Monday, July 25, 2011

Kids are resilient - a rant

I picked up a book at the library a few weeks ago, upon the suggestion of someone on a message board. The book is called "Free from Lies" by Alice Miller. She outlines, in broad strokes, her theory that childhood trauma must be validated in order for the adult to have a healthy emotional life. She asserts that most people who suffer from adult depression do so because they have denied (and others have ignored or denied) the trauma or abuse that depressed adults suffered as children. Though I don't agree with every premise the author suggests, there are some points that she makes that are very insightful. First and most important, she challenges the idea that "kids are resilient."

I've always felt and understood, as a child of an abusive home myself, that children are NOT resilient. Children have no power in the world. Children do not CHOOSE to "deal" with the situation in which they live. Children have to cope, with the best (read:inadequate) mechanisms they have, with what adults subject them to. Children are not resilient. The definition here tells us that resilient means "recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like." In situations of abuse, there is no "ready recovery." There is suppression and coping. Children do not have the capacity that many adults have, to emotionally process what's happening, to escape the situation that's causing stress, to compare a situation to a frame of reference and understand the abnormality of an event. Children are NOT resilient. They cope because they have no choice.

There are a few situations in which I see this happening - situations in which adults deny the trauma to which children are subjected:

1. Divorce. Do I really need to say this?! How is it that many of us don't understand that divorce emotionally devastates children? The very foundation of a child's life is the dependance he has on his parents. "Oh, they'll be fine. They'll cope. They'll get over it." Really? REALLY?! A child's entire world changes, is turned upside down, and we just expect them to get over it? How do we assume that children don't feel? That because they are young and little that their feelings are less than our own? As adults, we have the choice of whether or not we subject our children to suffer such a monstrous blow.

As a society, we frown on "staying together for the children." Why the hell shouldn't we try, with every, every, every effort that we have to keep marriages intact for our children? Are people really so selfish that they can't work like their own lives depend upon the success of their marriage? How about working on their marriage because their children are worth it? "Oh, I just fell out of love with my husband." Are. You. Serious? This isn't like falling off a ladder- you don't "fall out of love" with someone. The kind of love it takes to hold together a marriage is a love that has to be chosen. Every day. It's work sometimes. (Heck, some years it's even work a lot of the time.) But these are our children we're talking about.

2. Bullying. One of the main arguments I hear against homeschooling is that I'm not teaching my children how to handle bullies. And that's a valid argument, because I'm not teaching them about bullies. In the adult world, if someone at work harasses you, you take it up with HR. If some acquaintance physically assaults you, you call the police and press charges. In the kid world, those aren't options. In the kid world, you keep your mouth shut and your head down and you hope to God that adults don't get involved because then the bullying worsens and becomes more insidious. But as adults, we forget that. Frankly, I think that all the "bullying awareness" that we have now in schools sounds great on the surface (sounds great to adults), but is just another impotent attempt of adults to make an artificial environment (school, where everyone is segregated by age) operate as a cohesive society. Crazy talk, I tell you. Let's put a group of people who don't have a skill (socialization) together to teach each other that skill that they don't know. Blind leading the blind. Brilliant.

3. Alcoholism. As the child of two alcoholics, I became an expert at keeping The Secret. Any ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) knows what I mean. No one outside the family must ever, ever know what goes on behind closed doors. Problem? There's no problem! See? Good student! Involved in school activities! Has a part-time job, boyfriend, friends! Cheerful! Normal, normal, normal! But the problem comes later, when The Secret is out. When the adult (and less often, the child) stops hiding the truth and lets it free, there is a huge, huge tendency of others to deny the reality of what happened. "Oh, you're such a normal person - surely you're exaggerating! I've met your parents. They're great people." Yes, they're great actors. The whole family is. That's why you don't believe!

Back to the book - the author has some things to say about how we, as adults, validate the feelings of children. We should admit our own mistakes. We don't want to put the expectation of forgiveness on our children - that is a child's free will, a gift that they can choose or not choose to give, without coercion. But we must acknowledge the "wrongness" of a situation. "I yelled at you, and that was wrong. I'm sorry, and I'll try to do better." And also, we need to understand, truly internalize, that the feelings of children are just as valid as those of adults. Children are people - they feel, oftentimes more acutely, the same feelings we feel. We adults should keep that in mind when we expect children to be "resilient."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Holding myself accountable

I'm having fun with my kids this summer, and soaking in Sam's babyhood. I love this picture.

Keeping in mind my vow to keep them away from the TV, we're finding more to do in the backyard. Bucket of soapy water and some stained t-shirts that I cut up along with a scrub brush and a backyard toy made for an hour of fun.

I realized again that I can't do it all. Now that my kids have more time (because the TV isn't eating all of it) they can help more. Good for them and good for me.

And this one is so painful to post, but I will be accountable! I must lose the last 25 pounds of baby weight. This was taken on July 3 - that's my belly in the yellow! OUCH! I will remember that my body is not a garbage disposal, and I will mind what I eat! I will NOT sit on the computer every evening. I will get out and WALK with the kids as soon as my husband fixes the gate so that I can get the stroller out.

Summer reading

Upon reading the recommendation of another blogger, I picked this up at the library:

Yes! This is JUST what I needed to hear!

It's okay to cut the kids' TV time to near nothing.
It's okay to not study current events with my ten-year-old.
It's okay that our house is not overflowing with toys. (Really, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never felt the need to have lots of toys around the house. Small house, lots of people... too much stuff makes me feel claustrophobic.)

I really needed a kick in the pants. The last third of my pregnancy with Sam was physically taxing, moreso than with the other four. I relied entirely too much on the television and video games to entertain the kids. It's time to kick that habit to the curb! To that end, I found this website that gives me TONS of good ideas to engage the little ones. I intend to pass these little nuggets out occasionally for Gracie and Joey, when we're desperate. As for Luke (8) and Adam (10-almost-11), they are just fine finding their own entertainment, thankyouverymuch.

Lest I get on my soapbox (too late!), I feel that it's important to say that boredom is not the enemy of childhood! (It might be the enemy of an orderly kitchen, but if I really wanted a neat house I'd live alone.) If a child's every moment is filled with noise - not only the sounds of video games and TV and computers, but the visual clutter of a room packed to the gills with STUFF, and the spiritual and emotional crowding of having an entertainment committee (aka well-meaning parent who schedules every moment) - he cannot exercise creativity and imagination. And we all know what happens without exercise, right? Atrophy. So I'm going to let my kids be kids without the gadgets, bells, and whistles. Boredom is our friend. It forces them (and me) to exercise a little creativity and imagination.

Now someone remind me of that when I'm trying to get dinner on the table and they're all underfoot, okay?

Isn't this the coolest?

Our neighbor, Mike, built a replica Model A from scratch. Like Hubby said, "He's like MacGyver and Mr. Wizard, all rolled into one!" Of course, all the kids (except Sam) took a ride. What a cool way to celebrate Independence Day!

Yep, she did it AGAIN!

Another unauthorized haircut in our house. You remember this post? At least this time, Joey is off the hook.

Joey asked Hubby if he could have scissors to cut some paper.
Joey: "Dad, can I have the scissors to cut paper, please?"
Hubby: "Yes, but what do we cut with scissors?"
Joey: "Just paper."
Hubby: "Do we cut our clothes?"
Joey: "No."
Hubby: "Do we cut hair?"
Joey: "No."
Hubby: "Okay. You can have the scissors. TO. CUT. PAPER."

Hubby gave the scissors to Joey. Joey cut the paper he wanted to cut, put the scissors down, and left the room.

Enter Gracie, who has seen Tangled about a kajillion times.


What you don't see is that her hair in the back is quite a bit longer - about halfway down her back.


You notice how lopsided it is in the second picture? What you don't see is the mounds of hair that I brushed off her shoulders, the huge pile of hair in the kitchen, and the rat-tail she'd left in the back. We took her out to get a professional haircut the next day to clean it up.

I think she looks a bit too pleased with herself.

And here it is, after the "fix." Cute? Yes. Easier? Yes. But I still miss the long hair!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In keeping with my resolutions here, I've made an effort in the past couple of weeks to cut myself some slack. (And frankly, I think everyone else around here would be happier if I would just chill out and not be so. darn. anal. all the time.)

What I have learned by stepping back a little and changing my perspective:

Water is not that messy.

The smiles on their faces are worth the minute or two that it'll take me to wipe up a couple of overflows from preschool dish washing.

Sometimes I won't get the Perfect Shot of the baby because someone is yelling, "Take a picture of ME, Mom!" (Okay, like I EVER get the Perfect Shot, anyway!)

If you give a five-year-old boy the camera, he WILL take a picture of the toilet.
And that's okay.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Marsh Triple Coupons!

Total spent = $20.59
Total saved = $66.30
I would've done better, but I had to get milk. Still, not bad!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Finding balance

Life with a newborn is unpredictable.

Life with a newborn is unpredictable.

Life with a newborn is unpredictable.

I'm hoping that if I keep saying that to myself, I'll cut myself a little slack. That somehow, I'll really and truly believe that the above applies to me.

There are going to be messes that I can't get to right away.

I won't always get uninterrupted time to work on lesson plans. I can't keep a spotless house all of the time. My to-do list will not always (or often, or usually) get done. I need to be flexible. I need to bend. I need to, temporarily at least, lower my standards. I am only one human being. I am not imperfect, or invincible.

I must, MUST keep my eyes (and my attention) on what is important. Making memories. Crafting a childhood for my children that is worth remembering. Communicating to them that they - not the housework, or the bill-paying, or the grocery shopping - are important.

It's such a struggle for me. Maybe it's my perfectionism. I like to be able to point to results and say, "I did that." It's easy to look at a clean kitchen floor, or a basket of folded laundry, or a perfectly balanced checkbook and feel that sense of satisfaction. There is a measurable end, a quantifiable result. Not so with the relationships that I'm trying to build with my children. That is more amorphous, less concrete. But so much more important.

I read so many blogs about women who rhapsodize about the afternoons they spend with their children: crafting, adventuring, creating memories. (I know, don't compare the inside of my life to the outside of someone else's. Yeah, yeah.) It seems those women are always bemoaning their lack of housekeeping skills. That they have all these unconquerable messes. Laundry is taking over the house, junk mail is piling up, the kitchen floor hasn't seen the business end of a mop in more than a month, etc. I envy them their ability to let go of their housekeeping expectations. That's never been my problem. I can keep house just fine, thanks. Sure, I get behind every once in a while, but for the most part, my house can be company-ready in five minutes or less. The facet of life I struggle with the most is being present.

I know that I need to slow down, to savor this time in my life, when my littles are are little, when I have a baby to snuggle. I know that I shouldn't beat myself up about the dust that's gathering on my windowsills, or the fingerprints on the TV screen, or the baseboards that desperately need to be painted in the living room. The most important thing is to soak this in. Soak in the sweet smell of a new baby, the enthusiasm of a new reader, the unending riddles of an eight-year-old. I should play princesses more often. I should read Go Dog Go and Old Hat New Hat. I should build forts and play Play-Doh.

should. should. should.

Stop, breathe deep.

Let the housework go.

Hug your kids.

Go outside.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I've been putting off updating my blog for a bit, because I didn't have anything earth-shattering to say. So to break my writer's block, I'm just going to put a hodge-podge of pictures up here, and let you peek at what we've been up to.

First up: last day of school, breakfast of homemade crepes. Oh. My. Word. These are sooo good.

Joey "reading" to Gracie in her room, before bedtime:

This is what the kitchen table looks like when we color Easter eggs. Notice that Hubby is brilliant, because he gave the kids Easter coloring pages to work on while they waited for their eggs to finish dying.

Gracie played soccer this spring. This wet, muddy, cold spring. I missed watching a couple of games because it was too cold for me to sit at the field with Sam. (The new baby... we named him Samuel Patrick.)

Joey, with his t-ball medal. He was so proud! He's worn that medal around the house randomly for a couple of days.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Battling cabin fever

We have had some real weather this winter. More (and earlier) snow than usual, and now an amazing ice storm. My university actually cancelled classes! (I've had loads of free time this week, which has been wonderful.) I'm quite impressed with what Mother Nature has thrown our way.

But the weather has kept us indoors more than usual. Fortunately we hadn't yet decorated for Valentine's Day, so I was able to find some interesting projects for the kiddos to do, to keep them busy.

Nienie inspired me to try Crayon Hearts.

I regret to say that I enjoyed making them a lot more than the kids did. But they are pretty! (Not as pretty as Martha's, I guess, but I don't have a staff of people just to cut things out for me.)

Hubby cut out some paper heart mobiles that the kids decorated. That went over much better.

I have to say that I'm getting a bit stir-crazy, and more snow is expected this weekend. (For those of you who don't live in the Midwest, snow on top of ice is BAD NEWS.) I have started nesting (6-ish weeks to go until baby!) and I wish I could get down to a good spring cleaning. However, I don't think I'll be opening any windows any time soon. I'll just have to settle for washing cute baby clothes and purging things we don't need.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Frugal Cloth Wipes

I know you've heard me wax poetic about cloth diapers in the past. I love my cloth diapers: frugal, earth-friendly, and so much prettier than nasty plastic diapers. To keep with the theme, I also use cloth wipes. It makes no sense to pay out money for the equivalent of chemical-laden paper towels, and it's just not practical to throw a diaper in the pail and a wipe in the trash. (Not to mention, they can get pricey.)

I knew that I needed to replenish my stock of cloth wipes - the ones I have are threadbare after being washed, over and over, for years. This time, instead of shelling out $5/dozen for some WAHM-made wipes, I decided to make my own. I kept my eyes peeled in the paper for a good sale/coupon at JoAnn Fabrics, so I could make my wipes as cheaply as possible.

And then, guess what I found on Craigslist? A dozen flannel receiving blankets for $5! Just what I needed: cheap flannel! I pounced on those blankets, you can bet! Two of them turned out to be made of something other than flannel, but no worries.

Originally, I tried to cut my wipes 8x8 inches, and only zig-zag the raw edges of two squares together. That didn't work - too much fraying. So then I cobbled this method together:

1. Cut wipes to desired size. (In my case, that's 8 inches x 8 inches.)

2. Enlist the help of a five-year-old to do my seam ripping. (Not that I make any mistakes, mind you!)

3. Sew squares right-sides together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Leave an opening to turn wipes right-side-out.

4. Snip the corners to reduce bulk.

5. Turn wipes right-side out, and sew as close to the edge as possible, all the way around.

6. Enjoy the finished product: 38 wipes for $5. (Quite a savings!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gracie's birthday

Gracie's birthday is a few days after Christmas, and a few days before New Year's. Making the day stand out on its own is challenging, but I give it my best shot.

Behold, the princess cake. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!

Here's the Birthday Girl, being sung to. Notice the big smile on her face? LOVED the attention. That's the difference between being the first child and the fourth, I guess.

No activity at our house would be complete without LEGOs in there, somewhere. We have an embarrassingly large collection of LEGOs. Now, we've even got a LEGO game.

It's called Creationary, and the boys got it for Christmas. They love it. Me? I'm just not very good at building. So I keep score. Uncle Jeff and Shannon graciously offered to play with the kids so I wouldn't have to embarrass myself.

Christmas Catch-Up

Here is a little snapshot of our Christmas baking frenzy. We like to do it all in one day. So much fun for the kids to measure, mix, and bake. (Okay, and I like it, too!)

These are the legendary homemade marshmallows. LOVE THEM.