Saturday, August 15, 2009

...Then it was a good day

Today started out rough. All week has been rough. Kevin and I have been discussing, and sometimes arguing about politics; both of us are uneasy out about the economy, our personal future, and our house that wasn't everything we'd hoped would be. We will be selling our house, because Kevin can't stand that it's slightly crooked. There is an ever so slight slant, (only a few milimeters) to the right side of the house and the soil is packed full of iron, that stains the toilets in spite of our spending a fortune on a high-powered water filtration system. There is also a 12 ft wall that would be very easy for my kids to fall down, so I have to stay tense, always checking, and if I hear crying, the first thing I do is dash to check the wall. Kevin wants to sell and start over. The older I get, the more I desire a place to rest my head that is mine. A place I can hang my pictures and create fun spaces for the kids. I feel like a little mole, wanting to have a burrow of my own to experiment and work with, to build on and expand as the years go by. Now we are going to have to start over--again. We really love Floyd, and we hope to stay in the area, but we may have to move somewhere else, with only the promise in our hearts that we will return some day.

I needed to get ahold of myself, and I didn't for a full week. I was immature, snapped, ignored the kids a lot, and they immediately started getting angry again. It is amazing how quickly we can digress. However, because we do have tools to help us, we put them to use as soon as we matured ourselves enough.

Finding our happy faces

Audrey Christley, a good friend of mine told me that when her little girl was cranky and just all around negative, she'd say--"Where's your smile? Can you find it? Is your pocket? In your shoe? In the grass? etc."

We started doing this, though saying 'happy face,' and I found that often, when they "found their happy face," I did too! The kids latch on to this and use it as a tool--it really works, and they absolutely love it! When it's a really, really rotton mood, we will go running around looking for the happy face, which provides psychological and physical movement. We look in silly places like 'in the light bulb' or 'in the peanut butter,' and eventually, when they are ready, they'll tell me, 'I found it mommy! It's right here in my shirt" or "in the laundry" or wherever they decide it was. We cheer and hug and welcome back the happy face, and we all agree that laughter is the best cure for a cranky mood! My oldest child is 5, so I am not sure how long this will last, but I am happy to continue it as long as it works. So thank you Audrey!! We have needed to find our happy faces several times this week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Make a List!

I have creative children. They love some good, artsy, brain-stimulation. There are days, however, when my patience and strength of character is tried to the very core. The image of discovering my children with an unbelievably huge mess is so vivid in my mind, I think that is the keenest memory I will be taking with me as they grow older. Let's make a list, while we're thinking of it, to show our kids some day when they are changing our diapers and wiping our spittle:

-Diarrhea in the bathtub; both kids, 'nuff said. (shudder)

-Black Permanent Marker all over selves, walls, doors, shelves, furniture, floors, and cabinetry, (on three separate occasions that I can remember. Once was just Kaylee, black head to toe, and a long horizon line going down the stairs, and a bedroom with artwork on the walls. She must have been playing Harold and the Purple Crayon.)

-Vaseline all over self, pillows, carpet, and blankets. (Peter--on at least two separate occasions. Kendon--once.)

-Purple lip gloss all over all three children.

-New lipstick, mascara, eye-liner, all over two older kids, bathroom cabinets, sink, mirror, and floor. (I still remember seeing the mascara lines all over their legs.)

-Breakfast cereal all over living room carpet, couches, and hair.

-Pink and purple nail polish painted all over arms, legs, and fingers and toes, as well as a large spherical shape hand-painted on the wall, and nail-polish foot prints on the floor.

-Nutella chocolate spread, and on another occasion, chocolate frosting, all over wall, with arms and legs, as well as face and hair painted brown.

-Ice cream, painted all over table, and themselves (K and P), eating it with a spatula and a whisk. (Freezer door standing wide open.)

-Peter and the yellow paint at grandma's house: All over self and carpet. (Thank goodness it was washable, though it didn't all come out; and thankfully she has a sense of humor!)

-Closet walls, clothes, door, sprayed with Aussie hairspray; the entire floor of the closet was flooded with a 1/2 inch hairspray puddle .

-Flooded bathroom, can't even count the times. (In the old house, they would dump cups of water out of the bath onto the bathroom floor, causing it to rain in the basement, right on top of daddy's computer, desk, and important papers.)

-Kendon eating fist fulls of white, permanent paint and painting the floor.

-Crayon/Pencil/Pen all over freshly painted walls, more times than can be counted.

-Peter and cousin Keith, covered head to toe in mud, 5 minutes before I need to leave to conduct a class. (Then we discover them outside during class, Peter naked from the waist down, covered once again, in mud, and little Keith who'd failed to get his underwear off, was also covered in muddy pee.)

-Blue dishwasher soap gel packets, burst on the floor, feet, and cabinets, etc. (They were stomping on them. Apparently, it's lots of fun.)

-Toy Mountain, 5 minutes after 2 hours of organizing.

Wow! That felt good! I'd love for you other parents to post your own list as a comment. This list is far from complete, but it is accurate. I think we all need a list to confront our kids with when they grow up and look back. When they are looking at the messes their kids made, they need to know that they too made messes, and they can put themselves back in their own shoes. My own mother has several times reminded me of the messes I made, such as the lipstick art all over the back of the couch, carpet and wall, as well as myself. She laughed when I told her of my kids' permanent marker art, because she remembers the time we were selling the house, and the last night there, she discovered me and a friend on the top bunk of the bunk bed, drawing on the textured ceiling with bright blue permanent marker. I still remember that. We were making a beautiful night sky. It was going to be gorgeous, if they'd just let us finish! I was 4. Then she reminds me of the time I painted the bathroom in poo when I was 3. So perhaps the apples do not fall far from the tree.

I have a very vivid memory of potty-training when I was 2, and going #2 in my training pants when we had company there. I was embarrassed, but Mom very calmly and and patiently took my hand and we walked to the bathroom. She washed out my training pants in the potty, smiling at me patiently while doing it. Because of her calm reaction, that feeling of embarrassment was replaced with adoration of her. I left the bathroom with a feeling of confident self-esteem. I knew that I would learn to use the toilet, because my Mom wasn't worried about it, even when I had an accident.

I have reminded her of that, and thanked her for that example, and even though I didn't have the emotional maturity to do that with my first child (so sorry Kaylee,) I developed it with help, (from the man upstairs and his angels on earth,) and now I can honestly say I'm there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Humble Pie

Every time I think I have it all figured out, I get to have a big old humble pie smashed in my face. Then it's back to humility again.

The past week I started bickering with my husband again, and naturally I blamed him. If he would just do everything I told him to do, we'd all be happy! Well, what does Kirk say to do? What do I keep saying I have to do? Control myself, and only myself. But wasn't I already doing that? Wasn't I already doing my very best? It was time to walk a mile in his shoes.

1. I pretended that I didn't have it all figured out, but I was living with someone who was certain he did. I pretended he had read and listened to advice that wasn't mine. I pretended he was constantly trying to teach me. I bristled at the constant better-than-you attitude, I rolled my eyes when he cheerfully reminded me of all his newly acquired wisdom. Even if it were right, there would be times, when I was sick to death of humbly accepting his direction. I wanted to be treated as an equal with ideas and wisdom equally valuable. And then, I knew what I must do.

2. I apologized: I admitted my wrongs, I apologized for my weaknesses, and I let him know that I could see it from his point of view. He was absolutely right. I could use some more growth, and some more practice in humbly setting an example rather than bossing him around.

3. I thanked him: It never hurts to thank someone, even if you feel awkward or silly saying it. I remember getting embarrassed to say thank you. I would turn red and fight the desire to make a joke and hide my true feelings. I used to use this baby voice, or sarcasm to ease tension, because I just didn't have practice being 100% honest. Starting with thanking others, genuinely, and telling them the whole truth of how much they've blessed you is a wonderful, fulfilling way to start. Take it from me, it gets easier each time.

4. I recommitted myself. Humbling one's self gets easier each time as well, which is the beauty of celebrating "progress, not perfection." Letting go of the need to control also gets easier with practice. I had slipped, without realizing it, into a habit of trying to verbally "teach," which came across as "force," my husband to be calm and not controlling. He had been doing great, but the more I tried to "teach" him, the further he backed away from my advice. So once again, I got to have a great lesson in personal relationships. A very valuable lesson I would not have received had I been single and simply been able to walk away.

5. Recognize that his desires are just as important as my own. Do all bloggers have messy houses? There are some days, some weeks, when all I can seem to force my right-brain to do, besides providing basic needs to the kids, is sing, write, read powerful books, have deep conversations with my sisters on the phone, research subjects I feel strongly about, and open my mind to wonderous possibilities in this great, magical world. These things do not a tidy home create. My left-brain husband, who is easily overwhelmed, who thrives on order and structure in all things, and is able to find order within himself when it exists on the outside, needs me to find a way to feed my soul while keeping up with things. There is a way, I've done it before. If I'm working hard and doing my best, he pitches in. He just doesn't want to be doing it all. I get that.

The Reward:

My husband thanked me. He cleaned the house. He expressed more patience and willingness to help and support me, and he was extra patient with the kids. He didn't complain when I invited my sister and her three young kids to come stay with us, and the glow in his face along with the extra long hugs and extra soft kisses-warmed me down to my ankles and brought a little sunshine into our cozy home. He wasn't perfect, and when I found myself starting to nag again, he pointed out that I was doing it again. After my initial defenseiveness, once again it was humble pie time. I reset my control barometer back to myself. I have a feeling I never will perfect this. Still, each piece of pie goes down easier, and comes more quickly, and that is the best we can expect!