Random Thoughts: The Battles to Fight Edition

1. The What to Drink Battle
Flora wants to drink pop — what she calls soda, so I’ve done a bad job being a yinzer parent. And I have let her drink pop and iced tea; nothing is really taboo in our house. But now I need to set limits with it. (Thanks, Soda Stream!)

I am starting to notice that pop is the only thing she wants to drink. So, now I need to fight that battle. I recently told her she was limited to one serving of pop or iced tea in a day, and no caffeine after school. She needs to drink water or milk with meals and night-time treat. I am concerned about calcium intake — no one in my house drinks enough milk. But we all do yogurt, leafy greens, cheese, and broccoli, plus calcium-fortified orange juice. I just bought the children calcium chewy vitamins to try to make up some of the deficit.

2. The Proper Phone Etiquette Battle
Kate asks to call one of her friends at least once an evening. I limit her time (10 to 15 minutes), and ask her to stay in earshot. I am slowly teaching her how to use the phone. It’s surprising to me… that they don’t know how? I mean, can that be a thing? Some phone etiquette rules I have had to explicitly lay out:

  • Say hello, then either ask, “Who is this?” or identify yourself.
  • Ask for whom you are calling. “Can I please speak to Julie?” Or, ask who is calling and for whom.
  • Don’t yell into the phone.
  • Don’t eat while on the phone. (A lot of adults don’t know this one, so.)
  • Don’t say, “BRB,” put the phone down, and walk away. I can’t believe I had to explain this. You don’t go pee in the middle of the phone call.
  • At the end of the call, say, “Goodbye” and end the call.
Rotary Telephones
Anyone else remember these? Image credit: Suwannakitja Chomraj

The phone, I am trying to explain to her, is a tool to communicate plans (“Let’s go ride bikes.”) or have a conversation — a short conversation.

I, personally, hate talking on the phone. I would much rather text or email, or interact on social media than have an actual phone conversation. But I guess I need to brace myself that talking on the phone is something my girls may want to do.

I’m not happy with this development, furthermore, because one of the little girls she talks with on the phone… *sigh* probably needs some of these lessons as well. I don’t know if she’s hard of hearing, or talking in a room full of loud noise, but I hear Kate repeating herself over and over again. Plus sometimes the little girl’s little sister will call, and believe me, nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself on the phone with a tongue-tied 6-year-old.

3. The Sit Down and Eat Battle
Eating as a family is important, and I try to sit down with the children every dinner time, and at least once on the weekends, we eat as a family of five. Some nights, though, I am ready to throw in the towel on this. They jump up to show me stuff; Flora wants to read a book at the table (hello, mini-me); they sing, they goof around. They eat two bites and declare they are full.

I’m just waiting this one out. I try to direct conversation and keep things below a dull roar. Kate and Michael especially treat the kitchen table like a stage. Maybe they need a bit more one-on-one time BEFORE dinner.

4. The Screen Battle
This is of course related to the Homework Battle, which is incrementally improving. Limiting screen time is hard, y’all. Especially when computer time is part of their homework, as it is for Flora. Again, I persevere, but man. Some days, I want to throw up my hands and say, “Sure, watch all the YouTube you want. I give up.”

They say, “Pick your battles” and I sure have. How about you?

A Question for My Readers

Question Mark
Image source: quka

I have been toying with an idea for some time now, and I am curious what you think.

I would like to add two pages to my site, one for prose and one for poetry.

It’s been some time since I wrote poetry, but I could go through what I have written and post things. Maybe it will inspire me to write new stuff as well.

I am far less adept at prose (fiction / creative non-fiction) writing, but it’s a muscle I want to start flexing. I have a couple of pieces started, and having a place to put them may give me the impetus I need to finish them.

Admittedly, it’s something I want to do for myself. Marketing copy writing has been good to me (more or less; it helps pay the bills), but it doesn’t scratch a creative itch. And I’d be curious to know if you’d venture to read it.

On a related note, I signed up for another Emily Levenson project, #30daysofjournaling. You still have time to join if you like.

I started journaling in 6th grade as part of a class room project, and it’s something that solidified my love of writing and expressing myself through putting thoughts to paper. Who knows, some of my journal content may end up here.

Writing more is never a bad thing.

What do you think of the idea? If you read, please comment yay or nay. I am truly curious if it is something you would check out.

Turning Homework Fails into a Parenting Triumph

Homework has never been my children’s favorite. It’s probably no child’s favorite, ever. Although Michael loves when I give him “homework” — because it makes him feel like a big kid, I’m sure.

This post is not about Michael.

I got a phone call yesterday that derailed me. Turns out one of my children was not completing her homework. And I didn’t know about it because every time I said, “Is your homework done?” she said, “Yep!”

And I believed her.

Pile of homework
Not very popular in these parts. (Image by Ed Sweetman)

Now, I will be upfront here and say: the other girl is not great about homework either. I have asked them to do it when they get home from school. One of them starts at Bella and Tadone’s and doesn’t finish, and the other doesn’t start until I get home, and we fight about it while she does it at our kitchen table. Which just makes it take that much longer.

So. This is the current state of homework at Casa di RPM.

I took awhile to process my feelings after the phone call. I was furious at being lied to; I was disappointed that my child was lying; I was even embarrassed that the teachers had to call. I was frustrated with my own failure to be on top of the situation. And while all of my feeling are valid, I couldn’t deal with the situation by being reactive and emotional when dealing with it.

I came up with a plan and consulted with Dan. We agreed on a strategy. And when the girls got home, I sat down, first with one, and then both, and talked about how we were going to do homework from now on.

And it starts with no screens. No television, no computer, no mini-Monk (this is what Bella calls her tablet, it’s a long story), no Minecraft. And it’s not “no screens until homework is done.” For at least the next two weeks, it’s no screens until night-time showtime at 7:30 p.m. One half-hour of television each day. That’s it.

I have no doubt my children are going to be bored. We will play games, they can read books, I will read books with them, they can do chores. (Flora is actually very good about doing her chore each day, which is emptying the dishwasher. The other two — yes, Michael has chores — are not as good, but they are getting better.) They can play with Legos and cars and superheroes; they can draw pictures.

And then in two weeks, we will see if things have improved.

One of my children was very upset during the conversation. She knew her teachers had called; she knew what the problem was; she didn’t want to keep being lectured. (My father is chuckling to himself right now.) I let her be upset. I let her cry and show her frustration. I think she was embarrassed and I think she was angry at letting us down. The other child was more receptive.

I did not talk about my feelings. Dan did not talk about his feelings. We didn’t tell the girls how smart they are. We didn’t tell the girls how disappointed we were. We calmly talked about the problem, the solution, how we were going to reach the solution, and how we were going to measure the solution (teacher conferences). We let the girls express their feelings, and we let them know it was okay to feel the way they were feeling (sad, angry, frustrated, uninterested in homework). However, despite their feelings, we were going to solve the problem.

Together. As a team.

What failure have you turned into a triumph lately?

Curious George Gets Kidnapped

A reinterpretation of Curious George Rides a Bike

Book cover
Curious George has impulse control problems.

Curious George woke up, and he was very curious.

The man in the yellow hat (MITYH) tells George that they are going to celebrate the day that he, MITYH, kidnapped him, George, from the jungle. Wasn’t that just grand?

Curious George has no idea what the MITYH is talking about, because Curious George doesn’t speak English.

The man brings Curious George outside and shows him a big box. He opens the box, and takes out a bicycle! Why George knows what a bicycle is or how to ride it is beyond me, but for the purposes of this book, he can ride it. Facing forward, facing backward, up on the rear wheel.

“I have to go now,” says the MITYH. “Be a good little monkey, and stay near the house.”

Again: George doesn’t understand English, and he’s going to do whatever the fuck he wants. He probably should not be allowed outside unsupervised, but the MITYH doesn’t seem to get this.

George rides out into the street. A boy hands him a bag full of newspapers. He’s telling George something, but again: George is a fucking monkey.

George has seen the boy throw newspapers at houses, so this is what he decides to do too. When he gets to the end of the street, he rides toward the little river. He sees boys with toy boats, and decides to make a boat with the newspapers left in the bag.

Why Curious George knows how to make newspaper boats is a mystery. That must have been a very interesting jungle. We know the MITYH hasn’t taught him, because that guy is never around.

George uses up all the newspapers making boats, and he rides his bike along the riverbank watching them until he hits a rock and breaks his bike.

George cries until he remembers that he can ride the bike up on his rear wheel. (I didn’t know monkeys cried.) He rides along until he is kidnapped by some guy in a green coat and his partner Bob. They have a bunch of animals in cages, but they let George sit in the cab of their truck.

The guy in a green coat hands George a little outfit, also green, and a bugle. He says a bunch of shit that George doesn’t understand. George wanders up to the ostrich cage. He wonders if the ostrich can play a bugle. The ostrich tries to eat the bugle, and almost dies.

George’s outfit is taken off and the bugle is taken away. There is a lot of yelling, and George has to sit on a bench. The ostrich has recovered from its near death experience, and is nibbling on a string hanging near its cage.

Oddly enough, this string controls the cage door of the baby bear’s cage. Why a pull string is holding a cage door is beyond me. The ostrich pulls the string enough that the baby bear can get out, and he runs away and up the nearest tree.

George decides to blow the bugle. A bunch of men see the baby bear is up a tree. George thinks climbing a tree is a great idea. He puts the baby bear in the newspaper bag and drops him out of the tree. The men catch the baby bear.

George rides his bike around the animal show. The MITYH is there, which is odd because I’d have thought he’d be out looking for his missing pet monkey. Apparently he didn’t want to waste his tickets.

The boy who gave George the newspaper bag is also at the animal show. He is happy to get the bag back because his boss yelled at him about losing it. The people who didn’t get their newspapers aren’t mad because the newspaper company gave them all a refund.

George thinks he recognizes the guy in the yellow. Seems familiar. He decides to go home with him because what the hell. He’s got nothing to lose at this point!

Music Monday: Classic Rock, Suggestions Welcome

I don’t know where he heard it, but M is currently obsessed with this song:

Which, hey, there are worse old rock songs that he could be into.

Watching this video, I am struck by so many things, not least of which is how young they all are. Freddy Mercury had a hell of an overbite. Brian May just looks mad. Pissed off and cold. But that is an iconic guitar riff.

So, with this Queen gem as a starting point, what kind of Spotify playlist could I put together for my children that’s not — and this is vital — what they can hear any old time on the radio?

I feel like there is a wide range of classic rock out there, but one hears the same songs all the time on the classic rock stations. A handful of Led Zepplin songs, a couple of Who songs, another handful of Rolling Stones.

So what do YOU like that you DON’T hear on the radio? I feel like Bruce Springsteen has some seriously underrated, obscure tracks out there that would be good to introduce to the children. Same with The Who, Rolling Stones… ooh, Police.

If you were making a playlist to actually get your child or other young person into classic rock, what would you include?

Adventures in Mothering

Thursday is Michael’s favorite day.

Since I work from home on Thursday, and we are trying to save money on daycare costs, I keep him home with me that day. (Tuesdays, he is with Tadone.)

Michael basically treats it as “anything goes” day, and within reason, he’s not far wrong. He is allowed to play Minecraft and watch Netflix shows all day. He can stay in his pajamas as long as he wants.

He can watch Turbo and eat popcorn at 10:30 a.m. As long as he is not interrupting me or trying to play in the knife drawer, I leave him to his own devices.

So, yes, he’s not closely supervised. Although, believe me, we interact at least once an hour. We usually have lunch together. We even sometimes go for a walk.

Well, yesterday, he was bouncing around, coming to see me for food or drink, or to switch between Netflix and Minecraft. At one point around 7:30 a.m., he brought me a bag of chips to open.

“Is this your breakfast, buddy?”
“Well, are you going to eat this now?”
“Yes. But it’s not my breakfast.”

I simply did not have the wherewithal to explain what the word “breakfast” literally meant, so I opened the bag of chips.

Around 10:30, he declared that he did want breakfast, meaning a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. So I poured him some, and went back to work. Shortly after eating his cereal, he came to ask me to put on Netflix. As we were waiting for the titles to load, he said, “There’s something squishy in my ear.”

I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. M has never been one to stick things in orifices (knock on wood) — no beans or Legos up noses or anything. And we don’t use Q-Tips.

Well, when I got him under a light and looked at his right ear, I realized it was filled with blood — or at least, was bleeding and/or scabbing up.

It did not look good.

I called the pediatrician, got an appointment, threw clothes on both of us (I was wearing a tee shirt and yoga pants), and lit out for the office.

As my mother-in-law says, nothing makes you weak in the knees like seeing your child bleeding.

The pediatrician found a small laceration in M’s ear canal. He said he wasn’t able to see the whole eardrum, but he saw enough to determine the eardrum hadn’t ruptured. He prescribed drops to prevent an infection or swimmer’s ear, and told us to treat it and watch it. If it’s not cleared up in about a week, we’ll have to head back.

So that was fun!

M writing words!
I love you too, buddy. Don’t scare me like that, huh?

M was a brave boy at his appointment, didn’t cry, didn’t try to prevent the doctor from looking in his ear. I tried to take him for ice cream, but our favorite place, Kips, didn’t open until 3 p.m., so we went to Bruegger’s instead. And he was so good! He sat quietly while I ordered, ate almost his whole bagel with egg, and stayed in his seat. When I sat down, he noticed I had gotten chips.

“What are those?” he asked.
“They are potato chips,” I said. “I will share them with you if you want.”
“And I will share my bagel with you!” he declared, spreading his hands like a benevolent little prince.

He was so well-behaved, the workers insisted on giving me a cookie for him. I offered to pay, and they were like, “NOPE. On the house, lady. He’s adorable, and he was a little angel.”

The rest of the day was far less adventurous. M took his drops, watched some Phineas and Ferb, and I got some more work done.

Flora came home a few minutes late. She walked into the office, gave me a hug, and said, “The high school band is practicing. Can I go watch them?”

“But you have homework.”
“I’ll take it with me.”

So, I said yes. They were practicing in the parking lot near our house. She rode her bike over, and she took her homework. And did it too.

Kate came home last, and nothing extraordinary was going on with her, although she says her throat’s been hurting. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Drinking water seems to help, so maybe she just needs a water bottle for school.

And then Dan and I figured out how I could go out to dinner with some of my LTYM friends — drop the children off at his office — so he’s basically the best husband in the world.

What was your latest mundane adventure?

Love Letter

Dearest Daniel,

Our 14th wedding anniversary is here, and it finds us both a little beat up and stressed out. You are still gimping around from your second Tough Mudder, and I am not adjusting to the stresses of the new school year very well.

I haven’t even managed to buy you a card for today.

I recently contributed a guest post to a Pittsburgh blogger who wed last week. Remember when we were asking for my parents’ blessing, and my dad said, “Marriage isn’t 50-50; it’s 100-100”? And then asked if I was going to cook you meat?

Yeah, that’s what I wrote about over there.

And I just want you to know that I know you have been in 100 percent since… well, since we started dating, probably. And I cannot tell you how loved that makes me feel; how safe and secure. And I also want you to know how proud I am to be with you, to stand as your wife. I am proud of you, and of your continual hard work as a husband and father, as a therapist, as a Tough Mudder!

You married an anxious lady, dude. And I appreciate it when you are patient with me; and I forgive you for being impatient with me too. I get it — I’m a little impatient with my hand-flappy self, too. I fluster easily, and I, much like at least one of our children, do not adjust to change very quickly.

However, since our first date, since before our first date, we have had the top three things that make our relationship work:

1. Humor
2. Kindness
3. Chemistry

You are patient and you are kind. You make me laugh every day. You make me feel loved and desired every day. I hope I do the same for you. I certainly think we do not disappoint each other when it comes to the third thing on that list.

I’m so glad I said, “Yes” and then, 14 years ago today, “I do.”

I love you, 100 percent, all in.
Your ever-loving,