Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Back-at-Home Battle

I sure do love being out and about. But recently getting back in the door and ready for the next thing has been a battle, especially when we come home from school.

Here is a recent example of a time when I lost my cool with Connor:

We come in the door after the drive home from school and I’m anxiously watching the clock. Naptime is 12:45 - on the dot!-  and before that we still have to take off our shoes, change clothes (I’ve recently become a germaphobe with all the sickness floating around), wash our hands, eat lunch, put on the pull-up, read a story and brush our teeth. The clock is a-tickin.’ We have discussed this thoroughly on the car ride home- me cheerfully explaining each step and Connor reciting them back to me. I’m giving myself some positive self-talk and vowing that I absolutely will NOT nag or get frustrated this time. I feel good! Today will be different! He IS going to go with the routine and he WILL be in bed on time.

So what happens when we get in the door? The exact opposite, of course.

Connor runs around in circles screaming, climbs on the couch WITH his dirty shoes on, refuses to wash his hands, won’t take off his jacket and laughs his mischievous laugh.

Do I respond with grace and patience? Absolutely not! My heart starts beating faster, I’m eyeing the clock with the anger rising and the frustration gets to me.

I start out calm, “Connor, it’s time to take off your shoes.”

He continues running and laughing.

So I try again, “Connor, your shoes are dirty from school. There are germs all over them. Your brother will get sick. Come sit down and take off your shoes.”

He continues running away, his muddy shoes now tracking dirt ALL over the house.

So I try yet again, but with a sharpness to my seemingly calm words, “Connor! Get over here and take off your shoes. Right NOW.”

He comes and sits in the chair and I think, Whew, thank goodness. I was getting to my limit and I’m so glad he came! But what happens next? As soon as he starts to undo the velcro on one of his shoes, he shoots up out of the chair and resumes the running and laughing.

Annnnnd that’s when I lose it.

I stomp over to him, grab him too forcefully, plop him in the chair, take off his shoes with, again, much too much force, all the while I’m angrily saying, “I don’t understand why you can’t just SIT in this chair and TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES! I have HAD IT!  You KNOW exactly what to do and you CHOOSE NOT TO DO IT!”

I feel the anger bubbling under the surface and I remind myself that this is exactly what I didn’t want to do. I’ve let him down and let myself down yet again and I feel completely helpless and inadequate.

I remembered how recently I heard someone explain that how when kids are at school they have to be structured, follow directions, and behave a certain way for an extended period of time. Connor is stimulated by his classmates, his teachers, his environment, and when he gets home it’s his time to be free and safe. At least he SHOULD be able to feel safe to express himself with no fear of shame or punishment.

When I stepped back and saw things from this perspective, it changed my thinking. I realized that just like I need some time to decompress when I get finished with a stimulating experience, he might need the same thing.

So one day I tried a different approach. Instead of spending our time in the car rehearsing the routine for when we got home, I let him talk if he wanted or just eat his snack and we both listened to the radio. As we got closer to home I said, “Okay, Connor, when we get home we have to do two things. We have to take off your shoes and change clothes. Your shoes and clothes have germs on them and we need to be clean. But after that, I’m going to give you ten minutes to do WHATEVER you want to do (imagine my super excited tone here, lol!) before it’s time to each lunch. Start thinking about what you want to do!”

He got excited and started thinking through the things he wanted to do when we got home. He finally decided that he wanted to watch Curious George. He is currently pretty obsessed with this curious little monkey! So, when we got home, he was more motivated to take his shoes off and change clothes so we could get to the show. And y’all, I’m not kidding, the kid literally jumped the ENTIRE ten minutes he watched. I remember just sitting and watching him thinking how all of that energy was just pent up in him all of those days I tried to force him to follow my routine. I felt so stupid.

Did the lunch routine go super smoothly after that? Not exactly. But it was better. It was a step in the right direction. He willingly got in his chair himself without me dragging him across the room!

See! Progress!

When I let go of my own controlling expectations and allowed him to have the time he needed to let his energy out and decompress it was better for both of us. I had time to relax and get his lunch ready and actually enjoyed seeing him so happy and playful. I gave myself time to recharge my patience battery that I would need for the rest of the lunch routine and Connor was in a better place to listen after getting his energy out.

Is this going to work everyday? Probably not. But thinking about things from Connor’s perspective and getting out of my own head has been a great improvement.

I found this great little article on the Melissa and Doug blog with tips (and of course their products) to help bigger kids decompress after a full school day. Who knew they had a blog?!

Now getting OUT of the door is a totally different deal! I’ve got nothin’! ;)

Do you have any strategies that help you with getting in or out of the door? I would love to hear them!!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Hardest Job I've Ever Had

Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Besides a job at a daycare in high school, I have had only one job in my life- being a teacher. And that job wasn’t just a job for me- it was my lifestyle. I lived and breathed it and loved it and as a result I reached a place where I was fairly good at it and I felt a real sense of confidence and pride. It wasn’t always easy and I definitely had my share of failures, struggles, difficulties, and hardships, but the challenge was exciting and I was constantly growing, learning, and improving. I loved my students, my coworkers, my own little classroom, the smell of the cafeteria and sweaty kids after recess. Ok, maybe not so much the smelly kids, but you get my drift!

When I became a full-time-mom I never imagined that I would have to apply the same amount of work and learning to my parenting. But the reality is- being a mom is simply the hardest job I have ever had.

What makes it so hard? Well, for me, it’s a constant self-improvement project. My kids tend to bring out the worst parts of me. The impatient, selfish parts that weren’t always so present when I was working. No one is home with me offering praise for a job well done and I don’t have a team of people down the hall to collaborate with, plan, and problem-solve. Now that I realize how important those things are I am making an effort to “build my tribe” as the current lingo goes, but doing that takes extra time, energy, and effort that I don’t always have.

Half the time I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. There are so many situations in which I just have to stop and pray because I don’t want to yell or lose my cool. I’ve done the yelling and time-out- and lecturing (with lots of tears- both mine and Connor's!) too many times to count. I can tell you from experience- it doesn’t work!

God knew what he was doing when he paved the way for me to stay at home. I have learned through the situations I’ve faced that God polishes me like sandpaper on wood. The end result is beautiful, but the process is sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes painful. Sometimes downright heart-wrenching.

I have also learned that we all have our unique boundaries, limits, and struggles. What is hard for me isn’t necessarily a problem for other moms and vice versa. Accepting that my struggles are just that- mine- and that no one can help me truly fix them but myself and God has been humbling. My own experiences, opinions, and frame of reference influences the way I parent and that isn’t always a good thing! For me to be a better mom I have to be the best version of myself and that requires change from the inside-out. Way easier said than done.

Thankfully, along with the challenging situations, he has also blessed me with people who are helping me in my journey. I have learned so much about myself and my children and just like when I was teaching I am constantly learning, growing, changing, problem-solving and improving.

After some soul-searching I realized that one of the things that helps fill me up is writing about and sharing my experiences. I have been so thankful to receive the help I have and I want to share anything that could potentially help just one other mom. Whether that’s sharing a lesson I’ve learned, a challenging moment I survived without losing my cool, a funny thing one of the kids did, or whatever- I just want to share. Writing is about the only creative outlet I have at the moment and I want to make an effort to do it more. I’m going to revisit this lonely ol’ blog of mine and rekindle our relationship. Ha!

So here’s to all of us mommas out there who are just doing the best we can for ourselves and our kids. My hope is that by sharing my journey I just might be able to offer something positive to someone else! 

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Always Letting Go

The truth of this quote is almost crushing.

I’m learning that being a mom is the hardest job I have had so far.

So, Connor got a train this Christmas from Grandma and Grandpa, a cute little Lego Duplo
train set with a small circular track that moves around by itself after you push a little green button.
But to Connor, this train was a monster from some unknown universe. He was deathly afraid of it
and when I would push the button for the train to go around the track he would scream and run
and cling to me for dear life.

And since Christmas, this is how it has been. He sits in my lap cringing with fear as he waits for
me to push the button. I’m giving the same speech, “It’s ok, Connor, it’s just a little train.
I promise it’s not going to hurt you. Come on, baby, push this little green button.”
As I push the button to start the train, there he sits, clinging to my finger, getting as close as he
possibly can while keeping his eyes glued to that scary monster chugging around the track.

I am his protector. I am his security. I will keep that menace from harming him.

As hard as this is to admit, and I realize absolutely selfish, I was actually glad he was scared of
the train. Moments like that where he clings to me for protection are few and far between and I
savored every second of him sitting there in my lap, his blonde hair brushing against mine, his
stubby little fingers grasping my hand, the smell of syrup from breakfast still lingering.
In those moments, he was my baby boy.

Well, last night he finally overcame his fear of the train. It happened so quickly. One moment he just
decided to have a go at it. He walked up, pushed it with intention and ran away as the little train
started its journey. This time he didn’t run to my lap. He didn’t even look to me for assurance.
He was a big brave boy- just like I had been trying to convince him he was. And underneath the surge
of love and pride I felt for him at that moment, sadness bubbled up.

It’s moments like this that the paradox of motherhood rings so loud and clear. I must let go.
Always let go.

This is why the job is so hard. Pushing and coaching and sometimes coaxing for Connor to do
something, to acquire a new skill, and then once it happens, he’s suddenly different. In the blink of an
eye. He’s not my baby boy anymore. He’s my big boy. He’s on his way to becoming the strong,
independent man that I hope he will be.

And so it will be. A lifetime of tiny moments like this one that force me to let go.
As if the time didn’t already go fast enough, these little moments remind me to soak up every
detail of the time I have with him now.

And pray.

I’m not sure how my heart will be able to handle it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shut Your Mouth and Act

I’m finding that being a first-time mom is exactly like being a first-year teacher. Every day I am faced with new experiences, behaviors, and thus opportunities to ‘act’ or ‘react’ as I did my first year in the classroom. My gut reaction is to turn to books (and other moms, of course!) to offer some sound guidance and advice.

I was lucky enough in my first few years of teaching to find an incredible book called Teach Like a Champion which changed my teaching and made me much more effective. Sadly, I have yet to find a Mom Like a Champion book, but there is one book I have found that offers practical advice and has books divided by age.

Jane Nelsen wrote one of the first books I read in college on the topic of classroom management, Positive Discipline in the Classroom. Little did I know, she has a series of parenting books as well! Thank goodness!

This book is full of anecdotal stories with practical, concrete strategies to help with the many mysteries of toddler behavior. At the heart of the book, the message is to be “kind but firm” when teaching. And in reality- that’s what I’m doing- teaching Connor how to handle the many emotions that come with being a human being. For him, he doesn’t have the words or the maturity to understand the swirl of emotions he feels, which is frustrating for me but even more frustrating for him.
Although she offers many strategies throughout the book, the one that has become my mantra is “shut your mouth and act.” It was actually Rudolf Dreikrus that coined the term, but she references it in her examples all throughout the book.

This little gem of a phrase helps me every single day. I may find myself washing dishes and Connor wanders over the that enticing little blue light on our DVR box wanting so badly to push it. My instinct is to stand at the sink and say, “No, Connor! Don’t touch the button!” Now, with that mantra in my head, I leave the sink, soapy hands and all, and calmly walk across the room, gently grab his hand, and say, “That button is not for Connor” and lead him away to something else. (Distraction, she notes, is the single best way to handle “misbehavior” at this age- more on that in another post maybe.. lol)

Connor is very persistent and sometimes it may take me saying that phrase and physically moving him away three or fifteen times. But eventually, he realizes that boundary and he moves along to something else. Of course, twenty minutes later he may try to go right back to that button, and thus the routine repeats. When I do this consistently enough, he learns the boundary is there and isn’t going to change and he doesn’t even try for a few days, LOL!

Anytime I find myself needing to say, “no,” this phrase is in my head. If I’m across the room, I wait until I am right next to him to say or do anything. Of course it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it has been much more effective than simply saying, “no.”

Just like in my first year of teaching, I am finding that this whole mom thing is a constant learning process, one that comes with a roller coaster of emotions, tears, and a few tantrums even from me! LOL! But I am comforted by the many wonderful moms I have in my life and for people like Jane Nelsen who have worked to give parents and teachers insight into little people’s minds and offer simple nuggets of advice like this one. 😊

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Adjustable Waist?! Who Knew?!

Now that I've finally figured out a rhythm to this whole being a stay-at-home mom thing, I'm discovering that I actually know VERY little about... well... a LOT of things. One of the things, apparently, is how to properly dress my child.

Connor has always been small, but here lately finding pants that fit him has been almost impossible. He has been able to wear shorts for most of the year thanks to our wonderful Texas weather and the lack of four seasons. Mind you, I haven't really searched all that hard. A few online searches here, a quick trip through the baby section at Marshall's there, but now that the weather has turned colder I realized yesterday that my poor child has no pants that actually fit him! Nine month pants fit him in the waist but are too short and the 12 month pants are long enough but literally fall off of his little waist. I seriously sent my child to school today in dumpy pants praying they wouldn't fall off his little body.

In the car on the way to Nutcracker Market as I was complaining about my pants problem, a friend of mine changed my life forever when she said, "Why don't you just get the ones with an adjustable waist?"


Adjustable waist??

How did I not know about this?

Where does one find such things?

Apparently everywhere in the world and I have just failed to see them. Ever.

Major mom fail.

So tonight, I drove myself down to my favorite store, Once Upon a Child, and found not one- but TWO pairs of adjustable waist pants that I'm pretty sure are going to actually fit him!


Seeing that little piece of elastic and those cute little buttons inside those pants just made my day.

So now I can add this little tidbit of knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I didn't know about being a mom. But at least for tomorrow my child will have pants that fit.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Easy Label Upgrade!

So, this week Connor started going to his little preschool. He will go twice a week for a few hours and even though he was in daycare full time when I was working in the spring, leaving him was harder than I thought it would be! It was nice to get housework done without having to keep one eye on him, but I missed my buddy.

One of the things I did was put together a little first day gift for his teachers. Nothing big- just some small lotions from Bath and Body Works. I had gotten a bag of brown gift sacks from Hobby Lobby with the cute little chalkboard labels and when I went to write on them my chalk markers were nowhere to be seen! Major boo!

I thought about using just plain address or shipping labels on the bags, but I had the idea to fancy them up a bit with some of my decorative scissors. These things have sat on my desk for years and I hardly ever use them, but they were just the thing to add a nice touch to the labels.

All I did was cut all the way around the label with the scissors and it created a whole new look! Since I have several different pairs of scissors with different designs, I can create lots of different types of labels!

So the next time to you need to stick a label on something and want a little fancier look, jazz that label up using some paper edgers! So quick and easy!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A New Chapter, New Blog Look!

I can't believe I am writing these words, but I am starting to feel like an actual stay at home mom now! My husband and I made the decision that I would stay home about a month or so before school let out in the spring and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it come August. Well, now it's August, teachers are heading back to work, students start next week, and I can honestly say I don't feel a twinge of regret. CRAZY!

So, this badly neglected blog of mine is getting a makeover! Not that I have even used this thing in a while, but seeing as I will no longer be teaching full time, and I will take any excuse to buy new clip art, I decided to give it a new look.

I'm really not sure what I will have to write about, but I'm sure I will be able to conjure up something. Mom life is a pretty awesome life, and seeing as I just have my little man and lots of time on our hands thanks to his hard-working daddy, maybe I'll actually be able to come up with a post or two a week. Or not. Who knows!

As with writing about my experiences in the classroom, I really don't care who or if anyone reads what I write. It's really more for me to document my experience and if there is a chance someone might read something that helps them out in some way, that would be just awesome. Teacher life is hard, and mom life is hard. Although I am extremely blessed not to have to juggle both anymore, I feel the pressure to make sure I am the best wife and mom that I can possibly be- especially since I can't blame my laziness on being at work all day anymore! Ha! I love sharing with others, and love that I have the outlet to do so.

So, if you feel inclined, join me as I document (or possibly not!) my adventures in mom life. I of course will still have some posts related to teaching since that part of me can't be put away completely, but those will most likely be few and far between. Or maybe not! Who knows! I am honestly done trying to make plans-especially when it comes to this blog! John Lennon says it best:

I am embracing this new life of mine and loving every minute.

To all of my teacher friends- I hope you have an amazing start to the year!!! You are in my thoughts and prayers. Remember to pack some extra deodorant in your purse for after recess!! LOL!