Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sleeping Results in a Felony Arrest?

My husband is a deep sleeper. Not a he won't hear you knocking on the door deep sleeper. More like a he won't feel you knocking on his head deep sleeper. For two years he worked only night shifts. He had no problem sleeping during the day- even during the summer with 6 kids running through the house.

This talent is great for crazy ED shift changes, but it isn't without pitfalls. Many of them quite funny...

Growing up, my family had a very open, welcome home. I remember dropping by one day (I had a key even though I hadn't lived there for many years) and searching the house for family. I found my brother's friend eating cereal while watching TV. Turns out my brother was staying after school, sister was at a friend's house, Dad was at a class and Mom was at the store. Wasn't until the next day that it hit me as odd that my brother's friend was hanging out alone in my parent's house.

So it should come as no big shock that when my husband and I were mere boyfriend/girlfriend he had a key to their house while we were out of town. Why would I, in the midst of a life long love affair, be out of town? My father had a slight midlife crisis realizing (correctly) this might be his last summer with all single children and took us all to every child's dream vacation: Disneyland. Being 18 at the time, he was only 10 years too late for me.

So, due to pre-cell phone days, Peter and I would spend our evenings on the phone arguing over who missed whom the most, and during the days he would sometimes stop by the house between his two jobs and crash. Which is exactly what happened one afternoon.

As my boyfriend snored on the downstairs couch, two young neighborhood girls walked by and noticed his car. (Now this car was not the fancy Audi he drives today. It was the rottenness, oldest piece of junk to hit the road. Whenever we drove over the Point of the Mountain, we had to push the car to the limits of its speed before the incline so that the car wouldn't come to a complete stop before the top.) Ever observant, the girls realized it wasn't our family's car. Besides, they knew we were out of town. Strange & junky car and family on vacation warranted further inspection, and that is when they noticed the downstairs window was broken (for several weeks, but they'd failed to have cause for inspection earlier than now).

Doing what all responsible people should when you see a strange & junky car, vacationing neighbor's house, and broken basement window: they called the police. In no time at all the situation included a strange & junky car, vacationing family, broken basement window, and police on the door step with car lights flaring and knocking loudly. Naturally a crowd quickly gathered.

The police looked into the broken basement window pane to see a man sacked out on the couch. "Yes officers, we're sure the whole family is gone." Now there is a strange & junky car, vacationing family, broken basement window, police knocking on the door, curious gathered crowd and a man sacked out on the couch who is REFUSING to respond to the knocks on the door (which are quickly escalating to pounds).

Meanwhile, Peter slept through it all.

Finally, a few too many minutes later and just before the police decided to break down the door, Peter woke to the sound. He staggered, half awake, to the door and opened it to a lawn full of police and neighbors. Drawn guns and public humiliation have a quick way of waking a person up, even the deepest of sleepers. It is amazing no pants were peed.

Those poor girls, who really had done the right thing, recognized my boyfriend immediately and tried to explain their honest mistake to the adrenalin pumped officers while Peter, hands in the air, desperately professed his innocence. "Here are the keys they gave me. Here's the hotel where they're staying. Here are pictures of me with their daughter. That window has been broken as long as I've known this family!! Please don't arrest me; please don't shoot me; I'm promise I'm not robbing them, I'm just taking a nap!!" Finally convinced he was more of a lovesick, excessively deep sleeper than psycho house robber, the police let him get back to his nap.

That evening I had one of the more entertaining phone calls in my life. Like I said, deep sleeping can result in some rather humorous pitfalls.

P.S. I think the trait is inherited---->

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hannah Montana taught me a lesson...

...and if you've seen the movie, you'd be surprised that it was about letting children be themselves.

Let me be clear about something. I am not a huge fan of the Disney Channel. All their shows feel like extended commercials for merchandise or concerts. Plus, they have a tendency to take cute little kids and turn them into fantastic role models, like Spears and Lohan. I do let the kids watch some of the shows, I even find a few entertaining. However, I find Hannah Montana, besides having a ridiculous plot line and questionable acting, to be nothing short of a full blown Disney propaganda attack. So I was a little bit proud that my 12 year old had no interest in watching the recently released to theaters movie.

Cracks in her "I can't believe all the girls are so giddy to watch this movie" resolve quickly showed. I first noticed with her simple statement of "Mom, I heard that Hannah Montana movie isn't as bad as we thought." Over the next few days that statement, with slight variation, was repeated often. Finally I asked her if she was implying she wanted to see the movie. "Why?!? Are you going to take me?" she squealed. I quickly changed the subject, but the damage had been done. The next week was filled with, "Remember if you asked if I wanted to see that movie. Did you ask because you're going to take me?"

To make matters worse, my almost 7 year old joined her sister in wanting (and asking) to go. While on spring break in North Carolina she had missed a birthday party where they had rented out an entire theater to watch the movie. I think most of the other girls in her class had attended. "But you got to have fun with your aunts," just wasn't cutting it.

The final straw was the annual father-son camp out. Last year we had a girls' night- plus 1.5 year old Matthew- when the guys left. This year Peter decided to take all four boys. I decided it was time to take my girls to that movie: I only had to drive a half hour to find a theater that was still playing it.

The guilt started as soon as I saw how excited they both were with my decision. This obviously meant more to them than I had anticipated. They chattered nonstop to the theater, jittering legs and huge grins betraying their excitement. By the time we left the theater I had to admit Hannah Montana the Movie had surpassed my (rather low) expectations. As we drove home my girls joyfully reviewed their favorite parts; their happy spirit was quite contagious. I had learned a lesson.

I had been so determined that my children would not admire a TV celebrity that I had force fed them my opinions. Spoonful by spoonful of "ridiculous plot line", "terrible acting," "ludicrous outfits," and "preying on parents' wallets." I even took pride in hearing those opinions regurgitated out of their mouths. After all, my daughters were too sophisticated for the intense pandering of Disney.

I was so busy making sure they conformed to my ideal, I had nearly forced them to miss out on something they truly enjoyed. As we drove home I realized that I have limited time of unconditional adoration. I'm pretty sure stifling their personalities and belittling their interests cuts into that time. I need to be careful of my criticism, not just about my children, but about everything. Good thing to learn on something simple like a TV show.

My girls are not Hannah Montana robots. They aren't obsessed. They don't want to be just like her. They wanted to see a simple movie that all their friends had loved. They loved it. To show them I wasn't disappointed (a conclusion they could have easily drawn from everything I'd said about the movie previously), I bought them the sound track on the way home. We put on new pajamas and painted our nails while listening. A movie I was so resistant about seeing ended up creating a precious mother-daughter bonding moment. I guess I don't mind Hannah after all. I might even owe her a big thank you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This Arrangement is Awesome

Someone linked to this on twitter this morning and it was so cool I thought I would share. These are two of my oldest's favorite songs:

(Thanks for the link bhans)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Something that has worked for me: Special Days

It all started 5 or 6 years ago. I had 4 kids and noticed I was always buying things to do together with the kids, but never did them. It was always "when I have time." Something about 4 kids and a husband in residency (if my memory is correct I was incubating #5 at the time) prevented there ever being that time. My solution to this problem was something I called "Special Days with Mom." Each child got a set aside time to spend with Mom. No interruptions or other children allowed. The kids loved it and I kept it up for a couple months.

I revived the tradition my first summer in North Carolina (almost) 4 years ago. This time we had long term goals. I remember that Elise and I made a quilt and Ryan and I made a volcano. Kirsti and Ethan did more one day craft things. We lasted through the end of summer, but things tapered off when school started.

But the idea stuck. I was periodically asked when we were starting special days again. We would occasionally do it here or there, but not regularly. But the kids were persistent, so at the beginning of this year I restarted the tradition. I assigned each kid a specific day and they get 30-45 minutes alone with mom. It is interesting to see the kids choices: Elise prefers crafts, Ethan games, Ryan and Kirsti love to cook things, and Joseph and Matthew will do anything- as long as they get to yell "You can't help, it's my special day!" to anyone who dares enter their line of sight.

30 minutes may not seem like a lot, but the little "What my mom does for me" fill in the blanks the kids filled out at school for Mother's Day were about 1/2 filled with special day activities. When I went to my grandmother's funeral and was gone a week, I thought the kids hardly noticed, till they all produced their list of things they wanted to do on their special days the next week.

The children look forward to their days and spend a lot of time deciding their activities. One kid (not one of the little ones) burst into tears when I forgot to pick up the ingredients for pumpkin pie and he had to wait an extra week to make it. Some weeks we have a theme: crafts, puzzle or learning activities, card games, etc. But more often than not I let them decide whatever their heart desires (as long as it is under an hour and we have the products on hand).

Here are some things that work for me:

  1. Don't let it take too long. There is limited time after school and if I take too long, I am tempted to start skipping.
  2. Assign days. I double up 2 each on Tues., Wed., & Fri. If our schedule gets messed up I make up on Saturday or Sunday.
  3. Make themes sometimes. If there is something I want to do, we go with my choice that week (but I let them know before hand). Usually they get to pick but for sanity sometimes I get my choice.
  4. Listen for things they mention would be fun or they show interest in when the other kids choose it. That way if they can't decide you have ideas ready.
  5. Enjoy the time. Don't worry about what isn't getting done, what you are getting done is far more important.

Obviously I have stopped and started this over and over. The kids still love it, even if I only keep it up for a couple months. My goal is to keep it going this time, but if I fail, they still have the memory. And, like I said, they'll keep asking to do it again. What better testimonial to effectiveness is there?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Turns out one size does not fit all

I am the oldest of six children and as such started my mothering career with a "the youngest had it so easy" complex. So in my ultimate plan, which ultimately failed, I knew that I would be the queen of consistency. If I did it for one, I would do it for all. Completely fair (and completely stupid).

Fortunately it didn't take too long to realize my mistake. You could tell the kids were different when I was pregnant with my second. Turns out different personalities require different approaches. Who knew? Grounding one from TV is true torture while another HATES writing apology notes and the third breaks down in tears and corrects themselves at the suggestion that they've disappointed me.

Also, big surprise, kids were ready for different things at different times. My daughter was more than able to stay on her own for awhile at 8. My son...not so much. Some are natural cleaners, others need more, um, "encouragement." Some are dying for independence while their siblings need more help cutting those apron strings.

Some are physical, some throw fits, some talk back, and some are sneaky. One, who shall remain nameless, is a little bit of all four. Each one requires a unique approach. My plan of complete consistency was doomed to fail as soon as I relied on the randomness of genetics over exact cloning of myself.

And even if I had cloned me, things wouldn't be much better. Because circumstances change. With just two young preschoolers my schedule was pretty wide open, now with 4 in school and 2 preschoolers it is slightly insane. Plus, we make a little more than we did during undergrad and med school. Different size houses & yards, different friends & neighborhoods & school policies, different climates, all these affect parenting and make "complete consistency" not only unrealistic but also undesireable.

To top it all off, I've learned from my mistakes and tried to do better. I have accepted that the oldest is just made to be a guinea pig and no silly ideas of rigidity is going to fix that. I try to remember she had things that her younger siblings never had, too (like mom's undivided attention).

And so I find that my oldest waited for her bike till she was 6 while my 3rd had one at 4. Not a single kid went to preschool until #5. My oldest 3 didn't know Happy Meals existed until old enough to read, my youngest 3 think the world's ending if there is no toy in the bag. I volunteered weekly my first two children's first two years of school and I haven't been in yet this year. Things change. Kids are different. Mom is different. When it comes to parenting, one size just didn't fit all: one size didn't even fit one.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Graveyard of Mothering Theories

Do you have that place, the graveyard where your old ideas lie? Some lived a long and helpful life but succumbed to ever changing circumstances, others never made it past their infancy, dying before ever really living. And then there are the haunting ones: the ideas that would have grown into greatness, if they hadn't been starved and neglected to their death.

Such is the graveyard of mothering theories and ideas. I completely and totally understand John Wilmot, "Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories." In fact a copy of that quote sits on my fridge. I remember all my "I will never.." and "I will always..." and "the only way to...".

What I didn't account for was that those darn kids would have different personalities and had to be treated individually. On top of that, I completely ignored my own ability to adapt and learn; I wouldn't be the same person my entire life. I supposed I could keep all the same rules and regulations with all the kids because I knew the right direction before I started the journey. Didn't account for my preconceived misconceptions, that I would have to take corrective action on my mistakes to correct my course. I missed that the path of parenting is not so much straight as it is a labyrinth.

I don't think this is a product of my youthful beginnings (in fact I've noticed that those who wait longer seem to have planned out their path more fully and find it harder to change their course or even recognize they are in a maze). I do think adding so many unique personalities to our family helped me recognize the bewilderingly complex nature of parenting more quickly.

So in the celebration of Mother's Day I thought I'd spend some posts allowing you to tour my own personal graveyard of mothering theories and ideas. The good, the bad, and the silly. Some ideas are still thriving, others are better left resting in peace. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birthday Parties

If I happened to have a child born on leap day, they could have a birthday party on their actual birth day every time. Which is my roundabout way of stating my strict once every 4 years birthday party policy. Since Elise turned 12, she was able to throw party #3 (and they said you'd never use math in everyday life).

She decided on a sleepover party, which means my chief responsibility was to sit in the corner and pretend to be invisible. I overheard more girl talk than can possibly be healthy for someone past the age of 25. Luckily, the talk had a damper from the incessant texting (this texting also doused any consideration for ever buying my poor daughter a cell phone). Anyway, the girls had a lot of fun, I got prime uninterrupted laptop time, and the other kids got to go to a movie with Dad.

The cake is my attempt at an iPod. I was running late, so didn't have time to make it perfect. I was trying to make it the color of Elise's nano, but it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. If you're interested, click here for a better looking example and instructions.