Summertime Chaos

As an introverted quiet bookworm, it is sometimes very difficult for me to deal with the rantings and ravings of my two very loud girls. On a daily basis, I hear the same things over and over and over again until I want to fling myself off a bridge. And then miraculously and mercifully it is bedtime. The most popular phrases in my house are as follows:

“Hey! I had that first! Give it back!” followed of course by screaming, yelling and lots of pushing and shoving.

“Noooooooooooo!” Screamed by my three year old if her sister so much as looks at her funny. 

“Boo!” yelled by my five year old just about every two seconds as loud as can possibly be. She never scares anyone but annoys the shit out of everyone. 

“Piper! Don’t touch that!” 

Oh and my favorites:

“Mommy? Mommy? Can I….(insert some super annoying, time consuming, messy thing here)

“I’m bored, there’s nothing to do.” While sitting in a huge pile of toys they can’t be bothered to clean up. 

These phrases are inevitably followed by these:

“Be quiet!” 

“Don’t take things out of your sister’s hands.”

“Stop instigating your sister.”

“Stop screaming!”

“Be nice to each other.”

“Try asking for it nicely.”

“Learn to listen!”

“Clean up!” I have to say this about a hundred times per five minutes because if I don’t keep on them, they will just get distracted and start playing with everything they are supposed to clean. If they don’t have a very short deadline to get something done, it never gets clean.

 I hate it. I hate hearing them at each other’s throats every day and I hate having to say the same damn things fifty times a day, each and every day. I’ve noticed that if the big one would just stop doing little things to annoy her little sister on purpose, and the little one would stop screaming about every tiny little thing, everything would go swimmingly around here. They can’t seem to do it though. They’d rather get in trouble fifty times a day than stop doing those two things. Ugh. I know they’re little and have little impulse control but it is getting tiring. 

Thankfully, school is starting again soon and mommy can have a few hours of sanity per week! Can I get an Amen from all the mamas out there ready to eat their young this summer? We all need a break from each other and I am excited for everyone to have their own thing to do this year. So in my house, the countdown has begun. Three weeks from yesterday. Dealing with one of them at a time is so much easier. :) 

Can we all just calm the F$#@ Down?!

Now I’m not out to bash America. I love my country as much as the next gal. I just think that Americans have their heads up their asses for a myriad of reasons. From our laws, to our customs, to our general sense of overwhelming anxiety to doing everything EXTREME! We overeat to the extreme, then freak out because we are fat and then over diet until we hate our lives. Someone makes an annoying comment on our Facebook page and we freak out and unfriend them or worse, get into a public, petty, stupid fight with them. The news is definitely extreme. All it does is create a panic about topics by asking questions that purposely push people’s buttons so people do nothing for hours but argue and judge other people for their actions and opinions. We get self righteous to the extreme and demand an execution for someone who committed any kind of crime or we speculate why some accident happened. It’s never just an accident. There is always someone there to say things like “He was probably talking on his phone. Idiot.” or “I’m sure she was drunk. Great parent she is.” and other such things. When did we all become so indifferent and callous when it comes to our fellow human beings? It seems that no one is able to see anyone else’s point of view or walk a mile in their shoes before picking up stones to throw.

There is nowhere that this mentality is stronger than in parenting. If you bottle feed, you are the devil. If you nurse, you better be sure you cover those suckers up because you’re just obscene and disrespectful of people in public. If you spank, you’re a really bad parent. If you don’t, you’re too lenient and creating spoiled little brats with no respect. If you let your kid eat at McDonald’s, you should be shot. If you force a vegan diet on your child, it’s child abuse. If you let your kid out to play by themselves for awhile, you have CPS knocking on your door, or worse, cops ready to arrest you for endangering the welfare of a child. And while there is a huge, raging, angry debate about vaccinations, I won’t get into that because I feel there is a clear right and wrong to that argument so I will keep that out of my examples here. It’s just exhausting that we are not able to parent in peace. There is always someone out there telling us we’re doing it wrong, no matter what choice it is that you’re making. If you had dreams of being the perfect parent, you better forget them, because it’s pretty much impossible. If you swore you would never spank your children and then end up just yelling at them in frustration, you’re still not the parent you wanted to be.

But I digress… my point is that as Americans we spend so much of our time worrying about our kids. We don’t let them out of our sight anymore. They can’t play by themselves to gain valuable skills and confidence and street smarts. They can’t use knives or learn how to cook, they can’t stay in the house by themselves until they’re at least 13 and that seems to be pushing it with some people. We worry about them playing too many video games yet keep supplying them with the technology to use. We worry that our babies are going to hurt themselves beyond repair to the extent that we have to basically bubble wrap the whole house before they even arrive. We worry that we don’t do enough to entertain them (thank you Pinterest). All we do is worry, worry, worry. Oh, and then judge people who worry more or less than we do. If they worry more, they are a helicopter parent, and if they worry less, they are a careless parent. We of course, worry just the right amount. Do you think parents obsess over their kids everywhere else? No! They practically raise themselves. There is no child proofing. There is no all day snacking and separate meals for kids. They let them go, run, play by themselves. They take busses and ride bikes all alone. They are turning into self-reliant, happy people because they know they can conquer fears and obstacles. We never give our children that opportunity and then we wonder why they are depressed, violent, suicidal and apathetic. We revolve our whole entire lives around our children. We let our marriages, our social lives, and our very sense of self crumble in “sacrifice” for our children. We shouldn’t be doing that. We should show them how to become good people that other people want to be around. Respectful, smart, kind, happy people. One of the best gifts we can give our children is keeping our marriages together and let them know that they are not the center of any universe. Ours, or society’s. They do not need trophies for every ball they catch or half-assed report they write. That is not teaching them anything. I just wish we, as Americans could look at the success other countries are having in terms of parenting or schooling and start trying them out here. But so many people think the American way is best that they can’t even try it. And those of use who would like to get harassed by people thinking that we’re neglecting our children or endangering them.

The problem, the way I see it, is that because there are so many different beliefs and values in this country, the more dramatic, anxiety ridden parent is what is controlling the way all parenting is done. Say I want to let my 6 year old go explore around the block by herself for a few minutes, there is probably going to be some over zealous parenting calling the cops because some poor helpless child has been abandoned out on the street. When I was a kid, I wandered all over the city by myself between the ages of 5 and 7 and I learned a lot and came out of it alive. We do not give our children enough credit. My 6 year old daughter is probably smarter than a lot of 12 year olds that I run into so we shouldn’t judge whether someone else’s child is capable of being out alone. And don’t give me the predator line because I refuse to believe that we live in a world where there is just a creep hiding behind every single tree and that my children are absolutely going to be attacked or abducted if they step out of the house alone. I was a latchkey kid. And I’m glad I was. I learned how to keep myself busy. I learned how to cook for myself. I learned how to do laundry. I enjoyed the space and time before I had a parent asking me a hundred questions about my day. I don’t know where the idea came from that children need their parents around all the time because I can bet that pretty much all of them would like us to just get up out of their grill most of the time.

I struggle with a lot of these issues daily because these messages just get beat into you until you have anxiety too. I worry that I don’t spend enough time with my kids. I worry that I yell to much. I worry that I don’t give them enough vegetables. I constantly worry about them getting hurt. That’s the biggest problem for me. It’s hard to let my kids learn how to use a knife or ride a bike or climb a tree when I am imagining a trip to the ER in my near future. I really want to find a way to relax though. Just let them figure stuff out for themselves. Let them problem solve. Let them learn some conflict resolution; some self reliance. I want them to be confident in their abilities and strong enough not to succumb to peer pressure when they are older. And that starts now. I strongly believe my freedom as a child led to me not ever giving in to doing something I didn’t want to do. I could write about this for days, but I’ll let you off the hook here. :) If you’re interested in reading more about this, some great reads can be found here:  and Here.

My life, simplified.

I don’t know if it’s the whole situation with my father in law dying so young or what, but I’ve been thinking lately about how I really want to live my life. The way I envisioned it ten, or even five years ago is not the same as I am picturing it now.

I’ve always felt a little up in the air about whether I wanted to live in a city or not. I always liked the idea of a city just because it’s close to everything and there is stuff to do, but deep down I think I always knew that I am a country (well mountain really) girl at heart. The things that the city offers are not really things that make my soul happy. Most of that stuff involves eating food that is no good for you and spending money that you really shouldn’t on things that you don’t need. Not really a place I would be ultimately happy living. And this is probably completely neurotic, but in every zombie, alien and terrorist flick, they always start out in the cities where people have nowhere to run and it just looks horrendous. If I wasn’t claustrophobic, I might just consider an underground bunker in case of one of those situations should arise. :)

My husband recently wrote this post http://www.jamesdelles.com/tinyhouse/ about wanting to live in a tiny house. And the more I think about it, the more wonderful it seems. Granted, living in a really tiny house would be next to impossible with our two kids, but I am thinking that a house under 1000 square feet would be completely possible. I used to dream of a big huge house with a pool and a big kitchen island, lots of bedrooms, etc. But I don’t want that anymore. What I see when I look at those houses now is entrapment. Lots of cleaning, lots of repairs, lots of worry and lots of money. And what do you have to do in order to make all the money to pay for that big house? Work. A lot. So that you’re probably never even there enjoying the monstrosity that you built. And then of course you have to fill that house up with crap. That costs money too. Then you worry about people robbing you of all your awesome stuff so you have to pay for a security system and lots of insurance. Ugh. It sounds like a prison sentence.

I grew up in a very small house. My mom had the right idea. She bought what she could afford. I couldn’t say how many square feet it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s probably less than 800. And I survived just fine. It was always clean, warm, and comfortable and everyone still had their own space. I never felt deprived. Right now, I look around and realize that an entire tiny house and then some can fit in our living room. And as much as I love my house and don’t regret buying it, I am really looking forward to a house that doesn’t have enough space to bring a lot of junk into it. I look forward to my daughters realizing they can live very happily on a lot less. I don’t want to raise them to be entitled and spoiled. I want them to grow up with a mindfulness in their living, with an idea how what they do and buy and consume affects the earth and their own futures.

What I really picture when I think of my ideal living is waking up in the morning in a house that I don’t have to spend hours cleaning, with just enough clothes to get through a week so I don’t have loads upon loads of laundry, having a cup of coffee on my porch while watching colorful birds fly through the numerous trees in my “yard”. But I don’t really want a yard because yards chain us to yard work. I would like to have a garden that I don’t kill, eat fresh fruits and veggies, read a book in a little comfy corner of my small house and then venture out to take some photographs. It sounds like heaven to me. Maybe this is my empty nest life, I don’t know, but one of these days, I would really like to live like this. I want to be far away from temptation of consumerism and poor eating habits. I want to be far away from asshole neighbors that have no respect for your peace and quiet or personal property. I want to be somewhere with little to no traffic noise and lots and lots of trees. A babbling brook would make it even more perfect!

I just want to be able to let stuff go that I have grown accustomed to in my life but that are not important and in fact make my life more stressed and unhappy. I want to do more for the environment like fitting my house with solar panels and walking places a lot more often. I want to raise my daughters with a sense of peace in their souls and a confidence that they don’t need to get sucked into popular society and what they think is cool. I would also love to live so much more simply so that money is not a constant stressor but a means to live my simple life. I don’t need more than enough. I just need enough.

 

Saddest Father’s Day Ever

I’m sad. Last month I lost the most influential, important man in my life. My grandfather died 2 months before his 86th birthday. This was a man who spoiled me rotten. He let me help him in his garden, he took me out for ice cream, we went for rides, he gave me a crisp five or ten dollar bill every time it was time to go home for the week, he was always up for a snuggle, and he was funny, sweet and kind. That was a really hard day. I honestly don’t know how I’ve held up so well since then. Maybe it’s because I just made myself as busy as possible and didn’t give myself a chance to think about it. Well, now I’m sad for a whole new reason.

My father in law is in the hospital dying as I type this. My husband has been there for the past three days signing DNR paperwork and dealing with all kinds of family members showing up to visit and generally taking care of whatever his dad needs. And I’m not there. I can’t give him a hug, get him a coffee, or offer a shoulder to cry on. Because I am home with the kids. I would like to be with him, but it would be more of a pain than a help I’m sure because someone else would have to watch the kids or I would have to keep coming and going to keep them busy. I guess it’s better this way, but it’s very hard for me. I feel helpless.

I also feel very sad for his dad. He is only 50 years old. He is fighting til the bitter end. His body says he should be dead already, but he is a fighter and is still holding on. I can remember back 16 years ago when I first met my husband; him and his dad and his brother came to pick me up at the house to take me to their house for the weekend. He was very nice to me. I can remember going to the junior prom and him video taping the whole thing like it was yesterday. I think my husband wanted to crawl under the floorboards, but his dad was so proud. I remember him fixing up my death trap of a car, helping us move three times and offering to drive behind me on the thruway when we were driving from our old apartment to our new one because it was pouring rain and I couldn’t see a thing. I was scared to death that I was going to have an accident or that I would have to pull over and everyone would keep going without me. I felt much safer knowing that he was right behind me. He helped us with any kind of thing we needed fixing up around the house and besides my mom, he was the only one who came out to the hospital to see my girls when each one was born.

It breaks my heart that he’s not going to get to see his grandkids grow up, and that they won’t get to know him. They’re losing two grandfathers in two months and that just sucks. He should’ve had another thirty years or so to live. It’s not fair. So here we are, on the eve of father’s day, on the precipice of losing one. So far it’s only June and this has been the worst year in a really long time. So much heartache. I can only wish my father in law peace in his final moments and the knowledge that he was loved and that his kids were there for him. I wish the same for my husband.

To the man who took me into the family with open arms and even last week was telling me he was sorry for the loss of my grandfather: you will be missed. Safe travels to wherever you are headed next. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day. 100_0132

Am I harming more than helping?

Have you seen this commercial? It makes me want to cry. I try really hard to get and keep my girls interested in science and nature, but I can’t help but feeling that I am sending an outdated, stereotypical message to them anyway. I live a very traditional life. Even though I’m extremely liberal and accepting of all other cultures, races, sexual orientations and religions, I do still live a very traditional life. I’m married and a stay at home mom. My husband goes to work at a physically demanding job every day. I cook and try to have dinner on the table by the time he gets home. Not because that’s what I’m supposed to do as a wife, but because he has worked hard for us all day and I know he will be hungry. I do pretty much all the housework (when I get around to it). My husband takes out the garbage and kills bugs. He drives when we are all going somewhere together. My daughter thinks that he knows more than I do because a few questions she has asked I have told her to ask her dad because he knows more about that particular subject than me.

We’ve been together since we were 16 and got married at 21. And although I know that was the right decision for us, I do not want my daughters to follow in my footsteps. I want them to go out and learn all they can, excel in whatever they do, have the chance to travel around when they are young and explore what’s out there. For the longest time, when we would ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she would say “a mom. Just a mom.” she didn’t want to get a job or anything, she just wanted to be a mom. I guess that is a compliment to me that she thought it looked like so much fun to be a mom, but at the same time, a little part of me died. I want her to have big dreams and to be able to work hard to fulfill them.

For years now I’ve been trying to steer them away from things like princesses and makeup and towards things like space, puzzles and playing in the dirt. My older daughter does love that stuff, but the jury is still out on the little one who told me yesterday that she wanted to be a princess when she grows up. I am not a girly girl. I am well read and educated. I have taken to mowing the lawn. I’m not afraid to get dirty or kill a bug (unless it is unusually large or fast and then I call the hubs). I just hope that I am balancing out all my traditional, stereotypical roles with some bad ass, tough as nails, don’t mess with me stuff. I can only hope. I do know though, that I will never discourage my daughters from exploring their world, being interested in stuff like space or math, or getting dirty and being tough. I absolutely love it when my older daughter schools the boys on the monkey bars at the playground but then also when she hugs any small children that she meets.

I want her to grow up to be able to take care of herself in this world so it starts now. What things do you model for your children that you think maybe you shouldn’t? Or what do you go out of the way to encourage? I’d love to hear from you!

Judgy McRudepants

Wow I guess it’s been awhile since I wrote a post here. I’ve been very busy with my photography business and blog, had a death in the family and have just been generally busy. Today I want to share with you a little experience that I just had in Walmart. Yes, good ol’ Walmart, where the craziest things always happen.

I was walking through the toothpaste aisle with my two girls and a cart. I go to pick up a package of floss and when I turn around I had the little one hanging on the side of the cart, and the big one hanging off the end of the cart. Well, I must’ve found the flimsiest cart there because it was starting to tip and I just had a vision of my little one being crushed by this cart. So I told them to get off the cart. So they did and then they stood in the middle of the aisle while this woman was trying to come down so I told them to get out of the middle of the aisle. I looked up at this woman with a “please excuse my children for being in your way” look and she just gave me this death stare. When she starts walking by me she says “take a deep breath.” very snidely, like I was about to beat my kids or something. So I said “uh huh” because I was quite annoyed that she said that and she continues on “really, you should try it.” or something to that effect. What annoys me the most is that I wasn’t even upset with my kids. I just don’t like them to be in other people’s way in the store so I said “come over here, get out of the middle of the aisle”. I have had much worse public parenting moments than that. I wanted to punch the lady right in the throat. First of all, she looked kind of stoned, so I’m sure nothing ever bothers her, and second, she had no kids in sight. So of course she was nice and calm. I’d like to see her try to navigate a crowded store with one three year old wanting to push the cart and a five year old wanting to hang off the end of it, both of whom have no sense of direction and are both in their own little world not even noticing other people around them. Bet she wouldn’t be quite as zen then.

I can see saying something if you see someone screaming at their children, or beating their children in public. I would definitely say something about that myself. But I was doing neither thing. I just didn’t want a cart to fall on my daughter so I was a little amped up from that almost happening and she happened to walk down the aisle right at the very second that situation ended. I can also see saying something if you are offering your support of the parent. Like “hang in there!” or “aren’t children terrorists in stores?” or “You’re doing great mom, just breathe.” something positive. This lady was just judgy and mean looking. I really don’t appreciate that. Mind your own damn business. Breathe your own damn oxygen and don’t worry about if I’m getting enough of my own. How hard would it have been to just smile and say “oh, they’re ok, I’m not in a hurry” and keep on going like most people that I come into contact with?  Doesn’t seem like it would be that hard.

In fact, I ran into an extremely nice mom, just a few aisles over when looking for a present for my daughter to bring to a friend’s birthday party. Anyway, I guess my point is to keep your judgments to yourself because people are struggling with things you have no idea about and your snarky little comments do not help anything. At all. I’m not going to be like “Oh, yeah, I totally didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing this whole time. Thank you so much for that sage advice!” Women should be supporting each other, making each other stronger and not tearing others down and making them feel bad about themselves. And unless you are there with your children, being the calmest, most loving mom ever, I don’t really want your advice. You could run a meth lab out of your home for all I know. Maybe you have weekly visits from CPS. I don’t know. The point is, your judgment, attitude filled comment did nothing for me and has not made me a better parent. It only made me angry and annoyed, not calm and happy. So way to go. Thanks for that.

What lessons your child is learning in an “everybody wins” environment

I guess I am old. I graduated high school in 2000. Things have changed in regards to education and I don’t believe many of them were changes for the better. For instance, when I started kindergarten, it was only a half day. That was where we were expected to learn our letters and numbers and how to make friends and follow directions. Now, if a kid doesn’t know that by kindergarten now, he or she is just doomed to failure and in need of extra help because the majority of the kids already know that stuff. They start school younger and younger. I admit, I sent my older daughter to 3 year old preschool and will do the same with my younger daughter, but it’s because they are already so far ahead that I feel they would be bored sitting home with me for another year and they really need(ed) to learn how to interact with other kids and authority figures. I don’t regret that decision, but the pressure that is put on younger and younger kids is a little nuts. Now they have full day kindergarten with homework. Homework! If ever there was something you can do to kids to make them not enjoy going to school, it’s giving them homework every single night starting in kindergarten. Ugh. In my city they are also making 4 year old preschool full day, every day. That seems really crazy to me. My daughter is 5 and still misses me during the day and gets exhausted by the end. I don’t think she ever would’ve survived doing that a year ago. Those are just a few of the decisions that I think are making the education system worse for my children than they were for me. But I think my biggest problem with the education system today is this idea that everybody is a winner.

Well…no, everybody isn’t a winner. If we’re all winners than nobody is a winner. It is the dumbest idea that anyone ever came up with in my opinion. I am of an era where when we had a science fair, there was first, second and third place. And then a participation ribbon that everyone knew was a pointless thing to hand out. Now, as a friend just told me, they don’t even have judges. They have “consultants” and they are instructed to give everyone a good grade and positive comments. Then everyone gets a ribbon, but there is no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. Could someone please tell me what the hell the point of having a science fair is when there is no winner? No best project? I don’t get it.

What do our kids learn from this experience? They learn that no matter how hard they work, they are going to get the same recognition as the person that put in the bare minimum effort or no effort at all. What is the incentive to work hard and try their hardest? Answer: there isn’t any. Kids start to feel unimportant, unrecognized, and unsatisfied with their lives when they don’t get the recognition they deserve for doing something outstanding. They also don’t have the desire to keep practicing that instrument so they can be the best, or work on that artwork to make it look awesome. They don’t have the initiative to run just a little faster or kick the ball a little harder. What’s the point? Everybody wins anyway right?

On top of not feeling the need to do their best, they get a false sense of entitlement which I believe is pervasive in our society right now. When kids graduate and go to college and get their first bad comments from a teacher, they are devastated. This also affects how parents view teachers as well. When their child is given a bad grade or report, the parents immediately believe that the teacher is biased against their child and is doing something wrong by providing this constructive feedback. How else are our children supposed to improve themselves and work up to their potential, if they cannot ever hear a word of criticism? This quote perfectly sums up my feelings on the subject: “Perhaps if we offered the gold, silver and bronze for actual achievements, kids would learn lessons that better served their needs as adults. Perhaps if we let them lose and teach them to congratulate those who win, we would help them build the motivation and endurance needed to face real life challenges—e.g. sustaining a long-term marriage or securing employment—two very elusive trophies in today’s world.”

It frustrates me when my child comes home proud of herself for doing nothing more than showing up. I feel like if I want to give my child a false sense of accomplishment that should be my choice, but I don’t like the school doing that for me. I’m trying to teach her to work up to her potential and try hard. So when she brings me a piece of art, I don’t fall all over myself if it’s not her best work. I don’t hang it on the refrigerator unless it is. When she does a sloppy job on her homework I tell her. Does that make me a bad parent. No, I think it’s the opposite. I’m creating a child who can deal with the ups and downs of life. She will be able to deal with criticism and learn how to improve from it. She will know that this world does not revolve around her. I believe she will be a better person for it.

 

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/face-it/201111/do-we-all-deserve-gold-setting-kids-fail