Where Did I Go Wrong?

Where did I go wrong? I’m afraid I have screwed up my kids beyond repair….crap.

As I’ve detailed before, Drew is not big on imaginitive play. He will go along with a game suggested by a friend or more likely a cousin, but he never really buys into it and is secretly just waiting for a chance to play a game or find some electronics. He will readily tell you that he doesn’t need or want toys because he knows he won’t play with them. He is totally fine with not getting presents for his birthday and gave away many of his Christmas presents. It is both frustrating and sweet that he is so self-aware but I keep questioning where I went wrong.

Bridget is very similar to Drew int hat vein, in fact right now she is laying in her bed sobbing her little eyes out because I told her to play. Yes, to both Drew and Bridget, toys and playing are often seen as a punishment. I told her that I needed to work for a little bit and she needed to find something to do. It got very quiet, scary, so I went to check on her and found her lying peacefully in her bed. She is a child that will choose to just hang out on her bed, doing absolutely nothing, rather than find something to play on her own. What the hell?

She differs from Drew a little bit in that she will sort of get into imaginary play if someone helps her set it up and then sneaks away once she gets involved. It typically isn’t long before she notices I’ve escaped, however, and she is right back at my side asking (or telling) me to play with her.

I honestly just put my daughter in time out and these words came out of my mouth, “You are not going to bed, you are going to play because playing is fun.” I did not say it nicely, then I told her to sit still on her monkey rug until I came to get her. Mixed messages much? I’m sure she is thinking, boy I can’t wait to play when mom comes to get me, she said it’s fun, I had no idea!

Where did I go wrong? Did I play with them too much or not encourage enough imaginitive play? Did I structure their playtime too much or fail because I typically make them put one toy or game away before getting out another? Did that stifle their creativity?

I should mention that Sam isn’t much better at using his imagination to play, he is just better at entertaining himself. He never really set up imaginary worlds but would instead just methodically line up his cars or animals in perfectly straight and categorized lines. When I would try to liven things up a bit he would flip out and remind me that this particular horse came with the Little People barn and goes in this stall because that is where the picture of the horse is. I mean really, who would dream of putting a penguin in a chicken coop or a rhinocerous in a cow stall? And no person in their right mind would put a blue car smack in the middle of a line of red cars!

I remember setting up Little People villages and playing for hours, or it felt like hours then. My sister and I were constantly playing office and attending meetings in the bathroom with the giant pink bunny boss sitting on the washing machine. Then we would play school when our friends were over, my personal favorite, or set up a store in the basement or play restaurant and cook up some fancy meals. Why don’t my kids do that?

Have I let them watch too much TV? I don’t feel like it is totally overboard but I do think our kids are spoiled with all of the cartoon and kids’ programming. Remember when cartoons were only on Saturday morning and you looked forward to it all week and got up early to watch Muppet Babies? Now it is TV on demand with pause and rewind options if you miss something. Maybe the problem is just in my house but with out tech society in general…..No, I can’t pass the blame because I know lots of kids with vivid imaginations that become immersed in made-up worlds.

Ever wish you could have a do-over with your kids? I don’t want to go back to sleepless nights and poopy diapers but I wish I could go back selectively and change a few things and see if the outcome is any different.

Wait, just remembered the amazing report cards I just got on both boys….perhaps changing one thing would make the rest fall apart and I should be grateful for the smart, engaging little people that they are. I wish there were report cards for 2-year-olds so I could feel good about Princess Snotty Pants too.

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I Hate Learning

It turns out, I don’t like learning new things. In fact, right now, I hate it. Hate. It. And even more than that, I hate it when I can’t figure something out and my annoying husband can just do it right the first time. Ggrrr….. I really like to be the best at stuff, or if not the best, at least good. I do not enjoy looking foolish or uncoordinated or dumb, even if I am the only one that sees it.

Starting a new workout DVD is very stressful for me, especially if it is a dance workout. I berate myself for screwing up, which probably doesn’t help me get much of a workout. That isn’t to say that I can’t laugh at myself because I definitely do but I am also internally pissed because I want to do it right. Iwas working out with the Wii Active the other day when my kids got home from school. They have seen it before and weren’t terribly phased by it, just sat down to watch and critique. I was hoping to get my workout in before my nieces and nephew got there but it didn’t happen. My poor nieces and nephew walked in with a look of astonishment on their sweet little faces. Not only do they not have a Wii but their mom works out by running, usually on her own, and doesn’t play sports so they were mystified that I was using resistance bands and doing the volleyball, basketball, and baseball portions of the game. Beyond that, they were terribly embarrassed that I was so sweaty and gross. They got over it, though, and joined right in the criticizing….yea.

I was not bothered that they were watching me, however, because I can do this game. I can do bicep curls and hit a tennis ball (virtually, not in real life) so it was perfectly fine for them to be there. The next morning I was feeling pretty good and wanted to do some Yoga on the Wii Fit, which I had not done for a lamentably long time. The boys settled in to laugh and pester me about wanting a turn on the Wii but ended up just staring at me as I groaned and fell off the stupid balance board. Sam kept asking why I couldn’t do that pose or if I was doing it right. He also encouraged me to count aloud because the stupid lady on the game asks you to count out loud. I will be doing Yoga before they get up from now on.

Blair has tried over the years to teach me about home improvement, encouraging me to use his drill and saw and make my own shelves and such. I am fairly competent with a hammer and can use a drill if necessary but I got married to a handy guy so that I wouldn’t have to do that stuff. The last time he tried to put me in charge of a project was a dismal failure that ended with me in tears and him finishing the project on his own because I just couldn’t get it right. He is very patient but I’m so hard on myself that it just isn’t worth it. He still suggests that I complete projects on my own and last night even asked if I thought I could cut, stain and install new trim throughout our house. My stomach honestly hurt when I got done laughing.

Now, for my latest failure….I ordered a book on knitting that propagandized that it could teach anyone to knit. They lied. I read the first few informational pages and sort of understood what they were talking about. You know how each niche has a language of its own and sometimes writers forget that not everyone knows the shorthand? There was a little bit of that but I figured it would all make sense eventually. Then I came to the first practical lesson, tying the yarn onto the needle with a slipknot. I started while Blair was in the shower so that I could just be knitting away when he came out. HA! I couldn’t even figure out how to tie a slipknot!

I am not a visual person, I’m terrible at reading instructions or looking at pictures and then doing it (although I am a master builder of furniture that comes in pieces, I have to say.) Blair sat down, tied a perfect slipknot and put it on the needle. Could have killed him. He then spent the next 30 minutes, and I am not exaggerating, trying to teach me how to tie a slip knot. I am not a stupid girl but for some reason I just couldn’t figure it out! I would get it once, then not be able to replicate it. It was horrible. I gave up for a while then resumed trying afer calming myself down and trying some positive messaging in my head. That was more difficult that tying the damn slipknot!

Eventually, I succeeded in tying the stupid yarn to the stupid needle and moved on to the next set of instructions: casting on. The first few steps were fairly easy and I think I did them correctly. The next set of pictures and directions, however, just about sent me over the edge. I still have absolutely no idea what they wanted me to do or how to do it. None at all. Honestly, it was mortifying and irritating and frustrating and embarrassing and horrible.

I may try again today but I’m getting so frustrated just thinking about it that I may need some more time. I really need someone to come teach me how to knit. Someone with a lot of patience and time and a calm, soothing voice. I may need to go visit my grandmother – she taught me to knit when I was 7 or so but obviously it didn’t take. Maybe this time I’ll actually pay attention…..

Hello?

I am fascinated by people. I love to watch people interact and foist my own interpretations as to motive and inner-thoughts onto them. I am endlessly interested in why people do the things they do and I was struck today by the different ways in which people answer and start phone conversations. A list of some of my favorites:

 

Seasons Greetings! This category is mostly dedicated to my mom but I’m sure there are others that answer the phone with an appropriately themed greeting. If there is not a holiday close enough to garner a seasonal greeting, this person typically still answers with enthusiasm and you can just hear the smile. It is impossible not to smile when greeted with a happy voice.

 

Short and Maybe Sweet. These people are not interested in idle chitchat and make that known from the get-go. Many in this category answer by stating their name rather than the traditional “hello.” I don’t know if the purpose is to avoid having the caller ask who the are speaking to or if they are so busy and important that they must answer with their name. Generally, these people also forgo the “how are you?” portion of a typical conversation and reply with one-word answers without encourging further conversation. I don’t think they intend to be rude, just have stuff to do. Sometimes you can coerce them into a jovial talk and you should pat yourself on the back for achieving it.

 

I’m In A Hurry To Get Things Done. This group generally answers the phone with their name or even better with a curt “yep.” That is my personal favorite, guaranteed to raise my blood pressure a couple of degrees. My husband is a terrible culprit of this behavior, always hurrying the people he is talking to because he has other things to do. Rarely does he enjoy a leisurely phone conversation, instead preferring to get to the point and get back to what he was doing. I have tried to convince him that it is more rude to answer the phone, be mad about answering, and tell me that he’ll have to call me back than to just not answer and call me later. I encourage everyone to abide by this rule: if you are too busy to talk, don’t answer the phone. I promise the caller will try again if it is an emergency or simply leave a message.

 

So….anyway….. Ever tried to end a phone conversation with someone who just has so much to say and nothing but time on their hands? They will probably answer the phone with “Yello!” or “Hey, [caller’s name], how are you? I was just thinking about you, what’s new?” Since I work from home, I know that I am probably culpable in this one and I really wish everyone else had as much time as I do. Some of these people though, simply don’t know how to end a conversation and will continue to stammer on in non sequiters until you almost have to just hang up on them.

 

Perfection. There are some people that you can call at any time of the day or night and know that, eventually, they will give you whatever you need. Maybe you need a recipe or advice or someone to listen, maybe you just need to say something out loud to figure out what you think. Maybe you need someone to give you a figurative slap upside the head. The type of greeting will vary but will always be just right, just what you needed to hear.

My Secret Abel Life

Our church recently started a new series called “Live Like You Were Dying,” combining sermons and small group meetings to study the scripture that inspired the lyrics of the popular song. We are urged to try to live at least the next 30 days as if we only have the next 30 days to live, following the lyrics of the song to love deeper, speak sweeter, and give forgiveness.

In my secret, secret heart I am going to try this experiment, attempt to make sure my life is really governed by my true priorities. However, in my secret heart I sort of want to live like my 95-year-old grandfather, although I would add a bit of a mean streak because he’s a gentleman and a Christian at heart. However, in the spirit of Abel, this is my secretly awful list of things I wish I could get away with:

I would not share my cake balls if I didn’t want to.

I want to eat exactly what I want and not care. I want to eat Girl Scout cookies and pizza rolls all day long while sitting in my bed with a Diet Coke, reading a good book and watching silly TV.

I sort of want to call some old friends and boyfriends, read them my list of grievances, and wait for them to ask me for forgiveness.

I want to tell people exactly what I think of them. Abel doesn’t see anything wrong with telling me that he doesn’t like my outfit or that it looks like someone has “eaten enough for the day.” I dream of being that careless with my own and others’ feelings. I want to stop the lady in Walmart and ask her if she looked in the mirror this morning, remind her that tapered or skinny jeans are just not for everyone. I want to tell the lady yelling at her kids to just shut up already.

My house is a mess but I want to really let it go. If I were dying, I would give up on the dust that I swear starts accumulating the second I am done dusting.

I wish I could just let my kids do whatever they wanted for a limited time. If they had a month in which I didn’t have any responbilities and neither did they, we would have a blast and eat too much candy every day and rot our brains with Wii and movies. We would do super messy crafts and spend tons of money going to lots of fun museums and parks. Wouldn’t it be great if you could spend time with your kids without worrying if you were ruining them? Let Dad teach them about responbility after I’m gone, I say.

Now that I read back through these, maybe they do sort of fit into the teachings of this series…shoot.

I suppose if I did everything in moderation, like perhaps I could have an afternoon to myself with snacks and bad tv, it wouldn’t be so bad. And one day of irresponsible parenting would be ridiculously fun for my kids, especially if it was a day that I wasn’t sick (because honestly, they might get to watch 3 movies in a row on those days….). Maybe I should be more honest with people, even those I don’t know, and consider it a good deed. And anyone who has been here knows that I have already basically given up the cleanliness battle.

It really is an interesting series and, if taken seriously, could be a fascinating journey. Not sure which of my secret hearts will win out or if I will just go through the motions as I often do…. I’ll keep you posted!

 

Favorite Child

I have a favorite child. It’s true although I know I’m not supposed to admit it out loud. I believe that every parent secretly prefers one of their children over the other. Maybe it is the child most like you, maybe it is the child most like your spouse or sibling or parent, or maybe you simply appreciate your first or last born the most. It’s not that you love them unequally, you just prefer to spend time with your favorite child more than the others. You would obviously give your life for any of your children, but isn’t there one that you would rather spend an hour with?

Curious as to which is my favorite? It actually depends on the day…or the hour…or the minute. You see, each of my kids is my favorite at different times and for different reasons. Let me elaborate. (By the way, I think I’m going to forgo using psuedonyms for my kids. I realize that people use them for safety reasons but I just don’t feel like pedophiles are going to find my blog and do the necessary research to find me and my kids. You may think I’m stupid and reckless but….)

Sam is my favorite child for a couple of reasons and at various times. I had a miscarriage before getting pregnant with him so I was both surprised and grateful that he was healthy and here. He and I, obviously, had a lot of alone time to bond and get to know each other when he was a baby. We also just have a lot in common. He is getting to be very sarcastic and competitive, which I’ve heard are traits that I have. He played hangman with Dad last night and couldn’t guess Dad’s word. He just sat there with a determined look on his face, trying not to show any emotion but you could see that if he allowed himself to, he would be sobbing soon. I convinced him to do a word for Dad and once he had stumped him, he was fine.

Sam loves to read and learn about different things so it is easy to find activities to do with him and he is honestly fun to talk to. We can go outside and play catch for a while then sit on the deck in the sun and each read a book. Perfection. He is also a responsible little guy and typically listens pretty well, although we are entering some pre-teen snotty times where he is sure that he knows more than me and challenges my authority more than I would prefer.

Of course, those are the times that he is not my favorite child. Nor is he my favorite when he refuses to tell me about his day until his brother starts talking and then he feels the need to correct every single thing out of Drew’s mouth. Ggrr.

Drew is my favorite child in a completely different way because we have a very different relationship. Drew is a man’s man and has been since the day he was born. Wait, that isn’t exactly true because he was Grandma’s boy for a while but now he is only interested in Daddy and both Grandpas most of the time. He will, however, come sit on my lap in the evening and ask to snuggle before bed and is very cautious about making sure I will check on him during the night. He was not a terribly happy baby, spit up all day long for 9 months, so we had some issues early on. When he was happy though, he was HAPPY, and has this amazingly infectious giggle that I love to pieces.

Drew doesn’t like to do things for fun, it is a punishment to him if I tell him to go play. He wants to play a game with someone for a purpose and has no time for imaginary play. If he goes outside to play, he is probably going to shovel or dig a path around the yard, not do silly things like flop in the snow as Sam does. If someone suggests a fantasy-type game, he will generally go along with it but you all better follow the rules of reason as he understands them and not get too crazy. You also better not anticipate him playing for very long because he might notice a project that needs to be completed.

We are somewhat alike in this aspect as I would rather be accomplishing something most of the time and we bond over shared projects. He loves to help and isn’t afraid to work hard. In fact, he fired an employee at the farm because she had scraped out the milking parlor and he really wanted to do it.

He is my favorite child when he snuggles and is eager to help anyone do anything. He is always right on the edge emotionally and could go either way, dissolving into laughter or tears. He is easy to cheer up most of the time and is always happier when Dad or Grandpa is around. After Christmas he told me that his favorite part of the holiday was getting more time with Dad and that Dad was his best present. Who couldn’t favor that kid?

Drew is also very self-aware for a 5-year-old. He realizes that he doesn’t really want to play with toys and isn’t upset when I tell him that I’m not getting him any for his birthday (and I’m really not.) He knows that he gets upset easily and you can see him working on it sometimes. He is so much like his Dad in so many ways but with unique Drew qualities that are so funny to watch. We can sit and play card games for hours and he say the funniest things. He might also be my favorite when he sings while pooping….lord that’s funny and I’m sure he’ll appreciate me writing that someday!

Bridget wins some favorite points just by virtue of being a girl. We have similar interests in jewelry and hair braiding but also in basketball and making snowballs to throw at her brothers. Bridget and I are spending much more time alone together than I ever got with the boys, which may could hurt or help our relationship. We have a lot of stubborn stand-offs that usually conclude with her crying but giving in, at least so far. All of my kids are extremely smart but she seems to be taking her intelligence to a sneaky, snotty place more often than the boys ever did. There is a small monkey rug in her room that she sits on when she is in trouble. I placed her on it the other day and told her to stay there; when I went back in a few minutes later and asked if she was ready to listen like a big girl, she quickly said “No” with a giant grin on her face. I told her that she could continue to sit on her monkey to which she replied, “I not have a monkey!” Yep, she had hidden the monkey rug.

Sam has always been eager to please and Drew eager to help but I haven’t figured out what Bridget wants to do…besides eat. This child will taste almost anything we offer her and right now prefers to have a salad with Raspberry Vinagrette dressing with every meal. Maybe it’s a girl thing or the amount of time we spend together but she is definitely copying me more than the other two. I have to admit, it’s sort of fun. She wins favorite status by virtue of her cuddling with petting her cow, sitting still while I paint her toenails, and saying the most hilarious things ever. She finished Daddy’s leftover cheese and salsa the other day and was performing a snotty little dance while taunting him about it. When he asked when she was going to make him some more she instantly replied, “Tuesday.” God love her.

So there you have it, I have a favorite child and you can always figure out who it is by gauging who is listenting to Mommy the best or who is cuddling on my lap at any given time. Maybe I should tell them that they can earn Mommy points with snuggles and see who takes the bait…

Languages of Love

After psychoanalyzing my friends and family yesterday, I have been thinking about the different ways that people show love and would like to share my thoughts with you lovely people. I have not read Languages of Love but we have talked about it a lot at book club. I would like to offer my own few languages of love, let me know what you think.

 

Foodies: These people show love by creating special meals for loved ones, even if that means making pigs in a blanket or something lovingly called “Hamburger Noodle Nasty”. Foodies will also bring food to any person in pain, in need, or sick and would never dream of showing up at a get-together without a savory offering. Foodies can also morph into food pushers at gatherings, encouraging a chosen few to have another helping of mashed potatoes or a second slice of pie. Foodies may also have an unhealthy personal relationship to food, or at least cheese, but that is a different story.

Foodies may end up causing obesity if they really love someone or want to offer help and don’t know any other way. Good news for me – my husband will never be obese while he continues to sprint around the farm so I can continue to make him steak and potatoes smothered in cheese!

 

Helpers: Helpers will come clean your windows, fix your computer, or shovel your driveway at any time and without expecting praise or payment. These busy go-getters may not excel at verbal or affectionate expressions of love but care by offering their time and talents. Helpers can be overwhelming if you are their only fix-it outlet but are typically well…helpful. This person may offer to drive you anywhere while your car is broken or feed your dog while you are away. Beware if this person takes the offer a bit further and wants to actually fix your car or snoop through your house while letting the dog out.

 

Nicknamers: This group is dominated by men but there are definitely some women who fall into this category. These people may not be comfortable expressing their love using typical words and rely on nicknames to get their feelings across. Ever listened to a group of frat brothers talk to or about each other? Rarely will you hear a given first name used but last names, or a version of a last name, will be substitued unless a better nickname has been bestowed. My husband had friends in college whose first names I still don’t know. There is one guy from his high school who uses his odd nickname as his Facebook profile because most people don’t know his real name.

Couples sometimes use this language of love to make sure their partner and everyone else in the room is aware of their feelings without being openly affectionate. In fact, I have never heard some couples call each other by their first name, instead always using a lovey nickname. This habit can get sickeningly sweet if not used properly so be prepared.

 

Awkwardies: This rare breed is unsure how to use any language of love and instead resorts to awkward hugs, strange backhanded compliments, and a general avoidance of any affectionate situation. When encountering this person at a funeral or wedding, any gathering in which a show of affection is usually given, be prepared for a stumbling, stuttering attempt at a hug that will result in a stiff back held apart from your body, typically accompanied by a weak patting of your back. You may also hear some strange words mumbled out that don’t mean much until you parse them out later, and then it will still be weird.

 

I’m sure I’ve missed some languages – any ideas?

 

Pesterers

Another long blogging hiatus, I apologize but between the worst cold I think I have ever had and the holidays, I just got lazy.

An ode to those who pester me the most about blogging….

My mom: loving, a little bit stressed, stylish, best grandma ever, smart, principled, funny, usually right, has one lock of hair that goes crazy when she’s angry or stressed

My oldest sister: hard working, caregiver, more than a little bit stressed, smart, funny, talented at so many things, excellent at navigating small town business and life, always quick to defend others, always supports her kids

My older sister: creative, talented in a wide range of things, funny, smart, might be a little crazy, excels at righteous indignation, allows her son to buy more clothes for his Ken doll

My good friend Nicole: always interested and interesting, great daughter/mother/sister, giving, smart and funny, always gives the honest scoop, loving

My good friend Sue: smart and funny (should I stop putting those in my descriptions and you can just assume I will say them about everyone I love?), earnest, go-getter, shows love in a “let me help you” fashion

My good friend Tammy: caring, giving, loving, funny and smart, able to divide up her time between work-kids-husband-self beautifully without anyone feeling like they lost anything

My good friend Kim: also might be a little crazy, scattered when it doesn’t matter but in complete control when it does, smart and funny, loving, always there
My good friend Kelly: honestly more “together” than I ever thought she would be growing up, funny and smart, true mom who doesn’t sugarcoat her thoughts on parenting

 

I’m sure I forgot some of the pesterers but these are the few that stand out in my mind and that I want to thank by exposing their personalities to the rest of you!

 

One other note, my little princess daughter might actually be a genius and I may have to change her name to reflect that. Granted, she is an evil genius, but a genius nonetheless. She carries her new zhu zhu pet, Yoda, with her everywhere we go (yes, the toy I vowed I would never get my kids and now we have 3) and is constantly telling me how much she loves Yoda and how much Yoda loves her. She loves Yoda best when it is snuggled in its little bed, tucked in with a little zhu zhu blanket. We had to walk to pick up the boys at school yesterday because tomorrow will mark 1 week that my van has been in the shop. As we walked along, we had a rare minute of silence that was quite enjoyable I must admit until she broke the stillness with this gem that I will quote word for word, “Hey mom? My zhu zhu pet loves you too.” Genius.

On the other genius’ in my family, Silly has completed a Lego City Airport, Lego City Fire Rescue Boat (that actually floats) and Lego Hogwarts Castle since Christmas Day with absolutely no help. And we were gone for 3 days and he has also made time to play Wii and socialize. He mentioned that he liked the Hogwarts castle best because it frustrated him a little bit. God bless him. McGee is reading very well and using it to his advantage in lobbying for more Wii time. He keeps telling me that he will read every message that comes on the screen if I will let him play. Little sh#$!

Again, I promise to be more regular in my blogging now that the holidays are over…..if only to persuade my sister to continue to refrain from posting embarrassing stories.