Sunday, October 16, 2011

New job

So I spend time planning, shopping, chopping, slicing, dicing, all in the name of serving a healthy home cooked meal. And the boys generally eat some of it and I feel good. But I cannot think of the last meal they asked for seconds of. Typically, they sample some of everything, eat their favorite item, and then scoot off to play.

Tonight was different. Elliott asked for more after eating a giant bowl. Then Oliver, the child who I have never heard spontaneously demand more dinner, cried out “More!” We had a busy afternoon after naps with a job conference call, playing at the park and carousel, and a quick trip to the library. So, when we walked in the door, little time was left for dinner.

I bet you want to know what they wanted more of.

Ramen noodles. Ramen frinkin’ noodles. With a side of green beans, which neither boy touched. Elliott showered praised on the noodle, saying how great they were, such a good food for winter, how we needed to buy more.

Normally this would be a blow to me. I like cooking good, healthy meals and see some enjoyment come from them. Today though I learned my new job in a primary Montessori classroom would start a week earlier than I originally thought and I am suffering through lots of (pre-)working parent stress about the decision. I am thrilled both my boys will be able to attend Montessori schools as I had hoped, and stay enrolled all year long, now that I have a paycheck to afford it. But it will be long days for everyone. Will the boys be happy going to school full days? How will Oliver transition to all day away from home and mom with so many new, young children around? How will I handle the sick days and schedule conflicts with boys at two different schools? Can the dog wait all day for us to care for her? How will this effect Oliver’s sleep and his moods, (hopefully) napping at school and then going to bed much later than normal? How will I cope with the new position I am walking into, the class and the staff all in their rhythm? Will we have enough down time for everyone when we are home? Will I have enough energy leftover for the boys at the end of the day?

So with all that on my mind for the past four weeks, well, really as long as I have been applying for jobs, I can find a little comfort that the boys happily and heartily eat ramen noodles. I think we will be buying and eating more of that in the near future, for some of the nights we roll in the door and dinner needs to be on the table in five minutes.

With that said, to all the few readers who do pop over here, I will likely cease blogging. I will keep the site open, just in case. But with such a high value now placed on free time, the list of things I would rather be doing with the boys will win out nearly every time. So I am not saying good bye, but I know it might be a long break.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A little love and logic

We were going to go hiking. We were driving out of the apartment complex. And Elliott was asked to cease a loud, irritating behavior because it was distracting for driving. He threw the item of concern and started going bananas. The car stopped. We waited for some behavior to change, but instead it increased to nasty giggling and then crying to go and kicking. So Mike pulled around to our apartment. And then Elliott was begging not to go back home. And then he was screaming and crying. I removed him from the car. Then he started hitting. I stopped and said “this is so sad.” And that stopped him for a moment. He resumed until we reached the apartment. I sent him to his room to take a break and calm down. Once he was done being angry, he wanted a hug. Then I explained that I felt really sad we had to miss out on the hike and that he was so angry that he hit me. I asked him if he had any ideas how to fix the situation. He kissed me and then thought for a moment. He asked if he could do one of the chores we had discussed the other day (his new weekly chore list, with choices of jobs to be completed each weekend). I said that was a great idea, and would make me feel better. After he looked over the list, he selected cleaning the bathroom. Since it was the first time, I explained each step and then allowed him time to complete each section.

When he was done, instead of flaring up again, or asking to be left alone, he asked if he could help with dinner. (To be fair, I asked if I could make the drumsticks he selected today at the grocery while he was cleaning the bathroom.) We worked side by side on drumsticks, he picked the vegetable, and together made these apricot bars for dessert and tomorrow's breakfast.

cutting butter for a double batch of apricot bars
(ignore the mountain of butter and make them!)

The way this all unfolded was a big deal for me because I lose my temper, easily, very easily, when the boys get out of control. And, while it might seem obvious, it does not help them get under control when I am getting angry or upset. Hmmm. I wonder why! I have been reading Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years. I hate the cover graphic, the format was not the easiest to follow, and I don’t care for all the examples the authors lay out, especially when they make leaps from not disciplining your toddler to wild teen behaviors with no real support for such arguments. But by taking the meat of the book and applying it to our family in my mind, I was able to see the main points and put them into practice. The main idea is to give your child the opportunity to make mistakes now and learn from the consequences while they are young. And when they do make mistakes, if the adult stays calm and shows empathy, it sets the stage for better learning from a situation (sounds easier here than in application!). Because the boys are different ages, I made notes about how to approach each child’s situations. Elliott gets to spend more time problem solving when a mistake is made while Oliver is still learning that a behavior is not appropriate and that it will not be allowed. While the Love and Logic approach may not be for everyone, and I realize I might fail to follow everything the way I plan, the past few days have been far better than I realized they could be. I had my doubts and I am happy to find I was wrong.

The key to staying calm? Having a phrase to utter, with lots of empathy, when something happens. I chose “This is so sad” and from there I feel under control. No fake empathy either because it really is so sad. I can then state the problem and roll into a logical consequence. That is only part of the plan and part of the book’s approach, but getting started is the one of the hardest parts for me - staying cool and not allowing his problem to overtake me. Here are examples that I can see happening, all giving me a good start to staying calm with my initial empathetic phrase.

“This is so sad. You are throwing food off the table so you have to leave the table.”
“This is so sad. When you behave like this, we cannot take you to the park.”
“This is so sad. You broke Grandma’s vase throwing the ball. How can you fix this? (Pause for thinking) Would you like some suggestions?”

And so on…

 And, like the authors promised, at the end of the day, while we may have had to give up part of our day to challenging behaviors, in the end, I feel happier and less worn out and the boys are sweet and happy. Oh, and in the case of today, I have a slightly cleaner house.

A little grocery store adventure

Taking Elliott to the grocery store means a few new foods will come home. He is ever interested in trying something new or something we have not had in a long time. Today was no exception. Rutabagas, shrimp, a new shape of pasta, pepitas, a new frozen veggie mix, and strawberry cream pudding made their way to our cart. I am likely to say yes to most things, provided we needed something similar to it anyway. But I am known to cave on non-essentials too, even if I am not sure anyone will like it (uh, like the strawberry cream pudding). I will put a limit on how many new things from any given aisle though. For instance, today in produce he got to pick one fruit and one veggie.

Elliott was drawn to the rutabagas today since we last bought them months ago. I wanted to make soup, so I was glad to revisit them. Elliott introduced us to these over a year ago as his grocery store selection back then and was happy to watch how to prepare them and, when ready, eat them with his soup. So when he wanted to get jicama, I was willing to find out what it was and how to prepare it. Though I admit, because of placement, I assumed it was a fruit.

After this YouTube video, we figured out how to pronounce it, how to peel it, and what to do with it. And I am glad to see after a little Internet research, it can be served in fruit salads or treated as a veggie for soup or used in a "potato" salad, as in this recipe.

Anything exciting coming home with you from the store?