Friday, June 29, 2012


I have come to the realization that having a sand pit at the local pool is an excellent idea.  When the mandatory break whistle is blown, it gives the kids a spot to play vs. just sitting around.  And it provides a welcome alternative to the constant swimming and splashing.  Plus, it's almost like going to the beach!

I have very fond memories of building elaborate sand castles on the beach during our summer vacations.  We dug moats and built towers.  The best part was the "drip" castles.  To make your own drip castle, take some rather watery sand in your hands.  Then just let it drip through your fingers to wherever your castle should be.  It can become quite an art as you create tiny turrets and spires.

Of course, I also went to the beach with just my sisters.  Very rarely were we joined by a boy, and when we were, he helped build the castles.  My experience today is that little boys prefer destroying the castles rather than building them.  Which is perfectly fine and entertaining.  :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If You Want To Lose Something . . .

. . . give it to a crawling baby.  Whether it's your keys, your phone, or the vacuum cleaner attachments, they will mysteriously disappear if you don't keep both of your eyes on them.  Luckily, you can call your phone and search by sound (unless it is on vibrate.)  And keys generally come with a spare you'd be wise to keep somewhere safe (but don't forget where.)  But alas, vacuums only come with one of each attachment.  If your child has thrust an accessory somewhere unknown, there is a way to clean those difficult places (stairs, baseboards, etc.) without the vacuum extension.  Simply find a stiff scrub brush and acquaint your hands and knees with the floor.  Then, manually brush the carpet.  You may feel like a modern Cinderella, but it gets the job done.  I once "swept" my dining room carpet with a brush and dustpan.  It worked wonders.

I fail to see the logic in silencing a crying child with a valuable or important object.  Especially if you're a more absent-minded person.  I know keys jingle and phones light up and make noise when you push buttons, but they're not children's toys.  Besides if your 2-yr. old pushes the wrong buttons, your phone can become an uncontrollable mess with numerous additions to your monthly bill.  If you must give keys and phones to your little ones, give them actual toys.  Plastic keys and phones are colorful and entertaining.  If you must provide the "real deal," create a keychain just for the kids.  Use old keys etc. so that your necessary keys don't risk being lost in the great abyss.  Unless, of course, you have the money to throw about replacing missing keys and phones.  In that case, get your kids their own toy keys and send the money you'll save to me.  :)  Or to your child's savings account.  It's never too early to start saving for college (which gets more expensive every year.)

One final note: if you insist on letting your kids play with important items, teach them how to find missing things as soon as possible.  Help them identify the objects so that they know what they are looking for.  And try to think like a little kid when you go searching yourself.  Don't be afraid to dive beneath the sofa cushions or behind the dresser drawers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Like My Bubble

We all want to protect our children from the horrors of the world around us.  The question of how long we should shelter them, however, plagues every parent.  Ideally, there would be nothing from which to shelter them.  Their innocence would never be lost.  In our modern world, however, we know that eventually the disagreeable and immoral aspects of society will eventually surface regardless of our efforts.  I am all for sheltering your children as long as possible, but there are so many things it would be better to hear of from your lips rather than the mass populace and pop culture.  As your children grow older and mature, you must use your best judgment when to inform them of the evils that pervade our culture.  Even if you do not inform them directly, please establish a genuine and strong relationship with them so that if they have questions, they do not fear asking you.  

I know bubbles of innocence or ignorance can be immense safety zones to many people, myself included.  I like my bubble where, regardless of the immorality in parts of society, we couldn't really devolve into a terror-stricken country beset by tyrants and revolution.  Things like that are only historical facts, right?  I wish I could believe completely in the faith of my country, but I fear we've lost our right.  I have determined, then, that it is better to be informed than ignorant.  While ignorance may be bliss, it can also be childish and immature.  An adult who refuses to accept the facts of reality may eventually draw so far within their idealistic fantasies that they can no longer function in society.  It is my duty, therefore, to remain educated on the issues at hand.  Part of this education, however, includes a cautious preparation.  This preparation is a readiness for the worst while hoping for the best.  The medium will most likely ensue.  While present-day facts may seem cause for despair, we should rather prepare and fortify ourselves for any approaching days of danger.  I don't mean to sound hopeless, but things tend to get worse before they get better.  Of course, maybe right now is the "worse" and things are on the up.  Unlikely, but still . . . there's my bubble again.

As you educate yourself, you should not let your innocence be completely shattered.  While you should prepare for any ill weather, you should also hold on to your faith in the truth.  Do not transform your ideals for a better world into a cynical pessimism that fuels despair in mankind.  Just because men have failed and continue to do so, does not mean the entire world is going to Hell in a hand-basket.  There is still good in the world.  All you have to do is see it.  It is this good that we must strive to preserve.  Thus, while the degenerate culture demands a loss of innocence, we can still resist temptation and promote the truth.  Do not be afraid to form the bubbles of protection from outside influences, but build them from a material not impenetrable.  Allow information and further education to enter in that you may know how to apply the truth to the modern world.  It is through a delicate balance of informed innocence that we can truly combat the evils of the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Teacher vs. Student

In my recent experience with home schooling, a problem can arise among the triangle of teacher and two or more students.  An older (or younger) sibling may interrupt your instructions to their sibling with thoughts of their own on the subject.  They may provide answers, make sarcastic comments or present "how I would do it" statements.  While the interrupting child is generally trying to help, their actions mostly add confusion and frustration to the child being taught.  The teacher (whether Mom, Dad, or someone else) must remain the authority and instructor for several reasons.

1.  Honor thy father and thy mother.  When your child listens to and follows your instructions, they fulfill the fourth commandment.  By respecting your authority as their teacher, the child remains the student which is their calling as a child.  If another sibling interjects (especially something contrary to what you've said), the student may falter in their acceptance of your guidance.

2.  Being told.  Let's face it.  Nobody likes being told what to do.  It's even worse when you have several people giving you the same instructions.  (This is why familial discipline belongs to the parents only.  It is not the child's place to discipline their siblings, but that's a topic for another post.)  If you are teaching a child (particularly in a subject they dislike), receiving instruction from you is plenty.  Having a sibling interrupt with comments on how they would teach it, how the child should learn it, and how it's "so easy" can overwhelm the student to the point of shutting down completely.  The learning child will no longer be willing to even try if they believe they cannot succeed.  A sibling's peanut gallery comments do not help.

3.  Train of thought.  It has been my experience that siblings' interjectory comments come at the most inopportune moments, most often right in the middle of your explanation.  Being an adult raising children, it can often be difficult to regain your train of thought once it is derailed.  This is confusing for the child being taught and frustrating for you.  Couple this with your already short temper (unless you happen to be an angelic mother who doesn't have frayed nerves), and you have a recipe for disaster.  I know you cannot avoid all interruptions (especially with numerous children), but the fewer you have, the easier school will go.

All in all, keeping the instructions solely within your realm of authority is a good idea.  I do not, however, object to useful comments from siblings.  While these comments should not arise in the midst of instruction, oftentimes a sibling's observations can lend a new light to your potential difficulties in teaching.  Please ask your children for suggestions regarding new ways to make learning more interesting.  I have often given my two cents worth regarding various school subjects (most especially Latin), and I like to think that my personal experience with home schooling through high school lends a bit of authority to my musings.  I can only relate what I have learned or observed for myself (which I know cannot apply to every person), but I hope that some principles remain the same throughout all learning children.  If you have taken up the wonderful cross of home schooling, don't be afraid to ask for advice, even from your children.  Just make sure that while the teaching is actually happening, your children remain simply students.  Let them enjoy being a child without having to teach their siblings.  If they won't fight for their right to learn and not instruct, then you must.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Let Them Scream?

I'm sure that anyone who has cared for an infant or young child knows the heartache of listening to the child's lamentations at nap time.  If you are new to the baby world, you will most likely feel an uncontrollable urge to dash into the nursery, lift up your distressed child and rock them to peaceful quiet.  Don't.  While you can sometimes put a child to sleep and then keep them sleeping as you transfer them from your arms to their bed, it is not as frequent as we'd like.  Rather, we must let them fuss and cry to sleep.  The question is how long do you leave them screaming?  When do you cater and when do you turn a deaf ear?  

If you rush in at the first whimper, your child will quickly learn your weak will and exploit it.  Whether they are tired or not, they will scream if they know you will come and give them attention.  Give your crying child a few minutes to accept the fact that it's nap time.  Let them cry out their frustration before succumbing to the bliss of sleep.  If you find crying difficult to cope with, go in every five minutes or so and comfort your child.  Do not necessarily remove them from their crib; rather, you can stroke their back and whisper soothing words of comfort.  Before you enter to comfort, however, be sure that their screaming has not decreased in volume or intensity.  Oftentimes, a child will cry for several minutes straight, but they gradually quiet down.  If you go in just as they are calming themselves down, you can destroy their sleepy mood.  The screaming will start again, and you're back at square one.

The best advice is to develop a bit of a cold shoulder and tough love aspect.  You must be able to withstand the screams because you know what is best for your child.  They need a nap, even if they think otherwise.  It can be painful to listen to your young one whimpering and bewailing their cruel fate.  You can endure, however, with great patience.  Just be sure to learn the difference between a child crying themselves to sleep and a child who screams for 20 minutes straight with an ever increasing volume and earnestness.  Sometimes you simply have to go in and take care of the screaming.  But don't buckle within the first two minutes.  Give your child some time to adjust and calm themselves before rushing to the rescue.  You'll thank yourself so much!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Art of Sacrifice

Lent speedily approaches with Ash Wednesday eagerly waiting just for tomorrow.  For any non-Catholics, you probably simply acknowledge today as Mardi Gras and then wait the next 40+ days for Easter enjoying all of the federal holidays and St. Patrick's Day in between.  For us Catholics, however, today symbolizes the last day before entering a season of penance and preparation.  The Lenten season is a period of time for a more earnest bettering of oneself as well as offering up suffering for the sake of others.  For most children, Lent means giving up sweets or tv.  For adults, the sacrifices vary quite widely, especially based on how ignorant they are or choose to be.  In my case, I have discovered that Lent is a beautiful time to strive for things which you should already do on a regular basis.  Give up something to which you are addicted such as coffee or pop.  Focus on developing your spiritual life through Scripture and prayer.  Reach out more to your fellow human beings.  For myself, furthering the spiritual aspect of my life offers the most difficulty; therefore, I have determined to spend a greater amount of time in prayer and spiritual reflection each day.

But what does all this have to do with children?  Lent is a terrific time to teach your children the true art of sacrifice.  By guiding them through their Lenten sacrifices, you can show them both how to suffer and how to offer up that suffering for the souls of others.  A young child will most likely hate losing their sweets or computer time, but you can help them understand how their discomfort and annoyance can be turned to graces from Heaven.  Furthermore, you can focus on how greatly and intensely Our Lord suffered for us when He died on the cross.  Tell your children how their offered up suffering helps ease the suffering of Christ.  By relating their Lenten sacrifices to Christ's sufferings, you may draw a greater attention to the true reason for the Easter celebration.  The fact that Christ offered up His life for our sins and thereby redeemed our souls for eternity is the greatest gift of self-sacrifice ever known or ever shall be known.  If you can spend the next 40 days in penance and preparation, the true joy of Easter will appear ever more present.  It will no longer be simply a secularized holiday filled with chocolate, bunnies and hunting eggs.  Take back the true reason for Easter and celebrate all its glory and wonder.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Crime & Punishment

First off, the book Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky is amazing.  Yes, it has its dark moments and depressing scenes, but I absolutely loved it.  But that's beside the point.  The point for this long overdue post is finding a punishment that fits the crime.  Throughout literature (since I'm an English major), authors have presented sinners paying for their faults in fitting means.  Dante Alghieri's Divine Comedy, most specifically his Inferno, depicts numerous sufferings that vary depending on the specific sin.  Gluttony punished by swimming in putrid and rotting food.  I would not recommend this book for children.  It's a bit dark and scary.  A happy alternative, however, is Tomi dePaola's enchanting story Strega Nona.  This tale tells of how Big Anthony uses Strega Nona's magical pasta pot but cannot turn it off.  His punishment is to eat all of the pasta he created.  Needless to say, Big Anthony did not ever touch Strega Nona's pot again.

When your child requires discipline, it is often ineffective to simply use the same level of punishment for all their misdemeanors.  Failure to clean their room vs. being disrespectful to your authority are on different scales, generally.  If you simply send them to their room for everything, they won't learn that various actions have various consequences.  The specific example I have in mind is when your child loses something important, such as their art class paintbrushes or soccer cleats.  There are a few steps that should be taken in these cases, and a very motivating punishment as well.

1.  The child should look for the missing item.  Scour the house.  Dig under their bed.  You may help them search, but do not do all the work for them.  
2.  If the item is not found, make the child pay for it (or at least part.)  Having to part with even a small amount of hard-earned money will burn the lesson into their minds.  They will be extra careful with their possessions and take special care not to lose them again.
3.  Oftentimes, the threat of having to pay themselves for the missing items increases the determination to find the lost thing ten-fold.  Good luck!  And you can, of course, always pray to St. Anthony, patron of lost causes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

22 Things I Have Learned

1. Don't grab the stick, sharp object, etc. that a child has if you are trying to get it away from them. You may very well get sliced fingers in the process. Come up with alternative punishment when the "Put it back" statement is ignored.
2.  Holding a sleeping baby is a beautiful balm for loneliness.
3.  If you touch really hot chicken nuggets too many times, your fingers will eventually lose all sense of heat.  Therefore, ask the kids if their lunch is actually warm enough before serving it to them.
4.  It is much easier to keep children happy if you simply have to entertain them.  When they are required to actually work (such as do school), the task becomes more difficult.
5.  If you choose to give the child two options, make the one you want them to pick highly more desirable than the other.  Example:  You can either clean up your toys, OR I can pick them up and throw them in the garbage can to be taken to the dump and rot away into nothing.
6.  Children have a very innocent and charming way of viewing life.  Example:  Your birthday is on Friday; therefore, you get the day off, right?
7.  When picking children up from school, bring food.  It helps appease them immediately.
8.  Watching movies from your own childhood helps the de-stressing immensely.
9.  You're never too old to re-learn your elementary lessons.  Example: I am still baffled by diagramming sentences, although it is becoming clearer since I am attempting to teach them to a child.
10.  Getting up earlier may seem like a drag at first; however, once you are up and running, you will feel a lot better.
11.  It is really easy to spend a lot of money in the movie department.
12.  The hand-made gifts and drawings from children close to your heart brighten your day considerably.  When received, make sure to hang them prominently so that when you're feeling down, you can look at them and smile.
13.  Buy a dry-erase calendar.  It's very useful for a busy and fluctuating schedule.
14.  Having access to a microwave is almost indispensable.
15.  You can do anything you put your mind to, even if you don't think you can.
16.  If you act like the schoolwork is way tougher than it actually is, most kids will buy in to the bluff and laugh off what you think is "hard."  Trust me, it works!  "Don't freak out!  Are you sure you can handle this?  It looks really hard."  "Of course, I can."  Generally accompanied with a look of shock and disbelief that you think this is "hard."
17.  It is amazing how quickly a clean room becomes messy.
18.  Buckets for toys are amazing inventions.  As are shelves upon which to place the buckets.
19.  Listening to music can be very relaxing.  It also makes housework more endurable.
20.  Silly Bands do have a purpose!  They can be used to keep kitchen cupboard doors closed.
21.  Every family faces its own problems.  Each parent chooses their own battles.  If you become a nanny, it's best to figure out which battles the parents fight, and follow their lead.  It helps a lot when you are all working together.
22.  Setting a budget may seem daunting, but it is a highly useful and effective tool.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can't You See Him?

When I was young, before I had siblings, I had an imaginary friend whose name was Jeffery.  Jeffery went with me everywhere.  The two instances I remember most clearly (one of which is a story my mother tells) are these:  1.  I was throwing a tantrum in the car, and my mother finally said, "Rebekah, Jeffery doesn't like it when you scream."  I promptly stopped screaming long enough to say, "Jeffery loves it when I scream."  Not exactly the most flattering story of my childhood, but there it is.  2.  Jeffery came with me to Chuck E. Cheese's and went down the rolly slide.  He also hid in the playhouse because he was shy.  I remember trying to coax him out to play.  I don't know how many children have imaginary friends or necessarily where these friends come from.  But here are a few of my thoughts on the topic.

Imaginary friends appear when a child has nobody to play with themselves.  A child who has no siblings or close friends may create their own playmate to share in their adventures.  I don't remember when Jeffery disappeared, but I have a feeling that it was around the time I had my own baby sister to look after.  

Imaginary friends may often have the same fears that the child has such as timidity or shyness.  I was (and still am to a certain degree) very shy growing up.  Perhaps Jeffery being shy as well provided me with a way to talk myself out of being shy.  Obviously it didn't really work, but it may be a theory.  

Imaginary friends are there for you to confide in and tell all your secrets to, especially when you don't have a best friend.  I'm sure that Jeffery heard lots of my worries and plans even if I can't remember telling him about them.  

If your child has an imaginary friend, don't squelch it.  Encouraging them is a tricky business, but having a friend of their own creation helps nourish their imagination.  Eventually, kids will discover that their closest imaginary friend isn't actually real.  If not, you can guide them along.  But don't strike too soon.  Let your kids enjoy their imaginary friends.  They only last so long.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

What a 1 year old Knows . . .

When a child of the tender age of 1 toddles around, they seem so beautiful and innocent.  And they are.  But they are not as ignorant as we may often believe.  While they may not understand specific words or commands, a child of one year is definitely knowledgeable of certain things that make you tense or frustrated.  For example, while you make numerous attempts to block off the stairs, they continually attempt to circumvent your feeble measures.  Whether it is climbing through the crack in your defenses or physically pulling the barricade down, a determined baby is a strong force with which to reckon.  (This was my experience today.)

I have discovered that a one-year-old baby also demands what they want, and when they are successfully circumvented, they can pitch quite a fit.  Telling a determined baby that they cannot climb the stairs can invoke a spectacular burst of tears.  This is, however, the way they learn.  Whether it is digging in the "no no" cupboards or rifling through the open trash can, toddling babies love to watch you scold them time and again.  They fuss when you remove them, but they race back to the forbidden object with great glee.  Oftentimes they glance over their shoulder at you, giving you a look very knowledgeable of your opinion of their actions.

Through perseverance and a few tricks of the trade, you can teach your growing child the valuable lessons of "No" and "Stop" which they will use throughout their lives.  If your stairs are not gateable with a standard baby gate, try placing a different barrier in front.  Or if your stairs (like mine) have spindles instead of walls, slide the gate through the spindles on the lowest step.  For off-limits cupboards, there are numerous gadgets to be found at stores.  Or you can just slip a tight rubber band around the handles.  You can also try and keep the lower cupboards full of unbreakable dishes or dish rags.  As for the trash can, find a cover.  Or keep it out of reach.  Good luck!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Keep Hoping

I admit that there are moments, numerous ones, where I'd like to throw in the towel and swear off children forever.  Those times when my patience is fraying wildly and my frustration with little kids is peaking.  Some people may say that these moments are because I'm dealing with other people's kids, not my own.  Others will simply state that these feelings are part of motherhood, and that I should get used to it if I plan to have my own family.  Thankfully, I witness the little instances of true familial love, and my vision clears once more.  The smile on a child's face as they run towards their mother.  The happy laughter of siblings playing together.  The trust in a baby's face as they look up towards their father.  I could go on, but I won't.  Needless to say, it is these glimpses of familial bliss that remind me why I feel called to the married life and motherhood.  So I wait, learn and pray.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Child's Idea of "Fair"

"Why does Tommy get a cookie?  I want a cookie!"  This is a common approach of demand for children. One or other of their siblings or friends got something.  Rather than simply asking for the same thing, kids tend to justify their demands by pulling the "fairness" card, i.e. if Tommy gets a cookie, then I should get one too.  This phrase of request can lead to numerous problems: a) endless nagging from the "deprived" child until you can't take it anymore; b) instant gratification instead of patience; c) a lack in polite behavior; d) a frustrated parent struggling to explain why Tommy got a cookie and Anita didn't; e) a series of coaxing efforts to stop Anita's ensuing tantrum when told she cannot have a cookie just because Tommy has one.

Before examining each of these detrimental effects, let's look at the potential reasoning behind the child's phraseology in the first place.  As children, kids tend to have a purer sense of black and white justice or fairness.  If Tommy gets a cookie, so should Anita.  When this doesn't happen, Anita feels cheated of what she believes is rightfully hers.  Of course, there may be intertwined with the justice a simple want for whatever is at stake, such as the cookie.  Most kids seem to think that combining their request/demand with a "Tommy has one" phrase will get them what they want.  Such should not be the case.

A.  Endless Nagging.  When a child hears "No," they tend to question "Why?" oftentimes repeatedly especially if they are rather young.  (Of course, if you've taught your children that "no means no," you shouldn't have this particular problem.)  Children who question your reasoning tend to do so with whining, complaining and constantly dragging in the "but Tommy has one" in that annoying voice all kids seem to have.  Do not give in to their relentless stream of questioning as this will simply lead to more and more frequent questioning.  If they doubt your authority in the matter, proceed to the established method of discipline in your family.  Just because they ask more than once does not mean the answer will change.

B.  Instant vs. Patience.  If you simply bow to your child's demands instead of making them wait, they may develop a character of instant gratification.  By teaching your children to wait patiently rather than receiving upon demand, you help train their character.  This also leads into Point C: Polite Behavior.

C.  Polite Behavior.  By showing your children how to simply ask for what they want rather than trying to justify it, you teach them a very important lesson.  Ask and you shall receive.  They don't need to bring into the picture that Tommy has a cookie.  They simply need to ask for a cookie.  If they do so without complaining or demanding, they will generally receive what they ask for.

D.  Frustrated.  No parent likes putting up with a whining child.  Trying to come up with an explanation for why Tommy has a cookie and Anita does not can be exasperating.  The best answer is 3-fold:  a) The fact that Tommy has a cookie has nothing to do with whether Anita can have a cookie; b) complaints will not result in receiving the desired object; c) when a parent says no, the answer is no.

E.  Coaxing.  Some parents will resort to bribing the complaining child with promises of other treats.  This is not the correct approach.  Rather, life isn't fair.  At least not in the moment.  Children can have things special from their siblings.  Just because Tommy got a cookie does not mean Anita will get one.  

Ultimately, try to teach your kids two things.  First, that whether or not someone else has the cookie, it will not help them get a cookie themselves.  They just need to ask.  Second, (and this is in many ways more important), teach your kids to be happy for someone else's good fortune.  If Tommy has a cookie, rather than Anita demanding a cookie herself, she could be happy that Tommy has a treat.  Good luck instructing your kids with these characteristics.  It takes time and effort, but the final effect is worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Thrill of the New Experience

The children have occupied their happier moments this week playing in the rental van.  This vehicle is quite a feat of modern technology (although I suppose it's rather "lame" as far as technological advances go.)  The side doors and trunk open automatically with buttons inside, outside, and on the key (which is rather strange looking.)  I don't really understand the fascination with opening and closing these doors, although I must say the car does have that awesome "new car" smell.  :)  

Where am I going with this excerpt?  I'd simply like to muse for a few sentences on the curiosity of a young mind, and how even this curiosity differs between girls and boys.  While the little girls enjoy playing in the car, the little boy is forever excited by it.  He constantly takes the keys and opens and closes the doors, watching from the window with fascination as the touch of a button performs such a large task outside.  It is his new toy, and he wants to know how it works.  So he observes again and again, constantly wondering at the newfangled mechanical operations.  

This single example provides yet another insight in to the workings of a young boy's mind.  They want to know why and how something does what it does.  For this knowledge, they ask questions and constantly test out the new equipment.  (Of course, the fact that it is fun and a unique opportunity helps out considerably.)  Thankfully, he hasn't tried to take any of the vehicle apart in order to figure out how it really works.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Manic Meltdown Mayhem

Have you ever had one of "those" days?  The days where nothing seems to go right?  When all of your children proceed to have major meltdowns and tantrums over the tiniest things?  You try to keep a calm, parental, authoritative demeanor, but inside you're pulling out your hair and wondering exasperatedly why all of your children have decided to break down at once.  Ring a bell with anyone?  That was the day today at my job.  The kids took it in turns to break down over the broken table that they didn't break, the checking of math problems, the stealing of a toothbrush, or the "mean" behavior of a sibling or two.  Needless to say, this day was not one of the sunshine and butterflies days.  Rather, it sets a fine example of some of the "worst" days of being a stay-at-home mother.  Let me explain.

This day, while stressful, provided numerous learning experiences for both parent and child.  The parent can observe the meltdown, discern the cause, and decide whether it is legitimate or not.  In some cases, such as the broken table, it is legitimate.  The child was blamed but innocent.  This does not make the meltdown proper behavior, but it does warrant a valid reason as to why the 7 year old boy is extremely upset.  Nobody likes to be blamed for something they didn't do.  On the other hand, the case of the checking math problems is totally inexcusable.  When the teacher (or parent) instructs the child to do something, there should be no tantrum meltdown.  If the child does not understand, they can ask for help and explanation (but should not interrupt until the parent is done instructing.)  After that, they need to practice the problems and checking on their own.  It is practice for making sure you write down the right answer and do the math correctly.  In such a case, the meltdown should be disciplined because it is unwarranted behavior.  

The third set of meltdowns occurred between the twins (who are 1 years old).  Twin #1 had a toothbrush. Twin #2 wanted the toothbrush and proceeded to grab it.  Twin #1 began bawling hysterically.  When Twin #2 could not get the toothbrush, he began screaming as well.  In this case, since you're working with infants, you can only attempt to mollify both of them.  I ended up finding another toothbrush for Twin #1 so that both babies were happy, and the next few minutes were peaceful.

Our fourth major meltdown of the day came when the 5-year-old felt injustice from the shove of her older brother.  Apparently, though, he had shoved her because she was breaking the rules in a game they were playing.  A game she had picked, I might add.  While her brother's behavior is inexcusable, she did not need to spend the next twenty minutes overflowing with tears over it.  Thus, she was sent upstairs until she could compose herself.  Personally, I would have sent her to bed.  When a child of that age throws such a fit, she or he is generally over-tired or excessively sugar-intoxicated.  In either case, sending them to bed accomplishes three things: 1.  It gets them out of your hair and away from everyone else.  2.  It puts them in a room alone where they can quiet down.  3.  More often than not, they will fall asleep and wake up much more refreshed.

The fifth (and final) meltdown of the day (at least to my knowledge) involved a friend coming to play.  Both the 3-year-old and 5-year-old wanted to play with the visitor, but neither girl wanted to share their friend.  Thus ensued much screaming and crying and complaining from each girl as they tried to defend their side and claim to the visiting girl.  In such a case, it is more difficult to discern the proper method of approach.  I would have separated all the girls.  The visitor would have to play by herself until the sisters could play together.  I understand the need for siblings to have time alone to play with their friends, but there should also be much camaraderie and sharing between all of them.  No one likes to feel left out.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Who's In Charge?

Anyone who has ever babysat before remembers being a little apprehensive on the first night.  You're unsure as to how well you can handle the children.  Will they respect your authority?  Will they set the house on fire?  Will they bicker all night?  Or will they be pleasant?  Will they help clean up and go to bed when they're told?  And if you don't get it right the first night, any subsequent evenings will just get worse.  So how do you make sure the evening goes as smoothly as possible for everyone concerned?  Here are a few tips that I find helpful.

1.  Ask the parents.  Before the parents leave for their night out, ask them to thoroughly explain the night time routine.  When and what do the children eat?  What are their evening chores (if any)?  What is the bedtime routine?  This last question requires a detailed answer including, but not limited to, where the bedrooms are; who sleeps where; what time do they go to bed; what is the bedtime routine; do the lights stay on or go off; do the doors stay open or shut?  If you know the answers to all these questions, bedtime should go smoother.  You won't have the wool pulled over your eyes by mischievous children who try to change the established routine due to your ignorance.  And you'll feel more confident about the whole evening if you have an established plan.

Be patient.  It pays off in the end.
2.  Discipline.  If you get a chance (and actually remember), ask the parents what the established method of discipline is and/or what you are allowed to do if a child misbehaves.  On the first night with a new sitter, many children will test the sitter by acting up excessively.  They want to see if you will submit to their shenanigans or stop the misbehavior at once.  It is up to you to remind the children who is in charge.  For example, a child should not tie you up or insist that you do what he/she says because they are in charge.  Rather, this child should be disciplined accordingly so that they understand you will not tolerate disrespectful behavior.  

3.  Play with the kids.  Too many sitters plop the kids in front of the TV and think that's all there is to it.  Not even close.  Babysitting is an important job.  Parents are entrusting their children to your care.  It is your job to take care of and entertain their children without burning down the house.  This means playing games and making sure that the kids are pleasant with each other.  

I'm sure there are many more tricks of the trade.  If you care to share, please fell free.

One last trick for all you current sitters:  I always find it nice to come home to a clean house, especially after a long night out.  You will earn the parents' undying favor if you take the time to clean up the kitchen after dinner and tidy the living room after the kids are in bed.  

To all the parents:  It is very helpful when you have the night time routine written down along with the kids names and ages.  That way if your sitter forgets a name they just learned, they can check the list.  Also, this way they have the bedtime set-up in hand to review after you leave.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness

We've all heard that phrase before, most likely voiced by our parents when we obstinately refused our bath or to tidy up our room.  As children we scoff and wonder how parents could make such an irrational statement.  As we grow older, however, we begin to realize how the statement actually has a double meaning for our lives.  The cleanliness spoken of refers to both outward and inward cleanliness.  Just as our physical appearance needs to remain orderly and clean, so too does our inner being.  If we appear upright and just on the outside, but fail to mirror that appearance within our souls, we become hypocrites. By keeping both our souls and bodies clean and pure, we hopefully create a fit temple for the Holy Spirit.  

To make something clean is to, quite simply, make something free from dirt, marks or stains.  This process applies to the soul as well when we try to keep it pure and innocent, uncontaminated by the sin surrounding us.  The purer we become, the closer to our Heavenly Father we approach.  As our persons mirror His purity and truth, we draw nearer to Godliness (or as close as unworthy humans can be.)  

So the next time your child complains about having to take a bath or tidy their room, remember this phrase.  Use it as a tool for explanation.  Explain to your children how keeping things neat and orderly shows respect for the gifts God has given us.  That keeping our bodies clean and well-kept shows deep respect for the greatest gift God gave us.  And finally, that as we strive to keep the world around us and our outward selves clean, we must also move towards a cleaner and purer soul.  This will eventually lead to a perfect union with God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lost Arts of the Home

I am constantly discovering how little children today know of simple things that I thought were part of daily life.  These are the little acts that form a homemaker.  Whether it is sewing or knitting, cooking or cleaning, many people in today's society are at a loss when faced with doing such things themselves (more so with the sewing and the like.)  Too few children are taught the art of a needle and thread, and this teaching is so sorely neglected that when a person can sew, they are viewed as a miracle worker.  

The art of sewing is a very simple one to learn, so simple that you can learn and then teach your children. I highly recommend instructing all of your children, girls and boys, in the proper usage of a needle and thread because at some point they will have a snag in their socks or a rip in their jeans.  If they know how to sew, they can easily remedy the disrepair.  Go through the basic steps of threading a needle (not as easy as it may seem), basic stitches (mainly the running stitch), and the numerous uses for sewing.

If your children are interested, further their knowledge-base by introducing them to the sewing machine.  My sisters and I have spent many long hours stitching away at doll clothes, blankets, or fancy dresses for ourselves.  The ability to create a wearable work of art from a pile of fabric and a pattern is a wonderful but sadly neglected skill.  If you know how to sew but haven't for a long while, try it again.  Pass it on to your children.  If you don't know how to sew, make sure to take it slow.  Don't start off your lessons trying to concoct a velvet cloak or a three-piece suit.  Such valiant efforts will come in time, but if you begin with such grand plans, you will most likely become extremely discouraged.

A final note: Your seam ripper is your friend.  It is no fun to rip out stitches and re-do them, but you will thank yourself in the long run when the finished project looks 10 times better.  Don't be afraid to start over and backtrack.  Take it slow, and make sure you read the directions very carefully.  Also, most patterns require a bit of common sense (or not so common, depending on the pattern.)  Read the instructions and try until you figure out what works.  Most things don't sound like they should work when they are explained out loud, but once you follow the directions, everything tends to work itself out beautifully.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monkey See . . .

A child's mind is extremely impressionable from the earliest stages of life.  From day one, your little one is taking in knowledge and processing it, or at least attempting to do so.  As they begin to toddle about, they mimic their surroundings.  Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also an excellent means of learning something new.  After observing the habits and actions of their parents or older siblings, a small baby about one year old may be seen walking about the house holding a puzzle piece to her ear and talking like she's on her own cellphone.  Or perhaps the same child enjoys watching you play Peek-A-Boo, and so she mimics your actions by covering her own face with a blanket and then pulling it down swiftly, resulting in giggles and beaming smiles.  (Yes, I observed both of these examples this week.  It was adorable!)

These innocent imitations, however, brought to mind how carefully we must guard our behavior around children of any age.  Just because they may not understand what is going on does not mean that they will not imitate what they see or hear.  We have to watch our language and our actions, as well as what we listen to on the radio and watch on the television (whether it is actually TV or movies.)  The first years of any child's life are among the most formative for their future character.  We should do all we can to preserve their innocence and childlike joy.  

This can be difficult in our modern world, especially if we ourselves have become immune or disregarding towards the evils of the world around us.  Often it is not until our children shock us by their behavior that we realize how much we are teaching them, even when we are unaware ourselves.  There's a country song by Rodney Atkins titled Watching You about a father and his son who copies everything his father does, whether it is swearing or praying by his bed.  The chorus goes:

He said, "I've been watching you, dad ain't that cool?

I'm your buckaroo, I want to be like you
And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are?

"We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah, we're just alike, hey, ain't we dad
I want to do everything you do
So I've been watching you"

These lyrics portray the true depth of belief in one's parents or other beloved figures.  This belief is one that everything they do is worthy of repetition.  A young boy learns how to be a man by watching his father just as a young girl learns how to be a woman by mimicking her mother.  Because of this fact, it is up to us to set as good an example as possible for the impressionable youth who will create the families of tomorrow.  We shouldn't allow our legacy to be one of degenerate children who don't know the truth or the unchanging code of right and wrong.  Every single thing you do is observed (even if you are alone), so let us form our lives into those of a true Christian.  If you can achieve that, you will be blessed by giving your children a fine example to model their own lives upon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish

Eventually I would like to write down a list of excellent books that all children should read at some point in time.  In the meantime, however, I shall spend a few moments praising a well-beloved author whose books bring so much into a child's experience and imagination.  These books are none other than the 46 creative tales from Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.  His most widely known stories include The Cat in the Hat; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; Horton Hears A Who; Oh the Places You'll Go!; and, of course, How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  These wonderful works of poetic genius are stories that all people can enjoy, whether they are truly children or children at heart.  

Dr. Seuss' works have inspired many musical and cinematic productions, including a stage musical entitled  Seussical and a movie opening in March 2012 titled Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  Because of the ingenuity and imagination found within Seuss' works, their simplistic style creates a bounteous selection for children of all ages.  While none of his stories deal directly with moral statements, there are lessons to be learned from each one.  These lessons vary from vanity is bad (as in the case of Gertrude McFuzz) or simply treating one another as equals regardless of outward appearances (as in The Sneetches.)  

When I was growing up, we had a VHS (old-school, I know) with a few Dr. Seuss stories in cartoon on it.  I always loved watching them.  The tales were entertaining and colorful, and as I look back on it, I can see the lessons I learned about fairness and how being stubborn doesn't always win.  I recently read Oh the Places You'll Go and was reminded of how the immortal words of that story apply to anyone embarking upon a new journey, whether it is a new job or college or simply an unexpected turn of events.  

Furthermore, the simple vocabulary that Seuss employs makes his books ideal for children as they begin to read.  The exciting and wacky stories will make learning to read more enjoyable.  You could even start with Dr. Seuss' ABC's going from A to the Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz.  I highly recommend having at least a few of his books (if not the entire collection) within your library.  You'll enjoy reading them again and again as the imagination of your children takes off in wonderful ways from the fantastic influences of the world of Dr. Seuss.  For a complete list of the classic Dr. Seuss stories, click here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Where Do Babies Come From?

Every parent is faced with this question from their inquisitive and curious children at one point or another, and I'm sure it tends to pose an awkward situation unless you are already prepared for such an occasion.  What story do you tell your little one?  What explanation will suffice to quench the thirst for knowledge?  Will they understand what you mumble with a red face?  Or will they cease to believe you are the all-knowing parent?  We all know the famous "birds and the bees" story, or at least the saying.  Or perchance you choose the fable of the stork.  There's always the "Mommy swallowed a seed" approach.  And then there's the "When two people fall in love . . ."  Here's a few thoughts and insights into all of these potential paths as well as my personal explanation for where the babies come from (for little children.)

The Birds and the Bees:  I've heard this saying innumerable times, but I never really knew the meaning behind it all.  So I did a bit of research, and this is what I discovered.  This English-language idiomatic expression is used to explain the mechanics of how babies are made by referencing nature, i.e. bees depositing pollen and birds laying eggs.  It's origins are vague, and the whole concept seems to me rather confusing for a young child to understand.  But if it makes you feel better, by all means tell them this story.  

The Stork.  According to northern European legend, the stork is responsible for bringing a baby to new parents.  An ancient legend, popularized by Hans Christian Andersen, tells that storks found the babies out in the wilderness and carried them to houses in a basket or held in their beaks.  The folklore has spread from Germany and other European countries all the way to the Philippines and South America.  In addition, Slavic mythology believes that storks carry unborn souls to Earth, which belief persists in the modern folk culture in the simplified children's tale of storks bringing children into the world.  Regardless of where the myth originated, it's a pleasant story for children.  One must be very careful, however, when explaining it because other questions will inevitably arise: Who brings the stork's babies?  Why do you get so fat?  Why don't I ever see the stork?

The watermelon seed.  Yet another simple way of explaining away children's questions is the classic "Mommy swallowed a seed (watermelon; pumpkin; cherry.  Take your pick.)"  As your children get older, you can get into the whole truth of the matter regarding the sperm and the egg becoming the fruit of your loins.  

Two people fall in love . . .   This explanation is true, but it can be very confusing for young children.  They may take the statement a bit too far.  For example, two friends love each other; therefore, they are going to have a baby.  Or if you simply say, "When you love someone, and they love you back, that's when there's a baby," you may end up having to explain that your beloved pet dog or cat and your child will not be having babies.

It's a gift from God.  This is my favorite explanation.  Children are a blessing from God.  When two people fall in love and get married, they become one person in Christ.  (A hard concept for kids, but it's a hard concept for anyone.)  They take their love and their unity and, with God's divine assistance, they create a baby.  This baby has to grow inside Mommy for about 9 months because it is too weak to survive in the world on its own before then.  

When you're having a baby, and you have little children, it's always a nice idea (I think) to involve them in the process as much as possible.  When your tiny child begins to kick, make sure your other children get to feel the life inside of you.  Encourage them to talk to their baby brother or sister.  Help them think of ways they can help out around the house and take care of their new sibling when he/she is born.

Returning to the "birds and the bees" topic, your child needs to have "the talk" at some point.  You, as parents, are the ones best qualified to decide when and where that talk needs to happen.  Whenever you decide, make sure that you present the marital act as the beautiful and sacred gift that it truly is.  It is nothing to be ashamed of or hushed up.  Rather, it should be glorified and celebrated as God's gift to man for procreation and the continuation of the human race.  So, when you sit down to have the talk, if you're not embarrassed, your kids may be less embarrassed and shocked.  Work through it together, giving them "need to know" information.  But be ready to provide more in-depth answers should they (at a proper age) need more of a definition or explanation.  In the meantime, for all your little ones, prepare your little speech ahead of time so that when your tiny tot opens his or her mouth with that question, you won't turn beet red or begin mumbling.  You'll know exactly what to say.  And if you have any experiences or suggestions, please feel free to post them!