Wednesday, February 27, 2013

book pick: Peanut Butter Rhino

i may be an quilt-appreciating gal of two little princess-loving daughters. but around this house, we appreciate a good butt joke. and poop. boogers. snigger, snigger.

enter this week's book pick, Peanut Butter Rhino, a simple and colorful brite from Scholastic ca. 1994 and written and illustrated by Vincent Andriani. Rhino is going on a picnic with his friend Elephant. but along the way he misplaces his peanut butter sandwich. his jungle friends try to help him find it. in the end, the squished sandwich is found. but let's just say it's not edible anymore. snigger, snigger.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

meme mommy: peanut butter jelly time

you know where it at, yo.

my husband and i have been having fun flashbacks introducing our girls to the one-hit wonders of our youth (and sort-of youth). because this is easy, downright ridiculous (and because it's what lazy bloggers such as myself do), i'm turning it into a new feature called "meme mommy."

this started because of the success of the song that inspired that dancing banana. we've been hearing lots of "peanutbutterjelly, peanutbutterjelly, peanutbutterjellywithabaseballbat" from our girls since i started layin' it down over an actual peanut-butter-jelly sandwich (although along with the dancing banana, i'm thinking our Mr. Rogers snack might be a good pairing as well).

the Peanut Butter Jelly Time animation came out in the early 2000s but didn't catch on right away because, believe it or not kids, smartphones (as we know them) didn't exist yet -- so things moved at a slower pace back then. but, oh boy, once it did catch on...

it went with a song by The Buckwheat Boys who had one other hit off their lone album, about cake and ice cream, which sounds remarkably like their other hit.

what memes of our era have you relived with your kids?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

book pick: The Flea's Sneeze

eg'scuse be. i think i goddo sdeeze. it's that time of year, so this book pick seems appropriate. first it's Sweet One. then me. then Small One. then Sweet One again. her poor nose. but there's an endearing quality to it, you know. that gargantuan pile of tissue, only one tiny corner of each sheet used before a new one is pulled from the box. her little sniffling nose. i just smother her with kisses for it all. and then, of course, i get it again...

enter The Flea's Sneeze, where barnyard animals are bedded down in the barn for the night, all sleeping peacefully -- all, that is, except for the flea. "No one heard his garbled plea, / 'Does eddybody hab a tissue for be?'" it goes without saying that soon all his friends are awake with him, including "the mouse / He used for a house; And the rat, and the cat, / And the black-eyed bat..."

soon enough they all get back to sleep. "Everyone slept just like a log-- / Except the hog..."

now. does eddybody hab a tissue?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

book pick: I Loathe You

what if monsters celebrated Valentine's Day? this book isn't about the Hallmark holiday, but it is about the love of a Parental Monster for a Child Monster (gender-neutral, these monsters are). it's like a grotesque, glop-loving spin on the more pastel-hued Guess How Much I Love You. which is to say, it's right up our alley when we're more in the mood for silly than saccharine...

I Loathe You is by artist David Slonim. looking at his semi-abstract paintings that are the stuff of galleries, you wouldn't think this would be the kind of man to produce storyful art about monsters, a slug and a rubber duck. but he is a children's author, to be sure, and the kind that understands what parents enjoy as well as the young'uns.

so, how much does Big Monster loathe Little Monster? more than leeches, what the dog threw up and certainly more than stinky, sweaty socks. and even if Little messes up with a "please" or a bath, Big will always loathe the little brute, from horns to claws.

hm, maybe a tiny bit saccharine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Responsibilities of Chores

by Jes

Really, I don’t blame the whining, complaining and the notion that chores are boring, because, well … I feel the same way. If given the option to read a good book, garden or have writing time, I would choose one of those over emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry or sweeping the floor any day, bar none.

As grown-ups we have learned the virtue of you do something because it is the right thing to do, not because you want to. After all, the dishes don’t do themselves and neither does the laundry. Recently I watched Disney’s “Sword in the Stone” and Merlin frees Wart (or Arthur) from his chores by using magic to make the cleaning tools come to life, and Wart complains that Merlin is taking away his responsibilities. He complained! That got my attention faster than the magical mop cleaning up the room (which is pretty cool, I need to get me one of those). Props to old-school Disney for a positive message!

Taking a lesson from young King Arthur, I decided it was time to stop looking at housework and honey-do lists as chores and view them as responsibilities. I have zero intention of doing a political correctness spin on an old-fashioned notion, but I wonder if changing the word made all the difference? So I tried it and there is actually a change in perception – not only did I feel more empowered but so did my children.

I have a rule in my house (that existed before the “responsibility” experiment) that we clean things up regardless of who makes the mess. I do the dishes even though I did not dirty them all, I do the laundry even though I did not wear all the clothes, I sweep the floor even though I did not put all the crumbs on the floor. So if I ask a child to clean up the living room, I mean everything, not just what they played with. We make messes together as a family, therefore, we clean up together as a family.

With this notion in mind, I decided to use the word “responsibilities” as well as issue some specific ones per child per week on a rotating schedule for extra oomph. I made a simple responsibilities list and clothes pins with their names on it to mark who does what. They pick out their extra responsibilities each Sunday and then the game is on! They love it! My oldest actually asked for one more responsibility to distinguish him from the younger two as he is the oldest. I could cry, I was speechless and my mother’s heart was overflowing with all sorts of parental pride.

Now, the whining and complaining was not gone. It was minimized, but not completely gone. But there are tricks a mom can use to turn whining into laughter. On hard-to-motivate days, make it a game. Here are a few games we enjoy as a family:

1Beat the clock. I set a timer for 20 minutes and we race against the clock to see how much we can get done – the reward is a scoop of ice cream. If we get it all done in the 20 minutes, then we get some whipped cream on top. So, the fun bonding reward is there no matter what and then there is a bonus reward for beating the clock. If it isn't done on time, just say, “next time we’ll beat that pesky clock and get whipped cream!” Make it silly!

2 Freeze-dance cleaning sessions. Turn on some fun music and every so often pause it, turning everyone into statues. When the music begins again, everyone starts cleaning! To be extra silly, make comments about the statues: “Look at Myles, his arm extended beautifully as he works hard to destroy the dust collection on the TV!” This not only acknowledges what they are doing, but humor breaks up the chore-day grumpies.

3Change of pace. Take turns deciding how things will be cleaned up; for example, we’ll move fast, slow, tip-toe, like a ballerina, or like a puppy dog (warning with this one, puppy dogs can magically use their paws to prevent the use of a mouth to pick up everything. Learned that one the hard way!).

How does your family approach chores … ahem … responsibilities? Do you play any games to make it more fun?

attribution: the photo for this post comes from ThreeIfByBike.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

lines to use when you're crossing the line

i am so far from being the perfect parent. my default responses are to complain and blow up. when my kids most need a calm, controlled, routine-oriented adult is when, of course, it's hardest for me to deliver. many times, i fail miserably. despite my best non-swear word efforts, my 2-year-old is likely learning some of the real ones.

but then there are the times when i am able to pull it together in the moment – to not blow up at The No Factory in front of me, to not throw the fork across the room when i've just asked my children to refrain from the same thing, to not use a four-letter word when a goofy face would work so much better for everyone.

there are some key lines that others have passed on to me that raise the likelihood i'll find success in those moments:

"it's a season in life" my sister-in-law gave me this one. it's a powerful perspective-giver. i've found that even when the young one is kicking and crying, this line gives me the compassion i need to see her as my hurting toddler and not a mini-me out to get mom.

"i'm feeling very grateful today" this one comes from a blogging momma i admire over at Creative With Kids, who uses this now in response to the question of "how are you doing?" it gets rid of the first reaction (mine: "i'm going insane, thank you") by reminding yourself of the truth.

"get down on kid level" this is a good physical response to use that comes from a tip from A Mom With A Lesson Plan. sometimes i think back to a mad moment, and realize what i must have looked like to my child – a towering madwoman glaring down at her little girl. my daughter is not my enemy! but i sure am making her feel like it. i find that when i get down on the floor with my kids – even below their eye level, so they're the ones looking down at me – i gain better perspective on the situation. most times, things end in a hug when i do this. (and that makes me and them feel better!)

"good enough!" i gave myself this one. i'm a recovering workaholic perfectionist. and i'm slowly starting to really believe that "good enough" is "good enough" and not just another word for failure. perfection is not only impossible, it's downright damaging. if i say these words out loud, i'm telling myself to lower my standards – leave the dirty dishes in the sink (they've already been there 24 hours anyway) and sit down and read a book with the girls.

"i'm sorry" finally, this one comes from my Dad, who was always a great model of what to do when you do screw up. i get down to my kid's level or sit down with them, go over what happened ("i got really angry, didn't i?"), apologize and then share a hug. the fruits of this have already been shown when both my girls on different occasions have volunteered their own "i'm sorry" apologies without prompting.

maybe i'm not such a screw-up after all, right?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Myth Behind Parent-Child Negotiations

by Jes

It starts out innocent. You put your child to bed and they suddenly have to go to the bathroom … again. Or they have a thirst like any other thirst they have ever experienced before and MUST have water or else they’ll fall to the floor in a puddle. Your child receives a plate of food with reasonable and healthy portions. They ask how many bites they must eat to receive a treat, or to be excused from the table. You ask them to help with a responsibility (like fold towels) and instantaneously they are hungry.

As they grow older the negotiations become more mature and at times pre-meditated. Your child is suddenly sweet, extra snuggly, being strangely compliant about everything. This is their first mistake because as a parent you weren’t born yesterday. Although you believe your child is an angel capable of loving, kind and respectful behavior, you also know their limitations. So what gives? They want something and they are buttering you up before asking and setting in place evidence for negotiation. “Mom, I did all you asked" …or … "Mom, I was really good today" ... "Why can’t I -- spend the night at Susie’s house? ... have more video game time? ... stay up 30 minutes later?”

At what point does a parent enter into negotiations, and when it is wrong for a child to negotiate?

As a parent I have learned it is critical to have clear expectations in place. For example, bed time is promptly at 9 p.m., so they need to take care of all their needs and potential needs before then. If they feel they may be thirsty after being tucked in, they need to prepare a glass of water just in case. If they wish to stay up, they need to discuss this with me ahead of time, not while preparing for bed. That is the wrong time to enter into negotiations as it sets a precedent that your clear expectations are really grey matter. When a child begins this negotiation with me I say, “Great question, ask me tomorrow and we’ll plan a day where you can stay up 30 minutes later, but not tonight. Bedtime is at 9 p.m.”

I usually receive whining, and last-ditch efforts to try and persuade me but I try as much as possible to stay the course (yes, sometimes they win me over, and they celebrate when they do … I do have my soft moments). Why stay the course? It is the wrong time to enter into negotiations, not that negotiations are wrong. There is a myth that children who negotiate are always manipulative and disrespectful of the rules. It is fabulous when children are able to plan and prepare an argument to make something happen, but it is unfortunate when they are allowed to manipulate as that undermines the value of respect.

Continuing with the example, to give in right before bedtime consistently (not occasionally) teaches them they can manipulate, that there are no boundaries and reasonable expectations. To request a meeting and a discussion at an appropriate time teaches them life skills they can take into other relationships and into their future workplace. It teaches respect.

I am not suggesting you turn into a tyrant and refuse water or bathroom visitations after lights have been turned off, but that you remind your children to care for their needs before the final bedtime routine. If necessary post a list in their bedroom or bathroom (words and/or with pictures) of all that is expected of them to do prior to lights out, ensuring a higher rate of success … and if nothing else, it puts the power of negotiations without argument back into your court. “Oh? Well, let’s take a look at the bedtime list. I’m sorry you forgot your water. Go back to bed and I’ll bring you a glass as you should be in bed now.” Or, “If you need to use the restroom there is no need to visit me and announce it, we can spend time together tomorrow, just go and then return straight to bed.”

What are some examples of clear expectations in your home? Do your children try to negotiate? How
are negotiations handled in your home? I would love to hear all about it! Other parents, too, it helps us
all learn from each other.

photo credit: "glass of water" by followtheseinstructions, via Flickr