Sunday, November 30, 2008

Odd Things

This was my bedtime snack: German chocolate cake, vitamins and milk. Look for my new diet book at a fine retailer near you. NOT.

Also, is it weird that before I could eat this little gourmet delight, I felt I had to locate the camera and photograph it? That I thought Blog People from The Internet would want to see my weirdness for themselves?

Lastly, don't you love the pattern on that plate? Those are the paper plates we had our Thanksgiving Part Deux dinner on this afternoon, and I think they are so pretty!

Photohunt: Metal

Here's my contribution to Photohunt. I love this view of Olivia through the strings of her harp. The metal actions in the neck of the harp are moving parts that allow the harpist to play sharps and flats.

For more interpretations of this week's theme, go here.

Parenting by The Book

We had a really good week. We made fresh pumpkin puree (fun and easy) and cooked and baked our way through the week. We read some good Thanksgiving books and watched a PBS video about Pilgrims and talked a lot about being grateful. This lent itself to a discussion of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
It was interesting to get the kids' perspective on what those instructions might look like in everyday Pilgrim life.

"Give thanks in all circumstances." That really was the reason for the first Thanksgiving feast. Over half their number had died and the difficulties had to have been more than any of them ever imagined when they left for the New World. God's will for them, and for us, is to give thanks to Him in all circumstances. I've talked with the kids about how knowing what God wants us to do and having the courage to follow Him only means that we've decided to trust Him to provide for our needs. No comfort or ease is implied.

Anyway, good discussions around here. I'd love to read how the Scriptures came alive in your home this week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Parenting Strategy: Pretend They Belong to Someone Else!

We had a great afternoon with Dan's parents and his sister and her family. Much food was consumed, football was watched and it was mostly happy shrieks and thuds from the kids playing indoors and out (LOVE Oklahoma in the fall!). We got home about 7:30 and proceeded to veg away the evening. Before bed, a little tidying was in order, and it is Hannah's (age 17) week to keep the kitchen up so I reminded her to finish loading the dishwasher before turning in. When I went into the kitchen about 10 minutes later, there were many dirty dishes around the kitchen. I opened the door of the dishwasher and looked in to see that it was 2/3 full or so. This sort of thing happens with some regularity, and it is aggravating, to say the least.

The two older girls were in their room, but still very much awake. I went to inform Hannah that she had not fulfilled her duties. I've been known to "inform" rather unpleasantly. I mean, come ON. It's not as if the job is ambiguous, for cryin' out Pete. This time I decided to do it differently. I would treat her like she belonged to someone else. Like I would want someone to treat her.

"Oh, good. You're still awake. Come with me to the kitchen and let's get a few more of those dishes in the dishwasher." It almost didn't sound like me talking. Did I mention I can sometimes be unpleasant?

I encouraged her to rearrange the dishes and gave her some pointers. The same pointers I gave her when she got big enough to load the dishwasher. The same pointers I give her (unpleasantly) when she runs the half-empty dishwasher in the kitchen piled with dirty dishes. I instructed her to hand wash a couple of larger items, fill one side of the sink with hot, soapy water to soak some of the serving dishes from this afternoon, and wipe down the counter tops. I explained some of the whys and wherefores. Again. For the patrillionth time. I did not let one note of rancor into my voice, since I wouldn't do that with someone else's kid.

You know what? The kitchen is tidy. My daughter did the job and I don't feel like a giant, steaming pile of mean mom. You know what else? She is Someone Else's kid.

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Thanksgiving Blessings

Take your fun where you can find it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's YOUR Super Power?

Greetings from the armchair in my bedroom! I'm coming to you, as I often do, with a lap full o' nursing boy. I can blog and nurse at the same time! I am also, for those of you keeping score at home, supervising the holiday baking and praying for world peace.

The other day, I commented on Twitter that I'm considering adding Human Pacifier to my resumé, as it appears that my, um, babyfeeders (hat tip to Jeana) have a special power all their own to calm a certain 12 pounds of Savage Beast. Kelly at Love Well suggested that she was a Human Kleenex that particular day. That got me thinking about Mommy the Human Napkin who writes at Realm of Crazy People. All of this made me wonder, what's YOUR super power?

In case it's not obvious, this is a thinly-veiled ploy to get to you entertain me. Ready? Set. Go!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Photohunt: Reflection

I do a lot of surfing. Surfing the 'net while Jesse nurses, that is! Today I found a weekly carnival or sorts called Photohunt. Every week there's a different theme, and this week's theme is Reflection. It immediately made me think if this picture of Claire, taken after a bath and a blow-dry. Claire has SO MUCH FUN being Claire. I hope that's always the case.

For a lot more great photos, go to

Whee!! It's a Carnival!

The venerable Antique Mommy is hosting Homemeade Handmade Holiday Carnival. Because I desire to emulate her in every possible way, I am participating. Because I can't seem to keep track of the dadgum camera, you will have to use your imagination. In your imagination, I should be tall and lithe, dressed for comfort, but looking effortlessly fashionable. I am working in an immaculate kitchen surrounded by my seraphic children who never shove, interrupt or "toot the booty-horn". Now that you've joined me in Fantasy Land, let's make some ornaments!

Here's what you need:
Christmas cookie cutters
drinking straw
3/4c ground cinnamon
2T ground cloves
1T ground nutmeg
1T ground allspice
1c applesauce

Glitter glue in assorted colors
1/8" ribbon, gold or silver cord or yarn to hang ornaments
buttons, rickrack, google eyes, or whatever crafty things you have lying around.

Here's what you do:

Mix spices together well. Gradually add applesauce to make a stiff dough. All of the applesauce may not be needed.

Dust the table with cinnamon. Roll dough to 1/4" thickness and cut into various shapes. Use the straw to make a hole for a hanging ribbon. Use spatula to carefully transfer ornaments to an ungreased cookie sheet. Take the leftover dough, ball it up, roll it out and keep cutting ornaments until you've used it all up.

Heat your oven to its lowest setting (170º-200º or so). Place cookie sheet(s) in the oven. Turn the ornaments once an hour until they are completely dry.

Now, decorate away! Use the glitter glue to embellish your ornaments or to affix buttons, rickrack and whathaveyou. Tie a length of ribbon or cord through the hole and you have a lovely ornament with a great spicy scent.

Wasn't that fun? Want to have more fun? GO HERE!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Parenting by The Book

I promise that my head will spin off my shoulders and my eyeballs will fly out if I hear "ME FIRST" one more time. I'm serious. I've warned the children, but I don't think they believe me, so you will want to watch the evening news, as I'm sure this event will warrant much air time. The Weekly World News will likely do a feature (provided BatBoy doesn't have any breaking news). It's really that bad.

Which brings me to this week's installment of Parenting By The Book. Our Scripture is the familiar
If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all. ~ Mark 9:35
When one of the little darlings chirps or, you know, wails "ME FIRST", he or she must be the last and serve the others. If he was trying, for instance, to be first in the van and score a certain seat (as if where one sits makes a whit of difference), he would have to open the door for the other children and take the seat that is left after everyone is in. Or say she was demanding the first cookie, in which case she would serve everyone else their choice of cookies and take her own serving from what was left. I simply recite the above verse and do my Vanna White impression, indicating the demanding child's new position and responsibility.

Conversely (and this happens less often, but it has happened), when I see a child showing deference and a servant's heart, I will move that child to the front of the line or give him his choice in the matter at hand while specifically praising the actions and attitude. This usually has the "trickle-down" effect of engendering lots of "You first!" "No, you first" and all of a sudden I'm in a Chip and Dale cartoon, which is fine with me, as there are no dishes or laundry there.

Did you parent "by The Book" this week? I'd love to read about it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time IN

Most of us are familiar with the discipline concept of Time Out: remove the child from the situation, isolate the child in a spot away from the rest of the action and require him to stay in that spot for a certain amount of time (eg. one minute for every year of age). The goal is to have the child suffer a little bit and to cause him to consider carefully before committing the same infraction in the future. Like many other discipline tools, this one can be effective when properly employed.

In our house, when the children act out, they are likely to get a Time IN. For Time In, they give up their freedom to move about the house as they please because they are to be my "shadow" for a specified time. I have them right near me where I can address heart issues and continue the training that I hope will result in improved behavior.

When the child is next to me, I can read their body language, question their motives and probe their understanding of what is expected. Sometimes there's lots of dialog and sometimes none at all, depending on what is needful at the time. It helps me to discipline (and yes, even punish) the children while fortifying our relationship. If I'm nursing the baby, then they must sit quietly next to me. If I'm chopping veggies for supper, they'll be washing them or scooping them into the pot.

It will often happen, when Time In is up, the child will choose to stay in my company for a while. I wonder if that means that what was needed all along was a dose of individual attention from Mama. I'm not sure why it works, but I have found Time IN to be a very useful disciplinary tool.

If you'd care to share, I would love to read some of the discipline strategies you've found useful in your home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've been back at blogging for just over a month. I really thought I had more that I wanted to say, but it appears that I've lost my blogging mojo. I wonder, though, if I even had mojo in the first place. Seems real mojo would be a tad more reliable and, um, present, leading me to conclude that I started this blog with a heapin' helpin' of faux-jo. Which would explain a whole lot.

Appropos of nothing, I HATE telemarketing calls. I was just told to "get my story straight" by the operator whose company CALLED ME. Grrr.

I have so many things rolling around in my head that I'd love to turn into a blog post, but I seem to have a case of chronic mental constipation. I wonder if it's caused by the dearth of chocolate and dairy in my diet? That seems like the most logical explanation.

On today's agenda: Fun With Preschoolers! Watch and be amazed as the very same almost-4-year-old who got out ALL the alphabet cards and playdoh whimpers, whines and slogs around because she CAAAaaan't put it AAAaaalll aWAAaaay. Let the good times roll, my friends. This is the child that is the source of All the Useful Information You Never Knew You Needed, such as "Mama has to feed the baby because she has the biggest n!pples."

Okay. I started this post on Monday. Today is Thursday. I will now press PUBLISH POST because, frankly, I'm tired of trying to turn this into something interesting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

This Just In

The camera has been found. Oh, Happy Day!! It had fallen down between my bed and my nightstand. I had looked there several times, even lowering my considerable girth to the floor and crawling on my belly like a flashlight-wielding reptile (have I poked out your mind's eye yet?), all to no avail. Then yesterday, I glanced down there and noticed the square, black case, and the camera was found! I probably left it in some off-the-wall place like the confirmed goobersmack that I am, and God sent an angel to put it somewhere I couldn't miss it. It's the only logical explanation.

In other news, Claire informed the good patrons of our neighborhood Taco Bell that I am cool. In a voice that can be heard for three ZIP codes, she expounded on the source of my coolness: "Because you have that flower stamp on your bootie." I tried to quietly change the subject. I did not succeed. "When I'm a grown-up mama like you, will I have a flower stamp on my bootie?" Which brings me to the source of my conviction that children are given to us to help us maintain our humility. My children are, in my humble opinion, over-achievers. Bless their little pointed heads.

We had ourselves some wildlife excitement last week. Hannah came in the house one afternoon and said she'd seen a mouse in the garage. I promptly wrote "flaming bazooka" on the grocery list, because I think if there's anything that calls for a little overkill, it is rodent elimination. Olivia went immediately to the computer, tears streaming, to google "harmless mouse trap no kill live" (she's nothing if not thorough). I was torn. I have no qualms about sending a mouse to its eternal reward, but I hated to see Olivia so upset.

She requested permission to set up a trap she found in her research. I told her to go ahead. She gathered her materials and put together a trap that would make Wyle E. Coyote beam with pride. Next she announced her intention to spend the night on the hood of the car, waiting for the furry little devil to fall prey to her device. I had told her that she had until I went to the store on Saturday to catch the mouse and free it in a nearby field.

Friday night, the little varmint was rustling around in a trash can in the garage. The kids put it in a small wastebasket and Dan took them to set it free after dinner. I may pick up a flaming bazooka as a preventive measure, in case Jerry (oh yeah, they named him) has a wife and kids somewhere behind the garden tools, the thought of which makes my skin crawl.

And on that note, y'all have a great week!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Parenting by The Book

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~Ephesians 3:16-17

If you're like me, you hear your mother's voice in your head. Most moms have phrases that they say a lot during their child-rearing years. My mom would say, "You don't have to want to. You just have to do it." When my cousins would complain that something wasn't fair, my aunt told them, "I'm not trying to be fair."

It's a little frightening to realize that my children will hear my voice in their heads long after I'm gone. Now is my chance to make sure that the words they hear in my voice are lifegiving. That is why I take many of my Mothering Mantras from the Bible. I make sure I'm using the Scripture in context and for its intended purpose, of course. I find it very useful to have "sound bytes" at the ready as I'm going through the day with my children. Every Sunday, I plan to write about a verse or passage that is helping us conform our family to the Biblical standard. This week we've used Phillipians 2:14-15a quite a bit:

Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God

When one of the little arrows in our quiver is given to complaining or trying to get his or her own way by arguing I respond with this verse. If the complaining or arguing continues, I simply repeat the verse. Without getting angry, I simply state the Biblical expectation and wait for them to rise to the standard. It helps if I am completely nonchalant about it so that I don't feed into any over-emotional reactions. At different times, we've talked about how this is God's standard for those who belong to Him. It applies to Mama and Daddy, and it applies to the children of our household. Saying it routinely to the children ingrains it in their thinking. It also makes me much more aware of when my own attitude and behavior don't measure up.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

"OBAYFUSSENDENKINTAK!" came the shrill voice of my darling toddler. Always up for a good mystery, I followed the shrieking to it's pint-sized source. "OBAYFUSSENDENKINTAK!" Whatever that meant, she was serious about it. At nearly 2 years of age, little Claire usually spoke quite plainly, but I couldn't make heads or tails out of this exclamation. She had evidently decided that the toy in Seth's hand needed to be in her hand, as evidenced by her dimply little white knuckles wrapped around said toy while she leaned with all 24 pounds away from her older brother. Oh, I'm such a sleuth. As I came in the room, she began to jerk the toy. "OBAY! FUSSEN! DEN! KIN! TAK!" she chanted. And it dawned on me. "Obey first. Then we can talk." She had heard it so often she thought it was what you said when you wanted someone to change their behavior. Yep. I say that a lot.

Delayed obedience isn't really obedience at all. Our children can ask or tell us anything, as long as it is done respectfully, and AFTER indicating their intent to obey. My kids seem to want to answer in any number of ways when they receive an instruction from me or their dad. "Why?" is a favorite. "I don't want to" is fairly bold, but a couple of them have been known to try it. "But I was just..." happens a lot, as though my instructions would have been different if I had been aware of their agenda. All of those responses indicate an unwillingness to be immediately and completely compliant with my instructions, and are therefore unacceptable. Acceptable responses include, "Okay, Mom" and "Yes, Ma'am" and my favorite, though no one is willing to use it yet, "Here am I. Send me". But that last one could be a teensy bit over the top.

There are times when a child is so sure that if I just knew about their particular extenuating circumstance, then I would no doubt impose the accursed assignment (read: vacuum the music room) on another, more deserving sibling. For that reason, I will accept the following response one time: "Okay mom, but can I tell you something?" That says to me that they indeed intend to carry out my instructions but they think that they have information which might change my mind. I must say that, a time or two, they've been right. More often that not, however, I've anticipated their thinking (shrewd woman that I am) and taken it into account beforehand. There are times when I don't let them "tell me something", such as when time is an issue. I will say, "We don't have time. Please do as you're told." At which point, if they are wise, they will obey. If they are not wise, well, a great sadness will come upon the land, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. So to speak.

You see, I gave up a long time ago trying to cajole my children into agreeing that this or that thing is a good idea. I also don't negotiate with toddlers, teens or terrorists. I read the phrase, "Obey first. Then we can talk" in one of my favorite parenting books, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad you and your kids!" by Turansky and Miller of The National Center for Biblical Parenting, and I knew I had hit on something that would work in our family. This article by Joanne Miller does a great job of summarizing this principle, if you'd like to read more about it. The bottom line is that I want my children to obey me the first time and without arguing because I think that this ability is central to their success as adults, but more importantly I think that cultivating this character quality prepares them to follow God wherever He may lead, and that is where the rubber meets the road.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I've Lost the Camera

I'm about to go into a serious panic to find my camera. My babies' lives are slipping away before my very eyes and I have no way to capture the magic, nay, whimsy that is their collective childhood. Imagine little Jesse having to grow up with no more pictures like these:

Would you believe I'm self-taught?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Free Association! It's Free!

I'm so glad the weather's cooling off. Our air conditioner up and quit, which wouldn't have been so bad, except Summer forgot to watch the calendar and hung around until, well, yesterday. It's been warm and stuffy in the house in the afternoons and evenings, though the nights have been cool enough. Nobody complained and we all enjoyed the fans my mom so generously loaned us. Which reminds me...

I have the greatest mom ever. We didn't have it easy growing up and I was a royal pain to raise so I really wouldn't have blamed Mom if she had bought a one-way bus ticket to a Land Far Far Away once my sister and I were grown. But she didn't. And now, as a retired widow, she does things like drive half an hour just to come sit in my house and hold my baby so he doesn't have to get hauled all over Kingdom Come. She came up last week to sit with him for two hours so the older kids and I could have a special lunch with my mother-in-law. Which made me remember...

When I have kids-in-law and grandkids I want to be more like my mom than my mother-in-law. 'Nuff said. On that note...

If being gracious to my mother-in-law is the price I have to pay to me married to The Best Guy Ever, I'm okay with that. He takes better care of me than I take of myself. Having grown up without my dad around, I am grateful to the point of tears when I think of what an outstanding father he is. He works hard at two jobs, but will hurry to get home early enough to ride bikes around the neighborhood with the kids before dark. He will come in after working at his second job and spend an hour in the older girls' room just hanging out and chatting about the day. Speaking of the kids...

Claire is getting low on candy. I think the older kids have been helping themselves to her stash, but I can't prove it. Today Claire got out her frog costume and was frantically pawing through the closet in the entryway. When I asked her what she was looking for, she said, "I need my punkin bucket to go get summore canny." I had to break it to her that, except for that one magical evening a year, ringing the neighbors' doors and holding out a bucket makes you a beggar. She was not easily convinced, but I was able to distract her by offering her her pick from the big kids' candy bag. Darn that candy anyway...

Jesse seems to have a sensitive tummy, so I've altered my diet in an effort to help him be more comfortable. All I've had to give up is caffeine, chocolate and dairy in all forms. He's a much more content little fellow, which is wonderful. I, on the other hand, am about to perish from the earth! There is a copious amount of chocolate here, and I haven't had any. AT. ALL. I'm about ready to throw it all away and tell the kids that we were robbed by Oompa Loompas. I miss chocolate...

I also miss cheese. And milk. And ice cream. And everything that tastes any good at all. A major part of my problem is that to me, certain foods just go with certain other foods. Cookies go with milk. If I'm not drinking milk, you can keep the stinkin' cookies. Quesadillas are just better with the quesa- part. Chicken and salsa on a tortilla is just...wrong. And don't even ask me to meet you at a Mexican restaurant right now, because the thought of it will make me cry. And speaking of tears...

I'm pretty sure that's what a person would have to be bored to in order to still be reading this, so I'll quit. You're welcome.

Following Up

On this post, Grafted Branch, who blogs so engagingly at Restoring the Years, raised a question that I'm going to answer today. She wrote,

But let me ask you: how do you handle it when only one of multiple children require training, but in doing so ALL the children will suffer
(i.e., a lost outing).

And what if it happens often? Where do you, personally, draw the line between positive peer pressure and exasperating siblings to wrath against one another?
To the first question, in our house it is common knowledge that one person's decisions affect the other members of the family. One of the children can cost the whole family an outing. It's not fun for anyone, but it is a training opportunity for us all. The offender sees in real time how his wrong choice can be hurtful to other people. The siblings, on the receiving end, learn to extend grace. It's not all peaches and cream, mind you. A lot of training goes into these occurrences, and I spend a great deal of time counseling all of the children as they deal with disappointment, bitterness, selfishness, stubbornness and so on. It can be very tiring, but it is worth the effort and it doesn't happen often.

Which brings me to the second question: what if it happens often? Grafted Branch raises a thoughtful question here. If you have multiple children, you've no doubt experienced the positive peer pressure. Sometimes kids are more responsive to encouragement from a sibling than from a parent, but there is a limit, I think.

In our house, at this moment, Seth is the one needing the most intensive training. He is 9 years old, male, curious, creative and has autism. He challenges every boundary and has strong and sometimes irresistible impulses. We've all missed out on fun times because Seth transgressed in some way, and it can be very disappointing to the rest of us. We address this from two directions: first, we go out of our way to set Seth up to be successful by creating situations where he can practice the skills we are trying to teach. Second, if something comes up where we know he's not likely to do well, we make other arrangements for him (an afternoon with another homeschooling family or with a grandparent, for instance) to keep his behavior from causing us to have to cancel something fun. When he asks why he's being left with Gran, we tell him the truth. "The last time we went to the petting zoo, you were rough with the animals. This time, you're staying home. When you show us you can be kind and follow directions, you will be allowed to come with us again." He doesn't like missing out on these activities and his behavior has improved over time.

I view most every experience we have as a family as a training opportunity. I notice and comment on right attitudes, actions and words. I place a reminding hand on the shoulder of the one who seems about to say or do something untoward. I find that making expectations and boundaries clear to everyone beforehand is very helpful. I don't want the children to wonder what is and is not appropriate, especially if they are likely to see others behaving badly. And, when disobedience occurs, I move in swiftly and decisively, usually with a consequence that was known in advance.

My children's relationships with one another are precious to me, and are not to be trifled with. I don't think I get it right every time, but I am always trying.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Do You Know Where My Gumption Is?

My "maternity leave" is officially over. I had given myself two months to recover from having Jesse, and that time is up. Tomorrow I need to hit the proverbial ground running. There's just one problem: my gumption seems to be missing. I think it eloped with my mojo and they're honeymooning somewhere far from the Wilson Domicile.

I do have a few stray thoughts I've been wanting to put into writing, mostly as a way to hold myself accountable.

I'm working on being the mom I think my kids deserve. I thought about this a year or so ago, but didn't really put feet to it, you know? I began to think of what I'd want my kids to have in a mom if I had to write a Help Wanted ad. Why I went down this mental trail remains a mystery for the ages. It occurred to me that I would require things of Help Wanted Mama that I don't do myself, and that bothered me. I think I can do a much better job of being the mother my kids deserve, and I'm working on making that happen.

We're "building character" around here right now, as the leaky sink, broken dishwasher, non-functional air conditioner and unfrozen deep freeze line up to teach us what is and what is not a necessity in this life. I hope the lessons of initiative, work, mild discomfort and being grateful for our many blessings last. I also wonder what sorts of lessons we could learn without having to mourn the passing of a beloved appliance, and whether we could just get started on them now.

Happy Monday, y'all. And Happy November!