Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts on Dinovember

Dinovember. I'm seeing it everywhere. I'm not quite a fan.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for imaginative play. If you and your kids want to make your dinos go on adventures or jam out to itunes, cool. What bothers me are the pictures I see of parents making messes and wasting food.

We live on one income. We aren't rolling in cash by any means. Far from it. Yet we do our best to buy high quality food because it is important to us. No way am I going to set an example that it's funny or even okay to break eggs or tear apart fruit or bread or spill something or whatever on purpose. Same goes for the mess making. If I don't want my toddler unrolling an entire roll of toilet paper all over the bathroom, how am I supposed to justify doing it myself? All in the name of Dinovember and fun? No thanks. I do my best to teach the kids the value of everything we have. Not only does it cost us money, but someone somewhere spent their time and energy creating it and getting it to us.

And I imagine the conversation might get awkward when the kids point that out. "Mommy, those dinosaurs made a huge mess! That's not very nice." "Yeah! And although I wouldn't approve of you or me, or a guest in our house doing the same thing any other time, after you go to bed tonight I'm going to make another mess and blame it on the dinosaurs!" Just a bit of a conflicting message in my opinion.

Maybe you think I'm a no-fun Scrooge. I'm not. I love having fun and being silly with my kids. However, Dinovember and Elf on the Shelf (although I dislike that much more, don't even get me started on a Santa spy being in the house) seem to be just another example of wastefulness and disrespect of property in an already wasteful, overly consumerist time of year.

Just my quick thoughts. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Unschooling While Sick

I apologize for the lack of morning quotes lately. Sometimes life happens, you know.

And when life happens I'm reminded how well this unschooled life style works for us. Bug (2y) and I are feeling under the weather. We all were hanging out in the bedroom tonight, me sitting in bed with a heating pad reading to Josh (9y), Bug playing around doing summer saults. Josh and I talked about sums, products, the nine finger multiplication trick, spelling, homophones, Latin word origins, there their and they're. Bug crawled in bed when he was ready and asked to turn the light off. Josh and I continued chatting in the dark.

Everything happened so naturally. It was wonderful. Even though we did a lot of sitting around grumpy earlier today, we still learned plenty without any added stress to anyone. I am so thankful for those who turned me into this path and for all the struggles our family went through to turn ourselves around and get to this place.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Positive Parenting Peer Pressure

I totally experienced this a couple days ago. We were out at a museum night with some friends. The boys were playing around the lobby while we all got coats on to leave when, WHAM! Josh (9y) knocked Bug (2y) over and Bug hit his head on the stone floor. Hard.

Of course my first inclination was to pick Bug up and make sure he was alright, but sadly my very close second inclination was to berate Josh for knocking his brother down. A few distasteful comments passed my lips, but for the most part I kept my teeth clamped shut. I only had such restraint because our friends were there witnessing my reaction. I kept thinking, "They know me. They know all the preaching I do about parenting. I cannot lose it in front of them. Losing it right now is NOT the type of parenting I'm going for."

Why am I sharing this? To show we're all works in progress. Maybe to encourage everyone to find some peaceful parenting buddies to help you keep calm in tough moments. Mostly to thank my friend for something she probably doesn't even realize she did for me and Josh. Thanks, you twirling hippie. You know who you are. 

Papa's POV

A day late, my apologies. Here is Papa's write up about getting dads on board with peacefully parenting.

When Mama told me we were going to start peacefully parenting I said, “Sure! Whatever that means…” It means no more spanking, no more yelling, no more punishing? Oh boy…… Mama was very patient with me, always advising and never pushing me to conform to this new idea. My advice would be to not criticize and be supportive, talking certain scenarios through, leading by example, and to present the research and information without forcing it.
Men hate nagging. I’m not saying to stop talking and just give up, I’m just saying take it slow and set some time aside to have a talk about certain issues you would like to discuss. Take one issue at a time and ask for his input. Support his good actions or advice, like “I saw how you were teaching Johnny how to hammer a nail into that 2x4. That looked like a great bonding experience”. Bring up some facts, like “studies show that verbal abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse” and ask him what he thinks about that.

Try to seek out learning experiences with your kids and husband and talk through the situations as they happen. If Johnny loves to run in the street, take the time to talk to him and explain why running in the street is not a good idea. When he learns, point out that he learned that from the little talk you had with him the week before. Or if your husband talks to Johnny in a similar fashion try to bring up statistics on the effect that may have on him, be it good or bad. “Johnny really seemed to listen to you just then. Statistics show that ….” When you get these chances to show the NAP really does work, take full advantage of it and let him know how much better Johnny’s self-confidence is or how his mood has improved since implementing a non-authoritarian parenting style.
Never force the issue. I know Mama has handed me a book and said, “Here read this”. Automatically I just have to grumble for a minute. But I will read it eventually. Lay out whatever information you have available and just let him know that it is available for reading if he’s interested. Maybe suggest reading it to him, or paraphrasing some interesting sections of the book.

We’re guys, and we’re going to screw it up. But just be patient and have the information handy at all times. You’ll have to be on point and constantly be attentive to everything that goes on in your household. Be supportive and encouraging, and most of all stand your ground and don’t give up.

On a side note, you will probably here the response “I was spanked and I turned out okay”. Are we really okay?? I work around children every day, and the second I hear a cry from a punishment being issued, physical pain, emotional pain, or whatever the case, the words will follow each and every time. “You’re ok!” So of course we are trained in that mindset, “We’re ok”.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Intro to Latin

A lot of our learning takes place in the car. The perfect time for questions and conversations.

Today I was explaining that I was frustrated when Josh asked, "Why is it called frustrated?" So I hand him my phone and told him to Google 'etymology of frustrated'.

Intro to Latin, here we come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Teeth-brushing...Again

I get asked often enough about how we get the kids to do things like brushing their teeth or picking up without rewards or bribes. I've written about it before from other viewpoints. Today I want to distill the idea down to pleasure.

Whatever it is you'd like the kids to do, you have to do all you can to make it a pleasurable experience. No one wants to do things they associate with being unpleasant. The act itself has to be the pleasure, not a reward afterward, because a reward shifts the focus to the wrong place. Unless, of course the reward is the direct result of the act, like picking up so you can roll around on the floor or something.

Some things which work well for us- Adding songs or dance. Making a game or race of it. Doing chores in pairs so we can play, talk, and laugh while the chores get done in half the time. Using Magic Mud to brush our teeth.

If you've punished, rewarded, or otherwise forced issues in the past, it will take some patience and baby steps to get past those feelings of unpleasantness associated with things. I've been there. It's not fun. There were many nights teeth just didn't get brushed, but we stuck with this idea and it paid off. No more battles.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Parenting for the Long Haul

I spend a lot of time thinking about parenting. Maybe too much time. I think of it like a job I really enjoy. I watch other parents with their children. I over analyze every interaction I have with my own kids, and I talk about it endlessly with the friends who lovingly tolerate me.

Recently I've been thinking about and talking with friends and family about seasons of life, phases of childhood, and the inefficacy of punishments and rewards. Just yesterday I had a conversation with my dear sister-in-law about my nephew repeatedly throwing food on the floor. She was frustrated, understandably. We all have those times. I know I have those moments. But then I started wondering, in those moments am I frustrated with my kids, or frustrated with myself?

Here's where my thought process led me-

When I decided to be a parent (I use the word 'decided' because, although my pregnancy with Josh was unplanned, I made the choice to raise this child. Adoption is always an option.) I made a lifetime commitment. I understood, in the limited capacity I could not having been a parent before, that I would be a mother for the rest of my life. I didn't want to just cuddle him as an infant and then send him away to boarding school. I don't want to get him to 18 years and then kick him out into the world. I want to have a relationship with him his entire life. I want to watch him achieve his dreams. I want to witness him fall in love. I want to be there for him when his heart breaks. I want to dance with him at his wedding. I want to be close with his children.

This want of a lifetime relationship of love and respect is the driving force behind all my good parenting decisions. Keeping my eyes on the big picture makes it easier to get through the tough phases- the times when the kids wake up throughout the night, the times when it takes us 30 minutes to get in the car, the times when I'm picking the same toys up 40 times a day, the times everyone wants something different for dinner. I'm able to parent from a place of love and respect in those times because I've read the research which shows that punishments, rewards, and coercion in attempts to control our children do not work and deteriorate relationships.

But sometimes, oh sometimes I get so frustrated. Just today, I took the boys to a park meet-up. Getting from the playground back to the car took Bug FOR-E-VER. He wanted to ride his tricycle, stop to look at everything, get off and back on, pedal backwards a little, stop and stare into the distance, and when he was moving forward it was painstakingly slowly. I tried every trick I had to get him to go faster, but no luck. I lost patience, announced I was going to carry him and the tricycle to the car, picked him up and started jogging along. He was livid, and rightfully so. I was in the wrong. I did not have his permission to carry him or his tricycle.

Why was I in such a hurry? Absolutely no reason. We had no where to go. I wasn't hungry. I didn't need to pee. I was just done being at the park, while he wasn't. I know Bug; I've watched him be himself every day of his life and he never gets in a hurry for anything. It did not come as a surprise to me that he would want to take an hour getting down the sidewalk today. I was not frustrated with Bug, though I was directing my frustration at him; I was frustrated with myself.

I cannot control my children. I can only control myself. If I want to avoid frustration, I need to take what I know about my children and what I know about myself and prepare our environment so it is the most conducive to  everyone's happiness as it can be. I cannot expect my children to do this for me. I am the parent, and so it is my responsibility.

It is my responsibility to bring something to keep myself entertained while they are at the park. I could easily have been reading a book or knitting. It is my responsibility to pack water when I know the kids are always thirsty. It is my responsibility to keep the house safe and eyes on impulsive youngsters. Most importantly, it is my responsibility to nurture the kids' growing skills as they become more independent with love, respect, and patience.

Even realizing this, I know no matter how responsible I am, our family will not avoid all conflict and frustration. Realizing this might even mean I get a little more peeved when I'm being irresponsible because I know whatever is causing my frustration may have been avoided had I taken the necessary steps. But at least I am able to acknowledge the issue is with me and my expectations, not the kids. Then I can choose to either let it go, or take action.

We all know children are messy. They need to be held. They need a lot of attention. They don't come equipped with great communication skills. They aren't born knowing how to deal with all their big feelings. They don't always sleep well. When we decide to be parents, we need to understand the lifetime commitment we're making. We need to prepare ourselves and our environment as best we can. The fewer moments we spend frustrated about things we could have avoided, the more moments we can spend enjoying the amazing people each of children are.

When we keep our eyes on the big picture, the lifelong relationship, the tough phases are relatively short.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Grammar with Boys

Unschool grammar with boys-

Me: A verb is an action word, like thinking, running, being...

Josh (9y): And pooping or peeing? 

Me: Yeah, those are verbs. An adverb describes the verb. So thinking deeply, or running quickly.

Josh: Or tooting loudly? Pooping messily?

Me: Yeah, I think you've got it.

Josh: What about pooping very messily? Is very an adverb too?

Me: In that case, yes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review of My Magic Mud Natural Teeth Whitener

Last month I received a product called "Magic Mud" as a thank you gift for a donation. You can check out their website here.

I received this small container, which claims to be a three month supply and retails for $25, but honestly we haven't yet made a noticeable dent. There are seriously a bajillion uses in here.

The Magic Mud is made of all natural ingredients- activated coconut shell charcoal, bentonite clay, and mint extract- and has a very fine powdered texture. It reminds me of black powdered sugar.

The instructions tell you to wet your toothbrush, dip it in the Magic Mud, and brush for at least 2 minutes. Here we go!

My first surprise is that Magic Mud literally has no taste. They claim on the website that is has no taste, but there's always a taste, right? Not this time. I can feel the powder in my mouth, but taste absolutely nothing. The website also claims kids love this stuff. And they're right! Magic Mud blacks out your teeth; the boys and I have a blast making monster faces at each other every time we use it.

After brushing with Magic Mud for 2 minutes, we rinse our mouths, floss, and then brush with our regular toothpaste for 1 minute. Josh's teeth were noticeably whiter after the first use.

 The light fixtures in the bathroom are golden, so the pictures don't show as well as I'd like. And it's impossible to go back to re-take a "before" picture under better light.

My whole mouth feels clean. Really clean. Much cleaner than using toothpaste alone. To say I live off of coffee and tea wouldn't be much of an exaggeration. Magic Mud has made my teeth whiter in spite of my caffeine addiction. I've never used other teeth whitening products because I wasn't comfortable ingesting the questionable ingredients. I love that Magic Mud is all natural, easy to use, safe, and a fun way for the whole family to strengthen and whiten our teeth. 

Sometimes I'm Still Such a Jerk

Sometimes I'm still such a jerk.

We traveled with Papa last week and met some great new friends. We went trick-or-treating with them, the kids are having a great time together, and one of the dads stopped to talk to me.

Dad- Josh is great!
Me- Is he?

What the hell?! Why did I say that? I made a quick recovery.

Me- I mean, he is! Thanks!
Dad- It's nice for our boys to have an older friend, to have a "big brother" type friend.

And here's where things got really bad.

Me- Oh, yeah, I think maybe he likes to play with younger kids because they're easier to boss around.

Seriously, who is talking out of my mouth? Why can't I just accept the compliment? Why do I have to go and insult my own kid, while simultaneously insulting this guy's kids?! I could blame it on poor sleep, or being distracted in a new place, but really the fact is that sometimes that jerk parent in me still comes out.

Sadly, I spent so much time being a jerk parent that the above is still my default reaction when talking with new people. To say, "No, no, my kid isn't great. He can't be enjoying your children simply because they're also great. He obviously has ulterior motives."

I'm really embarrassed about the whole ordeal. I'll apologize and move forward. Being a better parent, not being the parent I used to be, is a moment to moment battle. It gets easier, but I'm afraid it is one that will never truly end.