Friday, September 30, 2016

When The Teacher Won't Stop Screaming

The season has shifted here. And in Vermont when we talk a change from hot, sticky summer days to cool, clear fall ones- we are talking pure magic.

The colors turn from green to a plethora of colors- oranges, yellows, reds. I swear this tree down the street goes to pure maroon, with a slight tinge of purple. Set against the clear blue sky that somehow darkens and lightens all at once- it is breathtaking. I point this tree out to the kids as we drive by every day, wanting to make sure they don't miss it because if you blink- poof- the tree is empty and we are preparing for snow.

Fall is quickly fleeting, but it is my favorite season. The air is cool but full of a charged energy. Energy like spending Friday night with fire pit time out on the deck under the clear moonlit sky while wearing a sweatshirt and soaking up the smell of the air. Yes, fall air has a smell. It's a wood stove/cool breeze/apple cider/happiness smell.

I love pointing out these small pleasures of life to my children. I tend to quietly internalize things, so it's sometimes tricky for me to remember that I'm supposed to speak these things out loud- that they can't somehow hear my thoughts of "Wow that's a gorgeous tree! Look at the colors!" as we drive by.

I have been working on purposefully teaching them. Slowing down my racing mind to focus on one concept at a time, exploring it with them. I have an education degree- might as well use it, right?

Especially since Carter is not in Kindergarten this year and his PreK program only meets twice a week, I have been focusing on teaching him. We cover more about his letters, numbers, reading, science, the world around him, and basic life skills. Oh and his violin lessons. It's not an official homeschool program at all, but my mind is set on "teach Carter" as to not waste this year.

Last week I realized that you can type "learn about (any kind of animal)" on youtube, and you get a ton of short educational clips that teach about that animal. Gold! (I realize that maybe all of you have been doing this forever- forgive me for being behind the times).

Our first lesson was on frogs. We saw a frog out on our deck a few weeks back, and the kids had been fascinated. So we pulled up probably 6-7 short educational frog videos and learned about types of frogs, life cycle of frogs, and everything else you can possibly imagine about frogs.

After our videos we went to the table and drew pictures of frogs while I asked them questions about what they had learned. I was pleased. That went extremely well. Their minds were eagerly soaking up all of the information; they asked cute questions to try to learn even more; and it felt good to so productively use that rainy day.

Look at me teaching my kids! I silently patted myself on the back.

Fast forward to yesterday.

The mornings have been chilly as we transition between our sticky summer and freezing cold winter. Chilly mornings call for steaming hot coffee and baked goods and pandora but I digress. The windows had been open all night, so the house was filled with a delightful chill. Aaron wasn't feeling well, so he had slept on the couch and was still on the couch waking up while I rushed around trying to get the kids ready for school.

It was Carter's morning to go to PreK, and I realized that his school sandals were out on the deck. (Yes, you know you are a real Vermonter when you pair a sweatshirt with sandals. It's a valid style choice!)

I rushed out to the deck to grab the shoes (we were going to be late!) and saw that they were all crusted over with mud from his play the afternoon before. Because of course. Hastily picking them up, I held onto the ankle strap and banged the sandals aggressively together, watching the dried mud fly off in bits. Both of the boys followed me out to watch the mud flying show.

I settled with "good enough" and made a note for Carter to just walk through the damp grass a bit on the way to the car.

"Hurry hurry! We're going to be late!" I sang...not as cheerfully as that verb might suggest.

I was over to the side of the room, stuffing lunch bags in backpacks and slipping my phone in my bag, when Carter started to complain.

"There's something in my shoe." He whined.

Ugh. Always complaining about something- that kid. I ran across the room, frustrated. Ready to flick away the piece of dried mud that no doubt had landed where his foot was supposed to go. Why does everyone always have to whine about EVERYTHING!

I knelt down on the floor and put my face right up to his shoe to do a careful extrication of the piece of mud so that we could get this show on the road.

That is when I discovered that the "piece of dried mud" was actually a huge, slimy, brown frog that was wiggling away in the comfort of Carter's Keen sandal. Slime was positively dripping off of this frog as his fat limbs squirmed with life.

In that moment I lost my mind just a little bit. I'm not really sure what happened. I think it just really startled me. Plus, my hand had just been RIGHT THERE when I was smacking the shoes together to clean them off. Not to mention my nose was almost touching it as I was searching for the imaginary mud on the brown shoe. We were practically making out- unbeknownst to me.

I remember thinking (while I was screaming and screaming and screaming and running to the hallway and hopping up and down and screaming some more) "Hey- that frog blended in to the exact color of the brown of the shoe- just like that video said it would!) But I just kept screaming.

Because I was screaming- poor sensitive Eli started crying and screaming. And Carter- feeling that slimy feel still on the bottom of his naked foot- was crying too. The baby joined in with a high pitched wail. And Addison looked at us all with a look of "What is WRONG with you people?"

"GET IT GET IT GET THE FROG!!!!" I screamed to my poor husband who was trying to rest on the couch and had no idea what was going on. All the kids raised their screams to a higher and louder place to match my hysteria.

Like a trooper, Aaron got up and took the shoe out to the deck and got the frog out of it. (Pretty sure he was laughing as he realized what was going on.

I stood in front of my wailing children and felt my "Cool Mom Who Teaches Science Lessons About Slimy Creatures" medal fall away. To be fair- it felt different when the slimy creature was a screen away- NOT able to surprise me in my own home and terrorize my children.

Shaken, I loaded up all of the kids for school drop off. I needed to make this a teachable moment! I needed to keep teaching! What do I say? How do I spin this?

We passed the tree, with tips of maroon touching the blue sky, "Hey, look at that beautiful tree." I tried, but they were all quiet. No doubt spent from all the screaming.

It wasn't until later that day, after pick-up, where I had my moment.

"Mommy, why was that frog in my shoe?" Carter asked.

"Well, probably it was a nice warm place for him to spend the night since it's getting cooler outside."

"A warm place?"

"Yes, you know how we have our nice warm house- well, the frog doesn't have that. So he used your shoe."

"Oh."

"And so we should be thankful for our nice warm house. Not everyone has that. Frogs don't for sure. That's why he had to use your shoe. God was so good to give us our house to keep us warm and dry at night while we sleep."

Aaaaaaand teachable moment achieved. Look at me segue right into Thanksgiving. Like a pro!!! The fall theme holds strong!

"But why did you scream?"

Oh, that little thing...yikes....

"Because sometimes mommy makes silly mistakes. And the frog scared me. And....have I told you lately how much I love you?"

Gosh this mothering thing is tough.

But we still have fall. Beautiful, beautiful fall. And nice shoes- that now spend the night in the warm house with us.

But, just in case, we have also added to our morning routine a special "shoe frog check" just to help with Carter's PTFISD (Post Traumatic Frog In Shoe Disorder).

Next lesson- butterflies. Just in case nature is listening in on our youtube science lessons. Just in case.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Enter A Frog- A New Kind Of Prince

I'm sorry for another post so closely on the heels of the last one, but I had to follow up on the day.

Thanks for indulging me my outlet yesterday morning, because frankly, it was kind of a rough day- especially with my very strong willed 2-year-old (the one who flushed the contacts).

Last night as I put Eli William into his bed, tiny body resting on freshly washed sheets, tucked in safely under his big fluffy blanket, I felt the guilt of the day wash over me. Yesterday I wasn't on my A game. You might even say I failed at the day. Spectacularly failed.

"You know how much I love you, right?" I whispered down into his huge green eyes that were staring at me with absolute adoration.

He grinned in response.

"I'm sorry we had such a rough day. I'm so thankful to be your mommy."

"We saw frog. Frog on the front porch."

"Well, yes. But all the rough stuff from before, are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?"

"Frog eat flies. We saw a frog." He was smiling in excitement about the frog.

Twenty minutes into bedtime I had tiptoed into his room, held my finger over my lips, and quietly led him out to the front porch where we studied the frog together while the others were in bed. Green with random black swirls and dark beady eyes and fleshy thighs all tucked under him- the frog didn't seem to mind the intent study. And Eli just about burst with the excitement of it all- the after hours field trip. Just me and him and the super cool frog on our front deck.

Later as I was tucking him in, I realized- he wasn't talking about how I yelled at him for the contact situation, or when he wouldn't nap or obey, or when he threw all of those clean towels into the fully drawn bath, or when he wouldn't listen, or when he....all the other things from the day. The times that I lost patience as his actions all stacked on top of each other to equal far past my breaking point.

No, it was as if his mind was wiped clean of my responses to him after our brief chats and my many, "Sweetie I'm so sorry for getting frustrated. Can you please forgive me?"

He had moved on. And all he remembered from our day was the exciting frog study. Together.

I placed my cheek against his warm cheek and felt chastised. No one forgives like a small child forgives. So easily moves on. So easily forgets. Granted no doubt this is a developmental thing. An almost three year old isn't capable perhaps of processing actual forgiveness- he just does it naturally, like a reflex. Perhaps so much living happened between then and now that his mind pushed the memory out.

I started at him, so big yet so small, and I could almost feel him crying out for me to just love him. Love him right where he's at. Just like the baby cries when she needs to be fed, he acts out as he explores life- his boundaries- his curious nature. And yes he needs my firm hand as a guiding parent and yes he has so much to learn and it is my job to teach and teach and teach some more- but most importantly he needs my love.

When he's acting out the most, that's when he needs love the most. When I am the most frustrated, perhaps he is too. Perhaps that's why he needs me to love him the hardest right then.

People often say that having a child with special needs requires unconditional love. I venture to say that all children do.

Yes- the same applies with Addison- and when she frustrates me with delays or speech or bolting- it isn't my job to hold her to a higher standard and tell her she just doesn't measure up. No. Those are the times that I love her the fiercest. Right where she's at. When she appears the most unloveable- that is when I dig in deep and find the greatest love of all. The unconditional service in motherhood might outwardly appear more pronounced at times with a child with special needs, but truth be told, unconditional service- unconditional love is required for every minute, every second of typical parenting as well. Sometimes even more.

So why would I hold Eli, my sweet, mischievous, trying-so-hard-to-grow-up son to a different standard than I hold my Addison? Does he not deserve my unconditional love as well? Even as I am blind from no contacts, the bathroom is covered in soaking wet towels, and I'm exhausted from trying to get him to just listen- this is when I need to love him the fiercest. And remembering this helps with the frustration. Remembering that this acting out is him begging, pleading for love. Just like I pick up my crying baby and nurse and comfort her and show her that she is safe and loved.

As I hear my son excitedly chatter about our frog time, I remember how I'm pretty unloveable and yet I'm unconditionally loved by my Savior. I act out in ways he doesn't like yet he always forgives and teaches and loves me. Who am I to not keep this same attitude toward my children?

I've moved on from the "kissing the frog and finding my prince" stage of life. I'm now into the "study the frog with one of my tiny princes" stage. It comes with its ups and downs, but I have to say- this stage is pretty spectacular. Spectacular failures included.

After an impossible day, Eli and I studied a frog together. We lay still in his bed and talked about it. We prayed together (he asked me to pray for all the cows). No one was yelling. No one was frustrated. And that's all he remembered. The love. The fresh start. And we will do better tomorrow. I will be more patient. He will not act out as much (ish).

Together we will grow. And I will love him every step of the way. Even when- especially when frustrated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Last Pair Of Contacts Transitioned Peacefully and Calmly Into The Toilet

I got up early this morning to get work done while the blessed babes were all snoring peacefully in their beds. I had a 75% success rate with the "all snoring peacefully in their beds". I found myself instead of working, snuggling my smallest babe on the couch pleading with her please PLEASE not to wake up all the others at 6am. And so I decided to reply back to different outlying things on social media on my phone while she drooled happily on my shoulder. While online, I ran across an article that suggested that a way to help children with transitions is to sing the transitions to them. "We will now clean up. We will now clean up." etc etc.

Brilliant! I need to do this more, I thought, admonishing myself. After all, wasn't I just lying awake at 3am worrying that I wasn't providing enough educational opportunities for my children, that they were all going to FAIL at life because I wasn't giving them enough- teaching them enough? Singing through the transitions! I LOVE IT! I can educate AND transition AND put a smile on their faces at the same time with peaceful and joyful song!

Armed with my newfound facebook knowledge, as I heard tiny humans begin to stir and stumble sleepy eyed into the hallway searching for breakfast, I was enthused about today.

"Good morning Good morning oh how are you
How are you
How are you"

I sang to them cheerfully and enthusiastically as their eyes sparkled with delight and they climbed up to the breakfast table.

"Let's eat breakfast oh I love you
I love you
I love you."

They smiled and blew me kisses and ate their cereal, and I thought- what fun! All my parenting troubles are solved! I feel like Julie Andrews! Next up- curtain clothes!

Addison took Eli's cereal bowl and he smacked her on the arm with his spoon so we transitioned to

"We do not steal other people's food
other people's food
other people's food

And we do not hit Addison on the arm
no we don't
absolutely not."

Cool as a freaking cucumber. Parenting level- NINJA!

I was busy patting myself on the back and happily singing to the baby (because it made her giggle and who can resist a baby giggle??? plus once you start singing IT'S SO HARD TO STOP SINGING) and I told Addison to go get ready for school, neglecting, in my parental high, to notice that she had a huge blowout you-know-what in her pull up...that she went off to change herself.

When I stepped into the living room, confident and cool, NOTHING COULD STOP ME NOW, I then noticed the large, smeared, smelly problem. Ok, deep breaths. We can handle this.

In a slightly shakier voice, with a still present but barely noticeable cheerful undertone:

"Who put that big poopy on the rug
poopy on the rug
poopy on the rug

We do NOT do poopy on the rug
No we don't
Definitely we don't"

Calm transitions. We can do this calmly.

Ok fine, I yelled a little bit. But just a little- to keep her from stepping back in it. It was while I was taking deep breaths and sanitizing and cleaning Addison up and cleaning up the room and singing to her rather desperately

"Did you sit anywhere else on the rug
please tell me
please tell me"

that I neglected to notice Eli William, who had scurried away quietly to do evil. Upon further inspection I realized that while I was cleaning up Addison, he had taken it upon himself to flush my last pair of contacts down the toilet and dump out an entire bottle of very expensive contact solution (I suppose he, in his ultimate 2-year-old wisdom, recognized that if I had no more contacts, I OBVIOUSLY didn't need any more super expensive contact solution. DUH.)

Deep breaths. We can do this. We can do this.

"Why did you climb up and touch my contacts
I told you not to
A million times

Increasing in intensity. No, Deanna. Stay calm. CALM WITH A SONG.

Where did you put my all contacts
Why are these holders
All eeeeempty"

Holding off hysterics. HOLDING. Barely.holding.them.off.

The toilet? Really? 

"The toilet the toilet 
WHY DO YOU HATE ME
GO TO YOUR ROOM 
I can't look at you

Lucky for you I can barely see you anyway
Because I am blind
Mommy is BLIND
BLIND BLIND BLIND

No Carter, I'm am absolutely NOT yelling. I'M SINGING!!!!! LOUDLY. WE ARE TRANSITIONING PEACEFULLY.

Go Go Go
To your room forever
Forever forever FOREEEEEEVER
tra la la la"

 After situating everyone out....trying to find the peace in my heart to apologize (blindly)....pushing everyone toward getting ready to take Addison to school....and fighting back the stroke that seemed imminent, I took stock of the situation.

Eli was sobbing in his room (no doubt, he because he felt SO BAD about what he did. Not to mention- he HATES being in time out), Morgan was sobbing in the living room (because she just got up way too early to PARTY), Addison was sobbing in the living room because we had to do an outfit switch because of the poop situation, and Carter was tearfully watching me continue to search for just ONE contact just in case it was still in the sink area and whispering traumatically "I didn't do anything. I didn't touch your contacts."

Which led to me feeling HORRIBLE and a big hug to calm his insecurities. "Of course you didn't. Mommy is so sorry that she yelled- er- sung loudly. I love you so much."

Julie Andrews, you win. I can't do this. I'm done.

This feels a bit to me like when I designed fun nursery Pinterest designs for their rooms and then my kids were born and promptly scaled walls and ripped down every last design (Carter even at one point took a picture out of a frame and smashed the frame around Eli when he was a baby. I lie not. I can't even hang pictures in my kids rooms right now.)

You know what, I'm guessing there was a scene JUST LIKE THIS ONE where Julie Andrews sang angrily just a little bit but they had to delete it because of time limitations. I'm almost positive.

It's 8am, Addison was late to school drop off, and my entire house has come unraveled- one loud gasping sob at a time.

Transition peacefully?

We will spend the rest of the morning NOT singing, hugging tightly, and focusing on survival. Sweet, quiet survival. Who am I kidding- Netflix, here we come.

Pray for me.

We will try again tomorrow. Perhaps in a different key????

Thanks,
A Blind Mother Who Is Now Out Of Disinfectant Spray

p.s. this post was NOT written for you to feel sorry for me. Rather- take this opportunity to LAUGH with me. Laughing makes it ALL BETTER. Thus, this overly dramatic post. May I suggest laughing in song?

p.s.s. If you are looking for a warm and fuzzy mothering post- please feel free come back another day. I'm fairly certain such a post might appear here again at sometime in the future. Pretty sure.