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Domestic… Bliss?

October 15th, 2007

I am a self-admitted neat-freak when it comes to the “public” areas of my house.   (Read: I am slightly less freakish about the closets and the garage.   They are horror-shows.)

I vacuum the downstairs at least three times a week… partly because of the way the sun comes in the windows on the pergo, and partly because I slightly flip out when I see a crumb on the floor.   I mop and dust nearly as often.   I’m pretty efficient, so it’s not like it takes much time.   I clean theupstairs slightly less frequently because it’s big and it takes forever and because I get my June Cleaver on when Kenny’s napping, and cleaning upstairs tends to wake him up.   I polish the silestone on the counter-tops with gusto and use the handy Mr. Clean Magic sponges on the scuff marks on the walls with as much zeal as the ladies in the commercials do.   I feel a certain calm when my house is shiny and I (eek) kind of enjoy doing it.

But I will let a load of clean laundry sit in, on, around or next to the dryer, unfolded, until we have completely run out of clothes in the drawers and have so many piles waiting for closet space  that I fear losing Dudley in the masses.   (Exception: I always fold Casey’s shirts and undies right away so he knows nothing of my lapse in good housekeeping.)   I don’t know what it is about folding laundry, but I detest it.   I’ve tried  doing it in front of the TV, folding to the beat of an ABBA tune, and stealing myself with mouthfuls of chocolate chips in effort to get the ball rolling, but in the end, I find myself stuffing the clean clothes back in the laundry closet, promising to get to it later.

In fact, I was in the middle of thinking about folding laundry when I remembered that I needed to write a post.   It is sitting next to me, leering in victory over yet another foiled attempt.

And Finally, Part 3

October 13th, 2007

First I want to thank all of you who took the time to write such thoughtful comments and emails over the last two days.   I have learned a lot!   I do want to answer Crisanne  and others who felt I was being too judgemental in expressing my opinion.   When I started writing the post, I didn’t intend to put down those moms who do put their kids in weekly programs; I was actually just trying to say, “Call it what it is” in the respect that when kids are really young (two and under), the programs are not truly “school” – they are closer to “day care.”   But I have found quickly that the term definitely ruffles people up!   And that’s why it is more socially acceptable to call it “school.”   And yes, I know that a three year old can learn a lot in a twice a week program, and I agree that throwing a kid into 5-day-a-week kindergarten, when they have never been to school at all, can be unfair and frightening.  

In yesterday’s post, I was trying to make the point that, while Kenny isn’t in “school” he still has opportunities throughout the week to be in settings where another adult is taking care of him and where he is learning how to interact with other kids (Sunday School, MOPS, etc.)   So for me, I don’t see a need to fall into the peer pressure of putting him in “school” – he has four times a week where he is “on his own” and learning to be his own little person outside of me!   Where he is learning about respecting other authority figures, waiting his turn, and following directions.

Finally,  Jen and Crisanne, you are right, I did make the insinuation that a mom who puts their  toddlers in “school” misses out on much of their life… that was way too over-dramatic and I apologize for that one.   And I do thank those who made more of the “if you had more than one, you’d understand” response that I hate so much.   I didn’t look at it from the perspective of getting to spend one-on-one time with a younger child, like I have had the time to spend one-on-one with Kenny.

I think it’s fair to say that while I haven’t changed my mind about what I’m going to do with Kenny in the near future, I do have a little better understanding of why some people choose to put their kids into programs during the week.   I guess it doesn’t matter what we call it, if it works for each individual’s situation.   And just wait, if I have another one before it’s time for Kenny to go to kindergarten and I make the decision to put Kenny in to “school” two days a week, I promise to eat crow and write all about it.

Opinion, Part 2

October 12th, 2007

Well, I knew that I was pretty much walking in front of a train when I wrote that last post… (I had just finished watching the O’Reilly Factor and was feeling daring…)

I have to say, though, that I truly do value all the comments and emails I’ve received so far.   I especially appreciate the more passionate ones about the value of an early-learning program.   I agree heartily that kids need socialization, and moms need breaks to nurture themselves.   Kenny and I get  ours four times a week: Sunday School, where he learns sweet songs and how many ways to hide goldfish in his pockets while Casey and I get to go to the service in peace; our weekly evening  home group, where he is in a basement in controlled chaos with eleven other wild-things and and two harried sitters and Casey and I eat, laugh and talk with the adults upstairs; MOPS, where he is in a class of 2 and 3 year olds reading stories, doing art, learning to interact and having a blast while I am recharging;and  finally  Casey and my weekly date night, where he is with his much-adored babysitter for several hours while Casey and I play tennis, talk, recharge and  re-connect.

Then Kenny and I go to Rolly Pollie once a week, and Casey and Kenny go to swim lessons once a week – times for learning  and interaction.   And those Saturday morning swim lessons are my “mommy’s morning out” when I can go to the park for long runs, go shopping, get my hair done, and all the things I don’t get to do during the week.

I agree with you, Jen, that doing all your housework and errands while your kids are in their programs, then being able to focus on them 100% otherwise is a good argument for getting the kids into an early-learning setting.   I do hate those days when it seems like we’re in the car all day running errands, or when I’m trying to get the house clean and Kenny is bored and underfoot.   And you are right… “there are different circumstances in everyone’s life…”   Kenny didn’t nap AT ALL until he was 14 months old (he was a great night-time sleeper, but never slept during the day) and there were days then when I would have left him with the first warm body who came along, just so I could take a nap and give my boobs a rest… maybe I have forgotten those days to readily…

Keep your comments coming, please!   I wrote the original post because I wanted to know what opinions were there on this matter.   Most of the  stay-at-home moms  I know at this point in my life are fully-reliant on pre-school, but all of those have three or  more kids, so their answers to my inquiries on the matter are only ever, “If you had more than one, you would understand.”   I wanted a better answer!

Thanks to all who took the time to write, and I am still looking forward to more…

A Dramatic Matter of Opinion

October 11th, 2007

Kenny is two.

I know lots of kids his age who  are in “school.”   I just have to get this out, but:  It is not SCHOOL!    It’s DAY CARE!   At least, that is my rather dramatic opinion.   I am eager to hear from those readers out there who disagree.

I’m not talking about working moms who put their kids in daycare so they can put food on the table or help support their family, I’m talking about those stay-at-home gals who have convinced themselves that either 1) Their kids will flourish by going to “school” early or 2) they’ve convinced themselves that they “deserve a break” and need   a few hours a week “to get things done.”

I say, What planet are you people on?   What cultural agenda are you trying to live up to?   Kindergarten is right and good and a part of American life, and ok, maybe even pre-k for those so inclined,  but  you cannot reasonably convince yourself or anyone else that anything earlier than that is “school” anymore than I can convince myself that taking my dog to the kennel for the day is “social-skill-building-time.”

Being a mom is hard.   It’s way harder than working nine-to-five or getting your masters degree.   It’s frustrating, it’s draining, it’s occasionally boring (did I say that?) and it will sometimes  make you contemplate a martini at three in the afternoon.   But’s it’s real.   It’s hugs and kisses and hearing your little guy whisper to himself  after lights out the song you sang to him all afternoon.   It’s getting pee’d on in the bathroom at Nordstrom’s while they sit on a too-big toilet seat  and still saying, “Good job for pee-peeing in the potty!”   It’s putting  carrots on their plate for the 8,oooth time and watching them suddenly eat them.   It’s pretending to fold laundry while actually sneaking a peak at them “reading” a book and   getting almost all the words right on the right pages.   It’s hearing them count to twelve on their own, then tentatively look up at you and  whisper, “turd-teen?”

Why are we believing a lie that there are other people out there that are better equipped to teach and mold  those precious little hearts?   And why are we believing that we Moms deserve time off?   And I can’t tell you how many people have thrown at me, “well, if you had more than one, you’d understand.”   I’d cut off my foot for another baby.   Maybe that’s why I’m so passionate about this; I want to soak up every minute I can being  a mom and being close to a little person that is part of me.

So … I would love to hear some of your thoughts from both sides of the arena… What do you think?

“Mama, You wanna play?”

October 8th, 2007

It has recently become apparent  that Kenny has already learned all of Casey’s sales skills at the ripe old age of two.

At bedtime we read several stories, always warning him when the last one comes, and as soon as it ends, he looks up solemnly and intones, “Just  wuuuuuuun more.  Laaaaaaastone.”   When he does his business in the potty, he runs to the cabinet to get his “potty treats” (which consists of exactly two M&Ms).   I let him pick which colors he wants, and he will say something along the lines of, “A blue one and a brown one.   And a red one and a lellow one.   Just two and two.”

But my favorite new speech pattern is the new art of asking questions.   Just a few weeks ago, when he wanted to read a book, he would say, “Read this book!” or when he wanted me to sing him a song, “‘Nudder song, pa-lease.”   Now, all of the sudden, it’s,

“Mama?   You wanna read this book a’ me?” and “Mama?   You wanna listen to Larry Cucumber CDs?”   and “Mama?   You wanna bake a cake?”   and “Mama?   You wanna build a tower a’ me?”

I’m sold.

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Is This What I Signed Up For??

October 4th, 2007

Kenny and I met Casey for lunch today at a small bakery.   Since I have started seriously potty training Kenny, he has never yet actually asked to go in a public place, so when he announced that he had to go as we finished our sandwiches, I happily complied.  

Kenny has not yet mastered the stand-up-pee-pee, so at home we use a training seat that has a … um… splash guard.   We obviously didn’t have one today, but I gamely sat him right  down and said, “Ok, Kenny,  go ahead!”  and was promptly sprayed by a stream of  warm two-year-old urine  directly into the crotch of my own jeans.   We exited the bathroom, Kenny triumphant, and me sheepishly  looking like I’d just wet my pants.

And the ego goes out the window.

A Different Kind of Mommy Blog

October 3rd, 2007

Today at our MOPS meeting, we had a young woman come speak.   She is the mother of two children, a seven year-old girl and a four year-old boy, and along with her husband, they live in a remote village in western Uganda.   They felt called to join the staff of a missions school, and a year and a half ago, they got rid of all their belongings, with the exception of eight steamer trunks, and moved a half a world away.   They are on furlough right now in the US, but will return to Uganda at the end of the month, where they have committed to another 4 years with the mission, though they may stay on longer.

Her stories were enough to alternately make your heart melt and your hair stand on end.   Next time you complain about the fly that got in your house when your kid left the door open, imagine waking up to find a tarantula on the mosquito netting of your four year-old’s bed.   Or when you’re  fretting  about not having enough time to cook dinner and popping in a frozen pizza, imagine having no running water or electricity, and having to begin your dinner preparations shortly after breakfast in order  to have time to make everything from scratch.   Not to mention bath-time involving hauling water, heating it on the stove, and bathing the kids in basins before the water gets too cold.  

She and her husband write regularly on their blog (that is, when their solar batteries can get enough charge to run the computer!), Called to Uganda.     Listening to her speak, I came home and spent Kenny’s entire nap time reading her blog and the various blogs of their teammates in Bundibugyo.   It is a world I can barely imagine.   I have no frame of reference for it.   Today’s post talks about “psychic numbing”   – when we here in the US hear of the millions of people suffering in third world countries, we tune it out because it overwhelms us.   But  when we can see these people as individuals, we are compelled to help.   That is something I can relate to.   I will never forget the movie “The Constant Gardener” … when a young British couple embarks on work in Kenya, and the wife wants to help a particular person in need.   Her husband cuts her off and says, “There are so many… we can’t help them all.”   She replies, “But I can help this one.”   Later in the movie, after her death, he eerily finds himself repeating the very words he condemned when he tries to rescue a single child from the murderous landscape.

It is amazing to me that a couple would be so convicted to help the people of western Uganda that they would uproot their entire young family and adapt themselves to a whole new world-view, in order to passionately strive to make life better for those  people they have adopted as their own.   God bless you, Pierce family!   You are in our hearts and prayers.

Book Review: The Potty Training Answer Book

October 2nd, 2007

The Potty Training Answer Book: Practical Answers to the Top 200 Questions Parents Ask,by Karen Deerwester, Pubished by SourceBooks, Inc.

When I was approached with the request to review a new book on potty training, I jumped at the chance… after all, as a mom in the throes of the elusive dry-bottomed-kid, I figured that I could use all the help I could get.   And to date, the only advice on potty training that has actually sounded like it might really work comes from John Rosemond’s book Parenting Power.   In his chapter on potty training, he advises only one technique: “Naked and $75.”   This entails picking a day and letting your precious wiggler run around sans clothing until he realizes that he really hates the sensation of pee pee running down his legs and decides to use the potty instead.   The 75 bucks is for professional carpet cleaning.

Now I was all set to put that one into action, but Kenny has been using the potty at least once (or twice) a day since May.     So he knows what to do and how to do it, the trick has just been my own consistency coupled with his resistance in stopping play in order to do his business.  

Here’s where The Potty Training Answer Bookcame in for us.   The book struck an immediate chord with my own lack of discipline.   But I am getting ahead of myself, and after all, this is not about me; this is a review, for goodness sakes.

Though I read the entire book in one sitting, my only complaint with this publication is its somewhat stilted style.   While it is purposely  presented as  a series of sessions  in  question and answer format, I found that when the the author actually set aside paragraphs outside that format to discuss specific issues or personality traits of children, I was thrown off and had to go back to see whether or not she was answering a question.

That being said, author Karen Deerwester, who, among other accomplishments, is the parent expert for www.bluesuitmom.com, really tackles the meat of the whole potty-training process: That  potty training is one of the foundations of the intimate relationship between a parent and a child.   It’s about building trust, confidence and security, and it requires consistency, patience and lots and lots of humor!

Deerwester suggests that each parent make a study of their child’s personality, and with their unique characteristics in mind, come up with a “personal potty plan” for that child.   Some kids will conquer the whole thing in a weekend, and some will take it slow and steady over a long term process.   Lest this be dismissed as double-speak for child-centered parenting (which I am much opposed to), let me state that Deerwester makes it clear that the parent is in charge of the whole process.   It is merely by taking your own child’s learning strengths into consideration that you can best decide how to make the process as smooth as possible.   She also points out the importance of making sure that every person in the family (including grandparents or others who may babysit or take care of the child) be on the same team.   That is, agree to the strategy and stick to it.

All in all, The Potty Training Answer Book is full of sound advice and I considered it very useful in charting my own plan of attack.   Kenny thinks it’s working, too!

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