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Books We Love: for ages 2-3

July 23, 2014
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It has been over a year since I published our last list of favorite books.  I am always looking for good new books for our kids, or as gifts for friends’ kids; this is also a way to help me remember what our kids (and we) have loved.  In no particular order:

Potty Books:

Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi

Going to the Potty, by Fred Rogers

Danny Is Done with Diapers:  a Potty ABC, by Rebecca O’Connell

Where’s the Poop? by Julie Markes

Potty Time! (Sesame Beginnings), by Parker Sawyer

Regular Books:

Oy, Feh, So? and Mr. Zinger’s Hat, by Cary Fagan

The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger

Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola

Madeline, Madeline’s Rescue, and Madeline and the Cats of Rome, by Ludwig Bemelmans

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Little Chimp’s Big Day,by Lisa Schroeder

The Construction Alphabet Book, by Jerry Pallotta

Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban

What Pete Ate from A to Z, by Maira Kalman

Jamberry, by Bruce Degen

Calm-Down Time, Clean-Up Time, and Sharing Time, by Elizabeth Verdick

God’s Dream, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein

Go! Go! Go! Stop!, by Charise Mericle Harper

Eating the Alphabet, Planting a Rainbow, and Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert

Harold and the Purple Crayon and Harold’s Trip to the Sky, by Crockett Johnson

Corduroy, by Don Freeman

You’re All My Favorites, by Sam McBratney

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Numeroff

The Diggingest Dog, by Al Perkins

Skippyjon Jones, Skippyjon Jones…Lost in Spice, and Skippyjon Jones, Class Action, by Judy Schachner

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train, by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Strawberries; Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Three Kittens, and Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Red Shoes, by Maj Lindman

How to Train a Train, by Jason Carter Eaton

Down by the Cool of the Pool, by Tony Mitton

Big Dog…Little Dog, by P.D. Eastman

Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn

Ernie Gets Lost, by Liza Alexander

All in a Day and Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure

Henry Builds a Cabin and Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, by D.B. Johnson

Make Way for Ducklings, Time of Wonder, and Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Toot and Puddle, by Holly Hobbie

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead

The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Maybelle the Cable Car, and Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton

Baby Bear, by Kadir Nelson

Bears on Chairs, by Shirley Parenteau

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen

Angus and the Ducks, by Marjorie Flack

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown

Lost in the Woods and Stranger in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams

Octopus Alone, by Divya Srinivasan

Duck and Goose Go to the Beach, by Tad Hills

Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henckes

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf

Angelina and Henry, by Katharine Holabird

The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, illustrated by Yanai Pery

A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

Pig Kahuna, by Jennifer Sattler

Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb

It’s Mine!, A Color of His Own, Matthew’s Dream, Swimmy, by Leo Lionni

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You, What Do People Do All Day? and Great Big Air Book

Dr. Seuss’s I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, The Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, The Sneetches and Other Stories, Fox in Socks, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hears a Who

Finishing the Course

July 20, 2014

This morning, my parents helped me get the kids to Alan’s Olympic triathlon.  We arrived in time to:

  • witness several near-misses and one actual fall from a bike due to wet pavement,
  • clap and “WOOOO!” as the woman got up, a National Guard volunteer and another athlete checked to see if she was okay, and she walked her bike into the transition area to continue the race,
  • watch Alan’s transition from bike to run,
  • high-five him on the first loop of the 10K, and
  • cheer him on at the finish.

The finish line of a race is one of my favorite places to be.

The athletes, exhausted and exerted, summoning their reserves of physical and mental energy to sustain one last burst before the end.

The spectators, who know how long and how hard the athletes have trained, who have witnessed how much sacrifice and courage have gone into preparing for this event, cheering and screaming and clapping and cowbell-ringing and sign-waving.

Support and love, surging through the air in the form of noise:  joyful, thumping, energetic noise.

We’re all in this journey:  race, walk, swim, whatever your element.  We’re all pushing.  We’re all simultaneously in training and in the final event, sweating and stumbling and speeding up and slowing down and wondering how many more miles to go.

We can be each other’s spectators, too.  Shouting encouragements:  Keep going!  Looking good!  Way to go!  WOOOOOO!

No matter what your race looked like today, well done, warrior.

 

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Three for Three: Kid updates

July 17, 2014

So our three turned three.  Holy cow.  They are into being Big Kids.  They:

  • sleep at night in big kid beds (naptimes are in pack’n’plays in separate rooms, for sanity–theirs and ours)
  • can put on and take off their own clothes and shoes (when they feel like it)
  • like buckling their own booster seats for eating and trying to buckle their own car seat belt
  • drink from big kid cups
  • wear helmets when riding scooters and trikes
  • try out the neighbor kids’ bigger scooters and balance bike
  • like big kid swings (though sometimes the baby swing still has some appeal)
  • ride the escalator holding on to an adult’s hand

Here are some individual updates:

Audrey:

  • has physical confidence, strength, dexterity, and coordination that amaze us.  She spontaneously climbed the rock wall over the foam pit at gymnastics class.  She taught herself how to pedal her trike and pump on a big kid swing.
  • loves being a helper and “big kid.”  She likes pretending to be Mommy, like “going for a run” with her stroller.  She imitates us in trying to help her siblings, either by reminding them verbally of something or trying to help them physically (like pushing them on a swing).
  • loves the “why?” question, and comes up with very creative answers when we ask her, “Why do you think so?”  Why is that kid wearing a bandaid?  “Because he scraped his knee and now he has a scab.”

Theresa:

  • is a storyteller:  creates imaginary scenarios and worlds with her animals and pretending toys like dress-up doctor set or veterinarian tools.  She narrates her own story:  “‘Mini digger!’ I called out loudly” and “‘Where’s my other sock?’ I wailed.”
  • is our champion “noticer” (and rarely moves linearly from Point A to Point B).  She also asks a gazillion questions about pictures in books, or the storyline, or new words, or anything described, often with the phrase: “I want to see the [insert word].”  She likes figuring out puzzles.
  • physically: likes playing catch, buckling her own seatbelt, putting on her own shoes.  Gymnastics class and Coach Elaine have given her much more confidence to try new athletic skills.  She loves cuddling and uses her cuddliness to her advantage at bedtime:  “Mommy, I need a hug and a snuggle.”

Jamie:

  • has a memory that is off the charts:  songs, books, numbers, letters.  He can count to 29 (after that, he says, is “Twenty-ten”).  He knows almost every book in our library, and “reads” happily to himself if he doesn’t fall asleep at naptime.  He loves especially fast songs.
  • loves figuring out how things work:  train set, fire truck, ride-on green car.  He sometimes plays the ukelele by “drumming” on the strings.  He also loves figuring out how language works:  he plays goofy word games with us and his sisters.
  • physically:  has lots of stamina–he rode his scooter without assistance from us uphill to the park, partway around the track, and back home again; loves to walk-jog while holding a grown-up’s hand, or run ahead…and back…and ahead; can hang upside-down from the bar at gymnastics; has a mean swing at the wiffle ball tee.

All three have made huge strides in the taking-turns department, in the using-our-words department, and in the following-directions department.

In moments where I am able to fully focus on them, individually and collectively, they make me laugh and wonder and breathe gratitude.  Heart Full.

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Quiche

July 16, 2014

What do you do with those odds and ends of vegetables, meats, and cheeses about to go bad in your refrigerator?

There are several possibilities:  pasta casserole.  Pizza.  And quiche.

My kids will only eat quiche if each bite-sized piece is turned upside-down on their tray so the crust faces them.  As long as they believe they are primarily eating crust, they will devour it.  Egg-side-up, no dice.

You can make your own crust, of course, but it may come out looking like a map of Pangaea:

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I use Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust:  defrost one crust, split in two, and roll out as two crusts.

Favorite combinations:

  • goat cheese, Swiss chard, dill
  • goat cheese, broccoli, roasted red pepper
  • emmentaler, ham or bacon, caramelized onion, thyme
  • cheddar, spinach, roasted garlic

Basic Quiche

adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust (a good basic recipe is here)
  • 4-6 oz cheese (Swiss, emmentaler, gruyere, goat cheese, cheddar…)
  • filling
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk, or a 1 cup mixture of non-dairy milk, regular milk, yogurt, half-and-half, or whipping cream)
  • herbs (options:  dill, thyme, basil…)

Directions:

  1. Prepare filling (saute or steam veggies; cook meat).
  2. Roll out pie crust and place in pie pan.
  3. Spread cheese evenly over crust (this helps keep the crust from getting soggy).
  4. Spread filling evenly over cheese.
  5. Whisk eggs, milk or milk mixture, and any herbs you want to include.
  6. Pour custard over filling.  If you’re worried about overflow, put baking sheet under the pie pan.
  7. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes.

 

The stories we tell

July 12, 2014

The stories we tell ourselves are old.  Their grooved ruts run through our memories, often told in the voice of the Critic.

I wrote recently about how I was a perfectionist, not resilient.  About wanting my kids to have better coping mechanisms than I had in certain areas.  About wanting to control how far along the journey of personal growth my kids are, so they don’t have to struggle with my struggles.

My best friend e-mailed me about my posts.  Resiliency, she reminded me, is not only one’s response to failure, but also being faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, and discovering grit and courage and perseverance that you didn’t know you had.

You ARE resilient, she said.  You LIVE resiliency.  In other words:  look at yourself more clearly.

Sometimes the story I tell myself is only part of the picture.  Lamenting about my kids, framing my own less-than-ideal reactions as a parent as failures, focusing on the flaws, the cracks, the messes.

This is just another, subtle way the Critic whispers to us:  “You are not enough.”

Another blogger Julie wrote recently about Choosing Joy.

There is a difference between being happy and choosing joy.  One is passive.  Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

But choosing joy, like Julie describes, involves consciously choosing to focus on gratitude, presence, learning and growth in the face of both happiness and sadness.

This is how I want to write my story.  Not in the mundane scratches and imperfections and wistfulness of How I Might Have Been.  But in the glorious, sacred-and-scarred Truth of Who I Am and Who My Kids Are.  Present tense.  Or Who I Am and My Kids Are Becoming.  Present continuous.

And my kids get to write their own stories.  They will figure out how to use their innate awesomeness to talk back to the Critic, how to Own the Good, how to live resiliency.  How to love and be loved and know they are worthy of love.

The glorious and beautiful truth that I have learned and forget and learn again is that we are always writing the stories we tell.  Even if they go deep, even if they have been told the same way over and over again, we get to choose where to focus, how to frame our experiences, how we define ourselves.  It is never too late.

We can look at ourselves more clearly, not from the funhouse mirror distorted perspective of those old, old stories.  We can tell ourselves the truth without the censoring of the Critic:  that we are brave, and strong, and resilient, and worthy.

We can stand in our own light.

Things I Cannot Fix, or Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

July 10, 2014

Things I can fix:

  • splinters
  • torn blankets
  • stuck zippers
  • tangled car seat straps
  • grass/food/blood stains

Things I cannot fix:

  • crayons with tip broken off
  • my sliced fingertip (damn concave sweet potatoes)
  • broken water bottles
  • fear of accidents
  • traits inherited from me or just earned by the cosmic dice roll, that simultaneously drive me crazy and make me want to solve that problem STAT to prevent familial and individual strife

I have already confessed to being a recovering perfectionist.  But “recovering” doesn’t mean “recovered.”  Not past tense.  Present continuous tense.

I recognize signs of struggle-with-struggle in my kids, particularly one who tries, say, to put a shoe on one foot, and when it does not magically slide itself on over the heel, reacts thus:  kicks it off and/or throws it, screams, and walks or runs away.

Repeat.  However many times it takes to get said shoe on.

While I am trying to simultaneously get four other feet in shoes (ideally by the foot owner), find my keys, etc.  I need to remind myself of my mantra, “We have enough time.”

Then we played our first board game:  a truly innovative game called Robot Turtles, which is designed to teach kids the principles of computer programming.

The kids each had arrow cards, and could play any direction they wanted on their turn.  They had to move their turtle piece from the starting point to their “jewel” in the center of the board.

My kids do not really understand “right” vs. “left,” so I tried to coach them while offering choices.  If they used the wrong card, they would be pointed off the board.  My husband, the software engineer, reminded me to let them learn by doing:  if their turtle didn’t move, then they were learning just as much or more than by listening to my “guidance.”

I don’t want to be a parent who hovers, who micromanages choices.  I know better.

As a teacher, I used to commiserate with my colleagues about parent meetings.  We all had stories of the “crazy” parents who helicoptered or ranted at their kids or acted in whatever way we thought was not helpful to their child’s learning.

I have a lot more empathy for parents of my students now.  I try not to be the helicopter parent, but I so understand the impulse behind such behavior.  We are all just drawing the map as we go, hoping that our early paths will help our kids find success rather than create more obstacles.

Just like when one of our kids when through a hitting phase six months ago:  I obsessed.  I researched every other night:  How to stop toddlers from hitting.  Gentle discipline.  I agonized, envisioning this kid as that kid in preschool, or at the playground.  We had one of those kids in our music class, and I watched that kid like a hawk whenever he neared one of mine.

After a few weeks and consistent, (mostly) patient and kind responses from us, this kid grew out of the phase.

This is what I see in myself recently:  the need to “help.”  To fix.  To streamline and make efficient.  To just do it myself because I am hungry, or we have already spent 50 minutes getting ready to go to the park (true story), or I can’t stomach the discomfort of waiting more minutes for my kid to struggle with buckling a stuffed animal into the car seat so it will be safe.

Or, this week, not for my kids to succeed at potty training, but for them to feel positive about the learning experience.  That if I mess it up, they will end up less resilient, less confident, less independent.  Like I can dictate how they feel.  Like I can control their reactions.

I want my kids to be more resilient than I was.  The tricky thing is, part of me still wants that One-Easy-Step process.  My perfectionism kicks in and wants to know the quickest and most efficient way to make sure my kids don’t get frustrated when they struggle.

Oh, the irony.

Like my sliced finger (which is now bandage-free, and which has received many kisses from many small beings, including stuffed beings), this takes time to heal.  Maybe it will always be with me.  The urgency to just move on to the next thing.  To show them the Right Way.

I need to remind myself:  Wait.  Trust.  Be open to possibility.  Love is always the Right Way.

More Recipes to Share

July 6, 2014
CSA love in the form of garlic scapes

CSA love in the form of garlic scapes

I’ve been doing way more simple cooking recently, but have tried to keep a list for myself of awesome (and relatively easy) stuff I can come back to when pre-made burgers and sweet potato fries aren’t cutting it anymore.  Here’s some good ones from St. Patrick’s Day to now:

  • This freaking amazing Corned Beef and Cabbage, so reminiscent of my Nana’s that I felt like I was back at the kids’ table with my cousins again.
  • Arugula Pesto:  Arugula is hard for me to eat in CSA quantities.  So, pesto it is:  over pasta with steamed broccoli or sauteed kale and cherry tomatoes; on pizza with mozzarella, broccoli, and roasted red pepper; mixed with yogurt or other cheeses for dip…More greens!  (And cheese.  Always cheese.)
  • Roasted Squash and Greens over Pasta:  Greens, squash, and cheese.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Tomato and Sausage Risotto:  Contrary to what I just said, this one involves some stirring, but the results are worth it.  And it’s still a one-pot meal.
  • Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme:  I love roasting more and more, as it is one of the less hands-on methods:  no standing over a spattering skillet, no stirring.  And delicious.
  • Crock-Pot Cassoulet:  The ultimate one-pot meal:  coming from a crock-pot.  Toss in all ingredients.  Press “on.”  Return 7+ hours later to a house smelling heavenly and dinner ready.
  • Tangy Spiced Brisket:  See above.  We made this for Easter, and froze the leftovers.
  • Fig-Nut Quick Bread:  A way to use up leftover dried figs in the cabinet, and a nice change from banana or zucchini or other common quick breads.  (Plus, my kids didn’t really like it, so more for me.)
  • These Fruit-Bran Muffins have been calling me since I made my first batch…they need summer fruit, they say.  Like nectarines, or plums, or fresh berries.

Calming Jars: Starting mindfulness practice with my kids

July 1, 2014

IMG_3525

I found this idea on my Facebook newsfeed, but it’s really from a book I own and have lots of good intentions to read:  Planting Seeds, by Thich Nhat Hanh, about introducing children to mindfulness practice.  As my kids get older, I am going to talk with them more about how the bottle mirrors the concept of mindfulness practice:  that as our feelings swirl inside us, they can make us feel all stirred up, but as we breathe and focus on calming our bodies, our minds also clear.

I like metaphors.

IMG_3526

For now, my kids love the sparklies, and it really does work as a calming mechanism when they’re upset.  Sometimes they ask for the “calming jar” (even though it’s really a bottle); sometimes we hand it to them when they’re agitated.  Last night, one of the kids was mid-sentence when someone unconsciously shook a bottle; this kid stopped and stared at the glitter for a moment before returning to their conversation.

It’s not miraculous, but it does work sometimes, and I take what I can get.

IMG_3527

For making your own, I used this website and this one, but like most stuff on the interwebz, instructions were a little vague.  (One other website said something like, “Take glitter glue.  Add water.  Stir in some glitter.  Shake.  And you’re done!”)

In my experiments, using too much glue made the solution so viscous that it took forever to clear.  My successful recipe looked like this:

  • about 2 Tbsp., or 1/3 of a 6 oz bottle of Elmer’s glitter glue
  • 2-3 Tbsp. glitter (I used some of our neighbor’s, so I didn’t measure, but this amount could probably vary quite a bit)
  • very warm water
  • SuperGlue

Directions:

  1. Pour glitter glue into desired container–if opening is narrow, use a funnel.  (I used smooth water bottles with the labels taken off, and one tall bottle that Nicole kindly got for us somewhere.)
  2. Pour in glitter.
  3. Pour in warm water to fill about 1/3 of the bottle, and swish vigorously.  This helps the glue not congeal.  Fill the rest of the way, leaving some room at the top.
  4. Once you have your desired consistency, SuperGlue the cap on.

If you wanted your glitter to take longer to sift down, use a bit more glue or a bit more glitter, or both.  Ours take about 90 seconds to fully sift down, but that’s about our kids’ attention span at the moment.

 

 

On Yoda and Resiliency

June 25, 2014

yodadoordonot

Out of context, this seems to mean that you either succeed, or you fail, but “just trying” is meaningless without something to show for it.

If I had believed that, I would have spent my entire childhood inside doing nothing.  Except maybe reading.

My childhood is full of memories of my throwing or slamming down a spatula, crayon, paintbrush, bike, needle and thread, popsicle sticks or playdough or whatever implement, and yelling, “I CAN’T DO IT!” or “It’s NOT RIGHT!”

Which is why it broke my heart when one of my kids tried to shoot a little squishy ball into our toddler basketball hoop, missed, and said, “I CAN’T DO IT.  I’m running away.”  And ran to the front steps and sat down.

There’s been a lot of that “I CAN’T DO IT” frustration in our household recently.  Trying to poke an uncooperative piece of food with a toddler fork.  Being asked to break apart or chomp one’s own food.  Being asked to put on one’s own article(s) of clothing.  Trying to put on one’s own shoe.  Trying to match puzzle pieces, or stack blocks, or any one of a number of activities that don’t go the way they want the first time.

One of the most important things I want to teach my kids is resilience.  Because it’s important, right?  What Yoda really meant was about resilience and perseverance, not Luke’s glum attitude of “Well, I guess I’ll try.”

But even more so, because I have struggled my whole life with resilience.  I’m a recovering perfectionist.  I spent way too many minutes of this precious life agonizing over mistakes, frustrated with the need to learn through trial and error.  It may be hardest to watch kids wrestle with the same issues we have spent a lifetime wrestling with:  we know exactly how hard it is.

This morning, as my beloved sensitive kid took FOR-EV-ER to try to put on shorts, and I was supposed to not jump in to help too soon, but it was painful to watch the attempt get stuck on the diaper, or the waistband roll, and the kid had to take a break and try again.  I was supposed to wait and trust.

But.  There’s always a but.

I was hosting a meeting at my house, the first meeting of a support group for new moms of multiples (8 moms plus 16 babies ages 2 weeks through 5 months in my living room!).  I still had to set out food, get drinks, arrange chairs, pick up remaining toys…I was on the clock, man.  And this kid was getting distracted.  By toys.  By siblings.  And tried half-heartedly again.

I KNOW that the only way we get better at something is to practice.  I KNOW practice takes time, and toddlers have a very different sense of time than we do.  And I KNOW that this kid feels acutely the “hurry along, why don’t I just do that for you” energy.  To the point where kid has said, “I’m just not good at this.”

And I let my annoyance show anyway.  And I walked away.

I apologized, and I asked for forgiveness, and we snuggled, but I still felt bad.  Until it occurred to me to look at this in a different way.

When my kids say, “I CAN’T,” they hear me saying, “Instead of saying ‘I can’t,’ we can say”:

  • “This is really tricky.”
  • “Help, please.”
  • “I’m going to take a break and try again.”

What I did today after my less-than-ideal interaction with my kid was:

  • berate myself for failing.
  • feel like a Mean Mama.
  • stew over it way longer than I needed to.

So, as usual, teaching my kids what I want them to learn involves my learning and living it too.

Damn it.

I believe there is great power in the attempt.  The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the learning and growth that happens in the process.  I think Yoda agrees.

This parenting gig is really tricky.  I’m going to take a break and try again in the next moment.  And the next.

Do One Thing

June 15, 2014

keep-calm-and-do-one-thing-at-a-time

One thing at a time.

What my wise and wonderful first-cousin-once-removed Kathy told me.  We had asked her, a daycare owner, what on earth we would do if three babies cried simultaneously.  “Fix one kid’s problem; then move on to the next one.  Don’t try to fix all of them at once.”

Which is sage and awesome advice, and really hard to implement.

Especially when everyone around you (three-year-olds, students, colleagues, whomever) is freakingoutfreakingoutFREAKINGOUT.

It’s when I try to multi-task that I freakoutfreakoutFREAKOUT too.  If I’m trying to juggle in my head

1) don’t forget water bottles in the diaper bag and put that by the front door,
2) get everyone’s shoes and sweatshirts on,
3) gather keys-wallet-sunglasses,
4) get own jacket and shoes on, and
5) herd everyone toward the door so we’re not late for the Tiny Tots concert at Benaroya Hall,

then I do lose it when the girls have taken off and hidden the socks I previously put on them (so I have to hunt down new socks, as all clean laundry is scattered on three floors of my house), and all three are running around maniacally instead of, I don’t know, waiting patiently by the door until I say “Go.”  I don’t even really remember my reaction, but I remember the response from my children:  “Mama, why are you kind of yelling?”

If I’m trying to

1) keep the kids together,
2) maneuver the shopping cart toward an open cash register,
3) keep the kids and cart out of everyone else’s way in a main thoroughfare of the store,
4) get the kids to listen to me as they run a Chinese fire drill around the cart, and
5) kick myself for not getting the Target shopping cart that straps everyone in,

then I do lose it and snap, “STOP!” and wheel the cart sans kids toward a cash register, three now-crying children behind me.  Thankfully, the woman in front of me was sympathetic when I said, “Yes, I AM that mom in Target with the melting-down kids,” and responded, “It’s happened to all of us.”

Do one thing.  So simple.  So not instinctual for me.  I have lived most of my adult life–and, sure, my high school and college one too–trying to do it all.  All the Things.  All the Things Well and Efficiently.

So tonight, near the end of my Mommy weekend because Daddy is traveling for five days, I remembered to Do One Thing when Jamie got upset at his sweet potatoes (the boy was tired out of his mind), and shrieked at the offensive root, and then Theresa yelled at him to stop yelling and gestured a “bop” in his direction, which made him scream louder and thus made her scream louder and cry real tears.

I turned T’s chair around, which did make her cry harder, but I needed a buffer zone so I could calm J down and then deal with her emotional injury about being forcibly excused from the table.  We discussed the unkindness of long-distance bopping.  We brainstormed alternatives to screaming when someone else is upset.

One kid at a time.  Put out one fire at a time, even at the expense of a different fire.

Which is hard, because mornings usually involve my trying to get breakfast picked up and kids dressed and myself ready and get something to eat while I am interrupted every 5.2 minutes by a poopy diaper, conflict management, requests for more [x], refusal to wear [x], etc.

This weekend involved lots of deep breaths, lots of eye rolling where kids couldn’t see me, and lots of lip-biting.  I felt kind of proud of being with my kids almost totally on my own (excluding babysitting during Mass and my cousin Ellen coming for a couple of hours this evening), even though many, many parents–including those with three or more children–are in such trenches 24/7/365.  Both my grandmothers had four children and probably never thought, “Wow, I took care of my kids all by myself for 48 hours; go me!”

But I’m going to Own the Good anyway.  We had an adventure to Benaroya Hall and the Central Library yesterday morning and Target yesterday afternoon in which they got to ride an escalatortwice.  And I mostly was able to Do One Thing and Breathe and Respond with Love and all the other parenting strategies I aim for.

This experience reminds me that every non-ideal choice I make is an opportunity to learn and make a different, better choice next time.  It reminds me that I get to show my kids daily how to make amends, request do-overs, choose more lovingly and kindly in each moment.  I am still learning what mindfulness is really about.

 

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