I Sorry. TV. Butt.

Bubba likes butts.  Today he spent much of the morning pushing butts…both literally and figuratively.

And by butts, I mean buttons, of course.

His favorite “butt” to push is the TV power button because of the extreme reaction he gets out of Chica.  Every. Single. Time.  Today his fascination with the butt gave me lots of chances to practice disciplining with peace.  I had begun to draft in my head a how-to post about timeout for toddlers when my strategy all of the sudden became obsolete:

He can now open doors.  Ugh.  A facebook friend wrote recently that this was her “least favorite milestone.”  Agreed.

But since I fear that my mom may stop speaking to me if I don’t hurry up and write something new, and my only other idea for a post is concerning my family’s recent fascination with bow ties, I guess I’ll just carry on with my toddler time out how-to.

Except I probably will have to call it something more like, “How to Discipline Your Toddler During the Four Days After They Learn To Converse But Before They Learn To Escape Closed Doors.”  I’m still not sure what makes me think I have the authority to post on this subject, but here goes anyway…

I’ve decided that disciplining Bubba started with him seeing Chica face consequences.  For about the past month, whenever she was punished, he took notice.  “Sister crying,” or  “Chica bed.”  As if to say, “Ohhhh….she’s not happy.  She got sent to her room.”  Something about his reaction made me realize that he was connecting, in a very small way, her behavior to her consequences, and then her reaction.  His observations made me realize that maybe the same might work for him.  And for about four days, it did.  Today it went like this…

Chica:  Moooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off again.
Me:  Ok, coming.
Bubba:  (Hops back into the chair to make himself look a little less guilty.)
Me:  Bubba, Chica doesn’t like it when you turn the TV off.  It makes her sad.  If you push the button again, you will have to go to your room.  Bubba doesn’t want that to happen.
Bubba:  Yeah.

Five minutes later…
Chica:  Moooooooooooooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off AGAIN!
Me:  Ok.  Coming.
Bubba:  (Rushes to the chair again.)
Me:  (Carrying Bubba upstairs.) Bubba, you made a bad choice.  It makes Chica sad when you push the button and turn the TV off.  You have to have time out in your room because you didn’t obey Mommy.
Bubba:  Bed.  Bubba, Bed.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba bed.
Bubba:  (He didn’t stay on the bed, but he did stay in the room with the door shut and miraculously didn’t cry.)
Me:  (Rushes around to get lots of jobs done.)

Five-ish minutes later…
Me:  Bubba, sit down on the floor, and look at me.  Tell Mommy why you had to be on your bed for timeout.
Bubba:  Butt.  TV.  On.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba pushed the button on the TV and it turned it off.  This makes Chica sad because she can’t watch her movie.
Bubba:  Chica sad.
Me:  You need to tell Mommy what you are sorry for.
Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Me:  I forgive you Bubba.  I love you.
Bubba:  (Kisses me once on the lips and once on the shoulder.  Not sure what the shoulder is about these days??)
Me:  Bubba, go tell Sister you are sorry.
Bubba:  Ok.

Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Chica:  I forgive you Bubba.

We went through this exact same script at least once or twice more until he was all of a sudden tall enough to open the door for the first time.  You should have seen his thrilled, aren’t-I-so-smart grin when he greeted me in the kitchen.  He just couldn’t grasp why Mommy wasn’t quite so thrilled.

I’m not sure timeout has the same effect when he can let himself out but lacks the self-control to keep himself in.  Or maybe the self-control is the next step that we are ready to work on now.  Nevertheless, here’s what I tried to follow and what seemed to work for those four short days…

1.  Give a clear warning.  “If you do ___________ again, then I will put you in your room in timeout.”
2.  Follow through with the consequence right away.
3.  As you are moving to the timeout spot, explain why they are going there.  “You have to sit on your bed because you did not obey.  You _____________ when Mommy told you not to.”
4.  Leave the room.
5.  After a few minutes, come back and ask why they are in timeout.
6.  Explain, in simple language, why the choice was a bad choice.  “When you did _________, it made _______ feel ______________.”  Or, “____________ was dangerous because ____________.”
7.  Ask them to apologize.  “I’m sorry for _____________.”
8.  Forgive them.  Hug and kiss.
9.  If someone else was affected, make them apologize to that person too.

I pretty much follow this same pattern still with Chica, only adding the question, “What better choices do you plan to make next time in this situation?”  Today I had to go through this with her when she called Bubba a, “Little rat,” and then lied about what she really said.

She’s usually pretty good at getting along with Bubba, but I guess today he had just pushed her butt one too many times.  Can’t say I blame her.

Image:  Power Button (178/365) © Jim Murphy  | Flickr Creative Commons


It’s Friday night, and the moon is right.  Gonna have some fun, show you how it’s done, TGIF!*

So I can’t see the moon from my spot at the dining room table, but I do know that it’s finally Friday and “fun” for me is writing, so here I am.  I’ve gone round and round trying to think of any one thing I have to say, some way to wrap up this mishmash of unrelated thoughts.  It seems to be too late for that, so just watch out…a whole bunch of random comin’ at ya…

This week Bubba discovered that his nose has two holes.  And they are both approximately the same diameter as his pointer finger.  What a fantastic discovery.

I made a discovery of my own concerning Bubba this week too.  On top of the broken (read: decoy) printer sits the real printer.  Its shiny green power button attracts Bubba like a mosquito to one of those summertime zapper thingies.  He can’t help himself.  Well after several stern warnings and my best evil eye, he still didn’t get my message to stay away from it.  I warned him one final time that if he touched it, I would put him in the bed (a.k.a. prison).   Of course he touched it, so I carted him off to the crib, shut the door, and left him screaming.  Well guess what?!  Tonight when he tried for the 538th time to crawl under the baby gate and down the steps, all I had to say was the word bed and he stopped.  He fretted and pointed and STOPPED.  I’m sure there’s some sort of Parenting 101 rule that says not to use their bed as a punishment, just like a teacher’s not supposed to use silent reading as a consequence.  But it worked, so heck with the rules.

I broke another parenting rule today.  The one that says don’t send your kid off with someone you’ve never met.  Maybe it counts that my neighbor knew her, but probably not.  Chica went on a walk with a family from the next street over, and ended up at their house having hot chocolate.  When I asked Jay if he thought it was a bad idea that I let her go, his response was, “Ah…it’s ok, we’ve got another kid.”  Right.

I’m trying something new with my students called Flipping the Classroom.  Seriously…like I needed one more new thing in my life.  It’s been a huge adjustment, but I’ve had a moment or two where I look around and think, “This is IT!”  I’m just hoping for maybe three or four of those moments next week.

Oh…next week….I’m becoming a queen.  I get my crown on Monday.

Today Chica got in trouble for hitting another little girl in class.  Apparently she just made matters worse by trying to quote Paul.  “What I want to do, I do not do.  What I do not want to do, my hand just did anyway,” or something like that.  Then at dinner she quoted her teacher who says that all kids are just supposed to worry about themselves.  She was stuck on the fact that the little girl who told on her for hitting wasn’t just worrying about herself.  Oh Chica.  (That’s YOUR kid, Jay!)

So, I’m sure there was more I had to say, but I just realized I had dozed off while trying to think of what it was.  Friday night….gonna show you how it’s done, all right….in bed before 10:00.  Oh yeah.

*P.S.  If you recognized that little jingle, you might like this.  We laughed out loud over here.

Planks, Specks, Teeth, and Bathroom Floors

Have you had any good plank and speck moments lately?  You know, the kind of moment where you work so hard at correcting the faults in others, only to realize you have the exact same problem.

This happened recently to my good friend, Ruth, as she was teaching her class of sixth graders about these guys. She literally stopped in the middle of her lesson and said to her room full of unexpecting eleven and twelve year olds, “Woah….I’m being convicted right now guys,” when she caught a glimpse of her own plank.  (I won’t tell her whole story, though, because I hope to one day talk her into blogging about it here.  Stay tuned.)

Well, I had my most recent moment like this in the shower yesterday.  (All great thinking happens in the shower, right?)  Here I am carrying on a quite lively rant with myself about my parents’ bathroom floor.  You see, they have some water damage in their upstairs bathroom.  The area under the toilet is feeling quite spongy, but they keep putting off getting it fixed.  There are probably many reasons why they haven’t fixed it yet….time, money, denial that it’s a big problem, or maybe even embarrassment that it got that way in the first place.  As I’m thinking of all this, I’m saying to myself, “They need to get it fixed now.  This small spongy spot would be one thing to fix, but if they let it turn into a real hole, it will become a huge project.”

And then it hit me.  I have the exact same problem happening in my own head.  Literally.

You see a few months ago I was enjoying a hot turkey sandwich, so expertly cooked by Jay on his Panini grill, when I bit down on something crunchy hard.  My mind immediately knew it was a tooth, but I tried to convince myself that it was instead a seed or nut from the super hearty bread Jay had chosen.  Of course my first guess was right, and I now had a pretty gaping hole on the side of a lower, right tooth.  I admit I shed a few tears at the impending pain I knew this would cause both my mouth and my wallet, and I vowed to call the dentist in the morning.

Except I never did.  I blamed it on the fact that I forgot or that I was too busy during any school day (when the dentist is open) to make the call.  But that is so not true.  I just, plain and simple, avoided it.  Time, money, denial, embarassment…all the exact same reasons why I’m sure my parents are avoiding their needed repairs.

So right there in the shower my plank came into full view.  Why hadn’t I made that connection before?

So I’m done avoiding it.  Tomorrow I’m going to suck up all of my fears and just call the blasted dentist.  And if he happens to be closed because of the holiday, I’m going to call every day until I get him.  No more excuses…especially now that I have you holding me to it.

Plank removal is hard work.  Ugh.

Got any planks you’ve been working on lately?

Advice from a House (Un)Keeper

You know how some people are binge dieters?   I’ve decided that I’m a binge house cleaner.

I don’t clean with any regularity.  Actually, to be totally honest, I don’t even pick our junk up with any regularity.  I just let it collect and pile and swarm until I can’t take it anymore, and only then do I clean it up.  But since the piles and the swarms have such a long time to collect between my attacks on them, I have to wait until I have lots of free time to  make it happen.

So consequently I am spending this day, the first day of Christmas break, not decorating my tree or making hot chocolate or wrapping presents.  No, I’m spending it cleaning.  I sent Bubba to school and I’ve told a flabbergasted Chica she can watch movies all day if she wants.  I think she thinks some other mother has taken over my body for that comment.  We’re on the fourth showing of Over the Hedge, and it’s only 10 a.m.

So as I flitted around my house this morning getting started, I started thinking about the best practices of a binge cleaner.  I haven’t looked, but I’m sure there are a gazillion plans for binge diets out there on the Internet.  I’m just guessing that there’s not as much useful information about binge cleaning, so maybe the world could benefit from my expertise in this area.  So here you are…

  1. Get everyone else out of the way.   There’s already enough stuff on the floor (and the tables, and the counters, and the shelves).  You don’t need extra people around getting in the way and making more mess.  Nor do you need them huffing and puffing at you for letting it get this bad or questioning your cleaning tactics.  So make them leave, or banish them to one room.  I honestly believe this revelation I discovered in year one has saved my marriage on many occasions.
  2. Use the Five Minute Rule.  Make a list of every room you have to clean, and then set a timer for five minutes.  Go to the first one and work like a mad woman until the timer goes off.  Don’t think about it too hard.  Just pick up the first thing that your eyes land on that doesn’t give you mental anguish to figure out where it should live in your home.  When the timer goes off, drop whatever you are doing and walk back to your list.  Cross that room off, congratulate yourself, and move on to the next.  When you’ve visited all of your rooms, repeat.
  3. Stick to the plan.  Don’t let yourself get distracted from the your assigned room during the five minutes.  As you carry the bathroom scale from your kid’s bed back down to its actual home, you’ll be tempted to notice the golf-ball sized dust bunnies on your stairs that are hopping around and actually beginning to talk.  Ignore them.  Their time will come.
  4. Set a goal.  Plan to reward yourself after you’ve done your five minutes in all eight rooms.    But when that ends up seeming like an eternity, and you have to stop for a short break after just six, don’t beat yourself up too much.  You’re making progress.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about throwing away your kids’ artwork from school.  There will be more, I promise.  And it only gets cuter as time passes.  Just please, please be sure to burry it in the trashcan well below other non-kid created items.  This will save you lots of explaining later.
  6. If you get really desperate, pretend you are some sort of cleaning expert while you work and invent all sorts of great ideas for advice.  Spend your reward break blogging about it.

Ok….that was waaaay too much stalling.  Back at at.  Round two:  Ding!


Nothing and Something

I wonder if something really is better than nothing.  Lately all I’ve had is nothing.

In the past two weeks I’ve started a few posts and then decided that each was too boring or too whiny or too rambling before posting anything.  So here I am again, hoping that something will come of nothing.

I’ve hit that point in the school year where it starts to feel a bit hamster wheel-ish.  Here’s how it goes…

5:00 alarm.  Snooze.   5:09.  Snooze.  5:18.  5:27.  Ok….just one more….I promise.  Oh shoot.  Bubba’s awake.  Snoozing over.

We’re out the door by 7:30, mental list running of all the things I still have to do at school.   After lots of, “Hurry ups,” and, “I’m too busy to answer so many questions today,” it’s time to drop Chica off in the cafeteria.  I rush around trying to finish 27 things in the nine minutes I have left to myself.  Noticing either my panic or my exhaustion, three people stop me and ask me if everything is going okay.  Nothing’s really different from yesterday and the 20 days before, so, yep….just fine.  I’m making it.

There are occasional moments of brilliance at school, both on my part and theirs.  And most days I have at least one moment (or three or four) where I remind myself what a truly fantastic group of kids I have.  But then there are lots of moments in between where it’s hard or uninspired or disorganized or just not as good as it can be.   In those moments I make all kinds of promises myself to fix it tomorrow.  I’m still waiting for tomorrow to come, I guess.

At home it’s dinner, bath, and then bedtime.  I hit autopilot, and those hours…the ones that should be the best….just fly by.  I spend them thinking about all of the school work and house work I will accomplish when everyone is in bed, but then I get there and just can’t.  I’m too tired.  I tell myself I’ll work in the morning, but we know how that goes, right?  Snooze, snooze, snooze, Bubba…..too late.  Back in that hamster wheel.  Just keep moving.


So I’m still feeling like I’ve got a wholelotta nothing.  I’ve sat here for a long time figuring out if there’s a bigger point to this post.  It can’t be just that life is routine and blah and tiresome.  Actually, I even slept on it, hoping for a renewed perspective.  Here’s the best I’ve got…

Writing a blog is fun.  You get to pick out the funny or dramatic or pathetic moments you live and embellish them until they are worth reading about.  But then there are all the other moments in between.  If all you read (or write) about are the way ups or the way downs, the picture starts to get a little skewed.  So here I am saying that sometimes life is just normal, and you have to keep moving waiting for that next highlight.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.

Ok.  Bubba’s up.  Back on the wheel…

Memembery Book

When Chica wants to memember something these days, she puts it in her Memembery Book.  She explained to Jay one day that it sits on a shelf in her brain, and she writes things down in it that she doesn’t want to forget.  Periodically she refers to the mememberies there and wants to know if we memember too.  My memembery book often loses pages spontaneously, so I decided it was time to jot down a few memorable moments from this week in a more dependable place.  Here we are, in no particular order….

  1.  It’s been a rough week.  The kind of week where you lose track of the last time you bathed your children and you buy school lunch three days in a row because you just can’t motivate yourself to do one more thing in the morning.  Oh wait.  That’s lots of weeks.  This one was that plus more.  But I’m on the other side of it now.  Thank you God.
  2. Last night was Pirate Night at our school.  I went planning to help as a teacher, and I instead got to just be Mom.  What an incredible gift that was to my tired soul.  As we traipsed around the Old City Cemetery looking for treasure, I breathed a whole lot deeper.  I think an eye patch and a couple dozen good pirate ARRRRRs can fix a lot of the world’s problems.

  3. One day this week I posted this status:

This morning I asked Chica if she wanted me to give her pigtails for school. She said that she wanted small braids and beads like her school friends. I explained that we don’t have those kinds of beads….and I don’t really know how to do this. I then said, “Well, you could at least brush your hair.” Her answer was, “Mom…that’s not stylish hair!” Oh man.

I shared this story with one of her previous teachers at preschool who went on to tell me exactly how to add the beads.  Since I had the know-how and the supplies after all, I decided to try it.  Two out of the three braids have made it all week, much to my surprise.  (I’m sure the lack of baths only helped this…ha!)

4. The threat, “Do you want me to count?” seems to have run its course, and it has been replaced by the Nice Voice.  A while back Chica started to become really sensitive about the volume and tone of voice we used when correcting her.  After one particularly harsh correction and the meltdown to follow, we decided to come up with a solution together of how we would avoid the Mean Voice.  The first time I ask her to do something I use my regular voice.  If she does not follow directions, I ask her again using the Nice Voice.  If she still hasn’t done it, THEN I get to use my mean voice.  Surprisingly, it is working, but this is how it really goes:

Me:  Chica, go put your shoes on.

Chica:  (No answer.  Distracted by her beads or refrigerator magnets or…well…anything really.)

Me:  Chica, this is me using my Really Nice Voice to ask you to go put your shoes on…please.  (This is delivered in my sickingly sweet voice, dripping with undetected sarcasm, eyelashes batting.)

Chica:  Oh….ok….sure Mom. (Equally sweet, minus the sarcasm.)

5.  I’m hoping we get at least as much play out of this strategy as the counting! 5. I think I could find at least one Cheerio in every room in my house.  Bubba really loves me for making snacking so convenient for him.

6.  I’ve been contemplating some kind of post about the imminent end of nursing for Bubba and me.  Instead all I have is a mishmash of feelings…relief, worry, guilt, and pride to name a few.  Maybe there will be more on this later.

Looking forward to making more mememberies tomorrow while watching the Ten Miler together.  Good luck to all of our friends running!

Baby Steps

So do you have that one friend that lives a million miles away but still does life with you at the same time?  That friend who you can go one month or six months without talking to and then not even skip a beat?  And when you do finally catch her on the phone, neither of you can barely take a breath in order to say everything you need to say before one of your collective four children has a meltdown.

Yeah.  I have that friend.  We had a glorious nine or so minute conversation while I was driving sans Chica today.  Nine times out of ten, she doesn’t answer her phone.  Today I’m not even sure it rang once before her loud and peppy, “Hey!” came through the other side. She admitted she answered because it gave her permission to put off the cleaning a little longer.  A girl after my own heart.

We rushed to talk about all of the important things like doing the dishes, and East Coast visits, and listening to God, and spending time with our kids.  While she was pouring her heart out about wanting to make big changes in her life and being in that waiting place where the change isn’t fully happening, I interrupted her and said, “Sorry…gotta go….I’m here, except I don’t really know where here is…..so I better pay attention.”  She’s that kind of friend that’s just fine with nine hurried minutes and no more.

So tonight when after the crazies were in bed (and I, myself, was needing to do a bit of my own stalling), I wrote her a quick e-mail of what I would have said if I had had two more minutes.  Maybe you could use the same reminder today.  Maybe I just need to hear it one more time….

Dear Friend,

I so enjoyed our conversation today. Sorry I had to end it so abruptly! I found my friend’s house, and her baby was just perfect. So fun.
I had one thing I wanted to say when I talked to you….just slipped my mind while I was listening. I’ve been thinking about how I have an all or nothing personality. I don’t know if you call this perfectionist or not, but I see this kind of thing in myself all the time. I am tempted to think that if I don’t have enough time to clean the whole house, why even bother? There’s no way I can get all of my papers graded tonight, so I’ll just go to bed instead. If I don’t have time to write a perfect blog post (or perfect e-mail!), I just won’t even get started.
I’ve realized all of this about myself, and I’ve been trying really hard to work against it. Like just grading for one hour and then quitting. Or cleaning one room instead of trying to get them all. When I force myself to do this, however much I hate getting started, I always feel better afterwards….no matter how much got accomplished.
So here’s my point. I’m right there with you…..I want to spend more time with my kids, I want to keep a cleaner house, and I want to be more obedient when I hear the instructions meant just for me. But since I can’t make all of that happen right at once, I’m going to take tiny baby steps. I just wanted to remind you that big giant leaps don’t often happen like we want them to. Start little.
Missing you more than usual!