have I told you how awesome my Mom is. She really is. I can not fathom where she got all the energy to raise us kids and have fun while we were at it. Probably cause she's awesome. With all the Halloween and fall preparedness kicking in, I am reminded of the things I loved about my childhood, and it was because of Mom that they were awesome.

First we always, always made popcorn balls. Caramely, buttery popcorn balls. She'd pop a gigantic bowl of popcorn, heat the caramel on the stove and us kids would slather our hands in butter waiting for her to pour the caramel over the popcorn and then tell us we could start molding balls. As we dug in, forming popcorn balls, we'd all being blowing on our fingers saying "" all the while we'd keep trading off dipping our hands in the butter and then the popcorn. I looked forward to lunch everyday the week after making them, as Mom always packed them in our lunches. Dad would come home from work excited to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Every holiday we made sugar cutout cookies. What another treat for us kids to have in our lunches. Yummy homemade cookies that we got to cut out and decorate. Spiders, pumpkins, witches and an occasional leaf adorned the Fall cookie collection.

Cookie has started to ask if we can get the Halloween box out of the basement and make cookies. So this year now that it is October, cookies, popcorn balls, and pumpkins are on the agenda. Not to mention a lot of crafting projects, trips to the farm and pumpkin patch, and trick or treating.

While Halloween is not my favorite holiday, Fall is my favorite season. And it does feel like fall. Today I took the kids on a bike ride, enjoying the cool fall weather, the color changes on the trees, and the smell of dampness that was missing all summer.