chutzpah

While on our annual vacation with our friends from seminary, we noted that we all have very strong, independent, stubborn, feisty, opinionated, funny girls.  When their propensity for stubbornness and attitude was driving us crazy we would try to remind ourselves and each other that these are traits that we will appreciate one day and more importantly will serve them well into adulthood.

That is if we are careful not to kill their spirit.

I am preparing to lead a Bible study with our middle school girls this year, and I am super excited about it because I love middle school girls and this group of girls in particular!  I started reading Doing Girlfriend Theology by Dori Grinenko Baker to get ideas and direction.  The foreword had me hooked with its analysis of a girls journey from childhood to adolescence, hooked and aching.

The feisty “tomboy” girl of ten gets shut down by thirteen and loses her voice.  As she moves from childhood to adolescence, the girl learns to conform to the expectations of gender roles.  In myriad ways the message comes to her that she must quiet down, lower her voice, learn to make herself pleasing to others, no longer expresses her own feeling

and later

Internalizing cultural cues, girls begin to “not know” and to behave in ways deemed “nice and kind”….Descriptors such as “vivacious” “spunky” and “willful” give way to adjectives such as “non-confrontational” and “pleasing.”  Wildflowers dry up; wallflowers emerge.

GAH!  I certainly don’t think it happens to all girls, but I can understand how it does happen. You can’t ignore the stories of depression, cutting, eating disorders, and suicide in young girls.

I’ve been inundated with articles about raising daughters lately, so my minds all a flutter.

Rebecca Wolf talks about whether or not we should tell our daughters they are pretty on Momversation as does Crazybananas.  I concur with their conclusions that we SHOULD tell our daughters they are beautiful, because they are.  I remember coming home from college after getting my portrait done for our sorority composite and I was talking to my dad – I said something about how I ran by between class and getting in my car and didn’t do any extra touching up while most of the girls were spending lots of time glamming up, when my dad said something like “that’s because you’re beautiful just the way you are” – that was 10ish years ago, obviously it made an impression.

For the moment Taylor is pretty fond of herself.  I find her looking at herself in the mirror, singing songs and making faces and playing with her hair.  Last week we watched a few videos of her, and she was loving it.  She was smiling with pride the whole time.  I hate watching/hearing myself on camera – I hope she never feels that way.

But I also hope that her looks aren’t her priority.  The story about the t-shirts marketed to young girls saying “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother does it for me” is just absurd.  How did anyone think that was a good idea?

Taylor is beautiful, but she is also funny, smart, wild, feisty, independent, strong.  I want her to know all of those things about herself and be confident.  But I do also want her to be “nice and kind”  and humble and generous and polite.  I’m sure she can be all those things without losing her spunk, right?  Because I hope she always wakes up full of awesome.

week one

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that Taylor has presented her share of challenges to her parental units at daycare/preschool and at bedtime.  But this week, she is like a new kid (new, but still retaining her funny sweet smart independent self).

Today, we have a hurricane strolling by, which led to a tree falling outside of our neighborhood and taking out a power line and our power.  So we did what every reasonable family would do – went to McAlister’s for a snack in the “tropical storm warning” weather.  While we were there, I cut Taylor’s brownie in half so she wouldn’t have too much sugar.  Russ got the other half and was going to give me half of that, but then Taylor broke her half in half and insisted on sharing with me.  We tried to convince her it was ok, and that she could eat her whole half, but she could not be convinced.  Russ stroked her hair and said, “How did you get to be so sweet and good at sharing?”  to which she replied “I’m in the 4s now”  To which Russ reflected, “I’m almost crying because of how proud I am of you”  Me, too.

It’s just hard to think back and remember the challenges, the tears, the yelling, the bargaining, the treats.  It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like a different life…to be the parent that gets the bad news day after day of behavior problems….to be the parents who stripped their kid’s room of EVERYTHING but the mattress and bedding.  As I type (at 7:00pm), Taylor is quiet and still in her bed with her eyes closed without so much as a peep since Russ read her books.  The 7th night in a row of perfect bedtimes.  We told her how awesome she was doing at bedtime a few days ago, to which she replied “That’s because I’m in the 4s now”.  She’s earned back all of her furniture, and is so excited.

If that wasn’t awesome enough, this is what I found in her folder after her first week of school:

If you can’t read the writing in the boxes, there is a list of behaviors that need improvement…then the last box (where the smiley face is) says, “Great Behavior!”

(yellow stamps mean that she kept her “smiley face” all day everyday this week)

I’m just giddy – verklempt even.  She’s just awesome.  I have no delusions that it will stay this way forever or that she’s perfect now, but she has come so far and has matured into such a kind, strong little lady.  My cup overflows.

And just for fun, another jewel from school:

Her self-portrait –   eyes: blue (yes!), lips: pink (yes!), shirt:  purple (yes!), hair: short and brown (half right), skin: gray? (HA!)

evening prayer

I realized that we have been remiss at teaching Taylor to pray and helping her faith develop.  I attended a conference once on how the family is (should be) the primary agent in faith formation, but that so many parents rely on the church to teach their children all they need to know.  We brainstormed ideas for churches to partner with families in faith formation.  It was a great conference, and I was all fired up at the time.  I was newly pregnant with Taylor and had beautiful visions of the ways we would teach her about and show her the love of God.

But life kind of got crazy, and we let her Sunday school teachers do the teaching.  We ask her about what she learns in Sunday school each week, and we might read her Bible story book from time to time, and we say blessings before meals, but….that’s about it.  So last night, I decided to try out a prayer with Taylor before she went to sleep and was pretty amazed by the faith that is already forming in her, in spite of our shortcomings.

Taylor’s prayer (with some guidance):

(what do you want to thank God for?) Dear God, thank you for Jesus.  Thank you for people (what people?).  The people who live in my house, Mommy and Daddy and Caleb.  (Do you want to tell God anything else?) Please give me a puppy for a pet and a kitty and a bunny.  Please keep my family safe tonight.  Amen.

happy thoughts

So, I was kind of a downer with the posts about push-up bikini tops for little girls and 8th graders txting naked pictures of themselves to boys, and then my own parental failures…but yesterday and today, the interwebs have given me some happy parenting thoughts.

First of all there are some awesome kids out there who survive the trashy clothes and sexting; I hope and pray my kids will be among their measure.

I introduce you to PS22 if you haven’t already seen their awesomeness (I’m apparently behind the times since they’ve been on Oprah already).  Try watching this then not try to keep funding for arts education in schools:

And also this:

Then there was a news story about a high school senior who took his mother to prom.  At first, yes, it sounds strange….but he wanted to take her because she got pregnant at 18 and didn’t go to her prom or graduate from high school.  I’m sure she did not have an easy life raising two kids as a teenager, but I’d say she did something right.

Then there was A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child by Tina Fey.   The language is harsh in places, but overall beautiful and right on.

This is what I like about the interwebs – they remind me that I’m not alone in this difficult journey of parenting and that there is plenty of reason to hope in a media world that focuses on the hopeless.

worst.night.ever.

I feel like I should just rename the blog PARENTFAIL.COM.  What do you think?

Friday morning I did laundry and packed the car, then picked up the kids from daycare early so they would nap in the car on the way to Kathryn’s house – I had everything planned out just right.  I knew Taylor would have a good day at school, which would mean she would get a sticker on her chart, which would fill it up, which would mean a prize, which I would choose, which was the movie Tangled, which would be her reward to watch in the car after she took her nap.  Both kids would easily fall asleep in the car and Russ and I would have two hours of blissful quiet time in the car.  Great plan, right?

Caleb did as he was told, but Taylor refused to sleep.  Which meant that when we got to Russ’ 97 year-old Aunt Rebecca’s apartment on the way, she was crazy.  Bouncing off the walls. Luckily we made it out before she broke anything or Caleb ate some of Aunt Rebecca’s medication, despite his many attempts to get into her stuff.

Then we went to dinner.  Why we decided to go out in public, I do not know.  Taylor dropped a piece of ice on the floor, then picked it up and ate it.  Then she kept freaking out because her cheeseburger wouldn’t stay together after she put salad on it (salad AKA lettuce and tomato).

We finally get to Kathyrn’s house in time for the bedtime routine.  Kathryn had a great idea that Taylor and Ryleigh could sleep in the same room since Ryleigh ALWAYS goes to sleep easily and Taylor didn’t have a nap, so should fall asleep quickly.  Great idea, right? Notsomuch. Both girls were too wound up and excited that they wouldn’t settle down.  So then we moved Taylor’s air mattress into another bedroom and hoped she would fall asleep.

In the meantime, I was trying to set up Caleb’s pack-and-play.  But one of the sides was broken.  After many attempts to fix it, we decided we didn’t have any other options and put him in anyway since with the three sides locked, it was sturdy enough, right?  But he was too wound up from the road trip excitement and wouldn’t settle down.

Finally after much negotiating, rocking, singing, begging, pleading, praying…all of the kids were asleep by 8:30 pm.  Success!  Miracle!  If I’d known what the night would hold, I would have gone to sleep right then.

We decided Taylor would sleep better in our room with the noise maker going and so we would be there when she woke up in a strange place.  So we moved her and her bed into our room without waking her up.  Success!

Then I started reading tweets and status updates about all of the crazy tornadoes….then it got really windy and rainy  outside and Caleb kept coughing, so I couldn’t sleep – worried that Caleb’s coughing would wake Taylor up and that a tornado would kill all of us (meanwhile Russ is sleeping soundly – I hated him a little – I think at one point I even elbowed him out of frustration, but he slept through that as well – and I hated him more).  Finally all noises ceased around 1:00am.

SLLLLEEEEEPPPPP

Then at 4:00 am (FOUR O’CLOCK AAAAMMMM), Taylor woke up and stood in the corner of the room (?!).  Usually if she wakes up that early she’ll got right back to sleep, but not that night/morning.  She kept rolling around and sniffing repeatedly even though she had dispersed all boogies several times.  Then at 5:00 am, she finally woke Caleb up.  He cried.  a lot.  We were trying to keep both of them quiet since there were 5 other people still sleeping in the house (because it was FIVE O’CLOCK AAAAMMMM on a Saturday), but Caleb would not stop crying without a bottle.  So I went downstairs to retrieve a bottle, not realizing that my brother-in-law’s brother was asleep on the couch.  On the way to the kitchen, I kicked two or three things in the floor just to make sure to make as much noise as possible.  Then I got upstairs with the bottle only to realize that I forgot his reflux medicine.  So I had to go back downstairs to get it, knocking over a picture frame on my way causing a really good ruckus just in case he was still asleep.

By the time we got Caleb settled down, Taylor was jumping up and down on her bed, screaming, and laughing an evil laugh.  So we were all awake with no hope of going back to sleep.  In an effort to contain the madness, we stayed in the room for a while, but once two more people were awake in the house, we decided to venture downstairs to play in the playroom before someone in our room met an unfortunate end.

Taylor ended up in time out on the front porch by herself.*

Then Caleb  put a bee in his mouth.**

So the moral of the story is we should never leave our house. ever. again.

*I could see her the whole time and it was only a little cold, I’m not THAT bad of a mother. yet.

**We’re 95% sure it was dead before he tried to eat it.