28.7.11

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Pretty


Happy


He loves to splash and he's very diligent about it.

Funny


No one wanted Beema to leave when she comes over. They think sitting on her feet will make her stay.

Real

Well, come on over. I'm in the middle of hanging diapers to dry, sorting mail, the table still has a breakfast dish on it and we're just finishing lunch, and I'll show you the things on my to do list that have been there more than a month. Gleep. But I haven't taken any pictures of it.

round button chicken

27.7.11

Husbands are Not Accessories-Plain talk about marriage for the single woman

video

I decided to video log this because if I could have my way and we were talking about things like this you would be over at my house, we'd be hanging out, having tea, and just chatting.

So here I am in my house, catching up on my laundry pile while chatting with you about some things.

I think every thing I say in here could apply to single guys as well, but since I'm not a guy and have no experience as a guy, I'm not talking to them.

This subject has been on my mind for a while because of lots of different conversations but the help I needed came one Sunday as I stood talking to 2 friends. One is a lovely, beautiful, compassionate, strong, professional single woman. The other, an older Thai woman with her unique perspective on American culture. (It's really hard to tell how old a Thai woman is by the way. They look the exact same from 20 to 60 it seems.) She was telling the other that a man she talked to recently said he's not interested in woman from California because "they all have their plan, and they're not so interested in being a wife, it's just a small part of their plan."

That reminded me of the moment with Aaron that I tell you about in the video and I realized she's right, and found the way to say the rest of it as well.

What do you married woman think? Would you have anything to add as advice to a single woman who wants to get married?

And you single ladies? What do you think?

26.7.11

The cure for screechiness.

She is cranky all day, upset by everything, going from silence to screaming in 0 seconds flat. Her feelings are hurt by every imagined offense. Every slow response is a slight. She's been getting worse every day for at least a week. Ever since a doctor's appointment that scared her actually. She is miserable to live with. She is miserable, and I know what I need to do.

I wait until the baby is asleep before I tell her. I don't want to make a promise in case something goes wrong. "I have to go to the store. How would you like to come with me?"

"Yah. But could I watch a movie right now with the Girl?"

"Not if you want to come to the store with me. I need to go right now and I wanted to take just you so I could spend some time with you. Everyone else will stay home with daddy."

She's not sure. She had her heart set on watching a show and I'm not going to make her.

"You don't have to come with me. I just thought you might want to. If you want to stay home instead and watch a show you can."

"Ok den, I will stay home."

It's time for my trump card. "All right. Well, I was really looking forward to spending some time with just you for a change. I'm not even bringing the baby!"

She looks up in amazement. "You're not bringing him? It's just me? I don't have to help him if he cries in the car?"

"Yes," I smile. "Just you and me."

"Then I want to come wif you."

She chatters away as we drive to the store. "I love you mommy. You and me are going all by ourselves to the store. I like that it's only us going to the store. You love me, and evybody loves me. And evybody loves God, and evybody loves me."

She makes a list of everyone who loves her and God, starting with the baby, then her other siblings, mommy and daddy, and moves on to grandparents and aunts and uncles.

She holds my hand on the way in. Choosing what we will find first. It's the ginger ale I promised to get a few days ago of course.

She skips through the store. She vibrates excitement. She laughs at everything.

"What a happy child!" One of the store employees stops to exclaim.

She is.

She is glowing, alive, excited.

The shadow of the cranky, hurt, short fused girl has dissipated. Here is my Little as she truly is.

I let her choose a treat to share with everyone else when we get home. She cavorts beside me in the line for the checkout.

She runs inside, offering everyone their treats, talking excitedly.

For family night she sits on my lap as we watch a show.

She's been fine ever since.

25.7.11

A home school mom's guide to spending all day with your kids and enjoying it.

It will start in a week or two, the flood on facebook and twitter, then blog posts, the moms who are only half joking as they look forward to the day their kids go back to school. The high of vacation time is wearing off, the kids are getting restless, fractious, and every 23 seconds you hear, "Mom, I'm bored."

You however still have work to do and commitments to keep. You have already gone to beach, taken that trip and now you are staring down several more weeks with all of you, all day, in the same house and it's not looking pretty, and I'm not just talking about the house.

Well, that's pretty much my life. I home school. I go everywhere, and do just about everything with 4 kids in tow. I spend every day at home with my kids. Most of the time I actually enjoy it too.

Here are a few of my secrets.

1. If they are old enough to be in school, they are old enough to be of help to you. I sound like my grandmother, I know. But, she was right.

A lot of bodies in the same house make for a lot of mess and at the end of the day, looking around at the disaster you can feel like just throwing in the towel and eating ice cream instead. What if you could eat your ice cream in a tidy house? Not perfect, mind you, but not a health code violation either.

Give your kids jobs to do. Tie these jobs to certain times of day and transitions so they will become part of your routine and get done. Here are a few examples from our house to give you an idea.

We have morning chores, meal chores, and afternoon chores.

In the morning, before eating breakfast the kids get dressed, make beds and do their morning job. They don't eat breakfast before this is done.

Right now, the Boy (9) cleans and tidies the bathroom: wipes the counters and sinks and toilet bowl, picks up stuff on the floor, and puts things away. The Girl (7) unloads the dishwasher and puts the dishes away. Little (4) makes the bed in the girls room.

After each meal one clears, one wipes the table, and one sweeps the floor. (Ideally)

Afternoon chores happen before going outside to play, since we usually don't go out until after the hottest part of the day. They each have a room to tidy as quickly as possible, one does living room, another den, etc. picking up the floor and putting things away. I make sure to sweep or vacuum after this to take advantage of the picked up floor.

They also have to put away the toys in their own rooms before going outside to play or watching a show. (A rare treat at this house.)

If we do this, the house is not as bad by the end of the day as it would otherwise be and we can go into dinner and bed time without too much mess dogging our heels.

Also, because they are picking up several times a day you needn't despair when you see every single toy in their possession employed in an elaborate fantasy game that has dozens of characters and a plot more elaborate than the last novel you read. Giving the kids chores to do and getting them to help clean up around the house frees you to say yes more often.

2. Establish Routines

Your children have been in a highly structured environment for the past 10 months. They are told where to sit, when to eat, what to learn. They will find the transition to entertaining themselves and having no structure to the days difficult. This is usually the source of the never ending chorus of boredom.

Now, I'm a huge fan of boredom. I think it's an important developmental ingredient for a kid to have enough time to get bored and then figure out how to fill that time creatively. This is when the greatest forts happen at our house, or huge doll castles that span the living room.

However, a whole day stretching in front of them with no idea of what happens when can be overwhelming for kids used to the structure of school. Especially when they think you should be on and entertaining them all day long.

So we have routines. We have set times for doing things with mommy, quiet time in their rooms while mommy works, and time to play and read to each other. It will probably look a lot different from one family to the next but the main key is to have a sort of order to the day.
I even have times when I get the oldest to read to the younger ones while I'm spending one on one time with another. Then they switch, the other playing with the little kids while I spend time with the reader. This comes from school days where I have to give them each their own lessons. This gives every child, each day, at least a few minutes where they have my complete attention rather than have it divided as I mutter uh-huh, while peeling carrots for example.

I insist on quiet time, they have long outgrown naps, some of them, but I still have them spend at least an hour every afternoon in their room reading or playing quietly so I can get some uninterrupted work time.

Notice please I'm not talking about a strict schedule, but a routine, and a general order of events.

3. Stay at home more often.
Once you have this lovely routine in place, don't mess it up y going all over the place all the time. Of course, you could have as part of your routine, a part of the day when you go to the playground, or library, or pool, but for the most part try and stay close to home. I find going out every day stressful, to me and the kids. We like to go out and have adventures, but we like our time in between to relax, get back to normal, and regroup relationally and emotionally. We only go out for long periods of time once or twice a week.

4. Don't neglect sleep, or nutrition. Yes, it's summer. Yes, it's fun and there are so many exciting things to be done, so many cold treats to eat. But no one can have fun if someone is always cranky and overwrought because they are exhausted or pumped up on sugar all. the. time. With summer holidays you run the risk of what is normally the exception becoming a daily occurrence and then you are left dealing with cranky kids who bicker with each other all day, scream and cry at the drop of a hat, and are otherwise miserable to be around. It's amazing the wonders a healthy breakfast and a good solid nights sleep can have on all of your dispositions.

5. Making good memories is often more a matter of time and attention than distance and money. You don't need to travel or take and exciting vacation to store up good memories for your kids. All you need is some presence and a change of routine, which you now have. Set up that tent in the back yard and let them camp out in it. Join them when they build that fort in the living room. Spend a day playing games all day and laughing together. Invite those really great friends over to share dinner and a campfire or game of tag. Travel and expensive destinations can be so stressful that the only thing your child remembers is you being frazzled, or fighting with your spouse. That's not a happy memory. You want the memories of being home together to be good ones, so make them. Now is your chance.

You can enjoy the time you have left with your children this summer, and they with you. Really. Have fun.

Now you tell me. What do you do to keep your sanity with the kids home all day?

21.7.11

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

The children are with their grandmother for a few hours so I can get work done. The baby is sleeping. I am about to try to make homemade tomato sauce, deal with all the ripe peaches lying around inside on on the tree. (I'm thinking of pureeing them for freezer jam. I love freezer jam.) Maybe I'll also shred all this squash for zucchini loaf, thanks for the idea Rosie, steam a bunch of carrots and yams for baby food, and deal with the spent grains sitting in the fridge from Aaron's last batch of beer. In other words, catch up on all things domestic and summery in the next 4 hours. Can she do it?

Don't answer that. I'll make a dent, even if it's a tiny one. I plan to even talk on the phone with a friend while I do it.

So, for pretty, happy, funny, real you get whatever I can find already loaded onto my laptop, even though there are more in my camera that I love. Next week, right?

Update: I didn't publish this right away because something was wonky with my internet and in the meantime I've had a lovely chat with my friend, finished steaming the carrots and yams, started the tomato sauce, and found most of a kitchen counter, the kind that bills and mail get piled up on. Go me.

Pretty

Little playing peek a boo with the baby gate.

Happy






He has discovered beans, and he's happy with it.

Funny


We were having one of our after church picnics at the cliffs overlooking the ocean when a seagull got pretty bold coming up to our food. So Aaron shooed it away once and started talking smack to the kids about how in Thailand they would catch it and eat it. So he said loudly, "Yeah, if it comes by again I'll catch it and we'll kill it and eat it for dinner."

Well, the stupid bird did come back, so Aaron grabbed it around the neck and held it down. I couldn't stop laughing as he said, "I wonder what seagull tastes like."

However, since it was a public park and a wildlife preserve we did not find out what seagull tastes like that day. He let it go.



Real





About a month ago I was making chicken and slapped it into the pan that had olive oil in the bottom a little too fast, because the oil was a bit too hot and I didn't want it to smoke. That spattered oil across my face and burned it in several places. It's almost all healed now, but I actually have a bit of a scar from the darn thing. And that, children, is why you should have your food ready to put in the pan before you heat it.


round button chicken

20.7.11

Giving of Life

In May the Charis Project was featured at a thing called the Entrepreneur Forum, which is the brain child of one of our board members. It was really cool and we got quite the response from people who are excited about the work we're doing and the orphanage model we're working to implement.

We sent a mail out afterward telling people we need $72,000 over  6 month period in order to move onto phase 2 of the project. This is the push needed to become almost fully self sustaining as an organization that builds orphanages that are self sustaining that help communities become self sustaining that makes it so that orphanages are no longer needed in that community and we begin again somewhere else.

Well, we haven't been handed a check for that much, yet. But we could, with your help.

The Charis Project is eligible to win a $50,000 grant from Giving of Life. Of course, there are lots of other organizations in the running as well. The 10 with the most votes at the end of the voting period, just under 4 months from now, will be reviewed by a committee to receive 3 grants of $50,000, $30,000 and $10,000. To see what we would do with that kind of money got to thecharisproject.org and click on budget 2011 under the Invest header. (One of those things would be getting a better website, but that's toward the bottom of the list.)

Winning this grant would be completely awesome.

Will you help us? It only takes a second. Click over to http://givingoflife.com/browse/the_charis_project/ and vote. To get more votes, register. To get even more link up facebook or twitter.

Then, please share with everyone on facebook, and all your twitter followers, and if you write a blog you could even let your blog readers know we need help. It only takes a second, and it could help in a big way.

I've even got a giveaway for you.



I've newly created a zazzle store. This T-shirt has the Charis project logo on the front. After you've voted and shared on facebook and twitter, like our facebook page and leave a comment telling us you did and we'll enter you into a draw for a free, and awesome t-shirt. Unless you'd prefer a mug, or a tie, or a key chain. I'll close the giveaway on July 31. We'll have another one next month.

19.7.11

Where I Share Some of My Parenting Foundations

(As I mentioned in the previous post, what I do regarding corporal discipline is such a small percentage of what I do as a parent, every day. In that respect, what I do the rest of the time is way more important.

Here is my attempt to summarize everything we do. It's hard to figure out where to start.)

For me there are a few givens about parenting that I assume are common ground prior to any discussion with another parent. For starters, I assume that other parents love their children at least as much as I love mine. I assume they proactively work to promote a strong bond between themselves and their children. I assume that they have strong empathy for their children and their struggles, however small, or that they try. I also assume that they care more about their child's well being than their own convenience.

These assumptions are where I start a dialogue about parenting, or discipline, or breastfeeding, or housekeeping, or any number of other topics. I have learned over the years that it is better, in these kinds of discussions, to believe the thing that puts a person in the very best possible light until proven wrong, rather than the other way around.

My long term goal for my children is that they understand just how free they are. I want them to understand themselves as the actors in their own lives, rather than allowing themselves to be acted on by circumstances or other people. I want them to know that their decisions and actions have power, and also that they learn to be responsible with that power. Finally I want to give them the self discipline they need to do with that power and freedom the very best that they can and to live a life they deem worth living.

So with that in mind, what principles and practices do we connect with that in order to achieve this goal for them, as far as our influence will allow us to anyway?

1. Children are people, only smaller and how you treat them forms their expectation of life and people for the rest of their life. I take those studies about how brains are formed and mature very seriously. Did you know that in the first year of life a child is learning whether or not they can trust you? Do you know that whether they form optimistic or pessimistic brain patterns is largely due to whether or not an adult responds to their needs in their formative years?

For this reason, as well as instinct and what is in our hearts to do, we are diligent to respond to the needs of our young children. For us this involves breastfeeding on demand, baby wearing, co-sleeping, night time parenting, otherwise known as getting up and helping a child every time they wake up needing something in the middle of the night, being aware of patterns and times in their life when they need to eat, sleep, poo, etc. and providing for them to be taken care of. We teach them by our actions that we are there for them, no matter what, that they can trust us, and that we will respond.

During this time we keep them close to us. We don't place them in the nursery at church with strange people, we don't put them in day care. We believe it's important that we are the ones who are present to care for their needs, for them to bond with, etc. We start building the parent child relationship right away and make it as strong as is possible.

2. Structure is good for us. We also do what we can to help them feel secure and have some measure of control over their lives by implementing routines and and bedtimes. Order and predictability to a day help children to learn to plan, to biologically order their own minds (circadian rhythms) and helps to alleviate stress and distress for a short person who has so little control over what happens to them on a day to day basis. These of course are guidelines, and flex to allow for whatever is going on at the moment, illness, crisis, special occasions, etc. But I am committed to helping my children all I can by enabling them to get enough sleep, nutritious food and stability of routine.

3. You need practice to be able to be able to make good choices. Within this context we allow for choices and practice making choices every day, not between right or wrong necessarily, but as a way to exercise preference, to learn cause and effect, basic logic, etc. We let them wear heavy pants on a hot day if they insist, after explaining that they will be hot. After a few uncomfortable days they will usually listen to our suggestion to bring a weather appropriate change of clothes, "just in case". There are all sorts of ways in which they can practice making choices, what to eat, what books to read, which shoes to wear, what toys to play with, these are all choices that they get to make every day and learn from experience how they play out. The Girl learned the hard way that wearing dress shoes to the playground didn't work out to be very fun, for instance.

We also give them age appropriate responsibilities which are opportunities to be in charge of something and contribute to the family in a visible and praise worthy way. These jobs are the training ground for so many things later in life and so we make them a big priority.

(I still suck at helping them never leave anything lying around the house though, perhaps because I can't give them what I'm not good at. If I'm honest, I LIKE having stuff out. I reminds me that I was working on it, it looks happy and busy to me and in my mind it's just a step further than the artfully strewn magazines across a coffee table in a design magazine. The objective reality is much more cluttered than that, so I try, but I'm not there yet.)

4. Habits can do us great service, or great harm, and can be consciously developed and strengthened one way or the other. For example, whining is a habit that many parents, myself included at times, unconsciously teach their kids by not listening to them until they whine, and not providing their needs in advance of the rise in voice. Throwing a fit when someone says no, that's a habit. So is cheerfully answering, "Yes mama" when told to do something, clearing your own plate after dinner, and thanking someone for the meal.

Habits are choices already made and made again and again on a daily basis until we're no longer thinking about the action or aware of the decision. They are the automatic fruit of choices. The choice to sit down and relax after a meal instead of cleaning up right away, for example, can lead to an automatic abandonment of a messy table on a daily basis. (This is one I have that I'm working to rectify.) The choice of allowing yourself to raise your voice in a disagreement leads to you always screeching all the time at the first sign of dissent, especially if you're 4.

Conversely, the choice to speak softly, even when provoked, leads to the habit of being a soft spoken person who is gentle with words. (I am not this yet.) And the choice to just get these few dishes out of the way before sitting down leads to a kitchen that is more often clean than messy through out the day.

I work with my children on forming habits that serve them in positive ways, as I work on myself. I won't belabor it any further, for this fascinating subject has been treated very well by Charlotte Mason in The Formation of Character which is available online for free I believe.

5. We teach our kids about our beliefs, because we believe it's true, and what we believe gives our lives meaning and purpose.

You were created to be an agent of redemption. You get to be part of the work of the kingdom of God of restoring the brokenness in this world, bringing life where there has been death, love where there is hate, compassion to the hurts of this world. The relationships you are in right now are part of that. How you treat each other matters. Will you build up, lift up, and make strong that which is weak? Or will you tear down, tear apart and weaken those around you? Do you want to participate in the work of redemption or not?

We work to strengthen compassion, empathy and selflessness in our kids, by example and by making sure they have an idea of how blessed they are and what life is like for so many others. We did this long before we founded The Charis Project.

7. We can't control a lot of things, but we can control ourselves. We talk to them about what they do and don't have power over. We can't control another person or situation. We can't force someone to change for our convenience, though we try. But we can and should control ourselves, our reactions, our responses. We talk through the possible responses available in a certain situation. For example, if someone is being mean to you there are options. You could, yell and scream, or hit them, or be mean back. Or, you could tell them to stop, you could leave, you could tell a grown up that they are being mean, you could decide you don't want to play with them any more if they make a habit of being mean. You have power over you, and none of these options involve trying to exert power over another, or trying to change what they are doing. Then we talk about what the best course of action might be.

8. We do what we can to preserve their freedom. Shame and fear are weak motives for a life. So we don't shame our kids into doing what we want them to, and we don't make them afraid. All of our approaches to parenting come from wanting to empower them, not to crush break or limit them. We watch what we say, and even our tone of voice, so that what they hear from us is encouraging, acknowledges their individuality and their freedom of choice, and speaks positively of their ability. It is not sappy and unrealistic, telling them they are great at everything, like a lot of misguided self help talk. But it is positive and linked to effort.

Rather than, "you are so talented at music" we will say "I like the way you are working hard on learning that song. You are playing it much better than when you first started."

Rather than saying, "How could you be so stupid?" over a hare brained scheme gone wrong we will be more clinical. "Did that turn out the way you thought it would? Did you think about what would happen if you did this? What should you change and do next time?" And sometimes of course we'll just put the parental foot down. "You may not!"

9. We teach them to love by loving them. We connect as many times a day as we can with our kids. Cuddling during stories, listening when they talk, and finding the ways that they feel loved to love them. We home school, in part, to give us more time with them to be able to do this. (The other is to give them an education that honors their mind and their ability to think independently, but that's another post.) This isn't that different from #1 where we teach them they can trust us, but it changes as they grow older and I have to find new ways to connect with them.

There's more of course, and this list is a bit haphazard in it's presentation of what we strive for as parents, but it's a starting place of sorts. And even writing this I feel like a bit of a hypocrite because of course I don't do all of these things well all of the time. I have seasons when mindfulness as a parent flies right out of me and I react to each moment with no long term goal in mind. I find daily prayer is one of the main ingredients in my ability to be a better parent by the way. The other is to have a schedule, or at least a routine, that includes time to do those things that build up all of this.

But this is the goal that I fall short of when I fall short. This is what we do more often than we don't as parents.

This is the context in which I write the post on spanking and the context in which we practice it.

This is the other 98%. Whew!

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you do as a parent that you are particularly proud of and think you do well.

17.7.11

I Have Impeccable Timing

Five years! More than 5 years! Five years I've been blogging and all that time I've held my tongue and refrained from discussing the little issue that amounts to less than 2% of my overall parenting. Because I don't want this blog to be defined by discussion of such an issue, or disagreement over it.

For 5 years I held my tongue and then last week I, with great trepidation, gave my opinion on the whole issue of spanking.

Know what else happened last week? Go on, guess.

Ok, I'll help you.

Last week they also announced the Blogher Voices of the Year, and yours truly is an honoree. I am so thrilled to be honored, and to have my post chosen out of so many to make the list.

I'm also horrified. Because sitting right there at the top of my recent posts list is the post on spanking. The one I really didn't want to talk about, there for all visitors to see when they check out this blog for the very first time.

It's such a polarizing issue I'm a little afraid no one will stick around to get to know me.

I've been working on a follow up post that describes what the other 98% of my parenting style is like, because it seems like it needs to be said. But it's taking some time. It's a somewhat large topic to tackle.

Ah well. I guess I only really want people around who choose to come back because they like me for who I am, all of it or at least like my writing, or whatever reason you do keep coming back. I like to think it's because you like me. And now I am thinking about Sally Field. Anyone else old enough to get that reference?

Thank-you Blogher. I am truly honored to be chosen. And thank you all of you for sticking around, I appreciate it. No really, I do.

Love,
Carrien

16.7.11

Friends

A few photos of a recent play date.

They set up a camp, and a house, and notice the centerpiece for the table as well.

I love it when kids let their imaginations go.











Friends are one of life's great blessings. We're happy to have found these ones.

12.7.11

On Spanking




Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored caused a bit of a discussion in her comments with her post about spanking.

I try really hard to stay out of these discussions. I really do. I don't comment, I don't post. I've studiously avoided this subject since I started blogging in 2006. I think it's one of those things moms can end up fighting each other over to no good end and a lot of harm. A lot more harm perhaps than one parenting style, or another, can do a child.

I could be wrong.

But here I shall finally come out with my opinion on the subject, such as it is. (After writing this post I wrote this one, which provides the context in which I write this. I hope you will read it first.)

I have 4 thoughts to share today.

To start with, I shall change words. Spanking is such an emotionally laden word with so many different meanings based on a person's experience with it that it's not really useful for the sake of rational discussion any more. So I shall switch to the phrase Aaron coined for us, corporal discipline, which I shall describe in part here.


1.) Kristen says, "I don't care how fine you are now even though your parents did that to you. Since when did "just fine" become the standard to which we want to raise our kids?"

This is interesting to me because in the giant lexicon of things I think my parents screwed up about parenting me, and it is giant, let me tell you, I think corporal discipline is something they got right. I'll even go so far as to say I wish they had done more of it, because I needed it, and there are many things I struggled with as an adult in the area of self discipline that I wish they had helped me with when I was younger.

At it's heart, corporal discipline is about giving children the opportunity to learn to make choices by giving them real, but safe, consequences. Yes, I obeyed sometimes just because I was afraid of getting a spanking if I didn't. Just like grownups sometimes in the end choose not to break the law because they are afraid of going to jail. Yes, we would like our children, and grown ups, to act out of noble and positive reasons. We would like them not to engage in fist fights because they are motivated by love and compassion for their fellow human being and a deep desire to sit and dialogue and get to know each other and understand the other's point of view.

However, I don't know if you've been around people much, but people, grown ups and children alike, all have moments when their innate nobility is called so far into question as to be non-existent. At that point it is a good thing we have some very uncomfortable consequences for negative patterns of behavior because the motive of avoiding discomfort is, at that moment, the strongest thing they have to keep them from doing something wrong.

Back to corporal discipline. It is, in our house any way, something you willingly choose, knowing full well that it is in fact what you are choosing when you do it. I does not happen when mommy or daddy loses their temper, it is not something administered because you were trying to pour your own milk for breakfast one day and dropped the whole jug on the floor or any other accident that usually comes with it's own consequence anyway, it is something you choose.

Our children have never been surprised by this form of discipline. They know they are choosing it when it happens. In our family the children have the power to decide what happens to them.

It may surprise you to hear that someone may think of this form of discipline as empowering, but that's exactly what it is. We make rules as parents, we keep them as simple as possible, and we lay out exactly what consequences will occur if those rules are broken. We administer the exact same consequence, in the exact same way, every single time a child chooses it. The power to choose, or not choose, said consequence, is in their hands.

It is our responsibility as parents to administer those consequences, whether the consequence chosen is a stinging rear end, or a Saturday morning cleaning the spare bathroom, without emotional attachment. They are consequences. They have nothing to do with how irritated we are at a child, or how proud of them. They are cold, unfeeling, un-shifting realities of daily life for our children. If you do this, then this. The choice to do x will always result in z.

Just like adults in a civil society receive consequences for their conduct from the government put in place to administer them.

But what about those matters of choice as adults that don't fall into the category of law or not? If I choose to sit on the couch all day watching tv and eating bon bons for example, there will be consequences that manifest themselves in the end. I will get fat, my brain will atrophy, and it could have devastating effects on my marriage and family life as well. But it doesn't happen the first day, or even the second, or the third. I don't see immediately the long term consequences of my choice.

With my children however I can give them the gift of immediate consequences for their choices. They get immediate feedback for a choice that they have made, to disobey a rule in our family, which comes with the excellent opportunity to correct and receive feedback again, every day. This is the kind of practice in decision making that I wish I had been given as a child, especially as I got older. This, I try to give to my children.

2.) The second objection that I hear against corporal discipline is that people think it's the same as beatings, domestic violence, or child abuse. They think I don't know the difference between these things because, as a result of my experiences as a child with spankings, violence was normalized. But I do think I know the the difference.

I always knew I was guilty of wrong doing when my dad or mom administered corporal discipline. I knew I had chosen to do wrong and that this was the consequence I knew I would receive if my parents found out. My dad would take me into his studio and sit me on a stool and we would talk about what I had just done, which was the very worst part of all, because I felt so awful. He didn't shame, he just asked me if I thought what I had done was right. By the time he got around to connecting his little wooden ruler to my behind I was so relieved to have that talk done and over with I barely felt it. I remember being really close to my dad through out this entire period of my life. I never doubted his love for me. I never lived in fear of him. I would jabber at him late into the night when he tucked me in, and he loved to listen, and I would fall asleep far too late, much to my mother's chagrin.

But there was one moment, during a dark period in our family, when my parent's marriage was disintegrating and our family was falling apart that makes me think I understand the difference. I was a teenager, we disagreed, and he, in anger, vein sticking out on his forehead lunged for me. I don't know what he would have done, because I ducked and he hit his head and I screamed that I would call the police if he ever hit me while he held tissue to the blood spurting out of his forehead and then I ran away to school. That moment, when my dad moved in anger, when he momentarily lost control of his customary gentleness, when I saw him hit the edge, that scared me. That moment created a distance between us that it's taken almost 2 decades to repair along with all the other stuff from that same season.

I can tell you now that if I had to choose between the season of my childhood, and 1000 extra "spankings" administered lovingly by my dad and that one moment where he moved in anger ever happening there would be no contest. I'd choose 1000 little meetings in his office and a well deserved swat with the ruler every single time.

3.) I recently came across a facebook note, by someone I don't know, but was linked to by someone on twitter, where the mother was saying that she believes that spanking her kids allowed her to be lazy in her parenting and she is so much more creative and present now that she doesn't have that as an option. I can completely respect that, and if it was choosing not to spank that brought her into being a more mindful and present mother then I am glad she has stopped.

But with all due respect, if you think corporal discipline is the lazy approach to parenting than may I venture that you are doing it wrong? There is no effective method of discipline that allows you to relax your vigilance and self discipline as a parent that will still work.

Do you know how much work it is to make sure that you are consistent as a parent? Making sure that what I say is true, that z will happen immediately following x no matter what is exhausting. It requires vigilance. It requires I get up off my lazy butt every. single. time a child chooses a consequence and administer it. In other words, to effectively discipline my children I have to grow more discipline and diligence than I ever had before. It is this single act of needing to teach my children discipline that has taught, is teaching, me discipline. I can't give them what I myself don't have.

If I tell a toddler no, if you do this you choose the *no-no stick, or to do extra chores, or to have a toy taken away because you are fighting over it then I have to make sure that every single time they do, I am there with the consequence. No matter how tired, sad, angry, or busy I am. I have to be the grown up, get past all that, and get up, get my child, administer consequences, take the time to hug, tickle, love and reconcile, and make that the most important part of my day.

4.) Which brings us down to the 4th thing I would like to discuss. Obviously, much of what I have said here is relevant to all sorts of parenting discipline styles. What I am asked frequently is, "Why corporal? Why can't you do all that, consistency, and love and choice with a different consequence?"

My answer is, you can. I think. I'm pretty confident that a parent could use non physical consequences and teach their child to obey and to make good choices.

My reasons for continuing to use corporal methods are these. It works better, it works faster, and it's kinder.

Yes, kinder. The people who are horrified at the thought of using momentary pain for greater good are obviously not people who practice medicine, or coach sports, or massage therapists, or trainers, or physical therapists, or... you get the idea here. I think the idea that a momentary physical pain is a great harm to children is misguided. It comes from the fact that abuse is real, and some parents are abusive. But my kids hurt themselves way worse, way more, all by themselves, falling down and scraping knees, than any pain they have experienced at my hand in a corrective way.

Corporal consequences are immediate, short in duration in terms of pain, yet dramatic and memorable enough to curb behavior quickly, which leads to fewer disciplinary moments with my child in the long run, freeing our relationship of the strain of constant correction, which is what I want.

When I consider the alternatives, yelling, time outs, time ins, etc. to my mind they cause more pain in the long run, though it's not physical. I've seen kids spend almost all of a play date in time out for repeated infractions, missing out completely on playing with a friend. Obviously that's something the child chose, for the most part, but I can't help thinking that it would be much more merciful if the parent would just take them aside for a moment, apply some loving corporal discipline, and then allow them to go back to play.

In essence, corporal discipline shortens the feedback time for a child, allowing them to more quickly move back to the situation in which they are trying to learn to interact and gives them more chances to get it right.

Also, time outs are isolating, telling a child that there are times when they are unwanted and rejected based on their behavior. They are humiliating, as they are most often public and visible for all to see. They take up so much of a child's day, when they are having a bad day, that it's really all they end up doing, leaving not much room for anything else, and leaving the parent child relationship stretched thin by the need to maintain the disciplinary action all day.

Once upon a time, in a post no longer online that I can find, the excellent Veronica Mitchell said something to the effect that she was suspicious of any child rearing method that could only work for one child at a time, or children spaced far apart.

This I believe is the flaw in the gentle parenting time-in method. It doesn't work when you have a lot of kids. Sometimes a mother needs to be able to tell her child no, and know that the chances are good he will not do that thing she said not to do, like chew on the electrical cord when she gets up to go wipe another child's bottom. There is no such thing as perfectly kid proof, and though we would not leave the life threatening things to chance it is imperative that a child learn quickly to obey when they are told no. For their own safety and happiness. Corporal discipline achieves this.

Just a few more short notes because this has morphed into a monster of a post and then I'll wrap up. Corporal discipline is not the only, nor is it the first item in my parenting tool box. Please read The 98% also, as it is the context in which I write this. I am an attachment parent. Those who know me and see me parent will tell you that I use positive reinforcement way more often than negative. I distract, redirect, make sure they are rested, well fed, and cuddled as much as I can to avert all of those types of moments when they might find it difficult to behave as is expected of them. I do not intentionally cause my children to stumble or set them up to fail by only focusing on catching them when they are doing something wrong and not attending to any other behavioral factors. That said, they need to learn to behave properly even when tired, fractious, hungry, angry, hurt, etc. I'm training them to be grown ups, and grown ups, to my mind don't get to act poorly, or break the law, and then claim hurt feelings or tiredness as an excuse. This is the essence of character, that which I am trying to form into myself at the same time as my children, the ability to do what is right, even when it is hard.

I do not judge mothers who choose not to use corporal discipline with their children, and I honor their efforts and the hard work they are doing of raising children who are responsible and compassionate human beings to the best of their knowledge and ability. I simply ask this. Please don't judge me either. Please don't think that because you make different choices it gives you permission to slam and condescend to those parents who choose differently, with as much care and love as you use to make your parenting choices.

Yes, there are still parents who are "spanking" their kids. Many of us chose this route carefully and with endless conversation. This is not something we do just because we're lazy, or don't know a better way and we care just as much about our kids as you do yours. We chose this because we think it speaks best to the needs of our children and answers best to the way children actually are, not some ideal of who we hope they are. Please stop picking on us just because you disagree.


*The no-no stick is what we call the little tiny dowel we use in our house to administer consequences.
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9.7.11

Music Geekery

video
(subscribers click through to see video)

It warms my heart that my kids are geeky enough to notice details like this. Next time I will make them tell you about it so you can hear them get excited. Also, from what I can tell, humming the themes to epic movies make building things with Legos go better. Also, math homework.

The Girl is now learning from the Boy how to play the LOTR theme on piano. We live with an adventure soundtrack around here. What can I say?

PS. I should point out that on the word "night" the LOTR theme and Moondance go their separate ways, one going up while the other goes down and reuniting momentarily about a measure later. Just so you know that I know that for a measure or two after the opening they aren't "exactly" the same notes. I have no idea where my kids get their geekery from. It's a total mystery, no?

pps. I sang the wrong song you guys! At the beginning of the video when I meant to sing the LOTR song I sang Star Wars instead. Here is the necessary video correction.

video

6.7.11

It is 3:28am

There is a woman a friend and I have been praying with for a while now. She is dealing with some very difficult and sad things. Her story is actually very interesting, but, of course, is private. Later this morning she and 5 of her kids are coming here so we can pray together some more for some things that are current.

The baby is wide awake.

You see, Little has had nightmares the past two nights. I laid down with her last night, after she woke for the 5th time crying loudly and yelling, "Mommy, mommy, MOMMMY!" followed by, "I'm sorry mommy. I forgot what you said about coming to get you instead of yelling and waking everyone up."

Tonight she did a great job. She got out of bed, walked into my bedroom, and whispered, "I want you to lay down with me mommy."

The baby sleeping beside me was slightly awake and nursing. "I can't now honey because the baby will cry if I leave him now."

As the wail started to bubble out of her throat I added, "Come here and give me a hug first and tehn you can go back to bed to wait."

Some time later I woke to realize she was fast asleep beside me, the baby was fast asleep on the other side. I rolled over, content to let her stay, until I realized that I was awake because Aaron was tossing and turning because she had her foot firmly in his back.

So I sat up, picked her up, and whispered, "It's time t go back to bed sweetie. Let's go."

That's when the baby started to squirm, let out a fart and a burp simultaneously and woke up. That's when I knew it was over for me for a good night's sleep but I tried anyway.

"Can you go back to your bed by yourself? The baby's awake."

The wail bubbles upwards again, "I want you to come with me."

If I walk out with her the baby will most definitely cry and wake Aaron, who is probably already awake but maybe not. So I picked him up instead and quickly walked her to the door of her room and whispered goodnight.

That's all it took to wake this little guy all the way up. Oh, we lay and nursed for a while, he burped some more, he even fell asleep once on top of me. I may have woken him up when my breathing changed when I started to feel oxygen deprived. This kid is getting heavy.

I was dozing though, as he nursed, and then the face grabbing started. There's nothing like getting your eye grabbed in the dark by a chubby hand with limited muscle control. There are only so many times you can grab that hand and hiss, "No." before it will wake the husband who is working 10 hour days with a body that's in pain all the time.

So we are up. He is happy, loud, and crawling. I am tired, bleary eyed and cranky. Little just got out of bed again. I made her go potty, even though she always insists she doesn't have to go. She could hold it til morning, but then she'll wake up another 40 times. Of course, she is wanting t know when I'm going to lie down next to her. She doesn't seem to think the two times this night that she has already fallen asleep next to me count. She is now crying loudly in her room and I can't go to her without bringing a baby in who will wake up everyone else in there. Of course, if I leave her she will just keep crying loudly and wake up everyone all by herself. (I went in. Her tummy hurts. This is a legitimate complaint. She has worms. We've tried the herbal route. They are just subduing, not killing the things. Time for flagyl. But it's exaggerated in order to get me to stay with her.)

The life and times of a mom, so very exciting, so very sleep deprived. No one tells you about the night juggling, the choices you will have to make so your family can sleep. Or at least, some of them, not you, you are always the last to sleep, the lowest on the sleep totem pole.

This, by the way, is the main reason for those seasons in our marriage when we have slept in different rooms and beds. Sometimes sleep trumps all, and you do whatever you need to to get it. I can get more sleep if I let the kids stay in bed with me than having to pop up 20 times a night. And Aaron can get more sleep in a different bed where those kids aren't kicking him.

I"d like to tell you I'm counting my blessings right now, or treasuring the moment, but that would be a total lie. I like my sleep. I get angry when it's taken from me. Though the kid is pretty cute, even at 4 in the morning.

This is a great start to a prayer session don't you think?

Will you pray for me and the others? I and they will be needing it this day I think.

I was already a crabby enough mom yesterday. I'm reaching the end of my own strength, which is where I need to get it seems to remember to ask for the grace to kick in. Now would be good.

5.7.11

Introverted Celebrations

When you are raised by 2 introverts you may feel that your life lacks a certain amount of excitement. For instance, they never, ever want to take you to the fair, or Disneyland, or any place where people are gathered in giant crowds all to see the same thing.


If they take you to the beach, it will not be on the weekend at the height of summer. They'll go early in the morning on a weekday, all winter, any time when there aren't more people than sand laying in front of the waves.


They will most likely take you on a hike, in a solitary place, and feel the experience some what tarnished if you run into more than 3 other people walking in the same hour.


When your parents are like this, your chances of seeing fireworks, ever, may seem pretty slim. They will most definitely not be wrangling 4 children and traffic, not to mention food and stroller or whatever else through huge crowds of people to get a good spot squeezed against the next person getting a good spot on a hot and sticky air standing still sort of July evening after bed time. (They will go so far as to BBQ and invite 2 other people to join them for dinner though, and hang a flag, sort of.)






Lucky for you then that the house where you live has a great view of a fireworks display from the front step. You can even watch in your pajamas, or, in the baby's case, a bath towel, since you were in the bath when the fireworks started.





The view is pretty spectacular.





And when it's all over you can just get in bed, teeth already brushed.

(If your parents home school you may also have to spend part of the 4th reading the chapters on the war of independence in your history books and talking about what "no taxation without representation" means.)

All photos taken by Aaron, who is somewhat gifted with the camera.

1.7.11

Happy Canada Day

It's Canada's birthday, for all those who don't know. We're 144 years old. Unlike the US there was no rebellion, no war. We went ahead an did it the civilized way, writing ourselves a constitution and then waiting many, many, many years for the queen to show up and ratify it, thus granting us independence title as well as practice. We don't even bother celebrating independence. We do celebrate how long we've been around and managed to survive and grow so far north where it's fricken cold most of the year.

Today my extended family will be gathering at my grandparents farm for a weekend long camp out, all together, like they actually like each other, which they do. My mom and her husband will be camping at their private campsite in their new RV. My siblings will be going to parades and concerts and then dropping in to visit the campers.

I have never been to a 4th of July celebration here in the States. Frankly, I'm scared of the crowds. Plus, they charge for everything here, just about.

I miss the Canada Day celebrations in my home town, with a parade, and then a free day long concert at the ponds at the out door stage, where you could sit on the grass without worrying about sitting in someone's trash or getting stepped on or trampled, even in the dark. We would walk there from the parade an spend all day watching the show until the fireworks. It was friendly, it was safe, it was totally small town.

My kids are convinced that the Canadian way to eat is to have tea after every meal, to sit for a long while talking, to have dessert, and then more tea. I have my grandparents to thank for that. It's the way they do it at their house. The kids think we should make some Canadian flag cookies today and drink them with tea.

I may or may not have teared up today showing them this video. (And then all the other ones I watched after.) It used to be the sign off at the end of the day for Canadian Broadcasting. Back when tv stations actually shut down for the night. I've never really thought of myself as a patriot, they don't teach that sort of thing in Canadian schools, not outright. But this place is where I'm from, where when you go outside it smells good, where even big cities don't feel crowded, where the best outdoor spaces and adventures are just minutes away. Also, I miss not having to double check that everything I buy at the grocery store won't slowly kill me.





So, in honor of Canada day now seems a good time to show you my collection of photos of the crazy things Canadians do in the winter. Ready? (They would like me to explain that it isn't actually winter right now. It may have been raining steadily for several days, but the absence of snow makes it summer now.)

BBQ in the snow.



Oh, and go to campsites for wiener roasts in the snow too.


Walk in subzero temperatures.
And play

 Ride dirt bikes and quads in the snow

 Skate

Shovel in blizzards

And drive through blizzards on ice, counting the number of cars stuck in the ditch as you go feeling lucky not to be one of them, yet.


I miss you Canada*, you will always smell and feel like home to me and now I'm homesick.

Love,
Carrien

*except the cold, i don't miss that.

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