Exploring New Worlds

Sunday, March 13

I've moved

This blog has not been updated since September 2009. You are welcome to join me at my other blog, "polishing pearls". Check it out via my profile page.

Friday, September 4

Full-Fledged Toddler

V learned a week ago to escape from his crib. So, we removed the front gate, and he now has a toddler bed. He also now comes into our room, in the middle of the night, on his own two feet. At least he no longer wakes up the older ones by crying to be let out.

He has also learned how to take off his diapers if they are not covered by pants, and makes known his strong preference that I not put another diaper on him. He is attracted to electric outlets and plugs of any sort. He likes to move furniture. He also can open and close drawers, and likes to move clothes from one to another. He has discovered the laundry chute and thinks it is a good place for his brothers' shoes. He investigates any cup, glass, bowl, or plate left on the dining table - especially if it still contains something that might taste good. He likes to play with the tape dispenser when he finds it. He uses his push-car as a stool to reach the top shelf, where we keep all the interesting things like markers and cameras. He uses the kitchen stool to help himself to bananas and anything else that might be on the counter. One of the things frequently on the counter is our glass coffee carafe. We also tend to leave knives on the counter.

He is Terrifyingly Delightful. His grin lights up the room, and then I wonder if it means I have to go and rescue him, or his brothers, or our things from his power.

A part of his explosion of power is his power over words. His vocabulary is expanding every day, and his eyes light up when we understand what he is saying. Today he learned to say "jehdoh" (Jello).

Today's fortune: "The most important things in life aren't things." With a toddler in the house, that is a good thing.

Sunday, August 23

The other end of summer

Not feeling like writing much tonight, but feeling like a few things need to be said.

Here we are at the other end of summer. Continuing with Parenting On Track, at our own pace, trying to put principles into practice a few at a time. Some of the concepts are things I think we knew before, but now they are out in the open, where we can examine them, and remember them. We are working on our relationships with our boys, and with each other.

R has been away from our immediate family, with his grandparents, and at camp, for a total of a month since June. It has been good for the relationship between E & V to develop. It has also been good for E to learn that he doesn't have to mimic R to get attention and love. And, it has been a break for us. I imagine that it has also been good for R's relationship with his grandparents. On the other hand, we have not been able to work much on our relationship with him, which makes readjustment when he comes back crazy.

Crazier yet is that we have decided to home school the boys this fall. We start next week! Crazy as it still sounds to me, I am not too worried about it. (If I didn't worry at least a little, my family might wonder what alien took their mother's place.) I've been reading, and thinking, and we've done some planning, but we'll start mostly by trial and error. What works, we'll keep! Reports from our home school will be at my new blog, "Oyster School". As for the name, you'll just have to check it out over there.

As we go into the fall, I am looking forward to apple picking, corn mazes, home schooling field trips, a retreat with family and friends, and another retreat, where I hope to make some new friends as well as learn a few things about myself.

Enjoy with me this season of transition.

Tuesday, June 2


This is important. I want to write it.
But ... one thing I've discovered is ... I'm exhausted.

Not much different than usual, but worth noting nonetheless.

I've been learning a lot about myself, and my interactions with the boys this week.

I've discovered that I hover. I save. I entertain. I clean up after. I do for. I repeat. I yell. I nag. I direct. I bribe. When these things don't work, I resort to whining, threats, and tantrums of my own. I get frustrated, then angry.

This week has been a good lesson in letting all of that go. Some things are harder to let go of than others. Attempting to solve the boys problems is probably one of the hardest, for me.

I've discovered that when I'm not trying to solve everyone's problems for them, I can just empathize, hug, cuddle. That these actions are often more supportive than giving away my solutions. I can give suggestions best by posing them in the first person. "Sometimes I ...". It is clear that this works better than saying "you could". We now have evidence. And if the boys ask for something that they can do themselves? I am trying to differentiate between help and doing things for them; I am practicing "help yourself" and "I have confidence that you can ...", as well as asking guiding questions, instead of answers.

We are also discovering our limits. It is very hard not to intervene in violence between the boys, especially for AD. He was the little brother who was always picked on. The dynamic in our family is somewhat different, but close enough to be an issue.

There is also only so much mess that we can tolerate. And, in fact, we did get some agreement from at least R that the house was just too messy, and that it would be better to put things away as soon as we're done with them. Of course, that doesn't help with the current state of things, but he did also agree to clean up, as long as he didn't have to do it alone. Of course not! So we worked on cleaning up together, and ordered some pizza, and worked on cleaning up some more. AD & I probably cleaned up 5 times as much as R, and E did very little at all, but at least we kept V from dumping everything out again. And maybe, just maybe, the sugary cereal stuck all over everything in the living room will be a good reminder why we don't eat in there. In any case, getting some cooperation in cleaning up is going to be important for us.

There is so much more to write. But it will have to wait until I am not so exhausted.

Monday, June 1

Morning of the Fourth (Guest Blogger: AD)

Guest Blogger for this post: Articulate Dad:

Challenging. Truly challenging. This is the morning of our fourth day as a family on Parenting on Track. I've been less than perfect in my progress, but progress it has been. What impressed me most about Vicki's DVD presentation for the first week was that she made a great deal of sense. The program is not focused on the symptoms, but the root causes.

This morning, I was talking with RocketMom, about how at times we have felt at our wits' end: we've tried everything, what more can we do? He's whining again, we've asked him to stop, we've cajoled him, we've begged, we've screamed... we've tried to ignore it, we've modelled a polite voice, we've rewarded him when he's asked nicely... why isn't this working?

But therein lies the problem: we've focused on the symptom. It's not about the symptoms. It's not about the whining. It's about creating an environment and a relationship where whining has little place, where whining (or what have you) are not effective, and atrophy of their own accord. It's as if we've tried to stop an itch by scratching. It may go away... but it may take much longer and cause greater discomfort along the way.

I don't want discomfort. I want my beautiful, wonderful, charming, insightful, delightful, smiling, happy, joyful, amazing, incredible boys. I have sometimes said that parenting is the hardest task I've ever encountered, ever tried. I say it's harder than writing that doctoral dissertation. RocketMom says it's harder than rocket science (and she'd know). But why? Why?

In terms that Vicki Hoefle, Creator of Parenting On Track™, might use, the reason lies in our negotiating our place in the world. By adulthood we've encountered many new situations, new environments, beyond our family of origin. Those family relationships may still be stuck in the patterns of our childhood, but we've been able to negotiate new terms in school, at work, among friends.

But children! Ah.... or rather Aaaarrggghhh! When we bring a baby home, we are confronted with an unfamiliar territory where our shovels fail to break the soil, our rain fails to nourish the roots, the sun fails to penetrate the clouds. And we lose our footing.

So we begin again, finding our places in this alien world, negotiating our roles and our identities with only the vaguest sense of where to begin. Unfortunately, much of that starting place is defined by our odd notions of what is expected of parents, and we lose our way.

So, we begin again, again!

Last night, I headed to bed around 11:30. R was still in the family room playing on the computer. E was apparently asleep on a chair beside him. I didn't set the alarm. I crawled out of bed around 7:15. Normally we leave for R's school around 7:20. It's about a 5 minute drive. First bell rings at 7:28, letting children into the building, the doors are locked when classes begin ten minutes later. I threw on some clothes, headed downstairs, noted R was dressed in the dining room, assumedly eating cereal. I grabbed my keys and wallet from my desk.

7:20, R greets me gleefully, as I left my home office: Daddy, you know today is Monday. Quickly and flatly I retort, with keys in hand: Yes, I'll be waiting in the car. And I left, pulled out of the garage, and waited, listening to the news on NPR. I looked at the clock periodically, vowing to sit it out until 7:38 before I'd head back in, closing my eyes, breathing.

7:36, readying for a possible confrontation, rehearsing: maybe they'll be having that rained-out field day today, you might miss it... you know, honey, the law requires you to be in school for the rest of the year. I honestly don't know what the consequences are if you refuse to go to school: they might not let us homeschool you next year, or they might take you away from us and put you in a foster home. Maybe we could call someone and ask, or go to the school, and ask the principal what would happen.

I open my eyes, to note in my periphery, R heading to the car door, opening it, putting on his seatbelt. I ease off the hand-brake, back out of the drive, and head to his school. 7:39 we pass the now-locked side door, and head to the front, where latecomers can get in. He opens the door. Wha? I... I forgot my folder... [silence]. I forgot my folder... [silence]. He closes the door. I see he's in shorts with sandals, but has a jacket (it's a rainy day again... I hadn't even noticed until now), no backpack. He enters the building.

A good start to the week. We might just get through this, and find define a better world on the other side. Consequences. Responsibility. Love.

Sunday, May 31

Finding our way to nothing

Day Three of the Parenting On Track program:

By Friday afternoon, the mess had started getting to us. Cereal all over the living and dining room floors, the couch cushions on the floor, and the ubiquitous toys, toys, toys everywhere. So - we cleaned up. We thought, maybe it would be our version of nothing to throw everything into a trash bag and stash it away somewhere.

Friday, we filled two trash bags. Yesterday, we filled one. Today we filled another one. And then we realized. They don't care if we take away the toys. They are pretty sure they'll get them back one day. If not, they have plenty more. And when we cleaned up, we did just what they wanted and expected. We reacted.

So, tonight, we dumped the trash bags out on the floor of the living room, where they will stay until the week's end. This will pose some problems for AD's meetings in the home office, but I suppose we'll figure something out.

The past three nights, we also made dinner for the family. We are used to family dinners. We like them ... but they are another thing that causes family fights. The cook (usually AD) feels disgruntled when the fruits of his efforts are not appreciated or even consumed. And then there's the cleanup. We left their dishes from the last two days where they were, but cleaned up the food, out of concern that they would get food poisoning from eating it. Tonight's dinner still sits partially eaten on the table.

We also clean up food that gets left out that we may want to eat. Well, I think we'll continue to do that. I like to have smoked salmon on my bagel. I'm sure the cats would like the fish, too, but they didn't buy it.

Then there are the dishes. So far, we have done partial cleanup of the kitchen several times - the kitchen mess really is mostly our mess. In fact, the kitchen is the biggest reason that we hired a house-cleaner to come once a week. She usually cleans up the bedrooms, changes the sheets, cleans the bathrooms, floors, living room and kitchen. I asked her not to come this week.

R & E have been up more than two hours past "bed-time" each of the last three nights. I have been putting V. to bed at a somewhat regular time. I usually nurse him & rock him to get him to sleep. But should I? He is 16 months old now. Should I give him the opportunity to get really tired and fall asleep on his own?

Of course having a one-year-old in the house complicates the rest of the clean-up issues as well. When the boys broke a dish as they played with their dinner tonight, we cleaned it up so that the baby wouldn't get glass in his feet. Should we have left it there, for big brothers to see the consequences of their inaction, instead of our reaction to it? I don't know. To be fair, they had cleaned up all the big pieces - just hadn't thought of a broom.

I also don't know if R will go to school tomorrow. And what should I do if he doesn't? Call the school to vouch for him? Let the absence be unexcused and wait for the truancy officer to call us or knock on our door? Complicating this issue is that he is underchallenged and unenthusiastic about school. We have decided to homeschool in the fall, but the paperwork is not yet filed, so officially he needs to go. Should I file the paperwork to homeschool and let him just skip the rest of the year?

Although it must sound like it, the past few days have not been all bad. We have doled out a lot of hugs and kisses. We have played games with the boys. We are learning to use questions and "I statements" instead of solving the boys' problems for them. We have become more aware of our habits and emotions. We have discovered that R is capable of making French toast by himself (although he needed help lighting the burner). E can wipe his own bottom after using the toilet (although we felt the need to help him clean up his hands and feet afterwards). R & E are capable of going around the block by themselves. And, if we tell them, "we are leaving, we have our cell phones, you know how to reach us", they believe us. (We had V with us, and fortunately, R & E decided at that moment to hurry out the door after us, so we didn't have to test our resolve.)

Tomorrow I will try to write more about the discoveries we are making about ourselves and the boys.

Friday, May 29

Parenting On Track: Day One

Parenting, recently, has been exhausting and exasperating. I don't think much has changed besides my perception, but perceptions can be powerful. Thanks to some intriguing reporting on the program from Jena, we decided to try Parenting On Track.


Saying nothing is extremely difficult. Doing nothing is extremely difficult. The results are powerful.

It started this morning at least an hour before I was hoping to get up; "Mommy, how do you turn the computer on." In my drowsy, hopeful state, I murmured, "The power strip is unplugged."

That was my first mistake. But I was really hoping for another hour of sleep.

He took the initiative to look up "power strip" in the dictionary, but apparently the search was not fruitful. For the next hour, all I heard, in increasing desperation was, "What is a power strip?"

Since then, I've been hit, yelled at, doused with water, pestered with incessant repetitions of the same question, and told, "this is my worst day ever."

I also watched my son follow me up and down the sidewalk on his scooter, with pants on backwards, only one shoe on, and screaming the entire time. I saw him look me in the eye, pick up a can of soda from the counter and drink some. I could see the gears turning, Mommy is not answering me/paying attention to me/letting me control her. I'll try something else that usually gets a reaction. I have also witnessed fighting with his brother to get attention, attempting to disrupt what we are doing to get attention, and, after being told that unsafe behavior will not be tolerated, yelling for help, to be rescued from a marginally safe activity. Oh, and he didn't go to school today.

It's freeing, really, not to have to respond to this atrocious behavior. I have witnessed from the receiving end that repeating a request does not make it happen. That yelling does not make it happen. That violence does not make it happen. That threats (even when carried through) do not make it happen. I ashamedly admit that I already know what these behaviors look like from the other end.

It is much more difficult not to respond to comparatively easy requests delivered in a somewhat reasonable fashion. But doing things for them is what they want, part of the way I interfere with their growth towards independence, and only fosters more requests to take care of things they can do themselves. So I consider the request, and help if I suspect that they really need it. If I suspect they don't, I attempt to ignore it and let the situation escalate.

A byproduct of this approach is that because I am not soliciting/serving/cleaning up after the boys, I suddenly seem to have a lot more time. I don't know what to do with myself.

And so I write.